Thursday, October 31, 2019

2018 Bao He Xiang “Wu Jin Hao”: A Very Menghai Blend

Just like in some white2tea blends, we don’t get much from the description of this blend. “"Wu Jin Hao" is a blend of semi-aged mao cha from old tree harvested tea leaves that was pressed in 2018” as stated on the Yunnan Sourcing page.  This one goes for $170.00 for 357g cake (or $0.48/g).  The absolute mystery and semi-agedness of this one lured me in…

Dry leaves are of chicory, licorice-y, black licorice root sweet odour.

First infusion has a blank onset with a slow to build sweetness. There is a bit of floral under clean woody and almost mushroom suggestions.  There is a mild pungency then a high noted creamy sweetness attempts to push through.  The mouthfeel is silky and oily and has a full elegance to it.  The long sweet creamy aftertaste is noted.

The second starts empty almost vegetal, toffee, sarsaparilla, mushroom, then a long creamy sweet uninterrupted taste.  There are some nice layers going on here.  The base is a nice clear fermented mushroom and woody.  There is a richness in taste and feel.  Develops a heady type of relaxing and stimulating Qi. 

The third has a woods, sour, licorice root, chicory, mushroom, mildly smokey nuance with a velvety almost sandy mouthfeeling and opening mid throat empty feeling in throat.  The aftertaste taste has a long pungency creamy sweet to it. 

The fourth infusion starts off with a mushroom, slightly smokey, woody deep note, there is a pungency slightly cooling that is faint then a sweet creamy note over smoke, woody, and mushrooms.  A slight caramel faint sweetness is lingering with smoke a minute later.  Pasha, Menghai, type of blend I would guess.  I’m fond of such things.  Qi is sedating on the mind but races and powers through the Heart.

The fifth starts a slightly sour, smokey, woody, and mushroom, there is a slight floral note before a mild quick pungent then a lingering mild-moderate sweetness overtop mushrooms and woody tastes.  The mouthfeel is becoming sticky the throat opens pretty deeply.  The Qi is powerful in the Heart and starting to stimulate the mind.  The Qi is building into something quite powerful.

The sixth infusion starts slightly sour and sweet and mushroom and woody.  There is a pop of floral sweetness before the mild pungency brings some creamy sweetness.  The flavor tastes nicer than I can describe here and more nuanced Menghai type of feel to it.  The mouthfeel is moderate and velvety almost sticky.  The throat opens to midthroat.  A very mild sweetness is left on the lips.  This infusion is as sweet and highernoted as deeper mushroom woody noted.  Qi is really nice and gives the body a mild shivering type thing.

The seventh infusion starts a sweet creamy mushroomy smokey woody taste which is quite enjoyable.  There is a faint pungent then a creamy sweet finish.  This tea has a base of woody, smokey, and mushroom that stays throughout the profile.  Its subtle elements like creamy sweetnessses, slight caramel, slight pungent even light floral that either comes and goes or doesn’t infusion to infusion.  There is a slight sour astringency but not really bitterness.  This infusion has more of a nuanced sweetness and even a sunflower seed taste in there as well.  Strong powerful Qi sensation here, lots of jittery powerful energy, head unfocused under the power and Heart racing.

The eighth and ninth infusion starts with a sweet, smokey, woody taste.  There is a mild astringency and soft sweetness in the finish.  The woodiness and smoke are more prominent than the sweet here.  There is a sunflower seed taste.

The tenth has a sweet nuance to it almost but not really fruity, mushroom, woody, smokey, sunflower seed, and slight pungent, returning creamy sweetness over these base tastes.  It’s a nice full taste with a deep, mid and light aspect to it.  So Menghai in taste, feel, and Qi.

The eleventh starts to feature the smoke first then woody and barely sweet.  This is what a lot of these smokey shengs end up doing when the initial flavours drop.

The 12th has an almost juicy fruity onset.  The bassier flavours drop to the background and the juicy sweet flavor is mellow but prominently featured here.

The 13th has a juicy almost oily taste and feel with very mild smoke, mushroom, woods in the distance.

The 14th infusion is slight bitter slight fruity slight smokey taste there is a progression to creamy sweetness on the breath but the smoke is building again…

15th infusion is much the same with a bitterness starting to significantly build as well as smoke.  The closer the time between these last infusions, the more bitter-astringent they are on the guts as well as the mouth.

I decide to end here… my head buzzing as I break into a Qi sweat.

Overall, this puerh has a balanced taste between deep mushroom woody smokey tastes and light sweet creamy and sometimes almost fruity tastes.  It has enough to keep it interesting.  It has a pretty classic smokey Menghai character in here that I enjoy.  This blend is a nod to a more classic puerh taste and feel that you can touch in some 80s and 90s style cakes which I value and enjoy but that which very few vendors seem to be able to produce these days.  The mouth- and throat-feeling sit more in the background and just keep things running smoothly.  Look at those wet leaves- there is a diversity of aged material in there with a feel of a 5-8ish year old Guangdong storage.  The Qi is a big strong type.  Overall, this puerh is pretty good, its just hard for me to justify a purchase at this price.  There is something about the classic feel to it that twists my brain into thinking that it should also have a classically low price… but its 2018… so this is what we get.


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

2017 Bao He Xiang “Peach Cake”: Flavour Bomb!

Okay, this is the Bao He Xiang that really piqued my interest in sampling the brand.  The description and the reviews that followed on the Yunnan Sourcing site captured my attention.  Even Scott gave it a nod.  This 2017 Bao He Xiang “Peach Cake” blend goes for $249.00 for 357g cake ($0.70/g).

Dry leaves give off a very deep fruit floral odour.  The smell is very very sweet almost Ylang Ylang like perfume scent in there.  The smell of the dry leaf is entrancing.

The first infusion starts with a fruity very sweet entry the sweetness swells in the mouth.  Its very very well, peachy sweet or apricot sweet, but more peachy.  There is a juicy viscus feel to the liquor.  The peace taste is intense and quite creamy.  The taste is amazing and full sweetness, right off the start.  The mouthfeeling is mildly dryier as the saliva gets pushed into the throat.

The second infusion starts with an almost woody edge of candy like peach taste.  There is a very mild astringency to it.  It tastes of sugar peach.  There is a very faint pungent and long candy like returning sweetness.  The sweet taste is strong throughout but expands in the mouth.  There are suggestions of both Yi Wu and maybe even Bang Dong in this blend.  The sweetness really fills the mouth.

The third infusion starts off with a thick almost bready, creamy sweet peachy taste.  The liquor is reasonably tick and the sweetness turns to candy in the mouth.  There is a thickness to the liquor of this puerh.  The sweetness is quite thick and expands outwardly.  There is a gooey stickiness to the mouth and throatfeeling.  The Qi flutters at the Heart. 

Fourth infusion has a nice rich thick start it has a nice dense fruity taste that feels painted on the tongue.   The mouthfeel is quite thick along with the liquor.  There is a nice thickness to this tea in tongue coating and liquor density.

The fifth is intensely peachy fruity but a deep fruit feeling there is a stronger pungent returning sweetness to it.  The liquor is oily and the tongue coating is nice.  The pungent returning sweetness is cooling in the mouth.  The throatfeeling is gentle and opening.

The sixth infusion has an interesting woody nuance to the thicker peach approach.  The qi is mildly spacy in the head the sweetness returns with pungent into a more cotton candy like sweetness.

7th starts very peachy, clear fresh ripe peachy high-noted taste that reverbs in the mouth and stretches over the profile.  Candy like finish.  Nice tongue coating.  Mild ringing pungent.  Relaxing chill Qi sensation.

The 8th has a slight dry woody edge but is mainly stewed peaches with a mild pungent then candy.  The peach taste is becoming less all-encompassing in these middle infusions and suggestions of dry woody notes appear.  The Qi is mildly fluttering in chest but mainly relaxing but not in a lazy kind of way.

The ninth is a nice rich deeper peach almost dried apricot underneath.  There is a building woody dry taste underneath that is becoming more prominent.  The mouthfeeling is becoming more of a sandy astringency now.  The throat is slightly gripping.  This isn’t a strong throat simulator but rather a subtle opener.

The 10th is becoming a woody, peachy, apricot taste that is sandier in the mouth and tongue. The aftertaste is much less now and the infusion has a slight astringency to it.  The taste is pretty simple here.

11th has a smoother less intense, less sweet apricot approach with dry woody base taste and a sandy mouthfeeling.  The Qi is a bit relaxing now.

12th is getting more woody than peachy now then flavor is less complex here but still rather sweet and enjoyable.

13th….. Ooops… left it for 30 min… wow… a very intensely peachy thick viscous taste was pushed out.  With a dense oily thick dried apricot, some wood, very full peachy density…

This puerh is very very tasty, a bit of bodyfeel in the heart, mainly relaxing with a bit of movement earlier on.  The taste of this one is something else… very very delicious…  The parts of this puerh that are not as solid is the stamina.  I sampled this one twice as I consider an order but the stamina of this puerh isn’t super great and gives out all of its epically amazing taste early and in the mid session already starts to bottom out and taste more woody.  The later session is a bit flat especially when memories of steepings 1-7 fresh in the memory.  The Qi is soft and subtle but still does things in the body and mind.  This puerh is mainly about the mind-blowing taste in the first 1-7 infusions. 

This is likely a very nice Yiwu blend, if I were to guess.  In some ways it reminds me of 2017 white2tea Pussy.  I think both blends are similar and are trying to accomplish similar things.  If you like the 2017 white2tea Pussy, I definitely think you should try this Peach Cake of the same year.  There are many similarities between the two but he 2017 Bao He Xiang Peach Cake is way more flavourful but Pussy has a bit more stamina to it. 

The price… is probably about right for something like this Peach Cake… maybe a bit of a bargain if you value taste above all else and drink your puerh in short sessions.  I value the things that this tea lacks like a bit more stamina and a bit more going on with the Qi but I understand the epic brilliance of this blend and what it was trying to accomplish.


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

2013 Bao He Xiang “Zi Yun Gui”, Xigui… I Don’t Know You…

This premium blended “Zi Yun Gui” Bao He Xiang cake ($188.00for 357g cake or $0.53/g) is described as being blended exclusively from the super famous Xigui producing area.  Xigui is thought to be one of the 3 famous puerh producing areas (others being Lao Ban Zhang and Bing Dao).  I actually have no experience in my memory with Xigui which kind of rose to prominence as I was stepping back from puerh.  Unlike the famous regions of Bing Dao and Laobanzhang which I was fortunate to get some education on from purely the kindness of others back in the day…

Dry leaves smell of very faint stone mineral with sweet floral.  Very faint odour.

First infusion has a layered woody approach that turns into a honey and maple syrup sweetness over woody the taste is quite condensed and the mouthfeel has a thick and sticky.  The first infusion feels really complete- and this is just the first flash infusion.  The completeness here is a good sign of things to come.

The second infusion has a dense thick onset of woods but mainly licorice, caramel, maple syrup, type of sweetness.  The taste is really layered and the liquor feels viscus.  The qi is relaxing.

The third infusion has a very dense woody and layered sweetness- maple syrup, caramel, but not very sweet but more of a diffuse sweetness. In the aftertaste there is hints of candy underneath.  The mouthfeeling is thick and sticky.

The fourth infusion has a thick density of dates, licorice, not sweet maple syrup and dark honey.  The dense taste hold and in the aftertaste there are lighter candy nuances over a thick sticky mouthfeeling.  Qi has a happy relaxing feel to it.

The fifth infusion has a very thick density to it of layered woods with licorice and deep not that sweet dark honey underneath and an almost menthol returning taste in which a sweet candy like fresher sweetness lingers mildly.  The taste is a very layered dense woody taste that feels thick and sticky.  The Qi is relaxing.

The sixth is much the same there is a thickness and syrupy density to this one that holds through the whole profile.  There is an almost carrot sweetness in the woody, syrupy initial taste that pops up too.  There is something in here that reminds me of a Nannou and Lincang blend.  A faint floral and almost candy fresh aftertaste breaks through the dense base in the aftertaste.

The seventh infusion is a thick woody, almost carrot, with menthol underneath bringing in a slight candy and floral nuance that pushes through under a thick woody layering.

The eighth infusion packs on that predictable initial thickness that maintains throughout the profile as well as throughout the infusions.  There is also a slight candy like finish in the aftertaste.  The mouthfeel holds as a sticky chalkiness.  The throatfeeling is mild and has a vacuous opening feeling where a menthol taste holds space.

The ninth infusion starts with a mouth numbing taste of layered woods.  The menthol is kind of intertwined with the numbing and leaves traces of candy, turnip and floral in the breath.  Overall, the presentation is quite thick. It taste like a thicker Lincang with some Nannou blended in to me.  The candy aftertaste is a nice touch. 

The 10th has a thick density of wood and leaves and deeper less sweet dark honey taste throughout the session.  Relaxing happy Qi feels nice.  With nuances of candy under a dense woody layered not that sweet taste.

The 11th infusion starts with thick licorice, layered woods, oily and thick in the mouth. Relaxing Qi a mild Qi.  Nice thicker sticky mouthcoating with menthol release.  Sometimes almost mouth numbing sensation.  Throat is vacuous but menthol goes to a mid depth.

The 12th the menthol seems to build with closer infusions and so too does the mouth numbing sensation.  Dense woody, less sweet now, thick feeling. 

13th infusion is still thick licorice, layered woods, dense syrup but not sweet taste throughout with a building menthol pungency that reverberates deeply.
Time has ran out for me in a day.  I think this one still has lots to offer so I pledge to come back tomorrow….

A thick mouthfeeling and dense flavor greet me next morning.  This puerh is not overly engaging but pretty stable and attention grabbing enough throughout the infusions.  The Qi is nice a mild a relaxing thing.  I overnight steeped this for the next 4 days.  It had good stamina and depth and density of taste even later in the session. I wish I had an uninterrupted longer initial session with this sample.

Overall and enjoyable puerh the price is about right, maybe.  If had the name Xigui attached to it, it would no doubt be under priced.  Does it have at least some Xigui blended inside?  I have no idea.  Will have to sample the rest of my sample and get more experience with Xigui to know for sure.  Overall, pretty enjoyable puerh from a region that many Western puerh vendors don't offer.

I had a look at the description as I prepare to post this…

It seems about right.  I would say that age has curbed most of the bitterness out and that the sweetness is not overly strong.  The Qi is bang on and that thickness…. The thickness of flavor or density is hands down the most enjoyable aspect in this one…


Monday, October 28, 2019

Yunnan Sourcing’s (Premium) Bao He Xiang Offerings

A year or two ago Scott added a bunch more Bao He Xiang factory puerh offerings at Yunnan Sourcing.  At that time they caught my eye for a few reasons.  First was the fact that these are all mainly unlabeled region and often unique blends that were Guangdong stored.  To me this sounded an awful lot like what white2tea is doing.  This was also at a time when the Yunnan Sourcing brand didn’t have all the different blends that it has this year.  To me it was a move that offered a challenge or different option to the stuff that white2tea was releasing- some good clean competition.

The second thing that Yunnan Sourcing is doing with these Bao He Xiang puerh is only stocking a few cakes in Yunnan Sourcing’s dry Kunming storage and reordering them as they go from Bao He Xiang’s clean medium humid Guangdong storage.  This means that Scott is basically letting the Guangdong storage, for which this tea was intended to be aged, impart its aging influence instead of exposing it to his drier Kunming storage.  I like this idea.  I also assume that the pricing and price rises of these order-as-you-go Bao He Xiang depends mainly on the price increases from Bao He Xiang.  I imagine this is similar to Yunnan Sourcing’s pricing of other premium offerings from Hai Lang Hao discussed in the last post.

In a list of recommendations for puerh with strong Qi and throat and mouthfeel, Scott listed many Bao He Xiang offerings and said they were all good.  They are his picks of Bao He Xiang afterall.  He told me that the price of these cakes is closely tied to quality.  I decided to go with some of the pricier/ premium Bao He Xiang that Yunnan Sourcing has on offer.  The next few reviews will feature these Bao He Xiang….


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Yunnan Sourcing’s Early Black Friday Gamble

Although, Scott at times can be a bit predictable, a week ago I got something in my inbox that really shocked me!  It turns out that Yunnan Sourcing is not having a Black Friday/ Cyber Monday Sale this year… or so it seems….

Check out the screen shots of this promotional email…

Scotts’ points or arguments to not offer a sale are basically centered around two arguments:

1-      Black Friday/Cyber Monday puts undue strain on his business model.

2-      The customer experience is less because of this strain.

I understand from a business perspective that it might cost Yunnan Sourcing more money to just hire and train competent temporary staff or to pay out overtime.  It might be worth it from a business perspective to just make less profit and not have to deal with those extra wages.  It also might not be worth the stress either so this move puts him and his employees’ health first and foremost over sales.  I can’t really argue too much with this because I’m not running the business.  Putting your employees ahead of profits is usually a good call.

However, I kind of disagree with the argument that the customer experience is less on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  I think the spectacle of the sale is good old consumeristic behavior at its finest and I think the customer is understanding of the tradeoffs of getting a nice sale with the potential issues stated in the above email.

Last year I had a mistake with one of my Black Friday orders (no it wasn’t Yunnan Sourcing) but it was made right and then some.  I was totally 100% okay and understanding about this, and I think most puerh drinkers are in the same boat as me.  But Scott makes a good point that it doesn’t have to be like this at all….

I got an email yesterday that there is a 15% off everything going on right now- this is the exact Black Friday Sale offered last year but basically just offered early!  Then I realized that Scott is basically just offering the Black Friday Sale Early.  This should remedy some of the issues that he put forth.  From a marketing point of view it is also pretty smart because he is offering the sale before the competition is out with theirs.  This prevents the consumer from comparing and contrasting the competition’s sales and deciding on where to spend (as I have done in the past).  This is definitely a negative for the customer from a competing market standpoint.  For the customer that has already made his mind up that he will purchase at Yunnan Sourcing, this will definitely benefit them.

On the other hand, offering early sales don’t have the psychological triggered buying patterning that Black Friday and Cyber Monday conjure up.  Some might just wait it out hoping that the competition offers something better (or maybe that even Yunnan Sourcing will offer a better sale).  In the end, I think it’s a great gamble that has the potential to benefit the customer and vendor.  This is an experiment to see if it turns out to be a win-win, I guess only Scott and Xiao Yao will know for sure…

Although there are some cakes I’ve had my eye on, maybe because I just did a big order from Yunnan Sourcing or maybe because the gravitas of Black Friday is lacking… but this year, I think, I’ll pass… for now...


Saturday, October 19, 2019

On Puerh Sampling…

After reading this thought provoking article by James at TeaDB, I started thinking about how my sampling has changed over the years and about why we should sample puerh and how best to do this...

Why Sample Puerh?

First reason is to learn.  There is no better way to learn than to actually try more puerh and form your own opinions about them.

Second reason is to compare and evaluate for purchase.  Comparing and evaluating can be comparing and evaluating samples for the purchase of a cake or tong or maybe just more of the same sample.  It can also be comparing and evaluating samples against one’s own collection.  Part of learning is to compare and contrast and evaluate.  These first two reasons are covered extensively in James post and following commentary.

Third reason is to simply experience.  Sampling puerh can also be done just simply to enjoy different puerh at a lower price point.  Puerh is getting so pricy that sampling instead of cake purchasing might be the end goal.  Variety is the spice of life.  Instead of drinking the same puerh until 357g of it are gone, we can sample a rainbow of puerh for the same price!  Sometimes it’s good to simply experience and enjoy something new and different in life, this goes for trying different puerh as well.  Of course, to experience is to learn- to learn from our puerh experiences.  And while experiencing we might pass judgement- to pass judgement is to compare and contrast against our past experiences with puerh.  But to simply enjoy something simply for its own sake without trying to learn or describe or compare or contrast is reason enough to sample puerh. 

Sampling with Others vs Alone vs Online

Sampling with others can be a powerful way to learn, compare/ evaluate and experience puerh while sampling it.  It has been said by a commented on this blog that if you are the most experienced one around the table you are probably at the wrong table.  Yes, it’s very good to sample with others with more or varied puerh drinking experience than you- you will learn quick this way.  But the pitfalls are that you can easily be swayed in a certain direction or pick up bad habits from them or simply get steered toward the status quo.

If you are the most experienced one at the tea table there is also great responsibility in being in the position for you to transmit your knowledge.  This can be just as powerful of an experience.  I feel that it is equally important to learn from beginners- they will point out things that an experienced puerh drinker might take for granted or something that might be beyond their personal bias.  The beginner mind is a powerful mind and we shouldn’t be quick to disregard someone’s experience.  This is a reason I like to read beginner tea blogs- I learn quite a bit from them.

If the sampling is done at a tea shop you have to remember that the end goal is to get you to buy.  Surprisingly, in the tea shops in Asia, it’s just people who are hanging out experiencing, learning, and comparing tastes with others with no one really intending on purchase.  I like how Marshal’N describes how a long session of puerh sampling usually progresses at a tea table with many people- I pretty much agree with that.  The one thing that we have to pay attention to when sampling in a group is that the options of others around the table can start to influence your own perceptions.  Also, the shop owner can guide the direction a bit as well.

When we sample at home/ solitary sampling definitely removes the groups influence good or bad and leaves us with our own options and bias.  Confirmation bias can be a strong one to overturn as we see things in our pureh that aren’t there.  As we are learning about puerh- we are learning about ourselves.  Group sampling is almost always most ideal when new, and solitary sampling is better when very experienced.  When we have lots of experience under our belts we can really go in many directions with a sample- its endless really especially in a solitary session.

Sampling Bloggers Recommendations- What you read influences your sampling.  Review reading and blog reading influences those new and old to puerh but especially those in the West with no other experience with puerh.  Comparing and contrasting our own opinions of samples to other random reviews or famous bloggers is a healthy way to learn.  Reading as much publicly available information as possible about puerh is an important part of learning but can lead to someone just falling in line instead of developing their own options about what puerh they actually enjoy.

How Sampling Puerh Has Changed?

Sampling has really changed over the years for myself as well as for Western puerh drinkers as a whole.

Sampling in the era of factory puerh- mainly sampling wearhoused samples that were considered “aged puer” not “young puerh”.  It was uncommon 15 years ago to sample young puerh because the thought was that puerh should be aged before regularly consumed.  This was, of course, an idea by those in Hong Kong and Guangdong the places where puerh was mainly wearhoused.  Personally, I sampled mainly older puerh in Korea.  Of course, these were also much more expensive than the crazy cheap freshly pressed cakes- so this could have just been the influence of the teashop owners a bit as well.  This is also a reason that old time puerh drinkers that were around in this era revere factory puerh and never write it off.

Sampling in the gushu transitioning years- In the mid/later- 2000s all of a sudden there was gushu!!!! And everybody and anybody could press a single estate product instead of just going for the classic factory blends.  Western vendors started pressing their own single estate at this time such as Yunnan Sourcing and The Essence of Tea.  There was some serious confusion as to what Gushu was and how to even appreciate it.  A bunch of more detailed puerh producing sub areas and towns and mountains popped up and no one had much experience knowing much about the specific character of these regions and how to evaluate them and apprise them.

At this time I liked to focus on simply experiencing them without too much comparing and contrasting and went through a phase of Zen like appreciation of puerh that is outlined in early posts on this blog which gives my philosophy of how to approach sampling (here and here).  It was a bit of me trying to come to terms with how to appreciate these gushu single estate puerh and a bit a result of doing many hours of daily meditation back then.  At times I questioned whether they were even puerh because the factory experience years before shaped my idea of what puerh was supposed to be and this gushu type stuff was not that.  I remember arguing with a vendor when this type of puerh first became easily available that this single estate young puerh was not “real puerh”… hahahha…. I also remember discussions at tea houses in Korea at the time that questioned how these should be appreciated.  When I started this blog a lot of the posts back then focused on this single estate puerh that was coming out at the time.  I sampled single estate quite extensively at this time trying to learn and experience more than compare and evaluate.  Although I sampled a lot I purchased very little of it.

I know most people reading this right now will have a hard time even thinking about a time when single estate gushu puerh was completely unprecedented with no standard way of thinking about this new direction of puerh.  Most readers have had the privilege of walking into puerh with a wealth of knowledge already out there.  I still think the advice of Mr. Kim, my teamster, holds- if you like it then its good puerh… it seems overly simplistic but this advice was pretty useful when no one had a golden standard of comparison at this time.  I also think it’s a good starting point for those new to puerh and for sampling- listen to yourself.

Common puerh era – maybe around 2012 ish people started to get a pretty clear idea of what single estate puerh is all about, the most famous puerh producing areas have been found and well known (Lao Banzhang, Bing Dao, Xi Gui) and by this time there was a wealth of knowledge about this. … so let the comparisons and evaluations begin… hahaha.. Around this time I started to compare and contrast more. Upon returning to the puerh scene to re-stock, I found myself comparing and contrasting and evaluating more which makes the most sense when the price of puerh is so expensive and you intend to purchase a lot to stock up for the long term.

Who Did the Sample come from?

Who sends the sample influences how I approach a sample.  It gives me a suggestion of how I should/ might do with that sample.

Purchased Sample- For me and, for you too, a purchased sample should have a very specific purpose.  Even if the purpose is just simply for puerh experiential enjoyment.  Samples purchased on a whim with no clear goal in mind might just pile up with no motivation to drink.

Free vendor sample with purchase- I recently wrote about this a few months ago.  Everyone loves a free sample and there is absolutely no obligation do anything but enjoy these.

Free vendor sample provided for review- This is a bit different than free sample with purchase as there is a bit of an understanding that you will try to post your session.

Sample from Friend- Cwyn N of Death by Tea said something about this topic that is so true its funny.  Its something to the effect that there are two kinds of samples she receives from friends… The first is a sample that is quite good but is sold out and not for sale.  The second is a sample of something someone is trying to get rid of and is usually not so good… hahahhah I think I’m a bit of an online hermit although sometimes someone is able to track me down and send a sample. 

I would say that my fiends send samples for 2 reasons…. First is the same as Cwyn’s above, a very good sample that they are not getting rid of and is not for sale.  The second is for an evaluation of something they have acquired or are thinking of acquiring a lot of.  I thoroughly enjoy a good evaluation of puerh so either one brings me happiness…


Advice on Starting to Sample

First and most importantly, you should have a clear goal in mind and attempt to understand your own drinking before you purchase too many samples.  Some people say that you should sample widely (Such as James of TeaDB) and others say that you should narrow in on a certain area to try to understand it (such as Shah8 of Sheng of the Day).  Either direction you take you should do so mindfully.  If not you will be left with a box stuffed full of samples with no desire to go through them or find it a chore to go through them and that’s not what sampling is all about.  Sampling is super fun not a chore.  If it’s a chore, you should probably just cake purchase.

Sampling Up- I think it’s pretty good, if you can afford to do this.  Read this post on it here.

Sampling Down- the only way to see if you can get similar quality puerh by paying less or by seeing how low your taste in puerh can go while still enjoying puerh, is too sample low.  Sampling high will not do this.  This is a mission in value and practicality.  To some people this will be more important than sampling high.  Again you need to be clear about what your sampling goals are.  Over the last two years I had sampled low sometimes and the results were stunning.  Some of those puerh I purchased are worth many multiples more because the price didn’t catch up to the quality yet. 

I think, generally speaking, that new puerh drinkers might want to aim a bit higher if they can and real experienced puerh drinkers should aim lower they wish to be more economical and haven’t obtained too much puerh already.  If you read Hobbes Half-Dipper and even Cwyn’s Death By Tea after they gained a bunch of experience and before they dropped off regular publishing they were sampling low.  A search for cheap everyday drinkers is an exercise in sampling low.  To optimally sample low you still need to have an understanding of more desirable qualities in puerh or to at least know your own taste well enough and that is done by sampling high.

Sampling Sideways-  puerh of the same price is rarely the same quality and certain qualities of puerh are valued more than others by a wider puerh drinking audience.  Sampling puerh of the same price will give you a good feel of value.

Random Sampling- you can find something you never even knew existed or a factory or area you have never tried…. Different type of storage, ect … This is fun sometimes…

Blind Sampling- its always an exercise in how bad you are at identifying a general character of a puerh region but can also determine value by removing bias.

Size of Sample- James of TeaDB has written articles on the benefits of both large and small.  He has also commented about the benefits of full cake samples.  There are obvious benefits to each.  Again you need to be clear about what you want from your sampling.  Cake samples are better if you are thinking about making a large quantity purchase.  Small samples are better if you are attempling to sample high and have a goal of learning or just want to treat yourself to something worth more.

All sampling is good but it should match your goals at what you are trying to achieve with sampling. 

I love Binghole samples!-  I think binghole samples get a bad wrap.   I understand the tight compression of a binghole is not represented of the cake. I never hear anyone complain about corner samples or just off the top samples which would also not be so representative of a whole cake. So if you are sampling to evaluate you probably won’t appreciate the binghole.  But as someone who prefers tight compression, it’s always a special treat to open a binghole sample.  I makes me enjoy the sample more on its own merits and makes me wonder what could have been if the vendor had just iron pressed it….

I have heard people say “The future of puerh is storage”  I have heard others say “The future of puerh is sampling”.  Both of these statements speak a bit the concept that you can only buy so many cakes before you have acquired enough that you can’t possibly finish in your lifetime.  It also speaks to the ever rising costs of puerh.  Certainly there is enough ways to approach a sample to keep you engaged in puerh without having to ever purchase a cake.



Wednesday, October 2, 2019

2019 Zheng Si Long Ge Deng: Comparing all the Zheng Si Long Ge Deng

This 2019 Zhang Si Long Ge Deng sample was kindly gifted to me for review (cake goes for $222.24 for 400g cake or $0.56/g).

Dry leaves smell of intense penetrating pungent deep forest odour with a lingering almost rose faint floral.

The first infusion starts with a slippery stone and watery onset.  There is slight suragy notes in there is a faint woodiness and barely tropical fruit in the distant aftertaste…. Hasn’t opened up yet.  The mouthfeel is silky and soft

The second infusion has a woody, almost pine forest taste nuance with slight floral suggestions.   All tastes are mutted still.   The mouthfeel remains silky and soft.  Eligant first infusions.

The third infusion has a woody slight forsty almost mineral onset the mouthfeel is lightly fuzzy and dry.  There is a faint floral lingering barely there in the breath.  The infusion is again very soft and elegant.  I can start to feel the Qi building softy behind the eyes.  My body feels just a touch relaxed here.

The fourth has a sweet floral onset that has a slight mineral nuance almost seaweed tasting underneath.  The mouthfeeling is silky and the throat doesn’t seem to be stimulated at all.  There is this almost creamy, kind of sweet almost soft floral elegant note that skirts throughout the profile.  The head starts feeling this hypnotic qi sensation, like a head wobble. 

The fifth starts with a melon fruit and foresty onset with slight honey taste underneath.  The mild taste is over a mild silky mouthfeeling which is becoming a bit astringent but mildly.  The throat seems to be mainly ignored.  The Qi in the head is slightly hypnotic.

The sixth starts with a sweetness that is almost creamy, kind of mineral and foresty with a distinct floral edge.  The throat receives enough astringency now to push the saliva and trap it in the mid-throat along with creamy sweet notes.  This infusion is filled with this delicious creamy sweet floral nuance.  The Qi in the head is pretty strongly hypnotic.  The Qi in mainly in the mind and the body feel light like it is levitating.

The seventh infusion has a fruity sweet almost nutty and persimmon and melon unique fruit taste for the onset there is foresty notes in there as well.  The mouthfeel is a moderate sticky/silky with faint astringency.  A melon sweetness emerges in the aftertaste.  The throat doesn’t preform like the last infusion but feels a bit more open than the early infusions.  A sweet floral fresh melon essence is through the profile.

The eighth onset is of creamy banana and slight tropical creamy fruits with a fotrest back taste.  The mouthfeeling is sticky and silky.  There are creamy fruity tastes faint in the aftertaste which also carries stone tastes with an almost floral edge.  The aftertaste is mainly rubbery.  The Qi is hypnotic in the mind and relaxing now.  The body feels a bit light.

The ninth infusion start off with a not that sweet sugary almost fruity sweetness with a stone/ mineral taste next to it.  There is a subtle fruity sweetness going on there as well.  The mouthfeeling is a mild/moderate silkiness.  The throat isn’t very stimulated.  There is a flat stone aftertaste with has subtle edges of sweet floral.

The 10th starts off with a sweetness that is almost surgary but not that sweet which is supported with a stone mineral taste.  The Qi feels real nice, relaxing, hypnotic.  The aftertaste is a bit rubbery almost floral sweet.  The tastes of this puerh are not super strong or overly engaging but the Qi is really nice.  The weakest point is the throatfeeling which doesn engage the taste that much.

The 11th infusion has a fruity juicy taste to it of melon, pear, it is almost spicy here with a nice foresty back taste.  The mouthfeel is more velvety and sticky in the infusion and the throat is felt this time.  A faint creamy sweet and slightly rubbery aftertaste occurs as the mind relaxes deeply and feels like the mind slows.

The 12th infusion is faintly sweet like pear or melon but has a distinct stone base taste.  The aftertaste is flat, with a stone and rubbery taste.  The Qi is slightly hyponotic and for surely relaxing.

The 13th infusion starts stone tasting and as a subtle floral pear tasting nusnace in the aftertaste.  The mouthfeeling is slightly sandy and thin.  The 14th is even thinner with mainly a monotone stone taste with slight suggestions of floral and sweet over a sandy mouthfeeling.

15th 30 seconds above flash pushes out more stone taste initially and not much for sweet.  There is a bit more stone but also slightly more barely floral.  The Qi is relaxing here.

16th I add 60seconds to flash and it pushes out some fruit sweetnesses.  The nice part about a puerh that isn’t so bitter or astringent, at least while drinking young, is that you can push it with longer infusion times.  The taste is mainly fruity an almost peach but more Asian pear tasting sweetness with a background of stone.

The 17th I go 90 seconds and it pushes fruit out in mineral taste but the fruit is faint in the aftertaste.

I put this one to as long infusion and it comes out mainly stone, mineral and bitter.

The next day I drink the 2018 Zheng Si Long Gedeng as a comparison and I can see the similarities in them but there are also more differences than similarities…

Pictured below is the 2018 on the left with the 2019 on the right.

In order of personal preference of the 2017-2019 Zheng Si Long Gedeng offered at Tea Encounter with price/ value in consideration:

2018 Zheng Si Long Ge Deng- $0.71/g- Sold Out- Big bodyfeel, strong condensed taste, Nice Qi in the head, Classic Gedeng Flavors, engaging bitter astringency with solid mouth and throatfeeling.  This one sold out fast worth much more than initial asking price.

2017 Zheng Si Long Ge Deng- $0.41/g- Sold Out/ Samples Available- This one is only better than the 2019 because it sold for significantly less, it has a very classic Gedeng profile and was super enjoyable to me.  It has a more mellow relaxing Qi.

2019 Zheng Si Long Ge Deng- $0.56/g- This 2019 is better than the 2017 if price isn't a consideration, I think.  It has some milder tight bodyfeel, but more of a moderate hypnotic Qi in the mind.  I like the Qi here.  Qi vaguely resembles the 2018.  Has a weaker throatfeeling in some infusions and the mouthfeel is more approachable but less strength in it.  The taste profile is less distinctly Gedeng but still some nice tastes in there.  Overall, another nice Gedeng.

2016 Zheng Si Long Ge Deng- $0.40/g- Have not sampled-

Overall, these are all nice Gedeng puerh for what they are.


Tuesday, October 1, 2019

2019 Zheng Si Long Mang Zhi: Comparing all the Zheng Si Long Mang Zhi

This 2019 Zhang Si Long Mango Zhi sample was kindly gifted to me for review (cake goes for $121.22 for 400g cake or $0.30/g) .

The dry leaves are a very punchy fruity odour.

The first infusion is airy surgery, slight woody, with a vegetal and almost spicy nuance to it.  The mouthfeel feels slightly tight on the tongue.  There is a mild tropical fruity aftertaste.  The mouthfeeling is substantial.

The second starts with a spicy woody, and sugar onset with slight fruit underneath.  There is a slight gripping astringency to the mouthfeeling, slight sandy.  There is a nice mild tropical fruity finish over a sandy mouthfeeling.  The throat is less stimulated than the tongue and lips. 

The third infusion has a woody, slight fruity onset, with a slight peach note.  The full sandy slightly astringent mouthfeeling pulls the peach note into the aftertaste.  The mouthfeeling is full but not excessive.  It sits at a simulating fine grain sandy texture which feels quite nice in the mouth, the throat feels untouched.  The wet leaves have a very strong freshly bit peach odour with emits from the pot.  I start to feel the Qi in my body and my Heart flutters a bit.  I feel a touch of energy flowing.

In the 4th the initial taste is of dense peachy fruit with tropical underpinnings.  The dense fruit taste slowly fades into the aftertaste and overlaps with a creamy returning and more tropical sweetness in the aftertaste.  The mouthfeel is fine grain sandy, almost chalky on the tongue.  The cool sensation is felt on inhale but is mild in the upper throat.  There is some mild bread notes in there and woody notes in the back ground.  The progression of sweet taste is very nice here.

The 5th has dense peachy tastes right off the bat that hold in the mouth until they intersect with the returning creamy sweetness and tropical fruit.  There is a faint bread and almost spice taste also faint woody underneath the performance of intermingling sweetness.  The mouthfeeling is really nice a fine sandy/ chalky full feeling.  The upper throat carries a coolness and creamy sweetness minutes later.

The 6th has a dense peace and creamy fruity nuance initially now there is less intermingling of separate sweet tastes and is more a layered sweetness from the initial taste which just stretches out in the mouth and into the aftertaste now.  The mind feels relaxed, almost spacy from the Qi and the body feel a faint sensation in the chest.

The seventh infusion has a mellower fruity mixed with dry wood onset.  Its sweetness is less dense here. Then it collides with a touch of returned creamy sweetness and seems to be inhaled a bit from that in the aftertaste where a subtle creamy tropical fruit nuance is found.  The mouthfeel becomes chalkier slowly as the infusions go on. 

The 8th is that same woody, almost bready, but less fruity onset that meets creamier sweetness in the aftertaste.  The mouthfeel is chalky the throatfeeling is superficial.  The sweetness is much less dense now but still shares sweetnesses with woody nuance.  The Qi can feel heavy on the head a bit and a bit alerting and slightly euphoric.  Nice.

The 9th infusion is much the same with just a bit more astringency in there and I notice more of an orange taste that comes out with the creamy sweetness.  I would say the sweetness is balanced here with dry woody.  The mouthfeel is real nice chalky, almost astringent, almost sandy but full.  The Qi has a nice uppity feeling in the mind and you can feel it in the Chest/ Heart.

The 10th starts a more watery and juicy fruity wood then the sweetness transforms to a creamy almost tropical sweetness.  The mouthfeel is chalky and the throat carries a mild coolness.

The 11th infusion has a more creamy sweetness to it throughout.  It starts a bit watery/juicy then to almost woody then to a creamy sweet, almost tropical.

12th is becoming more woody and slightly astringent.  There is mild fruit underneath.  The Qi is making me move.  The mouthfeeling is thinning into a more sandy feeling.

13th has a floral woody almost fruity taste initially then slightly woody sweet fruity finish.

The 14th is mainly woody with faint fruit underneath.  The mouthfeel continues to thin out and become slightly sandy.

I take the 15th 30seconds longer than flash infusion it pushes more fruit out but also more astringent and almost bitter wood too.

The 16th I long infuse as well and it pushes out some sweetness with woody… some faint tropical something.

I put this in to the overnight infusion …

The next day there is a slight sweetness but mainly a bitter floral like taste.

In order of personal preference of the 5 Zheng Si Long Mang Zhi offered at Tea Encounter with price/ value in consideration:

2017 Zheng Si Long Mang Zhi – $0.29/g- has the best all round qualities of taste, Qi and mouthfeeling,  A slower building Qi that is relaxing in the head and light body feeling.

2018 Zheng Si Long Mang Zhi- $0.35/g- might have the best Qi sensation of chest tightening and knotting under the sternum sensation, slow moving and evolving creamy sweetnesses and some savory throughout the session, gripping more intense mouthfeeeling than others. (wait a minute... I think this is my favorite... hahaha)

2016 Autumn Zheng Si Long Mang Zhi Dragon Ball-  $0.23/g- good example of autumnal pureh, long candy aftertaste with deep throatiness, good stamina and decent mind chilling Qi

2019 Zheng Si Long Mang Zhi- $0.30/g- uplifting Qi with chest Heart body feeling, lacks the overall intensity that the 2018 and 2017 have overall, more woody but with layered tastes, peach and tropical early on, less intense mouthfeeling as 2018 and 2017 as well.

2016 Zheng Si Long Mang Zhi- $0.38/g- very stable infusions, very pure and quite flavourful, lazy and relaxing Qi

They are actually all nice famous tea mountain Mang Zhi puerh… and they are the most stable out of the Zheng Si Long offerings year after year.  I find them all quite satisfying and most offer a good balance of Qi, taste, and mouth/throatfeeling.  The most notable aspect is decently good Qi in these Mang Zhi and many have a nice mouthfeeling as well. Out of all the Zheng Si Long samples, I usually end up drinking up the Meng Zhi first, the sample speed test… hahahah… with that said I still haven’t purchased a cake… Yummy.