středa 12. září 2012

Some more of Petřínka and 2012 Man Nuo

Let us start with some more photos of Petřínka spring. I go there in mornings on my bike. It is usually quite early, which means less people, less cars on the road and overall pleasant experience (once one gets over getting up).

And when one turns around, it looks like this: 

Just about five minutes of walking, a lovely garden where I like to drink tea in the morning. Given my glass, I can not take a reasonable, more wide-angle picture. I'll take the wide-angle camera with me sometime and will show the entire garden.

This is my pocket teapot - a handy one, 1 pot = 1 cup, so there is no need for pitcher. The pot and cup are filled with the 2012 Man Nuo. 

I like to sit there in the morning, reading my favourite haiku collection - Chrám plný květů [A temple full of flowers]. I like it because it is low on "western" explanation and they generally make good sense (e.g., explaining cultural traditions to which a haiku refers). The issue with some zen-oriented translations/works is bad attempts at prosaic and "reasonable" explanation by the translator or someone close to him, so that your run-of-the-mill Johnny the woodcutter knows all about "that zen teaching".  Similarly awful effort is making such books for local philosophers. For example, I was glad when I found Mumonkan in one of our bookshops at last. Upon opening it, I was horrified by rather weird explanations and off comments of some chap, which pretty much spoiled the book. The average length of word was 10 or so, all some isms, something like: "the (european) philosopher XYimides said B, while YZ said A, capturing the ethereal essence of paradigm of the entity called zenbuddhism, which contrasts with fugilitarism of anti-militaristic scientopatophysicist DE"... It is funny how some people have to make simple things difficult so that they can explain them to others.

Nevertheless, the morning tea session was without any such unpleasantries. The combination of fresh air, good tea, birds singing, bees humming and good haiku, is most uplifting.

Here is a (pseudo)haiku of my own which occured to me that morning:

What a beautiful garden this is, with no one inside,
I enter.
A nice garden, think the people coming by.

I could go on for hours on the beauty and cleanliness of Haiku... 

However (lucky for you), this is a blog about tea, not about haiku. Back to the Mannuo and the afternoon, more analytic, session:

The dry leaves smell like fine young Bulang leaves - no smoke here, so far so good.

And another pointless detail:

The wet leaves bring happiness - smelling like good, sweet Bulang, rather dark, promisingly promising.

The taste is very solid too. It starts like a rather ordinary good Bulang, but without sourness, without smoke or any other unpleasantries which sometimes happen to young Bulang.

The liquor smells sugary, nothing unusual here (given that this is young premium tea - young Bulangs can smell pretty awful at times).

The 1st steepping is light on taste, nicely sweet, but woody, without anything overly interesting. The strong mouthfeel is very promising though.

The liquor is a bit more orange than one is used to in this young tea, but then again, why not? Leaves are in a good shape.

From the 2nd steeeping on, good taste of garden fruit starts complementing the sweet woodiness, creating a good harmony. The bitterness is strong, of course, but not disturbing and it does transform well (into light fresh aftertaste). I like it more than the Bada aftertaste, part of which did never really transform. The mouthfeel of this Mannuo is very nice (stronger than in Bada) and lasts long, accompanied by good hui gan.

Around the 6th brew or so, the garden fruit starts disappearing, leaving grassy-woody sweet water. Fine, yet a bit ordinary.

The tea is a mixture of various grades of leaves (btw. would be someone so kind and enlighten me on how to determine a grade? Is it dependent on varietal? Or is it just a conversion table of size x to y = grade z?):

What I do appreciate about this tea indeed is its high thickness and sweetness, while the taste is clear and strong. Even the bitterness does not kill the taste. The components of this tea play well along one another. I'm curious to taste the 2011 version to see the difference.

All in all, this is a fine, "propertly" done tea - good taste (for a young tea), good mouthfeel, good strength. Whether you want to spend $80+ for 400g of good tea, that is up to you. In this genre, I would much rather buy 2006 Haiwan Pa Sha Ancient Arbor or 2007 Boyou Manlu, both way cheaper. I think the former to be better overall, the latter being slightly more tasty and slightly weaker feeling in mouth, also a bit thinner than the Mannuo. Still, I'd prefer to drink the 2007 Manlu over this young Mannuo. Of course, you might say "But wait, in five years, the Mannuo will be a gem". Of course, it is possible (and it is possible that it will not be a gem too). However, when it is 5, the Pasha/Manlu will be about 10 years old, being pretty much on another level. Maybe in 20-30 years, the advantage of the 5 years will go away and  this Mannuo will prove itself to be a great value. Maybe...

To finish up with a positive note, for a change - I am glad that can do a "world-class" young puerh. My issue is with  prices vs. quality of young tea in general, not with 

12 komentářů:

  1. I find the Western fascination of Haiku rather interesting. I suppose something about the extreme terseness of the form attracts people, but poetry is not just about efficiency of words, and the world of poetry in East Asia is far greater than just Haikus. There's beauty in the long forms as well. Witness Du Fu's works - there's a reason he can reasonably claim to be the world's greatest poet ever, and he never wrote a Haiku. Basho was an admirer, for one. Stephen Owen has some in his Tang poetry books, or you can look at Burton Watson's translations. Check them out.

    Anyway, back to tea - how do you boil water while you're at the spring? And your analysis of the price dynamics of the teas are spot on, which is why I recently said on my blog that I find the 5-10 years range to be the place best positioned for value-hunting.

  2. MarshalN: What I like about haiku is the cleanliness - I agree that efficiency is not a positive feature on its own, but I find it amazing, how complex feelings may be "indirectly encoded" by haiku, while "direct encoding" (prosaic description) will be inefficient and inaccurate.

    I do not remember having the "aha moments" while reading Du Fu. But, on the other hand, I probably did not have clean enough mind when I did read it. I'll have a second look at it. I enjoy reading other Chinese poets, or even european poets (Lorca is my favourite), but it all seems very complex to me - I am probably not too good at understanding complex poetry, while I often feel very good and inspired when reading haiku. Thus - my preference for haiku is my shortcoming, rather than a shortcoming of the rest of poetry.

    To an extent, I think that poetry reflects ways of thinking/philosophy of a population. A lot of european writing is complex, a lot of text and the thoughts are often expressed semi-directly - and that is how the people tend to think and talk about things here - often failing to capture the point. On the other hand, haiku is elegant and "straight to the point", not caring about direct description, but ultimately working better. I feel that haiku largely corresponds with zen approach to feeling/thinking, which I like. I know that zen thinking was watered down by western wannabes, but just because something went mainstream and mutated, I do not need to dislike the former teachings.

    Another thing I like about haiku is a certain sort of humour in some of them - the japanese humor is very different from, e.g., czech humor (or european humor in general) and I enjoy enjoying it.

    Nevertheless, thanks for your recommendations, as soon as I get healthy, I'll look them up.

    To the matter of water - that morning, I just brought a thermo bottle with me (with the last litre of the previous batch of the spring water that I brought home). When I have more time, I take the Chaozhou tea stove and a portable gas burner to light up the coal.

    All the best!

  3. I think Haiku allows for more creative freedom on the part of the interpreter - you can bend it to your will, so to speak, whereas reading other kinds of poetry, your mind is really trying to construct a picture, a scenery, and thus have less room for interpretation. Maybe that's why. I just find it interesting how Haiku, alone among all Asian poetry, is so widely read in the West.

    Ah, the good old thermos. Those things can be useful indeed. I brewed tea using one of those while living in the university dormitory.

  4. I agree on the interpretation part. Also, the interpretation may be simple and "exact", while in poetry, where larger picture or scenery is drawn, it often gives certain feelings, but they are not as easily "named" or felt as a single strong percept.

    In the Czech Republic, haiku came as a part of japanomania around 2003-2006. I also do not know why the japanomania came - I guess that it could have been Princess Mononoke played on TV. Shortly after, a lot of other anime and manga came. And haiku too. There were some courses on writing haiku, but those that I visited were quite bad - forcing one into the 5-7-5 form (but in different language!) and concentrating on the "outer appearance" of haiku (natural motives, seasonal words,...), missing the point. No wonder that these courses vanished quickly.

    To the thermos - very helpful things indeed. I think that local tea folks are heavily reliant on them. Many tearooms are starting to serve tea as "gong-fu" with a thermobottle. I think it's much better to keep water in a given temperature than these electric kettles that bring water to a temperature and then keep it there.


  5. I really enjoyed reading your last post and the pictures, Jakub .) And I like your pocket teapot too, it looks so lovely! I believe Petrin could be a great place to have a nice and calm tea session, especially in the morning. I do not have my personal experience yet but reading your blog I really felt the need to do so soon .)

    All the best,


  6. As I looked at your photographs of the spring and its surrounding forest, and then glanced out of my window at the solid block of concrete that is Beijing, I felt deep jealousy.

    I appreciate your commentary on this tendency of philosophical writers to "make simple things difficult so that they can explain them to others." Sometimes authors like you mentioned are more interested in stroking their own ego than conveying an idea.

    And on a practical note, how do you usually boil your water on excursions outside?

  7. TwoDog: Well, if I glance out of my window, I see also fields of concrete... That is not to diminish the beauty of Prague - it is a really great place to live. The spring is about 6km from where I live, which is translates to circa 20 minutes by bike which is quite ok.

    Concerning the simple things being made difficult, I sort of see that in christianism (hope I won't be crucified for this comment as I'm not a believer) as I see it, the basic non-spiritual thoughts and "point" of christianism are "simple" and I feel that they are very good and kind. All the believers I know & admire feel the "core" I think. But it is not easy to make somebody understand that core. It took me many years to feel parts of it (the complete picture is probably too clouded and complex for me, given that I can not spend too much time on studying it) and I could not explain it - it's really like reading a haiku - if you understand it, it gives a clean, well defined image in head, but it is not easy to describe it by prosaic, direct words to someone else. I think that the countless rituals and habits of certain denominations of christianity are like the prosaic attempts to describe contents of haiku/core of the "good thinking", so that people who do not live and feel the thoughts may say "righto, I'm a good christian now".

    The water - as I said to MarshalN - sometimes I use a thermobottle with water from home, sometimes I take a Chaozhou tea stove and boil the water using that, which yields clearly better water, but it takes a lot more time.

    Btw. your teas have arrived safe and sound! Now I'm ill and can not even feel the taste of fresh garlic when I chew it, but as soon as I get better, I'll have a look at them.

  8. Hi,
    I too have wondered about the popularity in the west for the haiku form. A rather simple explanation behind phenomenon is could be that it's an easier form to translate: japanese and chinese often come out a bit crude in direct translations to european languages, or so it seems to me, and while this might reinforce the workings of the haiku, it might take away something from other forms of literary expression (without a translator willing to take liberties with the text).

    The main reason is probably (as have been mentioned), the simplicity - or, rather, the conceived simplicity - of the haiku and similar forms, that in turn makes it more accessible to people. It doesn't demand much prior poetic experience or contextual knowledge just to appreciate a haiku, though of course there can often be multiple layers of understanding beneath what the casual reader might fathom.

    Here I would like to add that the notion of artists making things purposefully and unnecessarily complicated is, well, too simple. Of course there is pretentious people out there hiding a lack of talent this way, but their careers are often short lived. But true art is demanding, and should be in my opinion. Take tea for example (I think of tea as an artistic experience): would you prefer it if tea masters only made tea that everybody in the world could immediately appreciate?

    You, Jakub, and most of your readers here have spent years experiencing different aspects of tea and building references to help understand, contemplate and convey these experiences. It's the same with any art form. It is not really immediate, but rather charged over many years and so much more powerful and rewarding for that reason.

    Best wishes

  9. Hi Johan,
    you may be right, what you say makes perfect sense. Still, tanga poetry should not be more difficult to translate than haiku, but the more complex poems could.

    I did not say that the artists are making things unnecessarily complicated. I could have slightly ment in the case of religion, but not in the art. They do things in a complicated way and it may be >>not for me<< - but it is purely my problem, not theirs. I like the simplicity of haiku because I can (to an extent) understand it and gain pleasure from it. Although I may think of several things at once, I can feel only one way at a moment - and if haiku gives me a feeling that is strong and clean enough, it is sufficiently strong form to me.

    To the tea masters - of course I would prefer if tea masters made tea which everybody in the world could enjoy - the world would be a better place with such a tea!

    I may be glad that I learned something along my years with tea, but it is not ment compared to others (I'm chronically afraid of comparing to others), but compared to me - I'm glad I could become better at something.

    Nevertheless, I agree that art and tea making is time consuming and demanding, most definitely. And the difference between "art" and "non-art" may seem very little. If I look at how I prepared tea 5 years ago and how I prepare it now, the difference is probably visually very small (e.g., I do not think that my parents would spot any visual difference). The funny thing, of course, is that one can not simply throw the experience onto someone else...

    With haiku, it's similar in a way - pointful and pointless haiku may seem quite similar at a first glance (nature, breeze, seasonal words), but they are very different. And one does not simply learn how to write haiku I think. Except by living, observing and writing haiku.

    In some artistic disciplines, there are techniques to be learned before one starts expressing himself in the art - but that's just more time spent on learning. And some tend to switch the technique for the art which may yield not-that-good results (yet, there are adorers of technique too, why to rob them of their joy?)... Nevertheless the technique often serves the art, doubtlessly. It's up to consumers whether they like the non-technical painting (represented by haiku) or technical one.

    For me, poetry and painting are different here. In poetry, I enjoy haiku and do not understand "technical" poetry (but I believe that there is "something"). In painting, I generally never thought much of non-technical painting (which I also probably just did not understand), but I could, to an extent, appreciate the technical one, because I clearly saw I could not paint that without considerable training.

    Hmm, it became a stream of thoughts rather than a coherent message. Hope you don't mind that.

    All the best and thanks for your comment!

  10. Hi again and thanks for the reply. Maybe I was jumping the gun a little, sorry for that! I guess I'm just frustrated in general with societies growing contempt for art more challenging than, say a picture of a crying baby, a notion most strikingly purported by the revived xenophobic movements in europe or the tea party-people in the us.

    I should also have realized that the space of a blog comment doesn't give much room to effectively pre-counter all potential misunderstandings. ust to be sure here: I did not imply that you are anything even resembling a populist (perhaps I should add a smiley her just to be safe).

    I wasn't saying that one need for a majority of people to be left out for art to be any good, or even that, for the experience to have true purpose, one have to position it in regard to other people. It's not a question of other people at all but rather, as you say, about oneself. To me, to my subjective self, a piece of art (like a good tea) with which I can make use of my gained knowledge and previous experiences, will give me much more than something that doesn't contain any of the stuff to challenge me that way. It's not about complexity either, but rather that there is never room enough for everything important to be kept at the surface level and that it often takes some work to reach deeper down.

    My prediction would be that a tea that can be enjoyed in it's totality by everybody in the world will risk being one-dimensional. The ideal is of course a combination of the both surface and depth. Premium tea is perhaps a perfect example of such a potential combination, in that one single tea often has some powerful traits that speaks to newcomers while also containing deeper complexities that demand an experienced drinker to be fully appreciated.

    We can wish it to be otherwise, but it is the human condition that people are bound by our limitations, and that we will reach deeper understanding mainly in those fields that we, up until then, have used our limited time to explore. An architect will see more in a building than most others would. You Jakub might read something in to a haiku that I would never even think of. (or a bureaucrat might see beauty in an especially accomplished survey form)

    Enough about that. But thanks again for letting me vent!

    I've been to the hill a few times when visiting Prague. It's a very nice hike and a good respite from the tourist bustle below. So far I have missed that spring of yours, but will have to look it up next time. We have great tap water here (middle of Sweden), semi-hard and very clean. It's better suited for heavier teas I've noticed (puerh, yancha, dancong etc), which might explain my preferences. The many springs around town has the same source of water as the tap (groundwater), though the spring water is much harder, so actually worse for tea.

    I enjoyed this Mannou, but maybe not enough to commit to a larger purchase. 7g is not much to build an opinion on (not that I'm complaining over free tea, mind you), so maybe I should get a bigger sample before making up my mind. I like Peter and it would be good to try to support a minor tea producer daring to make high class puerh, especially these days of soaring prices - yet the demand seem to be soaring as well (his Bada for example).

    Well, sorry for the never ending comment! I just hope I've not complicated my points even further than before.

    Take care

  11. Hi Johan,
    I hope I did not seem as being offended - because I have not been (you'd have to try much, much harder :)) - all is good I hope!

    Now, to the rest - I'll note to what is my answer related by quoting a start of the related paragraph:
    "My prediction...": I agree that in practise, what appeals to masses is not considered to be a pinnacle of quality - one may see that in pop stars and these things. I was just thinking abstract about how it would be nice to have something to make people happy. On the other hand, sheeple fed by tabloid press are doing it for hapiness, yet is not what I would think too wise. In the end, one gets back to what is the point of people (Be happy? Get somewhere? ...?). Going back to your post, I agree about the premium. E.g., most non-tea-drinking visitors whom I offer tea from older trees do not detect any hint of cooling mouthfeel which is one of principal components for me and my girlfriend. That's why I stopped serving puerh to those who are not interested in it. I use mostly Dan Congs or roasted TGY/Dong Ding, they enjoy it more and I am not heartbroken that they do not love the puerh I served them as I do. No visit actually said they did not like puerh, they always do, but the spark of passion is just not there :)

    "We can..." I agree here, again. And I do like the sort of knowledge one acquires by doing things, because it is "real". It's completely unlike some "educated people" who just manifest how educated and smart they are, not really using their knowledge for "real things". Whole another level of weird knowledge to have is the kind of "learn how to understand people" - with all those "wise" advices of the "if he looks up-right, he lies to you" things. I've seen people using this advice literally and it was a mess... And these people did claim they actually understand people. Ugh.

    To the tea and water (no quoting here as it is not that long) - no wonder you missed the spring. I kept missing it for years - a friend has actually told me about it and that is how I came to know it.

    Swedish water sounds so good... I've never actually been to Sweden, but it seems so clean, pure and connected to nature (the water, at least). I think that a bit hard water is better than soft water (MarshalN has written about it rather thoroughly).

    Yes, will not buy more of the Mannuo either. I bought a bit bigger samples to have two tastings of each but so far, none of them has impressed me to a point of buying. However, no 2011-12 cake has interested me to a point of buying so far. I'm still waiting for Chawangshop's Jingmai, that is the only likely candidate, but other than that, I do not see myself buying a lot of new tea. Still, I think that these Peter's teas are very nice and perfectly up to par with young teas of other producers so if one likes young puerh, they're as good as buy as any other - it's really up to which regions one does like and which he does not.

    I just sorted my Googledocs spreadsheet by year and there is no 2011+ tea I'd be thrilled about (some up to a point that I have not written about them). I'm a fan of 2010 YS Purple Yi WU, but it is not a hugely awesome tea in absolute measures. I think that the 2010 YS Yibang is probably close to the best 2010+ tea I know (2010 HLH Chawang is excellent too, but very expensive). It is still available, I'm pondering whether to buy it or not quite often...

    Thanks for your comment, you have not complicated your points - I believe they are clear as swedish water!
    Good night :)

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