a recent wuyi vendor tour

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Sep 7th 16 7:28 pm
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a recent wuyi vendor tour

by moot » Sep 7th 16 7:28 pm

For years, I relied on a few vendors for wuyi. A decade ago, I tried pretty much all the standard vendors, and settled on some favorites. The vast majority of my stuff of late came from Jing Tea Shop, and I had a little precious stash of incredibly great stuff from Tea Gallery. But Jing started getting more and more unreliable for me, and Tea Gallery closed up to my great sorrow, and I'm down to a few precious handfuls of their tea that I'm supposedly "aging", but really I just can't bear to actually end it.

I've also moved to Utah and discovered that, though its a pain for puerh storage, seems to be perfect for aging wuyi. Stuff I forgot about and didn't really take care of for four years in Utah has turned... magical. I regretted not having aged more.

So I went a little nuts and ordered tons of teas from lots of new vendors. And looking around, the landscape has changed. When I was drinking tea ten years ago, there were a slim handful of western-facing shops, and most of the stuff sold in the US was so inferior. Now, there's like a billion curators popping up and more and more Chinese and Taiwanese shops willing to vend, and... it just seems like the tea accessibility has exploded, no?

Anyway, where a decade ago trying to find good tea in the States was this desperate search with lots of dead-ends, now it seems like we're overwhelmed with awesomeness.

So, I've managed to spend some time with my mega-buy, and here's my views on the vendors I've tried:

Seven Cups: for some reason, I've been ordering green tea for them forever, but only recently started ordering their wuyi. It's extremely nice stuff - shockingly attractive leaf, in general - and their house style is light-roasted and energetic and expressive. Fine, delicate wuyi.

JK Teashop: has become my replacement for Jing Tea Shop. Extremely solid at each price point, with a range of price points. The leaf is just a touch bit more broken then I'm used to for mid-grade tea, but it's great stuff. It's seems really... real to me. The mineral scalpel is in full effect, when appropriate. The drynesses and the throaty oiliness are all in the right place. Particular favorite: their Nonpareil grade Bai Ji Guan, which has this softness and delicacy and aching lovely sweetness under the usual stern wuyi bite. (I had bai ji guan this good once long ago, at some tea tasting event. Been looking for something this good since then, and failed.)

Norbu: Norbu has a house style, and it's very distinctly not usually my thing, although once in a while it hits the spot. Norbu wuyi (and his rolled oolongs) seems to often be about fat, big flavor. Thick, datey, plummy tastes. I suspect that for many people, this will hit the spot exactly. But my tendency in wuyi is to go for that mineral scalpel, that dry needle, the thin-leading-into-subtle-aftertaste. Norbu has a very friendly warm big flavor, though. His stuff is the closest wuyi/anxi has gotten to me to, like, a pinot.

Tea Trekker: as usual for Tea Trekker, extremely nice stuff. It leans more towards tasty density of flavor, and less towards mouth sensation, and on the clean-and-delicate side, rather than the rich-and-dense side. Very nice. The wild da hong pao variant is a pleasing oddball. (I've often liked Tea Trekker for their oddball variants - like their nontraditional whites sourced from odd places.)

Tea Yuan: and this is the one I've been waiting for all my life, it feels like. Exceptional tea, across the board. The stuff has vividness and texture and sharpness and life. The 2013 Rou Gui is like a quest into, not the flavors of cinnamon, but the dryness of cinnamon. It's so good, and so alive. I moved some of their shi jin gui from my gaiwan into a yixing after bunch of steeps, and my wife sat up straight and said that that might have been the single best taste in a tea she'd ever gotten, and she's drunk thousands of teas with me. Exceptional. I have a feeling that I'm going to buy at least some of each of their yanchas into the future. Some of their stuff comes within spitting distance of my very favorite Tea Gallery stuff at a fraction of the price.

Yet to be tried, but next on the list: Tea Hong, Tea Urchin, Essence of Tea.

More suggestions? I feel like I was sitting on my laurels while the Internet exploded with tea.

Sep 8th 16 3:58 am
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Re: a recent wuyi vendor tour

by ethan » Sep 8th 16 3:58 am

Well-written & helpful---thank you, Moot.

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Sep 8th 16 5:37 pm
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Re: a recent wuyi vendor tour

by debunix » Sep 8th 16 5:37 pm

You've covered all of the vendors from which I get Wuyi currently with the exception of a Da Hong Pao that I often get from my local brick & mortar Wing Hop Fung (a mid-grade but not fantastic version). And earlier in my tea exploration I enjoyed some 'Wuyi Oolong' (labelled as simply as that) from Rishi, although it's been so long that I can't say if I would still enjoy or recommend it. When I was putting away the latest orders and rummaging the tea chest recently, I had Wuyi's from Norbu, Yunnan Sourcing, Jing Tea Shop, and Wing Hop Fung--and enough of them that it will be while before I order more; when I do, I'll check back over your list and maybe try something different.

I've drunk very little of Wuyi and puerh over the summer but as the weather cools it gets more and more appealing.

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Sep 8th 16 7:26 pm
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Re: a recent wuyi vendor tour

by miig » Sep 8th 16 7:26 pm

Thank you for this well-written and knowledgeable summary. My journey into serious tea began with Phoenix Oolong from JK teashop. Since I'm quite happy with Tea Hong's Oolong, I can't wait to see how you like theirs.

Sep 8th 16 10:16 pm
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Re: a recent wuyi vendor tour

by moot » Sep 8th 16 10:16 pm

debunix wrote:You've covered all of the vendors from which I get Wuyi currently with the exception of a Da Hong Pao that I often get from my local brick & mortar Wing Hop Fung (a mid-grade but not fantastic version). And earlier in my tea exploration I enjoyed some 'Wuyi Oolong' (labelled as simply as that) from Rishi, although it's been so long that I can't say if I would still enjoy or recommend it. When I was putting away the latest orders and rummaging the tea chest recently, I had Wuyi's from Norbu, Yunnan Sourcing, Jing Tea Shop, and Wing Hop Fung--and enough of them that it will be while before I order more; when I do, I'll check back over your list and maybe try something different.

I've drunk very little of Wuyi and puerh over the summer but as the weather cools it gets more and more appealing.
Ah, Wing Hop Fun. It makes me miss lA. Lemme tell you - moving from LA to Utah is a bit of a system shock for... a lot of culinary reasons.

Definitely try Tea Yuan. I'm having the sense that they're way lesser known around the Western tea-o-sphere. I can't tell why, maybe they're just new? But I also kind of thinking that a lot of the new shops that are having success are really good at parlaying social media stuff into accolades on Steepster, etc., and Tea Yuan isn't doing that at all, and so are sort of flying under the radar. But to my tastes, they're totally killing it.

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Sep 9th 16 4:52 pm
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Re: a recent wuyi vendor tour

by JRS22 » Sep 9th 16 4:52 pm

We're in the middle of a heat emergency but after reading your post I settled in my non-air conditioned kitchen for a session of Three Stamps Shu Xian from Tealife HK, a new tea vendor started by one of our members. I'm enjoying the tea despite the heat, but I'm happy that if decided tea first, then a shower.
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Sep 10th 16 5:43 pm
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Re: a recent wuyi vendor tour

by Haddemall » Sep 10th 16 5:43 pm

I've been tempted by Tea Yuans teas for a long time and ordered a few 2013 yanchas in the beginning of the summer. The order was accepted but about a month later I was told they didn't have any 2013 to sell me but that I could have the 2015. Not exactly the same thing so I cancelled my order. Then just the other week I was surprised to discover 2013 tea still for sale on Bens site. Maybe he just got some in. Anyone else ordered 2013 yancha and got it the last couple of months?

Sep 25th 16 12:22 am
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Re: a recent wuyi vendor tour

by bryan_drinks_tea » Sep 25th 16 12:22 am

Haddemall wrote:I've been tempted by Tea Yuans teas for a long time and ordered a few 2013 yanchas in the beginning of the summer. The order was accepted but about a month later I was told they didn't have any 2013 to sell me but that I could have the 2015. Not exactly the same thing so I cancelled my order. Then just the other week I was surprised to discover 2013 tea still for sale on Bens site. Maybe he just got some in. Anyone else ordered 2013 yancha and got it the last couple of months?

Tea Yuan is great! The 2013 is really aging well across the board.

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Sep 25th 16 5:51 am
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Re: a recent wuyi vendor tour

by jayinhk » Sep 25th 16 5:51 am

JRS22 wrote:We're in the middle of a heat emergency but after reading your post I settled in my non-air conditioned kitchen for a session of Three Stamps Shu Xian from Tealife HK, a new tea vendor started by one of our members. I'm enjoying the tea despite the heat, but I'm happy that if decided tea first, then a shower.
Thanks for the mention! I wasn't going to toot my own horn on this thread! The Three Stamp is a tea I've been drinking regularly since I first tried it, and as long as I'm drinking tea I'll always have it around!

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Sep 25th 16 3:38 pm
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Re: a recent wuyi vendor tour

by JRS22 » Sep 25th 16 3:38 pm

I was inspired by this thread and the chilly autumn weather to have a session of the aforementioned Three Stamps. I'm on the 9th infusion - maybe too much caffeine but not too much delicious tea. I'm off to warmer climes in October but when I return, shocked that it's no longer hot and humid, I may be in the market for more yancha for the long cold winter.
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Sep 25th 16 4:05 pm
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Re: a recent wuyi vendor tour

by jayinhk » Sep 25th 16 4:05 pm

Wow, I usually only drink four infusions from the shuixian, with water at full boil for every infusion. I'm guessing you're using slightly cooler water?

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Sep 25th 16 5:52 pm
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Re: a recent wuyi vendor tour

by JRS22 » Sep 25th 16 5:52 pm

jayinhk wrote:Wow, I usually only drink four infusions from the shuixian, with water at full boil for every infusion. I'm guessing you're using slightly cooler water?
I began with 195° and later switched to boiling water. That resulted in much sweeter tea. I'm not sure if I'm using more or less tea than you - I've been putting 3 grams in that 65 ml pot.

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Sep 25th 16 6:25 pm
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Re: a recent wuyi vendor tour

by jayinhk » Sep 25th 16 6:25 pm

JRS22 wrote:
jayinhk wrote:Wow, I usually only drink four infusions from the shuixian, with water at full boil for every infusion. I'm guessing you're using slightly cooler water?
I began with 195° and later switched to boiling water. That resulted in much sweeter tea. I'm not sure if I'm using more or less tea than you - I've been putting 3 grams in that 65 ml pot.
Based on what I see, 3 grams looks to be just right. The roaster and his family use water at full boil, and I've done the same every time I brew their shuixian! Might be interesting to try it at a lower temperature though!

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Sep 26th 16 5:13 pm
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Re: a recent wuyi vendor tour

by JRS22 » Sep 26th 16 5:13 pm

The tea. canister is still out on the table so I might as well try the Three Stamps with boiling water today.

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Sep 26th 16 5:16 pm
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Re: a recent wuyi vendor tour

by jayinhk » Sep 26th 16 5:16 pm

Let me know what you think! I'm drinking Thai baozhong today. It seems to lack flavor, so I may roast it!