čtvrtek 10. listopadu 2011

Two not-so-awesome bits from Guan Zi Zai: 11 Pa Sha and 11 You Le

I have to apologize to all my gentle readers. I have been rather busy and... I promised to myself not to write about new teas until I write about these two teas first. But since I did not enjoy them so much, I had a hard time finding the time to write about them. But it is here, at last. I hope that my contributions will become more frequent again.

Pa Sha 2011:
The pleasant part of the cake is the fact, that it is distinctly Pa Sha. But young Pa Sha tea is not always of the most pleasant... I have been drinking a lot of Yi Wu lately, so I forgot that young sheng may be unpleasant.

It is rather light, vegetal, a bit acidic and bitter, but not too much. The liquor is not too thick. The aroma is not very noteworthy, as well as the aftertaste.

However, I do not dismiss the cake - it is just too young.

You Le 2011:
The tea is too young too. I'm afraid that it has been postprocessed - reddened - artificially. I really dislike the taste of it.

The tea is not simple. Simply put - it is "weird". But saying that, we are saying too little. I brewed the tea several times, using different temperature water. The purpose was to find all parts that compose the weirdness.

I found that the tea has a lot of going on in it - a lot of small-ish tastes. Sadly, they don't mix too well together when I brewed the tea gong fu style, the result was unpleasant, hard. When brewed "grandpa style", it was ok.

I guess the tea just needs more time - some tastes have to die away, some should become more pronounced. We shall see...

neděle 16. října 2011

2010 Guan Zi Zai Early Spring Jing Mai

This is a continuation of young Guan Zi Zai series. As with young Indiana Jones, it is probably not as good as older, classical production. But, opposed to young Indiana Jones, sheng matures on its own.

And a progression of this tea is obvious, drinking it right after its 2011 version. It seems to be from the same, or very similar material. Many very young shengs taste similar and some of them become bad and some of them become good. To know how young sheng will develop may be a big money saver. And it seems that this GZZ production develops very nicely. 

The cake is not as shiny as the 2011 version, but it is still rather nice. It smells young, but more interesting.

It is rather lightly pressed, it goes apart easily:

The evening is to blame for its more aged look - it is still rather green actually.

The liquor confirms its greenness:

I think that it looks like standard 2010 un-post-processed sheng. The liquor is clear and nice. I did not notice any weirdness from possible postprocessing, which immediately puts this tea above the 2011 cake. The lighter color suggests so too (when these teas are brewed using the same amount and method, the 2011 is noticeably darker).

The taste is nice. It is still too rough to make this an everyday drinker to me, but it is good. Hmm, actually, if I had to drink every tea I labelled "everyday" every day, I would die... 

The taste is powerful, slightly heavier than in the 2011 and much more diverse. And more Jingmai typical. It is acidic and slightly bitter, but it is fruity (red berries mostly) and not so much floral. Do not confuse acidity with sourness - this tea is not sour. There is plenty of taste aspects to become better with age and I believe they will - the strength is there. Now, it reminds me of young burgundy wine (except that burgundy gives me stomach ache and this tea does not) in character - not as thick, full and rich as Bordeaux (or Yi Wu, if we get back to tea), but pretty intensive anyway.

The aftertaste is long and pleasant. Stronger hui gan would be welcome, but it is not bad.

Cha qi is strong and energizing.

I liked this tea. I think that in a year, it may become very enjoyable. The price seems good to me, although people who have more contacts in China could probably get similar quality at lesser price (I am afraid that in case of Guan Zi Zai, one pays for its renowned previous production a bit). But at $16,50, this is definitely a nice material with (hopefully) good aging potential.

sobota 15. října 2011

2011 Guan Zi Zai Early Spring Jing Mai

The autumn is coming, which is nice. Another nice thing is that I got a big box full of tea :-)

This & three more upcoming posts will be about four recent Guan Zi Zai cakes: 2011 Jing Mai, 2010 Jing Mai, 2011 Pa Sha, 2011 You Le. I bought these for vertical tasting - I'm going to taste them (and other cakes too) now and retaste them every half year to watch their progression systematically. I did not expect them to be particularly great but a pleasant surprise is always a pleasant surprise. And I do like all four regions a lot.

To get started, this cake is not a pleasant surprise. It is not an unpleasant surprise either though.

The wrapper and the cake inside look nice (Guan Zi Zai wrappers are usually thought nice):

I realize that I am spoiled by nicely looking puerh - the former thought that it is an usual looking cake means it is a nice, shiny cake.  Dry leaves are shiny and slightly furry. 

The aroma of the cake is not particularly captivating. It is strong and pungent, but not too characteristic of Jing Mai I know.

The aroma of wet leaves is also powerful, but too pleasant. It is to be expected from so young spring tea I believe.

The tea liquor is surprisingly dark:

I am afraid that certain wet postprocessing may have been applied. I do believe I can feel it in the taste a bit. It is different from wet taste from Hong Kong or such areas. I managed to get this taste when, in an experiment, I kept a young sheng in 95% wetness and sprayed water on it for two weeks. The tea has became much darker, got more aged taste, but got that unpleasant and difficult-to-describe taste too. Luckily, the unpleasantness is difficult to notice here.

The taste, when we do not mind the slight weirdness, is very green. The tea is astringent, bitter (not overwhelmingly) and light I would say. But it is not bad, I would not say that. I think it is like a 16 years old boy trying to demonstrate his newly acquired strength to the world around - there are some promising features, but it does not work yet. The tea's power is its main good feature. According to my (limited) experience, the tea should not just turn to ordinary generic sheng.  

The aftertaste is long and rather nice. 

I'm not entirely sure whether this is pure Jingmai material or not... There is an element of Jingmai, definitely. But it is a bit like it was mixed with not-so-special leaves. 

I did not particularly enjoy drinking it (but nothing wrong about that - when tasting wine en primeur, the taste is largely different from the resulting taste too). But at least I did not find it repulsive and I am generally intrigued to see where this tea will go.

And one photo from today's walk to the north of Prague which reminds me of this cake. The tea octopus.

Addendum, summer 2012 - the tea sat down nicely. Light red taste is still there, but the Jingmai component is more noticeable than it used to be - a rather ok tea actually!

neděle 9. října 2011

Unknown soldier, thought to be Hai Lang Hao 2009 Yi Wu Zheng Shan

Addendum: I thought this was HLH 2009, but after buying whole cake, it seems it was a misplaced sample of another tea, nobody knows which; only labelled as HLH 2009. Was a lovely tea though...

I may sometimes criticize the price/quality ratio of more recent Hai Lang Hao production, certainly. This is one of cheaper cakes the given producer offers. And, I must say, it is one of the best I have tasted from him. I am not sure that everyone will necessarily like this  cake, but it definitely is in my favourite spectrum.

Dry leaves release a nice, promising sweet malty aroma. They a bit darker than one would expect. 

Now the leaves are already inside, waiting for more water to be poured over...

Upon smelling wet leaves, I feel immediate and powerful happiness. I really like this. The aroma is heavy, sweet, malty, buttery a bit of barley, a bit of "sweet ground after a light spring rain". Maybe a bit of camphor and something I could name "medicinal", if I really tried. I did not mind it though. It is similar to several teas I had and liked, but these were 2003-5, i.e., much older than this one. Even the color of the liquor is dark, considering the age of this tea. However, it is not primitively accelerated as some modern teas are. This cake feels natural, not hurried.

The taste is strongly correlated with the aroma of wet leaves, very pleasant, "warm brown" I would say. It is not as deep and striking as  more aged teas of similar character I drank, but these were four times as old and four times as expensive. I do believe that this cake will become similar to them.

I found that it enjoys softer water - with hard water, it became a bit "hollow" and cold around 5th brew, but I do not find that to be a problem. Most sheng tastes bad with local hard water...

The tea is not bitter, it is warm, quiet and embracing. I managed to squeeze  a bit of dry wild-arborish bitterness when making 11th and 12th brews, about a minute long - but before that, not a bit of bitterness.

The aftertaste could be longer and more pronounced, but it is already very good and I believe it will improve even further.

Cha qi is calming and soothing, very harmonizing.

I rank this tea in my personal top category because it just suits me so well. But I believe it is generally a very good and not overly expensive cake. At the current price of $35, it is a good buy I dare say, I plan to buy it as soon as I get some money.

neděle 2. října 2011

Merchant worshippers - why?

Well, writing this post is a bit embarassing. Nevertheless, I once decided so I have to do it. 

Irrelevant part 1
When I noticed that blogs actually do exist, I thought the were pretty awful. Nightwish-loving kinder-goths crying how much they love their idols (using awful language - if you think my English is bad, you should see their Czech). Later, it became more Emo and Justin Bieber-like. 

Then, maybe three years ago, I noticed that there was another category of blogs: Blogs of people who feel undervalued and overlooked - so they write their rants and "novel" views (which, in better cases, were first formulated after the great cultural revolution).

Well, then, a year ago, I found several great tea blogs, which eventually led me to creating one (a blog, not necessarily great) too (it was a pretty intense internal fight - it's like creating a Facebook account just because most people around have it).

I try to post relevant things, but today, it will be just a "novel" rant :-) It is not trying to be novel actually. It is just that I made an observation and I would like to know whether things are similar outside Czech Republic (i.e., I would be greatly interested in your opinions).

Irrelevant part 2
The history of tea in Czech Republic may not be long, but definitely intense. It could be named The splendor and miseries of tea merchants. To make long story short - there is an eternal loop: There is a great new tea merchant who is better than the rest. For several, years, everything is great, then he becomes too satisfied and does not evolve much anymore. Then another guy/company comes, better than the previous, etc.

Now, there is a healtier situation in means of tea quality, there are several tea sellers of sufficient quality. However, the situation is not-so-healthy from the point of view of relations between these merchants. Previously, the single good tea merchant/company criticized their competition, but he was mostly right. Recently, some very nasty and false bad-mouthing came between merchants selling good tea. It is very disappointing to find out that people you believed in and who were so nice, are, in fact, ruthless actors. Anyway, this is not the point of this post.

Partly relevant part
The point is - there is a strange form of cultism among many tea folks. Earlier, it happened with the single good merchants. Now it works with several merchants in parallel. 

Cultists generally despise other tea vendors than their chosen  King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Merchant of the Tea of China, and Elect of God (well, maybe I had enough of Prince Far I for today... :-)). When their taste tea of their god's competitors, they passionately persuade you that it is crap, a fake or whatever (mostly it's that "whatever"). On the other hand, they automatically take the tea of their god as the best thing in the world, too good for Chinese emperor (if he had lived) himself and all that. 

The bad thing is that merchants themselves do support that. For example, if you buy from someone, the competing merchants may refuse to sell things to you in some cases. Funny, isn't it? Luckily, it is not frequent I hope. But it does happen. Even between the best merchants, which makes it even sadder.

What I found interesting is the subjectivity of tasting. When tea cultists jump with joy over ordinary good tea that their god has mercifully bestowed on them, they really feel the joy. The same holds true when they spit fire on one of arch-devils (i.e. competing tea merchants) dares to offer his  tea (generally also good), which he dared to produce from trees old 70-80 years!!! Everyone (well, their god says so) knows that treas old 80-90 years are much better and the 70-80 years old tree tea is useless and should be thrown to pigs. 

Why is that? My belief is that here is a strong tendency to "do things right". It takes time and money to drink through hundreds of cakes, trying to find out what is good on your own. Actually, with a good "teacher" who points out interesting features of teas, it would be much faster. But it seems even faster when the teacher is your tea vendor claiming there is a bijection between his tea and good tea that you can buy. Buying from him, it is easy to feel grand and "correct learner of the art of tea"... But the reason may be different, of course, I do not know.

Do you feel anything similar in your countries?

Concluding remarks
I usually did not know why blog ranters do write their stuff. The problem here is, I do not know why I wrote this stuff either. :-) I am genuinely interested in situation in other countries. Being it just an excuse or not, I bid you good night and thanks for reading if you made it this far!

And thank you, Yunnnan Sourcing, Essence of Tea, Hou De, Teahabitat, Teamasters and the rest who give us the opportunity to form our opinions ourselves!

While we are thanking, I would like to thank to independent tea bloggers who help people choose, not pursuing their own agenda. 

2010 Yunnan Sourcing Autumn Bang Dong

Tomorrow is a long expected day - back to the whirlwind of thinking, coding and studying again. The semester awaits... Also, sunny days are coming to their end it seems. And the third good thing is, that a large pack of tea awaits in local custom office.

After two not-so-awesome teas, let's go back to something better. It is a Yunnan Sourcing production - a production which is usually very good. 

The tea comes from Bang Dong in Mengu, from wild arbor trees 80-100 years old. I have always enjoyed Mengku teas. Although Mengku is in Lincang and teas declared as Lincang sheng are often rather hard and cold, Mengku is generally more fruity, flowery and easy-going. This cake is a very nice example of the Mengku character (according to my experience), but it is better than most Mengku teas I drank. Also, it is a bit more expensive. 

Dry leaves are usual, very nice looking leaves... Slightly furry. 

The aroma of rinsed leaves is very pleasant, fruity-spicy. I would almost say the aroma has hui gan. Funny feeling... The components of the aroma are well coordinated and harmonic.

The tea is still young and fresh, not unpleasantly green though.

The liquor is not powerfully aromatic; it is very thick and sweet. It is fruity (apples, peaches), spicy and flowery (less than a year ago though), very easy-going. It has a tendency to get somewhat acidic (it is not bad storage sourness, I think this acidity is rather natural for Mengku teas), a bit too much for my girlfriend, I did not mind though.

This tea has a lot of strength, it knows how to be bitter. However, the bitterness may be easily controlled by the length of brews. When brewed not bitter, it is very nice, warm tea with full body and pleasant aftertaste. When brewed more bitter, the body of the taste is slightly obscured and not so easy to recognize. But the aftertaste and beautiful hui gan make up for it absolutely. Actually, the transformation resembles the one of YS Ban Zhang Chung Qing a bit.

These two interesting faces of the tea, along with its power, are why I think this tea is better than most Mengku teas I drank. Actually, it might be the best one (it is also one of the more expensive) I think.

I just don't know when to drink this tea - it's a bit too good for everyday drinking, while for guests, I have more fancy tea. Well, we could define a everyweek or rather everymonth tea...

At the current price of $23 per 400g cake, this cake is very nicely priced and I can only recommend trying it.

Mr. Bang Dong and me wish you a nice day!

středa 28. září 2011

2007 Hai Lang Hao Bu Lang

First, I have to excuse about the lack of photographic material. Thinking that nothing relevant is present on the camera's SD card anymore, I accidentally deleted it.

Now, to the tea itself. Hobbes at Half Dipper has written about it here: http://half-dipper.blogspot.com/2008/04/2007-hailanghao-bulang.html

I fully agree with it. The tea is now rather dark, nicely aged. It is not unpleasantly bitter as many of younger Bu Lang teas are.

In general, it is dry, dry, dry. In the aroma and in the taste as well, there is dry grain, dry wood and dry leather. No fruit, no flowers, it is a rather hard tea. The bitterness is not overwhelming (it could be more powerful and it would still be nice). Hui gan is long and pleasant, that's one of the best things I find in this tea. Cha qi is activating and clearly present.

I think it is a very nice tea. When Hobbes was writing about the cake, the cost was $15. At that price, it would be a very good buy. Now, it costs $40,5. This is way too much for me. I'm afraid that the mighty Hai Lang Hao bubble is to blame, at least partly... I'm not sure that the tea is worth this much (for drinkers, not investors).

2004 CNNP Yi Wu Zheng Shan

Smelling the leaves of this tea, I thought it would be just another modern CNNP universal sheng puerh which lacks any particularly interesting feature.

Well, it is a bit better actually. I believe that a part of leaves indeed does come from Yi Wu (although the overal character is, in my opinion, a mix of Yi Wu and "universal sheng" taste). The leaves are generally heterogenous - a mix of dark and light.

The best thing to say about this tea is probably that it does not have any significant flaw. It is well  balanced - a bit aged (not as much as you might expect though). The taste is rather full, nutty, grainy, still vegetal, very slightly smoky. However, not overly interesting for me. The aftertaste is not much interesting. Generally, the tea is nini (not intrusive, not impressive).

I think it is an easy-to-drink tea which is still not too expensive. However, at the current price, you may almost certainly get better tea to drink.

pátek 23. září 2011

2001 Xiaguan Jia Ji tuo cha

Xiaguan is one of the best known factories known for its consistent quality. I can not say their teas are always to my taste, but their 2003 Jia Ji is a truly great tea. This tuo cha is two years older than the 2003 one. Is it better? I would say it is definitely not. But just because you are not Jimi Hendrix, you do not have to be a bad guitarist. 

This is how the dry leaves look:

The aroma of rinsed leaves is very pleasant. It is rather heavy, rich, fruity-woodsy-camphor-like. There is slight smokiness, but not very powerful.

The liquor looks this way:

It is nice, rather dark (this is 5th brew, previous brews were darker) - these cups are rather shallow so it may seem lighter than it is.  It smells well.

The taste is strong and well-defined. The base is slight smokiness, camphor, woodiness, darker overripe fruit and a hint of raspberries. Over this base, there is a taste of hemp (as a young boy, I used to chew hemp string - don't ask me why - and this is the taste). The bitterness is very moderate, not disturbing. The problem with this tea is, that it tends to get somewhat sour. It is bearable for me, but only so-so.

I was not much impressed by the aftertaste.

I think the tea is good, I did enjoy it, it was an interesting tea session. But I can not say I would find it great. Here, it can be obtained for more than $30 (100g), which is definitely too much for me to pay.

čtvrtek 8. září 2011

2009 YS Ban Zhang Chun Qing

About two years ago, a lot has been written about this tea. I have tasted it a year ago and now, so I can see at least short bit of its development. The bit is definitely a pleasant one. It is also the last tea I'll write about before the long journey to Italy. 

The tea tea is two years old now, which makes it older than a lot of 2011 teas (and now you see what this tea has done to me - this fact seemed funny to me). Although the statement is somewhat trivial, it is true at least, not many politicians get that far.

I have to admit that I may not be a proper hardcore sheng drinker as I do not really get the Ban Zhang fuss of last years. If you walk the dark streets of Prague (down dalling road) and you see a scarred sheng veteran who considers Nan Nuo to be a region for softlings and most of Bu Lang bores him, being too weak, it is most certainly not me. However, I surely did enjoy drinking this tea this evening. Without further ado, let's get to business.

The aroma of dry leaves is nice, pleasant, but not too powerful.

The aroma of wet leaves after rinsing is very nice. It is noticeably full, complex. I would call it spicy with a hint of honey, flowers and fruit. Nothing is dominating though. 

The liquor is not very fragrant. 

The taste is a bit cooling at the beginning (though not nearly as much as some Ban Zhang from old trees). I would call it full, powerful, complicated, mostly spicy. There is a bit of fruit and a bit of flowers, not much though. There is a greenness in the taste, but the overall taste is darker and warmer.. The bitterness is powerful, mouth-drying; in some brews, it consumed the rest of the taste. Aftertaste was rather short. Cooling feeling stays the longest. Around fifth brew or so, wet leaves started smelling of pines and this was reflected in the taste too. The cooling feeling became weaker and weaker. The tea was a bit sour, but not in an unpleasant way, it was a natural part of the taste.
Generally, I can not say that the taste would feel directly pleasant to me. I did not feel "wow, this tastes great" at any moment. However, I felt very good throughout the whole session and I did enjoy the taste in  a certain way.

A historic note: In the year of 2010 A.D., the tea was much more tobacco-ish and smoke-ish. These parts of taste are mostly gone now, for which I am grateful.

The endurance of this tea is not astonishing, a bit below average of what I drink... Nothing to cry about though.

The tea is filling me with calm energy...feels really good.

Wet leaves are generally thick and of noticeably different colors:

Now they do not smell at all, completely washed out...

This tea is funny. It seems to lack noticeably in certain areas. The only area in which it seems grand to me is in the smell of rinsed leaves. Other than that, the aroma of the liquor is rather weak, taste not trivially nice, hui gan not that powerful. Number of brews produced is nothing to write home about either. Then why do I like this tea so much? Why do I feel so good? I believe that its Cha Qi is especially harmonizing for me. But not only that. The tea is strangely harmonic in a way...

I am interested in where this tea is going to move in five or six years. Pity that it costs so much now. Still, I would not call it overpriced.

Further reading:

neděle 4. září 2011

2009 YS Bu Lang Shan Yun

To start this tea note, let us note that maocha for this tea has been picked in 2006, so this tea might be considered to be a 2006 tea instead. However, it is declared as 2009, so I will stick to that.

I tasted this tea in 2009 and was not immediately impressed. It was nicely rounded, a bit bitter and a bit strange. Now, I suspect that travelling has not done this tea too well. Now, after sitting and resting for two years, the experience is different. It is not too different, however the difference makes it, in my opinion, a very interesting tea.

Dry leaves: 

Leaves are dark (at least for 2009 or maybe even 2006 tea) and smell a bit earthy, but it is nothing surprising considering the tea has been stored in loose form in Banna. However, I consider this processing to be a feature, not a bug.

Most of my brews looked like this:

The tea is very consistent across brews:  sweet (in a dark way, if sweetness may be dark/light), earthy (but in a light way, not like mold or shu puerh) and aromatic. The earthiness may not be enjoyed by everyone, but I enjoyed it this time. There is a certain bitterness which does not go away, but it is not powerful enough to be noticeably unpleasant. Aftertaste is good, undisturbing. Hui gan is weak, but I did not feel it as a problem in this tea.

Felt a bit like it felt to be outside here:

Cha qi felt strong to me, which I did not expect. It brought melancholic memories and let me be in them again. It made them pleasant though, even though they may have been sad.

In its character, it is sort of similar to 2001 Yi Wu Bao Pu Xuan, which is slightly more interesting and complex in taste (but lacking in energy for me). The similarity is probably a consequence of similar technology of processing. 

I believe that the tea does not have much from its original character, but it is interestingly processed. And it still develops. Two years ago, it was a bit boring (again, it may have been the travelling), now it is stronger and clearer in taste. I'm interested in where it will develop in future years.

Further reading: http://half-dipper.blogspot.com/2009/09/2009-yunzhiyuanruicaoxiang.html

Actually, the tea develops better than one would expect. The sweetness is more pronounced, the "storage smell" disappeared. Still a bit rough finish, but it looks promising...

2006 Fu Cha Ju Ai Lao

This tea comes from a bunch of 2005-6 Fu Cha Ju cakes previously available from Yunnan Sourcing. Now, sadly, FCJ section is empty. There are factories from which I haven't drank any good tea (e.g., Guoyan), some from which I haven't drank any bad tea (e.g., Haiwan) and one from which I had only very good tea - Fu Cha Ju. I enjoyed their Wu Liang and Jing Mai cakes a bit more than this one, but that does not mean that this tea is not very nice.

Dry leaves may be seen here:

The aroma of dry leaves is pleasant, a bit of meadow flowers, a bit of sweet grain and a bit of woodiness (all of these are present in taste too). No smoke often found in Ai Lao tea. 

This tea can be rather light, but it is not oversteepable, it may get bitter quite easily. And the bitterness does not transform too well.

3rd brew (a bit cloudy, I used a bit of broken and almost-powdered leaves; it is clear normally):

When I brewed it, it was flowery and sweet in first brews and it gradually became woody. Still, it was rich in texture and sweet. Aftertaste was long, decent, enjoyable. 

It is one of better "woody" teas I drank in last year. Many of them were hollow, cold, hard and dry wood was the leading part of their taste. This one is warm, soothing and generally nice. 

Hui gan is not one of the main strengths of this tea I believe. Its energy did not interact with me too much. But when you drink tea only for its taste, it is not that much of a problem I guess.

This tea has not blown me through the roof. However, I do believe that it is a high quality and very tasty tea to be had. 

pátek 2. září 2011

2010 Yunnan Sourcing Purple Yi Wu Tea

This little chap has became my most frequently drank tea and is one of the best in its price category. Why? I'll try to explain in further lines...

It is a purple tea varietal, however, I'd suggest that even if you do not like purple teas in general, do not dismiss this one. It is much more pleasant than most of cheap bitter purple cakes.

Several pictures to get started (click them to to make them larger):

The cake is indeed pretty dark, black-blue-ish. For me, it is one of the most beautiful cakes to be seen. It is made from rather young plantation trees. However, plantations in Yi Wu produce very nice tea, so I do not consider it a drawback.

The aroma of the cake is very nice, pleasant, Yi Wu (that implies nice and pleasant directly :)).

The aroma of brewed tea is lovely. Sweet, complex, fruity. Brewed leaves... one of the best smells I have ever smelled. Beautifully sweet and overwhelming.

Since most people do not drink through their nose, but through mouth, the taste is not less important than the aroma. And the good thing is, that this tea has great taste.

1st and 3rd brews:

When I first tasted the tea, I was really surprised. At the time, I was drinking through a lot of Yi Wu samples. Several of them were not Yi Wu I believe. Some were nice. Some were very good, some were great. Actually, two of them were what I would call great (for immediate drinking, more about that later). One of them was this purple tea, the other was Hai Lang Hao 2009 Gao Shan Zhai. Looking at the price tag, you may see that this tea is more than three times cheaper. However, the HLH cake is very different experience, comparing these two lovely Yi Wu cakes based on their price would make very little sense. Using a paralell of wine world, this tea is like Languedoc Syrah-Carignan, HLH cake being more balanced Bordeaux.

To describe the taste is not that hard as with other teas. The taste is rather straightforward, but powerful, thick, very intense. It is heavy, fruity, tasting of darker forest fruit: blackberries and blueberries come to the mind first. This taste rides on thick and sweet Yi Wu undertones. Some Yi Wu teas are only "nice sweet water". This tea adds a lot to it, it is pretty unique.

The aftertaste may be controlled by length of brewing. I could not make this tea bitter by oversteeping, however, when it is brewed for a long time, the aftertaste is more powerful, a bit bitter at first, but becames explosively fruity and sweet (i.e., the hui gan is very strong). Such an aftertaste lasts for many minutes. On the other hand, with shorter brewing, aftertaste may be a continuation of the main body of the taste, fruity and sweet and not so long.

Cha qi is calming, concentrating. For example, when I listen to music and drink this tea, it brings me great inner harmony.

The tea is balanced throughout brews (I mostly drink 7-10 of them).

Good water benefits it a lot, but the tea tastes nicely even when made using unfiltered tap water boiled in an electric kettle. Therefore good water is not as crucial as with some other teas.

I think that this cake (and some similar, though not as good Yi Wu cakes) may present trouble to some producers who give you a cake for $80 and tell you "stick it somewhere for 20 years and it will be great". A lot of bad things may happen: thieves, flood, etc. Or the tea may be bad, the vendor/producer may have been wrong or an imposter. This purple cake is great for drinking right away, no unpleasant bitterness, no stomach ache, but a lot of power and taste, not common for such a young tea.

Purple cakes are rather uncommon at this time, it is difficult to tell how it is going to age (but based on its taste profile, I believe it should age well). Other, more expensive cakes may become better with time, of course. However, I believe that if you are looking for a tea to drink, not only to stock, this cake is a good choice. The price is quite low for such a nice tea.

Therefore this is a tea I really recommend for you to try.

Since I have about 20 cakes left, I have a lot samples to be exchanged for your favourite teas if you are interested ;-)

P.S. I've recently downgraded this from Top to Good - the price/quality ratio is excellent, however I believe that the tea does not hold certain features which I should like to see in top teas. 

středa 31. srpna 2011

2009 Guang Zi Zai Zao Chun Nan Nuo

After a consideration, I decided to write about teas which I did not find interesting. After all, negative or neutral information is still an information. I hope you will excuse the lack of photos...

This tea is the first such tea I will write about. At the time of buying, I believe its cost was around $20 per 400g cake. That is not much I think. However, the tea bears little attraction to me...

It looks nice, smells ok (typical Nan Nuo). The tea broth is thick, clear, nicely colored (and the color suggests proper production process, it seems that it has not been artificially darkened). It has many not-so-pleasant (for me) taste tones typical of Nan Nuo. However, pleasant tastes I have found in certain Nan Nuo teas were not present. It is woody, a bit tobbaco-like, rather dry. Not much sweetness, not much hui gan, no fruit, not much flowers.

I do not think it is a bad tea, it's just not my cup of tea. It is still not expensive ($24), it has no immediately noticeable flaws and it is typical for the declared region. If you enjoy generic Nan Nuo, it may be a good candidate for everyday drinking.

It may be bought at Yunnan Sourcing.

čtvrtek 5. května 2011

2006 Haiwan Pa Sha

This is the first tea I have bought in larger quantity, so I have a special feelings towards it. I really like the character of Pa Sha and this tea has it.

I've been drinking it a lot lately and I have to note that it is a real bastard concerning the quality of water. With bad water, it's simply not worth it. On the other hand, with good water...

The look of the cake:

And the look of dry leaves:

Today, I have used a tea stove again.

This is how the second and the third brews look like:

It aged (and ages) in rather dry conditions, it is not particularly dark or aged.

The tea is not for everyone I think. It has nice, complex aroma, very difficult to decribe. The taste is, however, a bit hardcore. At the beginning, there is thick sweetness, similar to the of dark forest honey. After it comes a complex taste which I'm unable to describe too well. It's slightly grainy (which I like a lot), fruity, there is wood, maybe sweet tobacco too (not the ugly smelling burning tobacco, normal tobacco smells rather nicely I think). Then, a wave of heavy bitterness comes. It is a bit hardcore I guess, not everyone will enjoy it. Even though it is powerful, it quickly transforms into sweetness. The hui gan is particularly strong in this tea. The aftertaste is rather fruity, sweet (both coming from transformed bitterness) and enjoyable. A bit of the bitternes does not transform too quickly, I suspect older/wild trees playing their part. Cha qi is powerful and wild.

I'm looking forward to it after four or five more years. It is enjoyable and promising already, but I think it needs a bit of aging to become a great tea (and I believe it will). It is still very strong, the sweetness started to develop very nicely already . If these grainy tones present in it will become more pronounced and they stick to the darker sweetness in harmony. Two years before, the sweetness was much different and the grain (barley?) not present. A year before, it was sweeter, darker in taste and more grainy. Now, it still develops these attributes. Therefore it is natural to expect it could continue...

A few pictures of water spirits playing:

středa 4. května 2011

2007 Yong Pin Hao Yi Wu Mao Cha

A friend has sent me this sample; I think it is probably the same tea Hobbes has mentioned here: http://half-dipper.blogspot.com/2008/05/2007-yiwu-yongpinhao-maocha.html

Now, several years after, the tea has gone through a certain development.

Dry leaves are obviously much darker:

The smell of dry leaves was not particularly pleasant. Not fruity, somewhat hard and iron-like.

The smell of rinsed leaves was even more unpleasant. Tobacco-like, hard, non-yummy.

After smelling it, I was a bit afraid to taste it actually, but considering the smell, it was a pleasant surprise. The tea is very thick, definitely Yi-Wu, slightly chocolate-y, but I miss the fruit so often found in Yi Wu sheng. The liquor is really dense, but the taste is not overly powerful. If not for the thickness, it would be almost like a warm water, or some 8th brew of 2007 Chawangpu Yi Wu. It's not bad for everyday drinking though.

The tea broth looks like this:

The aftertaste is rather nice, but nothing special. There is slight bitterness which sadly does not transform.

All brews were rather similar, the chocolate was gradually leaving the taste and bitterness and slight fruitiness grew stronger. Rinsed leaves started smelling nicely around the third brew too...

All in all, it's not bad. It's sort of similar to the above mentioned 2007 Chawangpu Yi Wu, but the Chawangpu mini-cake is more fruity, better balanced, smells nicely right from the start and is generally better. On the other hand, it is more expensive too.

pondělí 2. května 2011

2001 Yi Wu Bao Pu Xuan Gu Shu

I got a sample of this tea from a friend in tea, Michal.

The maocha of which this tea has been kept in loose form for several years, it could be why it is so interesting.
Dry leaves show the pressing was not too heavy, leaves are quite large and not broken. The tea iss already fermented a lot, leaves are something between green and reddish-brown.

The aroma of leaves was rather interesting, the basis reminded me of good shu puerh (if something like that exists at all :-)), but someting more was present. A hint of camphor and a bit of aged "green" taste of sheng puerh.

This is how the tea looks like when brewed.

The second photo has been made to capture the very good clarity of the tea. I think it is one of characteristics of a good tea. Not that I would never drink a good tea, clarity of which was low, but these were exceptions really. Unclear broth often suggests bad storage.

Basically, what was in the smell of leaves was in the taste already. At times (mostly in the first several brews), I was not sure whether this is an unusual sheng or a fantastic shu.
The taste is lovely, calm, full-bodied and sweet. No sourness or astringency is present. It is very well aged, no cellar smell, yet it has aged a lot already. Probably the effect of maocha aging in loose forms for several years (By the way, do you find it interesting too, that some loose stored shengs age so badly and some other so well?).
The taste is slightly fruity (like very ripe peaches and plums maybe, a bit of lychee too), a bit of barley, all riding on the thick and sweet layer under it (the layer is quite similar to tender shu).

The aftertaste was not particularly long, but it was definitely nice and the tea had very calm and enjoyable cha qi.

Leaves after I finished drinking the tea. They smelled mostly after very ripe lychee.

It was a very interesting tea to drink. A friend of mine told me that shu-lovers loved it absolutely. I can't say I'd be positively blown away, my preferred tastes are slightly somewhere else. Nevertheless, this is a great tea, very well made, very well stored. Try it if you can.

neděle 10. dubna 2011

1990 Ali Shan Qing Xin

This evening, I want to write about a tea, which was something entirely new to me. And I quickly fell in love with it - after a month of drinking it, I'm still surprised by it every time I taste it.

It is a roasted, rather highly oxidized aged wulong from Taiwan. I want to emphasize "aged" (i.e., it is not merely old). I do not believe that a tea anywhere near to this one would be produced without aging.

Let's have a look at dry leaves:

They are really dark in color and the aroma is really special. It smells of smoked almond and walnuts. The smokiness is very delicate and pleasant. Nevertheless, I have drank teas with more pleasantly smelling dry leaves.

I decided to use Brita-filtered water boiled on a tea stove. This tea is great even when brewed with electric kettle boiled water, but the water from a tea stove is much better.

I like to use these bone porcelain cups for darker wulongs, it may be used instead of a sniffer - it keeps the aroma in the cup.

I rinsed the tea with a rather cold water - about 50°C I believe. The smell of leaves after rinsing has improved immensely. The aroma is thick as a brick, strong, much more complex and pleasant than the smell of dry leaves. There are strong tones of chocolate, cocoa and nougat, all rolling on a layer of sweetness.

This looks promising:

I used pearl water - about 95°C for following brews.

  • 1st brew: 15s

    • The brew is light in color, very clear.
    • The aroma is very powerful and heavy (one wouldn't expect it of such a light brew), slightly smoky (this will vanish in further brews), nougat-like.
    • The taste is very special. It is heavy, very sweet (not like honey, it reminds me of treacle), it has complex, long and full body. The taste reminds me of great whiskey. The taste of nougat and chocolate is dominant, along with a slight woodiness (oak), a bit of smokiness and a bit of vanilla. There is not much fruit, maybe raisins? 
    • The aftertaste is long, great, full, nothing unpleasant jumps at you. The tea has been re-roasted several times, but very delicalely, it is not over-roasted (which can be often felt in cheaper roasted TGY in the aftertaste).
  • 2nd brew: 15s

    • The tea broth is very thick, perfectly clear.
    • The aroma is even more powerful than in case of the first brew. It is somewhat hard, yet tender and soothing (again, it reminded me of great aged whiskey).
    • The taste is even better and more complex than the one of the first brew. Even the smallest of sips leads to an explosion of tastes and sweetness (this brew is also great when being 5 seconds long , more of these tastes will be in further brews to enjoy). At first, there is dark chocolate and nougat, giving way to lovely sweet woodiness - I could identify it here - it's like good old oak cognac kegs. 
    • The aftertaste is looong, oak-like with almonds and vanilla in taste. 
  • 3rd brew: 10s

    • The broth is getting darker, it is very pleasant though.
    • The aroma of dry leaves is incredible, above all, tones of sweet cofee have appeared. 
    • The taste is similar to the taste of the second brew, it is a little less sweet, the cofee appears in the taste lightly and nicely.
    • Aftertaste is slightly emptier than the aftertaste of the second brew but still very complex and at least 5 minutes long (until the water in my kettle boils again :)).
  • 4th brew: 10s

    • The broth is still dark, really enjoyable to look at I think.
    • The aroma is sweeter than in the third brew.
    • There is a change in taste: dark chocolate and cocoa are not so dominant (still present though), nougat is notably powerful, changing into raisins and that awesome cognac-keg aftertaste.
    • The aftertaste is, as noted, cognac-keg-like, sweet, great. 
  • 5th brew: 15s

    • The broth is still very thick, but lighter than previous brews.
    • The aroma of leaves has changed again - the aroma of burning applewood has joined the oak (I'm not a beaver, nor a looney, we burned a lot of applewood in the countryside so I happen to know how it smells/tastes). The aroma of the tea is similar to the aroma of leaves.
    • The taste has changed again: first, there are sweet tones of oak and applewood, followed by nougat, which is again followed by the Allen taste again. All tastes are still in harmony.
    • The aftertaste is still sweet, intense, complex and all that. The tea has an incredible stamina.
  • 6th brew: 30s

    • The broth is lighter again, but still thick and clear.
    • The aroma is still powerful, though maybe a bit harder than in previous brews. It is cocoa-like, with a bit of cofee and wood.
    • The taste may not be so deep and full as in previous brews, but it is still great (and my girlfriend who came to me at that time was very surprised that it was so deep and full - so even though it was not as complex as in previous brews, it is still very good). It is woody-nougat-cofee like.
    • The aftertaste is oak-like still, with walnuts.
  • 7th, 8th, 9th brew: 60, 90, 120s

    • All of these brews were similar in nature, nice taste, not so sweet, more woody, a little smoky, the aftertaste is still long and intense. No weak stuff.
The tea would manage another two brews, but I would not... enough for today.

I do not like to be so yippie about this tea, but once again, it is great. It probably is not a tea for everyone I think. Its taste reminds me of good, aged cognac - not everyone likes that eiter.

One last thing which surprised me about this wulong: Cha Qi: This tea had it (strong and calm). I find that many new taiwanese wulongs lack it seriously (later, I read in the Art of tea that it is not only my opinion).