Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Any Tea Can Be Aged, I Suppose

In Korea many years ago it occurred to me that any type of tea can be aged into something different and potentially interesting.  I came to an understanding that it doesn’t even have to be the typical type of aged tea or hei cha (puerh, liu bao, liu ann) to be aged.  I came to this revelation earlier than some, influenced by the different types of tea produced in Korea many of which can be aged.

I also remember that others were also coming to the same conclusions.  I remember this article in A Tea Addicts Journal, where Marshal’N pretty much reaches the same conclusion about Darjeeling Second Flush- it actually ages quite well.

The Chinese Tea Shop in Vancouver was early out of the gates selling aged white tea.  The first in the western market, I do believe.  I think, it was an early influence on Char of Oolong Owl who is an avid drinker and ager of white.  I ended up sampling a bunch of this stuff from them in 2010.  I ended up buying up a couple KG of fresh Yunnan white teas at that time to age.  Actually, they were a year old and discounted heavily because at that time, people didn’t understand the aging potential of white tea.  I ended up giving most of it to a family member who loved white tea and drank some of it up.  In the end I didn’t even have any left to age out.

Times have changed especially over the last few years.  For tea dealers there has to be a market for this stuff before they can sell it.  Nowadays due to various market forces, aging of white and black tea seem to have taken hold.  But for dealers to offer this tea in the first place a certain groundwork has to be laid.  First, people have to be aware of the fact that they can age a particular type of tea.  However, once there is a public understanding that a certain type of tea can be aged, then there is room for the tea vendor to sell more of it compared to a tea that must be consumed fresh.  They can sell some to customers for current consumption and to others for later aging or maybe to the same person willing to both drink now and age.

Currently, white2tea is effectively pitching this to tea drinkers and backing it up with some white and red teas that people seem to be excited about.  This is, no doubt, in response to the increasing price of puerh, mainly, but also, I believe, to changing tea drinking trends in mainland China.  The last year or so white2tea have been focusing on pressing white tea.  Pictured above is a complimentary sample of 2018 white2tea Turtledove Mini that I received in my Black Friday order.  Turtledove uses material from Yunnan.  I wasn’t a big fan of it but to be honest but I haven’t sampled pressed white tea enough to make a real educated option.

This year white2tea has also put an emphasis on red tea (aka hong cha or “black tea”) even in pressed form.  I haven’t tried any from white2tea this year but pictured below is an interesting hong cha from the Essence of Tea.  Most of these Hong cha are using Xishuangbanna puerh material but are processing it as lightly oxidized hong cha.  This 2018 Essence of Tea Spring Da Xue Shan Wild Red Tea which I received complimentary in my Black Friday order is rather interesting though (pictured below).  The material is yesheng/ wild material but processed as hong cha.  It is very vibrant, intensely fresh aromatic and has a smooth very complex fruity body.  I highly recommend it for those looking for something different in red tea.  Too bad it wasn’t pressed into a cake.

For me, in the end, white or red tea doesn’t come close to puerh.  Sure, you could age it, but really it has a different energy to it, a different qi, and effects the body differently.  Well, really, you can age any good tea- I certainly have some really interesting aged tea in storage.  Even some crazy expensive green teas that were selling for $1.60/g in 2006 … who says you can’t age and re-roast green tea?  But will it ever be as complicated, nuanced, harmonious, and feel as good as aged puerh…

I doubt it.


Monday, February 11, 2019

Rough & Elegant: Two Interesting Yesheng/ Wild Tea Samples from Teapals

Last month I put my very first order through at Teapals.  I picked up what turned out to be the last of these 2003 Shuangjiang Mengku Da Xue Shan Wild puerh bricks (I haven’t tired them yet) and in the order I received a few interesting complimentary samples of wild puerh by Mr. Teapal himself, KL Wong.

I believe these came from KL Wong’s personal collection because I don’t see them for sale on his website.  Usually, I don’t write about samples that are never offered for sale in the Western market but these two are both a bit unique in their own ways.  One of them is one of the most ethereal and elegant wilds I have tried where the other is from Western Xishuangbanna, the Naka region, an area that we don’t tend to see a lot of yesheng.  So I thought, for eduational purposes, I would type some notes up on these two interesting wild teas.  Why is most yesheng/ wild that reaches western markets from Northern Xishuangbanna or from the Yiwu/ Western Xishuangbanna producing areas?  This, I don’t know?

2008 Teapals Small Factory Naka Yesheng

The dry leaves smell of hay and distant woody sweetness.

The first infusion has a buttery entry with a soft and woody base with a creamy sweetness.  There is a faint cloud of fruit sweetness on the breath- almost like a tart cherry taste but not really even tart.

The second infusion I taste a more woody less buttery taste.  It has a straw almost dry wood with a layer of sweetness.  The moutheel is mildly sticky the breath is of fruits of faint strawberries and wild cherry, it’s more of a creamy sweetness almost candy floss.  The tastes are faint and delicate but are supported in the woody base.

The third infusion is a touch more woody with a pungent almost wood bark with a long faint fruit aftertaste layered into faint candy floss.  This infusion has a bit of a brackish/ smoke tinge to it.

The fourth infusion starts a touch smoky and wood.  The mouthfeel is mainly on the tongue.  The Qi is pretty mild with a soft warmth generated in the body the spine feels nice and loose.  This infusion gets noticeably smoky and slightly rough with a baked apple sweetness and candy floss covered in a woody slight smoky taste.

The fifth infusion has a nice woody, deeper slight smoky, layered dry apple nuance.  Has a slight cooling taste.  The qi is mild and a bit relaxing now.  I can feel it behind the eyes.  This tastes like a pretty traditionally processed wild.  Has a bit of a fruit aftertaste lingering there.

The sixth infusion starts a bit smoky with nuances of wood and almost fruit sweetness.  The qi is quite mild but warming in the body.

The seventh infusion is a bit warm fruity smoky onset slight sandy tongue feel.  Lingering smoke and slight fruit aftertaste.  Long slight sweet, slight smoky taste.  Mild Qi sensation- warming in body and can feel energy in the diaphragm.

Eighth is much the same.  With a faded talic berry nuance. Energy feels clean and natural.

I steep this for a few more infusions and get a nice smoked plum flavor in an almost sandy tongue feeling.

This is standard enough wild for an everyday drinker, clean in the body, but no other overly apparent strengths and an old-school a traditional processed vibe.

I enjoy this tea for what it is- nice little traditionally processed wild from a region I have not yet sampled a wild tea from, Naka.

2018 Teapals Early Spring Wild Yiwu

Dry dark coloured leaves have a heavy dense deep floral syrupy sweetness with lingering candy odour.

The first infusion arrives with a light water vacuous onset with faint icing sugar sweetness and faint woodiness.  The taste is delicate and the minute’s later aftertaste is a mild woody coolness with distant long creamy sweetness.

The second infusion has more sweetness in its approach and a soft and elegant long dry woodiness that stretches into a faint bubble gum flavor long on the breath.  This tea is very elegant and long tasting.  Its mouthfeeling is very soft and mildly viscus on the tongue.  It feel like it reaches deep into the throat but with graceful simulation there. The Qi in here is very nice, happy feeling, light-floating head sensation, lax body, smiles. 

The third infusion starts off very faint, almost woody with a faint underlying bubble gum sweetness and icing sugar.  The profile is very long, subtle, graceful, super mild.  A soft returning coolness in the deep throat.

The fourth develops some depth with a soapy bubble gum almost grape Thrills gum like taste that pops initially before embracing the thin dry wood tastes.  This initial taste is strung out slowly in the aftertaste and breath.  Deep relaxation you can feel it in the heart slowing- Qi is very very nice.  Big relaxing and gooey body sensation Qi here.

The fifth infusion has a woody almost icing sugar onset with dry woods to follow.  It develops a fluffier cotton in mouth feeling and has a woodier almost briny woody and faint floral suggestion.  Deep long faint sweetness of bubble gum on breath.  Floating.

The sixth infusion is developing a subtle chestnut richness with thin dry wood taste and faint long barely bubble gum tastes.  The taste is still very elegant but I wouldn’t say it’s weak or thin but rather fine.  The seventh is much the same as the flavours develop a warmer almost nutty wood nuance.  The mouthfeel is soft, fluffy, and barely sticky.

The eighth and ninth have a richer nutty wood taste with a barely creamy sweetness.  Overall the taste is sweet but hard to explain like the sweetness is coming from the nuttiness.  Faint creamy sweetness in breath.  The mouthfeel develops a mild astringency now.

The 10th and 11th have a more round, almost metallic woody taste and deep faint long sweetness.  There is faint floral lingering- the mouthfeel is more astringent here.  The taste is mainly woody now slight astringency with metallic and faint breath sweetness.

I had to step away from the tea table very early morning and, unfortunately, didn’t return until sunset.  This one seemed to start to fade before I stepped away.  I put it in an overnight infusion and got some really nice dense, rich, syrupy fruit stuff.  I put it in another overnight infusion and got much the same which tells me this one could have probably steeped out nicely.

This wild had real nice qi, it was one of the most fragile wild tea I have sample so far.  Much more delicate than any other Yiwu wild I have tried in the past (here and here).  Nice to drink now… love the qi in there.


Monday, February 4, 2019

2019 Puerh Tea Predictions & Checking Past Predictions

One of my favorite posts of the year is Cwyn N’s yearly purerh predictions.  Last year I had rough copied some predictions of my own and was going to post that but, like a lot of rough copies I have on my PC, I never finished or published that post.  This year I thought it would be interesting to go back to some previous year's predictions and see if they came true…

2018 The Year of Puerh Storage

Cwyn N – Storage Prediction 2018- The biggest single prediction of 2018.  She pointed out that a lot was going on out of pubic view in private chats and invite only Slack threads and that this just basically came into full public view this year.  But did it ever explode.

James- Big Storage Solutions- James of TeaDB isn’t really a predictions type of guy but he did hint that larger storage setups are going to be the next big thing in storage.  Then he teased us all with the Euro Cave.

Me- I embraced the whole storage topic and thought I’d run with that by offering a challenge to the pumidor-centric view of Western puerh storage/aging in this article.

Marco- That article of mine was followed by detailed comparison reporting by Marco on Mylar bag hotbox storage (that I had no idea about).  Together they both (let's be honest, its mainly Marco's article) ushered in a shift in Western puerh storage in 2018 to the potential for more heated and sealed options looking forward.

My Past Predictions are Pretty Good

Rise in shu puerh popularity- predicted its popularity increase way back here with the explanation of why it will happen.  Shu puerh seems to have exploded this year.  Yunnan Sourcing seems to have grabbed a large section of that market by being ahead of the other vendors while offering some really nice pesticide free product at low prices.  The marketing of this product has been bolstered by many recent reviews of Yunnan Sourcing Shu puerh on TeaDB.

Global Uncertainty/ Currency Issues- Predicted global uncertainty and currency issues influencing the puerh world in comments here.  Currency was cited by Scott of Yunnan Sourcing as one of the reasons for puerh price raises this past year in wake of a Chinese/US trade war.  Likely, another reason the Essence of Tea distanced themselves from trading in Great Britain Pounds (GBP) and switched to trading in USD this year in light of what is going on with Brexit.  The United States buyers are less sensitive to this because they don’t have to exchange their currency when they purchase puerh from Western vendors but the rest of us pay closer attention.  It many have even had the effect of keeping 2018 prices from rising and may even result in some price corrections.

Better Black Friday Sales- See my last minute prediction here and follow up blog post confirming the resulting sales burst.  Considering the enormous sales generated this year, I predict that 2019 Black Friday will be even bigger. 

Why? It is cyclic phenomena that is taking place here people.  Big sales = more puerh buyers holding off on yearly purchases and waiting to spend the majority of their puerh budget on Black Friday where they can get the most from their money = sales become larger to entice spending in a very small competitive window= more and more people hold off puerh buying until Black Friday = competition is more fierce so vendors have to offer better sales. 

You know who started this all right? I give Paul of white2tea credit for starting it all here by the way. Thanks.

Qing Bing as Response to Xiao Binging of Puerh Industry- This recent article covers the issue in detail.  Basically, I called out the industry in this post here which cited that someone has to press a huge cake to make it right.  So Paul of white2tea pressed a few huge puerh cakes that he gave away in a sweepstakes marketing promotion in response to the criticism.  Awesome.  (see Below)

My 2019 Puerh Predictions

Shu will continue to be big and will grow. Western vendors will continue to find interesting ways to market shu puerh.  This includes more premium options as well as more unique options like bamboo, minis, coins, bricks, chocobars, waffles, Snap Chat ghost shape, ect.  White2tea will probably go the route of interesting marketing and Yunnan Sourcing the route of more premium offerings.

Creative blends will be used to help keep sheng prices from rising too much.  The Essence of Tea was spot on with their blending this year as a method to keep prices more reasonable while still offering a unique sheng puerh product.  They did this in three clever and different offering this past year.  First, by offering this 2018 Spring Essence of Tea Piercing the Illusion wild tea and sheng puerh blend that was Qi focused.  Second, by offering this 2018 Spring Essence of Tea Gua Feng Zhai which used a small amount of the huang pian (Yellow matured leaves) in the harvest.  Third, by offering this 2018 Essence of Tea Yiwu a whole year’s harvest (Spring and Autumn combined), single family blend.  I see more vendors offering whole year’s harvest blends, cakes which keep in the huang pian, as well as wild tea and sheng puerh blends in the future.

More Famous puerh producing areas/ forests in the Bulang/ Bada are discovered.  This was one of my unpublished predictions of last year.  Just look at a map and tell me that there isn’t tones of undiscovered quality puerh locations there, in the forest somewhere.  Who will be the first to find these areas?  I don’t know but in 2008 I predicted the rise of boarder tea (it was actually teamster Kim’s prediction) on this blog and it has become slow to become popular but it is now a thing.

Even Bigger Black Friday Promotions (see above)

Specific Western Puerh Vendor Predictions

Paul of white2tea will be the first Western puerh vendor to press a puerh melon (we all want the melon, don’t we?) and he will continue to expand his offerings of minis/ mini tongs.  He will be the first Western puerh vendor to offer a 500g or larger bing for sale on his site.

Scott of Yunnan Sourcing will offer more sheng blends including higher quality sheng puerh blends- a mid-priced and a high-priced blend to complement the popular lower price point Impression blend.  He is becoming quite the blender these days.

David and Yingxi of the Essence of Tea will offer some sort of promotion/give away involving some interesting antique tea even though the idea of offering a promotion such is this is counter to their hands off approach to marketing.  They might even press their first shu puerh cake… maybe.

Oh those crazy predictions… let’s see if any come true.


Friday, February 1, 2019

The Best of the Cheapest: 2017 Yunnan Sourcing Impression & Scott’s Blending Skills

In the Western puerh scene white2tea’s Paul (Twodog) is known for his blends, certainly they can be quite delicious.  Then along came 2017... 2017 was a watermark year for Yunnan Sourcing puerh blends.  In the lest two years they have developed a good reputation for not only these two famous yet very inexpensive blends, but some of their other lab tested, pesticide-free, shut blends as well.  The 2017 Rooster King Shu, sold out quick- the quality really surprised me.  The other, this 2017 Yunnan Sourcing Impression ($27.00 for 357g cake or $0.08/g) has been very popular since its Autumn 2017 release (Edit: this tea was later found out to be released in Spring 2018).

It seemed the hype for this cake reached a climax at Black Friday this year with a few great articles featuring this full 357g sheng blend.  I don’t think I could add any more than this post on the topic really.  I wonder how many of these guys flew off the shelves on Black Friday?  I’ll bet that this was the single biggest seller this Black Friday.  I have been eyeing them for quite some time so ended up buying a handful of them to make it worth the shipping.

Many have championed this 2017 Yunnan Sourcing Impression as Scott of Yunnan Sourcing’s best sheng puerh blend to date.  I had pretty much sampled the whole Yunnan Sourcing Brand puerh selection from 2009-2011 and some of the 2012 but have never tried any of Scott’s sheng blends before, this will be a first for me...

Dry leaves are scented with a very vibrant tropical fruit odour over dry woody layers, peat, and moss.  The quality is immediately apparent in the vibrancy here.

First infusion starts with a soft fruity lemon and pineapple note, it transitions to a swelling creamy sweet taste.  There is metallic tastes as slight wood in the approach to the long creamy aftertaste.  The mouthfeel is sticky in the mouth.

The second is more sweet and full.  The initial taste is of stones and sweet vegetables, there is a lemon note in there as well.  The taste has a nice cool finish in a stimulating throat feeling.  There is a honeydew melon flavor lingering in the throat.  Lots of interesting notes playing out here.  Soft bitterness, slight sour, soft astringency in throat.  Creamy sweet with fruity sweet and even a vegetable sweetness.

The third infusion starts a touch spicy with sweet yam and creamy sweet notes followed by a metallic taste with makes the mouth sticky and nicely stimulated the throat.  The taste is long and creamy and almost cucumber in the aftertaste.  There is a lot going on here.  The cheeks are sticky as are the lips, and the mid throat opens to embrace the creamy and fresh aftertaste that also has notes of metal, yams, and even suggestions of wood.  The Qi makes my face flush and a heat sensation emerge. I feel it in the eyes which seem heavy.  I feel simultaneously sleepy as well as relaxed.

The fourth infusion has a juicy sweet taste to in now initially then a nice creamy sweeping aftertaste.  The mouthfeel is sticky and dense.

The fifth infusion has a nice burst of fruit but mainly creamy sweetness initially then it slowly rides into a long sweet creamy aftertaste in a full sticky mouhtfeeling.  The mouthfeel has a cotton like feel in the mouth and throat.  The creamy sweet taste is long with a touch of faint cooling.

The sixth infusion has a juicy fruity vibe, creamy sweet, softer sticky mouthfeel.  This tea is fading a bit here.  The mouthfeeling is nice and creamy fruity taste is fresh and vibrant in the mouth.

The seventh infusion has lots of those creamy sweet notes but the sweetness has a simple and very pure and fresh feeling to it.  You know that tropical sweetness, banana, pineapple maybe.  It’s yummy and the aftertastes take it along nicely.  Almost like an artificial banana candy taste, I like that.

The eighth I add 10 seconds to the flash infusion add it pushes out a bit more complexity in the flavor.  Green beans, banana, yam, moderate sticky/ dryness.  More of a vegetable fruit sweetness.

The ninth infusion I add 15 sec to flash and get a slightly chalky, dry wood, and creamy taste with vegetables underneath.  This infusion is a touch more bitter, it makes the sweet tight aftertaste pop but it is overshadowed by the woody/biter taste.  There is a butterscotch taste in the aftertaste.

The tenth infusion I add 20 seconds to flash infusion and get a thicker, richer taste of woods and beans with sweeter tastes retuning for a pop in the aftertaste under quilted bitter woods.  There is not too much complex taste in these leaves in the late infusions and the stamina of these leaves is not the greatest.  The sweet taste sure pops with that bitter astringency but then goes back to bitter quite quickly here.  The qi is pretty strong heavy, dopy, make me feel sleepy type of qi sensation.

The eleventh I add 25 seconds to the flash infusion and get a really dark chocolate delicious tasting thing with fruity notes in the distance and bittersweet coco up front.  This is yummy and right when I think about throwing in the towel with this one.  It is a Laoman E type of note even though you can be sure there is none of that in here.  The body qi of this blend is really harmonious and this puerh could easily be consumed now because it lacks a certain harshness in the body.  It actually makes the body feel warm and soothed, I like that.

I go for a 12th at 30 more seconds than flash all of the sweet taste is pretty much gone here.  Nothing but bitter left.  So, I end the session.  I steep this tea overnight and get a rich broth of flavors the next morning.

The flavours in the first few infusions are the best of the cheapest- complex and interesting.  The Qi is also the strongest so far- is offers a big relaxing dopy effect, if that’s your thing.  But the stamina is weaker than the other cheap budget puerh I have sampled.  I felt I had to add more time to infusions much earlier and the tea ends much quicker than the other budget options.  To me, stamina is really important because I really steep my puerh to the very end.  A tea that finishes at 12 infusions vs 20 makes a big difference in value.

This 2017 Yunnan Sourcing Impression is the same actual price per gram as 2018 white2tea Snoozefest ($0.08/g) .  They are actually similar in many ways- the most obvious being that they are both multi area Autumnal puerh blends.  To compare the two I would say that mouthfeel is better with Snoozefest by a little, flavor snoozefest is more high notes but Impression has more depth of flavor and more interesting flavor by a bit.  The impression also has a deeper feeling tea liquor- there is a certain thickness in the tea liquor that is the biggest flaw in the 2018 Snoozefest.  The stamina of Snoozefest is better as the late infusions are a very pleasant and enjoyable sweetness where Impression is more bitter in the end and peters out faster. I like Snoozefest’s tighter compression as well.  The Impression is lab tested pesticide free and the Snoozefest doesn't feel as pure to me.  This 2017 Yunnan Sourcing Impression is the winner out of these similar priced things, for sure.

All in all this 2017 Impression is probably the best for how cheap it is, I don’t imagine finding anything cheaper and this enjoyable.  However, with this said, I would gladly pay double and get 3x more value i.e the 2018 white2tea Splendid.  There are probably no fresh puerh in this lower price range that taste as good.  Also, I still tend to go for 2018 Essence of Tea Bamboo Spring for drink now sheng puerh consumption over any of these budget options.

You’re paying almost twice as much for the 2017 Yunnan Sourcing Impression but the winner is still 2018 white2tea Splendid for the best of the cheapest sheng puerh.

Rats!  I just checked the website when I was adding the hyperlinks to this post and found out it has just sold out.  This exercise of finding the best of the cheapest feels a bit silly if we are just comparing Sold Out puerh, doesn't it?  Conveniently, the 2018 Yunnan Sourcing Impression was just released with a beautiful koi fish wrapper design.  I thought the 2017 wrapper was stunning!  I wonder if it is comparable in quality to this, now famous 2017 Impression?

But wait, I have a late entry in the quest for the Best of the Cheapest fresh young sheng puerh…
Dogleg Sean's (Dead Leaves Tea Club) Tasting Notes

Char's (Oblong Owl) Tasting Notes

John B's (Tea in the ancient world) Tasting Notes

Steepster Tasting Notes


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

white2tea’s “Sales”, Sweepstakes Marketing, and Pressing 3KG Puerh Cakes

White2tea is good at running promotions and I find them super interesting, fun, and pretty brilliant.  White2tea calls them a “Sale” but by definition a sale is a period during which a shop or dealer sells goods at reduced prices. The interesting thing is that during these so called white2tea “sales”, puerh is actually not sold at reduced prices- the price of tea doesn’t change during these “sales” at all.  When Paul sets a price on his puerh, it rarely moves.  It actually never is reduced.  Ever.  But on the positive, if he does raise prices on his puerh, it is usually only a very small yearly increase smaller than most other western vendors, I think. 

I can respect that he sets the price and sticks to it.  But for a puerh company that is so concerned about the language of describing puerh age and terroir, I find it interesting that they are not as concerned about the actual meaning of words like “sale” or “aged puerh”.  The double standard sure makes me chuckle and shake my head.  Can anyone else explain this to me?  Am I missing something here?

I suppose you could consider free shipping an overall savings but I don’t think free shipping, by definition, could be considered a sale.  Although, I think it is a reduction in the actual price of the tea.  Ok, enough of that… hahaha.

This article is supposed to be about those epic huge 3KG puerh tea cakes that white2tea has pressed…

So this is how the story unfolds…

Back a year or so ago I wrote an article called The Xiaobinging of the Puerh Industry.  In that article I criticized the pressing of small 200g or smaller cakes and the Western producers who perpetuate this trend.  White2tea has not pressed a cake larger than 200g since 2014, so they fall squarely into this category.

At the end of that article I stated the following:

I like the big, chunky, beefy, robust, old school feeling of these cakes and the industry that they represent.  The larger, the better!  1Kg, even 2Kg, cakes and bricks- "bring'em on" I say.  In fact, I challenge vendors to release one of these big guys in response to the xiao binging of the puerh industry.  People will buy- I’ll be the first one.

Then, on Black Friday, in dramatic fashion white2tea offers a sweepstakes giveaway of one 3Kg shu puerh cake, with a Neifi that offers a response to this criticism.  If the Snoozefest cake was in response to tinklefor then this giant puerh must be in response to this article, I think.  So, of course, naturally I want in on this giant cake.  I literally stated (above) that I’ll be the first one!

But it’s not so simple, I have to place an order to have a shot at it.  So, I do because I was planning on getting this cake from white2tea anyways (and its price isn’t being reduced anytime soon).   So why not wait until Black Friday?  At the very least I can save on the shipping, right?

So, I really felt it’s my destiny to win this Qing bing 3KG cake.  I bet you thought you would win too?  I mean we have no idea what the odds are at winning because that depends on how many people place an order over the promotional days.  So we are blind to that.  This type of marketing is new from white2tea and plays on our susceptibilities in thinking that we somehow have a greater chance of winning over others.

Darn, I didn’t win that 3KG shu cake…. Oh well wasn’t meant to be…

But that sample cake I ordered was pretty damn good… I think I would like a bit more of the puerh.  I need to re-order.  But when?

It just so happens that in my first sampling of the cake there is a white2tea New Year’s Sale and guess what?  They have many more giant cakes to give away.  The 3KG sheng puerh especially is calling for me, but I need to place an order to be entered.  Well, if I didn’t win the last Qing Bing cake sweepstakes then surely this sheng puerh version (which I primarily drink these days) is mine.  So the old gambler’s fallacy probably got the best of me.  I re-order and…

Darn, I didn’t win that 3KG sheng cake (no crazy large white tea cakes either)…. Oh well wasn’t meant to be…

In the end, I was empty handed so the jokes on me… hahaha

But man, did I ever order some nice puerh which I was planning on ordering anyways.  The whole promotional side show was just a bit of fun layered on top.  Thanks for the ride Paul (Twodog), it was glorious.

Interesting how sweepstakes marketing gets you…
It sure got me.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

2016 white2tea (When They Go Low) We Go High & Spending More on Young Puerh

I remember returning to the puerh world in the winter of 2017 and being completely blown away by the political nature of white2tea’s 2016 puerh wrappers and names.  It was an election year in the USA, one that will go down in history as probably one of the most interesting, and, as far as touching on the feeling of the people, these wrappers and names captured the collective conscious of Western puerh drinkers at this time.  It was everywhere and everything that year. Puerh is really interesting because it is like a living reminder, a repository of memories from a certain time and place.  In 2016, the US election is what history will remember.  So why not intermix the two? Brilliant Paul.

Names and wrappers like Post Truth, We Go High, and Teadontlie are filled with political innuendo and novel quotes from that election.  I think 2016 white2tea “We Go High” is not just a political statement but also is descriptive of the qualities of the puerh cake as well as a statement on the larger philosophy of white2tea (see here for a more historical interpretation of the name and wrapper).

The name seems to match the description of We Go High on white2tea’s website states, Sweet and soft, elegant soup. Weighty flavors appear in later steeps with a soft entry.  This sounds to me like a highnoted tea possibly with lots of good Qi to make you feel high?

The name also speaks to the philosophy of white2tea offering tea at a higher standard to other more unscrupulous puerh vendors who openly lie about tree age or provenance of their products.  This is often parroted as the reasoning white2tea doesn’t make origin or tree age claims.  They can pat themselves on the back for taking the moral high road here.

For me personally, the name of this cake also has meaning because at $0.73/g this cake is the highest I’ve ever paid for a puerh cake, I think … I went high … as in I went to a higher price bracket of puerh buying (although I have sampled more heavily from higher price brackets over the last few years).  It was easier with this one because of my preference for iron cakes (link) and some great reassuring reviews (see below).  But I wonder if the price is worth it…

The dry leaves smell of deep fruits, a dense sweetness presents itself within a woody almost barley and distant floral odour.  The smell of plumb and distant papya come to mind and wildflowers.

The first infusion starts slow with a very mellow sweetness of honeydew melon that has a faint woodiness to it.  The aftertaste is very mild a mix of honeydew and almost watermelon tastes.  There is a soft background returning cool sweetness.

The second infusion starts with an almost creamy soft rolling sweet onset, very mild, there is an almost peanut or cashew base to this tea.  Then comes a nice wave of returning sweetness and long drawn out aftertaste.  There is a really soft wood base underneath it all.  Minutes later an intense watermelon and floral as well as almost grape taste emerges.  Almost candy like and bubble gum tasting but not so upfront.  These tastes stretch into the very long soft aftertaste.  The tea is very smooth and transitions with a harmony not found in too many young puerh.

The third starts with an almost oolong taste, it is fragrant, soft, and sweet.  It has a tapioca pudding taste along with woods.  The aftertaste is very elegant, complex and long.  This tea is very soft.  The mouthfeel is a bit sticky, soft but feels nice and full and there is no signs of bitterness or astringency.  The throatfeel is very deep pushing saliva into the throat and holding it there where a complex interplay of sweet and evolving tastes emerge.

The fourth infusion starts almost like a Risling with a white wine like initial taste that expands slowly in the mouth and throat.  It throws off smooth, rolling candy like sweetness and wildflower florals. The sweet notes are not overly high but more like they reside in a lower level of the tea and don’t just dissipate quickly, they linger. The Qi is strong and heady, a levitating body Qi, Spacy, heavy, strong slowing the mind type of feeling.

The fifth starts off like a wine and fruit apple/grape juice blend kind of taste the base is of cashew and almost wood. The mouthfeel is very sticky and dense.  The flavours just stick right in there.  Lots of interesting but not overwhelming deep perfume floral almost like ylang ylang with and interchanging candy like taste.

The sixth starts with a very fruity almost like canned peaches type of taste with a chashew base.  The mouthfeel is very full in a sticky way the throat feel is very deep.  The aftertaste is very long, gentle and complex with and interplay of wild florals and candy.  But nothing overly sweet and deep long taste.  The Qi is pretty nice- it makes me very high.  Floating away… almost giddy.

*I place another order of this cake in the middle of my first tea session.  I have had the opportunity to taste some quality and pricy stuff from some tea vendors over the last few years but, for the price, this tea is more enjoyable for me than many of the others I have tired.  I order more here…. And go back to my tea session…

The seventh infusion has a heavy perfume fruity onset there is lots of canned peaches with syrup tastes the aftertaste is long dense and interestingly sweet.  The mouthfeel is deliciously sticky and the throatfeeling is deep.  The returning sweet aftertaste goes on and on.  The Qi is very very nice.

The eighth infusion has a syrupy canned peach taste with mild heavy perfume florals underneath.  The mouthfeel, throatfeel, and Qi continue to impress.  The returning sweetness is very smooth, rich like sweetness.

The ninth infusion delivers much the same with more base of woods noticed underneath and the initial taste much less sweet.  The cloying sweetness aggregates in the returning aftertaste.

The tenth infusion is bursting with deep sweet syrupy tastes initially the wood is still more noticeably but creates a balance with the sweet flavours.  The rich sweetness ebbs and flows slowly over the throat and mouth then evaporates in the throat.  The body Qi is very harmonious with this tea, it feels neither warm nor cool in the body and could be consumed fresh without injury to the Spleen or Stomach Qi.  Floating body sensation.  The Qi of this tea sharpens the senses (notice my improved writing skill?).

The eleventh infusion has a nice almost woody soapy less sweet taste.  The aftertaste has tastes of spinach and okra with a subtle sweetness to it.  Light wildflower essence.

The twelfth infusion starts almost lightly pungent with woody notes and distant deeper fruit notes as well.  The cooling sensation in the aftertaste is more prominent.  The headiness of the qi is notable.

The thirteenth infusion is more woody even grainy and sweet potato taste initially the returning sweetness and a pungent coolness as well as glimpses of candy.  The mouthfeeling is starting to get slightly astringent and pucker but mild and is still more sticky and astringent.

The fourteenth infusion starts with a woody and sweet potato taste.  The true sweetness is elusive and deep in the aftertastes in this steeping.

The fifteenth is woody almost savory and dried leaf like taste initially.  The mouthfeel is almost dry and sticky now.  The aftertaste is long and almost woody barely sweet.

The 16th I add 15 seconds to the flash infusions and this seems to push out a bunch of deep fruit and wildflowery notes in this tea once again.  The tea has that almost juicy/ syrup canned fruit taste which shares space with woody notes.  The aftertaste is long and sweet almost candy and peach.  The Qi is still just as strong in a very relaxing almost sedating way.  I am drinking this at work and, well, I don’t feel like working much at all.

The seventeenth infusion I add 15 sec to flash and it has a nice fruity approach still and woody still the initial sweetness is deep enough still.  The aftertaste is very perfume, floral, and long.

The 18th infusion is another 15 seconds one.  More woody and sweet, long aftertaste.  This tea has decent stamina.  The long smooth aftertaste and throatfeeling are the key here in these later infusions.

19th is steeped for 30 seconds and pulls out a very grainy taste that continues into the aftertaste.

I put this one into an overnight infusion.

I think this is a pretty good tea and the fact that it is autumnal suggests to me that it is probably of very quality material.  I would guess that this has some Banzhang-like but not really Banzhang material blended in.  Sort of like an anutumal take on 2016 Tuo As Fuck maybe?  Sometimes I think that this is autumnal from Gua Feng Zhai.  There is some nice material in there, guaranteed.

There has been some criticism that this puerh is pressed too tight.  First of all, I have had a lot tighter pressed tea and this is only machine pressed not over the top iron pressed.  The second thing is that I feel that Paul did the right thing by pressing it tight.  It is super light fragrant and autumnal material.  All these things point to a good tight pressing for me- this is what I like and expect from this sort of tea for it to age well in a variety of storage situations.

I like this one for the price and I have purchased 2 cakes so far.  I’m not sure if I’ll buy more and I keep psyching myself out about if I paid too much for this one.  I’ve had a chance to drink this one a few more times since typing my first impression above in this post and really enjoy the qi in this one.  It meets Mr. Kim’s standard (mine as well) as being excellent to consume immediately but likely to improve in various storage conditions.  The ability to drink now is probably from the warm autumn energy in this cake and lack of bitterness. 

The body Qi is interesting as it sometimes makes me hold water especially in the early infusions due to its lack of bitterness.  You can feel the qi in the Kidneys.  It kind of makes me feel similar to the way 2006 Yang Qing Hao Qixiang makes me feel but they are really different puerh all together.  I had a few sessions of these back to back for a few days to compare the qi but Qi Xiang is much stronger in a relaxing sort of way and We Go High much more subtle. 

I still haven’t made the decision if I will buy this one in greater volume, but for now I’m enjoying it for what it is.  "Going High" is not as easy as it seems.



Monday, January 21, 2019

The Best of the Cheapest: 2018 white2tea Splendid

I managed to get a sample of this on a recent re-order at white2tea.  I would usually get a full cake to sample from but the descriptions I read about this tea so far it sounds a lot like Mengku plantation- too similar to many other drinkers I have.  This 2018 white2tea Splendid goes for $28.00for a 200g bing or $0.14/g.  This one is CwynN from Death By Tea’s top pick for cheapest fresh sheng puerh.  She came out with this review early and this tea has been popular ever since.  In her post she said that you really have to compare budget teas to each other to know which is better.  This is, in fact, the exercise that I have been participating in here in the quest for the Best of the Cheapest fresh young sheng…

When the dry leaf odour hits you from opening the sample bag, you can be sure that this is a strong and vibrant puerh.  The smells have a certain intensity to them a strong citrus and apricot/ peach, sour type of high fruity note, with a zesty, almost piercing odour.  Impressive.

The first infusion has a muted wood with soft lingering vegetal note in a mainly watery body.  The mouthfeel is slightly sticky.  A few minutes after swallowing there is a long faint Asian pear taste on the breath.  This first infusion is surprisingly soft.

The second infusion starts with very soft fruits of pear in wood the dry wood taste is the more dominant of the two.  The mouthfeel is slightly drying.  There is faint fruits in the aftertaste.

The third infusion starts off a bit woody and slight pear sweetness.  There is a bit of vegetalness in there as well.  There is a slight rubbery/vegetal almost fruity orange finish with almost no cooling returning throat action.  The profile of this tea is quite simple and thin with not too much going on as far as flavor goes.  It has a nice faint but long muted peach flavor linger for 30 seconds or so.  The Qi is slightly alerting and has a mild forehead heaviness feeling almost dizzying feeling.  You can feel it in the stomach, it’s a touch young puerh feeling raw here- normal stuff for such fresh puerh.

The fourth infusion has a more peach and pear mellow almost diverging into a raison like taste.  Things pick up in this infusion (ie the binghole sample is finally decompressing).  The almost syrupy sweetness is thicker throughout.  A peach taste is present throughout the entire profile with longer, lingering aftertaste.  The qi has a more dizzying effect on me, like a lightheadedness and looseness in the neck.  The mouthfeel is slightly drying with sticky lips and slight squeaky teeth.

The fifth infusion infusion starts with weighty peach like notes over dry wood.  There is a syrupy nectar sweetness to this tea that sticks around long in the mouth.  The mouthfeel here is real nice balance of sticky, astringent, and slightly drying.  The profile here doesn’t have that much complexity or movement but is long and rich, held with a nice mouthfeeling.  I specifically like a mid-throat opening taste minutes later where deep peachy notes reside.  The long sweet flavor is quite enjoyable here.

The sixth infusion has a slightly punchier fruit almost floral taste of slight tropical and mainly apricot and peach flavours.  There is a vegetable note of celery and carrot in there underneath too in this infusion over a dry wood base and slight vegetal taste.  The mouth is nicely stimulated and is becoming more astringent here.  This pureh feels nice and clean in my body and its qi is significant- backlogging in my head and making it feel light and even dizzy.

The seventh infusion starts with a clean fruity taste of tropical fruits and syrupy sweetness which dominate the profile the dry woody suggestion shows up before the returning sweetness.  The astringency in the mouth builds and becomes almost dry in the mouth and throat pushing saliva into the cheeks.  The qi is building up and noticeably strong my head is floating for sure.  I am spacy.

The eighth infusion has more of a toasted grain taste initially with the sweetness mainly a grain taste.  The fruits are background here behind the dry wood even.  The mouthfeel is significantly astringent causing lips to pucker and get real sticky and almost dry.

The ninth infusion gives off a dry woody flavor with lots of the fruit notes gone and lingering in the aftertaste faintly now.

The tenth the peachy woody notes are in some kind of balance.  There is a suggestion of cool sweetness then a long faint sweet syrupy fruit suggestion.  Qi continues to be something nice and enjoyable here.

11th is more fruity and woody but much thinner.  It has a nice long fruity profile in a drier and astringent mouthfeeling.

12th I steep 10seconds more than flash and it delivers a creamy sweet broth with decent thickness still and long syrupy tastes.  13th is much the same with long drawn out sweet syrupy tastes.  The cool throat and returning sweetness is longer in these later infusions as this puerh is still managing to change.  14th is back to a flash but is a bit thin and woody but still long sweet cascading tastes and nice mouth stimulation.  Long cool throat now with long sweet deeper tastes.

15th I leave for 40 seconds and get a nice toasted grain and richer result more of toasted grain sweetness than fruit.  More strong mouth stimulation less coolness and sweetness returning.  Still, a pretty engaging tea at this point with its dual layered syrupy sweetness and brown sugar sweetness.  I love the throat and mouthfeeling on this cheap option.  But the young fresh qi and astringency is too harsh on the Stomach in these late infusions.  So I decide to stop but could keep going this tea also seems to have some decent stamina.

Overall, this tea’s flavor doesn’t change too much throughout the session but what is there is easy to enjoy.  I would say that flavor is not as interesting as the mouthfeeling and throatfeeling and resulting long sweet aftertaste and strong Qi.  I value more of the later, so I quite like this tea.

An interesting thing about this puerh is that it is not super green processed as per colour and feeling, this is the new processing trend for young puerh.  I would completely guess that Splendid underwent a longer processing which helps curb the astringent young puerh energy from overly afflicting the Stomach.  This type of processing tends to give it more warmth making it easier to drink while young which, according to the description, this is when this puerh is meant to be consumed.  However, I think it has enough in it, specifically the astringency, to be also aged with good results in dry storage.

So, how does 2018 white2tea Splendid ($0.14/g) do when compared to 2018 white2tea Snoozefest ($0.08/g)?

The strengths that both of these young sheng share is a solid mouthfeel.  After this these teas are pretty different.  The Snoozefest has a bit more variation throughout the session, more intense and varied highnotes, and a much more enjoyable taste at the end of the session, if not a bit monotone.  Splendid has more vitality and vibrant Spring energy which the Autumn Snoozefest lacks.  Splendid has way more Qi, and it does some different things in the body and mind, not just the same sensation on repeat- the Snoozefest lacked qi for sure.  Splendid had much more depth to its profile in taste, mouthfeeling, and qi as well as movement through the initial taste to the aftertaste- this movement was reasonably long and complex for a tea of this price.

The description of Snoozefest states that is a tea thatwould normally be priced over $40.00 ($0.20/g) but is priced for $15.00 ($0.09/g).  Splendid goes for $28.00 ($0.14/g) but to me is a far better tea than Snoozefest in many different areas.  Especially the areas that matter to me like Qi sensation and overall strength and vitality.  I don’t really know what this means but, it’s my own value assessment of them.  I would easily take someone up on an offer to trade tong for tong for my sold out Snoozefest.  That tells me that either the Snoozefest isn’t actually worth $40.00 or that Splendid is actually worth more than it sells for.  I suspect the later. Thanks Paul for offering both of these decent cheaper options.

Comparing Splendid ($0.14/g) to 2018 the Essence of Tea Bamboo Spring ($0.16/g), they are again both very different sheng puerh.  The Bamboo Spring is more elegant, green, ethereal, and pure with candy like taste.  Splendid has complexity and strength with a richer taste and feeling.  I feel that Splendid would be better for aging and has more layers and depth to it but maybe if I was just buying to drink now or was concerned about purity (Splendid felt just as clean as Bamboo Spring though), I would still go with Bamboo Spring.  Overall, Splendid is a much better puerh.

So far, I agree with Cwyn N’s assessment that 2018 white2tea Splendid is the Best of the Cheapest.  But I have some very nice options that are even cheaper ahead to post that could easily unseat the champ.