Let us start with some more photos of Petřínka spring. I go there in mornings on my bike. It is usually quite early, which means less people, less cars on the road and overall pleasant experience (once one gets over getting up).
And when one turns around, it looks like this:
Just about five minutes of walking, a lovely garden where I like to drink tea in the morning. Given my glass, I can not take a reasonable, more wide-angle picture. I'll take the wide-angle camera with me sometime and will show the entire garden.
This is my pocket teapot - a handy one, 1 pot = 1 cup, so there is no need for pitcher. The pot and cup are filled with the 2012 Pu-erh.sk Man Nuo.
I like to sit there in the morning, reading my favourite haiku collection - Chrám plný květů [A temple full of flowers]. I like it because it is low on "western" explanation and they generally make good sense (e.g., explaining cultural traditions to which a haiku refers). The issue with some zen-oriented translations/works is bad attempts at prosaic and "reasonable" explanation by the translator or someone close to him, so that your run-of-the-mill Johnny the woodcutter knows all about "that zen teaching". Similarly awful effort is making such books for local philosophers. For example, I was glad when I found Mumonkan in one of our bookshops at last. Upon opening it, I was horrified by rather weird explanations and off comments of some chap, which pretty much spoiled the book. The average length of word was 10 or so, all some isms, something like: "the (european) philosopher XYimides said B, while YZ said A, capturing the ethereal essence of paradigm of the entity called zenbuddhism, which contrasts with fugilitarism of anti-militaristic scientopatophysicist DE"... It is funny how some people have to make simple things difficult so that they can explain them to others.
Nevertheless, the morning tea session was without any such unpleasantries. The combination of fresh air, good tea, birds singing, bees humming and good haiku, is most uplifting.
Here is a (pseudo)haiku of my own which occured to me that morning:
What a beautiful garden this is, with no one inside,
A nice garden, think the people coming by.
I could go on for hours on the beauty and cleanliness of Haiku...
However (lucky for you), this is a blog about tea, not about haiku. Back to the Mannuo and the afternoon, more analytic, session:
The dry leaves smell like fine young Bulang leaves - no smoke here, so far so good.
And another pointless detail:
The wet leaves bring happiness - smelling like good, sweet Bulang, rather dark, promisingly promising.
The taste is very solid too. It starts like a rather ordinary good Bulang, but without sourness, without smoke or any other unpleasantries which sometimes happen to young Bulang.
The liquor smells sugary, nothing unusual here (given that this is young premium tea - young Bulangs can smell pretty awful at times).
The 1st steepping is light on taste, nicely sweet, but woody, without anything overly interesting. The strong mouthfeel is very promising though.
The liquor is a bit more orange than one is used to in this young tea, but then again, why not? Leaves are in a good shape.
From the 2nd steeeping on, good taste of garden fruit starts complementing the sweet woodiness, creating a good harmony. The bitterness is strong, of course, but not disturbing and it does transform well (into light fresh aftertaste). I like it more than the Bada aftertaste, part of which did never really transform. The mouthfeel of this Mannuo is very nice (stronger than in Bada) and lasts long, accompanied by good hui gan.
Around the 6th brew or so, the garden fruit starts disappearing, leaving grassy-woody sweet water. Fine, yet a bit ordinary.
The tea is a mixture of various grades of leaves (btw. would be someone so kind and enlighten me on how to determine a grade? Is it dependent on varietal? Or is it just a conversion table of size x to y = grade z?):
What I do appreciate about this tea indeed is its high thickness and sweetness, while the taste is clear and strong. Even the bitterness does not kill the taste. The components of this tea play well along one another. I'm curious to taste the 2011 version to see the difference.
All in all, this is a fine, "propertly" done tea - good taste (for a young tea), good mouthfeel, good strength. Whether you want to spend $80+ for 400g of good tea, that is up to you. In this genre, I would much rather buy 2006 Haiwan Pa Sha Ancient Arbor or 2007 Boyou Manlu, both way cheaper. I think the former to be better overall, the latter being slightly more tasty and slightly weaker feeling in mouth, also a bit thinner than the Mannuo. Still, I'd prefer to drink the 2007 Manlu over this young Mannuo. Of course, you might say "But wait, in five years, the Mannuo will be a gem". Of course, it is possible (and it is possible that it will not be a gem too). However, when it is 5, the Pasha/Manlu will be about 10 years old, being pretty much on another level. Maybe in 20-30 years, the advantage of the 5 years will go away and this Mannuo will prove itself to be a great value. Maybe...
To finish up with a positive note, for a change - I am glad that pu-erh.sk can do a "world-class" young puerh. My issue is with prices vs. quality of young tea in general, not with pu-erh.sk.