Tea Progress Report – Washington State Stored Tea 2019

This is an extremely overdue tea drinking report. It was conceived for two reasons. (1) I recently reconfigured my storage into a larger setup. (2) I have a yearly tradition of picking some teas out of deep storage to retry and note their progression (or lack thereof). The latter allows me to get a better feel for my storage and pick out anything going wrong with the teas. This year I picked eight teas from my own storage as well as a couple extras from tea friends, all of which have been stored for a significant chunk of their lifespan in Washington state.

2012 YS Purple Yiwu, 2012 W2T Giant Steps, 2004 Shikunmu Mushroom

2012 YS Purple Yiwu, 2012 W2T Giant Steps, 2004 Shikunmu Mushroom.

How I Picked Teas to Try

All of these teas are at least seven years old. In my experience, some of the sessions with teas that are in the 3-5ish age range can be unsatisfying in a way that isn’t very informative. Teas in that age range are often difficult to evaluate. This isn’t a hard rule and there are exceptions, but I tend to avoid drinking these not quite young pu’erhs until they’re at least 7-10 years old. These teas are a little younger than most of what I try, but they’re at least a bit closer than younger pu’erh.

I also included a few other teas that were not in my collection but also happened to be stored in Washington state. These teas are from Garrett and Geraldo. Garrett lives very close to me in Seattle about a mile away. Our storage systems are similar but vary a little (Garrett keeps his tea at a higher humidity). Geraldo is located a couple hours east of Seattle in central Washington where the climate is different than the more mild Seattle. It is a higher-elevation area that Geraldo has described to be as more like a desert. He has humidified tea in the past.

How I Brewed

I brewed 4.5grams/75ml. This is a touch weaker than my normal ratio (1g/15ml) to compensate for the relative youth of the teas.

Many teas here were originally in tea of the month reports in 2014-2015 (see above). This time around I took notes, but avoided reading my earlier notes until after I’d documented my impressions.

2012 Purple Yiwu

2012 Purple Yiwu Session.

Notes

The ratings are the same scale I use for some of inbetweenisodes and are purely off of my own subjective enjoyment of the tea and do not speak towards the future potential.

2012 Yunnan Sourcing Wuliang (5.3)

My Memory: I drank this tea for a tea of the month in spring 2015 and remember it being quite active and fairly bitter.

Storage: A bin pumidor.

Current Notes: Smells of green wood and not as sweet as some of the others. Slight sour syrupy wood. A little bitter, brown sugar. Decent body, mineral grains. The taste starts out more upfront bitterness but gets sweeter as it brews out.

While the tea is still moderately active it has mellowed out, especially in the later steeps. It’s also not nearly as forward as my memory would place it.

2012 YS Sanhezhai (5.2)

My Memory: Originally consumed in early 2015 for a tea of the month report. I bought two cakes partly because it was a blend that seemed potent enough. I don’t remember individual notes well.

Storage: A bin pumidor.

Current Notes: Nutty, sugary. Then moves into a more savory, slight smoke, pine nuts. This is the least changed tea of the entire month. Maybe it is not as sharp but it’s yet to develop many new flavors. Revisiting my old notes I’m struck at the similarities between them, even though the tea is now seven years old (it was three years old when I wrote the notes).

2012 Purple Yiwu (6.0)

My Memory: I enjoyed this tea in 2014 when I first had it. The taste was young, but friendly enough to enjoy. Jogging my memory I don’t remember it being particularly top-heavy on floral and bright notes. I also remember it getting awkward in my last couple sessions circa 2015-2016. I own four of these cakes, with one being half consumed.

Storage: Mini-fridge.

Current Notes: Cherry sweet. A little woody, pine. Decent thickness and a good huigan. The depth and body are good considering this was a very inexpensive tea. It is not particularly floral or top-noted or as sharp as before. Happy to note that the tea is showing up more focused than my last couple sessions. I probably enjoy it more due to my own biases.

2012 W2T Giant Steps (4.4)

My Memory: I liked this tea when I first got it in 2015. I remember it being strong but with a rewarding enough sweetness.

Storage: A bin pumidor.

Current Notes: Grapey, bitter. Still very green, the greenest amongst the teas. A bittersweet taste. Pine, wood, brown sugar. You can tell there is some decent material and it is very burly. The tea has changed but the greeness and bitterness is persistent and the sessions here are worst than my memory of it. This is perhaps most concerning because most other teas I drank have at least turned some corner…

2012 Tea Urchin Zhangjiawan (6.0)

My Memory: I liked this tea and was tempted to buy more of it in 2015. I remember it being a darker Yiwu, something I’ve always been attracted to.

Storage: A bin pumidor.

Soft, gets a little tart. Fairly tannic material. Sugarcane, pine. Dark leather undertones with a drier wood profile. Some dark cherries. The depth is also good enough to keep me interested. There’s some more woody notes than my memory, but the tea still resembles its former self. One of the better sessions from this group.

2012 Ruiyuan Nannuo (5.5)

My Memory: I tried this back in 2014 and remember it being bitter, but not as strong as Hobbes initial review.

Storage: A bin pumidor.

This tea has softened up quite a bit from that previous memory and is mildly bitter at most. It is now soft, quite aromatic, perfumey, with some cleaning product aroma, fitting into my loose image of Nannuo tea (it’s not a region I drink much). It’s got a small bite and isn’t particularly burly. Somewhat sweet. Durability is mediocre and the tea’s depth is just OK.

2011 YS Bada (5.4)

My Memory: I do not have pleasant memories of drinking this tea in 2015. I remember it being unpleasant and strong.

Storage: A bin pumidor.

Grassy, light bitterness, with some sweetness. There’s an interesting syrup mouthfeel. This is likely the most astringent and drying tea of the lot. Burly fruitiness. It’s somewhat enjoyable now but I think shows some of the stronger punchier potential down the line. Much, much more pleasant than my memory. This and the Ruiyuan Nannuo have changed somewhat similarly, this in particular for the better.

2011 Tea Urchin Gaoshanzhai (6.0)

My Memory: Greenish, a bit Yiwu-like. Some huigan.

Storage: Garrett’s wine cooler. Kept slightly more humid than my tea (~70RH).

This came from Garrett’s storage from the past 2 years. We’ve had it a couple time in the past couple years and to be honest it has mostly been satisfactory at best. This was probably the best session in a while.. Perfumey. Aroma is similar to my memory. The brew is yellow/orange. It’s not too astringent and overall a pleasant brew. I do think Garrett’s storage has advanced the tea a little faster than my own would’ve. Enjoyable Yiwuish tea.

2008 Douji Shangdou (4.1)

Storage: 2008-2019 Wenatchee.

A mini-brick.. Compression is tight. Sugary, still very bitter. There’s a bit of huigan but the tea is overall pretty uninspiring and the huigan does not go far enough to redeem it. It’s just too green, bitter, and not pleasant to drink.

2005 Dayi Xiangshan (5.0)

My Memory: I tried this tea once in 2016 when I first got it. I remember it being quite mild.

Storage: 2005-2016 (Wenatchee). 2016-2019 (James Plastic Bin)

Pine, sugar aroma. Soft, sour, astringent. While there’s some light bite to this it is not super strong, and on the mellow end of Dayi. It’s also about the same maturity level as the YS Bada, despite being 14 years old. This is OK enough, but nothing worth thinking or writing much about.

2004 Changtai Shikunmu Mushroom (5.4)

Storage: 2005-2019 (Wenatchee).

This shows the contrast that can happen in the same storage when compared with something like the Shangdou. It’s infinitely more pleasant to drink now, but is very mild. Medium body. Taste is sweet, dry wood, grainy, and quite mineraly. There’s nothing off about the tea and it’s aged well enough, but doesn’t have huge fireworks.

Tea Ratings

Tea Maker Rating Cost Size $/g
2012 Wuliang Yunnan Sourcing 5.3 $69.00 400 $0.17
2012 Sanhezhai Yunnan Sourcing 5.2 $70.00 400 $0.18
2012 Purple Yiwu Yunnan Sourcing 6 $72.00 250 $0.29
2012 Giant Steps White2Tea/Taochaju 4.4
2012 Zhangjiawan Tea Urchin 6
2012 Nannuo Ruiyuan 5.5
2011 Bada Yunnan Sourcing 5.4 $86.00 400 $0.22
2011 GSZ Tea Urchin 6
2008 Shangdou Douji 4.1
2005 Xiangshan Dayi 5
2004 Mushroom Shikunmu 5.4  –  –

Storage

See past posts for how I store tea. I’ll also be publishing something in a month or so about this topic.

The majority of the teas featured came from my deep storage plastic bins that I don’t drink from often. I did not detect anything that is noticeably off, or any significant differences between the bins and my more accessed fridge/wine cooler.. The majority of teas have advanced and while they’re at the barely aged end of the spectrum, they’re changing with no mold to speak of.. The storage is of course quite slow (probably closeish to Kunming), but I already knew that.

Garrett’s storage is somewhat similar, but in drinking a lot of teas with him that we’ve both stored I do think it does advance the teas a little quicker. It’s notable that our temperatures are similar, but he is more active about adding humidity.

Geraldo’s storage is also an interesting data point. His storage certainly also falls somewhere close to Kunming on the spectrum. By my estimate, more mild and loosely compressed teas like the 2005 Changtai that I liked a lot from his collection have done much better than very pungent and heavily compressed teas like the Douji Shangdou.

Change

Of the teas that have spent around half or more of their time in my storage, I’d say five of seven (~70%)  have improved. One notably was not great and a big step down from my memory (Giant Steps). And finally the Sanhezhai was remarkably similar to my memory and notes. I’d say this ratio is pretty good and I’m satisfied with the direction the majority of my teas might be moving. I’d prefer them to change more quickly, but it’s a calculated risk that I’m not willing to make at this point.

Storage

My Storage.

Closing Remarks

Some teas especially the Bada, Nannuo, and purple Yiwu were significantly improved from my memory. They’re more focused and are a lot easier to place than previous sessions. With others, the changes have been more mild. The most concerning tea was White2Tea’s Giant Steps, which had a strong green streak that was not present in the other teas.

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2 Responses to Tea Progress Report – Washington State Stored Tea 2019

  1. Karl says:

    James,

    Nice review, as always. I never purchased the Giant Steps myself but was the compression tight or loose? I would expect tighter compressed teas to be aging slower so maybe it is still in it’s awkward phase? The Sanhezhai concerns me a little though. I did not think that it was tightly compressed so I would have expected it would be moving along more. I have an unopened tong of the 2011 that I have stored for the last several years in my pumidor. I was going to break into it but I may hold off now. I am looking forward to your article on your new storage set up with the Eurocave. I am thinking about making some changes to my set up and am curious what you are going to do with this large unit.

    Regards,

    • James says:

      Thanks Karl.

      Giant Steps is probably about average on compression, a little looser than your average factory cake but a little tighter from your boutique. Personally, I don’t think that is the reason. I’m not yet at the compost mode, but it’s on my watch list when I retry it again in a couple years.

      I’d actually be really curious to hear how you find the 2011 Sanhezhai if you try it. I’m not sure how similar the 2011 and 2012 are but think it’s a pretty Mangfei heavy blend. It is indeed pretty loosely compressed. Report back if you do try it!

      Cheers,
      -James

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