Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Longest Pending Order for the Best of Yibang: 2012 Tea Urchin Yibang Spring

I have a very interesting and long history with this 2012 Tea Urchin Yi Bang Spring, one of my favorite examples of the Yi Bang area and my favorite production from Tea Urchin from their early productions.…

I actually sampled this tea way back in 2013, five years ago.  I typed up detailed tasting notes for this tea as I usually do.  Actually, I completely forgot that I had done that.  Life got a bit crazy and I didn’t get to posting them.  I tend not to post on teas I am considering for purchase, until I have either ruled out the purchase out or until I actually buy them.  Otherwise, "the Blogger Effect" could leave me empty handed.

Upon my return to tea blogging, I went out to find teas I was interested in purchasing years ago.  I was surprised to find that this tea was still available.  I remember that I had really liked it, especially the qi was of note.  I waited a bit, long enough to piece together an order from Tea Urchin, and watch this tea slowly dwindle in numbers.  I ordered a sample in a recent order from Tea Urchin to see what I thought of this tea with 5 more years of dry Shanghai storage on it.  I had a similar “Wow” moment with this Yibang during the first session.  The second session was less exciting but still very nice.

Then something interesting happened…I accidentally did a search on my PC for something else and came across my original tasting notes on this tea.  This prompted me to search for a saved email conversation I was having with my puerh buddy in Victoria about the potential purchase years before.  I thought it would be interesting to share both my original notes, my email trail about the potential purchase 5 years ago, and my current notes, thoughts, and how I finally came to purchase a cake!

Go back to 2012/2013… I had sampled a lot of puerh tea pressed by western vendors between 2009-2012 but had actually purchased very very little.  This one stood out for me enough to consider a purchase at the time, which says a lot.  Here is my original tasting notes from early 2013, I think:
The dry leaves smell of a pungent, spicy-meat, savory odour with a contrasting undercurrent of creamy sweetness.

The first infusion is a foresty, savory-pungent almost menthol-like odour which pillows in the mouth.  There is a sweet bubble gum edge that lingers underneath and expands in the mouth.  These flavours expand and stay in the mouth even minutes later.  The mouthfeel is soft and creamy.

The second infusion is of layers of creamy pungent, savory-meaty foresty tastes.  The savory notes come first and are propped up by creamy, swelling fruit notes underneath. The mouthfeel is viscus, sticky, and full in the mouth.  The mouth can't help but water.

The third infusion takes more layered savory-foresty notes with that same expansive swelling of sweet tastes in the mouth.  The mouthfeel is full and reaches and opens the upper- and mid- throat.  The finish is a cool-sweet menthol in the mouth.  There is a candy-like sweetness even minutes later.  The qi is mellowing and soothing, it seems very light in the body.

The fourth infusion brings spicy-salty foresty-sweet notes the flavours seem more condensed now with a swell of creamy tastes emerging.  There is a bit of a mushroom taste in the mouth minutes later.

The fifth delivers distinctly sweet, expansive, tastes in the mouth.

In the sixth infusion has a strong, pure, layered sweetness with a light underlying bitterness.  The aftertaste is of sweet unripe plum.  It is long and sticks to the mouth.

The seventh infusion is much the same with heavy layers of sweetness prevailing.

The eight infusion becomes a touch bitter-tangy with a fruit edge but with most of the sweetness now diminished.

The ninth same as above ....

* That's probably why I didn't publish the notes- it looks like my session was preemptively interrupted*

Then here is the email trail between my tea drinking buddy and me as we consider a purchase:
Me- Have you ever tried any of the puerh from Tea Urchin? I have been drinking a sample of this:

It is the best puerh from Yi Bang that I have tried and I am thinking about getting a cake? They have a $20 flat rate shipping and was wondering if you are interested a getting anything from them? I might get some samples of their 2013 cakes as well? I'm still uneasy with the $100 price tag of these new puerh... but I guess that is the reality.

Let me know,
Tea Buddy- I like Tea Urchin teas...they are high quality. Count me in for two Yibang cakes...I trust your palate!
Me- It's a false alarm!

I sampled the Yi bang again and wasn't as enthusiastic about it so I decided to not order, sorry bud.  Haha The benefits of having enough for two pots eh?

I think I am going to hold off on an order.

Of note is my unease with the price of young sheng in 2013.

Recently I had another great session with a sample I ordered in my second order from Tea Urchin in late May 2018.  These notes are 5 years later than the notes above but with a sample that came from Tea Urchin's brilliant dry storage.  These are the notes of a particularily nice session with this tea…

Dry leaves smell of distant fresh floras and fruits with a light wildflower honey sweetness to them.

First infusion starts with a vacuous wood, rice cracker, and almost paper-like and faint wildflower nuance before turns into a very nice clear and crisp nice mentholy honey sweetness.  The cooling builds in the mouth it leaves a slight sticky taste in the mouth.  The stickiness is also felt on the lips and throat.  There is a faint lingering almost fruity and wildflower sweetness throught the whole profile of this tea.  This tea has a very pure essence to its taste.  The sticky mouthfeeling and throat feeling carries these high noted tastes in the mouth minutes later.

The second infusion has more woody initial taste with a more pronounced fruity start then transitions to a strong creamy and notiably menthol sweetness.  There is almost a crisp almost artificial tasting percing spearmint taste in the intial taste as well that is quite nice.  The mouthfeel is quite sticky and enjoyable and drags the flavours on minutes later.  The qi is very relaxing and makes the head feel heavy on the neck- it induces as sweat.  The qi of this tea is quite nice, it induces a strong happy feeling. 

The third infusion starts with a dry woody and spearmint onset.  These two taste create a nice polarity of depth- low and high notes.  The mint turns into a lingering sweet coolness there is a pronounced wildflower taste thoughout the profile.  There are notes of rice and grain but this taste is not a deep cereal taste but rather a light basmati rice or sticky rice taste. 

The fourth infusion delivers a very thick taste of very delicate flavours.  It starts with a thick creamy sticky sweetness with pronounced wood underneath.  The sweetness is a light, fresh floral wild honey.   The sweetness dominates the profile thoughout.  The mouthfeeling and throat feeling is nicely thick, sticky, astringent.   The mouthfeel is really nice here and the taste feel stuck to the lips and tongue and edges of the cheek.  This is very nice qi.

The fifth infusion sends out more pungent, sticky sweetness and lighter undertone of wood right off the bat.  The taste is dense but light.  The sweetness that returns is nuanced cotton and honey and floral.  The taste continues to build with each infusion becoming more structured and deep.  Overall the tastes are actually quite light and gentle.  The qi is strongly relaxing and makes me feel high.

The sixth infusion starts with that sticky sweetness that dominates the profile.  It ducks with wood undertones to rice and then to a long sweet floral honey taste.  The mouthfeel is profoundly sticky as is the throatfeel.

The seventh infusion woody shares with sweet. Sticky in the mouth.  The woody taste seems at an equal place as the sweet floral in this infusion.

The eighth starts with a juicier fruit taste there is a long woody intonation with a mild creamy sweet pungent taste in the aftertaste which crests and flows.  The sticky full mouthfeel remains.

The ninth develops more of a fruit sweetness initially then transitions with faint wood.  The returning sweetness has a berry-cherry taste.  The mouthfeel is less sticky but significantly so.  There is more of a cherry fruit vibe here.

I add 10 more seconds to the flash infusion in this slower pouring pot for the tenth infusion and it pushes the dry wood tastes to dominate the profile now.  The taste becomes more of a tart cherry taste.  The pungent sweetness has diminished now but is pushed to the aftertaste.

The eleventh infusion is much more of the same at 10 seconds added.  Things are less full but the balance is still there, the taste is still there.  The stickiness is more of a drier stickiness now.

The twelfth infusion is steeped for a good 30 seconds nice the flavours and feelings are less but the qi remains strong and the broth vibrant.  A banana, tropical fruit like taste lingers it the aftertaste.  The woodiness manages to give this tea depth throughout the session but never becomes too drying or over bearing.  I really like the qi of this tea- light airy, profound, happy, gentle its all in the head and a bit in the chest, the limbs feel so light.

I drank this one for another few good infusions.

Later that week, I had another session with this tea but, again, was not as impressed.  Could be this tea is just a touchy one.  Can’t believe that happened again.

Conclusion: I decided to add one 357g cake ($173.00 or $0.48/g) of this to my last order of Tea Urchin along with these remaining 2011 Lao Man E Spring samples.  It was a bit hard for me to get over the price of this one.  What sealed the deal was that the price of mediocre 2018 Yi bang will probably cost the same- maybe more.  At the present time there is only one cake left and a handful of samples.  I think its a very unique and interesting marketing strategy to show your inventory these days.  I personally appreciate the transparency.  Anyways, I recommend trying at least a sample of this for anyone who enjoys the Yibang puerh producing area.  It’s always a good idea to have a great example of an area or style for future reference, I think.  The ability for the average puerh drinker to do this is getting harder and harder with every passing year.

Jakub's (T) Tasting Notes

Steepster Tasting Notes


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