Nannuo Pu’erh [June 2014 Tea Drinking Report]

Every month, I dedicate it to one type of tea. This means I drink that genre of tea in some form at least once a day. This could mean gong-fu, grandpa, or even a cold-brew. I’ll still consume other teas, but the primary focus is understanding and building a palate for a specific type/genre/region of tea through repetition. This the most personal blogging type style of post for TeaDB, and the goal is to stretch my palate as well as give recommendations to interested parties. I had so many different teas this month that my notes were especially useful for this write-up.

Vendors ordered from:

Primary tea producers:

  • Mengyang Guoyan (Yunnan Sourcing)
  • Hai Lang Hao (Yunnan Sourcing)
  • Yunnan Sourcing

Also featuring:

  • Ruiyuan, Taochaju, Yunhai, (White2Tea)
  • Mingsheng Hao, Nannuoshan Tea Factory, Changtai (Cha Wang Shop)
  • CNNP, Guan Zi Zai (Yunnan Sourcing)
  • Chen Yuan Hao (Origin Tea)
  • Supermarket Pu’erh (Tienxi/Uwajimaya)

Nannuo Teas

Yunnan Sourcing’s Autumn 2011 Ban Po Lao Zhai, White2Tea’s 2010 Nannuo Sicang.

Why can’t it all be so simple? After the last month of drinking Yiwu, mainly composed of easy, friendly teas that I enjoyed a great deal. Nannuo was much more challenging, both physically and mentally. That’s not to say the region is bad, flawed, or objectively worst than Yiwu. In fact, many of the trial and tribulations were partially caused by my own purchasing errors and there were some decent teas to be found.

Approximate Brewing Parameters

About 7g/95ml yixing or less frequently 4g/60ml gaiwan. Double rinse and short steeps.

Yunnan Sourcing (the vendor)

Most of the teas were here were included in my huge order of samples to Yunnan Sourcing. I separated out the tea into two large ziplock-style bags of samples, one for Yiwu and one for Nannuo. I selected a couple of the trademark producers offered on Yunnan Sourcing (their own cakes, Hai Lang Hao) as well as a few teas from secondary producers (Mengyang Guoyan, Guan Zi Zai).

Hai Lang Hao

I included four Hai Lang Hao Nannuo teas in the Yunnan Sourcing order, mainly from 2004-2005. This is a period when Hai Lang Hao was more reasonably priced and not the more-premium vendor it is today. Nannuo in general also seems to be a region that can be acquired for lower-prices than many of the other hot areas in Xishuangbanna, i.e. Yiwu, Banzhang.

Most of the Hai Lang Hao teas were recommendations from Scott (Yunnan Sourcing).

2004 Hai Lang Hao Nannuo Bai Hao

An OK Kunming dry-stored tea. It starts out pretty thin and falls off a bit quickly. Flavorwise it is slightly sweet with a little bit of bitterness but mainly just thin. Not bad, but pretty uninteresting.

2005 Hai Lang Hao Ba Ma Gong Chun

One of my favorites of the Hai Lang Hao selection. My first session with this was back-to-back with the Mengyang Guoyan Golden Pig. Needless to say, this tea was far superior. It is a sweet, friendly, thicker tea that is more mellow than the younger teas from this month. Ba Ma was a recurring name for many of these teas and is located in Northern Nannuo. This removes it a touch further from Bulang and supposedly the stronger punchiness of that region. I did have one bad session with this, which confused me and causes me some hesitancy in recommending it.

2005 Hai Lang Hao Gu Shu

From Ban Po Lao Zhai. Somewhat similar to the 2005 Ba Ma Gong Chun. This has retained a great floral aroma throughout the years and is stronger than the Ba Ma. This tea has some very nice characteristics with a nice aftertaste. A nice, sweet, full taste and when pushed a bit harder there is a slight sourness. A separate session with the gaiwan and the sourness was totally absent.

2010 Hai Lang Hao Ba Ma Gong Chun

A mix between the Yunnan Sourcing Nannuos and the 2005 Ba Ma. A decently thick body, with some bitterness. This is fairly lively despite being from supposed Northern Nannuo. The aftertaste is pleasantly sweet, although the tea nods off fairly quickly. Hobbes has written about this tea.

  • Quality? Decent.
  • Price? $5-9/oz.
  • Would order again? Sure.
Hai Lang Hao Ba Ma

Hai Lang Hao Ba Ma. 2010, 2005.

Yunnan Sourcing (the producer)

Yunnan Sourcing has been making ~one Nannuo tea a season. Similar to the Hai Lang Hao teas, these were recommended by Scott.

2010 Yunnan Sourcing Nannuo Ya Kou (Spring)

There is an above average tea in here, but something funky is happening. An unpleasant sourness pervades the initial taste and compromises an otherwise sweet taste. Frankly, I’m unsure where this sour taste comes from and ended up airing out the sample and re-brewing twice, with similar results. Perhaps it is the storage, an awkward stage or I have stumbled upon a tainted sample. Brewed a bit lighter the sourness is less apparent, but so are many of the more positive attributes (sweet, floral). In the end, this tea is not bad and quite drinkable but disappointing.

2011 Yunnan Sourcing Ban Po Lao Zhai (Autumn)

This is similar to the 2010 Ya Kou and decently strong for an Autumn tea. The sourness is also in this tea, and causes me to wonder. An OK tea.

2012 Yunnan Sourcing Nannuo Duo Yi Zhai (Spring)

Somewhat similar to the other two Yunnan Sourcing teas but a bit younger. The sourness is present but more mild, and the tea retains a greater and mainly pleasant bitterness. This would be difficult for me to drink very regularly, because it is still fairly youthful.

  • Quality? OK.
  • Price? $4-6.50/oz.
  • Would order again? Yes! I’m not really sure what was up with the sourness in these teas, but I am open to the idea of it being some sort of awkward tea stage or airing out issue. It’s also worth noting that these teas were all pretty inexpensive, especially when compared with the Yiwu teas of May.
Ban Po Lao Zhai

Yunnan Sourcing’s Ban Po Lao Zhai.

2005 CNNP Nannuo Zhengshan (Yunnan Sourcing)

This tea was dry-stored and is simply far too strong for me. The description is fairly accurate as this is strong and pungent. I sessioned it twice and ended up with mild headaches at the end of both sessions. There is an aftertaste, but as a whole I do not enjoy this tea.

2005 Mengyang Guoyan Nannuo (Yunnan Sourcing)

This is supposedly from southern Nannuo (closer to Bulang). Just not all that interesting. Floral with a medium body. Not as appealing as the Hai Lang Hao teas from the same era.

2006 Mengyang Guoyan Golden Pig Nannuo (Yunnan Sourcing)

More bitter and maybe a tad better than the 2005. Still not as nice as the Hai Lang Hao teas.

2009 Guan Zi Zai Zao Chun Nannuo (Yunnan Sourcing)

An OK tea. Astringent, floral, vaguely sweet. This tea doesn’t necessarily have anything wrong or off with it, but along with the Mengyang Guoyan’s is uninteresting.

White2Tea

I ordered the three teas from White2Tea’s Nannuo selection. TwoDog has written about Nannuo before and even compared scouting Nannuo’s to age to scouting out Justin Timberlake from the questionably talented world of 1990 boy bands. Interesting!

2006 Yunhai Nannuo

This is from Ba Ma village (as seen in a few of the Hai Lang Hao Nannuo teas) in Northern Nannuo. This is probably the easiest drinking tea of the month. Smooth, sweet and even slightly herbal (storage?). The aroma is very pleasant and plummy. Some not totally dry storage has mellowed this quickly into a syrupy, sweet tea with a nice huigan. I revisited this tea at the end of the month and was struck with how different it is from the other 8-10 year old Nannuo teas.

2010 Taochaju Sicang Nannuo

Another decent tea, in a totally different way from the Yunhai. This one has considerably more punch and is bitter, astringent, and quite lively. This was created using mao cha from 2008, 2009, and 2010 which I would guess has helped to mellow this out. I would imagine that this tea was quite strong immediately after its pressing.

2012 Ruiyuan Nannuo

This is from Ban Po Lao Zhai and has been positively reviewed by Hobbes. While I didn’t think the tea was quite as strong as he described (it has had about a year to mellow), the Ruiyuan Nannuo has a thick, bitter base coupled with a pleasant crisp sweetness. Both this and the 2010 Sicang are good teas. If I were to end up buying a cake from this month, I suspect I would end up picking the Ruiyuan due to the very reasonable pricetag. Both these teas also had some of the best longevity of the whole month (12ish infusions).

  • Quality? Solid.
  • Price? $3.85-6.55/oz..
  • Would order again? Yes! As is the case for the Yiwus, TwoDog has done a great job of matching quality with price. The lineup also showcases a fair amount of diversity.
Taochaju's 2010 Nannuo Sicang

Taochaju’s 2010 Nannuo Sicang.

Cha Wang Shop

I’ve been pretty pleased with Cha Wang Shop as a similar, but different alternative to Yunnan Sourcing. Their prices are quite excellent and there is some good tea to be had. Sadly the order came at the very beginning of June so I wasn’t able to fit the Yiwus into last month. As a sidenote, I have been quite satisfied with the order especially the Laotian tea which is Yiwuish.

2005 Mingsheng Hao Nannuo Big Tree

This tea is supposedly from Duoyizhai. It is one of the more complex teas of this month opening with a strong, pleasantly tannic taste that quicly mellows out into a textured, soft and fruity flavor. It also has a nice huigan that builds over the length of the session. A nuanced, decent tea.

2005 Nannuoshan Tea Factory 7549

A 7542 knock-off? I don’t have enough experience to know from the tea itself. This one is definitely dry-stored and after the CNNP Nannuo from the same year I was quite wary going into this session. Similar to that tea it also carries a fairly strong and pungent aroma. Thankfully, it is considerably more mellow and smooth. It is sweet with a medium body, tobacco, and a nice huigan. Basic and enjoyable, this is not a great tea, but decent for the price.

2007 Changtai Cha Hu Chen Nannuo

This tea was stored in Xishuangbanna for six years before moving into a drier Kunming warehouse. It does seem more aged than many of the samples acquired from the same year. It also still retains most of its strength. The taste is tobacco, fruit, with a thick mouthfeel. Not a bad tea, but my least favorite of the Cha Wang samples.

  • Quality? Solid.
  • Price? $3.40-6.80/oz..
  • Would order again? Yes!
Pot loaded with Nannuo

Pot loaded with Nannuo.

Other Vendors

2006 Chen Yuan Hao Nannuo (Spring, Origin Tea)

From the recently shutdown Origin Tea. This is a well-above average Nannuo. It is more aged than the Kunming teas, and the superior and more humid (than Kunming) storage is apparent in the early steeps. It is a well-balanced tea with sweetness, bitterness, and a long floral aftertaste. I do not like this as much as Origin’s Yang Qing Hao from last month but that could boil down to my own personal regional preference.

2008 Uwajimaya Nannuo (Tienxi/Uwajimaya)

A cheap cake acquired from Uwajimaya (a local Asian grocery store) last year. The description, has alot of unlikely claims. The tea is not terrible, but is probably below daily drinker status. Slightly sour and spicy, this tea does have an aftertaste even if it is not entirely a pleasant one.

Uwajimaya Nannuo

Grocery Store Pu’erh. Uwajimaya Nannuo.

Recommended Teas:

  • 2005 Hai Lang Hao Ba Ma Gong Chun (YS)
  • 2005 Mingsheng Hao Nannuo Big Tree (CWS)
  • 2006 Yunhai Nannuo (W2T)
  • 2012 Ruiyuan Nannuo (W2T)

Thoughts & What I Learned

Nannuo tea just isn’t as suited to my personal taste as Yiwu. The floral aromatics are nice, but is not really the most appealing aspect to me. It’s also worth noting that the tea I ordered this month is inexpensive when compared with the Yiwus from May. That being said, there were still a few standouts, although I liked these recommended teas significantly less than last month.

Nannuo tea is also more obviously powerful when younger. I was forced to cut a few of my sessions somewhat short when I had hoped to brew a couple teas back to back. Later on in the month, I found myself turning to my smaller 60ml gaiwans, in order to compare teas properly without totally messing myself up. This was relatively successful and something I might continue in July if Bulang lives up to its reputation of potent tea! I also found that finishing off sessions with a more fermented tea, usually traditionally stored pu’erh or ripe pu’erh helped to rebalance my body. Tis a grand thing when the best cure for tea is more tea!

Unfortunately the youthful power didn’t seem to necessarily translate into great aging as many of the 8-10 year old teas were thin and uninteresting. The most notable exceptions to this would be the strong, pungent but unpleasant 2005 CNNP and the 2005 7549 by Nannuoshan Factory. Perhaps these and the Ruiyuan would be the best targets for aging? I have too little experience to be sure.

Tea Vendor Producer $ Quantity Cost/Oz Rating
2006 CYH Nannuo Origin Tea Chen Yuan Hao $8.25 0.88 $9.38 Good.
2009 Guan Zi Zai “Zao Chun Nan Nuo Shan” Yunnan Sourcing Guan Zi Zai $3.50 0.88 $3.98 OK.
2010 Hai Lang Hao “Ba Ma Gong Chun” Nan Nuo Shan Ancient Arbor Yunnan Sourcing Hai Lang Hao $6.00 0.88 $6.82 Good.
2004 Hai Lang Hao “Nan Nuo Bai Hao” Yunnan Sourcing Hai Lang Hao $7.50 0.88 $8.52 So/so.
2005 Hai Lang Hao “Nan Nuo Shan Gu Shu” Yunnan Sourcing Hai Lang Hao $9.00 0.88 $10.23 Good.
2005 Hai Lang Hao “Ba Ma Gong Chun” Yunnan Sourcing Hai Lang Hao $7.00 0.88 $7.95 Good.
2005 Mengyang Guoyan Nan Nuo Yunnan Sourcing Mengyang Guoyan $5.00 0.88 $5.68 OK.
2006 Guoyan “Golden Pig” Wild Arbor Yunnan Sourcing Mengyang Guoyan $5.00 0.88 $5.68 So/so.
2010 Sicang Nannuo White2Tea Taochaju $6.55 0.88 $7.44 Good.
2008 Uwajimaya Cake Tienxi Uwajimaya $22.00 12.57 $1.75 So/so.
2006 Yunhai Nannuo White2Tea Yunhai $3.85 0.88 $4.38 Good.
2012 Ruiyuan Nannuo White2Tea Ruiyuan $4.00 0.88 $4.55 Good.
2010 Yunnan Sourcing “Nan Nuo Ya Kou” Yunnan Sourcing Yunnan Sourcing $6.00 0.88 $6.82 OK.
2011 Yunnan Sourcing “Autumn Ban Po” Yunnan Sourcing Yunnan Sourcing $4.25 0.88 $4.83 OK.
2012 Yunnan Sourcing “Nan Nuo Duo Yi Zhai” Ancient Arbor Yunnan Sourcing Yunnan Sourcing $6.50 0.88 $7.39 OK.
2005 Mingsheng Nannuoshan “Big Tree” Chawangshop Ming Sheng Hao $6.00 0.88 $6.82 Good.
2005 CNNP Nannuo Zhengshan Yunnan Sourcing CNNP $4.75 0.88 $5.40 Bleh.
2005 Nannuo Shan 7549 Chawangshop Nannuoshan Tea Factory $3.00 0.88 $3.41 Good.
2007 Changtai Cha Hu Chen Nannuo Chawangshop Changtai $3.00 0.88 $3.41 OK.

Next up for July: Bulang Pu’erh.

This entry was posted in Aged Pu'erh, Article, Drinking Report, Raw Pu'erh, Tea Learning and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Nannuo Pu’erh [June 2014 Tea Drinking Report]

  1. py says:

    Take “ultra-premium” claims with a large grain of salt. HLH is a (very) minor producer that found an outlet in the West. There are many like him in China, with better prices… I cannot comment on quality.

    I’m sorry you had this much bad luck with your Nannuo teas. I’d advise you not to yield; it’s a tea for the keep, as you can see comparing fine young teas to better examples aged close to some ten years. There are extraordinary Banpo and Bama teas. According to some of the granddaddys, the red mark was surely made with most, if not all, of its material coming from there. The factory was right by the side of Bama.

    • James says:

      Hi py, thanks for the comment.

      On HLH, thanks for the clarifications. From an outsider’s view, the high prices of their more recent efforts likely make them seem more “high-end” than they actually are. Selling to westerners with less perspective on the market probably also helps. You actually caught me right while I was editing out that “ultra-premium” comment :) .

      Very interesting stuff re: Nannuo & Red Mark. I will continue to truck on! I’ve been having much better luck with other stuff from the rest of Menghai county. For now I will blame my so/so experiences with Nannuo on cheaper tea and Kunming storage.

      Cheers!
      -James

  2. shah8 says:

    Okay…

    1) Any time an area has only one particularly real and high quality gushu village, it gets locked down very, very, fast. While Nannuo Mountain has several villages with old tree plantations, it’s really just Banpo laozhai with the iconic Nannuo flavor. Yakou and Douyizhai have fairly strong menghai/hekai components. Shitouzhai is supposed to be good, but the best substitute is apparently Ba Ma, which I gather is a region and a village, and you want to get the village, as the region is not as good. In general, you should presume that it’s difficult to get a truly good example of Jingmai, Banpolaozhai, Longpa. All of them produce a lot of tea, some of it even reasonably nice, but they are very close to Jinghong, relatively speaking, and the best stuff is very easily monoplizable. The Banzhang area is very large and diffuse, in comparison.

    2) The best easily available Nannuo is from Banatea in the form of tea bricks. I suppose, if you do some wheedling, you can get someone to buy Zhizheng Nannuo (which I have not had) and Wisteria Nannuo from 2003 (which I have had) for you. For not extremely expensive Nannuo, aside from White2tea, you can also contact Mark at Creamofbanna.com for some of the ~$60/357g Nannuo he has.

    3) There were definite processing issues from people with inexperience up to about 2012. Some of the sourness issues might be from that. I have not had sour issues with the small samples of the 2010 Yakouzhai, but given how my, by now drunk up, cake of 2010 DaXueShan can vary, it would not be surprising if you got a bad sample.

    Good luck on the bulang. The price per gram is pretty good up to a certain level of quality. Then it starts getting very expensive for not that good bulang (but mild and full), and the stuff that’s really good gets hard to be found. Bulang is a large area with multiple places to get teas and several distinct characters. The best Bulang is valuable for the dense character of the tea, thus, when it’s young, it’s relatively hard to drink. Without substantial moisture in storage, it will take a long time. The softer, elegant stuff, however, probably will not age as well.

    • James says:

      Hi shah,

      Thanks for the wealth of information. Exactly the sort that causes me to stare at maps for hours. Surely a comment I will be coming back to :) !

      I did some research on the 2010 Yakou and couldn’t conjure up anyone having a similar tasting. In my experience with YS brand tea some of Scott’s other teas from 2010/2011 have also had a sourness in them, but it didn’t feel off in the same way that it did here.

      So far, I’ve found Bulang to far more satisfactory than Nannuo. I suspect as others have pointed out that this is likely more due to the teas I picked than the region itself.

      Cheers!
      -James

  3. Peter says:

    Thanks for this informative report. Interesting to read your views, James, and compare them with mine for the same tea(s).

    Could you please expand on what you said in the opening paragraph, viz. explain more about the process you go through (including preparation) regarding your dedication to one tea each month.

    Thanks.

    • James says:

      Hey Peter,

      Happy to clarify! It just means that everyday of June I drank one of those teas listed in the table at the end. While I leave it open to the possibility of western or grandpa-style brewing, it usually ends up being gong-fu. It’s somewhat inspired by Jakub (definitely read this Telling Teas Apart) and an effort to just learn more about tea through repetition and google spreadsheets :) .

      Hope that clarifies and cheers!
      -James

  4. Pingback: Bulang Pu’erh [July 2014 Tea Drinking Report] | TeaDB

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