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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.



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