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).

2007 Chawangpu Yi Wu

I have to say I really do like it. There are many new "Yi Wu" teas produced, while some of them are not from Yi Wu at all. According to my current experience, this tea is definitely Yi Wu.

It is 2007 maocha pressed in 2010. I had maocha which aged awfully badly and maocha which aged very nicely. This tea belongs to the second group.

Some pictures:
Dry leaves (yummy):

The first brew:

The second brew (other brews were rather similar)

Wet leaves:

I had about 8 very fine brews from 7 grams (in 120 ml teapot). The tea broth was very thick, taste very Yi Wu-like, sweet, fruity, with long and pleasant aftertaste. It was never bitter or disharmonic. Very balanced tea. Cha qi quiet and harmonizing. There is really nothing wrong with this tea in my opinion.

I can only recommend this tea, the price is not overly low, but it is a great and I dare say authentic little beeng cha.

sobota 2. dubna 2011

2004 Jinuo Shan You Le Spring 400g cake

This exact tea is not easy to get (I managed to get it only because of a friend), another Jinuo You Le 2004 cake can be bought from Yunnan Sourcing (which has 357g); the 400g cake is less tightly pressed and stored in drier conditions. I feel it has more complex taste than the 357g cake, but the 357g cake is a very good tea too.

However, beware of autumn 2004 Jinuo You Le. It is obviously You Le tea, but it is much, much worse.

Let's see some pictures to get started:
The wrapped cake:

The cake unwrapped:

Dry leaves (7g); lovely, honey-fruit-spicy aroma:

A comparation of 2004 spring material (the left sample) and 2004 autumn material (the right sample - beware of it). The autumn cake is darker, very lightly pressed and almost unnaturaly dry.

Today, I prepared the tea with fish-eyed water, 90°C. It can be brewed with warmer water (more spicy, more intense hui gan, the energy (cha qi?) is wilder), as well as with colder water (more honey-like, gentler, the energy is soothing and calming). I feel that both approaches are very interesting and worthwile. The temperature chosen today is a compromise - one can feel both.

I used Brita-filtered water, boiled in Chao Zhou tea stove.

The amount of leaves used was 7 grams (I usually do not know it exactly, but since this tasting should be reproducible, I measured it rather exactly).

After rinsing the tea...

  • 1st brew: 10s (We have rinsed it, and it is not too heavily compressed, so it is not that short):

    • Rather light-colored broth, very clear, rather thick (I have drank thicker teas, mostly from Yi Wu, but this is definitely above average). Let us note that a part of the thickness is caused by the water being boiled in the tea stove (I have no idea why, but I like it).
    • The aroma reminds me of hot summer meadows with all the flowers around, bees buzzing etc. There is also something "darker", sweeter in the taste (I think that this is the blackberry tone which appears in further brews).
    • The taste is very warm and soothing, nothing disturbing is present (which is quite rare for a tea of this age). There are tones of fruit (peaches), meadow flowers and meadow honey. 
    • The aftertaste is long and very warm, with just a hint of astringency, which transforms into sweetness (this astringency is not present at all when the tea is brewed with colder water).
  • 2nd brew: 10s

    • The tea broth is darker, still crystal clear (in sunny weather, nice colorful sparks show up)
    • The aroma is very complex, definitely heavier than in the first brew: deeply sweet (still not unpleasantly heavy), still having a certain meadow-like lightness to it.
    • The taste corresponds to the aroma. It is very complex too, a little less sweet, a little mory spicy and fruity (peaches, a bit of pineapple).
    • The aftertaste is very long and intense, it has nice hui gan (If I had to pick a negative, albeit a small one, I'd say the transformation to sweetness could be a little bit faster). The tea energy is more powerful as it resonates in my body.
  • 3rd brew: 10s

    • The broth is, again, thick, clear and lovely-colored.
    • The aroma is a bit lighter-toned than in the 2nd brew (but heavier than in the 1st brew), more meadow-like.
    • The taste is not so complex as in the 2nd brew (we'd have to prolong the length of this brewing), peaches are dominant fruit, but blackberry tones appear too. The taste of honey is still present and complements the fruity tones nicely. The main body of the taste could be a bit longer though.
    • The aftertaste is more fruity than in the previous brew, the transformation of slight astringency to powerful sweetness (not a bad tradeoff - a bit of astringency for a lot of sweetness, another positive of this tea) is now fast enough and very satysfying.
  • 4th brew: 15s

    • The color is similar to the one of previous brews. Since I quite enjoy it, I have no problem with it. 
    • The aroma is less powerful than in the previous brews, very meadow-like. Something like "aftersmell" is more fruity.
    • The taste is great, balanced, has almost everything this tea has to offer - meadow flowers, peaches, honey, a bit of pineapple at the beginning, a bit of blackberries at the end. The main body of the taste is long enough.
    • The aftertaste is very long, again rather fruity, with powerful hui gan. The tea energy seems calmer now, not so wild as in the 2nd brew.
  • 5th brew: 20s

    • The aroma and color is quite similar to the of the previous brew.
    • The taste is less complex, the taste of peaches is less dominant, on the other hand, spicy tones start to show up again.
    • The aftertaste is long, less fruity (more spicy instead), good hui gan.
  • 6th brew: 25s

    • The color is lighter, still nice.
    • The aroma is light, flowery and spicy.
    • The taste is not as complex as in the previous brews. It is not so warm and soothing, it is more spicy and wood-like.
    • The aftertaste is, at the beginning, not so great as in previous brews, but the hui gan is very powerful (probably the best part of this brew).
  • 7th brew: 60s

    • The tea broth is darker (as we brewed it for a longer time), clear.
    • The aroma is complex, spicy and wood-like
    • The taste is more masculine, still elegant though. Fruity tones are almost missing, so we get flowers with a bit of honey and a lot of spice and wood. The body of the taste is not so full, still very entertaining.
    • I felt the hui gan was so good I ceased to drink at this moment to fully enjoy it...I felt the sweetness for another hour. More brews could be prepared though, the tea was still not empty.
A picture of the wet leaves:

I think this tea is great. Not only because it is great, but because it is not that expensive either (Those YS Jinuos are very well priced, in my opinion, very nice teas too).

It is surprisingly mellow and mature for its age - I consider it to be very drinkable now. More aging may change it, of course, but I felt no flaws of youth already.

I like this tea, as there is nothing unpleasant it - it's sweet, complex, interesting, having nice hui gan... I can only recommend it

One last note: if you have a chance to buy it, I recommend buying a sample first, a friend of mine bought some "great spring Jinuo", but it turned up to be the bad autumn Jinuo... there are better ways of spending money. Plus, the factory's production does not seem too orderly to me - sometimes, the same tea is in different packagings, sometimes, different teas are in the same packaging...ugh. Gets confusing easily :-)

Hello World

Well, this is my new blog, it should be about tea, especially about teas I consider noteworthy. Therefore, it is going to be about roasted wulong tea and sheng puerh. I hope it will grow steadily and it will be well-liked.
Sincerely yours
Jakub Tomek