White2Tea Four AM – 2017

Around the turn of the year, I cracked into my 2018 Sheng Olympiad package and tried one of the two White2Tea four am samples, which are in the form of 8 gram pills/coins, and I just tried the second one today.

The Sheng Olympiad is a yearly package of sheng (raw) pu’er goodies from various vendors and donators organised by Liquid Proust. It’s like a really large (~100 people) international group-buy to help people relatively new to raw pu’er experience a range of high quality offerings and potentially also share tasting notes on Steepster and Instagram.

Initial impressions

Unlike the W2T Flap Jacks I reviewed earlier, the compression was considerably tighter. This meant that the coin itself was much smaller, even though both are 8g. Also unlike the Flap Jacks, this material is from spring 2017 instead of autumn.

The wrapper art seems to depict a cicada, which brings to mind someone being woken up at 4am by loud cicada noises. Probably a good time to have some tea if the chances of going back to sleep are slim!

First few steeps

Despite the high compression, one rinse in my yixing pot with several minutes of rest time in between allowed the leaves to open up quite easily (I didn’t try to pick it apart). I drank the second rinse, which was quite nice – light and sweet.

After the leaves had opened more, I was pleased to be greeted with a very thick body and sweet floral taste, but with some unexpected complexity. I thought it might have had a couple of years of age on it, but it’s all spring 2017 material. Once the leaves had opened up, the bitterness was quite strong, like when you don’t quite swallow a pill properly and it gets suck in your throat. The astringency wasn’t too strong and built slowly.

Steeps 5-10

Continuing to flash-steep, the bitterness was there ready to jump on me if I over-brewed even slightly. Even so, it was still quite strong, but I found it to be quite enjoyable. The hint of complexity persisted and trying to put my finger on the nature of it during the session was a lot of fun. The body of the tea remained quite thick and the sweetness level remained fairly constant – present but not strong.

Later steeps

Extended steeps brought out slightly more sweetness but not as much as I expected. After the session I was left with a ‘spiciness’ on the tongue and a light menthol sensation going far down the throat. I didn’t feel much energy during, but I felt energised after the session for some time.

Final thoughts

I tried this tea without reading any description of it. Having later read the description about it being a blend from multiple areas and the claim of it having a complex character, it was good to see that match up with my experience.

The coin format we had in the 2018 Sheng Olympiad doesn’t seem to be generally available for purchase, but a 200g cake is $109 USD, which puts this at about 55c/g (USD). For a 2017 young raw cake this price puts it in the mid-high range, which I think is quite fair. 25g sample sizes are available for a 62c/g.

Whether this tea would be good to introduce to a new young raw pu’er drinker, I think that depends a lot on their tolerance for bitterness. If high, this would be a great option. I think more experienced drinkers (especially those who enjoy young raw) will appreciate it a lot. Well worth trying!

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