Mattcha’s mystery teas B & F
This is the last pair of teas from the blind tasting that I exchanged with Matt. I am glad we did this exercise; I now have a better idea of what kind of tea, and what kind of storage, Matt is drawing on for his reviews. From the seven examples, I can tell that Matt has an old school approach to puerh tea, not conservative mind you, but definitely focusing on the traditional processing style and with a keen eye for strength and energy.
To the extent that I’ve been able to learn about puerh (and I have a long way to go), I’ve found that most people who started drinking puerh only recently, especially after the puerh boom/bust of 2007, haven’t had the opportunity to taste a wide enough spectrum of puerh to understand what traditional style puerh, and aging more generally, has to offer. Most of the puerh threads on FB, instagram, Reddit, and even Hipinion (!), in addition to the online chat rooms I’ve seen, focus on very young new-style manufacturing tea. Drinking the wrapper has taken on a whole new meaning nowadays — it used to mean an obsession with over-branded flowery boutique brands or questionable famous village claims, but now it actually means salivating over anonymous new-make teas with unknown provenance and modern art wrappers… we are drinking the wrapper harder now than we’ve ever done before!
I tried and retried this tea, trying to clear my mind as much as possible and give it a fair shake… but my opinion kept getting more and more dismal… Sorry Matt! I have a lot to say about this tea and it’s not pretty. This relates to a major problem I have with the “Yesheng” label.
“Yesheng” is one of the many overloaded, badly translated and misused terms in Puerh tea. It can be used to refer to a purple leaf varietal, or cultivar, or just purple leaves of the standard Dayezhong varietal, but it can also be used to refer to “wild” or “undomesticated” teas of the Dayezhong varietal. What this means is not always clear either — it can mean that the plants have been untended for some time (usually unspecified), or that the plants have not been pollarded or pruned, so that they grow into taller trees, or it can even mean that the trees are part of a forest area that was not cut during the cultural revolution (this is the central advantage of some of the guoyoulin productions). In addition to these meanings, it can even be used to mean entirely different species of tea, most often Camellia Taliensis, or even for a mix of unspecified species from god knows what kind of plant. So, in the end, the term means virtually nothing at all, or whatever you want it to mean, as usual. Yesheng ambiguity is one of my Puerh Pet Peeves.
I am not a fan of these alternate-species puerh teas, and have had very unpleasant sessions with them in the past. It is true that they can sometimes generate a strong body effect, but they tend to be thin and bitter in a strange nauseating (for me) way. They remind me of drinking a chamomile tisane brewed with the water from well-boiled spinach and brussels sprouts. Suffice it to say that I am not a fan.
Well I’m afraid that Tea B, like a couple of regretful Essence of Tea purchases I made in ‘16, is an instance of this type of Yesheng. I apologize again to Matt, because I’m going to dig myself even deeper by describing exactly why I dislike this tea. Don’t worry Matt, I am going to redeem myself in my next post, reviewing you-know-what.
In the above photo, we see the menacing “other” species, whatever it may be. Small leaves, multicolored appearance. There is a good deal of smokiness and barnyard aroma on this. No astringency, quite watery texture. Quite bitter, but not in the usual way, it has a roasty green bitterness like spinach water mixed with some herbal tisane. It does have a nice perfume though, I must say. From the beginning till the end, a beautiful flowery perfume rises from the cup. Perhaps I should have just mentioned the perfume and moved on :). I’m not sure if this type of “yesheng” is cheaper to procure, but I have noticed more English language vendors pushing this kind of tea in the last few years. Perhaps it is a good way to get strong energetic effects at a lower price?
After a frightful and repeated exposure to Tea B, I returned to Matt’s excellent old-school puerh with Tea F, which I greatly enjoyed. A quick look at the above photo, I breathe a deep sigh of relief.
From the start, this is comforting, with a rich, sweet perfume. Aroma of the wet leaves is a nice forest aroma. The tea is of course young, appearing to be from the last five years at most. Very nice looking material, sturdy, peach fuzz, and with a wonderful tibetan incense aroma. Mild astringency, some bitterness, but with an overall sweet gushu profile. Could be a relatively young boutique Yiwu with good processing and dry storage. You can see from the liquor that despite the greenness, the tea does have an orange tint and is on the way to being mid-aged. Thanks for another reliable and elegant one, Matt!