A review of a very affordable, strong young pu’erh from Yunnan Sourcing.
2016 Yunnan Sourcing Mangfei — TeaDB James InBetweenIsode Episode #113
8 responses to “2016 Yunnan Sourcing Mangfei — TeaDB James InBetweenIsode Episode #113”
Yes to coverage of “budget” teas.
This was a nice contrast to previous videos. I second that notion of covering more budget teas, as they served me well as intro-teas towards more mid-tier cakes. Scott’s 2016 Wu Liang, while also in that price range, was unexpectedly nuanced. I know you’re not really a young sheng kind of guy, but I recommend checking that one out.
I appreciate that you seem to cover all 3 categories: budget, mid-range, and hi-end.
While I do not mind when James cover cheaper teas, and I skip over content that doesn’t interest me, but the regularish calls for James to cover “cheaper” teas bothers me a little bit.
1) Were I a tea youtube-reviewer, I would not really want to regularly cover cheap puerh. For one, many such teas can be hard on your body, for various reasons. Frankly, James has *always* regularly covered cheaper teas that might be of interest–virtually all the major bloggers, with the single notable exception of tuochatea, have given significant coverage to cheaper teas.
2) When we’re talking ten cents a gram puerh tea (and frankly, for all of the major tea classes), there is only so much to say about them. If they are fresh teas, virtually all you are going to get is a basic character. It’s difficult for any tea to offer a strong qualitative reason to choose that tea over another tea in that price class. At the end of the day, this is like reviewing one of Trader Joe’s decent two buck chucks–when pretty much the only material question is what kind of cheap wine you got, because you were in the mood for it. A white? A rose? How about a Riesling? What winds up happing is people talking about how expressively a classification a wine, or tea is, and how tolerable its faults. We aren’t talking about comparing a decent family owned Mexican Restaurant against another nice average family orientated Mexican Restaurant. We’re talking about comparing Long John Silver vs Popeye’s, disguised by the way we treat puerh and puerh tea drinking as Asian exoticism. Let’s not treat a quite routine and disposable experience as anything more than it is. Sometimes James, or me, or Cwyn, or someone else will just want a cheap, quick, and disposable tea, and times, we’ll even talk about it! But that’s just what it is.
3) Older sheng teas are difficult to even get cheap, in a way that average people can go to a shop and get. Remember, vendors have to make money, for overhead and profit for time and effort. A $40 newly stocked tea that is five or ten years old is unlikely to be very good in a way that distinguishes itself from another such tea. In general, any such coverage tends to drop to whether we’d *really* want to drink this tea at all. I would not really want to drink pu-erh.sk’s Smokey Lee, because it really is quite smoky to a fault, and not that interesting underneath–and a cake is 357-400grams! Would I really want thirty-five gongfu sessions of this? Or even more western/grandpa brews? Other cakes are too wet, or too dry, or the base material is really not good enough. If you can tolerate one of these teas, you buy them with a strong degree of functionality in mind. For drinking at work. For medicine at home, or for making tea eggs. Or something. Anways, a *cheap* tea that has something unique to say tends to be between $60-$80. Say, one of those YS Jinggu teas, or some Jingjiatang puerhs. The like.
4) Most of the teas that have something to teach us cost more, and often a tremendous amount more, and even if you cannot afford such teas, it is still worth your time to watch James and Denny review these teas, because you’ll be more prepared to enjoy expensive teas (or avoid them) in fortuitous circumstances. More than that, the more you understand what makes teas great, the more times you catch your own humble brew having a time just a taaaaaad better than it usually is, and the more you appreciate what you actually *have*.
5) A lot of people talk about various cheap teas as if they are great. Like Theo mentioning the Wuliang above. Usually, I’m not one to disabuse anyone about their experiences, and I’m not going to tell Theo now that he has shit taste. It’s not about that. It’s about purpose, and what things suit what purposes. There are reasons teas like the Wuliang and the Mangfei are $38 and $39/400g, respectively. That doesn’t mean they are swill, fit only for roofers and road graders. Surely some of the price difference those and the like of Bohetang is mere popularity and renown absent any particularly genuine reason. Tea is just tea. On the other hand, the good stuff usually offers something…more, and that 5% better or 20% gets the tea bid up to multiples of more humble fare. Unfortunately for the pocketbooks of the afflicted, once one groks *why* people will pay more for that forest Yiwu, it can be hard not to want spend as much as possible for *that* experience, rather than humble Wuliang. The really good tea is not shark fin soup or diamonds (where consumption is seriously veblenite–okay, okay, fujin, dayi, etc excepted), and good puerh and yancha can be kept at high quality indefinately, tempting us to hoard for the long haul.
that is, the poor tea blogger’s attention can be caught by the Mona Lisas of tea, and they dream about it, and seek it, and they can only ask for the pity of the those far too sensible to pay so much for tea, what’s more, the audience’s attention while they survey their fantasies.
You’ve made some good points. I’ve learned a bit from your previous comments, so I appreciate you for sharing your thoughts here.
It’s safe to assume that this is a diverse community where people have different starting points and diverse tastes. I appreciate this particular episode because it speaks to those who started out with cheapo cakes like the then $20 YS “2012 Impression” or the then $8 200g “Sen Zhi Kui Ba Da”. The latter I still enjoy with friends new to sheng pu’er. All of that is a part of the learning process as we develop more sophisticated pallets to appreciate finer, more expensive teas. Isn’t learning supposed to be the fun part?
I speak for myself, and many of my friends who I have introduced to world of Chinese tea, that this hobby does not cater to poor students. I don’t think I would have ever been willing to pay above $1 per gram for old arbor Yiwu had I not experienced teas from the lower tiers and less expensive regions. There are still great teas to be had below the $60 mark, and Scott’s Wuliangs, along with his 2014 and 2013 Mang Fei pressings definitely punch well above their height.
Yeah, covering budget puerhs is definitely a good thing. The trouble with puerhs is that you can’t really buy 50gr or 100gr, it’s either a sample at a premium (most shops, afaik, especially relevant to YS since it’s by far the biggest puerh vendor) or you go all in and buy the cake. Meaning dropping $10-15 on 50gr doesn’t look like a bad deal if the tea is any good, but paying $70-100 for the whole cake all of a sudden doesn’t look all that cheap anymore. You can rationalize it by looking at the cost per gram, of course, but ultimately you’ll still be paying around a hundred bucks for a whole bunch of tea.
Besides, not everyone can afford the super expensive teas. I mean even the $70-100 is still in the “budget” range when it comes to shengs, after all. The really expensive stuff that western vendors are offering can cost you hundreds of dollars per cake (not even a full 357gr one) potentially.