Early Yunnan Sourcing Production Aging Mini-Report & Some Pu’erh Thoughts

Many of the original pu’erh productions by western-facing vendor were in the 2009 or 2010 and principally done by Essence of Tea and Yunnan Sourcing. A lot has changed since then, and while there’s the odd production that has stayed somewhat consistent (i.e. YS Wuliang) both vendors are making from very different gardens and areas now. All of the retastes are still available, and despite them being double (or more) of the price originally sold the pu’erh market has risen meaning most are still reasonably priced and attainable as mid-range, dry-stored tea.

Revisiting some ol' Yunnan Sourcing Teas.

Revisiting some ol’ Yunnan Sourcing Raw Pu’erh.

~Seven Years Old. A Good Time to Retaste.

Some people approach the maturation of pu’erh with an emphasis on benchmark years. A tea may go quiet a couple years after being pressed only to wake up a few years further down the line. Many of these teas are now ~7 years old, a good time to retaste them and check how they’re doing. They’ve had significant time to age and they’re old enough that it’s not changing as fast as when they were newborns. There are also many reviews of these cakes upon release giving an interesting reference point.

  • Early reviews can be found from: Hobbes, Badger & Blade Forum, Teachat.
  • Most of these teas were bought pretty early in my pu’erh journey and have been stored for between 2.5-3yrs in a pumidor (65-70F, 65-70RH). The first 3-4 years were spent in YS storage in Kunming/Portland.

Tastings

2010 Nannuo Yakou, $0.27/g

Sample sent by a friend. Despite yearly price raises, this tea is still well-priced and an all around decent drinker. It is fine to drink now and will continue to get a little better with time. Medium thickness. Plenty of florals, some grain, plenty of tannins. There’s still a considerable bite here but it transforms to sweet flavors. There’s not a lot of throatiness but a pleasant returning huigan.

2010 Youle, $0.17/g

A tea that has hung out in my pumidor since 2014. I’ve always found this tea to be decent and it continues to be so. The initial aroma is leather, creamy, and touch of fruits. There’s a fair amount of bitterness and astringency in the Youle especially if brewed to be strong. It isn’t super thick but sufficient. My memory has lots of stone fruits, and the taste now is quite different. More creamy and not as drying. Some light throaty feel and decent feelings in the back of the mouth. The tannins take a bit of time to go away and it eventually moves into more leather, dry fruits.

2010 Spring Jieliang, $0.26/g

Another from pumidor, circa mid-2014. I find this a bit more intriguing to me than the Yakou, although I think they’re roughly the same caliber. Judging against past memories, this is thicker and sweeter although it hasn’t really darkened much and is still brewing a robust yellow. The tea starts out as above average thickness. For the initial (3-4) infusions it is mainly sweet, but with a bitter, aspirin, nutty finish. The interplay between those strong, nutty, pill notes against the sweetness is the gist of this tea. There’s some qi and some returning huigan. The lingering flavor is mainly sweetness, but also some bitterness which seems to linger for longer and a testament to the tea’s origins and strength. The part that intrigues me about how that aspect will develop in Man’e type teas makes me curious about this tea in the same way. The tea moves into more florals and nuts as it brews out. Lasts about 10 brews, although you could probably get more if it were brewed with a lighter hand.

2010 Daxueshan, $0.18/g

In my pumidor since mid-2014. Aroma is nutty and creamy. It’s a relatively straightforward tea with lots of vegetal nutty tones but paired with a thick creaminess. As it steeps more vegetalness moves in. There’s not much activity in the throat, but it leaves sweet feelings in the entire mouth. I put it a caliber beneath the Jieliang and Yakou, but will probably be liked by people who enjoy Northern tea more than myself.

2010 Autumn Yibang, $0.42/g

In my pumidor since sometime in 2014 or 2015? Despite being an autumn tea, this was in a higher price bracket than the others upon release and it’s easily a cut above the rest of the teas covered. Sweet, brown sugar aroma. This is not the thickest tea, but it is decent enough throughout the entire session. Softish, astringent, florals. There’s throatiness and plenty of back fo the mouth feeling, all of which leaves sweet feelings. Not particularly bitter. Gets a touch creamy later in the session with increasing florals and a light acidity as the session moves on. There’s also some qi here. Lasts 12 or so decent infusions.

2009 Youle, $0.28/g

This didn’t come from my stash (from LP and one of his tastings). and I’m not totally sure what to make from my single session of the tea. The session was not good and not satisfying. The tea started out as thicker, higher, more floral. Less activity in the back of the mouth. Eventually it moves to more pine, fern floral notes. It is more bitter in a way that lingers and has a sort of a wheat, grain, cereal profile. The most unfortunate part is that there’s no real transformation, with a good deal of the rougher/bitter notes lingering that really causes a lack of satisfaction. Overall quite a different for the worst than the 2010 Youle.

Transitory? Bad sample? Storage? This tea has been well-covered recently due to LP’s group buy so there are plenty of alternate views. One final observation was that there were notably more higher notes in this than any of the teas that came from my stash, which leads me to tentatively believe that my storage might be moving the teas along a bit faster than YS storage.

Tea $ Quantity Cost/g Rating
2010 Yakou $68.00 250 $0.27 B-.
2010 Youle $43.00 250 $0.17 B-.
2009 Youle $99.00 357 $0.28 C-.
2010 (Spring) Jieliang $65.00 250 $0.26 B-.
2010 Daxueshan $45.00 250 $0.18 C+.
2010 (Autumn) Yibang $106.00 250 $0.42 B.

Some Thoughts on Tea Aging

There’s no big surprises. The tea’s tasted here were made by Scott ~seven years ago and are aging fine and are on course.. There’s nothing wrong but also nothing too exciting about the storage. The tea has been dry-stored and are slowly moving in the right direction.

  1. Tea is not going to all of a sudden become great or complex with age. I don’t think this home storage is ever going to create a great tea out of something mediocre. For modern productions you really needs to have interesting and quality base material if it’s going to be worth drinking down the line.
  2. There’s a lot of tasty young tea.. It’s easy to get allured by youthful, complex flavors and there’s some truth in this steepster post. Aging in many ways simplifies the flavors with many of the top/floral/aromatic notes aging away. Very tasty young tea can become fairly singular. With so many small, single(ish)-origin pu’erh productions this simplification and flattening out can be a major concern. In many ways, a blend is a better bet for more interesting, long-term aging.

Seven years is a long time for a pu’erh hobby, but not a long time for pu’erh…

The same amount of time can be long or short depending on what perspective we take.. I wasn’t even drinking tea when these were released. If you were to look at the aforementioned B&B thread and look at what people were drinking in 2009 and 2010, you’d be struck at how different the dialogue was. Tea cost much less and people were drinking very different sheng cha than today’s pu’erh people. It’s also a totally new crowd of faces. People still talking about tea after so many years like Marshaln are rare exceptions rather than the rule.

On the other hand. These teas are all still young. They brew a darkish yellow and have really barely scratched the surface on aging. For people that (a) tend to not drink much young pu’erh and (b) prefer more humidity, this is of paramount importance to consider with what we’re buying. In the end.. Seven years is plenty of time to outgrow a hobby but not enough for tea to really gain that much maturity..

Trying some of the original pu'erh occupants from over 2.5 yrs ago. #rawpuerh

A photo posted by James (@teadborg) on

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