neděle 29. září 2013

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

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

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

Ah, back to tea anyway...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sobota 21. září 2013

All is good in Oxford

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

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

čtvrtek 5. září 2013

Doujithon: Alfa, beta, gamma, delta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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