; Cwyn's Death By Tea: November 2018 ;

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

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Notable Teas

As Black Friday approaches, I push myself to brew up a few teas I purchased this year, but didn't have time to write up before. Hopefully, a couple of quick jottings will suffice, for these teas are well worth the attention.

2017 Nannuo Mini-Mushrooms by Crimson Lotus Tea

I purchased these earlier in the year, probably 6-7 months ago and stored them in a vintage Ball jar. Every so often I gave them a sniff. They are four grams each, making a nice size for those tiny teapots everyone has. I started with a cold rinse and two quick boiling rinses.

Nannuo Mini-Mushroom, my own Ball Jar with sticker
The material here is notable in that multiple years of tea were combined, some vintage tea included is apparently as old as twenty. The vintage material is what attracted me to the tea, as I like my shou older than ten if possible. I brewed in a Lin's Ceramics blue glazed teapot. 

This tea is nothing short of a revelation. Brewing hard and thick, the first 5-6 steepings taste like candy nuggets were soaked in vanilla and rolled in cocoa. I don't often find the chocolate and vanilla notes that others taste in shou, but here these flavors are unmistakable. Pile notes are only slight, this tea is as sweet as cake, and sits in the heart chakra with happiness. I must be truly happy, because I picked up the crusty soaking meatloaf pan on the stove I was avoiding til later and scrubbed it right up.

Early steeps have a slight astringency which turns to juicy when the vanilla begins to fade. Then I can taste the storage, a whiff of old buildings, reminding me of the old tunnels under the convent. The presence of ancient Illuminati confirmed. The tea starts to die out around ten steepings, but what a session! The mushrooms can be had at about a dozen for under $20. Not cheap shou, but affordable in small quantity. I should never publish these words, I should hoard this tea to which in the offing, virgins with lamps lit run.

Bulk starting at $17.99/50g crimsonlotustea.com

2015 Poundcake 2 Unreleased by white2tea

Remember the long-sold-out 2015 Poundcake, with its floral candy-like sweetness? Yes, the one we got in tea club in butt-plug form. This year, white2tea released a second version of this tea on the down-low, to tea shops only. You cannot buy it on the white2tea website, although I cannot vouch for whether bribing the owner will get you one. I do know that Macha Tea Company in Madison, WI has it, and will ship by the ounce or whole beeng. 

Poundcake 2 Unreleased
photo by machateacompany.com
I got to try this in the shop over the summer, at a delightful session with tea blogger Rambling Butterfly, who opted for another tea of her choice while I manned my own gongfu teapot. Poundcake 2 has a more traditional wood smoke processing, rather like Chawangshop's campfire version of the Lao Yu teas. Consequently the tea has a darker, more smoky incense quality and I have to say I like it better than the original Poundcake. The flavor profile has a fuller bass note that the fresher, more spring-like original lacks. 

I can see why white2tea did not offer this on the website, the original Poundcake was a popular seller, and people who liked that tea might be disappointed at a traditional version. However, people preferring a traditional olde tyme factory religion Yiwu will like this. 

Bulk by the ounce, or $80/200g + shipping, Macha Tea Company machateaco@gmail.com, Phone (01) 608.283.9286

Guangxi-Style Liu Bao by Essence of Tea

People ask me where to buy good heicha, and Essence of Tea has the most intriguing selection at the moment. EoT sources in Malaysia and currently offers not one, but two 1950s aged Liu Bao teas. While these antique teas will set my wallet back into the Dark Ages, EoT has some less expensive  "younger" offerings such as 1990s, and a curious "Betel Nut" which will give anyone new to Liu Bao a taste of the nutty flavor prized in this type of tea.

First steeping
Liu Bao is first briefly oxidized like red tea, and then pile fermented for about ten days or so. After that, the loose tea is traditionally packed in baskets for aging, or pressed into bricks such as the Three Cranes brand does. This tea I own was passed to me by a tea friend. It has the usual flavors of red tea, shou, betel nut and a tangy zip on the tongue that a lively Liu Bao gives, and settles the stomach after a heavy meal. The chunk in the photo forms during piling or later in the basket. This Liu Bao is on the youngish side still, with dry storage. I got five good steepings, which is typical. 

While aged Liu Bao isn't cheap, the prices are a bargain compared to similarly aged puerh, and a good way to get a taste of antique tea for me of modest means. 

Selections of Liu Bao, bulk prices starting at $5,Three-Leaf Liu Bao $5.40, essenceoftea.com

Monday, November 19, 2018

Haiwan Spa


Green tea fads are surpassing the ridiculous. Many I do not understand. Green tea beer, anyone? Adding green tea to cosmetic type products has of course been around awhile now. What I really don’t understand about adding green tea to nearly every product in life we consume is the actual green tea. What sort of tea are these people using? Take this product, for instance:


This is a Korean beauty item called Patting Water. Dump a capful of this in a large bowl of water, and then pat your face with the water. I kind of wanted to buy this just to find out what sort of tea might be in it, as I saw a photo on eBay with what suspiciously looked like Korean tea leaf. Who would use a good sejak in soapy water? I bought the yellow one without the green tea instead.

Then, even more inexplicable is this:


Here we have a package of baby wipes. Now, I really must ask you parents of infants: do you wipe your baby’s ass with green tea? I wonder what green tea does on the ass (not gonna bring up the cucumber). I am somewhat deprived in terms of baby wipes because my own son’s ass broke out in a rash at every commercial baby wipe and I had to make wipes myself by sawing a roll of paper towels in half, removing the core and dumping warm water with baby bath and sensitive lotion over it. I didn’t get to enjoy regular baby wipes except now I buy them for myself and they don’t replace Preparation H.

But my singular puerh perspective asks, if I am gonna use green tea on my ass, wouldn’t I want the strongest possible green tea? If green tea has such benefits my ass can’t do without, then I don’t think cheap tea bags will cut it. Why would I buy cheap tea bags for such a purpose when I have more puerh than I can drink in a lifetime? The only difficulty is which puerh to use. Do I use the crap tea I really don’t want to drink, or the best tea I have, considering the importance of my own ass and the need to sit upon it?

I have seen ads for the Jingmai puerh spa and this of course makes perfect sense to me. And I know for a fact that Wilson goes to the Haiwan Spa every year because he sort of admits to it and I can see through those photos of tea ware and tongs he brings home. At a certain age, we all get the same troubles. I know exactly what the Dalai Lama means when he says a good day is a good dump, even if the disappointed young journalist in London looking for rarified wisdom missed the fact he was given some. I don’t know if His Holiness drinks green tea, probably not puerh, but my pu logic dictates that if I really need green tea on or in my ass, stronger is better. If the green tea fad has raised any sort of awareness, the young journalist today might say “oh well I use Dehong for that.”


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

2018 Lucy by Yunnan Sourcing



After last year’s excellent Year of the Rooster ripe, I have high expectations for this year’s ripes from Yunnan Sourcing. This vendor has two house shou teas so far this year, the Year of the Dog 357g tea for $35, and the “Lucy” 250g for $25, both teas at $0.10/g. Year of the Dog is a blend of shou teas from 2013, and 2015 and so is not made of this year’s tea. Most people know that Lucy is the name of Scott Wilson’s Doberman dog, so I figure this tea is probably the house favorite and so I went ahead and bought Lucy as my choice for 2018.


Lucy is a very firmly compressed beeng comprised of a blend of Menghai and Lincang sourced leaf, according to the description. The wrapping includes a cloth like inner wrapper, a nice touch I usually find on more expensive teas. Visually the cake is impressive too, the leaves are tippy and small, again a quality I find on more expensive shou teas, a mark of a “premium” shou for which I have paid 2x and even 3x more from other sources. In every way this tea rivals the tribute style from more traditional factories, and the Empress in question is of course Lucy the Doberman.


I pick off 6g to sample, and do two rinses. The tea is thick and brown, slightly cloudy but I expect this to clear in another year or so. The first six or so brews are still heavy with pile flavor, and very lively in the mouth and on the tongue, stone fruit-ish and sweet, just a touch of bitterness. Brews 8-10 are well worth the wait, with a mushroom/wine reward. The caffeine is on the mild side for me. The later steeps sit more in the throat and belly. Not a particularly strong qi experience for me, but perhaps my tolerance is high. Still, tippy small leaf puerh like this usually has many steepings to offer, and this still has more to give after ten. I go twelve on my initial session, and I am at about a 30 second steep time at this point. Something about Yunnan Sourcing ripe teas flips my addiction switch, I turn into a drunk who can’t stop. Thankfully I don’t drive after tea!


Every so often I receive emails from people looking to drink shou daily in the morning and they need to get a stockpile of tea going. The challenge is the initial outlay, given a 250g tea is going to last about a month at 8-10g pot per day. Shou should ideally rest a couple of years, so getting ahead of your stockpile is a goal, but the cost to do so is on the high side. Lucy is a tea to consider for this purpose, because a tong of 7 costs $175 from the China website, or $194 from the US site. Unless you feel like shopping more widely, two tongs of Lucy plus one of Year of the Rooster to drink now will give you a good start, and Lucy can rest while you work your way through the Rooster tong. Sure, you can go a bit cheaper with tuos, but Lucy is a premium leaf quality for such a tiny price.

I forgot to take a picture of the wet leaf.
It's the usual dark, small leaves though.
 I can’t think how you can go wrong if you let her sit for a bit. Once you get ahead of your stockpile, you can buy 1-2 tongs per year and that reduces the budget outlay. As long as you can sidestep a sheng addiction, your tea spending here is quite reasonable. Don't forget loyalty points, I had $5 worth to coupon on this purchase, bringing my cost down to $22 on the US site. Mr. Wilson is crazy to sell this leaf quality for half what it normally costs. I would love to try the more expensive Golden Bud production too, but of course it costs more. 

This year a trend is certainly evident with vendors doing more ripe and white teas as a way to reduce costs to consumers, given the yet higher prices of maocha. I feel like I am not missing anything, as vendors are offering such excellent shou, white and red teas using Yunnan leaf. What do you think of this trend?






Thursday, November 8, 2018

Affordable Tea Gifts for the Puerh Lover

The annual Chinese 11/11 retail sale is only a few days away, and I haven't put together a holiday wish list in awhile. Everyone has a wish list for tea and associated wares. Mine might be a little "off," but maybe someone else can find an idea or two.

Zojirushi kettles are in the $200 range and out of reach of many a wallet. Might be worth looking at a an outright knock-off.

Zojirushi kettle knock-off , Aliexpress. $36.22 on 11/11.
Here is a stocking stuffer idea. A Yerba Mate spoon works well for shou balls, stir and suck it up while filtering out any sticks or other funk. Costs less than the coins floating around inside the sofa.

Yerba Mate Spoon,
Aliexpress $0.43-1.27.
Maybe you were five seconds too late for the 30 Second Petr Novak autumn studio sale. Interesting Japanese-made set, fairness cup and five tea cups, from an impeccable seller. $79.

Japan houhin set, $79, Ebay

This is so cool, a lamp bedside table and matching accessories. At least I can find my teacup with this. Comes in several sizes. 

Blubble [sic] Lamps and vases, Aliexpress, $82-275
I will call this an"Oriental fantasy" Japanese Girls Having Tea doormat. Speaks for itself. 

Japanese Girls  Doormat, Aliexpress.
Various sizes, on 11/11 $11.34-18.84
What a great idea for making your own shou, or for the overzealous wet storage freak pushing the mold envelop. Let's face it, sometimes we need to throw a tea away, and we need an easy way to do it. This bucket has a removable charcoal filter in the lid to control odor.

Russian Compost bucket, Aliexpress, $12.79
Kim Hau Ceramics, Los Angeles cup shaped draining soap dish. I have two of these, and had another custom made for my sister. I could use one or two more. The artist is delightful to work with.

Soap dish, by Kim Hau Ceramics, Etsy
made to order, $30





Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Woof

I received a sample of white2tea's 2018 Lucky Puppy with one of my purchases over the summer. I count myself as lucky, and the Puppy no doubt refers to the Year of the Dog. This is one of white2tea's premium offerings this year, ringing in at a painful $228/200g, about $1/g. Understandably for a free sample, I got a beenghole along with some loose tea, and I pick out 3g of the loose tea to brew up in a tiny senchado pot. The dry leaf is dark green and likely has not settled down yet from pressing.


Early steeps have a sour note along with bitterness that is less apparent on the boil than at cooler temps. A vegetal profile confirms that the tea is still green tea, with cucumber rind and green pepper as the top notes. The star of this tea is the qi, as one might expect from white2tea, and qi is what we are paying for here. While the tea sticks to the mouth and tongue, the brew is on the thin side, although brewing only 3g is partly to blame, I expect the tea will thicken more eventually. Right now this is just so fresh, even after three months in the bag since arriving.


The qi is heady, with strong visual acuity, I literally get one eyeglass prescription better. Most of the time I notice I'm overdue for new glasses but all of a sudden the ones I am wearing are just swell. I can contrast this experience with 2018 Arbor Red tea, which has a more relaxing body feel for me.


My tea cashes out around twelve steeps. A regular session of more like 8g should go fifteen to twenty, I expect, but I don't want to waste the tea. I still notice a persistent sour note, although the later steepings give me a creeping huigan and hints of the sweetness that might take over in the future once this tea settles down. The processing is excellent with absolutely no oolonged leaves in my sample. Given the price point here, I think sampling is in order to make sure the purchase will satisfy anyone interested, the lucky puppy is a person who can detect a strong qi.