Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Best of the Cheapest: 2016 Chawangshop Bada

Chawangshop seems to have a great reputation for pressing puerh that is cheap but of good quality and value.  So in a time when people are looking for value in puerh why is no one is talking about or reviewing Chawangshop these days?  Have a look at #chawangshop and see how long it takes you to see a picture of a chawangshop puerh wrapper on Instagram and yet #white2tea there are daily pics.  Why exactly is that?

While I suppose the answer is many…

First, Chawangshop’s marketing, social media, and online presence is pretty quiet.  I know they have Facebook page which they seem to update regularly and Instagram but they use it rarely and they don’t even have links from their webpage.

I guess their check out system seems a bit less straightforward because they calculate the shipping based on the actual price instead of doing flat rates or free shipping… But this shouldn’t turn you off from an order, they are just ensuring that you pay exactly for the shipping no less and no more… that sounds fair to me.

I know Hobbes used to make Chawangshop’s puerh a regular on his blog but no recent bloggers seem to be writing much about their puerh lately.  I kind of missed out from sampling Chawangshop as they seemed to open as I was drifting away from the puerh scene in 2011/2012.  Cwyn N drops their name every once in a while (link Splendid), I think the last time a blogger featured Chawangshop it was this Death By Tea post on the 2016 Chawangshop Hekai Gushu.

Perhaps another reason they have not gotten much attention lately maybe because of push back on some blunt comments they made in 2016 when Chawangshop owners were telling their customers a bit too bluntly how to drink, buy, and age their puerh.  Maybe the response was a dialed back social media presence too, who knows.

Another possible reason for less attention is that Chawangshop tend to release their yearly pressings much later (about a half a year later) than most vendors.  By the time they release their cakes the spring hype is up, black Friday is over, and eager puerh drinkers are already looking to the year ahead.

Last year they released their 2017 line late and only pressed 5 cakes.  In 2016 they have all 16 cakes still available.  So, I suppose they are less present because they are offering less, that makes sense too.  It seems like they have been focusing a bit more on Liu Bao over the last few years a move that Essence of Tea has also made over the last few years.

Another reason that they may not be on everyone’s radar is because they stopped offering samples.  You got to by the full cake to sample, but that’s fine for me because I consider those 200g Xiao Bings pretty much a big sample anyways… ahahah

Well, I am just as guilty as you, my readers and have never even tried any Chawangshop puerh before this very first order.  I think their passive marketing attitude just didn’t grab me, that’s all and no one on social medial has really drummed up support for their puerh recently.  Overall, I feel that Chawangshop might simply have been overlooked by many puerh drinkers.  But in my quest for the best cheapest fresh sheng puerh, I just couldn’t resist Chawangshop- this is basically what they are famous for!

I picked up a 1 kg tong of this very cheap 2016 Chawangshop “Bada”(200g cake at $20.00 or $0.10/g, a price that hasn’t gone up since release) to make it worth the shipping.  It is a recommendation from a bunch of old experienced puerh drinkers on Steepster (link) who did a cake splitting sample between them.  It should also be differentiated between other Bada area cakes they sell.

Dry leaves smell of grassy plains with faint but distant wild florals.

The first infusion starts with a woody, grassy onset, there is some peppery taste then it converts into a grassy woody sweetness, almost chalky fruits and florals linger on the breath.  There is a subtle bitterness underneath it all.  The mouthfeel has a slight stickiness even the throat feels sticky.  The liquor doesn’t feel flat at all but has a touch of thickness right of the go.  An interesting first infusion shows signs of promise.

The second infusion starts grassy, woody and sweet there is a flash of bitter before converting into wild flower floral tastes.  There is even a candy like sweetness lingering on the breath.  The mouthfeel is real nice a very sticky full sensation in the mouth and even opening the upper and even mid throat widely.  The sensation creates a real long candy like aftertaste.  I can feel the Qi pooling in the head and brain.  It feel heavy and stuffy in the mind.  The body feel tight and relaxed at the same time.

The third infusion starts grassy and dry woody bark with a grassy sweetness that turns to a quick bitterness then opens the long sweet candy like aftertaste.  There are some salty tastes in there as well as an almost seaweed like note, these come in the initial taste and disappear once the bitterness hits.

The fourth infusion starts with a licorice and grassy onset.  The mouthfeel is very nice and full very sticky and stimulating.  There is a lingering sweetness after the bitter pops.  The bitterness is stronger here but the long wildflower floral and candy sweetness is quite long.  The Qi is real heady and stuffy in the thoughts.  I feel like popping and cracking my joints and it feels good.  This qi is a stress reducer, I feel nice but energized.

The fifth infusion starts off with sweet grassy and licorice sweetness, there is a quick pop of bitter before turning into lingering candy sweetness on the breath.  The mouthfeel is very full sticky and astringent even in the upper and almost mid throats.  It opens the throat nicely.  Apricot sweetness is found in the aftertaste here.

The sixth infusion has a grassy and licorice approach.  There are some mild minerals, dry tree bark and almost seaweed/ pond flavours in the initial profile which is reset quickly by a pop of bitter and long now pronounced sweet fresh apricot sweetness in faint wildflower florals.

The seventh infusion has a mellower almost fruity juicy onset with grass, dry bark, and licorice in the background the bitter pops and there is almost a coco edge to the bitter.  There is some lingering floral and some more faint apricot sweetness.  The coolness isn’t obvious but take a breath in and you can feel it in the throat.  The apricot taste lingers and crest minutes after swallowing.  The mouthfeel full and the qi is heavy in the mind and urges the body to release tension.  You can feel the body qi in the joints of the body, the limbs.

The eighth infusion has a sweet onset of fruity florals, nice expansive coolness, opening throat feeling.  The pungent coolness, fruit apricot taste, and long candy aftertaste is featured here.  The licorice, grass, and wood tastes are faint now.  Very nice.

The ninth infusion has a woody almost buttery, metallic and apricot onset.  The bitterness pops and delivers cool pungency, fruity apricot and soft candy in the distance.  The mouthfeel is full and stimulating but never drying.  Very nice.

The tenth infusion is full of interesting wild floral notes.  These are the most distinct here.  Its starts of a bit grassy sweetness, a touch fruity then bitter quickly returns to a long sweet floral apricot taste.  The candy like sweetness lingers in the mouth.

The eleventh infusion starts off with dry woods, almost buttery tastes, and after bitter tastes a woody fruity sweetness.  The candy like taste lingers on the breath.  This infusion gets a touch muddled, just slightly here.

The twelveth infusion is more bitter and woody initially.  The initial tastes are become less vibrant but the aftertaste remain fruity and long.  The mouthfeel is chalky and sticky here.  There is still significant cooling on the breath and fruity/ floral aftertaste.

Thirteenth taste fruitier and more floral now.  These tastes are found in the initial as well as aftertastes.  This infusion is better than the last few and displays high noted deliciousness.

Fourteenth starts of a touch watery and light.  It has a light fruity taste throughout.  It tastes refreshing with a slightly sticky mouthfeeling and long almost but not quite tropical fruit taste.

The fifteenth infusion is much the same.  This tea is washing out a bit but what is left to enjoy is nice with a cooling returning sweetness and sticky full mouthfeeling.  Sixteenth and seventeenth are much the same.  The aftertaste continues to be quite long and enjoyable.

I put it into 20 seconds beyond flash infusion and get an almost sour wood onset with a faint floral sweet aftertaste.  The 19th I put into 30 second beyond flash infusion and get a woody mainly bitter infusion with cooling aftertaste and buttery floral finish.  The dry woody bitter lingers throughout.  These leaves were pretty much done after the 13th infusion but these later infusions are still enjoyable enough to drink, so I do.  The Qi in these late infusions have a mellow relaxing feeling to them.

Overall this is a really enjoyable left to be wild plantation Bada puerh.  Its main downside is exactly that that- it has a nice characteristic Bada area profile.  Bada is one of the famous puerh mountains known often for blending material similar to (Bulang is another such area).  But this one is a really nice example of Bada plantation none the less. Where else can you get southern Xishuangbanna puerh from one of the famous puerh moutains for $0.10/g?  It has that slightly empty onset of grassy/ dry woody taste but it’s easy to set aside with this 2016 Chawangshop Bada because its processing is so clean, and its energy pure.  The mouthfeel and throat feel are solid and the bitterness adds a lot of depth to what is there but is never too much.

At $0.10/g how does this one compare to other puerh in my search for the cheapest fresh younger sheng puerh???

The only other single estate puerh I’ve tried in this recent search was an entry from the Essence of Tea, their 2018 Bamboo Spring ($0.16/g).  These teas are very different other than both being single estate  and Spring material.  The 2018 Bamboo Spring is very ethereal and light with no bitterness or low notes.  Its strength is the beautiful light Wuliang character and vibrancy.  But the price of this nice character is almost double the price of this Bada.   Also the 2018 Bamboo Spring is apparently non-plantation material and this 2018 Chawangshop Bada is straight terrace puerh (very good plantation), I’m pretty sure.  This Bada has many more layers to it- grassy/woody, seaweed/pondy, even interesting flavours of peppery and metallic, then there is the apricot and wildflower tastes in there which form the main enjoyable flavors but the moderate bitterness and solid stimulating mouthfeeling is what give this one legs.  I’m sure there is enough here to age nicely but it wasn’t harsh to enjoy now.  The 2018 Essence of Tea Bamboo Spring, I think is easier to enjoy now.  Altough the 2018 Bada doesn’t have that “wow” finish, its more interesting even at half the price.

How does it compare to the other super cheap $0.10/g or under selections in my challenge like the 2017 white2tea Snoozefest ($0.08/g) and 2017 Yunnan Sourcing Impression ($0.08/g)???

First, these other two are Autumn blends and are both currently sold out.  The blends really do different things compared to single estate.  2018 white2tea Snoozefest also has a distinct floral note and nice stimulating mouthfeeling.  The difference between these floral notes is that the Bada is a more wildflower and the Snoozefest more of an orchid type.  The Soozefest floral is more separate and singular and the Bada is usually mixed with a fruity almost apricot and other complex taste.  The Snoozefest has more of a varied mouthfeeling from it being a blend but it lacks throat simulation like the Bada which I feel is what makes the Bada better here.  The throat feel and bitterness which changes to sweetness in the mouth when drinking the 2016 Chawangshop Bada is much better than the Snoozefest.  The Bada just has a very nice and long profile throughout were the Snoozefest is more of a spurt.

Comparing the 2016 Chawangshop Bada to the 2017 Yunnan Sourcing Impression.  The Impression is a more complex blended thing and is cleared completely pestiside free too.  The Impression has a more fragrant and flavorful and complex profile but the Bada is much longer and nuanced.  The biggest weakness of the Impression is that it’s pretty much completely done after 9 infusions but the Bada lasts a handful more.  They also both have good Qi but the Bada is more active and stimulating and the Impression is more relaxing to me.  There is something about the Bada that is a touch harsh that can probably be aged out while the Impression is harmonious enough that you could almost drink it now.  Overall, I need to do a speed test with these two, I’m not sure which I would prefer, it would be close.  But since the 2017 Impression is sold out, I will say the 2016 Chawangshop Bada has won by acclimation and is the best of the very very cheapest fresh sheng puerh (at or under $0.10/g)!

But wait…. How does it do compared to the 2018 white2tea Splendid the reining champ for the Best Cheapest Sheng Puerh???

The 2018 white2tea Splendid seems to be more processed to drink now although I stated that it will probably age decent.  The 2016 Bada has real crisp processing that it more typical that you’d see for aging puerh.  With that said, I think if you were planning on aging out both, the Bada might edge out Splendid in this regard and likely display more typical aging.  The thickness and blended complexity as well as the strength of 2018 white2tea Splendid has it still defeating the Bada, I think.  The Splendid has a bit more stamina too.

However, it should be noted that the Spledid costs 40% more at ($0.14/g) but I think is still better even if you include the extra costs.

So there you have it, the 2018 white2tea Splendid is still the Best of the Cheapest Fresh Sheng puerh but I would say that this 2016 Chawangshop Bada is the best of the Very Cheapest Fresh Sheng Puerh.  To put it one way, to get a 1Kg tong of 2018 white2tea Splendid you could get a 1KG tong plus another 2 cakes for the same price!  You can’t beat that.

In the end I'm still left wondering why nobody is paying attention to Chawangpu?

Maybe its time for everyone to "Wang their Chawangpu"???



Cwyn N said...

Ûnfortunately, Chawangshop hasn't released any house puerh in more than two years. I inquired about the Hekai, and was told 2017 harvest was not good and so Chawangshop did not buy any after 2016. Let's hope they return to pressing again this year.

RPortune said...

Chawangshop puer is definitely more of an under-the-radar affair, especially lately. I have a decent amount of the 2015 Bada in my collection, although I haven't tasted it recently. You've piqued my interested about the 2016 tea...

Matt said...

Cwyn N,

Thanks for the deligent reporting on Chawangshop. Looks like they only got a few 2017s for sale.


You make a good point that Chawangshop has been pressing Bada puerh for a long time now. I really enjoy this 2016 Bada for what it is.