Recently, I have been offered a tea for review by representatives of Jalam teas. Who am I to oppose?
I was surprised to learn that Jeff Fuchs, a photographer I appreciate for some years, is behind the company and tea. I must admit that Jeff's surname carries a slight unwanted connotation with it, - I'm sure that those middle-europeans among you have at least heard of the (in)famous Horst Fuchs - yes, the crazy teleshopping chap who tries to sell all sorts of things on TV (e.g., kitchen knife, which is so good you can cut nails with it... or a frozen can of something - so useful)... just imagine him selling puerh.
Now, going back to serious stuff - Jeff has made some seriously serious journeys and he is by no means an arbitrary westerner who went on making tea. Anybody who manages to walk for 6000 km in less than 8 months has my respect. Of course, long-distance walking is probably not directly correlated to tea making abilities, but I think that people who pursue their non-profitable dreams, are seldom sly, trying-to-rob-you and all that. Furthermore, if you've read Jeff's book on travelling along Ancient tea horse road, you have no doubt realized that he loves tea.
This particular cake comes from "Meng Zhr" - I've never heard of this place, I shamefully admit. According to the site of Jalam teas, Meng Zhr is a town near the Laos border - it seems that teas from there are getting larger share of market.
Cakes don't get much more "white label" than this...
The large leaves, purportedly coming from trees of 20 to 50 years of age are pressed into this small cake. The cake seems to contain a good mixture of leaf types.
After rinsing, I got a flowery, dark green scent, with some spice and animality. It is more interesting than average.
Even though the taste is distinctly young, it is actually quite rich and multi-layered. It is mostly flowery (lilies, magnolia), toasty/bready (I never thought I'd encounter this taste in tea, but here it is), quite strong and thick. It is indeed a "classical" young puerh, but with more complexity in taste than is ordinary. There is some positive bitterness that keeps the taste going. Even though the spectrum of tastes is somewhat narrow (flowery), there are many facets and little differences that make drinking this tea fun.
Thickness, cleanliness and lack of unpleasantry show, that even though some teas are no super-fancy gushu from trees that remember female ents, they can be still very good. I'm starting to believe that health of trees and attitute of harvesters to them is as important as the age of trees. If old trees keep being overharvested (and supplemented with artificial diet), they may lose their charm in a couple of years and well cared of younger trees may be the next way to go.
The leaves are quite strong and they look "happy".
As did I, actually, after I kept having this tea for several days in a row - because this is indeed a good tea! Many new tea makers have to get through phase of half-good teas or teas that suck - it is nice to see that Jeff makes good tea straight away.
Now, the tea is good, that is not the issue. What is the issue, a bit, is the price. This 100g cake costs $24 for club members and $39 for non-members. Ugh. I don't know about this. The tea is nice and all that, but maocha from near Laos, from trees of 20-50 years of age should be fairly inexpensive, right?
I find it difficult to criticize price (unless I have a cheaper reference), there may be a good reason why the tea costs this much, but at least for me, it is too much to pay