Monday, 30 August 2010

1997 Hen Li Chang Bu Lang (Essence of Tea)

A fine brandy?
One of the parting gifts from Nada during our visit a couple of weeks ago was this tea. It's nice to be able to have a chance to drink a pu erh from the late nineties again as I think it's a fascinating age where the tea goes from youth into maturity. I just wish I could of been able to track just how a pu erh reaches this stage year by year, what a education that would be!

Infused by the Sun, yang within yin.
The dry leaf crumbled effortlessly into my larger gaiwan, it's so nice to not have to hack away with a hammer and chisel to get at the leaf (cough.. cough.. Xiaguan..). The dark honey amber soup was re-soundly in the realm of wood without being too earthy. I decided to brew using shorter steeps after my experiences at the Essence of Tea as I do have a tendency to go over the top, this also causes me to zero out passing distractions so I can fully concentrate on the tea. If there is one thing my life needs it is some tranquility, drinking tea at home gives me my only chance to truly slow down and concentrate inwardly.

Several steeps in the numbness on my lips goes up several notches and the session becomes more interesting all of a sudden with a fascinating expression of cha qi. I spend the next while focussing my attention on just how this feels and being quite tea drunk my mind wonders on the topic of kettles and water.

So far I have experimented a bit on using different waters from tap to filter to bottle and how to boil it. As I write this I am using a relatively cheap tetsubin on an induction heater that bleeps and whistles more than R2D2! I have always had an eye on an old tetsubin like the one pictured above and recently I have also taken a shine to a copper kettle from Postcard Teas but the truth is that spending a long distance flight amount of money on a kettle seems to be a little bit extravagant an expense at the moment. I suppose a more sensible first step would be to spend a tenth of that money on a less collectable item to give me an idea on the effects of a copper kettle.

The volume of my little tetsubin is small and I rarely have need to re-boil the water. I suppose if I were to have a larger kettle then I will be forced to bring the water to temperature again and again, would that have a negative effect on the taste of the water? One supposes it does but in reality I am without much actual insight.

Visiting Nada

Holiday makers on the busy High Street pass a tea oasis
Finally given a whole four day break in my busy cricket schedule myself and my partner head down the long road to Cornwall and pitch up our tent in a rather wet and windy farmers field a few miles from the town of Falmouth, home of Nada and his newly opened tea shop Essence of Tea. Nada's teas are no doubt well known to many of you, every year he makes the trip to Yunnan and sources out very promising pu erh and then sells it on without hiking up the price (there is a lesson to be learnt there tea sellers!) giving the western audience a terrific source of good tea. Pitching our tent so close to Falmouth was no coincidence and as soon as our breakfast was in our bellies we headed off to find the shop. After a couple of loops around the block, being given a bum steer by Google Maps we came across this most wonderful of tea shops. Nada's wife was sitting by the table, happily brewing tea for one of the locals and within a few minutes we were nattering away sipping to our hearts content.
Many fine teas to choose from
Over the next couple of days I lost count of how much tea had been drunk, the flow was constant and fine. Such a shop is a brave adventure considering the UK high street folk but one by one people who came in to mooch around were politely encouraged to spend time around the table and be given a true tea experience, how lucky they are!

Essence of Tea on the outside may be a delightful shop but the real essence is not of the tea but that of the couple that run it. We left after a couple of days feeling like we were leaving old friends quite touched by their warmth and promising to make the journey again to spend time sipping tea in their company. Thanks guys!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Master Xu's Rou Gui

Nutty and sweet in aroma, a thoroughly enjoyable tea..

.. short and sweet, there's something about yancha I can't really grasp!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Behold the Beast of Bulang!!

What seems like an age ago and was only a year or so I received a shipment of sample Pu Erhs from The Essence of Tea owner, DC. The one stand out tea of that shipment was his 2009 Bulang, it was extremely bitter and challenging to drink. Unfortunately I was too late to grab myself a full bing as they had all been sold and my sample soon dwindled to nowt.

The beast returns though, in it's 2010 guise and this time I managed to snag myself a bing. Would it be as potent as last years? Well, with my parcel arriving in double time from DC, I launched myself upon it. Brewing 4.6 grams of leaf in a 100ml gaiwan I set about brewing this mighty tea once more. I consciously kept the steeping time shorter than 15 seconds and took my first sip.

Almost swearing, the soup was swallowed. This tea is an unadulterated assault of bitter lemon rind upon the palette! I cowered somewhat and reduced my second steep to just 10 seconds in an attempt to bring the beast upon some control. What followed was several rounds of myself locking horns with a formidable foe, again and again we clashed leaving me bewildering tea drunk and strongly moved by the chaqi. The huigan was most curious and quite unique, it felt like it wanted to express itself but was somehow shrouded.

Rather sheepishly I took the bing and set it into storage, I was soundly defeated. This tea fascinates me, it is several magnitudes more potent than anything else I have tried. I can only imagine how time will warp it's characteristics and ultimately tame the beast. I am really looking forward locking horns once again in a few months time.