Yunnan Sourcing Premium Plan Club – February 2015

2015_year_of_the_sheep

Firstly let me wish you all a Happy New Year as we have recently entered The Year of the Sheep on the Chinese Zodiac. The Year of the Sheep starts from Feb. 19, 2015 (the Lunar New Year / Spring Festival of China) and lasts to Feb. 7, 2016.Also known as Year of the Goat or Year of the Ram.

If anyone is interested there is an article about it in depth on Wikipedia that can explain it a lot better than I could.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goat_%28zodiac%29

Also before I continue I feel I owe an apology on the lack of posts over the last couple of weeks. A week before my birthday (my bday being 6th February) I developed a chest infection along with sinus infection and the common cold. It took me weeks to recover and get my true sense of taste back. So while I have been drinking tea during my absence I was not able to taste nor review anything. Now the infections have gone but the timing is not great, on Sunday 1st March I leave for Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain for a week. A wonderful gift to celebrate 12 years together with my husband. I hope to find something tea related to review/write about when I return.

The real purpose of this post is a club review, for I finally decided to join the Yunnan Sourcing Premium Plan Club. They offer a selection of teas across all types for $50 per month which includes international shipping. International being to anyone outside of China, where Yunnan Sourcing are located. For once it’s nice to be charged a standard international rate for clubs!

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Premium Plan :

- Any and all teas on our site, just the best Pu-erhs, Black, White, Green and oolong teas!

- You get atleast 4 different teas totaling no less than 200 grams.

- The retail value of the teas will always be more than a $50 value (items & shipping).

Just a quick fyi – as of this moment in time $50 translates to roughly £33.

This month – February – the teas included were:

Lets start with:

Autumn 2014 High Mountain Red Ai Lao Mountain Black 

High mountain tea grow at 2000 meters on Ai Lao Shan in Zhenyuan area of Simao.  Picked and processed only from the first flush of spring this black tea is lightly oxidized and processed similiar to Taiwanese black tea or Wu Yi Rock tea.   There is a still a greenish tinge left to the leaves!  The brewed tea is rich and thick with hints of dried Longan fruit with a protracted mouth feeling!

Mid-September 2014 harvest!

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The leaves are dark brown with some red patches and golden tips present. They are mostly thin, tightly rolled and curly but there are some thicker pieces present too. Also some stem/stick. It has a light, sweet and wooden scent with a hint of lychee/dark fruit.

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Steeping Method: Gaiwan 100ml

Water: 100C

Leaf: 7g

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First Steep
45 seconds
The liquid is burnt orange in colour and has a soft wooden scent.
Flavour is gentle and malted with sweet wood and soft leather tones. Fresh yet musty.

Second Steep
1 minute 20 seconds
More sweet and rock sugar like and the malt tones are now in the background, with the wood. Also a lychee or dark fruit aftertaste.

Third Steep
2 minutes
Extremely light and all that remains is the fruity aftertaste.

This was rather a simple black but it was clean tasting and very pleasant. Not the best but something I can happily finish my 50g pouch of. Another tea where the scent showed pretty much what to expect in taste.

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Rating: 8.5/10

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(I also want a side note: My husband really enjoyed this tea and would have rated it higher).

2014 Autumn “Moonlight Pavilion” Pure Bud Bi Luo Chun White 

This Yunnan Bi Luo Chun white tea is the smallest pure bud tea grown in Yunnan.  A varietal that is a cross between the classic Jiangsu Bi Luo Chun and Yunnan large leaf varietal, yielding a delicate Bi Luo Chun that can grow in cooler high altitude conditions.  The aroma is high with hints of fruit and fresh grass… the taste is super smooth with a subtle sweet after-taste.

Harvest area:  Zhenyuan township (Simao) 

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The leaves are a blend of dark to medium greens with a lot of silver tips present. Also they have a high reflective shine and lots of downy hairs. In shape they tend to be long and thinly rolled but rather curly too. It smells so sweet and fresh, resembling mixed flowers (geranium, jasmine, sweetpea), soft grass and gently toasted hay.

Steeping Method: Chinese Glass Tumbler

6g leaf with 75C water

This is not something I have done before on my blog through I often do this method, particularly for Long Jing and Bi Luo Chun leaves. So I shall explain:

  • A portion of leaves is put into a high glass tumbler, usually around 5-6g
  • Water around 80-85C is added to the leaves, making sure the pouring is slow and in a spiral/circular motion
  • Once the leaves have infused for a few minutes and the water is suitable enough for you drink you can enjoy
  • In order to top up the glass with another steep you need to leave roughly 1/3 of the tea left, basically enough water to cover the leaves fully with some extra
  • Then simply pour the water in a circular motion as in the previous step
  • This can be re steeped at least three or four times successfully ie with enough flavour to be enjoyable

I have found a video on youtube to help.

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As I smell the steeped tea the flowers stand out even more, not to the extent of being perfumed, instead though they are strong it is still fresh and sweet.

Flavour is crisp yet sweet and floral enough to match it’s scent. Some grass tones and astringency though very mildly. Clean tasting and very beautiful. Along with geranium, jasmine and sweetpea I can also taste honeysuckle and lily.

Altogether this is a very floral tea that remains sweet and fresh throughout, part of that is due to this being a white Bi Luo Chun rather than green.

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The re steep was just as delightful.

Rating: 9/10

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 2014 Yunnan Sourcing Autumn Bing Dao Raw Pu-erh

Our second production from Bing Dao village. We have produced other teas from neighboring villages but last Autumn we met a grower that had excellent tea from wild and natural tea garden in Bing Dao village.  We are back again with his lovely tea!

The tea is from 100-200 year old tea trees growing naturally and no pesticides or artificial fertilizers are used. As with all our Autumn 2013 and onward productions they have been tested in a lab for pesticide residues. This is a pure tea both in material and taste.

The brewed tea is highly aromatic and cooling in the mouth and throat. There is a thickness to it and a bitterness that immediately transforms in nectar-like sweetness. Cha Qi is strong but pleasant and energizing.

Vintage: October 2014 material, November 2014 pressing.

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The leaves are dark brown with some green tinges and lots of silver tips and some brown/red sticks/stems present. For the most part they are long and look whole though thin, tightly wrapped and with a high shine. They have a creamy earthen scent with elements of toasted hay, lightly smoked wood and flowers.

Steeping Method: Yixing Teapot 100ml

Leaf: 7g 

Water: Boiling 

Pre rinse – This was rinsed twice for 20 seconds each time

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First Steep – 30 seconds 

Colour is yellow with a gentle, creamy yet earthy scent. Flavour is soft and sweet with a creamy after taste. Some bitterness but it transfuses into sweet honey and floral peony like tones.

Second Steep – 40 seconds

Less bitter than the first steep though it is still present. Still plenty of sweet and creamy tones with some added soft smoke and damp wood and hay.

Third Steep – 45 seconds

No bitterness at all which makes it sweet and creamy. Heavenly! It coats the inside of my mouth and lingers in the after taste. Honey, honeysuckle, cream and gentle musk.

Fourth Steep – 55 seconds

Another beautiful steep, the flavour is perfect at this stage. So creamy and sweet but with depth and flavour. The bitterness has returned albeit subtle and short lasting.

Fifth Steep – 1 minute

Now the flavour is starting to reduce in strength. The creaminess dominates though it is not as sweet as the previous steeps. Also little to no bitterness is left, just the cream and a gentle floral after taste.

Sixth Steep – 1 minute 20 seconds

Slowly reduced though still creamy and pleasing. Still no bitterness to speak of, instead it’s very smooth and easy to drink. No smoke or earthy tones remain.

Seventh Steep – 2 minutes

Even lighter though still enough flavour to be pleasing. Cream and flowers is all that remains.

Eighth Steep – 3 minutes 

This is certainly the final steep. Though there is still some soft cream notes there is nothing else present.

This was a very beautiful Sheng, with dominant cream tones, soft astringency and a delicate balance of flowers and earth.

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Rating: 9/10

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 2004 Tai Lian “Yi Wu Zheng Shan” Raw Pu-erh

Classic Tai Lian production from 2004.  Dry stored in Guangdong for 11 years has given this a highly aged feel but not without compromising it’s complex Yi Wu character.

Entirely first flush of spring blend of Yi Wu area villages give this a highly balanced taste.

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The leaves are a blend of brown, dark brown and red with some golden tips and stems/sticks present. It looks like a Shou/Ripe Puerh but that’s due to this being over 10 years old. I also want to note that the leaves look nice and full for the most part. Scent is earthy and wooden with some smoke, hay and bitter flowers.

Steeping Method: Yixing Teapot 100ml

Leaf: 7g 

Water: Boiling 

Pre rinse – This was rinsed twice for 20 seconds each time

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First Steep – 30 seconds 

Colour is orange with a light yet musty scent. Flavour is sweet and leathery with some astringency. Also some damp wood and light smoke tones.

Second Steep – 40 seconds

Less bitter than the first steep though it is still present. The mature flavours have settled down a little too and have blended better. The must and damp wood are still the dominant notes though more equal in this steep. Also getting a buttery note in the after taste.

Third Steep – 45 seconds

Tasting soft leather, toasted hay, smoke, must and dry perfume. Nothing too heavy but lingering for a long time in the after taste. The bitterness/astringency is present though rather pleasant.

Fourth Steep – 55 seconds

The bitterness has increased as has the smoke, which gives it tobacco and earthy notes. Also strong peony and dry wood notes.

Fifth Steep – 1 minute

Lighter than the previous steep though remains smoky, buttery and with dry peony notes. Bitterness is at a pleasant level again. Wonderful buttery aftertaste that lingers.

Sixth Steep – 1 minute 20 seconds

My favourite steep so far. Everything is reduced including the bitterness, and the peony and butter dominate and linger. A little dry.

Seventh Steep – 2 minutes

Another lovely steep though toned down from it’s mature beginnings. Lighter than the first steep at this point though still boasting butter, peony and wood flavours. Plus no bitterness.

Eighth Steep – 3 minutes 

Very little remains though the buttery finish is uncomplicated, lasting and a wonderful end to this tea.

This was a wonderful mature Sheng, with an array of flavours such as:wood, tobacco, butter, peony, smoke and earth. It’s full bodied without being too dark, so while it may be mature in flavour it still has a Sheng appeal.

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Rating: 8/10

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 Feng Qing “Gold Tips” Pure Bud Black Tea * Spring 2014

This Yunnan varietal of Black tea is created from highest grade small bud Feng Qing autumn season tea.  This tea is picked when the buds are still young, the tea is then rolled, briefly fermented and then wok-dried by hand. The flavor is among the smoothest of any Black tea I have ever tasted.  The tea liquor is a super clear golden yellow and the aroma is penetrating and clean.

Production period: Late March 2014
Area: Feng Qing County of Lincang (Yunnan)

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The leaves are a gorgeous blend of gold and brown which reminds me of a lions mane. They are thinly rolled and long, with some being curly. It has a sweet malt scent with gentle smoke and wood notes.

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Steeping Method: Gaiwan 100ml

Water: 95C

Leaf: 7g

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First Steep
45 seconds
The liquid is amber in colour with a sweet yet smoky malt scent.
Flavour is light with dark smoke, malt, wood and prune fruit tones.

Second Steep
1 minute 20 seconds
Richer and stronger, this steep with more smoke tones that lighten into a cream and malt finish that lingers. Fruit comes through in the after taste, specifically prune and fig.

Third Steep
2 minutes
Lighter but still with flavour. Malt and wood with soft leather and some dryness. The fruit is very subtle now.

Fourth Steep
3 minutes

Similar to the first steep, this is light and sweet with malt and smoke tones albeit subtle from what it once was.

This was a nice tea that offered a blend of gold tip and full leaf flavours. It was darker than I thought it would be given the high level of golden tips but still very pleasing. Not the best I’ve tried but still very nice.

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Rating: 8/10

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 Phoenix Village Light Roast Shui Xian Oolong tea * Autumn 2014

A lovely autumn Shui Xian from Phoenix Village in Wu Yi mountainous area.  Shui Xian varietal is an older varietal that has become less popular since it’s got a stronger taste than Da Hong Pao, Rou Gui and Tie Luo Han.  Our Shui Xian is grown by village elders who stubbornly keep their gardens entirely the Shui Xian varietal.  The tea bushes are around 60 years old and grow naturally.  The Shui Xian we offer is a lightly roasted version with strong thick taste and mouthfeel.  There is a hint of mushroom and rock sugar in there which reveals it’s rocky mineral base.

Autumn 2014

15 kg in total produced!

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The leaves are light and crisp to the touch which consist of dark brown and red colours with hints of green. They smell toasty and subtly creamy with floral and sweet wood tones.

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Steeping Method: Gaiwan 100ml

Water: 100C

Tea: 7g

Rinse for 5 seconds.

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First Steep
30 seconds
The liquid is yellow with a subtle toasted scent. Flavour is more complex than the scent, it’s buttery with a soft toasted base and a sweet floral after taste that lingers. Slightly bitter though it quickly smooths out.

Second Steep
40 seconds
Softer and highly buttery with an increase of floral flavours, such as lily, orchid and sweetpea. Also toasted hay elements. Some dryness in the after taste.

Third Steep
1 minutes
A wonderful balance, the flowers are now in front of a soft butter and toasted after taste which leaves my mouth perfumed.

Fourth Steep
1 minute 30 seconds
Lower levels of butter and a touch of bitterness but the flowers still blossom in this steep.

Fifth Steep
2 minutes
Very light, all that remains are subtle flowers and a dry after taste.

This was a delightful Oolong, filled with buttery floral notes and lightly toasted. The flowers eventually became perfumed and dry but remained acceptable.

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Rating: 8.5/10

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2005 Yang Pin Hao “Peacock” Ripe Pu-erh

A lovely 9 year old ripe pu-erh tea aged in hot and humid Xishuangbanna!  Made from Menghai area fermented tea this tea was fermented for 46 days in Menghai town and then aged for 9 years!  

Smooth, sweet, and camphor wood taste with a clear burgundy-brown tea soup.  The tea has matured enough that there isn’t even a trace of fermentation fishiness that is present in much younger teas!

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The leaves are dark brown/red with a few golden tips present. Also the leaves look small yet mostly full or at least half the leaf intact. It has a damp, earth scent with notes of wood, must and soil.

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Steeping Method: Yixing Teapot 360ml size but only using 100ml

Leaf: 7g 

Water: Boiling 

Pre rinse – This was rinsed twice for 20 seconds each time

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First Steep – 30 seconds 

Colour is dark red with a musty and damp wood scent. Flavour is gentle with soft wood, smoke and damp earth notes. No astringency to speak of.

Second Steep – 40 seconds

The colours is now dark, similar to soy sauce. Flavour is smooth with a musty soil after taste that is gentle. A little damp tasting too.

Third Steep – 45 seconds

Flavour is still soft with damp soil, smoke, wood, musk and brown sugar notes. As it lightens towards the after taste it sweetens.

Fourth Steep – 55 seconds

Down to burnt orange in colour. This steep is more wooden and damp than musty, though the soft sweetness persists.

Fifth Steep – 1 minute

More soil in this steep though still soft and with no bitterness. Very clean and natural tasting. Slight dryness in the after taste.

Sixth Steep – 1 minute 20 seconds

Very light, all I can really taste is damp soil with a soft, sweet finish.

Seventh Steep – 2 minutes

Still consistent damp soil though no longer sweet.

Eighth Steep – 3 minutes 

Softer than ever though still a faint soil flavour.

The thing that strikes me the most about this Shou is how subtle it is in flavour. The ageing has smoothed it to a nice place but personally for me this is too subtle.  It has some characteristics that while still pleasant is nothing above basic.

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Rating:7/10

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For my first club order it was a wonderful mixture of tea and for the most part I was impressed with quality and taste. The packaging was also clearly labelled and they were well packed. I couldn’t have asked for more!

Until next time, Happy Steeping!