; Cwyn's Death By Tea: July 2019 ;

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

You Ain't Going Nowhere

Over the past year I stopped buying tea, mainly because I am out of storage space and am happy with the teas I already own. Since purchasing white2tea’s Bamboo Shou back in January, I have not bought any other tea until I decided to hit cart on “Road2Nowhere.” I am a good girl in other ways, I spend less time looking at tea shopping in general. Not that my interest in tea diminishes, in fact I find I enjoy reading blogs and tea chat more. Vicariously I delight in the tea purchased by others. I am readdicted to tea videos and photos too, just not my own photos so much. Hence, I produce less tea content which has resulted in a few readers messaging me to get back to blogging. “Write anything,” they said. So here I am. Also, I wanted to support white2tea with a single purchase this year, and went for Road2Nowhere, a limited production of twenty-five cakes, not counting the five the company choose to keep. I probably know a third of the people who purchased this tea, and in a way this post is for tea friends.

The wrapper is blurry, not my photo
I will admit few of this year’s teas sparked much interest in me until this one. I suppose the limited run is part of it, also I like the description which suggested a bit of complexity in the profile and some “body feels.” The price too is mid-range for white2tea. Last year I went for the cheaper Splendid, but I also bought a couple of Arbor Red, so this single purchase is already less than I spent last year. This tea did not have a sample offered, and the tea sold out in a couple of hours. Normally I do not like to write about unavailable teas, but this is probably one of the few posts I will write this year on new tea.

The dark green of new tea
The wrapper and name of the tea are meaningless, as far as I am concerned, like most white2tea names the intentions behind the nomenclature go right past me. The name Road2Nowhere simply reminds of Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Going Nowhere,” a song he wrote while recovering from a motorcycle accident and lent to The Byrds for their Sweetheart of the Rodeo album, which of course is the one Byrds album Gram Parsons had a hand in, as well as the still-missed guitar virtuoso Clarence White who died in a freak car accident a few years later. Gram is likewise missing from this performance (hence the lower register harmony is missing too), but you can see Clarence on his B-Bender Telecaster, an instrument owned today by Marty Stuart who claims he paid only $1000 for it. None of this is important except that it strikes me tea costs more now than that guitar did, although the guitar is worth far more, priceless really, but funny how really good tea is the price of a new Telecaster guitar. I used to play a Telecaster myself, but now the instrument is too heavy for me.

After I bought the tea, I kept watching this Byrds’ video. I find something mesmerizing in it even though Roger McGuinn messed up the lyrics. I see people dancing in a way people just don’t today. Do you see people dancing like this? Maybe I live in the wrong place. Everyone wants to be “woke” now, which translates into more self-conscious dancing and which ain’t dancing. People don’t dance like this anymore. They don’t even dance together. They stand and hold their phones to watch others, rather like I watch other people drinking tea. The Byrds video makes me feel a bit ill of today, or ill of myself today, though I suppose age is my excuse if I trot out any reasoning. People dancing without phones! Can we drink tea without photos? I like photos, and I like videos, a vicious cycle of consuming content and hating myself at the same time. Can I let go...

Road2Nowhere is a machine-pressed tea which is difficult to break into, I managed to get 3g off from two pick points. The “plus” here is the beeng won’t break up in storage so easily. I find the first few steepings somewhat gasoline-like which is common in some new teas for me, along with some fruity peach notes over a caramel base. The tea has a strong bitter and sweet mouthcoat and a mineral finish. The much-discussed “saline” note from the description on white2tea seems to me a finish from the cup I notice when slurping the cooler bottom, the mineral note is slightly saline-mineral at the last swallow from the cup where the tea is cooler. I don’t think the note is enough to bother about if you can’t find it.

Steep 4
As for the qi, my face turned to rubber after several cups of the tea, my eyes dried out. This effect lasted about fifteen minutes, but the mouthcoat lasted far longer and is still present a couple of hours later as I write now. I gave the tea six steepings and it seemed tired at that point, like I would have to really start pushing the tea. My cup retained a fruity aroma.

The leaves are small, like Naka-small, and chopped because of the difficulty I had chipping off some tea. My biggest plus I can find here is the leaves pass a finger rub test. I’m impressed with the durability of the leaves physically, yet at the same time the tea needs pushing. I only drank a 3g amount in about 40ml water, I expect a larger session of twice the tea leaf might give me at least ten steepings before the tea tires, but I don’t see the point in wasting so much leaf this early. The tea was pressed not much more than a month ago. I get the impression the small production of Road2Nowhere is perhaps the effort of a single farmer selling a small amount of tea to white2tea. The dots on the leaf in my photo suggest insect or weather effects, so I wonder if this is rather untended tea without much spraying or farm control.

A leaf I found that did not break when rubbed
between my fingers.
All this is about as positive as I can say about the tea. What I suppose is regrettable is the price for the tea, in that apart from the stoner effect, the tea is not terribly complex. I think we are paying a premium nowadays for untended tea, and to consider more complex tea the price goes up astronomically from here. In other words, I can think of much better teas I’ve purchased over the past six years but to get better tea now I need to go up in price tier. I tend to prefer white2tea’s more expensive price tier. I am not unhappy with this tea for the price, but I do like a bit thicker brew and more complex profile and thus my customer preference is gonna run me into the $200+ for 200g. This tea at $120 seems about in line with prices now, it’s actually less than the 2016 Mansa from Bitterleaf which cost $80/100g. The Mansa offers the same physical effect but with a much more explosive mouthfeel and that tea is from three years ago.

So what do we have? This tea is not as heavily farmed as a regular plantation tea, and the leaves are decent quality for the price. Road2Nowhere is a step up from basic puerh tea in leaf quality, mouthcoat and qi. You need to know where you are as a customer. How do you drink your puerh? Are you looking for a basic drink that tastes nice, is comfortable etc.? You can go much lower to get that, and perhaps if you prefer some age on your tea the $120 here is best put elsewhere into a Taiwan-stored factory tea. If you want premium puerh of any age, you need to spend more. Road2Nowhere is the undecided middle, it seems to me. This purchase for me was to support the efforts of the owner, and the purchase is the “undecided middle” me. Were I in need of excellent tea, I would have gone higher and picked up one of the pricier options, but I don’t need more tea.