Friday, January 18, 2019
The concept of puerh pressed into a shoot of bamboo sounds gimmicky but, like white2tea’s take on minis, it actually has quite a long history. Historically, it has been produced for a very long time by the people of Yunnan. It is sometimes offered to guests in areas where puerh is produced. I was even gifted some produced in 2001 by tea guests in the mid 2000s. I busted up one of those bamboo stalks a few years ago to try it out… pretty satisfying and easy drinking sheng puerh.
The production of bamboo puerh is kind of interesting and different than other puerh and is nicely outlined on this blog post here.
It seems like our western puerh vendors have picked up on the novelty of bamboo puerh or maybe it is just starting to get trendy in China? Either way, everyone seems to be producing and offering it these days. Yunnan Sourcing has been offering bamboo puerh on their site forever. Currently they have three kinds available. I recently saw that the Essence of Tea is producing their own that is not yet released. And there is of course this 2018 white2tea Bamboo Shu, a New Year release at white2tea which goes for $32.00 for 200g ($0.16/g) of puerh in bamboo.
Here is an interesting older Teachat link on Bamboo shu with Bears, Gingko, and Marshal’N chiming in with their thoughts. Some of the first bamboo puerh that was offered for sale in the West was a bit low quality- the producers using the novelty of bamboo to hide the actual poor quality of the maocha. This is probably the reason why it hasn’t gained greater popularity in the West.
Let’s try this free sample out that I received in a recent white2tea re-order…
The dry leaves smell of muted fresh bamboo more than a typical shu puerh odour. It’s interesting and almost unnatural to smell shu puerh that smells refreshing. After the rise the wet leaves have a stronger smell like toasted grains and fresh bamboo. The taste is fresh and roasted tasting as well as deep and milky almost coco shu tasting. There is a nice coolness on the breath. The flavor of roasted grains (or bamboo, of course), slight freshness and rich milky mild coco pairs so nicely together and gives this shu puerh lots of depth. The roast almost gives it a dark roast coffee vibe. The qi is strong and alerting, I feel it on the skull. The mouthfeel is decently rich and velvety in the mouth and throat. It feels really nice, mellow, in the body. This shu puerh is tasty and I love the flavor combination- very satisfying on this -30 C morning. This is some great shu to drink now while the roasted effects are still active and fresh within the puerh leaves.
There has been some debate out there whether bamboo puerh ages well. Some say that the positives of the bamboo roasting are lost in aging and that it can’t age optimally enclosed in bamboo. I have personally tired some pretty good sheng that was aged from the 90s in bamboo and it tasted good but the roasty bamboo taste was pretty much gone, not fresh and vibrant like this shu.
Another thing I really like about bamboo puerh is its very compact compression. For this 2018 white2tea Bamboo Shu, I really like the way the tight compression slowly unravels the fermented shu puerh tastes. Notice how shu often gives it all up early in the session? The tight compression allows for a longer balanced gongfu session- I like that about bamboo shu.
Out of all the bamboo puerh I have consumed, none have been this fresh and bamboo tasting. I think this speaks how quick it has been put to market after the roasting step of production. Shu is made to drink now, that’s what I would suggest for this one. This shu is the same price as the 2018 white2tea Smoove Cocoa minis, but the quality and profile of this bamboo shu is probably at least 3 times better than the 2018 Smoove Cocoa which I wasn’t a big fan of. This one will sell out fast.
Thursday, January 17, 2019
This was the cheapest sheng offering at the Essence of Tea at the time of purchase ($0.16/g). They actually have this one in a 100g cake size for a larger sample ($20.00 or$0.20/g) as well as a 5x 100g tong ($0.17/g). A 3x 100g mini tong was also sent out to the tea club, I think, so there is lots of options on this cake. It was a late offering on their site, posted up with some other semi-aged sheng early Autumn.
The Essence of Tea usually releases their autumn puerh after Black Friday. Last year they released a super cheap, and very popular 2017 the Essence of Tea Autumn Nancai which sold out quick and has great reviews. Although the Essence of Tea is not always known for bargain puerh, it is a good place to look for people who want a pure and non-plantation option. They released a few other cheaper options a month or so ago.
The 2018 Essence of Tea Yiwu ($0.20/g) is whole year’s production (Spring & Autumn). This is a very interesting way of keeping the price down while still offering a single garden product. They also released a 2018 Essence of Tea Spring Wuliang Wild that is a cheaper wild option ($0.20/g), I like their 2017 production as a soft intro for people interested in exploring wild tea.
This 2018 Bamboo Spring is also from the Wuliang producing area. I like Wuliang puerh for its fresh vibrancy and easiness to drink. Since Yunnan Sourcing offered its first Wuliang in 2009, I have always had at least some on hand to drink fresh or semi-aged instead of green tea. I really think Wuliang tea is one of the better regions for drinking now. I tend to think it peaks at about 10 years, but who am I to know, I have never tried really old Wuliang puerh… Have you?... hahaha.
I recently read an interesting post by Shah8 which broke down and compared all the Wuliang puerh the Essence of Tea has offered over the last few years. Shah8 thought that this 2018 was a very nice “disposable” drinker with no flaws for its price.
Let’s see how it contends in my search for the best cheapest fresh sheng puerh…
Dry leaves smell of vegetal sweetness, with a distant lingering fruitiness far in the distance.
The first infusion is very light sweet vegetal with a slight grain sweetness base on mild dry wood. The taste is very light and cheery. Very green lots of light vegetal notes. The returning sweetness has a sweet honey dew melon and light honey taste. The mouthfeel is sticky and the mild fresh fruity taste lingers a minute or so later there is a mild taste like a pink watermelon Jolley Rancher candy that appears.
The second infusion has a grain fruity approach with a grain and dry wood fresh base flavor. The profile is very light and fresh. There is a nice cooling almost candy Jolly Rancher and melon returning sweetness and lingering sweet fruity aftertaste. The mouthfeel is mildly sticky, barely astringent and the tongue a touch sandy. Qi is mildly relaxing here.
The third infusion has a much more fruity vegetal and even floral initial taste the woody/grain base is very faint almost overwhelmed by the sweeter notes. The sweet cooling returns nicely and a candy like taste emerges with a grainy base even in the aftertaste. The aftertaste has some floral in there as well. The mouthfeel is sticky with a sandy tongue sensation. The profile is overwhelmingly light and green and fresh. It is vegetal, long minty pungent candy taste with a wood almost grainy base. It has a very Wuliang profile to it. I can feel some qi in the eyes and stomach lightly. The aftertaste lingers in the mouth for a while and even has a subtle rubberiness.
The fourth infusion has an almost bitterness to it initially and has a more vegetal fresh green profile this infusion has more melon and fragrant fruit in a sticky mouthfeel and sandy tongue. This infusion has a beautiful heavy floral nuance to it. It’s more Wuliang fruit and has a fuller sweet green taste to it. The floral perfume lingers long on the breathe. In a mouthfeel that is slightly oily.
**** then something happened in my first gong fu session of this tea at work. My work schedule got unexpectedly intense and I had to walk away from the dry leaves for 5 hours. When I came back the tea leaves had lost all its high noted flavor and the base taste of woods and slight grain was all that remained. I had a good look at the wet leaf and sure enough it is filled with very tippy, small, buds and leaves. This tells me that this tea is heavily weighted with odours and more volatile highnotes. It’s probably a better drink now puerh, very, very light type of puerh- very green but a heavy dosing of these highernotes, for sure.
I one cup the leaves and start from fresh dry leaves the next day…
At the fifth infusion I catch up on my notes… this infusion has a almost gummy candy like vegetal sweetness. The mouthfeel is nice and sticky and the liquor is slightly viscous. Long heavy perfumes over an unrecognizable base taste are found here. The qi is more of a relaxing thing. Fruity vegetal florals linger long on the breathe.
The sixth infusion delivers an initial taste of heavy perfume florals in a light vegetal base taste. There is some very mild astringency, almost none. The sticky mouth coating is nice and throat feel is slightly opening in the mid throat. This taste extends long in the ftertaste with a low cooling sensation. Relaxing scalp qi sensation, nice and relaxing vibe.
The seventh infusion has more lighter rolling florals, this tea is packed with these. The base flavor is so light just fresh vegetal here. Nice almost spacy qi as it builds like a mist in the mind. This puerh is pretty gentle in the body so is good enough to drink now- you can feel it stagnate in the stomach a tinny bit only.
The eighth infusion is a bit more vegetal and almost bitter. The mouthfeel tightens up a bit with the bitter-astringency going on. There are some heavier florals in the front and longer vegetal florals in the finish. A bitter green astringency stays in the mouth as well but it is not off putting at all- its just there. There is also a subtle cinnamon hint which was apparent in my one cup session yesterday. The qi is a nice relaxing, fluffy qi.
The ninth infusion is more vegetal and wood than floral which mainly trails out in the aftertaste. The floral, fresh, vegetal aftertaste is still pretty strong in the aftertaste along with cooling notes. There is a notable dry wood note in the base taste and the liquor is losing its oiliness and is a touch sandy on the tongue. The astringency can mildly be felt in the upper throat.
The tenth is a woody almost astringent onset with a increasingly grainy tongue feeling. The cooling aftertaste contains florals but not as brilliant and flanked with some vegetal and woods.
The eleventh is juicier initially like the white of a watermelon then it goes to a woody, slight astringent. The cooling aftertaste is vegetal, almost dry wood, and slightly sweet. More vegetal than sweet here.
The twelfth has a nice monotone sweet vegetal light, fresh taste again with the woody and vegetal disappearing here.
The thirteenth infusion is more woody, sticky, with much of the sweet notes just faint in the aftertaste.
I add a good 30+ seconds to the flash in the fourteenth infusion to see what becomes of this tea. It is pretty much just dry woody vegetal water. With a sticky lips, sandy tongue, and slight astringent throat with nothing to hold on to.
I put this one for an overnight steeping…
Essence of Tea mentions in the description that 2018 was a better harvest and most teas are tasting better this year. They have been getting puerh from the same farmer from years now so this claim has some strength. For sure this is a nice tea, very light, very green, very highnoted, very very clean and fresh in taste and feel.
I wonder how it would compare to 2018 Yunnan Sourcing Wuliang? I hear this one is also pretty nice and really cheap this year. I wonder if 2018 has produced a higher quality pick all across the Wuliang area this year? I should sample it.
So how does it do in the search for the best cheapest fresh sheng? Pretty good but it isn’t super cheap though and isn’t really something that will age ito something deep, I think. If you are in to lighter tasting sheng puerh, green tea-esque puerh or drink now puerh this one is going to really satisfy you for this price, I think.
Comparing it to the only other puerh I sampled in a search for the cheapest, this 2018 white2tea Snoozefest- its hard because these are virtually opposite sheng puerh. 2018 Bamboo Spring is single estate, Spring harvest, Wuliang material, and very green and pure, very easy to drink. 2018 Snoozefest is blended (from multiple regions, I suspect), Autumn harvest, maybe not as pure, and needs aging to curb some of the harshness. These really are totally different beasts and I like them both for their price, it depends if you like more intense profile (white2tea) or gentle profile (the Essence of Tea).
Important to note is that 2018 white2tea Snoozefest sold for $0.08/g and this 2018 the Essence of Tea Bamboo Spring for $0.16/g, double the price. Overall, the Bamboo Spring wins even when considering the price discrepancy, it’s just a more beautiful puerh simply put… But since I’m not looking for drink now, I’m looking for something to age in volume and drink later and because it is just so much cheaper (twice as cheap), I would consider the Snoozefest still the best of the cheapest so far for aging. To be honest, I’m not really excited about either aging into something too amazing and I still don’t think I would re-order either. But for drinking right now, the 2018 Essence of Tea Bamboo Spring is real nice for the price. Its one of those thrown one into your cart at check out, kind of things. That's what I did and my 100g sample is almost gone- the speed test doesn't lie…
Tuesday, January 8, 2019
This is busy season for me. I’m up very early in the morning and sometimes convenience trumps careful puerh steepings this time of year. In the wee hours of the morning, tired and still half asleep, I appreciate the ease of popping a mini puerh into my teapot to get my puerh fix…
I received a free single 7g mini puerh cake of 2018 Smoove Cocoa with my Black Friday order. Smoove Cocoa is a shu puerh that is pressed into a coin for convenient consumption. I really like this idea for people who are new to puerh and may be intimidated by the larger cake sizes and the often messy removal of pressed leaves from a 200g or larger size bing. This makes more sense for a tea that is ready to consume now, like shu puerh, instead of sheng which may require aging. You have to pay a tinny premium on price for this convenience though. These miniscost $0.16/g for a stack of seven 7g minis vs 200g bing at $0.13/g.
Even at least 20 years ago they were pressing puerh into smaller sizes for convenience. Dehong Tea Factory was famous for producing puerh iron pressed into 10g coins rapped in bamboo leaf and other more unconventional shapes - they have been doing it for a long time now. ( I wonder how long it will take Paul to press a melon?) In the mid-2000s I was gifted a few bamboo leaf wrapped section of these coins from the 90s/ early 2000s from Dehong Tea Factory, and it’s tasty enough, for sure. I still have a bunch. The very tight compression is quite deliberate as well resulting in a slow unraveling of flavours and preserving the high notes in the leaves. They would typically do this for shu puerh. This is just a re-imagining of this same concept in a flapjack or mini tong format.
The dry leaf smells more faint wet pile than cocoa but I can still imagine it. It has an easy feel to it- smooth almost grainy sweet taste before turning to a very mild cocoa and wheat taste. Almost a raisin/ currents initial taste more than cocoa. Mild cognac taste. Slight tight mouthfeel with moderate cooling. Slight throat dry pulling astringent sensation which I’m never a big fan of. Overnight infusion gives off some nice wood taste and almost berry suggestions.
Interesting that this tea named Smoove Cocoa is neither obviously chocolate tasting nor is it overly smooth for a shu puerh. It seems that many white2tea ripe puerh have names that precondition the drinker to find a certain tastes in them but that this naming convention is not used for white2tea’s raw productions. Is it a certain flavor that they want to curate?
On the plus, this shu has no wet pile taste thoughout and feels nice and clean in the body. There is most definitely better and cheaper shu puerh out there, but maybe none this convenient in minis form. I think it’s not fair that my last shu session was the famous 2017 Yunnan Sourcing Rooster King which was a significantly better shu . I look forward to sampling other white2tea shu puerh in the future to see how their ripe quality is overall. On the whole there is probably better shu out there for this price, I think.
On this early cold winter morning I enjoy its warming energy just the same and appreciate the complimentary gesture. Thanks for keepin' my morning Smmmoooove...