Friday, February 28, 2020

Taking up yoga; sucking at it

It will be nice writing about something other than tea or the end of the world.  I think there are general lessons to be found in my latest health venture, taking up yoga, which relate most to someone at my age maintaining health or starting something new (I'm 51).

My wife had asked me to join her in getting into yoga before, and I had always declined.  She asked a couple of weeks ago if I would go to a class that day (here), and I said no, before I realized that it was February 14th, Valentine's day.  If that's what she really wanted instead of some dinner outing what could I do; I went.  Oddly I had practiced yoga a little when I was younger, used for stretching and getting focused before snowboarding.  Not in a class, just doing positions from a book.

my hair is on the way out too

It felt strange, being in that studio environment, with mostly women, all wearing the typical sort of uniform, stretchy tights and a functional athletic-tech material top.  So far so good though.

The instructor, an Indian guy I had met once before (who is really nice--that helps a lot), came in and mentioned that it was an advanced class--not ideal.  I was there already, ready to pose and stretch; it was a bit late to kill the planning.

It didn't go well.  Half of the positions I could do no problem, even for them being called out relatively quickly.  Most of the other half I wasn't even close to being able to do.  If it was just similar to not being able to touch my toes--one form of limitation that came up--that would be fine, but in lots of cases the basic starting point was beyond me, or I would just get lost in the pace of following along.  An example of the first:  one pose involved grabbing your big toe and pulling your leg up to something like a standing split.  Not happening.

those two in the bottom right are my kids

I thought that would be it for my yoga practice, but over the next couple of days I noticed that I was really sore in some odd places.  Not only did that session highlight unconventional limits to my flexibility, it also turned up that yoga would "work out" supporting muscles that weren't accustomed to being used at all.  Both were probably exactly what I needed, to turn back the process of my posture resembling a question mark due to sitting at a desk for a work-week (I work in IT), and to regain a higher level use of controlling muscle function.  I signed up for more classes, and went back the next week.

I just saw this, captioned "When you become a living golden ratio"

Maybe I never mentioned here that I took up running a bit over a year ago.  I'm not exactly fit, but I can run about 5 miles / 7.5 kilometers in around 40 minutes.  That's not helping my flexibility though.  And the learning curve process seemed a lot more comfortable, if a bit physically unpleasant.

The next week I attended an intermediate class instead, this time relating to "deep stretching."  Again I could do justice to half of what came up, and again severe limits came up.  It's hard to place what it's like experiencing a failing effort in a class setting like that.  My "classmates" were almost all tiny Asian women, who were much more flexible than an average person.  It almost seemed like cheating, them being so thin.  The idea is not to score yourself based on what the people around you are capable of, to focus on your own progress and experience, but it's still a bit frustrating.  It has to cross your mind:  what am I doing here?

tree pose, I think

I'm reminded of the idea that we don't chose sports based on a match to our likes, but rather to our aptitudes (which would naturally match up).  Tall and lanky people might tend to like running; short and heavy built people lifting weights.  Snowboarding was the sport that clicked best for me, and my body size, mechanics aptitude, and mental approach seemed to click for that.  I'm not a naturally gifted runner; I ran track and cross-country in high school and I was never going to do well in running sports, even with better than average training.  It would help to be thin framed and lean to do yoga but in general physical aptitudes would seem to matter less.

Exercising after 50 is nothing like starting those pursuits back at age 35 or so.  I noticed in taking up running that recovery time was really slow, and being prone to injury came up.  I was only ever injured once in nearly a decade of fairly intense snowboarding, in a crash, which my shoulder took a few years to self-repair.  I never had a calf strain, anything like shin splints, sore quadriceps or hamstrings (beyond normal conditioning issues).  I never took 2 or 3 days off any activity to heal in order to do it again.

Living in Hawaii in grad school I took up biking for transportation and never really even thought of that as conditioning, even though I spent an hour a day in transit on a bike.  Contrasting that with now, the last time I was injured was from crawling around a play area with my kids, hyper-extending my knee and experiencing what a doctor informed is called a "Baker's cyst," a minor joint fluid leak.  It's not as bad as it sounds.

I can kind of fit in those crawl spaces but it's a different experience than for my kids

The "lessons" parts here seem obvious enough; things get harder as we get older, and starting something new can involve a learning curve and acceptance of being terrible at an activity in a public setting.  Somehow people walking then running slowly, putting that lack of conditioning out there, doesn't seem quite as pronounced as a limitation.  I'd probably fare better in an actual "beginner level" yoga class, but in the center I've been attending that particular class instructor is Thai, so I'd be "training" via instruction in a language I'm not fluent in (to say the least).

My wife has some weight issues, and knee problems that make my own really seem like nothing, and she's regained a lot of body function, starting out in a more appropriate lower level and building up, as one would.  It's nice that she gets to assume the role of the better athlete between the two of us, for now.

I intend all of this as a warning to those who read it who are around my age, and getting out of shape (or better yet only around 40 instead).  Your body is going to degrade a bit, but there is time to counter that.  Just walking can help a lot, if it's down to doing that or doing nothing.  When I took up walking quite a bit more about 2 years ago I never expected it to lead to running, and then yoga, it was just a measure to see if I could resolve knee joint stiffness.  It worked, although that same knee isn't exactly 100% right now, slightly tweaked in two different ways.  I checked if it can support running nearly 4 km / 2 1/2 miles doing a short loop this morning; it can.

Related to the running, and one rare clear measure of progress, my resting heart rate dropped from the 70s to the 60s in the past year; maybe I'll live longer.  My cholesterol level, another main reason I took up the running, never did drop, still at the upper borderline.

One might wonder, how does any of this relate to tea?  I think it doesn't.  Maybe I'm holding up better for drinking lots of tea or maybe I'm not, but I kind of doubt it.  It's definitely not granting me joint flexibility, and drinking really significant quantities of sheng for two years also hasn't resolved that cholesterol level issue.  Maybe it's not "green" enough?

I still have faith that drinking tea is probably quite healthy, but one has to be practical about these sorts of issues, and take a broader approach than relying on just a beverage choice input.  Being in relatively poor health is definitely an option, but what that means in terms of limitations tends to change at different ages.

About the yoga theme conclusions, maybe I'll check back in after a few months and write from a different perspective than that of an absolute beginner.  It would make for a nicer story to talk about how it was all really working out.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Is specialty tea having a moment?

First published in TChing in two parts, here and here.

This theme comes up so often that I had to check if I've written about it here.  Nope; I wrote a blog post about tea popularity and tea cults some months back, and only drifted into it a little there.

This article from that time frame claims that "Artisanal Tea in America Is Having a Moment," which I think has been addressed here at TChing by different authors across varying scope.  This more recent article claims that "There is No Craft Tea Movement in America (Yet)."  So which is it?

It's possible that both could be right, seen from two different points of view.  My input in that blog post was that it's not the case (no "moment"), but from within a narrow interest group, related to increasing exposure among a small set of people, awareness and demand is ramping up.  Probably some vendors are experiencing good sales growth, and new sources certainly keep entering the market.  I write about new developments and options all the time in my blog, and people read that (Tea in the Ancient World).

compressed black tea from Laos; new forms keep turning up

There won't be space here to break apart both sets of claims, to fully place all that.  It would work to only consider the "why not" side, from the second article cited:

...Walk into your local grocery store, and you can choose among Fair Trade Certified, single-origin beans from Ethiopia, Costa Rica or Peru. Now in its third or fourth wave, depending on whom you ask, craft coffee culture is everywhere.

Whither craft tea? While many Americans do indeed brew and drink tea, it has yet to experience a 21st century “craft” revolution, the kind that launches national chains and inspires financial analysts to rant about millennials’ spending habits...

So there's the difference; at the local specialty grocery store level tea is very likely to be under-represented, while coffee isn't.  That's probably accurate.  To cite a related example, the main national tea outlet chain, Teavana, owned by Starbucks, was closed about two years ago.  More recently Unilever has been reported as considering getting out of the tea industry (owner of Lipton, PG Tips, Tazo, and the T2 chain), although they did just officially deny other related reporting two months ago, so who knows.

Where I live, in Bangkok, the limitations in demand and awareness stands out more than development of that range does, but there are a few specialty cafes that serve as exceptions.

bubble tea and elaborate pour-over flavored tea versions are more popular in Bangkok

That article cites awareness as the main issue, along with prepared tea not being as well-suited for fast production and distribution, or as high in caffeine level.  The awareness part seems right; even among tea interest groups on Facebook some people explore broadly and deeply related to tea types and culture (as in the Gong Fu Cha group), and others emphasize focus on flavored blends or tea-bag version consumption (as in the Tea Drinkers group).  I comment in both, and also helped co-found an even larger themed group there, International Tea Talk, so that continuum is familiar.  Artisianal or craft tea demand (or specialty tea, how I tend to phrase that), probably isn't as common as interest in blends and flavored tea.

I founded a Quora Space about tea too, answering questions (here)

From the perspective of a tea enthusiast maybe more people should learn about and appreciate better tea, because it is a diverse, pleasant, healthy, and exceptional value beverage choice.  Or maybe they shouldn't, according to some; for rarer tea types only so much is produced (or had been made in the past, related to aged teas), and increasing demand may increase pricing levels.  I tend to also support producer interests, and think that expanded production could accommodate higher demand, so I don't worry about that part.  General interest and demand ramps up so slowly that it's largely a non-issue anyway.

I'll keep supporting tea awareness, and it seems likely that at some point it will "take off," and seem more like a movement.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

2008 Dayi V93, 2018 Bulang shu pu'er from King Tea Mall

Dayi V93 left, Bokuro gushu shu right

On the King Tea Mall website--where these are from; samples shared for review, which is much appreciated--John mentioned he is shipping teas again, as of today.  I'm not sure how normal things are back in China just yet but it's good to hear that some normalcy is returning.

It's a little strange to review shu right after writing a long intro post about exploring sheng, but of course these tea types are related.  Aged sheng never really completely resembles shu, but that is kind of the general idea, and the character difference informs a lot about both; the overlap and the differences define both.  I'll get into all that, probably more so for just considering sheng basics that much.  I've been re-tasting a lot of what I reviewed last year (just not mentioning it in detail here), which also includes shu, just less of it.

It's not as if I have an endless supply of old samples but I do have enough to keep reviewing them once a week for awhile.  I could live with this blog going quiet instead but it's also nice reviewing, even if experience and themes just tend to repeat.  I expected these to be pretty good shu, and experiencing and placing good versions of tea types is different than the same related to examples that are only a bit above average.

Per standard approach I only knew what was on the labels when tasting these, but did look up and copy the descriptions here after.

2008 Dayi V93  (listed at $66 for 5 100 gram tuochas)

Origination:  Started from 2005 year. Made from high grade tea materials and decently fermented. 

Taste: Well balanced on thickness, mellowness and other taste factors. Aromatic and fragrant. Soft tea soup along with smoothness. 

Storage:  Guangzhou dry and clean storage.

That price looks a little steep related to it being for a set; when you divide it back out to $13 per tuocha it seems quite reasonable.  At least I see it that way after trying the tea.  The description works, that could just be taken in different ways.  They list similar 2007 and 2009 versions but for as nice as this seems maybe better just to go with it.

That still doesn't seem like a lot of background; maybe checking in with Yunnan Sourcing's related offerings will add to that:

2017 Menghai DaYi V93 Premium Ripe Pu-erh Tea ($7.50)

This is a classic Ripe tea blend, called "V93", it was most recently released in 2006 and quickly became one the most expensive ripe teas on the market. To this day the 2005 and 2006 V93 Ripe productions have commanded very high prices due to the fact that this is one of the most sought after Ripe teas for everyday drinking. It is smooth and full in the mouth. It is fermented just enough to break down the bitterness of raw pu-erh while lightly fermented enough to preserve the stimulating cha qi and hui gan of a raw pu-erh. After-taste is sweet and thick.

So it's a relatively classic shu blend; that's it.  It's really not that expensive to buy a newer version of it, but that might be better for sitting around another couple of years.  Or it's probably just fine as it is; three years lets a shu settle quite a bit.  I never mentioned aftertaste in these reviews, I don't think.  I suppose it is notable but not so much in comparison with how that goes with sheng.

KingTeaMall "TONG QIN" (Guqin) Puerh GuShu Shou Cha Ripe Tea  ($18 per cake or $86 for set of 5)

This tea was made from tea leaves picked up from GuShu tea trees in BuLang tea mountain in 2015 year and processed into shou cha in the same year. Then it had been kept into ware house in MengHai county, YunNan province to wait for smell off.  We pressed that into cakes in May, 2018 Year.

High ratio of tea buds which are covered by many golden tea hairs.

Medium fermentation.  Mellow and smooth.  Clean and clear taste feeling.

Storage: From July. 2018, it has been stored in Guangzhou. Dry and clean.

I think that is an in-house label, Bokuryo.  I tend to put more stock in how a tea comes across than branding or even background descriptions anyway.  It being Bulang does matter, but that means a different thing for shu than sheng, since even if the starting point is quite common shu fermentation changes everything.

Interesting that this 2018 tea was really produced in 2015.  It does seem really clean in effect, which isn't unheard of for tea that's not quite two years old, but for a version that's nearly five it makes more sense.  The high ratio of tea buds part you can see.  This being a small cake instead of a tuo it doesn't matter so much, but lower level of compression for cakes can make them age slightly faster and be less hassle to break off chunks from.  There are probably more low quality tuochas than mini-cakes out there but that broad generality doesn't mean much; you're only drinking the one or two versions at a time.


I brewed these for up towards 20 seconds to get the process started faster, to skip an infusion that just points toward what the teas will really be like in the second.

V93 left, in all photos; the other is a bit darker, maybe just opening up faster

2008 Dayi V93 Tuo:  quite nice.  Deep, rich flavors, very smooth character, pleasant intensity, and rich, thick feel.  The overall balance is great.  Flavor range spans dark wood tones into aromatic spice range, frankincense and myrrh or whatever else.  Any hint of rough edges from fermentation process, if any had been present, are long gone.  Sweetness is nice; everything balances in this.  It's even a bit creamy.

2018 Tong Qin gushu:  interesting for including a pronounced flavor aspect that's not completely unrelated from what I described in the other sample, but not the same.  Oddly that same description would probably work about as well as any other anyway.  It's slightly lighter, just a little towards a balsa wood tone, or aromatic cedar, or both. 

This gives up some of the deeper, heavier underlying tones and richness present in the other.  For being on the "young" side it's quite clean in effect [or since it's really a 2015 version not so much, what one would expect], it's just that the overall balance hasn't evolved to where the other is.  Intensity is still good, just across a different range.  I suppose it comes across as trailing over into root spice range instead of the aromatic, "deeper," and different bark spice.

I had been thinking that the amount of the first tea looks to be slightly lower (dry weight), not by much, but enough that it might require adjusting infusion time.  Maybe not.  It is hard to judge dry tea amount with compression level varying, so these really could be exactly the same.  You would assume they were weighed; it probably just was about not appreciating compression level difference.  Even if they're not the intensity of the first sample is very good (or both really), and it would work well brewed lightly. 

Second infusion:

color more even this round

I brewed these a bit over 10 seconds, longer than they would need to get into a normal infusion strength range, but I tend to like shu a little strong.  It would work to drink these on the inky side, brewed for over 20 seconds, but for reviewing them that's not ideal, drinking them at a higher than average infusion strength.  If anything trying teas on the light side lets you identify both individual aspects and general character a bit better.

2008 Dayi:  the creaminess picked up; that's a really cool effect.  It's like how that comes across in Guiness Stout, just missing a lot of those heavier flavors in that, and of course the alcohol.  This has a lot more depth than a Guiness, but to be fair it also gives up a good bit of high end for flavor range.  The flavors are dark wood tones, with the other range I talked about, leaning towards spice.

Related to aged sheng this isn't as refined (versions that don't just fade to nothing), the way those layer together a lot of scope, even long after the astringency and bitterness drops out completely.  This is probably somewhat close to how a 25 year old relatively humid stored sheng would come across, something I've tried not so long ago (ok, really 30+), just still different.  Still pretty good though, for the range it covers.

2018 Tong Qin:  not bad, not really changing.  This version looks a bit redder (the dry leaf), as versions with bud content tend to (I never read descriptions before writing the notes; maybe they'll say more about that).  That tends to pull the flavor in a lighter direction, that cedar-wood range, but oddly the shu tends to gain an unusual type of depth too.  I'm using "depth" here in a couple different senses.  The first tea covers smooth, rich, broad range that extends to mild, warm underlying mineral content; one type of depth. 

My take--worth keeping in mind it's a work in progress--is that buds heavy shu tends to gain flavor range for including that mix of material content, and it lends the feel a texture that isn't necessarily rich or creamy but still has a more limited form of extra thickness.  This post goes into all that, about a Gong Ting shu.  I've got a Moychay version that's probably an even better quality example; it would take some doing looking up what that was, and the review, but I might get to it [not what I was thinking of but these work as an example].

It's interesting going back and forth between them and seeing which is better, and just how good both probably are.  I think they're both quite good examples of shu, there's probably just still another level or two, just a bit more complexity or depth both could express.  The Tong Qin doesn't come across quite as positively to me, for being a simpler tea, but the flavor range and intensity across a narrower range is good.  Neither have any negative aspects, since I don't see limited complexity as that.  I'll try another round and get back to that. 

I suppose it is odd that a version made of gushu (old plant source tea) is less complex, and less intense, but starting point depends on a lot more than plant age.  Most likely this V93 had significant rough edges that all rounded off.

Third infusion:

2008 Dayi V93:  more of the same; I really don't expect these to evolve and change all that much.  The warm mineral range (like what is often present in Liu Bao) picked up a little.  This tea is nothing like Liu Bao, the rest of the set of aspects, and overall character, that creaminess, but mineral range overlaps.  There's still a catchy warm wood tone, off redwood and mahogany.  It's a bit less like Guiness for creaminess tapering off a little.

2018 Tong Qin:  still about the same as last round.  Wood tone might have shifted just a touch, but it won't work to break that down for as vague as the description had been.   This would seem more well-balanced, pleasant, and complex without direct comparison to the other, which age probably helped contribute.

To be clear I'm skeptical that aging shu makes anywhere near as much difference as people often claim.  Of course that seems to contradict this entire review.  There's an exception, that some tar-like or petroleum aspect range can really smooth out and become creamy over time, or funky fermentation related range can smooth out, or really drop out.  Maybe both happened in the case of this 2008, so the "rule" about shu improving with age was born out.  I'm not so convinced that this 2018 version would be all that much different or better in another 10 years.  Then again I'm not basing that on enough evidence and experience; maybe it will be.

It also runs against some strands of conventional wisdom that a shu could be as pleasant, balanced, intense, and free of flaws as this 2018 version is.  Really lots of examples disprove that, even across some degree of quality and cost range; anyone who has drank a good bit of shu would already be clear on that part.

Fourth infusion:

2008 Dayi V93:  not changed much; I'll leave it at that.  Dark wood it probably picking up more, creaminess is still leveling off.  It hasn't lost much for complexity yet but I'd expect it to narrow quite a bit over the next 2 or 3 infusions, since I have been letting these infusions run a bit long, over 10 seconds.

2018 Tong Qin:  again transitioning slightly but the same general description still kind of works.  This probably always did have a little more "high end" then I've been doing justice to.  I had said the wood tone was a bit bright, like redwood, but that extends a little towards orange zest, it's just not quite there.  It makes for an interesting contrast with the other, since it leans in an opposite direction.  I often wonder if lower or medium level fermentation level shu doesn't have a lot more aging potential over the longer run, after 15 years or so, but I can't really guess where this stands in relation to that.


I tried a long brewed round next; that's a pleasant way to drink shu that doesn't contain any flaws to work around.  These still had plenty left to produce a really thick, creamy, intense round, and are still far from finished.

It's hard to say just how good these versions are.  To me--and this is just my own impression--shu tends to level off quite a bit at "well above average."  I have reviewed a number of distinctive exceptions to that, that were different in lots of interesting and positive ways, but this is where a lot of relatively good shu lands. 

That's not a bad thing; these were quite pleasant, and not at all the same tea experience.  They're both not all that expensive.  As I see it shu is more of a comfort tea, a type that's great with breakfast, or with food on a work break.  There's less to focus on, and in a couple of senses less to appreciate, but good versions are quite positive, and hard to screw up in relation to brewing.  It's also easier on your stomach; I could probably get away with drinking these without food first thing in the morning, that's just not how I start my day.

For people who focus in and see shu as their own preferred end-point I guess that personal likes factor in.  I never had any problem appreciating buds-heavy shu, in the way it took time to really get black teas like that, but they're different.  One concern with shu is slight or even significant negative aspects, a bit of extra off flavor from fermentation effect, and that's definitely not a concern for both of these. 

I'd buy shu like this but I'm a bit too hung up on sheng.  It's the same story for oolongs; I really like those, but it's not where I am for main preference just now.  Dian Hong (Yunnan black tea) preference is never going to completely drop out; I keep mixing those in.  But I can only cover so much scope, so I've been setting aside those types, and for the most part also Indian and Nepalese teas (which are great), whites, and whatever else.  It also seems like it might be almost time to pull through this 2 1/2 year sheng cycle but I'm not quite there yet. 

I don't know what will be next; take a break from tea, maybe?  Some new theme will come up.

where I'm editing this, but that was last week

maybe the last day in that outfit; things keep changing

lots of sweet kids for friends, wherever she goes

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Exploring sheng pu'er

a bit under 1 year old Farmerleaf Tian Jiang Jing Mai sheng cake; how sheng often looks

Another "basics" post, just an unusual version of one, about how it goes exploring this one tea type.

It's odd how people catch onto the idea that they are "supposed to" like sheng pu'er, then work out adjusting what they try and preference to try to.  There's no other tea type that someone would drink, dislike, and then think they were in the wrong for not enjoying it.  I'll mention the example that came closest to that for me for reference though.

Before I get to that, it has become clear to me why I rarely write these randomly themed reference posts.  No amount of writing ever seems to capture one narrow but linked set of ideas.  It's much more natural and organic to add a few short paragraphs worth of commentary on a theme, versus putting together a broader set of related ideas.

As further background context, sheng pu'er and oolongs do seem to be the two natural end-points for main tea type preference among tea enthusiasts.  Both are diverse tea scope, complex in terms of related variation, and also the potential character of better version examples.  Sheng versions can be just as complex as any other type of tea, but due to adding in the dimension of aging potential they are even more so.

Every individual version spans a range of character, from what it was when brand new to wherever that leads for fermentation / aging transition, which is never really a completed process.  Under the right aging circumstances versions can be relatively completely aged after 20 years or so but they still keep changing, just not as fast.  There is a common preconception that sheng is best when aged longest but really it's not that simple.  Some is great new, maybe per typical preference best then, some ideal after a couple of years, and from there it is most typical for older to be better.

2007 Tulin T868 tuocha; a bit compressed as those tend to be

On to an example of another type I took to slowly, which may shed light on how sheng preference curve goes (or may not; I tend to not always have a point).  I kept trying silver needle / silver tips versions and not exactly loving them.  Since white tea was a highly regarded tea type at that time (a half dozen years ago) it seemed like I was either trying bad versions or missing something.  I never cite really early posts, because they seem so rough-edged now, but one of the first few I wrote compared white tea buds-only versions from China and India.  Looking back that T2 tea version (the one from China) I bought from them the month after their company acquisition by Unilever, not exactly an auspicious transition for them.

In that case it wasn't that aspects like bitterness and astringency were an issue; flavor intensity often seemed limited instead.  I liked those two teas mentioned in that post; not always other examples from the category, back then.  In both the cases of silver needle / silver tips teas and sheng it helped to adjust preference to appreciate them, a process that happened naturally, with exposure.  For the white teas I learned to like teas with more subtle flavor range, for sheng to see bitterness as positive in the right balance with other aspects.  Not all sheng is very bitter (as some definitely is) but it tends to come up, just less so in aged versions.  I didn't like buds-only black teas as well as leaf based versions for quite awhile, and over time gradually adapted to that different range too.  It's funny how all those natural preference transitions go.

2007 CNNP "red mark" 8891; more compressed sheng after a dozen years of relatively dry storage time

Those issues

A few concerns seem to map together in ways that online descriptions don't do justice to.  Only experience helps make the sub-themes very clear, but something can still be said about them.

quality:  this means a few different things.  Early on it seems important to not drop it out as a concern but to keep in mind that it's not a simple concept, and it mixes with other themes.  It can relate to trueness to type, even though that's really something else, but as often it relates to a lack of flaws, presence of aspects that serve as quality markers (positive flavor and feel, aftertaste range experience, overall intensity, "cha qi" experience related, etc.), or aging potential, aspects related to how it will be later.  Old plant source (gushu) versions are better regarded, with some typical character tying to that, but it's not as simple as saying the two factors always map directly together, plant source age and tea quality.  Pricing would seem to imply that, but then pricing is about demand, and typical initial material sales price, in addition to how good a tea actually is.

local region / type / growing conditions related character:  this varies, and seeking out what is type-typical has to also pair with considering what is positive.  This could be a primary early focus, trying to separate out broad and narrower patterns in types, or someone could focus more on final aspects they prefer, even though the two would interrelate.  This gets a little complicated since broad region profiles tend to be discussed, but then better quality versions are more typically sold in relation to the narrow village area they come from.  No matter how narrow the origin area versions could still vary, and given that micro-climate is an issue (specific weather experienced by the plants; amount of sun, water, soil type, etc.) they should vary, there would just also be a degree of consistency.

loose Laos sheng (left), compared to a black tea version, both sold as wild-sourced tea

age / fermentation level (not the same thing):  sheng is complex because it varies as much as for any other tea type before aging transitions are considered, and then this dimension shifts a lot after that.  It's difficult to buy comparable teas that are new, and then also similar others with a bit of time on them, and relatively completely aged versions that were also close in starting-point character to get a sense of how this works.  Theme specific tasting sets might help, or trying a broad range of teas and keeping loose track.  People tend to overdo it with emphasis on "traditional Hong Kong storage," it seems to me, even though of course some range of conditions would be generally more optimum.

Tea Side Thai 1980 (left) and 1993 sheng versions

What the categories even are for storage conditions is hard to sort out, and people would use terms in different ways.  There probably is a best-case most-correct set of terminology usage out there, but really you need the experience to match the concepts anyway, so it works to put both together, learning the terms and experiencing what they mean.

This was a comment on a Puerh Tea Club discussion recently (which is hard to link to; the heading and question is "Tea cake that is stored in Hong Kong is alway wet storage??"), by Olivier Schneider, one of the better sources of information out there, and author of

"Wet storage" means artificially refined or fermented.

A tea naturally stored in the natural wet atmosphere of Hong Kong will be called dry storage.  Most of (nearly all) puerh before the end of the 90s have been (more or less strongly) wet stored (but there are some exception). Since the end of the 90s, there are more and more naturally stored puerh in Hong-Kong too.

Unless I'm mistaken usually Hong Kong storage is called "natural" when humidity level isn't adjusted, with storage region specified, and when controlled to be more humid "wet," and in drier climates like Kunming "dry."  Some time back the Pu'er Addict's Journal blog author proposed swapping out Hong Kong storage reference as "wet" for "traditional" would make sense.  Anyway, storage level and the actual effect relate to the tea's age, storage conditions (maybe even mostly that), and starting point character, the initial potential.

preference shifts:  this is as much a concern as all the rest, but it tends to not draw that much attention.  There's an old truism about how early on sheng drinkers, or tea drinkers in general, tend to prefer flavor aspects first, then move on to consider mouthfeel and aftertaste (in addition, or as more primary concerns), then "drink with their body," valuing effect.  For blog input Tea Addict's Journal goes into that (he's a good reference on lots of themes; check out this related selection of quotes).  It definitely doesn't help that your own preference makes for a moving target; trying the same teas over different times might output the same evaluation for aspects but a different one for relation to likes.

wild sourced tea, "pu'er" from South East Asia, outside China:  these themes aren't a perfect match for a broad overview post, since either set of ideas (about growing conditions and plant types, especially related to production outside Yunnan) could make for an interesting and lengthy isolated review.  Both themes are complicated by a lot of variation among individual versions that are either "wild grown / old plant" tea, or from a different country, or both.

It's tempting to want to generalize, to say that Myanmar sheng is a certain way, for example.  Based on only trying 2 or 3 versions it could certainly seem that way, or those could vary a lot.  Growing conditions vary a lot within as broad an area as a country, plant types aren't consistent over that type of range either, and processing is even less consistent.  I have my own impression of patterns among older plant or more natural growth sheng versions, but those are inconsistent enough that it may only be stories I tend to adhere to, rejecting the other cases as atypical or lower in quality based on that expectations bias.

Kokang (Myanmar producer and region name) 2018 sheng

It's interesting to try sheng from Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam (you can call it sheng, it is still "raw," you just need to switch that to "pu'er-like tea" for discussion in tea groups).  It's just as well to hold off on identifying clear patterns, or accepting vendor input about how those go, until you try a number of versions, and realize that exceptions to any standard themes would keep coming up.

approaches:  early on sampling a lot seems to make the most sense.  Setting aside a few cakes that seem like "basics" to experience transitions first-hand over the first year or two, and then after, also makes sense to me.  A Dayi / Taetea 7542 would be an example of a related factory tea, regarded as a benchmark version.  It's not as simple to identify what works as a region-specific "basic" related to other vendors, for a tea version that's not as blended, or based on use of more whole-leaf material.

Sampling could fill in an initial take on how aging transitions go, enabling buying more of a few versions that might improve later on, but piecing that together quickly is the problem.  Some vendors mostly or only sell blended cakes, versus narrow source region versions, or don't convey that information, forcing you to rely on knowledge and experience of how aspects identify what you have and where it will go for changes.

In discussing approach with someone online they mentioned seeing buying a cake as a sample (another Tea Addict's Journal reference), so that person had tried and also had bought something like 150 sheng cake versions.  That's one way to do it.  On the upside even if you didn't like a tea at all you could see how it changes, if you keep some around, and that leaves room for preference changes later.  The downside is obvious:  spending thousands of dollars on teas you don't like that much.

Tasting set sources

It works to consider a few options, and explore at positives or drawbacks of those options.  I'll start with mentioning a source I've actually tried tea from, and also cover several I've not.  To be clear this section is about themed sample sets, buying very small amounts of sets of teas designed for exploring a limited range.  This is mostly about fast approaches to getting started.

Yiwu Mountain Pu'er I didn't actually try this particular set; the ones I did try from them were themed around trying comparable teas of varying ages, but those are all sold out.  That's an underlying lesson that re-occurs related to all sorts of sheng options; they won't be available forever (a subject just covered in one of my favorite blogs, Mattcha's Blog).  The teas I tried from this vendor were solid enough that I'd expect a lot of what they sell to be of good quality.  That's all relative, and tracking value issues along with that can be complex.  But for samples pressure for a tea to be worth the per-gram price or a great match to preference eases; that's a lot of the point of buying in limited volume.

Yiwu Mountain Pu'er tasting set; different ages, and I think one was huang pian

White 2 Tea, TEA TERROIR RAW PUER SAMPLE SET:  to be clear I've not tried any teas from White 2 Tea yet, a bit of a gap I've been meaning to get to.  Who knows when I will; it's easy to develop a list of things you'd like from familiar vendors, and keep adding to those lists faster than you clear them.

There seems to be two general schools of thought or hearsay responses to this vendor.  One is that they sell positive teas that are relatively universally liked (across versions), representing a good value given tea quality.  The other is that the teas are overpriced, and not as interesting for being sold in a relatively generic form (eg. often without any description of material used, specifically omitting source location origin or degree of mixed content, potentially with a lot of versions being blends).  

This sampler set includes 4 100 gram small cakes for $69.50.  I suppose related to value alone, with only a guess at quality level, that sounds reasonable, since $70 for a 357-400 gram cake isn't so unusual.  For low quality new or young tea (or factory tea versions) that's too much, and any assessment of "medium" level is a judgement call.  It seems fair though.

As for a positive aspect, as they describe those are broad areas for there to be one typical character type, but the right person could select something relatively standard, or at least indicative.  Beyond that a limitation of the approach in general comes into play; it would be hard to separate issues of character type and quality level from source area nature early on.

2018 Yunnan Sourcing "Spring Jinggu" Raw Pu-erh Tea Sampler - Part 2 Yunnan Sourcing, as standard a vendor as there is, doesn't seem to sell that many sample sets, because they sell most teas as samples anyway; that's a standard purchasing option.  Or maybe they really do and I didn't put in enough time with the site search function (for example I didn't page through much in this sub-category, which includes other types).  Narrowing focus to explore a smaller region across 5 teas in this case, from varying background sources, should provide a much higher resolution take on inputs going into that regional general type.

they include nice background write-ups and photo content too (credit that related YS page)

Considering value (again impossible without trying the teas and factoring in quality level) 5 25 gram samples are sold for $44 (so around 30 cents per gram versus closer to 15 for the W2T set).  Maybe this is still a better value; quality level really does swing appropriate sales price by that much.  Clicking on the first type listed YS does sell a 400 gram cake of that for $108 (versus equivalent of $132 for 375 grams, multiplying the set amount and cost by 3), so to them the teas really are upper-medium quality level.  Or at least pricing implies that, and maybe that just relates to what they bought the material at, as covered in another recent Mattcha's blog post.

Crimson Lotus Aged Puerh Tea Super Sample Pack:  this is one more of those standard vendor names that comes up, and one more vendor I've never tried a tea from (or almost never, as it turns out; easy to lose track).  I have no idea where these particular tea versions stand; it just seemed in order to look up and mention an aged sample version.  128 total grams of 7 teas from between 2000 and 2018 are sold in this set, for a total cost of $59.  Even though this is selling for the highest per-gram price of sample sets I've mentioned ($.46 / gram) again it's still possible they could represent the best value.  Trying all three sets would seem to represent a running start; 16 teas focusing across different scopes for about $175.

There's no need to have the vendors put a sample set together for you; if they sell small amounts then you can try whatever sounds good, or some other theme, designed on your own.  Per-gram price is essentially always higher than buying by cake but it makes a huge difference buying what you like in quantity, which is an option if you try only a little first.  357 grams goes faster than one would think, but tea you don't like not quite as fast.

Farmerleaf (Yunnan producer / Jing Mai area specialist):  at one time Farmerleaf was one of the best-value sources for sheng and teas in general on the internet.  They've gradually increased pricing to match demand increase (probably related to source material pricing increases), so now it's just another good quality, fairly priced source option, which is already quite positive.  A lot of what they sell is on the unique side; that adds value.  Their samples are priced without a lot of mark-up over whole cake costs, so putting together your own sample set among what they sell would go well.  

I've tried a number of their teas, and ordered cakes and samples from them last year, but it seems best to stop short of recommending any, since I've only tried a small fraction of what they sell.  As an example, they sell this 20 gram sample of huang pian (yellow leaf) sheng for $3.  If you've never tried huang pian sheng it would be a shame not to try that.  It's milder in character than typical young leaves, sweeter, and not bitter, but also less intense.  Looking around at what else they sell I'm starting to talk myself into a sample order; it wouldn't be the first time that's happened related to recommending this particular vendor.

William, a main owner, produces great video content about tea processing and background issues.  I've never actually met him but per my impression from lots of discussion and first hand accounts he's a knowledgeable, decent, interesting guy.  Most of the tea vendors I meet or talk to by message or in groups seem quite likable and decent; that makes the exceptions stand out all the more.

Liquid Proust:  this may be the best source among all of these.  That vendor (Andrew Richardson; it's one person) supports group buy specials with his other tea sales, a tea evangelist sub-theme.  It's not really a new theme; I interviewed him about that subject three years ago, and tried two sheng sets with lots of review posts about the versions.  They are inconsistent, and span a lot of range, but that's sort of the point, providing broad exposure to a lot of different source areas, quality levels, storage age and condition versions, and so on.  Sets would vary a lot by theme too.

One nice part about buying other tea from him, using him as a source beyond sample sets, is that he actually does fund the tea evangelist theme through other sales.  You'll know what I mean if you do sign up for buying a set; the per-gram price of what I've tried as sample sets from him would seem unrealistic, if I'd kept track.  Even if you never do buy tea from him it's interesting to see him going on about what he's turned up through Instagram and other posts; he's definitely an enthusiastic tea enthusiast.

comparison tasting sheng from three Yunnan source areas from a Liquid Proust set

Those options are just a start.  All are certainly decent options, but they're represented here as both good starting points and to communicate how trying samples goes.  There would be other good options out there.  I've had great luck with buying tea through the Chawang Shop in the past year, and King Tea Mall is an interesting and novel form of outlet, also true in a different sense for Teas We Like.  To be clear I'm not sharing any secrets here (although TWL might be less better known at this point); these are all quite mainstream options.  Other exceptions might prove even more interesting, just with more "buyer beware" concerns related to product authenticity and consistency.

About sample pricing and value in general

I won't get far with this, because I can't lay out how value issues play out related to sheng across a broad range of types, origins, vendor sources, related to storage conditions, and so on.  I can separate out some comments made in relation to sample set pricing and clarify what I meant by those.  These sample set entries already included cost citations, but I mostly only compared costs to the other sets in those (with some exceptions).

To be clear supply and demand pull pricing as much or more than some general quality level value.  Yunnan Sourcing in-house brand versions are popular, which is why they can be sold between $80 and above $100.  It's probably not easy to peg that to a range of other open-market equivalent options.  Why would I single their teas out and that price range, and why not cite that as a price-per-gram value instead, which helps compare apples to apples?  There is a general point I'm trying to make.  A standard cake is typically 357 grams, although many of YS's are 400 instead, and 100 and 200 gram versions come up.  For that price range ($80 to 100) that amount (357 grams) works out to a range of 22 to 28 cents per gram.  Still, what does that mean though?

"Factory tea" versions tend to not cost that much; what I'm really saying is that there is a trend to better, differently sourced and produced teas that are more within a mid-range.  This example helps clarify that distinction:  Yunnan Sourcing lists a 2014 Dayi / Taetea 7542 (kind of a standard benchmark version) for $49.  That particular product version being so well known probably drives up price a bit higher than versions of similar quality would be, but the point is clear enough; well-known, higher demand versions still don't cost all that much (just under 14 cents a gram; equivalent to $7 for 50 grams, for people who are that bad at math).

A half dozen years ago, when I first started this blog, and when I bought the first cake of sheng I ever did, a $100 mid-range cake wasn't really how things worked out.  To be clear I'm not doing the subject of history / transitions in pricing justice here, or even starting in on it.  Demand for sheng goes up over time; prices increase.

Extending that theme a little beyond YS, upper range W2T options extend much further in pricing, but then maybe they are selling high-demand source tea in those cases, just not typically explicitly sold by source area name.  I think maybe word is supposed to get out, that being in the know about the code-names is part of the appeal.  It's this type of complication that makes comparing across source areas, vendors, tea age ranges, individual aspects and styles, etc., quite difficult. 

It takes time to sort out what the related factors are; it takes a lot more time to taste a tea and have some idea of what you are experiencing.  That's why I was emphasizing starting in with samples, then moving on to exploring directions with cakes.  You just don't want to wait too long, to spend a couple of years drinking samples, because it takes more exposure to really get a better feel for a version.  The 100 grams in a standard tuocha is gone before that process completely plays out, never mind the relation to seeing how it changes across some time.


This part seems fairly simple to me, and I'm only including it for completeness, since the idea here is that people with limited to next to no sheng exposure are the target audience.

Sheng works out best brewed Gongfu style, using a high proportion, a short brewing time, and hot water, at or very near boiling point.  A starting point ratio might be 1:15 grams per milliliter of water (so using 6 grams for a 90 ml gaiwan).  You can also try going slightly higher on proportion, as I tend to, but there's a limit to how much will fit once the leaves are wet.  Using a clay pot or other device also works, it's the proportion that's the thing.  But permeable clay needs to be "seasoned" or conditioned to the type of tea being brewed, so using a porcelain or ceramic gaiwan works better related to moderating expense and skipping that part, until it seems time to go there.

Timing preferences vary, but basing each infusion on how the last one worked out is effective.  For me it depends on the tea character, and I suppose some on mood too.  Every variable changes outcome a little.  Shifting the type of water used, varying the mineral content, might change things a good bit.  Small temperature shifts can affect outcome, or the shape of the cup used, or the temperature at which you drink the tea.  It's as well to keep things simple initially and explore as you like from there.  I definitely don't get the timing cycles I often see mentioned as recommended (10 seconds, then 15, 20, 25...), since sheng doesn't "brew out" or lose intensity that fast, but maybe that makes more sense than it seems to for me.

Rinsing sheng or shu pu'er is standard; throwing out the first short infusion, or for some a moderate length infusion, or two in some cases.  Fermentation causes a limited trace of toxins to be produced as an outcome.  And teas can be in contact with floors that might vary in cleanliness, or dust and foreign object can turn up in cakes; there's a sort of "just in case" factor to account for.


In a sense it's as well to never even get started on sheng.  Shu is nice too, and easier to brew, cheaper, and relatively consistent, it's just a bit earthy.  All that kind of also applies to hei cha, a broad category that gets relatively little respect (which sheng may or may not fall under, depending on how you take your categories).

Hunan Fu brick tea; not exactly the same, but pleasant in a different way

If you buy tea as you drink it, as would occur for oolong, black tea, and the rest, the cost for even relatively better versions can stay moderate.  You only end up ramping up expense to the next level once you try to buy and set aside tea for aging, to buy what you'll drink over the next 15-20 years.

As I've said it is a natural end-point for tea preference though, or so it would seem, along with oolong.  Messing around with storage and aging transitions adds a pleasant depth to the experience.  For me it's just that the higher level of expense and keeping kilograms of tea around don't sit well with my wife, and I don't have the tea budget to do a next level of exploration justice, to ramp up to trying out the next 50 cakes (probably a $2500 investment, as moderate priced sheng goes now, or that could easily be well over $5000 if you drink a different type range, with almost no upper limit).

Sheng drinkers don't want the demand to increase; there is only so much out there, and rising demand is already maintaining continually escalating prices.  In general new tea sources coming online will offset moderate demand increase (eg. orthodox Assam keeps getting better and better; Vietnamese and Indonesian teas increase in quality to match some Chinese offering range), but that happens less with sheng.  I've written a lot about versions from Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam, but there's only so much growing out there, and not much of it ends up as a well-produced product.  I'll keep spreading the word anyway, to the limited extent people actually read this blog.

I've skipped more than I've covered here, to be clear.  I never mentioned how tuochas or maocha (loose versions) relate to cakes, or bricks.  That's more a story about conventions than shapes mattering, but I won't get into that.  I didn't mention how standard "factory" teas, by producers like Dayi / Taetea, compare or relate to custom produced versions, or what Xiaguan and other producer character is about.  I didn't even make a good start on describing "markers" for sheng quality, fleshing out how bitterness, specific versions of feel, flavor type and intensity, and aftertaste experience tend to be regarded.  Or cha qi; drug-like effect (not that anyone else tends to put it that way).

a Kokang Myanmar dragonball.  I also didn't mention shape exceptions, coins, witch's brooms, and the rest.

It's too much to get to.  Posts go into those themes bit by bit, but for the most part someone needs to explore it on their own one part at a time, to match experience to other people's shared understanding.

Related posts / articles:

It's best to keep in mind that I'm closer to the start of my journey with pu'er than the end, so anything I claim, or even refer to from another source, should be weighed against other ideas and opinions.  That kind of goes for everyone, even the best sources out there, but all the more so for a "path to tea" style tea blogger.

The first article (following) cites references from several other great blog sources:

-Tea Addict's Journal:  again!  I'm not really even online friends with that guy, but he's worth hearing out, standing out among classic blog references.  I already kept mentioning Matcha's Blog here too.

-Tea DB: a main video blog and pu'er researcher; they're also kind of "on the path" but quite informative.  And personable; that comes across better in the videos than through text.

-Cwyn of Death by Tea: interesting; any description wouldn't do her perspective justice.

-Late Steeps: about tea storage experiments, the part I cited in the following, but this includes interesting version tea reviews that links to a novel source.  this really works as a "classic reference source" category, but not much on this level comes to mind.

-vendor blogs and content:  I won't mention any, although I did say earlier that Farmerleaf Youtube videos are good, and Yunnan Sourcing is good about describing what teas actually are (funny that's an exception).  The obvious limitation applies; the content is designed to support their own sales.  It's still interesting to click that extra "blog" tab when you check out vendors to see what they're saying.  Many visit Yunnan, and the photos and their travel descriptions are worth hearing, but claims about tea plant age and the rest require a little filtering.

-online discussion:  that's another funny thing, how limited this really is, or maybe it's just that the diversity of channels waters each down a bit.  I admin for a Facebook tea group but the Pu'er Tea Club is a much better reference.  If leaning into this social aspect is of interest I wrote about more options here.  If you would like to offer feedback about this content, or just to get in touch, this link to a related Facebook page might be a good place for that.

My own additional writing:

Pu'er Storage Environment Part 2: References, Environment Maintenance (written for a vendor page, based mostly on external input quotations; a bit different)

Oolong pu'er, about sheng aging potential

Pu'er storage optimums, and relative versus absolute humidity

Pu'er-like teas in South East Asia

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Te Ji Tin Min Hong (like Jin Jun Mei, or maybe that)

It's interesting trying tea a bit blind again, it's been awhile.  That one friend I keep mentioning in Kuala Lumpur sent this, along with some gifts for my kids.  It's nice having an online pen pal to talk about things with but that level of sharing is really over the top.  To get a sense of who I'm referring to he offered thoughts on the original meaning of hui gan in this post (he's Cantonese).  He was contributing more about "gan," sort of related to the concept of sweetness tied to bitterness, but just unpacking that isn't as simple as it could be, never mind the "returning" part.

From the looks of it this is probably a black tea.  It really couldn't be that many other kinds of teas; they just don't look like that for dry leaf appearance.  Whatever it is seems to be very fine leaves and buds, probably a higher quality version of a black tea.  The darkness indicates full oxidation level, normal enough for black tea.  Leaves being this fine, as close to buds, reminds me of the general look of Jin Jun Mei, but that can also seem different.  Here's an example photo of a version, from here:

More golden (which could just relate to oxidation level), but also seemingly buds instead of very fine leaves.  When this brews and opens up that might offer more input about the leaf / material form.

As to the maker and type it's labeled as Te Ji Tin Min Hong from Donghu Tea.  Googling that doesn't help clarify things, any of it--so strange.  Not all that unusual though, really.  Te or teh is probably the other form of "tea," with "cha" turning up a bit more often.  I ran across this pretty nice listing of main Chinese tea types trying to look it up and it wasn't on there, any form of it. 

Here are the labels, all I had to go on:

Never mind; it is how it is, with or without back-story.  It could just be a different looking version of Jin Jun Mei, or a related black tea, but it doesn't matter.


It's sweet, malty, full in body, with a good bit of bees wax flavor aspect.  It comes across like a variation of Jin Jun Mei.  Those can vary in character some but the better versions have this kind of sweet, mild malt undertone with a bees wax and honey sweetness standing out.  It seems possible this is slightly more oxidized than the versions Cindy sends (Wuyi Origin's tea); I could comparison taste that and tell. 

Hers don't have a light oxidized flavor range in terms of expressing vegetal character (eg. they're not woody, or express mild root spice), but it seems like finely balancing that level lets them maximize intensity, sweetness, and bright character range.  All just guessing, of course.  For having a bit heavier flavor this works well too; that extra warmth matches the rest. 

Second infusion:  this wasn't musty or off in any way but it still cleans up and gains some intensity.  Bees wax is still present but it shifts into more of rich mineral and warm earthy tones.  It's one of those complex sets of flavor experiences that's in such a tight range it comes across as simple, and in one sense it is.  Feel is cool, hard to describe.  This isn't exactly thick but it has an unusual structure to it.  It's like a rich brewed aromatic bark spice with a bit of metal in it, both in terms of flavor and how that might end up feeling.  Flavor isn't exactly intense, in a limited sense, but it spans an unusual range.

It will be interesting looking this up and seeing how it's supposed to be, how conventional versions are for the same type [except that didn't work].  It comes across as a high quality level tea, well made, based on good material as an input.  As far as how different people would react to it, how much they would like it, that would depend on preference, as is the case for every tea.  Not everyone would appreciate how much is going on with this version; in a sense it's subtle, in a different sense refined and complex.

trying it out a bit lighter, brewed faster

Third infusion:  sweetness and flavor intensity have scaled back a little (likely also related to messing with infusion time), but it's still quite intense across a limited range.  That unusual clean, complex flavor is still just as pronounced, and the feel is still cool.  This will fade faster for me using a much lower proportion than I usually do.  This being a measured individual pack helps identify specifics in this case; it's 5 grams of tea leaf.  I had thought I'd been crowding more like 8 in a gaiwan in a typical session, quite a bit for a 90 ml or so gaiwan.  I tend to brew teas using very short infusion time as a result, with this stretched out a bit, towards or at 20 seconds instead of around 10.

That last description, that this covers mild, warm, rich bark spice range, along with underlying dark mineral, does capture the main flavor effect, but not so much how that really comes across.  The remaining bees wax in the background really works to balance that, to give it depth, and keep it interesting.

Fourth infusion:  it's tapering off already, that effect from using less tea and longer infusion times.  Bees wax is picking up a bit in the lighter profile, probably just relating to what shows through more at different infusion strengths than an actual transition in what's there.  It's easy to test that warmer mineral tones and heavier earthy flavors stand out a lot more in stronger infusions; just vary timing across rounds for any tea including that.

Lapsang Souchong (left) and Jin Jun Mei leaves for comparison, or buds in the one case


What to add?  It's pretty good black tea.  It would be really strange if I got that part wrong and it's not even black tea.  It's so close to Jin Jun Mei that even if it's completely unrelated this would probably end up being sold as that part of the time.  The overlap in the malt range and bees wax flavor aspects really stood out; JJM can be like that.  For being fine twisted leaves those never really opened up; it seemed more like bud content.

Whatever it is it's good.  Many thanks to that friend; and here's hoping I get a chance to return that favor appropriately.