2013 “Year of the Snake” Design Contest!

Welcome everyone to 2013, the Year of the Snake! Last year was a great success with many excellent contributions!

To sweeten the pot a bit we will be offering a 1st, 2nd and 3rd and 4th price for the best designs!

1st prize: $250.00 USD credit voucher for use on Yunnan Sourcing dot com (or dot us) website!
2nd prize: $150.00 USD credit voucher for use on Yunnan Sourcing dot com (or dot us) website!
3rd prize: $100.00 USD credit voucher for use on Yunnan Sourcing dot com (or dot us) website!
4th prize: $50.00 USD credit voucher for use on Yunnan Sourcing dot com (or dot us) website!

Please submit all designs no later than March 1st. We will announce winners on this blog, and via twitter and facebook (of course we will email winners directly) no later than March 15th.

1. Designs should be done in either Photoshop or Illustrator 300 DPI. Other formats may be OK, but would prefer these two formats. Also provide us with a JPEG or PDF format version of the design so we can easily compare and preview.
2. Any fonts used should be included with your submission.
3. Design must prominently feature these characters “云之源”
4. Bonus for hand drawn lettering or illustrations.
5. Bonus for inclusion of a snake (character or image) in the design
6. Keep design to three colors (or black and white). No mixing / gradient of colors as this won’t print well on the hand-made white paper we plan to use.

We reserve the right to:

1. Change the fonts or design features of your design before we print the wrapper.
2. Add additional information, such as our logo, hand stamp seal, net weight of the tea cake, QS information (back) and QR code (back) to the wrapper, or anything else
3. Retain right to use as we see fit, now and into the future!
4. If you like we can feature your name and “Designed by” on the back of wrapper when we print it.

Thanks and good luck, if you have any questions email me at scott at yunnansourcing d0t com!

– Scott

Year of the Dragon design contest!

Welcome everyone to 2012, the Year of the Dragon. This year we really want to involve our customers in the design of our 2012 tea cake wrapper that we will use for our Yun Zhi Yuan (Yunnan Sourcing) tea cakes!

To sweeten the pot a bit we will be offering a 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize for the best designs!

1st prize: $250.00 USD credit voucher for use on Yunnan Sourcing dot com website!
2nd prize: $150.00 USD credit voucher for use on Yunnan Sourcing dot com website!
3rd prize: $100.00 USD credit voucher for use on Yunnan Sourcing dot com website!

Please submit all designs no later than March 1st. We will announce winners on this blog, and via twitter and facebook (of course we will email winners directly) no later than March 10th.

1. Designs should be done in either Photoshop or Illustrator 300 DPI. Other formats may be OK, but would prefer these two formats. Also provide us with a JPEG or PDF format version of the design so we can easily compare and preview.
2. Any fonts used should be included with your submission.
3. Design must prominently feature these characters “云之源”
4. Bonus for hand drawn lettering or illustrations.
5. Bonus for inclusion of a dragon (character or image) in the design
6. Keep design to three colors (or black and white). No mixing / gradient of colors as this won’t print well on the hand-made white paper we plan to use.

We reserve the right to:

1. Change the fonts or design features of your design before we print the wrapper.
2. Add additional information, such as our logo, hand stamp seal, net weight of the tea cake, QS information (back) and QR code (back) to the wrapper, or anything else
3. Retain right to use as we see fit now and into the future!

Thanks and good luck, if you have any questions email me at scott at yunnansourcing d0t com!

– Scott

Where does the smokiness in Pu-erh come from?

Part of our Q and A series.

Question:

Where does the smokiness in Pu-erh come from?

Answer:

1. The smokiness can be the result of a smoky environment during processing (such as kill green process where wood fired woks are used to fry the tea).

2. Sometimes the weather turns cloudy or rainy and the sun drying process is interrupted and the tea needs to be dried in a basket over a fire.

3. The final reason could be that the after the tea is processed into mao cha it might be stored in the home where wood fires are used for cooking and processing of other products. To keep the mao cha from molding in a hot and humid climate it is usually kept on the second floor where it will absorb smoke and cooking odors. The tea could be stored like this for a few months to a few years until a buyer is found.

2011 Da Yi (Taetea) Menghai Tea Factory Anti-Counterfeit sticker

It’s a new year and Da Yi has re-vamped the anti-counterfeit sticker that it puts on the back of tea cakes, or packaged products to ensure that you are getting the real thing. Below are a few close-up pictures of their latest stickers.

We use the 7542 Batch 101 sticker (blue) as well as the 7262 Batch 101 sticker (red and yellow) for our example. Both stickers are the real thing!

First the whole sticker, click on image to view in full size.

The upper part is shown here for both the 7542 and 7262. Worth noting is how the stamp cut wavy “S” line intersects the “Da Yi” symbol at pretty much the exact same point on both stickers.


In the middle section of these stickers it is worth noticing that:

The hologram strip is double sided. The same “Da Yi” (大益) characters are displayed right side up, but can be seen backwards and upside down on the flip-side of the hologram strip. The characters seen from the back are black in color.

The hologram strip is not consistently placed vertically if you compare the 7542 and 7262 stickers.

The hologram strip is consistent in the surface area it occupies both inside the sticker and on the (outside) face of the sticker. Notice the texture of the area where strip goes into and comes out of the sticker.

Finally on the bottom part we again notice the wavy stamp cut line and where it intersects the characters identifying Menghai Tea Group as the producer. Just below the Menghai Group characters is a continuous line from left to right where “TEATAE” is repeated 14 1/2 times. At the very lowest point 1/4 and 3/4 the way into the sticker the English letters “Da Yi” are written in small print.

Autumn trip to Bang Ma

In early October I got a call from my friend Mr. Whiskers.  We call him Mister Whiskers because he’s one of the few Chinese we know who can not only grow a beard, but actually wants one.  He’s a long time Lincang-hand and specializes in wild and ancient arbor tea!   Mr. Whiskers invited me to come down to Mengku county and try out some of the mao cha’s that he and the locals harvested.  I jumped at the chance and spent a sleepless night on a dingy bus that wended it’s way through the night to arrive in Lincang.  I changed buses in Lincang and went to Mengku town where I was picked up by my friend.  We had a long lunch in town… it was delicious, but Mr. Whiskers apologized saying that town food was just so-so at best and that tonight we will have much better in the mountains.  He drove his rented jeep up into the hills with me as passenger.  A brief rain soaked the winding mountain road just as we arrived at the end of the road, we parked there along with a couple of other vehicles and headed out by foot to Bang Ma village.

Arriving in town on a small dirt track Mr. Whiskers posed with a lovely old tea tree!

We meet our hosts who are sun-drying the just processed tea.  The roof of their home is the perfect surface to process tea and sun-dry it.

Mr. Whiskers takes me around the village and surrounding mountains to have a look…  The lower altitude areas are a wonderful mix of primitive agriculture and tea trees… Some trees are hundreds of years old, and many others between 60 and 150 years old growing helter skelter on the hillsides.

Something between ancient and plantation exists “old/wild plantation” 老太地!

As we head up higher in the hills the tea trees become bigger and taller… at this height they are not harvested effectively and large un-picked leaves are everywhere.

Just behind a tea tree we spot a little burro who has decided he’s had enough of mankind!

Ripe Pu-erh Grades

Leaf grade is based on the size of the leaf.  After the fermentation process is completed, ripe pu-erh is separated into different grades. Each different leaf grade will impart a slightly different taste.  When ripe tea cakes, bricks and tuos are pressed they are usually a blend of different leaf grades.  Blending is used to bring more complexity to the overall taste of the finished product.

Leaf grades from smallest to largest:  Gong Ting, Te Ji, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6, Grade 7,  Grade 8, Grade 9

Other by-products of ripe fermentation might include:  Zao Xiang Ye (or Cu Ye, large coarse leaf), Cha Tou (tea nugget), and small broken grade leaf which is often sold as a cheaper form of Gong Ting.

Comparing Purple Bud and Purple Beauty

Comparing Purple Bud and Purple Beauty

The main difference between Purple Bud and Purple Beauty tea lies in the fact that Purple Bud tea is natural but has undergone genetic mutation due to climate and seasonal changes. Purple Beauty, on the other hand, is the result of human cultivation.

The tea community first began to notice the Purple Bud variant at Wuyi Shan. Purple Bud has long been known as a scattered deviation that grows extensively among different kinds of tea plants. It is most common in summer tea. High anthocyanin content provides its purple color. It also results in a bitter flavor, which has given the purple buds a reputation as unsuitable for tea.

However, in the late 70’s and early 80’s Wuyi Stone Tea (Yan Cha) producers discovered that Stone Tea variants could be cultivated and tamed, resulting in a fine tea variety with high yield and stress resistance. This also reduced much of the tea’s bitterness. Consequently, the Fujian Tea Research Society produced a new asexual tea variety through natural hybridization of Da Hong Pao tea: Purple Bud Stone Tea. In technical terms, it is a medium leaf, late budding, shrub tea variety. It features dark yellow-green tender tips, purple buds, purplish-red leaf bases, short space between sections, little fuzz, soft leaves, and dense bud tips. In addition, it grows with high yield, and high stress resistance. Spring buds occur in mid to late March and one-bud-three-leaf growth occurs in mid to late April. The quality of this tea is excellent when processed as an Oolong. This variety represents a successful example of utilizing and improving on precious existing tea tree resources and is suitable for widespread cultivation in Oolong tea growing areas.

Building on this breeding experience with Oolong teas, research was begun into the cultivation of variants of Yunnan large-leaf teas. In 1985, technical staff from the Yunnan Tea Research Institute discovered a tea tree with purple buds, leaves, and stalk among the institutes’ plantation of over 600,000 trees. They processed its fresh leaves to produce a dark green roasted tea. The dried tea had a purple color and maintained this color in its brewed tea liquor. It also possessed a pure fragrance and a strong, intense flavor. Because of the tea’s purple buds, leaves, and stems and the fact that it maintained this purple color after processing, they named the tea “Purple Beauty.” Through research and further cultivation, this variant has given rise to current Purple Beauty tea trees.

Purple Beauty tea trees are considered a small arbor/shrub, big leaf, medium bud variety. The tea trees have a half-open appearance with high branches and moderate branch density. Leaves grow with an upward slant.

Spring buds occur in late February and full one-bud-three-leaf growth occurs between late March and early April.  Bud growth is strong with moderate density. The buds are a purple color and are relatively plump, fuzzy, and tender.

This tea is well-suited to planting in large-leaf tea growing areas due to its high capacity for cuttage reproduction and resistance to cold, drought, and disease. It can be grown in the same manner as other Yunnan large-leaf teas. Tea tree production volume is moderate. Purple Beauty has an elevated aroma, smooth and light mouth feel (kou gan), but with a  noticeable bitterness. In 1991 experiments conducted by the Yunnan Institute of Material Medicine showed that Purple Beauty is capable of lowering blood pressure, which greatly added to the reputation of the tea. Numerous plantations began cuttage cultivation of Purple Beauty trees.

Traditional Purple Bud refers to a bud deviation in large-leaf arbor trees due to seasonal and growing conditions. Only a few trees in a tea forest produce purple buds, and even ancient trees produce limited purple buds. Purple Beauty, on the other hand, is a cuttage plantation tree grown with high yield and tight planting. Tea variants are preselected with light and temperature added to encourage trees throughout the plantation to develop a purple color from the buds to the leaves and stalks. Traditional Purple Bud leaf blades are thick and dark green. The prominent veins in the leaves are similar to those of wild tea.  Traditional purple bud arbor tea brews a golden-yellow tea liquor with a heavy mouth feel and full flavor, while purple beauty has thin tea liquor, brownish-green color, and is relatively bitter. The two share high levels of anthocyanin, which provides certain health benefits.  These purple teas contain higher tea catechin levels than other teas. Consequently, the roasted tea is somewhat bitter and astringent, and the brewed liquor is a brownish green or indigo blue color, the sun-dried version shares some character with Pu-erh and has balanced astringency / bitter character.  Sun-dried Purple beauty is suitable for compression and aging as well!

Our Yunnan Purple Beauty is available here!

We also offer a Purple “Bud” tea from Yi Wu here!

2010 Yunnan Sourcing “Yi Bang” tasting!



2010 Yunnan Sourcing Autumn “Yi Bang” Ancient Arbor Raw Pu-erh

for sale here

Date of tasting:  2010.11.29  Soundtrack:  Rounder Records 40th Anniversary Concert
6.5 grams of tea brewed in a 120ml gaiwan
Cake compression is medium… somewhat heavy for a stone-press.
First infusion (30 seconds) … Smooth, silky and aromatic in the mouth.  Hints of sugarcane and fruit.  Mouth feeling is pleasant.
Leaves not awakened yet.
Second infusion (40 seconds):  Thick mouth feeling and gliding through the mouth, stimulating the mouth and throat in a pleasant. High aroma grass and fruit.  Slight astringency.
Third infusion (50 seconds):  Leaves opened up more… dark olive “gu shu” color but their small size reveals that they are primitive Yi Bang small-medium varietal.  Golden yellow tea soup.  Flavor is stronger now and the hui gan and mouth watering is really kicking in!
Fourth infusion (60 seconds):  The astringency is more pronounced now, but not overwhelming.  It brings with it a strong pungent smell, feeling and taste that enlivens and alters.
Fifth Infusion (60 seconds):  Tea soup color has not changed… the sweet/bitter/astringent is a little stronger than before, its hard to separate which is stronger… mouth is watering and by body heats up from this rich cha qi!
Sixth Infusion (70 seconds):  Tea is still thick and tea soup a soupy golden yellow, but the tea’s astringent bit has faded somewhat, giving way to something sweet and almost malty.  It’s thick like a trappist ale.  Burp!
Seventh Infusion (90 seconds):  The tea is back to silky, gliding through my mouth, but with something alive and popping!  Still thick and flavorful.
Eight Infusion (110 seconds):  This is the first infusion where I noticed the tea soup is light shade of honey golden.  The flavor is still pronounced but smooth.  Hard to tell what’s influencing my mouth feeling.  Is it the previous infusions?  Like an old friend who doesn’t need to make a joke to bring a smile to my lips, this tea warms and delights.
I could keep going but I need to squeeze in alot more teas today and so I’ll check in again soon with this Yi Bang cake!

2010 Yunnan Sourcing “Yi Wu Purple Tea” tasting…

2010 Yunnan Sourcing Autumn “Yi Wu Purple Tea” Tasting Session


Date of tasting: 2010.11.23

Soundtrack: Paul Van Dyk’s Vonyc Sessions #221

6.5 grams of tea brewed in a 120ml gaiwan

Cake compression is medium… somewhat heavy for a stone-press.

Rinsed for 10 seconds… smelling the gaiwan lid, the aroma is distinctly Yi Wu, but with a kind of pungent heavy sweetness.

The tea soup is not typically yellow, his has a purple/grey tinge to the yellow. This is the purple tea character showing itself.

First infusion (30 seconds) … taste is sweet with some slight astringency… slight bitterness in the after-taste. Bittersweet dark chocolate feeling.

Second infusion (40 seconds): The leaves have opened more and the first sip is very Yi Wu in character.  Subtle… a balanced astringency and bitterness, with that sweet thick Yi Wu after-taste.  The tea soup is deep color than before… there is cool feeling in my mouth and I am starting to get that mouth-watering sensation going on.

Third infusion (50 seconds): This infusion is super smooth and the balance of astringeny to bitterness is countered by a sweet almost honey-like feeling, making this tea slide through the mouth, warming and stimulating it.

Fourth infusion (60 seconds): Again the balanced character of this tea is established… the mouth-feeling is creeping into the throat, the mouth watering (along the sides of the tongue) feeling is stronger now.

Fifth Infusion (60 seconds): Tea soup color has not changed… the sweet/bitter/astringent is a little stronger than before, but now there is a hint of mushroom creaminess in the brew.

Sixth Infusion (70 seconds): Tea soup color still un-changed. The tea marches on… it’s becoming less bitter/astringent and the mushroom/cream/sweet character is more pronounced now, making it seem more like Yi Wu tea and less like purple tea.

Seventh Infusion (90 seconds): Tea soup is becoming lighter in color… the taste of Yi Wu is present… the mouth feeling is strong after so many infusions.

Eight Infusion (110 seconds): Tea soup is lighter again… the taste of grain and mushrooms is present with a sweetness. This tea is losing steam… but it’s still flavorful and pleasant.

This tea could go another few infusions, but I will check on it again after a month or two. It’s still so young and the water vapor from pressing is still there. If I were to brew again I would shorten the earlier infusion times a bit… I pushed it a little too hard in the beginning. I prefer a more gradual unfolding of the tea and its essence. Given the cold weather and the incredibly low temperature in my home’s brewing area I am impressed with this tea.    Should you brew this tea, I recommend an yixing teapot, very hot water and that the air temperature of your environment be above 25C.  Cold weather seems to put a damper on the outcome of raw pu-erh.

This tea being only the 10th day since pressing is impressive in its character. There is something very clean and enlivening about it. It’s not as complex as the other five Yi Wu teas made from ancient arbor material, but’s it’s nonetheless something that can be appreciated most for it’s clean, youthful purity!  I look forward to drinking this tea as it ages. The alternation of the monsoon and dry season will bring this slowly into maturity. Thanks mother nature for all!