Every month, I dedicate it to one type of tea. This means I drink that genre of tea in some form at least once a day. This could mean gong-fu, grandpa, or even a cold-brew. I’ll still consume other teas, but the primary focus is understanding and building a palate for a specific type/genre/region of tea through repetition. This the most personal blogging type style of post for TeaDB, and the goal is to stretch my palate as well as give recommendations to interested parties. I had so many different teas this month that my notes were especially useful for this write-up.
Vendors ordered from:
Primary tea producers:
- Yong Pin Hao + Guan Zi Zai (Yunnan Sourcing)
- Hai Lang Hao (Yunnan Sourcing)
- Yunnan Sourcing
- Taochaju (White2Tea)
Approximate Brewing Parameters
About 7g/95ml yixing or less frequently 4g/60ml gaiwan. Double rinse and short steeps.
Yunnan Sourcing (the vendor)
Put in a huge order to Yunnan Sourcing for Yiwu and Nannuo teas, nearly entirely composed of samples. I tried to include teas of various ages to be able to have a more thorough look at how the region might age. This type of learning has been somewhat inspired by Jakub and his tasting exercises (he started with Yiwu!).
Yong Pin Hao + Guan Zi Zai (via Yunnan Sourcing)
Yong Pin Hao is a pu’erh operation that’s been producing tea since the early 2000s that tends to sell alot of Yiwu tea (I believe they are based somewhere in Mengla County). Their teas are sold by both Yunnan Sourcing and Cha Wang Shop. Guan Zi Zai is an operation ran by one of the Yong Pin Hao brothers, sourcing from similar areas. I included five Yong Pin Hao teas and two Guan Zi Zai’s in my Yunnan Sourcing order.
2007 Yong Pin Hao Yi Wu Mountain Chun Jian Stone-Pressed
Produced in Luo Shui Dong, supposedly by early spring tea leaves. This was one of the first teas I drank. Strong, thick and mushroomy with some bitterness.
2004 Yong Pin Hao Xiang Ming Wild Arbor
Found this to be one of the easiest drinking pu’erhs of the month. Yunnan Sourcing’s 2004 Xiang Ming was stored in Yiwu (more humid than Kunming) for a couple years and is more aged as a result (something I find pleasant). It has a basic fruity, sweet flavor, with essentially no bitterness. Very minor smokiness, hardly bothersome in my opinion.
2002 Yong Pin Hao Red Yi Wu Zhengshan
This was probably my favorite tea of the whole month. Complex, richly fruity, apparent and lasting huigan. Wonderful texture and mouth action. A buttery thickness even crept in at some point. No bitterness and a very clean taste. Jakub has said very nice things about Yong Pin Hao productions from the early 2000s era. From this tea I can certainly see why. This is not cheap, but I enjoyed it enough to consider a purchase (400g cake is $198)! Lasts easily 15+ infusions. If longevity is an indicator of old trees, then this hits that criteria.
2008 Yong Pin Hao Man Zhuan Old Tree
A very nice thickness, coupled with both bitterness and sweetness. More astringent and energetic than most of the teas from this month. I enjoyed this more than the similarly aged Yong Pin Hao’s 2007 Chun Jian.
2005 Yong Pin Hao Stone Pressed Yiwu
Nice sweetness, hardly any bitterness. A simple laid back taste. This feels a bit more aged than I expected given its Kunming storage. If put to the test, I would likely pick the similar, but even easier drinking Xiang Ming.
2009 Guan Zi Zai Gentleman’s Heart
Supposedly from Gua Feng Zhai. This is not bad and certainly drinkable, but fairly unremarkable. Didn’t find this to be nearly at the level of other teas marketed as being from Gua Feng Zhai or even the nearby areas (Wan Gong Zhai/Yi Shan Mo).
2004 Guan Zi Zai Yi Wu Jing Xuan 19
This feels far less aged than the Yong Pin Hao Stone-Pressed Yiwu or Xiang Ming. Texturally a bit dry, with light tobacco and fruit. Easily my least favorite of the 2004-2005 YPH/GZZ.
- Quality? Solid for the most part. There were some duds, some good ones, and one excellent tea.
- Price? ~$4-8/oz for most. The 2002 Red Zhengshan is much more expensive (~$20/oz).
- Would order again? Definitely. As has been pointed out, their recent productions aren’t as stellar as their older stuff, but the quality is decent enough for the price.
Hai Lang Hao
A producer seemingly sold only by Yunnan Sourcing to the west. Their recent productions have really edged to the upper-spectrum on price. I included a few HLH teas recommended by Scott (Yunnan Sourcing).
2009 Hai Lang Hao Yi Wu Zheng Shan
A decent tea, despite the lower price. It brews up as a mellow, and vegetal. Slighter and more laid back than the Gaoshan Zhai or Manzhuan.
2009 Hai Lang Hao Gaoshan Zhai
A decent tea, with a rich, pleasant, aftertaste. It did seem to die off a bit faster than usual.
2009 Hai Lang Hao Man Zhuan
Thicker, hay taste and still very lively/strong. Nice aroma. This one grew on me.
2010 Hai Lang Hao Yi Shan Mo
A very good tea with great sweetness and huigan, coupled with a high price tag one. Distinctive and strong cooling effect. I don’t think I would buy more of this due to the cost, but it is a decent tea that can be steeped easily 12-14+ times.
- Quality? Solid. Consistently decent.
- Price? $5-15/oz. Hai Lang Hao is definitely a bit pricy!
- Would order again? Sure, probably not recent productions. The best value seems to be from 2007-2009.
Yunnan Sourcing (the producer)
Yunnan Sourcing has been producing their own cakes in the last 5-6 years. Buying their productions is an easy way to cut out another middle man.
2009 Yunnan Sourcing Road to Yi Wu “Ding Jia Zhai” (Autumn)
This one was the dud of the bunch. Slightly sour, and generally mediocre and uninteresting. Could be going through a weird phase, but I didn’t enjoy it.
2012 Yunnan Sourcing Gaoshan Zhai Spring Ancient Arbor (Spring)
Really great aftertaste, probably even better than the aftertaste of HLH Gao Shan Zhai (is this a characteristic of Gao Shan Zhai?). I found this tea to be otherwise good with a nutty taste, and thick buttery mouthfeel.
2012 Yunnan Sourcing Yi Wu Purple Tea (Spring)
Impressive tea. Considering the lowish price I went in without much expectation. This is an consistently interesting, complex tea. Sweet, slightly astringent, and a great buy for the price.
2012 Yunnan Sourcing Wan Gong Zhai (Autumn)
Wan Gong Zhai is nearby Yi Shan Mo and Gua Feng Zhai. I’ve generally found Gua Feng Zhai teas to offer significantly more punch than the rest of the region. I think that characteristic helps to combat the weaker, autumnal nature of these leaves. This tea brews up buttery, thick, sweet and bitter! Perhaps not quite as good as the spring Gua Feng Zhai teas from YS or W2T, but not bad.
2013 Yunnan Sourcing Gua Feng Zhai (Spring)
I have mixed feelings on this one. This was still pretty green and brewed up nice and strong. Full-bodied and expansive, High in caffeine and more intense than nearly every tea this month my body has the most difficult time taking young, strong teas like this.
2013 Yunnan Sourcing Xiang Ming Wild Arbor (Spring)
The opposite of the Gua Feng Zhai. Much less intense, and easy drinking. Strong sweetness for a young tea, with only a little astringency. A basic, pleasant Yiwu.
- Quality? Good, generally.
- Price? $4-12/oz.
- Would order again? Definitely!
I managed to squeeze some of White2Tea’s teas at the very end of May/beginning of June. It helps that there was only a few teas that qualified as Yiwu! One notable thing about White2Tea is the markup they do for samples vs. cakes is much lower (this is also true for Tea Urchin). This makes buying a ton of samples a cost-friendly experience from White2Tea.
A really good tea. Sweet, with buttery thickness and slight astringency early on. A great, lasting aftertaste. If you are OK with paying 2014 prices for tea, this is a good one. Easy to brew, this lasts 15+ steeps.
Beijing-based pu’erh vendor. Hobbes has positively reviewed many of their teas in the past.
2007 Taochaju Yiwu
A nice tea, with basic sweetness and fullness in the flavor. A well-rounded tea, with a lasting sweetness. This isn’t anything amazing (it’s plantation tea) and dies off after 5-7 steeps, but is very solid bang for the buck. This would probably make a decent benchmark tea to compare with other plantation tea from the Yiwu area.
2013 Taochaju Gua Feng Zhai
Like the 2014 Manzhuan, this is a very good tea. Great texture and complexity. Not nearly as intense as Yunnan Sourcing’s Gua Feng Zhai but plenty strong. Nice aroma, long-lasting huigan and aftertaste. A clear step above Yunnan Sourcing’s marketed Gua Feng Zhai (also far more expensive). This is worth a sample if new school pu’erh is your thing!
Other Producers (White2Tea)
2012 Cangyan Yiwu
A cake of this costs the same as a sample of the 2013 Taochaju Gua Feng Zhai! Decent, basic profile of an Yiwu. Sweet, easy drinking. Not as good as the 2007 Taochaju, but half the price. This is a good little Yiwu cake for those on a strict budget.
2005 Xiangming Factory Manzhuan
Drank this side-by-side with the 2014 Manzhuan in episode 60 of TeaDB. This is an easy-drinking tea, mellow and sweet. For my money, I would probably prefer the 2007 Taochaju Yiwu.
1998 Dry-Stored Yiwu
A sample courteously supplied by PM of White2Tea. This is an interesting tea with due to its storage and age. It maintains a different character than nearly all the other teas found in this post. An up-front plummy sweetness, with a deeper woody fermented flavor and a lasting sweet aftertaste. The woody flavor is not nearly as strong as it can be in traditionally stored teas. I don’t have a ton of experience with dry-stored teas of this age with the closest comparison I can make being to Origin Tea’s Red in Red. I find it to be very pleasant overall.
- Quality? Solid.
- Price? $2.50-40/oz. Really varies.
- Would order again? Definitely, prices are in line with quality and it is hard to argue with the price to quality ratio.
2013 Misty Peak Yiwu (Spring, Tealet)
Had this sample lying around from teas that Tealet had sent Denny and I to review for the show. A decent tea. Nutty, butter and sweet. Toastier and more noticeably floral than the other Yiwus.
2007 Yang Qing Hao Qiao Mu Gu Shu (Origin Tea)
Origin Tea crashes the party again! A very nice, complex tea that can be brewed for a long while. The Taiwanese storage has allowed for a much quicker aging process than the Kunming/Beijing storage of most of the other teas.
1999 Loose Yiwu (Origin Tea)
Hard to fit this tea into any sort of patterns. It is far more aged than anything else. Nevertheless it is an easy tea to drink, although it is not as developed as the 80s Wild Arbor that Origin also sells. It is sold out on Origin Tea, a very similar looking tea has since appeared on Puerh.sk.
Recommended Inexpensive Teas:
- 2012 Yunnan Sourcing Yi Wu Purple Tea (YS)
- 2007 Taochaju Yiwu (W2T)
Recommended Medium Price-Range Teas:
- 2004 Yong Pin Hao Xiang Ming (YS)
- 2005 Yong Pin Hao Stone-Pressed Yiwu (YS)
Recommended Premium Teas:
- 2002 Yong Pin Hao Red Yi Wu Zhengshan (YS)
- 2013 Taochaju Gua Feng Zhai (W2T)
- 2014 White2Tea Manzhuan (W2T)
What I learned
I enjoy Yiwu tea in general! I found myself having no issue drinking Yiwu pu’erh daily, frequently doing 2+ gong-fu sessions/day. This is a contrast to April’s Japanese greens which I found to be far more of a sludge. Most young Yiwus seem far easier to consume than young teas from other regions, i.e. Bulang. There were also very few teas that I simply did not enjoy in some fashion this month.
Yiwu is a big area, probably a bit too large for a single month. It is harder to understand the individual regional terroir with so many different sub-regions. I’d recommend paying closer attention to this than I did and buying multiple samples from very specific regions. That being said, drinking in this fashion and staring at maps of eastern Xishuangbanna has made this month educational. I also think I probably ordered too many teas. Writing this, I had a hard time recalling very strong memories of the teas and ended up heavily referencing my notes. Again, a big contrast from the previous two months where I was less overwhelmed with tea.
Doing this sort of order is best done through vendors like Yunnan Sourcing or Cha Wang Shop where you can sample a huge selection of teas. Vendors with a more limited selection are a bit trickier, but it’s quite interesting to compare what they’ve selected as “good buys” vs. the massive quantity of Yunnan Sourcing or Cha Wang Shop.
|2009 Guan Zi Zai “Gentleman’s Heart” Yi Wu raw tea cake||Yunnan Sourcing||Guan Zi Zai||$5.20||0.88||$5.91||OK.|
|2004 Guan Zi Zai “Yi Wu Jing Xuan 19”||Yunnan Sourcing||Guan Zi Zai||$8.00||0.88||$9.09||Good.|
|2009 Hai Lang Hao “Yi Wu Zheng Shan”||Yunnan Sourcing||Hai Lang Hao||$5.00||0.88||$5.68||Good.|
|2009 Hai Lang “Gao Shan Zhai Spring||Yunnan Sourcing||Hai Lang Hao||$4.00||0.35||$11.43||Good.|
|2010 Hai Lang Hao “Yi Shan Mo” Yi Wu Ancient Arbor||Yunnan Sourcing||Hai Lang Hao||$7.00||0.35||$20.00||Excellent.|
|2009 Hai Lang Hao “Spring Man Zhuan” Ancient Arbor||Yunnan Sourcing||Hai Lang Hao||$8.00||0.88||$9.09||Good+.|
|2013 Yiwu||Tealet||Misty Peak||$97.00||12.57||$7.72||Good.|
|1998 Dry-Stored Yiwu||White2Tea||–||$35.00||0.88||$39.77||Very Good.|
|2007 Taochaju Yiwu||White2Tea||Taochaju||$4.80||0.88||$5.45||Good.|
|2012 Cangyan Yiwu||White2Tea||Cangyan||$2.85||0.88||$3.24||OK.|
|1999 Loose||Origin Tea||Unknown||$7.22||0.88||$8.20||Good.|
|2007 Yang Qing Hao Qiao Mu Gu Shu||Origin Tea||Yang Qing Hao||$11.27||0.88||$12.81||Very Good.|
|2007 Yong Pin Hao “Yi Wu Mountain Chun Jian” Stone Pressed Pu-erh tea cake||Yunnan Sourcing||Yong Pin Hao||$3.50||0.88||$3.98||OK.|
|2004 Yong Pin Hao “Xiang Ming” Wild Arbor||Yunnan Sourcing||Yong Pin Hao||$7.00||0.88||$7.95||Good.|
|2002 Yong Pin Hao “Red Yi Wu Zheng Shan”||Yunnan Sourcing||Yong Pin Hao||$7.00||0.35||$20.00||Excellent.|
|2008 Yong Pin Hao “Man Zhuan Old Tree”||Yunnan Sourcing||Yong Pin Hao||$6.75||0.88||$7.67||Good.|
|2005 Yong Pin Hao Stone-Pressed Yiwu||Yunnan Sourcing||Yong Pin Hao||$5.00||0.88||$5.68||Good.|
|2009 Yunnan Sourcing * Road to Yi Wu “Ding Jia Zhai”||Yunnan Sourcing||Yunnan Sourcing||$11.00||0.88||$12.50||Meh.|
|2012 Yunnan Sourcing “Gao Shan Zhai” Spring Ancient Arbor||Yunnan Sourcing||Yunnan Sourcing||$10.00||0.88||$11.36||Good.|
|2013 Yunnan Sourcing “Xiang Ming”||Yunnan Sourcing||Yunnan Sourcing||$5.70||0.88||$6.47||Good.|
Next up for June: Nannuo Pu’erh