; Cwyn's Death By Tea: March 2018 ;

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Puerh Man

 An old lady woke at 2 a.m. and turned over to stretch her aching hip. Some dream about a flooded kitchen and trying to get to the bathroom. The reason for the dream, she had to go, and padded to the toilet, popping a couple bubbles of dinner gas along the way. With business done, the only thing left on her mind is a hot cup of tea. She puts the kettle on.

As she passes by the window on her way to her tea crock, she feels a draft from the back door. She checks the door lock to try and remember if she let the cat back in. She had. Time to chip a chunk off the tea cake and slip it into a tiny teapot. She wonders if the teapot is too big, a thought she has quite often. She drinks less as she gets older, but the tea affects her more. When the kettle steams, she gives the tea two rinses because of the humid storage smell. With the third pour from the kettle, she decides the tea is ready and refills the tea pot and cup to return to her room. Just then she feels a chill.

She sets the tea down next to the bed and pours a cup. One down, then another for the warmth. Lying back onto the pillows, she glances up and sees in the doorway the shape of what must be a man. He is thin with long draping arms like the branches of a tree, and tea leaves for hands. A tall and slender man wears an attractive dark suit. His head is a round tea cake, the ghastly face with a beeng hole in the middle. Oh yes.

I am here, oh western lady, I hear you calling, you need the thrills, the chills, the thumping thumping don’t stop til the sweet sweet drops, yes yes that and more, here, from Asia. Oh yeah I got what you need and then I am gonna kill you.

Please, she says, just a little bit more. Suddenly that hip pops. She must sit up. All is well, she can flip him, her turn now. She knows that deep down he is here just for her and no one else, maybe he is enough to satisfy. His face is a dark well of oily leaves. She tries to sink into it, but she cannot.

His long arms reach up to circle her, like tendrils, and leaves flutter down in a cloud of steam. After this, only darkness.

The next day she stops by the clinic.

“A blood pressure episode,” the doctor pronounces. “You really need to stop drinking all that tea, mark my words it will do bad things to you Wisconsin girls.”

She goes home and finds a tea wrapper on her bed. She sniffs it. Nothing too remarkable, the dream itself was better. She throws the wrapper in the trash.

Monday, March 19, 2018

2006 Guoyan Lao Ban Zhang

2006 Guoyan LBZ
Recently I purchased Wilson’s 2006 Guoyan LBZ, a tea I might have missed entirely but for a heads-up from another collector. This tea is stored in Malaysia under a brilliant strategy and network of tea friends and tea shops. When you already have too much tea, a good way to acquire more is by storing with your network. In this way, the wife will not know you have more tea until you bring it home with the quip “this is heading right back out the door.” Of course any tea that does not sell, well then…when enough packages are gone already, what’s another cake in the already full closet? Nobody will notice a thing.

I like very much the 2005 Autumn Guoyan I bought from Yunnan Sourcing last year at twice the price. This new beeng is an excellent deal for a 12 year old Malaysian stored anything, and only $10 shipping. (I have purchased old Liu Bao before just for the Malaysian storage.) The tea arrived with a nice aroma however I let it sit in storage a couple of weeks to relax. I decided on porcelain gaiwan to enjoy the storage notes fully.

Nice oily appearance
The tea indeed does not disappoint with the early obvious Malaysian storage, a woody, old-book type of flavor. The color of the tea is nice, but the soup shows some cloudiness which could be storage aggression or some other issue. I need to see if this clears up in later steeps.

On a hot boil the tea is not bitter, I can feel my mouth prepping for the bitterness, but as Wilson notes in the listing the youthful bitter edge is definitely off of the tea. As the tea cools, the bitterness is more marked, although not hair raising bitterness like the recent 03 Pink Dayi, nor hair balding bitterness like Wilson’s 08 Haiwan LBZ. Steeps 6-8 have a bit of a sour note, which suggests fermentation and this clears a bit more on steep 9. What is remarkable so far is the “sweet vapor” that comes up into the throat from the esophagus. 

First steeping, bit of cloudiness
Many teas give that returning sweetness on the throat or in the mouth, this tea is definitely more sweetness on a vapor cloud, a quality many people look for in an aged tea. The nice floral top notes are evident after steep 8 when all the storage is off and the tea clears, underneath is a more aggressive whiskey Menghai-ish flavor.

Third steep, deeper color, reddish aging early for 12-year old
The tea is not smoky and I did not see much for char in the strainer. I did see some powdery wet filaments which can contribute to clouding, for the tea has plentiful buds.

Leaves are plushy, decent thickness
I think we have a mix here of teas from regions around the Banzhang area. The tea is relaxing, but not much qi to speak of. Its real enjoyment is the full flavor profile ranging from floral to aged oak barrel booze. I can tell I have had a number of one-note teas lately when a full range profile sticks out at me. 

Steep 6
The soup gets thicker in later steeps, a light hand on the steep time will give a yellow brew, adding some 30 seconds gives a more reddish brown stronger tea which I prefer. Controlling the bitterness, if you need to with this tea, is all about short steep times as well as brewing on the boil and drinking as hot as possible.

Leaves are green with evident browning, having turned from youth
In comparing this 06 Guoyan with the 05 Autumn beeng, I think the 05 Autumn with the long leaves and pronounced qi may be the better experience, and the 06 is a bit more of a pedestrian factory blend of area teas. The 05 Autumn was also twice the price. When I think of where prices are going now, I feel as though the $92 price point for 357g is actually a bit on the low side given the 12 year storage, full flavor profile, the sweet vapor. Someone already owning excellent examples of LBZ teas may prefer to chase a more premium experience at this point in their collecting. But for a new collector stretching a budget, this tea is a good opportunity to grab a nice tea below that $100 mark, a point where aged teas overall are quite frankly rare.

Bud plus one leaf common
This tea is a bit rough on the gut if taken on an empty stomach because it is still very green, and I feel I can do something with the cloudiness via more storage. It needs 5-10 years, worth trying once to check the current state, but not one to drink regularly at this time. Wetter storage would surely work on that green, but at the risk of the floral notes I tasted in the middle of the session. I like where this tea is at because I can play with the storage on it, the good start is all I need.

Steep 9 with pretty leaves picked out

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Sup at Yunnan Sourcing

Some days of the week I feel like drinking a gallon of puerh and usually my craving comes after the medications, and the Rolaids following the medications, a time when I cannot dump my favorite beverage down my gullet instantly as I prefer to do. At these times I must resort to window shopping. The other day I was browsing at Yunnan Sourcing and perhaps you are like me, struggling with the new website and interface. I do not know why I cannot view all the Menghai flavored teas in one window. Musing over this conundrum brought me to the odd feeling that something is familiar about the new website, specifically the new logo. In case you need a refresher, here it is.

A suggestive representation.
Now, it occurs to me that I have seen this before. Is it all the Dayi on the page? Well, maybe, but a bell went off in my brain suddenly and I know why the new logo looks familiar.

Ding Xing!
Back in college I took a class that was supposed to be Sociology, but instead turned into a class on the professor’s main interest of marketing and advertising. I learned why restaurant logos usually have red, orange and yellow colors. Apparently in color psychology research, these colors stimulate a person to feel hungry and thirsty. When used on food signs, these colors are more likely to get customers to feel hungry (or thirsty) out of nowhere and then buy something right away to satiate the craving

Personally, I don’t need orange, red and yellow colors to start craving puerh. I taste Menghai in a conference room without any stimulus whatsoever. Suddenly I need aged Yiwu and find my throat full of kuwei during a long commute. I can spit Xiaguan any time at my neighbor’s dogs that never, ever stop barking. I would rather drink puerh than sleep quite honestly, and the medications are the only things in my way. As soon as I have a spare dollar in my wallet I find every reason to spend $149 more at some puerh vendor without any suggestion at all. But that is not how everyone is. If you read those so-called “pragmatic” people who say that it’s possible not to spend any money on tea, well I sympathize with such puritan ideals but frankly those are not my reality.

What I really want is to drink puerh tea all day and all night, and so I finally understand what is going on with Yunnan Sourcing, and the direction they are heading to help people like me.

Ain't it just purty?
I must say, I highly approve. When I need my tea, I want it hot and fast and I want it now. Why should I wait until I get home for some special hour of the day? Who needs a tea table and special clothes and tea pets when a drive-thru is so much more convenient?

Just think of all the shuttered fast food restaurants out there waiting for a new puerh tea franchise. These places have huge, sealed and lined built-in coolers which are perfect for storing puerh pies and they don’t even need to be turned on. Plop in a box fan and you’re all set. “I misted the cooler today, boss” is what every puerh manager needs to hear to add ten cents more to that worker’s paycheck. Such a franchise is every worker’s dream when he can choose to completely anesthetize the customer who is not sure what they want. For fussy people and infants we have things like marshmallows and rice pearls or whatever those things are people put in Boba to make it taste like something.

I could use a fast food puerh place where I live. Right now the closest puerh tea shop is in Madison on E. Johnson St. where I have to find someplace to park (not easy), then walk in and sit at the puerh bar. It’s a great spot to go, but it’s an hour drive and honestly a fast puerh place is no competition because Macha Tea Company is at Norris Court and I used to leave there drunk I don’t know how many times because my friend John lived there. (You should really move back now, you left too soon.) But Macha cannot help me now when I live so far away and need my own local establishment such as Yunnan Sourcing will provide.

The World Tea Expo is likely to announce yet again this year that tea is expanded in the global market another 1000x more than the previous year, and likely to expand again. Every vendor out there is trying to think of a way to serve tea to the western market, and we have only one model that works and it’s a drive-thru.

Personally I really like the new direction that Yunnan Sourcing is going. I don’t need to burn down my house falling asleep waiting for the kettle to boil on the stove when someone else can make tea for me. I don’t need to wait six weeks for some slow boat when we have Grub Hub and Lyft Food and Uber Lunch. I can order on my cell phone and some nice looking dude or dude-ette will show up at my door with all the goodies. What could be better?

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Two Blogger Samples: 2003 Pink Dayi and 2006 Taetea 7452

This past week I set myself the task of trying two teas sent to me from bloggers. I have had these samples for some time, and perhaps the bloggers told me not to write about them and I am forgetting whether that is the case. Pretty much everybody sending me tea says not to write. This is a downside to writing a blog, when nobody wants their teas in print. But the teas sent to me are perfectly fine, so why not.

The first tea is Wilson’s 2003 Pink Dayi, a tea he surely has a lot of pride in owning since it is rather tough to come by. He is selling bits of it on his new website, you can acquire 50g for the tiny price of $20, and I recommend you do so especially if you are ordering any of his other fine teas. I got a smaller, single session sample, since it was a gift during a bad health phase, when a tea like this will either permanently put me out of my misery or revive me into a bionic woman.

Bionic tea
Wilson writes that this tea is one of the “strongest” teas he has ever tried, and he is not kidding. Though I have to say it stops short of the pure pain of his 2008 Haiwan LBZ, which opens up the scalp pores causing hair to fall out, likely due to the addition of some Laoman-e in the blend. Nevertheless, the Pink Dayi, a re-wrapped tea sold originally to a Taiwanese collector, has plenty of torture on its own.

As you can see in the listing, the tea is shrink-wrapped which has protected it from the perils of Taiwan storage, and in fact the tea differs from Wilson’s own storage in that the tea is far greener than it would be without the shrink wrap. I think the decision to shrink wrap here is wise, because the early steeps have a strong orchid top note, that lovely floral we find in the best teas. Underneath that is burly bitter pain. The tea delivers this pain through its oily texture, the oil coats my entire mouth and makes certain the bitterness is trapped such that water will not wash it away and I remain in pleasurable agony for a good hour. This tea sits in every organ and probably works as well as any antibiotic to detox what ails me, producing profuse sweating (which I’m prone to anyway) like a session of hatha yoga.

Fourth steep shows drier storage just turning
With bitterness like this, and so much youth left in the tea, I would feel tempted to really push the moisture in storage but doing so risks losing that lovely orchid top note. No doubt prior owners had the same thinking, and in the end keeping the tea wrapped is probably the best idea given the humid climates it has lived in so far. This tea is already 15 years old and still needs another 20 years at least, just crazy. 

Tea looks much younger than it is due to shrink wrapping.
I enjoyed the pleasure and pain, and I inquired about purchasing an entire cake, and this request was pointedly ignored. Wilson’s blog is one of my favorites for his dry wit, and I interpreted his lack of response along the lines of his blog humor, and chuckled to myself. Who would want to let go of a tea like this? Nobody. We are lucky he is letting go of sample sizes. I have seen “this” tea offered elsewhere, cannot remember where just now, but I doubt the other vendor has the real deal like Wilson does.

The next tea is a sample sent to me by Hster some years ago, a 2006 Taetea 7452 601 ripe. Her blog is another favorite of mine, she is probably the longest term puerh blogger in English, as she started in 2003 and has written consistently since about 2006. The samples she sent me a few years back consisted of shou teas she enjoys, along with a concern that her northern California climate is too dry, something she writes about. I recommend reading her blog from start to finish. If you cannot manage that, at least read 2012 onward.

Based on her samples sent to me, Hster seems to enjoy shou teas that have what I call a cognac/wine/mushroom profile, in other words she likes them strong. As do I. One of her samples was the 2009 Lao Cha Tou brick from Yunnan Sourcing, and after trying her sample of that tea I snagged one of the bricks before they sold out.

Tasty looking chunk
I have had the 7452 sample stored in the bag for a couple of years, then I kept it in a gaiwan for a couple more, so the tea sample is likely a bit more dry than the entire cake at this point. Today I decided to give this tea a try.

Shou for what ails you.
I do not find the tea to have lost flavor, except that the wo dui has of course faded some after 13 years since the tea was originally fermented. This tea still has some green leaves, and more time to go. I like the strong mushroom and wine profile, and as with Wilson’s tea I sweated profusely after a few cups. I notice a dry storage sour in the first few brews, but that can easily work itself out in a crock with a bit of added moisture since we still have green here. Making shou myself has taught me a good deal about the stages before hitting heavy fermentation, so I know I could work this tea hard if I had a cake.

Inspecting the leaves shows some green tea left to age.
The 7452 recipe is strong and more flavorful than a 7572, and the leaves are sturdy. Luckily, the tea is available for sale at Yunnan Sourcing if you want to give it a try, although at $65 for a full cake we are paying for age at this point. For a more budget-friendly strategy, buy a 7452 every year when they are new and much less expensive and put them away for a few years. That is, if you can take the blend, otherwise the more evenly fermented 7572 is a gentler choice needing only half the time in storage to clear. Otherwise, I need to change my shirt because I have sweated completely through the one I put on after my shower today.

Much thanks and tea love _/|\_ to both Hster and Wilson for the pleasure of their blogs, and the immense enjoyment I got from trying their teas.