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Tag: monthly tea subscription

White2Tea November 2015 Subscription Box: 2015 Pin Raw Pu’erh

Sometimes, you strike the jackpot. It felt like that earlier this month when I saw what was awaiting me inside the November 2015 White2Tea subscription box: a single cake of raw pu’erh that weighed 200 grams! Considering the price of a monthly box, this month’s selection was a bargain. And I’m always happy to get a bargain.

It’s even better when the bargain looks like a piece of Warholian art. Get a load of this wrapper! White2Tea has some of the most creative packaging in the business, and this beauty is no exception:


So, what was this month’s tea? The company is calling it “2015 Pin”. I know there’s a reason for it, based on an Anglicization of a certain character of Chinese script, but since I know little about the language, I’ll leave it at that. Here’s the full description from the White2Tea site, though:

The Pin is a blend of three years of high quality material (2013, 2014, and 2015) with Lincang character. The tea has a sweet flavor and a heavy fragrance. The texture of the soup is much smoother than our other 2015 productions due to the blended material from previous years, which was stored in Menghai prior to pressing. An excellent tea to drink now or save to drink several years down the line.

So, there are three pairs of Andy-Warhol-esque lips on the wrapper to represent the three different annual harvests of leaf that comprise the cake. Sounds straightforward enough. My cat Gracie remains unimpressed, however.


Gracie is unimpressed with my Andy Warhol tea. She’s more of a Jackson Pollock cat.

Too bad, Gracie! This tea is just begging to be opened up and tasted. And what a beauty it is once it’s unwrapped! The cake is a tightly compressed mass of dark green, with strands of silver, beige, khaki and white interspersed throughout. The dry leaf smells smoky and slightly fruity — pretty typical for a younger sheng.


I broke off 5.85 grams of dry leaf and gave the tea a quick rinse in 90°C water in my medium-sized gaiwan (about 130 mL). After the rinse, the smell of the leaf transformed from slightly smoky and fruity to intensely fermented — it was sour and reminded me of yogurt. I don’t mind this smell, but it was a surprise.

The first steep was very clear and had an amber tint to it like beer. The taste was refreshing: clear, smooth, with no sharpness or astringency. I noticed a slight bitter aftertaste.

The second steep was bitter and some smoke started to creep in. It’s possible I oversteeped this one, though, as I was slow to pour the liquid out of the gaiwan. Because of this, I noticed some astringency along with the bitterness. I took care during the third steep and was rewarded with liquid that was lighter in both colour and flavour – the bitterness hadn’t disappeared, but the fruitiness of the leaf came out to play. Despite the presence of fruit, though, the tea was still relatively herbal in flavour, with a bitter aftertaste.

The flavour stayed pretty consistent from here until the seventh steep. One thing I noticed about this tea is that its bitterness has a quality I feel on the middle and sides of my tongue, rather than the back of it. The mouthfeel and the flavour are both thin — this tea washes over my mouth smoothly, coats my tongue, and recedes quickly, leaving no trace. The colour lightened over time as well, becoming a pale gold rather than the amber it was at the beginning.


Things changed around the 8th steep, where I started to notice more fruitiness and a “sparkle” on my tongue. At this point, the liquid in my teapot had cooled by quite a bit, which makes me wonder whether it would be better to serve this tea at 85° or even 80°C, rather than the original temperature of 90°C. Subsequent western-style  brewing attempts hold true to this — the bitterness was more prominent at higher temperatures.

I still have a whole bunch of this tea left, so I’ll probably tinker with it more in the future. I also want to see how it tastes if I use less leaf (5 grams rather than ~6 grams).

You can learn more about the 2015 Pin cake from White2Tea here.

PS: Want another cat photo? Here you go.

Gracie is shocked, shocked I tell you, by the scandalous comic strips of Kate Beaton.

Gracie is shocked, shocked I tell you, by the fact that I’m reading some Kate Beaton.

White2Tea October 2015 Box: Lots of Pu’erh!

The White2Tea October 2015 subscription box came in right smack dab on the first of the month. Nice! I ended up splitting half of it with my tea-friend, but I still wanted to get a review in before the end of the month. So here’s a look at 2 of this month’s 3 teas.

2006 Gongting Ripe Pu’erh Mini-Cake

I am still pretty new to ripe/shou pu’erh, but this tea didn’t convert me. The dry cake of this was compact, thin, and very tightly compressed – it was very hard to break apart into a chunk for brewing. The leaf was quite dark, with a matte finish and the occasional vein of gold.


I took a chunk that was about 6.5 grams and rinsed it a few times. Then I did steeps of 10, 20, and 30 seconds, but even after all of that steeping, the chunk still didn’t break apart into smaller leaf. Ultimately, I had to break it apart by hand after the third steep to get any traction. The first steep was extremely light, though the longer steeps were darker. All in all, the brewed tea ranged from mid-orange to deep burgundy/red.

The taste was as uncompromising as the dry leaf. I didn’t get much flavour development beyond notes of fish, earth, and something resinous like cedar or pine. After the fourth steep I gave up, because this thing just wasn’t happening. I’ve heard that good shou can be really rich and chocolaty, but this tea was way too much effort for so little satisfaction.

Plus, I did not like the way my body felt once I drank it. After a few steeps, I started to notice the kind of jittery, tapped-out muscle tension that I feel when I don’t get enough sleep — a cold, stringy hissing across my body that makes me want to curl up into a ball under a pile of blankets. At this time of year, I want tea to warm me up, not make me feel like I’ve pulled an all-nighter!

Overall, I did not consider this tea a good drink. Maybe this shou just needs to mellow out for a few more years? If there’s anyone reading this who wants to take some of this off my hands (I have ~40 grams remaining), let me know — you’re welcome to it.

Lincang Raw Pu’erh Orbs

This one came wrapped up in foil — a tightly rolled ball of dry leaf about the size of a big cherry. I had the option of splitting the ball in half, but dammit, I like to live dangerously. Nine full grams of tightly rolled leaf into the gaiwan!


I used 90C water and lots of short steeps, ranging around 5 seconds or so. The smell of the dried leaf was tart, slightly smoky, somewhat fruity. After a quick rinse, the leaves began to stick out from the ball and make the whole thing look shaggy. After a few steeps, the dried leaf bloomed and unfurled like crazy!

Over this steeping session, the flavour was pretty consistent, though it got stronger over time: smoky, grassy, kinda apricot-y and astringent. The taste was pretty clean — no mushroom, fish, or other funky flavours. The initial steep was a lovely pale peach colour that deepened into a nice sunset peach over time.


I got between 10 and 15 steeps out of this. I probably could have gotten more if  I gave it some time, but I like the frenzy of trying to finish off samples quickly.

Plus, look at how huuuge the ball of dried leaf became once it fully unfurled!


The October 2015 box also came with a dried tangerine stuffed with ripe pu’erh, but this got about as big a reception on my tastebuds as this month’s ripe cake did (without the whole weird, crashy, all-nighter feeling). However, it’s all part of  my puerh education. I’m still pretty convinced that I’m more of a sheng person rather than a shou person, though.

Tea Reviews: Yunnan Sourcing July 2015 Jade Tea Box

Yunnan Sourcing is a tea vendor based in China with a very good reputation among tea junkies for providing high-quality teas from across China and Taiwan for very reasonable prices. They also offer a variety of monthly subscription boxes. I’ve signed up for a subscription box of oolong and green teas (aka: the “jade” box) to share with a friend, and this is the first month of our joint subscription.

I’m super excited – let the tasting for the Yunnan Sourcing July 2015 box begin!

Certified Organic High Mountain Bi Luo Chun Yunnan Green Tea Spring 2015

High altitude green tea grown in the mountains of Dali Prefecture of Yunnan. This tea is processed in the traditional method of Bi Luo Chun. It is rolled and heat-dried by hand in a wok.

YS_certified_organic_high_mountain_bi_luo_chun_yunnan_green_tea_spring_2015_leafThe first tea in the jade monthly box is this Bi Luo Chun from Yunnan. I really like Bi Luo Chun teas, but it depends on where they are grown. Yunnan greens have a smoky, rubbery smell to them that I generally dislike, and, sadly, this tea is no exception.

The leaves of this tea are dark green-brown curled nuggets with a thick, vegetal scent that, in addition to the smoke/rubber note I mentioned above, smells somewhat roasted. In fact, it reminds me rather of an oolong than a green tea. Interesting.

I steeped 1.5 tsp of dry leaf in a 12oz mug with 85°C water for 2 minutes. The resulting brew was a pale orange-yellow and smelled similarly to the dry leaf — roasty, somewhat vegetal, but still smoky.

The tea tasted similarly — roasty and vegetal, with a lingering grassy aftertaste reminiscent of barley. For me, a really good Bi Luo Chun should be vegetal and buttery but also sweet. There are some I’ve had that tasted like honey, or had a natural sweetness upon the second steeping; I found no sweetness here, unfortunately. However, if you shift your conceptions and think of this as a lightly-roasted oolong, it’s not that bad!

You can buy Certified Organic High Mountain Bi Luo Chun Yunnan Green Tea Spring 2015 here.

Spring 2015 Imperial Tie Guan Yin of Anxi Oolong Tea of Fujian

This is the highest grade of Tie Guan Yin normally available. Picked in a small window of just 2 days during the spring and autumn harvest and hand-processed in small batches to achieve a high level of aroma and full Guan Yin taste! Also known as AAA Grade!

YS_imperial_tie_guan_yin_of_anxi_oolong_fujian_spring_2015_leafI’ve never considered myself a big fan of green oolongs, but if I keep on tasting teas like this, I may be a convert.

The dry leaf of this tea looks exquisite: beautiful, dark emerald green nuggets. It smells exquisite, too: lovely, floral, creamy, and fresh. You can really tell that this tea was harvested only a few months ago. Normally the floralness of green oolongs turn me off because they have a weird sort of astringency to them, but this tea is mild and light.

I brewed 1.5 tsp of the dry leaf in a 12oz mug with 90°C water for 2 minutes. The resulting liquor was pale yellow and redolent of flowers and cream. The brewed leaves unfurled into dark green crinkles that remind me of spinach. And the taste? Smooth, balanced, gentle, and floral, like I’ve got a dream in my mouth.

This has to have been one of the best teas I’ve had in ages. I couldn’t stop talking about it for at least a day afterward! So delicate, yet so smooth; intensely flavourful, but not in an obnoxious way. It’s a tea that makes me think of quiet confidence and skill. Seriously, it’s good!

You can buy Spring 2015 Imperial Tie Guan Yin of Anxi Oolong Tea of Fujian here.

Phoenix Village “Da Wu Ye” Dan Cong Oolong Tea Spring 2015

“Da Wu Ye” known as Big Black Leaf grows almost exclusively in Phoenix Village in the Wu Dong Mountains of Guangdong. Da Wu Ye is a medium leaf varietal and natural hybrid of local “Ya Shi Xiang” bushes and “Shui Xian” varietal.

YS_phoenix_village_da_wu_ye_dan_cong_oolong_spring_2015_wet_leafThe dry leaf of this tea was long, spindly and dark brown, like little twigs or spider legs, and had a lovely autumnal, roasty smell like corn or barley. Unlike the other two teas in this box, I decided to steep it multiple times in a gaiwan rather than do a single western-style steep. I did a 5-second rinse with 90°C water, then 5 steeps of increasing length, starting at 15 seconds and ending at 30 seconds.

The tea from the first steep was amber like beer and had a thick, soupy mouthfeel with a grassy aftertaste. I think I also smelled some orchid in the cup. The aftertaste was sharp, slightly bitter, and had a fresh greenness at its heart, like the inner flesh of a plant’s stem.

The second steep tasted and looked very similar to the first, although it added some astringency that wasn’t there before. The third steep was 20 seconds, and at the front of the first sip I tasted a sweetness that reminded me of smoke, molasses, and baked beans. Weird, but cool!

In contrast to the previous steeps, the fourth steep produced tea that was a deep buttercup yellow in colour, and it had a mineral  note to it, as well as a tartness that reminded me of chewing on the skin of fresh plums. The mineral taste made another appearance in the fifth and final steep, and so did that molasses/baked beans flavour from the third steep. Interesting! I’d love to try similar oolongs in the future.

You can buy Phoenix Village “Da Wu Ye” Dan Cong Oolong Tea Spring 2015 here.


I could take or leave the Bi Luo Chun, but I did enjoy the Dan Cong oolong once I had a chance to play with it. However, the clear winner was the Anxi Tie Guan Yin oolong. That shit was literally redemptive. I’d buy more of it in a heartbeat, though I’m worried it will have spoiled me for other green oolongs!

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