středa 12. prosince 2012

Back from Oxford, drinking 2004 Xinfu Yi Wu

I have been silent for so long as I have been preparing for Oxford DPhil interviews and, of course, being there for real. The good news is that both me and my girlfriend are in! 

What is Hobbesville like then? Short version - beautiful and awesome. It is full of lovely architecture and it feels very much "intelectually alive", despite being a smaller town. Everyone there, including weather, has been really kind to us. 

And yes, I have met Hobbes too! You could hardly find a more prototypical englishman, in that english good-looking manner one knows from movies. Having a tea at Balliol college, we had a highly inspiring talk and drank some nice english-style hongcha. Hobbes is obviously a person of many capabilities and accents. Not only he is a wielder of a perfect english, he has the best grip of chinese I have ever seen in a non-chinese persion too. He even knew how my name is pronounced. Join that with his countless research successes and happy family life and you'll quickly come to the conclusion that he's one of those people tremendously gifted by fate. I hope that this will remain true for another thousand years.

This is our college of choice. It is admittedly not as sexy as Balliol above, but it seems that its qualities are also plentiful.

However, this is not a blog about my life (I hope), but it's about tea. Therefore, let's return to our round-robin. Chawangshop takes the turn now with its 2004 Xinfu.

When I tasted it for the first time, I quickly thought "this is better than your ordinary 2002-2005 $30 teas from Chawangshop". Looking up the price ($95), I had my suspicions confirmed. This is indeed a higher end product.

The leaves are reasonably dark. The tea has been rather dry stored, but in boundaries of reason. It is nowhere near green mummies from 90s. I.e., this is a "Kunming aged", rather than "Kunming stored" tea. It has been in a warehouse, maybe it had better aging conditions there than a lot of Kunming stored tea which turns out badly.

The aroma of wet leaves is medium heavy, Yiwuesque, sweet, with a bit of honey and with fruity wood and apple powidl (powidl is a sort of plum stew, but an analogy can be created from apples too).

The taste is also somewhere between light and heavy, the liquor is sweet and thick. It is closer to the nutty-honey family of Yiwu than to the dark forest fruit Yiwu, however, it is enriched by further taste components. There are tones of exotic wood and the apple powidl. The latter taste is quite pronounced in the aftertaste, when it very nicely mingles with mouthfeel of old trees.

However, the taste is a touch lighter than I'd wish. Astringency is low, bitterness is virtually none. The aftertaste is nice, calm, soothing. There is a strong gushu mouthfeel in the first couple of steepings, but it dissipates as steepings proceed, therefore I'm inclined to believe that the tea is a blend of old trees and younger trees. An inspection of spent leaves sort of confirms this observation.

In means of immediate enjoyment, I do not think I'd want to pay $95 for it (SKM Yibang of 2004 is cheaper and more to my taste). The tea is certainly lovely and without bigger faults, but it is not yet something really extra. However, I think that the reason is the slower aging process, the tea is still in its teenage and I believe that after some years of aging, it may become really very good. It just needs time to acquire more depth and darker aspects. In my opinion, it's a nice example of good dry storage - the tea keeps some aspects from its youth, while developing other features and further complexity. 

I've heard that some people in the Czech Republic labelled me as an enemy of dry storage... my answer is - this tea is what I consider to be dry stored and I have no mind at all. I do not have the slightest issue with reasonable dry storage. I do, however, have an issue with vendors who store their tea in extremely dry conditions (because they do not have any other option) and make their buyers believe that it is the "proper dry storage".

Overall, I'd say that this is a good tea and it may be worth the asked price, but it still yet has to unleash its undoubtable potential. For immediate drinking, I'd buy something else.

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