středa 20. srpna 2014

2003 CNNP Big Zhong 7542

And here goes another tea from Teaclassico - a 7542 from the year of 2003, for a promising price of $129. There is perhaps no recipe more classical than 7542 and a rather many have found their way to my cup, generally to my pleasure. I even had a 2003 example, thanks to generosity of MarshalN - and, slightly surprisingly, it seems to be similar to the one currently in my teapot. Why surprisingly when it's the same tea from the same year? Well, because 7542 (showing that 42 is not the complete answer!).

Being not too wetly stored, there is still a clear degree of green-ness in the leaves.

And it is good! Not surprising, but still good - and very balanced. 7542 is a generally balanced recipe and the year of 2003 is, with this type of good storage, is right between youth and age, in my opinion.

It is very thick and sweet (with light honey taste), which always appeals to me, as does the (also present) tingling and cooling of palate. The taste is a good mixture of warm earthiness (not realy storage wetness though), woodiness, herbs and a sort of fruit. None of these dominates the others, leading to feeling of richness and complexity. It's well within the characteristics of 7542, which probably says more than an attempt at direct description.

Unlike in most other real 7542s I had, there is a chestnut tone in the aftertaste, suggesting there might have been some tobacco smoke taste earlier.

It's still perhaps a bit young to drink - it is thick and silky, but there is still bitterness that is painfully obvious when you use more leaves; similarly, there is an astringency that can be clearly felt. MarshalN's sample was more ready in these aspects

All in all, a very solid tea at a solid price; perhaps not surprising, nor very dynamic, but good, and I'll be happy to enrich my teabox with one of these I think...

neděle 17. srpna 2014

1990s CNNP Apple Green Tuocha

I recall that as a young boy, 6 or so, I've dreamt of unexpected discovery of a hoard - the general form was looking under the bed and finding a package of collectible cards in there (anybody remembers Middle-Earth game? Not the after-movie LoTR.). Surprisingly, such a thing once happened - a small deck of cards that fell out from a book I was taking out of library. My parents said they did not do it so I have forgotten them there myself or there are supernatural forces out there. Nevertheless, I had to wait about 20 years for the next miracle - how does it sound that your darling wife comes home to you with a paper bag filled with packages with labels starting with 1980s, 1998, 1990s, etc.? Sure sounds good to me! However, this time, there were no supernatural forces behind it, as the package has been most kindly provided by Hobbes (thinking of it, the presumption of non-supernaturalness might be invalid). The teas come from Teaclassico and we'll get to them  all soon. Let us start with the 1998 Apple green tuocha. Or, rather, spelled "toucha" at the website, which always sounds like "gotcha" to me. Based on online shops and discussions, I wonder whether toucha is US and tuocha being used by the rest of the world?

The white coating is quite clear and it does not seem to be present only at the surface of the tuo, but also inside, which, together with tight compression, suggests a rather wet storage (where dry HK storage is written at Teaclassico's website).

Rinsed leaves, however, do not smell all that damp - there is some classical aged mixture (with fishiness as a not-entirely-welcome bonus), but as they cool down, the aroma gets sweeter, more fruity and more woody.

The color of the liquor is dark brown rather than dark red one might be used to - I wonder what are the variables explaining the progress in hue with aging.

The tea does smell quite interestingly, reminding me of coconut milk with some sort of fruit.

In the initial steepings, there is an unwelcome fishiness in the liquor, but it's not too bad (certainly not making me pour the tea out) - and the tea is already sweet and reasonably smooth. As the taste goes away, cooling feeling takes its place. Fortunately, the taste of fish soon dissipates and gives way to much nicer spectrum of tastes - wood, herbs and garden fruit - all quite aged, but not really earthy. The fruitiness gets strongest in the aftertaste - it's a bit like what you get from 85+% chocolate.

The tea can be well felt in mouth - there is still bitterness left and it is overall active, cooling and sometimes numbing.

What is always important in tea is - do its parts work in harmony? I feel that they do  here. The tea is not really "normal" - on one hand, it is covered in white frosting, on the other hand, it has very little if any taste signs of much wetness in storage. The color is not exactly ordinary either. But I  like it - it tastes clean and right. I wonder if the discrepancy between looks and taste might be explained due to initially wet storage with a drying-out period afterwards. Sometimes, such an approach causes weird flatness and lack of body, but if it has been done here, it has been done right.

While the tea is not super-excelent, when I saw the price of $83 per tuocha, I thought it is not entirely horrible, certainly not a complete ripoff. Then I've noticed that it's a 250g tuo, not a 100g - at first, I thought "This cheap? I'm not buying that" - but after looking again, I reconsidered - I am.

neděle 3. srpna 2014

2013 Chawangpu Shuang Shu

I believe this is the last of Chawangpu's teas from 2013 I'm writing about. It has been a good year, with teas like Hua Zhi, Lao Yu (!) or He He that I consider very good. I kept postponing the "final tasting" for some time, but the time has come at last...

This is one of the more expensive teas at Chawangpu at $90 per 400g of tea (sold in 200g pieces).

It's probably quite a fancy tea, old tree material, pretty, whole leaves and all that.

The aroma of rinsed leaves is deep green, quite sweet, having a mixture of flowery aromas, such as lilies or magnolia. It has nothing of the "flowery meadow" (found, e.g., in Youle or Bada) - this is more like what you can smell at a flower exhibition.

After a year or so of existence, the liquor is greeny, turning into pale orange.

The first impression upon tasting the tea is the sweetness and then thickness. Other than that, the taste is buttery and sugary, with the above mentioned "garden" floralness (if I went more deeply botanical, I'd say I taste violets in there). However, even with tea stove water (that makes the taste more noble and clearer), I can't help feeling I'm missing something in the taste.

The old-tree-ness is not only apparent in the taste, but also in the pleasant cooling feeling it leaves in the mouth. There is no bitterness transformation due to no bitterness present... however, we're reminded that this is a puerh by the astringency, which is not indecent, but still noticeable. Eventually, it goes into a nice long-term aftertaste.

One locally famous chef has once said about a certain food that it is good, but it lacks the right jeb, which is a somewhat vulgar (he's a chef) Czech word for a "one instance of sex" - it is usually used as a verb (to-have-sex), but used like this, it basically is a punchy way of saying "the kick". I guess that the G.W.Bush's brother, Jeb, might find it difficult to lead a common life in the Czech Republic... Anyway, I remember this because this tea, in my opinion, also lacks the "X factor", despite being quite good otherwise.

I can drink this and be happy, but I won't be excited about it... which is not a major concern, of course, just noting... In this regard, it is similar to the previous year's Jingmai (leaves from there are also present in the Shuang Shu and the taste has not changed dramatically between 2012 and 2013) which ticked basically all the boxes of desirable properties, but failed to excite me too...

pondělí 21. července 2014

Mid 90s CNNP Ba Zhong Red Mark

This tea originally came from Origintea to Hobbes, who has kindly gifted me with a sample of this. It happened after the announcement that Origintea is closing - given this tea, sadly. In my first order sampling their around-2000 puerh and some oolongs, I've received very nice oolongs (even one from Tony's private stash that was among the best oolongs I have ever had), but the puerhs were, unfortunately, not to my taste, being uniformly distributed in the range between "where is the dissinfection" to "rather good". I am well aware that the prices were not that high, but I have had many much better teas from that tea even in that price range, so I don't buy that argument entirely. Therefore, it is perhaps unexpected that this "gravestone" cake should be good, especially as the part of its marketing was its low price.

The cake looks amiably brown and rusty, containing a mixture of all sorts of materials (leaves, huangpian, twigs,...). It is rather lightly compressed too. The dry leaves give a happines-inducing aroma of clay.

After rinsing, the  clay/earthiness goes away surprising quickly, leaving nuttiness (cashew). The edges of the cake seem to me to be a bit more earthy - possibly due to larger area being in contact with aging-inducing surroundings in there?

Even though the tea has seen some wetness, it is not really dominant at all. The color of the liquor is not too dark either, for a mid-90s tea either (mind that this is quite a deep cup). It's like if this tea was kickstarted in HK and then moved somewhere to dry out. It ttends to form a layer of something on the surface, I wonder what it is. I don't think that it's merely Oxford water this time.

When a normal amount of leaves is used, the taste is mainly about old paper, wood and slightly rancid nuts, feeling slightly stale and hollow overall. Nevertheless, the taste tends to hold for a good amount of time, however not-awesome it is.

Hobbes suggested to me to use more leaves  than normal - when I have done so, the tea has improved, becoming stronger and more concentrated, without acquiring sharp edges. It essentially becomes a quite nice, easily drinkable aged tea with enough sweetness and thickness to feel pretty good. With many leaves used, it can also sometimes cool the tongue down, which I do enjoy. It is calming and recharging at the same time, which is what I like about teas with some age to them.

What I miss is the long-term aftertaste of fresh plums that is often found in Red Marks (and in 7542 recipe too). There is a hint of it, but not enough.

Overall, even though this is possibly the weakest 90s Red Marks I've tasted, it is still plenty good for normal drinking and I'm always looking forward to tea sessions with it -  not bad at all! I just wonder what the price was - could someone please fill me in on that?

čtvrtek 10. července 2014

2002 White2Tea White Whale

This little brick (for which I thank Hobbes) seems to have aroused some interest lately. It can be attributed to its reasonable age (12 years) and low price of $15. The price is actually so low that it nearly did not pass TwoDog's own scam alerting system

England, contrary to popular belief, is not constantly lashed by rain... only almost constantly. However, there are certain moments when there is no rain for a whole day or so - which calls for enjoying a tea outside.

John Henry Bonham... Moby Dick dick ick ick ck... and you know the rest. Or is it different whale that has been the inspiration to the label of this brick? It might be also that TwoDog is obsessed with finding good tea for good prices and this brick epitomises that painful pursuit - putting TwoDog into the position of captain Ahab (in this case, I'm sorry to break this to you, dear Ahab, but you've got a couple of white whales already).

The little (100g) brick is perhaps not composed of the fanciest materials, but it has got a decent color and aroma - not all teas from 2002 can say the same. 

The leaves, dry and wet, smell of wood, camphor and perhaps a little woody smoke. There is not yet the aged earthiness, but the depth of aroma suggests a proper aging process.

The color of the liquor is pleasantly amber, heading for darker and redder hues after a couple of steepings.

Now, how does the tea do in mouth? I must admit that I was not really that thrilled about it as some others seem to be, however not bad the tea is, but that may be just that I do not care for this family of tastes so much. It seems to be mainly woody and camphory, with a varying amount of smokiness (I do not yet understand the latent smoke function except perhaps that yixing clay ameliorates it considerably) and longan. Despite the undoubted strength and relatively good balance of tastes, there sometimes is s a taste of something rancid which slightly irritated me - fortunately, when it appears, it is more in the aroma of wet leaves rather than in taste. Despite not high thickness and not that much sweetness, the liquor does coat mouth nicely and pumps taste for a good amount time - it might be also due to the bitterness that is still present and that sometimes acts as a carrier of tastes.

The general characters heads towards north on puerh map, in my opinion - Mengku, I'd say. It's not unlike some Xiaguan cakes from 2003 which, despite looking a lot prettier, were actually not that much better if at all (they did cost about the same too). There is a clear link between the taste of this White Whale and 2001 Mengku Yuanyexiang (which bolstered my belief that the WW comes from Mengku), which is good. The grandeur, sweetness and all that is missing in WW, but that was not really expected of it, was it?

The tea did not do anything to me physiologically - I think it to be a good workhorse tea rather than something fancy... which is not that surprising given the nature and price of the tea.

Right... I think this is one of the non-prettiest teas I've seen in some time. But then again, a lot of the prettier teas sucked, while this little brick does not.

In general, this tea shows how important a decent aging process is. The brick seems to come, in my opinion, from relatively low quality of leaves, but due to good storage conditions, it has actually beaten many nicer teas that either changed into dried out mummies, or moldy manure in the process of 10 or so years. And due to its baseline character, it retained a reasonable price tag, which is important. 

$60 per 400g for 2002? Why not? However, before clicking BUY 100 times (it's too late for that anyway), I have to say that there is still some competition even at that price tag. Some time ago, there were several shops selling 2003 Xiaguan Jia Ji which, in my opinion, is from far better leaves and while aging more slowly, it is likely to get better. Finepuer has 2003 Xiaguan Blue Label for $45 that is somewhat similar to the White whale, better in something, worse in something else. Sampletea has Purple Dayi 7542 from 2004 (also rather quickly aging) for $80 or  so, which sounds like a good deal and that cake is more to my taste, like the 2004 Shi Kun Mu Menghai (which is, imho, a really nice tea). If you dare to go to 2005-6, one starts encountering teas made from a nice-ish material that are likely to get pretty good. All that said, the teas above that I consider better than the WW (i.e., everything but the 03 Xiaguan Blue Label) are slightly more expensive.

By mentioning some competition, I do not wish to imply that the 2002 White Whale is not worth buying or anything - it is a really good tea for the price if you don't expect too much and I'm afraid that such finds, while not impossible, are less likely to happen in the future. Thank you, TwoDog and Hobbes!

P.S. I've just read the description on White2Tea website - it is pleasant to see vendors accurately stratifying their offerings. Some others would go how the brick is super-awesome and how the last Chinese emperor actually died of happiness when he had been gifted a similar brick and all that, which is not the case here... 

pondělí 7. července 2014

2013 Chawangpu He He

I consciously postponed writing about this tea of somewhat funny name - Honza, the maker, has warned me of it, that it may need some time to settle down. It did indeed - I'm periodically checking it and it is only two last months or so when it has stabilised. Before that, it kept switching between several characters, none of which were super-pleasant.

Once, I had a piece broken off and when I tasted it, I was surprised how lemony it was - I haven't seen such a strong lemon character in a tea. I wrote to Honza, whether he thought the same, but he did not. The strange taste has been explained later when I discovered that the piece of He He has peacefully resided next to a small pouch with lemon scented mate for some time... However, even excepting this genuinely "off" case of changing taste, there were enough changes to make the tea quite unstable for some time.

After reaching the stable state though, this tea is a most pleasant one!

The taste is a very solid one, classical and powerful. Even though interregional blends often don't work so well (this is a blend of 2007, 2012 and 2013 leaves from Yiwu and Menghai), it all does work really nicely here. The start of the taste is dominated by the Yiwu part - sweetness, sweet tobacco, some leather and fruitiness - with the Menghai part kicking in a bit  later, keeping the taste strong and "puerhy". Possibly due to two strong sets of leaves, the taste feels really strong and muscular. Admittedly, after the "simply nice" initial phase, a not inconsiderable bitterness arrives, but it's not an unpleasant sort, at least for me. As steepings go, the garden-fruity characters gets more pronounced and more flowery and honey tastes are suggested for the future (in the way, e.g., of my favorite Spring of Menghai recipe).

The tea feels very warm and pleasant, which is a no mean feat given its nontrivial bitterness. Also, it is surprisingly full in taste and body - I'd expect the 07 Yiwu component to give more hollowness (as I expect it has aged uncompressed, which often yields a somewhat empty tasting tea). Similarly unexpected is the fact that it is so coherent now - it's really not a slightest problem that it comes from such a wide range of age and places.

I suspect that due to the good strength of character, there should be no problem in the future either. Of course, it may happen that all the components forming this little chamber orchestra fail to cooperate - we'll never know until it happens, but at least, I don't see an immediate threat of that happening. At $17 per 200 xiaobing, I can't fault this cake at all, it's really very nice. I think that Chawangpu may be actually hurting themselves a bit, selling such teas this cheap.

pondělí 23. června 2014

2003 Wistaria Tz Ing

Is it really almost a month since the last post? Time seems to speed around so quickly now. It's not that I'm not drinking tea - I'm drinking gallons of it (most notably and happily, 1997 Red Mark, 2013 Chawangpu Lao Yu, 2006 Haiwan Pa Sha and 2012 Jalam teas Meng Zhr), it's just I'm not having so much new tea. Possibly peculiar, but I don't feel as strong urge for discovery as I used to - now, I'm more in the process of discovering new things in what I already have.

That said, I discovered the rest of the sample of 2003 Wistaria's Tz Ing and so I took my old notes and reinforced them with a new experience. All the teas from Wistaria I had previously ranged from good to excellent, so I was approaching the Tz Ing with anticipation.

The aroma of both dry and leaves is characteristic of Wistaria's production/storage, rather than the raw material. I can try shooting at the "house taste" saying it's herbal, woody, slightly plummy and very slightly smoky, but you have to taste it really. I found people for whom this specific taste is a "no go" as it tends to somewhat overshadow the original character of the tea.

The taste is kind of ok, but not very special - and, again, dominated by the "Wistaria taste". I did not mind so much in the other teas they make, as they were part Wistaria, part their own character, but in this one, I really struggled to find anything beside the house taste. I'd say that it was a bit more herbal than most their other teas, with sandalwood type of taste and a bit of smoke. I'd guess that from behind the veil of Wistaria taste, a not-so-super Bulang tea was peeping.

The taste is okay, but not great. It is a bit thick, but not much. A bit sweet, yet not so much again. One thing that is not "not so much" is the dry bitterness which reluctantly transforms and disappears, but again, the pleasantness of the process returns to the "not so much" territory.

I felt subtle qi in the leaves - i.e., the tea is not a hollow trunk of mediocrity... but it does not really shine either.

From Wistaria, I was used to AAA teas (or AA), but the Tz Ing is, I'm afraid my least favourite. It was not bad, to be sure, quite ok, rather, but entirely forgettable.

neděle 25. května 2014

2014 Chawangpu Ban Komaen maocha

Chawangpu aren't making many teas this year, I've been told. Looking at the prices of raw materials in famous areas, one is not surprised. In the line of Meng Zhr of the previous post, we're still staying in Laos in this post. I've been kindly given maocha from Ban Komaen, which is the fancier of two villages in Laos where Chawangshop have sourced their tea...

I think this is possibly the first tea from 2014 I'm having and hopefully not the last one.

The leaves give the aroma of young puerh you would likely expect. They smell sugary, floral and a bit fruity.

Rinsed leaves smell very nicely too. It's not a really new aroma, one smells a lot of teas with roughly similar aroma many times a year, so the angel is in the detail really (in some teas, unfortunately, it is a devil). This particular aroma gives away its near-Yiwu character, being sugary sweet, floral (magnolia), with an element of exotic fruit and citruses. The latter elements are more pronounced than is common in most of Yiwu. The floralness is so intensive that it can resemble glue/solvents containing toluene and similar aromatics.

The liquor has standard good color and clarity. The taste follows the aroma closely, being mostly sugary and floral, with some fruitiness and light cinnamon tones. The cinnamon works interestingly with the flowers - especially the aroma of the liquor can resemble a part of aroma of a green Tie Guan Yin - I'm not saying this Ban Komaen tea is much like green oolong - I'm just noting that there is an interesting intersection of aromas and, to smaller degree, taste.

While the thickness of liquor is rather high, it is not really super-high, allowing for more taste to get to our tastebuds (this is probably the biggest difference from Yiwu teas that I could find).

The astringency is very low and while the tea can be pushed to be bitter quite easily, I would not say it's too bitter by default. Furthermore, the bitterness is of a rather pleasant sort, transforming into a good, pomelo-like long aftertaste.

The tea feels very clean and pure in its qi, being calming and soothing. It gently numbs mouth cavity and vibrates. Of course, the sensation is completely unlike the feelings imparted by pesticides. 

Overall, I thought this tea to be very nice. Not a super-exciting one, but well produced and all-around of high quality. Its cost of $38 or $48 per 200g cake is quite sound (sigh...). Is it expensive? Perhaps - but compare it to young Yiwu teas that cost two or more times as much... I honestly can't say that I could discern this Ban Komaen from Yiwu. Of course, it has got some properties that make it not really like "standard Yiwu", but so does Guafengzhai and surrounding areaas... 

Wow, Laos seems to be the next area to be discovered, I guess - both teas (this Ban Komaen and previously mentioned Meng Zhr) were genuinely good puerh. It was also interesting to taste these two teas side by side - it was fun to observe the difference between old and not so old trees (which were very good and clean as well, just different).

pátek 16. května 2014

2012 Jalam teas Meng Zhr

Recently, I have been offered a tea for review by representatives of Jalam teas. Who am I to oppose?

I was surprised to learn that Jeff Fuchs, a photographer I appreciate for some years, is behind the company and tea. I must admit that Jeff's surname carries a slight unwanted connotation with it, - I'm sure that those middle-europeans among you have at least heard of the (in)famous Horst Fuchs - yes, the crazy teleshopping chap who tries to sell all sorts of things on TV (e.g., kitchen knife, which is so good you can cut nails with it... or a frozen can of something - so useful)... just imagine him selling puerh.

Now, going back to serious stuff - Jeff has made some seriously serious journeys and he is by no means an arbitrary westerner who went on making tea. Anybody who manages to walk for 6000 km in less than 8 months has my respect. Of course, long-distance walking is probably not directly correlated to tea making abilities, but I think that people who pursue their non-profitable dreams, are seldom sly, trying-to-rob-you and all that. Furthermore, if you've read Jeff's book on travelling along Ancient tea horse road, you have no doubt realized that he loves tea.

This particular cake comes from "Meng Zhr" - I've never heard of this place, I shamefully admit. According to the site of Jalam teas, Meng Zhr is a town near the Laos border - it seems that teas from there are getting larger share of market.

Cakes don't get much more "white label" than this...

The large leaves, purportedly coming from trees of 20 to 50 years of age are pressed into this small cake. The cake seems to contain a good mixture of leaf types.

After rinsing, I got a flowery, dark green scent, with some spice and animality. It is more interesting than average.

Even though the taste is distinctly young, it is actually quite rich and multi-layered. It is mostly flowery (lilies, magnolia), toasty/bready (I never thought I'd encounter this taste in tea, but here it is), quite strong and thick. It is indeed a "classical" young puerh, but with more complexity in taste than is ordinary. There is some positive bitterness that keeps the taste going. Even though the spectrum of tastes is somewhat narrow (flowery), there are many facets and little differences that make drinking this tea fun.

Thickness, cleanliness and lack of unpleasantry show, that even though some teas are no super-fancy gushu from trees that remember female ents, they can be still very good. I'm starting to believe that health of trees and attitute of harvesters to them is as important as the age of trees. If old trees keep being overharvested (and supplemented with artificial diet), they may lose their charm in a couple of years and well cared of younger trees may be the next way to go.

The leaves are quite strong and they look "happy".

As did I, actually, after I kept having this tea for several days in a row - because this is indeed a good tea! Many new tea makers have to get through phase of half-good teas or teas that suck - it is nice to see that Jeff makes good tea straight away.

Now, the tea is good, that is not the issue. What is the issue, a bit, is the price. This 100g cake costs $24 for club members and $39 for non-members. Ugh. I don't know about this. The tea is nice and all that, but maocha from near Laos, from trees of 20-50 years of age should be fairly inexpensive, right?

I find it difficult to criticize price (unless I have a cheaper reference), there may be a good reason why the tea costs this much, but at least for me, it is too much to pay

středa 30. dubna 2014

1999 Tie Guan Yin

And here comes another oolong from Chawangshop:

Aged Tie Guan Yin can be a completely delightful tea. It is sometimes even not that awfully expensive, which is definitely a plus (unless you get a cheap overroasted ripoff). This particular TGY is not super cheap, but $2.70 per 10g sounds quite fair to me, if the tea is a real deal. Which this... is. Unfortunately, dramatic pauses are not really that punchy when written.

The leaves are of a pleasant dark brown color and an even more pleasant aroma of aged plums and nuts.

It certainly does not disappoint when drank too. The taste is very rich and deep. It may not be as explosive as the 2006 Benshan from the last post, but it is fuller and without a sign of a disturbance.

The taste consists mostly of dried plums, treacle, rich dark nuttiness and dark forest honey (which is quite in contrast to the 2006's meadow honey). The roasting seems to have been medium indeed - there are not features of a green oolong on one hand, but on the other hand, no harder roast is to be discerned.

It is also "well sat down" (~not that dynamic is another point of view), going along at its own pace as the steepings go.

Overall, this is a very rich and pleasant tea, much enjoyed.

úterý 22. dubna 2014

2006 Benshan

After a long time without tasting any new oolongs, two inteeresting teas of the genre arrived in a package from Chawangshop. Let us start with the younger one today:

You have surely seen many packages like this. They are a sort of lottery - sometimes, they contain great tea, sometimes not-so-great tea. I was curious to taste this particular tea as Benshan is not an area I'd associate with a great deal of character and/or ability to excite me.

The doubts are forgetten when the little package is opened though. The aroma is so sweet, honey-like, with dried plums. A part of it must have been in the original material, but certain balance and sort of sweetness is, in my opinion, to be found mostly in a slightly aged tea. The leaves are quite green (possibly more than the photograph suggests), but no trivial floralness is to be found there - it is a balanced, summer-like meadowy good aroma.

With a rinse, the beautiful spectrum is made only more beautiful and sweet.

The taste can not really hold the extraordinary fullness and sweetness of aroma, but it is still very good nevertheless. It is smooth and thick, but feels perhaps a little empty (this is a criticism of a very good tea overall, it is not like this tea is hollow as a trunk of a tree from King's quest). The taste character is similar as the aroma suggests - mostly honey with dried plums. It is quite pleasantly light in character - a very friendly tea indeed.

The taste lasts... oo ... long! It is also rather active for this genre too - no dull flowery soup at all.

It rather reminds me of aged Dong Ding tea - I had one or two of these which, on top of the lovely taste spectrum, had the full fullness a tea can offer, which is why I considered them better. But for a rather casual oolong drinker such as me, the price difference is simply not worth it. This 2006 Benshan sells for $6 per 50g, which is basically a joke. For $8-10 per 50g, I'm used to decent oolongs, without major faults, but often lacking in aroma, being too bitter, etc. This tea is simply better than that - it is not an awesome oolong perhaps, but very good nevertheless. Yum!

The next post will have a look at a 1999 Tie Guan Yin, which offers quite a different experience.

sobota 12. dubna 2014

2013 Chawangpu Lao Yu (Bada)

It is interesting that just when I just about gave up on finding real bargains in the world of tea, one appeared after all. The Lao Yu cake is a small one (200g) and costs merely $14, however, it would be a pity to leave it unnoticed.

According to Honza the producer, this is basically a tea that Bulang people on Bada mountain make for themselves. As such, it does not have certain qualities that are desirable for immediate drinking, but on the other hand, it does not suffer from the flaws that some "drink now" puerhs unfortunately have.

The dry leaves are rather small actually and smell fruity and floral.

I still fail to understand why I like this tea so much, yet I obviously do. It is not like it's way different from any other young tea, but it does its job better than most; I guess I appreciate its honesty and cleanliness. I did not drink the "old style" puerh when it was young, but I would think it might be similar to this tea.

The taste is rich and good indeed - and it is a mixture of both Bada families I've encountered previously: On one hand, there is a good sweetness and fruitiness (peaches), young clay, along with "future honey" (dark sugary sweetness now, likely to become honey-like, in my opinion). On the other hand, there is also an element of the "other Bada" (piney needless and more citrusy fruit, especially pomelo). It is an interesting and, fortunately, not in the least conflicting. Along the "Bada part", I think there is a good "universal sheng" base which fills the "good mouthfeel" windows in taste, often left open by Bada teas...

Along the taste itself, the liquor is smooth, thick and pleasantly bitter and astringent - all is good (the bitterness is completely normal in a young tea and a) transforms well now, producing a pleasant aftertaste, b) should transform via aging).

The tea does not have aa "stoning" qi, but it always brought be the feeling of joy and positivity to me, which is an effect in itself.

The tea is delight to drink now and due to its rich and strong character, I suspect it should be a much better ager than most "1D" Badas which are quite good now, but tend to lack something in the longer run (they are still very good and tasty after 5-10 years, no doubt, but they are not a first league tea unfortunately).

úterý 18. března 2014

2002 Bulang

This tea is another from my current Chawangshop spree. I do really like Bulang tea with some age (similarly as I tend to dislike young Bulang tea) and so I was looking forward to this.

It comes from a small factory (I appreciate that even though the wrapping and all that is CNNP lookalike, it is not marketed as such), which can mean many things. Theoretically, "small factory" or "private production" brings artisanal qualities to mind, a lot of effort and attention to detail, etc. In practise & my experience, it often means poor storage, lack of expertise in processing, etc. Of course, there are reputable small-scale makers, I'm rather talking about no-name small factories. The good thing about these is that indeed, there are gems between their teas, that are a lot cheaper than they would be, were they from a well known maker - but these gems are rare and most teas from such factories are just bad. But if you have somebody to sort through these teas for you, well, that's nice (and I think that it is a good way how to add value to selling tea).

The leaves seem quite small to me, while not being terribly broken. They are still rather green (not that obvious from the photo) as well - the tea does not seem to have aged that much from their looks.
Rinsed leaves smell herbal and medicinal, with some honey, leather and general sweetness (not that much, though).

The color of liqor is light, but not too much so.

In mouth, the tea feels a bit dry (dry wood and leather, with medium bitterness and astringency) and not so thick, which is not great, but the other (dominant) tastes are pretty nice: a mixture of herbs and that good blend of honey and medicinality that sometimes occurs in Bulang tea. A small amount of aged earthiness is present as well and complements the rest nicely. While the amount of sweetness is decent, I'd like a bit more in a tea of this taste spectrum. Nevertheless, the taste is very well balanced, powerful, rich and I like it. It's a proper, "older school" sort of puerh, no superthick namby-pamby flowery puffiness.

The taste hangs around mouth for a good amount of time, though it does not bring a significant amount of buzz, nor qi.

This tea seems very interesting to me as it combines the "dry wood" Bulang (which I do not like too much) with the "medicinal and honey" Bulang (which, on the other hand, is one of my most favourite genres of puerh). I'm still not certain of the relation between these two families of Bulang teas - is it that the former transforms in the latter via aging (that would be nice!), or the difference can be spotted even when the teas are young? We'll see in a couple of years.

For drinking now, the tea is, in my opinion, too drily stored (which causes still notable bitterness, lack of qi and thickness, etc.) - on the other hand, the storage was not nearly too dry to kill the tea - it does age and develop, which is good. Especially fans of more dry stored tea might enjoy this tea a lot as it is pretty tasty and rich, for a tea stored that way.

When I started drinking this tea, it was available for $85, which was quite ok, in my opinion - teas with this taste spectrum are seldom cheap and this tea seems rather good. Currently, it costs $150, which is rather too much for me to consider purchase. I think that the price is still quite good compared to for what are some (much worse) dry stored teas of this age sold, but there are enough two-eyed kings for me to pursue elsewhere...

pondělí 3. března 2014

1997 CNNP Red Mark

I consider it fortunate that Chawangshop stocks more aged tea now than it used to - and this 97 Red mark is one of these (I think it's the most expensive puerh in the shop as well). 
Red mark seems to be a popular recipe and it is for a good reason - the reason being, that it is good (both raeson and tea). Also, while I've tasted quite a few 7542s (especially the pesty "private order" ones) which were way off their original recipe, the Red marks I've had belong to the same cluster - maybe not being so popular since some time, therefore less worth faking?

The leaves seem to be quite good to me - they are not really broken and are quite strong as well.

Rinsed leaves smell really well - very sweet and full, slightly earthy, spicy and honey-like. It is distinctly aged in a way (no young aromas at all), but at the same time, it is not one of those teas that get muddy via too wet storage - this is still a clean and vibrant tea.

The color of the liquor (one of lighter ones) gives away what is suggestted by the aroma already - the tea has seen some humidity, but just right.

I enjoy how this Red Mark tastes very much - the sweetness is still there and so is the smoothness. Both these features are usual in an aged tea, but they are quite distinctly above-average here (given the age). The taste is a mixture of comforting warm peat, deep, warming sweetness and slightly spicy "heights". It slowly travels through the mouth, spreading peace and love around, gradually changing into vibrations, fresh-plum long-term aftertaste and then leaving for good (well, until next cup is taken). 

It is still quite active in mouth (with slight astringency left). As a good aged tea this is, it is comforting overall, making one feel "simply good and healthy". I'm not too keen on talking about "medidative states", but this tea does change my perception and when I let it, it brings me "elsewhere".

The stamina is good (and definitely above-average in this price range of cheap-ish aged tea) - 20-30 steepings over 2-3 days are easily doable.

At least for me, this is an excellent tea - for a good price ($168/cake), it rewards the drinker with a good, aged feeling and remarkably nice taste; a real pleasure. When it comes to buying this tea, the question is not "whether", but "how many cakes"...

pondělí 24. února 2014

2013 Chawangpu Hua Zhi Qiao

Let us be glad and rejoice - somebody finally made a cake of Jingmai leaves with tea blossoms. This type of tea has been previously done by Fu Cha Ju - a factory of many experiments (some of which them are good, the others being less good...). I enjoyed both the version of Jingmai with tea blossoms coming from 2005 and 1998. It is not the most mainstream type of puerh, nor the one that I would prefer above all others, but it has two big strengths: First, I enjoy this style of tea tremendously, from time to time. Second, it is an excellent "guest tea" for people coming to visit who are appreciative of tastes in general and are not puerh sages - it is much simpler to appreciate than "old-fashioned" puerh, especially of this age. At the same time, it is still distinctly a puerh tea - it's not really "scented" in a common way. The addition of tea blossoms is a rather subtle change to a tea.

(please pardon the bad light quality of photos, this is England...) 

Looking at the cake shows that the flowers are abundant (yet they do not  overpower leaves)

Rinsed leaves smell intensively fruity and sweet - just as I like it in Jingmai tea.

The taste is quite explosive as well - there is still some floralness of youth, but what seems to dominate is a mixture of fruits (garden fruit, pomelo,...), very fresh (and this freshness tends to degrade after 10 or so years into a certain hongcha-iness, which is why I prefer young-ish Jingmai) and quite delightful. There are starting hints of honey (probably bolstered by the blossoms) which make this tea very promising for next 5 or so years. Even though this tea can be brewed gently (being smooth and sweet), I actually slightly prefer to be less gentle to it, using more leaves than usual. Yes, it gets quite bitter, but in a pleasant, fresh-fruity way - as a bonus to the long and strong taste, the bitterness transform into longer-term aftertaste of sweet peaches - what's there not to like?

You could blame the tea for lack of aged depth, but that would be rather pointless in a young tea, wouldn't it.? It's like telling that a lovely young white wine is not a rich red wine (that said, I do prefer latter) (actually, this tea shares many features with nice white wine).

This tea is not the Tea if you go for significant buzz in mouth, nor a mind-stopping qi attack. It is a well made and very tasty tea which I enjoyed very much (and $30 per 400g is a good price for any decent tea these days, let alone for such a nice one). It is also a good argument why old trees may not be always the best thing to have - well cared for smaller and not-super-old trees such as this tea is made of often produce tea with a stronger and "more penetrating" taste. 

sobota 22. února 2014

2013 Chawangpu Gao Shan Liu Shui

This is the first tea by Chawangpu of the last year I tasted and I always enjoyed returning to it. It is a blend of Menghai leaves (2012 spring) and Mengku (2013 spring).

The aroma of rinsed leaves is sweet and intoxicatingly floral (magnolia and hyacinth mostly). It rather reminds me of Mengku teas from around Bingdao (that are often sold as Bingdaio), but there is a component of something else as well (I suspect the Menghai component), which gives it more body.

The taste of this tea is predominantly sugary and floral (hyacinth-like - in the "good phase" of its life). It really fits the coming spring - it is fresh indeed, without unpleasant generic greenness which is an annoying aspect of some of the recently made teas. Another positive is how long-lasting this tea is - first, the taste lingers in mouth for a long time, second, it can be squeezed for quite many steepings.

There is no denying that this tea is bitter. There are two buts here: a) The bitterness is rather decent and stays in mouth (with certain types of bitterness, I feel the bitterness feeling spreading through body and aggravating the stomach - this tea is nothing like that); b) it transforms well into a really nice aftertaste. Also, the whole process of enjoying this tea is boosted by pleasant "old tree" tingling. I especially enjoy that this tea, even though very young, does not feel cold and causing discomfort in the body.

The leaves forming the tea are in good shape, thick and firm.

Overall, I think that this is a good tea, strong, with potential for the future, while being quite nice for drinking even now. It perhaps lacks something of a "X factor" for me, but that may very well change in the future. I'd say that the price of $56 per 400g is pretty good given today's usual pricing of tea.

sobota 15. února 2014

2008 Spring Mangfei Zi Shan Yu Yun & 2012 Lantingchun Yongde Ming Feng

When I had the pleasure of Chawangshop's owner's visit back in Prague, I made a scornful remark on some tea in the way "it's quite bad, probably from Yongde". Honza smiled wisely and said that he'd send me some good, if still cheap tea from there - and so he did, among many other things. I resisted the urge to leap at all the goodies in the big tea box and since I'm still recovering  from an illness, I thought my tastebuds could do well enough with a not-so-super tea. I had three sessions with the leaves over two days, so I'm sort of "full of Yongde" now... Anyway, before getting to actual tea, let me show you two of four new cups that will call this place home:

I dreamed of these for some time - and yes, they are as good as I thought they might be - a very fine and lovely porcelain, a joy to use. They keep heat and aroma well - since I'm not a collector of teaware, cups and pots are more tools than anything else for me - and these cups seem to work very well.

2008 Mangfei
You can think that somebody was a little crazy when packing up samples...
The amount of time that must have been spent writing all the labels to the samples I bought is frankly terrifying... Or maybe not, when you're used to it - but as my own handwriting resembles a drunkard's nightmare, I have a great deal of admiration for people who can write nicely.

The leaves seem quite large to me and are covered in fur. They smell of dry wood mostly.

Rinsed leaves smell very nicely, sweet and fruity (ripe strawberries), with wood and leather. It slightly reminds me of the good 2009 Yongde from Finepuer.

The liquor is surprisingly thick and smooth - not bad at all! It manages to produce a taste as well - strawberries, dry wood and "laundry". Unfortunately, the tea seems to lack in middle taste spectrum (but so did most other Yongde teas I had), but it manages to get to the aftertaste phase with grace and strength. It finishes with very pleasant and strong vibrations on the tongue - that was probably the most pleasant feature I found in the tea.

Overall, it feels good, deep and pleasant. It costs mere $22, which is similar to the other Mangfeis I had (and rather loathed), but it is a much nicer tea. Not great, but it convinces me that Mangfei is not only a supplier of world's deepest torture chambers.

2012 Lantingchun Yongde Ming Feng
Lantingchun factory supplied me with two teas previously - a not too impressive one from 2000 and a not impressive, but decent enough from 2003.

The rinsed leaves smell cold-flowery. Fortunately, no cold ashtray, which in my opinion plagues many Mangfei-like teas.

The liquor smells more classically metallic and harder. The taste is not so hard though, which is good. It resembles mountains, with mist, cold forest (pines), and the mixture of flowers that grow at the forest floor. While I do enjoy such things for hiking, I find it to be a bit too cold and harsh for tea - I prefer warming teas, which these "northern" areas seldom supply.

Again, I did not dislike this tea, but I did not particularly enjoy it either.

Both teas, however, might be interesting for those who enjoy Lincang tea...

pondělí 3. února 2014

1970's Xiang Yang Hua Kwangsi Hong Cha Red Tea Bag

Today's post is about a black tea from 70. Furthermore, this is no ordinary hongcha - it is a tea bag!

What good could an old teabag be, you might ask. I was slightly skeptical towards it - how could fannings that are commonly put into teabags survive 30-40 years? Well, I do not know how, but I know that.

For obvious reasons, I did not rinse the tea bag...

The resulting liquor (dark brown, with slightly strange dark-dark-brown clots in it) was slightly cloudy, but with a good (not really like a teabag) and heavy aroma: earthy-sweet and woody.

And the taste is also surprisingly very strong and multi-layered. It is an "english-style"  black tea rather than hongcha, but is quite exceptional at that - the woodiness is quite strong indeed, but it is accompanied by deep fruitiness and sweet (slightly shupu-like) earthiness. The shupu-likeness is quite a peculiar feature - I wonder how it happened.

The tea numbs the tip of the tongue in a way which is 50% pleasant and 50% slightly strange.

As opposed to today's tea bags, this one gave me two full, strong steepings and one weakish, but decent one nevertheless. Yes, there are more  leaves/dust inside the bag than in today's bags, but still, 2.5 steepings (ca. 400-500 ml - I used a kyusu) are a good thing.

This tea is certainly fun and it's not really that expensive ($2.40 for two bags) - I think that this is one of these interesting teas that are nice for drinking with tea-educated guests who can appreciate its unusuality.

A pity that I could not taste the tea when it was fresh - I wonder what it was like and what changes it underwent.