; Cwyn's Death By Tea: Yunnan Sourcing 2014 Autumn Bingdao ;

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Yunnan Sourcing 2014 Autumn Bingdao

2014 Autumn Bingdao by Yunnan Sourcing

I bought this tea back in the good old days of 2018 when puerh was cheaper and I really really really had hopes that Yunnan Sourcing would open their drive-thru puerh restaurant I had every reason to believe in.  Just think if Yunnan Sourcing had followed through and built that drive-thru, what with this pandemic now the puerh tea business would be boom times. By now their Drive-Thru Gong-Fu would be fully franchised with a location in my home town for my convenience. I am so very weary of the pandemic, but even more weary of pour after pour after pour burning my fingers and spilling tea everywhere. Doing my own gongfu really is a first world problem I fully believed Trump would have solved before leaving office. Just goes to show how brainwashed I am by social media, politicians and tea shopping. Well today is a new day and I reluctantly return to dealing with my own wrappers on teas I have not yet tried and puerh prices higher no matter who your government is. 

To wit, when I bought this tea back in 2018, this 2014 Autumn Bingdao 400g Whopper cost only $92 on the US site. I had over 3000 Loyalty points to spend which knocked off a further $30, leaving me with a total cost of $62. Today the same tea costs $157 on the US site and just a few dollars less on the .com. At the time I had a plan to compare this particular tea with a more recent spring version. The prices for the spring release of the same tea in 2018 had ballooned well over $200 by 2018 and now it's over $300. But then the 2019 and 2020 spring releases shrunk in size to 250g and 200g respectively. The price per gram of the spring offering hasn't decreased any, but the price of entry is a bit lower as of last year, and one can always get a sample if you cannot afford the full spring beeng. 

On the other hand, the more recent Autumn Bingdaos right now are all within $5 or so of the 2014 and still are the same 400g size. So for this autumn tea the price has not gone up at all really. I guess the market action is concentrated on the spring release. The tea is from a single origin around the Bingdao old village area, not the super expensive new village and the trees used are younger than the more famous old trees in the region. 

My plan of doing some comparisons by year hit a snag when this 2014 Autumn tea arrived back in August 2018. I opened the wrapper and to my chagrin the beeng was bright green. It had virtually no signs of aging, despite the fact that it was already 4 years old. At the very least I expected to see some early oxidation which is common in the first couple of years after pressing. I had no idea how long this tea might have been stored in Oregon. 

My winter light outdoors is a little bluish,
and I did not filter the photos to compensate.

I could not go ahead and write about this tea until I took time to see if it had some processing issues or if it would ferment properly. I decided to remain optimistic that it was an Oregon-storage-middle-of-the-tong situation. Because it was August at the time, I left the beeng out on the three-season porch to take advantage of the summer heat and humidity, and as I recall I left it out there for five weeks or so before moving it to crock storage. Now here we are 2 1/2 years later and it's time to try this tea. 

Looking at the beeng it is definitely still green-ish, but is definitely not as green as it was, which is a bit of a relief. Although it's not really a huge deal either way since it only cost me $62, which I realize is a full tea budget for some folks but is pocket change for the crazy amounts I spend on puerh tea. I chipped off 12g and decided to leaf heavy with 100 ml of water gongfu. Now if I had that drive-thru I surely could have the perfect brew instead of the lazy one I now embarked on.

The tea opens with a beautiful floral and cotton candy bouquet on the nose, with a bit of dried grass underneath and bark-like stems. An autumn puerh tends to be a little bit longer in the leaf with more stem, but the leaves actually are on the smaller side. Overall I enjoy the floral and white grape notes, with a bit of warm pepper and turmeric underneath, that autumn spice that honestly I probably would miss had I not known ahead of time this is a fall tea. 

Steep 2

My over-leafing starts to punish me on third brew with increasing bitterness and some drying. I notice the color of the soup is not quite as bright yellow as the photo on the tea listing at Yunnan Sourcing, mine is darker golden. So hopefully this is a sign of the oxidation I can see on the dry tea. I finally start to see that brighter yellow color more around steep 7. In the meantime steeps 4-6 are extremely bitter, but not painfully so. I normally don't regret over-leafing, but in this case with a lovely floral tea like this I'm doing an injustice to these higher notes by pounding my tongue with bitterness. Qi is rather mild, just a bit of buzzing around my ears and slightly relaxing. Really I am bombarding my palate, and next time I will go more like 7-8g per 100ml. I can feel the tea in my throat and stomach and make it through about 6 steeps before stopping for the day.

I was unable to continue the session the following day, and resumed the day after that. The tea steeps up nicely with the floral and grape profile and a bit less bitter than before. I am still mainly flash steeping around 9 steepings when I finally need to add 20 seconds or so. When you over-leaf like this a tea goes for many more steepings than when using a lower tea/water ratio. But now the soup is a bit cloudy from the wet leaves sitting in the gaiwan for two days.

Steep 7

Overall the tea really is quite pleasant. The flavor profile is not terribly complex, just a straight up floral and grape with a bit of green-y spiciness early on. I'm reminded of some of the white2tea house teas, which probably share a similar northern origin though probably not the same village, as Yunnan Sourcing seems to have a single farmer for this production. 

The tea has a somewhat singular profile and I can imagine it would benefit from blending. At the same time, here is an opportunity to try an unblended Bingdao-area tea for a reasonable price. The older trees are well beyond the reach of any western vendor, so if you see Bingdao! Bingdao! hollered elsewhere, approach with skepticism all around. 

I feel like my 2014 beeng here is a few years behind where it should be in terms of aging. I do not feel my storage was able to "catch up" the tea. Looking at the leaves, they are processed perfectly with no signs of redness or overcooking. The issue really is likely a middle-of-the-tong combined with dry storing. I believe it will continue to age, but it will be very very slow. I think it will do better in a higher heat situation, but of course the risk is losing the lovely florals. 

On the plus side, if anyone is concerned about the early storage of the 2014 in the US, the solution is to buy a younger beeng of this same tea. There is no financial disincentive in doing so, for the autumn version only has a couple dollars price difference off the 2014. The US and regular YS website have only small price differences between them, but the shipping (free in the US) will cost far more from China. Very worth a sample to try Yunnan Sourcing's Bingdao teas, if only to familiarize yourself with the profile. I am not sure we will continue to have such an opportunity with issues like the environment, prices and politics which all could affect our chances of obtaining teas like this in the future. 


  1. Thanks for the review! Glad to see your recent posts (and tweets)!

  2. Sorry the comparison didn't happen! Scott's teas age at the speed of glacier movement in his storage so to do a true comparison would need a 2004 not a 2014 hehe. Or two different vintages that you purchased the same time and stored yourself. Someone really needs to start a business of buying YS current year cakes and storing themselves :P. I'd happily pay an upcharge, as it is, his earliest productions have just begun to show the tiniest bit of age and his mid-productions not a whiff. I got to try his (not his brand) 2007 "LBZ" brick recently through a friend and it was shocking how young it tasted/brewed.

    Regarding photos of soup color, I would be very skeptical. I recently noticed that every YS puer starting I believe in 2020 suddenly looks way darker than it should, which I believe is merely due to lighting, teaware, photo technique or anything but the tea itself. If you compare a 2020 tea soup color to say a 2018 on his site the difference will be very obvious though I doubt the teas were processed much differently. I strongly doubt that the 2020 YS shengs brew near as dark as they appear in the photos.


    1. I think it’s difficult to store big bricks in a drier set-up. I neglected to mention this tea is the same diameter as a 357g beeng, the extra 50g is in thickness.

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  5. “ The older trees are well beyond the reach of any western vendor...” This is interesting. I wonder if you could comment further on what this means and why it is so.