Santa Claus didn’t come this year? No problem.. Easter’s early this year.. And while it’s not traditionally much of a gift giving holiday, who’s not above spiking the kid’s easter egg hunt with a few adult treats. I’m not remotely suggesting that you should skip buying your kids candy (it’s unhealthy anyways) and replace the original tong bamboo wrapping of your YQH tong with a giant tong-shapped easter egg…
A new round of samples is in and this report is both a reflection and an addendum on the previous round of tastings for Yangs. Much of the case for these teas and how to actually order is covered on the previous report.
Dilemmas & Some Thoughts
Two important questions & dilemmas for potential buyers…
Those cheapest teas in 2005 and 2006. Yes, the ones under $0.40/g, i.e. 2005 Cangliu, 2005 Yiwu Chawang, 2006 Baisuixiang. Are they worth it? Or is this just a trap/cheaping out?
First things first. The Baisuixiang isn’t a good tea.. Avoid..
Now what about the other two (Cangliu, Yiwu Chawang). These are tempting for obvious reasons. They represent a low entry point into buying these cakes in what is a pretty big leap for most tea drinkers without huge wallets. There are people that will immediately blind buy a Teji or get their friends to split an order. But these people are largely exceptions to the rule. Samples aren’t really readily available without making some sort of purchase. Blind buying a cake for $360 is not something that can be expected of anybody and us westerners are largely resigned to drinking alone. The Yiwu Chawang (Yiwu King of Tea) is a big name, how bad could it really be??
Another point that some might scoff at is that these teas are really not expensive.. In raw amounts of money it’s substantial, but the $/g really isn’t bad when put against current maocha prices, especially Mengla county (greater Yiwu area). When these cheaper teas were first being made available the price was $175/g. That’s $0.35/g. A $70/200g cake from W2T/Tea Urchin or a $87.50/250g cake from Yunnan Sourcing, beneath the price of most vendor’s current year Yiwu line. And they’re approaching 11 years in clean, decent storage…
In addition to my own tastings, I’ve heard a wide variety of opinions on these teas in the past few months. And oh, do opinions vary on these cheap ones. There’s some very positive opinions and a good collection of people that enjoy these teas. But there’s also some (mainly people with experience) that really dislike these cheaper teas, specifically the Yiwu Chawang. My opinion lies somewhere in the middle of both of these.. The more YQH I drink, the more I feel that the Yiwu Chawang is an oddball and a flawed tea. But I also don’t really understand the claim that these are terrible teas. A bit atypical and weirdly sweet, but other than the difficult to please drinkers most people are capable of enjoying it on some level. Now when this humble pair of teas is put in the broader perspective they start to suffer more.
For the sake of transparency. In the series of inbetweenisodes I showed off full cakes of both the Cangliu and Yiwu Chawang. This can be interpreted as somewhat of an endorsement.. And it’s true, I own cakes of both (I didn’t rent them from Emmett). For the Yiwu Chawang it was a test cake when I was operating in essentially a void of information and samples were not available. I knew it’d been sold by Houde and the reviews (mainly older) were primarily positive. Do I regret my purchase? No, I had to start somewhere. Would I do it again? Definitely not. The 2x Cangliu I own were bought in my next buy with a similar void of information. Do I regret it? Maybe a little. I probably should’ve just got one instead of two.. Will I drink it and enjoy both? Absolutely.
That all being said.. I think it’s generally a better idea to spend slightly more $/g (~$0.50/g) on something like the Qixiang (better 6FM blend), Qizhong (if you prefer strong tea), or Lingya (Yiwuish) depending on what profile you go for rather than the Yiwu Chawang or Cangliu. This is changing my tune mildly from the previous report where I recommended the Cangliu. Alas, like any self-respecting politician, I’m flip-flopping. If you choose to buy these cheaper teas, I wouldn’t hate you or judge you but I think you’d be better off spending more for something nicer depending on your own stylistic preference. Just my opinion.
- For the record, I’ve ended up with the most Qizhong and am now focusing my buying efforts on the premium cakes which is a rather painful amount of money.
What about those older teas, like the Micang, Cangmi, and Jintuo? Are they good value for daily drinking old tea with age?
Again.. Please don’t get turned off by the seemingly high price. $175, $300… These are not expensive teas with consideration to age and $/g, especially if they are indeed Mengla County teas.
These should definitely not be the first teas you try from Yang nor are they a great blind buy target (go for those $0.50/g teas mentioned above). But they do offer the potential to be decent daily drinking teas. Adding to their appeal, it’s an open secret that the aged tea market in the west (a) lacks options, (b) is priced high and (c) kinda, sorta sucks.. This isn’t Taiwan.
To determine their value and because it’s a poor and unfair comparison vs. 2004-2007 YQH, I compared the 1999 Micang with the 2000 Yiwu that YS sells and the 1998 Yiwu Brick I have.
1998 Yiwu ($0.23/g, $117/500g), Benchmark
Picked up from Taiwan. Camphorous, some mouth-cooling, wood. Back of the mouth focused. Some feelings on the top of the throat. There’s a little roughness at the top of the throat.
2000 Yiwu ($0.28/g, $70/250g), Easily Available on Yunnan Sourcing
Thickest of the three teas but also the least Yiwu tasting. Mainly focused on the mouth. Wet wood, smooth form. Some bitter/astringent spots almost randomly show up in the tea. This is an alright value for the age and it’s clean enough, durable enough, and aged enough. It also leaves a strong lasting feeling in the mouth That all being said, I’d personally opt for one of the other two teas.
1999 Micang ($0.30/g or $0.35/g, $300/1000g, $175/500g)
More similar to the 1998 Yiwu Brick than the 2000. Heavier on camphor, menthol/mint than the 1998 Yiwu brick. Wood. Slick feel in the mouth but a lighter soup viscosity. Gives the mouth a very refreshed feeling. Around steep 6 or 7 starts to move into a fruitier/longan + wood profile.Also has a tendency to dry out the mouth.
I’d grade this slightly better than the Yiwu brick and worth it if you are in the market. If you are interested in simply exploring YQH, this should not be your first, second or third tea.. But if you want to include this after you’ve had the others, it’s decent enough for consideration or if you can get out the hacksaw and split up that 1kg monster.
|1998 Yiwu Brick||TW Vendor||$117.00||500||$0.23||Good+.|
|2000 Yiwu Brick||Yunnan Sourcing||$70.00||250||$0.28||Good-.|
|1999 Micang||Yangqing Hao||$175.00||500||$0.35||Good++.|
2007 Qizhong ($0.48/g, $190/400g)
The one I own the most of. I drank this a couple times in calibration/preparation.
Pretty thick from the get go. Active, great throat. Menthol. Soft but still astringent. The astringency can be a tricky to brew around especially in the middle steeps. This one will benefit from further aging.
2004 Zhencang Chawang ($0.68/g, $270/400g)
Ahh. We meet at last. Mistakenly IDed as the Teji in the last report. This was originally sold on Houde and Origin Tea as the special reserve. There’s two separate pressings, one for 500g (sold at Houde) and the other for 400g (sold at Origin) that only add to the confusion. Version being sold by Yang now is the 400g. Supposedly Guafengzhai material.
Woody, creamy, slight herbal. Heavy qi that reaches all the way into the chest. Smooth, soft and rounded. Body is medium but somewhat light in flavor. Sits heavily in the throat.
It is less dramatically appealing and will probably be not as easy for newer folks to enjoy (as the Teji). Nevertheless this is an excellent tea and I would have no issue with the exceedingly reasonable price. Eventually gravitates towards creamy, woody, leather notes. Can’t go wrong with this tea if you’re willing to pay the price. It’s only real competition is below….
Light in taste and body but maybe average for a YQH tea. Early steeps have flavors of wood, herbs(very specific basil note), vanilla ice cream! (was lovely) light mushroomy honey, camphor, mint, some berry jam with the seeds. Later steeps trend to the more typical yiwu profile of wood leather and tobacco with some light traces of the earlier tastes. Throatiness is good but doesn’t extend into the chest. Huigan is here and there, some sips/cups have it strongly others not so much. Qi is present, steady and mellow refreshing with each cup and doing so though the first ten or so steeps. Lovely tea and those herbal notes for sure point to this potentially being real Guafengzhai material.
2004 Teji ($0.72/g, $360/500g)
Probably the most sure-fire of all of YQH and one that can be enjoyed on many levels. A beginner might miss out on some of the appeal of this tea but will probably still find it damn good..
Also a lowish amount of flavor but a bit higher and sweeter than the Zhencang Chawang. Woody, creamy, plummy. Very active tea with an active huigan and throat. Very chesty, invigorating qi that is quite different from the Zhencang Chawang. Some menthol/camphor, mouth cool. Has a little more throatfeel than Dingji, but is not nearly as heavy.
2004 Dingji ($1.16/g, $580/500g)
This is the best tea in my books.. It’s very different from the Teji and Zhencang Chawang though, featuring a dark, brooding profile.
Lots of thickness for a very long time (35 gongfu steeps, then thermos). Nose of dark fruits. Leather, camphorous. The viscosity is apparent from the tip of the tongue down into the chest, being thick in the throat. Heavy in all of its characteristics. Taste is wood, dark fruits, leather. Big feel in the throat and in the cheeks. Like the other great 2004 teas this is very chesty and makes you aware of your breathing. Candied herbal notes come into the aroma. The qi I find to be somewhere in the middle of the Zhencang Chawang (relaxing) and Teji (invigorating).
2004 Jinhao Chawang ($0.78/g, $310/400g)
Falls in line with other cakes from 2004, light in taste but with decent body and complexity. Taste falls short of the 2004 cakes in terms of broadness early but is still really pleasant. Flavor and aroma of honey, malt, wood, light fruits early on. Some good qi and top of the throatiness early but doesn’t seem to hold up, which is a bit disappointing. Middle steeps the flavor shift more to a wood leather tobacco profile and the tea becomes fairly astringent. Figured the tea would soon run out of steam but it eventually dropped the astringency for some nice floral notes along with a return of more fruit flavors and smoother mouthfeel. Got about 25 steeps total which is above average for YQH or any tea for that matter.
Overall this was pretty good, taste was really nice even if not quite up the Teji or Dingji complexity but it lacked some of the “fun” stuff (deep throatiness, stronger/long lasting/dynamic qi, excellent huigan, etc) some of the other top end cakes have. Considering price I wouldn’t recommend as both the Zhencang and Teji are better and cheaper.
2007 600 Yr ($1.20/g, $600/500g)
Fragrant camphor, vaguely sweet (winter melon, wood, cacao) and immediate thick oiliness into medium bitterness that really sits in the mouth and flushes in the cheeks, numbing the mouth. Sits very heavily in the back of the mouth. Pungent returning sweetness to the throat. Qi is not as immediate as the 2004s but produces a chesty, heavy feeling after a few steeps. This tea is fairly interesting because it’s still quite bitter but also displays a lot of elements of development/age. I openly wonder where the hell this tea is from (doesn’t seem like Mengla). Steeps into generically sweet, melon. Good longevity and persistent bitterness.
This tea was shared with friends and drank at a tea shop in Manhattan, brewed up by the owner. Taste was very bitter right from the onset, not what I’d call good bitterness and not transforming into any kind of sweetness. Kind of like chewing on a tylenol or that yellow cough medicine. Not as intense but of a similar character. Tea was fairly thick with decent throatiness and really strong qi out of the gate. Throatiness stuck around but the qi faded fast. Didn’t really have much else to the taste beside that one note bitterness. This is another tea that I would suggest sampling first as some other people I talked to seemed to have better sessions than I did. I might do the same so I can brew at home focus more on the tea.
2006 Shenpin Chawang, ($0.76/g, $380/500g)
A blend of Wangong, Chawangshu and Bohetang. Tea opens thick with near immediate qi, which was mostly head focused. Early infusions had were Mushroomy with plenty of vanilla, apricot, muscatel sweetness, some mild plum. The aftertaste is where a lot of the magic happened. Looooooong lasting and very dynamic. Early on it’s was an extension of the the just described flavors but adding in some herbal notes. Huigan was also good early with a little of that blooming effect out of the throat. Throatiness was light throughout. Later steeps provided some more youthfulness with some astringent grassiness and a surprising citric/mandarin orange note that kind of popped up randomly. Most of the good stuff was in the first 6 or 7 steeps and then tailed off providing mostly good aftertaste after that.
The late steeps smoothed back out again with some vanilla and lighter astringency. In my opinion the Chawangshu component carries this tea early on and helps provide that long dynamic aftertaste. Pretty decent overall and much better than the average Yiwu. Fall short of the upper echelon of YQH but is firmly in the better end of the mid pack.
2006 YQH Shenpin Chawang. A blend of Wangong, Chawangshu and Bohetang. Tea open thick with near immediate qi, which was mostly head focused. Early infusions had were Mushroomy with plenty of vanilla, apricot, muscatel sweetness, some mild plum. The aftertaste is where a lot of the magic happened. Looooooong lasting and very dynamic. Early on its was an extension of the the just described flavors but adding in some herbal notes. Huigan was also good early with a little of that blooming effect out of the throat. Throatiness was light throughout. Later steeps provided some more youthfulness with some astringent grassiness and a surprising citric/mandarin orange note that kind of popped up randomly. Most of the good stuff was in the first 6 or 7 steeps and then tailed off providing mostly good aftertaste after that. The late steeps smoothed back out again with some vanilla and lighter astringency. Imo the chawangshu caries this tea early on and helps provide that long dynamic after taste. Pretty decent overall and much better than the average Yiwu. Fall short of the upper echelon of YQH but is firmly in the better end of the mid pack
2006 Tianxiang Baopin ($0.63/g, $380/600g)
Aroma off the rinse of wood, leather and dusty old books (maybe some wetter or traditional storage?). First steep opens up with a heavy muscatel sweetness, some blond wood, rich thick floral taste, with apricots and other fruits set further in the background. Next few steeps the fruit flavors become more forefront. No real huigan or qi yet, nor do they ever really show up this session. Letting the tea cool a bit in these steeps reveals a nice sweet vanilla bean flavor, quite nice. The theme continues with more fruits, adding camphor now as well. Tea is medium thickness, flavor front of the mouth focused.
As I said a bit further up, 0 huigan or qi in this, its simply just really tasty, which does count for something but isn’t enough considering it’s competition. There is some grassy astringency and sour fruitiness in late steeping that I’ve been noticing across all the 06 cakes. Again like the Jinhao, nice tea, very tasty but the competition in the same price bracket is just too strong.
2004 Pu-erh.sk GFZ ($0.74/g, $371/500g)
A challenger approaches. Thanks to Grill for the sample.
Very minty aroma with heavy mouth-cooling on the first steep. Strong effect on the mouth with cooling, buzzing. Light staying power in the throat. Forest honey, wood, creamy. There’s qi but it’s beneath all the 2004 productions. Body is medium, soft, smooth liquor although it can definitely be pushed to bitterness. More focused on back of mouth and the top of throat than the whole throat. Good tea but beneath the equivalently priced YQH in my opinion.
2004 White label GFZ from @pu_erh.sk. Smooth easy drinking. Light in taste and body. Primary taste are wood, leather, herbs, camphor and some very light fruitiness. No bitterness and almost no astringency unless pushed hard. Good throatiness, huigan, mouth coating and aftertaste, a pleasant surprise from a tea that’s this thin. All are strong early on fading slowly as the session progressed. Strong qi early that comes in waves. Lasts through most of the steeps, fading at completely only on the last few. Overall a very nice tea and one I’d suggest picking up a sample of the next time you place an order with puerhsk.
2007 Ruichangxiang Yiwu ($1.68/g, $598/357g), White2Tea
Big thanks to Richard for sending a single session sample over. I’ve been curious about this tea but unwilling to spend the $60 on a 25g sample..
In the end, it’s not the best comparison to YQH because the material is different (more classical, closer to Bana’s Red Yiwu series). Less importantly, storage is Kunming dry a decent contrast vs. Yang’s Taiwanese dry.
Vegetal aroma and taste. Smooth, soft, honey, hay, light bitterness. Medium-light viscosity. Some qi of the invigorating type. Good feelings in the cheeks and some in the throat. Makes me very thirsty. Keeps a pretty consistent profile and adding some sweet grain on the 6th or 7th steep. Probably around the same caliber as Red Yiwu. Quite durable.
2009 Yiwu Sanhe Hao ($1/g, $399/400g), Bana Tea
Tossed this one in because I was curious how it compared with the RCX and cause I wanted to compare it with shah’s notes on badger & blade. Similar storage (presumably Kunming) to the Ruichangxiang. Nice floral nose. More viscous than the RCX but thinner than the majority of YQH. Dense acorn, vegetal, grain, nuts. Not thick down the throat but a variety of throat feels. Some light plum in the background. I still like this tea plenty and I’d place this tea at around the same level as the RCX, maybe slightly higher. But in terms of absolute value it ranks behind most of the YQH.
Remember guys. Don’t ever get high on your own supply.. Yang’s 2011 teas were befuddling to me. The Bulang was alright enough and wasn’t expensive, but the three more expensive ones. I figured they’d be good. Yang has a great track record and none of them are cheap.. Perhaps maocha prices were rising, or maybe he was just drunk and wanted to press something fairy urine. Either way, these 2011 teas (minus the Bulang) are not appealing (at least to me).
2011 Jinya ($0.47/g, $235/500g)
Very bitter, green and compounded by some beenghole brewing. After a few steeps rounds out body and becomes a little more pleasant. Strong buzzing feel in the mouth. Not much throat activity. Not at all pleasant or enjoyable.
2011 Tiancang ($0.80/g, $400/500g)
Smooth, but still kinda bitter, tart. Not a lot of flavor. Some returning mouth sweetness. Then all of a sudden it starts thrashing me. Huge bitter, caramel, coffee notes. I can’t really taste much past the overwhelming bitter notes. Not at all pleasant or enjoyable.
2012 Tianshan Yizhen ($1.00/g, $500/500g)
It is not appealing now and still very green but there’s some glimpses of a good tea here. Much smoother than the two 2011 teas. Medium, soft body. Green, sweet hay and grain. Light fruit/floral sweetness. Good returning throat sweetness and leaves your mouth feeling pretty nice. Some qi. Not totally convinced that any of these three are Mengla. Gets bitter and sour if pushed too much.
Grill on Jinya and Tianshan Yizhen
Combining these two cause I got fairly similar takes and they were not good ones. I’m going to leave this as an incomplete since I’m wondering if my sample was damaged. Incredibly vegetal, grassy, some black pepperish thing, just awful. I’ve had a hundredth of the price that I enjoyed more. On top of the terrible taste they were very rough on my stomach. At this point I’d say sample before buying and hope that I just got unlucky.
|Tea||$||Quantity||Cost/g||James Rating||Grill Rating|
|2004 Pu-erh.sk GFZ||$371.00||500||$0.74||TL+1.5.||TL+1.5.|
|2004 Zhencang Chawang||$270.00||400||$0.68||TL+2.5.||TL+2.25.|
|2004 Jinhao Chawang||$310.00||400||$0.78||–||TL+1.75.|
|2006 Shenpin Chawang||$380.00||500||$0.76||–||TL+1.75.|
|2006 Tianxiang Baopin||$380.00||600||$0.63||–||TL.|
|2007 600 Yr||$600.00||500||$1.20||TL+2.||INC.|
|2007 Ruichangxiang Yiwu||$598.00||357||$1.68||TL+1.75.||–|
|2009 Yiwu Sanhe Hao||$399.00||400||$1.00||TL+1.75.||–|
|2012 Tianshan Yizhen||$500.00||500||$1.00||TL-2.||INC.|
Alright, so you’re just getting started and don’t want to drop the $$ on a potentially huge blind buy. And since you’ve eliminated the cheapest options where should I start? Here are my recommendations (in order)… Reality check, unless you’re going to go through the very painful process of splitting up a cake three or four ways, it’s best to just be prepared to spend at least $100. This is damn good tea guys…
- Get your friends together and split a cake of Teji. At $360/500g, this is $0.72/g and only costs $144/200g. This is my opinion a fantastic price for a tea of this quality and beats the snot outta most western options.. If you can afford it, this is the safest bet of all the premium Yangs. Either that or steal your mom’s credit card (option 1b).
- Alright. You have no tea friends and always drink alone with your cat who might love tea but sadly can’t contribute to your Yangqing Hao fund.. In my opinion, this is one of the safest blind buys around (no Yang or Emmett isn’t paying me off)… Go for a 2007 Qizhong, 2006 Qixiang, or 2007 Lingya. These are three different teas that represent variations in Yang’s house style. Read the reviews and pick the one that you think suits you best. No, they’re not as good/can’t miss as the Teji but they’re very good teas and better than the vast majority of semi-aged teas in the western marketplace.
- Go for the Cangliu. It’s more of a legit tea and better than the Yiwu Chawang. While I’d recommend option 1 or 2, the Cangliu can be satisfying enough if you really don’t want to do option 1 or 2.
How about the premium teas? I’d personally go for the sure bets, most of the 2004 teas (minus the Jinhao). I think the Teji is the safest bet and the most universally likeable tea, but the 2004 Zhencang Chawang and 2004 Dingji are hugely respectable teas in their categories. The Dingji is in my opinion a true heavyweight that beats the Teji in most all categories but could be a little intense for some.. In the end, you can’t really go wrong with these.
How do the 2006 compare? Well we know the most about the 2006 Chawangshu which seems to be fairly praised, but the others still remain somewhat unknown. Those who have tried the teas, feel free to chime in.
Reflections & Recommendations (Grill)
So just a couple of extra things now that I’ve tried a majority of the teas.
First, with rare exception most of these reviews have been made from a single session. Because of that I can’t say any of these reviews are concrete or final judgment. This is simply meant to be a guideline with some idea with how the tea might perform.
Second, I’ve noticed some distinct traits in each year, I’m not going to try and pin down way these exist. Only that they do. 2004 seem to a little lighter in taste but richer and creamy, 2005 teas were sweeter(this is the year I have the least experience with), 2006 has a slight grassy astringent note in later steepings. 2007 is dark wood and herbal. If you find that you like any of those in particular over the others then you might do best to sample a bit more within that year. For instance I’m not a huge fan of the dark bassy 2007 teas in general but I particularly like the 2004 and 2006 teas.
Third is just some of my personal recommendations. At the very top top is the 04 dingji. It does so many things well and some really spectacular. It’s thick, steeps forever, great qi, incredible feeling down the throat and into the stomach, huigans yada yada yada. Amazing tea, I recommend that every pu should try this at least once before they die.
After that there is a small group of cakes I feel are a step above the masses. In no order, 2004 Teji, 2004 Zhencang, 2006 Chawangshu, 2007 Shishih Shenpin, 2009 888. They are all amazing tea and if you have to money are worth spending up for. There is a couple of teas I’m retrying as I think they have potential to be in that group as well, they are the 2006 Wushang Miaopin and the 2006 Tianpin.
Then there is a big ole group of teas that make up the middle pack. A lot of them are fairly similar taste wise, the taste range across the yqp brand just isn’t that broad. It comes down to what your preference is, some might have better qi or thickness etc etc. Which combination of positive attributes do you want sort of thing. My recommendations for that range are either cause they were slightly better overall, slightly more unique or better priced. They are the 2006 Qixiang, 2007 Qizhong, 2006 Shenpin Chawang, 2004 Jinhao and the 2005 Cangliu. There are a few cakes that I wasn’t a fan after that I’d place in a “bottom group” but it’s still worth a sampling, just about anything is worth trying once even if it’s only to add to your mental data bank.