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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

2018 Bamboo Shou by white2tea


Last month I attended a tea tasting with white2tea at Macha Tea Company in Madison, where I had the opportunity to try this new bamboo-pressed shou puerh. If you have never attended a formal tasting, a session like this starts out with various sheng teas, and a shou puerh is served last to warm and balance the body. Sheng teas have a very cooling effect, and shou settles the tummy with warmth to counter bitterness and cold effect. I really enjoyed this shou tea and ordered it immediately when I got back home, and it took a month to arrive.


Many vendors carry bamboo tube teas, but often do not ship with the bamboo tube because the tea may be more likely to get stuck in customs as it may resemble contraband substances. The packaging is made for reusing, the tube has a sliding slat cut into it. One end is covered with cloth and held together with braided bamboo, and this is easy to put back on the tube. The tea is not as densely packed as might be expected, I can break off a piece using my fingers. For this session, however, I found some loose tea in the tube with a small chunk and decide it is enough to brew up.


This tea reminds me somewhat of the excellent Crimson Lotus Tea Nannuo shou mushrooms with a remarkable sweet character. While the CLT mushrooms have a strong vanilla note, this bamboo shou tastes like a Dr. Pepper crossed with shou, with notes of sarsaparilla, vanilla, and my mother's knitting basket (the bamboo). TwoDog stated he felt lucky back in November 2018 with this finished tea, as sometimes bamboo teas can turn out burnt or rough, and this one tastes so mellow. Bamboo pressing relies very heavily on the persons doing the work, and so the vendor has less control over the finished flavors than with a disk pressing.


I notice a fermentation flavor in the first couple of brews, along with a very clear liquor. The fermentation fades quickly into a more buttery vanilla, rather like the browned edges of a butter cookie. This character remains in subsequent brews while the bamboo note comes forward more. The leaves are small, and the chunk does not fall apart easily. If I had used more tea, the chunks might brew out longer than the eight to ten steeps I am getting today. This tea is a boiler, and would benefit from a pan boil on the stove after the session, but I do not have time to pan boil today.


This tea would pair exceptionally well with sweet bakery or even lunch, I could envision drinking this grandpa all day long. This is a nice tea for the office and for sharing with people who are not puerh drinkers. A weak cup can easily be taken to settle a stomach, it stays warm with me after a bout of shoveling snow.


Over the past year, I have had exceptional shou puerh teas from at least three western vendors. The idea of "waiting for shou to clear" seems more and more an idea from the past, from factory teas stored in dirty warehouse conditions. Western vendors still sell such teas, but I feel like their own house teas are superior to most factory high bulk productions. We don't need to settle for teas that need years and years to lose dirty flavors. 

Price-wise, this tea sells for $32 for a 200g tube. The bamboo packaging has pros and cons. The pro is that you don't need special storage, the tube can easily store in a desk drawer and the sliding slat is reusable. A pick can remove tea for brewing without too much fuss. One the other hand, the tube is long, about the size of a tennis racquet handle, and other than in a drawer I can't think of how else to store this. You could remove the tea from the bamboo, but then you lose the flavor benefits of the bamboo over time. Yet I cannot imagine most people storing this tea for long, 200g of yummy shou like this will go fast. Better hurry if you want one, TwoDog says they don't have many tubes left and his wife is drinking it all up on her own.