neděle 16. října 2011

2010 Guan Zi Zai Early Spring Jing Mai

This is a continuation of young Guan Zi Zai series. As with young Indiana Jones, it is probably not as good as older, classical production. But, opposed to young Indiana Jones, sheng matures on its own.

And a progression of this tea is obvious, drinking it right after its 2011 version. It seems to be from the same, or very similar material. Many very young shengs taste similar and some of them become bad and some of them become good. To know how young sheng will develop may be a big money saver. And it seems that this GZZ production develops very nicely. 

The cake is not as shiny as the 2011 version, but it is still rather nice. It smells young, but more interesting.

It is rather lightly pressed, it goes apart easily:

The evening is to blame for its more aged look - it is still rather green actually.

The liquor confirms its greenness:

I think that it looks like standard 2010 un-post-processed sheng. The liquor is clear and nice. I did not notice any weirdness from possible postprocessing, which immediately puts this tea above the 2011 cake. The lighter color suggests so too (when these teas are brewed using the same amount and method, the 2011 is noticeably darker).

The taste is nice. It is still too rough to make this an everyday drinker to me, but it is good. Hmm, actually, if I had to drink every tea I labelled "everyday" every day, I would die... 

The taste is powerful, slightly heavier than in the 2011 and much more diverse. And more Jingmai typical. It is acidic and slightly bitter, but it is fruity (red berries mostly) and not so much floral. Do not confuse acidity with sourness - this tea is not sour. There is plenty of taste aspects to become better with age and I believe they will - the strength is there. Now, it reminds me of young burgundy wine (except that burgundy gives me stomach ache and this tea does not) in character - not as thick, full and rich as Bordeaux (or Yi Wu, if we get back to tea), but pretty intensive anyway.

The aftertaste is long and pleasant. Stronger hui gan would be welcome, but it is not bad.

Cha qi is strong and energizing.

I liked this tea. I think that in a year, it may become very enjoyable. The price seems good to me, although people who have more contacts in China could probably get similar quality at lesser price (I am afraid that in case of Guan Zi Zai, one pays for its renowned previous production a bit). But at $16,50, this is definitely a nice material with (hopefully) good aging potential.

sobota 15. října 2011

2011 Guan Zi Zai Early Spring Jing Mai

The autumn is coming, which is nice. Another nice thing is that I got a big box full of tea :-)

This & three more upcoming posts will be about four recent Guan Zi Zai cakes: 2011 Jing Mai, 2010 Jing Mai, 2011 Pa Sha, 2011 You Le. I bought these for vertical tasting - I'm going to taste them (and other cakes too) now and retaste them every half year to watch their progression systematically. I did not expect them to be particularly great but a pleasant surprise is always a pleasant surprise. And I do like all four regions a lot.

To get started, this cake is not a pleasant surprise. It is not an unpleasant surprise either though.

The wrapper and the cake inside look nice (Guan Zi Zai wrappers are usually thought nice):

I realize that I am spoiled by nicely looking puerh - the former thought that it is an usual looking cake means it is a nice, shiny cake.  Dry leaves are shiny and slightly furry. 

The aroma of the cake is not particularly captivating. It is strong and pungent, but not too characteristic of Jing Mai I know.

The aroma of wet leaves is also powerful, but too pleasant. It is to be expected from so young spring tea I believe.

The tea liquor is surprisingly dark:

I am afraid that certain wet postprocessing may have been applied. I do believe I can feel it in the taste a bit. It is different from wet taste from Hong Kong or such areas. I managed to get this taste when, in an experiment, I kept a young sheng in 95% wetness and sprayed water on it for two weeks. The tea has became much darker, got more aged taste, but got that unpleasant and difficult-to-describe taste too. Luckily, the unpleasantness is difficult to notice here.

The taste, when we do not mind the slight weirdness, is very green. The tea is astringent, bitter (not overwhelmingly) and light I would say. But it is not bad, I would not say that. I think it is like a 16 years old boy trying to demonstrate his newly acquired strength to the world around - there are some promising features, but it does not work yet. The tea's power is its main good feature. According to my (limited) experience, the tea should not just turn to ordinary generic sheng.  

The aftertaste is long and rather nice. 

I'm not entirely sure whether this is pure Jingmai material or not... There is an element of Jingmai, definitely. But it is a bit like it was mixed with not-so-special leaves. 

I did not particularly enjoy drinking it (but nothing wrong about that - when tasting wine en primeur, the taste is largely different from the resulting taste too). But at least I did not find it repulsive and I am generally intrigued to see where this tea will go.

And one photo from today's walk to the north of Prague which reminds me of this cake. The tea octopus.

Addendum, summer 2012 - the tea sat down nicely. Light red taste is still there, but the Jingmai component is more noticeable than it used to be - a rather ok tea actually!

neděle 9. října 2011

Unknown soldier, thought to be Hai Lang Hao 2009 Yi Wu Zheng Shan

Addendum: I thought this was HLH 2009, but after buying whole cake, it seems it was a misplaced sample of another tea, nobody knows which; only labelled as HLH 2009. Was a lovely tea though...

I may sometimes criticize the price/quality ratio of more recent Hai Lang Hao production, certainly. This is one of cheaper cakes the given producer offers. And, I must say, it is one of the best I have tasted from him. I am not sure that everyone will necessarily like this  cake, but it definitely is in my favourite spectrum.

Dry leaves release a nice, promising sweet malty aroma. They a bit darker than one would expect. 

Now the leaves are already inside, waiting for more water to be poured over...

Upon smelling wet leaves, I feel immediate and powerful happiness. I really like this. The aroma is heavy, sweet, malty, buttery a bit of barley, a bit of "sweet ground after a light spring rain". Maybe a bit of camphor and something I could name "medicinal", if I really tried. I did not mind it though. It is similar to several teas I had and liked, but these were 2003-5, i.e., much older than this one. Even the color of the liquor is dark, considering the age of this tea. However, it is not primitively accelerated as some modern teas are. This cake feels natural, not hurried.

The taste is strongly correlated with the aroma of wet leaves, very pleasant, "warm brown" I would say. It is not as deep and striking as  more aged teas of similar character I drank, but these were four times as old and four times as expensive. I do believe that this cake will become similar to them.

I found that it enjoys softer water - with hard water, it became a bit "hollow" and cold around 5th brew, but I do not find that to be a problem. Most sheng tastes bad with local hard water...

The tea is not bitter, it is warm, quiet and embracing. I managed to squeeze  a bit of dry wild-arborish bitterness when making 11th and 12th brews, about a minute long - but before that, not a bit of bitterness.

The aftertaste could be longer and more pronounced, but it is already very good and I believe it will improve even further.

Cha qi is calming and soothing, very harmonizing.

I rank this tea in my personal top category because it just suits me so well. But I believe it is generally a very good and not overly expensive cake. At the current price of $35, it is a good buy I dare say, I plan to buy it as soon as I get some money.

neděle 2. října 2011

Merchant worshippers - why?

Well, writing this post is a bit embarassing. Nevertheless, I once decided so I have to do it. 

Irrelevant part 1
When I noticed that blogs actually do exist, I thought the were pretty awful. Nightwish-loving kinder-goths crying how much they love their idols (using awful language - if you think my English is bad, you should see their Czech). Later, it became more Emo and Justin Bieber-like. 

Then, maybe three years ago, I noticed that there was another category of blogs: Blogs of people who feel undervalued and overlooked - so they write their rants and "novel" views (which, in better cases, were first formulated after the great cultural revolution).

Well, then, a year ago, I found several great tea blogs, which eventually led me to creating one (a blog, not necessarily great) too (it was a pretty intense internal fight - it's like creating a Facebook account just because most people around have it).

I try to post relevant things, but today, it will be just a "novel" rant :-) It is not trying to be novel actually. It is just that I made an observation and I would like to know whether things are similar outside Czech Republic (i.e., I would be greatly interested in your opinions).

Irrelevant part 2
The history of tea in Czech Republic may not be long, but definitely intense. It could be named The splendor and miseries of tea merchants. To make long story short - there is an eternal loop: There is a great new tea merchant who is better than the rest. For several, years, everything is great, then he becomes too satisfied and does not evolve much anymore. Then another guy/company comes, better than the previous, etc.

Now, there is a healtier situation in means of tea quality, there are several tea sellers of sufficient quality. However, the situation is not-so-healthy from the point of view of relations between these merchants. Previously, the single good tea merchant/company criticized their competition, but he was mostly right. Recently, some very nasty and false bad-mouthing came between merchants selling good tea. It is very disappointing to find out that people you believed in and who were so nice, are, in fact, ruthless actors. Anyway, this is not the point of this post.

Partly relevant part
The point is - there is a strange form of cultism among many tea folks. Earlier, it happened with the single good merchants. Now it works with several merchants in parallel. 

Cultists generally despise other tea vendors than their chosen  King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Merchant of the Tea of China, and Elect of God (well, maybe I had enough of Prince Far I for today... :-)). When their taste tea of their god's competitors, they passionately persuade you that it is crap, a fake or whatever (mostly it's that "whatever"). On the other hand, they automatically take the tea of their god as the best thing in the world, too good for Chinese emperor (if he had lived) himself and all that. 

The bad thing is that merchants themselves do support that. For example, if you buy from someone, the competing merchants may refuse to sell things to you in some cases. Funny, isn't it? Luckily, it is not frequent I hope. But it does happen. Even between the best merchants, which makes it even sadder.

What I found interesting is the subjectivity of tasting. When tea cultists jump with joy over ordinary good tea that their god has mercifully bestowed on them, they really feel the joy. The same holds true when they spit fire on one of arch-devils (i.e. competing tea merchants) dares to offer his  tea (generally also good), which he dared to produce from trees old 70-80 years!!! Everyone (well, their god says so) knows that treas old 80-90 years are much better and the 70-80 years old tree tea is useless and should be thrown to pigs. 

Why is that? My belief is that here is a strong tendency to "do things right". It takes time and money to drink through hundreds of cakes, trying to find out what is good on your own. Actually, with a good "teacher" who points out interesting features of teas, it would be much faster. But it seems even faster when the teacher is your tea vendor claiming there is a bijection between his tea and good tea that you can buy. Buying from him, it is easy to feel grand and "correct learner of the art of tea"... But the reason may be different, of course, I do not know.

Do you feel anything similar in your countries?

Concluding remarks
I usually did not know why blog ranters do write their stuff. The problem here is, I do not know why I wrote this stuff either. :-) I am genuinely interested in situation in other countries. Being it just an excuse or not, I bid you good night and thanks for reading if you made it this far!

And thank you, Yunnnan Sourcing, Essence of Tea, Hou De, Teahabitat, Teamasters and the rest who give us the opportunity to form our opinions ourselves!

While we are thanking, I would like to thank to independent tea bloggers who help people choose, not pursuing their own agenda. 

2010 Yunnan Sourcing Autumn Bang Dong

Tomorrow is a long expected day - back to the whirlwind of thinking, coding and studying again. The semester awaits... Also, sunny days are coming to their end it seems. And the third good thing is, that a large pack of tea awaits in local custom office.

After two not-so-awesome teas, let's go back to something better. It is a Yunnan Sourcing production - a production which is usually very good. 

The tea comes from Bang Dong in Mengu, from wild arbor trees 80-100 years old. I have always enjoyed Mengku teas. Although Mengku is in Lincang and teas declared as Lincang sheng are often rather hard and cold, Mengku is generally more fruity, flowery and easy-going. This cake is a very nice example of the Mengku character (according to my experience), but it is better than most Mengku teas I drank. Also, it is a bit more expensive. 

Dry leaves are usual, very nice looking leaves... Slightly furry. 

The aroma of rinsed leaves is very pleasant, fruity-spicy. I would almost say the aroma has hui gan. Funny feeling... The components of the aroma are well coordinated and harmonic.

The tea is still young and fresh, not unpleasantly green though.

The liquor is not powerfully aromatic; it is very thick and sweet. It is fruity (apples, peaches), spicy and flowery (less than a year ago though), very easy-going. It has a tendency to get somewhat acidic (it is not bad storage sourness, I think this acidity is rather natural for Mengku teas), a bit too much for my girlfriend, I did not mind though.

This tea has a lot of strength, it knows how to be bitter. However, the bitterness may be easily controlled by the length of brews. When brewed not bitter, it is very nice, warm tea with full body and pleasant aftertaste. When brewed more bitter, the body of the taste is slightly obscured and not so easy to recognize. But the aftertaste and beautiful hui gan make up for it absolutely. Actually, the transformation resembles the one of YS Ban Zhang Chung Qing a bit.

These two interesting faces of the tea, along with its power, are why I think this tea is better than most Mengku teas I drank. Actually, it might be the best one (it is also one of the more expensive) I think.

I just don't know when to drink this tea - it's a bit too good for everyday drinking, while for guests, I have more fancy tea. Well, we could define a everyweek or rather everymonth tea...

At the current price of $23 per 400g cake, this cake is very nicely priced and I can only recommend trying it.

Mr. Bang Dong and me wish you a nice day!