The Master samples of middle aged puerh
Distinguish real old from fake aged puerh
The weight of each sample is 8 grams. This allows for 2 testings:
1. The standardized competition testing: 3 grams, 6 minutes in a competition set or a porcelain gaiwan of similar size (135 ml).
Despite the long brewing time of the first brew, it's possible to make more brews with these top quality leaves.
2. A free style testing with the remaining leaves (5 grams) with a gaiwan or a teapot. Instead of pushing the leaves to their limit like in the competition method, you try to get the best flavors out of the tea.
These 4 puerhs have a brew with a similar, dark brown color. But they are quite different in terms of production and storage. 2 of them were even crafted to deceive about their actual age!
1. 1999 Menghai Tea Factory '7542'. This is a 100% raw (sheng) puerh that has been stored professionally in Taiwan in rather humid, but clean, conditions. This storage scent is quite obvious on the dry leaves and even more in the first brew. The taste remains very active and full of energy, as it is expected from a raw puerh. (Note: this storage scent will gradually wear off if the dry leaves kept out in the open. This is something I recommend doing to enjoy this tea more. However, if you want to learn to recognize this humid storage scent, don't air the tea before tasting it.)
2. Mid 1980s loose Big Arbor raw puerh from the Menghai Tea Factory. This is a dry stored puerh (in Taiwan). You won't find as many humid scents as in the 7542. The open leaves look the greenest. But the color of the brew has a more brownish hue than the 7542. And the taste is smoother while still very energetic. It seems still very young and this shows that puerh has a much longer storage potential than 30 years.
3. Fake old. Supposedly mid 1980s sheng puerh, but in reality it's from the mid 2000s and it's a mix of sheng and shu puerh. These 2 types of teas are pressed together and then stored for a few years before being sold as aged puerh. From the dry leaves and the (slightly darker) color of the brew, it's very difficult to tell any difference from the other 2 teas. But the brew comes with a particular dark and woody scent that is typical of shu puerh. The taste is very sweet, but much less active, energetic than the other 2 teas when you are using the same parameters to test it. However, it does have some energy from the mixed sheng leaves and it's not as flat as 100% shu puerh. In case more leaves are used at once with short steeps, this tea can taste more energetic and it's more difficult to differenciate. Examine the open leaves and you'll be able to recognize that there are 2 different types of leaves: some that open up well and others that are almost black and look burned.
This particular mix is quite enjoyable and does a good job imitating aged sheng. The purpose of this lesson isn't to criticize this type of tea, but to learn to identify it, because this type of tea is usually sold as older than it really is.
4. Fake 1985 loose puerh. This tea is actually 100% shu puerh. The color of the dry leaves is more even and the scents are stronger. But the taste is very flat and the wet leaves are completely dark and look like burned.
Note: to complete the lesson, I also recommend that you purchase a sample of my 2003 wild raw Yiwu puerh. This is a great example of tea stored dry in Taiwan. It doesn't have the humid storage of the 1999 '7542'.