Friday, November 15, 2019
This puerh is a Gua Feng Zhai Xiao Shu (small bush) + Laos Gushu blend as the sample label clearly states. It goes for $37.71 for 200g cake or $0.19/g although this sample came free for review. This is actually the early mocha before it was pressed into 200g cakes (turns out this was not the final blend before it was pressed into cakes- see comment below) . Looks like this puerh is 5% off from now until the end of the month as the Black Friday Sale just got put up on the site (4%-39% off depending on the cake)! This is a late addition to the inaugural year of the Tea Encounter brand. It fills a gap in the Tea Encounter catalogue by offering something at a very low price point, offering a blend (for which there is only one other), and offering something from Laos. Laos puerh, do we dare call it that, has not been offered through a Western puerh vendor since Chawangshop offered some years ago, I do believe.
Long time readers of this blog know that I am versed in Laos puerh having been there way back in 2009 and was the first to write extensively on the subject in English… naturally I was nostalgically excited to try some again…
Dry leaves smell of dense barnyard with the typical Laos Ban Korman intense almost pungent barnyard typical dry leaves odour. The rinse of the leaves indicate this is mainly Laos Gu Shu in this blend or at least it is over powering at this point.
First infusion tastes very barnyard initially, watery and spacious taste, with an underlying fruity sweetness that has nuances of wood. There is a moderate pungent coolness that pushes out some potato and almost radish like tastes along with creamy sweetness and dried pear. An interesting, unusual, and complex presentation over a watery base.
The second is a barnyard/ beef jerky onset (very classically Ban Korman), there is some faint pear in the distance and potato (classically Gua Feng Zhai). The puerh tastes like a Canadian Thanksgiving here… hahaha… Mouthfeeling is very mild, faint simulation- also typical of Ban Korman area. There is a faint sandiness about it. Then arrives a pungency that pushes pear and creamy sweet out over a moderately deep throat opening. Qi has a relaxing and spacy effect on the mind.
The third infusion comes together more cohesively. With strong barnyard and beef jerky tastes with a pear sweetness presenting underneath. The mouthfeeling is sandy and mild and the throat opens to a medium-deep depth. The aftertaste has mild sweetness of pear and barely creamy sweetness. There are some wood notes and potato as well. The Qi in the head is quite tranquilizing here. It creates a distinct warmth in the body and I break into a sweat.
The fourth infusion more of a distinct pumpkin/ squash taste initially with faint barnyard. The mouthfeel is still mild sandy and throat still deep-moderate opening. Qi is interesting as I feel it in my teeth and jaw. Faint pear finish after a mild pungency.
The fifth infusion has a woody barnyard almost pear note that drags into the aftertaste over a sandy mouthfeeling. The Qi is getting bigger in the head and a bit alerting now. The mild sandy mouthfeel and open throat holds a faint sweetness, wood, barnyard.
The sixth infusion has a woody faint barnyard, almost musty, taste with just faint edges of sweetness underneath that mainly follow from the faint pungent in the throat. The Qi is relaxing here.
The seventh infusion starts with a subtle sweetness almost green pea like over barnyard, musk, slightly woody, there is a faint but deep throaty pungency here. This puerh tastes 60% Laos Ban Korman Gu Shu 40% Gua Feng Zhi Small Bush puerh. If I were to guess.
The eighth is a watery, smooth sandy, almost pumpkin, not really woody but more barnyard faint suggestions. There is a flat pear taste in there as well that comes after a faint deeper throat pungency. The Qi is relaxing at this point.
The ninth infusion has more pumpkin notes and is somewhat sweeter. The flavor is never strong but is much less here especially considering the mild sandy mouthfeeling. Qi is more relaxing now.
The tenth infusion I add 15 seconds to the flash infusion and push a bit fruitier nuance out of these leaves but not much. There is a rainforest taste. The taste is spacious and mild and almost barnyard and musk. The aftertaste is a bit pear.
The eleventh infusion I add 30 seconds it is much the same as the 10th but is lighter in taste. For the 12th I put it into a long infusion of a few minutes and get a thicker mouthfeeling, a chalky sandy with longer pungent taste, there is more fruit flavours as well- pumpkin, pear, potato, slight barnyard. The cooling pungency stands out in this long infusion. Qi is mild in the head at this point in the session.
As I feel a need to push harder, I put this one into the overnight infusion…
It is a bit of a puerh trend these days to do a blend with something from Eastern Yiwu near the border blended with border tea from Laos usually. In this way it stretches the notion of what we can call “puerh tea”. This one also stretches the notion of what we can call “Gushu”. It is also for economic reasons as Eastern Yiwu puerh material is climbing in price and can be cut with something less expensive. I was gifted some of the 2018 Tea Urchin Along the Border maocha and sampled it quite young. It was also a Gua Feng Zhi Small bush blend and it resembled this border blend a bit in its spacious and watery taste profile and a bit in its moderately heady Qi. The 2018 Along the Border had a distinctly nutty flavor and this Tea Encounter one has a more typical Laos Ban Korman profile of barnyard with musk and beef jerky taste.
This is a cheap entry point for those who wish to have a taste of Laos puerh which is not represented much in the Western puerh market. This puerh’s distinct Ban Korman profile really brought me back to some of my experiences with them and reminded me of an amusing story that I should share in a different post…
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
This year’s Black Friday/ Cyber Monday sale seems all about the pre-sale for Western puerh vendors. This is likely due to the absolute strength of Yunnan Sourcing in the Western puerh market saying, It doesn’t have to be all out craziness on one weekend of the year. No thanks. We’ll go first and get this out of the way. And so they did a few weeks back and it was good (and there will be more to come)! And others followed suite…
The Essence of Tea released a few tongs of 2009 Mr Feng BWQ, an Autumn drinker Bangwei that went for $82.00 for 357g cake, a few weeks ago. This one didn’t last until the sale. Bitterleaf Teas upped the ante for there annual pre- Black Friday sale, their Anniversary sale, by offering more substantial discount than normal with a tiered sales promotion with some actual discount, some promotional gifts, and some free tea goodies. It looked like you can add discount codes on top of the sale as well. Tea Urchin has a 15% off all tea orders on now that runs until the end of the month. I’m already declaring this the best puerh sale of Black Friday and the actual sale is two weeks away!
white2tea decided to forgo tradition and not release their Autumnal puerh cakes on Black Friday- they instead released them a few days ago. They did so with a similar email marketing campaign that brought them much praise and, likely, success in their early spring release. I always consider their annual Halloween promotion their pre-sale hype marketing thing over the last few years. This year for white2tea it seems like they will have four major sheng puerh releases throughout the 2019 season. One quick out of the gate early Spring release of most of their 2019 Spring line up, one Summer release of gimmicky marketing limited quantity Spring cakes, one Autumnal puerh pre-Black Friday release of most of their Autumnal puerh cakes, and then…. I predict (just like their summer release) a Black Friday release of gimmicky marketing limited quantity Autumn cakes.
It actually makes good marketing sense to release the sheng puerh in these patterned waves because there are going to be some people that simply can’t wait for a promotion or free shipping and that absolutely must buy now. Then there are going to be other buyers who as soon as someone whispers… sale (although white2tea never actually reduces prices) … or … limited release… they will without much thought fill the cart. Which one are you???
Paul is the master of Black Friday marketing spectacle and this year I think it will be bigger and bolder than last year. The big question is whether he will do another limited Snoozefest cake. white2tea has only ever released the same cake 3 years in a row a few times and never has Paul released the same cake 4 years in a row. Last year he released 2 limited releases 2018 whtite2tea Tunji and 2018 white2tea Snoozefest (I picked up some Snoozefest last year and came to the conclusion that it Is A Gift). I think that Paul will probably do 3 or 4 limited sheng releases this Black Friday. I’m not sure if the white2tea Black Friday brand is now intertwined with the Snoozefest release but it’s been done before and I think he might just do a different budget limited cake, a middle range limited and a premium limited.
I just had a peak at what white2tea has been doing on social media and I wonder if he is hinting at releasing a 2019 We Go High to follow up the popular 2016. Paul was point on with the political references in 2016 and very forward thinking there. You may know that Paul often names his blends hip hop song titles. It seemed that naming his 2016 cake We Go High was prophetic when Chance the Rapper dropped a song with the same namesake this summer.
With a bit of the unpredictable, I also predict that white2tea will use the same formula of offering free shipping, bracketed or tiered promotions- a tote bag or what not, an free hunagpian X-mas cake from the tea club, ect., with the typical caveat of not offering a discount in price. Anyways, that’s my prediction of the way it will go down so we will see.
In the end you can’t help but think that the sales actually offered on the day won’t top the ones offered here before. I think you can point to YS in releasing the market pressure out of Black Friday but it’s just as likely that others felt they would be at an advantage by doing a bit of the same. Was it a reaction or the plan all along? We will never know. There is only so much noise you can create on the biggest shopping day of the year. Looks like my prediction that 2019 Black Friday will be bigger than ever was wrong… or was it…. time will tell but I am convinced now that this 2019 Black Friday is all about the pre-sale ( I say this as Yunnan Sourcing just drops another 15% off on all of us).
Sunday, November 10, 2019
Gua Feng Zhai is a pretty famous puerh producing area these days and to find a full size cake of Spring Gua Feng Zhai puerh, “small bush” (as they call it these days) or not, for under $100.00 is rare. This sample was provided for review but goes for $98.32 or $0.28/g. My experience with Gua Feng Zhai thus far is with the far more pricier medium and large bush/tree so I wonder if the younger trees will have some of that classic Gua Feng Zhai taste and Qi?...
Dry leaves smell of very perfume floral and pungent forest sweetness. They smell quite delicious.
The first infusion has a foresty initial taste with a sweetness and rainforest and almost spicy pungency to it. It has a soft sandy and chalky mouthfeeling. There is a slight tingle and tanginess to it. The taste is muted and deeper tasting. There is a faint candy taste in the aftertaste.
The second infusion has a more woody deeper foresty taste with a long lingering pungent note that slowly unearths slight fruity and candy and almost zucchini like sweetness. The mouthfeeling is a nice chalkiness and the throat is mildly stimulated by the chalk. The aftertaste is long and meandering with gord and candy and fruit nuances. The Qi is a bit stronger in the chest and makes the shoulder feel heavy.
The third infusion has a forest deep taste onset with a lingering sweetness and pungency. The taste is really layered. There is notes of carrot, candy, wood, dirt, zucchini, pear, spice. The Qi is pretty strong and I feel it in my chest and Lungs. My breath relaxes and my mind sharpens. The mouthfeel is fairly all coating and has a chalky feeling on the tongue and throat. A candy taste lingers on the breath minutes later with pumpkin and pear and rainforest. The profile is layered and slow moving. The Qi is spacy here too- there is lots going on with the Qi. There is also a warm sensation at my lower back. Nice Qi in here.
The fourth infusion has an almost sour fruity sweet onset with rainforest taste and layers of zucchini and woods underneath. The main flavor note here is subtle sweetness in interesting layers. A candy like sweetness comes out in the returning sweetness which intertwines with zucchini and woods. The mouthfeeling is chalky, so is the throat. The Qi is felt in upper shoulders, neck, low back, head- a relaxing feeling in the mind and a sharpness. Good Qi.
The fifth infusion has a soapy, thrills gum nuance, forest taste, a bland with sweet taste with a pop of initial sour. The low cresting pungency pushes in a long layered aftertaste of melon, almost candy, forest, and zucchini. The Qi feel like its releasing the shoulders. The chalky mouth and throatfeeling a full and long-lasting in the mouth.
The sixth infusion starts foresty and sweet zucchini with pear taste. The taste is layered and somewhat nuanced. The sweet note is the most prominent here with a slight bland bitterness and quick moving slight sour. There is lots going on but in a layered subtle way with this puerh. A chalky, almost bitter faint candy sweetness lingers on the tongue. Qi makers me feel really good.
The seventh infusion starts with a nice sweetness going on with layered depths of forest taste, slight wood, melon, zucchini. The sweet taste is prominent here and long in the aftertaste with lots of nuance. I can feel my chest beating and a nice surge of energy.
My session ends unexpectedly and too abruptly. I end up packing the leaves up and long infusing them in my large 300ML Yixing at home and get a lot of mild deeper tastes with mild bitterness approaching in longer infusions. The description on the website claims that this one has nice stamina… I’ll have to try again for a longer gong fu session with the remainder of the sample.
This is my recommendation out of the first line of Tea Encounter brand puerh which includes 3 puerh and 1 Yesheng wild tea. It occupies an interesting price bracket because it’s a full, standard size cake- 357g and it’s apparently Gua Feng Zhai. But is it really, truly Gua Feng Zhai for that price???
I believe it is… two things tip me off as being (at the very least mainly) Gua Feng Zhai material. First is the taste profile. This has the typical pumpkin deeper layered sweetness that I associate with Gua Feng Zhai. Second, is the bigger Qi sensation. It has both the stoner relaxed effect going on as well as the body sensations as well. Both of these characteristics are not as intense as I’ve experienced with other Gua Feng Zhai but for the price… under a $100… I’m calling this one as hitting above its price. Quite enjoyable!
Saturday, November 9, 2019
This sample for review came to me for free but goes for $71.39 for a proper 357g cake (or $0.20/g)- this one is definitely a budget puerh offering…
The dry leaf odour is a really faint woody almost creamy odour. Looks like there is some twiggy material in there for depth and good measure.
The first infusion starts off with a sweet melon juicy spacy almost wood taste which evolves into a very faint pungent then more melon and creamy sweet taste. The mouthfeel is oily and slippery. The taste is spacious movement of flavours here.
The second infusion starts off a bit spicy with a tingling lips and tongue feeling. There is a melon taste in there a mild pungent and returning creamy sweetness. The mouthfeeling is sticky and tingling and the pungent taste open the throat to a mid-depth.
The third infusion starts a juicy evolving woody melon taste that turns into a creamy sweetness with melon. There is a moderate woody base taste underneath it all. The taste is very spacious. There is a mild astringency in the mouthfeeling and throat so typical of Bang Dong. The Qi is a super mild happy feeling qi. I can feel a bit in the head and mind it’s a mild sensation.
The fourth infusion has a fruity juicy sweet onset paired with mild wood tone underneath. There is a faint pungent then a returning creamy sweetness. There is a melon fruity taste that lingers on the breath as the throat is stimulated by a very faint astringency which nicely opens it up. The mouthfeel is almost sticky, a bit tingling and faintly astringent. There is enough of a sensation in the mouth that is keeps the spacious taste interesting. The returning unadulterated melon creamy sweetness here is really enjoyable and lingers for a long time.
The fifth infusion starts off with a juicy fruity taste with faint woody base. There is a mango like fruity taste, almost mandarin orange. The pungency triggers a creamy returning sweetness that triggers a deeper throat feeling and the aftertaste is very long fruit here- melon, mango, creamy sweetness. The aftertaste is real nice but not overpowering, but definitely long in the throat. Qi starts to feel relaxing on the mind.
The sixth infusion onset is a creamy sweet juicy fruit taste with a faint woody base. The sweet creamy taste extends in the aftertaste and brings melon, creamy sweetnesses. The tastes is very clear and unadulterated, it isn’t overly strong but isn’t weak either. It is a harmonious taste going on here. The mouthfeeling and throatfeeling are a very mild astringency and slight sticky tingling.
The seventh infusion has a nice clear distinct fruity onset of almost mandarin orange almost mango like taste. The mouthfeeling is slightly tingling and sticky but mild-moderate. The throat opens to a mid-level depth and a creamy, fruity, almost candy like sweetness is long on the breath. The Qi is mellow and relaxing and a bit happy.
The eighth infusion has an uninterrupted fruity, creamy, melon/orange onset the depth of uninterrupted sweet tastes are super enjoyable. There is a mild pungency and deeper throatfeeling which allows the sweet tastes to expand- melon, mango, mandarin orange, almost grapey, creamy sweetness. The taste here especially the aftertaste is really nice not overpowering, but unadulterated and pretty long.
The ninth presents both slight mild wood and fruity sweetness the taste becomes more muted here. More woody in taste throughout with sweet tastes weakening. The 10th is much the same, it starts off woody almost fruity, then drops quickly without a mid-throat stimulating feeling adding to the depth. The 11th infusion has a touch of bitterness initially, then more fruity than the last two infusions. The mouthfeeling and throatfeeling drop off and indicate that this one needs a bit of pushing now…
The 12th infusion was pushed to 30 seconds and pushes out a nice thicker fruit taste without pushing more bitter or astringency out. It adds a bit to the aftertaste with the fruit taste found in their faintly again.
The 13th infusion I push for 60 secs and it delivers a slightly woody but mainly juicy fruity taste. There is some pungent with creamy mandarin orange finish. This is nice. The mouthfeeling has a slight tingle and slight chalky. The 14th I push for a few minutes and get a really delicious fruity taste with creamy and pungent and very slight woody. The sweet flavours are still interesting here and the throat kicks into action with a little pushing. There isn’t hardly any bitter or astringency so it works.
The 15th I push for a few more minutes and get an almost soapy fruity type of taste with slightly astringent dry wood. The mouthfeeling and throatfeeling are a bit drier here and with less depth.
This Bangdong has a nice taste and decently long aftertaste for its price. The Qi is a relaxing mild type, a harmonious and happy Qi common with my experience with Bang Dong puerh. The throat is nicely simulated and leads to a nice long fruity sweet aftertaste. Its stamina is not its strength but can be pushed pretty hard because of its very mild bitter astringency. This puerh is nice to drink now because of its mild nature.
This Bangdong fills a gap in the Tea Encounter line up as being a puerh that is very budget friendly while still fresh and young and made to drink now. At $0.20/g it is also is significantly lower than any other Western puerh vendors Bangdong offerings such as 2019 Yunnan Sourcing Bangdong that I have not sampled. These days its becoming more rare to find a fresh, all spring, single origin, non-blended puerh for a price this low.
Thursday, November 7, 2019
I was most excited about this wild tea from Tea Encounter brand puerh’s first pressing. I have experience with Lincang area wild tea/ yisheng from 2008. There is actually not much of this that makes it to western tea vendors, so this is a treat for me. Congratulations on taking the plunge and pressing your very own brand of puerh tea!
Dry leaves smell delicious of strawberry sweetness with layered rainforest and evergreen forest odours.
First is a very spicy pungent foresty rubbery wild tea profile. The pungency here is interesting with the flat sweetness and minutes long returning slight sweet strawberry. The mouthfeel is silky in the mouth and the throat feel is immediately opening mid to deeply.
The second infusion taste like eating an evergreen forest, mixed with Yunnan rainforest, there is a pungency then that vacuous ye sheng space then rubbery, forest, almost sweet gum and cantaloupe taste. The Qi is starting to sedate the mind. The chest feels like its opening softly and warmly. The Qi is yesheng/ wild tea type of strong.
The third infusion starts off with a strong forest taste then is kind of muddled rubbery funk typical of young wild tea like this. There is a forest taste in the aftertaste with suggestion of cantaloupe and strawberry trying to push through. The mouthfeel is a watery almost oily consistency. Throat has a moderate opening. The qi is really sedating. The heart beats slowly in the chest. Head feels like floating away. Bigger Qi sensation that the average wild.
The fourth infusion starts off deeper forest then leads into a pungent almost parsnip type of pungency then a long mildly cooling rubbery forest blank taste. There is tastes of layered forest and even mineral with less sweetness this infusion. There is a faint cantaloupe sweetness, a salty melon taste, which tries to make itself known.
The fifth infusion has a layered foresty onset. There is a touch of sweetness lingering underneath- its almost a juicy like sweetness. It comes out barely minutes later. The main base taste of this wild tea is its layered foresty tastes. It has some rubbery turbid yesheng type note in the aftertaste. The Qi is really spacing me out. I find my eye muscles twitching… and heart beating and chest opening…
The sixth infusion is has that same foresty layered taste, there is little in the way of sweetnesses but rubbery, different layered yesheng forest-like tastes. The Qi is big in the head.
The seventh, eighth, ninth infusions are fruity, forest layers, barely pungent, yeshengy taste with big Qi in head and heart.
My day gets the best of me and, unfortunately, my tea session is less of a focused session. The later infusions are more of a mild sweet watery taste. The sweetness comes out more and the foresty taste less. The Big Qi sensation in the head, a stoner Qi sensation for sure, remains consistently strong.
Even the next morning I steep this and there is a nice soft sweet taste in a watery almost foresty broth. The Qi sensation is strong even now and makes me feel a bit dizzy and loopy. I long steep it and its pulls out nutty sweet notes.
Overall, this yesheng has more Qi than the average wild tea, for sure. I like this. Its flavor is such that it seems simple but has a nice evolution throughout the session from initial to late session. The returning sweet breath aftertaste that is famous with yesheng is less distinct with this one. There is a clean crisp feel to this yesheng which seems very green processed to me.
Another thing about this 2019 Tea Encounter Bai Yin Shan Yesheng is that it is currently discounted 53% from $161.63 to $114.49 ( $0.32/g). I’m not sure I would pay the full price but these days a 2019 wild tea goes for that much- it is what it is. So it is nice that this one is priced at something more attainable, less in line with its actual market value.
Wednesday, November 6, 2019
This summer I happily accepted an unsolicited package from the owner of Tea Encounter, Tiago aka Curigane. Readers of this blog will know his generosity and I, in turn, try to give back to you readers with some honest reviews. I have already reviewed a chunk of the standard 2019 Zheng Si Long on offer at Tea Encounter a few months back (I still have some left to review). I also received 4 other samples labeled “Tea Encounter” in that Royal Mail package. Was this just some of Tiago’s personal stash or was it a sneak preview of an upcoming launch of Tea Encounter brand puerh ?…. It turns out it was the later… Sweet!
The first 4 on offer from the premiere launch of the Tea Encounter brand are 2019s from some of my personal favorite puerh producing areas or areas that I have a connection to from way back- Bangdong, Gua Feng Zhai, Laos, and a wild tea from Lincang. All exciting prospects. One thing that I noted right away was that they are priced to hit a sweet spot in the Western puerh market around or under $100 for a full cake. In reading the descriptions on the website, it sounds like the maocha was purchased from farmers rather than the whole production being completely overseen from start to finish. This seems like a reasonable way to start pressing your own puerh especially if you are not located full time in Yunnan. I was initially curious as to whether these puerh would exhibit characteristics known from these producing areas and how they would fare considering their budget prices. The next week I hope to post on these affordable offerings and then draw some general conclusions about what I see as the overall feeling of the “Tea Encounter house brand”. Enjoy…
Tuesday, November 5, 2019
I really enjoyed my time sampling the three pricier Bao He Xiang puerh (here, here, and here) offered at Yunnan Sourcing. I like when western vendors focus on another vendor and pick out some of their favorites. I also found it interesting how each of these blends were totally and completely opposite each other and had a very specific goal in mind. The wrappers also seem to reflect the feeling of each blend as well. The diversity within the Bao He Xiang factory seems very broad from my sampling of these three.
The price seems about right for what you are getting. With that being said, there are dimensions of each blend which are undervalued for the price they are sold for. It should be stated that there is not much information offered to the customer about the location of the blending material- similar to the lack of information in white2tea descriptions. If there are any readers that have sampled Bao He Xiang and haven’t yet tired white2tea they should give them a try and vice versa.
I look forward to sampling some Bao He Xiang in future orders… if that's the way it goes down...