neděle 25. května 2014

2014 Chawangpu Ban Komaen maocha

Chawangpu aren't making many teas this year, I've been told. Looking at the prices of raw materials in famous areas, one is not surprised. In the line of Meng Zhr of the previous post, we're still staying in Laos in this post. I've been kindly given maocha from Ban Komaen, which is the fancier of two villages in Laos where Chawangshop have sourced their tea...

I think this is possibly the first tea from 2014 I'm having and hopefully not the last one.

The leaves give the aroma of young puerh you would likely expect. They smell sugary, floral and a bit fruity.

Rinsed leaves smell very nicely too. It's not a really new aroma, one smells a lot of teas with roughly similar aroma many times a year, so the angel is in the detail really (in some teas, unfortunately, it is a devil). This particular aroma gives away its near-Yiwu character, being sugary sweet, floral (magnolia), with an element of exotic fruit and citruses. The latter elements are more pronounced than is common in most of Yiwu. The floralness is so intensive that it can resemble glue/solvents containing toluene and similar aromatics.

The liquor has standard good color and clarity. The taste follows the aroma closely, being mostly sugary and floral, with some fruitiness and light cinnamon tones. The cinnamon works interestingly with the flowers - especially the aroma of the liquor can resemble a part of aroma of a green Tie Guan Yin - I'm not saying this Ban Komaen tea is much like green oolong - I'm just noting that there is an interesting intersection of aromas and, to smaller degree, taste.

While the thickness of liquor is rather high, it is not really super-high, allowing for more taste to get to our tastebuds (this is probably the biggest difference from Yiwu teas that I could find).

The astringency is very low and while the tea can be pushed to be bitter quite easily, I would not say it's too bitter by default. Furthermore, the bitterness is of a rather pleasant sort, transforming into a good, pomelo-like long aftertaste.

The tea feels very clean and pure in its qi, being calming and soothing. It gently numbs mouth cavity and vibrates. Of course, the sensation is completely unlike the feelings imparted by pesticides. 

Overall, I thought this tea to be very nice. Not a super-exciting one, but well produced and all-around of high quality. Its cost of $38 or $48 per 200g cake is quite sound (sigh...). Is it expensive? Perhaps - but compare it to young Yiwu teas that cost two or more times as much... I honestly can't say that I could discern this Ban Komaen from Yiwu. Of course, it has got some properties that make it not really like "standard Yiwu", but so does Guafengzhai and surrounding areaas... 

Wow, Laos seems to be the next area to be discovered, I guess - both teas (this Ban Komaen and previously mentioned Meng Zhr) were genuinely good puerh. It was also interesting to taste these two teas side by side - it was fun to observe the difference between old and not so old trees (which were very good and clean as well, just different).

pátek 16. května 2014

2012 Jalam teas Meng Zhr

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