Essence of Tea

2010 EOT Manmai

Manmai Puer Tea

Warning: placeholder review ahead. I have been scuttling around Yunnan the past few weeks and will be on the road for the next  month. Having recently drank a lot of Manmai tea, I thought this post would do the trick of updating my blog and acting as a comparison to some of the tea I have had around Menghai this week.

EOT Puerh
Fragments of a sample

This sample was passed along to me. Fragments from a cake I have never laid eyes upon.

Judging teas in fragments gets a little bit tricky. Where was this tea? How was in stored? Is it representative of the whole cake or production?

The EOT Soup
The EOT Soup

The first traits of this tea that struck me were it’s color and it’s scent. Both the light yellowish color of the leaf and the raw green smell of the rinse suggest this tea is less than 3 years old, or generally green.

After delving further into the session, the soup continued on with a yellow color. There was some huigan [sweet aftertaste], but the other characteristics were not typical of my impression of a three year old Manmai. I had a 5 year old Manmai in Manmai that was in the opposite direction of this cake.

I still have yet to get around to trying other teas from Essence of Tea, other than samples passed my way by friends and puer lovers. Hopefully I will get a shot at some others.

Essence of Tea Green
The spent leaf
Cheng Guang He Tang

2010 Yiwu Tea King (CGHT)

All Hail ye Yiwu Tea King

Ah, yet another king of tea, this time, an Yiwu tea king [cha wang]. The warring states in the Puer tea kingdoms have yet to decide on their one true ruler. With more claims to the monarchy than Game of Thrones, it is always interesting to see which teas can hold their own on the battlefield… Winter is coming.

Dry chunk of his majesty

This cake has a much better claim to the throne than most “tea kings”. The cake is beautiful to look at. Some large leaves and medium compression. Its smell is lightly smokey, probably some leftovers from extra heat during processing. After a rinse, the gaiwan lid has aromas of vanilla, while the leaves have a scent of prunes.  This cake is heavy on aromas, which continued evolving throughout.

Early brews of m’Lord

The first steep was mildly sour on the tongue. Early in the session, a persistent huigan [sweet aftertaste] came into the mouth. Some calming qi, and a bit of energy in the caffeine realm. (Perhaps I went overboard when filling my gaiwan – I noted I was listening to Kanye, which is a rare tea session accompaniment and says a lot about the strength of my brew) The Yiwu tea king apparently has a penchant for American hip hop.

Yiwu Puerh Tea
More soup

This Yiwu feels like it has strength enough to age, and even being two years old, has a slight aged taste to it already -or at least, it does not taste young. With a strong presence and pleasant malty sweetness, this session was very much enjoyable. Chenguanghe Tang (CGHT) Yiwu Tea King cakes are always welcome in my gaiwan – if someone else is paying.

This was a post from an old session, cleaning out some backlogs of notes.

Spent Puer Tea
Spent Puer Tea
Naka Puerh Tea

Taobao Tea Roulette : 2010 “Naka”

The Sting of Taobao Tea

Ordering $4 tea off of Taobao is kind of like playing roulette. The odds are against you – to a degree that make roulette look like a wise investment. After scouring taobao tea with dreams of winning big, but you would be thrilled to get any return at all. In all likely hood, you will walk away a loser. There is a reason the Venetian has enough money to hire gondoliers to sing to you; it’s a rigged game. So, why do we gamble? Addiction Hope. Hope is the reason.

New pair of Guafengzhai

As for myself, I’ve never been a roulette man, a craps man, or even a casino man. What I am, is a taobao tea man. I enjoy flipping around $3 or $20 or…let’s not talk about amounts, the point is, I enjoy laying bets and seeing if I can turn up a gem once in awhile.

Taobao Naka Puer
White wrapper Naka Puer from Taobao

This habit has turned up its fair share of shit tea, but once in awhile, you get lucky. This cake is an example of the excremental side of the dice rolling. One of many cakes where I spun the wheel – and lost. So…Why write about? No reason really, except that somebody noticed a stray comment I had made on a message board referring to this tea, and was curious if it was this yexiangwang tea. I decided to clear up which tea was which, and also try to point out some of the silver linings of the cloud that is this “Naka” tea.

First, let’s start with a basic question – is this Naka tea? The most logical answer would be – no. Why is this not Naka tea? Well, for one thing, Naka raw material ought to be more expensive than $2 per 357g. If someone tries to sell you a real Rolex on a street corner for $10, the most obvious question is “why $10”? I knew this going in to the purchase, but was curious what they were trying to pass off as Naka for the same price as a happy meal.

Taobao Gamble
The deceivingly pretty dry leaves

After a rinse, this tea leaves the gaiwan smelling fruity and sweet. The lid also has a beany aftersmell (neither of those are actually words). The first steep is very cloudy and dirty. Lots of floating bits and a lack of clarity in the soup. I decide to pour it out and score it as a double rinse.

The first drinkable steep is a dark golden color, with higher clarity than the first two rinses, but a bit more dirty than most good puer. Black floaty dots stubbornly remain despite repeated rinsing; I decide to drink them, as the alernative seems to be an additional five rinses and I am a lazy, lazy man.

Puer Soup
Puer Soup

The soup is very se [astringent], with a very light kuwei [pleasant bitterness], and no throat or mouthfeel to speak of. The tea is in and out of the mouth in a flash, like drinking hot water.

The next steeps stay in the mouth a little longer, with the clarity maintaining its cloudiness. It is difficult to pinpoint where this tea is from, but I think Lincang would a reasonable guess. The price, flavors, scents, and clarity would make a convincing argument. The tea never really becomes cleaner, in flavor or clarity. The throatfeel has moments of comfort, but they are fleeting.

Spent leaves
Spent leaves

The tea drifts along through the session in roughly the same way it began, a bit harsh and dull. But, let’s review our fact sheet: $4. 357g. You don’t go to McDonald’s and complain that your burger is overcooked. For $4, you take what you get, which in this case, is a dirty lincang-ish cake. You could do worse, but you could also do better. I chalk it up to another small loss at the taobao casino.

I would not really recommend this cake to anyone, but if you want to try it for the sake of masochism research, i can break you off a piece. I have plenty left. Or, go here.

Puer Tea Blog

2010 Fujin Cangpin Qingbing

The last Fujin puer, for now…

After reviewing my last post, it was apparent that I am lacking enthusiasm for reviewing these Fujin teas. So, for the sake of sparing my own sanity, this is the last Fujin puer review i will be posting for awhile.

The 2010 Fujin Cangpin Qingbing claims to contain spring Banzhang material. It retails between USD 50-100, depending on your dealer, about half the price of the 2010 Diancang. I do not care to speculate on what the material is exactly, but at least they did not add a lao [old] in front of the Banzhang. This cake did at least bear some vague resemblance to Banzhang tea, so, who am i to judge?

Fujin Puer Tea
Dry Fujin puer

Again, tightly pressed, factory, yada yada yada.

Tea Gaiwan
Gaiwan full of tea

Early in the session this tea had some enjoyable vibrancy dancing around on the tongue and lips. The first few steeps had some wonderful floral smoothness that coated my throat and mouth. Unfortunately, midway through the session, these lovely traits vanished.

Puer sessions are a bit like a 400m race. The unsuccessful runner blows their energy in the first 50 meters and can not make it to the finish line. This particular Fujin puer is a great sprinter.

Tea cup
Soup in the cup

The tea yielded a lovely golden liquor. I was steeping into the several minute range fairly early in the session in order to coax out some more of the character that was lurking in the leaves. I have had this similar experience with other Fujin puer.

The qi [energy] that was around in the early brews disappeared later on, along with the huigan [sweet aftertaste] and throat feel. It became harsh in the throat, despite having a coated mouth feel throughout the session.

Spent Puer Tea
A look at the spent Fujin Qingbing leaves

In an perfect world, the sprint speed of the early session would have carried on until the end, but sprinters and marathoners are different beasts.

Note: To those readers who saw my mourning of Cel A’ Don (2008-2012), you will notice the photos above show him as a younger, more viral lid. The next few posts are teas from a few weeks ago, before he met his untimely demise. I mean no disrespect to his family and appreciate his service. Let these next few posts honor his memory
Fujin Puer

2010 Fujin Diancang Raw Puer

Fujin Raw Puer Extravaganza

More Fujin raw puer, in a continuation of samples from the 2006 Fujin Bulang. This tea is younger than the Bulang, but commands a higher price. As I noted in my earlier article, Fujin is quite well known for having ambitious pricing. This particular cake, the dian cang [典藏] is translated to mean; a repository of items of cultural significance. Well, alright then…

Raw puer Fujin
Dry 2012 Fujin Puer tea

The dry leaves were again tightly compressed, and looked typical of a sizeable factory production. There was a smell of raw tobacco, and a bit of stank. The chunk that I brewed off of this cake was also quite tippy.

Puer tea
A look at the youngish liquor


The first few steeps were dormant and the tea took awhile to open up. The young raw puer taste of tobacco and bitterness arrived soon after, along with a bit of harshness in the throat, presumably due to its age. In my notebook I drew a big arrow from steeps 5-9 and wrote:

No change, monotonous

I did note that when I pushed hard and oversteeped late in the session, there was some maltyness that came out, but that was not enough to bring to the tea into my good graces.  The spent leaves looked fairly healthy, and the cake did have enough strength to have potential for aging.

puer tea leaf
A leaf with a bug bite

I probably won’t revisit this tea in the near future. In the meantime, hopefully the guardians of cultural relics will tend to its aging and be kind enough to break me off a chunk in a decade. As noted above, Fujin prices are steep – this cake retails on taobao for 1200 RMB- 2000 RMB (~USD 190- USD315), depending on the vendor. It is not on my shopping list.

Raw puer
A look at the whole and healthy spent leaves