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Tag Archives: pu-erh


What we ate in Boulder: part 1

It wasn’t all beer guzzling in Boulder, there was also tea!

Apparently, Boulder’s sister city is Dushanbe, Tajikistan. As a gift, the Dushanbe Tea House was assembled in Tajikistan then taken apart piece by piece and transported to downtown Boulder where it was reassembled amidst a garden of roses and a trickling stream.

Dushanbe Teahouse

As you may know, Jeff and I are kind of tea nerds, so we knew we’d be spending a long afternoon at this tea house for sure. It’s so hard to find tea shops that specialize in Chinese teas, they’re usually English “afternoon tea” type places with a sprinkling of heavily-flavored Assam and Ceylon teas, none of which we really care for. So we were excited to find that Dushanbe carries mostly Chinese teas of a high quality.

I loved seeing the authentic Persian-inspired painted ceilings and intricately-carved wooden columns.

Ceiling in Dushanbe Teahouse

And there was the constant sound of moving water from the Fountain of the Seven Beauties in the center of the tea house.

Fountain of the Seven Beauties

And the tea was excellent. Jeff had a Chinese black tea and I opted for a tea cocktail made from oolong, pineapple, and mango juices. Kind of like a tropical Arnold Palmer.

Jeff's tea and my tea cocktail

We also decided to have lunch there, starting with these curry-filled samosas with mango chutney and raita. So good!

Samosas with mango chutney

Jeff had one of the most amazing dishes I’ve ever tasted. It was a thai panang beef curry with bok choy and shaved jicama, the richest and most flavorful curry ever. I could not stop stealing bites from him!

Thai Panang beef

I ordered a salad of spinich and shaved pear in a pu-erh tea dressing with salmon and a bleu cheese-stuffed pear half. The stuffed pear was horribly underripe and hard as a rock, but I just scooped out the bleu cheese and ate the rest, which was an incredibly yummy salad without it.

Pear salad with pu-erh dressing and salmon

We ended up splitting a pot of oolong together and digging into dessert. This was the most soft and delicious gingerbread I’ve ever had. It was accompanied by a drizzle of blood orange syrup and five spice whipped cream. Yum!

Gingerbread with five spice cream and orange

Dushanbe Tea House was incredible. I was worried that a place that specializes in tea couldn’t possibly also make great food, but WOW they do. The whole place felt very authentic and natural, not gimmicky and contrived as these types of theme places can be. I can’t recommend it highly enough if you’re ever in Boulder!

Bee in Dushanbe garden

One place that was just ok was Chez Thuy, a Vietnamese place walking-distance from our rental. The free rice porridge was the best part of the meal!

Chez Thuy spring roll

The spring rolls were dry and flavorless, Jeff’s green curry was bland and full of watery vegetables, and my sampler plate of nori rolls, skewered beef, tempura shrimp, and stuffed chicken wing was way too heavy and strangley spiced.

Chez Thuy sampler plateChez Thuy green curry

I ended up taking mine back to the rental in hopes of snacking on it later, but it began to smell so atrociously within an hour that I never ended up eating it and it just stunk up the place for days. Skip Chez Thuy if you’re ever in town.

Back to the good stuff!

We caught up with some of our friends who moved out to Denver a while back and they could not stop raving about Snooze, a brunch place on Pearl St. that we’d passed a few times that was always crowded. We decided to take them up on their recommendation one morning and headed over expecting a long wait. Lucky for us, we were seated immediately on their lovely patio for prime people-watching!

Blueberry blossom pancakes at Snooze

I got the Blueberry Blossom pancakes: two super-fluffy and light pancakes studded with fresh berries and drizzled in local honey, topped with a sugary oat crumble and lavender butter! Best. Pancakes. Ever.

Jeff got the OMG French Toast which totally lived up to it’s namesake. Decadent when swirled in the vanilla cream sauce!

OMG french toast at Snooze

I wish we had a Snooze in Atlanta, I’d be waking up early to go there every weekend. There were so many things on the menu that I wanted to try!

Alright, one more Boulder recap to go. Tomorrow is the wedding and I’m rushing to get all this cake stuff done in time. Wish me luck!


Menghai pu-erh #7542-902 tasting notes

Please don’t be put off by the title of this post!

Tea, like wine, is one of those subjects that can seem really complicated because there’s just so much to know about it if you want to take the time to learn. Also like wine, tea is a subject that some drinkers (but certainly not all) can tend to get snobbish about and use as a means to try to impress and/or belittle others. I’m not into that.

So, I wanna tell you a couple things about tea, but I’m not gonna beat you over the head with it. I realize that just as I don’t give a single crap about wine, tea may just not be your thing either.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a “tea person” though, just as I will never be a “wine person,” it can be fun to hear about something totally new and different sometimes. That’s what I hope to do with my tea posts, show you a little bit of something that brings me joy in hopes that you’ll find it interesting too.

Menghai 7542-902 bing

So here’s what you need to know before we get started on the tasting.

You may have heard of the concept of “terroir” as it relates to wine. Basically, terroir refers to all of the environmental influences on the grape that help to shape it’s unique flavor. Tea is exactly the same. Where it comes from, how much sun it got that year, the exact temperatures, the flowers blooming in the area, the mineral content of the soil, and so on and so on, develop the leaf into something thoroughly unique that can’t be exactly reproduced ever again.

The vast majority of Chinese tea comes from the Yunnan province, and mostly from 6 mountains in the Xishuangbanna prefecture (kind of like a county.) One of the major tea factories in this region is the Menghai Tea Factory, where our pu-erh bing is from. You can see in the picture below that all of that is clearly printed on the wrapper so you know where your tea comes from.

Menghai 7542-902 wrapper

The next thing you want to know is what those numbers on the wrapper represent. the one on top, 7542, is the recipe number. The first two digits, 75, are the year the recipe was first developed, so this recipe was introduced in 1975. The next digit, 4, is the grade of the leaves used, so these are not top quality leaves as they are fourth-grade, but still pretty good. The last number, 2, is the number assigned to Menghai Tea Factory, so all of their recipes will end in a 2.

The middle number is the quantity of the product, this one is 357 grams.

And 902 tells you when this particular bing was made, 9 stands for 2009 and 02 means that it’s the second release of it.

Only slightly confusing, right? :)

Now onto how to brew it…

Pouring the first infusion

I’m not going to go into too much detail about this because we’re currently not doing it exactly right anyway. We just don’t have all the right drinking cups and sharing pitchers and tea tables to show you all the ceremony of it. We also don’t have a way of knowing if our hot water is at the right temperature and that really makes a difference. Some day we’ll get a programmable hot water boiler for that.

Basically you just fill the pot with leaf, warm up the cups with plain hot water, and then “rinse” the leaf. There’s always some sediment and tiny pieces of broken leaf to wash out, and rinsing helps to remove some of the initial bitterness in the tea. You pretty much just fill the pot with hot water and immediately pour it out once or twice.

Then you can begin your infusions. We did seven where we gradually increased the length of time that the tea brewed. Can you spot the subtle color differences as we went along?

First infusionSecond infusionThird infusionFourth infusionFifth infusionSixth infusionSeventh infusion

The really cool thing here is that the tea tastes and smells very different after each infusion. So without further ado, here are my tasting notes…

  1. Infused 25 seconds. Subtle peppermint and cinnamon aromas. Tastes of blond straw and still bitter and green tasting.
  2. Infused 25 seconds. I can smell only the clay of the pot, very minerally. Bitterness is mellowing out, tastes like a thin green tea.
  3. Infused 30 seconds. Starting to smell some honey, not just sweetness but the kind of tingling enzyme-laden honey scent. Tastes lightly grassy but with some very faint sugar flavor in the background.
  4. Infused 40 seconds. Smelling darker and more damp and woody, still honey enzyme aromas. Starting to taste dried mushroom and bark.
  5. Infused 50 seconds. All of a sudden aromas of sweet pear juice come forward. The tea has very little flavor though, just mellow.
  6. Infused 60 seconds. Fruity pear smell intensifies, almost lychee-like. Tastes of pear juice with a hint of pine.
  7. Infused 75 seconds. Smells now of pear and mushroom. Tastes like a high quality olive oil!

Infusion #6 was definitely my favorite! A very surprising flavor to come from a tea that smells like wood and mushrooms when dry.

And here’s what the leaf looks like after all that…

Used pu-erh leaves

It feels oily and fragile, and smells so interesting! It’s kind of like a combination of all the smells throughout the tasting.

Lucas liked to sniff at it too…

Sniffing spent leaves

Sorry bud, not food, at least not anything you would wanna eat.

So that’s it. I don’t really need to know anything about tea to know that I enjoy it, but having a few extra bits of knowledge is helping me to be able to choose teas that I’m likely to enjoy and to prepare them well.

It is so relaxing to spend an hour or so brewing and sipping and pondering the smells and flavors of tea with Jeff on a rainy day, or any day really. The whole process really serves to calm me down and to appreciate the beauty of the things around me.

What is your favorite tea? (And don’t think you have to drink Chinese pu-erhs to have an opinion about tea, I love me some Yogi brand Green tea with goji berry!)


Chinese tea shipment is here!


Our shipment of tea has finally arrived from China!

Chinese package addressPieces in package

First of all, I am so excited to to unwrap my very first bing of real pu-erh tea. That’s what it’s called when it’s pressed into a disc shape, it’s called a “bing.”

First pu-erh bing

Bing wrapper

I’ll go into what all the numbers and such on the packaging mean when I get around to reviewing it.

I pressed my face into the back and took a deep whiff of it immediately. It has a smell of wet blond wood, kind of like a wine cork but without the wine smell, of course.

We also picked up two samples of other pu-erhs, I forget what these are. The packages do not appear to be resealable so I chose not to open them yet, though I’d really like to smell them too.

Two sample tea bricks

We also got a gaiwan, which is a lidded cup that you can either brew tea directly in or just use to sift particulate out of brewed tea. The lid helps to hold back any bits you don’t want to drink.

Gleaming gaiwan

It is carved out of chalcedony, and is charmingly imperfect.

And now, the crowning glory, our new Yixing clay teapot…

Ornate teapot box

Carefully wrapped teapot

Our new Yixing beauty

See those speckles? To know that you have a pot made from real Yixing clay, it should have these speckles imbedded in the clay, not just on the outside. Some pots are colored to seem authenically speckled, but it’s just a coating, not a property of the clay itself. Fakers.

You can’t just pluck her out of the box and start brewing though, oh no. In the next day or two I’ll show you how to clean and season a new teapot and tell you all about why we needed a new one for brewing pu-erhs when we already have one. Really neat stuff.

Done geeking out now!