neděle 22. prosince 2013

2012 Spring Shen Gu You Lan

I dug out a sample of this tea from Tea Urchin just recently and was positively surprised - among so many young teas that are no fun, this one is actually really good.

It is supposed to be a mixture of Bingdao (or near-Bingdao) leaves and Da Xue Shan - I certainly feel it falls close from the centroid of the "Bingdao" cluster I have in my memory. And therefore, it is quite lovely.

Rinsed leaves smell dark flowery (magnolia, orchid), fruity (grapefruit/pomelo) - heavily and very nicely.

The taste is really good - it has the same features as the aroma (plus vanilla and sometimes forest fruit and roasted chestnuts) and it is rich, silky-smooth and undisturbingly sweet. When you're in the middle of enjoying the taste, it gets accompanied by quite strong and unusually early tingling and cooling.

The aftertaste is not the strongest one, being citrusy-floral, but not particularly intense or long-lasting.

Some teas smite you with their qi right away - this one does not work like that on me - but after a while, the energy builds up and becames really strong and harmonizing. It forms a good harmony with the Rachmaninov's 1st piano concerto I'm listening to right now.

This is a good tea, no doubt. Whether you want to pay $110 is up to your preference for young tea. In the cruel world, where even $100+ can get you not-so-good tea, I found this tea to be pretty good, being basically faultless and with some really nice positive features.

That said, $110 can get you a basic cake from 90s which will probably work better for some people (e.g., me).

neděle 1. prosince 2013

Revisiting old chums

Hello dear readers. I've been recently drinking mostly things I've written about before. However, why not to write about the development of these teas? My opinions are below, in no particular order.

1999 Wu  Dong Cha Tou
Wow, this aged Dan Cong wulong starts to really shine. When more leaves are used, it is strong-tasting, very sweet, full and relaxing. A good purchase.

2010 Hailanghao Yiwu Chawang
At that time, it was an uber-expensive tea - so expensive, that it would be expensive even these days. I did not overly care for its taste, but I felt that its qi was outstanding. Now it tastes stronger and more interesting - very sweet, sugary, with some pretty flower tones. However, the qi is not really as strong as I felt it when I had it in the past. I'm glad I did not buy more of this tea I guess.

2004 Shi Kun Mu Yibang
This is from another batch (or it tastes so) than the one I wrote about. While it still tastes quite nice, it is a bit more hollow and not-deep than one would wish from a very high quality tea.

2004 Shi Kun Mu Menghai
A very solid blend, ages really nicely - even though it is still quite bitter (or it can be), it shows good promise for the future. And it is quite pleasant as it is - a good, solid, classical puerh.

2006 Haiwan Pa Sha
Still a very good tea, still very vulnerable to bad water.

2007 "Banzhang" tuocha
This is the cheap 250g tuocha that I got from Sampletea and that is currently being sold by Chawangshop. It is still as delightful as when I had it for the first time. It was also one of favourites between colleagues in school who are new-ish to pueerh.

2008 Xiaguan Happy tuo
Pretty good, did not change so much since I had it for the last time. I like the mixture of smoke and fruitiness. Not my everyday pu, but everymonth yes.

1993 Kang Zhuan 
Cheap heicha from Chawangshop - decent qi, pleasant light taste, what's not to like? It's not pu, of course, but you can hardly blame it.

2003 Menghai Bada tuocha
A really complex taste, but as with other Bada teas, I miss something in there. Anyway, it's still a good fun to drink, no doubt.

2010 YS Youle Ya Nuo
Simple, but very, very tasty. One of the better (if not best) Youle teas I know.

2012 Chawangpu Jingmai Da Zhai
An excellent Jingmai, not really that similar to "ordinary" Jingmai teas. With time, it acquired more depth and more taste that I slightly missed in it when it was fresh.

2007 Xizihao Dragon and Phoenix
Not very good - slightly smoky, a bit boring... It would be an ok-ish tea, was it not priced so crazily.

2003 Wistaria Zi Pin
Still so good. The taste is something that takes getting used to, but it is a very coherent, energetic and powerful tea.

neděle 17. listopadu 2013

3x 99 Yiwu maocha, 2008 Bada, 2012 Autumn Yiwu

Hello again! The bad thing about being most of the day in school is that there is litle time for tea at home, which also means less time for writing. Ah, can't be helped I guess. Anyway, I collected my paper notes on these three "Slovak" puerh teas to convert them into online form.

By the way, it's probably like that for longer time, but it has been brought to my attention (huge thanks Marketa) that Google added space for storing photos at Picasa. I.e., if you, like me, have filled the 1GB quite quickly and had to link to other websites, it's possible to upload pictures "natively" again.

Many thanks to Peter from for providing these teas!

Let's take it chronologically again, starting with the grandpa of these three:

1999 Yiwu maocha

Pretty, is it not? And it smells quite good too - like an aged Yiwu. There is some additional humidity on top of that which I enjoy.

Rinsed leaves smell sweet, aged and decent, with small amount of fishiness. It seems to me that the variance in aged maochas is a lot smaller than in cakes or even tuos... 

The liquor is quite dark even for a 99 maocha, almost pitch black. That's not a bad thing though, just saying...

In mouth, I'd say the tea is "adequate". It's aged, it's kind of sweet and full (though not really like a cake), with a bit of vanilla. There are still remnants of fruitiness, which make it quite interesting. Also, small amount of extra humidity seems to make this tea stand out a bit in a lot of generic aged maochas - it's actually quite nice. It is a decent approximation of good, rich aged tea, but it's not really "it", if you know what I mean. Anyway, it's pleasant enough to be sure. 

Compared to the 99 Yiwu I tasted recently from Origintea, the one from seems a bit richer, less fishy and overall better (and a lot more expensive too).

Two things that I did mind slightly (not like they're bad, it's just that one slightly expects them) was general lack of qi and not that great stamina. The tea gave me about 10-11 steepings, while decently aged cakes from 90 can often give up to 20. 

I seem to appreciate loose aged tea less and less, which is unfortunate, given that it is cheaper than compressed tae. Such is the price of learning I guess. 

So - I did enjoy this 99 maocha, but do not expect aged tea enlightment. Also, it seems a bit more expensive to me than it should (0.6$ per gram). The 2001 BGT seems like a lot better tea to me an it is actually cheaper. But it's just my ill-judged opinion so don't go by it :)

2008 Bada
Bada boom! 

Teachum Brano from Slovakia wrote highly of this tea and therefore I was quite eager to taste it. Is it good? It sure is. I may miss something in it, but it is good nevertheless.

The aroma is explosively fruity, sweet, with some darker notes which make it obvious that this is not really a young tea anymore.

The taste is...explosively  fruity too. There is a good mixture of various sorts of fruits - darker jam, ripe garden fruit and some fresh, higher, grape-like tops. Even though the taste is a bit on the dry side, it is full and sweet.

It has got some nice huigan, which I enjoyed. Not much qi, unfortunately.

The strange thing about Bada seems to me that even these which taste really good (this 2008 Bada or Menghai's 2003 Bada), there is something I miss in them, there is a sort of hollowness in comparison to "classical" regions, such as Bulang or Yiwu.

But still, it tastes really nice - I think that for most people, it will be a great tea and they won't mind what I minded a bit.

2012 Yiwu
When I first tasted this tea, I thought "ah, another generic young Yiwu". Later, I realized it's more. Even though the basic form is indeed usual youngish Yiwu - wet straw, sweetness, sugariness and dark forest fruit. The bonus is that this tea is fun to drink, which can't be said about all young Yiwus. The fruitiness is accompanied by slight mixture of "candy" and camphor.

Therefore, I'd say that this is basically a very well done Yiwu tea - perhaps  not astonishing, but it makes you think "hey, this is definitely better than normal". At the same time, it's good to realized that given today's crazy pricing of Yiwu, it is rather cheap. 

Smoothness of this tea is quite remarkable - it's smoothness itself in the initial steepings, becoming a bit astringent with time, but not in an unpleasant way.

You could say that it is autumnal, which is baaaaad, but I don't think that's really true. Autumnal tea can be good from time to time and this one is an example of that.

neděle 3. listopadu 2013

1998 Fu Cha Ju Jingmai with tea flowers

After some time, I tasted something new. Most of my tea sessions happen in school these days, so there is not really enough time for taking pictures or tasting anything special. And, not knowing why, I recently started feeling that I want to become better acquainted with the teas I have in greater quantity. Nevertheless, I had a free(ish) afternoon, so why not to have something interesting? And this Fuchaju tea interesting is. Scented teas are not something I'd usually drink, but the addition of tea flowers seems like a nonviolent way of enhancing a tea (I think that especially Youle and Jingmai might profit from these). Also, the addition of tea flowers does not seem to change the basic character of a tea. When I had 2005 Fuchaju Jingmai and 2005 Fuchaju Jingmai with tea flowers side by side, both these teas were essentially similar, the latter being a bit sweeter and more rounded. But the addition of tea flowers seems to be nowhere near adding jasmine or magnolia, in means of overall change to a tea.

I really enjoyed that 2005 Jingmai thing with flowers, but that was about it, I haven't encountered anything like that, until Honza of Chawangshop sent me a sample of the 1998 version, also by Fuchaju (btw. Chawangshop also made Jingmai cake with tea flowers this year, I'm quite curious what it's like). 

What do seven teas of aging do to an already pretty good tea (given that the source material is the same, which it probably isn't)? And what do three years of aging change in a tea lover? Wasn't it just a whim of years past that I liked the combination previously?

The leaves do not look like a 1998 tea (spoiler - the tea feels younger overall, but it's not a problem), but it seems that the cake has been just stored in a rather dry environment. 

The dry leaves smell of meadow flowers and fruit - a bit more like Youle than like Jingmail, but pretty nevertheless. There is no trace of agedness, on the other hand, there is no trace of faults in aging process either. 

The wet leaves smell really good, explosive - a myriad of interweaving fruits, jam and ripe wine grapes (white). Further components are herbalness and "apples with cinnamon". In general, the aroma is very harmonic.

(the second photo has a more faithful color). You may see that the liquor is quite light, though perhaps not as light as one might expect, given the greenness of dry leaves. Also, it is obvious that Oxford water is hard indeed (this is after filtration). 

If you can free your mind from the shackles of expecting a normally aged tea (I can), this is a very interesting and enjoyable tea, being good in many areas. The taste is simply good. The tea tastes youngish (2004?), but the darker and complex background suggests that there is is indeed some further time spent aging. What is important to me is, that a) there is no sourness/bad red fruit/hem string taste from dry storage, b) aged Jingmai hongcha-iness (btw. I think you could cease expecting a normal aged tea just because this is a Jingmai tea).  The taste contains a mixture of garden fruits, ripe white grapes and meadow flowers - all mixed with a honey-like sweetness. It is very good in being balannced, with full low, mid and high tones. It is like high-class aged white wine in many aspects.

What surprised me the most was the extraordinarily strong and pleasant aftertaste. It is fruity and honey-like and it is really, really uncommonly good. There is actually an intersection with what is found in the "aged Jingmai hongcha-iness", but it is not strong enough to stand out in a peculiar way.

What makes this tea a very good one (and strictly better than the 2005 version) is good and fast huigan, good tongue-tickling and quite obvious and "world-connecting" qi.  

Overall, I enjoyed this tea very much. It may not be the most typical example of puerh (actually, it is rather an outlier), but I find it very complex, refreshingly new, while it manages to keep the good aspects that puerh can have. Only thing that was slightly disturbing me was the rather high astringency, but that was only a minor thing, hardly a big problem.

I don't think that this is a tea that needs further long-term storage. But for drinking now or in a couple of years, it seems like a really good choice.

středa 16. října 2013

Tasting Origintea: 2001&2 Haiwan HOP, 2003 Purple Dayi, 1990s round cake

While I was quite content with the loose leaf teas from Origintea, I remember that when I tasted some of the compressed stuff, I was unimpressed at best and horrified at worst - which is unfortunate, because the owner of Origintea, Tony, is such a nice chap. Most of the teas tended to suck - these, I'm giving them a second chance (and they are better than they were indeed, if nothing else, weird storage smell in some of them is gone). I think that some of them are a grand example of why overly dry storage sucks - and no, it is not that the tea ages slower and retains complexity, that's nonsense. The tea gets too dry and I don't think it would ever get better. MarshalN has written about one such tea (2001 CYH) here. I'll write about the CYH in future too. 

Today, there's some optimism, at least - it is called "The good, the bad, the bad and the weird".It goes chronologically.

2003 Menghai Purple Dayi
I usually like Purple Dayi and this one is not an exception.

The compression is heavy indeed. Nevertheless, these chunks smell pretty good, of plums, mint and raisins. After rinsing, it is interestingly sweet, with tones of longan - it feels rather northern, but without the occassional northern hardness. There is some camphor in the background, and, unfortunately, an element of hollowness.

In mouth, one quickly can tell that this is a decent tea - sweet, thick, long-lasting (both in taste and number of steepings) and rather tasty. In the first steepings, it feels Mengku-ish, with a mixture of longan fruitiness, overripe garden fruit and some wood. Later, another family of tastes chimes in (feels more like Bulang to me) - some meadow flowers and dark brown honeylike sweetness. The element of hollowness from the aroma is not present at all, which is good.

Both families of tastes work well together, creating a nice, dark taste spectrum, and in means of pleasure, it is not important which one dominates at a given moment.

Overall, this is a very warming tea with calming qi - very good for this kind of cold Oxford days.

2002 Haiwan HOP
Supposedly 50% from Yiwu, I'm afraid that this is a pretty bad tea. Just look at the leaves and color of liquor.

Is this a 2010 tea? No... 2008 then? No... But it surely does not have a color of normal 2002 tea either (I don't think it's a fake though). It has been stored very dry, obviously.

The aroma of dry leaves is a bit smoky - same with rinsed leaves, which add some woodiness and rancid walnuts to the mix.

The taste is nothing to write home about either. There is a rancid nuttiness, generic sweet wood, emptiness and a large component of "plain weirdness".

Qi? No way. Some activity in mouth is there, but I'm not sure if it's a bug (pesticides) or a feature here.

This tea is, in my opinion, dead and gone. Even if you revive it, it will be hardly much good - it's probably better to invest your energy elsewhere.

2001 Haiwan HOP

This one has a bit bigger and better conserved leaves than the 2002. It is also quite without smoke. But that's unfortunately about it when it comes to good stuff.

This is a hollow, dried out tea, without much energy in it. When it manifests some strength, it does so via weird tastes and unpleasant sourness.

It is somewhat drinkable when you have zero expectations, but otherwise, I'd steer clear of it.

1990s Round cake
The previous two teas were largely without positives - the same can't be said about this cake, despite its numerous shortcomings.

The dry leaves smell quite nicely, of nuts. The wet leaves smell rather earthy, but not in a classical puerh way. A lot of red fruit and woody tannins is also present. Some laundry and some nuts finish it up - nothing too great, though not tragic either.

In mouth, the tea is very sweet, in a positive, warming way. It starts a bit fishy/mineral, followed by sweet woodiness (not too great). However, it feels good in mouth overall, being thick and sweet.

After a couple of steepings, the fishiness subsides and gives way to drier woodiness and a taste I'd call "laundry". Simply put, it does not taste very good.

Nevertheless, it causes pleasant vibrations in mouth and the overall warming feeling is accompanied by a qi that takes some time to build up, but is rather obvious (to me, at least) - and which is calming and soothing. Therefore, even though this tea does not taste too good, I would not say it totally sucks - it also has some good aspects about it. In overall feeling, it bears some similarity to Guan Yun Gong teas...

čtvrtek 3. října 2013

2001 & 2004 Big Green Tree Yiwu

Peter of has been so kind to send me samples of his slightly more aged samples (from 1999 to 2004). I am doubly grateful for these, as all are pretty good... 

Today, let us have a look at two BGTs (private production, not an "official" one):

2004 Big Green Tree Yiwu
The cake is already dark and brown, mummy alert is off. It is a "black ribbon" edition (i.e., rich  in black hair). 

Rinsed leaves have a good aroma. It seems to be of the "dark forest fruit" sort of Yiwu, along with further fruitiness, but it is very nicely aged  already, one easily sees the additional depth. The aroma suggests (and the taste later confirms) that this is, quite interestingly, right between a tea's youth and old age. I had both a piece from the cake's centre and a piece further from it - the non-central part is quite a lot more aged. That is not surprising, due to strong compression of the centre, but it was interesting nevertheless - one does not compare a tea's centre and non-centre every day.

In taste, there is some very light fishiness - not too bad, but it slightly disturbed my first couple of steepings. Along that minor unpleasantness, a lot of pleasant tastes marches on - lovely forest fruit, some clay and moss. Later steepings introduce more of overripe fruit and powidl, the more aged tones get stronger and nuts appear in the taste and aftertaste.

The tea has plenty of good sweetness and thickness. Activity (vibrations, rather than cooling) is good, it starts behind teeth and moves to the back of oral cavity. There is some qi, but it is not really that developed, in my opinion.

All in all, this is quite a good tea and its price ($80 or so) is very competitive. I'll buy some of that, methinks...

2001 Big Green Tree Yiwu
At last, I unpacked my camera, which is why I hope to post more photos regularly again.

The nicely colored leaves (yay, Guangzhou storage) emit a peaceful, aged camphory aroma. The aroma becomes much more interesting when the leaves are rinsed: it has tones of sweet wood, camphor, overripe forest fruit and some red fruit. It is sweet and suggests excellent storage conditions.

The taste is undoubtedly of the "somewhat aged Yiwu" family, but it is deeper and more complex than most of these. This Yiwu tea is very sweet, in a caramel way, which mixes with tastes of raisins, overripe forest fruit and plumminess (the plummy component actually starts to dominate the taste after a couple of steepings; it is a bit like 06 CGHT's Yiwu Yecha). The sweetness is both deep and wide and I find it entirely lovely. There were some slightly disturbing (laundry-like) tastes in the first two steepings, but I guess that they're just an aspect of the plumminess.

The aftertaste is also very nice, with a bit of camphor and later long-term aftertaste of young plums. These good post-taste features are paired with pleasant numbing of mouth (not the bad pesticide-like sort of numbing).

It definitely has stronger qi than the 2004 version. Still, it is not an "in your face" qi powerhouse, but it needs some time to build up instead. 

This is a tea which has many good features and little to no bugs. However, I found it lacking in "X factor" - although I enjoyed the two sessions with this tea, they were by no means "wow sessions". Anyway, I guess that this is purely personal and you might have even better time than I had (and it was pretty good already) with this tea.

Both the 2001 and 2004 versions of BGT sold by are, in my opinion, very nice teas, well worth sampling.

neděle 29. září 2013

2008 Finepuer Ding Jia Zhai & 2000 Menghai Dayi Fragrant Bamboo Tube

Oxford seems like an awfully nice place to be at, I must say. We already had our first puerh session with Hobbes, which and who were both extraordinarily nice. The only aspect in which Oxford seems to suck is the water. Hobbes has shed some light upon that matter, as he told me that it probably comes from lots of chalk nearby... maybe it's a good water for old-fashioned teachers... However, it is certainly not good for puerh or any other tea if it comes to that. The first day here, we had a pot of plain old Earl Grey and there was almost a crust at the surface, not only a thin coating. I'm definitely glad I brought my Brita over...

I've been retasting teas I know well these days, so I won't write about them, but I picked two teas from my "archive of paper notes" (a chaotic stack of tattered yellow paper, covered with hieroglyphs) as they both are rather interesting and/or decent. By the way, why is there "and/or" in english? "Or" should always dominate "and"... Or is it that "and/or" is common OR and "or" is XOR? (Unfortunately, I hoped that I could be clearer in common talking using xor as a normal word, but so far, it has been more explaining than saved words with people outside of my discipline).

Ah, back to tea anyway...

2008 Finepuer Ding Jia Zhai
This tea felt quite interesting to me, as I did not think much of young DJZ when I had it, and furthermore, this particular one is not really a typical Yiwu tea I know. 

It's got a dark, sweet taste, of forest honey and sweet wood... it tastes a lot more like some aged Bulangs than a common Yiwu, imho... Anyway, it is properly thick, sweet and quite tasty, although the taste is not very dynamic and just gets weaker and weaker as steepings go. The tea is somewhat one-dimensional, but it is good at what it does.

Despite pleasant cooling, I feel the tea somewhat lacks in qi. That is the difference between decent and great tea, I think. Pure taste won't make me pay more than $50.

2000 Menghai Bamboo-tube puerh
Another tea from Finepuer/sampletea. Unfortunately, the photos lie deep under sands of time, so I'll at least describe the visual aspect. The tube is, unlike most I've met so far, very thin, hardly more than an inch in diameter. I wonered what such a large surface area would do to aging. 

The color of the liquor is very nice red/orange, a rather good color for a tea from 2000. Outside that, though, the tea is quite unlike any 2000 tea I have had, because of the very strong bamboo aspect. 

The aroma has a typical puerh based (not much aged puerh, though, like about 5 years), but on top of that, there are young and penetrating bamboo tones. Overall, the aroma is a mixture of lower, sweet (honey) aspects and higher ones - lemon an herbs. Overall, it smells very medicinal...

... And tastes medicinal too. The taste is very similar to the aroma, i.e., honey, herbs and lemon/lemongrass. The bamboo taste is quite similar to the one you might know from drinking Liu'An baskets, except it is a bit fresher. Unfortunately, the tea is not very dynamic and it did not feel very "internally powerful" to me (yes, also no qi). The bamboo aspect is strong and uncommon, but the tea aspect seems to be lacking and a bit hollow - could it be that there was litle volume unexposed to the environment in this tube?

Basically, I think that this is closer to an aromatized tea than to an ordinary puerh... which is ok, but it's good to know. I would look elsewhere for a good example of 2000 tea.

sobota 21. září 2013

All is good in Oxford

The pause in posting is due to myself  moving to Hobbesville. I'll be back online when I slay the evil dragon called "How to get internet at home" - I already brought together three mighty artifacts, but will it be enough?

On the other hand, cycling to college to get internet could make one healthy...hopefully. If I can find the paper with notes on the rest of Douji teas, I'll post them soon. Otherwise, see you in a couple of weeks

čtvrtek 5. září 2013

Doujithon: Alfa, beta, gamma, delta

Now, at last, I'll write my notes on these teas kindly sent to me by China Chadao via Hobbes' group sampling event. Why this late? Well, our excellent and efficient customs officers not only opened it to check for drugs (probably) for the first time - no problem with that - they just somewhat forgot to tell me that/when I should come for the tea after it is checked. When I asked them about the state of things when the waiting became rather too long, they just said "Oops, sorry, we already sent it back." Fortunately, Jerry of Chadao was kind enough to send it again and for the second time, it came right here, escaping the customs officers entirely.

Douji... I was never a huge fan of them (though I did not sample their teas through and through), always thinking that they were quite nice, but a bit more expensive than they should be. How are the following teas going to fare?

By the way, even though I sometimes discuss a tea's locality or price, I did not know these before tasting, i.e., the notes are based on truly blind tasting.

Just in case, if you haven't noticed them, check out Half Dipper and Mattcha

Alpha (Xiang Dou brick)
The rinsed leaves smell quite nice here, very light and fresh, but without that annoying ubiquitous "young sheng" aroma. It's flowery, with high fruity notes, rather intoxicating and full.

In mouth, the tea also works well. It is very smooth, young-fruity, entirely inoffensive - I'd call this a "pu lite". The mixture of fruity tastes changes throughout the session and is sometimes accompanied by leathery tones. Also, bitterness gets slightly stronger, but it's still quite easy.

In general, the tea is sweet, but qi-quiet and does not feel very penetrating/active overall. Also, it can not boast great stamina... on the other hand, as the tea does not change very dynamically between steepings, one wonders how much fun would be to have a very long session with a tea of this character.

It's a pleasant, clean, easily drinkable tea which does not cost much money (though one could arguably buy better tea at that price), it's definitely all right for drinking now. It rather reminds me of white wines of Alsace - clean, good at what it does, but not overly complex or intriguing. I'm not convinced that this tea will age well, but let's hope that Douji folks know what they're doing.

Beta (Hong Shang Dou)
The aroma of rinsed leaves is dark and sweet, "dark foresty", not as lightly fruity as Alpha's. It rather aims for sweet granary aroma, with a hint of something that could be labelled as smoky (northern - Simao or Lincang style). Fortunately, the semi-smokiness does not become very strong.

The Hong Shang Dou works quite all right in mouth, having two faces. The first face is a pleasant taste of sweet granary, clay, mixed with the "dark forestiness" and northern minerality... the second face being unpleasant tobacco smoke and dark green harshness - as seen in some teas from Mangfei (e.g., the YS' recent Iota). The difference is in... the amount of leaves and steeping time. When one steeps the tea in an easier way (shorter/less leaves), the first style dominates - but when one pushes the tea, it gets unpleasant and smoky. I never thought earlier that these two faces are actualy two sides of the same coin... I'll have to retaste some of these "bad, smoky" teas I guess.

However, even when one keeps the steepings short, some smoke eventually appears and toasts appear in the aroma of leaves. The smokiness is gentle, but not to my taste anyway.

Compared to Alpha, this tea feels more active on palate, while it seems still untouched by qi-stirring capabilities, nor great stamina. The sweetness is decent, bitterness and astringency are both low - i.e., the tea is quite easily drinkable,  if you can live up with some (fairly light) smokiness.

It's a tea that can develop in several ways and I'm not convinced it will go in one of the "right" direction (on the other hand, I'm not convinced it will suck either). 

Gamma (2013 Hong Da Dou)
The aroma contains a nice mixture of dark fruits (Yiwu-style), but also lighter, garden fruit (like Youle). Indeed, the cake is, according to Hobbes, composed of Manzhuan, Youle and Mengsong, so it is natural it has aroma of two of these... I could not pinpoint any "Mengsongness", on the other hand, I'm still unsure what's typical Mengsong like and how it changes via aging.

This is a fine tea, tasty and thick. It offers a good mixture of low/mid fruit, a bit of fresh nuts  and a sweet tobacco base (no smoke!); it's really a full and easygoing tea. Knowing the blend, I'm slightly missing the Manzhuan component, but given how weak Manzhuan often tastes, it is no surprise. My biggest issue with this tea is how quickly the taste disappears. I sipped it, enjoyed it for a couple of seconds... and puff, only a tail of light bitterness was present.

The lack of longer taste is a pity, because the tea is pleasantly active in mouth, fixating and contracting the palate and cooling behind teeth and in throat. 

While the Hong Da Dou has its qualities and is definitely a solid tea, I'd be worried if it's not going to run out of breath after a couple of years, were I to buy it. It's fine for non-meditative drinking, but probably not $37-like fine.

Delta (2008 Hong Da Dou)
Now, for a reference, the Gamma after five years... (when tasted blindly, I definitely did not realize that).

The aroma is interesting and unusual - herbal, barky, mossy, with some dark fruit at its bottom.

In mouth, it's good (no wonder, tastes Banna stored), however quite bitter (a lot more than its 2013 counterpart), but not unpleasantly (like some Bulangs). At the same time, the tea is quite sweet, with some dark garden fruint, sort of like apple powidl. There is a well-defined component of (bark OR sweet wood) AND herbs, pleasantly adjusted by light camphoriness. This aspect could be sort of seen as a part of Wistaria's Mengsong, although that one is definitely more aged.  As steepings go on, the "Youle-style" components - garden fruit, aged meadow flowers and meadow honey get more pronounced, as well as a sort of maltiness (which I could live without here)

All around, the combination of tastes is a very pleasant one, aging has been kind to this tea. Unfortunately, the tea is slightly hollow/empty. It's not too bad, but it makes it obvious how not-high-class this tea is. 

On the other hand, the long-term aftertaste is present and it is good, which is a plus. It also causes good vibrations in mouth, which is also good.

For the fourth time today, there is a tea with pros and cons (with pros winning by a bit), but, in my opinion, with a price tag of such a tea without the given cons... 

I.e., all of the Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta are nice teas, but possibly a bit more expensive than they should be, which is sort of in agreement with my previous view on Douji. Let's see how the next batch fares.

sobota 31. srpna 2013

2008 EoT Bulang & 2013 Guafengzhai

Today, it will be the last two of the new offerings by EoT (I'll write about the chemical tasting set later, I still could not get to it - but it's high on my TOTASTE list). Let's start with the one I liked less...

2013 Guafengzhai
Even though I enjoy GFZ teas very much in general, this one was a disappointment.

It starts with aroma. You can blame some Yiwu teas for lack of taste/aggressivity, etc., but only seldom for bad aroma of rinsed leaves. Here, it is not downright bad, it's just not too interesting - some wet straw, flowers and incense. It smells like a GFZ, but without some important components.

In mouth, the fact from the last sentence is accentuated. When you drink this, it's obvious how alike it is to good GFZ, but it lacks the deep sweetness and some other heavier tastes I like so much. It is more leathery, with some sort of floralness, but nothing too great. 

Both gongfu and tester preparation were disappointing with ordinary water. I attempted to redeem the material with stove water. If stove water does not  make tea good, nothing will. It helped... sort of. First two steepings were again not very interesting, but third and fourth were quite nice - some fruitiness and depth appeared. These two were all right. Unfortunately, the tea then degraded back to ordinary ordinariness...

It is reasonably thick, but the rather high astringence prevents that "liquid gold" coating feeling.

Mouthfeel is decent, but you'd probably expect more from this calibre of tea... The qi is easily detectable, but it's only like an echo of something stronger and more original.

Visually, the leaves look all right - thick, furry, obviously from old trees... but it just does not work too well together, I'm afraid.

This all is not to say that I did not enjoy the sessions with this tea at all - I did, to an extent (I always try to enjoy even not-great teas), it's just the price that's sky-high, while the quality is not.

08 Bulang
Now, a lot better tea, in my opinion. This is precisely the sort of Bulang tea I like very much and, unfortunately, it is not that easy to come by. I don't say there is no tea like this, but when you Monte-Carlo buy a Bulang, there's a good chance it won't be like this. The closest representative of that cluster is 2003 Liquid gold, with a bit more distant cousin 2001 Golden melon tribute  and even more distant, but still similar, 2003 Bulang Jing Pin.

The dry leaves smell very nice, sweet, with a bit of mint. 

The wet leaves smell dark, thick sweet (caramel-style), with, again, a minty component, which gets a lot stronger as the tea cools down. When I revisited the leaves left overnight, it was almost mintier than my toothpaste. It is completely free of smoke, which is good. Nada notes, at his website, that there are hints of something that was once a little smokiness... I'm generally wary of such claims by vendors, as tea labelled this way often tastes as leaves that spent a couple of years in a chimney, smoking a cigarette, containing hints of anything but smoke. 

The liquor has good color, clarity and aroma, bolstering my belief that this was indeed very well stored. Not too dry, not too wet, not too hot, nor cold - it seems just right.

It tastes of deeply sweet wood and forest honey. These two aspect very nicely mingle with the mintiness, which is quite uncommon - definitely different from, e.g., Mengku-style camphor. Now, this description is not that long, is the tea any good? Yes, it is. A tea does not have to have million cooperating tastes to be good - this tea may have fewer discernable taste, but it concentrates on making these tastes strong, elegant and well rounded.

The aftertaste is very good, the fresh plums - mei zi. It is accompanied by good activity and cooling (when one lets the leaves cool down, the mintiness is almost extreme). The qi is medium-strong, which is a rather good feat for a tea of this age.

The tea, despite being pretty good, has some imperfections. There is still some of that Man'E-sort-of-bitterness that does not like to go away. The bitterness and astringency can be pleasant in some sort of tea, but not in this one - they should go away. And third, the tea could be a bit more full. It's not hollow by any means, but when one recollects the great 03 "Liquid gold" cake, it was even more rounded and concentrated. Anyway, as all these matters should go away as this tea ages, I would not be worried they'd spoil the tea for much longer than 5 or so years... Of course, only if you have a place with decent aging conditions, which, I think, is not nearly as common as some think. I suggest reading MarshalN's recent post.

One last issue one could have with this tea is its declaration - I just don't think it's completely from ancient trees... maybe a half or so... But a) it's just my opinion, b) age of trees means nothing on its own. 

This is also not exactly a cheap tea, but the price sounds rather justifiable to me, given the overall rarity of this sort of Bulang tea and expected improvement with aging. I might consider buying one when I get to the UK...

úterý 27. srpna 2013

2006 Mengku brick (Chawangshop)

About a year ago, I received a Mengku brick from Chawangshop. It was bitter, not that great, but cheap ($15). I threw it into one of my puerh boxes for "future check". The moment came a couple of weeks ago annd I had this tea several times from back then. Why have I decided to write about it? The reason is a simple one - it became really rather very nice. When I discussed it with Honza of Chawangshop, he suggested that the tea left its storehouse at the time he sent it, so it probably just needed time to open up. And open up it did!

The leaves, when rinsed, give an aroma of wood, herbs, grain and fruit. The aroma as a whole is sweet, wide and full - not hollow at all, which can't be said about all Mengku teas.

Given that this is a Mengku tea, it is quite thick, which is good. The taste has two faces, at least. The first spectrum is "classical Mengku" - a mixture of camphor, overripe fruit and wood (e.g., as tasted in pre-2004 Xiaguan 8653). The second spectrum contains the aspect of the first one, but it also contains a lot of sweet granary taste, forest honey and herbs. How do those two faces coexist? Quite simply. The first one is a result of using filtered (or unfiltered) tap water, while the latter is a result of stove water being used. 

Anyway, both taste profiles are rich and good, I enjoy both of them. A slight danger that appeared in a tester preparation was hints of red fruit and hemp, which some miserably dry-stored teas have in ample quality... well, I hope it does not happen here too. But it should not, if the tea receives sufficient humidity, I think.

The tea needs some care to keep its stamina. Until I found my way to it, it tended to become a bit too dry and bitter from 4-5th steeping on. However, this can be compensated by steeping times and especially used water - a great benefit is gained here with stove water.

Pleasant minty cooling finish is a bonus, on the other hand, the qi is only mild. It won't drain you, of course, but it is hardly a "qi beast", this tea.

Overall, this tea is something of a steal - at $15 per 250 brick, one can not expect much and this tea provides a good and rather rich taste & mouthfeel on top of that "not much". It is, of course, below the league of fancy gushu cakes. But when one gives up some inner energy of a tea (which I have no problem with - I don't want to drink killer teas all the time), this is a very pleasant tea. Plus, it is, at least for me, definitely more enjoyable than almost all <$40-50 cakes made these days.

pátek 23. srpna 2013

EoT: 2 x Wuliang

Today, the post is going to be about two uncommon teas from Wuliang - a hongcha and a puerh. 

13 Wuliang
I was curious to taste a hongcha from Wuliang, wondering whether there would be the "hostile" component which I often found in puerh. When I had Wuliang lucha, it was surely there (although not as bad as in the Wuliangs I did not enjoy). Interestingly enough, the component was completely absent in this one. It may be also because this is probably a lot higher leaf grade than common Wuliang pu is made of.

I do not particularly care for "red" hongcha, such as Dian Hong, rich in tips. Not that I'd dislike the taste itself (I don't crave it either), but it just makes my stomach hollow and sick. Fortunately, this Wuliang hongcha is pitch black. In fact, had it lived in South Africa in 50s, it would surely get its own low-grade pot. No way it could be brewed in a gaiwan after a Bai Mu Dan or something like that...

The dry leaves suggest that this is tea of the "roses with chocolate" sort (such a product is actually made and it resembles the given genre of hongcha a lot).

The wet leaves build on the basic theme, adding good sweetness, spice and incense - overall, a very complex aroma for a hongcha.

In taste, things are perhaps not as surprising as in the aroma, but it still works well. There is a sort of exotic fruit, roses, with some chocolate after a couple of seconds. It is very smooth and refined. Also, it is not sour, which is another positive, which some hongcha lacks. On the other hand, it is not too sweet either. The taste lasts rather long. Unfortunately, my stomach complains a bit when I drink too much of this. But I guess that it's just my problem.

What surprised me the most was the obvious cha qi - not unlike in a good puerh ($80+ good). As far as I rememer, this is the first hongcha with noticeable qi I met.

Even though this tea costs like a good puerh, it is certainly interesting and pretty good. I myself am not enough a "hongcha man" to appreciate it well enough, but it was surely educational.

09 Wuliang
Another loose-leaf tea pressed recently. What the website does not tell you is that it is actually purple varietal tea. I enjoy purple pu in general and I wondered what would dominate this tea - Wuliangness, or purpleness? The latter is true, I believe.

The dry leaves smell of generic purple fruitiness. In rinsed leaves, this is nicely "widened" by a rich mixture of fruits and a hint of nuts. It smells good, though not overly complex.

In mouth, the liquor is pleasantly (and surprisingly) smooth, pleasantly sweet, tasting of north-purple fruitiness (Yiwu purple pu is quite a different tea) - which means a mixture of garden fruit, exotic fruit and flowers. There is some light resin taste too. Overall, it is nice, but light and not too complex. I can not say I'd feel anything like high thickness, nor honey, described at the website. 

While this is supposed to come from very old trees, I can not say it would feel like that to me. The qi is not particularly strong here (surely weaker than the hongcha above), no buzz either. I wonder whether this is actually from young trees or age of trees does different things to purple pu. 

The tea is not really dominating, e.g., Chawangshop's Baoshan Yeshengcha (another northern purple pu) from, which costs about 10%. Ok, this tea lasts a bit longer, on the other hand, that Baoshan tastes a touch more interesting to me. 

Nada himself notes that this may challenge people's views what is a good tea should be. That is true with me. I don't say it sucks, just that it is very expensive. However, there may be something I'm missing... A similar case happened to me with Burgundy wine - when I started tasting it, I did not understand how anyone could prefer it over rich Bordeaux or CDR wine. However, when I had enough glasses and especially of very good Burgundy wine, I started to understand that there is really something special and unique... Not that I would prefer wine from Burgundy at this stage, but at least I moved from light derogation to appreciation. Maybe something similar could happen if I drank enough northern purple yeshengcha... 

úterý 20. srpna 2013

2006 EoT Da Xue Shan & 2007 EoT Qi Sheng Gu

David of Essence of Tea was kind enough to send me samples of teas he started offering - let us start with the two that are pressed lightly aged maocha. Can't say I'm a big  fan of such processing, but these two teas suggest that it may actually work, at least to a degee (and when one does not take price into account).

2006 Da Xue Shan

The dry leaves smell interesting and unusual, of raisins, with a more "top" component of red berries. After rinsing, the mixture of dark (raisins, dried fruit) and light (rowanberries; some hongcha-like fruitiness).

The liquor is beautiful and very above-average in saponines.

In mouth, this Da Xue Shan is extra-pleasantly thick and coating, without bitterness and astringency (some of which appears later throughout session). The taste is on the lighter side, but I do not mind here as I sometimes do with young fancy pu, especially Yiwu. It consists of a mixture of sweet garden fruit (already a bit aged, definitely not young shengpu style), honey and flowers... it shares a lot of taste components with Youle teas, but while the tastes would be called the same, they are "performed differently". 

After the rather nice taste, good, long aftertaste comes (based on the "lighter" components of the aroma), along with good activity and buzzing in mouth (this gets noticeably weaker after steeping 3). I'd say that qi is above average in this one.

Overall, this is quite a satisfactory tea, the only weakness being a decline in enjoyability, which is a bit faster that I'd prefer - possibly a consequence of non-compressed aging? This issue is ameliorated when tea stove water is used. The 06 DXS bears a strong resemblance to the 09 DXS from Finepuer, except, of course, it is more aged (and it seems to be aged in a good environment). 

07 Qi Sheng Gu

The dry leaves smell pleasantly of leather, some wood, some smoke and overripe fruit. After rinsing, the woodiness gets more significant and turns the leading component from "woody smoke" to "smoky wood". The wood here would be sandalwood, I think (the liquor smells very characteristically of sandalwood, but it's not as distinct in the aroma of rinsed leaves).

The liquor starts creamy and very smooth, tasting of a pleasant mixture of wood (with a component of smoke, but not a bad one), overripe fruit, some camphor and a good, low sweet base, which is nicely complex and interesting, having tones of spice. One has tasted the basic taste a million times throughout various Xiaguans, but the "bass" base of this Qi Sheng Gu gives it an edge over these XGs.

The aftertaste is not particularly long, but it is nice, with a component of dried longan.

The activity in mouth is quite decent for a northern tea, but qi is not a strong point here, at least for me. 

Overall, the Qi Sheng Gu seems like a "better Xiaguan" to me, being rather nice, but ultimately still a modest tea. For those who like Xiaguan character in tea, this could be indeed a great bargain as EoT website suggests..

neděle 11. srpna 2013

2013 Youle and Bada

The last of the samples generously provided by Peter of come from Youle (Jinuo) and Bada. The next series will be about teas made by Essence of tea. Without further ado...

Tiny little ado
As I was drinking tea today, I took a couple of pictures of a lovely tree (a willow?) and micro-mushrooms (only about 2mm high).

Youle seems to me like an area whose teas are generally very well suited for drinking outside. I tend to enjoy some teas more at home, which also yields greater neutrality of tasting. However, some teas just go very well with the aroma of grass and flowers. Typical Youle teas do just that, in my opinion. And this particular one is not an exception.

The rinsed leaves give a happy aroma of fresh garden fruit, with a lower base of moss/lilies (not unlike some Yiwu teas have), and with a bit of honey. It is very intense and "open" aroma.

The liquor is pleasantly thick, without giving up flavor. The taste consists of garden fruit (apricots dominating), meadow flowers and meadow honey (actually, dandelion honey is more accurate, but probably not too widely known. What surprised me in a Youle tea was the taste of clay, which I associated mostly with Banzhang and Pasha up to now. A very welcome addition. There is still some of the "universal young sheng" taste, but that should go away soon, leaving only the very harmonized mixture.

Even though the tea is very sweet, it is also quite powerfully bitter! Some might have an issue with that. It was all right to me, but it has above-average bitterness, to be sure.

The long aftertaste goes well with light activity on the tongue... Qi was not particularly heavy here. The stamina of this Youle is quite good, it does degrade as steepings go, but it is somewhat interesting even after 7-8 steepings, which not every young sheng can say.

Onto big bada boom...

The rinsed leaves emit a sweet, though not as trivially pleasant aroma, as did the Youle. It is basically a mixture of dark flowers and some sweet fruit (apricots, but less ripe than the ones in Youle).

The Bada is one of lighter teas, in terms of liquor color.

The first couple of steepings are very thick, buttery/oily, sweet and heavy, but not with much taste. There is a rather strange baked/roasted component in there, but it is also rather faint. At this stage, there is good activity in mouth.

Unfortunately, after a couple of steepings (literally), the thickness gets weaker and a strange taste of minerality/washed laundry appears... it gets progressively worse. When I poured steeping no. 7 into the pitcher, I looked it, grinned and poured it out... just not worth it. The activity in mouth, nor qi, is not too good at this stage either...

In a tester, the tea is quite decent as all the things get mixed up together and the problems are not as obvious. But in gongfu, the tea did not work too well for me.

First, congratulations to Peter! I'm very happy that a person from central Europe is capable of getting/making as nice tea as he sent me this year (plus the area of lightly aged pu improved too). I firmly believe that Peter's teas are not lost among EoT's, YS's, Chawangshop's, Tea Urchin's, etc. fancy young teas, far from that.

From the partly-(Magnificent seven) I had from, I consider: 
Naka and Mansa very good
Youle, Bulang, Hekai and Manzhuan good, but not particularly exciting
Bada strange... hopefully I just got a bad sample

Thanks, Peter!