Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Yunnan Sourcing & Exploring the Encyclopedic Depths of Puerh

There is only one thing, from the very beginning, infinitely bright and mysterious by nature.It was never born, and it never dies. It cannot be described or given a name.

Zen Master So Sahn

Old time puerh drinkers like me know the answer to this question is Yunnan Sourcing… hahaha….

The Good Ol’ Days & Keeping With the Times

No seriously though, even for someone who has been drinking puerh as long as I have, there was always Scott Wilson and Yunnan Sourcing and there still is and there probably always will be.  I just can’t imagine the Western puerh scene without Yunnan Sourcing and Scott.  To me, some of this is nostalgia, no doubt.

Throughout the many changes in the world of puerh tea over this time, I feel Scott and Yunnan Sourcing have remained authentic to themselves while changing with the times.  This is hard to do and they are the only one of these first online English puerh vendors that have done more than survive, but rather they have flourished.  This no doubt speaks to the genius who is Scott Wilson.

Over the years, Scott has opted to strongly empower the puerh drinker by being as transparent as possible with each product he sells and presses.  For years he would dump as much information as he possibly knows about each product on the website description.  Way back in the day some of these were direct translations of puerh factory descriptions that may not have always been completely truthful.  Scott has always put as much information out there as possible and left it to the drinker to decide.  Later when Yunnan Sourcing took to pressing its own Yunnan Sourcing Brand cakes, one of the first to do so, Scott took great pains to provide the customer with unprecedented information about regions, families, mountains, outputs, geographical locations, general qualities of the regions, specifics of organic testing, … the list goes on and on.  As a result Yunnan Sourcing has been instrumental at educating the Western puerh drinking public.

Yunnan Sourcing Aggressive Conventional Marketing

Over the years the Yunnan Sourcing online puerh shopping experience has also shifted from a decent size selection of factory puerh in its early days, to the encyclopedic experience of the overflowing and difficult to navigate old red and gold website.  I likened the old site to browsing an enormous library of puerh and puerh knowledge.  I don’t know when but sometime he opened a Yunnan Sourcing. US site based in the USA which offers those in the USA sometimes a cheaper option.  And some time thereabouts he opened Taiwan Sourcing, for oblong lovers.  The starkest change to the brand happening in 2017 with the closure of the old website and the opening of the handy new Shopify site.  No longer did we have to pour over hundreds of pages of puerh without the use of those handy Shopify filters. 

Over the years the marketing focus has also changed.  Scott’s marketing has been described by other bloggers as aggressive conventional marketing which I pretty much agree with.  It really has 5 elements to it...

The first is their website descriptions which I mentioned a little bit above.  They have also included teaser videos and increasingly professional staged photos as the years have gone by.  Another cool thing about the website is the popular review option which is used more than all the other Western puerh vendors combined.  The review allows you to get 5% off coupon.This really creates community within the umbrella of the massive website.

The second is extensive use of social media with a unique focus these days on You Tube videos.  I think Scott doesn’t use social media as good as other vendors but he really nails it with his You Tube videos.  I think Scott is a bit uneasy about aggressive social media.  The You Tube videos continue to get better, I think.  It also contrasts himself from other camera shy Western vendors.  Great Job!

The third is a pretty aggressive email marketing campaign including small print marketing.  This is totally optional as you can opt in and out as you please.  But many find this to be the most annoying out of Yunnan Sourcing’s marketing.

The fourth is the 13% off sale which over the last year has mainly shifted to 10% off.  On the plus, the much bigger Black Friday sale has shifted from 13% to 15% off last year as more weight has been shifted to the one big sale, I think.

The fifth is the loyalty points program.  This is my favorite marketing option.  The fact that you can let it really accumulate is awesome.  I got a $50 coupon I'm just itching to use...

All in all the marketing is pretty standard and transparent stuff.  Of course, the sales and discounts from loyalty points are built into the larger picture of the actual cost of the products.  I know lots of people don’t think about it that way, but these marketing strategies are pretty transparent just like the product it promotes.  Nothing too crazy or controversial here but definitely a multifaceted, sustained, and persistent marketing strategy.  The totality of it all is a lot.  The most interesting thing is how the competition, white2tea, almost has no overlap with its aggressive marketing style.

Yunnan Sourcing & Scott Wilson & Xiao Yao

I think the one part of Yunnan Sourcing that is a bit controversial is Scott Wilson the president and owner of Yunnan Sourcing.  I really think that he gives Yunnan Sourcing this larger than life and at times unrestrained quirky persona behind this more serious restrained look and branding.  I think this is what breathes a bit of life into the Yunnan Sourcing brand.  I always love when Scott says it like it is or speaks his mind even if it is not always the most appropriate thing to say or do.  In these moments he makes things feel more real and less scripted.  I feel like he gives the brand a human face, faults and all, and I respect the humanity in that and like the energy it brings to my shopping experience at Yunnan Sourcing.

I think of Scott Wilson as an eccentric librarian of this huge repository of puerh tea and puerh history and knowledge, like one I had once met in real life working as a librarian in an old library.  He has been in the puerh scene for so long and has such an established reputation.  He is almost like that one family member who sometimes says inappropriate things but whom we all know and love.  Plus Scott has kind of always been this way if you look back like 15 years ago (the big hair days) on some forms you can see him there.  I remember in the early days his insistence of the merits of Kunming dry storage and warning of the evils of wet stored puerh.  Hahahha…. That’s classic Scott! I know there are some out there that feel different than me, and I can respect that.  I also love the invaluable contrast/ counter balance that his partner Xiao Yao provides Yunnan Sourcing.  She adds to the rich depth of Yunnan Sourcing.  Personality aside, as far as business transaction of buying puerh, they sell volumes of puerh daily but I’ve never hear of any major problems.  That is always the way it’s been, and I can’t see it changing anytime soon.

I think another criticism of the Yunnan Sourcing brand is how intimidating and immense it is, for new puerh drinker and old alike.  They sell a lot of different puerh, for sure.  Scott doesn’t play games by taking things out of stock and putting them back at a later date.  I respect this super high level of transparency.  What you see is what you get and that level of trust is maybe the highest with puerh drinkers new and old alike.  He also doesn’t play favorites with his puerh, and demands that each is judged on its own merits despite all the information that he willingly supplies for each puerh.  This approach allows for a deep self-discovery of what puerh is to each unique individual without him dictating to the customer what they should consume.  Yunnan Sourcing uses a more traditional business model of selling puerh but that model seems to work good for Yunnan Sourcing and customer alike.  For the rookie customer and veteran alike, the overall experience at Yunnan Sourcing is an educational one, a journey, a self-discovery of puerh and of self.


2018 Yunnan Sourcing Xiao Shui Jing vs 2018 Yunnan Sourcing Long Tang Gu Shu

I ordered this in a large sample order last month.  It was one of two 2018 Yunnan Sourcing Brand Spring Jinggu area productions.  First let’s sample this 2019 Yunnan Sourcing Xiao Shui Jing which goes for $78.00 for400g cake or $0.20/g.

Dry leaves are very spicy and pungent with rainforest and sweet notes underlying.

First infusion starts creamy, smooth, vegetal, woody, and spicy.  The spicy flavours slowly emerge in the aftertaste where bready sweet notes reside and expand in the mouth.  There are mild tropical nuances on the breath… this will be an interesting session…

The second infusion has a sweet orchid taste to it initially then a chicken broth taste to it then there are dry woods, sweet breads, lots of mushroom notes and a faint fruity lingering sweetness in the aftertaste like melons.  The mouthfeeling is slight mildly velvety and sticky.  There is a lingering very mild cool pungent in the throat.

The third infusion has a thick feeling of mushroom and dry woods there is some bread sweetness, chicken broth, even floral taste.  The taste here is unique and with a lot going on.  The qi starts to come in and make the head heavy.  The mouthfeeling is chalky and slight sticky on the tongue.

The fourth starts with a thick broth of mushroom sweetness that pops into a very sweet fruit taste then moderate cool pungency then a nice creamy sweet finish.  There is some vegetal and woods that faintly lye in the mid profile.  The Qi has a stuffy feeling in the head.

The fifth infusion starts off with a mild quick bitterness, then a sweetness, mushrooms, creamy sweetnesses in the aftertaste.  There is lots of interesting and unique taste in here. Over a velvety, almost chalky mouthfeeling and vacuous opening throatfeeling that seems to carry a bit of pungent cool.

The sixth infusion starts moderately bitter then moves to a bright fruit and creamy sweetness then there is faint wood and vegetal then a moderate lingering pungency then long sweet taste. The thickness of the liquor in moderate thick and the mouthfeeling is a bit chalky.  The qi lingers in the head and mind.

The seventh infusion starts off with a moderate bitterness with fruit trailing behind.  The bitter and fruit pair walk together for a while before a mild pungent wave crests bringing a returning sweetness of wood, creamy fruit, and even a touch a faint pepper.  The mouthfeel is moderate and chalky.

The eighth infusion starts with a moderate bitterness paired with distinct fruity sweetness.  This infusion gets a touch sour and astringent in the finish which stimulates the mouth and throat.  There is a creamy sweetness and fruitiness and the bitter lingers throughout a bit more here.  There is a sweet creaminess that lingers on the breath.

The ninth infusion starts with a bitter sour note with distinct fruit and mushroom thickness undernieth.  The tastes are really bold and distinct here with the help of a moderate bitter and even sour nuance.  It gives the thicker broth of mushroom and pear fruit space to expand.

The tenth infusion has a juicy fruity onset now with woods and even fruity florals the bitterness is more in the background and a distinctly fruity note is throughout.  A bit of floral enters the picture here.  The mouthfeel is a slippery and a bit chalky feel to it.  The fruity sweetness is found even minutes later.  The Qi is pretty mild in this puerh mainly a slow to build in the head type of thing.

The 11th infusion has a nice orange, pear, and floral sweetness.  The fruitiness is robust and the mouthfeel is a sandy chalky type of thing.  The throatfeeling is empty but opening in the upper throat.  A cooling pungent lingers in the upper throat.  The Qi is relaxing.

The 12th infusion is a bitter bitter and sour but less now and mainly a long fruity pear tastes dominate.  The mouthfeel is really full, sticky, and chalky.  The qi is mild, and makes me feel content.

The 13th starts with a banana tropical fruit nuance and some faint wood.  There is a mild bitter and sandy mouthfeeling here.  The 14th is more tropical fruit again its sunny and enjoyable, if not a bit simple in taste, feel, and qi.

I steep this a few more times thinking that it is fading away but am proven wrong.  This puerh continues to hold on to juicy fruity tastes in a reasonably thick liquor in these late infusions.  I increase the steep times as the bitterness and astringency drops off and can really push the fruitiness out of these leaves quite nicely.

I eventually put this one into an overnight infusion and tons of fruity juicy and viscus taste is pushed out the next day so I put it into another overnight infusion… great stamina for these juicy fruity tastes for sure…

Overall, this puerh has enough going on as a single estate puerh to not make it boring, this is an above average Jinggu in taste, but on the other hand is not overly engaging especially in the Qi deparment either.  However, the Qi had a happy simple feeling to it.  Its mouthfeeling is enough and the taste profile and thickness of the liquor in the first handful of infusions is kind of interesting.  In the mid-session the flavor profile turns sweeter and less mushroom, foresty, spicy, chicken broth.  There is enough change throughout the session to make it an enjoyable Jinggu area puerh for the price.  The stamina and fact you can steep it longer than your average sheng is a big plus.  I think the biggest issue is I had this a day after the 2018 Yunnan Sourcing Long Tang Gu Shu

They are both Jinggu area and both similar price but that is all the similarities they seem to have with the 2018 Yunnan Sourcing Long Tang Gu Shu winning in all areas.  The one thing that this 2018 Xiao Shui Jing has over the Long Tang Gu Shu is its unique profile in the first handful of infusions which I really enjoyed.


Sunday, August 25, 2019

Sold Out Vibrant Jinggu: 2018 Yunnan Sourcing Long Tang Gu Shu

I rarely like to sample puerh that I can’t re-order but I was very curious about this 2018 Yunnan Sourcing Long Tang Gu Shu from Jinggu.  It used to sell for around $88.00 for 400g cake or $0.22/g, I believe, before it quickly sold out.  I purchased this 25g samplefor $8.90.

Dry leaves smell of creamy fruity floral nuance.  There is a bright vibrancy about the dry leaves.  The smell of the rinsed leaves are incredible a deep sweet bread odour.

The first infusion starts with a creamy, velvety sweetness.  This tea is very sweet.  The sweet taste is a pastry or cake or sweet bread kind of sweetness that stretches out on the breath.  There is some mild vegitialness there as well.  The mouthfeel is sticky in the mouth.  There is a faint pungent taste then long bready like sweetness.  The flavours are amazingly bright and clear.

The second infusion starts very creamy bready sweet with a more nuanced vegitalness underneath.  The sweet taste is very distinct and very long throughtout the profile.  The liquor is pretty thick in the mouth.  The mouthfeel is sticky and the throat has a noticeably cooling to it.  There is just a mild astringency in the finish.  The lips are dry.  I can feel the Qi in my body even in the first infusion.  It kind of feels like a lump in my diaphragm and feels like my neck needs to be cracked.

The third has a bread and almost cinnamon raison like sweetness to it.  The mouthfeel is sticky and stimulating.  The vegitalness comes on strong following the sweetness.  The astringency is fairly strong creating a strong puckering effect in the throat and strongly stimulating the mouth.  The Qi is felt in the Stomach, diaphragm and chest.  There is a finish of sweet bread and melon.  The raw puerh energy beats at my empty stomach pretty good here.

The fourth infusion starts with a bready sweet onset there is a vegetalness and even now a slight woodiness in there too.  The mouthfeel and throatfeeling is very gripping and stimulating.  The mind begins to relax as the Heart beats stronger.  There is a long bread sweet with melon taste in the aftertaste.  The taste profile is not complex but strong and clea but the stimulation in the mouth is quite strong.

The fifth infusion has an almost tart cherry note that comes and leaves quickly leaving bread sweetness in the mouth.  There is a very faint pungent then an almost bland milk taste then creamy bread sweetness and melon.  The liquor is less thick here but the mouthfeel and throat feel is strong.  Different taste nuances are pushed out.  The Qi in the body and mind are of mild-moderate intensity in the body and mild intensity in the mind.  The result is making me feel like popping my joints but also a tiny bit restless.

The sixth starts a touch cherry fruit and then bread sweetness then some vegetal and woodiness but mainly sweetness.  The mouthfeeling is strong.  This is a solid mouthfeeler puer for the price.  I like this dimension of this puerh.  The aftertaste is more cherry tart fruit sweetness and melon now and less bread.

The seventh has a buttery floral onset with some faint fruit in there and much less bread sweetness.  There is a more bland and slick mouthfeeling with a sandier drier residue now.  This infusion is more fruity but not overly so.  The aftertaste is starting to become more muted.

The eighth infusion starts with a juicy cherry burst then slight vegetal transitions to bread sweetnesses after a faint pungent quality.  The aftertaste is more muted and more vegetal mixed with faint fruit and faint bread.

The ninth infusion has an almost bitter sour fruity quick burst then it descends into vegetal then mild pungency then tart fruits, slight melon, and bread.  The astringent and sticky mouth feeling starts to build up again.  The Qi is relaxing in the mind and slightly vigorous in the body.  The heart beats stronger.  Qi is starting to build and strengthen in the mind making it peaceful.  It takes a bit to build definitely more of a moderate-stronger relaxing feeling now.  Sweet fruit taste on the breath minutes later.  Very nice strong relaxing Qi now.  I like this.

The tenth lets this very nice clear fresh tropical fruit note ring out.  There is a nuance of cherry and banana.  The fruit nuance plays into the aftertaste.  It is long and taste.  The mouthfeel is slippery and full.  I feel warm from the Qi, nice Qi.

The eleventh infusion has this nice bright tropical fruit nuance to it as well.  The sweetness here is of cherries, banana, tropical and energetic.  It is long in the aftertaste, very delicious.

The 12th has a strong tropical fruit taste.  The Qi really builds slowly in the session but it also is really pronounced relaxing now.  There hasn’t been much body sensations here but the breath is definitely slow.  Really long lasting even 10, 20 minutes later tropical sweet fruit taste.  This puerh is very clear and unmuddled flavours.   Nice relaxing Qi.

13th starts with a slight quick moving bitter then bright tropical fruit taste the taste seems to compound in the mouth after the mild pungent return and lingers long on the breath.  The taste is strong, clear, tasty, long.  The mouthfeel is less stimulating but not empty, I feel an opening in the mid throat where mild cool pungency lingers.  The tropical fruit vibrancy is really nice.  The mind relaxes.

14th is oh, man. This fruitiness, pure and clear is really really nice tastes.  Just long and intense delicious fruits.  Very long.  The mouthfeel and throatfeeling are not as stimulating now but that taste almost turns bubble gum, very intense fruity, this is a real delicious puerh.

15th lots and lots of bright fruity flavor.  It feels like there isn’t anything but fruity sweet taste but the taste is so vibrant and full in a weird way.  The mouthfeeling and throatfeeling suppor this clear vibrant note that kind of morphs into various fruit tastes in the mouth.  A distinct candy taste is developing in the mouth.  Qi is kind of energizing and the heart beats strong.  This Qi is nice.  Really nice puerh.

16th, 17th, 18th very bright fruit in a session with great stamina in maintaining these bright tastes.  The taste changes very little in these past 8 infusions.  What’s not to love though?  Long sweet full fruity flavours pure and strong and independent.  There is a bit of creamy candy sweetness long on the breath.  The sweetness is quite long even in these late infusions.

19th, 20th, 21st lots of stamina of fruity taste.  The mouthfeel drops off a bit so it is not as deep or long but past 20 steeps… great stamina.

Oh man, this is a good one for the price… It has a certain vibrancy to it that really makes it shine.  It has a nice engaging throat and moutfeeling and better than average qi sensations.  I think it might have been hard for me to pass this one up for the price it was offered, even though it is not typically the type of puerh I buy in quantity.  For people who like to drink their sheng puerh fresh, this one is really nice and might age decent as well.  I haven’t had a Jinggu with the vibrancy of this puerh yet.  It has great stamina and overall is quite enjoyable. 

This almost really tastes like a Yiwu to me in its style of sweetness however the vegitaliness reminds me that this is of Jinggu origin.  I think I might have blind guessed this to be Manzhuan it has suggestions of this not quite but I can see it, which I’ve recently sampled from.

Good job those out there that picked this one up, it defiantly punches higher than its price tag.


Sunday, August 18, 2019

2019 Spring Puerh Releases (Part 2)… They’re All Out…

There was something simplistic and brilliant and meaningful about the way the Essence of Tea dropped their whole 2019 Springtime puerh line up…. First they almost completely removed themselves from the cycles of endless, shameless, and tireless social media marketing.  It was to the point that there was lots of underground hype as to what exactly, if anything, would be released this year from the Essence of Tea.

Then, in the middle of August, when all other vendors had released their line ups in full, they drop just a single cake named “2019 Boundless Ancient tree puerh”.  The description goes on to brilliantly describe an ancient tree production from an undisclosed location.  What a name… Boundless what?... from what?  From that which binds us?... Meditate a bit on that one…

Yunnan Sourcing’s 2019 line up is revealing a bold new direction, I’ll congratulate them in advance for this feat.  Over the last few weeks Yunnan Sourcing has been trickling out their always super extensive puerh line ups but this year there is a different feeling to the puerh, for sure.  More than in years past there is some tangible excitement brewing.  After the Yiwus came the Bang Dongs with over the top cute wrappers of little pigs in each step of puerh production.  Something super interesting that Yunnan Sourcing is doing this year is doing these area blends.  They are the only Western puerh vendor big enough and transparent enough to do these things and they probably know it.  The 2019 Yunnan Sourcing Bang Dong Impression blended cake offers puerh drinkers complete transparency as to which areas of Bang Dong were blended into which proportions.  This is unprecedented in a Western puerh blend so far and a super interesting statement on transparency in the puerh industry, I believe.

After the Bang Dongs came the premium single village shu puerh productions Bu Lang, He Kai, Ba Da, Lao Man E and then a few preimium shu blends An Xiang, Ba Wang. Scott and Xiao Yao are really going in an interesting place with these shu puerh productions. This is going to be a really interesting year for shu thanks to this release. A Wild tea blend, huang pian blend, it just keeps coming.  Scott and Xiao Yao really cover all the bases…

Then they dropped their line of Jinggu puerh which includes an old arbour blend called He Xie.  There is a mix of areas they have been producing from for years, some new areas, and some favorites from 2018 that sold out quick like the Long Tang Gu and Ai Lao Secret Garden.  Yunnan Sourcing is well known for its very tasty yet affordable Jinggu line up and this year won’t disappoint.  They just recently dropped their Mengku/ Lincang line up which includes some new areas close to the famous Bing Dao which don’t include Nan Po Zhai.  Personally, I’m really excited about these Mengku productions (I think the Mengku sunglasses pig wrappers are my favorite out of the bunch).

Quite possibly the most exciting part of Yunnan Sourcing’s spring line up, something that is generating a ton of hype, is their more premium sheng blends and their greater focus on Menghai area.  I’m talking about their premium 2019 Yunnan Sourcing ”Spring Impression” blend, 2019 Yunnan Sourcing “XY Blend”, 2019 Yunnan Sourcing Pasha, and 2019 Yunnan Sourcing “Bu Lang Secret Garden”.  This is, no doubt, a challenge to white2tea’s brand which is mainly known for these type of productions.  So not only has Scott and Yunnan Sourcing verbally challenged white2tea, but they have introduced a Spring 2019 line up which also directly challenges white2tea with a competitive product…

white2tea responded to both Yunnan Sourcing’s verbal take down and product challenge by themselves stepping up their game big time….

Frist, in classic white2tea fashion, Paul releases his third diss wrapper to date, the 2019 white2tea Budget Bitter.  The name and wrapper is a clear dis to Scott of Yunnan Sourcing and addresses his comment that white2tea markup their puerh higher than other vendors and the controversy surrounding his comments.  I think the meaning of this one flew over a lot of people’s heads which made me chuckle even more.  Brilliant.  If anyone out there things they can pull a fast one on Paul, they should think again (trust me, I know)…. Hahahhah

The Budget Bitter was released in the second and final wave of Spring 2019 sheng puerh releases that dropped with a promotional email that, to me, seemed a bit unhinged.  It was kind of all over the map and came off a bit crazy to me…. But here we are… the western puerh world is pretty crazy…  Paul’s promotional emails alone have become a bit of an attraction in and of themselves.  This latest one which was sent out July 5th uses a bit of self-deprecating humor by poking fun at the marketing format of these promotional emails.  The last part makes fun of the fact that white2tea never offers a sale but often calls his promotion a "sale".  The tone of this email is a response to criticism of white2tea’s aggressive marking style.

As for the releases themselves, white2tea released: 3 limited pressings 2019 white2tea Budget Bitter (100 cakes), 2019 white2tea Gold8 (100 cakes), and 2019 white2tea Road2Nowhere (30 cakes), some white tea and black tea cakes, and a limited edition “Yes” tea ware.  The 2019 white2tea Road 2 Nowhere cake was reviewed here by Cywn N.  A few people commented that they were quite surprised that it took so long to sell out.  I think it speaks to buyers fatigue (there is only a certain amount of puerh someone can consume), marketing fatigue (if too many things are limited the effect wears off), and simply releasing it in the Summer when people tend to pay less attention (think it caught some off guard).  I had a chance to purchase but took a pass on it for the above reasons, because the marketing rubbed me the wrong way, and because I just purchased up a cake that I determined is of better value with a similar description.  I am actually most interested in the 2019 white2tea Undercover, a blend of sealed maocha from 2014.  Great job TwoDog on keeping things interesting this 2019 Spring.

I think the second way white2tea is coming to the challenge of a more competitive Yunnan Sourcing is releasing some pretty amazing puerh this Spring.  I sampled the 2019 white2tea Dangerfield soon as it came out and it was pretty much as described as a poor mans Naka.  When I think about it I am still amazed how much the tasting notes resemble another famous Naka from years before.  I also purchased the 2019 white2tea Is A Gift, another super great offering.  I have had a chance to sample this a few more times and after comparison tasting my entire slate of Yibang cakes I came to a similar conclusion around the same time as Shah8.  This is most likely a very good Yibang (which was one of the hypothesis I was going on after my first taste of it).  Nothing screams “competitive spirit” like the release of high quality product that’s for sure.

I feel bad (because I did the same thing last year) by completely forgetting to mention the first Western puerh vendor to release in the spring, Farmerleaf.  Farmerleaf specializes in Jingmai puerh but the last few years this 2019 Farmerleaf Ao Ne Me cake has been quick to sell out and very popular.  The Weekend Sessions reviewed a sample and noted that they are doing a second pressing this year (very cleaver marketing here).  He also reviewed their 2019 Farmerleaf Jingmai Miyun a local blended cake.  I have never tried Farmerleaf but enjoy their branding and marketing from afar.  One of these days…

Speaking of Western puerh vendors that I’ve never tried but are very very popular… I’d also like to send my love and good energy to Crimson Lotus and Bitterleaf Teas.

Bitterleaf Teas released their 2019 Spring line up around the time of my last report.  Something I really like is there Try’Em All 2019 Puerh Set where you can sample their whole line up for $55.00… it begs the question, Why haven’t I?  Cody of theoolongdrunk blog reviewed the 2019 Bitterleaf Teas Big Old Ass Tree Hekai, a new offering this year.  They were brilliant in striking something that was lacking in the Westren puerh market last year with their focus on Lao Man E puerh.  White2tea has released a bunch this year as competition.  Sometimes I think Bitterleaf Tea and white2tea probably vie for a similar demographic with their Instagram and social media heavy marketing.  This year they have released 2019 BitterleafTeas All of ‘Em single region Huang Pian set as well as individuals.  They feature a removable postcard on the wrapper- very cool!  This again is very white2tea, they totally beat them to the punch again.  Very forward thinking from the folks at Bitterleaf Teas!

Crimson Lotus Tea was one of the last to release their 2019 Spring puerh line up.  They dropped a 2019 Crimson Lotus Yiwu Guoyoulin, 2019 Crimson Lotus Lao Man E Blend, 2019 Crimson Lotus Danger Zone (Hekai), and some maocha area samples.  The most exciting has to be their 2 Spacegirl blends (Cosima and Fiest) that follow up their very popular and quick to sell out 2016 Crimson Lotus Space Girls brick!  Their line up competes with similar cakes from Bitterleaf Teas and blends from white2tea.

Another vendor that I sometimes forget to mention is  I had a chance to try most of their 2013 line up and would have purchased the Naka cake had it not sold out.  They don’t press much and their stuff sells out quick.  They aim for higher end gushu type things and with the Essence of Tea only pressing a cake this year, I imagine their stock will sell out pretty quick.  They also do a sample set which is probably the way most go when buying puerh of this caliber.  Their 2019 line up consists of Huazhu, Naka, Bakanan, Mansa, Lao Mansa, Mannuo, Mannong (Rareness4), and YiwuGuoyuolin (Rareness5).  Sounds like beautiful stuff as I have come to expect from  Cody from theoolongdrunk reviewed two Mansas!

I just wanted to also put a shout out to two Western vendors who don’t press their own puerh but feature famous Chinese vendors which also released some 2019 puerh. Teas We Like brought in 2019 Bi Yun Hao Lishan Gongcha, 2019 Bi Yun Hao Mansong, and 2019 Bi Yun Hao Yiwu.  I believe Marco is a fan of these young puerh from Bi Yun Hao.  Tea Encounter brought in 5 Zheng Si Long cakes last month.  The lineup closely matches their 2018 line up with Ge Deng, Ma Hei, Mang Zhi, Yi Shan Mo, and back by popular demand a Wa Long.  The 2019 Zheng Si Long Ge Deng has sold out their initial order- likely people jumping on the fact that the Zheng Si Long Ge Dengs have been getting progressively better, year after year and selling out quickly.  The site claims that more are on their way.  The 2019 Zheng Si Long Wa Long is following up their popular 2015 pressing from this area.

All this going on in the puerh world and I keep thinking about that single 2019 the Essence of Tea Boundless….

Boundless what?...

Bound to what?....

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

2016 Yunnan Sourcing Bing Dao Lao Zhai … A Premium Offering…

This puerh goes for $298.00 for 400g cake or $0.75/g.  This was my 3rd favorite sheng I sampled out of a handful of Yunnan Sourcing Brand samples I purchased a month ago…

Dry leaves smell of mild dry wood, faint sweet almost tropical and sugar.   The dry leaf odour is very generic sheng type of smell.  With a slight lingering wild floral nuance.

The first infusion has a nice candy like onset, some mineral, almost evergreen, a slipper mouthfeeling then an elegant entry into a long mild cool candy finish.  There is a mild stickiness on the lips and throat.  A long mild cooling candy taste is left in the mouth.

The second infusion has a mild astringent woody onset that is kind of a mix of dry wood, evergreen, pungency and sweetness but it is not overly deep.  This taste hits a mild-moderate cool pungency then a returning candy sweetness and mild almost tropical fruit sweetness glides under a woody almost mineral base.  The mouthfeel remains quite sticky and the throat has a mid-upper opening sensation.

The third infusion has a sticky onset of dry wood, mineral, and floral, it is not really sweet until the mild cool pungency hits then it rides that out into a candy, almost tropical and almost floral sweetness over a dry woody base.  There is a smooth elegance about the way these flavours present themselves.  None is overpowering or strong.  Still not much Qi coming out yet a bit of chest stuffiness, some mild lightness of the head.  There is a slight astringency around the edges that my empty stomach takes not of.

The fourth infusion starts with a mild almost juicy fruit taste mixed with mild bitter wood.  The juiciness is surprising and long and interfaces with woody, almost mineral and grassy notes.  There is a moderate coolness in the mouth then an almost faint candy and wildflower slight juicy fruit nuance to end.  The mouthfeel is sticky with lip drying effects.  There is a low lying astringency typical of Mengku area.

The fifth infusion starts with a quick burst of cooling fruity sweetness that is very satisfying and stretches across the profile.  This is some typical Bing Dao taste profile that is prized coming out in the 5th infusion here.  The sweetness compounds as the pungency peaks and then rolls out like a wave in the distance.  Nice.  The mouthfeel is sticky and moderately full the throat opens to a mid-level deepness. The Qi is a relaxing thing.

The sixth infusion has a creamy sweet pungent onset which stretches throughout the profile.  There are faint suggestions of dry wood or even forest or dry grass underneath but mainly its this typical profile playing out.  I wouldn’t say the flavours are overly complex or strong but rather elegant. The astringency is mild underthe whole profile.  The mouthfeeling is sticky and almost puckering astringent.  The Qi is relaxing and I can feel the tops of my shoulders slightly heavy.

The seventh infusion starts with a quick bitter, floral sweet creamy, almost pungent taste.  It has an almost dry wood, almost slippery rock like taste that crests with a touch of pungency then the sweet fruit floral expands on the breath. 

The eighth is that fruity buttery floral sweet quick pungent mild bitterness that stretches into the aftertaste there are some mango taste and some other tropical nuances that extend in the aftertaste.  This is a real pure almost elegant puerh.  The mouthfeel is an almost sticky, velvet, barely astringent type of thing that is overall quite mild but somehow carries the flavor nicely.  The Qi is mild and relaxing.

The ninth infusion has the quick pop of deliciousness of juicy fruity mango, slight floral, nice coolness, the sweetness feels so grounded in the taste and balanced nicely with a sticky mouthfeeling.  The pungent quities don’t ever overtake the sweet taste but somehow give it depth and nuance.  The sweet aftertaste is nice and long.  This is a really classy tasting puerh with no negative or distracting flavours and results in a very satisfying long sweet taste that seems nuanced but not overly complex.  The Qi is a mild lingering in the mind relaxed type of Qi.  A harmoniously calming type of thing going on here.

The 10th is a nice juicy pungent with an underlying coolness that gently supports a floral candy like mango sweetness.  The sweet pungent taste feels full and satisfying on a sticky mouthfeel and mid-deep opening throat.  The taste is reasonably long and slowly trails on the breath.  This has to be one of the better tasting puerh I have sampled over the last few years.  The taste is just really delicious and harmonious.

11th has this pungent, sweet fruity mango, buttery clear sweet candy quick on the mouth taste that stretches out in the mouth and throat.  Qi is quite calming in nature the body feels a bit light.

12th has a bit more dry woodiness up front detracting to the last 6 really pure and elegant infusions.  It is not as prominent as the pungent fruity candy sweet taste which still dominates the session.  The mouthfeel is cottony and fluffy in the mouth.

13th is more dry wood and almost grainy tasting initially which is now stronger than the sweet high-noted pungency.  An interesting citrus taste appears minutes later.

The 14th infusion is back to having that really delicious, creamy, buttery, pungent, juicy fruit bunched up note trailing throughout.  One thing of note is how stable this taste is across the session.  Maybe a bit monotonous but the monotony is glorious and yummy.  The Qi continues to be relaxing and clam.  Peachy mango tastes appear minutes later.  This taste evolves into a citrus taste.

The 15th is a bit drier woody and astringent than juicy fruity.  There seems to be more of a candy like aftertaste when the woody astringency is more dominant.  The candy sweetness is long.  This puerh has a nice harmony to it.

16th is more woody dryness astringency now which overtake the highnoted subtlety of the early infusions.

The 17th has a more mellow fruitiness to it almost a melon taste in there now but mainly woody.  A faint buttery floral nuance and some faint candy on the breath.

I push the 18th infusion for a minute a get a more bitter woodier but also fruitier infusion.  There is a stickiness that is left in the mouth.

I put this one into a day’s long infusion and am completely blown away but the result of vibrant creamy fruits, a dense explosion of tropical tastes layered on creamy tastes, slight vegetal and cooling underneath.  This is a real tasty puerh.

I don’t think I would have guessed this to be Bing Dao even though it has an obvious character from this area.  Very good tasting sheng puerh with a taste that is stable thoughout.  The session is not super powerful not outlandish Qi but a nice overall feel to it.  The taste profile has a delicious elegance to it. 

Who said Yunnan Sourcing was a budget vendor… ???... hahahah….


Monday, August 12, 2019

2018 Yunnan Sourcing Autumn Ai Lao Secret Garden vs 2018 Yunnan Sourcing Autumn Nan Po Zhai

Shhh… don’t tell… it’s a secret… wait a minute… Yunnan Sourcing doesn’t keep things secret… limited… promotional video You Tube… quickly sold out of the 2018 Spring Ai Lao Secret Garden ….

This puerh sells for $88.00 for 400g cake or $0.22/g but was kindly gifted to me (Blogger premium) for review when I purchased a large amount of samples a month ago.  Thanks Scott for this interesting one…

Dry smell of creamy sweetness and layers of sweetness underneath with a lingering pungency.

First infusion is of a mellow fruity taste that is slow to evolve in the mouth but increasingly ratchets up in to an expanding mouthfeel of honey, potato, a mellow fruits, there is a deep slow lingering pungent and subtle candy finish.  The mouthfeel and throatfeel are full and come in like a wave.  This puerh is like a soft sunrise… and this is only the first infusion…

The second starts almost spicy and woody with a long slow evolving taste.  The mouthfeeling is really full and cottony but yet astringent.  There is taste of potato, some fruit, slow wave of underlying pungency, candy finish.  The throatfeeling pushes the saliva into the mid throat trapping it there with deep tastes.

The third infusion starts with a very thick cottony mouthfeel with a certain astringency to it.  There is a mellow fruity taste with intense returning creamy sweetness.  The stimulation in the mouth is quite strong and very stimulating.  There are notes of pumpkin, potato, woodiness, a fruitiness familiar to Ai Lao but that I can’t seem to explain.  The Qi is mellow and a bit relaxing in the mind.  The mouthfeel is a wonderfully intense experience.  There is a bit of astringency more than bitterness. The Qi is making me feel silly, and lax and a bit giddy.  I also feel a touch restless.  The astringency is felt on my empty stomach.  These early infusions show the signs of some space in the taste profile typical of Ai Lao but the intensity of the mouthfeel and interesting slow moving evolving taste give it a different kind of complexity.

The fourth infusion starts with a thick juicy fruit taste which crests with a mild pungency then a distinct creamy sweet then the complexity of woody, pumpkin, sweet fruits, play in mouth.  The mouthfeel is really a beautiful thing here.  Very engaging and involved deep mid throat.  Interestingly, not as much on the breath minutes later though.

The 5th start is a woody almost fruity thing then it dives into a distinctly sweet caramel returning sweetness.  There is some creamy sweet tastes that reveal themselves as the caramel receives, then there is a fruitiness then woody and bitter astringency, and more sweetness.  This has a long and engaging finish but minutes later is a touch rubbery on the mouth.  The mouthfeel is very thick and stimulating and focuses most of its energy on the throat.

The sixth infusion starts strong caramel sweetness pungency, mellow fruity orange taste, woody, astringent, slight bitter, fruity again.  The flavours come on strong and thick but take turns in the stimulating mouthfeeling.

The seventh infusion comes on quick with a thick orangey fruit soup with a returning sweetness of creamy sweet then potato, woody, fruity juicy tastes in a stimulating cotton thick mouthfeel. 

The eighth infusion starts thick orangey fruit, slight wood, faint pungent with a creamy returning sweetness.  The mouthfeel is less intense but still moderately thick.  The orange fruit taste lingers in the mouth.

The ninth starts with an interesting mix of pungency slight coolness and orange peachy fruitiness.  The taste evolves in the mouth and a quick returning sweetness delivers a creamy sweet, then long peachy orange notes.  The Qi is mild to moderate and makes me feel slightly relaxed and a bit giddy and physically restless.

The tenth infusion has a quick bitterness which turns into a mellow mild buttery orange fruit taste.  The orangey peachy sweetness lingers on.  The taste is less vibrant and intense here.

The 11th infusion has a bitter orange fruit start with a faint pungent which marks a small bump in the fruity taste.  The mouthfeel is drier here but maybe less astringent.  The Qi has a mellowing effect on my thoughts.  It also has a happy vibe to it.

The 12th infusion starts mild bitter then fruit than faint pungent then more orange then slight drying in mouth.  The throat feeling is slightly constricted here.

The 13th starts off bitter and quickly moves away to a smooth faint fruity slight woody orange fruit feeling. The mouthfeel is stickier and throat a bit lighter sticky here.  The Qi is mild, light, and happy.

The 14th infusion starts off a bit fruity and a bit bitter then goes orange and almost bitter orangy finish.  This puerh looses its finesse in these later infusions but the orange taste is kind of unique and interesting in and of itself.

15th starts a touch sour/bitter with mellow orange and slight peach underneath.  There is an almost unnoticeable coolness with bitter dry finish.

16th and 17th have a bitter sour onset with woody and orange tastes.  There is a dry scratchiness in the throat here and a muted orange aftertaste is noted.  I put this one into long infusions from here…

This Ai Lao is probably the best I’ve tired pegged with the name “Ai Lao” admittedly I only tired a handful from this region.  I understand that this producing region covers a very very large area so there is bound to be lots of variability here.  This Ai Lao has some characteristics that are typically Ai Lao which are a juicy fruity feeling and a more spacious taste profile.  Conversely these are also some characteristics I peg in a typical Autumnal puerh productions.  Its flaw is just the fact that it is Ai Lao, nothing more.  It’s slow evolving taste profile and strong engaging mouthfeeling and especially throat feeling in the early and mid session are real nice and make this puerh a nice treat.  The Qi is mild-moderate and relaxing in nature.  In later infusions they develop a tight dryness when the pot is packed as full as I did with this session. I’m not a big fan the dry throat but that will probably age out in time or can be steeped around.

To compare to the 2018 Yunnan Sourcing Autumn Nan Po Zhai this one is very very different in almost every way.  The strength of the Ai Lao is the long thick slow to evolve flavors of each sip.  The strength of the Nan Po Zhai is the mind melting and body busting Qi.  The weakness of the Nan Po Zhai is the strength of the flavor.  The weakness of the Ai Lao is that its dry scratchy throatfeel if over brewed or leafed heavy.  Overall, both nice Autumnal productions are unique and interesting to drink.  To lob another 2018 interesting Autumnal puerh in to the mix, I would say the 2018 white2tea Snoozefest is also pretty interesting to drink for its price but it is a bit cheaper and not quite as much going on as these.


Saturday, August 10, 2019

Highly Recommend This Bargain Bodyfeeler: 2018 Yunnan Sourcing Autumn Nan Po Zhai

I am writing up this post in haste in an attempt to get it out so readers can have a crack at getting this very good puerh at the lowest price possible…

It is in my opinion an extraordinary example of very clean single estate puerh with very powerful Qi sensation but particularly intense bodyfeel.  This type of bodyfeel and Qi sensation is rarely, if at all, found in a puerh with such a low price.  This 2018 Yunnan Sourcing Autumn Nan Po Zhai goes for $72.00 for 400g cake or $0.18/g.  Scott is going to raise the price of this one another 15% in his annual price increase in about a month and this weekend (5 day sale) there is a 10% off Yunnan Sourcing Raw puerh sale with the checkout code RAW10 .  Waiting till Black Friday isn't going to get you more of a deal on this one and as soon as the word gets out on this one it will be sold out even before the sale.  This is an extraordinary chance for beginner or veteran to get something with the profile and bodyfeel that is often sold for 4X this price from other vendors without even being as intense…

Let’s see why I hit this one hard with a hammer…

The dry leaves smell of very very intense minty pungency with a deep foresty sweetness.  It has an intense floral quality to it as well.  The dry leaf smell is the one you keep going back to the sample back to huff- very deep and aromatic.

The first infusion delivers a strong unnami and saline burst right off the bat.  I’m left distracted trying to think of a puerh that I’ve ever tried that was more savory…. There is a woody depth to this tea and strong minty pungent taste then long sweet with fresh cut floral smell.  The aftertaste is long and candy like.  The mouthfeeling is very quick thick and coating on the tongue and mouth.

The second infusion delivers more very salty and savory unnami.  The onset tastes like salted yarrow chips.  The mouthfeeling is very very thick and coating and the throatfeeling is deep.  This is a very strong autumnal production.  The Qi is starting to float the head and make me happy.  A long floral sweetness follows.  There is a calming and heavy body sensation that is immediately apparent.

The third infusion has an intense minty pungent and savory onset.  The mouthfeeling is really strong and intense with a deep throat feeling.  This is quite powerful.  There is some strong underlying bitterness on the tongue and astringency in the throat.  Long floral taste remains.  This puerh has a strong presentation of all 5 flavours: Salty, Sour, bitter, Bland, and Pungent tastes.  The most prominent being the Salty.  Very interesting and powerful puerh.  The body feeling is quite strong and I space out and float.

The four starts like a very dense salty saltine like sweetness with bitter and sour mixed in.  The sweet taste comes after a cool returning sweetness and brings a distinct taste of flowers and long candy on the breath.  The mouthfeel is very thick very strong and goes into the deepest to deep mid throat.  The head floats and the body has almost a shiver to it.

The fifth infusion starts with a very thick liquor of moderate to strong bitterness, strong intense saline and salty yarrow chips and layers of woods underneath.  The taste presentation is very dense and strong and thick.  The body feel is intense, with an unusual heaviness with arms floating and dangling.  The Qi pushes my mind far into a creatively opening spacy, very intense and wonderful.

The sixth infusion is smoother, almost finishes buttery and floral sweet.  The thick minty and salty saline tastes emerge first.  I let it sit a few minutes before drinking and it’s a bit less bitter.  The bitterness here is never off putting but is moderately strong.

The seventh is sweeter throughout again but it starts more bitter which stretches throughout the infusion the mouthfeel is strong and a long buttery aftertaste is found that turns to candy on the breath.  There is lots of nuance here.  My body is outside itself right now.  My mind is free and a bit spacy.  My breath slows and thoughts are clear.

The eighth infusion starts with layered taste of bitterness with salty and minty tastes underneath.  The long sweetness comes in like an undulating wave as the bitterness recedes.  My mind and body is overpowered by the Qi.

The ninth infusion starts with a dense soup of salty unnami thick taste of woods and some sweetnesses underneath a pungent mint and a sweet rolling floral sweetness.  Qi is very floating in the head and has a nice body floating sensation.  The mind is free and relaxed.

The 10th starts with a thick sweeter woody briney onset.  It has a soup and broth like taste here.  The aftertaste is sweet with some florals.  There is a minty nuance in there as well throughout the infusion.

The 11th has a thick onset.  A brothy and dense taste that is thicker in the broth than it is on the tongue now.  The tongue is slippery and almost sandy.  The floral nuance lingers on the breath.  Mind is super relaxed.

12th this tea I mellowing out here.  It is quite sweet, buttery, floral tasting with a moderate-mild lingering bitter taste.  The taste has a juicy sweet feeling to it, it’s a touch brothy but the saltiness is much reduced now.  A lingering floral sweetness and mild coolness lingers.  In the body the Qi feels strangely at home and not aggressive but in the mind, mouth, tastebuds, and throat it’s a different story.

13th has a bit more punchiness bitter initially but then a thick soupiness takes hold the taste evolves interestingly throughout the profile

The 14th has an incredibly clear orchid aroma and taste to it after the slight sour and bitter move quickly into a long rolling sweetness.  The mouthfeeling is sticky and strong and the throat opens deeply.

The 15th and 16th deliver then soupy flavours of mainly sweet tastes, the thickness here is of note, the bitter is much less and there is more astringent and sour bitterness that moves quickly.  I am pretty spaced out…

Overall, this has some really powerful Qi sensations.  I don’t recall ever drinking a single estate puerh this cheap with such strong body sensations.  This puerh really punches above its weight in this department.  The taste is alright, a very nice taste actually a bit of a unique very savory taste mixed with some Mengku charms.  This one is all about the intensity of the bodyfeeling and overpowering effect on the mind.

Just yesterday, I started to doubt that my experience was this positive so I used up the rest of the sample which was about 2/5 less leaf than I normally use.  This session was very salty and savory tasting which is a very interesting taste profile- I don’t have in any puerh in my possession with this profile right now.  But the Qi was almost more intense than I remembered it- It really ran me over.  The power and strength of this puerh is such that I don’t even need to leaf it as much.  This is really a great bargain for those who love intense body sensations and mind exploding Qi.  This is the one.  I would even say it’s close to but not quite as intense as the 2018 Zheng Si Long Gedeng I purchased a few months ago at almost 4x the price.

Scott only pressed 99 cakes of this puerh, it is extremely limited but why hasn’t it long sold out if it’s as amazing as I’m making it out to be?

I think it lacks the “cool factor”.  It’s one of those crazy amazing puerh that is just sitting unnoticed because..

1-      It’s autumn production.  I used to also snub autumnal puerh so I don’t blame those who do this but, to be honest, you are overlooking some puerh that may be much better than spring productions.  This one doesn’t have that vacuous taste profile which plague a lot of autumnal pureh.  Tasted blind, I doubt even a highly educated pallet could identify this one as Autumn.

2-      It’s not from Southern Xishuangbanna.  If its not from Southern pureh producing regions then it won’t age well or is in some way inferior.  I also can’t blame people for this one either because I also favor the South.  But readers know I also love Menku area puerh and am pretty familiar with its awesomeness.

3-      Its not from a famous puerh producing region.  Where is Nan Po Zhai???  I’ve actually never heard of this region before until reading about it on the Yunnan Souring site.  Why?  Because its actually the closest region to the 3rd most famous puerh producing region, Bing Dao.  Scott explains in the video tasting of this one that it almost always gets falsely sold as Bing Dao and no one really markets this stuff as Nan Po Zhai… but that’s great news because Bing Dao is famous…

4-      Scott listing the KG of his productions rather than number of cakes pressed.  The average person doesn’t probably do the calculation to see how many cakes are produced from the KG of raw material that Scott usually lists.  I noticed that the 2019 productions now list how many cakes are produced which will clue some people in to how limited some of Yunnan Sourcing productions really are.

5-      Wrapper.  Ok this wrapper is pretty cool but not as cool as most of his other ripe or spring 2018 Lucy themed wrappers.  In in the end if the wrapper isn’t cool and I can’t personally identify with the branding… then how could the puerh possibly be any good?

6-      Scott presses way too much.  I honestly should not be complaining about this but really I think it is a wonderful thing.  But the average person just simply can’t navigate and sample that many productions in a year.  Easy for some to fall through the cracks especially considering the above.  I emailed Scott specifically to recommend me a very specific qualities of puerh irregardless of price or region and he supplied me a crazy long list of recommendations. I personally narrowed them down then sampled a bunch this one really stunned me (lots more reviews to come).

7-      Anti- Yunnan Sourcing bias.  There is something that some people find not cool about Yunnan Sourcing.  IF you don’t identify with the branding you are restricting yourself for superficial reasons and will miss out.

8-      Unusual taste profile.  This puerh has a really unusual taste profile that has to be one of the most savory puerh I have sampled before.  It almost tastes artificially salted at times.  I think this unique taste profile as well as the heavy Qi could be overlooked in some people who are putting more weight into the taste of the puerh rather than the feel of it.

In the end, I purchased more of this than any other single estate production I have ever bought- over a tong of this stuff.  After sampling this I watched the You Tube video of Scott drinking this puerh and he claimed that he had not tired it since pressing it.  In that video he honestly seems a bit stunned as well at the power of this one.  If this one stunned Scott and me, I can almost guarantee it will stun you too.