středa 1. dubna 2015

Reggae tea: 2004 Dehong brick

Heavy, dark, soothing, and stimulating - things that reggae/dub I like shares with this tea. And this isn't just a high-pitched run-of-the-mill voice singing about Jah. It's more like Prince Far I - deep, raspy and rolling forward so that there's no stopping to it... or Congo Natty if we go for recent records.

When you open a bag of this 2004 brick (available for puny $40 per 500g at Chawangshop), you might think that a wizard has teleported your nose into a subterrean cave where you're enclosed by the aroma of earth and water dripping from the ceiling. In other words, the aroma is pretty damp and earthy. I did not have the best of experience with similarly smelling teas from Teaclassico, which not only smelled like clay, but also tasted like that with the added bonus of the fine-sand feeling in mouth that I imagine you might get when chewing clay - it was not a normal level of astringency to be sure.

Here, things get better after (possibly dual) rinse - we're left with a tea that is a real pleasure to drink now. It's properly aging example of originally a no doubt very strong tea. At this really low price, I'd expect a lot of flaws - wateriness, smokines, too strong dampness, or sourness... but no, these things just don't happen. It is instead healthily earthy/woody and fairly sweet, with swift and strong huigan. If you go too generous on leaves (the compression is quite tight so it's easy to do), you'll be reminded that even 11 years old teas that were aged in appropriately humid environment actually can be bitter. Fortunately, if you get a bit lighter on leaves, the tea just becomes more balanced and sweet, without getting weak. Also, the underlying bitterness would have me believe that there is more aging goodness to this tea.

The strength also manifests in the number of steepings that is way above average - 15-20 steepings are absolutely doable (with ca. 7-8g per ca. 150ml teapot) and tasty.

I don't get as much whole-body comforting feeling from this as when I drink nice teas from 90s, but I think that is something that often comes with more age. This is also not to say that this tea is not comforting - it is, exceedingly so! It's just that some teas can go much further.

In aged tea, one pays something for the original material and something for the storage; this is not only the rent for a storehouse, but also the risk of things going wrong. And things can go wrong very easily - too much dryness, too much wetness, unfortunate choice of material, processing problem, etc. - all these things can run an aging tea straight to hell. A good aging process is worth its weight in gold...uh...processes probably don't have weight... Well, you know what I mean. This tea is really cheap - $40 per 500g is not going to get much goodness in the way of young teas now. And imagine the cost of storage and risks of 11 years... no, I really don't think that teas like this one are likely to be available in near future. And what's better - this tea is not just cheap, really. With some teas, I feel that they're probably good for the price, but despite being really cheap, they're not good enough to be fully enjoyable, and I think you don't want to drink teas that are not pleasing you, right? This tea pleases me 100% - I like it independently on the price; when you take the price into account, I can't feel like this is a tea-treasure-seeker's heaven.

pátek 27. března 2015

David and Goliath of hongcha (and a third one as well)

After a long sample drought, I finally got more new tea. I'm drinking through them now and with a couple of them, I collected enough samples to finally write.

So, I might not be the biggest hongcha fan, but sometimes I like to have it as well and besides, all of three today's hongchas are somewhat unusual).

First one is 2014 Autumn Mengsong Old Tree Organic
Red tea from an established puerh region of Mengsong? Count me in, I thought when I saw it listed. This is a real Goliath of hongcha - the leaves are bigger than anything I've ever seen in this type of tea - it is actually quite fun to see leaves shaped like puerh leaves (no wonder, with Mengsong), but with so different color and texture.

And it is a (gentle) Goliath in mouth too - taste-wise, it is like a high grade rose-like tasting Diang Hong, except:
a) Thicker. Much thicker - and therefore fuller, better, etc. (and my stomach does not complain at all).
b) Way longer tasting - and with a pronounced lingering sweetness on top. No sourness at all. The duration of intense taste and sweetness puts most teas to shame.
c) Better mouthfeel.

Thinking of it, this is probably one of the best red teas I ever had ($7.50 per 100g!) - not that you'll find me drinking it too often as it's not a family of tastes that would be super-close to me,  but I do appreciate its qualities nevertheless. It's like when you prefer brunettes above all - you can still find a blonde attractive, even though she might not make you fly to the moon with excitement...

Uh, glad I'm not working for BBC, for my blog would be probably deleted after this remark...

A second tea is a David, for its leaves are really small, yet it hits hard: It's 2014 Wuyi Jin Jun Mei
The dry leaves do not smell that interesting, it looks like yet another allright small leaved tea... but it's a lot better actually. It might not be as sweet as the previous tea, but the tastes are more to my liking - deep chocolate, nuts, a bit of the Wuyi rocky taste, and some honey sweetness. It's not massively awesome tea, but it is still pretty good - and different enough from other red teas I had to provide me with fun when I drink it.

I guess that if the 2014 Mengsong hongcha is an example of subgenre that I do not like so much, but is great at doing that, I find the 2014 Wuyi hongcha to be a style I like a lot more, but I do not linger on its qualities for as long... if you can't see which one I prefer, then let me assure you that neither do I.

A third hongcha is 2012 Fujian Waishan Xiaozhong, i.e., a Lapsang Souchong that does not come from the original area, but from the region nearby. Well, this tea is a bit of a hit to the myth of "original is best" - it's probably better than most Zhengshan Xiaozhongs I remember having - and this includes the 2013 one also from Chawangshop that's a bit more expensive.

This Lapsang is just so pleasant - after the years, there is almost no smoke, but you get plenty of the dried apricots and generic mixture of dried fruit, riding on a tide of broad sweetness. If you had the 2004 Shui Xian from Essence of Tea, it's this style of taste to a degree.

All in all, this is a really good tea which is likely to please just about any drinker, from casual to hardened puerh veteran.

čtvrtek 5. února 2015

200? Ailao and 1998 8582 Red Mark comissioned

200? Ailao
This is one of the teas that TwoDog has sent me the ones I've actually ordered. Unlike most other ones, I find this fairly nice. Maybe it's the prior (Ailao) which made me expect something band, smoky, and aggressive. The first impression from the aroma was just that - smoky and aggressive. Fortunately, after that, things did improve. The cigarette-style smoke is more clear in aroma than it is in taste and the taste itself is ok - light, fruity (sort of similar to Chawangpu's purple Baoshan cake), somewhat bitter and astringent. There is not that much going on otherwise though, which is what I suspect to be one of reasons why this tea did not make it among the teas sold by Paul.

1998 8582 Red Mark comissioned
It is slightly unfortunate that after having the 1998 tuocha from teaclassico, that I quite liked, I can't seem to enjoy the rest of the teas I got from them - they seem strangely stored and have off tastes. Such as this 8582. I mean, I never got excited over a 8582, but this one is not only not that interesting, but it feels really strange. The aroma of rinsed leaves seems to be ok at one moment and is intimidating the other moment. The tea is not really rich, nor deep in its character - it's very clay-y and really really astringent (it leaves a smooth sandpaper feeling for minutes). I like a bit of earthiness in my puerh, but this tea does not feel right to me...

One thing can't be denied - the huigan is good though.

úterý 27. ledna 2015

2002 Little yellow mark (White2tea)

What is this LYM? Little yellow mark or Little yellow miracle - both are equally valid I'd say.

This is one of the teas you can't really fault. First, it is fairly thick and sweet, in a very "well defined" fashion (imagine the sound reproduction of double bass - it can be either all-over-the-place-boom, or a well focused, if bassy, sound - the sweetness is like the latter in the LYM). At the same time, there is a lot of taste: gentle, but clear. I taste wood (a hint of sourness in it), camphor, but also garden fruit and meadow flowers. It has got a very balanced, smooth, and elegant character indeed. It feels fairly northern to me, perhaps there's a good deal of leaves from Mengku?

Some teas hit hard with a single trait; this LYM takes a different approach, providing many subtler traits that are superbly added together, producing one of the most pleasing teas I had recently. Looking at prices of teas over the internet (ugh!), I find it quite underpriced at $149.

sobota 24. ledna 2015

Still alive (with more teas from Chawangshop)

Hello again! Long time no see I guess... I have decided to transform this blog, as I no longer have the compulsion to dissect teas, photograph every piece of sparkling fur on the leaves and such things. I am not living in an interesting region tea-wise, nor do I possess noteworthy knowledge (such as MarshalN) of which to write - so I won't write as much, rather than to inflate my posts with meaningless words.

I still drink tea (lots and lots), but I enjoy it more simply now - I just enjoy it and that's it. So my opinions will be shorter now - we'll see if they're still of some use to some people.

What captured my attention recently? Teas below came in a box from Chawangshop

2014 spring Te Ji Huilong
One cannot resists when his beloved wife asks for some more green tea for work-time-drinking, to provide a change from the ubiquitous puerh. I picked this one hearing good things about Huilong and it certainly did not disappoint us. Due to its processing style and innate strength, even though it's early 2015, this 2014 Huilong is still powerful and good. It's tasting very fruity, not much flowery, full and quite sweet, with a bit of honey taste. There is plenty of bitterness should one want so, but it can be also steeped to be almost bitterness-free. It's also got that "puerhy" kick in mouth - it feels vibrant and alive. For $7.5 per 100g, this is great stuff.

1998 Fengqing green in green
This is the second tea with fairly dryish storage that I like (the second one is 2002 Little yellow mark from TwoDog). The aroma of dry leaves is fairly boring - I was afraid it would be another messy overdried cake, but it's not. The taste is very balanced, there is a little bit of clay, some ripe fruitiness,  plums, spice, a bit of camphor and generic woodiness; the aftertaste is long and has the pleasant component of slightly unripe fruit, which is refreshing. It is quite active and buzzing in mouth. Despite being fairly dry, it has an overall harmonising effect on me.

There is detectable dry-storage-sourness, but it's quite controlled and does not negatively interfere with the main stream. Also, it can feel a bit like hongcha-tasting at times, but in a puerhy-style, no problem either.

$218 is not cheap though... I guess that the bargain-ness really depends on preference for a style. While I find it much better price than most tea from this time with similar (or drier) storage, I'd still prefer the 90s red mark (bought for $160 a year or so ago) readily.

2011 Hunan Zhu Xiang Ji
This brick (with website description indeed suggesting a fancy product) was again something quite new to me. It's got the strength of puerh, aged taste of bamboo-stored heicha (not overpoweringly so, though, it tastes a lot more dark woody/earthy than bamboo-y) - but at the same, it's got the taste of dried raisins/plums you can find in aged oolong! Together, the two types of taste mingle wonderfully to create a really lovable tea.

It's perhaps not as deep now, feeling-wise, but I suspect that aging process can help with that. Tasting this tea was a great experience to me.

2011 CNNP Hei Jing Zhuan
For me, this tea is much less prepared for drinking compared to the one above and needs a lot more storage (or using a low amount of leaves). This is really a brutal tea, that can get quite sour and impossibly bitter when oversteeped. When treated better, it is fairly sweet and herbal heicha, pretty decent. I wonder how it will transform with aging - there is surely ample strength for that.

1996 Sichuan Yibin tuocha
This is one of more puerh-like heichas I've had. On top of somewhat generic (but very nice) good-heicha-aged-taste, the main taste is of honey, which I really enjoy. Rich, mellow and good is this tea.

2011 Shaanxi Shouzhu Jingwei Fu Zhuan
This is one of better Fu bricks around... Unfortunately still not as great as the 2007 CNNP one, but very good nevertheless. It does not feel hollow/dried out, has plenty fruitiness and spicy taste and it is an overall super-pleasant easy drink...

Otherwise, I get a lot of pleasure from Haiwan 2006 Pasha - it is aging very nicely. And another good one is Yunnan Sourcing's 2010 Purple Yiwu (gosh, is it five years? I feel old...) - it has awoken from its slumber and developed into a really nice and honey-tasting mellow (not weak!) Yiwu...

Next time, I'll write about teas by TwoDog and Teaclassico... See you soon, dear readers!

středa 20. srpna 2014

2003 CNNP Big Zhong 7542

And here goes another tea from Teaclassico - a 7542 from the year of 2003, for a promising price of $129. There is perhaps no recipe more classical than 7542 and a rather many have found their way to my cup, generally to my pleasure. I even had a 2003 example, thanks to generosity of MarshalN - and, slightly surprisingly, it seems to be similar to the one currently in my teapot. Why surprisingly when it's the same tea from the same year? Well, because 7542 (showing that 42 is not the complete answer!).

Being not too wetly stored, there is still a clear degree of green-ness in the leaves.

And it is good! Not surprising, but still good - and very balanced. 7542 is a generally balanced recipe and the year of 2003 is, with this type of good storage, is right between youth and age, in my opinion.

It is very thick and sweet (with light honey taste), which always appeals to me, as does the (also present) tingling and cooling of palate. The taste is a good mixture of warm earthiness (not realy storage wetness though), woodiness, herbs and a sort of fruit. None of these dominates the others, leading to feeling of richness and complexity. It's well within the characteristics of 7542, which probably says more than an attempt at direct description.

Unlike in most other real 7542s I had, there is a chestnut tone in the aftertaste, suggesting there might have been some tobacco smoke taste earlier.

It's still perhaps a bit young to drink - it is thick and silky, but there is still bitterness that is painfully obvious when you use more leaves; similarly, there is an astringency that can be clearly felt. MarshalN's sample was more ready in these aspects

All in all, a very solid tea at a solid price; perhaps not surprising, nor very dynamic, but good, and I'll be happy to enrich my teabox with one of these I think...

neděle 17. srpna 2014

1990s CNNP Apple Green Tuocha

I recall that as a young boy, 6 or so, I've dreamt of unexpected discovery of a hoard - the general form was looking under the bed and finding a package of collectible cards in there (anybody remembers Middle-Earth game? Not the after-movie LoTR.). Surprisingly, such a thing once happened - a small deck of cards that fell out from a book I was taking out of library. My parents said they did not do it so I have forgotten them there myself or there are supernatural forces out there. Nevertheless, I had to wait about 20 years for the next miracle - how does it sound that your darling wife comes home to you with a paper bag filled with packages with labels starting with 1980s, 1998, 1990s, etc.? Sure sounds good to me! However, this time, there were no supernatural forces behind it, as the package has been most kindly provided by Hobbes (thinking of it, the presumption of non-supernaturalness might be invalid). The teas come from Teaclassico and we'll get to them  all soon. Let us start with the 1998 Apple green tuocha. Or, rather, spelled "toucha" at the website, which always sounds like "gotcha" to me. Based on online shops and discussions, I wonder whether toucha is US and tuocha being used by the rest of the world?

The white coating is quite clear and it does not seem to be present only at the surface of the tuo, but also inside, which, together with tight compression, suggests a rather wet storage (where dry HK storage is written at Teaclassico's website).

Rinsed leaves, however, do not smell all that damp - there is some classical aged mixture (with fishiness as a not-entirely-welcome bonus), but as they cool down, the aroma gets sweeter, more fruity and more woody.

The color of the liquor is dark brown rather than dark red one might be used to - I wonder what are the variables explaining the progress in hue with aging.

The tea does smell quite interestingly, reminding me of coconut milk with some sort of fruit.

In the initial steepings, there is an unwelcome fishiness in the liquor, but it's not too bad (certainly not making me pour the tea out) - and the tea is already sweet and reasonably smooth. As the taste goes away, cooling feeling takes its place. Fortunately, the taste of fish soon dissipates and gives way to much nicer spectrum of tastes - wood, herbs and garden fruit - all quite aged, but not really earthy. The fruitiness gets strongest in the aftertaste - it's a bit like what you get from 85+% chocolate.

The tea can be well felt in mouth - there is still bitterness left and it is overall active, cooling and sometimes numbing.

What is always important in tea is - do its parts work in harmony? I feel that they do  here. The tea is not really "normal" - on one hand, it is covered in white frosting, on the other hand, it has very little if any taste signs of much wetness in storage. The color is not exactly ordinary either. But I  like it - it tastes clean and right. I wonder if the discrepancy between looks and taste might be explained due to initially wet storage with a drying-out period afterwards. Sometimes, such an approach causes weird flatness and lack of body, but if it has been done here, it has been done right.

While the tea is not super-excelent, when I saw the price of $83 per tuocha, I thought it is not entirely horrible, certainly not a complete ripoff. Then I've noticed that it's a 250g tuo, not a 100g - at first, I thought "This cheap? I'm not buying that" - but after looking again, I reconsidered - I am.