Don’t Call it Wet! YS Guangdong and Banna Stored Tastings

Yunnan Sourcing has quietly added quite a selection of semi-aged pu’erh stored in more humid conditions, not a bad feat for a vendor mainly known for Kunming dry-stored tea and the YS label. Getting the sample itch, I convinced my local tea friend Garrett (also featured in the MX report) to split a few samples and write up some notes. We picked a handful of teas that looked interesting and added a couple teas I already own that fit into the category.

  • For value shoppers looking for the best deals, Yunnan Sourcing also has regular 10-12% off sales that rotate between categories. Waiting for those sales is a good way to save a little money.
Guangdong/Banna Stored Teas
Guangdong/Banna Stored Teas.

Tea Notes

2003 Bulang Brick


This is worth sampling for fans of the White Whale and Old Bear. This fits into the burly factory-style category. Still very smoky but of the pleasant, sweeter sort. Not too bitter. The high compression and smoke gives it a rugged, blue-collar feel but it’s aged enough to be drinkable. Decent and fast-acting huigan. Viscosity is medium. I can respect this sort of tea but have realized that it’s not really my style nor something that ends up as my daily brew very often. 


Strong sweet Kansas barbeque initially and mild astringency. No somatic reaction. Thinner, not as ‘sticky’ viscosity-wise as most of the equally smoky Xiaguan sampled in last report. Light vegetal flavors come through in the later steeps.

2006 Pasha Mountain


I am a fan of the 2006 Haiwan Pasha that now sells for quite a bit and was curious to try this but ended up being a bit disappointed. Aroma changes very frequently from sugary to fruity to grassy/floral. The viscosity is thin throughout but the tea is quite bitter, sometimes in the pill-like category. There also isn’t much sweetness in the aftertaste. For those that like their tea very strong. I will add as a caveat, that a few tea friends have tried and enjoyed it..


Mild astringency and brash/generalized green flavors despite noted wetter storage. Light mushroom. Six steeps in and I am already feeling “meh”.

2008 HLH Star of Bulang


A cake I blind bought back in 2014.. Starts out juicy with darker fruits, leather. Then it really builds up in intensity and bitterness. It’s a bit slow to convert to sweetness but does so slowly throat and in the mouth. It’s an OK enough tea for those that like their tea strong and the price might make it appealing for those operating on a very tight budget. For me this is nothing to get too excited over though and a tea that needs to be heavily moderated with brewing. Unlike the 2003 Bulang brick there’s only a little smoke in it.


Light nuttiness, mild astringency, edging quickly off into some generic bitter and butteriness akin to younger raw puerh.  Dark fruitiness similar to the Mengku Wild Arbor. Grassy/floral aroma throughout entire session. No somatic reaction or huigan.

2002 Yiwu Ancient Spirit


These Yiwus tend to hit the spot for me. I’ve always enjoyed this tea and still find this to be a solid and consistent brew. Starting to brew red. Sweet, back of the mouth sweetness. Later on gets more grains, floral, and slight plum. Sweetness lasts. Decent viscosity. It’s a bit further along compared with the Jinglong and Lucky Brand, although those two may be better value buys. Slight syrup mouthfeel to it. Some light smoke early.


Highly astringent/drying drinking experience with light mushrooms and honey-like sweet throughout first 6 steeps. Some light huigan noticed midway through session. Light pinewood/floral sweet aroma throughout entire session. Lucky Brand is more mellow almost soothing compared to the strength of the Ancient Sprit.

2005 Lucky Brand Yiwu


Generally tasty and smooth, a bit drier than the Jing Long. Dry apricots, grassy, sugary. Very clean and still fairly green. Brewed a second time in clay, the brew is a bit stronger and gets sour. In the soft wood Yiwu category. Huigan remains the same but there’s less dry fruit up front. Later on it moves into a floral, light fruity vibe.


Some mild astringency throughout entire session, in mid-steeps a light fruity sweetness and light huigan became noticeable. A grassy and camphorated aroma. No smoke and no somatic reaction.

2005 Jing Long Tribute


Like a darker, fruitier version of the Lucky Brand. Maybe a small tick up on the humidity scale. Also a small tick up on my own rating. A bit smoother, fairly sweet, a nice balanced profile. Very clean.


Light smoke and astringent in first few steeps tapering out into a smoother butter liquor. Mild huigan. Overall non-descript.

2005 CNNP Big Yellow Mark


Probably the standout of the tasting. Good strength but also tasty enough to enjoy now. Woody, malt a lot of florals, and a light sweetness. Oily, viscosity is moderate. There’s a light astringency throughout. The sweetness is lasting and it steeps out into a basic floral profile.There’s a smokiness throughout the session. Nice mouthfeel. Decent depth, a bit of astringency that is lightly drying. I have no idea where this is from but it’s a fun brew. I’d easily choose this over the other smoky tea in this tasting (Bulang Brick).


Light smoke flavor off initial steeps which works into a wood pinewood/mushroomy flavor during mid-steeps. Light smoke and floral aroma throughout entire session, and a mild huigan. Nice strength and longevity compared to most samples on this report.

2005 Mengku Wild Arbor Zhengshan Daye


I drank this a bit over a year ago and feel like this has either aired out significantly or is from a different batch/storage. This is much greener, higher and more floral and considerably greener than my memory. It also tastes a lot more what I’d imagine northern tea to taste like. Sweeter, malt, florals.


Darker fruits and floral flavors with a fair amount of green bitter. Heavy floral aroma. No funky storage flavors/aroma. A bit too green for my taste.

2002 Yiwu Huangpian (W2T)


Another easily available tea that fits in the same category and price range. No roughnesss or bitterness or astringency to it. Could probably be boiled like white tea. There are some similarities to both Heicha and white tea. Woody, lightly medicinal. It reminds me the most of these old bootleg DVDs I bought off ebay 10 years ago of an old samurai series. Probably a totally unhelpful comparison for anyone, but the aromas are peculiarly similar. Daily drinker for someone after a super mellow, easy to drink brew that isn’t low, oily and earthy like traditionally stoerd pu’erh.


Medicinal think ‘Ricola’, light peppery in the initial steeps edging out into a generic woody sweetness later on. No somatic, no smokiness. No crazy storage flavors. Soft.

Tea Table + Ratings

Tea Vendor $ Quantity Cost/g J Rating G Rating
2003 Bulang Brick Yunnan Sourcing $82.00 250 $0.33 C. C-
2006 Pasha Yunnan Sourcing $55.00 357 $0.15 D. D
2008 HLH Star of Bulang Yunnan Sourcing $46.00 357 $0.13 C. C
2002 Yiwu Ancient Spirit Yunnan Sourcing $99.00 380 $0.26 B-. C
2005 Lucky Brand Yiwu Yunnan Sourcing $60.00 357 $0.17 C+. C
2005 Jinglong Tribute Yunnan Sourcing $86.00 357 $0.24 B-. C
2005 CNNP Big Yellow Mark Yunnan Sourcing $66.00 357 $0.18 B-. C+
2005 Mengku Zhengshan Daye Yunnan Sourcing $63.00 400 $0.16 C+. C-
2002 Yiwu Huangpian White2Tea $49.00 200 $0.25 C+. C

Final Thoughts & The Case For These Teas

I’ve talked before about the depressing (to me) trend of young pu’erhs dominance in the western pu’erh enthusiasts mind. The tea is fresh, the wrappers are sexy, you don’t have to deal with the nebulous pu-storage, and there are seemingly straightforward statements on terroir. I get it.. But I think for many such as myself, there’s a preference for the minority category, more aged teas. For those interested in this category, this category of teas on YS is a fine place to start.

If you are new, on a budget, and interested in getting your feet wet YS should be on the top of the list.. None of these teas are the absolute best of the category, but most are solid for the price and are cheaper than the average young pu’erh offered by a vendor. I also would argue that they give a better glimpse at what aged pu’erh can be like compared with the Kunming-stored alternatives. I also vastly prefer these over Kunming-stored teas.. It’s also worth noting that even though these teas are put under “wetter storage” category on YS, I find Scott tends to choose teas that are on the clean end.


  • 2005 CNNP Big Yellow Mark
  • 2002 Tailian International Tea Expo (not consumed in this report and also Kunming stored but interesting)
  • 2005 Jinglong or 2005 Lucky Brand or 2002 Yiwu Ancient Spirit (broad Yiwu category)

You could also make a case for something like Bana Tea Company which is a very different shop from YS and more curated. I think there’s merit in both, but I think I’d choose YS due to the vastness of options (ideally order from both). Other companies also offer a few options, but many are more expensive and aren’t as easy to sample from as YS.

18 responses to “Don’t Call it Wet! YS Guangdong and Banna Stored Tastings”

  1. Curiously enough the top rated teas have increased in price (2002 Yiwu Spirit +20%, 2005 BYM +15%, 2005 Jinglong Tibute is out of stock, could’t check)… Scott is definitely following this blog, I hope he is not exploiting it.

    Generally, I’m in favor of vendors announcing their (yearly) price increases beforehand, like for example w2t does ( This way it has a certain smack to it…

    • I agree; The 20% price increase on the Yiwu Spirit happened to coincide with the 13% off Black Friday Sale… I was thinking about purchasing that cake before I noticed the increase. I posted on reddit and was told no one elses teas had raised in price but now I know I’m not crazy! I actually ordered a sample of the 2005 Jinglong awhile back and ordered it during the Black Friday sale; after I ordered it it became out of stock (only bought 1 cake) so I guess they were running low. It’s a wonderful tea.

      • tol, Mallory,

        Interesting. I will note that we wrote this report a couple months ago and ordered the samples a little bit before that. Quite possible that Scott would do a price hike just because we waited a while.

        tol – Good point. I also like that approach although I can sympathize with the headache of doing that for anyone with an inventory as vast as the YS catalog.

        Mallory – Glad to hear you were able to pickup one of the last cakes of the Jinglong.


  2. Have you consider the Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company? A small but interesting selection, prices seem low. US based.

    • Hi Peter,

      Thanks for the rec.. They’ve been on my radar for a bit and I am indeed curious since I do like my fair share of Taiwan stored teas.. Prices are indeed low.


      • The Beautiful Taiwan Tea people seem to be good folks. I tried samples of 8 of their shengs, most of which are Zhong Cha. I am sorry to say that they generally seemed to live down to Zhong Cha’s reputation. In general the teas seem to have excellent clean traditional storage and character, but seem to lack depth and substance, with Yiwu cited origins in a couple of instances that make one wonder a bit. Their version of the humble 2009 Dayi #7542 that you reviewed recently appealed to me the most, though I was really looking for older teas. It is nicely priced at $49.00 a 357g cake. If you try any of these, I would be very interested in your far more expert opinion and assessment.

        • Fair enough. I’ll post here if something comes my way. I do think there’s good reason to be skeptical about the tea’s purported provenance..

  3. Did either of you end up buying a full size cake after splitting these samples between you both? I’m guessing no? Maybe the vendors are not really at fault, but that what is available are teas experienced drinkers don’t really want to buy.

    Then there is the question of whether shelling out $50-100 a beeng is better than saving the money for something rather nice. I own two of the 2005 Yellow Mark here, which is a well over $100 investment. The thought doesn’t escape me that the same money is on the way to something much better.

    • I take the view that even if I bought a 1kg basket of Liu Bao each time I sit down for a session with the same tea from the same batch no two sessions will be the same. The tea is the platform for these experiences and hence you have to ask yourself do I want to experience many different experiences with the same tea that becomes like a reliable old friend you always invite to dinner as you know the value they add (i.e. investing in bings and tongs and baskets) or do you want to experience many different experiences with different teas and enjoy the diversity of their company (i.e. exploring samples).

      • Well met, beautifully put. I was asking about the whole premise in light of the rather meh “grades” the authors give these particular teas. The grades are rather honest on their part, to publish on these teas with the premise that vendors should offer more “damp” (not wet, ok 😉 teas, and by extension people should buy damp teas, when the teas on offer here are not that great. These teas don’t really support the premise as well as some teas the authors might favor and recommend others to buy. I give the authors some credit for standing by their premise even when they can’t find anything to really recommend to their own wallet.

        • lulugirl & Jonny,

          Thanks for the comments and thoughts. Here’s two quick responses.

          (a) We did not buy full cakes. Your point a fair one, Although I’ll note that for me ~95% of the teas I do sample don’t end up being a full cake buy and I’ve become increasingly picky.

          (b) You’re right about nothing being a slam dunk here.. I actually think that Big Yellow Mark is a solid tea and the best buy of the whole litter. Even at $75 (post price-hike) I think it’s well-priced. Yes, I didn’t buy but I also struggle to come up with something easily available I’d recommend over it for that same price per g.


  4. I actually really enjoy the 2006 Mountain. I tasted lots of spice notes in it. I ended up buying a bing after sampling but the sample needed a month or so to rest. I liked the Yiwu Ancient Spirit quite a bit but the price was already a bit much for me at $90 something.

    • Right on. It’s possible that we just got a weird session with it. I had a couple experienced friends tell me that they liked the tea and ended up with a cake.

      Yes, the Ancient Spirit was ~$60 when I bought it a few years back.


  5. Interestingly, I own cakes of 3 of these teas (the Pasha, the Yellow Mark, and the Mengku). All were got as cheap daily drinkers, and rating them as such I’d give them higher marks than you. My Pasha cake is surprisingly well-matured for something not 12 years old yet, but as long as you’re not drinking it the same day as something good it’s pretty palatable. Or so I find.

    I concur that the Yellow Mark is the best of the 3, though mine is still so green I took one taste and put it in the bottom of a stack that I’m not looking at again any time soon.

    • Thanks for the comment.

      Really sounds like Garrett and I might be in the minority on that Pasha cake. I’ve probably heard half a dozen remarks since publishing this report that contradict our take. I can’t blame you re: Yellow Mark. I think it’s the most interesting and has a lot of substance, but it’s definitely still got its share of green. If I owned a few cakes, I’m not sure how much I would drink it either.

      A general note on the ratings.. They may seem to say that the teas are worst than they are. I wanted to leave room on the top for more premium teas. These teas are all priced pretty well IMO and we weren’t intending to disparage them.

      • Yeah you don’t want to be Steepster where every tea is above average.

        Another way of looking at it, which would justify a lower rating maybe, is that I don’t think the Pasha cake has a future to speak of. Maybe the flip side of “wow that’s brown for its age” is “there wasn’t really much to it to begin with.”

        • Good comment, its very easy to slip into the mode where every tea is “amazing” and just because a bing is expensive does’nt guarantee its a great tea. I’ve sometimes discovered in the back of my stores some hongcha that I’d forgotten about that with a bit of age on it hits the A and B grades over sometimes hyped factory Puerh productions. I respect the honesty of James and Garrett’s appraisal, so refreshing to hear!
          I also think Aardvark Cheeselog makes a good point in that some of the factory productions are so wet piled and ripened i.e “brown” they haven’t much more to give and although you are paying for the standard and quality in cost I feel sometimes you are missing out on the experience, nobody particularly wants to shell out $70 on a daily drinker (or perhaps they do??).
          Think its time to promote the age-old tradition of mixing raw and ripe Puerh tea.

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