; Cwyn's Death By Tea: May 2017 ;

The Very Limited T-Shirt for Cwyn's Tea Fund

Saturday, May 20, 2017

2005 CNNP Big Yellow Mark

2005 CNNP Big Yellow Mark from Yunnan Sourcing
in ragg paper (uncut edges)
Back off the tea wagon, I resumed my puerh tea habits with a mostly healed up lower back. Tax return time flushed my wallet so I can spend a little bit on tea. One cake I spied during my down time is this 2005 CNNP Big Yellow Mark over at Yunnan Sourcing. I noticed the US site had 20 cakes available and I held my breath nearly a month hoping to score one of these before they sold out. At that time the China site did not have this tea, but I notice that it is available there now too for $2 less, and with more photos than the US site. I tried finding this tea on Taobao before buying, and while Taobao has a number of mark teas I could not find this exact one at the time.

The good news is Yunnan Sourcing’s US site now offers Free Shipping for orders over $75. With this tea at $68, I can easily find something else to toss into my cart to reach that free shipping mark. Recently I noted that white2tea has reduced their flat rate shipping from $14.99 to $9.99. So all the online griping over shipping costs seems to have had some effect on at least two vendors.

My cake arrived during the first hot and muggy spell of the summer. Of the two teas I ordered together, this is the one that stank up the box with minty incense. The beeng is 357 grams with machine compression. Mr. Wilson describes the storage on this tea as “dry Guangdong,” which is more humid than a dry-stored Kunming. I found my cake is definitely on the dry side of humid storage with no off odors and I welcome the bug bites on the wrapper. Overall my cake is drier than, say, the 2006 Chang Tai I bought last year from Yunnan Sourcing. The material in this tea is a spring blend of Bulang and Nannuo leaf with a mix of buds and larger leaves.

No mushy spots on mine.
I leaf this heavy in an early 2000s zisha clay pot, and gave two rinses and tossed the first steeping as it was still too light. The tea smells slightly medicinal, with wood and chicory notes. Viscosity is quite decent with a thick pour and a few small bubbles that do not pop. Early steeps have a slightly sour fermentation note which disappears over subsequent steepings. This is a very actively aging tea, but definitely over the hump of youth as Mr. Wilson states. Leaves are still green but they are turning a pale brown. Liquor is a dark orange and remains so as I steep.

A Bulang/Nannuo mix of buds with larger leaves.
Early flash steeps are bitter with a quick throat and mouth huigan, and the cup retains a floral smell. I am using a brand new cup made by potter pal Inge Nielsen, so no other tea can produce this nose. I taste woody florals, slight medicine, some sour fruit, and the chicory note which increases in later steepings. Some qi and astringency are present with a slight delay. I down six steepings and then went to fold laundry when I got hit with the qi in my eyes and in the middle of my back. After my folding the astringency hit and I coughed a dry mouth and went for a drink of water.

This tea performs very well in zisha/Yixing clay.
The smell of the tea liquid in the cha hai keeps drawing me in. This has just the smell I want in an aging tea, floral and chicory leather like grandpa’s 1940s home office with a big wood desk, dark leather chairs and vintage letter writing set. He has an empty container of pipe tobacco open and the wood pipe long unused in the ashtray. He does not smoke it any more but still likes to chew the mouthpiece a little. Steeps 8-10 I need to extend the brew time a little. This is not a mega steeper but a very pleasant drinker tea that lingers sweet in the mouth for more than an hour.

I agree with Mr. Wilson’s assessment that this tea will be really nice in 8-10 years. The lack of any date stamp knocks the collectors off the buyer list for this tea, leaving it for those of us with a storage hobby. While the price is entry level for a semi-aged tea, I really hope that the storage fiends are the people who go for this. I consider this a tea to put away for that full duration as Mr. Wilson suggests, so you can have a very nicely aged puerh tea in just a short decade, or maybe less if you live in one of those more humid places. This tea has the best possible start and yet is dry enough that I cannot consider it wet stored at all. If someone says to me “oh well this tea did not ‘do’ it for me,” then I think you are missing something. 

Tea is still green but with pale brown aging started.
This is not a tea to drink right now. It is actively fermenting and I taste where the tea is currently going, but it is not yet at the final destination. While the low price might draw some people new to puerh, I think some prior experience in assessing semi-aged teas helps to really appreciate where this tea is at today. Perhaps experienced storage folks probably do not need another drinker tea. But if you do, well here is one to consider with a fine start. If you lack storage assessment experience, perhaps you can give this a try while telling yourself “this is a tea I must put away rather than drink today, a trial cup is merely a test of where it is at.”

Yunnan Sourcing US showed 18 cakes left today, but now it will show at most 17, because I bought another. I cannot tell how many are available on the new China site, and you know what is going to happen. Because the tea lacks a date stamp, Mr. Wilson has somewhat under-priced this little gem and he will figure that out all too soon. A 2005 tea for $66/68? I do not expect this price to stay so low for long.

New spring teas are on the horizon! I notice that Bitterleaf Teas are first out of the gate with 2017 spring puerh tea already. Unexpectedly I received a couple of samples today which I will try next time. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Puerh Tea Headlines Spring 2017 Edition

Puerh Tea Harvest Confirmed for 2017

Yunnan tea farmers are proud to report a new harvest at hand for 2017. As reported on social media, the harvest is later than usual.

“Something about the weather, or climate change but we don’t know what,” said a vendor on his Instagram page. “The teas are just budding now and it is already mid May!”

Meanwhile, tourists are flooding Yunnan with very little to see yet.

“It’s okay,” said one tourist in the crowded hostel bar next to his Chanel-clad girlfriend. “I just drink the hooch.”

His girlfriend who appeared a bit glum responded to prodding for a comment.

“I’m waiting,” she said. “He promised me.”

Western Vendor Found Bloated in Bedroom

Reports arrived from Yunnan concerning a tea vendor found in his hotel room, allegedly bloated from drinking too much fresh maocha. After failing to emerge from his room for many days, the hotel called the local military to accompany them in checking the room when a foul odor garnered complaints from other residents.

“He looked just like Blueberry Boy from Willy Wonka, except green,” said the Proprietor.

“We found an empty Tide bottle, but apparently he didn’t use it, or couldn’t,” added the local captain.
 “Hard know what he ate, I guess his kidneys couldn’t take it.”

A scientist from the Yunnan Tea Institute had this to say:

“In most cases puerh tea has a diuretic effect. I must stress how strong Yunnan tea leaves are, and outsiders simply don’t have the digestive capability of locals who have adapted over centuries to drinking the tea. You can’t force nature.”

A herbalist was called for an enema, and the man is recovering at a local clinic. He plans to return to drinking tea, according to a clinic staff member speaking on condition of anonymity due to medical regulations.

“He says this little setback won’t stop him,” the herbalist confirmed.

Tourists Kill Ancient Puerh Tree with Too Many Photos

Recent news articles from the region are that a puerh tree died after one too many cell phone pics. Even though the tree was cordoned off from the reach of passers-by, the presence of too many phones managed to kill a tree reported to be at least 1200 years old despite local efforts to keep the tree in place on an embankment.

“I don’t know what happened,” a hysterical female tourist from Beijing told reporters. “I have the latest IPhone.”

Locals had another view of the matter.

“We done our best to keep ‘er propped up,” said a local resident referring to the ropes keeping the mostly hollowed out tree from falling down the hillside. He referred this writer to his grandmother, who verified the age of the old puerh tree, saying it was growing there since she was a teenager.

“See here all them phones, it starts gov’ment surveillance,” she said, speaking with us anonymously on a condition of fear of losing a pension. “The more phones we got here, the more gov’ment radiation. We never had this problem until kids started buying those contraptions. Phones rot the brain just like that tree there.”

“They should’ve used thicker rope,” agreed her grandson, looking up from Angry Birds on an IPad.

When queried about the use of any insecticides on this tree, the local council was quick to issue a denial.

“No chemicals were used, ever, on that hillside. Nature has its way with those old trees.”

The tree did not respond to requests for comment.

Husband Finally Divorces Tea Blogger

“I’m fed up,” Michael said as he delivered yet another box of wedding dishes to his soon-to-be ex-wife. Although the couple had lived separately for more than twenty years, apparently the overwhelming tea hobby provided the final straw in a marriage already on shaky ground.

“Our kid is grown, and I’ve lived apart just to give her more room for tea ware,” said the husband. “I wish her well, but I paid my dues.”

Local county courts ordered the man to pay health insurance for the blogger until the final judgment. The couple was also told they could not sell anything in the meantime.

“This means her tea is going nowhere,” Michael said. “I only worked that damn job to give her health insurance, and I deserve to split assets in exchange. I tried to tell the judge her tea is worth thousands, but he thinks it’s a beverage.”

“It’s a beverage,” Carrie said shortly before hanging up the phone on a reporter seeking comment.

Michael plans to move to Anhui to work for a Canadian school, and pursue a relationship with a woman he met from there.

“I don’t know why he just doesn’t go ahead and drink my Anhui heicha logs,” said Carrie. “It would be a hellava lot cheaper.”

Puerh Tea Hobby Impresses Parole Officer

Puerh tea appears to promote a positive view of persons currently in community-based corrections programs. A local parole officer conducting home visits to verify the rooming situation of a local felon found him renting from a lady with a significant puerh tea hobby. The officer reported her impressions of the visit.

“I’ve never heard of puerh tea before. Apparently it’s a strong pressed cake of tea that must be aged for twenty years. I asked if it had any psychedelic properties because my client has a sobriety requirement. The landlady strongly denied the tea has any discernible effects.”

The tea ware was equally impressive.

“This landlady had a stone tea table and tea ware. I think the table was by somebody named Randova. I’ve never heard of it, but we have a lot of Polish landladies around here.”

The visit reportedly lasted for three minutes during which the paroled felon unlocked his room for the officer to view.

“I passed,” was all he said.

When we reached the landlady for confirmation of the story, she added a correction.

“Randová is not Polish.”

Puerh Collectors Lament Fewer Factory Cakes to Buy

Recently a group of puerh collectors complained about the trend of boutique tea cakes on the western market, fearing a downward spiral in availability of factory productions.

“Those new teas, they have no collector value,” said a man reported to have at least three hundred kilos in his collection. “They go flat in a year, and they don’t have famous wrappers.”

A woman in the collector group explained the value of factory productions.

“The tea needs to be chopped as finely as possible. If you can’t get leaves stuck in a spout, then we have a problem. Also, we need a strong tobacco flavor since none of us smoke anymore, which those new boutique teas mostly don’t have. All those florals really make me sick.”

“I especially appreciate the holographic stickers on factory cakes,” added a long time collector. “I bought a black light to verify I have the real deal. No one who owns those new cakes can say that.”

Another collector referred to the possibility of treasures found within factory cakes, something rarely seen in the “newer” style of smaller house productions.

“I find hairs, corn, insects, pods, strings, ribbons and especially prized are used cigarette butts. These are ways we know factory workers truly handled the tea, as opposed to some westerner who doesn’t know puerh from a Darjeeling,” he said.

We reached out to Menghai Tea Factory and Xiaguan for comment on the situation.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” said the Taetea Factory Rep, scratching his head. “We maintain all of our old recipes in rotation, and we introduce literally dozens of new ones each year, thousands upon thousands of beengcha. We had to start our annual production as early as before New Year just to keep up with the demand. But these tea collectors on tourist visas are crazy. They camp here, too. Every day I arrive at work, I find them blocking the door trying to get in. They demand Lao Ban Zhang and I have to tell them we don’t make anything near that level.”

“My compatriot is sadly correct,” said the Xiaguan rep, referring to his colleague’s comments over at Taetea. “We have the same issue with the collectors. They say, ‘I want purple box’ when I have no purple box. I’d send them to Tibet but I might lose my job. Yet, how is it our fault we have the best tuos? Success has its drawbacks, is what I tell the Board.”

A representative of the Haiwan (Old Comrade) Tea Company heard about our visit to the other two factories, and wanted to issue a statement also.

“We at Old Comrade welcome the tourists, but it does get a bit overwhelming. For example, we have this guy who flies over from Singapore each year to haul home a box of tongs. His wife calls ahead to tell us not to sell him any more tea, but what can we do? His credit card goes through every time.”