2014 Yi Bi, YS

The rinsed leaves give off an etherealy sweet bar straw aroma. I let them sit and steam for a moment or two before the first steep, which is a pale champagne yellow. But judge me not by the color of my soup, the Yi Bi implores us, for color matters not. Its ally is the Qi, and a powerful ally it is… It has both texture and depth. Barn straw is the base, but there is a very distinct white grape flavor. The second steeping is more appropriately deep yellow. A deceptively thin initial flavor makes way for a burst of returning sweetness; it grips the back of my tongue with sweet grape and caramel tones and doesn’t let go.

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Pancake!

Last week I left off with a teaser about Yiwu terroir. While the Poundcake is certainly on one side of that spectrum, a smooth, thick and sweet young tea, I find that the Yi Bi occupies the other side. It’s not terribly smooth and not at all thick, but it has similar base flavors and is, in my opinion, several orders more complex. This tea seems to be all about the aftertaste; straw, tropical fruits, toffee, caramel, all loaded with a serious huigan. Not to knock the very excellent tea that is the W2T Poundcake, but as far as Yiwu goes, this is much more my cup of tea.

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My ever shifting tea corner

I may have just overloaded the gaiwan (the chunk I pulled out weighed exactly 9g), but on the fourth steep there is some really invigorating bitterness that emerges. It is pungent and earthy, while retaining its more subtle and ethereal qualities. It’s certainly a light bodied tea, as already noted, but I really don’t find that to be an issue at all; it is perfectly being exactly what it is.

There is a smokey and savory quality is steeping number five, which I wonder may be the result of wok charring (it seems odd that it would emerge only in a later steeping if this were the case though). A few minutes after that cup, there is still a sweet and leathery feeling left in my mouth. Like I said, the aftertaste here is no joke. Steeping six has it all: pungent damp straw, intense bitterness, tender floral and fruity notes, and, have I said it enough already? H U I motherfucking G A N (returning sweetness).

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I really can’t imagine that this would be everyone’s cuppa, what with its thin body and relatively intense bitterness, but that’s not a problem; everyone has different ideas of what the good is. Whereas someone else might prefer something smoother and more subdued, I greatly appreciate the Yi Bi for its complexity and forwardness.

Anyhow, I hope anyone who’s taken the time to read this quick little review benefits from my experience, even if it contradicts their own. There seem to be few absolute truths in this world of tea… Except for boba. Boba is an abomination and must be put to death.

Under the guidance of good pu and sound advice, may all beings attain the path of good tea.

Go now in peace,
-Ginko-san

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Letting one of the later brews ride

 

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2015 Poundcake, W2T

I initially break off a chunk that’s too big for my gaiwan, so I ease it in slowly. The aromas after I rinse the piece are deeply green, giving hints of damp moss and cooked vegetables. The first brew, even now a deep golden hue, is quintessential sweet, creamy Yiwu, one of the oldest and most renowned puer tea growing regions in Yunnan. As with many teas from these mountains, it’s story is that of a smooth, mouth coating soup with a distinctive dark straw base. There are rich, sweet and savory flavors throughout the second infusion with vibrant dark green vibes that I’m just all about.

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Pancake the tea pig wallowing in tea

There does seem to be some deal of wok charring, an imperfection in processing that gives it something of a rough smokey edge, but only slightly… Unfortunately for this tea, the smoke contrasts especially poorly with its sweet and subtle nature. For other areas that yield teas with more forward and busy profiles like Bulang and Mengku, this isn’t as big of a deal, but for a tea that stakes itself on being subdued flavor wise while being thick and sweet, the smoke just hurts a little more. Again, not the biggest of deals, it just is what it is.

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Returning to what I enjoy about the Poundcake, the color of the soup is simply gorgeous. It I has almost a copper tone and seems to glow with its own light. The fourth infusion releases a small amount of bitterness, as it should, and this really seems like the height of the leaves’ release of flavors; there is now more of a tobacco base even, with cooked vegetables and sticky rice. Some real Chinese village stuff here…

The fifth infusion mellows out nicely, while the bitter edge has picked up. Also the smoke which had been bugging me seems to have mostly steeped out, and I’m getting more pleasantly floral and honey background notes now. Overall this is a very pleasant, if not perfect tea, and a good representation of terroir. Speaking generally from my own mostly secondhand knowledge and limited experience, this is what most Yiwu teas should be. There are some notable exceptions though, so with that teaser, I’ll leave it at “to be continued…”

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Once again, you have sat through the ramblings of a tea drunken lunatic, and aimless wanderer of life.

Go now in peace,
-Ginko-San

 

Special bonus feature: Osho Tarot of the day:

 

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2015, If You’re Reading This, It’s 2 Late

Rinse smell is sweet cream and greens, warmly grassy and richly savory. A pulled out a more inner chunk so this will take a little while to open… While the first infusion is pretty thin for this reason, there are the creamy spinach notes that I expect from the 2Late. Things get going on steeping 2 though; this is where the 2Late’s famed textures and mouthfeel come to life. There is the olive-oil, mouth coating viscosity that I crave in a young sheng, and radiant back-of-palette sweetness that’s really noticeable but not at all overpowering.

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There is a quality to this tea that I can’t quite place my mind on… Peppercorns, maybe? I believe it’s something in the “spice” family of tasting notes, it’s just that the backdrop of this tea is soooo light and creamy it’s difficult to detect the fleeting moments of bolder flavors. By the fourth steeping though the soup is notably denser, and there is more bitterness with a quality almost like new rubber in taste and texture. The aftertaste is almost… fruit punch, weirdly enough, but this is just another in a long stream of fleeting impressions.

This tea is just really hard to nail down, and refuses to be confined to a set identity. Steeping five, for instance, I find to be less sweetly creamy, with strong grassy and fresh vegetable notes, but with subtle fruity flavors flashing in the background. There is also the sweaty stank (in the best way) that my friends and I associate with Lincang (though Paul doesn’t directly tell us where this tea is exactly from). At steeping six I find this to be mostly about a smooth soup with a very active aftertaste, which is a very very good thing to be mostly about.

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If I had to playtime guessing game I could also see this being from Nannuo, actually, in addition to Lincang. The fruitiness really tips me off, and while there is not the tobacco-forward flavors that usually betray Menghai terroir, I have had few really delicate and oily teas from that mountain that fit in this vein as well… Not that there’d be any real point to pinpointing the location of these leaves, the tea is more than enough to just shut up and drink. The final infusions remain oily and sweet, clean, subtle and complex. This is really a very good tea that fits my own preferences rather well.

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Thank you all again for reading the ramblings of a tea-drunken madman, and lonely proxy-wanderer of Yunnan’s tea mountains.

Peace be with you,
-Ginko-San