; Cwyn's Death By Tea: 2018 ;

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

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.


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Xiaguany River, 2011 Grey Crane

Today is one of those golden autumn days, with the last of the silver maple leaves falling into the sunny window of my house. While the local kids go trick-or-treat-ing, I will treat myself to a bit of Xiaguan. This 2011 Grey Crane sample is from Virginia storage master mrmopar, sent to me several years ago. Over the past year the sample has served as a test for potter Inge Nielsen's new clay jar and the tea very much likes this new home, judging from the fragrance when I lift the lid. My old teapot Chip cried neglect as I perused which pot to pour, so he gets a day in the October sunshine. I notice his repairs are holding up.

My Halloween treat, 2011 Xiaguan Grey Crane
A few years ago I obsessed a little over buying a 2011 Grey Crane cake, originally not a very expensive production, and so mrmopar generously offered to send me a sample to help with the decision of whether to buy the tea. At the same time, I obsessed over 2011 Taetea Century Shou, and I got a sample of that tea in the package, such a large sample I did not feel the need to buy the tea. I ended up passing on the Grey Crane as well. As always, mrmopar quietly stores his tea in an excellent manner. When he decides to sell tea someday, I feel certain all his teas will have had a nice start.

Second steep after the rinse.
Xiaguan special productions are always worth a look, because they start out in the budget price range for the most part and appreciate in value over the years. They also tend to taste less harsh at the outset compared to tuos. The 2011 Grey Crane is an iron pressing, but like most Xiaguan iron pressings, the cake is thin enough that I can find a spot to break on my sample. I think of white2tea's Prolaxicorvatin and wonder if I should buy one just for the storage experience, because my other iron pressings preserve quite well.

First steeping on the boil and I am punished with full-on bitter, but the color of the tea is starting to brown a little which tempers the bitterness going forward. The tea is surprisingly thick already, at only seven years old. My pot Chip tempers the brew somewhat, and I enjoy spicy red clover honey notes amidst the Xiaguany house flavor, and that heavy vapor coming up from the stomach that we look for, and it lingers as I type along. Some very nice huigan, but the money steeps are 5-7 and the tea starts fading after that. I find a very old sheng leaf in my sample, brown and twisted. I almost think it shou, but no, it's just a very old leaf. Maybe that's the surprise in the Grey Crane.

Some brown developing, the old twisted leaf on the far left.
I am not tempted to trace down a cake of this, but anyone owning the tea already surely is pleased with it. Down the road I can imagine a bit of trading for it among collectors who own a tong. Drinkers can expect a mellow, sweet drink already with just a few more years of storage.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Whatever Happened to Bad Tea? A Return to the Outlaw

"Outlaw" Banzhangy-Yiwu-ey--I ain't what I claim to be tea.
Hard to believe this blog is now in a fifth year, though as I predicted at the very beginning, health and medications take a toll on my tea drinking. Today I am glad for the chugging years, all too often now puerh gets replaced by hongcha in my daily cup, yet on the bright side I have some hongs that are worth getting up for. Poor old Lu Yu, he knows that the greatest pleasure on earth is tea drinking, he has no need of it now, but if he has any remaining consciousness I am certain he misses it. Looking back on my older posts, I decided to revisit one of the teas I wrote about very early on. Let’s see how it is doing.

My intention when buying this beeng on eBay was to try and find the worst possible tea, to acquire a bad tea for my collection because everything else I own is so good that surely I am missing out. I failed miserably on this attempt to buy a bad beengcha, others have acquitted themselves admirably in the same task. 

After my August 2014 blog post on this “Overlord Drunk” tea, I tossed this tea into crock storage not long after spending some time in a pumidor I had then. The problem with this tea is the double wrappers were made of rather inexpensive paper which did not stay wrapped up, as rag paper will. Very quickly the wrappers got messed and started shredding, and loose tea began to flake off the stone pressed disk. On top of this, I noticed a somewhat smoky quality to the processing and decided to try and work this out by breaking up the tea into a crock. Thus, this tea made of probably autumn material from 2008-2011 or thereabouts spent about 4 years in a Haeger stoneware “cookie jar.” I tried to get some photos. 


Somebody did not want to move, and hard to blame him given the last few warm summer days when I took these photos (mid-September).



Okay one more for the too-cute factor. 


Winston is my 2 ½ year old orphan kitten who still wants me to hand feed him on occasion. Despite that, he is quite the hunter with some astonishing kills on his CV. He doesn’t like petting beyond a head scritch or two, so I think the very occasional hand feeding is his way of getting some emotional interaction with me.

Here is the original photo of the beeng hole side back from 2014.



Today, the tea looks like this.

Broken up beeng from stoneware jar.
The first thing I notice is the oxidation or browning that has occurred during crock storage, especially on the buds which were silvery white before. This is a stage that happens with any tea stored well. Basically the tea begins to lose color just as fall leaves do, although this is not really much “change,” the chlorophyll simply dies out. Fully oxidized tea is of course hongcha. The cell walls of the tea are loosening up some on this Outlaw tea, which admittedly did have some oxidized leaves on the edges of the beeng to begin with. This explains somewhat the orange color the of the brew back in 2014, and now.

A chunk from the pile, starting to turn brown.
People sometimes confuse oxidation with solid state fermentation, equating the two. Oxidation is a stage that happens most visibly in the first few years in both wet and dry storage. Oxidation is also a problem prior to retail if the tea sat too long before chaqing, or the chaqing was under done (and of course the tea will be sold anyway). But solid state fermentation of puerh tea takes two decades, unless one wets down the tea and quick-ferments into shou. A year, or even four years of storage, no matter how you store the tea is just an oxidation phase, with the tea slowly loosening its walls. The actual fermentation of yeasts and much later the conversion of juices from bitter to sweet are very slow after that. The browning on my cake is really just the start of fifteen more years to go.

Another reason I chose to revisit this tea now is because the origins are similar, in my mind, to the Dark Forest and Yiwu Spotlight which I reviewed in the previous post. The flavor profile is virtually identical, and the color of the brew too. But the eBay tea is much less powerful than the others, a weaker sibling. I brewed this tea in Yixing to duplicate how I brewed it for the older post.

Second steeping, rather orange like the Yiwu-region teas from previous post.
Far from a “bad” tea, I notice how much more thick the brew is now, motor oil thick with fuzzies in the strainer from the buds. The profile is a bit monotonous, lightly bitter and the oiliness settles the bitterness firmly onto the tongue which takes fifteen minutes to resolve into sweetness. Pleasant enough light apricot yogurt. I have to push the tea from the start to get what I consider a nice strong cup, at least 20-30 seconds. I went six steepings and you can see from the leaves they are nowhere near unfurled yet. 

Sixth steep, this tea has nice thickness, but not a whole lot else.
Maybe I am unfair, but like before this guy just doesn’t have what it takes to satisfy me. The tea is basically an experiment and nothing I hope to turn into anything. 


Steeped leaves in 2014.
I cannot fail to note that while the leaves may be less powerful than I would like, the leaf quality is such that the tea would cost far more now. The tea is still available in sample bags, the beengcha have sold out. Of course the price is higher too, but not ridiculous.

Steeped leaves from today, my sunny window
surely washes out the color a little.
Perhaps I will check this one again someday. In the summer it gets the heat and humidity my three-season porch provides, and I remove the lid on hot days, and replace it for any cold or rainy weather. In winter, I wipe the inner lid with a damp paper towel to add a bit of moisture. In the past few years we have had hot, humid summers and humid autumn and spring too, so I have not added moisture quite as much. My teas are still holding quite a bit of moisture through the winter. Fingers crossed, as always.


Friday, September 21, 2018

2015 Dark Forest vs 2018 Yiwu Spotlight

2015 Dark Forest
Four years into puerh blogging and I am only getting round to Tea Urchin now. This feels like a bit of an oversight on my part, but no reason for it other than my tea dollars only stretch so far. Other teas are simply more in my face for various reasons, and with some regret, as I have had my eye on several Tea Urchin offerings. Although I have a few samples in my possession from Tea Urchin acquired mostly through swaps or tea friend donations, the 2015 Dark Forest beeng is my first purchase from this company. Waiting too long now has priced a few intriguing teas well beyond where they once were. For example, Tea Urchin still has a 2010 Chen Sheng Yi Hao tea, which is now just brushing $200 for a healthy 400g beeng, but was half that only a couple years ago. I rather liked the strength in that tea, but it is another animal altogether from Tea Urchin’s own Dark Forest offering.

Photographed next to a daylight-filled window.
Back in 2015, word of mouth on Dark Forest was a bit muted, and Mr. Tomek’s notes are similar to what I heard from other puerh fans. So I hesitated, and in the meantime nearly $20 got added onto the 200g beeng. Again, I have no excuse really because I certainly dropped cash on pricier teas since then, except perhaps that the opportunities to buy puerh have vastly expanded and some tend to grab more attention. What got me finally is a tea friend who bought Dark Forest a few years ago, recently tried it again and said she likes it far better now, that the tea has changed from a greener profile to deeper notes. Well, before the price goes over that $100 mark, which it will, I decided I should buy one. 

Definitely a traditional pressing.
I let my beeng sit a month in my hothouse summer porch setting, and maybe the recent rains added moisture because now the beeng is a bit big for its box, having swelled some. Tea Urchin is located in Shanghai, and assuming the teas are stored there, we have far more humid storage there than Kunming. My ex takes the train from Hefei to Shanghai regularly, and I envy what could have been my chance to maybe meet up with folks like Belle and Eugene for tea.


Have you noticed that everyone has a so-called “secret forest” tea lately? The garden nobody else seems to access or know about. I tend to take all this with a grain of salt, except that Belle is a professional in the Chinese tea industry. Tea Urchin is not an outfit of greenish westerners with backpacks on bikes. The only advice I give myself about secret gardens is to look at photos carefully, because if the trees look a bit picked over, it’s a clue for thought. I have a secret watermelon garden and still kids steal my melons. At any rate, the Dark Forest garden is supposedly between Bohetang and Wangong. Tea Urchin also produced a Gedeng tea in 2015, so thereabouts in the general region they found the leaf for this production.

Second steeping.
My tasting of this tea rather reminds me more of a spicy Youle profile, the nose is brown sugar and my first steeping of 6g in about 90 ml yields initial notes of orange chocolate, light apricots similar to Manzhuan, and a warm nutmeg finish in the throat which turns cooling a few steeps in. The leaves are a nice mix of larger leaf with small furry buds.

Two-leaf one bud picking.
The liquor is notable with an amber color, usually this is a rare color to see so early, but I notice a couple of leaves in the mix which look either a wild purple or outright oxidized, either of which could contribute to the color. Drinking as hot as possible off the boil gives me the chocolate and nutmeg notes before the bitterness kicks in. Cooling the tea leads to a very bitter profile that turns sweet and cool in the back of the mouth. The pour looks thicker than the sip feels.

The tea gives me more clarity of vision rather than a strong “body feel,” however the tea sits warm in the tummy for more than an hour afterward. After about four steepings the astringency kicks in for me. Maybe waiting a bit for the tea to settle in Shanghai was a good idea after all. I am glad for the bitterness and more traditional flavor as a base, over which I can find those spicy chocolate notes, the tea has strength which should hold up. This tea is far more cleanly processed than some factory teas I own with a similar profile. The yun is impressive even in late steepings, though some sourness shows up too, as can happen with Yiwu region teas after a few years. Plenty to give even after ten steepings, and just enough of the spice left to maintain some interest.

Placing the tea in my interests, based on what I already own, and what is on the market, this one is probably a bit underpriced now. I forgo linking the tea for you so the vendor does not notice an uptick in specific traffic, and people start saying “blogger effect.” This tea really isn’t traditional honey and wood Yiwu, it leans more Youle/Manzhuan and appears honestly uncultivated. So, the tea is twice the price of a basic garden Yiwu. If one cannot buy into super premium Yiwu, and wants something rather better than the $40-50/200g tea garden beeng, this one has much more complexity and lingering body/throat presence.

If these leaves were new this year, I feel fairly certain the cake would cost more in the $150-200 range. As for aging, uncultivated tea is rather uncertain, but buying a cake is probably not an aging project. A 200g beeng is only 25-30 sessions and likely to get consumed unless one tongs it. Dark Forest has an oddball potential: it awaits a particular someone who likes the yun and knows what the tea would cost now, who falls in love with it and buys it all up. I guess that’s a way of saying someone with a more experienced taste and owns tea already will buy this up, someone who whimsy buys a whole harvest, as opposed to people relying on others for “what should I buy?”

2018 Yiwu “Spotlight” Maocha

Last year I accepted some teas from yiwumountaintea.com, and decided after trying them that the reasonably priced and rather generous Yiwu sampler pack was worth a consideration. That pack sold out. This company has more sampler packs this year, but they cost more and contain less tea. I did not get asked whether I wanted to try 2018 teas, the vendor emailed me that he’d already sent a box. Blogging does bring welcome teas along with a bit of hostage-taking.

Beautiful long leaves.
Who is this vendor? This is another married-couple-vendor situation where the wife is from Yunnan and whose father, you can guess, is the tea pro. The vendor claims to make connections via father-in-law and then chooses to pay a “premium price” to sources to prevent them from selling elsewhere. That premium price, and then more pricing, all get passed on to buyers. Some of the teas on the site are sticker-shock. The Tongqinghe wrappers are found on very fine and not-so-fine wholesale teas, which creates a question of where the tea comes from and how it differs, or maybe just how certain wrappers get on teas. Scrutinizing vendors nowadays goes into a rabbit hole of more questions than answers. Suffice to say, we now have three or four married couple vendors to choose from, with father-in-law involvement now a meme. I am not questioning this vendor as such, but I am aware that I have no way of checking on any details. The vendor is in Guangzhou, in case anyone is able to check via local selling.

I received one 2018 “Yiwu Spotlight gushu,” a 2012 “Yiwu gushu,” and a 2017 “Yiwu gushu ripe brick” sample. Obviously these are impressive titles, and for now I can try the 2018. If the other two stick out in a particular way, I might post them on Instagram. The yiwumountaintea site overall is super expensive, and likely to appeal only to a small group of buyers who can afford these prices. Most people who read this blog are looking for more affordable choices, but from what I gather this vendor sells more locally.

Second steeping.
The 2018 Spotlight Maocha sample is from a 2 kg total loose purchase and is sold in 50g increments for $18.86. This is comparable, price-wise, with the Dark Forest in 2015 puerh dollars. However you can only buy loose leaf which makes storage a bit of a challenge.  I brewed up the entire sample in one go so I didn’t need to worry about keeping it. The result was probably rather strong compared to how most people might choose to consume the tea. In fact, probably a western steep of a pinch of this tea is enough for most people.

The 8th steeping, tea much more yellow now.
Overall I found the tea is on point price-wise, if a bit overhyped in the description. The early steeps had a sour note, no doubt in part due to my keeping the tea in the bag for most of the summer. I noted a burnt brown sugar profile, and like the Dark Forest this tea steeped up dark early on but unlike Dark Forest the brew lightened up to a honey yellow later on. I got quite a caffeine bump from the tea, and it mainly sits in the stomach. Because of going heavy on the tea leaf I had quite a bitter cup of tea. I’m glad I kept going past the early sour brews to enjoy more of the brown sugar along with a tomato vine green tea flavor in later steeps. Thickness was not that impressive, but in a drinker quality tier I hope for a good 8-10 steepings and an enjoyable but not necessarily unique experience.

The reality with Yiwu area teas is that we have the choice of going super premium house-payment-priced teas and then…everything else. Most people have or want at least some Yiwu teas in their collection. Dark Forest sticks out a bit more from the crowd for me, but otherwise you can find decent drinking Yiwu from a number of vendors such as Bitterleaf’s much less expensive yearly Yiwu cake, or white2tea’s former Diving Duck production for example. One can easily acquire Bitterleaf’s Yiwu just as an add-on with a teaware purchase. I’m just not sure I can find reason to pay more for new Yiwu unless I want to really bump up higher to a much more premium quality elsewhere.



Tuesday, August 21, 2018

They are Out to Get Us


I hardly sleep at night on the best of days, and last night I got red eye after making the mistake of trying to read the New York Times to pass the time. This is a habit I absolutely must quit, but in the meantime check out the newest of horrors about to descend on us import law abiding puerh drinkers. A couple of years ago we had the “soapy artichoke lady” to contend with, now we have the genetic food researchers coming for us. In an article titled “Your Spit Might Help You Learn to Eat Your Greens,” assistant food science professor Cordelia Running, PhD from Purdue looks at the ability to taste bitter foods, and supposedly discovered a way to force us to endure bitter foods.

Even though the Purdue research is done on rats, all this is based on the newest genetic DNA studies from places like 23andMe collecting spit from people to supposedly track their ancestry, which includes the possibility of having one, two or three bitter taste detector genes. You know where all that data collection is going because the founder of 23andMe is married to a Google spouse, and selling the data is the whole idea. But never mind that, the point here is that the ability to taste bitter flavors is tied to how many of these genes you actually have, adaptations really, intended to help humans detect and avoid poisons such as in mushrooms or your Carbolic Soap wielding neighbor like myself. The variability in how many gene strands you have to taste bitter explains why someone like me is pounding the sofa in pain from the 2008 Haiwan LBZ and some other blogger writes on Steepster “this tea hardly has any bitterness to speak of.”

But Dr. Running found out if she feeds cocoa to her rats that saliva can change to interpret bitter as sweet. “Bitter taste tends to be rejected,” she says in the article, “but this is something you might be able to change about yourself biologically.” 

No, bitter taste is not really rejected as we know. The scary part: the goal of this whole project now is, you guessed it, to do more studies, and next up we have

"The researchers hope to try future studies with something even less tasty to drink. Eventually, Dr. Running said, the idea would be to study of whether the effect crosses over to other foods: could regular doses of cocoa, for example, “make a really bitter terrible-tasting tea taste better?" [Ibid]

I will leave it to the social science people to pull apart the conclusion that society wants poor people on food stamps to eat more veggies and this is the way to get that to happen while lowering the amount of food stamps at the same time. My job is to point out the obvious, for what is a “really bitter terrible-tasting tea?” Can you think of any other than puerh? Didn’t think so.

Regular doses of cocoa, people.

Now we have government funding involved, and that always goes nowhere good. We know what is next up in the water supply real soon. Keep in mind this cocoa will be American cocoa, at this idea our European friends will stop reading right now and hop a train to Brussels. That’s all they need to hear to start a good protest, but the rest of the world likely requires things spelled out a bit more.

For those boutique people enjoying their fresh “oolonged” puerh, the whole world government idea here is that leftover summer tonnage is coming your way and the good stuff cordoned off forever from your grasp, and to accept it without complaint you will chew your Hershey’s unsweetened, brew it from the brown water tap and expect to cut it in your lamb chop too because you know it’s going in the feed supply. Get out that spoon, because cocoa is the new quinine for tea rickets.

Now, don’t think you factory pu preferring peeps are off the hook here. That summer tonnage is coming for you too, and gone are the days you will care to age anything. You won’t find aged tea to buy from Taiwan anymore, because who needs the actual basement when you can drink sheng right from the factory, and the whole point is so you can taste your vegetables? Well, and of course the teapals will still pay over $1k for the privilege of “whatever” because you won’t taste the difference.

Really what’s happening is all the good spring tea can just disappear because we won’t be able to taste anything anyway, and we will therefore accept any new tea and people like me will probably end up writing about the wonders of Xiaguan once again, and straight off the drying rack this time. Whole categories of food go worthless when people think everything tastes like chicken, so the same happens for tea with a cocoa-numbed palate.

The real kicker is the researchers saying that in order to keep up the saliva-changing effect of cocoa, you have to keep consuming it indefinitely. This is not just an annual spring dose of de-worming, we have population change as the goal, read that last paragraph in the article carefully. You can say I am crazy, but look at the tea vendor offerings this year. We have the choice between Laoman-er and Hekai just about everywhere. Do you not see the test before us?

Many of you have done your due diligence by posting as much Laoman-e as possible on social media. PhD’s only listen to each other so don’t worry, I am all over this research which WILL be presented at the American Chemical Society this week. Researchers need to get back to normal trying to prove puerh prevents diabetes, which is supposed to keep them busy indefinitely. But I am one step from the nursing home, and soon enough I won’t be here to lay it out when we see the writing on the wall. This is the time to post the photos of your tea and vegetables and email them to Purdue. Right now I need sleep, and once I manage to get some I will be back with a new tea review and a completely revised perspective. 



Saturday, August 18, 2018

2018 Censers and 2018 Arbor Red white2tea


While I am not a frequent buyer of white teas, over the years I picked up a few cakes which promptly got lost and forgotten somewhere in my house. I cannot tell you where a single one is located at the moment, except to say I do not store them with my puerh. A few years ago, white2tea caused a stir amongst their tea club members with a sample of Aged Fuding white tea, and several of my tea friends have tried to find a similar tea ever since. I got that same club offering too. I opened the bag and thought hmmm, no…and closed it back up again. My bravery for trying aged white got lost after other sour and un-impressive examples left a rather bad taste in my mouth. I feel somewhat like I do not yet deserve to try a decent white tea, going into it with a bad bias. But because my new puerh teas are still rather wet, now is a good time to drink this new 2018 Censers white tea I got as a sample with my recent purchase from white2tea.

A lucky sample in my purchase box.
White tea offers instant gratification for a tea drinker, unlike puerh which must first sit and firm up, and then age for half a lifetime. In all its processing forms, white tea is very good new, and generally speaking a Bai Mu Dan is best in the first couple of years. However, this tea is a Bai Mu Dan grade pressed into a beeng intended for further aging. The popularity of white2tea’s pressed white cakes speaks for itself with ubiquitous sold-out signs every season. I believe that the company is definitely interested in producing with an aging focus, given the market prices for a decent aged white tea. A good aged white rewards the drinker with a wine-y mix of spices and florals, and the leaves turn into brown leather which you can boil in a pan to extract even more flavor.

The wrapper is a reference to the aromas white2tea finds in the tea, I don’t own the wrapper but it appears to be a Christianized imagination of a Jewish High Priest, from what looks like the choshen mishpat breastplate of twelve squares, but with a rather bishop-y looking hat instead of a wrapped cloth hat. Maybe this image is taken from a some old painting, I am not going to chase down where it is from. The incense idea is probably the take-away from the wrapper image.

You can see how green 2018 Censers tea is at the moment.

Very freshly pressed white tea.
By contrast, check out the Aged Fuding club tea I managed to dig up from a box of tea envelopes. This is probably the color goal some day.

A more autumnal color.
I decide to brew up just 3g in about 30 ml water. I have to say this is definitely one of the more complex white teas I have ever tried. I used water just off the boil and didn’t rinse the tea because new white tea does not need rinsing. The first three brews are bright, almost neon yellow, with a floral and spicy aroma. White tea processed this way seems to burn a little on the way down the throat like a white radish. The white tea florals are obvious notes to look for, but I got hints of green watermelon rind and dried fig rounding out the bottom. This is rather amazing for white tea which is normally somewhat a floral two-note tea for me.

Censers starts out bright yellow.
The tea darkens in yellow color on steeps 4-6, and thickens considerably, bringing out the fig and spice a bit more. I struggle a bit with steeping the next few, the brew remains thick but the money steeps seem to be the earlier ones. 

Pretty in the gaiwan.
The tea fades somewhat into a greenish floral at this point. The leaves are very leathery already, suggesting a boil might be in order.

Tea thickens and gets a little darker steeps 4-6.
When boiling the tea, I am rewarded with a much darker brown brew that tastes more like diet cola in melted ice water. 

Wow, quite a change from yellow to brown after boiling.
This tea definitely could be boiled more than once, but I think the best days for boiling are further down the road when the tea ages and the flavors gel together more. At that point I would expect deeper wine flavors, spicy fruitcake and the radish to show up more in later steepings than they are now.

Leftover leaf might have more to boil out.
This tea is not a caffeine bomb for me, but I can feel the spicy radish in my chest as I often do with white teas like this, and a mineral aftertaste which may change in character in a few months. I need to try this tea again sometime over the winter. Right now I am sweating from a combination of the weather and boiling water.

I am not the best judge of white teas, and I look forward to a more seasoned palate person taking this one on, such as OolongOwl. I am also not the best at brewing white tea. This is a very rewarding tea in the money steeps, however. Yet if I go for a white tea purchase, I might pony up for the just slightly more expensive 2018 Arbor White and get something with a bit more body feel.

With puerh prices so high this year, if I am budget-conscious I’d rather have a super nice white tea at this price point instead of buying a wet-stored mediocre drinker puerh just to find something easy to drink. For that matter, I would rather have a decent hongcha and did just that by purchasing the 2018 Arbor Red. I know for a fact I will drink up any and all hongcha that arrives in my house, and having consumed all the Big Red I purchased from white2tea a couple of years ago, I am well overdue for another hong purchase. With my Censers sampling out of the way, I feel warmed up for something more hard-hitting.

2018 Arbor Red


2018 Arbor Red comes sealed in a white envelope.
For the record, 2018 Arbor Red is not the most expensive hong I have bought from white2tea. I’d say white2tea’s Xigui hongcha ringing in at $1/g cost me more. I still have not opened that pricey tin, obviously I am hoarding for no good reason. That tea came with a buyer/seller “contract” in blood to gong-fu and not western steep. 

Very nice touch, the addition of a cloth-like inner wrapper.
Outer wrappers get wrecked so quickly...
This Arbor Red claims to contain old arbor large leaf puerh with serious-sounding effects in the description. At $0.43/g this is not cheap hongcha, but it’s not in the hoarding price range of the Xigui, so I am expecting some fun over the next year with this baby.

Does the neifei really say "fuck the fakes"?
I think so...
Arbor Red arrives in a sealed white envelope in the box for a reason. Opening it up, I am bombed with the strongest odor of hongcha I have ever smelled in my life. I also had a tong of puerh in the box, this Arbor Red would have tainted my tong for all time in shipping had it not been duly sequestered. The cake is really fresh which is probably why it is so strong-smelling right now, I am reminded of the day I steamed apart my 100g beeng of Drunk on Red, which was Feng Qing material and now, alas, completely consumed. I plan to hang on to the envelope to keep in the wonderfully intense aroma in this Arbor Red tea, and plastic bagging on top of that just for more insurance. (note to curly: I’m pretty sure your wife will not let this in the house.)

The tea is slightly greenish, with varying shades of brown.
The tea is strongly compressed and requires an ice pick to break some off. If this tightens up any more I might need a saw, but right now going in through the beenghole works. Thankfully someone sent me a stronger tea pick recently. I break off 3g and brew in 30ml of water, the first steepings need more time because of the compression, I start at 4 minutes, 3 minutes, then 2 and I can do 15 seconds after that, no strainer, I plan to pour back the stray bits. No wasting leaf…

The last somewhat nice photo of this post.
Okay. I am typing and deteriorating rapidly. The tea hits me with fresh tobacco, tannins, and heavy honnggg oak barrel. Drinking as hot as possible sears the throat like a shot of bourbon and Virginia cigar. Face melting after two steepings.  The tea sits in the throat and gut like hard likker, I know I won’t be drinking this in the morning with milk and meds. In fact, this could interact with meds in ways I might regret. However, the tea may calm down more over a year or so into a gentler sibling, but I can definitely tell this is puerh leaf. The empty cup smells mineral-ly like a screen porch after a rain or a wet tool box.

The remainders of a babbling fool.
I can drink this and never need to see people ever again. Arbor Red is a tea for the guy who doesn’t change his underwear until spring and roasts squirrel on a spit. Or the momma who hits fast pitch hard past third. Well, Arbor Red is for the type of person who won’t be buying Censers, I feel fairly certain about that.

After steep 8 or so I need to add much more time to get me a heavy brew, but now I am getting the sweeter aftertaste in the mouth, hints of dark chocolate. Yunnan leaf red teas usually have malty chocolate notes, although they usually don’t hit like a truck the way this tea does, making me think pancakes and bacon while laughing at my own internal dialogue.

I know I can get more out of this tea than the nine gong-fu steepings so far, but I want to move on to the boil. I add a lot of water to my 3g of leaf compared to the white tea I boiled earlier. 

I added a ridiculous amount of water here, filling the pot.
While I’m awaiting the pot to boil, I realize I am overdosed on the heavy body feel of this tea combined with the caffeine. The white tea earlier surely contributed a little, but five hours have passed since then.

After about 3 minutes of boiling pot likker.
(3:45 a.m. I go across the street and order a chicken sandwich with chips. While waiting for the cook, I see bottles of Gold Peak Unsweetened tea in the cooler, 10.5 ounces for $1.89. I feel smugly satisfied that my Arbor Red session at home cost $1.29, that full beer mug by itself in the kitchen is 12 oz. My leaves are not even done yet. I can boil them up again later.)

Fruit jar of fun.
Maybe down the road as this tea settles it will fade in the fresh tobacco notes and move the dessert chocolate forward, but I hope not. I don’t have another red tea with this profile, and I am not a huge fan of super sweet Yunnan dessert style teas. Arbor Red is a unique savory addition to my collection.

The best reason to do a red/white tea session side by side is to figure out which kind of drinker I am. (As if I don’t know that already). White2tea makes a white tea processed version of this same leaf. Forget that, I’m sure it’s just as good in its way but is better to leave that one to others who really dig the lighter and more subtle flavors. I can’t afford a whole tong of this, and that would be piggy of me. But I went ahead and bought one more for the long winter.