Thursday, 31 December 2009

Spring 2007 Yi Wu Gao Shan Sheng Tai Cha Qi Zi Bing (Sampan Tea)

Pic taken from Ebay. It's too dark to take my own

"This is a small family production made by Yi people in Mengla. Early spring 2007 material from wild arbor collected at around 1700 meters migh. The mix of large leaves and early spring buds makes this cake very balanced with notes of campher throughout the infusions. A very nice cake."

I bought a sample of this cake for a couple of reasons, the main one being that I liked the simplicity of the wrapper, I also have had good experiences with this seller. There is something about the wrapper that is appealing, the producer hasn't tried to 'tart' the tea up by adorning it with a pretty coat.

Usual parameters : yixing pot with bamboo charcoal filtered tap water.

The aroma from the freshly brewed pot is about right for a 2007 pu erh, it's somewhere half and half between it's young character and something that is starting to mature, a teenage tea. The soup is a pleasant yellow and amber, no signs of any attempts to pre age the tea. It also pours really well from my pot with an even flow, the small spout isn't blocked by any leaf fragments. Further examination shows that the spent leaves are largely intact, whole and of good size. The stalks are particularly thick and robust. Small production wild arbor? perhaps so.

Large leaf, robust stalk and tip

Still though, it's not an expensive bing at about £26 and for something of that price you shouldn't expect too much. I've been amused by the wrapper and the nature of the leaf but the actual flavour of the tea is a little underwhelming. 'Well balanced' it may be but it doesn't have any outstanding quality, nice but not captivating, I found myself steeping it for long periods too to try to coax more out of it so it's a little lacking in legs.

In summary, there is much to like about this tea for what it is. The romance of a small run with sturdy leaf is alluring even though the potency of the soup is a little lacklustre.

Anyway, happy new year tea drinkers! May 2010 be a good year for drinking!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

2009 Yiwuzhidao Guanfengzhai (Yunnan Sourcing)

a touch of sweetness to an otherwise drab winter's day
Three months ago well known tea blogger Hobbes ran a sample tasting experiment using several bings from Yunnan Sourcing. I was unfortunately too late to sign up but not deterred I ordered samples of three of the better teas. Three months later my samples arrived (where have they been?), which is no fault of Yunnan Sourcing. This particular sample was the favourite of the lot in Hobbes' opinion so I was looking forward to trying it.

The dry scent of the leaf has grassy tones above the thicker aroma of a dark honey. The post infused leaf was more typically that of a new pu erh and not something I am all that fond of in general so I don't hang about to analyse it.

Forgive me if my initial impression of honey has biased my taste buds but to me it is the overriding characteristic of this tea, not a bad thing. Falling in line with other reviews of this tea I can clearly taste the mushroom after the 4th infusion, it comes to the fore once the initial sweetness starts to taper.  I'm not entirely bowled over by this tea, but I'm not really that keen on brand new sheng pu erhs in general. It's still pleasant to drink now though although it doesn't inspire me to purchase anymore beyond the sample.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

2009 BanZhang Chun Qing (Yunnan Sourcing)

"Like the stalk of a spring onion" Kong Mai - Hollow pulse depicting blood deficiency

Aromatic dry new leaf with greens, browns and slivers of tips, the aroma from the pot after the first infusion is very legume, there's no denying it's from 2009.

The first infusion is surprisingly light and floral with a early appearance of huigan supplemented by a good energetic buzz on the outside of my lips. I slow down my intake to really observe the qi. Hints of liquorice with a quick appearance of bitter that arrives and immediately departs.

It's such a world away from the '99 7542 I drank earlier in the day, it's young, fresh and floral, almost perfumed, lingering pleasantly on the palette. No fireworks though or anything characteristic that grabs the headlines especially. There's a little bit of pepper to the aftertaste a couple of minutes after finishing the cup.

After a while it gets a little too much for my tastes, just a little too green, and I back off from the session.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

2008 Pu Jing Hao Yi Wu Old Trees (Sampan Tea Ebay)

In reality its not so amber, good news!

I've been buying a bit from Sampan Teas on Ebay. It's a very small outfit that hasn't even achieved 100 feedbacks yet but they always stock small amounts of unusual tea and quite refreshingly always change what they sell so it keeps me interested to go back once in a while and see what they have.

I'm sure if you had some sort of word randomizer that contained various tea names it wouldn't take it long to come up with 'Yi Wu Old Trees', you just see that sort of a name all the time and I personally don't actually think that the bing actually would be made from much of the stuff. At £28 it's not a very expensive cake but I still thought I'd just pick up a sample and give it a whirl.

Usual parameters, bamboo charcoal water, 5g of leaf, short steeps all in my sheng yixing pot.

It's good to see that the soup on second infusion (pictured above) wasn't too amber (despite my iPhone camera making it look so), hopefully it's not tweaked. On the first sips I felt good energy on my tongue, it went through the surface layer quite quickly, that's a good sign. Further down the road it's a little harsh still at times with a strong ku bitterness, but to me thats a good sign. Even better than that is the sweet and  lingering huigan, giving me a rollercoaster ride of bitter and sweet between sips.

I really do like this tea, it's one of those samples that has convinced me enough to go for a couple of bings. The price is right and I am rather curious to see what will happen to it's properties over the next couple of years. Only one way to find out!

Friday, 4 December 2009

1980's Wang Zi (Nada)

yang within yin

I woke up this morning to find my car iced over and the ground dangerous to tread. The school run over I find solice in this dark old pu erh. I sit in the gloom and savour the subtleties beyond the earthy palette and from within the yin comes forth yang for one cannot be without the other.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Menghai 7542 1993 (Nada)

I have liberated some of my tea from the Royal Mail! Huzzah! Thanks to Nada for providing me with a tea from one of the best years of my life. 1993 was a rock and roll year for me in Hong Kong!

The leaf looks much older than the '99 7542 I drank last week with almost rusty browns and a very light white dusting. A quick rinse and then straight into the action.

I'm keeping the infusions short to not darken the soup too quickly but still it eagerly shrouds over. The '99 was rather quite woody, like something fresh cut from a carpenters shop where as the extra six years of storage has mellowed this characteristic out somewhat. It's more like an ebony or mahogany that quietly numbs my tongue and leaves me with an initial aftertaste that reminds me of brazil nuts. It's smooth but the sweet huigan is much more elusive than the '99.

With all the hubbub of the last week it's just so pleasant to sit down with a new tea and 'kick back' in modern parlance. I've bitten off perhaps more than I can chew in my studies, simultaneously studying a diploma in Chinese herbs at the London College of Chinese Medicine, nose diving into herbal formulation and classical pathology with Arnauld Versluys and preparing to restart my second year studies at the College of Traditional Acupuncture in Warwick. Oh well, in two years time I'll be through the worst of it.

drip drip drip