Saturday, 27 February 2010

Nothing to do in Llandudno

The North Welsh coast in February, nothing to drink but pots of PG Tips and fighting off seagulls the size of velociraptors.

Monday, 22 February 2010

2007 Pu Jing Hao Yi Wu (Sampan Tea)

Reams of smoke and heavy, heavy tobacco are what this tea is about. It's like drinking a dark potent oak casked whisky and the red grape huigan aftertaste is fills the mouth especially around the lower palette.

At first I found this tea to be rather too much but I have grown to enjoy it when I want a dense and rewarding session. Sometimes when you revisit a tea it seems to offer nothing, all the attributes you remember don't show up but this tea has never failed. It's quite a brute, and I like that.

Just a quick review, I have herbal formulas to commit to memory. Pictures courtesy of my Hipstamatic vintage camera, take the colours with a pinch of salt!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

2009 Zhi Ming Du Lao Ban Zhang (Chinese Kung Fu Tea Art)

Yes, another week and another Ban Zhang tea, it's been a re-occuring theme of mine recently and I'm not done yet. I purchased this tea following a rather glowing review by Adam on his Sip Tip blog and it sounded rather too good to miss out on. It has come at a cost though as it's the most expensive Ban Zhang I have I believe coming in at £23 ($36) per bing but the bing itself is only 100 grams.

I enjoy bludgening the cuteness out of the tiny bing and am left with two fascinating layers that really display the fine spindly nature of the leaf (no pictures I'm afraid he says cursing his Olympus).

The rinsed leaf has a somewhat vegetal aroma to it, shades of Japan. The first infusion is light and green with a good vibrancy on the tongue and is absent from any obvious bitterness. Nothing too captivating here yet.

The second infusion is more potent and thick which retains the vibrancy on the tongue tip and also has a curious numbing of the rear tongue as the huigan issues forth. It certainly fills the mouth with flavours and watering reactions, superbly complex!

By now I'm more relaxed and enjoying this tea's lingering, multi faceted huigan. I would compare it with Yunnan Sourcing's chun qing as both give similar experiences but, memory allowing, I'd give the edge to the zhi ming du as it's complex without going overboard with the perfumed sweetness. One must bear in mind though that it's almost double the price!

I'm glad I've tried this tea and that I've got 95 grams left over for future visits. Yes, it was expensive but I have spent a lot more on yancha in the past. I just wish it had a bit more bitter kick to it.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Thursday, 11 February 2010

I just don't get shu

It's always a pleasure to receive little freebie's in tea orders, long may the vendors feel obliged to throw in goodies! Today's free hit was a small 100g cooked pu erh cake, quite attractive and 'cute' to behold, so I thought I'd give it a spin.

The aroma of the bing was rather lacklustre and reminded me of cardboard, the comparison to the sheng pu erh cake I received in the same order is not even on the same planet. Out with my cha dao and off with it's head! Separating nicely I congratulate myself for some fine handy work when something catches my eye. Is it a chip of stone? Hard to say as it could well be a shard of glass, either way I don't want it in my tea. I start to wonder if the leaves were swiped up off the floor at some point?

That's scuppered my mood for this tea I'm afraid. For sure you find odd things in pu erh from time to time and I remember seeing a picture recently of a cigarette filter from another blog that escapes me for now. A couple of rinses and I still give this tea a go but except for one small hit of huigan to me it just tastes bland and like the other ripe pu erh I've drunk. Until proven wrong I just don't get this!

Is this just me?

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

2005 Gan En Lao Ban Zhang (Essence of Tea)

There is a poem in Chinese that ends with the line 'and to eat in Guangdong.' referring to the food in the southern province being the finest in all of China.

For the select few who read my blog may well know that I'm on a bit of a hunt around for Ban Zhang tea at the moment. It's awfully expensive and as such is the target for unscrupulous business men/con artists to exploit the name to jack up the prices of their tea. We all hear about how good it is like it's the holy grail or something and poor sods like myself spend reasonably large amounts of paypal cash trying to obtain the real deal.

Today's offering is from a familiar source, one that is trustworthy and needs no more introduction. You can pick up a bing of this tea for a smidge under £80, so it's not cheap but in comparison to fresh Ban Zhang bings it's not a massive mark up for nearly 5 years of storage. Another thing is, I believe this to be what is says on the wrapper.

The rinsed leaves still hold onto a little legume but it's clear that this tea is on a pivot edge in it's life as the last of it's youth is in decline. The resulting soup is vibrant to behold and a decent shade of light amber but what taste awaits me?

This is more like it. There is no mistaking the initial layer is one of bitterness that interestingly enough concentrates on the rear portion of my mouth. The transition to sweetness is a rapid affair and I can best describe it as being like dried apricots. I start to fumble the brewing and push the leaves too far, it's still not overly bitter but the tobacco and leather tones become too emphasised.

I curse the flu gods for my congested nose, I suspect my session is muted because of it, however, all is not lost as the marvellous properties of this tea are still evident. The bitterness doesn't hang around forever  and sweet tobacco with leather predominates with the apricot and peach kernel finish. I'm left thinking that this tea isn't quite ready yet to be drunk though although highly enjoyable, I just feel that there is better to come.

Perhaps a new line should be added to that poem, 'to drink tea from Ban Zhang.'

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

1970's Tong Qing Hao Sheng Pu Erh (Essence of Tea)

I don't get to drink much really old pu erh as it's rather expensive and hard to obtain from trustworthy sources. This is my first excursion into the age of beige and wafty trouser legs, the seventies!

Call me uncouth but I have a harder time sifting through the peat and dark woodiness of aged pu erh for it's finer attributes, I'm putting down to a real lack of experience. So there is no surprise that I jot down the usual superlatives such as peat with sweetness on initial contact with this tea. It's been a hustle bustle sort of a day and suddenly I am pacified. I rarely mention cha qi but there is no mistaking the effect upon myself whilst drinking this tea. I have been rendered quiet and start to enjoy the moment.

With my senses rather more inward I feel a warmth on my ren meridian, a pathway that ascends straight up the forward center line of the body. If I were to choose an acupuncture point it would be radiating from yu tang 玉堂, which is known in English as Jade Hall. Energetically this point helps descend qi in the upper chest cavity and one can easily associate the dynamics of this point with the movement of my mood, for qi is movement at its purest.

What an unexpected surprise this afternoon's session has been. With all the to'ing and fro'ing of my life I have just found a space to reflect. Thank you Nada for a most interesting experience!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

2009 American Hao 904 (Pu Erh Shop)

Now if I haven't already done so, I'm going to really give away how much of a novice I am to pu erh and tea in general. Fresh off drinking the 906 yesterday I am going to re-dip my toes into the solemn waters of the 904. I quite like the American Hao brand as each pressing is unique and brings a different experience to the drinker. I'd much rather enjoy my time with small custom bings than to large production runs any day, who wouldn't?

You see, the 904 was one of the first pu erhs I tried as a sample since I rediscovered tea early last year. I really liked it then but I was hesitant to splash out the $40 or so dollars on a cake, I was quite shocked at the price at the time. The infernal wind of tea pricing has weathered my sensibilities and I am now quite happy to fork out the dosh for my hit.

I unwrap the paper on the bing for the first time and my nose is met with the sweet smell of a tasty honey. In goes a nice chunk of dry leaf, one rinse and we are off!

The wet leaves of fresh pu erh tend to be too legume for my nose but I can't resist to stick my snoz amongst them and behold there is a distinct lack of beans on offer, interesting. Yesterdays 906 was a brash young oik of a tea with a taste and huigan aftertaste to match but the 904 is far more sedate. It beckons you to take notice of its qualities instead of flaunting them in your face.

The flavours are darker and covered with a barbecue ash with a subtle, creeping huigan that builds up steadily as the infusions pass by but never reach a crescendo. There are no fireworks here, just a constant undercurrent of textures to keep one amused if you have the patience to savour them or frustrated if you don't have the environment to take seek them. This is a tea for one of my more quiet mornings I think.

I feel a little jittery but I suspect it has more to do with someone at Morrisons filling the decaf coffee pot with the wrong beans earlier as opposed to the caffeine present in my eleven o'clock tea. A quick peek into the yixing reveals the slightly broken nature of the smallish leaf with patches of oxidisation, quite the opposite of the 906 which had one of the biggest pu erh leaves I had ever seen!

Before you know it things are winding down and lunch time is coming along. Was the tea as good as I remembered? Hard to say, it's the sort of tea I could drink often and I am in the mood for contemplation. Perhaps I should stop typing and focus a little more... ;-)

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

2009 American Hao 906 (Pu Erh Shop)

Today with have the sixth American Hao release of 2009 by the well known online retailer, Pu Erh Shop. I am very familiar with the great value 901 and as of this morning have also received one bing of the much more expensive 904 which impressed me as a sample.

The leaves are chock full of silvery tips. The compression is two fold with the edge already starting to crumble under finger pressure however further into the cake it is far more compact.

Aided today by my brand new pot, also from Pu Erh Shop. I haven't yet splashed out a large amount for a pot as I was quite happy my previous $40 or so purchase. I desired another pot so I've forked out a similar amount and here it is. Although the box wasn't so luxurious the pouring of this new pot is quick compared to my other pots, it's like driving a sports car after being used to a transit van!

Here we go then equipped with bamboo charcoal filtered water, my little iron kettle on my induction heater, my new pot and a simple celadon cup.

The yellow soup brings forth some bitterness and plenty of butter. Being so young there is no hiding how green it is! The soup is quite thick, young and rather feisty. Such thickness makes for an interesting throat feel and I don't have to wait too long before the huigan issues forth from the sides of my tongue then difuses itself to the roof of my mouth. The first incarnation of the huigan has interesting complexity too.

Subsequent infusions soon lose the initial burst of bitterness and a more peaceful nature is brought about. The rebellion has been quelled. All the butteriness does make it a little on the rich side and the distraction of the blog caused me to totally over brew the fifth infusion but the resulting soup wasn't undrinkable.

As time passes it becomes a little thinner and flashes of other flavours appear although somewhat fleeting. Hints of melon and cucumber come quickly and leave even quicker. I start to gag a little on all the sweetness and decide to slow down. The last moments of the session leave me with champignons and I ponder what the 904 with offer tomorrow.

As is my habit now I have a little look at the online information on this tea after making my notes to see if I come up with the same sorts of findings and I'm not a million miles away which is reassuring. It's interesting to see that the cake was pressed with bulang and yiwu leaves. Perhaps that burst of bitterness was the former making a statement but the overall impression of the tea was more of sweetness and something that I'd associate with the latter. But what do I know as according to Pu Erh Shop it's the spring yiwu that is bitter, rough and ready! 

I had no idea of the cost of the bing as I had completely forgotten but upon checking, $14 seems to be rather reasonable and only the 901 comes in cheaper. 

It's not the sort of tea I would want to drink everyday at the moment but as my stock pile increases I will be able to check back every now and then.