čtvrtek 31. ledna 2013

2001 Mengku Yuanyexiang (Original aroma from the wild) - Gancang

Among other interesting teas, MarshalN has sent me a piece of this famous cake. There is a couple of links at the bottom of this post, mentiong this tea. I might add that this is the gancang - dry stored, thin paper version.

The tea does smell quite nicely even in dry form, it's like leather, incense (which will, when steeped, transform to camphor) and tree bark. 

The wet leaves add a lot of components to the experience. Actually, it become quite obvious that this tea may be rather wonderful. And...it is. I enjoyed sniffing the wet leaves for several minutes. The aroma is pleasantly sweet, very complex, with tones of bark, medicinality, spice, a bit of vanilla and, as the leaves get colder, more and more camphor. Entirely cold leaves are very camphorous. While I do not taste any concrete fruit, there is the same sort of pleasantness one gets from fruity aroma.

The liquor is exceptionally clean (the blur is a consequence of my lens' aperture, not cloudiness of liquor; also pardon the flash) and nicely colored. It smells sweet and spicy.

The taste is, like the aroma, very complex and already lightly aged. The sweetness is very strong and well defined (it's like bass in music - it can be either "generic supporting bass", or a well defined instrument with clean intonation). All the tastes present in the aroma can be found (again, the camphor gets more pronounced as the liquor cools down), but I find it difficult to dissect the taste - and I rather prefer not to do so - it simply works marvellously together. The components, when described with words, may not sound like the tastiest things in the world, but it all works very, very good together. The taste lasts long and properly develops into a good hui gan (even in throat) and later into a pleasant long-term aftertaste.

While the tea is generally very pleasant and soothing, it still has a nontrivial amount of bitterness and astringency - probably a result of drier storage (more on that later). But it's not too disturbing or "wrong". It also helps a bit to use less leaves and steep them for a bit longer.

Mouthfeel continues with the overall "mid-aged" soothing performance of the aroma and taste. It cools a bit and tingles too, but it's nowhere near modern young gushu bombs. But I do not mind - on the contrary, I guess that too aggressive activity would ruin the peace that this tea bestowed on me. 

It feels so good to drink this, a real treat. Hobbes wrote "Drinking tea brings me back to myself. To my breath, to my posture. To the distant tree-tops talking silently with the wind outside the lounge window" - and this is exactly how this tea affect me, it seems. It's a most pleasant and almost intimate experience.

This tea is also a great example of (in my opinion) properly done dry storage. It is rich, but with certain more youthful aspect and all that. I wonder how and where was exactly the tea stored. Because it is nowhere near super-dry stored sour mummies that are sometimes sold as "dry stored".

This tea is still available (a bit of a surprise, given it's fame) from Bana tea company. It costs $195 a cake and I say why not... It's expensive, but it's also very good. Unfortunately, good tea costs more and more these days. However, the matter of price is always debatable, e.g., MarshalN told me (and wrote earlier) that he thinks it's not worth as much. But I dare say that it might be worth to try at least 50g. That costs about $30 which is not that much.

Further reading:

pondělí 28. ledna 2013

2004 Mengsa Ying Luo

I wonder why I bought a sample of this tea from YS. Maybe I wanted to become acquainted with Mengsa? Maybe... 

Why roses? Well I took this picture shortly after drinking this tea, feeling that the tea tastes a bit like these roses look... 

Upon opening the pouch, I was surprised by how green the leaves still were, given that this is a 2004 tea:

Anyway, they look nice. And there is a very characteristic and pleasant aroma of canned strawberries about them. While the leaves do look young, they have some age in them according to the aroma which is not entirely young.

The wet leaves also smell lovely, sweet, with the strawberry element still present (persisting in the nose for some time after sniffing), accompanied by light animality.

Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures of the liquor. It was light brown, a certainly acceptable color for a 2004 tea. There was no hint of over-driedness throughout my sessions with this tea. 

The taste (especially the initial steepings) is almost excellent, sweet, reasonably full and "late summer garden fruit"-ish. Then, a bit weaker phase comes, when astringency (and later bitterness) sort of dominate the taste; however, when they go away, a light, but pleasant aftertaste comforts taste cells again.

As I said, the bitterness and astringency are a bit of a problem, especially in later steepings. They're not too bad, but the tea is not easygoing or silky yet. 

Outside the taste itself, the tea does not do that well, but it's not disappointing, as long as one does not expect too much. 

Overall, for $28, I'd expect something a lot worse. $28 for a 2004 cake is a suspiciously low price. I don't say that the tea is faultless - it needs more mellowing, to be sure - but I did enjoy the taste a lot; it's not just a run-of-the-mill generic sheng, it has its character - and that's what I appreciate the most about it.

pátek 25. ledna 2013

2012 YS Xin Ban Zhang

After a short of period of illness and exams, I'm back at last. It's good to drink tea again (something different from ginger "tea", which I drank amply). I finally reclaimed my seat where I can listen to music (Rachmaninoff's recordings of himself now) and drink tea. While it becomes increasingly obvious that I can not drink too much young sheng anymore, I like to drink something new from time to time. This Xinbanzhang is what I picked this time. It costs $65 which is still quite reasonable for a *banzhang.

The low sun makes tea on the tray more interesting... The photo below is set between the teapot and the little clay dragon whose feet form the dark area to the right.

The dry leaves smell a bit more interesting than most young sheng - definitely sweeter than most.The aroma of wet leaves changes quite a lot as the session progresses, but it is not something I'd particularly seek out.

The liquor is lightly colored, starts green-yellowish and turns orange as it oxidizes.

The taste is very sweet, in a sugary way - the sugariness is rather powerful in the taste too. Certain vegetalness is present throughout the session, accompanied by a taste of "dark white cedar needles" - I guess that it's a bit more similar to needles of another tree, but it feels to me similar to that of white cedar. Other than these "main" tastes, there is slight potential for woodiness  and exotic fruitiness. While the taste features I described are not among my most favourite ones, the taste is rather nice overall and lasts for a long time. It's not entirely unlike the good version of Dragon of Bulang from Longfeng I had.

When one drinks Bulang tea (and especially Banzhang/Man'E), there is the matter of bitterness. This tea is okay, in my opinion. It is not bitter at all at the beginning and becomes somehow bitter between 3rd and 7th steepings, but it did not prevent me from enjoying it. Astringency is rather low for this young tea.

The overall feeling in mouth is good, not only because of "proper" cooling, but it somewhat emphasizes the good length of the main taste and complements the (light) aftertaste nicely.

I wonder how is this tea going to age. It seems that it should be strong and good, in a way, but some Banzhangs (or Pashas) tend to age into a pleasant, tasting of "stone fruit" and moist dwarven bamboo (e..g. Gan En, Finepuer BZ, 2002 Pasha brick sold by Longfeng), while others age into a more woody tea (e.g. 2006 HLH or 2005 Douji BZs). I much prefer the former category; I am not really interested in the latter. This YS Xinbanzhang seems closer to the second category right now, but it seems like it could age into a tea of the first category. It's a pity I did not have any Banzhang of the first category when it was young, it would be interesting to see how much it had to transform to get to that pleasant stage.

pátek 4. ledna 2013

2012 Sampletea "Pu Di" Yiwu

After the recent discussion, pleasantness of which is deep below zero, I'd very much prefer to move to more pleasant topics, such as this tea.

I do not hide that I like Sampletea and Finepuer very much. Receiving a christmas present from Alan, the owner, was another pleasant surprise from these companies. It's the same minicake that Hobbes received recently too: Half-Dipper link.

The cake consists of large, very nice leaves. Although it was stone pressed, it needs some force to take apart - I think that it's better than too light pressings.

And a view from the side... The leaves have fur in abundance. I have read somewhere how the fur contributes to sweet taste. I must pick up the fur sometime and steep only that; shall I get sweet water then?

Yiwu comprises a very pleasant genre of tea. Not always surprisingly awesome, but seldom bad.  This tea is no exception - it is quite lovely. It comes from Man Xiu, from trees of 50 years of age.

The aroma of wet leaves is...Yiwuish. I know, that does not say much. There is the interesting aroma hovering between leatheriness and dark fruit marmelade. I used to feel the fruity component more, but now, the leathery component seems equally strong to me. This particular tea has this "Yiwu" component well developed, sweet, along with light floralness. That one may go away in a couple years I guess.

The taste is in good agreement with the aroma. It is a very solid, strong "generic" Yiwu with several things extra. Especially the floralness which lends good richness to the "basic" Yiwu leatheriness and fruitiness.  I wonder how is this tea going to taste in a couple of years.

The thickness is not too high, given the Yiwu origin, but it is certainly not dissatisfactory. The bitterness seems rather low (it can be brought out via longer steeping, but what's the point), while I got a fairly strong astringency every time I tasted it. The astringency was not an unpleasant one, though.

As my sessions proceeded, the leather-fruit became more leathery and something like sweet mushrooms appeared (also in the aroma of wet leaves). I do not seek out this taste myself, but it was fine here.

Several steepings caused strong vibrations and cooling on the tongue, while these were weaker in the rest. I'd say that this tea does not shine in the cooling/vibrations, when compared to "young&sexy" fancy Yiwus. On the other hand, it stands a lot higher than more basic Yiwus (represented, e.g., by recent Yongpinhaos).

I enjoyed this tea a lot. It is really a kind, pleasant piece, which can hardly offend anyone.
My thanks to Sampletea!

úterý 1. ledna 2013

2013 New Year

The year 2012 was certainly delicious, although certainly not without challenges. But challenges make things taste good, after all, don't they?

I'm looking forward to tasting of the 2013! And I wish you good luck in whatever you do (except raping dead nurselings, etc.) and strong belly so that you can drink as much tea as you want!