pátek 29. března 2013

1980s Menghai 7542

I was going through one of my tea drawers and a small pouch with the 80s 7542 from thechineseteashop said hello. I completely forgot about that one. As I was just finishing my 30rd (or so) steeping of 80s bamboo-wrapped tuocha from EoT (still good), it seemed only natural to continue with another tea from 80s. Now, I was not too sure it's from 80s actually. Or that it is 7542, when it comes to that. I don't think that thechineseteashop is renowned for carrying always the original stuff of best quality. Some things I had from there were admittedly good, but some were rather bad (and two or three were awful). This tea was definitely a pleasant surprise. Thechineseteashop says "our no. 1 premium tea" and according to what I had from there, I agree.

Just to clarify things, it's this one: here. Not the "dry stored" version. After many a good dollar wasted, I tend to steer clear from any "dry stored" tea that is not from HK or Guangzkou (occasionally Taiwan and Malaysia too). However, according to the taste and looks of this tea, I would not call it wet in any way. I think it was normally stored and then kept in a rather dry place from 2001. 

There is a tiny hint of storage aroma in the dry leaves, but rinsed leaves are entirely odor-free. The aroma is very nice, smells of herbs, camphor, some agedness and some red fruit in the background. I thought the aroma feeling quite young/clean for an 80s tea which started its life in HK, so I thought it would be a mixed stored tea.

I don't know what you think of the color, but it sure looks like a lovely burgundy to me. It's probably rather light for a tea from 80s, but that's probably a consequence of the 10 years of Vancouver storage.

The taste and overall behavior in mouth is very interesting and unusual. Even though the liquor is thick, it is a special sort of thickness. It does not coat whole of your mouth. Especially when the first steepings first shot a burst of tastes all over my tongue and then quickly went "down", alongside the tongue - it did not really stay at the top of the tongue. In a way, it reminded me of one burgundy wine from 80s I had...

Other than the thickness, there is a good "tasty" sweetness (not entirely like the general aged sweetness which is present everywhere). Beside the expected taste of forest floor, there is a strong taste of aged plums which hints that this tea could be a 7542. Alongside the plums goes spice (light cinnamon), with more camphor and herbs towards the end of the main taste. This tea is really tasty! And dynamic too, it never felt boring to me.

It felt very active in mouth and had a calming, pleasant qi, worth of tea from 80s.

The wet leaves behave well, they do not break easily, which only supports the hypothesis of not-wet storage.

So... This is not the best aged tea I know, but it is very good and it is priced rather reasonably, it seems (if we take, e.g., EoT's prices as a baseline). I sure enjoyed it a lot and would not mind owning some more. On the other hand, it's not cheap, not a complete bargain so I think I'll live without it. Pity.

úterý 26. března 2013

2011 Bu Zhi Chun

From the last detour of the current detour, let's get back to the original one (this could be made into one of the Yo Dawg memes...).

Bu Zhi Chun, a yancha I never heard of. How unfortunate I was! I received it instead of the half-handmade Shui Xian which was not available. Along it was a note saying that if I don't like it, I can ask for a refund. I don't think so...

This one is darker than the previous yanchas from EoT, and to my liking I might add.

The dry leaves smell pleasantly of nuts and cocoa; the aroma is very elegant. Even a toilet grade Shui Xian can be often described as nuts and cocoa. Well, this Bu Zhi chun is better.

In the aroma of wet leaves, new tones appear and old tones change. I smell baked walnuts and baked chestnuts, along with a good deal of fire.

The taste is also very elegant, sweet, thick and balanced. It tastes mostly of baked chestnuts and walnuts, accompanied by pleasant spice. The "rocky" flavour is there, but it is not as notable as in the other young EoT yanchas I had. It's more "coated" in cocoa, I guess

I think that I prefer more roasted tea like this over the greener sort. While the Rou Guis were by no means bad, this spectrum of tastes feels more interesting to me.

Outside taste, the tea performs very well both in qi and in activity in mouth. I made a TGY in a tester along and while the spectrum of tastes was roughly similar, the TGY was much less active and much quieter. It was not exactly a low-grade TGY...

As I said earlier, I can sometimes feel a bit empty when drinking wulongs, but I do not when drinking good yancha. That's, I think, where the nontrivial price is rooted, not just the taste.

neděle 24. března 2013

Revisiting some teas

My perception of teas changes from two reasons: Aging and experience. Due to the former, I retasted the first pair described teas. Due to the latter, I retasted the second pair.

2006 Haiwan Pa Sha
This one made me particularly happy. It has made a great jump in quality in the last year (even half-year), finally getting where I hoped it could eventually go (i.e., fruit, clay, sweetness,...). It's not fully there yet. But I believe that it needs just a couple of more years to be ready for drinking. 

It was interesting to compare it to a sample which a teachum bought recently from Kunming. My cakes are a lot darker already; the Kunming version was still very green, still a young tea. It had some not too pleasant features (smoke, vegetalness) that I never found in my cakes. Anyway, it seems that I can be reasonably happy about my storage conditions...

2010 YS Purple Yiwu
It seems to me that most Yiwu teas tend to fall asleep about 1-2 years from pressing, becoming muted and not that interesting for a couple (5-6?) years. After that, however, they settle down and get good again (if they were good to start with). This Purple Yiwu is no exception. It's not bad, not unpleasant, but it needs some more years to develop stronger qualities. 

Comparing it to a sealed sample I had, the sample was easier to comprehend and easier to appreciate, being more simply fruity. My cakes seem to be in a bit of a chaos, there are several tastes developing at once and they do not do so in a real harmony. 

Nevertheless, it seems to me that this strange process is rather natural to many Yiwu teas, therefore I'm not disturbed.

1980s Bamboo-wrapped tuocha
I enjoyed this one very much previously and so I ordered some more along my yancha order from EoT to see how I'll perceive it now, as I had some more aged tea from back then. 

It is still very good. Maybe not as thrilling as when I first tried it, but it's a lovely tea nevertheless. I like its clean, nutty taste, very good activity in mouth and pleasant, reasonably strong qi. Works very well with stove water.

I'm considering buying a whole tuo... this sounds like a good tea which is intriguing enough to work for my sunday tea sessions... I had to set sundays as completely work-free days in order not to fall apart entirely and so a large part of the day is dedicated to tea. And on the other hand, the tuo is still not prohibitively expensive. 

1992 Xiaguan tuo
A teachum asked me about this one recently. He tasted it somewhere in a teahouse and thought it strange, while his friends enjoyed it (it came up that they did not know any other aged tea). I was appaled by this tea when I tried it the last time

Well, I think it is still incredibly crappy. In a tester, the strange shu/sheng (see the previous post on this tea) mixture of tastes mingles together and it is more acceptable than in gongfu, but it's still bad. The tea is extremely light in color. As I had a lot of overly dry stored teas in the last year, I guess it's possible that this tea is not a fake, but truly from 1992. Tragically stored, I have to say. It features a chaotic mixture of strange tastes, weirdly overripe aggressive fruit, dry wood, some dry storage sourness and unpleasant bitterness.

There is some nice activity in mouth, but zero qi.

The good thing is that the tea has bad stamina and after a couple of initial steepings, it gets bland and weak. It's drinkable then, but I wonder why would anyone want to do so.

100 pounds per 100g ? I would not pay 10. 

If you have to have a dry stored Xiaguan tuo, then the 1984 tuo is, I believe, much better. Even though I would not call it a good example of aged tea, it's not as wrong as this 92 awfulness. Even though the 84's qi seemed very weak to me and the stamina was not as good as with normally  aged teas, at least the tastes were ok.

středa 20. března 2013

2011, 2010 and 2004 Lao Cong Shui Xian

Continuing the yancha rambling, today I'd like to have a look at Shui Xian from EoT. To see the postulated development, I ordered samples of three vintages.

Shui Xian shares the unfortunate fate of other famous teas: Da hong pao, Lung Ching, Banzhang pu, etc. I.e., it gets faked very often. That alone may not be a tragedy (I think I could remember a couple of cases when a fake was better than the original), but these fakes tend to be "cost efficient". Therefore, tragic. I think that I had about five boring, hollow Shui Xians, before I got to a relatively good one from Longfeng, some two or so years ago. I thought it could be wise to try some from EoT as it seems to be one of the most reputed vendors of yancha. If I do not like it, Shui Xian is lost for me, I thought. Well, I do like them. And since I smelled the aroma of the 2004 one, the last couple of days were nothing but waiting to try that one.

Now, to the very teas... my appreciation increased with its age (and price :( ), that is for sure.


For me, this was the least interesting of the three Shui Xians. It is very "controlled" and there is not really anything wrong, some very nice features are present, but I'm afraid I did not find the tea as exciting as I'd maybe like.

It offers good fire (though it's nowhere near, e.g., Tie Luo Han), it is nicely thick, with reasonable sweetness, nuttiness, some floralness and "rock" flavor (that pronounced rock flavor is what sets up master Huang's teas apart from the others I had). It is complex and good. The aftertaste lasts long and is complemented by "fiery cooling". There is some qi I like.

Despite its many undeniable qualities, I was only "very pleased", not excited. At this price level, a bit of excitation would be a welcome addition. In this, the tea sort of reminds me of 2009 Mayard Chateauneuf du Pape Crau de ma mére which I had yesterday - very good, many qualities, but no excitement (on the other hand, the fellow tasters were excited by that one so it may be just me).

This has made a step in the right direction from the 2011. Both aroma of dry and wet leaves, as well as the taste are deeper and more characteristic. There are some really good baked chestnuts, some powidl, with a bit of herbs in the background (and magnolia maybe? A bit strange, I know...). I can imagine this tea sweeter, but the sweetness is sufficient as it is and due to a very good thickness, the tea does not feel empty at all. It's a lovely piece. It keeps the very good mouthfeel of the 2011 version, as well as long and pleasant aftertaste.

Surprisingly, it seemed to me that this one had notably higher astringency than the 2011 version. 

Right from opening the pouch, it was absolutely obvious that this tea is not anymore anywhere near its younger counterparts. First, there is only a trace amount of fire in the aroma. Second, it is the first yancha with this high aroma of dried fruit and meadow flowers. Pleased to meet you, mr. 2004 Shui Xian!

The wet leaves emit a rather brutal aroma of dense, extreme sweetness, dried, as well as overripe fruit (apples, pears, lychee), some raspberries with chocolate. There is also an aroma I almost forgot - pearwood. That wood has a most peculiar, strangely sweet aroma and it is here, in this tea. "Beautifully decadent", I think of the aroma. The heaviness and overripeness is formidable indeed.

I am  fed up with inexperienced vendors who market every run of the mill tea as "unbelievable", "incredible", "royal" and all that. However, I guess that this Shui Xian proves me inexperienced too - I find this tea to be a very new and indeed difficult-to-believe experience!

The taste is, similarly to the aroma of the wet leaves, complex, heavy, supersmooth and very good. It is a brutal, explosive mixture of overripe and dried fruits, with some dried meadow flowers. As steepings come and go, a coconut aspect makes an appearance and with lychee being more dominant in some steepings, I realize that this tea rather reminds me of Lapsang Souchong in some steepings. On the other hand, the similarity is not too strong, it's that just these teas share some features.

Expecting the fire gone away in the mouthfeel, I did not expect too much in means of cooling/tingling. Proved wrong again. Indeed, there is none of that youthful fiery cooling, but there is a very good and very long activity, not unlike that in old-tree puerh. Maybe the age of the trees plays its role here?

Qi was in line of the previous versions - good, calm, not dominating the session. Maybe it made me hear my heartbeat a bit louder and more excited than the 2010 and 2011 SX, but it may have been just a local state of mind...

I'm terribly glad I tried this one, despite its nontrivial cost. I think that it's sometimes good to invest such money into "XP points". I feel levelled up after drinking this tea (yay, one more magic missile!)

It has certainly been an educational journey, observing these Shui Xians as they age. I must try the other vintages eventually. For drinking young, I'd rather take the Bu Zhi Chun or Tie Luo Han over the 2010 and 11 Shui Xian, but the 2004 version shows that some very serious aging happens, definitely far beyond my expectation and imagination.

neděle 17. března 2013

On my relationship with Yancha and about 2010 Rou Gui: Half-handmade and handmade

I hope that you, dear readers, will not mind if this blog takes a small detour from its puerh highway and takes a brief ramble (4-6 posts?) through the Wu Yi countryside. As much as I may seem to be a nymphomanic homosexual paedophile (I sure love puer and puer is boy in latin...), I sometimes do drink other sorts of tea. 

Wu Yi wulongs have a special place in my heart. While I miss many puerh features in other sorts of tea (except other heicha), the Wu Yi wulongs have good substitutes for these and so I feel happy and almost complete if I drink them. I used to be terribly keen on other sorts of wulong earlier. I had a lot of Taiwanese wulongs, a lot of tea from Dan Cong and a nontrivial amount from Anxi. However, the evolution is unforgiving and more and more time slots for drinking tea were captured by puerh, no doubt due to its special outside-taste properties.

While taiwanese and Anxi wulongs can taste very good, there are only a few of them which would excite me enough to pay the big sums for high-quality specimen (I used to enjoy drinking cheap Anxi wulongs too, e.g., Mao Xie from YS, but there is not enough time for that now). I still sometimes brew a roasted TGY or Dong Ding in a big mug, but I can't fully concentrate on that. 
The TGY from MarshalN is better than most other similar teas and I like to enjoy it in gongfu style from time to time. But show me a store for us, poor internet-reliant westerners, which would carry such a tea.

Dan Congs can taste great, especially if not too green (some like these too). Mi Lan wulong is generally a very pleasant and tasty tea. Even hongcha from Mi Lan cultivar can taste great (the one sold by Jingteashop/Longfeng is very, very tasty in my opinion). I think I liked Dan Cong tea the most, when I started with tea. After tasting what was sold here from Jingteashop, I even bought a reasonably big sampler from Imen at teahabitat and there were some very tasty teas to be had, no doubt. However, with time, my excitement slowly  vanished. I still can drink good Dan Cong (which is not cheap though) and appreciate its taste, but in general, I miss the mouthfeel/bodyfeel/qi of puerh. I don't think it's that I drank too little Dan Cong tea, I think I had more than hundred gallons, over the years; I just don't feel the buzz of the genre. Not even from aged Dan Cong. 

I neglected Wu Yi yancha for a long time, because there was no good Wu Yi tea to try, only lower classes lacking sweetness. Now, the situation seems to improve, with Jingteashop's Yancha brought here by Longfeng (and, I might add, with less-than-astronomic margin, that's good!). Anyway, such an option was not here back then and as one can't directly order from Jingteashop, the options were limited. But after trying some Wu Yi tea from other shops abroad, I felt intrigued - I felt that this was a type of wulong I could enjoy very much. And when Nada sent me a sample of his Tie Luo Han along an order, I knew I'll have to try more yancha from him eventually. And the time has come... 

Today, I'll start with two cheaper yanchas which Essence of tea offers: The 2010 half-handmade Rou Gui and the 2010 handmade version. "Cheaper" is relative, as all of the Wistaria cakes I wrote about recently are cheaper, per gram, and they are not really an example of cheap puerh... 

I was curious to see the difference between handmade and half-handmade. Handmade tea is the wet dream of many tea drinkers, it seems. I do not really care. Whether the tea has been made by a famous tea master, by little mermaids, or in fully mechanized factory, the resulting tea is what matters to me. I take the "handmade" declaration as a supporting statement for the fact that the material was good enough to go through the difficult process of making by hand (and having full control over the process). It's funny, I'm reading some novels from 19th century and the people seemed to be excited by the prospect of having machine-made dress, as it was of higher quality than usual handmade stuff. Times have changed, I guess (and machines improved, by the way). Of course, it's a sexy story to read how the tea you bought comes from a single batch of 10 kg and it is produced by a renowned tea master, compared to a factory tea of which tons were made. Nevertheless, I think it's better to drink tea, rather than stories.

All that said, I enjoyed the handmade Rou Gui more. 

2010 Half-handmade Rou Gui
Rou Gui is one of lighter wulongs from Wu Yi and both Rou Guis from EoT support that.

I went for the porcelain bamboo set, which seems to go nicely with yancha:

I think I'm not spoiling any secret when I say that the leaves look and smell good. The aroma seems fruity-nutty, with some apple-with-cinnamon and plums.

The wet leaves have a relatively rich aroma of sweetness, apples with cinnamon, floralness (that "dark green" yancha sort) and some fire. It smells rather green indeed, for yancha.

The taste lasts long and has a most pleasant caramel sweetness (strengthened by water from tea stove). Upon the sweetness, there is dark green floralness (baked), some apples with cinnamon and maybe a bit of coconut? It may not be the most exciting or surprising taste, but it is good.

An important feature is that the tea dies away gracefully. Lower-class yancha seems to develop unpleasant "burnt green" tastes towards the end of the session, while this Rou Gui is good the whole time until it produces nothing but sweet water.

While the tea is not as fiery as it probably was, when it was produced, there is still some fire in the aftertaste and mouthfeel. The activity is good, as is the qi - a feature which seem seldom seen to me, in the realm of wulongs.

The stamina seems good to me (circa 6 120ml steepings from 3.5g?).

The (miserably focused, sorry, forgot to turn manual focus off) picture of leaves shows that the tea has some seriously green leaves indeed:

2010 Handmade Rou Gui
It is obviously a similar kind of tea so I'll concentrate on the differences from the half-handmade version.

The aroma is darker, deeper, more powidl-like and the aroma of apples with cinnamon seems stronger to me. All these goodnesses took the place of some dark greeness, a castling I enjoy very much.

Stove water loves yancha and yancha loves stove water...

The liquor is a bit thicker than the of half-handmade version and somewhat darker (not so much in color as in the taste), with more dark plums and that apples with cinnamon taste (the cinnamon is especially strong in an empty cup).

The fire in the aftertaste is lovely and cooling, while not being overpowering. 

I enjoyed this handmade version more than the half-made, especially for its larger depth and darkness. 

čtvrtek 14. března 2013

2007/8 Blue Mark (Menghai, Wistaria TH) (and piggybacking 2005 Wistaria Jinggu)

The journey through the box with samples of Wistaria's teas seems to come to its end, unfortunately. While I have received packages filled by larger sum(goodness), I don't think I'd have ever received a package with larger mean(goodness). With most semi-random picked samples, I find the ratio of success to be 5%=great tea, 20%=good tea, could buy (if I had the money and price was ok), 70%=drinkable, but would not buy, 5% awful, not to ever touch again. However, with these six Wistaria samples, I see the ratio as 50%/34%/16%. 

Without further ado...
2007/8 Blue mark
Yesterday, it witnessed the death of Ahab (Hobbes' recent post inspired me to read Moby Dick again) and somewhat brightened the grim end of Pequoda.

The pouch says it's from 2007, but other source say 2008 so I'll stick with that. I think that 2007 is the birth year of Red mark (What is it like? Has anyone had that? MarshalN?). Anyway, one year does not matter that much, I guess. 

The Blue mark is a Menghai blend. That may mean a variety of things. Most of awful sheng in generic asian shops is "Yunnan King/Emperor/Mighty ruler of the universe,..." puerh, but "Menghai green" wins the silver medal for average awfulness, I guess. However, there are good Menghai blends too, e.g., the Spring of Menghai from Dayi. There is good reason why I chose to mention that one - it offers a partially similar family of tastes as this Blue mark.

The dry leaves smell somewhat mushroomy. That may sound a bit scary, but it's quite ok. Mushroominess is sometimes found in puerh... I still vividly remember the 2005 Guoyan Nannuo, which, after a couple of steepings, tasted like a boletus. Blah. I thought it ok back then (was it 2007 or 8?), but at that time, we had mostly even worse puerh around so it felt comparatively better. It's fun to read Czech message boards about puerh from these years too. It feels like there were living trilobites around back then.

Rinsed leaves reveal a very to-my-liking aroma of certain sort of meadow flowers, sweet granary, leatheriness and general "Menghai shengness" (in a good way). If I inhale long and deep, I smell animality (as of cattle), which I do like both in tea and wine. No mushrooms, thank  god. So far so good.

The taste is right lovely, of clay, sweet granary, meadow flowers, a bit of leather. Since the 2nd steeping on, the garden fruitiness jumps out of the cup and further improves the already good impression of the first steeping. In a tester, the clay and garden fruit were so intermingled that I thought it to be the "Banzhang stone fruit" taste, but gongfu reveals that these two tastes are a bit more separated than that. Maybe after two years, they will come together? Still, the tea tastes/feels to me like there is a portion of leaves from near (or within?) Banzhang. I also believe that it will develop honey tones in future. Later, towards the death of this tea (7-9th steeping?), the mushrooms appear again. At this stage, however, I do not mind them. I take is a folly of starting-to-be-senile tea

The liquor is propertly thick, sweet and lubricating. There is a somewhat surprising light acidity in there, but I rather like it. 

The astringency is  still quite high, but it seems to be that sort which should go away eventually. Bitterness can be kept low and pleasant.

There is some activity and energy, but I must admit that the good taste of this tea was what interested me the most.

As pleasant, full and sunny tea as it is, this still tastes/feels to me like a $50 cake, not a $80-100 one. I think that given the price, I'd rather stick with 2006 Spring of menghai. But let's not diminish the fact that  this Blue Mark is a nice tea and I think it should safely age into a very good tea.

2005 Tai Yue (Jinggu)
Ah, Jinggu, where were you sleeping when aroma was given to regions by God? Why did not you wake from your slumber when interesting tastes were given by God. Why were you acting dead when good body feel was given by God, only to wake up to lift and carry the bag of boredom which nobody else wanted?

There are drinkable Jinggus (YS's recent ones, 2010&11 XZH Laowushan, 2003 Bailong Jia Ji), I even know of one that I would call "rather good" (2003 Bailong Te Ji). However, I still wait to see an exciting, great and magnificent Jinggu. I think that most Jinggu teas I had were best represented by a tuocha made for local market by Teanet. The tea is inoffensive. The tea is drinkable. But it makes me ask myself who would want to make/ drink such a tea and why.

The Tai Yue from Wistaria is definitely an above-average Jinggu. In means of performance, it, I believe, falls somewhere between the Bai Long Te Ji and XZH Laowushan. It rather feels like an average of these two. There are some ok feelings and subtleties from the XZH, while the solid base reminds me of the Bailong Te Ji.

As other above-average, this is not a bad tea, but it just does not offer anything interesting to me.

I was thinking of how I liked the six samples from Wistaria...

The Zi Pin (Yiwu) wins it for me because of its mighy qi, mouthfeel and very nice taste.

<great puerh>
I could not decide whether I liked the Mengsong or Nannuo more. They both offer strong, good taste, good mouthfeel and nice qi. To me, they are like two poles of puerh: The Mengsong being light (but strong), sunny, "primitively pleasant" tea, while  the Nannuo is darker, more "intimidating" and maybe more serious than the Mengsong. It depends on momentary mood which of these I'd drink.
</great puerh>

<very nice puerh>
Fourth, I'd rank the Blue Mark. It's good.

Fifth, the Jiang Chen (near-Yiwu) is for me. It is still a good tea, but I don't adore this family of Yiwu tastes as some others. Right now, I might consider it a bit more tasty than the blue Mark, but I think that after a couple of years, I'd certainly take the Blue mark over this one. 
</very nice puerh>

<ok puerh>
Well, Jinggu... 
</ok puerh>

So, thanks to SilentChaos/Tony/Origintea for this tasting opportunity. Seldom have I spent $99 on samples this wisely.

pondělí 11. března 2013

2004 Jiang Chen (Wistaria, cake)

And yet another piece from Wistaria (only two more to go, sadly). This tea is not precisely from Yiwu, but it's quite close and it bears a great deal of similarity. 

No stories today, pure tea-talk. Let's get down to business.

Dry leaves have a good color and looks; appropriate for a 9 years old tea. They do smell nicely too - sweet, dried fruit (plums & raisins).

When the leaves are rinsed, I smell certain disharmony in the aroma, mostly when the leaves are hot. Nevertheless, the aromas that I was able to discern were nice: camphor, dark sweetness, light aged nuttines/dried plums (the plum and nuts are two points of view on one aroma).

The liquor is clear and of nice color. It is not too thick, given the near-Yiwu origins.

Possibly due to lower thickness, the taste hits the taste buds more straightforwardly and is arguably easier to perceive than in, e.g., the 2003 Zi Pin. The taste is good indeed, a harmonized mixture of overripe fruit, camphor, aged nuttiness (or dried plums) and spice. The taste is rather alike 2003 Yongpinhao's YWZS or Stéphane's 2003 Yiwu Qizi. It's not my most favourite family of Yiwu teas, but I do enjoy it a lot.

While the tea has good hui gan (even in throat) and some longer-term aftertaste, I found it strangely silent when it came to cooling/vibrating mouthfeel. There is some activity (though there was not in a tester), but it is not too strong. I felt the qi as subtle and gentle, but there. 
I wonder if the relative lack of outside-taste feelings was caused by this tea being declared only as "ancient tree" and not "gushu". The leaves surely do not look like from young trees, but I can not guess their age really.

The bitterness is very low, with some long-lasting astringency. I found it ok, it was a bit too rough for my girlfriend.

There is a tuocha version of this tea available from Wistaria. I had only a little sample some time ago. According to my memory, the cake is better (and more expensive, per gram). I wonder whether it is a matter of material or simply the shape. My guess is that better leaves went to cakes, but I would not stand by that guess too strongly.

This tea is most certainly a pleasant drink, with strong and nicely complex taste. However, at least for me, feeling/qi-wise, it is nowhere near the previous three Wistaria teas, while it is rather close in price. Even though it's my least favourite sample so far, it is still a good tea. 

pátek 8. března 2013

2003 Zi Yin (Nannuo, Wistaria TH)

After the ultra-mighty Yiwu and still-a-lot-mighty Mengsong from Wistaria, the Nannuo comes. I hope you excuse me calling these cakes by their origin and not by their name. Unfortunately, if you got half as lost in their real names as I get, you would not know what I'm writing about at all.

Hobbes has recently written how he dislikes Nannuo in general. We certainly share that. However, while it is too namby-pamby for him, I dislike it for being too brutal (the young ones). But I believe I do not have to remind you of the story when Hobbes was  kidnapped by terrorists and with no ransom paid, they decided to execute him. They agreed that forcing him to drink pure sulphuric acid is a good and painful way of execution. Esteemed Hobbes, though, gulped the acid and said "Ah, this is jolly good, strong. How much for a bing?" Thinking they confused acid with another liquid, the terrorists drank the rest of the acid to verify their confusion. They died screaming... and so Hobbes became free.

As much as I prefer not to drink young Nannuo tea, my limited data on slightly aged Nannuo suggests, that it may get very good eventually. The 2001 Gu Puer Nannuo was a decent tea, certainly not too brutal. And this Wistaria Nannuo is much better.

When I opened the pouch with the sample, a friendly aroma of slightly aged leather greeted me. The leaves are pretty, with a nice color, given the 10 years of age. As far as I can tell from the sample, the degree of pressing is high.

Putting the leaves into a preheated pot makes them release an interesting sweetness and more agedness.

The wet leaves offer a good and balanced mix of aromas: wood, leather, perhaps tobacco, animality, dark fruitiness (plum jam, black cherries).

The liquor is lighter than the of Yiwu, but it's appropriate for a 10 years (reasonably dry stored, I guess) old tea.

The taste is heavy (the liquor is megaultrathick), like lightly aged leather, some black cherries, and herbs, maybe some tobbaco too. As with other Wistaria teas, I find it difficult to describe it. Nevertheless, it is powerful (though, due to the thickness, slightly distant).

Bitterness is very low (unless you want to have some; it can be done), astringency is nontrivial, but not really disturbing.

The aftertaste contains some woody smoke. The smoke got into the main taste when I prepared the tea in a tester. Nevertheless, it's a rather nice sort of smoke, I do not mind it. The later phase of aftertaste is accompanied by a very good cooling (with camphor taste) and activity.

The qi of this tea works strongly with me! It went especially to my head. It has effects unlike any other tea I have drank.

This is, in my opinion a lot more masculine tea than the previous one, the Mengsong, which was light, fruity and flowery. This one is darker and "more serious", but not unpleasant in any way. From the world of wine, it reminds me of some less fruity Syrahs. From a world of tea, the Haiwan Purple Bud of 2007 (the 2006 is quite different) offers similar spectrum of tastes. It is simpler and some of the tastes are mixed in a different ratio, but I still find the similarity interesting.

It tasted less sweet to me than the Yiwu and Mengsong. It was actually a bit too little sweet to me when I used tap water. However, with stove water, all is fixed and the tea presents luxurious, smooth and sweet liquor. I'm looking forward to the next Wistaria tea!

úterý 5. března 2013

2003 Qing Teng (Mengsong, Wistaria TH)

After the great Zi Pin, Qing Teng comes. It seems to me that Mengsong is a favourite place of maocha for small producers these days. Although all of the young Mengsongs were quite drinkable, none of them felt particularly interesting to me. If they get to 2003 in similar shape as this Qing Teng, good for them!

The leaves are green-orange, good looking. They don't smell/feel as aged as those of the Zi Pin, but they're far from young stuff too. The leaves are basically unbroken, there was no need for a strainer throughout the session (this also points to good cake-breaking skills of SilentChaos).

When I opened the pouch with the tea and smelled it, I thought "Hot summer meadow, with a lot of flowers (especially mullein and St. John's wort) blooming". Another parallel is when you have various herbs/flowers drying in a veranda and you enter it, sniffing all that goodness. We get this aroma a lot near our country house and it does appeal to me.

It is also enjoyable to keep the leaves for a while in a preheated pot, the aroma gets more intense and even more sunny. I need sun a lot these days, so I enjoyed that greatly.

The wet leaves still have a strong element of the hot meadow, but it is complemented by the aroma of "stone fruit" known from Banzhang (sort of like garden fruit with clay after light spring rain), however, it's a bit different from the Banzhang style.

The liquor has an interesting pale brown color and good clarity:

The taste itself is sweet and long. It consists of stone fruit (the clay element is pleasantly accentuated when I brew it in Yixing), hot meadow (though not as dominant as in the aroma), meadow honey. It is interesting how strong and long the taste is, while it feels very light (in a positive way) and sunny. I really like it drinking it these days, when spring seems to be a bit closer and the sun sheds nontrivial amount of warmth, at last. 

While the taste seems a lot less distant than the Zi Pin, it still feels a bit like behind a thick glass. Nevertheless, it is strong enough for me to claim that the taste is an important and positive component of this tea. And I guess that the fact that it is not entirely "in your face" tasting tea may be a consequence of its good thickness. 

In the aftertaste, there is a mixture of the meadow and pomelo. The pomelo, I admit, is not originally out of my head - the pomelo is an observation made by TwoDog here. I did not realize it there myself, but when I read his description and retasted the tea, it struck me how obvious the pomelo there was. The later taste and aftertaste are accompanied by a very good old-tree cooling.

All this description pertains to clay teapot. I prepared the Qing Teng in a tester and in a porcelain pot too and the results were worse. The stone fruit became generic garden fruit instead, with a tendency to slight sourness. That sourness was ok in the main taste, but I did not enjoy it in the long-term aftertaste, it was quite disturbing there. Maybe I could get used to it with time. 

Bitterness is zero; there is some astringency, but nothing too bad.

While the tea has balanced and nice qi, it is not a body-breaker like the Zi Pin for me. 

The qi is why I enjoyed the Zi Pin a bit more, but don't get me wrong - this Mengsong is still a lovely and enjoyable, high-quality tea. As I said before, it's sunny temperament appeals to me very much.

neděle 3. března 2013

2003 Zi Pin (Yiwu, Wistaria TH)

For some time, I pondered whether to try or not to try something from Wistaria teahouse, a place ran by well known mr. Zhou Yu. It interested me how he approached the tea tasting in Art of tea reviews and I thought I'd like to taste what he himself considers good (which Wistaria teas should be, unless he's a hidden sadist, torturing his customers with horrendous stuff). However, they do not commonly do samples and so I silently waited for the opportunity recently given by SilentChaos from Origin Tea (thanks!). More about the project is here.

I sometimes wonder why I still try so many samples. I probably met enough teas I like a lot (though not all of them are available anymore) and in all the new samples I try, there is only a few that I consider really good. Some are educational, at least. However, most of them, I close again and give to someone else to enjoy. Why do I still buy so many samples then? I guess that this Zi Pin cake from Wistaria is sort of an answer. Because sometimes, you meet a new tea, which widens your view on puerh and tea drinking and the experience is simply worth it. No samples = no such experience. I guess I'm simply interested in teas that push the boundaries of my knowledge further and make my enjoyment of tea deeper. Needless to say, the Zi Pin did just that.

While I still enjoy the taste of tea a lot, I'm appreciating its other components more and more. And it seems to me that this Zi Pin is strongest in areas outside taste. Which makes it a bit "personal", I guess. Two people who were near me when I tasted the tea and tasted it were not nearly as impressed as me. I guess that this is a general problem when it comes to finer mouthfeel and qi of tea, most people do not sense these and with qi, even if one feels qi in a tea, he may not feel it in the same teas as another person. While it is relatively unsafe to say "this tastes good, try it, you'll like it", I believe that it is crazy to say "this has great qi, try it, you'll like it". 

So, I'll try to describe my experience with the Zi Pin now... 
The dry leaves smell pleasant, aged-nutty-raisin sort of Yiwu. It smells very well stored.

The wet leaves smell dark, sweet, with some tones of overripe fruit and a bit of aged camphor (which gets more intense as the leaves cool down). However, the aroma is not as strong as in some other great teas I had.

The liquor has lovely color and clarity. 

The taste... I had a hard time concentrating on it, because it's not the point of this tea to me. When I did concentrate on it, it was a bit distant, very thick and sweet, with wide base of raisins and sweet wood. The overripe fruit appeared too, in the second half of the main taste. The camphor complemented the later stage of taste, bringing good and pleasant cooling. So - the taste is, in general, a good and pleasant one, but I would not buy the tea at its current price just for the taste.

But the energy of the tea is what counts here. It resonated strongly and deeply in me. When I sipped it for the first time, I suddenly felt very heavy and slow, as if my blood turned to molten lead. I perceived the world around me in a slightly different light and in a different way. The feeling was not unlike HLH's Yiwu of 2010 (yes, that craziness for $195), but more mature and heavier. Getting back to the lead, the feeling sort of reminds me of the sound of Bonham's drums on Kashmir. Later I realized:

Sipping tea,
I'm a minute older
than a second ago.

And even later I realized it has a second meaning which was, by chance, also apt, though not too cheering.

Anyway, the best thing is, that the qi effect was reproducible on me. It worked so every time I tried the tea, even with ordinary tap water, no stove used. 

So... I lenjoyed this tea tremendously and drinking it is definitely a special experience, but I'm afraid it won't work like this for everyone... What are your views on this one?