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Tag: White2Tea

Lao Cha Tou Ripe Puerh from White2Tea

Shou and I are not exactly on the best of terms. It’s too earthy. It’s too fishy. I hear people say they like it, that it’s so rich, but when I make it, the results just leave me….flat.

I bought these Lao Cha Tou nuggets from White2Tea when they had a big sale about six months ago, and they’ve just been chilling in the bottom of my tea cupboard. No longer. Dare I face off against my current tea nemesis? Let’s see.

Here’s how White2Tea describes this type of tea:

Lao Cha Tou are the small nuggets that roll off of the fermenting pile of ripe tea. They have a strong sweet flavor, similar to caramel or molasses.

This tea is from a pure, Spring Bulang production.

They are very enduring and can be resteeped for a very long time. When you are done steeping them, you can also boil them for ten minutes or so and you’ll have a syrupy sweet drink awaiting you.

I gotta admit, when I took the tea out of the bag to measure it and start steeping, it looked… dubious. The nuggets were small, matte, dark brown, and just in general highly suggestive of some other type of substance. I’ll let you see for yourself:

W2T-lao-cha-tou-dry

I took 5.25 grams of these nuggets and made sure to give them a good, thorough rinsing before drinking: two rinses of 30 seconds each with just-boiled water.

After that, I did a first steep of 20 seconds. The resulting liquid was a deep reddish-brown, like beef broth. The flavour was light, but overall it was earthy, slightly fishy, somewhat salty and savoury. Kinda like soup broth.

The second, third and fourth steeps were all for 30 seconds, and they were pretty similar in taste to the first, if only a bit more intense in colour and flavour. The smell was savoury, brothy, and earthy, with notes of spices like cinnamon, star anise and clove. The mouthfeel here was also pretty thick, like soup broth.

Over time, I also noticed grainy notes that reminded me of popcorn. However, I’m not getting the chocolate or caramel notes the description above promised. Where is my chocolate, White2Tea??

On the fourth steep, I started to notice a cool sensation creeping across my mouth and throat, like menthol or camphor. My lips also started tingling.

At this point I started to lament that I used such a thin gaiwan for brewing, because I was burning my fingers pouring the tea out. I have a perfectly serviceable stoneware gaiwan with thicker walls; I need to bring it out again.

Anyways!

The fifth, sixth, and seventh steeps were 40-50 seconds long. The flavour still hadn’t developed those chocolate notes I was told to expect but when I smelled the lid of the gaiwan after the sixth steep, I noticed scents of tobacco and a sweetness that reminded me of red bean past. The second steep was a bit lighter in colour, but by that point I had pretty much used up the water in the teapot so I wasn’t interested in drinking anymore.

At least I didn’t get any caffeine rush this time.

What’s amazing is that even after seven or so steeps, these Lao Cha Tou nuggets still hadn’t unfurled. They were still compact, dark, and tightly packed.

You can buy this Lao Cha Tou puerh from White2Tea here.

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:

W2T-Nov-2015-Pin-wrapper

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.

W2T-Nov-2015-Pin-gracie3

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.

W2T-Nov-2015-Pin-cake-closeup

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.

W2T-Nov-2015-Pin-brewed

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.

Bang Dong Hong Black Tea from White2Tea

White2Tea‘s reputation has been built mostly around pu’erh teas, but they also sell oolongs and black teas. When Paul, the owner, had a sale in the summer to clear out his stock before relocating his warehouse, I bought a whole bunch of his stuff, and was also given several freebies — most of which I still haven’t tried yet. But now that the weather is cooling down, it seemed like the perfect time to have the black tea that I got as a free sample from the sale: Bang Dong Hong.

(And yes, I’m aware there are double-entendres galore in the phrase “Bang Dong”. Let’s giggle now so we can get it out of our systems, OK?)

Funny name aside, this sounds pretty interesting:

The Bang Dong Hong is made from Puer large leaf varietal material, but is processed as Dianhong hongcha [black tea]. Chocolatey depth, with a sweet smooth body. Strong endurance, the Bangdonghong is intentionally priced to be a super affordable daily drinker, but nonetheless very high quality tea.

The dry leaves are long, dark, twiggy, and quite thick. When I opened the bag and inhaled, they smelled of malt, prunes, and raisins — sweet, fruity, dark. I think there might have been a bit of caramelized/burnt sugar in there too.

W2T_Bang_Dong_Hong_dry_leaf

Into the gaiwan it goes! I used 5g of leaf with freshly boiled water. I have to admit that I wasn’t paying much attention to how long I let each infusion steep, but they ranged anywhere from 5-10 seconds to a minute or two. Very scientific, eh? I gave it a quick rinse before the initial steep, but I think now that it was unnecessary to do so.

The resulting tea was a rich, deep red. It tasted of raisins and spice, with a bit of malt, bread, and camphor thrown in there too. The taste was very true to the smell of the dry leaf, and the mouthfeel was thick, even somewhat smothering. It felt like being covered in a really comfy, but somewhat restrictive, blanket.

The colour was rich and clear, too:

W2T_Bang_Dong_Hong_brew

However, the flavour didn’t last long. I would say that I probably got about 3 really good steeps, 1 decent steep, and 2 really bland, weak steeps out of the leaf. The colour and the flavour both peaked early and there was a quick drop down from that peak.

Once they were all spent, the leaves had expanded considerably in size and looked juicy and vital:

W2T_Bang_Dong_Hong_gaiwan

Plus, some of these leaves were huuuuge! Look at this sucker right here! This has to be the biggest tea leaf I’ve ever seen! I’ve noticed that I often get big individual leaves with White2Tea’s teas, but even this Bang Dong Hong leaf puts the others to shame. I mean, this thing is longer than my ENTIRE FUCKING PALM, people.

W2T_Bang_Dong_Hong_huge_leaf

Damn.

Bang Dong Hong also holds up well to western-style infusing, but I don’t have nearly enough fancy photos to show for that attempt. The flavour and lifespan (strong, but lasting only a few steeps) was similar between both methods of brewing.

You can buy Bang Dong Hong from White2Tea here.

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.

W2T-oct-2006-gongting-cake

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!

W2T-oct-2015-lincang-orb-dry

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.

W2T-oct-2015-lincang-orb-brew

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!

W2T-oct-2015-lincang-orb-leaf

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.

White2Tea August 2015 Subscription Box: Clover Patch Oolong and 2 Da Hong Paos

Although I consider myself a tea junkie, I still don’t know a lot about oolong. My first few experiences with oolongs were positive, but didn’t really sell me on the whole thing. (Of course, I am learning to change my mind.) So I’m glad that the White2Tea August 2015 box is making me expand my palate a bit.

This month’s selection promises to veer quite off the beaten path. W2T includes a little paper in each box describing the month’s teas; since none of these ones are on the website yet (as far as I can tell), I’ve transcribed them for you.

Fresh Da Hong Pao

A special tea for the August White2Tea box. We recommend drinking this sample first out of this month’s 3 teas. Normally, vendors wait much longer to sell freshly roasted Yancha oolongs. This will likely not be a crowd favourite, though some may love it. It will be harsh and sharp with the flavour of the roast… You might notice the difference between the thrashing youth and the mellow age of the Aged DHP. This tea is for learning purposes; White2Tea does not intend to offer such a freshly roasted young DHP on our site.

I was feeling contradictory and drank the Clover Patch oolong first (see below). However, I am intrigued by the idea of doing a side-by-side comparison of two teas based on age. Let’s begin!

The Fresh DHP is made of black, gnarled nuggets of tea leaf. Dry, they smell of paper; there’s also a skunky sort of smell that reminds me of weed, unfortunately. I took about 3.8 grams of dry leaf and put them in a gaiwan. After rinsing them in 90°C water for 5 seconds, the smell deepened and the whole thing smelled fresh and wet with notes of graham cracker, blackened sugar, and burnt pie crust. The first steep was 10 seconds; the second, third, fourth, and fifth were 15, 20, 25, and 50 seconds respectively.

This didn’t taste as harsh as I was expecting. There was an orchid note there along with the note I’m learning to associate with roasted oolongs: green, wet, and sticky, like someone’s just cut into the heart of a plant and the wound is now welling with sap. There was a surprisingly soft aftertaste here like grass and orchids, along with that burnt sugar/pie crust note.

W2T-aug-2015-fresh-DHP

The second steep tasted pretty similar to the first, and the liquor was a nice amber colour. The third steep was also surprisingly smooth. However, there were signs of the tea weakening by the fourth steep — it became much lighter in colour and those burnt notes nearly disappeared. It was somewhat floral and sweet, but not enough to make for the flavours that went missing.

The fifth steep was similarly uninspiring. After that, I let it go, since it seemed like there wasn’t a lot of staying power. The spent leaves at the end hadn’t completely unfurled, but they were still a glossy black, like licorice candies.

Aged Da Hong Pao

This tea has calmed over the course of the last 8 years. The tea is somewhat fragmented, and the fine flavours have subsided to leave a mellow mineral tea behind. Thick body, deep content, and flowing smoothness. Retail vendors in China often sell this exact tea as 15 years according to the farmer.

The Aged DHP was a lot smoother overall than the fresh. The dry leaves were long, dark, and spindly, and they smelled like wood, cigarettes, and roastedness. I also smelled a hint of something salty at the back of my nose, like soy sauce.

After a 5-second rinse with 90°C water, the smell of the leaves deepened into cigars and charred wood, but I didn’t get the burnt sugar/burnt pie crust sensation that I got from the Fresh DHP. The first steep was 10 seconds, with subsequent steeps of 15, 20, 25, 30 and 60 seconds.

The first steep resulted in tea that was an ochre colour — much redder than the Fresh DHP. The fragrance was light, but sharper and woodier than the fresh stuff. Again, I couldn’t sense any burnt notes. This tea was definitely smoother, but there was a more alkaline aftertaste, especially on the backs and sides of my tongue.

W2T-aug-2015-aged-DHP

The second steep produced a more orange-y tea with a grassier aftertaste, but the flavour was neutral/floral overall. On the third steep I noticed fabric/linen notes.

The fourth, fifth, and sixth steeps were much like the Fresh DHP in that they were noticeably paler in both colour and flavour. The “fabric” note turned into something that reminded me of sandalwood. I kind of botched the sixth steep because I was folding some laundry — by the time I got back the water had cooled off a lot and I didn’t feel like reheating it.

What I find interesting is that White2Tea described this tea as “mineral.” I can see that, though I think what they consider “mineral” was what I was describing as flowers/sandalwood.

Clover Patch

Another Wuyi oolong, meant as an illustration of how different processing and varietals can yield wildly different teas. This tea is from older bushes, but is a modern expression from the same farmer as the DHP teas above. The tea is of a comparatively smaller and more experimental production. We purchased the remainder of this tea from the farmer and and we find it to be a very innovative tea with a fragrance that is knock you on your ass strong. (If you have ever wondered why I say Puer can not compete with the fragrance of oolong, here is your textbook example.) This tea is from early spring 2015.

Man, this tea is weird. It looks like your typical dark roasted oolong — long, spindly twists of black leaf — and it even kind of smells like it too, with a sweet, strong smell of buckwheat and burnt sugar.

I measured out 4.75 g of leaf (about half of what I had left after I shared it with my tea subscription buddy) and brewed it in a gaiwan with water starting out at 90°C. Since it was a lovely day out, I did it on the backyard porch, which probably affected the temperature of the water as the steeps continued.

First I did a 5-second rinse followed by a 10-second steep, then added 5 seconds to each subsequent steep.

The smell of the tea and the wet tea leaves was roasty and sweet like buckwheat or honey. But the taste was completely unexpected!

The first sensation was of something extremely alkaline on my tongue, like I splashed some sort of industrial chemical on it. On the back and sides of my tongue the taste became more floral, like honeysuckle or lilies, with an aftertaste like rose or osmanthus. The colour of the tea was amber like beer.

W2T-aug-2015-clover-patch

Over subsequent steeps I felt that the texture and taste on my tongue was like that of fabric: cotton, denim, linen, thickness covering my tongue. The floral honeysuckle/lily flavour was also there — there was none of the juicy, grassy sweetness that the smell of this tea promised.

Then it hit me. Industrial chemicals? Flowers? Fabric?

It tasted like the tea embodiment of a dryer sheet.

You know, those little wisps of perfumed, polymerized fabric you put into the dryer with freshly washed clothes to make them soft and non-static-cling-y.

What the fuck? I’m mystified, but also kind of horribly fascinated.

As I drank continuous steeps, I felt an astringent puckeriness not on my tongue, but on my lips, like the skin of my lips was tightening up and threatening to crack and expose the flesh underneath.

White2Tea was right when they called it “innovative” and “experimental.” And, as I said at the top, I want to expand my palate by drinking unfamiliar types of tea. But I also want my tea to taste, you know, edible — not like something I would put in with my laundry.

Weird. **shakes head**

Verdict

This set of oolongs was educational, but I don’t think I had a favourite here. However, that’s the whole point of boxes like this: to find out what you like and don’t like by trying out some tea without having a huge pile of stuff you might not want to drink afterwards. If this batch is anything to go by, I think I like Dan Cong oolongs over Da Hong Pao ones.

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