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:

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:

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.