Where should you NOT buy your Puerh from

One of the intentionally aged teas, Pu-Erh has a loyal following.

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Jun 10th, '09, 12:22
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Where should you NOT buy your Puerh from

by OhJungMin » Jun 10th, '09, 12:22

I just wanted to start a new topic that might help others to make their final choice about different Puerh vendors online. Please, post here names and web-addresses of various online-stores that gave you a negative experience (either sent not what you ordered or didn't deliver at all).

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Jun 11th, '09, 00:34
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by Seeker » Jun 11th, '09, 00:34

I've had 2 or 3 questionable experiences with TeaSpring. I have purchased a couple of pu cakes from them that were 5 star rated on their site, and well reviewed on their site, only to receive the cakes advertised and then upon tasting - "chan-ko" = choke throat; very different from reviews - they were both raw, sheng cakes, green, and the odor was very smokey and ash-y.
In addition, I purchased a small amount of something they call Ya Bao - and which they say is pu-erh, and which they insist are the young buds of arbor treas. Supposed to have medicinal effects (I don't remember, but lower blood pressure or something); well upon arrival, the "buds" didn't look like tea buds to me, but more like young bamboo shoots (only a very slightly pinkish hue, very slight[>>edit - not pinkish, though that's what I remember from a year ago - I think I confused the orangey-browns mixed with the grey-greens and silveriness and my memory somehow grabbed onto a roseyness<<]; and sort of large, and sinewy/tough; infused to create a sort of vanilla-like aroma and taste). I took the tea to a local chinese tea master and chinese medicine master and also a very reputable chinese tea shop owner and one of her partners, a very learned and experienced tea expert - they all agreed that these were not tea buds from wild arbor trees (and the tea master/medicine guy works with and is affiliated with the pu-erh institute in Yunnan, China); they could only wildly guess that maybe these were magnolia shoots or buds of some kind (or even bamboo shoots or something similar) that had been essenced with vanilla - and warned that they might not be medicinal, and maybe even harmful; I emailed TeaSpring and told them of this, but they insisted that this "tea" was from wild arbor trees, claiming a different processing method and that I might consider how camilia sinensis given different processing yields very different teas (greens, pu-erhs, oolongs, etc).
So, I remain less than confident in TeaSpring. [edit-I may be reconsidering this based on renewed curiosity and exploration here].
I also don't purport to know what that "tea" was/is; but in terms of its morphology (basic structure and shape, etc) - it wasn't even close to any tea bud I've ever seen (you know how you can really check out tea buds after infusing). [edit-Funny how my memory is here; looking/exploring now, I'm finding possibility for this being tea buds - but not sure, having never, ever seen unprocessed tea buds from wild arbor trees].
Hoping this is helpful and with only intent to inform.
By the way - I have gotten very good pricing from TeaSpring on Honey Dan Chong, and other oolongs as well as Lung Ching Dragonwell.
I notice that they don't have the "Ya Bao" on their site anymore [edit - I was wrong, it is still there under pu-erhs and loose leaf, still some for sale].
Don't know what to make of this stuff.

ps - after I wrote this, I began to wonder if by chance I kept the "Ya Bao" - so I went searching - and lo - I found it! Here are 3 pics.

and w/ flash:

Hmmm. I am wondering after having built experience with tea over the last year,
and looking at this tea closely, and photographing it, and looking at the photos, could this be unprocessed (or very differently processed than most of us are used to seeing) camelia sinensis tea buds???
What do you think about this "Ya Bao"?
I'm starting to think it looks like it could be camilia sinensis after all?!
It's lost its vanilla-like aroma, and now imparts a distinctly menthol-like aroma (the dry tea buds).
Again, I'm very curious for feedback.

Scratching my head...
Last edited by Seeker on Jun 11th, '09, 03:02, edited 2 times in total.

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Jun 11th, '09, 01:18
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by xuancheng » Jun 11th, '09, 01:18

could you post pictures of these yabao?


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Jun 11th, '09, 01:23
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by Seeker » Jun 11th, '09, 01:23

I just posted pics in edit of my original post above.
I apologize for my less than skillful photography.
When I received this tea a year ago, after infused, the buds remained very tough,
and rigid.
Now they are coming apart a bit, and those look like little leaves.
Also - check out my edit of original post - I added comments about aroma.
I'm just itching for comments!
And I may owe a retraction and apology to TeaSpring - and perhaps a re-evaluation of those from whom I get my info?
Pu-erh is such a path of learning for me (well, gosh, tea in general).
So much to learn...
Last edited by Seeker on Jun 11th, '09, 03:03, edited 2 times in total.

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Jun 11th, '09, 01:36
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by Seeker » Jun 11th, '09, 01:36

Here is another photo w/ american quarter coin for scale.
This really has me thinking.
Should I brew some, make an infusion?

ps - american quarter coin is approx 2.5cm across.

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Jun 11th, '09, 01:40
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by Seeker » Jun 11th, '09, 01:40

Can anyone give translation of yabao?
or post any other info about yabao?

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Jun 11th, '09, 02:05
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by Seeker » Jun 11th, '09, 02:05

Here is more about Ya Bao from TeaSpring's website (I've condensed to include brewing instruct):
>>>This very special and rare tea is made using tea leaves picked from aged wild Arbor tea trees that grow in the high Shi Zi Mountains of Wu Ding County. The tea leaves can only be picked once a year during the early spring season. This and the fact that aged Arbor trees are limited in number make Ya Bao tea leaves very precious.
It is not uncommon to find some Ya Bao tea leaves blended into tea cake. Usually, the Ya Bao leaves only cover part of the surface of the tea cake, which makes up about 5% of the entire tea cake. Tea cakes compressed entirely of Ya Bao tea leaves exist, but are very expensive and usually made on special pre-order.
Ya Bao is known for its special cooling properties and regular consumption can help to lower blood pressure. Unlike other Pu-erh teas, Ya Bao tea leaves do not benefit much from aging and the age peaks at around 2-3 years old. It is ready for drinking now.
Other names:
Cha Bao, Cha Sun (Bamboo Shoot), Que Zhi (Bird's beak)
Ya Bao taste is very special and unique. The aroma of this tea is full of flowery sweetness with a subtle hint of vanilla. It is unlike any other Pu-erh teas that we have tasted before. The taste is flowery and has a pleasant rose-like sweetness.
Thick, juicy buds with leaves that look like fish-scale (first flush tea tends to have this appearance).
Brand, Manufacturer:
Wu Ding County, Yunnan Province
Pu-erh Type:
Raw / Green
Harvest Period:
Spring '07

We recommend using purple clay tea ware. Rinse tea cup and teapot with hot water. Fill the teapot 1/4 to 1/3 full with tea leaves. Steep tea leaves in hot water at 100°c (212°F) for 1 minute for the first and second brewing. Gradually increase steeping time for subsequent brewing.<<<
Here are pics from TeaSpring's site:


I wonder if this is a special tea after all?
Last edited by Seeker on Jun 11th, '09, 03:14, edited 1 time in total.

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Jun 11th, '09, 03:10
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by Seeker » Jun 11th, '09, 03:10

Okay, I'm really curious about this tea now that I've found that I still have it.
I just brewed some;
No vanilla aromas or flavors remain (I've had it for a year).
I infused in yixing clay teapot, 212F, 1st infusion 1min, 2nd infusion 3min, 3rd infusion 4min.
1st infusion - pale gold color, very, very, very slightly stemmy flavor and aroma, not much else.
2nd infusion - pale gold color, light apricot/stone fruit aroma and flavor, and still something like a super slight stemminess.
3rd infusion - very much like the 2nd.
The very soft, subtle apricot aroma/flavor is nice (could be a hint of vanilla in this 3rd infusion - but just the ghost of a hint).
According to TeaSpring, this tea is getting to the end of it's time - they say 2 to 3 years max; it's a 2007 harvest and so it's been 2yrs. Only 1yr left at most.

I hope there are some interesting responses to read in the days ahead.
Best to you all.

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Jun 11th, '09, 03:16
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by nada » Jun 11th, '09, 03:16

Hi Seeker,

From a cursory glance, these do indeed look like Ya Bao - I think you probably owe TeaSpring an apology.

Ya Bao are the first buds to appear in early spring and have a kind of leathery outside leaf to protect them from cold. While not really as rare as they may be being portrayed as (every tree has them), they can only be picked once a year and are at least a bit more costly to buy than later leaves.

The matter of taste though is a personal one. I've not been a huge fan of the Ya Bao teas I've tried, but I'm sure there are those who appreciate it. It is reputed to be full of nutritional qualities.


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Jun 11th, '09, 03:55
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by Seeker » Jun 11th, '09, 03:55

Dear Nada,
Thank you! So nice to receive some information and learning.
I'm just finishing the 4th infusion - aromas are almost gone, and apricot flavors barely linger.
Here are some photos of the tea leaves/buds after infusion (also the infusion).
Cheers everyone!
ps - nice to know of the nutritional properties.
Any other information as to medicinal qualities, etc I would love!

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Jun 11th, '09, 09:13
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by Salsero » Jun 11th, '09, 09:13

There was some in the puerh box pass that I got to try. It seemed to me more like a white tea than like a puerh. I was fascinated by the prehistoric look of the buds, but not interested enough that I ever purchased any.

http://www.teachat.com/viewtopic.php?p= ... =bao#63612

http://www.teachat.com/viewtopic.php?p= ... =bao#63382

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Jun 11th, '09, 12:50
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by Seeker » Jun 11th, '09, 12:50

1st - to TeaSpring - I Retract my doubt, my questioning, and further I Apologize!!!
I was apparently misinformed by my very-certain-in-their-opinions local tea merchants (who, it seems, are completely unfamiliar with Ya Bao).

Salsero - thank you for your comments, and sharing your experience -- so helpful to me.

Further - last year when I was trying to figure this out (and was as yet unaware of TeaChat), I did a google search. The search yielded 0 results for Ya Bao tea. Today however, there is one online U.S. shop selling it - here is there description: (This is from NorbuTea.com):

2009 Spring Ya Bao - Wild White Pu Erh Varietal Tea

Ya Bao literally means "Bud Treasure," and is the perfect name for this unique tea! This white style tea is composed entirely of hand picked tender young buds from wild growth tea trees from Dehong in the western portion of Yunnan province (Lincang, Baoshan, and Dehong all have areas which produce Ya Bao tea). Interestingly, this tea could be referred to as either a white tea AND/OR a Pu Erh tea. In early Spring (usually late March), the youngest new growth buds from these trees are harvested and simply dried in the sun to produce this Ya Bao tea. The leaves and buds which grow on these trees later in the spring harvest season are used to produce various wild arbor Pu Erh teas in the factories of the region.

The steeped liquor of this Ya Bao tea is really light and clear with just a touch of yellow green. In my opinion, the flavor is a bit fruity with a hint of evergreen, or fresh young vegetable (think squash blossoms) type freshness to it, but the taste is light, crisp, and fresh. It bears some similarity in taste to a traditional white tea, but is far more complex (to me, at least). It is difficult to describe because it is so unique, but it is a welcome treat to celebrate springtime!

Automatic discount for volume purchases: 10% off 100g, 15% off 250g

Hmmm... very interesting.

Dear TeaChat members, I am very curious what you think?

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by beecrofter » Jun 11th, '09, 15:07

As a consumer mostly of pu-erh and a few select oolongs =

My rule of thumb is to not even consider a vendor who touts "weight loss"

And I do not tolerate vendors who ride the coat tails of the Menghai tea factory by calling anything from the Menghai region Menghai, it is a bit deceptive and there are more honest dealers to do business with.

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by hooksie » Jun 11th, '09, 16:29

beecrofter wrote:My rule of thumb is to not even consider a vendor who touts "weight loss"

Hearing a tea marketed more for it's supposed "weight loss" abilities than for the tea itself always docks a few points with me.

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Jun 11th, '09, 20:39
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by Seeker » Jun 11th, '09, 20:39

Wondering now if my retraction and apology was a bit quick?
So I've just heard from my local tea merchant/expert (chinese, and many, many years in the field of tea) - and they are sticking to their guns that this is not Camelia Sinensis - my person has seen buds on both tea bushes and Wild Arbor trees, and insists they look nothing like this. My person is also open to learning something new, but none the less feels confident in current opinion. Has also expressed interest in checking this out with the puerh institute in China. Has asked if anyone knows species name or has a photo of these buds on their native tree - such a photo would be helpful with resolving this quandry.
If anyone has or can get such a photo - please share???!!!
Nada - curious about your sources, and any photos?
My person is going to forward photos of Camelia Sinensis buds, which I will post. I've asked if I can quote them (the actual email) - but I'll continue to leave names out in order to prevent any kind of unanticipated difficulty (unless I get permission, but even then, I might err on the side of respect and caution - don't want to start a tea war).

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