; Cwyn's Death By Tea: January 2022 ;

Monday, January 31, 2022

One Year One Kilo Fu One Year Later

A year spent drinking a 1 kilo brick of Fu Zhuan tea is sufficiently long enough to consider Fu a personal dietary component. Finally the thing is gone, my 2012 CNNP Fu Zhuan kilo brick I purchased for $61 some years ago. I feel amazed to have finished it, not because of the brick size but just that I drank Fu Zhuan as a daily drinker tea for a full year, sticking with it and for the most part, I enjoyed it. 

Back when it still existed. My winter friends.

The 2012 brick was not as stellar a tea as had been hyped on tea forums when I bought it. I have a feeling that the hype is a singular example, and not based on very many comparisons of Fu. The whole online scene was all about puerh and oolong teas. If anyone deserves credit for massively increasing the discourse about Fu Zhuan, that is tea reviewer OolongOwl. Back in 2017 when we drank Mojun Fu brick tea at the World Tea Expo, Owl bought a couple of bricks and mailed samples to probably dozens of people. She provided a true service to her online tea community in doing so, and I kept hearing from people who purchased Fu Zhuan quite happily after that. 

All this interest in Fu brick has surely resulted in the increase we are seeing in Fu Zhuan offerings by western vendors. Nobody has to go to the effort that Owl and I did to acquire the Mojun teas and the 2012 CNNP I recently drank up. Yunnan Sourcing carried Fu teas for years, and now they sell the Mojun line of Fu brick teas, and overall YS has a rather large selection of Fu teas, even in their US shop. Chawangshop has always had a nice heicha selection, though I only see one Fu Zhuan currently. But the new Fu Zhuan offerings at white2tea really signal that the market is here for this tea in a way now. I can only look back to the efforts of Oolong Owl and think that if anyone is a singular force in raising awareness of Fu brick tea, she is the one who did it. With all the kombucha we see everywhere, most people can easily find a frame of reference to compare with the idea of beneficial yellow fungi in tea.

Shaanxi Jingwei Fu Zhuan, photo and tea
by Chawangshop

Of course all credit to the efforts China has made with developing Fu technology in Hunan, though Shaanxi is the traditional locale for Fu tea. China supported the development of factory zones in Hunan dedicated to Fu teas as a way to utilize summer and fall tea tonnage, seasons which just do not bring the high priced sales that spring tea brings. I appreciate the traditional bit of "dirt" flavor that Fu Zhuan has in the past, but with the new factories with modern stainless steel and sanitizing, that storage dirt is all gone in the newest teas. Fu Zhuan is not just for people with specific dietary requirements, today's Fu is much more a product for modern urban tastes with increased interest in tea for gut health.

I also think the market is a bit primed now for heicha tea, with puerh tea hitting new highs in price. Not that puerh is unaffordable, you have more choices for daily drinkers. You can have a crappy to mediocre 200g of puerh tea, and for the same price you can get a rather excellent half kilo of Fu Brick. At its best, puerh outshines other heicha teas by far in subtlety and complexity, and the prices reflect that. But you can have a bit of "puerh-like" fun with Fu Zhuan without the high price tag. I also think Fu is more interesting than shou as a daily drinker, though shou is probably more potent as well, especially boutique shou. Fu is a gentler cousin in the tea world because of the slight oxidation at the outset, and because the tea used is not the beefy Yunnan leaf. 

Probably the biggest downside for me with drinking Fu brick is the compression of the tea. I grew weary of the time involved in steaming open a chunk of the tea. On the one hand, my chunks last 3-4 days, time that really adds to the money value of this tea. But I also have to tolerate inconsistencies in brewing along with the increased time to start decent infusions.

On day 1 of a new chunk, I need to steam and steep the tea a long time to get anything from it, the new chunk floats on top of the water like a bobber rather than falling apart. I don't like to break up a chunk into tiny pieces because that also dislodges the golden flowers and I don't want to lose those. I feel some a.m. crankiness with this new chunk trying to get a decently caffeinated brew going. On days 2-3 I get increasingly stronger infusions. Then I get lazy and forget to empty out the teapot and sometimes brew a day 4, which mostly is like day 1 with a lighter cup. Thus two out of four mornings a week I am getting a weaker cup of tea than I prefer. I end up moving on to a bit of cola afterward for an additional quick caffeine jolt. 

Still, I am not so bored of the tea as I thought I would be. With this 1 kilo brick gone, I no longer have any Fu tea in my collection. I done up this brick in a happy 9 year state of aging! I got the full value and enjoyment. And now I'm done. Like a responsible and therefore morally righteous tea owner. 

Instead, when facing the big fat 0 grams in my collection, I freaked out and panic-bought a 500g brick of Mojun Fucha when Yunnan Sourcing ran a heicha sale. 

2018 Mojun Yihao brick
Yunnan Sourcing

Just to be clear, I don't feel guilty buying tea, not ever. But 2021 was one chance to prove my moral worth, to show real recovery from tea hoarding by drinking down tea and I failed. But that's OKAY because I am still DOWN from my 1 kilo stash by half. I drank down at least something, in the end. I am comfortable retaining a half kilo brick in my collection.

"I'm sending you some Fu brick to sample," Paul the tea pimp says. Yeah, okay. Who else is gonna do it? 

2018 Sun Fu

Okay, so counting the Mojun brick in too I'm back to my original kilo plus one more. 

I didn't know white2tea was planning to develop their own Fu bricks. The best Fu I tried before the Mojun was a sample Paul sent to another tea person who didn't want it and mailed it on to me. That's what I was expecting, some random Fu brick sample, a SAMPLE. I've been pimped. And the new heicha is already in the shop. 

I am supposed to compare the two chunks in the middle, which are reject samples, with the wrapped kilo brick that made the cut to the store lineup. I can do that, but all the Fu brick I now own is really green to my taste. I guess I can check the store claim for bodily effects. But even the Mojun brick is too young to drink regularly at the moment. So here I am holding even more Fu tea than before.

Pricing is not too bad, though. The best white2tea Fu brick is a full kilo selling for close to 14 cents a gram, and the Mojun Brick from YS is around 10 cents a gram. My CNNP was 6 cents a gram. But I'm not sure with the pandemic shipping costs I can get a 6 cents price now, not without wholesaler discounting. With the best puerh tea unaffordable really, the best Fu brick is so much more reasonably priced for daily drinking. That alone gives good reason to try all these teas. My doubled heating bill for January says to me everything is going to skyrocket in price soon.