Friday, July 27, 2018

2007 Yang Qing Hao Huangshan Lingya Makes Me Feel Happy

First, I can't really say enough good things about Emmett Guzman, the man who has made Yang Qing Hao so accessible to us.  He offers us all this for very little.  He even picked up the difference in my shipping last order when he quoted me wrong- what a classy guy.  I have the highest respect for him.  Although I have never ever done this before- I asked him to send some samples , if possible, in my first order with him.  In my order was a single sample of this 2007 YangQingHao Huangshan Lingya .  No blogger premiums here people, just respect, and I like it... hahahaha.

This puerh is a popular one for the mid-low priced YangQingHao offerings.  I appreciate the sample because it is one of the YangQingHao offerings that I was considering a possible blind buy in the future.  If you were to purchase this puerh, the full 400g cake would cost you $165.00 ($0.41/gram).  According to what I was reading online, this cake seems to be gaining popularity in Western circles.

Let's samples this one...

The dry leaves smell of distant forest, with faint odours of decomposing cedar and distant floral.

First infusion delivers a crisp wood taste over faint florals and fruits.  The wood taste remains the dominant base flavor which the soft, distant florals and plum tastes slowly and evolve.  The mouthfeel is sliglthy tingling and soft and nicely coats the mouth.

The second infusion the woody flavor is more pronounced and fills the mouth significantly the softer notes of floral and plum are barely noticeable and barely reside on the breath.  The returning sweet coolness in the breath is mild.  The aged woody taste is dominant.  The qi of this tea is nice and makes the head feel both significantly floaing and foggy but alert.

The third infusion is much the same but the coolness on the breath becomes more as the throatfeel is more obvious now.  Wood over aged wood tastes.  The mouthfeel is still quite astringent but without drying.

In the fourth infusion the mouthfeel really starts to stick to the teeth.  Aged wood over wood is the theme here.  There is an initial juiciness where fruit seems like its going to push through but then it submits to aged wood tastes.  The qi is a good one- nice interplay of crisp alerting and increase attention along with slight floaty relaxation.  I can really notice the heart pumping away in the chest.  The fruit and floral are almost gone in the aftertaste now.  There is something in there minutes later on the breath but very distant.

The fifth infusion presents with indications of plum and even spice but is quickly whisked away to wood tastes.  There is a slight salty-meatiness in there as well now.  The mouthfeel is quite pleasant and the throat feel goes to the middle but is mildly stimulating there.  The qi is nicely powerful.  I feel as though I am quite strung out on this tea- I truly feel high.  I feel the need to slow down these rapid infusions and take some breaths.

The sixth infusion is very identical to the fifth.  Some slight wildflower note manages to push through in the initial taste and even later on the breath.

The seventh and eighth infusion has a slightly licorice taste in the aftertaste over the wood and barely floral.  As my notes indicate, this is not a terribly complex or deep flavored tea.  It is clean and simple tasting of mainly common aged wood taste with slight and very brief tweeks of taste along the way.  This is not a tasters tea but rather one for the qi.  On the downside my body is a touch sensitive to this tea.
The ninth and tenth offers mild mouthfeel with wood aged taste very simple and not much left now.  There is a slight coolness with very distant suggestions of fruit and wildflowers.  An interesting Chinese yam taste pops up in the tenth infusion and lingers for a few seconds.
This tea is steeped in this manner only yielding simple woody notes from the eleventh onwards.

Overnight steeping brings out nice juicy Asian pear notes very yummy suggesting it could have gone longer.

For my second session.  I use up the rest of the dry leaves sample, it is a little less then I would normally use in this pot but not significantly.  I confirm the following conclusion about this tea:

1-      In the first infusions, juicier fruit tastes over a bitter dry wood taste with mild cooling sensation in the mouth afterwards.

2-      In the middle infusions, smooth woody, astringent, and slightly bitter taste with just a slight cooling in the aftertaste.

3-      In the later infusions, the taste is much the same but too watery now a nice juicy throatfeel holds a ball of saliva and in it very woody tastes. Nice.

4-      In the very late infusion, this tea is watery, woody, one dimensional, slightly astringent, mildly bitter.  Interesting to note is that the Qi sensation in these longer and lower leaf steepings is still noticeable and even stronger than some full sessions of other teas using much more leaf.

5-      Didn’t get any unusual allergic reaction from using lesser leaf.

Overall, I can’t see myself ordering this tea.  I understand that it is a pretty decent puerh for the price but I would rather spend a bit more for something a bit more interesting from Yang Qing Hao or if I'm looking for power and strength go for the 2007 Huangshan QizhongFor those that enjoy a nice balance of milder, mainly fruity wood Yiwu and want a full strung out qi sensation someone could easily purchase one of these 2007 Huangshan Lingya and be quite tea stoned and happy with their purchase.  This tea has a little strength and depth in its astringency and subtle bitterness but nice Yiwu suggestions in taste.  The days I did sample this tea I felt absolutely vibrant for the remainder of the day and I’m pretty sure the tea had something to do with it.  It has a really happy qi profile which I like.

When I write it out like that, it makes me wonder why I am not going for a cake of this....

James' (TeaDB) Tasting Notes (early and recent)
Steepster Tasting Notes

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Powerful Qi of 2007 Yang Qing Hao Huangshan Qizhong

Perhaps, like many of you reading this, I ended up just ordering one cake as a kind of sample cake to test the group buy thingy, sample the Yang Qing Hao brand, and see what the frenzied hype of 2015/2016 was all about.  By now, many many people have tested it this way, I think.  The 2007 Huangshan Qizhong is one of the most popular and its description and reviews seem like a kind of tea that I’m looking to purchase, so I buy one of those ($135.00 for 400g cake or $0.34/gram).

Thanks to all of those people who put in some time, energy, and money to vet some of these cakes for someone like me who is coming in late.  All of your hard work has helped me narrow my purchases down.  Looking back, it was a real frenzied search for which cakes were the best for the price back when the whole catalogue of Yang Qing Hao was made accessible all at once in 2015.  There were those recommending then not recommending, flipping and flopping.  These cakes are not cheap and we have access to virtually the whole catalogue without a chance to sample them.  I think Emmett did the right thing but not offering samples- its so so much tedious work for someone who is benefiting so little.

The price of this cake has gone up in the last year to $140.00 for 400g cake or $0.35/gram).  One of the things that really surprised me when I was researching Yang Qing Hao was that the price of these cakes (especially the 2007s) has actually gone down substantially in the last 5 years. 

I think that nowadays you could make a pretty compelling argument that some these cakes are quite the bargain if they seem to check out.  Others will simply say that are priced correctly and the lowering of the price was a market adjustment in response to them always being on the overpriced side for years.  Either way, the fact that the price of these is not continuously increasing and the fact that increases are so so minute (1% for this cake), seems to be rare these days.  I appreciate the fact that these cakes are probably priced (at the very least) at fair market value and the fact that next week they probably won't increase in price by 42%.

The insignificant or stagnant price increases actually bode very well for those interested in Yang Qing Hao.  This is partly because everything else seems to continuously be on the rise (young maocha as well as older cakes).  Another more interesting idea is that, if you are a fan of the famous Yang Qing Hao storage, you actually have more incentive to just buy a cake or so when you run out and have your future cakes sit in the nice Taiwanese storage until you are ready to drink more.

It seems like being late to get on the Yang Qing Hao bandwagon has many many perks.

Anyways... The only way we can really answer the question of whither Yang Qing Hao is actually worth it is to actually taste the tea and form our own judgements of the tea.  So here we go…

Let us try the 2007 Qizhong …

The dry leaves smell of sweet aged currents with deep musky florals.  The storage on this tea is wetter than the dry Kunming storage of most the teas I’ve been trying.

The first infusion gives off sweet soapy almost perfume tastes in a nice full mouthfeel.  Woody sweet tastes emerge with a barely smoky and just slightly cooling mild throat feel.  This tea has a slightly rougher profile than the Yiwu teas I frequent.  This one is more dry and astringent feeling.

The second infusion greets me with upfront menthol tastes and evolves in to stronger camphor tastes.  The mouthfeel is quite full even slightly dry and rough in the throat.  Some interesting fruit notes glide in to the bouquet then disappear.  I can feel a certain energy develop in the face and Lungs and Heart.  The mind and throat feel light but this qi is not that strong or overly alerting quite yet.  There is a comforting robustness to this tea which the body and mind finds comforting.

The third infusion is much the same but now the tastes are more rounded.  The mouthfeel starts to feel more lubricated and more fruit hiding behind the woody tastes linger just beneath.  The aftertaste has a relaxing long coolness to it.

The fourth under a short infusion is a tad light with a very nice mouthfeel which continues to evolve.  The flavors of wood and menthol continue to sustain.  Very nice fruit tastes continue to evolve in a solid mouthfeel.  This infusion has a nice strawberry taste.  A nice thicker perfume and fruit taste lingers in the mouth.  The strength of the qi starts to build and push at the chest.

The fifth infusion pushes out more fruit tastes with less wood and a subtle menthol taste.  Things come together here.  The qi is soft yet quite strong and makes the body feel light.  The strength of this tea is nice because you really don’t need many leaves to give you a really full taste.

The sixth infusion shows tastes of interesting mandarin orange and slight cane sweetness over a nice light wood base taste.  The taste gets quite interesting and unique here.  Very tasty.

The seventh infusion is much the same with a variety of interesting subtle fruity tastes that come to the forefront.  The stronger astringency of the initial infusions is pretty much gone and the fruity tastes are the leaders now.  The menthol after taste has a camphor tinge and rests in the throat minutes later.  The qi is very nice, very tranquil but still very alerting and feels nice and airy in the body especially the chest and head.  It tows a surge of energy into the chest.

The eighth has nice mild fruits up front with a camphor wood taste that slowly supports this tea.  

The ninth is a nice mild and full presentation of soft fruits and barely noticeable woods.  There is a nice interplay between these in a nice soft mothfeel.  Fruity tastes come out in the breath.

It seems, I didn't get back to the keyboard after the ninth infusion to type out this very first session.  Oops... probably too busy staring at the clouds or maybe I got up and went for a run, probably intercepted by the kids... hahaha

Over the past year, I have drank through a whole 400g cake and have gotten to know this puerh quite well.  I can confidently state that this tea has tones of stamina and easily lasts 20 infusions.  Its taste is interesting in that rarely it presents with only very oily, deep, dark, heavy, bitter and astringent flavors.  My wife cleverly describes this as "some kind of undrinkable poison".  Where as other times this tea is stuffed full of constantly changing fruit and high notes which overtop a blanket of deeper, darker, heavier tastes.  My very young child describes this as "the yummy Qizhong".  This tea can be very finicky at times and can swing either way even within one session.  The good part here is that most times it tastes like the latter. Either way, this makes the tea a very interesting puerh.  Skilled steeping goes a long way here.

The thing that is the most consistent and what makes this tea a real treasure is the power of its Qi.  This tea has a powerfully vigorous qi profile.  It really and profoundly effects the chest, especially the Heart.  When I'm feeling exhausted and have a busy day ahead of me this tea pulls me into an energized state every time.  Conversely, if I am not fatigued or have already had tea this puerh can give me Heart palpitations (which I have never had) and even push my mind into a frenzied, almost anxious or manic, state (also has never happened to me).

I have sampled many many puerh in my life but very few have had such a poignant effect.  To me there is a very special Qi in this tea.  Its the main reason I ended up ordering a tong a month or so back.  I'm learning that Yang Qing Hao, at its core, is all about the way it makes you feel.  Those people who are stuck on the taste of it, will probably never get Yang Qing Hao.

Another reason I purchased a tong of this tea is because it has very good stamina.  It can easily be steeped 20 times in gong fu brewing.  Also, I even use much less leaf than I usually do for puerh with this potent puerh.  This further increases the value of this puerh compared to the average.  I get many more pots of tea per gram of leaf with this one.  Usually when I start this tea I'm brewing it for 3 days.

An interesting point about the 2007 Qizhong.  In 2014 TwoDog (Paul) of White2Tea said the following about this tea on his blog “The retail price around $270 for a 400g cake, this is a good value for this quality of aged gushu puer.  This was when Origin Tea was selling it for double its current price.  Either the market for this type of tea has dropped significantly or TwoDog’s appraisal of tea is inflated or not educated or both.  But because I think TwoDog is a smart guy I’m leaning towards this tea being quite a deal.  So, I buy more.

Does Qizhong have amazing and unique qi? Yes.
Does Qizhong have great value? Yes.
Do I think there is aging potential for Qizhong? Yes.


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Why Is Yang Qing Hao So Famous These Days?

YangQingHao, heard of it?  Years ago it was a rarely mentioned puerh tea producer in Western circles.  I think Houde was the only place you could get it in the West once and a while and the selection was limited.  So why do so so many puerh drinkers know of YangQingHao?  Maybe it has something to do with a household name in Westren Puerh circles- Emmett Guzman.

Emmett has been around puerh for a while and I even remember some of his comments on this blog years and years ago.  When I put out to readers for some recommendations of semi-aged Yiwu puerh he suggested his baby, YangQingHao.  I researched it a bit on the net which is virtually filled with blog posts and steepster reviews nowadays… people LOVE this YangQingHao stuff.  I was very surprised with how familiar people are with YangQingHao nowadays.  But why all of a sudden so popular?

Accessibility.  All the credit has to be handed to Emmett for his now famous group buy-ins of YangQingHao.  He has made the whole selection of YangQingHao cakes completely and very easily accessible to the English speaking world.  This is big.  All too often the West is restricted by language and intimidated by the process of using middle men.  To be able to flip through an English site of a whole producers catalogue is priceless.  This is the only one I know of.

Affordability. Years ago I had never even heard of group buy ins or group orders as a way to acquire puerh.  I actually had to research what a group order actually means.  Its benefit is two pronged- accessibility and cost savings.  Emmett has made not only YangQingHao accessible but also affordable.  We basically pay what you would pay in Taiwan (actually cheaper than Taiwan for some cakes).  This is also big and rare in the West.

A gap in the market.  Another reason I think YangQingHao is popular in the West is because it fills a gap in the market.  There are really very few places that offer a large selection of higher end, boutique puerh from 2004-2007 in the West.  Some vendors might offer a cake or two on their site from these years but most stuff is big factory productions which were the most popular and mass produced at that time period.  There are very few places where Westerners are offered the whole catalogue of puerh from a specific factory or vendor.

Unique Storage.  I think people in the West still don’t really understand storage and how that either benefits a puerh, or disadvantages it or even just changes it.  These YangQingHao cakes seem like they are stored at a nice balance of not to dry but also not too wet.  They offer a response to very dry storage which the west had become accustom to and the very dry cakes that have been stored in the West their whole lives from that time period.  However, the storage is not so humid that the higher notes have disappeared.

Criticism. Even with its success there are criticisms of YangQingHao.  Most question whether it’s worth the price.  The criticism is especially true for those that question the actual taste of the tea.  Most agree that the most of their offerings have great Qi.  Some question why there are so many cakes left for sale.  If YangQingHao puerh is so good then why hasn’t it sold out in the first few years in Taiwan?  Good question.

Here are a few plausible answers...

The tea was initially overpriced.  If the tea was initially overpriced when it was first put on the market or was over priced for years and year and marketed as high end puerh without the material to back it up, then you would expect there to be a lot left over.  Think about it, if you are selling a product that you know will only increase in price why not over price it and see how much you can sell and what you don’t sell you can likely sell later for much more years later.  This is the reality of selling puerh.  The only problem is when the tea reaches a celling price where the market will no longer pay much more and the tea no longer increases exponentially in value annually.  I think the owners of YangQingHao are at this point in the market for 2004-2011 puerh and so they have incentive to sell now and keep prices relatively stable.

Personally, back in the mid-2000s I did not have the appetite to spend $135.00 on puerh.  This tea was marketed to a very niche group of puerh drinkers and, at the time, many thought it was a bit overpriced.  What is most interesting to me is that the price of this tea has not increased 10X the initial price like some of the factory puerh from that time period (i.e. Douji, Chen Shang Hao, ect).  The price of Yang Qing Hao has only modestly gone up since that time.

The centralized supply management of Yang Qing Yao.  Another plausible reason there are many Yang Qing Hao cakes is that the market supply has been closely monitored and controlled by Mr. Yang.   I don't think he was selling this tea by the jian to warehouses and distributors and other vendors.  This really allowed for market control of the price, I suspect.

Export duties from Mainland China. I really don't know enough about this.  I wonder if this operation was on the Mainland would more of the inventory be long gone?

Large production size.  Sha8 had mentioned this before somewhere.  He suspects that Yang may have had access to giant swaths of tea gardens all to himself.  He also suspects that production numbers for these cakes are much higher than most boutique Puerh especially compared to the scale of production these days.

In the next few weeks and months I hope to explore the question of whether or not Yang Qing Hao is worth the money by posting notes on a few of these productions.  Even though there is tones written about Yang Qing Hao, I hope to try and add a new, fresh, personal perspective on these frequently reviewed puerh.  Please join me in this exercise as I meditate with Yang Qing Hao.


Friday, July 13, 2018

2018 Puerh Situation in the West So Far...

The 2018 puerh production started off with murmurings of even higher maocha prices than 2017 which really is no surprise at all.  What was really surprising is that we didn’t see the almost predictable vendor blog posts, tweets, or Instagram updates warning us of this dire situation.  I think it was way too obvious even for them to try to rattle the cage on this one.

A few Western facing vendors were out of the blocks quickly.  Crimson Lotus kicked things off with a release of a special Jade Rabbit blend of different areas and years which he unveiled with James of TeaDB.  Cody of theoolongdrunk also has a review of this unique puerh.  Seems like Crimson Lotus has gone the routeof mainly blends in 2018.  Bitterleaf dropped their whole 2018 Spring pressings real early.  Bitterleaf went back to one of their solid 2016 tea farms for their popular 2018 Secret Garden, they also offered some puerh from an area less Western vendors have been pressing lately, Lao Man E.  See Cody’s reviews of many of their productions and Cwyn’s look at the Lao Man E.

Essence of Tea has really been the talk of the puerh world this spring with so much news and very big change. They seemed to really steal the spotlight this spring with the announcement they will be moving their operations to Kunming (while continuing to store long term in their warehouse in Malaysia), they launched a new beautiful website, and will be accepting USD as a trading currency.  These are giant moves from one of the most popular puerh producers.  On top of that, they started up a new tea club that looks a lot like white2tea’s.  I think they learned that keeping it simple, fun, and educational is the way to go here for these tea clubs.  No doubt, it will have a very Essence of Tea feel to it though.

Another thing Essence of Tea started doing this year is offering pre-orders of their puerh.  This year many actually sold out.  Check out Thomas’review of one of the sold out preorder, this 2018 WuLiang Forest Garden.  You can sense from his review, lamentations of it selling out before he could even order more.  It’s a weird world we live in, a sign of the times, when some of the best puerh is completely sold out before anyone has had a chance to even taste or sample it!  I guess this is the new reality with puerh.  White2tea played around with this idea with the release of their Snoozefest tea on Black Friday.

 Yet another thing they will be doing is starting to de-list cakes, white2tea actually started this with two of their 2017 productions.  Again, a sign of the times.  By removing some of the product that they didn’t sell, vendors are increasing the feeling of exclusivity while removing options from the customer.  I really don’t like this as it creates an artificial feeling, a fear of missing out.  On the other hand, there will be others who will appreciate that the selection of teas in these vendors catalogues cleaner, less intimating, and easier to navigate.  For the case of Essence of Tea puerh, they will presumably benefit from being in the Maylasian storage vs the Kunming.  So I think that this is more of the reasoning here.  Personally, I think digging through the back catalogue of a vendor’s tea selection makes much more sense because of the rising price of maocha these days.  I think you can get almost 2-3x the quality for what you would pay for 2017 (probably 2018) puerh if you just go back 5 or so years.  I have been doing this lately.

Yunnan Sourcing is sitting on a majority of their 2018 cakes no doubt.  So far the 2018 wrapper design for their Yiwu release is one of my favorite from them ever.  Scotts dog is featured on this Year of the Dog, so meaningful to him no doubt- beautiful stuff.  No questions Scott will be releasing puerh from towns and areas we have not heard of, I’m excited to discover these new areas with his help.  He is a pro at going to more remote areas in hopes of keeping the prices of puerh low for us.  Of particular note, is that Scott continues to guarantee that all of this cakes are of the highest level of purity by testing all his pressings for pesticides each year.  This must not be cheap, but is a guarantee that I appreciate.  He is the only Western Vendor that currently does this with all his product.

It seems like white2tea is doing all they can to address some of the criticism they received lately.  There were some complaints that their catalogue of 2017 puerh was too massive to navigate (25 raw puerh) , considering they offer little in the way of meaningful descriptions.  So far they have released a much smaller catalogue this year (12 raw puerh) with much clearer, but still ambiguous, descriptions.  They seem to be following the idea that there are two categories of puerh buyers- the value buyer and the big spender.  They seem to offer a lot less of the middle price category.  They have also brought only 3 popular cakes back from the previous years.  Something to note is that they seem to be holding the same prices of the previous years on these cakes.

A vendor that I often fail to mention, Farmerleaf, has also released their 2018 for those into that, oh so fragrant and soft, Jingmai puerh.

I got to say that out of all of these so far, I almost did some Essence of Tea pre-order but managed to not purchase any 2018 yet.  Not easy to do these days.

Thank you vendors for putting all your love and qi into getting these wonderful puerh to us every year.  


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Longest Pending Order for the Best of Yibang: 2012 Tea Urchin Yibang Spring

I have a very interesting and long history with this 2012 Tea Urchin Yi Bang Spring, one of my favorite examples of the Yi Bang area and my favorite production from Tea Urchin from their early productions.…

I actually sampled this tea way back in 2013, five years ago.  I typed up detailed tasting notes for this tea as I usually do.  Actually, I completely forgot that I had done that.  Life got a bit crazy and I didn’t get to posting them.  I tend not to post on teas I am considering for purchase, until I have either ruled out the purchase out or until I actually buy them.  Otherwise, "the Blogger Effect" could leave me empty handed.

Upon my return to tea blogging, I went out to find teas I was interested in purchasing years ago.  I was surprised to find that this tea was still available.  I remember that I had really liked it, especially the qi was of note.  I waited a bit, long enough to piece together an order from Tea Urchin, and watch this tea slowly dwindle in numbers.  I ordered a sample in a recent order from Tea Urchin to see what I thought of this tea with 5 more years of dry Shanghai storage on it.  I had a similar “Wow” moment with this Yibang during the first session.  The second session was less exciting but still very nice.

Then something interesting happened…I accidentally did a search on my PC for something else and came across my original tasting notes on this tea.  This prompted me to search for a saved email conversation I was having with my puerh buddy in Victoria about the potential purchase years before.  I thought it would be interesting to share both my original notes, my email trail about the potential purchase 5 years ago, and my current notes, thoughts, and how I finally came to purchase a cake!

Go back to 2012/2013… I had sampled a lot of puerh tea pressed by western vendors between 2009-2012 but had actually purchased very very little.  This one stood out for me enough to consider a purchase at the time, which says a lot.  Here is my original tasting notes from early 2013, I think:
The dry leaves smell of a pungent, spicy-meat, savory odour with a contrasting undercurrent of creamy sweetness.

The first infusion is a foresty, savory-pungent almost menthol-like odour which pillows in the mouth.  There is a sweet bubble gum edge that lingers underneath and expands in the mouth.  These flavours expand and stay in the mouth even minutes later.  The mouthfeel is soft and creamy.

The second infusion is of layers of creamy pungent, savory-meaty foresty tastes.  The savory notes come first and are propped up by creamy, swelling fruit notes underneath. The mouthfeel is viscus, sticky, and full in the mouth.  The mouth can't help but water.

The third infusion takes more layered savory-foresty notes with that same expansive swelling of sweet tastes in the mouth.  The mouthfeel is full and reaches and opens the upper- and mid- throat.  The finish is a cool-sweet menthol in the mouth.  There is a candy-like sweetness even minutes later.  The qi is mellowing and soothing, it seems very light in the body.

The fourth infusion brings spicy-salty foresty-sweet notes the flavours seem more condensed now with a swell of creamy tastes emerging.  There is a bit of a mushroom taste in the mouth minutes later.

The fifth delivers distinctly sweet, expansive, tastes in the mouth.

In the sixth infusion has a strong, pure, layered sweetness with a light underlying bitterness.  The aftertaste is of sweet unripe plum.  It is long and sticks to the mouth.

The seventh infusion is much the same with heavy layers of sweetness prevailing.

The eight infusion becomes a touch bitter-tangy with a fruit edge but with most of the sweetness now diminished.

The ninth same as above ....

* That's probably why I didn't publish the notes- it looks like my session was preemptively interrupted*

Then here is the email trail between my tea drinking buddy and me as we consider a purchase:
Me- Have you ever tried any of the puerh from Tea Urchin? I have been drinking a sample of this:

It is the best puerh from Yi Bang that I have tried and I am thinking about getting a cake? They have a $20 flat rate shipping and was wondering if you are interested a getting anything from them? I might get some samples of their 2013 cakes as well? I'm still uneasy with the $100 price tag of these new puerh... but I guess that is the reality.

Let me know,
Tea Buddy- I like Tea Urchin teas...they are high quality. Count me in for two Yibang cakes...I trust your palate!
Me- It's a false alarm!

I sampled the Yi bang again and wasn't as enthusiastic about it so I decided to not order, sorry bud.  Haha The benefits of having enough for two pots eh?

I think I am going to hold off on an order.

Of note is my unease with the price of young sheng in 2013.

Recently I had another great session with a sample I ordered in my second order from Tea Urchin in late May 2018.  These notes are 5 years later than the notes above but with a sample that came from Tea Urchin's brilliant dry storage.  These are the notes of a particularily nice session with this tea…

Dry leaves smell of distant fresh floras and fruits with a light wildflower honey sweetness to them.

First infusion starts with a vacuous wood, rice cracker, and almost paper-like and faint wildflower nuance before turns into a very nice clear and crisp nice mentholy honey sweetness.  The cooling builds in the mouth it leaves a slight sticky taste in the mouth.  The stickiness is also felt on the lips and throat.  There is a faint lingering almost fruity and wildflower sweetness throught the whole profile of this tea.  This tea has a very pure essence to its taste.  The sticky mouthfeeling and throat feeling carries these high noted tastes in the mouth minutes later.

The second infusion has more woody initial taste with a more pronounced fruity start then transitions to a strong creamy and notiably menthol sweetness.  There is almost a crisp almost artificial tasting percing spearmint taste in the intial taste as well that is quite nice.  The mouthfeel is quite sticky and enjoyable and drags the flavours on minutes later.  The qi is very relaxing and makes the head feel heavy on the neck- it induces as sweat.  The qi of this tea is quite nice, it induces a strong happy feeling. 

The third infusion starts with a dry woody and spearmint onset.  These two taste create a nice polarity of depth- low and high notes.  The mint turns into a lingering sweet coolness there is a pronounced wildflower taste thoughout the profile.  There are notes of rice and grain but this taste is not a deep cereal taste but rather a light basmati rice or sticky rice taste. 

The fourth infusion delivers a very thick taste of very delicate flavours.  It starts with a thick creamy sticky sweetness with pronounced wood underneath.  The sweetness is a light, fresh floral wild honey.   The sweetness dominates the profile thoughout.  The mouthfeeling and throat feeling is nicely thick, sticky, astringent.   The mouthfeel is really nice here and the taste feel stuck to the lips and tongue and edges of the cheek.  This is very nice qi.

The fifth infusion sends out more pungent, sticky sweetness and lighter undertone of wood right off the bat.  The taste is dense but light.  The sweetness that returns is nuanced cotton and honey and floral.  The taste continues to build with each infusion becoming more structured and deep.  Overall the tastes are actually quite light and gentle.  The qi is strongly relaxing and makes me feel high.

The sixth infusion starts with that sticky sweetness that dominates the profile.  It ducks with wood undertones to rice and then to a long sweet floral honey taste.  The mouthfeel is profoundly sticky as is the throatfeel.

The seventh infusion woody shares with sweet. Sticky in the mouth.  The woody taste seems at an equal place as the sweet floral in this infusion.

The eighth starts with a juicier fruit taste there is a long woody intonation with a mild creamy sweet pungent taste in the aftertaste which crests and flows.  The sticky full mouthfeel remains.

The ninth develops more of a fruit sweetness initially then transitions with faint wood.  The returning sweetness has a berry-cherry taste.  The mouthfeel is less sticky but significantly so.  There is more of a cherry fruit vibe here.

I add 10 more seconds to the flash infusion in this slower pouring pot for the tenth infusion and it pushes the dry wood tastes to dominate the profile now.  The taste becomes more of a tart cherry taste.  The pungent sweetness has diminished now but is pushed to the aftertaste.

The eleventh infusion is much more of the same at 10 seconds added.  Things are less full but the balance is still there, the taste is still there.  The stickiness is more of a drier stickiness now.

The twelfth infusion is steeped for a good 30 seconds nice the flavours and feelings are less but the qi remains strong and the broth vibrant.  A banana, tropical fruit like taste lingers it the aftertaste.  The woodiness manages to give this tea depth throughout the session but never becomes too drying or over bearing.  I really like the qi of this tea- light airy, profound, happy, gentle its all in the head and a bit in the chest, the limbs feel so light.

I drank this one for another few good infusions.

Later that week, I had another session with this tea but, again, was not as impressed.  Could be this tea is just a touchy one.  Can’t believe that happened again.

Conclusion: I decided to add one 357g cake ($173.00 or $0.48/g) of this to my last order of Tea Urchin along with these remaining 2011 Lao Man E Spring samples.  It was a bit hard for me to get over the price of this one.  What sealed the deal was that the price of mediocre 2018 Yi bang will probably cost the same- maybe more.  At the present time there is only one cake left and a handful of samples.  I think its a very unique and interesting marketing strategy to show your inventory these days.  I personally appreciate the transparency.  Anyways, I recommend trying at least a sample of this for anyone who enjoys the Yibang puerh producing area.  It’s always a good idea to have a great example of an area or style for future reference, I think.  The ability for the average puerh drinker to do this is getting harder and harder with every passing year.

Jakub's (T) Tasting Notes

Steepster Tasting Notes


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Very Good Lao Man E: 2011 Tea Urchin Lao Man E Spring

Certain puerh producing areas have a certain character, feel, or qi to them.  Lao Man E is widely known for both its intense bitterness and its Qi sensations.  In the West, I feel like Tea Urchin played a big role in Lao Man E’s notoriety.  This tea was the very first offering of Lao Man E from Tea Urchin.  The vendor description is as follows...

When returning from my puerh buying hiatus, I found it quite interesting that there is no review or mention of this tea on the internet.  Just one blog post by discipleoftheleaf back in the spring of 2012 (link).  I guess this is understandable due to its rarity and high price at the time  of release($128.00? for a 357g cake).  Naturally the full cakes sold out quite quickly.  However, the site showed that there were nine 30g samples left for purchase at $16.50 for 30g ($0.55/g).

On Tea Urchin’s BlogI noticed that there is a picture of 12 of these pressed Spring Lao Man E cakes, but on the website it states that only 10 cakes will be sold.  I imagine that the 11th cake was broken into samples and the 12th is a prized possession of Eugene and Bell.  The rarity of such a production immediately lured me into a purchase of one of these with my very first order from Tea Unchin in early May 2018.

After receiving this sample, I really did sit on it for a little while, waiting for the perfect day to sample such a special tea. When choosing a puerh to drink on a given day I don’t do this haphazardly nor do I do it randomly.  I try to choose a tea which best harmonizes my energy.  Today, I choose this bitter Lao Man E…

In Traditional Chinese Medicine each flavor has an energy, a season, a direction, ect.  The flavor of the Heart is bitter.  The Season of the Heart is Summer.  The bitter taste is said to Drain (Heat) in the Heart.  The bitter flavor in general is both Heat Clearing and Damp Draining.  It is especially beneficial for draining Damp-Heat.

It just so happens that lately I have been slightly pulled out of balance by a case of too much Damp-Heat.  The abnormally hot and humid weather as of late has only made this imbalance more entrenched.  The weather today is hot and humid, above 30 Degrees C, the deep heavy lying dark clouds are pleading for a release in this close humidity.  I can’t think of a better time to heed the warnings of the over-the-top bitterness of this Lao Man E and just dive right on in…

Dry leaves smell of intense fruity with undertone of hay and woods and even raison/ grape.

First infusion has an intensely bitter initial taste with a nice buttery taste and a creamy almost fruit hay taste.  The mouthfeel and throat feel are slightly sticky and softly astringent.  This initial taste of butter and even slight raisin is strong and long lasting in the mouth.  The cha qi is intense very intense and pushes one into an immediate sweat.  The body feel is cloudy and light- the head floats away.

The second infusion has that intense initial bitterness. The aftertaste has a fruity faintly sweet, raison and butter rum taste.  Despite the bitter the mouthfeel is full and oily and not dry nor astringent.  The buttery rum and raison taste is stuck on the breath minutes later.  The mouthfeel and throat feel are sticky and gummy.

The third infusion shows maltier raison notes over an increasingly bitter initial taste.  The taste is not a simple taste but dense in some respects.  The bitterness doesn’t relent in the profile.  It slowly diffuses over the span of minutes.  The qi is big.

The fourth infusion the bitterness is getting more intense.  It is hard to imagine drinking this tea for the taste.  The flavours splash into the mouth even a fresh berry taste in the initial appears quickly.  It’s simply too bitter to enjoy yet the flavours are brilliant in here malty rums and raisons in a buttery sticky mouth and throat feel.  There is a mild cooling on the breath minutes later.

The fifth infusion is bitter bitter bitter and much the same… maybe more bitter.

The sixth is a touch more cohesive in taste the malty tastes come to getter nicely.  Strong qi.

The seventh infusion is again much of the same tastes but more together now.  Malty, buttery, rum and raisin, almost fruit, barely sweet- big qi.

The eighth infusion… finally the bitter is starting to back off to a more tolerable level.  There is a bright berry fruit taste in there briefly in the initial taste.  It has a malty raison buttery base taste.  The mouthfeel is sticky.  There is a mild cooling aftertaste with slight raison and faint berry.  The ninth is similar with a more raison and fruity notes emerging now.  There is a nutty taste left on breathe.

The tenth infusion is still at a flash infusion.  It presents as almost watermelon kind of mango like buttery sweetness initially.  The base taste is much less malty raison and more cooling in aftertaste now.  This tea is transforming.

The eleventh infusion starts off with a nutty buttery bitter taste then slowly transitions to raison.  There is dried fruit in the aftertaste as well as a distinct coolness now.  The tongue feels sticky and a little numb.  The throat is sticky and open.

The twelfth infusion has an almost fresh watermelon velvety buttery initial taste with a bitter that slowly builds then drops off.  It has a nice coolness on the breath.  The deeper, richer, maltier, nuttier deeper flavor profile is gone leaving a different taste to this tea.

The thirteenth infusion starts with a creamy buttery taste which turns into watermelon then into a cresting bitterness.  There is a coolness and barely sweet taste in the aftertaste.  The mouthfeel is sticky and nice.  An almost chewed out gum taste is left on the breath along with these tastes.

The fourteenth infusion starts with a fresh pop of fruit then trails into a bitter which crests into a returning not that sweet cooling feeling on the breath.  The aftertaste is like gum almost rubbery.

The fifteenth infusion is much the same but with a long nutty aftertaste.  There is an interplay of nutty tastes that seem to emerge in some infusions and not in others.

The sixteenth and seventeenth are quite nutty also with the higher fruit tastes disappearing and leaving a barely bitter and mainly nutty profile.  There is still a cool sweetness with nutty tastes in the aftertaste.  It is important to note that the taste is still quite full at this point with no signs of giving up.  The rubbery gum taste is gone and a pleasant nuttiness remains.

The eighteenth and nineteenth has a touch of watermelon again the nineteenth has this slight fresher fruit touch with a thicker nuttier taste.  This is a good tasting tea.  Still significant qi in there.  Significant sticky mouth feeling.

This tea has great stamina the twentieth is steeped a bit longer but the tastes are much the same just a bit more bitterness really, a bit more depth to the tea.  I long steep the 21st just for fun and a very strong, bitter brew with a strong cooling aftertaste is what happens.  Sweet high fruit, watermelon, lots of nuttiness.  I think this is hands down my favorite Lao Man E I have ever sampled.  I really enjoy the 10% wild leaf addition, it adds more interesting depth and pumps the qi up even higher.  This tea seems to last forever…

As the rain finally falls down… I am at peace…