When there is a kind person, it is good. When there are two and their interaction is connected, things can get even better. In this case, I'm talking about Scott of YS and Hobbes, via whom I could try samples of Scott's new cakes, presumably from this year. The tasting is blind - the samples are named beta, theta, iota, kappa, lambda, mu, nu, sigma.
Hobbes will write his main post on some of these teas on Friday, but as I'm to be wed that day, I won't be able to join the discussion then.
You know flagellants, these chaps walking around, whipping themselves and drinking litres of young puerh. The suffering is supposed to do them good, demonstrating their piety. I joined them in the past week, though I omitted the whip. It was quite interesting, though it reminded me of how little I know about young puerh. And of northern puerh... it seems to me that a lot of the samples is from north, which I do not particularly care for.
Below are photos and my notes, in two groups (the order is not chaotic, but not completely alphabetic either):
Beta, iota, lambda, nu:
Lambda (that was really a light blue bowl, not just twisted colors)
Sigma, theta, kappa, mu
Now, after super-tedius photos, to the teas themselves - let's take it in alphabetical order now.
Wet leaves have a medium amount of tobacco smoke, which reminds of me Mangfei or possibly Wuliang. There is a "baoshan" element of animality/leatheriness - an aspect that I appreciate.
The taste is rather hard, with tones of tobacco, cut weed, which feels quite "dark green" or mossy. It does not taste, nor feel particularly positive to me. The aftertaste is not short, but it is not pleasant enough to make that a winner feature.
The sweetness is decent, there is some good activity in mouth, not much qi.
I wonder what this is. It is a lot better than ordinary teas from Wuliang or Mangfei. I'm thinking it might be either a high-quality tea from there (2013 YS Mangfei) or a good blend.
The wet leaves smell good overall, powerfully sweet, harmonic, with tones of forest fruit, lilies, leather, dried plums but also some mushroom and boring vegetalness. It all leans towards dark fruit as the leaves get cold.
In mouth, the tea furthers my belief that this is Yiwu. It does not taste that powerful, it's a bit distant, floral, with some exotic fruit and soap. And wet straw and honey, both nice. When I steeped it in a gaiwan, using long steepings, a pleasant, fresh fruitiness appeared, which reminded me of young teas from Yibang.
Theta creates good feeling in mouth and brings some qi too. Astringency is medium.
The tea would certainly benefit from more taste, but it is decent as it is. I'm thinking this would be the Dong Gua Ling.
Ah, definitely not my cup of tea, this is. "Not to my taste at all", as Edwin Odesseiron puts it. The aroma of wet leaves reminds me of cold cigarette ash, it is quite sharp, woody and citric. An aspect of fruitiness is present, actually - rowanberries.
In taste, there is a strong "main" taste of cigarette ash, groundnuts and roasted chestnuts. I do not like this sort of taste and it is not improved by a rather high astringency, not great aftertaste and lack of qi.
When I tasted it for the first time, I thought it would be Wuliang or Mangfei, but I'm not that sure of that anymore. It could be the Sanhezhai, according to what I remember of that one...
Back to good tasting stuff again... The aroma of this one is sweet, fresh and quite pleasant (actually, it is a lot like some green teas, hope it's not a lucha-pu). It also reminds me of wines from around Mosela.
In taste, this is sharply fresh, fruity (underripe garden fruit), with only a small hint of tobacco and chestnuts in background. Actually, it not only smells, but also tastes like some green teas. The freshness is supported by good hugian, pleasant small bite of bitterness and fruity-floral aftertaste.
Being so spring in nature, one could expect it to be Feng Chun (if so, well done Scott, it really feels like spring), but I'm a bit more inclined to believe that it's from Jingmai...
This one smells young-fruity-fresh (young apricots), sort of in a Mengku-way. In the first tasting, it did not smell much good to me, but since that, it improved.
In taste, it all starts with very good Lincang-style young fruit (young apricots, fresh lychee), with some difficult-to-identify background. Unfortunate, as steepings go, the background gets more forward (and the fruit dies away), the tea also getting more green and "grassy". And clay makes an appearance sometimes - it is not too bad, just weird.
The tea feels somewhat unstable and unbalanced yet. There is that weird taste progression, also, the tea tends to change quite a lot as it cools down.
Astringency is strong with this one and it is not accompanied by a buzzing mouthfeel... not much qi there either.
This seems to me like a blend which has not got coherent yet. It starts good, but then it starts losing energy quite fast. I'd say most of this tea comes from Lincang. I was thinking it might be Sanhezhai, but when I smelled the piece of Sanhezhai from 2011, it was much more about groundnuts and smoke, so it probably won't be it. I'm also not particularly sure how this sort of tea ages, I'm guessing it could head for hongcha.
This one smells actually quite good. There is heavy floralness (lilies) and fruitiness, both quite heavy, but decent. The aroma feels very easygoing, like walking in the evening in a forest after rain in summer.
It also tastes good. It is not superthick and the tastes have no problem reaching the taste buds. As in the aroma, there is a lot of sweetness, dark, heavy flowers and small hints of fruit-to-be. Good taste is accompanied by good huigan. In the aftertaste, sweet mint makes a guest, but welcome appearance.
There is a lot of bitterness and astringency, but neither falls into "hostile" category.
Good feeling in mouth! And good qi too.
I wonder what this one is. In the first tasting, I was almost sure it would be one of the two villages near Bingdao (Nanpozhai?), but it could be Yiwu too... Or something else :) Assigning young pu to its locality is difficult for me as I drink so little of such a young tea.
Smells spicy, of young Lincang-style fruit, sugar, feels a bit more mature than the rest. And yes, jasmine, that surprised me very much in puerh.
In mouth, it is thick, sweet and solid, but somewhat "going to width" - it is not really that concentrated on the tongue and it felt rather hollow to me on several occasions, with good tones from aroma substituted by a rather dull sweet wood.
Even though the description may not sound too positive, I actually liked it more than lambda - the sort of fruitiness is rather similar, but it felt a bit better to me overall.
Very young, sugary aroma here, but already with some deeper/darker tones of lilies (also close to wet straw) and exotic fruit (pineapple).
The liquor is thick, coating the oral cavity, but the taste is distant. When longer steepings are used, thin fruitiness becomes more prominent. To me, this tastes like average older-tree Yiwu no. 13849...
The qi is nice, though. And cooling too. Buzzing is not too high, but I do not mind that.
I guess that the quality of this style of tea will be clear after 10 years when we know how they age... For drinking now, it is certainly inoffensive, but not particularly awesome. I'm thinking that this could be the Xiang Ming...
The winner for me is Mu, by several horse lengths, as it has good feeling, good qi and is powerful in taste (and it has balls for further aging). It is actually probably the only tea from this batch that I might consider buying.
Kappa is quite enjoyable for drinking now, though I'm not sure how these young lovely young tastes are going to age.
Sigma and Theta seem like decent Yiwus to me, but I need to taste aged cakes of modern single-village Yiwus, if I'm to believe that such a tea is a great ager. But they should not become bad either, methinks.
Lambda and Nu are also decent teas, in my opinion, but showing high degree of disharmony/imbalance yet.
Beta and Iota contain precisely the tastes I dislike in puerh, though I'd say that Beta is probably quite a good tea in that genre.
I'm looking forward to future discussions on Half-Dipper! And thanks once more to Scott for providing such an interesting tea.