; Cwyn's Death By Tea: March 2022 ;

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

2018 Sun Fu Zhuan by white2tea

Back in January I received a box of teas from white2tea containing a lot more than I expected. Twodog had asked me back in November if I wanted some more Fu Brick, and who is going to say no to that? The box contained a full kilo of 2018 Sun Fu, and also a couple of chunks from unnamed Fu bricks that were rejected by white2tea, so a bit of leftover sample teas. I also got two full baskets of the new Liu'An offerings. I clarified that these baskets are 2019, but there is no real way of distinguishing which are which, unless I am missing something, I don't see any labels on them. I also received a couple sample packs of puerh tea. Others have reviewed the 2018 Sun Fu, and I will add my thoughts as well.

Fu Zhuan and other heicha teas are getting much more attention nowadays by tea enthusiasts as everyone struggles with the prices for puerh tea, green teas and oolong teas. Truly fine tea is more expensive every year, and many teas are very much out of reach for people on a budget. A real question I can ask is, would I rather have a very fine heicha or a very mediocre puerh for my money? For the sake of a budget, I find a kind of common sense in turning to a better quality "drinker" heicha tea that may be less desirable, than a mediocre puerh or oolong, especially for daily drinking. As you all know, I mostly drank Fu Zhuan last year as my daily and this tea is quite agreeable and I didn't get tired of it. 

While white2tea has some of my favorite puerh teas, I missed the chance to try their raw 2014 Liu'An, something I have regretted. This Liu'An had long leaves and no aging thus far, which would have been an ideal opportunity back then to buy and have now to compare with the new Liu'An. As for Fu Zhuan, my favorite Fu brick ever was a sample from white2tea sent as a "mystery" tea-with-purchase and traded to me for other teas. So I know TwoDog can find a decent Fu Zhuan when he puts effort to the cause. Otherwise, I have mainly looked to Chawangshop and Yunnan Sourcing when buying heicha. I consider all of these vendors on par with one another in terms of the quality of heicha offerings, and Yunnan Sourcing definitely has more Fu brick choices on offer at the moment.

But I am not a huge fan of drinking really green Fu Zhuan. I like 7 years or so on Fu brick to lose the green and fully brown over. My 2012 CNNP had 9 years on it when I started drinking it last year, and several of those years were in Hong Kong, so I had a nicely aged brick to start. In a factory setting, sometimes Fu is pressed into bricks which are then warehoused a couple of years to get a fermented, more shou-like start to the tea. Sometimes the tea is aged loose first, and then pressed after a couple of years. I remember seeing a Chinese TV news segment on Fu Zhuan and the factories shown were more of the crumbling damp concrete variety, as opposed to the shiny stainless steel of newer-built factories like Mojun. So Fu Brick can have a bit of "dirt" to it, depending on where it is made. 

So, I confess to a bit of nose-pinching trying a Fu brick this green. My photo looks a little bluish from the cloudy day, the tea is more yellow-green than blue. The leaves on the brick are larger than those I normally see on Fu Zhuan, mainly because Fu bricks tend to consist of chopped tea. The larger leaves on this tea, if left intact, present a brewing issue: covering the tea fully with water may mean using more water than for an ideally flavored brew. I went with 5g of tea in a porcelain gaiwan, so about 1:15 for me, whereas OolongOwl reviewing Sun Fu used a 1:13 ratio but I am unsure how many grams she used in total, her sample looked a bit more compacted than what I chipped off the end of my brick. 

Steep 1

At the outset, I am not seeing any visible golden flowers (jinhua) on the tea. The middle of the brick tends to have more than the ends, but I am not sure this tea has had sufficient time to grow them. Jinhua dry up very quickly too in cold/dry air, but return and grow when heat and humidity are applied. So, it's entirely possible that the tea got too dry on the journey and in two winter months at my house. Right now I am just not seeing any golden flowers here. The dry tea has a grassy scent.

On the first brew, I smell a floral top note along with a bit of mushroom-y shou and lake seaweed, along with a bit of BBQ or ash-y tobacco underneath. The brew is yellow/orange and mostly tastes like hay along with shou. I am not finding the tangy notes of jinhua, however, again due to the youth of the tea. 

Steep 5 was much lighter and a little cloudy.

Sun Fu has a pleasant warming sensation on the body despite the green state, repeating in the throat and stomach. I probably should have used a higher leaf-to-water ratio, because I got about 5 steepings before the tea petered out, compared to Owl's 8 steepings. At the same time, on steep 5 I got less of a hay flavor and finally more of a betel nut note which I felt tasted more like familiar Fu Zhuan. Aside from some body warmth, I didn't feel any qi of note, but I did under-leaf a little for sure. 

The long leaves have a fairly thick and leathery feel. This is what is distinguishing Sun Fu from other Fu bricks for me, these oversized leaves rather than the familiar chopped consistency. I think the chopped Fu bricks give more flavor intensity, because of more tea packed more closely together, whereas Sun Fu is more loose as a brick and easy to pry off because of the leaf size. The large leaves make the brick more unique in my collection and I am curious whether or not this tea ages differently. And of course I want to see if the brick develops jinhua over the summer. 

2018 Sun Fu is priced at $135 for a kilo, 1000g brick. This price is similar to Mojun Fu tea, which is around $65 for 500g. At first glance, $135 seems like a lot to spend on Fu brick, but considering this is a full kilo of tea, the initial investment will last you quite awhile. As I found out in 2021, I need a year to drink a kilo of Fu Zhuan. I am glad to have this in my collection to see how it develops over a year or two, given the intact leaves. I really don't plan to drink this green, and I think it is a waste to do so, although to each their own. 

The only real quibble I have at the moment is with the white2tea inventory. Over the past five years we have seen white2tea really ramp up their offerings. They now have every type of tea, from heicha and puerh to oolong, white tea, red tea and green tea. The motto of the company is a curated tea collection. I feel like white2tea has so many offerings now that the store as a whole doesn't appear as curated and special as it once did. Usually more tea is more value for the consumer, and this is probably true here as well, but white2tea has overstocked past the point of helpful curation. I don't get the feeling of buying their best of the best when I have to sort through 30 puerhs every year, choose between Fu bricks, 4 Liu'Ans, numerous green, white, red and oolong teas. It just doesn't have the special experience of curating down to a very few choices which everyone will be buying in a year. 

However, a long-leafed Fu brick might be worth adding to your collection. I can offer one more good reason to consider a purchase like this. I don't believe we have yet seen the full fallout of the pandemic and unstable global situation on tea prices. Shipping continues to increase in price. I believe we may be seeing the last of "New Year" price increases as a once a year thing, and vendors may be forced to raise prices more than once a year if the supply chain and delivery issues keep up. World events may also close the door on some of the tea buying we have been able to do up to now. While a $135/kilo tea may seem pricy now, this pricing may be history sooner rather than later. Stock up on your favorites while you can.