sobota 27. dubna 2013

2001 Dayi "Chang Hong Dayi" 7542

This is one of "Red Dayi" cakes. It says it's 7542, but I don't think it has much in common with normal 7542 actually. The Red Dayi  cakes seem to share a particular sort of fruitiness which may not appeal to everyone. Furthermore, it seems to me that such a tea needs careful storage as it can get sour quite easily. E.g., the 2003 Red Dayi cake from Sampletea is an example of a problematic tea - it has similar sort of fruitiness as this 2001 Red Dayi, but probably due to too dry storage, it is quite sour - one of few teas I had to throw out not to contamine my teapot (and stomach) further.

Luckily, this 2001 cake has received some very good storage I think. The website says "a bit wet" - same as what is written about the 2000 Apple green 7542. I don't know what this "a bit wet" actually means. Not too dry? Certainly. But it's not wet like you'd taste any dampness or storage taste; not at all. It tastes like reasonably dry storage to me. There is not much aged character yet, but the tea is not a degenerated dried mummy either.

The leaves look healthy, are not too broken and there is an abundance of tips (a possible factor contributing to the tendency to get sour, maybe?).

When the leaves are rinsed, it is rather obvious that this tea is a representative of "Red Dayi" - there are starting tones of agedness and nuts, some malt, with that characteristic "red berry fruit". I tend to avoid this sort of fruitiness as I have met it mostly in overly dry teas where it caused nasty sourness. However, this 2001 shows that it might not be always a clear negative.

As I had this session in late evening, I had to flash-photograph, which may lead to a bit distorted colors. Anyway - the liquor has excellent clarity and "proper" color for a 2001 tea. It's really nice and definitely not too dry.

The taste remains faithful to the aroma. It is malty-sweet (or sweet-sour, actually; but the sweetness is stronger), thick and smooth. It tastes of light mixture of sweet wood and nuts, with a distinct taste of that overripe "red fruit" (which also gives the sourness to the sweet-sourness). It is maybe as if you took a flowery/fruity meadow character and aged it... maybe.

The tea somehow reminded of Wistaria's Mengsong and partly because of that (and because of other Mengsongs), I think that a large portion of this cake's leaves could come from Mengsong. I don't say it's exactly like the Wistaria's Mengsong - far from that - but I think that there is a nontrivial set of shared aspects.

The taste was decent - I don't really crave this kind of tea, but it was all right. Unfortunately, there is not too much aftertaste or long-term aftertaste (that one does appear, but only seldom). There is no real mouth activity and I did not feel any qi. Therefore, from the point of outside-taste aspects, this tea really did not seem too interesting to me. And the taste, while fine, somehow lacked noblesse in the sessions I had with it.

I don't want to sound too negative about this tea as it is not really bad... but I think that there are better choices and much more to my style too. However, I think that it is definitely an interesting experience to taste a "Red Dayi" cake - and this one is probably the best of the set I tasted up to now - certainly the best stored. 

By the way, I would not build a knowledge base on 7542 recipe based on this tea... I don't think it's like a 7542 at all.

pondělí 22. dubna 2013

2000 Menghai Hong Yin Hong Si Dai

I've received several interesting around-2000 cakes from Sampletea a couple of days ago. The first one I had, 2000 Apple green 7542, was very good (more about that in future). Next, I picked the 2000 Hong Yin Hong Si Dai. It's possibly a bit more controversial due to rather dry storage, however, it is still quite decent (which sadly can't be said about another theoretically interesting cake,the 2003 Wild Arbor Red Mark which was so dry it got heavily sour; bad Kunming).

The leaves smell quite clean, without a hint of dampness of any sort. Nevertheless, the leaves are brown already, no signs of green:

The cake seems to be mid-heavily pressed.

After rinsing a tea from around 2000, I'm used to a rich sweet mixtures of different sorts. I thought the aroma of this one unusually chaotic and not very interesting - some wood, red fruit and some herbs; no agedness whatsoever. But it was not really how I imagine a "proper" 2000 tea. I got a bit afraid of the tea being overdried.

The liquor is light, but not dangerously so:

The clarity is very good, but not good for much. The taste is what matters.

The taste is ok, solid, my fears of overly dry storage were partially in vain - there is not much of that strange sourness and it goes away after a couple of steepings. The tea tastes of ripe currant and grapes, but it is not really long. After a while, very, very light earthiness appears (but not really of an aged sort), spiciness and some tones of camphor. The tea tastes young, but somewhat changed. I'd say it's not unlike a 40 years old woman who pretends to be 20. I prefer "naturally aged" women than these zombies, I have to say.

The sweetness and thickness are ok, but nothing extra special, especially in a tea of this age. The tea had excellent mouthfeel and vibrancy in the first two steepings, but that vanished from the 3rd steeping on. However, a pleasant aftertaste of fresh plums was present, which is what basically made me continue with the tea session.

What I was worried the most is that this is probably the 10-15th tea I have I'd label as "drier than good" and all these teas shared a single feature - the qi was zero. This tea brings no special feelings, no inner motion, no concentration to me. It's like a shell without a soul. 

Overall, the session was ok, because I had no expectations. Having a high expectations, I'd be probably disappointed: this tea is really at the edge of dry and overly dry storage, I think. With no aged tones appearing yet, I think that if one wants to make it aged, it would be best to store it somewhere else. Of course, one might want to avoid the "classical" aged character, sticking to more youthful tones, but I don't think such aging works too well. It might be safer (and cheaper) to drink young/5-10yrs old pu instead.

středa 17. dubna 2013

1990s Grand Yellow Mark

This cake was available for a long time at the Esssence of Tea, being their cheapest cake. When I had it for the first time, I was not really impressed, thinking the Small Yellow label to be notably better for not that much more money. Anyway, it was a welcome opportunity to revisit this tea again.

It was sold here by Mr. Ptacek for a rather lovely price of $75 (the original price was about $72; therefore we get a bargain much unlike the usual premiums seen around here).

Now, the dry leaves:

The leaves are quite large and they seem loosely pressed. There is a light white coating, but it mostly stays on stems.

A detail of the white stuff:

And one more:

Now, I hope that those unbelieving Thomases who did not believe me that the white coating is a mold, I hope you believe me now. I know, someone could think that it's Frosty the snowman who sprinkled the stems with snow, but it's not. If you still don't believe me, I'll get you microscopic photos next time.

Is it safe to drink such a tea? I think so. My stomach is, unfortunately, quite sensitive. Yet these teas comfort it. And I think that countless people drinking tea with such a light frosting are another suggestion that this mold may be ok. Yellow or green mold, no. But a bit of white stuff is not an issue.

The year which passed from my last tasting of this tea helped with storage aroma, which was not too strong back then and is actually quite mild now. 

My issue with this tea is not that it had a bit of wetter storage. I think that the major problem is its relative weakness. It is thinner than other aged tea, and it's not really as sweet either. On the other hand, it has an interesting taste, which is not only "aged" (wood, some nuts, forest floor), but also herbal. It is also pleasantly clean (and with good clarity of liquor) There is still a bite of bitterness, but that can be kept low using shorter steepings.

It had a nice activity in mouth, but I did not feel too much qi.

This was a bit like a loose leaf to me, not as concentrated and lubricating as cakes. However, let us be realistic. The deal did not sound "you'll get an awesome tea for $75". The deal is "You get a nice, lightly aged tea for a good price. It is not perfect. Right... But it is not $10000 either". 

I still think that even when accounting the small increase in price, the Small Yellow label is better - possibly similar in mouthfeel and qi, but sweeter and thicker. However, especially for Czech people, I think that the offer of having a tea with somewhat aged feeling, for $75, without the fuss with customs office and all that, the bargain is quite good. I hope that Mr. Ptacek will continue bringing such tea to CR.

neděle 14. dubna 2013

Menghai zodiac: 2011, 2012, 2013

The 2010 Menghai Tiger I wrote about the last time, the first of zodiac series, was quite a nice tea, no doubt. I  purchased all of the 2010-13 to see what they are like, after all, they are one of the more premium cakes by Dayi. They are not particularly cheap, between 60 and 80 dollars per cake. Unfortunately, this seems to be a result of an unhealthy investment bubble - these cakes used  to cost much less when they were brand new.

Let's take it chronologically...

2011: Rabbit
I did not know what animal this was. I was thinking of a pig or a sloth when I had my first tasting. Well, it's a rabbit. Chinese rabbits must be really scary then.

The aroma of rinsed leaves is still quite young, green, but it just started to get darker. It heads towards dark overripe fruitiness, with some pleasant spice and good sweetness. The overripeness is realy "over", it's as when apples start rotting and fermenting a bit. But it's actually kind of nice. Or "controversial" - it's not plain bad, to be sure.
There is a sort of "aftersmell", which contains remains of youthful smoke (woody) and some incense. The aroma is really different than the one of the tiger, but it is also solid, wide and pleasant.

The taste is quite complex, dark for a 2011 tea (it's probably a blend of several vintages anyway), with some animality, some urine (yeah, weird), some fully ripe, overripe and fermenting/rotting garden fruit (mostly apples), all around pleasant. It's really a rather heavy and decadent blend (that is why I was surprised when i learned it's a rabbit), but I rather enjoy it.

The sweetness is good, but not  as much as in recent fancy gushu cakes. Hui gan is nothing extra; bitterness and astringency are medium. The aftertaste has some interesting notes of sugarcane. Activity in mouth is nothing extra. After two days of being put aside, the leaves have developed an interesting tones of camphor, not unlike you can find in some older Yiwu. However, I don't think there was too much Yiwu material, if any.

Overall, this is one of the more interesting young cakes, with some seldom seen tastes and high degree of overall "solidity". I would not be afraid to age this one.

2012: Dragon

This one much more dragonesque than the rabbit was rabbitesque, in my opinion.

The dry leaves are like generic young sheng from Menghai/Bulang/Nannuo.

The wet leaves emit a very "classical" puerh aroma, with some leatheriness which is similar to the Nannuo one. It's rather sweet and reasonably complex, seems like an above average "universal sheng".

In taste, there is good, tasty "Menghai sweetness" and robust mix of greener tastes, not overly long though (long like in english; it's long in chinese). The greenness actually has a bit of a bite, it does not feel too comfortable on the tongue. 

The mouthfeel is nice, after the slight sourness of green tastes go away. There is, again, a nice taste of sugercane paired with astringency.

I stopped drinking this tea around steeping 5 or 6... it just does not have too much to offer right now. It's really just a somewhat above-average universal sheng... There are better ones without that Dayi premium.

2013: Snake
Again, I think that this tea is rather faithful to its animal.

The leaves are very long! And good looking. They sure look lovely and classy. They faintly smell of smoke, unfortunately. The scent of leather is more to my liking

The wet leaves smell a bit aggressive, leathery, with some smoke, but not too mucch. It's like Nannuo, with some Bulang and possibly a bit of Wuliang..

The taste is a complex mixture of animality, leatheriness, smoke, with a starting fruitiness and fruity wood - I think that these two components will become stronger in future. Sweetness is good.

Overall, the taste is a lot better than the aroma would have suggested. If the smokiness was not present, it would be a really good mixture. I think the light smoke will go away and I think this tea will be very good (even though it's not too drinkable right now).

There is a fine, light mouth-coating astringency, which, along with the taste of leather, suggests a large portion of Nannuo leaves, I believe. Looking where a good leathery Nannuo can go, as, e.g., in that Wistaria Nannuo, this Snake sure sounds like a good candidate for aging, if a not-too-dry environment is used.

Another thing where the Snake is very good is feeling in mouth; it's very active, with good cooling. Without that, I might not have finished drinking it as it is really young and harsh.

I saw some good in all of the 2010-2013 zodiac cakes by Menghai. However, it was a bit difficult in the Dragon of 2012. 2010 Tiger, 2011 Rabbit and 2013 Snake are all notably better, in my opinion, and if they were not as hyped, I'd consider buying some more. I think that Dayi really show that they know how to make a good tea. All these three cakes have their character, they go beyond "ok, young pu" and show good promises for the future. 

pondělí 8. dubna 2013

Two Dayi cakes: 2010 Year of Tiger and 2012 Spring of Menghai

Before the expected (and looked-forward-to) package from Origintea makes it here, I'll be spending my days with young Menghai Dayi tea, it seems. 

Finishing a master thesis is a very painful process. I even resorted to green tea not to upset my stomach with too much pu, but keeping the caffeine level high enough. Yesterday, I was injected  with some extra energy, when I got the message that they accepted my/our article into Journal of Neurophysiology. Anyway, the extra energy ran out quickly... and so I'm left with young Dayi as the last resort. 

2010 Menghai Dayi Year of tiger - Rui Hu Cheng Xiang
These Zodiac Dayi cakes seem to epitomize the Dayi hype... This tea has jumped more than ten times in price, since the time when it appeared on the market. Taetea's price is, probably similarly to the price of Sampletea, between $80 and $90. There are some cheaper options on ebay, but, of course, it may be a bit risky when it comes to fakes.

The leaves are a bit dark for 2010, eh? 

Nevertheless, the aroma of rinsed leaves is very pleasant - plenty of sweetness, some overripe fruit, some herbs, a taste which will eventually become honey sweetness and similarly undeveloped fetus of sweet granary taste... 

I think the liquor does not look like your ordinary 2010 tea either. However, worry not, there are no nefarious processings, or such things. I think that it's simply a blend of older and younger leaves. That is not uncommon in Dayi production. E.g., the n-th vintage  of Spring of Menghai seems to contain material from years n-2, n-1 and n. My guess would be that the majority of the leaves in this Tiger could be from 2008 or so...

The taste is bold, strong and good. There is a light clay taste, along with dark sweetness; a combination that I enjoy very much. There are, as in the aroma, some yet undeveloped tones, which should become stronger with time. These are mainly the taste of sweet grain and honey. Even though the initial impression is good, I realize that while thickness and overall sweetness are good, they are not exactly stunning. 
There's a slightly disturbing sour-ish component in the taste. It's ok, when the tea is not oversteeped. However, I would not put this into an overly dry storage myself.

Overall, this feels to me like a predominantly Lao Man'E tea. There's the typical taste, as well as that sort of persistent bitterness. It's not too unpleasant. I think, however, that it is not a pure Man'E. If I had to guess, I'd say it's 40% Man'e a, 30% other Bulang and 30% "Menghai blend". Anyway, it's certainly more appealing to me than a pure Lao Man'E tea.

The mouthfeel and vibrancy in mouth are good, considering that it is a factory production. On the other hand, it can not really talk face to face with fancy pure gushu production of these days.

This is a very solid tea, however, I'm afraid the Dayi tag increased the price beyond reason. Maybe the $50 ebay price could be considered feasible...

2012 Spring of Menghai
I considered tasting this one  in expectation of a good bargain. And good bargain it is. You may remember me writing about that 2005-9 Spring of Menghai sequence sold by Finepuer/Sampletea. I enjoyed these teas very much. While possibly not the tea for deep meditation, the 06-09 specimen were very tasty, robust and solid pu. And for a solid price too. When I saw that Scott of YS has 2012 Spring of Menghai for mere $14, I thought it might be a good idea to buy that in quantity, if it's similar to the 06-09 stuff. 

I did not tarry and asked Alan of Sampletea whether he didn't have the 2012 version and if so, if it is similar to the previous vintages. Not only he said that he had and that it is, he also packed a sample for me along my order. If this is not a great customer service, I do not know what is.

It was very educational to observe the 06-09 versions of Spring of Menghai (the 05 was a bit outside the cluster) and tasting this 12 version only furthers the educational experience by a mile.

I'm sorry I forgot to take pictures of the liquor. It was a generic young pu yellow/green, no surprise.

This cake is a blend of several years (I think 2010-12), which contributes to its reasonable drinkability, despite it being a 2012 cake.

The aroma of rinsed  leaves is good, sweet, with meadow flowers (that "Menghai", heavier sort, not the Youle sort), with tones of future meadow honey and light ground after spring rain. There is still some unwanted greenness and floralness of too young pu, but these will go away soon, I think. As the liquor cools down, some berry fruits come out; I do not remember  that from the 05-09 Springs of Menghai. 

The taste is good, probably surprisingly so, given the low price of this tea. There is a faint young earthiness (yum), good sweetness, with actually a rather  luxurious combination of light sweet grain, meadow flowers and hints of honey. It's all very well connected and works nicely together. A fast and long (very much so) huigan are a pleasant addition. 

There are some remnants of "green" tastes, but they should transform in time, no problem. Also, there was a bit of taste/aroma, that I'd describe as "urine". But it's not really that bad. It sometimes happens in young tea and then goes away. Both astringency and bitterness are low and nondisturbing. On  the other hand, the tea is by no means weak or anything. It just does not use the simplest ways of demonstrating its strength.

The feeling in mouth is light, but long and it feels nice and natural.

The leaves follow the trend of "the newer edition of Spring of Menghai, the nicer and more whole leaves". They look good. 

I really can't say anything bad about this tea. It is indeed much alike the 06-09 editions of this recipe, which makes it a very promising candidate for aging. Its price is also very low, I'm glad that Scott keeps it that way. If it cost $30, I would not say it's overpriced (it does cost that on Ebay). Therefore, the price tag of $14 sounds very good.

I'm not sure if I'd rather buy the 2012 version for $14 or the 2009 for $18 (also at YS). Both are excellent buys, methinks. Had I not placed three big orders recently, I'd buy a couple of tongs of these.

sobota 6. dubna 2013

Two 2010 goodies from Shi Kun Mu: Yun Pin and Xin Yun Chen

I've been enjoying these two teas in the past months, but somehow neglected writing about them. They certainly deserve mentioning. It is no secret that they are good. In 2010, the Yun Pin would be "not cheap" and Xin Yun Chen "damn expensive". However, we live in 2013 and $100+ young cakes are not exactly a scarcity. In today's context, the pricing is ok. And the quality is, in my opinion, better than ok. Also, Master Shi Kun Mu (SKM) has shown that he can make a well aging tea previously. Most of recent young producers of fancy cakes are much less experienced, which is why I'd be willing to pay a bit more to SKM than to the owners of eshops who started making their own tea recently.  

For me, both of these cakes are some of the best post-2010 fancy cakes, not only because of (now) reasonable pricing, but even in terms of absolute quality. They both are already developing a character that is to my liking and makes them drinkable for pleasure; it's not like my feeling about most new "ok, young, green, boring" teas.

Ok, le's start with the cheaper one ($42), Yun Pin from Lincang:
2010 SKM Yun Pin
This is a Lincang cake, a blend of Mengku and Yongde. I may think that I, at least a bit, see many facets of Yiwu or Bulang, however, Lincang doesn't seem to have a specific "Lincang" taste to me. Neither Mengku, nor Yongde; they both contain several sub-clusters and from time to time, I find a new family of tastes there. 

The family of tastes in this tea is not really common. I've met it only once before, in Longfeng purple label of 2010 (the  2009 version was a completely another tea from another place).

The good looking, unbroken dry leaves emit a nice aroma of fresh exotic fruit.

The rinsed leaves emit even nicer aroma of fresh exotic fruit (mango, papaya), riding on a sugary sweetness; with some flowers, possibly. The fruitiness has some intersection with the one found in Jade poles green tea from YS or Chawangshop... However, even though this pu is light and fresh, it is by no means green, vegetal, or lacking in depth.

The liquor has, for a Lincang tea, unexpectedly good thickness and sweetness. High tones of the mango and papaya are very well harmonized with sweet (dark sugariness) base and "puerh thingness" fills the area between them. The main body of the taste lasts long and gradually changes into a smooth and pleasant aftertaste (with a degree of astringency; low bitterness though). 

After the exciting start, the tea does not bring too many new tastes or development and it has a tough time keeping all my attention to itself. But it may be just that I'm more used to more aged tea these days... 

The buzzing mouthfeel is good and, in cooperation with inspection of leaves, shows that the amount of old tree leaves is not exactly homeopathic. 

I'd be slightly worried of long-term aging of this one... I can imagine the light exotic fruit turning into hongcha tones which I found, e.g., in 10 years old Jingmai... I prefer the usual aging process of puerh a lot more.

Overall, I think this tea is interesting and well suited even for immediate consumption due to its low bitterness and overall not-too-cold character. It's really a pleasant, easygoing tea with some extra features, such as the good buzz.

I mentioned its similarity to Longfeng Purple label 2010, which, marketing bollocks aside, was a pretty good tea in my opinion. I remembered it fairly well, but I took my last bit of sample to compare it... It's still good. However, the Shi Kun Mu's Yun Pin is clearly better: fuller, sweeter, with better buzz and less bitterness. Therefore, if you enjoyed the Purple label of 2010 as much as I did, consider trying this Shi Kun Mu; it's only marginally more expensive.

2010 Shi Kun Mu Xin Yun Chen
This one is more blended and it can be felt in a lot greater complexity. Where the Yun Pin mastered one or two dimensions, the Xin Yun Chen tries to handle many more. 

Although there is, as in the Yun Pin, an important aspect of young, fresh fruitiness, it's a bit different style (I guess that it comes from Mangzhi or Yibang), which single-handedly makes drinking this tea a pleasant experience to me.

It is overall darker than the Yun Pin, both in color and feeling. There is plenty of dark sweetness, which should become more pronounced with further aging. Also, I believe that the tea prepares itself to develop the taste of sweet grain. Although the taste is yet preparing for its peak, I believe it may get very, very good eventually.

It has a long aftertaste, with some sweet camphor; very nice. However, the rather heavy bitterness takes its toll on easygoingness of this tea. It's a lot more hardcore than the Yun Pin.

Mouthfeel is, in one word, excellent. Thick, vibrant, buzzing and cooling.

This could be quite a luxurious tea in some 5-10 years... Although it's good already, I don't think it's really ready for immediate consumption yet. 

čtvrtek 4. dubna 2013

1999 Changtai Yichanghao

My heart jumped with joy when I saw that Sampletea started selling this tea. After all, it's quite famous. With such a hyped tea, one is glad for an affordable price.

There are several versions of this cake. This is the first one, which received the heaviest pressing. In general, "first pressing" sounds good. However, in this case, it seems that the other pressings were much better. Unfortunate me for having the first one.

First, I am not altogether sure how much "HK storage" the tea received. Because there is only a very faint storage aroma in dry leaves in a preheated teapot and in the aroma of rinsed leaves and in taste, there is basically no storage taste/aroma at all. It's possible that the tea is indeed from HK, but I'd guess at dry/natural storage then. Of course, it's possible that the dense compression had some influence on very low degree of "wetness"...

The rinsed leaves smell ok, reasonably sweet, with that nutty/woody/raisin mix that one sometimes meets in lightly aged Yiwu tea.

Does this look like a 1999 HK "slightly wet" stored tea to you? Does not to me... I have teas from 2007 with a similar color.

Anyway, the taste... it's difficult to write about it, because there is not much. There is some sweet, powdery wood, with hints of raisins and nuts... Very, very mild aged taste. The powderiness of the tea is really strange. Maybe it's that famous Granny face powder? I can imagine having a granny with a face powder of similar aroma as this tea does.

Unimpressive taste can be redeemed, no doubt. But the tea rejects even that. It just feels awfully winded, tired and bored, like a person who just waits for death with resignation. 

Sweetness? Sub-par. Thickness? Sub-par. Length of taste? Sub-par. Mouthfeel?  Almost none. Qi? Weak and tired. Long-term aftertaste? Maaaybe... In a couple of steepings, it was nice.

This tea really reminded me of Cheng Guang He Tang's 99 Yiwu Dragon and Horse. That one was possibly a touch better though... But it was tired in a similar way, the fact that he sucked a bit less than this 99 Changtai Yichanghao did not save it either.

Bummer, I wanted this tea to be good. Well, next time, maybe. I've heard that the later pressings (also probably from somewhat different material) can be good or even  excellent. I'll be looking for them then.