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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

2015 Pin

2015 Pin by white2tea
I have many teas in my collection yet to sample, and 2015 Pin from white2tea is one of these. This tea is still available for purchase, and was sent as part of last year’s tea club. The club box included a memo on the tea which recommended waiting for the tea to settle down. When a vendor suggests waiting on tea, I listen to this kind of advice. Our puerh hobby is all about waiting anyway, a span of years and decades, so what then is a few months’ wait? No time at all, really. So here I am at one year later now trying the Pin for the first time.

Breakfast, or dinner?
This tea is a blend of 2013, 2014 and 2015 leaf. You might remember last year was one of those wetter years, and the two prior years were drier in Yunnan. Pin benefits from the blend of years, I think. I brewed up 7 grams of tea in about 100-120 ml water, increasing the water as the leaf expanded.

On first brewing, the leaves appear to consist of a mix of very large leaves, some younger buds, and some yellow older leaves or perhaps these were processed at a higher temperature as is often the case for autumn leaf. I’m not sure whether the blend has autumn or spring tea or both as the description doesn’t indicate anything aside from some leaves stored in Menghai. Prior to their move to Guangdong, white2tea maintained storage in both Beijing and Menghai, and I believe the Beijing tea is now completely moved south which is likely to benefit the tea stores.

Shore purty.
The first couple of steepings are quite sweet, indicative of northern tea leaf. The third and fourth steepings are a little bit sour, and then the tea sweetens up again for the remainder of the session, which for me stretched out over several days. I got more than fifteen steeps from the 7g of tea, and the tea benefits from resting after every third steep and the tea still isn’t done. These leaves are very sturdy which you can check for yourself by rubbing the wet leaves between your fingers. They don’t turn to mush or tear apart. Sturdy leaves like these take time to open and sometimes a bit of rest to let them resoak and release more flavor.

Check the clarity. I do strain.
Overall I think this cake benefits from the blend of years, it holds up much better than last year’s Poundcake after a year of storage. The longevity is impressive for the price point of about $0.25/g. Also, the tea tastes quite nice cold. Many cups went cold for me as we are now in subzero weather, my cups of tea cool off all too fast. Sometimes sheng gets bitter or sour when allowed to go cold. Yet this one doesn’t change character, but rather maintains the floral notes which are also evident in the aroma of the empty cup.

It’s a drinker tea without a whole lot of complexity, but the brew is clear and the processing excellent as is usually the case with white2tea. Nothing gets in the way of enjoying this pretty floral leaf. I remember last year this tea was supposedly rather astringent. I’m not noticing much astringency now, and with my drying medications I will usually notice astringency more than some people might.

The leaves open and the brew turns more golden.
I’m glad I waited the year to drink this tea, and this brings up a trend among buyers that I find rather regrettable. I see people drinking teas as soon as they arrive in the mail without any consideration for the teas needing a rest, either because the tea is freshly pressed, or because the tea has had some wet storage and travel issues. I can understand wanting to try a new purchase, but then people do give a tea a poor review simply because they didn’t wait. A freshly pressed tea from any company will need time to rest and tighten up. A sheng puerh changes more in the first year than in any other year of its storage life.

People say “for $50 [or whatever price] the tea should be decent enough I can try it right away.” Any tea is drink-able right out of the mails, but then why judge it when that tea will change more in the next few months? Even an aged tea needs time to open. A drier aged tea will need to return to storage for a time, and a humid aged tea needs time to air. Pin is one of those teas which is probably more comfortable for sheng newbies to drink, and a good choice for a club tea box to please the most number of people. Yet it got a lot of flak from club folk who tried it early, even when the note in the box said “Please wait.” I can understand people won’t like every tea, personal taste is certainly subjective. But I wonder if the “pouncer pronouncer” rushing out an opinion on Steepster or other social media is really in touch with the idea that drinking a sheng cake is a ten, or twenty-year-long tea session.

When people ask me “will I like sheng puerh,” my question back is not “what other teas do you like,” but rather, “what kind of fermented foods do you like?” For if sheng puerh is the King of Teas, it is also certainly the Princess of Fermented Vegetables. Yunnan varietal tea leaf is a distinctly evolved large and bitter leaf. It has very little in common taste-wise with tea leaves from anywhere else. It evolved in a direction completely different from all other sorts of camellia sinensis. If Gyokuro is like unto spinach or lettuce, then Yunnan sheng is like unto cabbage, a sturdy and more strongly flavored cousin.

There is no mistake that sheng lovers also tend to eat sauerkraut or kimchi, or pickles, or drink kombucha and beer or whiskey or bake sourdough bread. So, if you wonder whether you might like sheng, I will ask you, “what other intense foods do you enjoy?” If you can taste the sweetness in a pickle that at first tastes sour, then your tongue is likely to find the returning sweetness in a bitter sheng leaf. If you enjoy the tang of sourdough bread, plain yogurt, or kombucha, then your tongue is looking for fermentation. But if you need your tea sweet, and your yogurt with fruit you might want to explore other teas instead.

I read ratings from people who buy teas because I or another blogger recommend them, and then the buyer gives a poor rating because they don’t like sheng. I would be remiss if I drank a tea I don’t like and then give it a poor rating simply because I don’t like flavored oolong, or whatever. Yet I see people do this all the time with puerh. Even worse are the situations where people spend a ton of money of teas that I recommend, or someone else recommends, the high tier teas, and down-rate all of them. It’s not the fault of the reviewer that you went out and spent a ton of money on something you aren’t sure you will like.

If you are new to sheng, then buy a $20 cake, just one. It won’t be excellent tea, but you have to drink average tea to appreciate the better ones. There is no skipping of tiers. I might not enjoy a $15 Xiaguan tuo so much, but if that is the only sheng I have, then I can drink it and like it just fine. It’s cornflakes instead of oatmeal, but I can and will eat any cereal and I like many types of tea and bitter or sour fermented foods. I can guess that most sheng collectors today can pick up a new Dayi cake and drink it with at least some enjoyment, it is what it is, even though that collector might have other teas they prefer. I’m certain every sheng collector can pick out a dozen “drinker” teas easily that they can consume, as well as their top shelf stuff they aren’t admitting to hoarding.

Mix of leaf types, some yellow, some large and dark, some buds.
So, Pin is one of those teas that I think right now anyone can enjoy, but it has a $49/200g price point. If you are new to puerh, you might like this one, but this price point is still too high for a beginner. Buy samples or check out a $20-30 tea, every vendor sells at least one at a lower price point. And if you are a seasoned puerh drinker, then you already have an opinion on this type of tea, and know what you like, without reading what anyone else writes. If you are drinking factory teas regularly and enjoy them, this is a nice tea to check out for a step up in better processing and blending of northern tea. But above all, WAIT when that tea arrives. Give it some time at home in your storage before brewing it up. You have twenty years to make up your mind.




9 comments:

  1. I second waiting. I still have 2015's that I still haven't drank yet. I think it is very important to let the tea rest after it arrives for a few weeks. I also think letting a tea sit for a while after the initial rinse will benefit the brew too. And you are correct, decades to go on some and I don't know any tea hoarders.......
    M

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    1. Especially if the vendor is telling people to wait.

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  2. I think there's a lot to be learned from drinking cakes soon after pressing. Of course they will change over the coming months but so long as you don't form a firm opinion based on one early tea session it can provide a useful point of reference for the evolution of that particular tea. Some teas, especially fermented ones do need some time to rest, but maybe the case could be made that if a tea isn't ready to drink then it's also not ready to sell.

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    1. A fine point. This is very useful for someone who knows what they are tasting. As well as the current state of the tea, a buyer can assess leaf quality and processing, if for no other reason to confirm a good purchase decision.

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  3. I am a shameful hoarder of Havana cigars. A freshly rolled cigar is not to be smoked until after 2-3 years. During that time the tobacco goes through a process which is called 'the period of sickness'. Maybe that thinking can be applied on sheng too. I have a sample of the 72H that I nibble from but the beengs are in deep storage.

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  4. I remember when I first herd someone say that a tea could be "airsick". It sounded like BS to me, in the same vein as say distance healing or homeopathy. So I tested it. Whenever I got a sample cake I was itching to try I dug into it immediately, and then a little bit later to notice the difference. I can now say with confidence that tea benefits from a rest from my personal experience; and when trying an airsick tea, I can get a decent feel for its character and how it might be a little down the line.

    Of course what Your talking about focusing on time from pressing is a bit different, but I think the same general idea still applies. So I guess I agree with David.

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  5. Is it really Pu Er???
    This is the question on my mind when I read the frequent reviews online of one year old or less teas. These teas are being made specifically for the western market, at western style prices (no cheap tea please) and are processed in a way that makes them soft and floral and easily drinkable. But what are we talking about here. These teas really should be called " Oolong in a Bing". Its a bit sad, because people are being educated out of the drinking pleasure of a real aged pu er. I'm penning my thoughts coming to the end of a six month visit to Penang (Malaysia), pu er lovers paradise!!! Here a vendor won't put a cake on the shelf till its eight years old and most teas for sale are ten to fifteen years.
    Now regarding the price of this tea just reviewed, its not cheap but I think it' priced at a point that Americans will respond to. There are plenty of aged teas available from good vendors for less, but I guess they are not from trendy edgy vendors like white2tea who is working the renegade maverick outsider angle for all its worth.
    Just some thoughts

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    1. Wow, I just love it when people judge teas without trying them. If you are referring to what is called "oolonged processing" which is a total misnomer but I take that to mean the reddish edges you see on the leaves and literally no aging activity in the tea, then that is not the case here. I know of no puerh production by white2tea processed in this fashion.

      What we have here is a blend of leaves and years, probably largely northern Lincang tea but I'm guessing because the origins are not disclosed. The leaves are larger and a few are yellow. You're right in that the blend is mild by design, but that is not the same as "oolonged."

      Taste is what people prefer, whether it's mild leaf like this, or choppy charred retired smoke killed with wet storage.

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  6. Once again you are absolutely right with the points mentioned in this article.

    My initial sipping of a newly purchased pu'er tea is usually no less than 2 to 3 weeks after I receive it from China. For example, from the cakes I purchased in November during our Hong Kong trip I have only tasted one of them while the other six (yes I know, I am weak when it comes to sheng) are still intact in humidor storage and I'll probably will only taste them in the new year.

    This also reminds me to check how my Pin tea cake is doing...

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