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.
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.
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.
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.
This is the last of my nostalgic holiday time posts. I am currently back in China, but before I left I participated in some much needed gaming. This post will recount that experience, in the traditional literary style of a Magic: The Gathering tournament report. I heard it is a bad strategy to write blog posts that alienate and confuse 99.8% of your audience, but we will be back next post with regularly scheduled programming.
I didn’t have much time to prepare for the Type Tea tournament. I’ve been out of the game* for awhile, but was ready to make a triumphant return to the DCI. I grabbed some old decks that had been sitting in my closet and mixed them together. My deck was not potent. A shabby compilation of common garbage thrown together last minute. I grabbed a 2012 Dayi Chatou brick for a shu, a crappy Bulang from 2007, and a Xiaguan 2012 Yiwu tuo. My veteran experience would have to compensate for my decks overall crapulence and lack of play testing.
Round 1: Xiaguan/Bulang vs. 15 Year Old Scotch
I sit down for round one and some balding guy sits across from me. I figure he probably has some experience, because he is one of the older guys at the tournament. I start shuffling, he wins the roll and decides to play. I mulligan to 6, but decide to keep because I draw a demon Bulang combo.
His first turn he drops a swamp, mox diamond, pitching another swamp, and casts a Glenlivet 15 year old scotch onto the table. I immediately call for a judge. I was under the impression this was a type tea tournament, where does he get the idea he can maindeck a 15 year old scotch? The Judge, a portly gentleman, waddled over and leaned on the table, which could barely support his weight.
“What seems to be the problem?” he wheezed.
“Scotch is banned in Type Tea.”
“This is a vintage tournament. Scotch is perfectly legal.”
This is going to be a rough match.
I drop an tea kettle and start heating some water, but I can’t match his early scotch. 0-1
Game 2, he gets another early jump, dropping a Jura on turn 3. I get a couple of steeps in with my Bulang, but the scotch has a much better finish. 0-2. That was a quick round and my sideboard didn’t have much to deal with the scotch. I decide to get some D&D in before round two.
Round 2: Xiaguan/Bulang vs. Apple Pie
My opponent this round was also unaware of the Vintage format and brought a newly brewed Apple Pie deck. He looks like a bit of a scrub, I figure I can take this round and still Top 8 if I win out.
Win the roll, decide to play. Keep an opening round Xiaguan Yiwu Tuo draw. He drops an early Battleflight Eagle, which is going to be tough to deal with. He insisted it was a valuable card, which seemed like nonsense. It’s a 4W 2/2 flier and its common. They have never even printed an eagle rare. In any case, I didn’t have many main deck fliers, so I am peeling for a prayer. The eagle keeps swinging in for two shots and I scoop. 0-1
Game two. I sideboard in some brats to deal with the Apple Pie/Eagle Rare non-bo. I get mana screwed against an early Apple Pie. This is a homemade combo if I have ever seen one. If there is one thing I hate losing to, it is scrubby decks with 5 drop 2/2 fliers and homemade combos.
The 1/1 Apple Pie swings in for one shot after another, I underestimate its impact on the match. After a few turns, I still can’t peel an answer and the Apple Pie damage is starting to add up.
I drop a gaiwan to block, but I am already at 8 life. The gaiwan makes short work of the apple pie, but he shatters my gaiwan and I only have two in hand. At this point I need to topdeck an answer.
Next turn he drops a 1/1 Smirnoff and a 1/1 PBR. I am not too worried, I’ve got answers. I peel an island, go. He casts overrun and swings with both. I cast dizzy spell, -3/-0 on the PBR, I refuse to take that damage. It buys me another turn.
I peel another blank. He casts Shred Memory and swings for 2. (Side Note: why was he maindecking this? 3 colors with maindeck overrun and splash for shred memory, why am i losing?) I reluctantly take damage from Smirnoff & PBR, putting me at 1. I scoop and decide to get some cake and water to take the sting off the loss.
I figure there is no way I make the top 8 starting 0-2, so I drop.
– The Apple Pie / Eagle Rare was a spicy combo. The damage adds up a lot faster than you think. Still don’t know about 3 color overrun.
I am in the midst of a lingering cold and taking a break from taking notes on puer. Please accept these brief notes on a session from a few months ago, while I patiently wait for my nasal passages to resume accepting air.
This session was a bit light in the weight department, probably about 5 grams, about 1/2 what I normally use. I used less water, filling my gaiwan only half way to try to keep things in check.
The tea has a definite middle-aged smell, with a little bit of plum and fruits on the gaiwan lid.
The soup is on the dark side of gold, but not quite copper. Cereal, dried grass and grains, with a subtle sweetness in the mouth. Out of the 5 grams, there are only about 3 good steeps, before the tea stumbles into a generic Yiwu thinness.
Some past reviews of this tea put its price down at a humble $35, just a few years ago. Now, this tea commands a much higher price, mostly due to its brand name, rather than a sudden increase in quality. The material for this cake is fairly average, and for the damage this cake does to your wallet, better teas can be had. Thanks to Jakub for the sample!
Another tea from the Chenshenghao brand, this time an Yiwu puer. I may have made the mistake of leading with the strongest in a bunch of samples in my previous post. From here on out, my enthusiasm for the brand dwindles. (NO! WAIT! Don’t click close! This review is really interesting, I swear!)
The dry leaves show a good blend of tippy material with some larger leaves. The tangle of leaves carries a pungent, sweet aroma.
After a rinse, the aroma becomes even sweeter with some light overtones of fruit.
The first few infusions are creamy, pleasant.
Pleasantness is nice, but if highschool taught me anything, it is the limitations of pleasantness. Pleasant is good for a chat in the cafeteria, but it will never get you a date with a prom queen. It’s better to have an attitude. A motorcycle. A name like Dylan McKay.
That was a terrible analogy/90210 reference, but what I am getting at is the general Milquetoast nature of this tea. The following infusions barely deviate at all. If one was looking for a tea with depth or evolution, this would not be the cake to settle on. There is a gentle kuwei [pleasant bitterness] and …and…and that is about all. Not a whole lot of character, just a quiet and generic Yiwu puer.
Whether this kind of Yiwu puer ages well is anybody’s guess, but I refer my readers to this thread on teachat, where some experienced puer drinkers have a discussion that dances around this issue. This tea probably does not have the strength to age beyond 5-10 years, but that is just this humble puer junkies semi-educated guess. With a lack of strength and definitive character at such a young age, it is not a gamble I would want to take. We shall see , maybe this tea will be worth USD 500 a decade from now and i will have to bake up some humble pie.
Knowing Chenshenghao’s tendency to push up their prices, I may need to preheat my oven.
Douji’s prices have been steadily gaining in recent years, at an even faster pace than spring material from Yiwu. Devotees of Douji may remember the prices listed by Hobbes in this vintage (…2009) post; back when a nickel would buy you a steak and kidney pie, a cup of coffee, a slice of cheesecake and a newsreel, with enough change left over to ride the trolley from Battery Park to the polo grounds. (Citation)
Unfortunately for those of us in 2012, those days are long gone. Their 2012 Naka fetches a price that makes me squirm, and their Yiwu ranks even higher on the price scale (~690 RMB). That is a tough price to justify, but I have to admit, this is a fine Yiwu.
Lots of big leaves, buds, and thick stems. Loosely pressed, and quite easy on the eyes. One of the sexier spring cakes I have seen in 2012.
The first steep was very astringent. On the second steep, I took the eloquent note:
worried it’s going to suck
Luckily that forecast was 100% wrong, and by the third steep it became very entertaining. There was a very strong cooling in the mouth and throat, and some nice qi [voodoo] for an Yiwu.
The huigan [sweet aftertaste] and feeling in the mouth with persistent. My throat felt like it was coated in warm butter. As you can see from the photo above, the color is not unlike that of melted butter, so perhaps there is some relation.
There is a reason that Yiwu is a famous region for tea, and this Douji Yiwu is a stellar example of that reason. The price is steep, at roughly USD 110. Is it worth that much? It depends if you are an investment banker or a public school teacher. The tea is excellent, made with high quality healthy leaves, a blend of broad leafs and buds, with thick stems, as in the picture below. If you are short on time (or geographically distant) and can not search through high-end spring teas to buy, this would not be a bad place to settle. If I had to choose USD 90 for Liming from 2005 or tacking on 20 dollars to your bill for this Yiwu, there is no contest. You upgrade to the Yiwu.
For the more budget conscious consumer, you might want to set your sites on other brands and snoop around lesser known regions.
If I ever press an Yiwu purple puer tea, I will have an extraordinarily difficult time naming it. I won’t bore you with the hundreds of suitable names I have come up with in my free time, but atop my list are “Purple drank“, “Grimace’s delight”, and “Screwed up and chopped“. (or maybe just Lean?… have I lost everyone yet? I am trying to win the award for most 1990’s Houston hip hop references for a tea blogentry this year)
Scott, from Yunnan Sourcing, has gone with a much more direct approach, and named this “Yi Wu Purple Tea”. I actually appreciate his directness, especially considering he could have named it something like Purple Dragon Twilight Emperor’s Blend.
A Quick Bit of Background
Before I jump into this tea blog review. A small discourse evolved around this tea on the popular forum teachat. You can view the thread here. Quick Summary, another puer drinker (Debunix, whose blog can be found here) and I had some differing opinions on this tea. Nothing wrong with differing opinions, and I quite liked the comparison Debunix made between the 2012 Dehong Purple and the Yiwu Purple, which I drank around the same time as the Yiwu purple, but have yet to finish the tea blog post for. I only regret that I had already finished off my sample by the time the discussion occurred, so I never had the chance to drink them side by side like Debunix did, which would have made for a more interesting tea blog comparison.
Back to Tea Blog Tomfoolery
The leaves are attractive and my poor photograph does not capture the depth of the plum purple hue. The sample I had was loosely packed with plenty of large leaves. The smell was light and sweet, and matched the color – if smells can match colors.
If you read the thread above, you know where this is going. One way ticket to Sourtown. Here are some notes I jotted down in my log whilst drinking:
Steep 1: Astringent on the tip of the tongue, some non-distinct Yiwu sugar
Steep 2: Sourness, slight kuwei [bitterness], astringent, a little white sugar on the back end, the cup smells like butter
Steep 3: The gaiwan smells like 7-grain bread, golden colored soup, more sour
(blah blah blah)
Steep 5: Not much going on, sour on the front end, some soft yiwu huigan [sweetness in the mouth after drinking]
(further blah blah blah)
Steep 7: Acerbic the whole way through
When I wrote acerbic, I was thinking of a specific flavor. A lemon wedge that has been left in an exposed glass of water overnight. The reason I know this flavor so well, is due to a personal habit of leaving lemon wedge stuffed water glasses out overnight and drinking them the day after. It is an acquired taste… acquired by being too lazy to throw out old water.
I also made an interesting note, that I was having more fun smelling the cups than drinking the tea, mainly due to the sourness. But, also due to the lovely evolving fragrances the tea was leaving behind in the gongbei [communal cup] after each steep.
Aesthetically, the leaves look healthy, robust. Lots of plump stems and big tea leaves.
Since there was such a difference in what Debunix and myself experienced, I thought I would make a shortlist of possible reasons for the discrepancy:
got a bad chunk of cake
stray lemon rind got pressed got discarded into the maocha
I steeped twice as much tea as Debunix (as you can see from the pictures, I loaded the gaiwan with gluttony*)
mistakenly used vinegar to brew tea in lieu of water
just wasn’t my bag (see: some people like apples, some like oranges)
top level tea blog conspiracy
*I normally steep on the gluttonous (see: American) side of things, and have rarely experienced sour flavor like this, but I am still not ruling it out as a possible reason. If nothing else, it is a variable in our experiment
Whatever the reason, I can not say this was the most enjoyable tea session I have ever had – but it was also not that bad. I want to get another sample, just so i can give the Yiwu purple another go around on the tea blog. That being said, if I was to order a young tea from Yunnan Sourcing tomorrow, I would decidedly prefer the Wu Liang Shan 2012 over the Yiwu Purple.