Every year White2Tea releases a few green teas for a couple weeks in the spring.
They usually include one with the March Tea Club shipment.
When I tried the one with the teaclub shipment a few years ago, I realized that it was both some of the freshest green teas I’d tried and some of the tastiest. The only disadvantage is that White2Tea only pre-sells a fairly small amount for a couple weeks in the spring and then they are gone for the rest of the year.
The teas are early spring harvest, (pre-qing ming,) but come from relatively uncoveted regions for green tea production, Sichuan and Guizhou, whose producers and teas, the proprietor of White2Tea maintains, are often tapped to fill in the production gaps of more desirable regions.
In any case, tea producer gossip aside, White2Tea’s green teas are great, well priced, and I usually order a big bunch of them for the couple weeks they are available to get me through my summer hot weather tea drinking.
Book Cover Green is a bit of an oddball. It is a blend of tea leaves that are sorted out from the Green Tea producers other high end productions. More single and broken leaves than you would expect from a bud only early spring tea, but great quality tea. If you’re familiar with the Puerh term, Huang Pian, it is sort of like that, but for early spring green tea. A little less subtle than some bud only green tea, but a good chance to drink high end pre-qing ming green tea at every day green tea prices.
You could brew Book Cover gong fu style, but I prefer to brew summer green tea lazy stylee: Put tea in a tall glass, pour over nearly boiling water, wait to cool, drink, and repeat with more hot water until it tastes more like water than tea. I find 4g in a 450ml glass is about right for me.
Tasting Notes: Sweet fresh spring asparagus, tarragon, a touch of umami, and lingering menthol. Calm, but strong and lingering, warming body centered energy. Some broken leaves does mean more caffeine.
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!
“Old arbor large leaf varietal tea that is usually destined to be made in raw Puer, picked and processed into dianhong style tea with sun drying. We also have a white tea version of the same material.
“Arbor red has an herbaceous fragrance and flavors that often border on medicinal. Sweetness underlies the complex flavors and heavy body of this tea. This is an enduring and heavy black tea best suited for a longer, gongfu style tea session.”
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Yunnan red teas (aka black. In China what we call “black tea” they call “Red Tea” or Hong Cha).
Young Yunnan black tea can be tad harsh and astringent, with cranberry and sour cherry flavors standing out and twisting in your stomach.
In older Yunnan black tea, the fruit fades and they inch into leather and dry forest floor type flavors, but sometimes the harshness or mellows into bitterness.
There is a sweet spot, though, between enthusiastic youth and dusty age where Yunnan Red Teas can be quite nice.
Personally, I like to drink them in the fall here in CA. Once the fire season sets in, it’s time for me to put away the light summer green tea and move into something that can stand up to a little smoke.
When, in 2019, I ordered this cake of 2018 White2tea Arbor Red, I was hoping to get it right in that sweet spot. I even figured that, being in a cake, some of that youthful exuberance might be preserved.
The first thing I noticed on unwrapping the cake was how great it smelled, like dried cherries and plums. Just fantastic.
But, when I brewed, I noticed it was not very red, more of an orange.
And when I smelled the brewed tea, and tasted, I got a bit of smoke wrapping around a mild flavor with a lingering sweet complex bitterness in the aftertaste.
What I’ll say is that this is not so much a Red tea for Red tea lovers, as a Red tea for Puerh drinkers.
Someone who likes English Breakfast tea (or even other Chinese red tea,) is probably not gonna dig this tea. But someone who digs Puerh tea might taste it and say, “Huh, that’s some interesting and subtle character. This is a Red Tea I can get into!”
“The 2019 Dangerfield was blended with an intention of being a poor man’s Naka.”
Sometimes there is an, ahem, danger with Puerh, in that there is a lot of jargon and knowledge of that jargon is assumed. For example, before receiving this tea and doing a little research, I had no idea what the characteristics of “Naka” Puerh would be and why it would be prized.
Na Ka is a village in the Menghai county of Yunnan China. For a long time tea from this village was highly prized and not allowed to be sold outside of China.
Authentic “Naka” has gotten to be quite expensive, (#white2tea sells a 2005 Naka for around $1 a gram,) and is known among Western Puerh fanciers for its strong body centered cha qi. Young Naka from old trees is also known for a middle bitterness that gives way to a long lasting sweet aftertaste.
This is not Naka, but is a blend of Raw Puerh which is intended to evoke the flavor and physiological effects of an aged Naka Puerh.
The early flavors are clean and on the dry side, a bit earthy. These give way to a medium level middle palate bitterness. The bitterness fades leaving an lingering appetizing sensation of lightness and sweetness on the palate. The cha qi is more of a slow build than a fast head rush, but it is noticeably there and also clean and pleasant. Not a bad trip.
I have not had an actual Naka, but I can tell you this is a good, well priced Puerh that will not disappoint, either if you are looking to expand your tea drinking horizons, or if you are an experienced Puerh drinker trying to shave a little money off your tea cake budget.
The first two most likely Chinese teas you will find in America are probably jasmine or the sort of indeterminate Chinese black tea usually served in Chinese restaurants. The next most likely is probably Dragon Well or Gunpowder Greens. After that, you might find the smoked version of Lapsang Souchong. A certain amount of Scotch drinking and/or cigar smoking tea drinkers are quite fond of the in-your-face, drinking a campfire, flavor of Smoked Lapsang. While I used to be among the Scotch fancying Lapsang drinkers, cigars have never appealed. And, I haven’t drunk a Lapsang Souchong tea for a few years.
A smattering of single dose 8g samples of Lapsang from Fujian province teas arrived via the July @white2tea club and presented me with the option to revisit my opinions and prejudices regarding this opinion provoking tea.
As I discussed in a previous post, “Traditional” Lapsang Black teas from the Wuyi region of Fujian province are NOT smoked.
This tea is very similar to the “Lapsang Wild Tea” from Yin Xiang Hua Xia Tea. There are notes of sweet potato and dried fruit with a dry menthol/camphor finish. This is a very well balanced black tea and I could see making it a daily drinker (if I didn’t have so much other tea to drink).
I don’t know if this feels Herb-ey to me. I feel like there is a bitter-sweet orange character along with a bit of sweet potato and a very long finish/aftertaste. More elegant than the “Traditional Lapsang”, this is one of the better black teas I can remember having recently.
Of the Lapsangs, this is my favorite. It has great length of flavor, nice character, and a very clean feel. I would definitely make this a special occasion black tea, if it were available.
Fruit Bomb Lapsang
The last of the “traditional” lapsang is the Fruit Bomb. This one didn’t really grab me. It didn’t have the elegance of the Herby Lapsang or the slightly rustic character of the “Traditional”. Just not a very complex tea. I’d drink it again, but I wouldn’t search it out. (Of course the problem with single dose samples, is you never know if it is your mood, a fluke in preparation that day, or some oddness.)
After the fruit bomb, we switch over to the smoked versions of the tea.
Pine Sap Lapsang
Pine Sap Lapsang, on the other hand, is a smoked Lapsang Tea.
For a Smoked Lapsang, it is fairly balanced, you can tease out the tea elements underlying the campfire scents and flavors. It shows a bit of affinity for Oolong teas with a strong menthol element in the finish. However, it is a tea you will be tasting ALL day. You might brush your teeth once, you might brush your teeth twice, but you are still going to be tasting campfire and pine sap when you go to bed at night. So, if you don’t enjoy smoky flavors, this probably is not a tea for you. A good tea for cold winter nights (and it might make a nice addition to a hot toddy).
It’s funny, this lapsang is actually smokier tasting up front than the Pine Sap Lapsang, but somehow I enjoy it more. Weird.
Anyway, this is pretty much exactly like drinking a campfire. Super-smoky, but with a decent, somewhat sweet, black tea backbone. Interestingly, while it is smokier up front, the smoke flavor recedes more in the aftertaste, isn’t as cling-ey, and it is the core of the sweet tea flavor the sticks in your mind. If I were drinking smoked Lapsang, this is the one I would drink.
While I enjoyed trying all these Lapsangs, the ones that really stuck with me were the “Traditional” and the “Herby” Lapsangs. I am definitely now more curious about black teas from Fujian!
The Spring raw pu-erh releases from White2Tea have been announced and I have to say Paul has outdone himself in the hilarious descriptions for the teas and how a person should know which tea to order for him or herself. Sort of a personality test for tea drinkers.
I leave it as an exercise to you to guess which teas I might have ordered.
New 2019 Teas, Up Now on white2tea.comAfter over three months of drinking fresh tea in the mountains of Yunnan our first wave of new teas is pressed and ready. There will be more new releases in about a month, but rather than wait for every tea we decided to let the raw Puer fly!
The last of the seven Wuyi Yancha samples from the white2tea January tea club.
“The name rougui literally translates as cinnamon, one of the most famous varieties of yancha [rock oolong]. From early May 2018, this tea had four roasts, but the flavors of the flame have receded by the time of its release to reveal the flavors and aromas of dark fruits and deep mineral character within the tea.”
Punching slightly above my weight class with this Oolong.
As I’ve only tried these seven Wuyi Oolong in my life, I’m at a bit of a loss as where to start with this exceptional tea.
Also, I’m a bit emotionally traumatized by listening to Scott Walker’s album “The Drift” on the way home from work.
It’s a tea that does reward careful drinking and preparation, turning over the different aspects of the flavor and scent in your mind as you savor it, and as it evolves through the course of a gong fu session. The roast character, the mineral character, the fruit, and the long lasting sweet aftertaste.
“Spice Flower is an oolong tea from the Fujian province of China. Roasted to a medium light level, the floral sweetness and spicy character of this tea shines through the roasted character.”
Some times when I taste a tea, I kind of wonder if I have the right one.
In the case of white2tea’s spice flower, I am totally wondering if the bag was mis-labelled or if my taste is just off today.
To me, the roast is totally dominant, especially in the early steeps. I get the creamy/milky character described in the tasting notes, and in later steeps, it does seem quite sweet in character, with a lingering floral, light character. It does seem less oxidized than some of the other white2tea Wuyi Yancha.
The lingering scent in the share cup reminds me a bit of watermelon and soft berries.
I gave a cup to my coworker and he described its primary character and flavor as “ash”.
So, I dunno. The problem with single dose samples is you only get one chance to brew and if you screw it up, there are no second chances.
The buzz is on the zippy side and it is a very tasty tea. It just doesn’t seem to match the description.
“OBSX…Yancha [rock oolong] made from older bush material, this tea is often called laocong shuixian which literally translates as old bush narcissus; shuixian being the varietal of tea.”
Shuixian or “Shui Hsien” is actually one of the more common varieties of Oolong. It is suitable to growing in regions of China other than Fujian, and that lower quality Oolong, from outside of Fujian, is what you may get if you order Oolong tea in a Chinese restaurant or order “Oolong” flavored Bubble Tea.
This “laocong shuixian” from white2tea, however, is quite interesting. It lacks a bit in scent, but what it lacks in scent, it makes up for in flavor of the tea. Uh, and in its potent buzz.
There is a light narcissus scent, but the flavors are on the dark side. Tobacco leaf, especially, and a bit of leather. I especially understood, with this tea, the mineral character that is often used to describe “Rock” Oolong. Those mineral briney flavors are very prominent, along with those other dark flavors. The downside to the light scent is that OBSX doesn’t have a lot of staying power or aftertaste. Once the flavor is gone from your mouth, there isn’t much that lingers in your palate or mind.
I think I would best describe this burly, dark OBSX Oolong as an Oolong for Pu-Erh drinkers, especially those that appreciate a potent kick from their tea.