; Cwyn's Death By Tea: February 2022 ;

Monday, February 28, 2022

Chen Sheng Hao 2012 Zodiac Dragon

Winter is a blur this year. My heating bill for January came in more than twice the amount of last year, putting the brakes on any sort of tea shopping, and mercifully a New Year shipping shutdown halts any temptation. With the extreme cold I have to do laundry daily to keep the pipes from freezing. The cat is sick and I am doing 20 hour days with him. So I missed the message in my Instagram PMs for two weeks from what appeared to be the account of Chen Sheng Hao. Normally I get messages from really sketch tea companies on IG who usually a) follow my account, b) drop likes on 10 really old photos and then c) try and private message me about their tea. 

Hello? I tentatively responded to the message. Yes, the real deal and here Chen Sheng Hao thanked me for my posts last year on their Naka and LBZ sample teas that I bought with my own money. Would I like some more samples? Oh I would. I chose only one, this here 2012 Zodiac Dragon, thinking I would like to try a more aged example from the factory. I suggested they pick the other samples for me, and I got the 2012 plus a selection of 2016 teas. I wish now I also had a sample of the new 2022 Zodiac Tiger which got posted on the cspuerh site two weeks later, after my samples arrived. The 2022 Tiger cost $52 for 357g for all of about two weeks before an annual price increase last week, which bumped the price to $57. 

The New Year Zodiac teas are an annual production and probably the least expensive of all their teas when new. I inquired about the actual harvest date of the 2022 by webchat. Chen Sheng Hao uses the convention of ''Harvest Year" to mean the Pressing year, not the tea year. There is no way this series uses 2022 spring tea because the tea hasn't been harvested yet. I confirmed by web chat with CSH that their Zodiac Teas use leaves from the harvest year prior, and not tea picked in January or something. 

I am very happy and honored to try these sample teas. I can't believe it that CSH actually contacted me and sent me free samples! Not just for me, but for all of us. This is something unimaginable even 5 years ago. We puerh crazies typing away on forums, salivating over stories from tea travelers who manage to see these factories in person and buy tea from them. The questions we had were all about how to acquire tea and the complications of ordering west to east. 

So I have two levels of bias with regard to CSH. One is they sent me complimentary the tea I am trying today. Second, I really really want Chen Sheng Hao to succeed in Canada. There is no question in my mind that other puerh tea factories are keeping their eyes on how business will go for CSH. They will want to know details of this venture. I benefit as a puerh consumer and collector when we get more vendors and now we have the factory direct option like never before, with customer service in English. 

I can't help but feel doubly grateful. You all can pat yourselves on the back too, because your interest and puerh buying activity are without a doubt huge reasons behind CSH making this move to sell direct in the west. If you ever bought puerh tea and chatted in person or online with someone else in your life about puerh tea, then you are part of the momentum to make puerh factory tea more accessible. Of course any business has many reasons to make an international move, but we are at least part of the story.

The story is in early days. No better example of this than I noticed on the cspuerh website that they are using copies of our Instagram posts, without asking first or making it part of the deal. 

I am not sure how I personally feel about this. I kind of don't mind, because again I am so interested in CSH succeeding. In the past I wrote reviews on western vendor sites to help out the vendor and people buying. We benefit from working with tea companies and vendors, is my thinking. But I have blogger friends and IG friends who are working on a more professional level, whereas I am a writer more on the consumer level.  Their opinions are more business real world than mine, and they might object to their accounts used for promotional purposes without permission at least.

I am squeaking in a tea session for February to get something posted, and with the aforementioned biases this is just a casual session. The 2012 Dragon tea looks green/black in appearance and I used 6g of tea in about 70 ml of boiling water. I oversteeped some sessions while feeding a sick cat. 

The tea opens with a bitter brew, full on hay with a bit of vanilla rootbeer or horehound or cola sweet note on the second steeping. Boiling brews minimized the bitterness, the tea gets more bitter the cooler the water. 

Second steeping

The color of the brew concerned me at first, it is more brown with cherry than I expect from a 10 year tea, I thought uh oh, we have some oxidation or something. But it's not the case, I discovered from a cooled cup that I can taste a wetter storage note. This is very faint and I only noticed it on the cooled tea, as in actually cold tea at the bottom of the cup. I would likely have not detected it drinking freshly hot tea, and I am sensitive to any musty note. So this is very well aired and very much still dry storage. It's the desirable state for me when ordering something, because of my dry climate, to get a couple of these hotter wet years to give the tea a good start before I get it. I can't imagine a better storage to please most people. It's storage done right for tea selling. 

Browning, the evidence of nice hot storage

I completed about 7 brews before I ran out of time. The tea remains bitter throughout, and this coats the back of the tongue. I felt well-caffeinated and relaxed, but negligible qi. This tea has not been deliberately sweetened to make it more palatable. 

The Zodiac series is described as a multi-region blend. The leaves are likely leftover spring, summer or autumn and are pressed as a New Year celebration product every year. The Dragon is not bud heavy. The tea series is in 500g beengs from 2008 until 2020, after which the beeng downsized to 357g. The prices vary greatly among the full range of years you can buy on the website. Some years are over $3000/beeng, others are sitting in the $57-150 range. There are also ripe Zodiac teas as well. 

One thing I notice in the photos is the Zodiac teas start to show more leaves with white, furry buds along the surface late in the prior decade and today. Looking closely at the photos of the spent leaves on the website, some do appear more smooth. Maybe there is some wild tea varietal added as well. I am only guessing and would need to try a full range of the Zodiac teas. But I feel the 2012 is a more traditional factory tea, though expensive now. 

If I had the space in my storage, I'd get one of the new Zodiacs for $57, chuck it in the storage for awhile and see how it does. I know that many of the CSH teas are beyond the financial resources for most people. I think that is partly why CSH is a canary in the gold mine, send in the highest price teas to the west and test the market. I hope there is a way to expand on the lower priced offerings in the future. 

So, I hope to check out some of the other samples I received, later in the year. I don't have a lot of time for tea reviews but if any of the teas are noteworthy, I will try and do an update. I feel very honored to get the samples, and have the communication and buying options we now have with Chen Sheng Hao. I wish them all the best success in their Canadian location. 


I received the following message on Instagram the morning following the publication of this post. As you can see, CSH very much wants to demonstrate with an exquisite manner their prompt and responsive customer service.