Be calmed, Gentle Reader. Despite the title of this article, the Half-Dipper has not started a baicha regime; instead, we focus on a trio of pu'ercha (hoorah) from white2tea. We're not quite so desperate as to start drinking baicha. Yet.
Regular readers will know that I have enjoyed plenty of the teas on offer from white2tea, up to and including some of the Taochaju cakes made by a mutual tea friend in Maliandao. I like the focus on good tea, at a good price; I get the feeling that we are in safe hands with white2tea.
It's strong, it's orange, and it's better than a lot of others - and it's $70
Keyixing is, apparently, a proper old brand from the 1920s. That means about as much as you might expect in China, and so some modernday outfit has been making tea under that label, perhaps, if we are feeling charitable, as an "homage". Ahem.
Mr. White2Tea notes that this tea was dry-stored in Guangzhou. 2003 seems about right, as you might conclude from the photograph above. It is an interesting little fellow: caramelised, in a way, with a cooked, raisin-like edge that reminds me of heicha. Unlike Hunan's rancid nega-tea, this Keyixing is vivid and crisp, with a decent aftertaste. It is by no means "grand", and perhaps a little suspicious in its cooked-style constitution, but it is, at least, aged and quite strong. At $70, it's a tight little tea for the money, and reminds me of white2tea's good selection criteria. (Note to self: is it this 2003 Keyixing?)
It reminds me of old (possibly poisonous) Chinese cigarettes. In a nice way.
Somehow, I missed the "New Amerykah" cake from 2013. I get the opportunity to redress this karmic injustice by trying the "New Amerykah 2" from 2014...
2014 white2tea "New Amerykah 2"
Like the Keyixing, this is $70 at the time of writing. I like Paul's naming conventions for his cakes, and look forwards to the day when his tea starts quoting, for example, Monolith Deathcult lyrics, rather than classics from jazz and world music. I fear that I may be waiting a long time.
It seems, from the blurb, that this cake is "old arbor Menghai" (aren't they all?) with some Bulangshan leaves. Unlike almost every other vendor under the sun, I do tend to trust Paul's assessment of his maocha's origin. This is a big, fresh tea that reminds me of years past, spent discovering similar-tasting leaves from maestro cakemeisters such as Essence of Tea. Just like some of the best EoT, this is bold, sweet, and grape-like. It packs a fantastically clean finish that delivers a precision, laser-guided strike to the deliciousness receptors in the mouth.
It isn't strong in kuwei, but then Paul notes that the emphasis is on "fullness" in this 2014 version, rather than on "bitterness" in the 2013 version.
"Quite mild", notes my mother, who is visiting.
Take note: when your mother calls a pu'ercha mild, then it is probably as soft as faerie urine. There's mild and then there's "my mother just called that mild". This is the latter.
Later infusions build on the faerie urine to make a dry, husky, sweet cake with a long aftertaste and decently citric, fruity finish. It rather reminds me of a dry white wine. By the third infusion, it has swollen into a mouth-dominating bigness that confirms Paul met his target of "fullness". It isn't too expensive, and is a fun trip around the tea-table. As ever, white2tea delivers on its ability to select decent cakes. I am tipped over into the "do not buy" state by virtue of the fact that I have quite a lot of tea that tastes like this (many kg of which were bought from Nadacha, back in the day when they were £20).
Closing the show, we have the 2014 Laoman'e. The blurb quite reasonably states that this "is by no means a bargain", which is testament to its $180 price.
2014 white2tea Laoman'e
A modern tea has to be darned fine to justify $180. I'm just going to buy something aged for the same price. I do understand that maocha costs money these days, but the result remains unchanged.
Nature always finds a way
The leaves are tippy and a little broken, but look good. The soup, as you'll already have cleaned from the above, is very clear. It reminds me of the amber from Jurassic Park, in fact, which is surely every chaos mathematician's playbook. You would be genuinely surprised how many chaos theorists I meet who are still doing the Jeff Goldblum look.
The definite nature of gushu character is here. There is a solid core of sweet, husky bitterness that seems compact and strong. That density carries it on well, and is surely something that we're looking for in a candidate for aging: you want something heavy and irreducible, that will not fade with age.
As with much Laoman'e, it tastes like the bitter, citric, evil twin of Laobanzhang. "It is excellent", I wrote in my journal.
As for me: $180? I'll take the already-aged cake, even if it is of leaf from a lesser provenance, but that's just me.
Overall: white2tea continues to deliver the goods, to fit a range of wallet-tightnesses.