Saturday, January 28, 2023

Yearly Retrospective & Happy Year of the Rabbit!

 It seems as each year goes by I have less time for the evaluation of tea.  Most of the time I take advantage of either a particularly long day or a light day at work to do such things.  The last month no evaluation has taken place.  I’m thinking of changing the review posts to very short blurbs which I think people will appreciate more than these long run on reviews anyways.  I am usually composing the few articles or rankings rocking a cute baby late at night or up with any of the other kids in the middle of the night for reasons those who have kids can only imagine.  Of course, I continue to drink good teas everyday but I just don’t have the time to have a long concentrated session like I used to.  Life is too crazy but I’m happy with it and just lean into the chaos.  Tea is a refuge.  Yea is peace among the chaos if not to harmonize then at least to balance.  With that being said I feel the happiest with my tea purchases this year and the logical method of sampling seen here on the blog in 2022.

My sampling/ purchasing which is mostly seen here on the blog was done very logically.  It was focused into logical themes grouped together…

The biggest group where that of Chen Yuan Hao which I tied together with a ranking in last post.   They were all good and interesting samples and I’m pretty happy with the quarter cakes and full cakes that I have lying around.  The older style processing on this stuff is something that I’m used to with my history of factory cakes… but no mistake ChenYuan Hao are not factory cakes.

Speaking of factory cakes … this past year I have focused a lot on sampling iron cakes from 2001… over 20 years of age with factory charms all of them were really enjoyable.  I cake purchased a few of these.  I ranked the experience here.  The price/ age/ quality ratio is easy for me to commit to.  The beginning of the year saw me post on some other factory stuff mainly coming from TeasWeLike.  It made me think that I would like to focus here in the future.

I also explored more of the Bi Yun Hao brand.  The older stuff was interesting but still have not gone deep enough yet.  Amazing that I still only have one cake of YiYunHao.  I’d like to explore more of this in the next year.  

This past Year of The Tiger I also did a deeper look into Puerist thanks to a package of complimentary samples. Puerist is a solid supplier of Gushu single area Sheng puerh for reasonable prices.  I have cake purchased a few of these in past years.

Also I am always grateful to be offered complimentary samples of Tea Encounter’s freshest Sheng puerh selections.  This year I reviewed them all and it ended up being the only fresh 2022 Sheng I had sampled this year.  I enjoyed their reasonably priced Gushus-Walong and Manzhuan which were interesting to compare.

I also dug deep into’s catalogue as they supplied me with many complimentary samples for review with my purchases.  My overall impressions of their teas is good and resonantly priced.  I saw a lot of growth with them over their first full year of their rebrand.

One of the highlights of my year is when Marco humours and humbles me with our exchange of blind samples.  He sent a some real beautiful teas this year and I’m still laughing at my blind evaluation of some of them!

A very different shift of tea drinking occurred for me this year that isn’t completely reflected in my posts.  The past 5 years or so I was almost exclusively drinking puerh but this year I started getting into some of my other old favourites that I haven’t craved in a while… I ended up drinking through my samples and tins of aged oolong, I really enjoyed these.  At the beginning of the year I purchased some samples of fresh Korean Balhyocha some of which I sampled a decade ago which I documented in a post here.  In the spring I purchased a bunch of fresh Yame matcha some of which I commonly consumed and posted 15 years ago!  I need to post on that beautiful stuff!

Happy Year of the Rabbit!


Sunday, January 1, 2023

2003-2007 Chen Yuan Hao Ranking

I took the last week or so of holidays at home to retaste all of these and it was a really good tea week!  I just wanted to mention that this ranking is only comprised of the vetted samples by and TeasWeLike.

Well, I’m a bit surprised by what I found here.  I guess it wasn’t something that was out right stated by others until recently.  Most of what people were saying or what I understood was that the 2005 ChenYuan Hao Shanzhong Chuanqi was the pinnacle of ChenYuan Hao of this era.  However, although it is the Chen Yuan Hao cake I own the most, I think it is a bit overrated but I guess I’m not the only one.

Recently Marco stated that he enjoys the 2003 ChenYuan Hao ManZhuan and 2003 Chen Yuan Hao Youle more than the 2005 ChenYuan Hao Shanzhong Chuanqi for immediate drinking.  He believes Shanzhong Chuanqi will age into something more favourable but I’m a bit more skeptical about it because, it (at least the Teas We Like storage option) has some of the nuances washed away into the base depth taste and it overall feels like a bit of the complexity is lost here- still an excellent puerh.  I’m just as excited as him to see how this will age out.  I served the 2005 Shanzhong Chuanqi to another puerh person and he didn’t like it and didn’t even finish the cup- true story.  I believe James of TeaDB was also less enthusiastic about the 2005 Shanzhong Chuanqi when he first tried it but later warmed up to it.  I have sampled it extensively now.

Another thing I wanted to discuss is how to evaluate or appreciate these ChenYuan Hao on their own and in reference to other puerh producers of this time.  I think these earlier ChenYuan Hao productions are super interesting because they use a more traditional processing with obvious Gushu material.  I think it will age more favourably.  The 2003 six famous puerh mountain series gives a very clear, strong, and characteristic profile of these famous areas.  The blended commemorative cakes show off the complexity of the blend nicely.

Lastly I wanted to comment on the storage… although the TeasWeLike storage and the “standard storage” do taste a bit different I’m not really sure that they come from different storage, at the very least they come from similar storage or were until recently stored the same, or the difference are slight that they came from humidity and packaging- not sure.  But as they continue to age in my storage after sampling them a year later the differences are even less.  

I much prefer the other more limited but much better “old man” storage of  The cakes of this storage are the 2003 ChenYuan Hao Yiwu, 2003 ChenYuan Hao Yibang, 2004 ChenYuan Hao Song Pin Hao Commemorative, and the 2005 ChenYuan Hao Jing Chang Cha Zhuan (I do believe).  This storage is apparently quite hot and drier as it was stored by a hobbyist Mr. Old Man.  It comes off preserving more of the complexity and gives the puerh a subtle perfume fragrance,  the wet leaves appear slightly greener than the standard storage.

Ok here we go…

1- 2004 Chen Yuan Hao Song Pin Hao Commemorative- super strong wth thick oily juicy mouthfeel, strong bitter backbone, lots of resin and complex incense, strong body feeling and Qi sensations.  Powerful with nice stamina. Could be the best cake I own.

2- 2003 Chen Yuan Hao Yiwu (old man storage) (here and here)- this is just super delicious feel good classic Gushu Yiwu stuff there is an abundance of rich complex odours and sweet layer with this dry stored cake.  This one is easily winning the speed test!  I have half a cake but less each month. No longer for sale.

3- 2003 Chen Yuan Hao Tong Qing Hao Commemorative- (here and here)- very tasty, smooth creamy Yiwu with a thickish mouthfeel and nicer stamina then 2003 ChenYuan Hao Yiwu. This is not a strong Qi puerh but very easy to enjoy!  Picked up a cake from TeasWeLike.

The next four 2003 from the six famous tea mountains series are all very similar in quality first vetted by TeasWeLike.  I would love to try the Gedeng and Mangzhi one day.  Depending on my mood the four change preferences.  I drank them back to back this week and I actually prefer them in the opposite order but I’ll let the speed test sort this out for today…

4- 2003 Chen Yuan Hao Youle (here and here)-a very powerful yet very characteristic Youle.  Still some astringency in here and the taste is so condensed with the astringency and strong Qi that sometimes I have to step away from this one for a while in the session and regroup.

5- 2003 Chen Yuan Hao Yiwu (standard storage) (here and here)- very sweet condensed layered classic Yiwu profile.  Not as nuanced as the dried stored cake above but super enjoyable.

6- 2003 Chen Yuan Hao ManZhuan- (here and here)thick in the mouth, with aged delicious fruity taste, very nice full oily mouthfeeling.  The leaves are much more typical larger Gushu looking than the others in the series also has an older tree vibe.  This one is climbing the list ever time I re-try it.

7-2003 Chen Yuan Hao Yibang- this one gives me a bit of the body tingling and itch otherwise it would be higher on the list.  Perfume floral and sweet raisins with a Qi that gets me high and bodyfeeling on the head and face and lower limbs.  A really nice example of older semi-aged Yibang. This week when I tried it again the itch was easy to overlook for the other really positive features.

8- 2005 Chen Yuan Hao Shanzhong Chuanqi- (here and here)- this is a six famous tea mountain blend with deep profile and bitter base.  There is the really nice creep-up-on-you Qi at about the fourth or fifth infusion that gets me every time!  Flavours are a bit washed out in the storage here- always enjoyable for me!

9- 2007 Chen Yuan Hao Autumn Yiwu Chawang- this is a nice leaning to a more modern Yiwu Gushu type of thing that is super subtle, deep but delicate with less stamina.  This type of cake signals a change of gears for Chen Yuan Hao.

10- 2011 Chen Yuan Hao Qian Jia Zhai Jincha- okay this is younger than the others… and it’s an outlier production being outside the six famous tea mountains and pressed into a mushroom shape… but it is delicious coco sweetness and powerful qi with great stamina… my kind of puerh!  Great value. 

11- 2005 Chen Yuan Hao Jing Chang Cha Zhuang- this one has a nice evolution throughout the session with oily and mouthwatering sweet onset that soon gets dominated by strong astringency and bitterness which drowns the subtle blend of this one.  Still interesting and enjoyable sample.