; Cwyn's Death By Tea: Teabook Puerh ;

Monday, August 21, 2017

Teabook Puerh

Over the past few weeks my puerh consumption fell off the grid as I went through a dietary elimination to discover a source of GI distress. This turned out to be a medication which recently went from exclusive patent to generic. I have been taking this medication for some years and so did not recognize it as a problem until the new pill lost the protective coating that is apparently exclusive to the original manufacturer. GI distress is tiring and a symptom of so many possible conditions, the only way to figure out the issue is through dietary elimination, including tea. After identifying the pill as the culprit and adjusting dosage issues, I added teas back to my diet.

Teabook is a fairly new company based in Washington State, similar to EverydayTeas in that both companies share a marketing philosophy of less expensive teas. I received a cake of their 2017 “Raw Puerh Lincang” unsolicited from the company, a 100g beeng sells for $10.95. At $0.11/g this is certainly a budget tea. Teabook also sells Denong teas, and a “limited selection” of pricey teas but these are separate categories on their website. I requested a sample of the pricier “Agarwood Ripe” tea, which was reviewed by LazyLiteratus last year. I paid for the shipping on the Agarwood sample.

The 100g 2017 Lincang by Teabook.
Before I discuss these two teas, I must mention that I received an odd marketing email last week from Teabook saying that all their teas are now “permanently 50% off.” I am not sure if this is true because the website is still showing regular prices for everything. The website contains slick marketing features,  messages like “someone from San Francisco just purchased this tea” and banners like “Free Denong mini ripe tuocha with purchase” along with a countdown time clock for the promotion. All these features are designed to get you to hurry up and buy. I do not know whether any of these marketing promotions are “for real,” so I will assume the tea price listed on the website is the price to pay. Okay, on to the teas..

The 2017 Lincang 100g cake is very basic, and the description is that the leaves are from “50-100 years old,” marketing speak for plantation farm tea. This sort of tea may be a good low-commitment introduction for someone new to puerh tea, or perhaps a daily drinker for folks on a budget.

Leaf mix contains larger leaves and a few buds.
I steeped 8g starting with 60ml water and increasing from there to 100 ml or so. The leaves show a mix from larger leaves to some buds. They are surprisingly strong to the finger rub test in early steeps. The company claims the tea will go 25 cups or so. This tea is very new, and brews up as green tea currently. It needs a year to tighten up and begin enzyme activity.

A 2017 tea like this is likely to still be "green" now.
For 11 cents a gram tea, not much complaint here, I find the typical floral Lincang profile with clean processing, but it remains to be seen if the tea will age. The tea has a sour flavor note at the moment. Perhaps this will work itself out over the next year. Teabook advises brewing the tea at 85-90C, but I used boiling temps to push the tea. I consumed about four steepings, the tea is too green and sour to continue on. I will try it again in a year and see if it changes.

Some fairly strong leaves here.
Teabook advises using a few leaves in their travel infuser, basically grandpa style. This is probably the best way to take this tea, a few leaves at a time. People who want to add some puerh to their life as “green tea” can do so with this easy and clean cake. But there is nothing special about 11 cents a gram tea, I do not expect special at a low price tag. Teabook carries a few more premium teas that might interest me more. I ordered the sample of the Agarwood Shou Puerh and explained to Teabook that many of the readers of this blog are looking for unique teas, not necessarily basic teas. Many readers already have their collections filled in with daily teas, and only open the wallet for something different. This tea certainly is unique, as agarwood teas are very difficult to find in the west.

A new experience, shou and agarwood.
Agarwood in essential oil form is known as “oud” or Oudh in Arabic. Also known as Aloeswood, agarwood is a sticky, resinous woody growth on trees of the genus Aquilaria, a growth produced similar to the way chaga mushrooms form on birch trees in Russia and Canada. Agarwood is used as a medicinal herb, and as a fragrance for incense and perfumery. Oud is a very masculine scent.

In the early 1980s, I bought a vial of essential oil of Oud mixed with genuine deer musk at a meditation center. This tiny vial cost me $20 then, a rather large sum for a tiny vial amongst other scents costing less than half as much. But the essential oil was powerful, and the vial dispensed only a very tiny brown drop at a time which I applied to pressure points, a single drop was enough to use around my body. Oud is one of my favorite scents ever, and I had that vial for at least twenty years, losing it to a leakage in the jewelry box during a move. I wore that oil so often, and never did I smell it on anyone else in my mostly patchouli-scented hippie neighborhood. After many years of wearing this oil, oud is a strong memory scent for me.

3g of this is a sufficient session. One must be
careful with very strong teas containing added herbs.
Today, genuine Oud is more expensive than gold, with agarwood succumbing to overharvesting and increasing scarcity. Agarwood takes a number of years to grow and needs those years to develop depth and potency. But people harvest it too early just as they do with ginseng and many other natural herbs because of the prices on the market. If you see Oud anywhere, chances are it is either synthetic or a very weak version of the real deal. My vial purchased long ago no doubt would now cost several hundred dollars at least. Oh, how I wish I had that vial back again! I know my vial would still be at least half full now except for that spillage.

Second steep, a plummy shou with oud fragrance.
The price for a 100g cake of agarwood puerh is a staggering $490, making this one of the most expensive puerh teas per gram at $4.90/g. So I wanted a bit of memory lane in Teabook’s Agarwood ripe puerh tea. I know I will recognize the scent, if it is really in the tea. The cake has tiny, rather crumbly ripe puerh leaves, because agarwood is small woody chips that will not stay in a pressed cake if the leaves are too large. My sample is 6g which is available for $24.95. One only needs 3g for a session in a 60-80 ml gaiwan or tiny teapot. Needless to say, a rinse is money down the drain.

The agarwood tends to escape the teapot
and float in the strainer.
Despite the crumbly tiny ripe leaves, the shou is a good quality wild growth tea. As you probably know, wild teas do not make for powerful, long duration shou, but the plummy, cherry flavor compliments the agarwood nicely. I smelled the agarwood at once in my clay teapot after pouring out my first cups and here I got my memory lane’s worth.

Agarwood consumed as an herb is a strong hypnotic, and the tea does not disappoint in this regard. Two cups and I felt the tea buzzing in my face and behind the eyes. The full experience is the scent of the wet leaves while experiencing the hypnotic effect, rather like sinsemilla marijuana. This is a lovely tea for an evening between two lovers, more sensual than wine. My memories take me back to those days of celibacy at the meditation center and the chime of a brass bowl on a pillow during our hours of sitting. Meditation is never dry or sterile, one should bring all the sensuality one has just as lovers do when together.

Dried leaves, the agarwood bits look like small wood chips.
The ripe puerh in the tea lasts for only about six steepings before giving out. One should boil the tea after this, because any woody herb needs to be boiled to extract the essential oil. If you prefer, you may wish to take a 6 gram sample purchase and steep in 80 proof or higher vodka or moonshine alcohol for at least six weeks, then decant and store in a dropper bottle to add to cocktails or other beverages.

Without a strainer, the agarwood floats to the top.
Easier to pour them back into the teapot this way.
With the $490 price tag, I think this is overpriced for a full cake. The sample is too, but more accessible. One can argue that the cost of the agarwood justifies the expense, but are we selling in the agarwood market or to tea people? Tea people do not especially care about the agarwood market, they are paying for merits in tea and we can find hypnotic tea for much less. The shou is nice, but not special nor aged nor durable. On the other hand, I can see myself springing for a sample. For $24.95 I get two sessions: one can have a 3g session split between two people, so about $12.50 for a romantic evening. A bottle of wine for such an occasion usually costs much more.

The Denong selection at Teabook is worth keeping an eye on for more offerings, and their travel tea infuser has had some good reviews in the past. We are seeing more small vendors dip into the puerh realm, and the story is usually the companies start out with a very basic offering and then try and source some higher end teas. With as much press as puerh has received in the “foodie” world over the past year, these companies are well positioned to take advantage of new adventurer customers in the US with lower shipping costs, minus the confusion of buying from Asia. This is great for new folks. Those of us looking more widely for teas around the world can thank these newer vendors who might catch on with new buyers, and keep them captive. 


  1. You say: "...we can find hypnotic tea for much less.". Can you share a few suggestions on this? There are always many comments about strong Qi on teas, yet not so many about mellower, calming and hypnotic ones.
    Thanks, T_T

    1. Hi, thanks for reading! I've covered so many of these teas on my blog. It's difficult to recommend to specific people without a reference point for what teas give an effect you like. White2Tea's 2005 Naka is very nice, maybe try a sample of that one.

    2. Well, thanks for writing the blog; that's harder... It's always interesting and often amusing, so no big effort in reading.
      I'll bite on the reference, hoping to get a good and affordable suggestion (that 2005 naka is way out of my range). Key words from the quote were 'hypnotic' and 'MUCH less'.
      A tea that leaves you light headed, worryless, awake but calm and able to see the free flow of your thoughts without getting tangled into them!
      Up to $0,40 per gram, possibly from Scott (next pending order). Oh, and no other requirement but i hate a dry mouth.
      It's obviously tongue in cheek, but if there is something (tea, i mean) you might suggest along those lines, i'll give it a try ;-)
      Best, T_T

    3. Might want to look at those prices again. The Agarwood tea here is $4.90/g whereas w2t Naka is just under $1.00/g. The Agarwood costs nearly 500% more. I'd say the Naka qualifies as MUCH less.

      If you're looking for the same experience in a budget price range, well aren't we all, but frankly it's dreaming our part.