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

  1. shah8 says:

    About “blends”

    Very few puerh teas are truly single estate.

    Aggressive blending don’t necessarily cohere as it ages. They also tend to have unpredictable quality sessions.

    About young vs old

    I am not very interested in drinking new tea at all, now. Some fresh tea needs time to settle into their socks. Other teas a deceptively tasty on first inspection. If you pay for quality older tea, you will still get complexity and a truthful depth of essence. You also get improved mouthfeel from astringency conversion, and it’s much easier on your stomach, both now and in the long run. You guys, green new puerh is basically like lifetime REM allowances. There’s only so much your system will put up with a regular habit of that, and it doesn’t heal back up. Not really. Some people can keep doing that, so far, like Paul of White2tea and other people who make tea–but that’s their jobs.

    On YS and EoT…

    YS ’09 and ’10 productions have real issues, though it varies according to the precise cakes. EoT productions in 2009 and 2010 seems to have even more serious issues. Both seemed to improve in 2011 and got more or less rightish in 2012.

    Among boutique producers that have been in the west a long time…Sanhetang has done the best. Yangqinghao has done pretty good, but only three cakes made it here. ChenGuangHeTang has suffered, though the aging isn’t bad, but through better understanding of the tiers. Would love to hear from those who have Zhizheng cakes, long term. Douji as well.

    • D_Ch says:

      “You guys, green new puerh is basically like lifetime REM allowances. There’s only so much your system will put up with a regular habit of that, and it doesn’t heal back up. Not really.”

      I’m interested in the topic, if you mind to expand a little on it; what does it do to the stomach and what are the consequences? Probably good to know in advance than to find out on your own too late!

      • Oop# says:

        To second this, I’m always interested in the symptoms people say when people mention this. I don’t have a great stomach, but a cup of tea never seems to trigger it.

        • Prozart says:

          I’m also interested in a more scientific answer. I have noticed that when I have a full session by myself with a young sheng it does kind of hurt my stomach, but it’s nothing major and it’s not as unpleasant as say overeating or having too many sweets or something. Of course I’ve never had sheng on an empty stomach so that might help a bit.

          But I’d like to know specifically what is harmful in sheng that dissipates with age.

          • The rapper formerly known as Young Sheng says:

            Don’t profess to be an expert, but speaking from personal experience, I used to enjoy young sheng with (seemingly) no consequence.

            After a few years of it, now if I have even a little bit, my stomach will bloat up like a balloon and stay that way for a few days, up to a week.

            It’s just too potent when young. It may break down fats and oils (like most teas that are marketed as having “detox” properties), but over the long term was depleting vitamins and minerals from me as well, to the point where I became deficient. I guess that’s why people say eat food first then wait an hour before drinking tea.

            Puts heavy strain on the kidneys as well, which had other effects.

            I stick to older sheng now, and try to keep my young sampling to a minimum.

          • garrett says:

            young sheng – dope name just sayin’

      • Peter Robertson says:

        According to Traditional Chinese Medicine theory green tea is very very cold chi, sheng puer even more so because it has been minimally processed. It also has a slight “drying” nature due to the astringency. If consumed in quantity over a longish period it will seriously weaken the stomach which likes to be warm and moist. Once the stomach qi is damaged through cold and dry it can be a difficult task to heal it, which is why we read of people ending up being completely unable to tolerate young sheng. Processing of tea, like shu for example, changes the tea from yin to yang, though the best way to achieve this is prolonged ageing, best in a humid environment.

    • Deven says:

      Yes I agree that drinking young tea is like that. But I’d like to hear your guys take on where can we buy tea 20+,30+, etc. for something reasonable? As, for western style medical analysis of the pharmakinetic aspects of pu-erh tea. I can’t really help you. It’s not very popular and so it’s not studied. If I had to guess I would say it starts off with a number of things. First the high ratio of phenols/tannins/astringent chemicals, seem to be irritating the stomach. The microbes could also being resistant to the acidic environment (being accustomed to the working with the chemistry of the tea) stay withing the GI area until they get flushed by normal mucilage flow/production and excretion. If it doesn’t agree with you, why are you drinking it? Are you guys masochists? I too experience the adverse affects of drinking young pu and only do it now once and a while to taste the cakes as they come along and see how they transition. ****I am not a doctor/microbiologist/chemist/pharmacist. I am only guessing as to what is happening.****

      I also find that my YS-Kunming stuff usually does take about a year to get used to my 65-75RH environment but once it opens up I am very happy with the tea quality/price.

  2. Hammockman says:

    Y.S. 2010 Bu Lang Jie Liang has improved nicely. Takes around a year and a half for a Kunming sent tea to open up and accumulate. Here in the subtropics(Lower Keys) brick tea and hard pressed coin edge cakes do the best.

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