I first came across this particular tea when Char reviewed it, and after reading the description on the White2Tea web site I was sold…
“A blend of raw Puer material meant for the daily grind. Sweetness and a delightful fragrance. Solid, reliable, affordable, and better quality than you’d expect for the price. Tea for the everyday. Tea for the people.”
Sounded right up my street. After a bit of bankety-bank and PayPal plastic fantastic interwebbery magick, an order was duly placed.
At the time of ordering I paid US$19.00, for which you get a 200 gram beeng cha that comes in a typically off-the-wall White2Tea wrapper.
The cake itself was nicely compacted, but still easy enough to open up with the small knife (as opposed to the pick) I use for this task. Individual leaves separated off from the cake cleanly and without any trouble.
I cupped my hands over the dried leaves and exhaled on them, a technique I first saw used by James Norwood Pratt in a YouTube video. The idea is to get a feel for the aroma of the leaf, and in this case the leaves gave off a strong suggestion of leather.
I dropped 5 or 6 grams into a 150 ml gaiwan, and heated water to about 95° C.
A quick rinse was performed to deal with any tea dust, wake up the leaves, and warm up all the teaware. Once that was out of the way, it was time to get brewing – 5 seconds for the first infusion, with each subsequent steeping 5 seconds longer than the last.
As per usual with a first flash infusion there was a distinct feeling of the tea just beginning to open up, but you could still see even at that early stage that this tea had plenty in the tank.
The usual sheng flavour profile was there, all the familiar earthy, umami goodness, but now that leather component was complemented by dried porcini mushrooms. For reasons I’m at a loss to explain the residual aroma in the cup reminded me of a small plaster figurine of the Lincoln Imp I bought way back in the early 70s.
The cha qi made its presence known right away. It started off with a fluttering sensation in the stomach, that quickly morphed into a full-on whacked out dreamy state. I instantly knew this was going to be a long, day claiming session, something I was entirely happy with…
On the second steeping the body of the tea broth thickened up considerably, and started to display a delicious creaminess.
By the third I started to get a hint of fresh tobacco, as well as a suggestion of camp-fire smokiness. Every time the gaiwan was decanted into the gong dao bei it was quickly refilled – this was a very more-ish tea.
After the fifth infusion I got a terrible case of the munchies, and had no choice but to pull my lunch out of the fridge, a salmon and broccoli salad with loads of freshly ground pepper and a splash of hot sauce.
The 6th, 7th, and 8th infusions were drunk over lunch, and I can happily report that the tea was not overawed at all, in fact it stood its ground rather well and refused to run away and hide even when faced by all those robust flavours.
By the 11th infusion I got the feeling that the flavour was starting to thin out a little, but the tea was still good to go.
By now, my usual early start (hungry cat, 4:30 am), lunch, and all that tea had taken their toll, and I was thoroughly exhausted. I declared a mid-session interval, and retreated to the sanctuary of the master bedroom for a quick nap.
An hour or so later and I was ready for more. I gave the tea and teaware another quick rinse to bring everything back up to temperature again.
By the time infusion 13 came around the steeping duration was up to 80 seconds, and the gaiwan was now getting so hot it had become a two-handed job when decanting the tea out of it.
At infusion 16 I noticed a drop off in the colour and the taste of the tea broth, and so decided to up the steeping times by more than the usual amount.
This meant that infusion 17 became a 2 minute affair, with infusions 18 and 19 weighing in at 3 and 5 minutes respectively. By now the tea was finally running out of steam, and I had other stuff to take care of, so I reluctantly ended the session at that point.
The dreamy state the tea brought on lasted for the rest of the day, one in which I got huge amounts of work done, and with a constant smile attached to the front of my face.
I suspected that a significant part of this rather interesting physical reaction was down to the early part of the session having taken place on an empty stomach, and subsequent sessions have kind of upheld this theory.
When drunk when the stomach was busy digesting rather than crying out to be filled, the tea resulted in a calm but alert state where you were skimming the treetops rather than ploughing through the clouds, if you follow. This more muted cha qi also induced sweaty elbows, for whatever reason.
So, in conclusion, that web-site description was spot on. A great tea for the price, and one that is seeing action hereabouts, as the name suggests, on a daily basis. Definitely one I’ll be re-ordering.