Monday, February 11, 2019

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

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

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

2008 Teapals Small Factory Naka Yesheng

The dry leaves smell of hay and distant woody sweetness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Teapals Early Spring Wild Yiwu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, February 4, 2019

2019 Puerh Tea Predictions & Checking Past Predictions

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

2018 The Year of Puerh Storage

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

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

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

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

My Past Predictions are Pretty Good

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

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

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

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

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

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

My 2019 Puerh Predictions

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

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

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

Even Bigger Black Friday Promotions (see above)

Specific Western Puerh Vendor Predictions

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

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

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

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


Friday, February 1, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Char's (Oblong Owl) Tasting Notes

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

Steepster Tasting Notes