Among modern tea makers dahongpao, rather than referring to a very exclusive tea from a specific set of bushes in the Wuyi preserve, is usually a sort of house blend which the producers feel is representative of their house style. (Well, unless you notice the tea costs more than your mortgage for a gram or two.)
According to their website, the @white2tea dahongpao is a Meizhan heavy blend prepared along traditional lines, medium roast and oxidation.
White2Tea dahongpao is a very good introduction to the Wuyi Yancha style, balanced and with surprisingly punchy in energy content. It will get your morning going and stoke your enthusiasm and curiousity for Rock Oolong.
According to the blurb, White2Tea requested a roasting style for this rougui that they were hoping would highlight “mineral aspects and aromas” in the tea.
And, indeed, there is very little perfume or fruit to this tea’s flavors. It is more on the savory side. There is a slight astringency, as well, that keeps things interesting. And it has flavor that keeps going for a few more steeps than is usual in a rock oolong.
No.8 rougui probably wouldn’t be my desert island rougui, but it is a super interesting tea that amplifies certain aspects of rock oolong in a fascinating manner.
If you’ve struggled with identifying the mineral character in rock oolong, here’s one that shows you exactly what that is all about.
“This green oolong comes from the gardens of Luoyan Village [罗岩村]. Roughly 800 meters above sea level, the tea bushes grow in fields and terraces alongside a small variety of native plants…This is the Summer harvest, made in July of 2019. Because this tea was grown in the summer without any pesticides, leafhoppers bite the tea leaves and provide the tea with its distinctive sweetness. The picking standard of this tea is roughly 1 bud for every 2 leaves. The leaves were withered in the sun, shaken and oxidized by hand, and then fired and shaped by machine before drying. The tea itself is sweet, buttery and floral. It is a very approachable tea.”
One of the interesting parts about the tea scene is that occasionally people and companies simply just disappear. They stop posting to social media and their websites vanish. Ghost teas.
This is an Anxi Oolong that a company called “Breathing Leaves” sold a couple years ago. They’ve seemingly shut down since then and the proprietor has disappeared from social media.
The tea is called “Luoyan Leafhopper”. The first impressions are of the Ooolong perfume, and it is indeed sweet and thick, like a bug bitten tea, but with more astringency and, along green tea lines, and a bit of surprising, and pleasant, huigan, or lingering sweet bitterness, that makes itself known in the aftertaste as the tea cools.
It is a very nice tea. I am not usually a fan of low oxidation Oolongs and this is very well done. I am a bit sad that the company seems to have disappeared, (Or at least gone into hibernation, as the last time I looked, their website was still up, but the shop shuttered. I tried to contact the proprietor with comments about enjoying his teas, but received no response.)
(Not to mention, they also sold some really good, well priced, Puerh.)
Trying to build a brand on social media is a thankless job, seems like lightening in a bottle, one in a hundred thousand, unless you are previously famous, or have the guts and commitment for a very long haul. Take it from someone who has had websites for almost as long as there has been an internet, and even a pretty “successful” one for a while. Don’t think it’s easy path to quick money, success, and fame.
I’m gonna call this tea @mudandleaves GC High Mountain Oolong, Summer 2019, ‘cos I find its actual traditional name a little creepy. Mud and Leaves also suggested calling it by its Pinyin name, “Huangjin Guafei Wulong” (Link to the GC High Mountain Oolong, Summer 2020).
GC High Mountain Oolong is a type of Taiwanese Oolong which the growers intentionally allow/encourage to be bitten by an insect called the Tea Jassid, a type of leaf hopper. The teas are also commonly called “Bug Bitten Oolong”.
The producers of this type of tea say that the insects’ bites on the leaves cause the tea to have a sweeter character.
On a practical level, these teas do not generally have the same levels of perfume and/or types of flavors evocative of fruit that you would expect from an oolong tea. Or maybe a different type of fruit.
Instead, the primary characteristics of Bug Bitten Oolongs are more reminiscent of Fujianese white teas. Early steeps have flavor and a thicker mouthfeel a bit reminiscent of minerally dry white wine, perhaps minerally Sancerre or very dry gewurztraminer. Subtle floral scents dominate the middle steeps, which fade to sweet grain-like flavor the later steeps. A long lasting light after taste stays in your mind and palate.
The energy seems concentrated in the throat and upper chest.
As is usual with all of their teas, Mud and Leaves’ 2019 GC High Mountain Oolong is an excellent example of this style of tea. Like White Teas, Bug Bitten teas are great summer teas, sweet, with a lasting cooling effect. (For the record, I also got the cool Dragon cup and nifty Ruyao Porcelain Gaiwan in these pictures from Mud and Leaves.)
As an aside, one of the most interesting things about Taiwanese teas, which are often formed into pearl shape, is when you weigh the dry leaves, it never seems like enough tea, yet when the leaves unfurl, you are always surprised by how much they fill the gaiwan.
The “BGT” here is a Raw Puerh cake known as “Big Green Tree” (because there is a picture of a big green tree in the middle of the wrapper).
To explain, in the early days of pu-erh enthusiasts, most of the teas were distributed by the Chinese National Tea Company (CNNP) with only Chinese characters on the wrappers. Puerh enthusiasts who didn’t read Chinese characters would distinguish between these various puerhs based on the main graphic feature of the label. “Big Yellow Mark”, “Small Yellow Mark”, “Big Red Mark”, “Small Red Mark”, and, obviously, “Big Green Tree”. The early, pretty legendary, versions of “Big Green Tree” were distributed by CNNP and very highly thought of among the teas of that time.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a Guangzhou tea collector and distributor named Ye Bing Huai started commissioning teas under the name “Big Green Tree” as a tribute (or attempt to reproduce those teas). He worked with different companies for a while, but recently they have mostly been made by the Xiaguan Tea Company.
The initial impressions are of a nearly Lapsang level of smoke. Later flavors are autumn forest floor, leather, tobacco leaves, perfume/incense, wood, and finally camphor. Very good length of flavor and complexity, but definitely a Puerh for Scotch and Mezcal lovers. I no longer drink Scotch (or smoke), but I do enjoy a Puerh that evokes those flavors.
Given the darkness of the leaves, and its relative youth, it seems like this tea must have spent at least part of its life, (before traveling to Slovakia,) in pretty fast storage, i.e. hot and/or humid. However, given the smoky burly nature of the tea flavors, it is still relatively clean tasting.
The tea provides a nicely zippy, but not unpleasant, long lasting head based energy.
As someone who grew up in the Midwest, obviously, I am going to buy a tea called “Midwest Nice”. Basically, no matter what the tea.
This raw puerh from White2Tea is one of their exercises in forming tea cakes using a traditional method of steaming the tea inside roasting fresh canes of fragrant bamboo. It’s a complicated and labor intensive process, which they usually employ for a few tea batches every year. If you’re interested, it is covered in depth on their blog: Bamboo Style of Puer
The tea picks up sweet toasty/grassy flavors from the fragrant bamboo, a bit like fresh corn grilled in the husk at a Midwestern corn boil (or Mexican tamales steamed in corn husks).
I’ve tried a couple of their Bamboo Ripe Puerhs, usually on the younger side, but this is the first time I’ve tried…
a) one of their bamboo raw puerhs
b) a bamboo compressed tea with any significant amount of age.
At this point, 6 years down the line, as a raw puerh in its young middle age, the flavor and sweetness of the bamboo has completely integrated into the tea.
And indeed, if you are expecting a tea with big, burly upfront Puerh punch-you-in-the-face flavor, Midwest Nice is not currently that tea. The flavor is soft and sweet, its main attributes and charms existing more in its aftertaste and lingering post consumption impressions than in the flavor of the tea while you are actually drinking the tea. The energy of the tea is a calming, warming, body buzz.
So, while the expression “Midwest Nice” generally refers to a superficial niceness independent of your actual feelings about someone or something, I can say that I do not have to employ any false niceness to say good things about the 2015 Midwest Nice Raw Puerh. It is a truly nice tea.
Liubao is a regional Chinese tea from Guangxi province.
The more common form of Liubao is a fermented/oxidized dark version similar, but pre-dating, ripe puerh style tea. This is another type, more similar to raw puerh. The unusual thing about this type of LiuBao is that older leaves, and even stems, are purposely used. The name “Lao Cha Po” means something like “Old Granny Tea” or maybe “Old Tea Granny”. From what I can tell, the reason for the name is that this was a tea that tea farmers would make for themselves, simply processing and drying the tea leaves in their homes. Of course, the Grannies and the Wives would do the hard work of processing the tea.
I’ve seen pictures of Liu Bao La Cha Po and always been struck by how much it looks like nothing more than a pile of leaf litter. (I’m tempted to start a series of instagram posts, “leaf litter or liu bao?”) In any case, I’ve always been very curious what such unusual, and often visually imperfect appearing, tea leaves might taste like.
With both versions of liu bao, it is not uncommon for the tea to be aged for decades. However, this is unaged fresh tea.
Because the tea leaves are older and thicker, both types of Liubao are often prepared by long simmering the leaves in a pot and adding more water as the tea gets drunk and the water level gets lower.
So, that’s what I did. I gave 7g of the tea a good soak with some boiling water and poured it off. Then I added the rinsed tea to 16oz (475ml) water and brought it to a simmer. When it was at a simmer, I poured half off into cups and drank. When I’d finished, I added another 8 oz water to the tea water and brought it again to a simmer. Et cetera, until it tasted more like water than tea. What I will say is that that first simmer after the rinse didn’t taste like much. While hydration is never bad, you could probably discard both the first rinse AND first simmer without missing much.
The tea smell and flavor is very unique and reminds me of a plant smell from my youth which I still can’t quite place. One thing Mrs Flannestad mentioned is that the kitchen smells a bit like it does when she steams fresh artichokes, minty-vegetal-grassy. The flavor of the tea has a herbaceous sweetness that lingers on your palate.
This is a wood roasted version of the same material used in the above Green Liubao Laochapo.
Definite smokey roasted smell as you open the bag.
Again making this by simmering the tea leaves. If anything, the roast version seems to take even longer to start giving up its flavor.
Initially my thoughts were that I preferred the green version, but as the simmering went on the roasted tea expressed even more interesting and complex flavors than the green had. At one point something like a maple flavor came through, at others more typical tea astringency. Like the green Laochapo, this is a tough tea to pin down. With a base from the flavor of the tea and the smoke of the roast, other flavors dance in and out as the steeps progress. Cool.
I don’t know if either of these teas would make it into my daily or weekly routine, (unless I was visiting Guangxi province in China,) but they are super unique, unusual, and interesting representatives of the Chinese Tea family. Another educational and pleasurable shipment from the White2Tea Club!