Yunnan Sourcing 2010 Hand Braided Wild Arbor Sheng of Yong De

Origin: Yong De
Harvest: Fall 2010

So I’ve been lusting after this tea for a while, I know we aren’t supposed to judge a tea by its aesthetics, but damn this is one sexy tea. Probably the sexiest tea I ever seen; I feel bad even sharing my photographs of this it is that beautiful (okay I always feel bad when sharing my images, but that is beside the point). I’m not sure if I ever described a tea as sexy, but this is absolutely gorgeous. I’m going to include some of Yunnan Sourcing’s images for the sake of conveying how beautiful this tea (I might include more of vendor’s images in the future posts, but I am not sure yet).

Fairly inconspicuous wrapper, slightly transparent, you can’t really see the goods its hiding. Look at that nei fei peaking out that wrapper, that tease! I wonder if Yunnan Sourcing chose a lighter wrapper just to show off this tea. It is definitely something to be proud of.

Wow! Look at that body! I can’t imagine the work that went into this cake. I am curious to know how long it took to braid each individual braid, but even without knowing how much work went into this tea I’m in love.

It takes a couple infusions before the leaves start to become distinct. You definitely need to use a pick to break apart this tea. Sadly I only have a knife so I did break up some of the leaves; I must remember to be a pick in my next order from Yunnan Sourcing.

(From here on out, all images are my own) Okay that’s enough strange sexualizing the cake talk, onto the description:
Produced exclusively for Yunnan Sourcing by a small tea factory in Yongde. We selected Fall 2010 material from wild arbor trees and then with extreme care ask local Yong De people to meticulously braid the tea. After being sun-dried, the tea is arranged carefully and then stone-pressed. Just like a good wild arbor Pu-erh this tea has incredible clarity and is very infusable. A balanced mouthfeel and clean!
Like many of Yunnan Sourcing’s descriptions this is somewhat lacking. I am normally not one for flowery language in my tea descriptions, but if there ever was a tea deserving the labor of the finest tippy golden flowery Indian wordsmith, this is that tea! I was amused to find that so far no one on Yunnan Sourcing has review this tea (at the time of writing this).
Dry Leaves: This is a very tightly compressed tea, as I mentioned before I used a puerh knife that was far to blunt to break apart my sample without damaging it. I was a little disappointed with my sample, you couldn’t really tell this is a braided tea till you got up close, I suspect my sample came from the middle or insides of a cake, but I’m not going to hold my disappointment against the tea.

First Steeping
Temperature: 175oF
Brewing Time: One Minute
Aroma: Fruity and Camphor
Flavor: Stonefruit and Honey
Tasting Notes: I originally stopped brewing at thirty seconds, but the tea and liquor was very light so I decided to add an additional thirty seconds.There is a little bitterness, unfortunately it is not enough that I enjoy it, but more than enough to overpower the stonefruit notes. There is a bit of an aftertaste, but I cannot identify it yet. Despite the bitterness there is quite a bit of sweetness so far, but the bitterness lingers in the back of my throat.

It feels like a very young immature tea, I generally go for the young cakes that are drinkable immediately and probably don’t have much of a future. I know Yong De is within the Lincang prefecture, an area where teas are often said to be green and bitter in their youth and are slow to age. I’d be lying if I was not shocked by this tea, by no means is this a bad tea, it feels very immature so far.

Second Steeping
Temperature: 180 oF
Brewing Time: Two Minutes
Aroma: Fruity             
Flavor: Stonefruit, Honey and Star Anise
Tasting Notes: The camphor aroma disappeared entirely. This still is a very light tea even though I used a lot of leaves and did three longish (ten second) rinses with boiling water and it still feels like it has been awaken yet. Regardless the bitterness is still the star of the show. While it isn’t quite what I would describe as kuwei (pleasant bitterness), but it is starting to not overwhelm the other flavors, the bitterness does not linger as long as the previous infusion; even though the stonefruit and honey tastes have pretty much the same intensity of the last infusion they aren’t being masked by the bitterness as much as last.

There was a rather interesting new flavor, at first I wanted to describe it as licorice, but I feel a little more comfortable describing it as star anise. I’m not sure if it was present in the previous infusion, it could possibly explain the bitterness, but I’m not possible.

Third Steeping
Temperature: 190 oF
Brewing Time: Three Minutes
Aroma: Fruity and Cane Sugar
Flavor: Stonefruit, Honey, Vegetal, Plum and Star Anise
Tasting Notes: It seems the bitterness becomes very apparent with longer brews rather than using hotter water (I used the remainder of my sample and upped the starting temperature fifteen degrees and halved the steeping time and the bitterness was much lighter). My major issue with this tea is the first two infusions are very light. I used a lot of tea about twelve grams and did three ten seconds rinses using boiling water and the first two infusions were still very light. Perhaps I should do longer rinses maybe somewhere between ten and thirty seconds. Regardless this is a swift punch to the kidneys compared to the previous two. It’s not that this is unpleasant, but I tend to prefer relatively similar infusions, if I had to assign a numerical value to each of the infusions so far (on a scale from one being the water and ten being a grain spirit) the first two would be two (relatively light, a little watery) and this is a definite six (somewhere close to whisky).

The tea is starting to become much more pleasant, it hasn’t that kuwei yet, but in later infusions it certainly does. Some of the sharpness and immaturity starts to disappear in later infusions. If I were to hazard a guess this is probably closer to a balanced (or at least near balanced) young sheng, perhaps too young to drink right now, but it isn’t undrinkable in its present state. My major issue with this tea is the later infusions start to become really interesting, but I’m not sure if I would want to skip so many of the early ones to get to them. Perhaps the heart of the issue is me; I love those young shengs that are drinkable right now that probably do not have much of a future, that green bean taste which can be a red flag. So far I have not bought a cake with the intention to age; I just don’t have the patience and I’d probably chip off a nice chunk every so often to see if it has gotten any better.

Despite the early overwhelming bitterness, this is a very smooth and clean tea, if you can get past its early blemishes this is quite a nice tea. Around the seventh infusion it starts to become very interesting, but for me it is too young to drink now. While I am nowhere near experienced enough to make an educated guess on how this will age or when it will be best to drink I feel fairly confident saying it is at a stage where it is not at its best. Despite my misgivings about this cake, I do intend to buy a whole cake, the very first cake I intend to buy to age (I don’t know if I will be successful, my curiosity may get the best of me and I may break into it early) rather than to drink now. Worst case scenario it is a very beautiful tea that I can always display somewhere. I’m not sure if I have ever seen a cake that was this beautiful before. Now onto the price and whether or not I’d recommend it. Like most Yunan Sourcing teas the sample is very reasonably priced, for $3.75 for 25g or a 400g cake for $32 (at the time of writing this) I feel it is definitely worth checking out.


Just a guy who likes tea.