úterý 1. listopadu 2016

2015 Wu Yi Qi Zhong

Today comes another Wu Yi wulong from Chawangshop (for some reason, it's not really showing on Google, but it's there) - the Qi Zhong. I wondered what Qi Zhong ment, so I tried to put the characters 奇种 into Google translate. In Czech, it translates as "odd specie" (odd in the way of numbers). Riiight... In English, it's a singular specie, which makes a bit more sense. Anyway, there is no point to this story, just in case you're looking for it... I'll just add that translating the village from which the tea comes (水帘洞) translates as Water curtain hole. English being my second language, I parsed this wrongly and rather than to interpret it as {water curtain} hole, I initially  read it as water {curtain hole}, which I thought to be a bubble-filled hole in a curtain. Amusingly, similar difficulties in parsing creep in when I'm now hearing my mother language as well, so it seems I'm becoming an all-around language imbecile. 

Uh, such rambling happens when one writes a post after hours and hours of entirely debilitating manual annotation of signal traces (which I came up with myself, so there is nobody to blame). Indeed, one thing that helps to retain at least some composure is tea. With the onset of autumn upon us, I tend to enjoy warming tea (in case you don't know that, Oxford has two seasons; 9 months of autumn and 3 weeks of spring - it's really like in tropics where you get wet season and dry season, except it's not at all warm as in tropics and there is no dry season). And there is no warmer tea than one prepared with a tea stove!

The outside tea sessions I have are usually very simple with regards to equipment...

These are the last leaves I got out of the pouch with the Qi Zhong, so please don't consider them representative from the point of brokenness. However, they do show well that the tea is not as strongly roasted/oxidised as some other teas from Wu Yi:

Also the aroma of the dry leaves is not as fiery, smelling of caramel, fudge, and summer meadow flowers (and maybe dried fruit) - it's quite rich again, but not as "bassy" as the Rou Gui, putting more concentration on the floral taste.

And the water is boiling...

The taste surprised me with the strong focus on floral aspects. It is not only a mixture of sweet summer meadow flowers, but possibly the main component would be an orchid. It's a rather unusual mixture of taste of Taiwanese wulongs with a bit of Dan Cong (orchids) taste, riding on a muscular rocky/fiery base of Wu Yi. Somehow it works together really well and it's not awkward in the slightest - it's simply very rich and tasty. I really enjoy the heavier side compared to Taiwanese/Anxi wulongs, which can be a bit flat, if pleasant.

Now, I feel the description of a mixture of different aspects of wulongs from other areas could sound like an experience you cannot miss, which I don't think it's true - I find this tea interesting, very good, balanced, fun, etc., but still I'd probably pick the Rou Gui I wrote about last time on most occasions. Then again, I generally prefer a single aspect mastered to great depth rather than a balance on all the fronts - this Qi Zhong definitely scores high on the latter.

Overall, I do recommend this tea highly, but I do not think it one cannot live without it either.

pondělí 24. října 2016

2015 Handmade Rou Gui from Chawangshop

Hi again! Apologies for be silent for so long. I am genuinely fascinated by the fact I'm still getting a lot of reads even though I haven't written anything new in ages. I've even got quite a lot of notes on the teas I'm drinking written briefly, but the final bit of compulsion to post them was missing - maybe this will change, who knows.

Now, recovering after a draining stint of lab experiments, when real life is slowly coming back to me, I felt like sitting out in the garden with a cup of tea again, which is a positive change to the most common pattern, where I'd drink tea alongside work, book, or music, but not that often purely with tea.

Before we get to the tea itself, let me show you a new cup/chawan I have - I find it absolutely lovely - it's a sort of parting gift from my main supervisor (made by his wife), when he left Oxford for a better place (that wasn't poetic, he's still alive, of course!). While I do miss his cheerful and super-stimulating presence, in times of Skype and e-mail, the DPhil studies are not really hampered... Netting me a +1 teacup. It's funny, I wouldn't have hoped for such a practical and pretty cup (as pretty as if I dreamed it out, honestly) - it may not be obvious from the photographs, but it's a really personal thing now - and the countless fractal-like details in it gave me hours of enjoyment already from watching alone.

Anyway, tea tea tea... I'm certainly not getting rusty in tea drinking (well, maybe I am, given the rusty patina that has a tendency to attach itself to everything tea touches). Aside from gallons of puerh, I had the pleasure to drink many teas from Darjeeling, via Vadham tea, recommended by Hster of teacloset. I particularly enjoyed Dharamsala Mann teas - premium, and the handmade more-premium version that is not available anymore. These teas combine the sharp fruitiness of first-flush Darjeeling, with strong grassiness (and a bit of marijuana aroma - I don't smoke anything, but I don't mind smelling it in streets, this reminded me of it), which I found extremely refreshing and stimulating. 

Anyway, the biggest discovery in the world of tea would be, for me, the range of 2015 Wuyi teas offered by Chawangshop. My issue with many Wuyi oolongs was that they were great, but expensive (Essence of tea), or underwhelming (pretty much all the other ones I've tried). Chawangshop's Wuyi selection seems to be great, but not as expensive ($8-25 per 50g or so...). Every single of those is worth discussing, but today, I'll focus at the 2015 Handmade Rou Gui.

The dry leaves smell so nice when you open the bag - it's a full, deep, sweet aroma, a mixture of dry fruits, without an excessive fire aroma (which is often a problem; mediocre materials seems to be often overbaked to cover up the underlying lacklusterity).

In mouth, this tea is one of those "hell yeah"-with-a-content-smile ones. It's very thick and making the whole body feel one is drinking it, giving a feeling of concentration around solar plexus (I swear I don't have a second job for those magazines writing about third eye, illuminati controlling our lives, etc.). In this aspect, I find the tea almost a "partner" in drinking. With normal tea, you just drink it, right? This one definitely responds and let's you have his opinion on the session too!

The strength of feeling makes the taste secondary to me, initially, but when it emergess, it's also totally there. It's definitely opulent, rich, and deep: sweet, tasting of dried fruit, cinnamon, and a bit of fire, but not much (and definitely not TOO much). After several seconds, a noble aftertaste arrives, bringing tastes like oak, malt, and "fiery rocks" (I totally had flashback of drinking Jura whisky there).

I find no flaw in this tea. It isn't the most unusual Wuyi oolong for sure, rather sticking to its core concepts, but still, it does what it does so well that I cannot but love it. It could last more steepings, I guess, but then that's just me being greedy I suppose.

See you all soon, I hope! By the way, I have a question for you as well - when I was briefly looking at blogs that used to be active "back in the good old times", it seems that most of them are similarly dead as mine was... is it really the case? Are there new great blogs sprouting, taking over the older ones? Let me know if there are some good ones, please.