; Cwyn's Death By Tea: 2017 WMD Mansa ;

Sunday, November 19, 2017

2017 WMD Mansa

Over a year ago I very much enjoyed Bitterleaf’s 2016 WMD Mansa, and I added a 2017 version of this tea into an order I placed last spring. At that time, my attention was primarily focused on Bitterleaf’s collector/hoarder “late 1990s” CNNP, a well-stored tea I am still somewhat obsessed with. When ordering teas, my interest is often laser-ed in on one tea and other teas are add-ons mainly to take advantage of shipping. In the case of Bitterleaf Tea ordering, once you hit the $100 purchase mark you will get free shipping. I was well past the free shipping mark with the CNNP tea so I decided to get the Mansa now rather than order it later and pay the shipping too.
Dark wrapper this year.
Bitterleaf Teas continues to impress followers with their unique artisan tea wares, many of which sell out immediately. So you must follow their Instagram feed or email ahead if you hope to snag a particular piece. While Jonah Snyder primarily answers email inquiries, his wife’s professional-level photography skills make their website stand out from virtually all other tea vendor sites. In my youth I took old-school black and white photography courses, but with cell phone cameras and an “everybody is a photographer” mentality today, I appreciate here that professional skill and know-how are still obviously superior. I must cover my eyes to avoid tea ware temptation, and quickly navigate to the teas on the Bitterleaf website.
The neifei got rather buried in this cake.
My cake of 2017 WMD Mansa got a full summer of warm and humid weather to settle down and now nearly six months have passed since it arrived. The price of the tea is the same as last year, a hefty $0.88/g so $88 for 100g. I re-read my post from last year and further prepared for this year's session by not drinking any sheng two days in advance, so that the full effects of this tea might affect me all more strongly. As I recall, last year’s tea had some serious stoner effects for me. I tried to go lighter on the parameters with a small 60 ml gaiwan, but chipped off 5g so what the hell, steep it hard.
This is a 100g beengcha
The smell and appearance of the wet leaves under boiling water immediately seem to me a different tea than last year, something I have heard from other buyers. This tea does not have the strong florals as last year, although I do smell a bit of floral in the cup, but also an ordinary Menghai note which is new. The leaves for the most part are also much smaller.
Initial steeps have a custard-smooth and thick quality to the brew, some bitterness and a mild Menghai fruit flavor. The tea has some residual lingering in the throat down to the stomach. After four cups I broke a sweat and felt some stoner effects in my face, not so much as I recall from last year, but of course we are never the same on any given day. As the leaves open up, I find one or two that have the thicker stems as last year’s tea, but this year’s beeng is a bit more tip-py with small buds and small leaves.

Steep 4
After eight quick brews I need to push the tea with longer steeping time. The next three steeps are sour/bitter with a touch of fruity floral, very astringent and mouth drying but still decently thick. Yet I’m hitting green tea now and the leaves are forced into a stewed veggie condition. Last year I remember thick leaves steeping for days, easily past fifteen brews. The mix of leaves appears to consist of some of the larger leaves I remember from last year, and much younger/smaller leaves that smush under the finger rub test. The larger leaves are more sturdy and do not break when rubbed.

2017 Mansa leaves
The problem for me is this tea has the same name on the wrapper two years in a row. I am somewhat stuck. I cannot help comparing last year’s production, my expectations are set in advance due to the name. I cannot explain the reason for these differences between the two productions because too many explanations are possible. Had Bitterleaf simply used a different name for the tea, I would not have the same expectations. The truth may well be that these leaves are from the same trees as last year, and the weather or time of picking may explain the differences. But I could just as easily believe the tea is not from the same trees as last year, or that the large leaves are the same but another younger batch of leaves has been added in. Maybe the quantity of the harvest was lower and the production required boosting with another tea.

2016 Mansa leaves on the same plate as above.
Overall the brew is not terribly complex, but then neither was last year’s tea. Certainly the tea is still fairly fresh and may change more in the next six months. Comparing the tea to an inexpensive drinker, the quality of the experience is definitely better than average but the sour late brews and lack of longevity are concerning at this price range. At this point, I am stuck because I know 2017 teas overall are more expensive. So, “this year’s prices” may well fit in with reality. What stood out about last year’s production was leaf quality and longevity, and the drinking experience was also better than the average drinker. If an “average drinker tea” of lesser quality costs more this year, then I could say 2017 WMD Mansa is right in line with other 2017 teas.
So if I buy 200g of this tea at $176, this falls in the higher price range of other vendors, for example white2tea’s 2016 Untitled 2. However I think I prefer a bit more complexity at this price range, and for the money a good alternative, theoretically speaking, is a much less expensive but sold out w2t Bosch. At the same time, not many teas offer similar drinking experiences with the body effects, and we will generally need to pay a hefty price tag for teas that do offer such effects.
I have heard second-hand that vendors are saying they could not make the same productions this year for the same cost as the past two years. I am left wondering about 2017 overall. Because I have not bought any other teas from this year’s harvest, I do not have a good comparison. One can do much worse buying a drinker quality, and this tea is a somewhat better experience. To decide for your own self how much better this tea is than other teas, I suggest sampling first. Honestly with this year’s prices so high across the board, buying samples before committing your wallet is likely the best strategy.


  1. Cwyn,

    Thanks again for putting your full and honest opinion into yet another review.

    There were three newer vendors that I really wanted to try out (white2tea, Crimson Lotus, Bitterleaf). I have yet to try any puerh from Bitterleaf but seriously had my eye on this one as I am eyeing some newer Yiwu. After reading yours (and others) reviews of the 2016, it was a serious consideration.

    For some reason, I just can't quite can't get my head around the price and the size.

    As always, your reviews have left me with just as many questions as answers. I like that.


    1. You might like the tea, I really think people should sample and decide for themselves. It does have some nice effects, but I struggled with the 2016 comparison which biases me somewhat.

    2. Your review felt like a mirror of what my experience with this years harvest is too..
      The same goes for the Secret Garden (which well suffered bad weather this year sadly, so that is unfortunate and a part of the tea-harvest-game)

      I have to admit that I'm literally longing for 2016, and I do so to such a point that I truly wish I had a time-machine haha..
      Thank you for for sharing your thoughts!

  2. I am sampling heavier this year and probably only getting some curated stuff. The trend of small cakes and the higher prices are keeping me off the stuff for a while.