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Saturday, August 29, 2009

1997 ShuiXian Brick

The only source I know, which sells this brick, is the Tea Gallery, and they seem to have very few left (1 as listed on their site). Other people which have reviewed this tea, often talk about how hard the brick is to break apart. While it is a new experience to try and break apart a Yancha, with something with the slightest point on it it seems decently easy. Just try and split down the center of the stick.

I personally think there is something slightly special about this tea. When brewed with boiling water you get a decent plum, with a sour note that is no where near overwhelming. But one thing I'd like to note about this tea, is through the breaking process you get many leaf fragments, but it is always smooth. Its color is an alluring deep brown, like a half spent Puerh, but amazingly clean.

A remark on this brick, For me it is great for a solo brew, as all you need is half a stick on one of the tea galleries small gaiwans, and it is a great easy brewer for one or two people. Its no small secret that I like this tea, as this tea is what persuaded me to try my hand in attempting to age Wuyi oolongs.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Puerh the Whisky of the Tea World

Yes, you read the title correctly. And I suppose a similar comparison could be made to wine, but whisky is what I know, and to me certain similarities just jump out. And no not the obvious one about aging and such, or about vintages, I have two others one is slightly more obvious and the other is more of a musing that just occurred to me while drinking my 90’s Huang Yin.
Huang Yin Late 90's
The rather obvious one is the single malts and blends comparison. These exist quite clearly in the puerh world, with single mountains and specific factory blends. In whiskey certain blends are known for being solid, and while the material they have to work with changes from year to year, they do their best to create something as similar to the previous year’s product that they can. Whereas puerh experts can tell you what characterizes a certain mountain’s tea while being able to pick out the mountains of each tea from a blind taste test. I do not have that ability; I’ll admit it flat out.

But what I find as the more interesting observation I have for this comparison. I find that with puerh, especially aged, and whisky, the more you drink them the more you can over look what people find unpleasant about them initially. Many people turn away from puerh for the earthy flavors, and the musty and damp leaves characteristic they tend to exhibit. But drink aged puerh every day or every other day for a week or more, I believe the more and more you drink the easier it is for you to overlook those flavors, and focus on the nuances in that particular tea. In whisky the similarity is hopefully obvious to anyone that has ever had any hard liquor, and felt the burn. Now I’m willing to venture anything at 40+%ABV is going to burn when you drink it. But you have a glass every night or every other night, because you are on holiday, the burn does not bother you, you are comfortably familiar with it, and the tastes of that whiskey is no longer performing shock and awe on your system, you are being shocked and awed by all the unique flavors.

So to say this to people getting into puerh it is not like most teas. Puerh given a long enough break between your last session with it, may just shock your taste buds. But persist through the obvious flavors, and eventually you will be able to pick out the subtle details hiding beneath those strong tones.
1960's Wang Zi

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Making vs. Experiencing Tea

Anyone can make tea, and with practice and trial and error, many people can make tea that they like. But the difference in making and experiencing tea, comes about with the attention you pay to detail in the preparation. Simply grabbing a mug from a cabinet, and tossing a teabag into it, and pulling it sometime later, yes you made tea. But do you have any sort of attachment to that tea? Was it more refreshing than any other beverage you could have chosen to make or open? In short what made that tea special and unique?

Rishi Snow bud

A warm beverage on a cold day can be relaxing, and quite welcome. While you may be attached to a cup of tea in the morning to get you going. Though when you prepare tea like that there is little difference from a cup of coffee, other than personal preference. But if you spent a great amount of time hunting for that perfect cup, picked out that perfect tea, and spent a great deal of care into trying to make that tea sing for you. You are much more likely to be experiencing that tea.

Often we find ourselves searching for a way to better experience that tea. I spent 3 hours on the floor one night drinking tea, to see if it would change anything. While that made little change for me, what did make a great difference was me improving my posture. If I sit straight up, while enjoying tea, it in an indescribable way is much more enjoyable. Others search for the same series of returns from searching for an older pot, or a new way of heating the water, or a different cup.

In short there is no right way, just as I’m sure there is no wrong way. It is perhaps that tea is just a liquid mirror that only reflects in its taste, the amount of effort and practice we put into the drink itself.
Nadacha 2009 Nannuo Old Plantation

Friday, August 21, 2009

One Hundred Year Tree (2008)

This is a Wuyi Yancha from The Tea Gallery. I am rather excited as both the other teas I had when I visited them with friends last saturday have been great, and I have to physically restrain myself from only drinking them.

This tea piques my interest, the dry leaves smell somewhat roasted yet some of the leaves are distinctly more green than I have seen most Wuyi oolongs. I also found a single twisted leaf that had to be 3 to 4 inches long, I don't know how I got it into my yixing without breaking it. It is pictured resting on top of my Yixing.

This is the start of alot of Wuyi Yancha's I will be doing, as the 1997 Shui Xian brick from the tea gallery impressed me so much, I want to try my hand at aging some Wuyi Yanchas. So I am in the middle of getting small sizes from a number of vendors.

The color of this one indicates that I am not brewing it nearly as strong as the others, and that it probably does have less of a roast on it. But with such large leaves, its hard to stuff the yixing nearly as full as with other teas.

The color and the scent, make for pure bliss, before I have even poured it into a cup. With the first slurp you know this tea is something special. Almost an oily and creamy like clinging to your mouth, while full of flavor, comforting like chicken soup on a winter day, when you are sick, but att the same time a nice healthy desert, which tastes delicious.

Its after taste is rather cooling, with sweetness and maybe a bit of mint.

On the second infusion, I swear I smell very fresh pastries laden with butter.

While the third infusion smells more of fresh summer berries, and cream.

There is something magical about this tea, and half way through the 3rd infusion, I'm starting to feel the amazing Chaqi this tea was said to have. Truly wonderful indeed.

I fished that huge leaf out of the pot just to show you it unraveled.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Classic Roast Ti Guan Yin

This is a spectacular tea, if you are into Chao Zhou gong fu preperation of tea. For more information on preperation of ChaoZhou gong fu see my previous entry. I made this for a friend yesterday, and he likened it to the tea equivalent of arabic coffee compared to coffee. All I know is this is a great way to teach people the true power of tea.

Notice that with this small Giawan from the teagallery, which is perfect for a solo session of this type of preperation or more precious teas, if you need to keep the temperature more consistent, a teaboat, or in this case bowl is necessary as there it looses heat quite quickly.

As for the tea itself, it is from the Tea Gallery, and I'm already wishing I got more. To me its aroma is characteristic of charred vegetables notably bamboo, as it has a nice carmalized sugar sweetness. With a very hearty berry taste to it. But its so strong and so complex There are so many tastes, one can not hope to identify them all, you basically look at it and say: How was the aroma? How was the Taste? How was the finish? And it comes across as a resoundingly unanimous terrific.

So remember when brewing this, brew it strong and enjoy.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Andao Wuyi Rare Orchid

Andao Wuyi Rare Orchid

This is the first tea I've had in a long time that has left me completely uninspired. It is either I have not unlocked the secrets of this tea, or as I've known for quite some time, I am not one for floral teas. In fact I do not touch anything with jasmine in the title for that very reason.

I enjoy alot of fruits in my teas, but never horribly floral ones. I do not mind floral smells, which is perhaps why I don't avoid Dan Cong's on principal. And this did have a very nice floral orchid smell. Can't say anything else really jumped out at me.


While the broth tasted mediocre at best, honestly reminds me of the taste you get if you lick your fingers after playing with flower petals. Something which I do not enjoy in the least. In fact this tea overall reminded me so much more of a Dan Cong than a wuyi, I'm not entirely sure what to think.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tea Musings

“Tea, it’s water that has had leaves sitting in it.”

Now at first this caused a bit of anger because to me at least, tea is so much more than just some plant matter soaking in water. It is a tradition, a way of life, an endless journey, anything than just something as simple as throwing leaves into water.

Then it struck me, the simplicity of the statement, is none of my concern, and I could accept it simply saying well yes that is what it is, or I could delve into a spiritual, and even metaphysical definitions. So here I will muse about what tea means to me, which due to the very nature of what tea is, could be completely different next week if not tomorrow.

I cannot say I have ever had a great tea, which presents the problem of classifying what characterizes a great tea. Though I justify that any tea which is pleasing to you at that moment in time, either by a divine act you managed to brew it just right, or it was the perfect choice for your mood, as a wonderful tea. But I guess for it to be great, it would need to do that consistently every single time, which seems to think that a great tea has been independent of everything else, something any experienced tea drinker knows is completely backwards.


While I am still new to tea, as having been drinking loose leaf tea for four years now, and drinking it avidly (daily if not more often), for almost a year. There are some things I feel like I should say to those just starting out, learn to make good tea in a paper cup, with inexpensive tea and what ever you have sitting around. If you can do that then the rest is experiencing better and better tea. No piece of teaware will ever make your tea something magical, but if you can make acceptable tea in a paper cup, you can appreciate how it tastes coming from porcelain, be it young or old, and probably be able to tell the difference between them.

I speak from experience as my first yixings were horrible, after several months of use I still looked back at the tea I made in paper cups, saying “That was better than this.” Which should be a tell tale sign that the teaware was no where near as good, but sometimes it takes adjusting to the new methods. I burnt my thumb today using my gaiwan, something I haven't done since the very first week I had my gaiwan. But the tea that came from the gaiwan far better than anything I could make In a paper cup.

What I am trying to say is be comfortable with what you have and then expand your selection to fill a certain niche in what you want to do with tea. As with the paper cup you are making tea, but with a gaiwan and yixing, you are experiencing tea. And if the tea made from the experience is no good, why it won't be a pleasing experience at all, but if you can always make good tea, experiencing the good tea can be life changing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Late 90's Huang Yin (Yellow Mark)

Late 90s Huang Yin unwrapped
This is a CNNP (China National Native Produce) cake, fashioned after the almost legendary Yellow label of the 50's or 60's (not sure when the original Yellow Label was released. I picked this cake up at Nadacha, who is probably my favorite vendor for premium, and aged puerh.

Late 90's Huang yin Nei fei
As you can tell this tea has already aged a great deal, probably due to its Hong Kong storage, which has left a couple of the leaves with a little white frosting. Amazingly enough this did not seem nearly as wet stored as the 90's Tuo.

Thirsty Cup wants some
This color of even the earlier brews was relatively clear, and never more than a slightly dark red. Though this tea still has a slight sign of youth to it, as I detected a little bit of ku that is found in younger teas, though this one was by far much more smoothed over and peaceful and reduced.
This tea is already a great aged tea. I detected over the course of an afternoon of brewing hints of waterchestnuts, peppers, and even ginger. All while being thoroughly soothing on this hot summers day.
So I leave you with a happy cup and two of my yixings basking in the sun.

Sky in a cup

Sunday, August 9, 2009

2009 Nadacha Naka cake

This tea comes from the Menghai region, from Naka mountain. This tea to put it lightly is bold, a very strong ku. I would not go as far as to say it was as strong as the Bulang, but this one didn't have some of the redeeming qualities that the Bulang had. This is still a solid tea, which I wish I had a cake to forget about for decade or two. This tea is said to come from ~400 year old trees, and as you'll notice while brewing this tea, it is not the usual Large leaves you see in most puerh teas. As Naka is famous for its small leaf tea bushes, of which this tea is made.

Though I must say in the early infusions there was a hint of Licorice and incense wafting from the faircup. The chaqi is very light but still there. The color was a nice bright pale gold throughout 7 infusions.

And now that I have tried all 4 of the Nadacha custom pressed cakes, I have to say the two standouts where the Nannuo Qiao Mu, and the Bulang, but the other two cakes are still very solid and great cakes.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Nadacha 1960's Wang Zi Loose Leaf Sheng

Sometimes you just feel like its a good day, and as it was turning out to be quite a good day. I found out I am giving my first presentation on research I myself have conducted in about a months time. So I decided as the main focus of my summer research is basically over, I figured why wait until tomorrow just for some official date.

So out came the 1960's Wang Zi from Nadacha. I have been background brewing this one for awhile, as it was getting quite thin with steeps in the normal less than 5 minutes time frame.

This tea is not a great tea, but it is solid, and what it lacks in complexity and the ability to sweep you off your feet and proclaim this a tea you would want to drink for the rest of your life. It is a tea that has staying power, I went though about 15 infusions before I started background brewing letting it steep for 10 or more minutes at a time while I focused on something else.

Its chaqi is calming but builds steadily, while this presents itself overall with quite a bit of camphor, it has a slight hint of spices, cloves and black pepper. I think this lacks some of the rave reviews the Cakes from the 60's have, since it is a loose leaf, the leaves have lost a little bit of something to the air.

Be that as it may the early infusions are practically black, going through a burgundy to a decent brown on its way of lightening up.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tea Musings / Andao Tea's Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe)

Today, I had a session of tea in the manner discussed in The Leaf Issue 1. Now I knew I wanted to write up a review on this tea, to end the Pu-erh steak in posting. Though I'd consider it very fortunate that I read that article again last night, and as I was getting ready to have tea, that I should think of some of the lessons in that simple article.

When I first tried that tea from Andao, I wanted to write it off as under roasted, and nothing a Da Hong Pao or Big Red Robe should be. After having the tea acouple of times, I still never liked it much, but this time I made it all about the tea, had propper posture, and just focused on the tea.

I did not know it would change much of anything. Yet, the tea seemed nearly transcendental, the chaqi from it is still pulsing through my body. I just remember a fruity nose, maybe hints of peach cinnamon, and cherries. And a smooth mouthfeel with a slight bit of astringency. I still have a lingering sour cherry taste in the back of my throat from my last sips.

It seems that focusing on the tea, improved my mood, and my experience beyond anything I would have imagined.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

2009 Nadacha Bulang

Referring to Nada's site on this cake. It should be interesting in terms of the very strong ku as the Nannuo's were rather soft spoken, and very easy to drink. The only one of the cakes nada himself pressed this year that is still available is the Nannuo old plantation, of which I have on comming in the mail, as its still a good cake though the other Nannuo puts it to shame.

The dry leaves smell sweet and slightly floral. While after a rinse they smell of camphor, and smoke, quite strongly too I might add.

Now I've had teas before where "Ku" is the only way to describe them, I've even seen ku described as "Choke Throat" its that strong and bitter. Perhaps its just becaue I was told it had ku but I think this smells rather like you don't reallly want to drink it camphor, with hints of citrus peel, and a slight tobacco smoke essence to it. To taste... wow, well at least these are sold out, as I think the only hope for this is to age it and hope fro the best. Yet it has a surprising Hui Gan to it (sweet aftertaste), but perhaps just having your mouth return back to normal after something so bitter, would seem sweet. It tastes like chewing on a lemon peel, without any recall hints of lemon, just that strong bitterness. But the dry finish, has a subtle hint of a malt like character.

As the infusions of this tea progress, it seems a constant battle is being under taken to brew it weaker and weaker, as it was evident from the previous infusion that it won't have gotten weaker enough on its own. Yet as unwelcome as the taste is, there is something comforting about it in retrospect, possibly cause the finish is rather enjoyable.

Treating this tea with a delicate hand and it is still quite drinkable and enjoyable, this just requires much finer attention to detail, along with a desire to power through the first couple of steeps. I'd actually say My steep times for this started off at 15 seconds, and now On the 7th or 8th I'm at 5-10 second steeps.

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