Thursday, December 12, 2019
I have read many good puerh articles and blogs about the medicinal properties of chen pi which is increasingly being added to shu puerh productions by western puerh vendors. Many of these articles speak about the addition of chen pi either to enhance taste and to fight colds- both of these are true. However, most don’t speak to the deeper reasoning as to why chen pi is added to shu puerh…
There is only one herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine that becomes more potent with age. That herb is Chen Pi and it is correctly translated as aged tangerine peel. I have been told that a tangerine peel that is freshly dried is not chen pi. Chen pi is aged and as it ages it continues to become more potent as a medicinal as chemical changes take place. If you have ever tried antique chen pi it tastes very different than 10 year old chen pi which tastes different than 3 year old chen pi. As it ages it dries and loses mass to become a more concentrated medicinal. Therefore it will weigh less as it ages but will be more concentrated medicine. Chen Pi is also the only herb that increases in price the longer it ages. Very old or antique chen pi is very valuable as its Qi becomes stronger and deeper … sound familiar?
It has frequently been mentioned that chen pi can treat colds and coughs this is because chen pi enters the Lung and its taste is pungent. Puerh doesn’t enter the Lung and its taste is not considered pungent in Traditional Chinese Medicine. So the addition of chen pi expands the medicinal effect and taste of puerh. Chen Pi also enters the Spleen and Stomach and its taste is bitter and warming. Shu puerh also enters the Spleen and Stomach and is bitter and warming. The combination of chen pi with shu puerh acts to mutually accentuate the individual properties of each making the effect on the digestion even stronger than the sum of its parts. Therefore it should also be stressed that when chen pi is added to shu puerh it also makes for a much more powerful digestiff after a large meal.
So… who will be the first vendor to press antique chen pi into their shu ?
Monday, December 9, 2019
Marco has documented rather extensively how different puerh changes in his hotbox. He is mainly looking at the use of his hotbox as a way to optimally age puerh and even to remove some puerh qualities that are undesirable into something more optimal. However, I would also like to introduce a two different short term uses of Marco’s hotbox…
To accelerate the aging of a less drinkable young puerh into a more drinkable semi-aged puerh. I took a puerh that was 6 years old but still had edges on it that were a bit too harsh, astringent, cold energy, a bit hard on the digestion. It spent a month or two in the hot box and came out with the harsh edges dropped and basically in a much more drinkable semi-aged state. Interestingly, I put a semi-aged 8 year old puerh that was a bit harsh, bitter and hard on the stomach in the same hotbox and it didn’t really come out much less intense or aged out. Both were dry-to-mild humid stored cakes. I ended up putting both of these cakes into my drinking rotation rather than putting them into some long term storage.
To testing a puerh’s aging potential. I took a Lincang puerh that many had once thought wouldn’t age well because it was a very light feminine single estate gushu type puerh. People were basically concerned that a puerh like this would loose its greatest strength which is its highnotes and lighter qualities when under longer or more aggressive aging conditions (humidity and heat). I was considering a larger purchase and wanted to test the idea (which I strongly believed to be false from my previous experience with aging Lincang puerh). Besides I thought that this puerh had enough strength and throat feeling to hold on which are, to me, are important qualities for aging . The consensus at the time is that the subtly would disappear and leave you with an insipid puerh. It spent a month or two in the hot box and came out obviously changed with deeper notes revealed but still keeping many lighter nuances.
Both times I had the hot box at 40C and the humidity was pretty much pushed to the limit like a rainforest in there. It was so humid and lots of condensation that it jammed all my gyro meters and sealed cakes had to be carefully checked and rotated every few days. I would say that it’s using Marco’s hotbox at its extremes! It’s a bit a walk on the wild side due to the extreme risk of mold.
The aging conditions don’t exactly mirror my actual real life potential storage parameters either but I was satisfied with the information I obtained from the experiments by pushing them at extreme conditions. It gave me a bit more information to support my larger purchase of a certain puerh and dissuaded me from a larger purchase of another.
I hope to review these puerh in the coming months with some side notes on how they changed.
Friday, December 6, 2019
I’ve come to develop quite a taste and appreciation for the dirt taste in more humidly stored puerh and the incense taste in dry stored puerh, however, with puerh storage neither is ideal.
Most, if not all, the puerh that I consumed from the 70s, 80s, and 90s in Korea in the 2000s had that dirt taste to it. I believe it is what Marco of Late Steeps refers to as geosmin. It goes without saying that Korea probably wasn’t the best place to find the highest quality puerh. Either way, humidly stored puerh was simply the standard until the 2000s when dry storage started to have more weight. I have a fond appreciation for this aged feature of, well, dirt in puerh that is associated with the good ol’ days. I another reason I like this humid dirt taste is because it is something unattainable to derive solely from fresh young puerh here in the West. Besides this, there is something very grounding, therapeutic, sustaining and warming about the taste of dirt in humidly stored puerh which I’m quite fond of. And I love the taste of beets or carrots freshly pulled from my garden. It’s an acquired taste.
Conversely, I also have quite the taste for a touch of incense in my dry stored puerh. All the fresh young puerh that I purchased all those years back have been very dry stored many of which have picked up an incense taste. It goes without saying that Saskatchewan or British Columbia probably aren’t the best places to age puerh. Either way, this is my reality. I have a fond appreciation from this dry stored feature of, well, incense in puerh which is often associated with a nice dry storage. Another reason I like this dry incense taste is because it is harder to find really nice very dry stored puerh here in the West. Besides this, there is something very relaxing, therapeutic, zen, and peaceful about the nuance of incense in dry stored puerh which I’m quite fond of. I love the smell of incense wafting off the roof tile of a temple or clearing the space of a meditation siting. It’s an acquired taste.
However, it is increasingly apparent to me that although most humidly stored puerh in the West will develop a dirt like taste as it dries out, it is not optimal. It is also become increasingly apparent to me that although many very dry stored puerh in the West will develop an incense taste as it ages, it is not optimal.
In this way optimal dry or optimal humid storage is something beyond dirt and incense.
Monday, December 2, 2019
Well, it’s actually still on right now…. Or is the real sale already over?
Certainly, Yunnan Sourcing’s sales are over. They launched two big 15% off sales that were 3 weeks apart (Oct 21st and Nov 12th). There is no better discount for their 2019 Spring line ups than Black Friday. After getting the promotional email last month that Black Friday was cancelled, I wondered if they would attempt some different sales and promotions rather than the standard 15%. Maybe some free shipping for those who are looking to put through a smaller order or maybe a sale that didn’t require a code so you could spend up your loyalty points? As I just put through a few bigger orders at Yunnan Sourcing over the Summer I thought I might bite on a promotion that was geared to a smaller order. I guess you can’t argue to much about 15% off, really. As predicted this very nice 2018 Yunnan Sourcing Autumn Nan Po Zhai sold out before Black Friday. Everything 15% off- it’s a very good sale and without the hassle. I wouldn't be surprised if Scott dropped another 15% off sometime before now and the end of the year- a bit of post- Black Friday as well.
Also, white2tea’s limited releases of Tunji and Snoozefest are already sold out now too. There Black Friday promotion is still on and was a bit of the same non-sale stuff with free shipping and release of years past successful limited releases of Tunji and Snoozefest. The Snoozefest sold out in about the same amount of time as last year but the Tunji, with more name recognition this year sold out shortly afterward… Or did they sell out…. It turns out the site crashing apparently caused some issues with the computerized stock counts… it turns out that a handful of Snoozefest and even more Tunji were added to the stock Sunday… I never know if this is part of the marketing stunt of white2tea or not. Last time I checked the site for the research for this post there were still many Tunji left… poor Tunji…
For the mere fun of Black Friday’s hedonistic consumerism, I went in thinking I would just pick up 2 or 3 Snoozefest after a few good sessions with the 2018 over the last few weeks …. Just as a comparison… and to put an entry into the draw for the oversized cakes… I don’t know how I checked out with a few more Snoozefest than I planned… hahahah…. ah, consumerism….
Going in I thought that white2tea was going to offer more in the line of unique new limited releases and offer more of a new creative direction with their Black Friday promotion while still keeping the framework of their promotion. Instead they ended up doing basically the same thing with their sheng puerh which was a bit uninspiring. Of course, it’s good to stick to the formula if it has brought you past successes. I was right about their promotional business structure being basically unchanged though. If you look back to their Black Friday blog post last year it reads almost the same as this year.
The new creative change in direction was their releases of promotional and teawear which outnumbered their puerh releases. Weird. Their four different bamboo releases were the interesting part of white2tea’s Black Friday promotion. I kind of predicted that they will be exploring more interesting shapes and forms for their shu puerh in this post back here. The pre-Black Firday release was the main release of puerh and allowed for buyers to make more informed and developed, as opposed to more spontaneous, purchases when it comes to their puerh. I wonder if the pre-Black Friday release allowed for those to put a quick order in before black Friday to sample them before the promotion. I don’t know if that would even be worth it with white2tea’s business structure and lack of real discount. I wonder how these changes will influence their sales, if at all, this year.
The Essence of Tea are continuing to go in the direction of anti- social media and anti-consumerism by offering less of a sale to the public than years previous. I think is in line with their direction of their brand which has a really more mature core following, I think. The 20% more tea was only offered to their tea club members this year the rest of us have to settle for 15% more tea. They dropped only their second public pressing of 2019 a blend called 2019 Essence of Tea Spring “Singularity”Gushu. It is a blend of two club exclusive cakes. The action with Essence of Tea this year is all about their tea club. This club is the most interesting one, I think.
A few puerh vendors which I haven’t tired yet… Bitterleaf is offering a 5-15% off sale with some other promotional giveaways. Crimson Lotus is doing 10% off everything. Farmer Leaf is doing 20%off!!! all full cakes with free shipping. There are some sold outs already showing with that hefty discount. Farmerleaf continues to amuse me from afar.
A few longer running sales are taking place which include Tea Encounter with a 4-39% off Sale which I mentioned last week. I have reviewed most of their catalogue if you are interested in more detailed notes on what they are stocking or are looking for a particular profile or quality.
I’ve said it in this post last month that this year’s black Friday played out very different than my prediction of the sale being even bigger. I would say that this year it was wider and longer and took up even more space. I wondered to myself, If the gap between sales was large enough could you place a sample order through, receive it, sample them, then place and order while still hitting up the discount? That would be real ambitions and the packages would have to be rush shipping but maybe it would be possible? This year was really all about the pre-sale. With that said, most sales are still on but the vendor with the best sale this year, in my opinion, is ready over.
Great job all vendors who offered us a sale…
Tuesday, November 26, 2019
Thought it might be fun to pull out one of my 2018 white2tea Snoozefest cakes and re-taste it after being in sealed storage for almost a year. Thought it might be useful to those thinking of attempting to nab one if white2tea even releases one this year (I think they won’t). Looks like they will be giving away a few giant puerh cakes again, Tunji looks like it will make a comeback, maybe they will do this cake again afterall… This year's white2tea black Friday sale is looking unusually predictable. I guess it must have worked well last year? I'm hoping for a few crazy surprises just to humor myself... If you want to get a rich history about this puerh please read my previous here.
Turns out Mica of The Weekend Sessions had the same idea as me. Check out his initial impressions of this cake and then his review a week ago. Think his storage might be a bit more humid and he definitely leafs this one lighter than me but great notes. An interesting thing about this Snoozefest, which keeps it really interesting is how much it changes with different leaf ratios, different pots, and steeping times. This one is interesting in this way…
It occurred to me when meditating on Paul’s diss-cakes that the whole concept of Snoozefest was based on refuting the critique by tinkle4 on a $22 2015 white2tea Little Walk. He said white2tea’s puerh is a snoozefest. I think that probably calling white2tea’s offerings boring was probably the worst criticism that could be leaved on a brand that tries to be everything but. So the whole concept of Snoozefest was challenge this by offering a cake at an even cheaper price but make that cake very engaging and interesting. I would say they accomplish just that…
The dry leaves have a pungent almost funky fruity smell. There is candy and tropical odours underneath.
The first infusion presents with a banana tropical onset with a vegetal base taste the mouthfeel is flat and full with a full chalky almost sandy consistency. There is a mild expansive sweetness in the aftertaste and a low lying bitterness throughout. There is a floral and almost melon nuance to the aftertaste. The throat is nicely stimulated.
The second infusion presents with tropical banana fruits over a vegetal almost vegetable tasting base with a long note of mild bitteness. The mouthfeel is really full and paints the mouth, tongue and throat in a tight sandy coating.
The third seems to have even more fruity tropical nuances which become pronounced as the cup cools. There is a candy like quality to the sweetness now. The mouthfeeling is sandy, flat, and full coating in the mouth and touches the throat a bit too. The Qi is a mild relaxing vibe.
The fourth infusion has a nice tropical fruity onset with a deeper emerging pungent floral quality. The vegetalness is still there but much less than the tropical and florals. The mouthfeeling is this coating sandiness. The throat opens at the top over a mild fine sandy and almost chalky feeling. The aftertaste goes for a bit then drops off.
The fifth infusion has a soapy perfume tropical floral taste that has almost grapefrutiy-orange almost orange rind taste to it. The mouthfeel is full and flat fine sandy almost dry simulation to it that is real nice for this price of this cake. The Qi is a mild relaxing feeling. I can feel it a bit on the face, like a relaxing face drooping thing.
The sixth flattens out a bit as it gets more bitter here but still nice tropical onset with floral but more flattened out by the bitter. It starts to punch away at my stomach which is pretty normal for young sheng. The Qi relaxes nicely with a touch of a stimulating push.
The seventh is a nice tropical, with vegetal sweetness. The sweetness has a floral perfume quality to it. There is a moderate bitterness underneath along with a full sandy mouthfeeling.
The eighth infusion has a thick fruity tropical taste with a moderate base of bitterness and a under base taste of some vegitalness. There is a thick painting of fine sandy almost chalky mouthcoating. Faint candy and floral finish.
The ninth infusion is full of fruity nuances tropical fruity tastes that stretch into a soapy perfume taste. The mouthfeeling is this sandy almost chalky slippery feeling and the throat is stimulated at the surface. The aftertaste is a bit bland floral sweentness some candy appears.
The tenth is much the same with a deeper and thicker fruity feeling at times. The mouthfeeling is almost slippery stone feeling and less sandy. There is a flat blandness that comes off the initial taste.
The eleventh infusion has a thicker fruity taste with an undercurrent of bitterness. The mouthfeeling is thick and slippery feeling and a perfume floral sometimes candy sweet taste emerges. The bland stone like mouthfeeling with moderate bitterness and fruity floral taste is interesting and engaging. The Qi is a mild relaxing thing, not very strong.
The 12th infusion starts with a thicker fruity perfume taste. The bitterness is building and is a moderate-stronger in the mouth.
The 13th has a pronounced bitter fruit almost grapefruit and tropical underneath with a chalky almost dry mouthfeeling. The top of the throat is nicely stimulated. The bitterness aftertaste the fruity perfume aspects of the profile here.
The 14th has a fruity vibe sweet almost tropical and slightly bitter the vegitalness has disappeared and the two polarities of taste are bitter and sweet fruit and perfume. There is a flat stone feeling in the mouth along with a dry slipperiness that offers a full coating in the mouth.
The 15th has a perfume fruity onset with a bitter base taste. There is a stewed fruity taste that is coming out in there over the last handful of infusions. The bitter stone like full mouthfeel gives this tea a nice counterbalance.
16th is more fruity still initially with a moderate bitter base and stone like mouthfeeling. There is a breath coolness that is starting to work itself out.
The 17th has a bitter stewed fruit taste. The taste this late in the session is still clear with fruity sweetness, perfume florals, and moderate bitterness. The mouthfeeling remains a full coating sandy flat stone almost but not dryiness.
This puerh has nice stamina from the very tight pressing’s slow release. Could have easily steeped this a handful more times as the flavor is still there.
Overall there is some good sweet taste, very good stamina, nice mouthfeeling, still weak on the Qi though. This is a nice tea for 15$ worth at least double if not triple the price. The above session was a particularly good one with this puerh. I really stuffed a small pot and it made a big difference. I find when I use large pots or less aggressive ratios with this one I don’t get as nice of a result but then you have to be able to tolerate the bitter. Even when you push it, the Qi seems a bit lacking but for the price it’s a good one!
I compared this one the next day to 2017 Yunnan Sourcing Impression. Impression had a much thicker mouthfeeling and more oily presentation. Snoozefest still had a full and very simulating mouthfeeling but Impression felt more dense and full where Snoozefest was more active but not as thick. The Impression had less stamina but much more strong Qi presented in the session of Impression. I would say the 2018 Snoozefest weakness was its lack of Qi whereas the 2017 Impression’s weakness was its average or even below average stamina. These two are really very different. The Impression is mainly blended from areas North of Xishuangbanna and Snoozefest mainly Southern, I think. Comparing the Impression to the Snoozefest is analogous to comparing Yunnan Sourcing to white2tea.
Saturday, November 23, 2019
I guess it’s a little overgeneralizing to state grand sweeping impressions of Tea Encounter’s premiere brand of Tea Encounter puerh. It’s a bit of a stretch because the release only had four offerings. I would say the most obvious thing about Tea Encounter puerh is that its main goal is likely to fill gaps in what is offered both at Tea Encounter and on the Western puerh market as a whole.
For instance, their 2019 Tea Encounter Bai Yin Shan Yesheng fills a gap of offering a Lincang wild from a region not represented by any Westren dealer. Their 2019 Tea Encounter Laos Gushu offers Laos puerh which hasn’t been offered in the West since 2014. Their other offerings give us budget versions of regions that typically are offered at a higher quality by Western vendors (and therefore much higher price point) such as 2019 Tea Encounter Bang Dong and 2019 Tea Encounter Gua Feng Zhai. Smart offerings (and currently discounted on a Black Friday Sale).
As far as the overall feel of the brand, I would say that they are milder and not as aggressive, they focus on subtlety and are not standoffish or overly bold. They are deliberately positioned to be budget puerh so, overall, they are easy on the wallet. They could all be consumed now, and many have decent stamina especially considering the price.
I think Tiago of Tea Encounter might be positioning the brand to focus more on the further Eastern Border of Yiwu and even the border tea beyond. Of course, it’s a complete guess but wouldn’t be surprised to see more from Gua Feng Zhai, Xiang Chun Lin, and even Laos, and other border teas in the years to come.
Congratulations Tiago on your premiere offering!
Friday, November 15, 2019
This puerh is a Gua Feng Zhai Xiao Shu (small bush) + Laos Gushu blend as the sample label clearly states. It goes for $37.71 for 200g cake or $0.19/g although this sample came free for review. This is actually the early mocha before it was pressed into 200g cakes (turns out this was not the final blend before it was pressed into cakes- see comment below) . Looks like this puerh is 5% off from now until the end of the month as the Black Friday Sale just got put up on the site (4%-39% off depending on the cake)! This is a late addition to the inaugural year of the Tea Encounter brand. It fills a gap in the Tea Encounter catalogue by offering something at a very low price point, offering a blend (for which there is only one other), and offering something from Laos. Laos puerh, do we dare call it that, has not been offered through a Western puerh vendor since Chawangshop offered some years ago, I do believe.
Long time readers of this blog know that I am versed in Laos puerh having been there way back in 2009 and was the first to write extensively on the subject in English… naturally I was nostalgically excited to try some again…
Dry leaves smell of dense barnyard with the typical Laos Ban Korman intense almost pungent barnyard typical dry leaves odour. The rinse of the leaves indicate this is mainly Laos Gu Shu in this blend or at least it is over powering at this point.
First infusion tastes very barnyard initially, watery and spacious taste, with an underlying fruity sweetness that has nuances of wood. There is a moderate pungent coolness that pushes out some potato and almost radish like tastes along with creamy sweetness and dried pear. An interesting, unusual, and complex presentation over a watery base.
The second is a barnyard/ beef jerky onset (very classically Ban Korman), there is some faint pear in the distance and potato (classically Gua Feng Zhai). The puerh tastes like a Canadian Thanksgiving here… hahaha… Mouthfeeling is very mild, faint simulation- also typical of Ban Korman area. There is a faint sandiness about it. Then arrives a pungency that pushes pear and creamy sweet out over a moderately deep throat opening. Qi has a relaxing and spacy effect on the mind.
The third infusion comes together more cohesively. With strong barnyard and beef jerky tastes with a pear sweetness presenting underneath. The mouthfeeling is sandy and mild and the throat opens to a medium-deep depth. The aftertaste has mild sweetness of pear and barely creamy sweetness. There are some wood notes and potato as well. The Qi in the head is quite tranquilizing here. It creates a distinct warmth in the body and I break into a sweat.
The fourth infusion more of a distinct pumpkin/ squash taste initially with faint barnyard. The mouthfeel is still mild sandy and throat still deep-moderate opening. Qi is interesting as I feel it in my teeth and jaw. Faint pear finish after a mild pungency.
The fifth infusion has a woody barnyard almost pear note that drags into the aftertaste over a sandy mouthfeeling. The Qi is getting bigger in the head and a bit alerting now. The mild sandy mouthfeel and open throat holds a faint sweetness, wood, barnyard.
The sixth infusion has a woody faint barnyard, almost musty, taste with just faint edges of sweetness underneath that mainly follow from the faint pungent in the throat. The Qi is relaxing here.
The seventh infusion starts with a subtle sweetness almost green pea like over barnyard, musk, slightly woody, there is a faint but deep throaty pungency here. This puerh tastes 60% Laos Ban Korman Gu Shu 40% Gua Feng Zhi Small Bush puerh. If I were to guess.
The eighth is a watery, smooth sandy, almost pumpkin, not really woody but more barnyard faint suggestions. There is a flat pear taste in there as well that comes after a faint deeper throat pungency. The Qi is relaxing at this point.
The ninth infusion has more pumpkin notes and is somewhat sweeter. The flavor is never strong but is much less here especially considering the mild sandy mouthfeeling. Qi is more relaxing now.
The tenth infusion I add 15 seconds to the flash infusion and push a bit fruitier nuance out of these leaves but not much. There is a rainforest taste. The taste is spacious and mild and almost barnyard and musk. The aftertaste is a bit pear.
The eleventh infusion I add 30 seconds it is much the same as the 10th but is lighter in taste. For the 12th I put it into a long infusion of a few minutes and get a thicker mouthfeeling, a chalky sandy with longer pungent taste, there is more fruit flavours as well- pumpkin, pear, potato, slight barnyard. The cooling pungency stands out in this long infusion. Qi is mild in the head at this point in the session.
As I feel a need to push harder, I put this one into the overnight infusion…
It is a bit of a puerh trend these days to do a blend with something from Eastern Yiwu near the border blended with border tea from Laos usually. In this way it stretches the notion of what we can call “puerh tea”. This one also stretches the notion of what we can call “Gushu”. It is also for economic reasons as Eastern Yiwu puerh material is climbing in price and can be cut with something less expensive. I was gifted some of the 2018 Tea Urchin Along the Border maocha and sampled it quite young. It was also a Gua Feng Zhi Small bush blend and it resembled this border blend a bit in its spacious and watery taste profile and a bit in its moderately heady Qi. The 2018 Along the Border had a distinctly nutty flavor and this Tea Encounter one has a more typical Laos Ban Korman profile of barnyard with musk and beef jerky taste.
This is a cheap entry point for those who wish to have a taste of Laos puerh which is not represented much in the Western puerh market. This puerh’s distinct Ban Korman profile really brought me back to some of my experiences with them and reminded me of an amusing story that I should share in a different post…