First, let's start with the tea stoves as my thoughts are shorter there. I do appreciate a lot what a tea stove does to a tea. I've been asked on many an occasion where to buy such a set - however, it was sold out everywhere. It seems that Chawangshop has answered the deep desires of many tea lovers - http://www.chawangshop.com/index.php/tea-hardware/chaozhou-gongfutea-ware.html - a set costs about $40-$60 which is much less than what I paid for mine. Teahabitat restocked their sets recently, but they are quite expensive. So, the take home message is - those who asked me where to buy a set, there are some good and inexpensive options now.
Now, to the 2001 Golden melon tribute tea. Not much is known about its origins, Tien Yuen factory does not seem to be all the rage now. Yunnan Sourcing has a single cake from Tien Yuan factory, could be the same one.
I first took a small chunk in my travelling teapot along on my early morning biking trip through a zone of nature (Divoká Šárka) nearby. I got out at 6 in the morning, got to Šárka around 6:05...and found out that I forgot the bike lights, thus not being to able to continue as it was pitch black night. So I had to wait for the sun for about an hour - but due to this tea, it was a good hour actually. It was surprisingly warm weather and with such a warm tea (in character, not only in temperature), it was very enjoyable.
After a while I thought...
Sitting at a bench by the road,
a reflector throws light into a bend.
Friend or foe?
The first ray of sun falls
into the murmur of a water stream,
into the taste of tea.
The day after, I had a normal afternoon gongfu session with the tea.
Obligatory photos first:
My sample was broken into little chunks (similar in shape to shu lao cha tou) and did not smell that much.
Given the low price (for a 2001 tea), I expected a woody, probably smoky aroma of wet leaves. I was very pleased with the reasonably complex and pleasant honey aroma with some wood and fruit. Nothing wrong about that!
The taste is highly pleasant too. I'll eat my hat if it isn't a Bulang tea - from that sweet, friendly family of Bulangs. Dark honey is present throughout the whole session. The main taste starts with some meadow flowers or very heated up forest (heated by summer sun, not by a wildfire). There is good fruitiness, not that simple to describe, I'd say it's mostly like an apricot yoghurt (interesting that the apricots there tend to taste differently from real ones). This honey-flowery-fruity taste is quilted by a sort of fresh wood - that wood is responsible for pleasant transformation into fresh fruity (mostly plummy) aftertaste. Some bitterness is present, but I did not find it disturbing.
The storage was probably quite reasonable, maybe a bit on the dry side, but the tea seems to be highly improved by age, not damaged.
This all is very well... sounds like just my sort of tea. But something small is missing. I do not know what - the tea is sweet, there is a lot of tastes which work very well together... but something is not there. I enjoyed the tea a lot on every tasting, but I was never fully captivated and enthralled.
The small missing thing is is semi-fixed when I add some neutral Yiwu which helps to coat the oral cavity with the liquor and makes the taste more intense and "around" me.
The cooling mouthfeel and qi are sufficient. I like a lot how the tea feels overall though, it's much calmer and warmer than young puerh...
Although the tea is not a grand, superb tea when measured absolutely, a cost-conscious noob like me appreciates that a tea from 2001 costing about $44 per 400g is not only drinkable, but also very pleasant, kind and warm. If the price was doubled, it would be still fine by me I guess. Therefore... toBuyList.append('2001 Golden melon tribute').