The Dead Leaves Club is a blog run by several tea enthusiasts in the US. They have recently started to arrange group-buys with a number of interested folks, starting mainly with people from a tea Slack chat founded by Steepster people. (They have recently been trying to get more people involved by posting in r/tea.)
About the group-buy
The purpose of this particular group-by is to use our collective buying power to reduce the risk of trying a number of semi-aged (~10-20 years old) pu’er samples, then hopefully identifying some winners and buying larger quantities of the good ones. This was appealing to me since, even though I have a fair bit of young raw in my collection, I have very little semi-aged. I’d really like to explore this subcategory more, but it can be very expensive and risky. The way this group-by works (at a high level) is as follows:
- The organiser finds a selection of interesting-looking tea from Taobao vendors. These vendors may not be trustworthy or even have good knowledge of their own wares, so the only way to know if what they have is any good is to try it.
- Once the organiser has a list of tea, people sign up and pay for the first round sample buy.
- The organiser purchases a small amount from each vendor, divides it up and then posts it out to each member.
- They then wait to hear back from everyone what they thought about each of the samples and whether they’d be keen to buy a whole cake/tuo (or multiple).
- Once these results are in, the organiser will confirm everyone’s orders and collect the money and make the large purchases, either arranging for the vendors to ship them individually or taking delivery themselves, dividing up half-cakes, etc. and re-posting them out to members.
This obviously requires some trust by the members and the organiser. However, it’s also important to note that the organiser does quite a lot of legwork here, so it’s natural and fair for them to take a small percentage of the payments as their fee. Obviously it’s best if they are open about this. I’ve had a very good experience with the Dead Leaves Club folks so far.
Reviews of the samples
Each tea in this group-buy with some stats (price, images, etc.) can be found here. Below are my personal reviews.
2002 Yiwu Mahei
Good thickness, dry storage taste, quite sweet, astringent when pushed but not bitter. Fairness cup smell a bit complex early on but fades. Not much going on after half a dozen steeps (update: was probably using too low temps here). Sweetens up a lot for lower temp longer steeps.
2000 XG Tuocha
Tiny bit smoky, dry, leather books, dried apricots. Some fleeting underlying complexity. No bitterness and very little astringency. Couple of good long last steeps. I ordered a tuo of this.
2007 YXW Naka
Smokey liquor smell to start, fairness cup a complex plummy smokiness. Not as thick as I was hoping. Fair bit of dust even though I used unbroken cake chunks. Astringency built very slowly but was eventually quite strong. Taste was pretty good. Some bitterness only when hit long and hard. Possibly more ageing potential.
“60s” Guangyun Gongpai
Smells of old leather books, and starts tasting like a ripe. Material is very twiggy. Very thick texture. After about half a dozen steeps, starts to sweeten up and taste more like an aged raw. Lasted for ages! I ordered a cake of this.
2006 NQW Bulangshan
Fairness cup had a very pleasant complex smell. First steep a bit bitter and not super interesting but second steep really opened up with quite a strong stone fruit flavour. Hitting with boiling brings out a surprising amount of bitterness and quite a bit of astringency. Sweetened up nicely as it finished too. I ordered a cake of this.
2003 Banzhang White Label
Lightly smoky, old leather smell. Fairly typical dry storage taste, relatively unsurprising progression. Not bad but not very interesting. Might have needed more time to rest.