Mature Pu’erh [November 2014 Tea Drinking Report]

Ripe Pu'erh

In the month of November 2014, the tea of the month was Mature Pu’erh. During this month, I had Mature Pu’erh at least once a day (unless totally unfeasible). I’ll still consume other teas, but the primary focus is understanding and building a palate for a specific type/genre/region of tea through repetition. This is the most personal blogging type style of post for TeaDB, and the goal is to stretch my palate as well as give recommendations to interested parties.

Vendors ordered from:

2000 Fu Yuan Chang, 1997 CNNP Red Mark, 1997 Tongqing Hao Chi Cheng
2000 Fu Yuan Chang, 1997 CNNP Red Mark, 1997 Tongqing Hao Chi Cheng.

This month really stretched me in terms of the amount of teas. I had to extend it and drank consistently well into December. That being said, I find mature pu’erh interesting enough and exceedingly easy to drink. Many of the teas brew fairly endlessly, helping to lengthen the time spent.

Approximate Brewing Parameters

About 7g/100 ml yixing, 4g/60ml gaiwan. Double rinse and short steeps.

2003 Big Zhong 7542 (TC)

Sample acquired from Tea Classico and generously sent my way by Cwyn of Death by Tea. Great nose, good sweetness off of the aroma. Some fruit. A nice huigan. Clean. Light wood. Herbaly flavors come out with an extended brew time. Soft, leathery texture. Kind of a thin body. Longevity is average. Not very aged, but functional.

2003 Bulang Jingpin (HdA)

A recommendation by shah8. Chocolately, very sweet. Complex, fruity, warming taste. Fast and nice huigan. Sweet, earth, fruity aroma. Medium body. Jakub said raisins. Warm, wood. Pretty clean overall, not really wet. Texturally dynamic. More active on the tongue and especially throat. Has better durability and texture than the YYX. I’d rank them about evenly in terms of personal preference.

2002 Fuhai (OT)

I had a single sample still lying around. It’s a good tea, one of the better ones sold on the shelf at Origin Tea. Herbal, sweet, and inviting with clean traditional storage that requires no airing out. I wanted to buy a cake of this but Tony sold out before I could :(.

2001 Mengku Yuah Yieh Xian Mansa Thick Paper (HdA)

Another recommendation by shah8. Had the pleasure of brewing this twice, the first time in a gaiwan, the second a week later in clay. Both sessions were quite different. Shah8 recommended airing this out, something I did promptly after its arrival. Perhaps I am immune to wet-storage character or the storage in Houston (Hou de) has sufficiently aired it out, but I found very little unpleasant shicang (wet storage taste. Overall it is excellent. Very pleasant aroma. Plenty of deeper huigan, with dates, raisins, and herbal flavors. Brewed in the yixing (the second session), it had an enhanced body, with vanilla, cherry notes.

This is a famous tea from the early 2000s and as a result, it’s probably not the best bang for your buck. That being said, for learning purposes it is excellent. Both this and the Bulang Jingpin remind me that I am often easy to please and there are better teas out there!

2001 Menghai Red Mark Tiepai (W2T)

This was W2T’s budget aged offering. It was sent to me by Cwyn. Overall it is an OK tea without being terribly exciting. Sweet, floral, chocolately with a overall soft demeanor. Traditional storage is on the lighter-end, making this pretty inoffensive for those of those uninitiated to the danker charms of more mature pu’erh.

2001 Changtai Hao Red (W2T)

Some funk (rancid nuts?) in the initial taste. Nutty, woody, vanilla. By the fourth infusion, it is considerably more mellow but still plenty strong. More smoothness and more creaminess. It has some wet-stored astringency.. my girlfriend said it tasted like bitter vegetables. Originally I liked this tea more but I think I’ve come to prefer less-wet teas. Decent aftertaste. Slightly harsh on the throat. For my money I prefer the HK-Style tea.

2000 CNNP 7532 Tiepai (W2T)

Spicy, fruity, camphor. Compared with the Changtai this has a much cleaner feel. Still some greenness in it’s taste and it is not as deeply earthy as other teas. Full-bodied fruity sweetness. The taste is not very complex but is quite enjoyable. Noticeable huigan. Camphor comes out in the middle steeps. This tea is probably better than all the aged ripes from the previous month and actually kind of reminds me of the CNNP 7581 in some aspects. Not as smooth or sweet as the HK-Style and doesn’t have the same longevity.

2000 Fuyuanchang (OT)

Another of the highlights of the month. This has been stored by the same folks who stored the Fuhai and is different from the tea sold by W2T. Gorgeous, long leaves. Some higher notes initially, fruit? Storage hasn’t been as intense, as there is 0 funk and the taste is extremely clean. Sweet, extremely smooth, warming and pleasant. Fantastic and pleasurable softness. Creamy, warming, excellent longevity. The tea thins out a bit on the front-end as it brews out, but lasts 20+ steeps. Plenty of huigan that slowly coats the mouth and throat. Some higher notes at the roof of the mouth when brewed in a gaiwan. I revisited this at the end of the month and it didn’t disappoint.

2000 FuYuanChang
2000 FuYuanChang.

2000 8582 Light (OT)

Sweet, herbal nose. Some flatness, storage taste initially that goes away after the first steep. Taste is otherwise sweet and slightly herbal. Very mild camphor that comes out in stronger/extended steepings. The taste is browner than the CNNP Tiepai 7532. Sweetness fills my mouth by the end of the session. Mild fruit comes out at the end.

2000 8582 Heavy (OT)

My sample had lots of bits, so it hit hard and fast due to the broken up leaves. Some wet taste. Extremely dense and sweet. Huigan. Slight nuttiness comes out and then fruit in later infusions. A tea that has an agenda and accomplishes it well without doing a whole lot more. Overall I find this tea to be a well-above average performer and something I like. There is no bitter wet-storage astringency to be found in my single session.

2000 Dingxing Hao (Jiujiucha, Taobao)

This is a very inconsistent brew and I’ve had very different sessions with it. Aroma is surprisingly clean and strong. Some bitter vegetables (not as good). Smooth, sweet, herby, some longan fruit. I remain very much on the fence for this one. It is certainly drinkable and affordable but really nothing special (minus the price). Slightly harsh on the throat. This gets particularly nasty/undrinkable if you leave it for a few hours and return to it.

1999 Yiwu (OT)

Some storage taste. Slightly sour. Woody. Better on the second infusion. Soft, creamy, sweet, with some huigan. It is basic but pleasant. More mature than the other 1990s loose maocha consumed.

1998 Big Mouth Zhong Green Mark (OT)

This wasn’t sold on Origin Tea’s site but somehow made it into my box for my final order. Probably unfair to classify this as Tony’s tea as it may’ve easily been one of his leftover samples. Seeming appropriate I prepared the single serving for this tea of the month. After opening it up, the smell of wet storage was immediately apparent. I aired out for ~1 month before brewing it in early December. The dry leaves still smell wet and there is still a bit of funk in the tea. It brews dark very quickly. Overall, it’s pleasant, smooth, and creamy with some nice aromatics. The tea itself has a slight too astringent quality and can have some unpleasant brews if you oversteep. On the plus side, it brews endlessly.

1997 7582 (W2T)

Brewed this twice. Once with 4g/60ml gaiwan, second time 7.5g 95ml yixing. The second time it displayed an especially nice character with impressive longevity . Not that much humidity. Creamy, chocolaety tones. Tangy lemon notes come out as a bit of a surprise. Very soft and pleasant texturally. Thick, viscous broth. Camphor comes out as the tea is steeped out more. Huigan is in the mouth and cheeks, with a slow buildup on the throat. Light fruits and some tongue action. I like this tea, though I suspect 1990s HK Style is probably the better value.

1997 Red Mark (CWS)

Deep, dark color. Storage definitely on the heavy side of things and there is some rankness in the initial steeps and some wet-stored astringency if brewed a while. I’d put this in the same category as the Bazhong and Apple Green Tuo of storage. This is better than those teas but also more expensive. Extremely smooth, sweet, milky, nuttiness with a quick and fairly potent huigan. Also a bit of fruit. Nice texture. hints of vanilla. Nuttiness continues through. I sessioned this twice, once comparing it to the other Red Marks (Ba-Zhong, Changtai Hao Red) and the other vs. the Fuyuanchang and Tongqing Hao Chi Cheng. It fared well vs. the other red marks and worst vs. the Fuyuanchang which I find to be generally better.

Red Marks. 2001 Changtai Hao Red, 1990s Ba-Zhong, 1997 CNNP Red Mark
Red Marks. 2001 Changtai Hao Red, 1990s Ba-Zhong, 1997 CNNP Red Mark

1997 Tongqing Hao Chi Cheng (TC)

The best of the Tea Classico teas. This is clean and the traditional storage is lightish. Light fruits, herbaly, some nuttiness in taste and nose. More active in the mouth, some tongue numbing. Some herbal candied sweetness oddly reminded me of the Mengku. Decent huigan. I had this ranked higher but then compared it to the Fuyuanchang where it just doesn’t quite measure up in terms of depth or clarity. Still a decent tea.

1995 Mengku (OT)

Very different from everything else this month and different from all the other teas Tony sourced. Weird herbal, candied ginger sweetness, followed by a slight huigan. Grain on the nose. Liquor is red. Kind of a novelty tea. Hard for me to say what is the storage and what is the base material. Leaves are flattened and pretty whole. Taste is sticky, very herbal, with some tongue activity, but flavor does not have the same deeper earthiness as other teas.

1995 Mengku Da Ye Sheng
1995 Mengku Da Ye Sheng.

1992 Grade A Tuo (TC)

Sent to me by both Cwyn of Death by Tea and another anonymous tea friend. Both sessions were different from one another as being extremely different from the tea that one we reviewed on the show. Both samples given were on the heavy side of the storage game and needed an extra rinse to avoid the funk. Even after that I had two dramatically different sessions with this. One bad and one good. Nutty, smooth, and easy to drink during the good session. There is some throat discomfort and wet-storage astringency if overbrewed. Nicely aromatic once it gets up to speed. Most closely resembles the Apple Green Tuo, Changtai Hao Red. Gets a middle rating, split between sessions.

1990s Ba-Zhong Red Mark (OT)

Dark, sweet, dense, sticky. Does well aired out. This is definitely somewhat rank, but it is still pleasant to me. A little nuttiness. Good for the price.

1990s HK-Style (W2T)

Big leaves, loose compression. Good longevity, initially up front and then very mellow. Camphor, herbaly. Great longevity on this too. 15+ steeps. I think this is a good tea to break the uninitiated in. The best value of the aged teas of W2T in my opinion.

1990s JIn Gua Gong Cha (CWS)

Not much flavor. Kinda bland, mediocre.

1990s CNNP (Hster)

Provided at the very end of the tasting by Hster of Tea Closet, where it was described as cheap and cheerful. I’ve always suspected that Hster has a stash of good-quality tea that belies her humorously downbeat persona on her blog. Because the tea arrived late in the tasting sessions (in December) it didn’t get the benefit of being aired out. This gets better pretty quickly brewing up an amber. Strong woody notes with some camphor especially in the nose. It’s not really all that sweet and there’s still a bit of an astringent quality to it. A longan/lychee fruity taste come out with extended steep time. Reminds me a bit of the DingXing but is a bit cleaner.

1990s Loose Raw Maocha (Jake)

Generously provided by Jake of Drinking Teas. This is a no frills. Steeps out pretty quickly to a basic longan flavor. It’s easy to drink and relatively clean. It’s for those that want the “aged” taste but don’t care for ripe and on a budget. Nothing to write home about but this tea gets the job done.

1980s Wild Arbor (OT)

The best loose tea of the month. Deeper, browner taste. Starts out slightly fishy then quickly becomes softer, creamier. Camphor comes out around steep 6. Softer texture, a very nice tea. Extremely dynamic. A fruity nose at points. Action is also reasonably deep (throaty).

1980s Loose Yiwu (TC)

Slightly nutty at first. Soft, sweet, creamy, good body for a loose. Long, wiry leaves. Good daily drinker.

1980s Yin Ming Hao (TC)

Apparently a famous Taiwan tea. I don’t really know how authentic this is. The tea itself is good but I don’t really find it to be that exceptional. This sample was kindly provided to us by Cwyn for a TeaDB episode and I ended up with just a bit more than 3 grams. Under these parameters it is surprisingly strong out of the gate, with a sweet herbal tinge. Some minerals, vanilla, very basic huigan and tongue sensation. The color fades, but there is still plenty there. I drank the 1980s 7542 later that day (see below).

1980s 7542, Over-wet (OT)

This was another generous toss-in by Tony and I’m unsure if it’s the 7542 that he sold. Regardless, it is very good. A rich woody nose. Very full and smooth. The tea coats the mouth and tongue. Nice throat smoothness/huigan. This is very different from the Yin Ming Hao. After being aired out there’s really not much wet taste. Strong vanilla, creamy, wood aspects. Good qi/awareness/whatever you want to call it. Yin Ming Hao really doesn’t hold up well to this. Very warming, clears out sinuses. Berries come into play and are also really pleasant. Brews endlessly. It’s not really that complex or dynamic but it does what it does very well.

Recommended Tea:

  • 1990s HK Style
80s Yin Ming Hao, 80s 7542
80s Yin Ming Hao (left), 80s 7542 (right).

Thoughts & What I learned?

This month was an enjoyable one. Most of these mature pu’erhs have better longevity than the ripe teas from October. Sessions would typically compose of multiple parts where I’d take a break from brewing for a few hours. The combination of the longevity and the sheer amounts of teas, made it pretty difficult to session as many teas as I originally planned and I ended up running well into December tasting these teas.

This month I also made the decision to avoid more dry-stored teas. These types of storage remote in dramatically different stages for tea, making it a bit like comparing apples and oranges. The majority of teas fit into the traditionally stored category or southern-stored category in one way or another.

The taste of these mature pu’erh isn’t necessarily more complex in terms of flavors when compared with one another or even with ripe pu’erh. The better teas i.e. the 80s 7542 share similar base-level flavor notes with many of the weaker teas but have a better, deeper more interesting form, with better feel, coating effects, etc. I’m reminded of Marshaln’s excellent post It’s not about the flavours.

There was also a tea this month presented as raw pu’erh, but by my estimation was ripe. I didn’t include the notes, but it was an interesting session to run into at the end of the month.

One other thing I noticed this month was a personal preference away from certain teas that were stored more heavily. These teas will sometimes have the taste that’s been described to me by multiple parties as bitter vegetables, like bok choy. There’s definitely a slight astringency to some of these teas and some of them can make the throat sore if consumed heavily. Initially, I don’t think I minded these teas, but upon repetition I find I prefer the slightly more clean teas. Many of these teas get particularly nasty if overbrewed or left in the gaiwan for a few hours (something that can be mitigated with another rinse).

Tea Acquired From $ Quantity Cost/G Rating
2003 Bulang Jingpin Hou de $16.50 28.35 $0.58 Excellent-.
2003 Big Zhong 7542 Tea Classico $159.00 357 $0.45 Good.
2002 Fuhai Origin Tea 357 Good+.
2001 Mengku Yuah Yieh Xian Mansa Hou de $23.50 28.35 $0.83 Excellent-.
2001 Menghai Red Mark Tiepai White2Tea $100.00 357 $0.28 OK+.
2001 Changtai Hao Red White2Tea $145.50 357 $0.41 OK.
2000 Fu Yuan Chang Origin Tea 357 Excellent-.
2000 Dingxinghao Jiujiucha via Taobao $30.00 357 $0.08 Good-.
2000 8582 Light Origin Tea 357  – Good.
2000 8582 Heavy Origin Tea 357  – Good+.
2000 7532 CNNP Tiepai White2Tea $139.00 357 $0.39 Good.
1999 Yiwu Origin Tea Good.
1998 Big Mouth Zhong Green Mark Origin Tea OK.
1997 Tung Ching Hao Chi Cheng Tea Classico $197.00 400 $0.49 Good+.
1997 Big Red Mark Chawangshop $168.00 357 $0.47 Good+.
1997 7582 White2Tea $225.00 357 $0.63 Very Good.
1995 Mengku Origin Tea 357 Good+.
1992 Grade A Tuo Tea Classico $74.00 100 $0.74 OK.
1990s Jin Gua Gong Cha Chawangshop $92.00 500  $0.18 Meh.
1990s HK Style White2Tea $149.50 357 $0.42 Very Good-.
1990s CNNP Hster  –  –  – Good.
1990s Ba-Zhong Origin Tea $105.00 357 $0.29 Good.
1990s Loose Jake Good-.
1980s Yiwu Tea Classico $49.00 100 $0.49 Good-.
1980s Yin Ming Hao Tea Classico $325.00 400 $0.81 Good+.
1980s 7542 Wet Origin Tea 357 Excellent.
1980’s Wild Arbor Origin Tea $10.00 25 $0.40 Very Good-.

Next up for January: Lincang.

15 responses to “Mature Pu’erh [November 2014 Tea Drinking Report]”

  1. Hello James,

    A really good article. I can really feel your enthusiasm for puerh tea. It is something that comes across in your videos and in your writing which is great. This takes me back when I was beginning my journey with puerh tea over 10 years ago. The difference is that whilst I was busy going around in circles and chasing both the tea and the people involved you my good man, have a wonderfully straight line mapped out and you have both the tea and the people coming to your door. Genius!

    For me personally wet storage/shicang is very much a part of puerh tea. Like all things there is good and bad. When it is good I find aspects of sweetness, smoothness, and comfort in the brew. Something that may be of interest to you is that shicang is usually found and enjoyed in old territories that have a history of puerh tea trade and appreciation (ex. Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Malaysia, Taiwan).

    I am currently trying my hand at Blogging to share some of my own experiences and stories so I’m sure there will be lots to discuss.


      • Hello Jake,

        Thank you for your encouraging words. You are a man of fine taste. I have recently finished my go to basket of the 1950s Liu An Sun Yishun. I will open a new basket when I get back from my travels in early Jan 2015. About a month of reviving the tea and I should have a review up the first week of Feb 2015.

        I will take your email as my first tea request and for that I am happy to arrange a tea package your way. If you are interested please send me an email with your address.

        Best Varat

    • Hi Varat,

      Thanks for the comment and kind words! Like Jake, I just checked out your blog. Cool stuff. I’m looking forward to seeing what content your years of experience might be able to bring out.


      • Thank you James.

        It is always important to receive feedback, both good (preferably) and bad to assess where I stand with my thoughts and how to improve. Likewise I am happy to arrange a tea package your way (and Denny) for both of you as my contribution to your tea studies. If you are interested please send me an email with your address.

        Best Varat

  2. Thank you for this detailed report. Your link to Marsaln reminded me of my first experience of tea drunkenness when I was told we don’t tea for the taste, we drink it for the effects on the body. Drug addicts, I dare say 😉

    • Hi IGo,

      Thanks for the comment! Indeed. I’m about to head to the desert for 5 days. A barren tea landscape I’m afraid. I’m worried about the levels of withdrawal I will be put through.


  3. Great review James…really helpful. Recently I have been drinking White2Teas:
    2000 7532 CNNP
    1997 7582
    1990s HK style
    Your notes and experiences are very similar to my own. I need to have a few more sessions to be sure but I think I find the 2000 7532 CNNP more interesting and complex than the 1990s HK style. I agree the HK style is great value and very easy drinking but I found it less exciting or complex compared to the others. I did find that the HK style responded well to slightly longer steeps. Anyway…so far I prefer the 7532 to the HK style. The 1997 7582 is almost in another (better) category than the other two so it is tough to compare all 3 directly. I think you are spot on with spicy notes in the 2000 7532 CNNP…I thought I noted cinnamon? I find the camphor flavour very appealing…but elusive. Sometimes I note it in a session with a particular tea and other times I do not. Any thoughts about why that is the case? I did not experience as much camphor in the 1990s HK style as you describe here and in inbetweenisode 5. Perhaps I will experience it in future sessions…but so far I did not get it. Thanks again for the great work.

    • That 7582 rocked my socks, one of the most memorable tea sessions I’ve had lately (and the tea totally outlasted me). I generally much prefer drier storage, but I thought the slight humidity in the flavor was really balanced with the tea’s natural character. And I love those big ass leaves!

    • Hi John and Ian,

      Thanks for sharing your notes!

      You’re right about the HK Style. Despite having had a dozen sessions with the HK Style, I’ve had sort of inconsistent sessions out of it. It is always good and smooth, but the camphor isn’t as consistent as it is in other teas. I suspect, it probably simply has to do with what part of the beeng you’re drinking/what steep it is on.

      As far as the 7582. I only had two sessions with it. Both were very good, but the second (in clay) was markedly better. Alas, the tea is beyond the price range I would consider for such tea.

      As you state, the 7532 is a slightly different style of tea. You might be right about the complexity. In the end, I suspect my preference of the HK Style is largely a personal preference towards the more mature/smooth teas.


  4. 1) I recommended that you air out the YYX to make the tea more lively and complex. Otherwise, it’d behave closer to a shu. It never had any warehouse funk.

    2) I am quite impressed with how many teas you drank to put this comparison together. It was quite interesting to me how you felt the w2t Red Mark was better than the w2t Changtai. I’m a little sad that I can’t find more references to the Fuyuanchang, and I bet JakubT is pretty sad he doesn’t have a cake, since it really sounds like his sort of thing.

    3) You’ve mentioned price ranges for your personal consumption. As you could guess, one of the reasons why I recommended the teas that I did, is to simply emphasis just how much most of these aged, humid-stored teas offered for less than $200/cake aren’t particularly good. They aren’t bad, and one can enjoy them for what they are, but if $150-$200 is the most of what you can manage, and your body can manage younger tea, over the long run, it’s better to buy younger, greener tea (or buy really good shu–I would enjoy the Ziyun or Anxiang much more than such late ’90s cheap tea). If you’re not going to be regularly drinking that 2001 Menghai Taipai, it’s just not going to be a tea that you, five years/ten years from now, will thank your younger self for. I mean, why not ? It might be the thin paper, and not quite as easy to drink as the thick paper, but it’s miles better than the slightly older teas (with the exception of the fuyuanchang). Even then, the YYX isn’t really among the best of teas as it hasn’t really aged into anything really complex or full of qi. What it does do is pretty good, deep taste, very strong aroma, and it’ll get better at its own pace. The price of the Bulang Jingpin is completely out of whack. It’s probably something that compares directly with the bok choy banzhang of the same time period, and those are multiple thousands of dollars a cake. This is cheap because of it being an unlicensed production, and thereby “fake”. I thought it would be a good idea for you to try, because it’s close to how some of the best cakes from the ’90s would taste like (well, without some of the aged almond and vanilla flavors). Both teas can give a semi-solid base for how truly good mature teas ought to be like, as well as that ’80s 7542.

    • Hi shah8,

      Thanks for the comment and the recommendations for the report. Both the teas you recommended were important reference points both for myself and the report.

      1) Cool. I still have quite a bit of the sample left that I broke up 1.5 months ago. The two sessions I had were about a week apart and very different from each other, one was in clay and the other in a gaiwan. Wasn’t sure if the differences were from the airing out or from the vessel. I’ll have to brew it up again and compare my notes.

      2) I think the W2T red mark tiepai is mainly more to my taste than the Changtai Hao Red. The storage is definitely far heavier in the Changtai. I do wish I picked up more of that FYC.

      3) I think I agree with what you say here. 80-85% of the teas in this report are definitely drink nows that really will only get marginally better, via airing out or a little more aging. Lots of food for thought on where to best spend money.


    • There isn’t an “age” in terms of years that a tea will be considered mature. It has so do with storage conditions. A cake stored in a humid Hong Kong warehouse for 15 years would be considered mature by some, were as the same tea stored in less humid conditions might take 25 years to reach an equivalent maturity. Both teas will taste very different though.

      Side note: at what point a tea is labeled mature is much more lenient today than in the past. In times past, the 70 year range, give or take, was when a puerh was considered mature. It was the point when fermentation would be near 100% and you’d have to compare it to a tea twice its age to perceive and real difference

      • Hi Peter and Brian,

        Brian, thanks answering. This is moreorless how I’d define it as well.

        As many things pu’erh, it’s an imperfect term and a murky line when defining a tea as mature or aged that depends on many factors that Brian listed (actual age, storage, etc.).


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