Thursday, December 13, 2018

2008 Menghai “Big Classic”, Oldish, and Kinda Drinkable

I have a history with this cake from years ago.  My puerh drinking buddy in Victoria, once brought this one over for us to drink in 2010, I think.  He was looking for a suitable cheap everyday drinker puerh and wanted to know what I thought about it.  After the session, I convinced him to buy a tong of the famous 2001 (aka 90s) Ding Xing  through the original Taobao dealer.  I think the Ding Xing was $40.00 a cake back then and this "Big Classic" cake was around $25.00? I paid $38.00 ($0.11/gr) from Tuo Cha Tea last year (it also had 10% discount applied for bulk orders on top of that) the price has gone up to $45.00 ($0.13/g).  Years back my rationale was that the 2001 Ding Xing is just a much better value so why bother with this Menghai.  He agreed a bought a tong for everyday drinking.  At that time this Menghai "Big Classic" was not quite ready to drink even.

An interesting thing about the 2008 Big Classic is that everyone still has this cake sitting around (and the famous Ding Xiang is hard to track down these days)!  … Tuo Cha Tea, Puerhshop, Yunnan Sourcing, King Tea Mall… they all have it.  That really says a lot.  If it was good, surely there wouldn’t be any left… would there?

From what I’ve read about this one is that Menghai used a blend of older leaves to make this recipe. That means that some of the actual tea material is older than the date stamp. I read somewhere that the average leaf grade in this recipe is “3” but I can't remember where I read that.  Seems like a Menghai factory tea that is truly ready to drink.  So let’s crush this one with a meditative mind…

The dry leaves smell of sweet plum and slight malted sweetness.

First infusion is a warming broth of heavier, grounding mellow tastes.  It has a soft full feeling.  There are woody slightly cinnamon tastes that greet the mouth initially then slowly traverse into a creamy barely sweetness and coolness.  This tea has a complete, round, fullish, mellow feeling right off the bat.  A nice slight sweet cinnamon tastes lingers on the breath.

The second infusion presents more now with a sweet round deep wood and slight cinnamon taste.  The taste is such that it pushes saliva onto the tongue.  This infusion has a pronounced returning sweet coolness.  This tea has a complete taste and is ready to drink now semi-aged without a need to age further.  It has a nice warming comforting feeling that I used to get from 10 years old Menghai factory tea that was more humidly stored than this very dry Kunming stored one.  However this tea almost lacks everything else which would identify it as Menghai Factory.  However, this tea is also sufficiently alerting as well, it has that typical and welcome factory Qi.

The third infusion presents now with a more woody-slightly malty raison taste.  The wood taste extends itself into the mid-profile and aftertaste.  The sweetness and cinnamon taste is much less here as the mouthfeel fills out and is just barely drying on the tongue.  The taste of this puerh is not exciting nor complex but rather stable, round, and reassuring.  The qi pushed me into a high state now- I feel like I am a tiny tiny bit floating here.  The qi is quite a relaxing, in the head type qi but also is sufficiently alerting.  I like the Qi of this tea for the price, even if a bit typical, at least it has some gas in this aspect.

The fourth infusion flattens out a bit more with the wood note now predominating and the sweeter notes of raison and cinnamon now being delegated to the aftertaste or breath.  The taste is comforting on this very cloudy morning but lacks anything interesting or complex.  The simple tastes are enjoyed.

The fifth infusion has resorted back to that more balanced creamy sweet raisin wood taste.  The sweetness feels more rounded here now.  The mouthfeel remains just a touch dry and the throatfeel is open but not significantly stimulating.

The sixth infusion is a nice smooth mix of slightly sweet creamier notes and deeper woody notes over a nice full slightly drying mouthfeel.  Different fruit notes of watermelon pop up on the breath in this infusion which I enjoy.

The seventh infusion feels a bit more watered down now but still flavours exist.  There is still a mild cooling in the aftertaste and still a sweet creamy edge on the mainly woody taste.

The eighth starts to flatten out but still significant flavors are still there echoing the earlier infusion.

The ninth and tenth still have a nice slightly cool finish and woody slightly sweetness to them.

This tea is long steeped and pushes out another few infusions of woody raison notes.  This tea has decent stamina and tastes good for a longer time.  But the flavors are a bit muted throughout.

My overall thoughts on this tea are much more favorable than my run in with this tea years before.  It has seemed to improve with a bit more age.  Years before I had previously thought this tea to be too typical puerh taste and too weak with not enough vitality.  Years later it hasn’t really gained strength or that much interesting depth but it is easy enough to drink.

There is something about the way this one feels that I quite like but can’t really put a finger on it.  It's like factory Menghai Qi that is curbed down a notch.  I am quite found of the storage of this tea which shows signs that the older material was aged in more humid Xishuangbana for the first few years before being pressed into a cake.  Then it undergone drier Kunming storage for 9 years.  This tea has this storage feeling and really feels like a dry stored tea that has had its sourness and harshness chopped right off.

Due to the above reasons and because the price at Tuo Cha tea is really low (remember that you are getting 2005ish material here),  I can recommend this tea for its simplicity and easiness to drink.  It is not terribly exciting tea but nor is it offensive in any way.  There is some beauty in its simplicity but nobody finds the mundane worth it, really.  Its possible that I would be buying more of these as easy everyday drinkers if it weren't for the fact that I have another handful of Menghai Factory cakes from this order (link).  This is my favorite, by far, out of the order but only due to the fact that it is really the only one out of the bunch that is actually ready to drink.  I ended up drinking the whole cake up already.  That at least says something.

However, I have learned from recent orders that if it wasn't good enough for you to buy then you probably shouldn't buy it now, at least not in any sort of volume.  The simplicity of this cake and easiness to drink also reminds me of this 2010 Fangmingyuan 0842 Anniversary (which is $0.11/g)  in its mild hay drinkable Menghai charms.  They are both around the same price and both pretty easy, don't think too much about it, kind of puerh.

Early reviews of this tea by other bloggers include this review from Hobbes of the Half-Dipper.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

When Puerh Vendors Offer Free Shipping...

You should always consider the cost of shipping into the price of tea per gram but most of us don't.  No bloggers include shipping in the $/g but we probably should.  I guess it could be confusing to some.  I like to pay less per gram so I prefer China Ground Shipping if I'm paying for it.  This is because I like to pay less for my tea.


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Storage Issues: “Shelf Fatigue”

Recently, James of TeaDB published an excellent article on storage comparisons.  He compared 3 of the same Yang Qing Hao cakes from different storage conditions.  One of his findings is something that is already well understood among puerh drinkers.  It’s something I refer to as “shelf fatigue”.

“Shelf Fatigue” refers to a cake that decreases in quality as it sits on the shelf waiting to be consumed, usually alone in a sealed plastic Ziploc/ Mylar bag or in the open air out of its regular storage conditions.  Many people will have some other more intricate storage system for larger qualities of puerh that is not always super easy or convenient to access but that keeps the puerh much better.  So for convenience, they bring a few cakes of puerh out of this deeper storage into a more accessible drinking storage set up close to their tea table.  The most common are in a tea caddy, ziplock/ mylar, or open shelf storage.

Of course, one way to prevent this in the first place is to limit how long your drinker puerh is exposed to shelf storage.   You can do this two ways.  The first way is to have less cakes available to drink at once.  For me I don’t like this option because I feel that “variety is the spice of life” and I commonly have 5 or 6 cakes going at once.  The second method is to just take smaller portions of puerh from the deeper storage.  This has its downside as well as it as it takes more time and energy to access my deeper stored puerh and it is pretty inconvenient for me.  Also, it exposes the deeper stored puerh to the natural climate on a more frequent basis which is not the purpose of most storage setups.

I have found that tea caddies are the best way to prevent shelf fatigue in puerh.  I remember trying experiments from teamasters in Korea using Korean ceramics comparing shelf, ceramic tea caddy (see some beauties here and here), and Ziplock bags.  The tea caddy was the clear winner in that climate and I believe it would also be a possible good solution in Western climates.  I think it’s also a beautiful esthetic that adds to the tea drinking experience.  The clay reconnects the qi of the leaf to the earth once again… So harmonious... Wilson also is a fan of the tea caddy for this purpose .

However, there are many practical considerations which prevents me from using this type of everyday/accessible storage.  First, is a space consideration, those caddies do take up a lot of surface space (x6) which I don’t have in my modest living space.  Second, is a price consideration, as these caddies can be a bit pricey.  The third consideration is that I keep the puerh on the cake and pry it off just before consuming it.  Others like to break up a whole cake or portion of a puerh cake for consumption, the caddy would be maybe better fit for them.  In the desolate climate I age puerh in nowadays, I am more uncertain about the benefits of a tea caddy.  This is the reason why I don’t own a large enough one to store puerh.  Some people in very very humid and warm climates might find open shelf storage adequate but most in the west will find this to be the worst for shelf fatigue.

I choose to go the route of the Ziplock/ Mylar bag.  This method works for the above reasons also because the sealed storage of the Ziplock works along with theory that sealed storage is superior.  However, shelf fatigue in this type of drinker storage is common as evidence by James’ findings.  I postulate that shelf fatigue of puerh is due to two possible factors. 

The first possible theory of shelf fatigue is that, with repeated opening and closing of the Ziplock/ Mylar, the puerh cake eventually loses moisture and dries out.  The dried out puerh tastes less dynamic compared to the more humidly stored puerh.  To remedy this, I have experimented with just wiping the plastic ziplock with a moist cloth or paper towel.  This seems to help a bit but I find it not as effective as using the steam from the kettle to add warm moisture to the bag.  I have experimented with actually holding the paper wrapped cakes over the steam at a distance as well, this works alright because really it is just the paper wrapping that gets hit with the steam but I have settled with steaming the bag instead these days.  I have been doing this for a few years now and think it is the most effective way of maintaining the puerh when in shelf storage.

I usually put my hand a few feet above the steam of the kettle so that the steam is not scalding and will not melt the plastic but is just warm.  Then I tip the bag on its side and let the steam collect in the Ziplock.  It will fog up the plastic. Then I press out the air and seal up the zipper seal on the bag.  Use caution here people, and air on the side of safety else you will get a steam burn or melt the plastic.  This technique adds both humidity and a touch of heat and doesn’t add any plastic smells if the steam is cool enough.

The second possible theory of shelf fatigue is that, as a puerh cake is consumed in a bag and the bing gets smaller and smaller, more surface area is exposed to air and less to other puerh.  The idea is that puerh tastes better when aged with other puerh.  To remedy this I suppose you could put the puerh in increasingly smaller Ziplock bags.  I tired that but didn’t notice as much difference in maintaining the puerh and it was a little annoying to me to have all these little baggies around.  What I do, and seems to work much better, is that when my puerh cake is about 1/3 to 1/4 consumed, I throw it in with a bunch of other puerh that are about 1/3 or more consumed.
I wonder if you have ever experienced shelf fatigue and I wonder what you do to remedy this storage issue? I hope these little tips help you in consuming better tasting puerh.  After all, what is the point of all the storage fuss if you end up consuming less optional puerh in the end?


Saturday, December 1, 2018

Storage Issues: Maintaining Optimal Aging of a Humidly Stored Semi Aged Sheng Puerh

I think, one of the biggest challenges to storing puerh in the West is this: How can we advance the aging of a semi-aged more humidly stored sheng?

I have noticed, through personal experience and through the shared information of others, that it is quite difficult to effectively and optimally advance the aging of more humidly stored sheng puerh.  All efforts I’ve tried and heard about by Westerners seem to only preserve or only slowly advance the aging of humid stored cakes that came from Malaysia, Guangdong, Taiwan, or Hong Kong.  None can seem to effectively continue on the trajectory of aging the cake in this manner and little funny things seem to happen to my cakes that, although not rendering them undrinkable, make them not as good as the cakes that I re-order from the same source years later.  I’m sure many of you have had this same issue whether or not you’d like to admit it.  This is kind of the elephant in the room for people who buy more puerh than they drink.

This has been an issue of mine since coming back to purchasing puerh a year or so ago because I have focused on mainly acquiring semi-aged/ aged puerh.  It is the more humidly stored stuff that seems to be more readily available and more popular and trendy and cheaper in the West these days.  There are many reasons for this that I should dedicate a whole post to but I think part of the popularity is because it emulates a type of aging that we cannot produce ourselves yet, in most locations in the West.  It is human nature to want what we cannot easily acquire.  But once we acquire it, then what?

For me, then I have to weigh acquiring a more humidly stored semi-aged or aged puerh in quantity at a lower price but knowing it will not taste better than tea that has had continuous storage at the source vs buying only what I’ll drink immediately and paying more down the road but knowing that the cake will taste better.  The caveat here is that we have no way of knowing if a certain production will sell out, become unavailable, not be available in that exact storage or sky-rocket in value to the point that it would have been worth it to just store it in the West rather than pay the exorbitant current costs.

The most promising answer to this problem so far is this experiment by Marco of Late Steeps where he takes 2 identical, newly shipped puerh cakes that were stored in more humid Taiwan storage for their first 9 years and puts them into storage of different temperatures (low temp vs high temp) for one year then tests them.  His results for the cooler stored cake sound a lot like some of the issues I have after acquiring a more humidly stored cake.

It’s a good thing I ordered 4 of these hot boxes from Marco when he first announced his experiment publically (hahaha..) because I am putting them to use with some of the everyday drinker, more humidly stored puerh I have purchased over the last year or so. 

To me, it seems like the only solution to this problem so far... so I’m going with it…


Friday, November 30, 2018

2013 Shuangjiang Mengku “Yi Pin Quan” 1 KG & Good Mengku vs Bad Mengku

I purchased this sample along with this tong of 2008 ShuangjiangMenku Arbour King  from Yunnan Sourcing about a year and a half ago.  I took a few other Shuangjiang Mengku samples along for the ride on the order as well.  I ended up purchasing a quite a bit of Shuangjiang Mengku while it was quite cheap at this time.  Without a desire to purchase more, I didn’t try this one which now goes for $210.00 for 1KG cake ($0.21/g)… a big one!

Dry leaves smell of mushrooms, honey, distant floral, slight pungent odour, sweet overall.

First infusion has a soft peachy and honey approach with soft wood underneath there is a soft cooling returning sweetness with pungency.  The mouthfeel is soft but tingling on the lips.

The second infusion has a nice soft honey approach with suggestions of peach and even butter scotch underneath.  There is a nice long pungency and a soft sticky tingling mouthfeel feeling especially on the lips.  The menthol aftertaste reaches deeper into the throat along with sweet butterscotch and suggestions of peach.  The mouthfeel is quite nice.  I can start to feel the qi softly in the head and warming on the cheeks.  The odour from the leaves are an interesting grainy aroma.

The third infusion has a licorice and wood taste along with butterscotch sweetness.  The initial taste has mild astringency and a touch of bitterness.  There is a leathery note in the aftertaste that overtakes the long cooling sensation.  I was getting real excited about this puerh until I hit this steeping.

The fourth infusion is more of this woody/ leathery taste which dominates now.  There are hints of peach in the returning aftertaste along with menthol and butterscotch.  The bitterness and astringency is enough to beat at the digestion a sign that this one still needs a bit of aging left to be enjoyed.  The Qi of this tea is of that very strong/ almost jittery factory style.  It is nicely warming in the body and makes the head feel wobbly and light but the mind is like a chattering monkey.

The fifth is this licorice/ leathery barely sweet, somewhat medicinal with edges of sweet malt, grain, licorice, almost floral, butterscotch.  The bitter astringency and licorice/ leather dominate.  These notes are a sign of much less exciting Mengku material.  That common leathery and licorice profile is what I consider less desirable Menkgu.  The high notes of butterscotch and almost floral sweetness and vibrant expanding tastes are more desirable Mengku qualities.  This tea seems to have more of the former.

The sixth infusion is much the same tastes.  The mouthfeel is now an almost dry and slightly grainy texture along with tingling lips sensation.  It is moving more toward dry and slightly sandy with each resulting infusion.

The seventh infusion is a bitter more creamy and sweet throughout less bitter woods and leathers more long butterscotch and menthol in the returning sweetness.

The eighth is kind of a balance of the leather/ woody astringency and the creamier sweeter butterscotch slightly sour with a sandy mouthfeeling astringent returning tastes.

The ninth again a balance of sweetness, leathery/wood even grainy wheat, with a butterscotch flavoring and longer menthol.  These last infusions are balanced and taste nice.

The tenth and eleventh infusion is a mild leather, wood, grains, and sweet buttery flavor and has a cool finish with a butterscotch finish.  The Qi is a big caffeinated factory qi experience.

The twelfth infusion turned out pretty sweet with a dominating soft buttery sweetness.

The thirteenth infusion was a bit more leathery and woody but sweet tastes still are the most dominant here.  The fourteenth takes a more bitter/ astringent turn but is still mildly buttery and sweet. The mouthfeel in these late infusions is a bit buttery.

15th is a more grainy sweetness the 16th is much the same under longer infusions with still a long cooling taste and slightly sweet bitterness.  This tea lasts much longer than I would expect.  It probably could keep going…

This tea has good stamina and is complex enough and has that strong robust Qi I often enjoy.  You can taste some Bang Dong or similar quality material in there but has too much of that common/ lower quality/ unexciting Mengku tastes especially in mid-profile.  This is not a bad tea for the price but neither is it a good tea.  Personally, I really dislike that common licorice/ leather low note in puerh teas.  There is definitely better Shuangjiang Mengku other there for a low enough price.

A few days later I decided to finish the remainder of the sample using less leaf and got a pretty soild drinking tea over the course of a day.  The sweetness is really pronounced and the qi is factory strong.  I enjoy this tea on some level, it has enough in it to be enjoyed for the price.  I just think I can find better…


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Storage Issues: Cheap Hygrometers

It’s a good idea to spend a bit of money on these things if you really want to know about humidity.


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Aftermath: 2018 Black Friday/ Cyber Monday Were the Biggest Ever for Puerh Lovers!

I had a feeling and hinted before the sales that this year’s Black Friday/ Cyber Monday sales might surpass last year.  Then the sales were announced and most were significantly better than previous years.  In the following post I declared that, in fact, these sales were the best that Western puerh buyers have ever seen- ever.  It turns out, from what the vendors are telling us, that I was probably right and people were buying them up fast!

In my last post I declared Yunnan Sourcing’s sale the best one this year- 15% off everything!  Apparently, it really paid off for not only puerh buyers but for Yunnan Sourcing as well. I just got an email from Scott of Yunnan Sourcing which stated:

Wow! So many of you took advantage of the sales! We had many more orders than last year! Once again, we want to thank you all so much for your continued support. We also welcome all the new customers and look forward to getting to know you all better!

We got 10x more than our normal order volume during the 4 days of sales (Fri-Mon).  Being a small company with just 7 fulfillment staff (6 in China, and 1 in the USA) means that even working longer than normal hours, it could take us awhile to catch up.

I wasn’t planning on an order but like many of you couldn’t resist this sale and picked up some cakes I’ve been contemplating.  Great work Scott on a stellar sale.  Next year, 16% off Ok… hahaha…

I think the sale was also a big success for Paul of white2tea as well.  There was a promotion where white2tea was giving away a free tote bag for the first 50 orders of $200.00 or more.  He announced on social media 24 hours later that the bags were gone:

That means within 24 hours of Black Friday $200.00 x 50 = at least $10 000.00 sales were made.  Impressive!  Considering that white2tea’s sale was mainly just free shipping which actually targets smaller purchases not larger ones, you can imagine the sales volume.  Probably closer to $20,000 in 24hrs, would be my guess.  Good sale Paul, a step up from last year for sure.  Thanks in advance for drawing my order number for the 3 KG Qing bing giveaway, I appreciate that.

I think there were many cakes to completely sell out this year as well.  I ended up purchasing from 3 different vendors this year while managing to stay on budget.  Two cakes I purchased from two different vendors had quickly sold out.

I haven’t heard anything from the other vendors but I can imagine that everyone made off in good shape.

Thanks for an amazing sale and interesting marketing experience, you guys are the best.

For those of you that never got close to spending your allotted puerh budget this Black Friday/ Cyber Monday (yeah right), Tea Urchin is offering something different.  Tea Urchin, whose prices are already pretty reasonable, decided to skip Black Friday and do a December month long  10% off sale.  Nice.



Saturday, November 24, 2018

2018 Black Friday/ Cyber Monday Puerh: Vendors Stepped it Up!

Although I am torn about the commercialization of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I find it most amusing to watch the marketing machines of our dear puerh vendors in overdrive.  In the West we are, of course, buying tea but I think a lot of what we buy into is actually the marketing.  Over the course of this sale, we get to see their marketing at its finest and it really does speak to each vendor’s brand and the core of how they present themselves- their brand identity.

Like last year, there were some vendors that didn’t have any markdowns at all on Black Friday/ Cyber Monday.  I think these are the “take it or leave it” or “our fair price is just that” type of matter of fact vendors.  I really find this refreshing in this day and age.  Last year, I chose to go down this route with my only Black Friday puerh purchase from Teamasters. For those looking to avoid the marketing hype and mind games of Black Friday, look no further than Teamasters, Bitterleaf Teas, and Chawangshop to name a few.

Last year, I stated that the Essence of Tea’s “20% Free Tea Sale” was probably the best deal of them all.  This year they are trying to emulate greatness by offering it again.  This time they put a few restrictions on it by restricting the age of tea you can select for free.  Last year you could select any tea as your free tea but this year you can only select 2008-2018 years.  This is totally understandable because they have listed a bunch of very expensive older teas from the 80s and 90s and other antique teas that they probably don’t want to dispense 1g of.  So this makes sense to me.  The Essence of Tea vibe is “you support our business, we would like to give something back to you”.  I resonate with the message in this sale.  With so much old tea on the menu these days, it would be cool to see a future Black Friday sale with some kind of giveaway/ promotion/ draw with some really rare old stuff though… that would be interesting and work with their marketing, I think.

The most interesting and arguably the most aggressive marketing is the sale at white2tea.  Last year, I think I overly criticized their Black Friday sale.  To be fair it was a little weak on actual deals.  It was mainly just a release day of new cakes with free shipping. I was especially harsh about the criticism of the limited 100 cake run of the $15.00 2017 Snoozefest.  This cake was a response to common criticism of white2tea. Over the last year, with no new sheng puerh prices anywhere close to being as cheap, I now see this promotion a bit differently. 

I think it was a bit of a surprise to everyone that Paul of white2tea released a limited 100 200g cakes of the $15.00 2018 Snoozefest this year.  This lightening sale that almost crashed the website and left the site moving at a snail’s pace for hours and hours (this again).  It sold out in a few hours.  The 2018 wrapper contains the same wording as the 2017 with new words like “Stoked” and “W2t reppin” that conjure up positive excitement for this surprise limited release.

They also used the sale to release a 50 cake limited run of 2018 Tunji for $89 that sold out Friday morning and a bunch of other not as limited, non-sheng puerh cakes that have been teased on social media for weeks now.  Besides this, they offered free shipping when you spent $20.00 or more, a free tote for the first 50 people who spent $200 or more, and $500.00 or more got a free December Tea Club membership.  Overall, not that much discount but a lot of hype- an improvement on last year’s sale though.

I think that Paul uses the stage of Black Friday to respond to some of his critics.  This year, I feel that he redeemed himself a little and is more on point with his response…

If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that I am not a fan of Xiao (small) bings of puerh and have criticized white2tea for perpetuating the popularity of this size of puerh.  I have also stated and hinted a few times that one of the Western puerh vendors has to press a Qing (Large) bing to make it right.  Of course, leave it to white2tea to respond to this criticism in dramatic fashion… I love this…

As a response white2tea is putting all orders during Black Friday and Cyber Mondy into a draw for an obscenely large, one of a kind 3KG shu puerh Qing bing … Paul is now, officially my hero!  The neifi cleverly states “pressed in 2018 by the corporate hellspawn :)”.  This phrase is in response to the increased demonization of puerh vendors that we have seen over the past few years.  Paul partly addressed this criticism rather well on his blog post here a few months back.  Also there has been others like James of TeaDB to speak out on this issue as well.
The neifi continues to state “This tea my not be good but there sure is a fucking lot of it.”  This comment is a response to the criticism mentioned above about the xiaobinging of the puerh industry.  It is a sarcastic statement that basically makes the argument that white2tea makes tea that is very good but in a smaller size- a statement about quality over quantity.  Also, apparently, since he has only made one of these and has not actually tired it, it has some blunt truth to it- he won’t get to taste it before sending it off to that lucky person.  I’ve stated on my blog before if anyone will press a Qing bing, I will put my wallet behind this endeavor.

My choice for best sale Black Friday/ Cyber Monday sale this year is at Yunnan Sourcing.  It is big, bold, and simple- 15% off everything!!!! And do they ever have a lot of everything.  Easily you can find something in their large selection.  I had a feeling Scott might up the ante last week, and he did.  What could beat that?  It speaks to Yunnan Sourcing’s big presence in the Western puerh scene, a very big sale.  The best sale for sure!
I also got to tip my hat to those smaller vendors that probably have less wiggle room in the profits to offer big cuts this weekend but still offered something fun as an incentive.  Crimson Lotus is offering 10% off everything- that is pretty significant for a smaller vendor- good job.  Farmerleaf is offering cumulative/ stacking promotions of rare and small puerh productions depending on how much you spend.  Check out their website, for details on these interesting treasures they are offering. Tea Encounter is offering free, limited samples.  Teas We Like decided to release a few new cakes.  Its good fun that even these smaller vendors are offering what they can.

Overall the sales are better than last year and probably better than ever for puerh this year.  It had me purchasing from a few of these places and enjoying this spectator sport of brilliant marketing.  You lucky readers get to see me slowly and gradually sell my soul... hahahaha... Good job vendors!

Hopefully you got the deal you were looking for or at least enjoyed the marketing mayhem…  if not, all these sales are still running for another few days…


Saturday, November 17, 2018

Pre Black Friday Puerh Sales/Hype

There are a few cakes of puerh out there that I have had my eye on over the last few years which I am considering for purchase over Black Friday.  I promised myself after buying the tong of Qizhong and cake of Qixiang in June that, if I don’t purchase any puerh until Black Friday, I will buy some higher priced stuff when this year’s sale comes around.  Turns out it only took two months to break that promise with a small order from Tea Encounter (here and here).  I have not made a puerh purchase since this time.  So, if the sales are big enough, I hope to buy some nicer sample cakes.  But, from which vendor????  I have my eye on a few.  Where I spend my money depends on how cleaver their marketing is and how deep their sales are.

Last year I didn’t pay close attention to the run up to Black Friday/ Cyber Monday and failed to notice the price increases made in the months before the sale.  It turns out I ended up purchasing only a few of those cakes in a small Yunnan Sourcing order (here and here) last winter.  This year, I have been paying closer attention to the run up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  It is interesting isn’t it?

Most interesting is watching the marketing moves of Paul of white2tea and Scott of Yunnan Sourcing.

Yunnan Sourcing decided to get ahead of everyone and do a Pre-Black Friday Sale from Nov 15-20th (on now!) with 10% off everything and a bunch of free bonus gifts.  That is a pretty good sale.  But honestly, will it be better than the Black Friday sale next week? I think it is more of a hype marketing thing.  I like it.  Last year Yunnan Sourcing Black Friday sale was 13-20% off.  I wonder if he will push it beyond the 13% off?  That would be bold don’t you think?

White2tea is doing their brilliant social media teasers of a bunch of new cakes they will drop next week in what they are describing as “Black Friday Week”.  This includes these rad slow motion videos of a limited release of possibly autumn sheng puerh (my guess?) they are calling Tunji.  I like it.  They offered a decent sale on Halloween a few weeks ago that featured 2 free samples and Orders of $150 or more receive $10 off, Orders of $250 or more receive $20 off, Orders of $500 or more receive $50 off.  Decent.  Last year white2tea really just offered free shipping and a free brick on orders over $500 on Black Friday.  I wonder if they will just use the event to hype new products or will they offer more substantial discounts?

All other vendors seem tight lipped about this year’s Black Friday deals.

What do you think?  Are you looking to buy?


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

2017 Zheng Si Long Yibang Purple Leaf

This sample was gifted to me by Tiago of Tea Encounter, currently it has not been offered on the site…

Dry leaves are tightly pressed of fresh juicy fruits, a creamy fresh odour, pencil shavings with grape and blueberry odours

Vacuous strawberry, thin slight rubbery mouthfeel that gets very full quickly, a thin veil of tight sticky astringency, slow subtle expanding strawberry aftertaste, gentle, subtle, soft tingles, big grape tastes, slight sour if pushed, almost bread tasting edges, muscatel delight,  heavy-headed Qi, muscles twitch, spacey.

Had a nice little session with this one today.  Haven’t consumed too much of the purple leaf Yibang in the past but my experience with this one suggests it’s a nice example.


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Release Dates of Semi-Aged Puerh

Have you ever noticed that a lot of Western puerh vendors list their semi aged puerh finds in September/ October or late Winter/Early Spring?

This is something I have picked up on lately from mere observation. It makes sense for a few reasons.

During the Spring and, to a lesser extent, the Autumn puerh picking seasons our trusty vendors are probably too busy at work pressing their own branded materials to spend time trying to track down other products.  It’s in the off seasons that they might have extra time to attempt to find some semi aged treasures.

By the time late Winter/ very Early Spring comes around, puerh buyers have gotten quite board viewing the same years products for the last many long winter months and are eager for some new puerh to look at.  Basically, we get the springtime itch.  I think, it’s only natural to crave tea in the spring time- this is just a natural harmonious craving here.   The problem is that the new springtime puerh won’t be ready for release until Summer.  And they wouldn’t want the release of any semi-aged cakes to interfere with their bread & butter.  So, it is smart, from a vendor’s perspective, to release what semiaged finds they have dug up over the slower winter months in the early spring.

The second release season for semi aged puerh seems to be in the Autumn in Sept/October.  After we buyers have scooped up all the newly pressed vendor puerh that we have been waiting for all year and are feeling just about finished with our puerh buying, out drops a few interesting semi aged things!  This conveniently occurs in the weeks before Black Friday and months before any autumnal pressings are usually released.

Of course there are other vendors, Yunnan Sourcing, who pretty much just release them randomly throughout the year.  There is a giant selection found there at any time of the year which is pretty sweet.

Have you noticed these tends on releasing semi-aged puerh or is it just me?

I think these trends might change in the future as vendors like white2tea and the Essence of Tea make available their own delisted brand products at their liking.


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

2017/2018 Spring The Essence of Tea Drinking Report

In an attempt at replenishing my dwindling stash of puerh, I really appreciated seeing the drinking reports that James drafted at TeaDB.  With that being said, I really am happy with my older style of tea review that I used for many many years here on MattCha’s Blog.  The reviews really focused on simply reviewing the tea itself- the isolated and intimate experience with it, without comparisons, opinions, and value overshadowing the tea experience. 

However enjoyable those old reviews are, I realized that this style of review is not very good at helping my readers both understand the tea, make judgments of its value, and give them any idea if it’s something they would want to purchase.  Many years ago we knew a lot less about puerh than we know now and I thought it would be pretty foolish of me, at that time, to make sweeping authoritative statements about the tea I was drinking.  If you look back at other bloggers old reviews that are very opinionated, they sound quite silly now that we know a lot more about puerh.  I essentially dogged that bullet.

I too have sometimes relied on the reviews of other bloggers to guide my puerh buying in the past and to some extent and more so over the last few years.  It is impossible to sample all puerh so reading reviews, especially of someone who you feel enjoys a similar style of tea, is one way you can at least narrow things down.  In my return to blogging, I promised myself that my reviews would give my readers something a bit more tangible.  I personally found James’ drinking reports the most useful in analyzing a bunch of reviews without having to go through hundreds of single reviews.  My first report was on the Zheng Si Long from Tea Encounter.  This one is on some of the new spring pressings from the Essence of Tea and I hope to publish another I am working on soon. 

The following report is based on all the complimentary samples I received in two separate orders from the Essence of Tea.  They represent about 1/3- 1 /2 of their Spring selection of each year so it should give you a good idea of what’s on offer at the Essence of Tea.

2018 Spring Gua Feng Zhi (Sold Out)- not typical Gua Feng Zhi but interesting, nice noticeable depth added with a small amount of huang pian, lots of deeper pumpkin/ nutty/ woody/ bread taste paired with mild returning sweet and pungency, relaxing/ floating body mild-medium qi sensation, slight dry/ constricting throat with not too much stamina

 2018 Spring “Piercing the Illusion” ($128.00 for a 400g cake or $0.32)- first wild tea/ puerh blend from Essence of Tea, tastes like it contains more wild tea than puerh tea, blended likely for qi sensation which has a fairly strong downer/ sleep qi sensation, mind slowing qi, has mild taste characteristics of wild tea fruitiness and minutes long aftertaste, as well as vacuous mouthfeeling, mild puerh tea taste in returning sweetness/ camphor and woodiness

2018 Spring EoT 10 Year Anniversary Yiwu ($560.00 for 400g cake or $1.40/g)- composed of state forest material, very full satisfying astringency which holds flavors very nicely, nuanced sweet woody with a candy-like sweetness at the edges, depth of initial sweet tastes, full mouthfeel and deep throat feeling, penetrating deep, thought slowing Qi, favorite cake I’ve tired from Essence of Tea

2017 Spring Yiwu Gouyoulin (Sold Out)- nice syrupy bready sweetness, fruity-woody-menthol, mild but deep throat feeling and mouthfeeling, mild qi sensation, tastes are very nice, doesn’t compare to 2018 above.

2017 Spring Nancai Ancient- (Currently delisted probably in Malaysian warehouse , $80.00 for 400g cake $0.20/g when last listed) – creamy slowly unraveling sweet taste with top cherry notes, woody base, slight roughness, nice mouthfeeling astringency, not that much stamina, simple puerh tastes, mild head floating qi sensation.  Strength is the mouthfeeling/ astringency but not overly complicated puerh.

2017 Spring Wulang Wild (Currently delisted probably in Malaysian warehouse)- sweet candy-fruity taste without bitterness, buttery cherry and melon notes, very soft flavours, cheerful Qi feeling, recommend as a nice intro to wild tea for those who enjoy Wu Liang puerh.

The whole bunch of these teas are very pure and very agreeable in the body as the Essence of Tea’s puerh exclusively are.  Still haven't been able to seal the deal with a purchase of any of these young puerh though.


Friday, November 2, 2018

Composting Puerh

I have been cleaning up and attempting to better organize my tea storage lately and thought to give these 2 cakes and 1 brick a toss.  One was a gift given to me from someone who was gifted puerh and doesn’t drink it.  That cake tastes horrendously dry and rough and maybe even pesticide sprayed.  The other two were purchased as sample cakes in a search for cheap everyday drinkers last year and I found them intolerable.

I am not a wasteful person nor do I think I am above the taste of cheap tea.  However, these teas exhibit a taste and feel which suggests that something is not quite right about them.  As a result, they will be returned to the earth.  I have a few other puerh cakes that I can’t tolerate but that others have claimed to enjoy and so I intend to send some of these out to those people sometime.


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

2008 Dayi Qui Xiang & Thoughts on Strong Puerh

In a bout of bad luck last year, I both broke my dailyyixing teapot and had a sellout of a puerh at time of checkout!

Wilson (Adventure in Every Cup) turned my bad luck into good by remedying both of these issues!  First he helped me find this beautiful old factoy 1 early 90s/late 80s yixing 200ml teapot (pictured in this post).  Scondly, he sent me a bit of a treat, a sample of this 2008 Dayi Qui Xiang ($85.00 for 500g cake or $0.17/g) - the one that sold out on me at Tuo Cha Tea!  If you are into 10 years factory puerh, its worth checking out Willson’s interesting selection of good drinkers.

There are many many reasons that I had reservations about purchasing this dry stored option at good ol’ Tuo Cha Tea.  First, I had to get over the fact it is an autumnal produced puerh.  This 2008 Day hardly resembles autumnal material to me and will challenge your assumptions about the nature of autumn puerh.  The second reservation I had is, like most factory options, there is usually a lot of it out there with a multitude of storage options and availability online.  This makes for a hard choice if you are looking to buy in volume.  For me I almost want to try it in different storage conditions before deciding on purchase.  Often, if there is a deal to be had, you have to act quick in the face of rising prices. 

The crazy cheap option at Tuo Cha Tea that I just couldn’t complete was the least optimal storage for this cake, I think.  I have bought some of Menghai factory stuff before that pretty much requires/ was really only meant for more humid storage and am currently dosing them with heavy humidity.  Not all Menghai Factory (Daiyi) requires such humid storage but most of it isn’t meant for overly dry storage.  This is one of the reasons I have not owned any Dayi in the past.  This 2008 Dayi QuiXiang is so strong that it really does need many more years of humid storage before it is consumed.  It’s more of a long term buy.  I always have a hard time going down this road due to past advice to just avoid it and buy something that can be enjoyed in some way at time of purchase.

The previous samplings I’ve done with this tea, it kicked the crap out of me so this time I use less leaf!  This infusion I’m using ½ to 1/3 less leaf as I usually do… Let’s see what this Maylaysian stored one is all about…

The dry leaves smell of faint rum, plumb and wheat grains and decaying flowers.

The first infusion has a slight sweet, slightly decomposing leaf taste to it with a long cooling mouthfeel and subtle spicy finish.  There is a nice sticky mouthfeeling distant smoke.

The second infusion has a nice thick rose and wood powdery taste with a nice floral sweet backbone in a more typical Menghai factory feel.  There is a long sweet finish a sticky mouthfeel.  Retuning menthol.  The qi is strong and alerting in the mind, I can feel the intensity behind my eyes and in my stomach.

The third gives me a mild itch sensation but flavors are strong, thick and deep.  Layered woods, slight talc rose, sweet floral, plumb, and sweet potato layered sweetness.  The mouthfeel is dense and the finish is camphorus, slight floral, sweet.  The qi is quite intense, very strongly alerting, it still beats up the stomach pretty good.

The fourth infusion has a leafier, woody layering to it with sweetness and talc rose floral on the edges.  The long menthol finish is nice.  Sweetness pops slightly in the long cooling aftertaste.

The fifth infusion is of woods immediately with sweetness lingering in the distance that stretches its legs in the aftertaste along with menthol like tastes.  In the aftertaste there are faint suggestions of tropical fruits under floral talc tastes and fruity nuances.  The menthol finish is strong and the monthfeel is dense.  The mid throat opens under the threat of abundant menthol.  The Qi black logs in the head and mind and makes me feel like I am levitating a bit.  Strong Qi but a bit too harsh on the stomach, needs to age at least another 5 years.

The sixth and seventh infusions are much the same rose talc, woods, sweetness, thick mouthfeeling, strong qi.  Long menthol.  This tea stays pretty consistent from infusion to infusion but is deep and enjoyable. 

The seventh infusion has a nice mellow woody start, the action is in the aftertaste with long champor and tight aged florals.

The eighth and ninth infusions becomes very smooth, velvety wood and plum with leathery tastes.  The aftertaste is forever cooling.  Mouthfeel is not as strong but present.

The tenth infusion I add 10 seconds to the flash infusion which seems to bring a bit of a thicker mouthfeeling and more of a nuanced initial taste of woods and talc sweetnesses.  The menthol becomes more pronounced but it is not harsher.

The eleventh infusion I add 15 seconds to flash and get a slightly more rough infusion with a mouthfeel that has a drier astringent edge with mainly woody character now with there is a noticeable smokiness now that has gone from being more background to more upfront with the increase dry astringency.

With the 200ml pot and rougher profile, I toss in the towel with this tea early.

This tea is flavorful, has a nice mouthfeel, aftertaste, and powerful qi.  It is economical in the sense that you need about ½-1/3 less leaves to get a strong flavor and that it is a 500g cake ($0.17/g).  It tastes to me like it may have both Menghai and Nannou blended in there. Reminds me in many ways of this older and cheaper but harsher 2005 CNNP Big Yellow Mark but this Menghai Factory option is much cleaner, no smokey mesquite, and has some charms of typical Dayi factory deliciousness.

I would love to see someone who thought they could get away with just using a gaiwan attempt to enjoy this strong tea.  I’m happy I have this pot to curb the harshness, it seems to do a great job at reducing the difficult edges of the 2007 Yang Qing Hao Qi Zhong that I have been most frequently stepping in this pot as of late.

Really this 2008 Qui Xiang needs at least another 5 years to be enjoyed as aged pureh.  I think people in the West are just beginning to understand how to age these stronger factory things out.

In the end, this has got to be one my favorite 2008 Menghai Factory puerh but I’m unsure about a purchase and almost would like to try a few more different storage options before settling on this cake.  Thanks again Wilson for helping to lift me through my streak of mishappenings!  So far, this cake has the best storage I’ve seen on it.


Friday, October 26, 2018

Grey Teapots Vs. Red Teapots

After writing a bit about teapot feng shui a while ago, I thought I would share some personal experiences with my own teapots and feng shui…

First, I think it’s telling that both of my old red clay (hong ni) yixing teapots have incurred multiple damages.  I used to own 4 teapots- 2 grey & 2 red.  My gray teapots have never sustained any damage what so ever, even after frequent daily use.  My red clay teapots both have had a few injuries, their last resulting in breakage rendering them unusable.  To me, I think the feng shui of these pots is part of the reason some have survived while others have perished!

I have previously posted about the Qi, energy, psychological, and spiritual effects of the colour gray.  Currently, I own and cherish two gray teapots, this gray Kim Kyoung Soo and this gray David Louveau.  I most definitely gravitate towards using these grey pots when I am in a greater state of concentration, meditation, zen, mindfulness, when I am drinking tea alone, or when I am attentively absorbed in a new tea sampling.  I even use the gray pots when I hope to cultivate mindful calmness. 

These days I mainly use my gray teapots to mindfully sample new puerh tea as I feel it increases my focus and strengthens my mind to what is to come.   I also use grey clay pots at work as a reprieve, focus and calm, in my busy work day.  It is no wonder these pots are in great condition!

What is the energy of red?  It is the colour of heat, fire, dynamic action.  I use these pots often in the bustling gong fu brewing of puerh or oolong.  The dynamic morning transition of Yin into Yang, of sleep to awake, can sometimes be intense with a young family.  I choose a teapot that gets us going paired with quick strong and intense gong-fuing sessions.  However, I don’t want this energy to be overzealous so the pot is usually somewhat balanced with a heavier sturdy and rounder form and thicker walls- the Yin within Yang.

When this Yang energy is too much or too intense- carelessness, thoughtlessness, and mindlessness can predispose the teapots to a space where breakage is more likely to occur.  The energy of the pot you select to steep tea in influences your tea session, your mind.  Conversely, your mindset influences the teapot you select.  We should be mindful of this and select the most optimal teapot for gong fu cha.