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.

2 komentáře:

  1. Douji hasn't really made much worth buying since maybe 2009.

  2. Douji was actually great value only three or four years ago, their medium to high end blends at least. Maybe not so overwhelming in taste but quite well balanced and with a strong solid feeling, like it has enough stuff to last and won't become hollow after only a few years as so many others do. For me they also managed to help fill a gap back then, as it was hard work finding good blends (or any blends) made by other outfits than the big factories, at least outside asia. According to my storage spreadsheet I bought my tong of Jin Dou from Jerry in 2010 at $35 a cake (now he has them at about $140) and the 2009 Hong Da Dou I got for $20 a cake at YS ($60 today at Jerry's). Both are still doing quite well, relative to other teas I have in my storage - not that three years is much to go on I guess. I wouldn't buy them at current prices (and haven't actually tried this years teas). Not that I buy much young cakes anyway these days (cursed "puerh-bubble"!). But if you could find them cheaper somewhere then...

    Best wishes