Not Quite so Young “Yiwu” Raw Pu’erh [June 2015 Tea Drinking Report]

Big shoutouts to Dignitea and Brian (double B) for providing teas for this month and allowing the content to be what it is!

Welcome to Part 2 of the overly-indulgent Yiwu report. Part 1 was young teas and was composed principally of western vendor’s own productions. This month represents a portion of not quite sp young teas, marketed and sold as Yiwu. With a little over 20 teas, it’s shorter than last month. As most pu-heads know the landscape has been very dynamic in the last 20 years. Even though much of the tea from this month is only a few years older than Part 1, it’s a very different era. I’m also going to be preemptively splitting my Menghai County report into two (July and August).

Note: Speaking honestly, I don’t actually regret making these long. I’d rather have them being overly long and thorough than short and meaningless. The aged oolong and Taiwanese oolong reports will come out sometime!

Primary vendors sampled from:

  • Chawangshop
  • Houde Asian
  • Yunnan Sourcing

Approximate Brewing Parameters

~5g/70ml gaiwan. Single rinse and short steeps. The rinse was skipped for a few of the more expensive teas. Likewise, two rinses were used for several of the resessioned cheaper teas.

The Pu'erh Nursery

The Pu’erh Nursery in Bend. Coming Soon.

The Yiwu Zhengshan brand of Pu’erh (aka more salt on your labels)

In part 1, there was a discussion on taking labels for young teas with a grain of salt. Most of those ultra-specific terms (i.e. village) are relatively recent. For instance, “Guafengzhai” really only started to appear on wrappers in the mid-2000s. Similarly in Menghai County, Lao Banzhang really didn’t become a buzzword until the mid-late 2000s.

So what does that mean for this report? Well it means that teas from the era I drank from (~2000-2007) aren’t really guilty of being mismarketed as a specific village. Does it mean labels were accurate around this time? No, not really…

What was the buzzword back in this era? “Yiwu Zhengshan” or Yiwu original growing area. “Yiwu” as a area and marketing term caught on relatively early in the pu’erh craze and was… really, really overused.

There’s been very little quality control on the labels people can put on their tea. In 2015, tea companies and vendors have all kinds of tomfoolery to sell their tea as. 10 years ago, there were fewer options.. Selling your tea as “CNNP Yiwu Zhengshan” was apparently the only sensible thing to do (I’m kidding, kinda..).

Note #1: For those interested in pu-history. Teas like the 1999 Big Tree (made by Menghai Tea Factory) represent the benchmark/upper-end Yiwu of the late 1990s/early 2000s. Teas during this period were marketed more generally. In the mid 2000s more boutique labels (i.e. Xizihao, Chenguanghetang, Yangqinghao, Chenshenghao, etc.) began to develop more of a footing and procure more of the good material. During this period, individual villages and tree age were used as a tactic to set teas apart.
Note #2: Another overused term before it became a bad word, CNNP.

A Few More Reflections on Last Year’s Report, How I Selected Tea & A Couple Mistakes

Last year I came into the Yiwu report with a vague idea of where Yiwu was and selected tea principally based off of Scott’s (YS) recommendations via email. Looking over his email from 16 months ago, he recommended a huge list of young teas, principally his own brand and Hailanghao. I thought he might’ve been pushing to make sales on his own teas and came into the tastings with a little skepticism and bias against the YS brand, that ended up being more or less unfounded. If I were to advise myself from a year ago, I’d probably tell myself to trust in Scott and buy more or less exclusively the YS brand (this is mainly what I buy from him now). A few additional points:

  1. I was biased against young tea and terrified of my stomach combusting. A lot of my reading was Marshaln who generally favors pu’erh with age. Later realization: I’ve found that my own stomach irritation is tea specific and experienced very little of what Cwyn would call gut bombs during the Yiwu month.
  2. I also had a silly and rather stupid bias against the small-leaf pu’erh (i.e. Yibang, Xikong). I naively thought I’d only want tea that could be aged. I also wanted to avoid buying an absurd amount of samples (I still bought ~20-25). Later realization: It turns out that I actually really like a lot of small leaf teas. They may or may not age as well but can make for a mighty fine cup. *facepalm*
  3. I wanted to try Yiwu teas with age and asked Scott specifically about the Yongpin Hao teas he sells. Brian (double B) recently emailed and asked me my opinion on those teas now that I have more experience. I finished the YPH samples last year and frankly, I’m not totally sure. I suspect they may’ve appealed to my side that wanted sweet, fruity tea. Not really sure.

Note: A Yunnan Sourcing public announcement. I totally recommend contacting Scott/YS if you’re looking to explore a big, general region like this. He knows what’s up, offers good customer support, reasonable prices, and has a huge breadth of catalog to allow for comprehensive tastings.

The Teas

2004 Tailian Yiwu Zhengshan (YS, $0.22/g), 2002 Yiwu Ancient Spirit (YS, $0.23/g)

These two represent the Yunnan Sourcing category of more mature teas. What was the last tea of the month without any Yunnan Sourcing teas? Japanese green teas? C’mon now Scott. Get your act together and source some sencha and gyokuro.

A few points on Scott’s more mature/wetter-stored selection.. His background in pu’erh is Kunming-based and seems to reflect that in clean, relatively dry storage. When he sources teas from a more humid place (Guangdong, Xishuangbanna, etc.), I’ve noticed that he’ll opt for what I consider to be clean tasting tea with mild humidity. This makes YS a pretty good place to start as you won’t get anything that’s too wet or overly dirty.

2004 Tailian Yiwu Zhengshan. Friendly tea. Medium-light thickness. Very easy drinking with a sweet, chocolate flavor. This is one of the wetter Yunnan Sourcing teas I’ve tasted, but still has a very clean taste . It’s loosely compressed and has a pleasant mature profile. There’s some spicy fruit in the aroma, but it doesn’t really come out in the taste. Soft, smooth, silky form, light throat action.

2002 Yiwu Ancient Spirit. I’m a fan. Sweet, woody base with a nice soft texture. Brews out about 15 times, with a lingering sweetness in the mouth and throat. It’s very easy drinking and it’s a shame the price has risen so much in the past couple years! Shoutout to Jakub for recommending this tea back when it sold for $35. Still, compared with the pricing of teas from last month it’s not bad and priced reasonably. If you can avoid thinking too much about what it used to sell for, it’s worth a shot.

Note #1: I drank W2T’s 2005 Naka twice this month. Once, the following tea was the 2004 SKM Yibang, which fared poorly. The second was with the 2002 Ancient Spirit, and while clearly inferior (rougher in its finish and a lack of qi) it still made for an enjoyable cup with decent flavor.
Note #2: I can’t even do Taiwanese oolongs now without getting away from the YS brand!

2007 Yongpin Yiwu Zhengshan (CWS, $0.11/g), 2005 Jinuoshan Yiwu Gu Qiaomu (CWS, $0.22/g), 2005 Yiwu Single Estate Qiaomu ($CWS, 0.12/g), 2006 Youle Yesheng (CWS, ?)

A smattering of teas from Chawangshop.

2007 Yongpin. Soft and fruity with light tones of tangy grains. That’s about it! It’s about as simple as possible. Reminds me a bit of the Yunhai Nannuo W2T sells in the sense that it develops in the mouth kind of like syrup. Overall a less interesting tea than the Yunhai Nannuo. Just doesn’t have many attributes beyond its base taste.

2005 Jinuoshan. Medium bodied tea with a wood + molasses base. While the tea initially is a little rough it is smooth in the mouth and finish. Mild throatiness. There’s some tangy astringency here that dries out the mouth considerably. It’s alright but the tanginess sits heavily in the mouth and prevents me from enjoying this too much.

2005 Yiwu Qiaomu Single Estate. A sample sent by Brian (double B). If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Brian is that he does an excellent job at hunting for value in teas that are not popular or remotely hyped. Fantastic thrift shopper who seems to constantly be coming through the back-catalogs of Chawang and Yunnan Sourcing. This tea has clean storage with a similar cherry-sweet aroma to the Changda Hao Yiwu Zhengshan. Overall, it’s got a similarly sweet, woody taste with a slight tangy vegetalness that eventually develops into more fruit tones. It lacks a little of the Changda’s density but is a pleasant enough tea to drink and has enough body to entertain me. Due to its very reasonable cost, it’s a very decent value.

2006 Youle Yesheng. Another one from Brian. If you take your labels seriously, Youle isn’t really Yiwu. Blah blah blah.. Mainly stone fruity (apricot/nectarine?) with a touch of grain behind it. It has a full body and a relatively smooth form with an astringent finish. It fits a nice, fairly simple profile that I enjoy. The tea can still get pretty bitter if pushed and has more bite and less throatiness than the other three teas in this section. I can see the 2010 YS Youle headed for a similar area in the next few years.

Note: The weirdest thing about the 2007 Yongpin is a fishy aroma that comes in around steep 5 or 6.

1999 Gedeng Zhuan ($0.23/g), 2005 Changtai Gedeng ($0.23/g)

A pair of teas sent in by Dignitea supposedly from Gedeng. Thanks!

2005 Gedeng. This is probably Guangdong (or something similar) stored. A little herbaly/fruity in a mildly funky way. Not super viscous. By the third infusion it thickens a little, becomes a little less sweet, but remains pleasantly dense. The funky fruity/herbaly note doesn’t ever totally go away and takes some acceptance on the drinker’s part. There’s a small amount of throat feeling here that is mainly, but not totally pleasant. If pushed, the soup gets reasonably dense with a grainy base. It can get a little astringent but never overly so. Goes for ~12 steeps. I also found that the tea dried my mouth and throat out in both the sessions. In the end, I’d chalk this up as an OK tea that’s fairly interesting to drink with a few obvious flaws.

1999 Gedeng. More straightforward (in a good way). It’s simple and clean with a medium body. Had this back to back with a funky aged tea and this was a nice return to form. Bready aroma to it. It’s a little watery and doesn’t do much for the throat. It eventually moves from the initial fruit to more chocolatey tones. Light huigan. In the end, this occupies a similar niche as the YS 1997 7581 ripe a tea that is a bit more complex and I prefer (it’s also pricier).

2007 Chawangpu Yiwu ($0.12/g)

Sold out now. Nice, chunky cake. I believe it was pressed in 2010. Sweet, a little watery, floral, decent throatiness. The body is about medium and has a droopy thickness to it. By the third infusion, the taste begins to develop some of that familiar tanginess with a floral, brown sugar base. The wateriness persists and the tart notes feel slightly off. Still it’s good and tasty and probably would’ve made a good intro pu’erh gift if it were still available.

Note: It should be noted that Chawangshop has a reasonable pricing philosophy to Yunnan Sourcing. I rarely feel like I’m dealing with an extortionist when shopping at their sites. This is sadly a standard that is not met by all purveyors of pu’erh (or tea).

2006 Yiwu Shunshi (TU, $0.27/g)

Weird tea, very difficult to figure out. Smells pretty wet and brews up very dark. There’s nice denseness and body in the tea but not too much to like early on. It gets going late and a nice fruity sweetness creeps in around steep 7.

This tea hits really late and around steep 8, I notice a little qi. The taste remains kind of so/so. through out but I can see the appeal in the qi, longevity and throatiness. This is at the brink of acceptable humidity and eventually starts to make my throat sore, causing the end of my session.

I also had a second attempt with a lot of broken pieces that had been a little more aired out. It was much improved with more initial sweetness. I can’t see myself drinking this regularly but it’s an interesting tea to try to figure out.

2006 CNNP Yiwu (Fine Puer, $0.08/g)

I’m not really sure what the full story of this cake is.. Either way it’s cheap and decent.

The storage here is to my taste. Clearly has browned the tea but is not at all overly wet. Rich sweet, woody taste, with some camphor (depending on the session), and a bit of that herbal candied flavor. The aroma is herbal and fruity. It can be pushed to astringency and mouth-drying but it’s still at a decent spot after purportedly 9 years. There’s not really much there in terms of throatiness or huigan but it’s still a bargain.

Check out those Tea Oils.

Check out those Tea Oils.

2005 Changda Hao Yiwu Mansa Gu Shu (CWS, $0.12/g), 2005 Changda Hao Yiwu Zheng Shan (CWS, $0.20/g)

A pair of teas that Hobbes reviewed a while ago. The Mansa is now sold out from Chawang but is still available from Pu’erh Shop.

2005 Mansa. Smells wetter than the Yiwu Zhengshan. A little bit higher, thinner and not as nice to drink. Not a bad tea but not really worth it (IMO). There’s a bit more density and body up front, but otherwise doesn’t strike much of a chord.

2005 Yiwu Zhengshan. A Hobbes favorite and I can see why. Nice cherry-sweet aroma. Lots of sweetness and a pleasant body. A woody base with hints of fruit. There’s some minor throatiness and it sits in the mouth nicely. It can get a little astringent and mouth-drying but is overall a pleasant tea. It’s nothing amazing but is probably one of my more favored of the cakes ChaWang sold this month.

2004 Shikunmu Yibang (CWS, $0.36/g), 2002 Yibang Cha Wang Yuan (CWS, N/A)

Another pair from Chawang supposedly from Yibang. The 2002 Yibang is no longer available but judging from my sample cost it was cheaper than the SKM tea.

2004 SKM Yibang. More expensive than nearly all the other teas this month. It’s a little better than the average tea but doesn’t really cross me as worth the price. The nose has more earthiness in it with some stone fruit smells. Thickness is average. The taste is mainly leather and wood early on with some fruity sweetness that comes and goes. Bit of tanginess creep in on the third steep. Decent activity in the mouth. Very easy-going tea, there’s plenty of mouth sweetness that lingers, but not a super deep huigan.

2002 Yibang. Kind of inbetween categories. Compared to the 2004 Dehong there are more higher fruit notes. Compared to the 2004 Yibang it’s more earthy. Grainy nose, some chocolatey and vanilla tones. It’s not as sweet and more astringent than the 2004 SKM. In the end, it’s kind of OK and kinda feels like an inferior, less consistent and less appealing version of the 2004 Tailian Yiwu that YS sells.

Note #1: I did a comparison of the 2004 SKM Yibang vs. the 2005 Naka W2T sells and this came out pretty awful (admittedly an unfair comparison). Watery and very bland.
Note #2: There are two reviews of the 2002 Yibang. Neither one makes sense to me. Jakub’s from 2012 where he calls this tea too wet (maybe it’s aired out since he reviewed  it but I found the 2004 Dehong to be significantly wetter). The other is on steepster and seems to be referring to a young Yibang.

2005 Ming-Yuan Hao “Yieh Sheng Chiao Mu” (Houde, $0.12/g)

Nice aroma. An inconsistent tea. Had a few sessions that varied from not particularly notable to OK. Dark sugary, wood, with fruit and floral tones. Not much in the way of depth or throat taste. It’s not an overtly tangy tea, but there’s a bit of that element there. The tea’s biggest strength is that it sits in the mouth, but I otherwise prefer other teas available on Houde (i.e. 2006 CGHT Autumn Yesheng).

2005 Misty Peaks Yiwu

The proprietor of Misty Peaks sent me this. I can’t in good conscience recommend them, but out of curiosity I brewed it up.

Smells really weird. Kinda like an ashtray? The smoke (or whatever it is) is of a different character than I’m used to in my pu’erh and carries over a little into the taste (but not enough to ruin it). The aroma is easily the oddest thing about it and the tea itself is not bad. Other than the curious aroma the leaves look pretty good. It’s a got a sweet, pleasant fruity profile. It has a nice softness to it but is also thin with virtually no aftertaste or throatiness. Still it’s hard to dislike.

Judging from the many positive reviews of Misty Peaks (am I really the only negative one?), it seems he has access to some at least OK leaf. In my opinion, it’s probably not what it’s marketed as and is also overpriced compared with other vendors.

2004 Changyuhao Yiwu (EoT, $1.06/g)

A late addition to the pu’erh report. Courteously sent by Brian (different Brian). Many thanks!

Massive 480g cake. Mint/camphor nose and light, but consistent mouth-cooling. Body is about medium. Camphor seems to be coming into the taste. Sweet, smooth throat taste. An energetic, but calming qi that sits in the stomach.

As the description states, it’s still a little green. I tried overbrewing and this greeness came out with an initial burst of bitterness, but retained its smooth form with an enhanced huigan and aftertaste. After about 7 or 8 steeps, the aroma becomes a little more standard in a malty, Yiwu sort of way.

In the end, I think I enjoy the two upper-end high end Taiwanese slightly more. This is a very decent tea with alot of intangibles that are difficult to find in teas. It did make me feel a little more uncomfortable and offered a little less than those teas. It could probably use a few more years of storage to get rid of the last ounce of roughness in it. That’s being pretty nitpicky though. I’ll also end this by saying, I had just one session with this tea.

Note: Essence of Tea draws some of the most polarizing reactions of any vendor. Their high prices make them an easy target to point at. They also have some of the most devoted fans I’ve ran into.
Note #2: I drank this on a particularly hot summer day and by the end of the session I was extremely thirsty.

Recommended Teas (these should get snatched up)

There’s a lot of decent/worthwhile teas here, many of which are of similar caliber (see notes on the bottom). These teas are the most undervalued or are the closest I’d come to buying.

  • 2006 CNNP Yiwu (FP)Modest tea, but really underpriced for its quality. Sold out now.
  • 2005 Yiwu Single Estate Qiaomu (CWS) – Another really modest, underpriced tea.
  • 2002 Yiwu Ancient Spirit (YS) – Yeah, it’s not as stupidly cheap as it used to be. Still, I think I like it at least as much as all the other teas in this section and don’t have an issue with the price.
  • 2005 Changda Hao Yiwu Zhengshan (CWS) – Worst value than the “Single Estate” and Ancient Spirit. Still, a good value. Slightly better tea, just more expensive.
Tea Vendor Producer $ Quantity Cost/g Rating
2004 Shi Kun Mu Yibang Gushu Chawangshop Shi Kun Mu $142.00 400 $0.36 Good.
2006 Yiwu Shunshi Tea Urchin $96.00 357 $0.27 Good.
2002 Yiwu Ancient Spirit Yunnan Sourcing $87.00 380 $0.23 Good++.
2005 Gedeng Aliexpress? Changtai $91.50 400 $0.23 OK.
1999 Gedeng Aliexpress?  – $56.99 250 $0.23 Good.
2005 “Jinuoshan” Yiwu Gu Qiao Mu Chawangshop Jinuoshan $80.00 357 $0.22 OK+.
2004 Tailian Yiwu Yunnan Sourcing Tailian $88.00 400 $0.22 Good.
2005 Changda Hao Yiwu Zheng Shan Chawangshop Changda Hao $78.00 400 $0.20 Good+.
2002 Yibang Cha Wang Yuan Chawangshop Good-.
2005 Ming-Yuan Hao “Yieh Sheng Chiao Mu” Houde Ming Yuan Hao $49.50 400 $0.12 OK+.
2007 Chawangpu Yiwu Chawangshop Cha Wang Shop $11.90 100 $0.12 Good.
2005 Changda Hao Yiwu Mansa Gu Shu Chawangshop Changda Hao $46.00 400 $0.12 OK.
2007 Yong Pin Hao Spring Yiwu Zheng Shan Chawangshop Yong Pin Hao $27.00 250 $0.11 OK+.
2006 CNNP Yiwu Fine Pu’er CNNP $28.00 357 $0.08 Good.
2006 Youle Yesheng Chawangshop Good.
2005 Misty Peaks Misty Peaks Good-.
2004 Changyuhao Yiwu Essence of Tea Changyuhao $510.00 480 $1.06 Very Good.
2005 Yiwu Single Estate Qiao Mu Chawangshop Simao Gu Du $44.00 357 $0.12 Good-.

Section 2. Teas from Famous/Big Brands!

2007 Chenguanghetang Hongyin ($0.25/g) & 2006 CGHT Autumn Yecha ($0.22/g)

The 2007 Hongyin was kindly sent in by Brian. Thanks!

These are a pair of teas from famous Taiwanese pu’erh man Chenguanghetang. These teas aren’t CGHT’s most famous but there’s inevitably a certain degree of hype surrounding his name. That being said, shopping at Houde is a bit like shopping at the thrift store. You get the advantage of under marketed, underpriced tea that isn’t in fashion that noone is really talking about in the western marketplace. These teas are both priced around their east-Asian market prices (a rarity).

2006 CGHT Autumn Yecha. People drank this early and it seemed to get fairly mixed reviews. How is it now? Quite good. Can still smell smoke in it. Body is lighter and taste is higher than the Yiwu Chawang. This is a fun little tea. It’s spicy (baking spices/cinnamon) and herbal. A little throatiness comes in which is nice. If overbrewed this herbal note increases along with a slight bit of tanginess. This is not really a problem, so much as an observation. A decent tea.

2007 CGHT Hongyin. Herbaly aroma from the get go. A tea that is deep in some ways and thin in others. A lot of warmth around the throat and you can feel the taste all the way down to the stomach. The body is a little lacking and light. Not as astringent as the 2006 CGHT Yecha.

2007 CGHT Yiwu Chawang (Houde, $0.27/g…..but really more like 1800RMB/cake or $0.81/g)

Supposedly an early version of Guafengzhai and a hotter, more famous CGHT than the Hongyin or autumn Yecha. While it’s not the best thing ever and I doubt I’d pay the east-Asian price, the absurd price that Houde sold it for should really be ignored as an anomaly.

A dark, bassy and herbaly tasty. Really nice texture off the bat. Dark cherries. Big & soft in your mouth with occasional flavors of vanilla. Very solid tea. I’ve had a few issues getting consistent sessions, but my intuition tells me this is a decent representation of why people are all gah-gah over Guafengzhai and other eastern Mengla County teas.

2007 Yangqing Hao Yiwu Qiaomu Gushu (Origin Tea, $0.50/g)

How does it feel to be shoved in a sample baggie for 1.5 years? Probably not great. While it’s hardly the ideal way to try it, I have a nice solid chunk and I’m glad to get an opportunity to try it again. The tea probably hasn’t been helped by the past year, but my appreciation for tea has (see note #2).

How’s the tea? This probably isn’t the best Yangqing Hao production, but it’s still very good. Thick body and mouth cooling. Low amounts of flavor initially, maybe a tiny bit of fruit on the first steep. Very smooth and soft with a dark fruit and leathery taste/aroma after a few steeps. Herbal notes come in as it gets to steeps 5 or 6. Nice chesty qi. There’s consistent throat feel and while there’s a light tanginess when pushed it’s a smooth tea.

Note #1: If I was stupid enough to hazard a general region guess, then I’d guess somewhere in eastern Mengla County.
Note #2: It doesn’t take long in the TeaDB archives to find general buffoonery and idiocy. In my first session with this tea, I originally had this tea my initial comparison was the Xiaguan Xizi (Happy Tuo). *facepalm*
Note #3: I also compared this with the 2005 Naka and I think I prefer this!
Note #4: I miss Origin Tea.

2002 Menghai Tea Factory Big Tree Yiwu (FP, $0.62/g)

I ordered a sample of this and it was in pretty terrible shape (had a single, mediocre session with it). Thanks to Dignitea for sending a much better example (I think loosely from a cake). Supposedly under market price at Fine Pu’er, it’s still not particularly cheap.

Thickens up on the second steep Thick taste going down the throat. A little herbal/milky. In terms of flaws there’s nothing major. It’s a bit raw/astringent in the mouth and not as smooth as I would’ve liked. Hard to justify the high cost, but decent. Personally speaking, I’d lean more towards one of the Taiwanese boutique labels that are a little younger but more to my taste.

Recommendations

These teas are all sold at or around their eastern market value by Houde/Fine Puer. Are they worth it when available? Probably.

Tea Vendor Producer $ Quantity Cost/g Rating
2002 Big Tree Yiwu Fine Pu’er Menghai Tea Factory $220.00 357 $0.62 Good+.
2007 Yangqing Hao Origin Tea Yangqing Hao $200.00? 400? $0.50? Very Good+.
2007 Yiwu Chawang Houde CGHT $95.00 357 $0.27 Very Good+.
2007 Hongyin Houde CGHT $87.50 357 $0.25 Good+.
2006 Yiwu Yieh Cha Houde CGHT $77.50 357 $0.22 Good+.

Section 3. Bonus & Miscellania

Included for various reasons.

2005 Jiangcheng Gushu (Houde, $0.21/g)

Jiangcheng is directly north of Yiwu in Pu’er prefecture and is commonly mistaken (disguised) as Yiwu. This tea was made by Jiangcheng factory from unspecified base material (correction).This is a very dynamic tea. Initially an earthy, fruity taste. Very sweet and fruity aroma. The body is decently dense and not too light, but there’s nothing particularly deep about the taste or the aftertaste. Dries out the mouth. Wood, leather and darker fruits come in. This has longevity (~15 steeps) and is constantly changing with flavors moving in and out as it is brewed. Fun tea to brew with friends.

Note: Compared this side by side with the White Whale and this performed pretty well, convincing me it’s a good deal at Houde.

2003 Fengqing Jiaji (YS, $0.18/g)

Doesn’t really have anything to do with Yiwu teas (nor does it pretend to) but it’s at a similar age and I wanted to compare it with the other semi-aged YS options. It’s more compressed than the chunky Tailian. The first couple steeps have a little mouth cooling. Some sweet apricot with drying astringency. The astringency stays in the tea for a very long time and can be a little off-putting.

The body is medium, but the overall taste is much denser (and less sweet) than the Tailian. I don’t think the throaty astringency is from overly wet storage and it seems like it might eventually age out/develop into something nice. Still, right now it adds significantly to the roughness of the tea. I think I prefer the smoother Tailian for drinking now, although this is probably the better tea to age.

2004 Dehong (CWS, $0.08/g)

Thanks to Dignitea for sending this cake over. The anti-hype cost brick. Ugly looking brick from an un-hyped area. Very cheap.

Right off the bat it carries the wet-storage aroma. After having the first steep, it’s pretty obvious that this tea has no place in these tastings (not from Yiwu, more mature), but because I’m steeping it out anyways and I doubt I’ll review it in other context I’ll include it here.

There’s a little off-taste in the first couple steeps but there’s nothing too bad and it’s all drinkable. Overall its got a decent body and is generally sweet and welcoming. If you want mature tea from a western vendor I think this is hard to beat. Jakub infers that this is a better value than the Tea Classico stuff for the price and I am inclined to agree.

Note: This tea made my stomach feels awesome but made my throat sore (which caused me to give out before the tea did).

Tea Vendor Producer $ Quantity Cost/g Rating
2003 Fengqing Jiaji Yunnan Sourcing Fengqing $64.00 357 $0.18 OK+.
2005 Jiangchen Gushu Houde Jiangchen $75.00 357 $0.21 Good+.
2004 Dehong Chawangshop $40.00 500 $0.08 Good.

Drinking A lot of Tea

I went to Bend and had the pleasure of meeting Scott (YS) and seeing how he drinks tea. In what should qualify as no surprise to anyone remotely familiar with Yunnan Sourcing, the man is an expert in prolifically drinking and evaluating tea. The trip accomplished a few things.

  1. It made me more motivated to drink a lot and get through more teas!
  2. It gave me a few ideas how I might be able to manage it.. This is covered in more depth in an upcoming TeaDB episode, but essentially eating/exercising in between sessions.
  3. It put me further behind in my tastings :/.

When I came back a week ago, I had a big list of teas that I still needed to get through and pulled a couple marathon tea sessions right before releasing this report. My body has held up generally OK (thankfully these teas weren’t young gut-busters), I started to get a little uncomfortable after the 3rd day of tea marathoning in a roll. Am looking forward to slowing down back into more normal tea consumption in the upcoming weeks.

Note: Let it be known that Scott will never be excused of going soft on his brewing. He brews his teas hard & strong.
Note #2: Speaking of drinking with your body. One really weird conversation that I’ve had with both my girlfriend and Denny + Scott. Raw pu’erh-induced butt sweats. Anyone else get this? We should make this a new, trendy pu’erh topic. #rawpuerhbuttsweat

Giving Away Samples

No I’m not giving away samples (sorry).. It’s no secret, but I’m overloaded with tea. After doing videos and blogs for over 2 years all while spending more than I should, I’ve got a few samples and cakes to drink through. I often struggle to even try things once.

I’ve been keeping a tally of samples that I’ve managed to get through as motivation. After I think I’ve generally figured out a tea, samples will usually fall into one of three categories.

  1. The tea is very good and I want to drink it.. Don’t even think about it.. Get your hands off my tea.
  2. The tea is not quite as good. Good and interesting. Since I don’t really want to have these samples hanging out in bags forever, I’ve begun to expedite the process of sampling and clearing out teas and giving them to other tea drinking friends in Seattle.
  3. The tea is bad. I can’t in good conscience give these away. These go into the garbage bin (or my friend’s kombucha assembly line).

Chawang (and Yunnan Sourcing) do a great job of servicing the middle class of pu’erh with a massive selection that airs on the affordable side with highly functional, value options.. I enjoy Chawang, but I find myself being a little less excited than I should be about their offerings. It took me forever to try these samples and most of them ended up falling into category #2. Maybe I’ve just bought off more than I can chew (possible) or become more of a gushu-snob or maybe I just like to spend more money.. Not really sure.

Hunting for Value, Comparing the Yiwu market & Value

In part 1, I set the cutoff for cheap pu’erh at 20 cents/gram and shah (rightfully) bemoaned the rising cost of pu’erh. Drinking tea this month gives us an opportunity to cross compare price/g, cake size, of two different eras.

Yiwu P1 (younger tea) Yiwu P2 (less young tea)
Avg. Cake Price $109.04 $81.13
Avg. Cake Size (g) 275.9 356.8
Avg. $/g $0.37 $0.22
Avg. Year 2012.7 2004.8

Very interesting. I’d recommend against making too much out of these numbers. There’s a lot of factors here. But wow! Smaller, more expensive cakes seems to be the general trend  and the numbers generally confirm this.

So where is the best value? First of all, there’s less hype in general for nearly nearly all the teas in this report. Especially in western circles. Many of the teas this month have been available for a while, specifically places that don’t really market their teas (shah has talked up Houde, Fine Pu’er). Marshaln has also been a proponent of buying teas with a few years of age and less-hype. There’s nothing too sexy about buying a 2007 second tier Yiwu cake, but bargain-hunters should take note.

Consider a random tea from this month, like the 2004 Tailian Yiwu. It’s a big 400g cake, and comes in at a seemingly high $88. Make that into a modern 200g cake and all of a sudden the $44 seems exceedingly reasonable when considering over a decade of aging.

For buyers that aren’t interested in chasing after top, top-tier leaf, buying tea covered this month is a really good strategy. If you’re buying new tea in the $0.10-0.30/g range, I don’t think you have a real excuse not to be buying older teas. They’re bigger and might carry a larger cake cost, but it’s typically a better value (IMO).

There’s also a lack of a middle-upper class available to the west. While last month’s teas spanned several different price tiers and quality, teas this month were particularly concentrated around the $0.12-0.25/g. For me that puts my 5g sessions at a very reasonable $0.60 to $1.25. There’s a gap in between those and the more famous teas. Maybe I should’ve tried pu-erh.sk’s ($0.50-1.00+/g)…

There’s also a lack of availability of Taiwanese boutique brands who did a lot of private productions (Houde occasionally sells these and Origin used to sell these). While the more famous ones (i.e. 2007 CGHT Chawang) are obviously more higher-priced, upper-class teas, there are teas like the Yiwu Yecha and Hongyin that would land more squarely in the middle-class.

Recommendations? Teas Worthy of Consideration

So where are the recs? Frankly, for anyone just looking to bulk up their question with great value, most of the tea this month is worthy of consideration. There’s just not many that stand head and shoulders above the others. Here’s a few more (still available) from the latter two sections that would be particularly tempting to me:

  • 2004 Dehong (CWS)
  • 2005 Jiangcheng (Houde)
  • 2006 CGHT Autumn Yecha (Houde)
  • 2007 CGHT Hongyin (Houde)

It’s been fun guys,.

Coming next.. Not Quite Young Menghai County Tea (8/1).

After two trips in June trying to get caught up on tastings to release Yiwu report part 2.

A photo posted by James (@teadborg) on

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

14 Responses to Not Quite so Young “Yiwu” Raw Pu’erh [June 2015 Tea Drinking Report]

  1. shah8 says:

    A quick note, Jiangchen was the factory, and not the place, necessarily. All we know is that the 2005 was supposedly from wild old trees.

  2. Eric says:

    What’s up!

    Great long read and worth it. I’m pretty new to tea and never thought I’d be into it at all. Now I am and tea nerding out is my M/O lately, lol!

    Keep putting out great content James.

    For me it’s a learning experience (maybe I should put my tea journey out there, haha!) and I love it. I been scouring your site for other info I may have missed to learn about it all.

    Any thoughts on getting my learn on about pu’erh or tea in general? Some of the things you say in this article are above my head (cause I’m a noob) but wondering how the hell you found all this stuff out man. I enjoy learning all this, oddly enough.

    Oh yah by the way. I totally get butt sweats drinking pu’reh, haha! Woot Woot!

    Can’t wait for the next article/vid.

    -E #rawpuerhbuttsweat #freshnewpairdontcare

    • James says:

      Thanks sir!

      No worries. We’ve all been there. I definitely wouldn’t call myself anything close to an expert. Just another person nerding out, drinking/reading alot and trying to learn.. These reports are largely focused on my own exploration and keeping my own thoughts straight & archived..

      Have you read the Pu’erh Compendium? I suspect it might be of some interest. It’s densely populated with alot of information and does a better job of starting from the beginning.

      Cheers,
      -James

      Most importantly…. On the topic of butt sweats, it’s really odd. I’m a distinctly unsweaty person, but it’s nearly always the first place I sweat these days. #rawpuerhbuttsweat #tmi

  3. Eric says:

    You got it dude (full house style)! Most importantly indeed…. haha!

    Great! I’ll def check that link out STAT!

    Hope you had a good 4th, keep rocking,
    -E

  4. puyuan says:

    You should really try Chen Yuan Hao, James. My buddies at Malaysia are now selling a few cakes and samples at teapals.com. Unfortunately the samples are 75g each and CYH is expensive (not on account of markups – for Yiwu-heads and traditionalists like me the price to quality ratio even ends up being extremely high, on account of sheer quality of material and foolproof processing) though they sell it for less than mr. Chen’s retail price. But maybe you could arrange something smaller if you inform them of the blog? The yearly killers are the chahuang (same as chawang but more selected trees and extra buds), chawang (dont let the chahuang fool you, this is a monster in itself and grand for aging), yesheng gushu (has some deliberate smoke for future camphor, and a terrific Yang character unlike most of their lineup). The 14 chawangzhai I tried and loved – would make for a cool comparison with the EOT version. The 20 and 25th anniversaries I have yet to try. The zangshou is an autumn version of the chawang, and back them the chahuang material was mixed in. 2007 chahuang is the one marshaln reviewed years ago.

    Can you veto this comment or make it invisible? I don’t want to sound like I’m publicizing. ^^

    • James says:

      Hi puyuan,

      Thanks for pointing this out. I have both love and hate in my heart for you after showing me this site.

      BTW, if you’re serious about hiding your comment I think I can. Just let me know.

      Cheers,
      -James

      • brian says:

        Yes… That is a dangerous site indeed…

      • Grill says:

        First time commenting here so I just want to say great job with the site and the videos. Amazing amount of well laid out good information here. As for that vendor, I think my wallet just waved the white flag. I’m starting to wonder why I even close it anymore

        • James says:

          Hi Grill,

          Thanks for the comment and kind words. Glad you’ve found the site useful thus far.

          I can certainly empathize with your dilemma :).

          Cheers,
          -James

  5. puyuan says:

    Haha, sorry guys, same feeling here when it was linked to me!

    But if it helps… I spent the past two years amassing 25+ kgs of puer from very private or obscure sources, sometimes straight from farmers, all from Xishuangbannna. That includes a very hefty amount of Yiwu, particularly all the dozens of new guoyoulin places with their gigantic trees. Technically that would be the way to get the best tea for the best price. Also loads of taobao gambling besides it. And while much of that tea is excellent, for my taste I’d trade ninety percent of it for a fraction in CYH cakes. If you are going for expensive, and that’s unavoidable if you are deep into puer these days, it’s definitely worth a shot. As of late I’ve only been getting tea from them, XZH, BHYJ, older YQH, Laojizi, and local pressings recommended by Zhizheng. It’s a bundle of money in absolute terms but in the end of a lot of experimenting it was the only way I found to make this messy habit worth its cost. I’m to send shah some samples as soon as I can unpack my tea (paint and thinner smell protection), I’ll see if I can get you some as well.

    • James says:

      Hi puyuan,

      Thanks for those notes on your own tea journey. I’ve scratched the surface on a few of those but from the sounds of it have a long way to go. **shudders and tries to look away**

      Cheers,
      -James

  6. Pingback: All I Want For Christmas.. YangQing Hao Report feat. Grill | TeaDB

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