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

Thursday, June 22, 2017

2004 CNNP Yiwu Arbor Brick Royal Tea New York

While at the World Tea Expo, I tried to scout out everything puerh and confined my activities to products and companies of interest to the readers of this blog. This means I turned down many opportunities to try some fabulous teas: green teas, black teas, senchas and so on. I realized that my press invitation from the Expo is a privilege, and also I did not want to waste the time of vendors who need to make industry contacts lucrative for them. When I got flagged down with samples, I tasted politely and then hastened a quick exit to make room for more appropriate customers.

Royal Tea New York is a wholesale importer and retail supplier of teas with a serious puerh underbelly. I introduced myself to Ravi Kroesen who politely mentioned he reads this blog. Royal Tea New York primarily operates out of New Jersey which is a very traditional New York story. But this company sources and presses three puerh beeng productions per year along with a wide variety of other teas. I have a feeling that Mr. Kroesen handles the puerh side of the business, given his high enthusiasm for puerh tea. In fact, as soon as Oolong Owl and I started asking about the puerh teas, he got out the “under the counter” good stuff likely from his personal collection. Ravi said he attended a tea fair in China last year and managed to score a few cakes himself from under the counter of other vendors. He cites Henry Trading Co. as an example of a favorite source for finding aged, traditionally stored puerh teas.

RTNY serving 8582 at the World Tea Expo
Ravi treated us to a full session of a vintage 8582, which showed off some excellent storage, dry with that “old book” flavor. This is probably the equivalent of a fine cognac to people who drink spirits. We enjoyed at least seven steepings of the storage until the tea revealed itself with a mead-like honey. I tried to tell people stopping by that Ravi was pouring a very fine tea, but most people appeared content to just browse, oblivious to the fact that Royal Tea New York was serving up probably one of the finest and most expensive teas in the entire Expo. I can visualize in another ten years a booth like RTNY will be packed with people who know exactly what they are drinking, but as yet puerh still remains a mystery even within the larger tea industry. While that benefits those of us who love puerh, we must know our days under the radar are numbered.

Sample from the World Tea Expo booth
I received a sample of a 2004 CNNP Yiwu Arbor brick tea to take home. RTNY presses 100g cakes geared to small retailers and tea shops with customers new to tea. Last year’s pressings included a Bulang, a Nannuo and an Ai Lao. Ravi explained the company hopes to expand on these offerings in the future, and I may get some samples later this year. I managed to get a nice photo of the brick sample which looks like a bakery brownie and good enough to eat.

Looks good enough for breakfast.
At home, I brewed up a chunk of the Yiwu tea which also exhibits mainly dry storage. The initial nose is some incense and minerals, and the tea brews up a nice light brown indicating it has turned just past the early days well into the teen years. The leaves are still green underneath the storage. I note the thickness of the brew and quick huigan which is characteristic of Yiwu teas, but the brick also has a strong Menghai base which pushes this tea into the powerhouse whiskey type of puerh I enjoy from tuos and bricks of the early 2000s.

You know the type of whiskey puerh drunk I am talking about. Do you notice the moment when the normal protein/lipid/water on your eyeballs gets replaced by puerh tea? The hazy glaze of every day vision sharpens from 20/20 to a witcher-y amber 20/10. I not only smell the scents of the summer night air, I can see those scents hovering in vapor trails. The ideal state of a puerh tea body is when all fluids become puerh. Saliva, replaced by tea. Perspiration, replaced by tea. Gall bladder juices, replaced by tea. Urine output, replaced by tea. If I drink long enough, I get bowel contents replaced by tea and that’s usually when the regret starts. In the meantime I type out wild hussy Mae West-at-the-saloon emails to people, a behavior I really must learn to control, before finally passing out. We all love our tea, for sure, but if yours does not make you bark like a dog for at least a half hour now and then, something is indeed missing.

Fourth steeping. Leaves are leathery and strong.
I giggle in hysterics at myself which surely Mr. B. out in the living room can hear. He is trying to stay on the booze wagon for his parole officer and I really must shut it so he doesn’t feel tempted. What am I saying, it’s not my fault he has a booze problem. No more than it’s my fault I have a tea problem. I try and keep my sessions confined to late night after he has gone up to his room, although I don’t know why I wait. He will fall off the wagon someday, just as soon as he sheds that parole officer. Mark my words I will be locking him out again by next year. Pass out time for old Cwyn, I am almost there and still in the tea happy zone with just one more cup to the 300 ml finish line.

Now it’s time for a puerh nerd moment, the likes of which you have not seen here before. Here we get a chance to take a look at professional puerh tea storage courtesy of Royal Tea New York. Take a look at these shelves and the mylar walls.

Puerh storage room, photo courtesy of Royal Tea New York.
If I didn’t know better, I’d think this a grow room. Well, it is a grow room in a way, but growing puerh enzymes and fungus and mold to produce teas like those I drank from Ravi.

Puerh teas in storage,
photo courtesy of Royal Tea New York
The ceiling of this room is built with air vents which can be opened in the summer to let in the New Jersey humidity. The room has a reverse osmosis filtration system for the humidifier.  

The humidifier of my dreams.
photo courtesy of Royal Tea New York
Some control teas are also stored in an ambient outdoor warehouse more subject to humidity fluctuations so a comparison can be made between this room’s storage and the warehouse with just temperature control. Royal Tea New York also plans to continue pressings with the single farmers they are buying from now in order to follow not only the storage, but year-to-year production comparisons.

Soup to nuts electrical set-up for you engineers.
Photo courtesy of Royal Tea New York.
But here is the best part I have saved for last, a generous sharing of sample data of humidity from the puerh room over the past twelve months!


Puerh storage room data over 12 months.
Courtesy of Royal Tea New York.
I puerh nerd ‘gasmed over this data for two days and in fact I have not replied yet to Ravi’s last email because oh my loord I’m still freaking over this fabulous chart. Plus I have a tea hangover from the ‘04 CNNP and that’s not my fault. You can really see what dry US storage looks like in data form. The humidity is clearly set for a 78% RH and then gets modified in the summer with the open ceiling vents, and in the winter the system struggles to keep the humidity high enough. I suspect that the variation could decrease and the winter months gain more humidity were the room completely filled with puerh tea which would hold humidity like a large sponge, releasing it more slowly.

The numerical data show the 100% value as the top attainable number, but I am uncertain if a calibration issue produces the over 100% data points, or if it is a software calculation. But oh my goodness, Royal Tea New York clearly shows their commitment to puerh and the storage issues too. This is well beyond the cigar vault storage of other retailers, and a serious equipment investment. Ravi says he checks the room daily, and enjoys the complex smells of tea, soil, tobacco and cane sugar that their puerh tea puts out in these conditions. I suppose one must make sure to close those vents when it rains, which is something I have to think about in the summer because a hard rain can cause my three season porch ceiling to leak a little.

I hope to taste more of Royal Tea New York’s puerh productions sometime this year. Those of you with small tea businesses might want to check out their website and consider their products for retail because right now we customers cannot make small orders from this import company. I want to thank Ravi Kroesen for sharing the photos and puerh room data for all of us, and for their commitment to bringing puerh tea stateside and investing in the proper storage facilities as well.



Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mojun Fucha Fu Zhuan

Over the past week, I attended the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada. After reading OolongOwl’s travelogues of various expos in her blog over last few years, I decided to put this trip on my bucket list. When I received an offer of a press pass to the Expo from Aaron Kiel and investigated the costs, I allotted the remainder of my tax refund to cover the trip. One additional very attractive reason to go was for the weather. My climate has experienced unseasonable rain and humidity for some months now, and I seriously needed to air my skin and dry out my sinuses. Two days of Vegas weather and all of that cleared up for me. A day spent in the resort pool and riding the monorail before the Expo left me feeling fairly fabulous.

At the Tea Expo, I recognized OolongOwl right away standing at a puerh tea booth. All I had to do was observe the faces of everyone standing around trying the teas. An experienced puerh tea drunk is easy to spot amongst a crowd of hesitant puerh newbies. I couldn’t get close to the booth with the crowd, so I waited for her. She allowed me to tag along for some of the exhibits and I learned a great deal watching her at work. I met a number of other bloggers and learned that

1.      My blog is thoroughly tasteless and inappropriate.

2.      I lack business cards. Everyone seemed to want one, and it never occurred to me to get blogger business cards.

3.      I really, really like puerh and brick tea.

4.      The tea industry is impressive and full of friendly people who care about forming a community.

OolongOwl and I found a tea booth fairly early on that obsessed us for much of the remaining days at the Expo, Mojun Fucha tea, a Shaanxi-based company that researches and produces Fu Zhuan brick tea. When we spied the booth with a huge 1 kg brick chipped open to expose the golden flowers, we got enthused right away.

“Golden flowers Fu Brick!” Oh goodness, my mouth waters.

Two men at the booth lit up with surprised expressions.

“You know golden flowers? Americans do not know Fu brick.”

“Oh yes we do,” I said. “I own quite a bit of Fu brick tea, and we discuss vintages as well.”

I thought of our heicha discussion topics on Teachat. I tried to start a conversation about the difficulties of growing the flowers in a drier climate. But I had trouble conveying understanding with the language differences, though the Mojun Tea representatives were more than competent in English. The booth had 1 kg and 2 kg bricks of green Hubei style heicha, and boxes of tea bags with darker Anhua style tea.

2 kg Fu brick
OolongOwl and I kept our initial visit at this booth short and sampled a few small cups of dark Anhua style heicha. After all, we had a good acre of other tea vendors to cover. But just around the corner this tea hit me full on with a head tea stone. I started feeling oddly woozy like I’d smoked a joint. Strange for a heicha. This tea was my first of the day and I think Owl’s second tea sample. We got to drink a good amount of a vintage 8582 from another vendor I shall cover in another piece, but after this I had to admit I was thoroughly baked, and that crazy heicha from Mojun Tea was the reason. We both sat down just wondering over this tea. I passed out at the hotel after a bowl of soup.

The next day, I had to get to the bottom of this heicha we drank. I returned to the booth and told the reps I was willing to become their vendor and sell east of the Mississippi and I felt pretty sure that Owl could handle the west. But please gimme more to drink. This time I drank one of the green Hubei style teas. The rep introduced himself as Xiangdong Zhou.

“You and the other lady understand Fu brick,” he said. “Many people come by and taste our tea. They say ‘okay’ and ‘very nice’ but I feel they do not understand.”

I felt determined to drink as much tea as possible and not leave until I bought whatever we had yesterday. At first, Zhou did not want to sell me any tea, so I decided to get more information and asked about the displays at the booth showing maps and information about Xixian New Area in Shaanxi.

Booth display
“Xixian New Area?” I asked pointing at the maps posted on the back of the booth.

“Yes, Xixian New Area. We have new district at the top of the city. This is where the factory is, we have our research and cultural committee. You should visit our factory!”

You can check out this company's website at mojunfucha.com. 西咸新区金叶茯茶有限公司-西咸新区金叶茯茶有限公司. Zhou told me about the Fucha Park and the hopes that their company can reach out to western customers with Fu brick teas. He also introduced me to an American friend of his, a man who said he has known Zhou for sixteen years.


I managed to purchase a box of tea which Zhou said was the tea we had on day 1. I was surprised to find out this Anhua dark style tea was actually brewed from tea bags! He agreed to sell me a box for $50 but then also gave me an additional box of a different tea and a large cello bag full of samples

The kilo bricks retail for around $85 or so. The Hubei style tea of day 2 also produced a heavy stoner sensation that I began wonder if the Mojun Tea company has a mission to get the country tea drunk. The tea was brewed very lightly too, I didn’t feel I got a full taste of the brew despite the fact that I had dry mouth and munchies and needed to pass out again. Once back home I planned to brew the tea more to my preferred strength. Zhou is a delightful person and I really enjoyed meeting him and heck yeah, I would love to tour the factory.

Back at home, I start to read about Xixian New District. It is, of course, one of several economic projects in the area, but I see now how special it is. Can you imagine a Fucha Park dedicated to Fu tea culture? The website says “The Fu Tea Culture Industry Park has established a cultural industry chain centered on Fu tea, with tea production, research and development, experience and cultural shows, to drive the economic and tourism development in neighboring towns. The Fucha town is planned with low-density housing and business and a simple and unsophisticated style thanks to a blending of tea culture and Guanzhong folk and life culture in its construction.”

That sounds wonderful to me. I wanted to tell Zhou about my state of Wisconsin with our history of agricultural projects, and how we too develop economic research and factories in new areas of towns, even the small town where I live, and how we both live in areas that try to put the modern housing areas away from the older, cultural sections of town. His area has historical buildings and artifacts from centuries ago that are saved for cultural appreciation. My town too has kept the 150 year old area of town for the appreciation of tourists and city people, and built the newer housing and technical college further away. I could not say any of that because it would take too long to explain and is somewhat off track from the purpose of Zhou’s work at the Expo.

At home, when browsing the Mojun website, I found a download file with a small article on the tea. In it, if you click on the blue link for “Fu Brick” you go to Baidu, the Chinese wiki article for Fu brick tea.

We know that raw green/yellow tea material for Fu brick comes from Hubei and then the dark black tea component is from Anhua, Hunan or Fujian areas. The tea materials were historically shipped in bamboo baskets to Shaanxi for processing into Fu brick. The Hubei material historically made part of its journey via water transport through Wuhan. After that, bricks journeyed south to the Xiamen area for water transport westward.  

On Baidu, I read that during the Second Sino War after the Fall of Wuhan, all Hunan material was diverted over to Shaanxi and special efforts made to continue making brick tea by opening a People’s factory there. The tea must keep shipping even during a horrible time for the people who need this dietary component in the far west. So the tea then went west from Shaanxi instead of southward for sea shipping. After the war ended, the production was then handed back to Hunan, but as Zhou explained to me, the golden flowers germ did not grow as well on the bricks as it had in Shaanxi, which is partly what led to the creation of the Xixian New Area.

I put together a map to help me imagine the journey of the tea over the last century.

Journey by various types of tea.
I have shaded the Wuhan area to
show how the tea would have
crossed the war zone area
The Fall of Wuhan affected the movement of the raw material tea to Shaanxi, yet materials would make it there to the People’s factory, so Fu brick teas continued to be made away from the war areas. As I read these lines in Baidu, the Fall of Wuhan, and the Wuchang uprising flashed before me, the river floods where the yellow tea might have crossed. If my heart is like a house, the subfloor falls out from under me and I am free falling, floating.

The Baidu articles refer to the decisions to do everything possible to continue making brick tea as  “an act of love." This is indeed the best metaphor possible for everything that was done by the people of China, keeping this tea in production during that whole time of war. What a great effort this must have been with human lives as the cost on all ends from leaf to brick to tea, human lives in the making, and human lives on the line too if the tea was not made. And I visualize tracks in a mud road, the same tracks used by the nuns of my own order in Wuchang, the paths of the students and the tea. I have written all this, several years ago in my post about Sister Rosa teaching me of those years in the Wuhan area.

Now, I am a rational person, and not completely an idealist nor a historical romantic. I know the layers of great complexity around human events that we cannot wholly simplify. But when I see historical connections, I will not deny them. The fact is, Zhou’s profession today in the Shaanxi Xixian New Area rests on the history of war years in Wuhan, on pivotal decisions made then to divert tea materials to Shaanxi to the People’s factory there. Likewise, my profession as a teacher and a tea blogger today rests on the nuns of my order in Wuhan at that same time, from Sister Liu and Sister Chen, and Sister Leclare from Wuchang. I doubt either of us would have met attending a Tea Expo in 2017 without all this history.

Like I said, I don’t go looking for these connections but I cannot “unsee” them. My life has many of these. Indeed, what else can we do except to marvel? I stopped reading and researching Mojun tea at this point. I tried to do other, non-related tea reading but my subfloor is gone. The pictures of the war years in Wuhan and the stories of Sister Rosa just will not leave my mind. I see Zhou standing before me when he tracked me down elsewhere on the exhibit floor to give me yet another box of tea. I needed to think and cry a little for another day, in a good way, before resuming my research and tea drinking.

Anhua dark style Fucha, "Cherish Red" by Mojun Fucha
I purchased about 200g of brick teas in tea bag form but the ones I purchased are new, dated April 2017 and not up on their website yet. I could not justify buying a whole 1 kg or 2 kg brick when I already own 1 kg bricks of heicha at home. As I found at the Expo, the tea bags we were served there gave me the same tea stoned feeling at home. I did some experimenting with the parameters. First, I took one of the 3g bags of dark Anhua style heicha called “Cherish Red,” and tried the tea in a 100 ml Jian Shui teapot. I used the whole 100 ml capacity because this tea has strong effects on me.

The date shows this is a recent production.
This 3g/100 ml is nevertheless stronger than what we were served at the Expo for sampling. Here I can really taste the dominant flavors of red/black tea along with betel nut. The early steeps have a red wine nose and slightly plummy flavor. The tea is rather fine in the tea bag and some comes through my teapot into my strainer, but this mostly stops once the tea fully expands in the water. I got about eight flash steeps before the tea weakened. I noted a mineral taste contributed by the tea pot and then decided the tea pot and gong fu method are unnecessary for this tea after passing out again on my bed.

Gongfu style in Jian Shui
Next, I steeped the Cherish Red tea bag western style using a Kamjove tea pot with the filter top. The top actually has a super fine filter and I could empty the tea bag into it, but just decided not to bother and mostly use the Kamjove as a pitcher and brewed the tea in it. I used about 4 minutes of steep time and then took my huge pitcher of tea with me to play a video game. I enjoyed the relaxation this tea gives, more diluted, rather than passing out. The tea is also very good cold when steeped western style. In fact, it would make an interesting alcohol tea cocktail. We had some tea/wine cocktails at the Tea Expo served sangria style with fruit. I’d say double the tea drunk if you use these teas for cocktails.

"Blue Dancers," by Ed Martinez
Mid-century art on my floor of
the Westgate Resort, and the old
gold hallway wallpaper.
 Mostly I drink puerh that a real puerh fiend would enjoy, yet this dark Fu tea bag might appeal to people who prefer red/black tea, or who can’t stomach puerh and yet want some of the heady enjoyment that puerh tea brings. Many heicha teas can be a bit skanky with storage issues that must be aired out, or rough with sticks. This tea is clean enough for a spa crowd, in my opinion.

Western steeping in Kamjove brewer sans the lid.
Because of Mojun’s research as a government initiative to introduce a fine heicha product to western tea drinkers, I contacted a couple of western puerh vendors with the information to check out these teas and consider offering them for sale. While the company has a website and Taobao, ordering is much more accessible with western facing vendors. With any luck, we will see these products soon in a favorite online store.
.
I have more to cover from the Tea Expo in coming days



Sunday, June 4, 2017

1998 CNNP Green Stamp "Whatever 98"

Finally my tax refund shows up and like a horse wrangler after a dry, two week drive I head to the puerh bar and start buying rounds, with no intention on stopping until I fall the floor or lose it all in a hand of poker. First in from the mails is this CNNP “Whatever 1998” 357g beeng that I just had to have for some reason. I think what got me is the idea that Bitterleaf’s Jonah Snyder pried it out of the sticky fingers of a so-called “eccentric” collector in the Kunming area. I figure whatever it is that Bitterleaf dug up in Kunming, it will be dry at the very least. After that, nobody knows what this tea might be. We can always assume the worst and wait for any pleasant surprise.

Outer wrapper provided by Bitterleaf for protection.
Here is a scenario I can believe. Some puerh collector buys a few tongs of CNNP back in the day for a couple of dollars a cake. Fast forward nearly twenty years, an American guy shows up and offers $100 a cake, so maybe $700/tong. The collector sells a jian and suddenly has a cool fat wallet of nearly $3000 and laughs his way off to buy a nice used car, or tickets to Disney World. Haven’t we heard these stories before? So then Bitterleaf  turns around and sells for $200/beeng. But I don’t know what they paid the eccentric collector, I am just making up numbers.

Inside is the original wrapper, with a few welcome bug bites.
Not much of a clue to origins with this kind of wrapper.
Sometimes these teas got a "whatever" wrapper back in the day.
In short, this tea does not really line up with my experience of CNNP teas from the early ‘oughts. Plenty of Green Stamp teas around, but the others I have had are wet-stored, vastly different in character and much weaker than this tea. Overall it lacks the balance and smoothness that the recipe teas like 7542 would have at this point. On the plus side, the storage is dry and genuinely aged, the browning on this tea with absolutely no wet notes cannot be faked. The tea is more similar to late 1990s CNNP brick teas with the bitter start and sour middle, but the leaves are larger and more intact, suggesting a spring/summer mix, maybe more summer than spring and definitely Menghai origins.

I struggled with lighting to capture the leaves without the neifei looking
whiter than it actually is in person. The details are important, and
the neifei is a bit darker than this to the naked eye.
This is one powerful tea that requires wrangling and wrestling, and is definitely a cowboy tea, not one for the gentle teahouse types. The tea takes many brews to get to the actual leaves, and the tea has more strength than I’m used to from generic CNNPs. I spent a week drinking this tea, and did two sessions for 15+ steeps each, one in a porcelain gaiwan and one in clay. I don’t normally need to take many notes on a tea, simply because there isn’t a whole lot to write that I can’t keep in my head, but I took a lot of notes this time because I needed to, and because I feel certain most puerh drinkers would want more and the tea deserves some attention.

Dry Tea

Because the CNNP wrapper is thin and somewhat fragile, Bitterleaf Teas has added a heavy paper wrapper over the original and also a padded envelope packaging on top of all that. The CNNP wrapper shows a few bug bites, and the reverse side has no date stamp. The cake is uniformly brown with no odors except for perhaps a metallic smell, like a cold metal faucet, but not graphite as in wet teas. Leaves are on the larger side with some buds and a bit of huangpian. The mix has the occasional flavorless dark leaf, but not enough to concern me, and I scraped the dark leaves and found one that showed green in it, maybe just some old tea got added in to this cake.

A beenghole cannot hide what's in it.
The storage here is absolutely dry, but without loss due to dryness. No wet whatsoever here, and early steepings had a hint of florals. I really must congratulate Mr. Eccentric on his storage conditions; if it’s dry then you cannot do better than he has. One cannot fake this kind of brown and I can vouch for 14+ years on this tea. This is a very conservative estimate on my part of at least 2003, and I might believe older too. Again, the brown cannot be faked. Most CNNP teas you see still floating around are wet stored which makes dating very tough, and so this tea is a welcome cake that hides nothing.

Porcelain Session

First steep 8 grams/120ml porcelain gaiwan.

Leaves pry easily from cake, leaves on a chunk come apart with fingers. Smells of dry storage, wood, slight mushroom, some floral. No wet odors on my cake whatsoever. No medicine smells or flavors. Two rinses, and then taste/tossed first steep as it was a bit light.

Steeps 3-7 quite bitter, mouth coating type bitter, full yun in throat. On a Bitter scale of 1-10 with 10 being scalp-lifting, mouth punishing bitterness, such as Wilson’s 2008 Haiwan LBZ; white2tea’s New Amerykah more like 8-9, this CNNP tea is currently a 6 or so. This tea must have been undrinkable when young. These steeps 3-7 are still a little tough to drink with fairly bitter profile, and very mouth drying. The brew is orange with red brown starting, but plenty left to go. Viscosity is fairly decent, thick and oily going through the strainer. I really don’t see any char here in my strainer.

Around steep 10, storage off.
I poured an aroma cup on steep 3 and smelled nice floral nectar/honey lingering after I poured out the tea. The florals are not so noticeable in a drinking cup, I needed a tall narrow aroma cup to smell it at the bottom. Some humidity into this tea might open up the florals more, but too much might kill them too. A tiny bit of mushroom, but no Chinese medicine or incense, and no smokiness, just bitter wood, like peeling a sumac branch and chewing on the green wood beneath. Huigan is very slow, the bitterness seems to coat my mouth for more than an hour with hints of sweetness trying to come through.

Some qi after the first few cups, very light face melt and a bit in the spine but this isn’t a qi heavy tea. I personally do not feel this has terribly high caffeine either, maybe when younger but I hardly break a sweat and do not feel jittery myself. In fact, I could use a shot of caffeine because I decide to take a nap, not from the tea itself but because the tea isn’t keeping me awake.

Another note is dusty dirt, like a dirt road smell in early steepings and what seems like dusty dirt in the bottom of the cup. This comes through my very fine strainer and sinks to the bottom of the cup. I consider this an environmental addition I taste in long-stored teas. A person cannot put something away for fifteen years without it taking on at least some dusty dirt. Any tea in a closet will have a bit of this.

A bit of dusty dirt  at the bottom of early steeps that I poured into a tiny cup.
Steeps 7-10 after my nap, the bitterness is a bit less though still astringent, and I notice the dry storage sour in these steeps. With the bitterness fading and the storage not yet entirely off, my tongue has room to taste the sour dry ferment more. Leaves at steep 7 show some greener bits emerging. I get some stone fruit, but really nothing like hay, the tea has gone from hay to wood at this stage in its life.

Some of the leaves around steep 7. The leaves start off brown
and with continued steeping they show the green over time.
This tea is slow to open.
Some summer tea in here might also account for the bitterness and astringency. Leaves do not come apart with finger rubbing. At this point I decide I need to try this tea in clay to see how it performs. I feel tempted to toss the session at this point and start over in clay, but then having got through those early bitter and then sour steeps, I want to keep going and see what happens.

Steepings 10 and 11, I finally feel like I have the storage off, the bitterness is fading and the sour too, the reddish brew now turning more orange yellow. I get some incense, Chinese medicine but very faint. More spicy bass notes, peppery or grated woody spices

Day 3 on steep 12, what a shock and a surprise to resume the tea today and be greeted with a nectar honey of a cup. All that bitterness and the sour storage ferment punished me for two days just to get to this. I wouldn’t even recognize this tea had I not been drinking it all along. Maple syrup in oak, minerals like ice water melt. Right now I’m steeping about 30 seconds or a bit more simply to keep the thick viscosity as consistent as I can from steep to steep. Still rather drying in the mouth. Transferred the tea to a larger gaiwan as the leaves outgrew my 120 ml size.

This tea is like a bull in a ring that must be worn down through many steepings to finally get close to it. I realize how many tame and easy teas I’ve been drinking lately, mainly due to going easy with the stomach on medications. I have tried to stick to either gentle new teas or wetter stored teas, obviously reclining in a comfy, sleepy sofa with my tea sessions over the past few months. Now I am back on the hard bench with an order to sit up straight and stick out my knuckles. I went through some punishment in those early steepings and finally hit the pay day.

Most puerh teas will need 7-8 steepings just to get the storage off and begin to taste the actual tea. You really cannot judge cups 1, 2, 3 etc. of a semi-aged tea for much except for the storage and few early top notes. A puerh head will wait until after steep 8, and this tea is such a strong bitch it took 10 steeps to take off all those layers and get to the nectar beneath. But oh, she is so nice just now. She finally sits her arse down and lets me taste the innards. The brew is more yellow, the reddish orange is gone. Here’s where I’m finally down to the actual tea. Now ideally when this tea is completely aged, the early cups will have much more honey sweetness. The level of bitterness is what’s left to convert, and a good dose of humidity might move this along nicely.

I go fifteen steeps altogether and then I take a photo of the leaves. The leaves are plushy; they bounce in punishing boiling water like lily pads, without shredding in the waves from a gaiwan lid like insipid seaweed. I chewed the darker leaf bits to make sure they are not shou, they are flavorless and a bit like dried leather. Maybe some older tea got added.

Leaves at steep 15, quite a difference from the earlier photo above.
Some thick sticks amidst the leaves.
I am at about 40 seconds per steeping when I decide to start over with clay. The tea is now lighter and consistently sweet with not much else to taste. With a few longer steepings I could get 18-20 out of this tea. It might stretch for more brews down the line a few years when the remaining bitterness converts, but the main brews are done for now.

Clay Session

8g in 90s Yixing

Oh god, I’m starting over now. I really had to take that ibuprofen, should I dare put this tea in that medicated stomach? I need to beg the clay teapot for mercy. Need full-ish stomach as a buffer.

Rinsed twice, first seven steepings seem less bitter than the porcelain session, even though I am using the same parameters. The sourness is still there too, but muted somewhat. The downside to clay is I am missing the floral notes, the price to pay for muting of the more challenging flavors. I also had to deal with the Yixing clogging. Of course it’s normal to need a toothpick with a single-hole Yixing, but when dealing with a rather bitter tea I need to keep the steepings short, a problem when the spout clogs during a pour.

Yixing session, steep 6, a bit reddish early on that fades to yellow.
Overall the brew is much more balanced but mainly in tempering the bitterness and dry storage. I prefer the Yixing session purely for drinking purposes, but really if I am checking on the progress of a tea, I need the porcelain which will not hide anything, when clay adds a uniformity to the steepings across the session. However, the Yixing makes the tea more satisfying to drink, if a person wants to drink this tea now rather than waiting a few more years.

Photo from my Yixing session.
One of the old brown tea leaves found here and there in the mix.
They don't change much, and have a bit of a leather flavor when chewed.
Fifteen plus steepings is certainly respectable, and I figure that if this tea is treated correctly in storage, it may have even more to give someday.

Storage

The long session shows that although the tea starts out rather brown, beneath all that is still some green tea. Because of the dry but not overwhelmingly dry storage, I am very pleased with the condition of this tea. My hat is off to Mr. Eccentric Collector, he can have my phone number and Tindr link. This dry storage cannot be faked, and the tea has a semi-aged flavor. I wish the tea cost more in the $150 range, but this is a bit unfair when most CNNP teas available now are either wet stored or lack the longevity in the tea pot. I cannot blame Bitterleaf for recognizing they have a find here for those drinkers who want some power in an aged tea and drier storage too.

Now that the tea is in my hands, I plan to give it the summer’s heat and humidity here. When the summer is over, I will wrap the tea in plastic for the dry winter. I do not use plastic with any of my teas, save one cake which is wrapper-less and arrived in plastic, a cake I have saved intact with the plastic merely as an example.

I am concerned about retaining what remains of the top floral notes. The strong bitterness of the tea recommends it for a more humid climate, but the risk is losing those faint top notes in exchange for trying to push the bitterness along. The cake is worth the babysitting. Not many CNNP teas of this strength and dry storage left to buy these days. I think a name like "Whatever 98" is certainly appropriate because we just do not know much about the origins here. Yet I will look forward to tasting this again over the summer and again in the fall. What a pleasure this tea is!




Sunday, May 28, 2017

Puerh Tea Vendors

Most people who purchase anything online are accustomed to the faceless and communication-devoid nature of the transaction. The best transactions usually are those when the product simply arrives as expected. So anyone new to buying puerh tea surely does not expect the type of communication possible and often expected by long-time collectors and buyers. The fact that puerh tea lovers enjoy discussing tea vendors is no big secret. Puerh tea is unique in that customer service very often includes communication with tea vendors and even over time developing a buying relationship with that vendor. 

But how do people get to know tea vendors? I decided to present a little bio on vendors and agents that I know. By “bio” I mean just some small bits of info to help you distinguish one vendor from another, and perhaps to make reaching out a little less daunting. First, a bit of explanation about the list of people here: obviously I cannot list every single great vendor or agent. The ones in this article are mostly people who:

1)      Do puerh full time. Or most of the time. Really that means 24/7 and they do not sleep.
2)      Are approachable for beginners.
3)      Answer messages promptly and enjoying discussing puerh.
4)      Are people I have had some communication with OR many people have.
5)      People who will handle special requests with personal service.
6)      People generous enough to forgive if I get any info incorrect.

The Madmen of Puerh


Mr. Wilson has lived in Yunnan for almost two decades, and now at least for part of the year when he is not traveling for business to other tea regions. He has fluent language abilities. He has described his businesses to me as “a family business, my wife, some relatives and a handful of others.”

My first experience communicating with Mr. Wilson was well before I started this blog, and memorable to me because of a purchase of a teapot with a special design to celebrate my son’s college graduation. I was also in search of tea gifts for Son’s professors in thanks for their mentoring, and selecting teas for the graduation party. I emailed with Mr. Wilson over my choices, and he was very patient and helpful.

Our family celebration of my son’s graduation was one of the most profound family events we have ever had. We shared tea, food and because my son was a Music major, we had classical musicians sit down to play for the family. I still remember the warm haze of the day from sunshine, food, tea and loving friends. This day carried our family forward when my mother died the following morning. Without that day, I do not think I would have survived the coming months myself. Of course I have purchased a lot of tea and tea ware from Yunnan Sourcing since then, but this experience of personal assistance at a key family time is memorable for me.

I have a persistent fantasy of raiding the YS dumpster in Bend, OR.
Imagine all the half steeped tea leaves in there.
Scott Wilson is active on Instagram, Twitter and also YouTube where he makes podcasts on various tea topics, and always while brewing tea. His Doberman Lucy is under special acting contract in his videos. I am continually astounded at the strength and amount of tea Mr. Wilson can consume. He enjoys friendly email chat anytime with just about anyone who messages him. He accepts special order requests.

Paul Murray, white2tea.com, teaware.house

Mr. Murray is one of the more shy puerh vendors in person and online, as he prefers not to show any photos of himself. This is truly due to shyness, and it is no big secret I attend his tea tastings and look forward to meeting up with him and his wife Karen once a year.

Paul left  the US for China shortly after finishing his art and languages degree more than a decade ago. He began a love affair with puerh tea while working a job in another career area. He reportedly accumulated a very large collection during those years, and found his tastes moving into higher quality teas. As a result, white2tea was born in 2012 to share teas that he feels are the best he can find. People archly make much over his wrapper designs, but keep in mind his background training is in art; it’s not just marketing with him but creative expressions of his personal views on tea. Every wrapper has something he wants to say, not merely decoration to sell tea. And they are the truth as he sees it through art, so he probably does want to have sex with the Bosch lady.

This fantasy is of the new Guangzhou warehouse with two-headed guard dog.
Now based in Guangzhou for the good tea climate, Paul travels to Yunnan every year for several months in spring and autumn and has developed relationships with tea growers. He maintains Instagram and Twitter accounts daily, keeps a blog, and occasionally does live podcasts of tea tastings via SnapChat. White2tea accepts special private order requests for aged factory teas, in addition to their own productions.

Peter Stanik, pu-erh.sk

I have not communicated much with Mr. Stanik although I have ordered plenty of tea and tea ware. Other buyers I know enjoy their relationship with him, as he focuses mainly on gushu puerh tea and high end tea ware. His website is in Slovakia, so you may need to hit the language button options to access his blog and some areas of the website. On Facebook, he describes starting out on green tea and oolongs before a trip to Yunnan took him into a lifetime relationship with puerh tea. He opened a business in 2010.

Pu-erh.sk offers samples of nearly all of their teas and has earned a reputation of selling some of the best puerh teas accessible to those who try to respect their budgets. Just because you can’t afford a whole cake, no reason to miss out on great teas when pu-erh.sk offers sample sizes. The site also offers extremely fine tea ware, including Japanese hand forged tetsubin and a specialty of creations from European potters. This makes pu-erh.sk a great resource when you are ready to bump up to investment quality teas and tea kettles. You can find Peter on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube under Pu-erh.sk.

Honza Brož, chawangshop.com

Mr. Brož lives in Yunnan with his wife where he maintains a tea shop and web business, but is originally from the Czech Republic. I can admit Chawangshop is a website that causes me a certain amount of awe and mental illness, because I adore the teas so much. This site is unique in many ways, such as the selection of vintage tea wares at low prices, and craft products like rougher heicha that I cannot find anywhere else, and Chaozhou clay teapots.

2016 Yibang by Chawangshop
As with so many vendors, the Chawangshop selection derives from the experience and philosophy of the vendor. Mr. Brož shared with me recently that he began drinking puerh teas in the early 2000s back home in the Czech Republic, brick teas with no provenance which were still nevertheless “very tasty.” He saved a piece from each tea he drank back in those days, putting it away to age further so he could see how they changed over time. He describes learning a great deal about puerh by drinking deeply into his teas over many years. His shop is a way to replicate this same approach for puerh drinkers, because there is no substitute for long experience in learning how to drink tea. His teas are geared toward providing this experience over a period of years. He encourages people to put teas away into storage and continue to drink them over time.

Mr. Brož is active on Instagram and Facebook, as well as many tea websites and discussion forums such as Teachat. He offers special ordering and will track down teas or tea ware for private customers.

The Couples

Eugene Chew and Belle Sun, teaurchin.com

This husband and wife tea team is based in Shanghai, China. Eugene moved to China from Australia and stayed after meeting his wife who is a government accredited tea grader and tea ceremony expert. They founded Tea Urchin in 2011, and they design some of the most beautiful tea wrappers, as well as pressing their own teas and sourcing factory teas. Their teas are usually single origin, and they offer some tea ware as well. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

I have had a few Tea Urchin teas, they are a regretted omission from my blog, not for any reason other than my money runs out too fast. But I have liked everything I’ve tasted from teas sent to me from tea friends and from traveling tea boxes.

David Collen and Yingxi Chen, essenceoftea.com

Essence of Tea hit the western puerh tea drinking world by storm in 2008-2009. If you don’t believe me, read the back pages of the Sheng of the Day forum on badgerandblade.com, a puerh discussion topic that dates back well before most western facing vendors got their start. People who had access only to factory teas got their first tastes of truly fine fresh puerh teas with cleaner processing than people were accustomed to. The Half-Dipper blog has extensive coverage of this company’s teas over the years.

Essence of Tea started out in England but now they are based in Malaysia, so the teas have access to what is probably one of the best storage climates in the world. Their teas also sell out quick due to the enthusiastic fan base. This tea business is a good resource for the real-deal vintage Yixing tea pot. I mean the real Yixing mud and vintage factory tea pots. When you are ready to go past your first $30 Yixing purchase into an investment tea pot, their site is the first one to try when you are looking for assistance with this big purchase. Essence of Tea maintains a Facebook and Twitter presence, and they answer emails promptly.

Glen and Lamu Bowers, crimsonlotustea.com

Mr. and Mrs. Bowers have a truly inspiring story. They live in Seattle, WA and spend at least three months a year in Yunnan. Glen described himself as an avid coffee drinker for many years. After his engagement to his wife Lamu, he quite accidentally tried shou puerh while on a business trip to California. He felt so impressed by this tea immediately and talked to his wife-to-be, who happens to be from Yunnan, China. “Of course I know about puerh tea, I just assumed everyone did,” is a paraphrase of her response to him. I’m amazed to think that Glen and Lamu were engaged to be married well before Glen even started drinking puerh, I can only describe this as a spiritual connection. Glen and Lamu offer a unique service in Seattle: they hold tea tastings for married/partnered couples and sell tea sets designed for newly married people.

When in Yunnan, they live with Lamu’s family where they are able to commission Jian Shui teapots and genuine silver tea ware. Glen and Lamu also work closely with their tea farmers, investing time and money to help these farmers improve their processing and purchase equipment with the goal of cleaner tea. CrimsonLotus tea is active on Instagram, Reddit, Facebook and Steepster and they accept private email order requests for tea and tea ware as well as wedding sets. Glen is always available to help new puerh drinkers and answer questions.

Jonah Snyder, bitterleafteas.com

Mr. Snyder is relatively new to the puerh scene, and lives with his wife and her family in Yunnan. He has an advantage of living in Yunnan full time with a father-in-law who likes to drink puerh in the traditional Yunnan way of green and fresh. Thus he has an expert puerh taster in his family. Bitterleaf Tea has only been around for two years or so, but their specially commissioned white and wood-fired Jian Shui zitao tea wares, and vintage cat tea pets, are a big hit with social media puerh folks. I see them everywhere now, and their wares sell out fast. The website has gorgeous photos if you are in the mood to just browse.

Bitterleaf's 2016 Yiwu
The teas pressed by Bitterleaf are fresh and cleanly processed. They are starting to venture into offering more aged teas as they meet collectors in Yunnan. I recently purchased an aged tea they acquired from a collector and I’ve got my eye on their selection which, with their local connections, will likely continue to improve. Bitterleaf accepts private order commissions for tea ware, and their Instagram tea lifestyle posts are so lovely and cheer up my day whenever I see one.

John Hou, kingteamall.com

Mr. Hou is based in hot and muggy Shanghai, China and began selling puerh teas on Aliexpress in 2014. At the end of 2016, Aliexpress prohibited vendors from selling tea on their platform, an unfortunate decision on the part of Aliexpress that led to Mr. Hou opening a website. I’m certain he does not regret escaping all those fees he once paid to Aliexpress, but having a website requires a lot more outreach to buyers. He offers a large selection of Taetea and other factory teas, aged and new. He also sells tea ware, and you can often find puerh factory tea ware. If you want a gaiwan with a Taetea logo he might have it in stock.

King Tea Mall's 1996 Dayi Laochatou
This tea company wins my personal award for most fragrant tea package. I once ordered a tin of Taetea shou cakes from him which arrived at my house not only bubble wrapped, but the entire cardboard shipping box was wrapped in bubble wrap too. Despite all this extra wrapping and the tea cakes in a tin, this tea literally stank in the best possible way a very fragrant shou puerh can. I couldn’t believe how overpoweringly wonderful the box smelled. Must be the Shanghai storage.

Mr. Hou offers the best customer service. Not only will he accept private order requests, he offers repeat customer discounts anywhere from 5-20% for repeat purchases. He emails tracking updates on your packages so you don’t have to wonder where your tea is. If anything arrives damaged, you can expect a refund or a future coupon or a replacement. He is a very friendly person to chat with, one of the few vendors who will do live chat. He has started a blog on his website, and recently I noticed he opened an Instagram account. Mr. Hou will track down pretty much any factory tea you might want. If it’s out there, he will find it.

Puerh Obsessives servicing tea community

Jay Khilnani, tealifehk.com

Mr. Khilnani is a go-to person for traditional Hong Kong storage teas and heicha. He grew up in Hong Kong and moved back there after college. He has been drinking tea his entire life, and went down the rabbit hole of puerh collecting before deciding to sell tea online. In addition to his selection of teas entirely stored in Hong Kong, he has a selection of teas which underwent Kunming dry storage for most of the tea’s life, but then a year or two in his storage to open them up more. 

This selection will continue to grow, as Jay acquires more dry stored tea which will then have 1-2 years spent in humid conditions, something rather unusual online. Usually what you see are teas either with many years of Hong Kong storage, or teas with all drier Kunming storage. Jay’s selection includes the wetter teas, but is unique in that you can get teas with some benefit of humid storage for a short time, but without the overly musty, cooked-out flavors.

Jay is active on teachat.com, Steepster and other social media platforms. He accepts special order requests for puerh teas coming from anywhere in China. He will do the work of tracking down what you want, but a sample of his own teas will be well worth it. I hope to try his Fuzhuan bricks someday, as I imagine his will be full of golden flowers just the way I like and better than what I can do with my drier storage.

Emmett Guzman,  @emmett_guzman_iv

Mr. Guzman is an important person to know because he is a liaison for Taiwan producer Yan(g) Qing Hao premium puerh teas. He coordinates monthly tea buys of this brand via Steepster and Facebook. Yang Qing Hao is a often-faked tea brand, so Emmett is the person who has access to the real tea from the company.

Also, he has recently started a courtesy of selling premium puerh tea for private collectors. That is, if you have a premium collection he can coordinate discrete anonymous sales, collector-to-collector for a small fee. By premium collection I mean teas that are $500/beeng and up. So, in other words this is not the person to contact to sell your EBay teas, but a good way to buy or sell the best of the best to people who can afford to buy.

If you want to venture into trying the really, really pricey stuff, Emmett’s group buys are a good way to start. He can also track down special tea requests. I expect that the longer he continues to coordinate premium tea buys, he will acquire more and more connections with very private collectors. For something truly special, it might be worth contacting him with your requests so he can keep you in mind when he obtains a unique opportunity to buy. The best way to contact him is message Emmett on Steepster, @emmett_guzman_iv  on Instagram, or check out his Facebook page.

James Schergen, TeaDB.org

Mr. Schergan is not a tea seller, but he has an educational tea website along with Denny Chapin. James is avidly interested in helping puerh tea folks via his videos, and he will assist people with navigating the waters of puerh tea buying, especially with TaoBao buying. He can also hook you up with names of Taobao agents, these are people who will buy off TaoBao for you for a fee. Every week TeaDB has videos and articles geared to puerh tea drinking and buying. It’s worth going through their back catalog of materials to learn as much as you can. TeaDB has their videos on YouTube and maintains a presence on Instagram as well. 

As the dot org suggests, TeaDB is a good resource for any quick questions you have, because you will get an honest and up-front answer to any question with no BS. They will tell you straight-like, “that is a good tea,” or “don’t buy that tea pot.”

Andrew Richardsen, LiquidProustTeas.com

I have written about Mr. LP already. He devotes much time to puerh beginners and is active on Reddit and Steepster. He does a lot of service in puerh tea though his own tea website is about teas other than puerh. LP coordinates tea group buys and will help people with Taobao.

This year he is commissioning fresh puerh tea. He claims he is “getting out of tea” because he is getting married and starting graduate school. Riiight…we’ll see. :D



I hope you enjoyed this list of vendors and straight up obsessive people who are good resources for puerh tea. I know there are many more I could list, but I feel these people are the most approachable, especially for persons new to puerh tea.



Saturday, May 20, 2017

2005 CNNP Big Yellow Mark

2005 CNNP Big Yellow Mark from Yunnan Sourcing
in ragg paper (uncut edges)
Back off the tea wagon, I resumed my puerh tea habits with a mostly healed up lower back. Tax return time flushed my wallet so I can spend a little bit on tea. One cake I spied during my down time is this 2005 CNNP Big Yellow Mark over at Yunnan Sourcing. I noticed the US site had 20 cakes available and I held my breath nearly a month hoping to score one of these before they sold out. At that time the China site did not have this tea, but I notice that it is available there now too for $2 less, and with more photos than the US site. I tried finding this tea on Taobao before buying, and while Taobao has a number of mark teas I could not find this exact one at the time.

The good news is Yunnan Sourcing’s US site now offers Free Shipping for orders over $75. With this tea at $68, I can easily find something else to toss into my cart to reach that free shipping mark. Recently I noted that white2tea has reduced their flat rate shipping from $14.99 to $9.99. So all the online griping over shipping costs seems to have had some effect on at least two vendors.

My cake arrived during the first hot and muggy spell of the summer. Of the two teas I ordered together, this is the one that stank up the box with minty incense. The beeng is 357 grams with machine compression. Mr. Wilson describes the storage on this tea as “dry Guangdong,” which is more humid than a dry-stored Kunming. I found my cake is definitely on the dry side of humid storage with no off odors and I welcome the bug bites on the wrapper. Overall my cake is drier than, say, the 2006 Chang Tai I bought last year from Yunnan Sourcing. The material in this tea is a spring blend of Bulang and Nannuo leaf with a mix of buds and larger leaves.

No mushy spots on mine.
I leaf this heavy in an early 2000s zisha clay pot, and gave two rinses and tossed the first steeping as it was still too light. The tea smells slightly medicinal, with wood and chicory notes. Viscosity is quite decent with a thick pour and a few small bubbles that do not pop. Early steeps have a slightly sour fermentation note which disappears over subsequent steepings. This is a very actively aging tea, but definitely over the hump of youth as Mr. Wilson states. Leaves are still green but they are turning a pale brown. Liquor is a dark orange and remains so as I steep.

A Bulang/Nannuo mix of buds with larger leaves.
Early flash steeps are bitter with a quick throat and mouth huigan, and the cup retains a floral smell. I am using a brand new cup made by potter pal Inge Nielsen, so no other tea can produce this nose. I taste woody florals, slight medicine, some sour fruit, and the chicory note which increases in later steepings. Some qi and astringency are present with a slight delay. I down six steepings and then went to fold laundry when I got hit with the qi in my eyes and in the middle of my back. After my folding the astringency hit and I coughed a dry mouth and went for a drink of water.

This tea performs very well in zisha/Yixing clay.
The smell of the tea liquid in the cha hai keeps drawing me in. This has just the smell I want in an aging tea, floral and chicory leather like grandpa’s 1940s home office with a big wood desk, dark leather chairs and vintage letter writing set. He has an empty container of pipe tobacco open and the wood pipe long unused in the ashtray. He does not smoke it any more but still likes to chew the mouthpiece a little. Steeps 8-10 I need to extend the brew time a little. This is not a mega steeper but a very pleasant drinker tea that lingers sweet in the mouth for more than an hour.

I agree with Mr. Wilson’s assessment that this tea will be really nice in 8-10 years. The lack of any date stamp knocks the collectors off the buyer list for this tea, leaving it for those of us with a storage hobby. While the price is entry level for a semi-aged tea, I really hope that the storage fiends are the people who go for this. I consider this a tea to put away for that full duration as Mr. Wilson suggests, so you can have a very nicely aged puerh tea in just a short decade, or maybe less if you live in one of those more humid places. This tea has the best possible start and yet is dry enough that I cannot consider it wet stored at all. If someone says to me “oh well this tea did not ‘do’ it for me,” then I think you are missing something. 

Tea is still green but with pale brown aging started.
This is not a tea to drink right now. It is actively fermenting and I taste where the tea is currently going, but it is not yet at the final destination. While the low price might draw some people new to puerh, I think some prior experience in assessing semi-aged teas helps to really appreciate where this tea is at today. Perhaps experienced storage folks probably do not need another drinker tea. But if you do, well here is one to consider with a fine start. If you lack storage assessment experience, perhaps you can give this a try while telling yourself “this is a tea I must put away rather than drink today, a trial cup is merely a test of where it is at.”

Yunnan Sourcing US showed 18 cakes left today, but now it will show at most 17, because I bought another. I cannot tell how many are available on the new China site, and you know what is going to happen. Because the tea lacks a date stamp, Mr. Wilson has somewhat under-priced this little gem and he will figure that out all too soon. A 2005 tea for $66/68? I do not expect this price to stay so low for long.

New spring teas are on the horizon! I notice that Bitterleaf Teas are first out of the gate with 2017 spring puerh tea already. Unexpectedly I received a couple of samples today which I will try next time.