Friday, January 18, 2019

2018 white2tea Bamboo Shu & Thoughts on Bamboo Puerh

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

The Best of the Cheapest: 2018 the Essence of Tea Bamboo Spring

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

2018 white2tea Smoove Cocoa and Thoughts on Shortstack and Mini Tong Shu Puerh

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...


Friday, December 28, 2018

2018 white2tea Snoozefest & the Real Meaning of Snoozefest

Sometimes, probably because of my age or just how I see the world or because I’ve been at this tea thing before some of you readers were born, I don’t get it.  Portions of my position and criticism of the 2017 white2tea Snoozefest is one such instance found here on this blog…

In this post in 2017, I laid out the reason why I thought the marketing around the Snoozefest puerh was a joke.  The argument I initially laid out is as follows…

There is no way of determining if this is actually a $40 cake offered at $15, because it is in fact offered at $15.  Also, there is no way of sampling it before you buy to actually test this argument and determine for yourself if it is actually worth $40 (or at least $15) because it is offered as a limited run and intended to sell out very quickly.  Nor can you compare to other puerh of $40.00 ($0.20/g) or even $15.00 ($0.08/g) in this category because you only have one shot, a gamble really, to determine if this one is truly the bargain white2tea claims or just some marketing stunt.

Although my feelings about this criticism was honest at the time and some of it still holds true (some of it can just as easily be applied to the 50 cake limited 2018 Tunji which sold out in under 18 hours), my position on this has changed over the last year because of two realities that I have come to accept in regards to puerh in 2018…

I know this is nothing new but I realized this year that it is extraordinarily rare how many fresh young puerh cakes are offered at very low prices (below $0.10/g).  And out of these how many are actually good?  All products have a low point which the price must be above to turn a profit or at which the cost of production doesn’t exceed the price at which it is offered.  I wonder in 2018 how low that point is?  It will be different for each producer, for sure, based on their business model and mark up.

This year I realized that it is a common marketing strategy these days, for one reason or another, to offer a very limited amount of puerh that is basically meant to sell out before anyone has tried it.  This is opposite the traditional model of selling puerh where a very large volume of puerh is pressed as both an investment to age in their warehouse as well as to simply have enough in stock to sell as much as they can possibly can.

Besides coming to these conclusion the third thing that I have resolved within myself is that Autumn puerh can in fact be good puerh and worthwhile drinkers.  I have opened myself up to the possibility of purchasing of Autumn puerh partly in response to increasing prices.

So after coming to terms with these realities, I realize that “Snoozefest” has a different meaning all together.  Offering a puerh cake at $0.08/g of fresh puerh has to be pushing that lower profit limit for most of our western puerh vendors like white2tea.  For Yunnan Sourcing, a more traditional western puerh vendor, they still manage to offer a handful of these every year and probably do it within their pre-existing profit margins.  Scott of Yunnan Sourcing claims that he prices all puerh on a formula not on perceived value.  So, I now feel that offering fresh puerh at $0.08/g is probably a gift in and of itself.  Something, I failed to understand a year ago.

The name “Snoozefest” refers to the flash sale offering of this cake.  It sold out fast this year (an hour or so) and almost crashed the white2tea site.  If you snooze, you loose (out).  The rapper this year has added some additional features on to last year’s wrapper (my interpretation is here link).  It also has other pictures and features that give the cake a hyped and gangsa-esque feeling.  The thief motif of the free tote that came with the purchase kind of pairs with the feeling of this cake.  The thief motif holds special importance in urban art, specifically in graffiti art.  This Banksy inspired design speaks to both the reclamation of public space and discourse (pertaining to tea) that white2tea is branded towards as well as the rebel, going against the norm or establishment, positioning of the brand.  This is a very nice touch and esthetic that I appreciate with my purchase.  In another marketing stunt, there are apparently at least 2 completely different totes that were given away.

So… I knew I was going to purchase a white2tea cake this year that I’ve had my eye on.  Also I was planning on sampling 2018 white2tea Splendid in a new quest- a search for the best cheapest young puerh (much more on this in a coming post).  When I went to the white2tea site it had grinded down to a snail’s pace and I ended up getting out with a number of these Snoozefest cakes as well as the cake I initially went in for but pulled the plug before picking up a 2018 Splendid sample.  I was concerned about my cart crashing.  I also was a bit surprised as there was little forewarning that Paul was going to drop another Snoozefest cake, were you?

My rationale for picking up a decent number of 2018 Snoozefest cakes is the following…

Reviews of the 2017 cake seem to be positive from what I read- vegetal, savory, slight bitter, astringent, sweet, creamy, floral, pine with the negative being a bit dry in the mouth and lacking stamina (see here and here and here).  Some comments suggested that people wished they had ordered more.

My other rationale is that this is the absolute cheapest white2tea sheng puerh and, as stated above, I am on a mission to find the best of the cheapest stuff.  My reasoning above about the rising cost of maocha is enough reason to purchase.

Finally, I hope this purchase will test out the claims made by whtie2tea that this tea is actually a $40.00 tea not the $15.00 they sell it for.  I have only sampled a few mid-priced white2tea sheng offerings and I really want to see what the bottom of their brand is like.  Let’s get to it…

Dry leaves smell of distant sweet fruits and florals, it’s a faint but distinctly fruity and sweet smell.  I pack a bunch into the pot.

First infusion has a muted woody almost salty barely floral/sweet ghostly candy onset there is a soft suggestion of flat sugar sweetness and some vegetal taste.  The aftertaste slowly and softly pops florals and candy floss.  The mouthfeel is silky with a slight stickiness in the mouth.

The second infusion has a soft almost sweet pea and pungent muted candy floss initial taste over a slightly salty dry wood.  It has a nice fragrant entry and soft fluffy mouthfeeling.  The cooling throat feel is mild and there is a slight rubbery sensation in the aftertaste over mutted cotton candy and plums.  This blend shows lots of different elements in it.  The mouthfeeling is light and sticky, the lips feel dry.

The third infusion has a tangy almost grapefruit and wildflower/ candy floss initial taste with a salty/ savory approach.  There is a creamy sweet, candy like, and savory woody aftertaste.  The mouthfeel has a distinct astringent feeling and makes the teeth feel squeaky.  The mild cooling and muted candy aftertaste is long and returns minutes later.

The fourth infusion has a strong initial taste of fragrant florals, sour citrus, plum, muted candy sweetness, saltiness over as slightly astringent and bitter base.  The mouthfeel is astringent and slightly sticky.  It pushes the saliva into the mid- and upper-throat.  The aftertaste is long and is held by the strong mouthfeeling and throat feeling.

The fifth infusion starts with a sour and salty grapefruit like initial taste which turns into a floral nuanced thing.  It then turns creamy, chalky and woody with a candy-like in its aftertaste.  It has a certain level of astringency and is slightly bitter.

The sixth infusion has a more pronounced bitter and astringency to it but a more upfront very salty, sour and floral profile.  The aftertaste is long and sweet the astringency pushes saliva in the throat and hold the creamy sweet, dry wood, and candy aftertaste in place.  The mouthfeel is a balance of pucker and almost stickiness.

The seventh infusion starts with a creamy sweet candy like sweetness, almost soapiness, in a dry woody and astringent base with heavier floral suggestions.  The liquor isn’t overly thick in the mouth and the taste isn’t overly deep but the plethora of high and complex notes are held in tightly by the astringency with capture them all in the throat nicely.  It’s almost as if this tea lack a mid-profile, or dense grounding thickness but is compensated by complicated interplay of highnotes, and good mouthfeeling/ throatfeeling.  The qi of this tea is mild with a fuzzy/ muffled head feeling, mild relaxing and slight alertness.  In the body you can feel a subtle heaviness in the solar plexus between the heart and stomach area.  It also has a mildly relaxing effect on the shoulders.  Got some very mild itch with this tea also on the legs, allergy reaction to this one which I have never experienced before with white2tea.

The eighth has a fruity sweet burst initially with barely salty and creamy sweet overtures.  There is a sticky sweet long lingering candy aftertaste.  The taste here is much more sweet and simple and the bitter/ astringency in this infusion is much less.

The ninth infusion starts with a slightly sour juicy fruity initial sweetness ends in a long creamy sweetness.  There is a notable grapefruit/citrus flavor in the intial taste and a creamy sweet finish.  The mouthfeel is sticky, lips drying, even slightly sandy.

The tenth infusion has a bitter onset with a grapefruit and heavier perfume floral arrangement there is still that creamy sweetness and a touch more vegetal taste as well.  The aftertaste is long and the bitterness and astringency is notable.  The mouhtfeeling is pucker.

11th starts creamy sweet, slightly sour, astringent, slightly bitter orange peel.  The aftertaste is floral and long creamy sweetness that turns into slight sour, bitter almost dry wood. Citrus peeling, cotton candy, flowershop.  Qi is slow to build but I feel it in many different places. Mild itch.  Medium young puerh harshness in Stomach.  This tea is not meant to drink now, this is surprising to me.  Last year’s reviews suggested something milder with less stamina and more drink now, from what I read.  This year’s Snoozefest is not that.

12th is bitter, slight floral faint woodiness underneath.  The aftertaste is long and creamy sweet.

The 13th is a mild, creamy floral woodiness, with sticky mouthfeeling and sweet creamy aftertaste which starts to disappear into woody vegetal tastes.

14th is more bland wood with most of the sweetness, the creamy type, in the aftertaste.

15th I add 15 seconds to the flash infusions and push out much more sweet creamy tastes initially then mouthfeel is less astringent now and more dry sticky lips and slightly sandy in the mouth with a fruit like taste lingering in the aftertaste.

The 16th is steeped for 30 seconds again and has a sour fruity initial with creamy sweet tastes and present enough mouthfeel even this late in the session.

I throw in the towel with this tea but it is enjoyable enough to continue, I just don’t have the time today so it goes into an overnight steeping.

Decent Stamina here with enjoyable flavours late into the gong fu session with mouthfeel still holding on. Nice.

The positives with this tea is that it has a nice mouthfeeling that really hold the complex blend of interesting highnotes together nicely.  It has enough diversity from steep to steep to keep it interesting.  Its stamina- this tea actually can be steeped longer than the average sheng.  The Qi is nothing special but enjoyable.  Overall it lacks a thick/deep feeling in the mouth and the tastes feels more superficial a character more common of autumn puerh.  Another negative is that it is the first white2tea sheng to trigger very mild allergy response from me but it was the mildest I have felt to date so I can probably overlook it.

Overall, I have the impression that it is more of a $40.00 cake than a $15.00 one so I am quite happy with my purchase.  My assessment is that this year's 2018 seems better than the notes I've read on the 2017.  I taste mainly Yiwu and Jinggu, and maybe even Southern Menghai.  This is mostly, if not completely, autumnal picked puerh in this blend.


Edit Jan 9, 2019: I have had a chance to drink this again a few times with harder water and in my large 200ml Yixing.  It is still a bit hard on the system being so young but yet requires a full stuffing of the pot with leaves to bring out the full brilliant high notes of this tea.  However, the more leaves you use the harsher more astringent bitter it becomes.  If you use less leaf it just becomes insipid- what's the point of that?  I recommend soft water in a very small teapot stuffed full of leaves for the best effect. 

In my search for the best cheapest young sheng puerh I have to ask the question, "Would I order more for $15.00?  Maybe try for it next year?  I keep thinking that I likely would not mainly because the qi is just too weak in this cake.  The top notes and astringency work nice together though.

I am going to wrap up this tong and put it in pretty dry storage to preserve those nice notes.  In ten years the harshness will be diminished but the top will remain... see you in 10 years...

Double Peace

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Tasting an Old Vacuum Sealed Puerh and Famous Puerh in the West: Teamasters 2003 Spring Wild Raw Yiwu

Reason for Fame:  This was the first introduction to wild tea for Western puerh drinkers.  I remember the initial buzz around this tea in the mid 2000s.  Stephane of Teamasters Blog submitted this very tea in a tasting competition with other online puerh drinkers and it won.  The interesting thing is that samples of this tea are still available from Teamasters and that he has extensively documented the aging of this tea on his blog throughout the years. 

When organizing some of my aged tea I stumbled upon an old vacuum sealed sample of this that Stephane sent me in 2008 (when it was presumably vacuum sealed after 5 years of Taiwanese storage).  You can see from the package above that it still is completely vacuum air tight.  I remember that I wanted to sample some other wild teas together for comparison and education at that time but I had not acquired so many as they were harder to come by back then.  So, I saved this sample for a few months.  As time went on, I never ended up doing that extensive sampling of wild tea samples and this one somehow got lost among all my aged tea, probably in moving.

Vacuum sealed puerh is a bit of a controversial issue with Hojo first publishing this type of unconventional storage in English on hisblog many years ago .  The really interesting thing about this vacuum sealed sample is that you can compare it to the well documented progression of aging on Stephane’s blogin 2011, in 2013 (with retrospection), and in 2018.  Although, it should be noted that an old sample cannot represent an old full cake, having a look at this sample might give us a bit of insight into vacuum storage…

The dry leaf smells like oat straw, distant strawberries, creamy sweetness and dry sandy dirt.

First infusion has a dry woody and straw onset and mid-profile.  The sweet soft strawberry and barely muted cream tastes appear in the aftertaste before disappearing.  A long dry menthol taste develops then recedes.  A dry clean crisp distinct creamy sweetness returns for the minutes later aftertaste and swells up in the mouth.  The mouthfeel is slight stickiness.

The second infusion starts off woody and straw then develops a slightly sandy mouthfeel.  Then arrives the cooling menthol then a barely fruity taste.  The minutes later aftertaste is of nice talc and strawberries in the distance.  The mouthfeel here is sandy and barly sticky.  A relaxing qi starts to build up.

The third infusion starts off woody and straw then goes into a subtle sour fruity wood note almost vegetal like tomato.  The menthol is there then a long creamy sweetness.  The minutes long wild tea aftertaste with this tea is nice.  The mouthfeel is interesting with empty feelings, a slight dry roof of the mouth and sandy with more of a stickiness on the tip.  The throat feel like it is deep but not overly stimulated- nice for a wild tea.  The qi is a relaxing type, oh yes the head floats with this qi.  In the body it is felt more in the center, still subtly rough on the Stomach.

The fourth infusion starts with an empty, juicy taste with soft woody layers underneath.  The profile is now balanced between sweet and woody base here.  The long menthol aftertaste is beset by the climax of creamy minutes long almost strawberry sweetness.

The fifth infusion has a woody almost incense initial taste and base taste to it.  The minutes long aftertaste is really nice creamy, talc, sweet, barely fruit. The mouthfeel is interesting still sticky, sandy, dry roof.

The sixth infusion starts with incense wood, this infusion is less sweet and the mouthfeel is the highlight now with woody tastes, barely fruit nuances and creamy sweet long tastes.  There is a creamy sweet talc fruit taste throughout.  Qi still slightly rough on stomach, six infusions in, it is more obvious now. 

The seventh infusion has a nice dense mouthfeel and soft opening throatfeeling.  There are notes of distant pinapples and tomato and a soapy, talic taste.  The aftertaste is long supported by the throat feeling.

The eighth infusion has a dry autumn coppery leaf base taste the mouthfeeling is nice and stimulating.  The base taste is more empty now with no sweetness to counterbalance the tastes.  The aftertaste is also more dry wood, less menthol and creamy sweetness.  Even the minitues long taste is more creamy woody menthol.

The ninth infusion is mellow again.  A soft woody, dry leaves base taste with an almost metallic taste, methol, and creamy sweetness minutes later.  The initial taste has flattened out considerably.  The mouthfeel is stimulating and throat feel open at a deeper level.

The tenth infusion has a stronger menthol returning taste the sweetness is almost honey like now.  The dry wood profile is throughout.  The minutes long aftertaste is creamy, sweet, and almost metallic.

The eleventh infusion I add 10 seconds to the flash infusion and a metallic flat dry wood taste is the result with a mainly menthol aftertaste.

The twelfth infusion I add 15 seconds to the flash and get a woody taste, a muddled taste, almost metallic with long menthol finish.

The thirteenth infusion I go back to a flash infusion and it brings back the sweet creamy base taste of almost strawberry in this wild tea which I enjoy. 

The fourteeth is flash infused again and again as solid as ever a very enjoyable very sweet creamy strawberry taste over a nice soft stimulating mouthfeel.  This infusion has a nice mild wood to balance things out undernieth.

I flash infuse this tea for many many more infusions and highly enjoy its sweet, creamy, talc, tastes in a full mouth and deep throatfeeling.  The finish is consitantly menthol and the minutes long taste remains sweet.  “How many infusions am I on now?” 21, 22?  This is great tea, nice relaxing but offers a gentle concentration and care free feeling to my day.

Insight on Vacuum Sealed Puerh.  I was somewhat surprised by this puerh sample because even though I knew it wouldn’t have suffocated to death, I was expecting it to not be as vibrant and delicious.  The one negative was that the body Qi wasn’t sufficiently warming enough so it still felt a little cooling and rough in the stomach.  I think if it would have had another 2 or 3 years of Taiwanese storage before being sealed it would have turned the corner and the Qi would remain somewhat warming.  Currently, its Qi feeling felt a bit unnatural in a subtle sort of way.  I believe a 2018 Taiwanese sample would feel much warmer.  If a puerh is sufficiently bitter or rough on the digestion when young, I believe it needs humidity (and warmth) for its Qi to warm.

The vibrancy of the high notes which form the base of this tea and have great stamina even in late infusions- was a surprise to me.  I believe that the 2018 would have fermented some of these notes away by now and or at least deepened them.  I wonder what has happened to these notes in Stephane’s Taiwanese storage?  Maybe the result is better?

From experience I think a drier stored wild tea seems to do better, for my preference at least. Wild tea is all about the light sweet tastes, mouthfeel, and Qi and I think the vacuum storage did pretty good over the last 10 years.

The sampling of this 10 year vacuum stored sample confirms what I have previous stated about storage: puerh is resilient and can endure many aging conditions even extreme aging conditions and still taste amazing.  Of course it didn’t show signs of browning and deep fermentation, but many qualities that remain are excellent.  If you have a puerh that is quality, complex, enjoyable and drinkable while young, it will probably be enjoyable many years later but the reverse is no guarantee.  Sometimes the risk is worth the payoff.

I guess a comparison with Stephane’s current storage is in order…


Thursday, December 13, 2018

2008 Menghai “Big Classic”, Oldish, and Kinda Drinkable

I have a history with this cake from years ago.  My puerh drinking buddy in Victoria, once brought this one over for us to drink in 2010, I think.  He was looking for a suitable cheap everyday drinker puerh and wanted to know what I thought about it.  After the session, I convinced him to buy a tong of the famous 2001 (aka 90s) Ding Xing  through the original Taobao dealer.  I think the Ding Xing was $40.00 a cake back then and this "Big Classic" cake was around $25.00? I paid $38.00 ($0.11/gr) from Tuo Cha Tea last year (it also had 10% discount applied for bulk orders on top of that) the price has gone up to $45.00 ($0.13/g).  Years back my rationale was that the 2001 Ding Xing is just a much better value so why bother with this Menghai.  He agreed a bought a tong for everyday drinking.  At that time this Menghai "Big Classic" was not quite ready to drink even.

An interesting thing about the 2008 Big Classic is that everyone still has this cake sitting around (and the famous Ding Xiang is hard to track down these days)!  … Tuo Cha Tea, Puerhshop, Yunnan Sourcing, King Tea Mall… they all have it.  That really says a lot.  If it was good, surely there wouldn’t be any left… would there?

From what I’ve read about this one is that Menghai used a blend of older leaves to make this recipe. That means that some of the actual tea material is older than the date stamp. I read somewhere that the average leaf grade in this recipe is “3” but I can't remember where I read that.  Seems like a Menghai factory tea that is truly ready to drink.  So let’s crush this one with a meditative mind…

The dry leaves smell of sweet plum and slight malted sweetness.

First infusion is a warming broth of heavier, grounding mellow tastes.  It has a soft full feeling.  There are woody slightly cinnamon tastes that greet the mouth initially then slowly traverse into a creamy barely sweetness and coolness.  This tea has a complete, round, fullish, mellow feeling right off the bat.  A nice slight sweet cinnamon tastes lingers on the breath.

The second infusion presents more now with a sweet round deep wood and slight cinnamon taste.  The taste is such that it pushes saliva onto the tongue.  This infusion has a pronounced returning sweet coolness.  This tea has a complete taste and is ready to drink now semi-aged without a need to age further.  It has a nice warming comforting feeling that I used to get from 10 years old Menghai factory tea that was more humidly stored than this very dry Kunming stored one.  However this tea almost lacks everything else which would identify it as Menghai Factory.  However, this tea is also sufficiently alerting as well, it has that typical and welcome factory Qi.

The third infusion presents now with a more woody-slightly malty raison taste.  The wood taste extends itself into the mid-profile and aftertaste.  The sweetness and cinnamon taste is much less here as the mouthfeel fills out and is just barely drying on the tongue.  The taste of this puerh is not exciting nor complex but rather stable, round, and reassuring.  The qi pushed me into a high state now- I feel like I am a tiny tiny bit floating here.  The qi is quite a relaxing, in the head type qi but also is sufficiently alerting.  I like the Qi of this tea for the price, even if a bit typical, at least it has some gas in this aspect.

The fourth infusion flattens out a bit more with the wood note now predominating and the sweeter notes of raison and cinnamon now being delegated to the aftertaste or breath.  The taste is comforting on this very cloudy morning but lacks anything interesting or complex.  The simple tastes are enjoyed.

The fifth infusion has resorted back to that more balanced creamy sweet raisin wood taste.  The sweetness feels more rounded here now.  The mouthfeel remains just a touch dry and the throatfeel is open but not significantly stimulating.

The sixth infusion is a nice smooth mix of slightly sweet creamier notes and deeper woody notes over a nice full slightly drying mouthfeel.  Different fruit notes of watermelon pop up on the breath in this infusion which I enjoy.

The seventh infusion feels a bit more watered down now but still flavours exist.  There is still a mild cooling in the aftertaste and still a sweet creamy edge on the mainly woody taste.

The eighth starts to flatten out but still significant flavors are still there echoing the earlier infusion.

The ninth and tenth still have a nice slightly cool finish and woody slightly sweetness to them.

This tea is long steeped and pushes out another few infusions of woody raison notes.  This tea has decent stamina and tastes good for a longer time.  But the flavors are a bit muted throughout.

My overall thoughts on this tea are much more favorable than my run in with this tea years before.  It has seemed to improve with a bit more age.  Years before I had previously thought this tea to be too typical puerh taste and too weak with not enough vitality.  Years later it hasn’t really gained strength or that much interesting depth but it is easy enough to drink.

There is something about the way this one feels that I quite like but can’t really put a finger on it.  It's like factory Menghai Qi that is curbed down a notch.  I am quite found of the storage of this tea which shows signs that the older material was aged in more humid Xishuangbana for the first few years before being pressed into a cake.  Then it undergone drier Kunming storage for 9 years.  This tea has this storage feeling and really feels like a dry stored tea that has had its sourness and harshness chopped right off.

Due to the above reasons and because the price at Tuo Cha tea is really low (remember that you are getting 2005ish material here),  I can recommend this tea for its simplicity and easiness to drink.  It is not terribly exciting tea but nor is it offensive in any way.  There is some beauty in its simplicity but nobody finds the mundane worth it, really.  Its possible that I would be buying more of these as easy everyday drinkers if it weren't for the fact that I have another handful of Menghai Factory cakes from this order (link).  This is my favorite, by far, out of the order but only due to the fact that it is really the only one out of the bunch that is actually ready to drink.  I ended up drinking the whole cake up already.  That at least says something.

However, I have learned from recent orders that if it wasn't good enough for you to buy then you probably shouldn't buy it now, at least not in any sort of volume.  The simplicity of this cake and easiness to drink also reminds me of this 2010 Fangmingyuan 0842 Anniversary (which is $0.11/g)  in its mild hay drinkable Menghai charms.  They are both around the same price and both pretty easy, don't think too much about it, kind of puerh.

Early reviews of this tea by other bloggers include this review from Hobbes of the Half-Dipper.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

When Puerh Vendors Offer Free Shipping...

You should always consider the cost of shipping into the price of tea per gram but most of us don't.  No bloggers include shipping in the $/g but we probably should.  I guess it could be confusing to some.  I like to pay less per gram so I prefer China Ground Shipping if I'm paying for it.  This is because I like to pay less for my tea.