Today's post is about a tea rather recently offered by Essence of Tea. It is the 1996 CNNP Da Ye. Without further ado...
The leaves look good and smell good too. Especially when rinsed, they go beyond ordinary 90s tea - there is interesting woodiness ("rare wood" is used, I believe). There is a bit of dark fruit left there and no wetness really (for those who say that all EoT stuff is too wet).
The liquor is probably quite light given the 16 years of age of this tea. Maybe I could have brewed it stronger, but when I once oversteeped it a bit, it was only slightly darker and not really that good to drink.
The taste is a lighter one, as the color is. The agedness is pleasantly intermingled with some sort of aged red berries and just a hint of sweet granary. The second brew is more bitter, not really that thick, but fine. The lower thickness corresponds well with the overall lightness of the tea. Sometimes a fresh plumminess makes a guest appearance, but it did not appear nearly as consistently as in 7542s of that age. Also, differently from 7542s, the plumminess is still a bitter one, while 7542s are, in my opinion, cleaner and better in this aspect.
This tea is a good support of MarshalN's recent post. Even though I absolutely do not feel to be a master of brewing process, I believe that I do not ruin tea by bad preparation in general. But god knows why, when I had this tea for the first time, it was really thin in texture (the taste was fine). It was definitely better for the second time I prepared it. The point is - samples won't bring a deep knowledge of a tea, but they are a nice first meeting - but even the first meeting should not be too short. I think that three tastings are a basic reasonable amount to think/write about a tea. Sadly, in case of some teas (e.g., Qing Bing), I find it hard to purchase the 20-25 grams for three tastings. In such a case, I try to buy such an amount so that I may have a single tester-style session and a single gongfu. Even the two little grams for the tester preparation are of big help compared to a single tasting. And, of course, concentration is another crucial thing. When I drink simpler teas I know reasonably well along work, I can, I believe, appreciate them well enough. However, in case of first meeting, concentration on reading/working, etc. may be quite dangerous.
Back to the 96 Da Ye: I believe that the progression of mouthfeel (mid-strong at the beginning, gradually vanishing) supports EoT's hypothesis that there is some amount of older tea leaves. The weaker feeling of later brews may be a feature of this tea's youth I guess.
The inspection of leaves has revealed two different kinds of leaves present in the tea:
Both types of leaves are furry, but that's probably the last thing they have in common. The leaves on the left side are brown, firm, but tender; smaller than the leaves of the type on the right side and have much smaller "teeth" (please, natives of England, how do you call the "saw" on the edge of leaves?). When chewed, the left-type leaves are more bitter than the right-type leaves.
On the other hand, the right-type leaves are greener and coarser. The rest of features is obviously complementary to the description of the left-type of leaves.
All in all, the tea gave me two long sessions and gave me the impression that it is pleasant and gentle tea. Nevertheless, I enjoyed, e.g., the 1990s Red Mark more (and it is cheaper too).