If you are a puerh drinker living outside of China, then you have definitely stumbled upon Yunnan Sourcing at some point. Browsing Yunnan Sourcing is like window-shopping at the Mall of America. The selection is unrivaled, but it’s also a bit overwhelming. Hundreds and hundreds of cakes from all over China fight for your attention. This black hole of puerh tea grows even deeper if you shop at www.yunnansourcing.com, the international wing of Scott Wilson’s tea empire. As a puerh tea enthusiast living in rural New England, Yunnan Sourcing’s online store is a godsend.
Although Yunnan Sourcing is most well known for its puerh selection, Scott also carries some lovely green teas and oolongs that I enjoy. I’m a big fan of the 2014 Teng Chong Hui Long Zhai Yunnan green tea in particular.
On to the review!
This lovely guy is the 2012 Yunnan Sourcing Impressions cake from www.yunnansourcing.us.
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This tea has received numerous positive reviews online, so I figured this would be a nice one to try. But if I’m being completely honest, I really wanted to buy this cake because I loved the label. Check out that beautiful yin and yang!
I suppose that buying a puerh cake based on its packaging may seem a bit silly. It’s like buying a wine just because you want to keep the bottle. Luckily, this time I was rewarded for my impulsive tea buying. I snagged a nice cake at an incredible price.
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This puerh cake is made of a blend of wild arbor mao cha and spring and autumn plantation mao cha from Lincang, Wu Liang, and Simao, three of the most famous puerh producing areas of Yunnan Province, China. This blend was designed for aging, so I look forward to trying this tea again in a few years. Or maybe I’ll pass it along to my children one day. Of course, this is assuming that my hypothetical children are as interested in tea as I am. There’s a good chance my kids will say something along the lines of “Dad, what the hell is this? Is this a cow patty?” That seems to be how most non-tea drinkers respond to seeing the stacks of puerh cakes I have in my dorm room.
In case you want to recreate my tea tasting experience, here is the musical accompaniment I chose. A lovely live performance from Kishi Bashi! KEXP never lets me down.
This puerh cakes is loosely compressed, but still broke off in nice manageable chunks. I weighed out 9.2 g of the tea to use. That’s a bit more tea than I normally use, but this adorable huge piece of tea broke off and I didn’t have the heart to break it up. Isn’t it cute?
It is quite apparent that this cake is made from a blend of leaves. There are some beautiful gold and white leaves sticking out from the mass of green and green-grey leaves. The dry cake is very fragrant, with a lot of the tobacco notes that are common in young sheng puerhs. There is also a very noticeable fruity fragrance. I also picked up on a lot of smoky accents, which other reviewers didn’t seem to mention.
I used my lovely dedicated sheng puerh Yixing for this sample.
Check out my tea pet/tea toy!
Although I have been the proud owner of this tea pet for almost six months, I still haven’t decided on a good name for him/her/zir. If you have a suggestion, please let me know!
I rinsed this monster sized chunk with two ten second steeps. I figured I would rinse the tea pretty vigorously, since it takes a while for these large pieces to open up and release their true character.
After the rinse, I took a big whiff of the leaves. Whoa, incredible! This tea smells so fruity and complex that it’s very hard to describe. The tobacco and fruit scents of the dry leaf were amplified. The aroma is actually quite similar to a fruity flavored shisha tobacco, just like you would use for a hookah. Although I despise hookah, I find the smell mesmerizing.
The first real steep was a beautiful golden yellow color, even after only ten seconds in the pot. This tea is pretty high up on the astringency spectrum, which you will probably notice right away. But this not the bad kind of astringency, it’s actually very pleasant. The word “astringent” seems to have a negative connotation to it, which shouldn’t be the case! I find that a little bit of astringency adds a lot of character to a tea.
This tea is very well balanced, but the smoky character is definitely noticeable to me. I noticed the smokiness in the aroma and the taste, although other tea bloggers don’t agree with me. Perhaps I am just more sensitive to smokiness.
The smoky taste is buffered by the other flavors, such as a very noticeable fruity accent. I can’t quite decipher what the fruity taste is…perhaps raisin, dried fruit? The tea has a light sugar cane/honey sweetness to it towards the end. Lovely!
The aftertaste is very grassy and minerally, as others reviewers have mentioned. A lot of young sheng puerhs taste minerally to me. I’m not sure if that’s just my palate, or if that is a characteristic taste for many young puerhs. I enjoy the mineral taste either way! Mmm, just like licking a rock. Before you call bullshit on me for saying that I know what a rock tastes like, I actually do! Earth Science/Geology major, woohoo! I’ve licked many a rock in my life.
The orange color starts to sneak in by the third steep. You can see the orange color in my cha hai.
This tea finally started to mellow out on the 7th steep. The tea is still quite powerful, but the fruity taste and aroma have faded away and have been replaced by a strong mineral note.
I started to feel profoundly “tea drunk” at this point. I felt pleasantly warm from the inside out. This high was coupled with a pleasant caffeine rush thanks to my heavy hand…9.2 g of tea certainly adds up! Ah, what a wonderful feeling. All is right in the world!
I got 9 or 10 steeps out of this tea. I could have probably gone for a few more steeps, but alas I had other things to do in my day besides taste fancy teas. Hopefully one day tea tasting can be my sole focus, and silly things like college can be out of the picture.
The finished leaves look super high quality. There are some very light green leaves alongside some darker green leaves, with a few dark grey-green ones thrown in. The blended character of this tea gives it a very unique appearance. The leaves are very large and intact, with no rips or tears.
I enjoyed this tea a lot. It’s really great, especially for the price. $20 is about as cheap as you are going to get for a puerh cake, so this one is certainly worth a shot, especially if you are new to puerh or are buying cakes for aging. I’m interested to see what this tea will be like in a few years. Perhaps it will smooth out a bit.
$20 for 357 grams…wow. Considering that I got 9 or 10 steeps out of my 9.2 g of leaf, you can do the math and see that 357 grams is a ton of tea. We’re talking like 10 cents a cup here, guys. Fancy tea doesn’t have to be expensive!
I’ve got some exciting reviews coming up, so stay tuned! My 2002 White Whale cake from White2Tea should be coming in tomorrow along with some samples. I also just received my sample from Tea Ave out of Vancouver, Canada. I haven’t cracked into those yet, but the samples look wonderful.
Thanks for reading everyone. My last reviews have been read by over 200 visitors. I feel very fortunate to have access to such a wonderful audience!
“A man without tea in him is incapable of understanding truth and beauty.”-Okakura Kakuzo, Book of Tea