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Friday, January 19, 2018

Blind Sample Greek Puerh Tasting via Yunnan Sourcing



In November 2017, I was invited by Matt of mattchasblog to do a blind tasting of Yunnan Sourcing samples, in the manner of the old Half-Dipper blog posts where the samples are marked with Greek letters and the teas are revealed afterward. We were given a deadline of January 15, and I am a few days late in finishing up. My medications are wrecking my ability to drink puerh on many days. My gut is okay, not damaged or anything like that, but it is sensitive and I try to avoid provoking it. So I spread out the tastings and tried to get as close to the deadline as I could.

I decided to brew the teas in clay rather than the gaiwan, just for variety among the bloggers who I assumed would likely choose a porcelain gaiwan. I chose a light clay tea pot made by Inge Nielsen (Belgium) that I use for young sheng. I measured 7-8g of tea per 100/ml and ended up using less water than that for most of the teas, more like 80 ml.

Alpha


A very green tea yet.
Young. Leaves are plump and attractive. Fruity/floral, pours with some thickness, has that YS “house” taste I find in a lot of YS teas. Not much bitterness, very yin and cold. After –taste a little sour, likely needs some heat/humidity. Might be better down the line after it settles more. 

Beta


Rather good.
Young tea but with some browning, small leaves, fragrant in the pouch. Decent thickness to the pour. This tea is more to my taste with darker notes of aged oak cask along with the fruity floral. More yang than Alpha sample. Warm, autumn peppery spices going down the throat. A bit of euphoric stoner qi in the face and torso, making me want to guzzle the way Menghai tuos do. Still very sweet, warm mead, some house flavor.

Nothing burly I’d want to age but a pleasant drink for people who like brandy, cognac or spiced rum and a fuller profile in a young tea they can drink now. Hell, yeah. Wasn’t gonna binge drink but I think I will.

Gamma


Worth it for the throat feel.
Green, Menghai-ish aroma. Tippy, small plantation leaves. The sample consists of loose tea and a chunk that resembles a mini-cake. Third pour a bit thicker. Finally, we have a tea which is somewhat bitter. Some throat feel. Not bad, but nothing special.

Overall I am finding a disturbing lack of decent bitterness in the teas thus far, despite how green and young as they are.

Delta

Sidling up to the bar, can I get some puerh already? It is one of those days, life is a miserable affair and certainly not worth living and I need tea to make it all better. Days like today are why God made dirty tuos, the back alley tavern beverage of choice for the puerh snifter, this western puerh drinker, I am such a stereotype and caricature of everything I come from, preferring the heights of heaven and depths of hell even in my beverages while eschewing the mildly pleasant middle. Aristotle shakes a crooked finger at people like me, a nice way to put it, because the thinnest veneer of schooling lies between me, as I am now, and the bar brawler that nature evolved me to be.


I probably did not give this tea a fair trial,
but could not bring myself to revisit it either.
This one has dark greenish black leaves, and smells of YS house teas. First two steeps show a touch of pink amber in the yellowish brew. Very pretty. Floral/fruity reminds me of the Alpha sample. I let it sit too long cooling. The cup then tastes sour. I have not had a single lick of food touch my palate yet today. Next…

Epsilon

This sample has green/black loose leaves, no chunks. I brew up 7g/100 ml and this is almost flavorless. Pushed with 80 ml water yields a more balanced and nicely bitter result that coats the tongue and provides a fast huigan. 


Not terrible, but not memorable.
Otherwise the experience is the same one note I find in most of the other samples, a mild fruity floral, all top note. The huigan reasserts in the throat ten minutes after the last sip, so double huigan, an initial one upon sipping and then another shortly afterward. Very clean tea overall, no storage notes perhaps because the tea is still young. Despite the promising start, the tea is cashed around steep 5, the loose leaves of course will give out sooner than a chunk. The session is like a highly anticipated erotic moment that finishes all too quickly.

Zeta

This sample comes in a large mylar bag, the kind that Yunnan Sourcing once used for samples with a purchase but now buyers must pay for these. The bag contains large chunks of…shou. The shou appears to be on the young side, by the looks of it. I drink less shou now than I once did, and I prefer it older than ten years. I also use less leaf than I used to. But I will momma-up and donate the gut for today. Also, I must switch teapots from a sheng-dedicated clay and choose a thick porcelain to generate enough heat to separate the rather compressed sample.


A potent and rather tasty shou.
The tea brews up dark brown, and thicker with each steeping. I like it, this is a rather good shou, with a traditional Menghai factory flavor of soil, wood, vanilla, root beer, yeast bread, very tangy and lively. Some bitterness left shows some potential for age. This will one day get the sort of plummy flavor old shou tuos and bricks do at fifteen years, but likely to brew a lot longer. Right now the pile flavor is still very heavy in the tea. I take to the tea like a diabetic to a box of chocolates, my brain quickly forgetting any idea of caution on my gut. I feel a presence in the throat from the tea and a contented happiness flows.

Last year I bought a Year of the Goat shou cake from YS, and it is too young to drink now but I wonder if this sample is the same recipe, one of the Chinese year shous. If so, I will be happy I bought Goat. The sample is shou for days, brews a long time. I let water sit in the teapot to form a  thick cough syrup and the tea leaves are nowhere near done after six steepings, and can easily be boiled when they fade. One thing in favor of this tea, the flavor is similar to factory shou but so much more potent, a reminder to myself that Yunnan Sourcing, Crimson Lotus, or white2tea house shou puerh are a good value because the tea leaves are much stronger than traditional factory recipes, so I can use less tea and brew them longer.

Final Thoughts

A big thank you to Mattcha and also Yunnan Sourcing for the blind tasting experience.

Overall, with the exception of Beta, the sheng puerh teas have a similar flavor profile to other Yunnan Sourcing sheng puerh teas I have tasted in the past, and similar to the two or three I already own. If I intended to buy more YS sheng productions, the main factor for me is price. The year or name on the tea honestly will not matter much. I suggest to buyers looking at YS sheng productions to compare years for prices, the same teas year over year are likely to taste similar so whichever one costs less will be the best value. Beta is a tea I might consider as it stood out from the others with a fuller profile, deeper notes. The shou is good, but if it is a yearly production like Goat I will stay with what I own.  

I also am aware of personal subjective biases. These teas are clean and nice drinkers, but I want unique teas, something new or different than what I own. I already own plenty of drinkers. Nowadays I tend to look for very strong tea, either a strong burly and bitter tea, or intense mouth, throat feel, body effects, or qi. Or I am looking for storage and fine aging. This means I might not be the best person to try these teas. Someone new to puerh might offer a fresh perspective, and the teas are clean enough, and mild enough, to recommend them to anyone new to sheng puerh. 

After Note

 Since posting the above, I have now read some of the other blogger notes, and there seems to have been an expectation to either guess the region or production. I assume that many YS productions are blends, so it did not occur to me to try and guess where the leaves are from. And I am not familiar with the entire YS line, and thus not in a position to guess specific teas. Hopefully what I wrote will suffice.


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