In the month of October 2014, the tea of the month was Ripe Pu’erh. During this month, I had Ripe 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.
Primary tea producers:
- Menghai Tea Factory
- Yunnan Sourcing
Vendors ordered from:
Also featuring many other producers/vendors.
Since becoming more serious about tea, ripe pu’erh has always been a casual drink. While I find it immensely easy to drink, I find that most of the time I’d rather be reaching for traditionally stored pu’erh. This means I’ve mainly been content with reaching for reasonably priced ripe pu’erh, frequently made by Dayi (Menghai Tea Factory).
Approximate Brewing Parameters
About 7g/145 ml yixing, 5g/95ml gaiwan or 3g/60ml gaiwan. Double rinse and short steeps. These ratios are much lighter than my sheng or aged oolong ratios, highlighting the casual nature of my ripe pu’erh sessions. I experimented late in the month on upping this ratio, mainly with poor results.
Menghai Tea Factory
I usually recommend Menghai as the starting point for ripe pu’erh. For me it is also my basic benchmark for modern ripe pu’erh. There’s a tendency for drinkers to target boutique labels like many do for raw pu’erh. My opinion isthere’s really not nearly as much of a need to do that. Menghai has been cooking up ripe pu’erh for years and does a fine job with its ripening and blending process. They also will age the base material before pressing it, helping to get rid of any funkiness the tea might have.
2012 8592 (YS)
A perfect example. Despite the Menghai brand markup, this is still cheap relative to most teas (I picked it up for $11.50 at YS). Smooth, sweet, and very easy to drink. There are plenty of larger leaves and stems. I generally like these larger leaf recipes and feel as if the 8592 and other inexpensive Menghai ripe recipes make a fine argument why there is not a huge need to spend tons of money on ripe pu’erh.
2010 Golden Needle White Lotus (YS)
This tea has risen in price alot. I picked one up for $46 (from YS) in 2013, a price I thought was expensive at the time. Since then the price has risen eve more. The Golden Needle is made up of high-grade (small) leaves and is smooth, sweet, and creamy. I find it to be one of the richest teas of the month and very pleasant. This is probably not worth the cost but it is a nice tea.
2005 Ba Ji Pu Bing (YS)
This is a more premium Menghai production that was dry-stored (presumably Kunming and Portland) for ~9 years. An interesting contrast to the more standard 8592. Similar to that tea this uses larger leaves (Ba means 8, the average leaf grade). Due to its premium nature this isn’t nearly as stem heavy and is generally better. It is also a very different tea. Aromatic, with ripened fruits and a vanilla, cherry sweetness.
2009 Menghai Yellow Box Gongting Tuo Cha (YS)
Also a small leaf tea. This is somewhat similar to the Golden Needle White Lotus. Rich, smooth, and tasty.
2009 Menghai Ziyun (YS)
One of my favorites. This one also has small leaves slightly larger than the previous teas but also supposedly more aged material mixed in. It is not as sweet, but woodier, aromatic and creamy. Not as rich, but more complex and generally a little different than the other small leaf Dayi recipes.
1998 Menghai 7262 (W2T)
I felt like I should’ve liked this tea more. The taste is deeper, with a better body and even a little huigan (something missing in most ripe tea). There is a mild amount of storage taste. Frankly, I find it hard to justify the high cost especially when other options like the White Tuo are available.
- Quality? Very Good.
- Price? $0.05-0.70/g.
- Would order again? Definitely. Menghai remains my benchmark for reliable and good quality ripe pu’erh. The numbered recipe are almost all reasonably priced (when young) and can be acquired relatively easily from a number of sources.
For me, Xiaguan usually lags behind Menghai. While I find all their productions to be completely drinkable, I don’t think their house flavor is quite as appealing. Denny on the other hand is a huge fan of Xiaguan ripes, specifically their Xiao Fa Tuos from 2005 and 2007. I’ve witnessed the voracious rate in which he drinks through them.
2007 Xiao Fa Tuo (YS)
Woody sweetness, a well-balanced ripe that makes a nice contrast with the Menghai house taste. The price of these has gone up a bit in the past couple years (now $9.80), but by most western standards it is still pretty cheap.
2010 Xiao Fa Tuo FT 7513 (CWS)
While this is still the Xiao Fa Tuo (intended for export to France), it seems as if the recipe changed. I like this tea, but find it more ordinary than its older counterpart. This is also worst than the Menghai small leaf recipes in my opinion.
- Quality? Good.
- Price? $0.05-0.10/g.
- Would order again? Occasionally. I don’t turn to these teas often, but they are serviceable when I do.
Individual vendor produced teas are rarer for ripe than raw pu’erh. That being said, I’ve slowly accumulated my fair share of Yunnan Sourcing ripe tea over the past two years.
2011 Man Tang Hong 2 (YS)
A very pleasant ripe tea. I’ve realized this month that I’m partial to many of the ripe teas with Lincang base material. Good quality, whoe-leaf raw materials. Camphor, sweet and tasty. Easy to drink.
2013 Xue Ju Shu (YS)
Hard to compare this with other ripe teas but this is a nice little brick. Bright, sticky sweet, and aromatic.
2013 Yi Dian Hong (YS)
From the description, this is Nannuo raw material, with light fermentation. I’ve realized that my personal taste veers away from ripe teas from Nannuo or the nearby Bulang.Oddly, this seems to exclude Menghai factory ripe pu’erh (presumably largely from Menghai County Plantation tea), which I find quite enjoyable. This is not my favorite, but the fermentation is relatively light and maybe it will improve with time. Still at this cost it’s hard to complain much.
- Quality? Good.
- Price? $0.04-0.07/g.
- Would order again? Yes. I find myself liking Scott’s taste in ripe pu’erhs alot. This includes both the tea he selects and the maocha he presses for Yunnan Sourcing productions. All these teas are extremely reasonably priced. While it is not a 100% success rate on YS for ripe teas it is very close to. This is especially impressive considering the amount of tea on Yunnan Sourcing.
2013 Dz (Cwyn via Dr. Pu’er Taobao)
Thanks to Cwyn for sharing this tea. Similar to me, Cwyn is a more casual ripe drinker using it as a balancer for drinking young shengs. In a month filled with inexpensive teas, this is the cheapest. Unsurprisingly, it is nothing special. This is a tea meant for casual drinking and while I think it is a drinkable ripe pu’erh, I find it to be extremely average. There isn’t any fishiness, but not much to cause it to stand out either.
2012 Year of the Dragon (Mandala Tea)
It is a bit unfair to judge Mandala vs. other Chinese vendors here as they are different markets. That being said, this is a decent tea. Aromatic, smooth, sweet, silky, and creamy. Still, at $35/250g beeng I prefer other teas this month.
2011 Yong de Organic (YS)
This is extremely sweet, smooth, with good longevity. While it is difficult to distinguish it through description, this tea is probably my #1 budget pick of the month. The 2012 version (2011 is sold out) is available for a paltry $17/357g cake. A great buy for those looking for cheap tea.
2010 Hong Jing Tian (Cwyn via Camellia Sinensis)
The tea covered in this MarshalN post. Thanks to Cwyn for sending over this tea. The herb makes it more bitter which balances out the sweetness. Perhaps I am easy to please, but I find the taste to be surprisingly decent for a mini tuo. Now the bad. I find myself very energized after this with a tingly mouth. After drinking this slowly and paying close attention to the effects on my body, I feel uncomfortably energized after just a few steeps. I agree with MarshalN that it is pretty irresponsible for Camellia Sinensis to not be clear about what is in their product. I toss the leaves after four infusions and go back to drinking more Dayi. While the tea taste itself is not bad, comparing the $/g with other ripe teas, it is well overpriced.
2009 CNNP 7572 (Cwyn via ?)
This tea has been hanging out in a cardboard box in Wisconsin for the last few years. It is so mellow that its initial steeps actually remind me of the later steeps of ripe pu’erh. Light, sweet, and fruity, I can see this being a nice, casual part of a daily routine. A bit of that Bulang/Nannuo character, but nothing really rubs me the wrong way.
2007 Gu Ming Xiang Nannuo (YS)
This tea is not really to my taste. This also has that Bulang/Nannuo ripe taste that I don’t particularly enjoy. It starts out pretty punchy for a ripe, and then slowly becomes softer and more pleasant (in my opinion).
2007 White Dragon Lao Cha Tou (YS)
These were put into Yunnan Sourcing’s 2009 Cha Tou brick. Very enjoyable. A rich taste of ripened fruits. This tea is fundamentally different than other normal ripe teas making it a somewhat difficult comparison with other teas from this month. Easily the best Cha Tou I’ve had.
2006 Ripened Aged (Teavivre)
It is always interesting to see what teas serve as initiators into the pu’erh universe. It seems as if Mandala and Teavivre are two major fronts in this regard. Initially this tea gives whiffs of wet storage. However, after two rinses and one steep it quickly goes away. The taste is very creamy and milky. This isn’t going to win any awards amongst pu’erh heads but I can see how it makes a good, serviceable intro pu’erh.
2005 Ripe Bulang Maocha (W2T)
Easily my favorite of the Bulang/Nannuo ripe teas to pass my way this month. It is pretty different from most of the ripe teas this month. Sweet, but also plenty of punch and aggressiveness (for a ripe). With this tea the Bulang/Nannuo character is particularly well-balanced, perhaps due to its more advanced age.
2002 CNNP Tiepai 7572 (W2T)
This has a bit of wet storage smell. This isn’t a bad thing at all and I enjoy the tea’s milky, creamy and warming profile. It actually reminds me a bit of Teavivre’s 2006 Ripened Age. Alas, I only had one session for both teas so it is hard to say for certain.
1999 CNNP Old Tree Ripe (YS)
This tea is pretty cheap given its age. It is a routine tea. Easy drinking camphorated, smooth and sweet tea. Completely functional but not remarkable in anyway. I would spring for the 1997 CNNP 7581 if I wanted aged ripe tea from Yunnan Sourcing.
1998 White Tuo (W2T)
The dankest tea of em all. I find this to be generally pleasant made even better by its very low price. Teas like this and the 7581 I can see drinking extremely regularly. There is some definite wet storage to it, but it is extremely appealing in a dark, sweet, dank and creamy way.
1997 CNNP 7581 (YS)
Another very enjoyable aged ripe tea but in a different way. This is dry-stored and is pretty unique. Camphorated, full, sweet, with a lasting smoky sweetness that is uncommon with ripe tea. Its only real flaw is that it dies off a bit fast. In my experiments with higher leaf to water ratio, this was one of the only teas to perform well.
1997 Fuhai (NCTG)
Denny gave me a little bit of this after the TeaDB episode. Fuhai is a brand that mimicked Dayi heavily in the late 1990s/early 2000s. As a result, I brewed it side by side with the 1998 7262 and can conclude that they are very different teas. I feel as if this tea has either had significantly drier storage or is not quite as old as advertised. The flavor is cleaner and fruitier than the 7262 but not nearly as dark or sweet.
- 2012 Yong De Organic
- 2009 Menghai Ziyun
- 1998 White Tuo
- 1997 CNNP 7581
Thoughts & What I learned?
This month has been somewhat of a drag. Not painful in the same way that drinking young sheng can be hard on the body, but more tedious. Drinking ripe everyday is just not as interesting or pleasurable for me as many other teas. While the base taste is usually fine, there is rarely any huigan or other body effects. For me, it will likely remain a necessary, regular tea that I consume a few times a week.
Despite these realizations, there is definitely a spot for ripe pu’erh in my tea diet, even as just an occasional casual drink. I may also shorten the time length for some of the tea of the month series (maybe half a month). That being said, I feel as if I did learn a good deal about ripe pu’erh and my own relationship with it, even if it is simply confirmation.
Ripe tea tends to get muddled together very easily in my brain. This can be seen by the homogenous ratings of teas. I am also a big factory guy (for ripe). All the Menghai Tea Factory productions were winners and I’d recommend those starting out to order a few different teas from Menghai, including both small and large leaf recipes (Hong Yun and 8592?).
Interestingly, I also seem to have a regional preference towards northern ripe teas. This was an unexpected realization and something I only noticed about 2/3rds through the month. It lines up with alot of previous experiences with ripe tea. Curiously, Menghai Factory stuff (presumably plenty of Menghai County plantation material) is still very satisfying to me.
Is fancy or aged ripe pu’erh worth it? For me the answer is yes. It is best to be selective when it comes to special productions (I’d avoid the Golden Needle!) but many of my favorite teas this month were the more premium Menghai productions, none of which I would qualify as being prohibitively expensive. While the difference between spending $20 vs. $40 for a 357g beeng (or equivalent) might seem like quite a bit, but compared with the price of raw pu’erh or other teas I think the increased quality makes it easily worth it.
I don’t think I’ll ever be caught spending very much money on aged Menghai ripe tea, but with teas like White2Tea’s 1998 White Tuo or even Yunnan Sourcing’s 1997 CNNP 7581 (expensive, but affordable) I can see buying and enjoying these teas often . These are not just good ripe teas but good teas in their own right and I’m totally fine spending the necessary amount for them.
|2012 Menghai 8592||Yunnan Sourcing||Menghai||$19.00||357||$0.05||Good.|
|2010 Golden Needle White Lotus||Yunnan Sourcing||Menghai||$61.00||357||$0.17||Good+.|
|2005 Ba Ji Bu Ping||Yunnan Sourcing||Menghai||$120.00||357||$0.34||Good+.|
|2009 Menghai Yellow Box||Mandala Tea||Menghai||$14.00||100||$0.14||Good+.|
|2009 Menghai Ziyun||Mandala Tea||Menghai||$14.00||100||$0.14||Very Good-.|
|2010 Xiao Fa Tuo FT 7513||Chawangshop||Xiaguan||$5.00||100||$0.05||OK.|
|2007 Xiao Fa Tuo||Yunnan Sourcing||Xiaguan||$9.80||100||$0.10||Good+.|
|2007 Gu Ming Xiang Nannuo||Yunnan Sourcing||Gu Ming Xiang||$25.00||357||$0.07||OK.|
|1997 CNNP 7581||Yunnan Sourcing||CNNP||$75.00||250||$0.30||Very Good+.|
|1998 Menghai 7262||White2Tea||Menghai||$249.00||357||$0.70||Good+.|
|2002 CNNP Tiepai 7572||White2Tea||Unknown||$49.50||357||$0.14||Good.|
|2007 Lao Cha Tou||Yunnan Sourcing||White Dragon Factory||$7.50||100||$0.08||Good+.|
|1997 Fuhai||New Century Tea Gallery||Fuhai||$300.00||357||$0.84||Good+.|
|2011 Yong De Organic||Yunnan Sourcing||Yong De Zi Yu||$19.00||357||$0.05||Good+.|
|2012 Year of the Dragon||Mandala Tea||Mandala Tea||$35.00||250||$0.14||Good.|
|2006 Ripened Aged Loose Pu-erh Tea||Teavivre||–||$11.90||100||$0.12||Good-.|
|2011 Man Tang Hong II||Yunnan Sourcing||Yunnan Sourcing||$24.00||357||$0.07||Good.|
|2013 Yi Dian Hong||Yunnan Sourcing||Yunnan Sourcing||$4.10||100||$0.04||OK+.|
|2005 Ripe Bulang Maocha||White2Tea||–||$6.50||50||$0.13||Good.|
|2013 Xue Ju Shu||Yunnan Sourcing||Yunnan Sourcing||$6.00||110||$0.05||OK+.|
|1999 CNNP Old Tree Ripe||Yunnan Sourcing||CNNP||$60.00||250||$0.24||Good-,|
|2010 Hong Jing Mini Tuo||Camellia Sinensis||–||$9.79||50||$0.20||OK+.|
|2013 DZ Pu’erh||–||–||$21.75||1000||$0.02||OK-.|
|1998 White Tuo||White2Tea||–||$17.50||100||$0.18||Very Good-.|
Next up for November: Mature Pu.