July 2016 White2Tea Club feat. 2016 A&P Black Tea Cake

I have been a month behind on my White2Tea club reviews and I think I am finally going to catch up! Today let’s drink the White2Tea July 2016 Club. For July, the teas are the brand new whole 2016 A&P Black 100 gram cake and 3 2013 Fengqing black tea orbs, the orbs added as an aged comparison.

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I’ve been seeing black tea pressed into cakes more and more. It is somewhat unknown what age does to these teas, but adding the 2013 Fengqing balls gives us something to compare to. The previous month we also got a black tea cake, now I have A&P, plus I have another black tea cake (more on this later). Since I’m up to three small cakes, I should really figure out how to store to age these things – treat like a puer or an oolong? My white cakes I’ve just been storing in their storage boxes. Ah well, we will learn as we go.

Tasting of White2tea’s 2016 A&P Black

2016 A&P black tea was released along side the new White2tea 2016 spring puer. This black is a Yunnan Dianhong, large puer varietal leaf and sun dried.

Of course, White2tea makes a cool wrapper!

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2016 A&P Black tea smells chocolaty and lightly woodsy earth.

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It was actually hard to break this cake. Mine felt loosely packed outside, but the core was a tight interior of terror. As I picked it, the loose exterior would flake off and if I hit the core, pieces would fling across the room.

I steeped it slightly aggressive, 1 gram to 14 ml. I used boiling water and a rinse.

First and Second Infusion: 2016 A&P steeps up a golden ruddy black with a smooth chocolate scent.

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It sips in sweet, chocolaty, bit of green wood, super smooth, and creamy milk finish with a thick lip. What, there’s body in this black tea? Whoa!

Third, Fourth, and Fifth Infusion: I got a bit of a shift as the tea gets heavy. The A&P flavor is is thick, charred tree bark, bitter chocolate with a smooth slick lip balm licky body.

The leaf also exploded in size!

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Sixth and Seventh Infusion: Long infusions here, 5 and 15 minutes. 2016 A&P black got brighter, sweet bright chocolate, and a super smooth cream finish. It lost that char and bitterness from earlier. The body is still thick and slick. I could likely boil it to death for 1 more infusion but I had another tea to drink.

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2016 A&P black is a candidate for bombproof steeping. There is some bittersweet chocolate notes, but it isn’t dry. Tastes was good – I really like the thick body. I didn’t get many infusions, but overall was happy for what I got.

Right now the price of the 2016 A&P Black tea cake is $17.50 for a 100 gram cake. I winced at that price for a couple days, but then put into perspective you do get 100 grams (3.5oz) so the price isn’t too bad. There are plenty of blacks that I buy in the $10-$15 for 50 gram range. However, what made me wince was drinking this black cake made me think of a competitor – the cheapo Yunnan Sourcing Drunk of Red 100 gram cakes that are under $5 a cake. I ended up start a comparison during the session to compare the two black teas. It was an unfair comparison – my Drunk on Red is a 2013 and is Fengqing material.

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A&P is smoother and has that creamy thick body. Drunk on Red has a bright, sharp woodsy taste with a fruity background. A&P is much more smooth, it is like drinking cream in comparison as the body is so heavy. I also drank Drunk on Red a bit while drinking the 2013 Fengqing balls and it couldn’t compare either. They are like night and day with quality and resteep power.

I could be convinced to buy another 2016 A&P black cake, it has the flavors I like and aging it sounds very interesting. If that is too rich for your blood, White2Tea’s Bang Dong Hong is also a dian hong, hella cheap, and enjoyable.

White2Tea July 2016 Club 2013 Fengqing Black Tea balls

I had some brewing problems with these black tea balls. To premise, everyone I know who has tried this month’s club RAVED about these 2013 Fengqing black tea balls. For the club I got three balls, two of them weighed 7 grams and the other one is 6 grams. I ended up drinking two balls as I had some steeping issues.

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Round 1, 2013 Fengqing balls… FIGHT

I used similar ratio to the 2016 A&P cake, so 1 gram to 14ml. For round 1 I did what I do for my puer balls – I hammer in a puer pick to split the ball in half – I do this so I can get the tea going faster.

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First Infusion: The 2013 Fengqing ball steeps up a pale yellow. Yeah this needs to open up more, the colour isn’t there yet.

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The black tea sips up chocolaty with a sour, sun dried library book taste. This tea totally tastes like back in 1996 when I dropped my Sweet Valley High novel in the creek, I had to chase it along the creek, dig it out, and dry it out in the sun. My book smelt weird and sour after, just like this tea, but without the angry hornets nest.

Second and Third Infusion:

There we go! The ball nearly disintegrated here and I got more colour.

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The flavor shifted some. It is bright, dried fruit, woodsy, sun dried library book, and a sour finish that gives a lot of a pucker. The sourness reminds me of kinda dried pineapple and papaya. The mouth feel is interesting as it is smooth but finishes gummy dry. I get a bit of fruit fragrance after each sip.

Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Infusion:

At this point I was starting to think everyone who said this 2013 Fengqing balls was amazing was nuts.  The tea is rich and wood bark like with a pomelo citrus sour in the back of the throat. A hint of sour slips every steeping, smoothing out more bark like in flavor. It is a pretty bright tasting tea.

Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Infusion: The flavor slips and where the best steepings are as there was no sour notes left. It’s smooth, fruity woodsy and light, with an echo of chocolate aftertaste.

Why was this tea so sour? It actually hurt my stomach after and I didn’t drink any black teas for a few days – the smell of my compost tea pile even hurt my stomach in memory. I asked tea friends and they got sour notes, but not as crazy as mine.

2013 Fengqing ball, Take 2

This time I did a few things different. First was to remove the foil and I let the black tea air out in the open for almost a week. I thought maybe the foil and summer weather might of added some strange funk, similar to needing to air out puer once it arrives at your home. I also eliminated splitting the ball in half and I switched from a gaiwan to a yixing pot. My reasoning for using yixing here was 1. I should really use my yixing pots more. 2. Maybe the yixing seasoning will tame the sour (and hopefully not make the pot sour) and 3. yixing pots look cool.

Using the yixing pot also adjusted the tea brewing ratio to 1 gram to 17ml, so lighter than the last round.

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I also ended up doing a long rinse, unintentional as the ball looked so cool in the pot that I had to snap a bunch of photos.

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First, Second, and Third Infusion:

2013 Fengqing ball came up a bit different. The flavor is chocolate, smooth, library book, bright clean finish and a heavy burpy body. There was a bit of dry feeling in the cheeks. There is a bit of sour aftertaste, but it is significantly less sour than the last session.

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Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Infusion: Each steeping is getting brighter and brighter. 2013 Fengqing ball gave a creamy lip balm feel, bitter sweet chocolate, and wood bark flavor with a light sour finish.

Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Infusion:

2013 Fengqing ball finished off super sweet and chocolate bright with plenty of oomph. It had no sour taste but there is still that slight dry bitter in the throat from earlier. The final infusion was a 2 hour steeping. I put the tea in to steep, went off to paint my deck, and came back when I went on break. It was just as good as the last steeping. This black tea is indeed great, my last session was totally a fail in comparison.

Look at that colour! #nofilter!

A photo posted by Char (@oolongowl) on


Hmmm I wonder what tamed this black the most – airing, not breaking the ball, lighter ratio, long rinse, or yixing? Airing out, ratio, and not messing with the ball likely did most of the work. Not breaking the ball certainly got more infusions as the tea slowly fell apart, so it let out more flavor over time than all at once. I could likely steep the last ball, removing some of the adjustments I did, but the 2013 Fengqing ball was pretty good – I’m going to save it for a rainy day! If the White2Tea 2016 A&P comes out this good in 3 years, sign me up! I am very grateful I got 3 Fengqing balls in the club!

This is also a lesson for you readers out there who read reviews and tea blogs and say “I didn’t taste that at all in my tea!” Pay attention to how your tea blogger made the tea! Small tweaks (not counting the even bigger discussion on water quality) changes the tea quite a bit.

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  • I know I always pay attention to how you brew a tea, and I will refer to this piece again when I brew up my tea balls. Assuming I can find where I put them.

  • Nebu

    i had a similar experience with the fengqin balls after breaking them up. the taste strongly reminded me of a chocolate lemon cake that i burned in my oven a few months ago (not enjoyable at all) but after reading your second attempt with it i actually look forward to give it another go now. 🙂 thanks for the nice review!

  • northernteaist

    Oversteeping/rinsing due to photographically induced forgetfulness? **Cough** well, yes, **ahem** it’s a fair cop, guv’nor. Guilty as charged. I would like the court to take approximately 40 other offences into consideration…

    I remember seeing a video on YouTube where someone assisted the breakdown of a teaball by semi-gently hacking / slicing at it with the lid of their gaiwan…