Friday, May 29, 2020

The Essence of Tea 2020 Spring Jedi Pole Dance

See… the prediction came true… He is a Jedi now… people were wondering why the Essence of Tea had a late and very uninvolved 2019 release.  Last year their release came after everyone else put their puerh to market and with a long absence from social media.  Many wondered if it would come at all.  Of course, their only early-ish Spring release, the 2019 Essence of Tea Boundless, was a big hit and sold out.  If you want to make a statement just release a single cake.  It was a very low key year for Kathy and David of the Essence of Tea… but now we know why…

David was completing his final training to become a Jedi Master- that’s why!  Oh, sure, some of you were probably thinking they were just busy with his move to Kunming and with the opening of their new teahouse there… you have been fooled by a Jedi mind trick… they were off Jedi training…

And this year, lightsaber in hand, David is using The Force to bring us possibly the best Essence of Tea Spring line up yet!

We have seen excitement building with the 2020 Essence of Tea Spring release. First they had a very quick response to the COVID 19 pandemic in being one of the first to offer us a chance at some free puerh!  Certainly, it got my attention… or was it another Jedi mind trick??? Not sure.  Then came the most detailed account yet of their time spent in the mountains of Yunnan documented on Instagram and followed up by a handful of blog posts. Excitement was building indeed…

Turns out they managed to procure a lot of tall pole (gaogan) puerh which is … well… like poles… wait a minute… what the hell is gaogan… I have never heard of gaogan before… 

First there was Qiao Mu (arbour), Gushu (ancient tree), Dan Zhu (single tree), Guoyoulin (State Forest), and now… no not “single grove” but rather … Gaogan (Tall Pole)… who would have saw it coming?  Everyone has no doubt heard of Gushu… but Gaogan???   Some Western pureh vendors like to be draped in the finest silk, or at the very least, like to wear those silky soft Umbro soccer shorts from the 1990s… and others are Jedis.  Which is kind of weird because everyone knows that Scott from Yunnan Sourcing looks the most like a Jedi… but he is basically just a librarian of puerh.  Ok… but what about Pole Trees…

Trees grow upwards sometimes, sometimes like trees, and sometimes trying to peek through the canopy… they are poll like???  But, as David and Kathy have outlined in the past, sometimes these tall pole like trees are pretty difficult, if not completely impossible to harvest.  This is a big problem and one of the reasons Essence of Tea has not been able to harvest in past years.  Of course, this year has seen a lot less people in the area due to both travel restrictions within China as well as International travel bands.  This has made some of the top end puerh tea this year both more accessible and even possibly lower in price.  The late harvest due to drought early in the season has made farmers more likely to go for lower prices ensuring that their teas are sold this season rather than wait and take the risk.  I hear this is not the case with lower-mid priced maocha but really only effecting the top end maocha.  There is still one huge problem… how can they harvest those difficult pole trees?

The answer is really simple: bring in some skilled migrant workers to go up the pole trees and pick the amazing gushu tea leaves.  For years now, other vendors have been doing just that.  The last number of years those vendors who harvest pole trees have been bringing in Las Vegas pole dancers: male, female, LGBTQ2… doesn’t matter.  If they are skilled pole dancers chances are they are the best people to pick the leaves from these challenging gaogan trees.  This year with the ban on international travel they were no longer able to bring in the Las Vegas pole dancers.  So, that is my understanding as to why David and Kathy finally had access to these rare gushu pole trees in state protected forests and in super over the top famous puerh producing areas.

So how did they end up harvesting the leaves oh so high up in those pole trees? 

They used The Force.  It’s really the only logical explanation. 

Then they loaded back up on their land speeder (rusty old Xishuangbanna stored truck) and made away with a killer line up of rare pole tree puerh, that mostly every puerh drinker in the west didn’t even know was a big thing… until it is a big thing…

And one thing is for certain… this year’s 2020 Essence of Tea release is a big thing…

(May the Pole Be With You!)

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

COVID Shipping Is the New Tea Horse Road

Was gathering ideas for a post with this title when I realized that I had already written it three years ago!  It seems much more relevant these days than when I first wrote it.

See here for the original post.

Link to Cwyn’s recent post on shipping Puerh Shopping in the New Normal.


Monday, May 25, 2020

Comparing Deep Forest: 2016 Yang Qing Hao Wujin Cang (“Endless Possession”) vs 2012 Yang Qing Hao Ye Gu

This 2016 Yang Qing Hao Wujin Cang ($250.00 for 400g cake or $0.63/g) came as a part of a sampler from Liquid Proust Teas he is currently selling it separate for those who are interested here. Description on site is “Early spring production from old trees in deep forest areas around Yiwu. Limited production with only 1277 cakes produced.”

I was in the mood for a cooling younger type puerh at work and I decided to go for this sample on this unseasonably hot day.  It turned out that this puerh? was straight up fire…

Dry leaves have a sugary creamy odour almost but not quite fruity and a lingering faint storage smell of almost woods.  The odour is changing and hard to pin down.

First infusion starts with a creamy buzzing pungency onset with a soft almost ripe banana taste.  There is a low register pungency which expands in the mouth with a cool pungent sweetness.  The taste is bright and vibrant tasting.  The mouthfeeling is creamy and chalky and reasonably thick for the first shot.  The throat feel is mid to deep.  This is a nice gushu thing I think to myself…

The second infusion has a creamy sweet almost floral quick but smooth and vibrant punch there are some coco tastes that emerge and distant fruity edges there is a light honey nuance as well.  There is a certain fullness of the taste and vibrancy that feel complete and really satisfying.   The taste is quite complex with cream sweetness, coco bitter, strong pungency and long sweetness.  There is a deep throat presence and a nice vibrant enlivening but comforting Qi. 

The third has a thick fast fruity creamy coco bitter onset that feels very full and satisfying and deep.  The mouthfeeling is chalky and fully coats the mouth.  The throat opens to a mid-to-deep depth and lets the significant pungency reverberate in there.  The Qi is strong and pushes me into a sweat there is a strong warming energy in these leaves that is immediately apparent.  The bodyfeel is opening the sternum and making the arms light.  The mind feel alive and I feel an invigorating motivating energy throughout.  The Qi of this “deep forest” puerh is quite nice.  The complexity of the sweet, bitter, pungency and fullness in the mouth and depth of throat make this very satisfying.

The fourth infusion has a slight bitter coco onset with a syrupy sweet woody almost canned apricot syrupy, and malty taste.  There bitterness is moderate and is more integrated with a thick syrupy sweetness and seems to enhance it nicely.  This infusion is not as pungent or sweet and is more balanced with biiter coco, underlying storage woods tastes, lower lingering pungency with some coco almost creamy but muted syrupy sweetness.  The big Qi pushes another warming sweat out… this is not the cooling puerh I sought out…

The fifth infusion has more of a woody integration of syrupy sweetness and bitter.  There is less coco and less creamy or even faint fruity sweetness now.  The thickness of the liquor is keeping this complete and interesting.  This infusion is bitterer and has a lingering underlying ghostly sweetness.  The mouth and throat feeling are natural and simulating not over the top but quite full.  The Qi races the heart and opens the chest.  There is a vibrancy to this Qi I like.

The sixth has a thick creamy insistent sweatness that turns to wood and almost mushroom then a pungency bursts through and there is sweetness that is fruity then pungent creamy.  The thick chalkiness in the mouth is nice.  There is this underlying soupy coco mushroom almost woodiness in the distance that gives it a lot of depth.  It’s weird that this is Yiwu I would have guessed a blend of different regions due to its complexity.  It’s maybe a Yiwu blend?  This deep forest is hard for me to form a reference…

The seventh has a creamy fruity almost banana mushroom taste.  There is a pungency then a long fruity turning to creamy sweetness.  The thickness and leathery taste remind me of Mengku.  The long pungent and creamy sweet fruity of Yiwu.  There is a certain coco bitter in here that’s notable.

The eighth is more bitter a thick full bitter coco in the mouth.   The sweet flavours are pinned under the bitter.

The ninth has a fruity bitter coco vibe with peachy fruits.  The bitterness is moderate not strong in this puerh but offers a nice balance.  The flat coco taste has a mild pungency in the mouth with a coco and slight creamy sweetness.  The mouthfeeling is full but more sandy chalky.  The throat opens to a mid level.  Nice invigorating Qi.

The tenth is much the same with a very robust coco mid-level bitterness with a low pungency and faint creamy sweetness.  The mouthfeeling is more fine sand and less thick oily chalkiness now.  The throat feeling is still deeper but a development of complex flavours can no longer materialize.  Good head buzzing Qi.

Darn ran out of time in a day… will return to it tomorrow…

11th is creamy and peachy sweet Yiwu. The bitter coco has dropped in the leaves overnight.

The 12th has a creamy peachy onset with a faint undercurrent of bitter coco and slight woody tastes.  There is still a nice sunny vibrancy to this puerh. 

13th starts very creamy sweet with a thick chalky presentation.  There is a building bitterness and mouthfeeling now as these leaves keep giving out.  There is a lubricating juiciness in the mouth along with mild coco bitter.  The aftertaste is faint sweet creamy sweet.  The Qi is felt in the chest again as the infusions compound in the body once more. 

14th has a thick creamy fruity onset with a faint bitter coco woody underneath.  There is like a returning splash of juicy fruit then a faint pungent slight bitter creaminess.  The taste is full and satisfying but I’m not sure if the bitter coco would throw some people off.  When the bitterness is present, it’s a much fuller mouthfeeling and flavor presentation.

15th has a more flat bitter onset without much of a fruity splash of flavours that follow it.  The Qi expands in the chest, makes the head feel heavy, and sharpens the mind.  Nice Qi here.

This tea also has excellent stamina too.

16th, 17th, 18th… still quite strong bitter coco with fruit to finish.  The base taste is almost leathery.

My impressions of both the 2012 Yang Qing Hao Ye Gu and this 2016 Yang Qing Hao Wujin Cang are very favorable… but the problem is I have no reference point to other “deep forest” puerh… I guess my previous tastings of forest puerh were not deep???  I have no idea, but I find this super interesting and even proof of how deep and complicated the breadth of puerh tea can be.  I would have pegged this in the “wild tea” category if Shah8 hadn’t clued me in that it is something a bit different.  Its amazing that I’ve been drinking puerh for decades now and have tried literally thousands but have not had this or not know it was this in the past… that’s what makes puerh so interesting to me…


This 2016 Yang Qing Hao Wujin Cang deep forest yiwu is like a cheaper and less good 2012 Yang Qing Hao Yehgu.  I think it’s like %60 of the 2012 Yegu better bang for your buck if you are into “Deep Forsest”.  Or maybe you have a 2012 Yegu and want an everyday drinker Deep forest… that would be another reason.  The bitter and coco taste is very much the same as well as the fruit but it’s just not as concentrated or complex or intense or bitter as the 2012 Ye Gu.  The Qi is really a big and very warming thing in both of these which is why I like them both and why they remind me of wild tea.   They both have very good stamina. From my two samples the 2011 Yehgu is much smaller compressed leaf and much more brilliantly purple.  This leaf is less purple, seems larger, and less compressed.  I’m only going off the samples I received so hard to say.  Both share a lot of similarities.  The 2012 Ye Gu was different in that it had much more subtle complexity but the 2016 has a deeper leathery body to it which the 2012 didn’t have.

Overall, this one surprised me.  I am getting to know what “deep forest” means at least to Yang Qing Hao.  I still haven’t purchased a cake of either of these but it’s at least on my radar.  I highly recommend ordering both the 2012 Ye Gu and 2016 Endless possession samples from Liquid Proust Teas together and sampling them next to each other to get an idea of what “deep forest Yiwu” means to Yang.

Shah8’s tasting notes.


Saturday, May 23, 2020

2004 Yang Qing Hao Jinhao Chawang: Different

Alright, this is my first evaluative gongfu in a few months.  The order has been lifted here in Saskatchewan and I am back to work with as much Personal Protective Equipment as anyone you would encounter in a hospital…. But I’m back… and to celebrate on this unseasonably warm spring day I choose this 2004 Yang Qing Hao Jinhao Chawang which currently sells for $305.00 for 400g cake or $0.76/g.  Interestingly, very little has been written about this Yang Qing Hao.

I ordered this sample in my first order from Liquid Proust Teas.  I tagged it along with a lower price/less popular Yang Qing Hao sampler.  Don’t think I would ever venture to cake sample these less populars so it was a real treat to simply order for the fun of sampling.  This 2004 Yang Qing Hao Jinhao has a bunch of tippy buds slapped on the outside of the cake.  This was super common back in the day.  For me it was a sure bet that the leaves underneath were usually not as good...  Like putting lipstick on an old car before selling it.  I wonder if this cake will be the first to convince me otherwise?

Dry leaves have a creamy rich sweetness to them over aged puerh odour.

First infusion have a soft almost peachy, creamy sweet approach with a fallen leaves base and back drop.  There is a woody base with a faint pungency and mild rolling cooling creamy sweetness.  The creamy sweetness is long in the mouth.  The mouthfeel is sticky and chalky.  This is a smooth and creamy sweet onset.

The second infusion has a layered creamy tart, woody, and fallen leaf onset the pungency rolls in low and disperses and long distinct creamy sweet aftertaste.  The mouthfeel is sticky and the throat feeling in mainly in the upper throat.  The tea is simple but the feature is the very long creamy sweet finish.

The third infusion has a woodier tart astringent tree bark and medicinal noted onset there is a rich dirt like base taste now and the mouthfeeling is slightly gripping and even drying.  The long cotton candy creamy sweetness arrives under these notes and trails off slowly on the breath.  I can start feeling the Qi in the head.  It’s a bit spacy and a bit mind slowing. 

The fourth has a woody astringent wood bark onset with simple woody fallen leaves and even slight dirt tastes.  The mouthfeeling is puckering and a long creamy sweet finish is found in the upper throat.  The Qi is starting to get me spacy but kind of loopy in the mind, its slowing me down.

The fifth infusion has a tart, fallen leaf, astringent woody onset.  The initial taste is quite astringent and there is significant mouth puckering.  A long creamy sweetness comes out of it on the other end.  This puerh seems very simple and straight forward.  It has a strong fallen leaf taste, strong astringency and the best part is the long creamy sweetness.  The Qi is spacy in the mind a bit of a downer sensation.

The sixth infusion has a palm leaves, dry wood, fallen leaves, astringency then long creamy sweet coolness.  The mouthfeeling is puckering and slight drying.  The throat feeling is manly upper.

The 7th infusion has a woody, slight astringent woody but creamy sweet finish.  The profile is really simple.  The mouthfeeling has a dry chalkiness.  The sweetness is less long now but still creamy and nice.  There is a soothing feeling now to the qi.  Relaxing.

The 8th has a woody, much less astringent but almost sourer leaf taste where a creamy sweetness emerges.  There is a slight fruity taste in there now and almost salty too.

The 9th the initial taste is now becoming more like sour fruit with wood and leaves becoming less.  There is a bit more body with the sour fruit note in there, also a bit of bitterness too.  The creamy sweetness is less long and less distinct in the aftertaste. 

10th woody sour fruit with fallen leaf nuance.  The sweetness is becoming less in the finish and this puerh is more sour fruit, wood, and leaves.  The sweetness is more faint and in the breath than more tangible now.  The astringency is significant in this aged puerh and is noted here.  Work is pretty crazy because of everything and removing all the PPE to gongfu is a challenge all unto itself.  I group together sessions to make life easier…

11th , 12th, 13th this puerh is changing as the session progresses.  These infusions start to move in a more fruity direction much less astringency and woodiness.  The Qi continues to be pretty relaxing, slowing my mind down…

The 14th, 15th, 16th come into a state of mainly peachy fruity dominating tastes.  Simple and satisfying.  Qi is nice and relaxing.  Still a bit of woody and storage depths some bit of astringency.

This is put into long steeping and pushes out some woody, leafy, and very vibrant peachy notes.  The qi remains light, simple, and relaxing.

Overall, this puerh is simple and its long distinct creamy sweet aftertaste is its highlight which is especially featured in the first handful of infusions.  In the next group of infusions the astringent and woody leafy tastes are more dominant.  In the later infusions distinct simple peachy fruity tastes get more of the attention.  Overall, the taste is simple but changes throughout the session to keep it interesting enough.  The astringency is a bit much during the mid-session even for someone who generally likes a touch of astringency.  It gets a bit puckery in these infusions but it doesn’t last long.  I also think that those who like aged white tea might enjoy the profile has something in it which reminds me a bit of the aged white I have had in the past. 

The Qi is another thing… The Qi is also one I don’t normally go for a downer type of very stopping the mind from working kind of thing.  On my first day back, you can be sure, that it wasn’t very welcome.  This is my fist Yang Qing Hao with a strong slowing down type of Qi.  Overall, the material underneath has quality to it but its just not what I go for in a puerh, at least not at that price.  Overall, I had a strange enjoyment of this puerh because it is really not like any puerh I’ve had before.  A fun one to sample.


Thursday, May 21, 2020

Gongfu-ing with PPE

It's hard gongfu-ing with PPE, shoulda just grandpa-ed
It's hard gongfu-ing with PPE, shoulda just grandpa-ed
It's hard gongfu-ing with PPE, shoulda just grandpa-ed
But whatever you do ... DON'T TOUCH GRANDPA!

Friday, May 15, 2020

white2tea’s Red Umbro Logo Neifi

I’m sure all of you, like me, are trying to decode the deep (or subliminal) meaning or messaging behind white2tea’s new wrappers and neifi (probably no one really cares) on their new 2020 spring release.  After close analysis and way too much thought and energy, I have come to understand this much...

Paul of white2tea is simply trying to tell us that “SOMEBODY” (as indicated in the upper neifi) is wearing Umbro shorts and/or a football (soccer) jersey (as indicated by the clear use of the Umbro logo in the centre of the neifi) and that this person, due to the quarantine, ain’t going “NOWHERE” (as written on the bottom of the neifi).

Others, might be thinking that this is simply a continuation of the artistic direction first kicked into place in the 2019 white2tea summer release featuring the 30 cake limited run of 2019 white2tea Road 2 Nowhere and the limited teawear by the same name.  The new neifi highlighting the two featured top Spring offerings, the 2020 white2tea I Am with the word “somebody” written all over the wrapper and the 2020 white2tea Road 2 Nowhere (teasing that it is still to come).  The theme conjures up challenges to the notion of transparency of tea location, of freedom through consumerism, of liberty, social justice, morality and judgement in tea culture.  Yeah maybe...

But it think it has a lot more to do about football branding.  Besides, puerh branding has a long history of knocking off soccer branding.  Puerh cakes are round and so are soccer balls so it makes perfect sense right??? Case in point, the Shuangjiang Mengku Mangbo cakes famously knocking off the Adidas logo by putting it all over their wrappers.  Discussion on the famed Half Dipper first pointed this out many years ago.  It’s one of my favourite drinker puerh, I see that Adidas logo a lot!  If a big puerh factory like Shuangjiang Mengku can pull it off then you can be sure white2tea can as well.

Even Western puerh vendors have not shied away from knocking off other branding in the past.  Remember the Yunnan Sourcing Burger King branding fiasco???  I can almost hear Scott’s groans from here as I bring up this one again.  He changed his branding quick and destroyed all evidence of it ever happening... but what if that branding was pressed into the middle of thousands of puerh cakes??? Not so easy to get rid of that one...

Am I somebody who is on to something people or am I just on a Road 2 Nowhere???


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Comparing 3 Free Puerh COVID Promotions & The Return of the Charity Cake

I found it interesting that my three most frequented Western puerh vendors started offering free puerh promotions during the current COVID 19 crisis.  What is even more interesting to me is how they are each very different from each other.  Also I wondered why one of the three promotions seemed to work on me.

Yunnan Sourcing’s Free Gift Offers and BOGO Offers

This was the first and earliest of the free puerh promotions.  Basically there are tiers of free gifts and puerh cakes depending how much you spend.  I first got a promotional email at the end of Feb about these offers and I believe that Scott and Xiao Yao just decided to extend it until things normalize (whenever that will be).  This free promotion is within Yunnan Sourcing’s current marketing scheme and it is really the continuous part that is the branch offered to us at this trying time.  I don’t think this is as good as the rotating 13% or 15% off sales but for someone who is looking to not wait it is nice to receive some free! Thanks Scott and Xiao Yao!

The Essence of Tea’s Singularity Free Cake Give Away

This promotion was offered in both March and April so they ended up giving away two of their premium offerings from their very small 2019 line.  The 2019 Essence of Tea Singularity Gushu is a full 400g cake worth $178.00 people!  All you had to do was post a review of one of their teas on their website- sold out or in stock, it didn’t matter.  The March give away only allowed one entry but the April allowed as many as you could review.  I think this was a very successful promotion because it did a few things. Firstly, it got people excited about a pretty absent as of lately Essence of Tea at the right time- just before Spring release.  Secondly, it drew a lot of attention to the Singularity cake which had not sold out yet.  Thirdly, it filled a vacant website full of energetic and positive reviews.  People are a lot less likely to post a negative review when they are trying to be optimistic about landing a free cake- that’s not how human behaviour works.  It also is more of a reciprocal promotion with the customers giving something back to help David and Kathy out at a tough time in the form of some good reviews.  It’s a win-win really.  Thanks David and Kathy!

white2tea’s 2020 Umbrella Free Cake Give Away

This promotion was offered April 2, 2020 and offered a free cake of 2020 white2tea Umbrella, a 5 year aged mocha pressed into a new cake, .  It also offered free shipping on the free cake- no strings attached.  They hoped to give away 100 of these cakes and also offered the rest at $15 per cake.  They asked that only those most in need use the coupon code for the free cake and others go for the $15 reduced price cake.  I wrote a blog post on how this is the most epic of free promotions and Paul of white2tea pulled it off!  I suspect that Paul will release the remaining stock of this one in his first release of Spring 2020 puerh if he has any left to offer.  Thanks Paul!

So which one did I go for out of the three???

Readers of this blog will know that I felt like I already had enough tea and that there were others in more need for me.  So the white2tea promotion didn't directly effect me, but it did make me think more favorably of the brand that I am probably the most critical of.  So in some ways it worked.  I guess you could say the same for the Yunnan Sourcing promotion as well.

However, I thought the reciprocal nature of the Essence of Tea free promotion was really cool and I wanted to participate in it.  Plus I think I'm a sucker for sweepstakes promotions and the prize was big.  So I participated..  I already had the reviews on my blog so I just basically transferred a few of those to the site.  I didn't win but it made me feel good about doing something rather small without actually buying a cake to support a vendor that I buy from.

Did you participate in any of these free promotions?  Why do you think they worked for you?

I guess the other thing I kinda wanted to mention here was that this year I think we are also going to see lots of the vendors give back with charity puerh cakes.  Vendors were doing this off and on throughout the years with Tea Urchin doing it first I think then vendors like white2tea and Yunnan Sourcing.  I think we are going to see a lot of these this year some might even drop in the next few days/ weeks.