Wednesday, July 31, 2019

2011 Yiwu gushu and Jinggu Cloud Mountain gushu

A tea friend just sent a bunch of samples, Peter Pocajt, the owner of Tea Mania, with two of those tying in nicely with a theme I started on yesterday (that timing as tasting notes go, not finished drafts, about a 2008 Yiwu brick).  I'll start explaining that source and some background then get to that review.

I've tried a good bit of varied tea from Tea Mania, and the sheng is good.  Not just good in the sense of being typical for the type and positive in character, but for comparing favorably with other mid-range offerings, and for being priced as was more typical for sheng 4 to 5 years ago.  Take all that together and the versions are an unusual value; any better and I couldn't bring myself to mention it. 

That transition period of small vendors selling tea at incredible value while they ramp up following and demand isn't unheard of.  I've went on about Farmerleaf and Hatvala being two of my favorite vendor sources for quite good Yunnan and Vietnam teas for years, and both started out like that, quite underpriced for what they were selling.  I think in all three cases the theme of buying tea more directly from producer sources came into play too, not just shifting stances on selling on value onto maximizing revenue.  Those other two sources have corrected for that a bit, and are closer to a standard pricing range now, although Vietnamese teas in general and Hatvala specifically still represent about as good a value as there is for well above average quality tea.

On this tasting theme I finally tried a 2008 Yiwu brick I bought from Chawang Shop yesterday (another great-value tea source, especially for product range like aged Xiaguan  or young maocha versions).  I was underwhelmed.  I've had mixed results experiences with trying aged Yiwu in general, with some versions really fading away rather than picking up interesting character.  Some of that might tie to my own expectations and preference, expecting teas to be intense, bold, or even earthy, as is the case with Xiaguan versions, or varying in style but still intense as Dayi (Taetea) versions go.  To mix some judgment orientation in I may not be acclimated to teas that are more subtle when aged, so I just can't appreciate them yet. 

In trying that tea a second time I liked it a lot better (mentioned in that review); to some extent just appreciating range beyond flavor intensity was part of that experience.  I like thickness in feel and aftertaste to the extent these round out a tea experience, but I'm still slightly more focused on flavor than the rest.  As for "drinking with your body," appreciating how teas make you feel, I'm just not that sensitive or tuned in.  And I intentionally eat foods prior to drinking tea; it maximizes that effect if you don't do that, but it's just not a range I appreciate anyway.  I've done enough with drug use in the past; it's not a page I'm going to return to.  To round out a summary of that impression, I think that tea will fall into a much better balance--per my preference--once it turns a corner in aging transition, and may even pick up some intensity in the next stage, which I expect to happen over the next 2 to 3 years (just a guess, of course).

An aging speed / fermentation level issue comes into play too, and a transition curve often referred to as teas going through awkward "teen years." This refers to losing the positive character in young versions (intensity, floral nature, forms of bitterness that can be desirable) but not swapping that out for aged-version positive range yet, warmer tones, dried fruit, old leather, whatever comes up.  I had the impression that 2008 version wasn't very far along at all in fermentation, that these might be "older" in a sense of having progressed further in three years less.  Of course that would relate to it being a bit dry and cool in Kunming.

It's really not that dry, but that temperature would be refreshing, compared to all three seasons here in Bangkok (hot, rainy, and cool; their hottest time of the year is a lot cooler than our coolest week, or the annual low, for that matter).  Relative humidity looks high, not much lower than in Hong Kong or far off here and Malaysia, but bear in mind that the air holds a lot less moisture at those low temperatures, so the micro-biome is probably a lot less active due to both factors taken together.  Let's consider that Hong Kong environment:

Hong Kong climate summary

It's a bit more humid in Hong Kong but I suspect that temperatures not being so cool might make as big a difference.  It's very cool in Hong Kong compared to Bangkok (25 C is more or less an annual low temperature here; it gets that cool a few days in December at night), with storage environment here perhaps closest to that in Malaysia.

I don't want to go to far with these generalities or speculations; I'll experience what I do of the teas and try to guess out an association for causes, but it's more about relaying the experience.  At a guess, based on leaf appearance, these teas will seem older than that 2008 version just did.

One last speculation:  related to that "teen years" idea I'm not implying that an 8 year old tea, or tea at any particular age or level of fermentation, couldn't be very positive, and relatively ideal for that tea related to some personal preference.  I've had a lot less exposure to sheng at around that age so this will be interesting to check out.  Phillip of Yiwu Mountain Pu'er passed on some samples of Yiwu of varying ages awhile back; that made up most of it for that location.  This review covers 2013 and 2014 versions (last year), and this one back to 2012, filling in some of how middle years aging goes.  One of their things was selling themed sample packs, a good way for people new to exploration to gain ground without buying cakes or piecing together related style samples on their own.

I liked those teas but at that time a summary take seemed to be that I either prefer young versions that happen to be approachable, or else other styles of teas further along a transition curve.  Which again is a work in progress for exposure and preference development.  It will be interesting to see how these versions inform that further.  I'll add the vendor product descriptions here first, which I didn't read prior to the tasting.

Tea Mania's descriptions:

Yiwu Gushu 2011

We call this tea exceptional because it reflects the character of Yiwu like no other. Sweet, mineral, multi-faceted and the typical Cha Qi, which even intensifies with storage. This tea was stored in Yiwu itself until 2018 and has already reached an advanced maturity... 

Jinggu Cloud Mountain Gushu 2011

This pu-erh tea is from a remote and abandoned tea mountain in Jinggu county. This tea mountain is called Cloud Mountain and is located in the west of Jinggu county... 

This tea mountain was once cultivated by Wai minority around 400 hundred years ago but due to the unconvenience living condition this place was abandoned a hundred years ago. Only three years ago this mountain with its wild-growing tea was re-discovered...

Like many of Jinggu's old tree, the new harvest tastes quite common compared to Menghai's tea - until you mature it... as the tea matures, the Chaqi becomes stronger and stronger, its taste is thicker and thicker.

Sounds good; listing for around $70 for 250 grams that sounds like a very fairly priced tea.  The Yiwu version listed for $150 for 357 grams (CHF, Swiss Francs, but the currencies seem tied together in value), so still under typical gushu range but closer to it.

A comment on a tea review tied to that 2008 Yiwu stood out to me, related to value.  The person said that tea selling for that rate couldn't be good (essentially).  That's odd, isn't it, that a vendor can't sell tea at a below-expectations rate without turning off some potential customers? 

I think in part that's from conditioning by the main Western-facing vendors, the understanding that if gushu doesn't cost $1 a gram it couldn't be good, "real" gushu.  Extend that a little and $1.50 per gram versions must be even better, right?  The "sweet spot" from the vendor side moves from maximizing value to customers to working around expectations instead, increasing demand by charging more.

Some people would push all that even further, and claim that they might be able to read through these claims and guess the quality or age of the tea plants.  I take all vendor claims with a grain of salt, even the "trusted" ones, but extending skepticism too far leads to those kinds of absurdities, relying on prior experience extrapolated into the scope of clairvoyance.  Normal vendor patterns typically hold up but it's as well to not let the story-line themes get in the way.


Yiwu left; even just getting started the fermentation level is evident

These teas definitely look darker in leaf appearance and in brewed tea appearance than that 2008 Yiwu I tried yesterday.  I backed off proportion a little to stretch the samples to allow for a second tasting session, which will also let me get further with a combined tasting review, not throwing in the towel after 5 or 6 rounds because it's too much tea to consume.

2011 Yiwu gushu:  this version is brewed light (not fully wetted yet), and is a bit subtle, but there's already an interesting aspect coming out, a sweet dried fruit tone.  I could say more but it will describe better brewed a little longer.

2011 Jinggu Cloud Mountain gushu:  again my initial impression is that this tea is very tasty.  It's a bit more intense, with warm mineral standing out more, and a flavor in between dried sticks and spice.  I can get further with describing feel and aftertaste range in this but again it will also be clearer next round.

Second infusion:

It's odd letting sheng brew for around 15 seconds, backing off the really high proportion I tend to always use.  It should work out well, it's just strange.

Yiwu:  there's definitely one aspect in this that stands out as unique, but not one that's easy to place.  That might not be so far off dried jujube, a Chinese version of date.  Framing that as more familiar Western flavors isn't simple; one part relates to sassafras root (a root beer flavor), but the original root is sweeter and lighter than root beer, and this contains as much of a fruit tone as well.  Maybe saying it's somewhere in between date, raisin, and dried apple works.  The rest is subtle; the flavor isn't multi-layered and feel and aftertaste ranges are both still quite light.  For being mild and a bit one-dimensional it's still quite pleasant, since that flavor aspect is so unique.

Jinggu:  the character of this seems to be closer to what I'd expect in an older version of sheng.  It's a little subtle too, just less so than the Yiwu.  The range it covers is all familiar from much older sheng versions:  warm mineral, good sweetness, and flavor complexity that's a bit non-distinct but that covers a lot of ground (warm wood tone, towards spice, hinting towards all sorts of other scope).  The feel has some thickness to it and a dry, warm, complex pleasant flavor remains after you drink it, as a coated mouth-feel also does.  It has a lot going on and it's seemingly just getting started, all of which makes for an interesting contradiction, since it's also quite subtle and mild in effect.

Third infusion

These brewed for around 15 seconds again; the intensity level should be fine, but they'll run through transitions faster than when I'm preparing young sheng at a higher proportion, using half that infusion time instead.

Yiwu:  intensity ramped up; that helps.  That one flavor aspect is really catchy.  The feel isn't thin and aftertaste missing but these aspects are light in comparison with some general average range and the other version.  It's hard to describe how positive this comes across for being as simple an experience as it is.  That initial flavor is light and sweet but also a little warm, and the aftertaste trails off as more of the root-spice range I'd mentioned, as sassafras root.  It's all really clean; not a trace of any aspect goes beyond that tightly integrated set, making for an unusual experience.

One would have to be able to appreciate a simple, limited-intensity experience for this to really work but given that as context it's quite pleasant.  Of course I'm wondering if it wouldn't transition onto even more interesting range later, or if it would fade to being so subtle it would be harder to relate to.  I'm guessing that it would evolve, and pushing it a bit would still bring out enough intensity to support the experience.

Jinggu:  this probably seems more intense for being tasted alongside the milder Yiwu.  It has a good bit going on but it's still a little subtle.  As for the other version all the experience is very clean and positive, which lends to overall effect in a way that's hard to describe.  Aspects aren't evolving enough in this to make describing them again make sense, although alternative interpretations of the experience is possible.  Warm earth tones could be tied more to aromatic wood than I'd described previously, a bit towards cedar.  Usually when I describe a sheng that way it tastes woody, and this is really complex instead, so that only works to describe part of what comes across as an integrated but complex set of flavors.  "Dark range" but light mineral adds a nice complexity.  Alternatively this could be interpreted as expressing aged leather, and leaning a little towards spice.

Again I'm curious where this tea will be in another few years, but with less concern about whether it will be intense enough to support a positive experience at that point.

I'm really feeling these teas; when doing combined tasting you give up the ability to pin down which one is contributing what related to that.  I feel just a little stoned, with the effect split between a head buzz and mild sedative.  Or maybe that's just how I was going to feel if I had drank water at this point, in some strange kind of space for experiencing this house being quiet.  I honestly can't remember the last tasting session I did without kids banging things in the background.

Fourth infusion:

the 2008 Yiwu; lighter gold color, but at lower lighting level

Seems odd this is only the fourth round; I guess for a single tasting that would be after 6 rounds for the same volume drank.  These don't seem to be transitioning so much that there's a lot of story there but I'll press on.

Yiwu:  this is evolving more into that mild root spice versus that having been combined with a very light dried fruit range.  It works, it's just really subtle.  Tasting that 2008 Yiwu brick yesterday had me considering what tea types would be as close to that subtle, and silver needle came to mind.  Those don't always taste like much, or offer much to experience beyond mild dried hay and light neutral floral range, with a little thickness in feel.  This doesn't seem like a silver needle but it's almost that neutral in terms of flavor intensity. 

A faint hint of structure and dryness gives it away as sheng instead, and it's not obvious but a light mineral effect also supports the rest.  There's more going on than it first seems but the experience is a bit muted.  All the same I think for the right person (preference) this would be a very pleasant experience.

Jinggu:  range that I interpret as towards spice also picks up in this, it's just different.  A more natural interpretation might be wood, along the lines of cedar or redwood, but this hints towards an aromatic spice range (frankincense or something such; some of the incense range that few might be able to split out as distinct).  Again the mix of overall complexity with subtlety works; there's a good bit going on for this being as light as it is.  Heavier warm mineral and a slightly more structured feel gives it a completely different effect than the other tea.

Yiwu left; both are coming along for changing color

2008 Yiwu in last post leaves; maybe a little greener


These will probably shift a little over a few more infusions but the story seems to have been told.  I liked both, although they're not in the range of what I like most for aged sheng experience.  I'm wondering how they will evolve over the next 4-5 years, if intensity will pick back up.  Even if they don't give up much for that pushing them could still draw out plenty to experience, as long as character transitions stay positive.

Maybe they need some rest after the trip; people say a lot about those sorts of factors, and there's surely something to all that.  Sheng versions do seem to liven up quite a bit due to exposure to the humid Bangkok air, but it can take time.  These teas arrived about a week ago, but have stayed in their relatively sealed sample packaging.

Both seem much further along an aging transition cycle than the 2008 Yiwu I just tried, as the leaf appearance implied.  That lack of aging seemed quite positive related to buying 3 year old sheng versions from the Chawang Shop (a few; going back through review posts covers which, and details about how that went).  It seemed like their youthful character wasn't behind them yet, and having spent that time here instead it would've been.  For that Yiwu it might have seemed like a 5-6 year old version instead of an 11 year old one.  Of course fermentation isn't a simple, linear process; character varies by a lot more than just "how much." 

It goes without saying, but although I don't seem to be able to relate to dry storage character and preference as well that doesn't necessarily mean that it's less desirable, objectively speaking.

It seems odd making it through a whole post without saying a word about these being gushu.  Or referencing sweetness, as I tend to in younger and more aged sheng descriptions.  I've went over what I see as the main aspect distinction that seems present in older-plant source teas before (generally greater intensity, a shift towards mineral tone, pronounced feel structure and aftertaste, in some cases a greater feel or "cha qi" effect), but these being subtle due to being at that middle point in aging seemed to offset a lot of all that.  Mineral hardly showed up in the Yiwu, and sweetness was there but not pronounced. 

I've not tried enough interim-aged sheng versions to have a clear feel for how that initial typical character tends to shift in that time-frame, or more precisely at that fermentation level.  It's possible that character related to aging potential wouldn't map directly onto what would seem like the best quality younger versions.  I don't mean "very drinkable when young," of course, since that might well oppose aging potential, but instead that it may not be as simple as expecting pronounced bitterness, astringency, feel-structure, and flavor intensity to hold up well and transition positively, that there could be more to it.  Or as I concluded in that last post appreciation for much more subtle aged sheng forms of character may just not be a preference I've acquired yet.  I could be mixing judging aspects by including too much of a general positive or negative interpretation, which glosses over aspects and types being just different.

At any rate these were pleasant and interesting.  Both seemed to have turned a corner in aging transition related to that 2008 Yiwu, whether they will become even more positive over the next few years or not.  I suspect that they will, that again as with that tea these are in a quieter stage for transition, and will come out the other side as more pleasant.  Unlike with that tea I'm just trying samples of these so I won't necessarily know.

this friend visiting from China just went back; we'll miss her

a pleasant morning pretending to be the "monster" at the playground set

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

2008 Yong Pin Hao Yiwu Zhen Shan sheng brick

a bit lazy to try to sort that text out, automatic translation or asking around

I think I have two interesting looking teas left from a Chawang Shop order to get to, this one and a 2012 Da Xue Shan cake.  And a Yunnan black tea I keep forgetting about; I often enough love those.

As a 2008 tea, 11 years old, it should be relatively far through an aging transition cycle.  I wouldn't be surprised if it seems a good bit younger for being in cooler and dryer Kunming storage, compared to spending time here in Bangkok.  We'll see.

I'll skip adding more intro, and the combined tasting themes that come up, but after this tasting and prior to final editing a second tasting came up that makes this something of a two-part review set.  I tried two 2011 sheng versions, one from Yiwu, the next day, and it was interesting comparing results.  I'll get to that in the next post though.

The Chawang Shop description will work for a more detailed description of what it is:

Yong Pin Hao adhere to the traditional process since its foundation in 1999. Each batch of manufactured according to traditional way - pure sun-dried materials, manual stone press, bamboo packaging, bamboo split strapping, classic design. 

Very good example of soft and never bitter Yiwu taste! Sun-dried materials come from surroundings of Luo Shui Dong village Yiwu area. Age of tea trees about 50 years. Clean and good storage in Kunming. 

Brewed tea have deep yellow color and sweetly floral aroma. Mellow, sweet and pleasant round in mouth.  

This goes a little beyond an intro but curious about storage background and aging I looked up their picture of that brick, and checked the date it was taken:  February 2012

credit the Chawang Shop product page

It kind of looks exactly the same, with that color preserved for the last 7 years.  The review covers why that was of interest.  Here's a version broken up in a gaiwan, from two days ago:

It's not easy to tell fermentation level from dry tea, since two month old versions can look grey or dark.  Onto how it brewed, with wet leaves more informative as appearance goes.


this first round, I think, dark for just getting started

The rinse ran a little longer than usual due to just not focusing, not beyond 20 seconds, but usually I keep those shorter.  The first infusion ended up a little dark looking for being on the standard timing side, just under 10 seconds.  Not necessarily in the same color range as well-aged sheng, not transitioning to even darker shades that are more towards reddish, but it is more gold than light yellow-gold.

The flavor is subtle.  Put another way, it's not intense; or yet another way, it doesn't taste like much.  I've ran into this issue with teas presented as higher quality aged Yiwu before.  Some have seemed faded away to me, versus flavorful and interesting.  I think part of this might relate to adjusting to a different range, that it's perhaps not as much a flaw in the tea character as it seems, instead just a type I'm not adjusted to.

In part it could relate to doing more with aged teas like those Xiaguan versions I've already tried from this order, teas that started out in a very different place.  I guess that could be like learning to appreciate mild flavored white teas.  That kind of went ok, after a number of versions, but then I still tend to shy away from intentionally drinking much silver needle.

There is no astringency, no bitterness, not a lot of sweetness, not all that much flavor in general.  It tastes a little like dry wood, or alternatively like fully cured hay.  Some very subtle floral range could fill that in, along the line of chrysanthemum.  This tea will probably evolve through transitions some but at this point I almost may as well be drinking chrysanthemum.

On the next round I let it go a bit over 10 seconds; for other versions of sheng this would be brewed on the intense side.  For shu I'd often let it run even longer but then I like those thick.

It's still woody, with mild floral backing that.  At least feel did pick up but it's a bit on the dry side.  Aftertaste ramped up just a little but the tea is subtle enough that a light taste of dry wood and light chrysanthemum carries over, which doesn't taste like much.  At least in comparison the older Yiwu I'd tried were slightly more intense, but this is typical of that more general problem, that to me they'd seemed to just fade away versus transitioning in positive and interesting ways.  If this doesn't change over the next few rounds it will be hard to appreciate.

It's too early to conclude that any sheng that starts out as sweet, soft, and floral that lacks significant bitterness and astringency doesn't have good aging potential, but what I've experienced seems to bear that out.  I didn't try this tea younger, of course; I'm extrapolating from a general theme I've experienced in other Yiwu versions.  Yiwu is a large area; of course there would be plenty of counterexamples with different character.  And I'm not even really claiming that generality is so simple, clear, and universal, just pointing out an obvious broad trend that seems to hold in some cases.

More of the same on the next infusion (subdued wood tone, light hay, subtle floral tones).  It's positive in the sense that there are no negative characteristics.  Someone could like very mild forms of sheng and might love this, but I would have trouble relating to that preference.  It's not mild exactly like a slightly roasted light oolong but closest to that.  It probably is closest to a slightly aged silver needle that went a bit subtle.

Will it age further, and swing back to tasting like more, the "awkward teen years" theme?  I'm a little skeptical, even though that does match up with a standard story-line in pu'er thinking.  If these tones warm though it could be more positive, even if it ends up tasting like less, being an incredibly subtle tea.

For a lot of types I see as not matching my main preference range they still work well as a breakfast tea, as something prepared quickly that supports being drank along with food.

It warms in character a little over the next infusion; that helps.  It's not yet into aged tea range but a light underlying mineral transitioned to a warmer version of mineral, and sweetness increased very slightly.  This is confirming my impression that even if this fades further over another 5 years or so age transition could help it reach a more positive balance for aspects that remain.  For drinking a relatively neutral form of sheng it's ok at this infusion's character; this is slightly positive.  Switch over some of that wood and neutral floral for light dried fruit in a number of years and I could appreciate this for being pleasant, if a bit extra subtle.

Feel is relatively light too (but not thin), and aftertaste experience; it's not just that it doesn't taste like much.  I'll let a round brew just over 20 seconds and see how that works out.  This reminds me of reading a review on the Chawang Shop page about this tea:

I'm, very contented with this YIwu Raw Puer Tea. The description is trustworthy. I enjoy its aroma and taste each time. By the way, I tried to brew the leaves up to ten minutes in boiling water. Its character remained, it didn't turn to be astringent.

And to think going past 20 seconds in an early round seemed kind of extreme to me.

On that next infusion the taste is still limited but it is interesting the way that background mineral and trace of very mild light vegetal tone (the wood) comes across differently.  It's tea blasphemy to even have thought it but this might work well as a blending tea, as a "mixer" to use as a base for another version.  I think it will redeem itself short of that extreme measure just by transitioning some in character over longer aging.  It might also work well in a tasting sequence, showing variations of how sheng can age.

The next round is slightly better too; maybe this will continue with marginal but positive changes in character over a few more rounds, before fading.  Those are good signs, teas producing many positive infusions that vary and even improve over rounds.  These are still minor differences (eg. wood-tone deepening to slightly more positive wood-tone), and it's not so different than it had been.

Since this always was intended as an aging transition investigation this still kind of works for that.  On that subject both the brewed leaf color and character implies it could've transitioned more for being an 11 year old tea.  This being as subtle as it is makes it harder to judge but the flavor profile hasn't seem to have converted over to warmer tones, with some of that wood related aspect common to typical versions that are 3-4 years old (or so; it all depends on lots of factors).

A friend who own Tea Mania, Peter Pocajt, just sent some samples to try and two sheng from 2011 helped pin down where this stands in relation to others (again only samples of one version--this doesn't tie back to broad claims or generalities).  I'll hold off on going into that here but it was interesting.

Second tasting notes:

I'll keep this short, but I tried the tea not so long after with a breakfast, just to get a second take.  I think I understated how pronounced the thickness in feel was, and expecting the flavor range to be subtle it came across a lot more positively.  The flavor range (towards hay and dry wood, with only a touch of floral tone and limited sweetness) didn't seems as much a gap as I first described.

I liked it, and I think I'll like it more aged further.

Background, comparison to other related teas

I've been exploring reviews of the same teas for these Chawang Shop versions via Steepster review, and it had been interesting trying to piece together aging changes through that input.  It didn't work, since you can't factor subjective impression and interpretation back out, but it was still interesting.  I tried the same with this tea, just with less success, since there is no review of this version there.

Tea DB (blog) did an interesting summary post on trying a number of different Yiwu sheng versions in a focused exploration some years back (in May of 2014).  Just to be clear on background that blog seems to have started about one year prior to that, so their perspective on teas may be different now due to gaining more exposure since.  James (Schergen) would do in-depth tea type or sheng origin themed explorations that enabled a lot of exposure to a type over a short period of time, so the perspective on placing individual versions in relations to the others was already fairly well grounded, just perhaps not so much where that landed related to years of prior exposure.  Both blog authors probably both drank tea for awhile prior to starting a blog but ramping up exploration in the context of doing reviews or research changes things.

The post mentions a bit of background on Yong Pin Hao:

Yong Pin Hao is a pu’erh operation that’s been producing tea since the early 2000s that tends to sell alot of Yiwu tea (I believe they are based somewhere in Mengla County). Their teas are sold by both Yunnan Sourcing and Cha Wang Shop. Guan Zi Zai is an operation ran by one of the Yong Pin Hao brothers, sourcing from similar areas. I included five Yong Pin Hao teas and two Guan Zi Zai’s in my Yunnan Sourcing order.

The table of what he tried during that exploration tells a lot of the rest of the story:

That still cuts off two entries on the table.  Later on James switched over to metric units, which works better for me, since it's awkward dividing out 28 grams per ounce to get to how he expresses it later, how I think of relative pricing.  Some interesting points from this:

-he covers several Yong Pin Hao producer versions, which vary a lot in cost and in his assessment of them.  I couldn't find any other review of this particular tea but did turn up a second of the overall favorite of James' in Death by Tea, of the 2002 Yong Pin Hao Zheng Shan version listed (which sold for 50 cents a gram back then, so presented as a higher quality tea).  Her review does mention an aging concern (related to the context of that tea being 12 years old then):

Thick, dark orange soup on the first steep which contrasts a bit from the reviews on Steepster I've read from recent months, which noted a honey yellow soup instead.

-some versions are older / aged (as with this 11 year old tea I just reviewed), but not many, since that would equate to a 2003 tea then.  He doesn't mention flavor or character fading much in that review, related to any versions or ages.

-almost every tea is regarded as at least "good;" even the "ok" teas are described positively in the text review section.  That could mean different things:  he likes Yiwu, decent teas were selected to try (probably part of it), or that he wasn't selective in terms of judging a tea as good, or critical related to all but one of them being at or above average.

-placing cost of this version:  even now this Chawang Shop tea is selling for $4.50 per ounce (16 cents a gram), so on the low side of per-weight amounts listed back in 2014, and unusually low for an aged version back then, never mind now.  A review description in that post of a recommended low-cost version probably fills in that and other background:

2007 Taochaju Yiwu ($5.45 per ounce in 2014, rated as good)

A nice tea, with basic sweetness and fullness in the flavor. A well-rounded tea, with a lasting sweetness. This isn’t anything amazing (it’s plantation tea) and dies off after 5-7 steeps, but is very solid bang for the buck. This would probably make a decent benchmark tea to compare with other plantation tea from the Yiwu area.

It makes sense, that good could still mean basic, and that the described character would be seen as positive.  Not mentioning aging input as a factor seems to make comparing these versions directly a bit odd, but just because it's not mentioned doesn't mean it wasn't factored in.  A 7 year old Yiwu should have tapered off related to original flavor profile, and should be in a less desirable range related to aging transition.

Prior to trying this version a second time I was less positive about it.  I expect flavor intensity might still be an issue when it transitions to be a more truly aged tea in several years, but the pleasant thickness and limited-scope flavor complexity is promising.  Of course I can't place it related to these other teas that I didn't try but for providing an inexpensive and positive experience of aged Yiwu it seems a good value.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Starting two new tea groups

First published in TChing as:

Since this is for TChing publication, and my posts are all 2 or 3 parts this year, I'm going to keep this short.  It's more or less an update related to talking about tea evangelism not long ago.

I've started two new tea groups.  Why, one might wonder?  I started one Facebook version along with a Chinese vendor a few years ago, International Tea Talk, and there are plenty of places to talk about tea beyond that (I'm even an admin in a second).  In these cases it sort of just came up.

Quora started their version of a group function (more or less), Spaces.  It's too early to tell if those make sense or not, if the Q & A form can be effectively re-organized by theme topics in that way.  Maybe it will work better than the subject listings do now, and support discussion, networking, etc., or maybe not.

It's this, the Specialty Tea Space.  I've never loved that "specialty" descriptor for "better loose teas" but there isn't a better term.  The idea was to start with basics, about types, brewing themes, and so on, and then keep going.  It wasn't intended to just be my own posts but after going through basics linking to other references, Youtube sources, and blogs I moved onto just forwarding my tea subject-theme answers to there.

Asking others to contribute content didn't really work out.  Not much for discussion came of it yet, but with over 750 followers at least the subject exposure function might work out.

On the next subject, I thought I had mentioned the subject of holding group tastings here, but glancing back I hadn't.  At any rate one blog post talked about trying an open tasting in a local park last year, and another in a local zoo that was about to close (I miss that place; animal captivity is a downer but it was a nice natural open space, and there aren't many in Bangkok).

tasting at the Dusit zoo; missing a few people who attended

Another recent tea outing was only attended by two friends.  I brought tea to my kids' swim class to let people try it there, and then that class was canceled.  Getting better organized, setting up a group, seemed like it might make it easier to reach out to people, but only those in Bangkok since that's where I am.  I've not really even mentioned it online yet; maybe during planning an event might make sense.

tea tasting with Sasha and Pop; a small version still works well

Either we--me and whoever else--will actually hold tea tasting events or this second group might not amount to much.  Eventually it might work to let vendors announce events through there, or others could take up the practice and more of a real "club" theme could evolve.  But that "Bangkok Tea Tasting Club" name doesn't necessarily mean I expect it to ever feel like one.

That's already the short version.  I'm not sure what to expect of either step or group so more on that might not clarify it; those were just new things to try out.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Kokang Myanmar 2017 shu; water mineral as a brewing factor

This is line-jumping some other samples and teas I've not made it to but it will be nice to round out that intro to meeting this Myanmar tea producer at an expo (their main site and FB page, for further reference), described in that earlier post along with a sheng review.

Do I really have to cover that "pu'er" is a restricted Yunnan (Chinese regional) designation in every South-East Asian version post?  If you don't know that you probably also don't care.  It's shu pu'er, in all but name, and I personally don't care if people call it that.  To me there is no arguing over whether it is "shu / shou" or not since that just means that it's pre-fermented, and it is.

I've tried this tea; that's not normally how this goes.  Except maybe when I'm reviewing what I've bought a cake of, but usually not even then.  Reviews here are often a first impression, sometimes adjusted related to doing multiple tastings.  There are limits to that approach, which I've discussed; an evolved impression over many tastings would catch more, and at times what gets missed early on could be significant.

Tasting it came up at the Bangkok Impact hall a week ago.  That's crazy that it's only been a week; it's been a busy week.  All this leads into a tangent, which is best kept as short as possible given the extensive scope of that particular subject.  That vendor talked a little about water changing outcome, and that would be one of the main potential differences between what I'll experience this morning and a week ago.  I think I vary a lot too, that different settings affect my frame of reference, and that potential parameter changes would make a difference, but I'm more concerned with my own take shifting than either of the others.  All the same let's get into the water part.

A tangent about water as an input in tea aspect outcome

Water mineral content and other attributes makes a difference in tea aspects, obviously (although it's a point I won't try to establish here).

I use three-stage filter system to process Bangkok tap water at home to brew tea.  It's not ideal; how well that works would depend on what was in that water for dissolved solids before and after filtering, especially related to the types (minerals), relative proportion, and total level of each and overall total, ph, etc.  Of course I don't know that related to the starting point (although this research paper fills in some background on that, with real-time monitoring of some aspects). 

ph is 7.02 at my house right now; that seems fine

It's very common for tea enthusiasts to experiment with bottled water types and then select a favorite, and in some cases people would use different sources for different teas, which would make perfect sense.  Learning why the types work best (for them, per their preference), wouldn't necessarily be critical, since the final outcome would be the thing, the good results.  One common point that comes up, to cite an example, is that reverse osmosis processed water with very low mineral content is typically rejected as an unsuitable alternative.

I've meant to get around to doing water taste testing, and eventually I will.  I don't like the idea of adding to plastic waste by using bottled water sold in those.  It's at least conceivable here to use a source that washes and re-uses glass bottles, kind of an older-world theme that still does make sense, or really makes a lot more sense than it has in the last half-century since the opposite practice of using plastic instead became common.  It's funny how things can go in a cycle.

Whenever I talk to people about water for tea I end up referencing something an online friend says, since a guy who is active in a group I admin for is really into that subject, to the extent of being involved in university level research on it.  That would be Peter Jones, of Trident Booksellers and Cafe in Boulder, with that link to CU (I think; I could be clearer on the form of the last part).  I'm going to just cite a comment from him and move on, but scanning through other discussion and comments is as easy as running a search in that group, or places like the Tea Forum get into that as well:

...Voss would throw it off because of the pH at 5.5, which is acidic and will impact the flavor (as you noted). The ideal water is yet to be found... the ideal water for matcha will be different then the ideal water for oolong, or hongcha, or puer. Probably not by much, but if we are talking about ideal water, then yes. I am working with a professor to map out water in a way that we can talk about how aroma and flavor are extracted from the tea leaf, which mineral salts do the work, and how to arrive at that perfect water. 

We are still several months away from any conclusions. But basically you want your alkalinity to be 1/2 your total hardness, a pH in the 7s, and a balance of 2/1 of Ca to Mg. The other positive ion mineral salts also play a role in extraction. Attached is our water at my shop, which is considered very good for coffee and pretty good for tea from what tasters say. Will continue to share results when we learn more.

There you have it then.  That stops short of pinning down actual levels for Ca and Mg and total dissolved solids that would be ideal, kind of the main things to look out for, but it's a great start.  Again taste testing a half dozen types of water would provide good input on what works, it just wouldn't necessarily be consistent across tea types, so the matrix of testing one would do to get to their own working results could be a bit daunting.  Rie Taluli started in on that in a blog post awhile back.  It would be best to get on with tasting versus doing days of reading first but an account like that might make for a good short version.

On with tasting.  It's interesting to consider if I could potentially taste any difference between this shu and the sheng from when they made it at the expo (related to water used, or whatever else).  Probably that would work better for the sheng, since I tried it within two days of the event.  I will mention any differences if they occur to me, but hold off on starting with that earlier impression.


The dry leaf looks nice; a reasonable amount of bud content is present, which often lends an intensity to a shu, and in some cases a nice creaminess to the texture.  I'll start this brewed longer than I typically brew other teas, around 20 seconds, and get around to checking out what a light infusion is like before too long.

It is pleasant, especially for just getting started.  The flavor range includes subtle versions of both light roasted coffee and cocoa.  I remember it as being even more subtle in flavor than this; that could relate to brewing parameters, or trying it right after a young sheng version may have made it seem like it was missing some aspect levels.  Talking a lot during tasting surely didn't help.  The feel is moderately creamy, but it's probably better to let it run a few infusions prior to saying more about that.

I let this round brew a bit under 10 seconds, plenty long enough for using a full-gaiwan proportion.  It can be interesting drinking shu a lot thicker, to experience that effect, and lighter, to help with actually separating out aspects in tasting.  Shu is nice for being flexible like that; it can be very pleasant across a broad range of infusion strengths.

A touch of earthiness joins that cocoa and light coffee range, or maybe replaces the second.  It's in the range of peat, or if it's more familiar a wet version of forest-floor.  For shu that's not a bad thing.  It can be interesting when versions are really creamy, even more based on cocoa, but I tend to appreciate a broad range of aspects in them.  I could relate to why people don't like any of that range, if they would prefer that it's more like well-aged sheng.  The two types tend to differ, with some limited overlap.

The creaminess is nice.  It reminds me of the effect from Guiness Stout, with both that aspect and some of the other earthy and sweet range mapping over.  It probably helps a lot to like Guiness Stout to appreciate this type of tea.

I brewed this third infusion at more like 5 seconds.  It's still not really light in infusion strength; using half this proportion would make it easier to dial that back more.  I like shu prepared stronger; that wasn't a mistake.  Peat is strongest this round, with any tie to light coffee mostly faded, and cocoa reduced to a limited supporting flavor aspect.  It's a clean form of peat; funny putting it that way.  It might work to try to sort out how some type of well-fermented tree bark is really more what I'm talking about, something less related to actual dirt (which tastes clean), but that's probably indirect and unfamiliar enough to not be a good description resolution.

It is clean though; there is nothing murky about the flavor, or sour, muddled, related to odd mineral tones, etc.  Based on a different interpretation mineral could be on even footing with the earthy aspects; it's definitely there, along the lines of how slate smells, an old form of chalkboard.  At a minimum it fills in the experience of complexity, allowing it to be rich in flavor, earthy, and clean at the same time. 

I liked it at that expo but it's slightly better than I remember, more complex.  If I'd not been paying attention I might have tried a version that had already been brewed a few times; that would change things.  I really thought not though, that they prepared a new sample for brewing right in front of me, but all the chatter could've made it possible to lose track.

There was an interesting guy visiting during tasting then, also named John, a Bangladeshi-German, and we talked quite a bit.  Since that doesn't have anything to do with this tea it's as well to not drift to far into about what; more just adding color to how that visit went.  Those staff were nice too, not less pleasant than Thais tend to be, which to me is high praise.

They had passed on a lot of good input about Kokang-Myanmar tea production as well, with most of that in that sheng review post.  It's no wonder I was a little distracted to do the shu profile memory-capture justice.  If I remembered tea profiles only as well as I do peoples' names I wouldn't remember what we had tasted that day.  It was just a black tea in addition to this sheng and shu; I'll get to that review later.

This still is pleasant on the next round, but I can relate to my impression at that expo better; it's a little non-distinct, with the most pleasant cocoa aspect fading.  I had the impression that it might have been more lightly fermented than some versions, that it could be more subtle for that.  Then I wondered if that wouldn't give it more potential to evolve over the long term.  The character that is present is great for shu, clean earthiness, supporting mineral, decent sweetness, cocoa, nice feel.  It's just a bit standard, right in that "tastes like typical shu" range.  I expected more intensity, since the sheng version is really intense, and since Myanmar shu have expressed that in the past.

This would be a great introductory shu; people often complain of versions being off in some way (tasting fishy at the one extreme), and this really isn't, at all.  For someone well down the path of appreciating shu it could still be a great breakfast tea, complex and pleasant enough to be interesting, just not as novel as some (atypical in positive ways).  To me cocoa in shu matches exceptionally well with a clean version of earthiness and mineral, and this includes that in the balance, just not quite as cocoa-intensive as some other versions I've tried.  I can even like a touch of tar in a shu; that tends to fade over a couple of years of aging, and even when present it can be interesting.  No tar in this; probably as well.

Dark wood may work as a good description at this later stage, mahogany or something such.  Earlier in my reviews I might well have said that tastes like leather to me; for whatever reasons I seem to have moved off as seeing that as a close match to flavor aspect scope that's probably similar or the same.

I've not mentioned aftertaste.  That is often more pronounced in young or old sheng than shu, which is the case here; it conveys some aftertaste effect but the full feel is a more positive supporting aspect.  I get the sense that's part of why some people are disappointed in shu, that an extra dimension here or there can drop out.

If it really is milder for being less fermented it might have more potential to continue to evolve over a number of years, to add depth over some aspect range, but either way it's nice. 

this leaf appearance may or may not indicate fermentation level

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Wild Qi Tea Moonlight White; on quality markers

Reviewing the second of four samples sent by my online friend Shana Zhang, a Moonlight White version, after reviewing a nice Dian Hong.

Moonlight White is a processing style for white tea out of Yunnan, also sometimes associated with one particular cultivar that turns silver and dark when processed this way (per input from a tea maker friend, at least, who has made both types of versions to witness that cause and effect firsthand).  This tea is dark in color, light green, and also brown, so it's made from a different tea plant type.  Those can be great too, with character varying by plant type, and of course according to processing steps and conditions. 

White tea is the least processed, so there's less variation in choices made or how steps are conducted, but factors like temperature and humidity can change how fast the tea dries, which would change the relative degree of oxidation.  I don't make tea myself, so I limit comments about that to passing on relatively obvious points.  If that subject is of interest William of Farmerleaf is kind enough to share thoughts and videos on it.

Onto tasting then.  I tend to not read descriptions prior to review but in taking pictures saw this listed as tasting floral with peach; sounds good.  It's normal for a touch of savory range to be included in some versions, or for the sweetness related flavor to head towards a light berry, which is why Moonlight Whites are one of my favorite tea types.  They vary in different ways but are usually quite intense in flavor as white teas go, and often span a very pleasant range, without losing the thick feel that makes lots of white tea versions appealing.


I won't always use a rinse for all tea types; beyond pu'er and hei cha that seems like a judgement call to me.  Of course the teas were laying around in different places, often on bamboo mats or clean surfaces versus on the ground, and dust could get mixed in, but somehow all that doesn't seem a pressing concern to me.  I will use a fast version of one and also taste it this time; a middle ground.

This will be sweet, light, creamy, and intense; nice!

It is very nice.  Floral and peach works, and it's notably creamy.  The peach could be interpreted in different ways; that could be seen as similar to a red raspberry, which is how I'd probably describe it.  Even without much air exposure this tea will change character over time, but it's new enough that this particular identification difference probably does relate to interpretation. 

Bright floral tones give it good flavor complexity so pulling apart the fruit range is trickier.  There isn't much for earthiness or savory range but if you try to notice it some very light wood and savory tone is there.  It's not woody in the sense most tea flavor range is, more like dried sticks from the ends of very small branches, a sweet and light, mildly earthy range that might be ok on its own.

I brewed this pretty fast, in the range of 5 seconds (counting all the pouring time; down to 3 is about as fast as is practical counting that), but it's still on the intense side.  The color looks darker for brewing this in a shaded place.  I'm reviewing it at 9 AM outside, too early for a lot of sun to get directly to me in this tasting area, but some is in the driveway already. 

I brewed the second infusion slightly longer, still well under 10 seconds.  I'll probably try a flash infusion next round to see how that varies things.  This tea won't lose intensity for a few more rounds to make brewing strength a concern but it probably would transition a little, with lighter, brighter notes coming out earlier.

It's really nice this round; a tea-berry related form of fruit and mint picked up.  It's more savory now too, although to be clear I don't think very many people would taste this and interpret it as that.  It's a far cry from tasting like a seared steak, or even a light and sweet Japanese green tea.  But that edge is there anyway, giving it a nice balance, especially against the mint and fruit range this infusion.

Mint is also at the edge of being perceptible; it ties more to the fruit in a tea-berry than the mint part, but including that adds complexity (again, as with the savory range).  This tea works as well as it does because it seems simple, sweet, and light on a fast take but it's really actually complex.  In flavor, at least; the feel is pleasantly thick and the aftertaste is there, it doesn't fade immediately, but compared to the range of structures and aspect intensity in young sheng it's on the simple side.

I brewed this next round quite fast but the color is still a dark golden.  This could be oxidized slightly more than it seems.  That would normally be associated with a reddish brewed color, hence the Chinese name for black tea as red tea, but I'm guessing that an intermediate level of that, along with extracting other compounds, helps this come across this intense and rich.  It brews as golden though; dark golden shaded by tree branches over me now, probably more yellow-golden in different light.

Even brewed very fast (just under 5 seconds) this is about as intense as the last round, and not transitioned much.  It could be a little sweeter.  I don't experience that as a flaw or limitation in the tea, just placing it. 

Savory range and a very light earthiness picks up just a little in this round.  If  that"light stick" earthy range description didn't ring a bell for description a sweet and clean version of balsa wood is also close enough.

It's great the way that fruit spans a good range.  Ripe peach still works as a description, as does red raspberry, and to me it still reminds me most of the fruitiness of tea-berry, which isn't a commonly eaten berry or fruit.  It's not even really a berry, I don't think; I don't know what it is.  It seems like a berry in the sense that a coffee bean is called that (or also a bean); something different.  This post is heavy on tangents but let's check on that with Wikipedia anyway:

Gaultheria procumbens, also called the eastern teaberry, the checkerberry, the boxberry, or the American wintergreen, is a species of Gaultheria native to northeastern North America from Newfoundland west to southeastern Manitoba, and south to Alabama.[1] It is a member of the Ericaceae (heath family).[2]...

The fruit is red and 6–9 mm (0.24–0.35 in) across.[4] It looks like a berry, but is actually a dry capsule surrounded by fleshy calyx.[5][4]...

The fruits of G. procumbens, considered its actual "teaberries", are edible, with a taste of mildly sweet wintergreen similar to the flavors of the Mentha varieties M. piperita (peppermint) and M. spicata (spearmint) even though G. procumbens is not a true mint. The leaves and branches make a fine herbal tea, through normal drying and infusion process. For the leaves to yield significant amounts of their essential oil, they need to be fermented for at least three days.[12]

That last part is interesting; checking that out has been on my to-do list for years.  That "berry" texture is really odd, just not odd enough to stop me from trying them whenever I see them, since the flavor is really unique.

credit that Wikipedia post, Wikimedia Commons

I brewed this next round over 10 seconds to experience it the other way, prepared stronger.  That should ramp up those warmer tones and body, and diminish the fruit a little.

And it does.  It still works, nice for being heavier in effect, that bit more intense.  Probably an optimum for me would be in the middle at this stage, maybe around 8 seconds, but it really doesn't matter for this tea.  It changes a little but it's fine across a range, one of those tea types that's hard to screw up.  You'd squander a lot of its potential, in my opinion, if you let this brew for 30 seconds at this gaiwan proportion but it would still be nice.

On the subject of complexity I don't think I've been giving credit to the role light mineral is playing in increasing that effect, picking up over the last few rounds (much less notable in the lighter infusion though).  It's almost impossible to identify at that light, integrated level; it tastes like a light form of rock, maybe granite.  On the subject of appreciating rocks:

That's not rock climbing, that's walking along a relatively broad ledge, an old image from when I appreciated the difference in character between types of rock (Southwestern US sandstone, in that case, not exactly what people tend to call "slickrock" but close enough to that).  I wasn't appreciating the smell or related taste in foods back then, but instead the function for hiking or climbing on it, but some of it comes back as distant memories during these tastings.

How that area looks, like Utah but it's Grand Junction instead, over on the Western side of Colorado.

In a familiar recurring theme I'll need to try this once more and move onto a roller blade skating outing.  My kids will go back to taking Mandarin lessons in two more weeks and I'll be able to do extended Saturday tasting sessions, but we may switch over to ice skating next week, which could take up even more of the morning.  It's never enough until it's too much and we're closing in on that; they go to yoga today and tomorrow (at time of writing), and Keo has piano on Sunday too.

On the next round fruit and brighter tones keep fading.  They help with the balance but the warmer mild earth and faint underlying mineral give it a more even balance now.  It's not quite as pleasant but still very nice.  At this stage it would make sense to me for people to want this to turn out stronger and to let the times run onto more like 20 seconds; it's just not necessarily my preference.  It's great lighter, although it does need at least a 10 second infusion time to be strong enough now, or 15 is ok.

All in all a very nice tea, a good example of how Moonlight Whites can be.  Some are slightly sweeter, or different in different ways, but this covers most of the range I like best in these.  All that reminds me of a long tangent on what is seen as most positive in different types, which I'll cover further here.

a little uneven oxidation; that worked out well

On Quality Markers

It's nothing too novel, but in discussion of sheng pu'er a list of most appreciated aspects and a standard pattern for preference of one scope of those over another tends to come up.  At the risk of oversimplifying, people are said to appreciate flavor most first, then mouthfeel, then the way teas make you feel.  The ancient Chinese wisdom version of that goes something like this:  beginners drink tea with their mouth, intermediate tea drinkers with their throat, and after more experience with the body instead.

The subject of quality markers--not a standard term, but how I frame the idea--relates to these.  Adjusted a little one would look for certain aspects in sheng pu'er to identify it as being of high quality:  a positive set of flavors that are typical to the growing area comes into play, along with expected and balanced levels of sweetness, bitterness, mineral aspect, and so on.  Mineral works better as a quality marker than the others; the form and level of that seems to correspond with tea from old tea plants, which is preferred.  Next specific forms of mouthfeel are appreciated, bitterness transitioning to sweetness, lingering aftertaste, and finally the tea making you feel a certain way (cha qi effect, or as I like to think of it drug-like qualities).

Moving on, are there a set of aspects that identify Moonlight White as a higher quality version?  I might add "in my own opinion;" all of this isn't standard understanding of evaluating tea, even though it is in part derived from hearing a lot of others' opinions on a lot of teas.  Those "lots" span a good bit of scope, but mostly tied to online input and personal evaluation of that against my own experience.

Not so much as for some other types, per my understanding (sheng--young and old, shu, and for various oolong types).  White teas come up in discussion, and Moonlight White versions do, but it's a different thing, narrowing expectations and standard perceptions down to a single tea type within a category.  To the extent I think I can specify that (even further into just being my own opinion), I think flavor aspect range stands out, just maybe more related to match to preference than for identifying quality. 

"Quality markers" might relate to thickness of feel, intensity of flavor, and overall balance.  Aftertaste can occur related to different teas, and people's takes on cha qi vary, but as I see it flavor is a main input for how well someone would like a Moonlight White, and the others could be used to judge quality, if one were so inclined. 

I'm typically not; how much I like a tea as a balanced and pleasant experience suits me for evaluation purposes, and all this is more about sharing a potential different way to look at tea experience.  Sometimes it works out--broadly, as experiences go--to experience an experience as a simple thing at first, to accumulate levels of details while sorting out what those experiences are all about later, then to come back to simpler forms of appreciation later on.  All of this may be helpful in that middle ground range when someone is trying to unpack why they like complex experiences, which isn't really a necessary project to take up anyway.

Brewing more positive infusions or transitioning in an interesting way across rounds both make for special cases; these can be quite pleasant to experience, but I personally don't see them as quality markers.  Tea only brewing a limited amount before losing positive character is definitely a flaw but claiming the opposite doesn't work quite as well.

This tea does ok related to that type of analysis (the markers theme).  Thickness of feel is nice, the flavors there are positive, interesting, novel, and balanced, and sweetness is pleasant, although it could be a little more pronounced.  A tea expressing some degree of savory aspect would do well to not be overly sweet, while one more centered on aspects like peach or berry probably would be better if sweeter.  In other versions sweetness can work to provide a better overall balance, at the right level; eg. offsetting bitterness or other flavor range. 

In summary, this is clearly good tea.  Perhaps more importantly I like it.  Next value comes into play; is this tea as good as implied by the price range, or how does that relate to other comparable offerings from different sources?  Of course that kind of interpretation varies as much by individual as subjective preference for aspects.  This covered too much ground already, so I'll leave out exploring that concern, and show pictures from that outing I mentioned.

playing a game in between skill drills at that lesson

Keo and that friend visiting from China, Olea

extra skateboarding session after the class