Though TEASPEC was only founded in 2015, the family behind the company has a journey that is decades in the making. The key take away from their story is pride in quality, being both avid collectors and advocates of pu-erh. Thus, they strive to teach others the proper ways to handle, brew and store pu-erh for maximum taste.
Whats in a Name
SPEC is a suffix of specification, used out of the desire to set precise industry standards for pu-erh and Chinese tea.
TEASPEC pu-erh is aged in Malaysia. According to TEASPEC, the natural conditions here are superior for maturing pu-erh, making it more widely sought after, than pu-erh stored in China, Hong Kong or Taiwan.
For anyone who has ever tasted pu-erh, particularly ripe pu-erh, you'll know that the flavour is totally unique. If you've never tried one, let me tell you that the flavour is unlike anything else. However, all ripe pu-erh tea sits on a spectrum of good and bad quality, at one end is "gag reflex activated" and at the other is "sweet and delicious".
To learn more about what causes the drastic differences in flavour, have a look at "Tea Teaching: Pu-erh"
Colour: Deep mahogany.
Aroma: Like wet bark, leather and rotting undergrowth. A damp autumnal scent that reminds me of woodland.
Flavour: All the notes of this tea are deep, dark and savoury. There are lots of earthy and wooded tones; damp wood, bark, a musk of peat, and rotting undergrowth.
Tasting Note: My words make this tea sound almost pretty but, in the end, getting through a cup was more manageable than enjoyable. I initially received a 1 cup sample at the beginning of summer and liked it. However, since receiving a larger sample and being able to taste Ripe Marvel multiple times, I really struggled to finish each cup. As my experience with tea grows, my flavour preferences and observations develop. However, my taste buds may not be the culprit for my change in opinion! Perfecting the production of pu-erh can be difficult, instead this could be down to inconsistent quality between batches. Either way, I became more reluctant to return to it and when I did, I started noticing a sludgy feeling in my stomach. Not good! After reading up on pu-erh, many sources suggested this could indicate improper fermentation and an imbalance of bacteria!
Raw pu-erh doesn't undergo the same extensive fermentation process as ripe pu-erh. It is therefore typically more subtle and closer in flavour to black tea. This makes it much easier for the average tea lover to enjoy!
Colour: Light caramel / honey.
Aroma: Empyreumatic and woody, think wood-smoke, ash, tobacco, sawdust and cedar. There’s also a faint sweetness to Raw Dazzle that’s a bit like burnt sugar or maple syrup.
Flavour: The starting notes are burnt and sweet, a combination of caramel, tobacco and dry wood, moving quickly into a smoky flavour and a lasting tobacco-ness.
Tasting Note: I have an affinity for smoky tea so I really enjoyed Ripe Marvel, both when I tried it in the summer and the multiple times since receiving a full sample. However, smokiness in pu-erh is considered an indicator of lesser quality and can be caused by improper storage or fast-track drying techniques.
Pairing: Sweet red grapes. They washed over the natural sweetness and smoked flavour of the tea, drawing out the raw earthy flavours.
I really love the TEASPEC idea that each tea has a tale to tell, a history and persona that is captured in the age of the tea, and every time you take a sip, that story is reflected in the flavour. It’s a very beautiful idea. However, after reading TEASPEC place so much emphasis on quality, I was left disappointed. I found Ripe Marvel to be borderline undrinkable and, despite really enjoying Raw Dazzle, it may also have questionable quality. I can't attest for or against their other pu-erh, having only tasted Raw Dazzle and Ripe Marvel, but for a brand with such a strong focus on quality, I would expect a firmly set standard across their whole range. This means their other pu-erh is also of questionable quality or they are neglectful of the quality on particular teas.