Hi again! As I was reading blogs of good old times I really like and that are still partly alive (e.g. MarshalN's, Hster's Teacloset, or MattCha; a pity that Half-Dipper seems to have gone dry) and reading some new ones (it's nice that tea blogs aren't dying out in the end), I thought I might drop a line in the unlikely case someone visits the blog again.
I'm still drinking tea pretty much daily, but it's more drinking the stocks I've got rather than buying new stuff (although there are many seriously good or interesting new teas around too - TwoDog's Heart of the City is pretty unique and really very good; or We Go High is imho a thoroughly excellent tea).
Living away from original home chronically (six years now), I of course took a lot of tea with me to UK - but there are still boxes in Prague (imho better area for aging anyway), and revisiting these is generally a lot of fun. What do I see?
1) Pasha is a region really to my taste. The 2006 Haiwan Pashas are becoming even better than they were. I was surprised to re-taste 2011 Guan Zi Zai Pasha (which I wrote about as being harsh and needing time) - and it is actually pretty good now. It has mellowed, there is the characteristic Pasha mixture of tastes, and it's generally becoming quite a deep tea in its tastes. Nice.
2) Small-leaf teas from Jingmai and Yibang really become quite different to "normal" puerh with aging. I don't particularly enjoy the mid-aged character from these areas - but then again, it's just a matter of preference. If I don't bring my "puerh prior" into the drinking, it's generally quite nice, in some aspects similar to black teas. One exception was Shi Kun Mu Yibang (which I don't have, but still remember) - that aged really well (I think it may not have been the small-leaf varietal though). And I don't want to diss teas from these two areas - they are one of the nicest areas for young tea in my opinion, it's just the aging that I don't enjoy as much.
3) I'm not a big fan of how Mengku teas age. It's been always a distinctly third major region to me in preference, after Bulang and Yiwu (these two in no particular order). The teas that were nice when young-ish turned usually just ok (not that much warming with aging, rather developing more woody and spicy tastes). Teas that were nasty (wink wink, some Mangfei teas) also tend to turn out ok - but not even close to where Bulang or Yiwu teas go in my opinion.
4) Xiaguan Happy tuo is really good. I remember thinking back then it might be a bit similar to Xiaguan Jia Ji. It seems to me I wasn't horribly far off. On some days, I thoroughly enjoy this tea. For the price, it was a steal.
5) Jinggu teas that were meh are meh. The one tea from Jinggu that I thought really good (from Chawangshop, 2011) is very good. Then there was another good Jinggu from 2003 (Bai Long Te Ji), but I had just a bit of that and no full cake.
6) Teas that were mid-age when I got them are turning very nice, but not really yet the "classical aged" character. Getting a cake of the 1997 Menghai Red Mark when it had an aged character already was a really good idea - the tea is superb. Trying a lot of teas that were "aged" already (around 15+ years, usually in at least a bit humid environment), it's clear that there is a quality threshold that the cheaper aged teas simply couldn't pass - the raw material/blending expertise is obviously an important thing. (I know, captain Obvious). Even if I think Prague is not a bad place for aging tea (e.g., it doesn't suck the tea out to miserability), and Oxford is somewhat ok, I really wouldn't expect the teas stored there will age "classically" in the long run. Which may not be an issue for many - just saying that I wouldn't expect to buy lots of cheap young tea and hope it will turn into the beautiful aged earthy puerh which you can now get for $500 per cake.
7) Honza from Chawangshop knows what he's doing with his teas. Laoyu series is fun, and while even the 2014 version is still rough around the edges, they're very nice. 2013 He He is great - should have got a lot more. I don't think any single tea from there I've got in quantity is disappointing. Maybe the Laos Ban Komaen is not turning as warm in character as I have hoped... I also probably mis-stored the Bulang cake from aged maocha (left it on the sun) and it turned out flat and empty - but I think that really is not a fault of the tea itself.
- that said, this is not to single out the shop as the best one or the only good one. Teas from Yunnan Sourcing, White2Tea or TeaUrchin are still giving me much happiness too!! It's just I've got more full cakes/tongs of the private production from Chawangshop than from these.
8) Teas from the Wistaria teahouse were as when I bought them - dark, deep, mysterious, and full of energy. Drinking them is a bit like meeting an alien civilization. I wish I took them out earlier from the paper box in which they arrived though, as I think it imparted a little bit of cardboard taste. But they were not about taste to me anyway, so no big deal.
I may write again if succeed in finding time to order some teas from Kingteamall (Dayi Zodiac series sold online - yess!!). See you in the future!
P.S. By the way, in case you read this and are aware of good Waishan Xiaozhong (Lapsang Souchong) being sold, could you please let me know? I'm missing that a lot.