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!

pátek 9. srpna 2013

2013 Mansa

Mansa... one of the original famous tea mountains. Why is it not as famous today? I like Mansa teas, for they shared a strong tendency to contain dark forest fruit in their spectrum - and I very much enjoy the said tastes.

The leaves are not particularly large and they are rather densely compressed - which is, I believe, rather good.

The dry leaves smell like any other Yiwu, of sugar and a sort of flowers. However, after a short meeting with Mrs. Hot Water, the leaves start emitting a lovely aroma of dark forest fruit (black-&blue-berries, both ripe and in jam), with a touch of leather background. I think that Yiwu is often rather rich in this sort of fruitiness, but it seems to be concentrated in Mansa pu the most. The aroma of this particular cake may not be the most complex or multi-layered, but it aims for maximum intensity instead; it works very well as a result.

It is strangely dark orange for a 2013... but who am I to care? The leaves are properly green, no above-average oxidation happened here.

The taste is quite delicious, very intensive, given that this is a young Yiwu tea. The principal components are: strong and "wide" taste of blackberry jam, feeling of bitter chocolate, and a tiny bit of leather, which is, however, mixed into the blackberry taste, which is why it is not as obvious as in some other Yiwu teas. After a while in mouth, the blackberries are accompanied by blueberries - which is quite a lovely combination. It's a bit like YS's Purple Yiwu of 2010, when it was fresh, but stronger and frankly better (a lot more expensive too). "Yiwu old lilies" and light honey taste appear in later steepings too and work quite well with the fruity component.

The taste lasts long and there is a good, light velvet-like tingling and astringency. The qi is quite strong - not something which would make me stare into a wall for an hour, but I could easily feel the effect.

A very worthwhile tea, this is, heartily recommended. It has basically no bad points  and plenty of good points, so there is really nothing to dislike. It is quite differerent from all the "superthick glue with 5% of taste" gushu Yiwus that are being made today and I, at least now, prefer this style.

úterý 6. srpna 2013

2013 Bulang, Hekai and Manzhuan

After the rather excellent Naka, let us have a look at three further shengs from Peter. Though perhaps somewhat less excellent, they are still quite good... and that is good.


The well cared of leaves smell dry, flowery, woody, with a bit of clay. When rinsed, the wood gets more pronounced and is accompanied by dark flowers, a bit of metallic aroma and some good fruitiness. When the heat cools off, the ripe fruitiness gets stronger, which is a good sign.

In mouth, the tea behaves surprisingly - it is rather thin, but "superfluid", it travels all over the mouth, without sticking anywhere for too long (like some wines from Burgundy).

The taste itself is rather dry, of wood and clay. Fortunately, no smoke here. It all gets sweeter and more fruity after a while in mouth and in aftertaste. Overall, the sweetness is medium and "generic", rather than huigan. The astringency is low. Despite this tea being from Bulang, the bitterness is also quite low, no problem either. None of that persistent "stays on your teeth" Man'E stuff.

The activity in mouth is light, but present. I did not feel much qi, unfortunately.

Overall, the tea shows good signs for the future (could have more "balls" though), although I would not choose to drink it now myself. Its cleanliness and lack of smoke is a good sign (some bad Bulangs just have it) and if the fruitiness gets stronger and better connected to the other components, it could be pure pleasure after some 7-10 years. 

I was looking forward to tasting a Hekai tea for some time as I had very little tea from there so far. It is also one of few areas which, when pronounced, mean something in Czech ("they pant").

The dry leaves basically smell like any good grade young pu, nothing special. When wet, things get better. There is also that dark green floweriness that a lot of young tea has, but more seducive than usual. And sweet spiciness and something like "dark pomelo" are there, working in harmony.

Rather dark liquor for 2013, isn't it? 

The taste is pleasantly sweet, with hints of honey, but rather distant. The thickness is "only" medium, i.e., this is not distance due to huge thickness. In the distance, tastes of "young pu" mingle with the fruitiness (a mixture of future overripe fruit and pomelo). After a couple of steepings, interesting floralness develops, something like violets from the wine taste realm. The tastes themselves are good, but at the moment, a bit too far away to be enjoyed at their full, in my opinion.

The aftertaste is long and dynamic, accompanied by good activity in mouth, but qi is not too strong yet. At least, the tea is not downright hollow, qi-wise, far from that.


Manzhuan... an interesting area. I'm still looking for a great tea from Manzhuan. Some are quite good (e.g., 2004 Shi Kun Mu), but not really as great as some Yiwus can get. Some areas "around Yiwu" (e.g., Jiangchen, Yibang, Mangzhi) can do some things that Yiwu can't (or I haven't seen such examples), but Manzhuans seem like a not-great Yiwu, most of the time, often with a not too pleasant mouth-drying effect.

The leaves are long and very nice. You can almost tell it's from Yiwu or close around only when looking at the leaves.

The aroma is heavier than in previous teas, difficult to describe, with some seriously great tones of dark forest fruit (similar to those in some Yiwu teas, but still different). There is something like dried fruit too, though in limited quantity.

However, one should not be confused by awesome aroma, when drinking Yiwus and surrounding areas - some teas which are quite boring can still smell great (not that it would be the case here).

The liquor is lighter and "less saturated" than previous teas.

The taste itself is quite decent. It is largely sugar/sugarcan, complemented with very good fresh fruitiness (rather an uncommon sort), a mixture of pomelo, unripe red berries and sweet granary (the aroma of spent leaves suggests that honey could accompany the granariness in a couple of years).

It seems to me that the tones in taste will change dramatically in a couple of years and therefore it is difficult to judge it. 

Unfortunately, there is some of that mouth-drying effect, which is followed by a rather powerful bitterness (it can be held down, but the taste is not that strong when uses short steepings). It's not too bad, but it prevents the tea for being straightforwardly enjoyable.

I think that the qi of this tea works better for me than that of the two previous teas. It is nice, though not the Naka powerhouse.

All the three today's teas were quite good, but for me, they lacked the "X factor". They just did not hook me so. Still, I'm very seldom hooked by young tea and I think that these three are still above-average, nice teas.

pátek 2. srpna 2013

2013 Naka

After the last tasting round by Yunnan Sourcing, I'll move to teas that Peter from kindly sent me. I'm looking forward to this round too - Scott's teas were mostly from northern areas of puerhmaking, which I do not particularly crave - Peter's samples are, I believe, from more southern areas. Not knowing the pricing/background, I started today with Naka, as I remember reading about how lovely the place is. What a good start!

The leaves are large and wholely whole. They smell pleasantly of sugar and grass - but in a good, puerh way, not lucha..

Rinsed leaves smell very good. There are dark flowers, brown sugar, a bit of leather and light fresh fruitiness at the end. Overall, very pleasant, sort of similar to Mengsong from the last year, but more complex and penetrating.

The liquor starts yellow (dazzling yellow :)) and gradually heads for orange.

Tastebuds are first shocked by short burst of powerful, but transforming bitterness and medium astringence (which lasts a while, though not too long), but quickly rejuvenated by pleasant and swiftly coming huigan and good taste. Even though this is still a young puerh, the usual mixture of garden fruit and floweriness is more interesting and powerful than usual. Also, it is not too distant, which is unfortunately the case with some of old tree teas. The main taste is lightly bolstered with (brown sugar)-like sweetness and then shifts towards very fresh fruitiness in the aftertaste (Mengsong/Jingmai style). The aftertaste is long and good (it goes on for minutes).

The good stuff does not end with taste. The activity in mouth is strong and clean, goes even back into throat and lasts long (again, in strong steepings, it can go for minutes, which is quite rare, imho). And qi is strong with this one. I never had a tea which would feel like this one, qi-wise (it sort of feels like I'm an old forest in a valley, with a crystal clear stream running through me, though such comparisons are very inaccurate), though some were close. Anyway, it is very strong and obvious to me, which is good.

The used leaves are strong, thick and almost free of broken bits. Also, the degree of burning/overoxidation is very low.

This is a mighty good tea. It is very expensive (something like $160 per 357 bing, if one could buy whole cake, which you can't, as the purchase quantity is limited), but there are many cakes that are very expensive and not all them deliver the necessary quality - this Naka does, at least now. If its aging does not suck, it might become very complex and all-around excellent. When one looks at it in context of other teas of this age, it already is. 

I'm very glad that someone from near here can make such a good tea. Congratulations, Peter!