A Tea Addict's Journal

Entries from November 2006

Roasted Dahongpao

November 30, 2006 · 4 Comments

As it seems to be my custom these days, after a long day of tastings I go back to one of my Wuyi teas to calm my body down.

Today’s no different, but it’s a different tea. This is a Wuyi I got a few weeks ago with the Lapsang Souchong and the other, lighter Dahongpao. This one’s also a Dahongpao, but it’s a much heavier fired one. The leaves are quite dark, and the tea brews a strong colour

There’s an unmistakable taste of charcoal in the tea, but it’s not an overpowering one that covers all other tastes, as is sometimes the case (those are really mismanaged roasting that went overboard…. or tea that is too bad and need to be roasted as such to be drinkable). The first infusion came out slightly sour, which from what I know means the roasting was not handled perfectly, although the rest of the infusions were fine. It lasted something like 6-7 infusions…. and when I thought it was dying, I left the water in there for quite a few minutes, which resulted in a dark brew, but still very drinkable and not bitter nor sour. I’m very glad of that.

Incidentally, this is the tea supplied to the National People’s Assembly in Beijing, or at least one of the teas being used. However, it’s much, much cheaper than the lighter Dahongpao. The cha qi, while still evident, is just not comparable…. and the subtlety of flavour is lacking as well. It’s good for when I want a nice strong roasted tea.

Wet leaves

Looking…. like a lot of Wuyi.

On a completely unrelated note — I remembered a factoid that I learned yesterday that I thought was interesting. Apparently, the cheapest gunpowder tea that China sells, exported mainly to Africa, is about $1 per kg…. stuff that gets sold to the US is a bit more…. but…. I should really get into the gunpowder tea business 🙂

Categories: Old Xanga posts · Teas

Tenfu visit

November 29, 2006 · 1 Comment

Today was an afternoon trip with L and some of his business associates (tea people from Zhongcha). I first went to the store where L has a stake in at Maliandao. It’s in a new mall there that opened recently, and I finally found the Haiwan factory store. I need to go there next time to check that out and try the Meng Pasha cake that BBB likes so much. I also found a store that only sells Chamasi stuff, that I want to try as well.

At the store, we tasted many of the same things that we tried two days ago, as L and his associates were deciding what to order for stock. We also tried some Menghai stuff. I brought my Mengku along as a comparison with the one we had at Zhongcha’s office. It’s really quite similar. It has a little less age, since it was from 2002, but the profile is remarkably similar… and mine’s about 1/5 of the price of that piece of tea from Zhongcha. I can’t say I’m not happy about that.

I also brought the Yiwu maocha that I like… but something’s not quite right. It seems like the aging is doing something to the tea, and the taste is changing. I need to try it again myself in my own home, with me brewing it, and see if it’s the brewer doing things to the tea, or if it’s actually changing on me. I am losing that wonderfully fragrant and sweet maocha taste that so impressed me. I hope it doesn’t disappear as it turns to aging…. or whatever it’s turning into.

We ended our tastings here with, oddly enough, a tieguanyin… a super light fired tieguanyin that is what they call “qingxiang” in Beijing. When I asked the girl brewing the teas if she knew of a place that sells nongxiang (heavy fire) she said yeah, and then showed me a bag of stuff that I would also consider qingxiang…. basically, to them, stuff that is made with more traditional craft is “nongxiang” while I think a newer method, which results in a rather grassy and IMO disgusting tieguanyin, is what they call qingxiang. The leaves are unbelievably green, and the taste thin and grassy…. I had two cups and stopped.

After that we had dinner, and then went to Tenfu, where there was, basically, a graduation ceremony for a tea class at their Luyu Tea Center, where they hold classes. This is also where they developed their “Luyu Small Pot Method”, which, from what I can tell, is pretty similar to anybody else’s gongfu brewing, except with great attention to things like
1) keeping the brewing surface dry at all times with their proprietary tea desk (which is only slightly different from the usual ones)
2) using a TIMER!!!!!
3) …. that’s about it

I can’t seem to notice anything particularly exciting or new about it, other than their slightly modified proprietary desk which I’m sure costs an arm and a leg. Basically, instead of a screen with a water-capturing device underneath, so you can pour to your heart’s content, it’s replaced with a solid wood surface with a hole where the water goes. This means that if you don’t wipe the surface, water stays, so you have to constantly wipe the water off …. which I find rather silly.

There’s also not a whole lot of attention paid to the way the water’s poured into the tea. It’s done in a slightly haphazard manner, from what I can tell. Boo. The use of the timer’s just the last straw. I’m sure it helps beginners, I suppose, but when I took my first course from Best Tea House (before I realizing that such lessons are generally a waste of money) it was made plenty clear that times are only suggested, and should vary depending on the individual tea, amount of leaves you put in, personal taste, etc. Using a timer, IMHO, encourages a more rigid and scientific way to brew tea, but ultimately takes away the art of tea making which in my opinion is an essential part of the experience of brewing tea. After a while, you get an idea of about how long to use for each infusion anyway. It shouldn’t take a timer for someone with a few months, or even a few years’ of experience.

But of course, they should be applauded for bringing this sort of tea making and culture to people in China, and for that, Tenfu is very successful. Their presence makes it easier for people to approach the world of fine teas. Otherwise, many more Beijingers are going to be drinking jasmine tea only.

Anyway… I digress.

So while the students who are graduating today have this nice little gathering, with calligraphy, music, art, and tea making ceremonies (those little artsily set up stalls… each done up by the student and with them brewing tea), those of us who came with L just went upstairs to take a look. Some of them know many in the crowd, and stayed for the most part, while people like me who don’t know anybody in this group (or think it’s too many people, which it was) left quickly and went back downstairs into a more private room to brew more tea.

One of the guys from Zhongcha, as I mentioned two days ago, is a taster of sorts for them. He is also responsible for developing their puerhs. Let’s call him ZH. ZH was well prepared today — he joined us during dinner, and came with a whole bagload of tea. We ended up drinking mostly stuff from him for the rest of the night.

First up was a Mingqian Longjing. Supposedly, this tea came from a once-abandoned field of tea trees in Meijiawu area of Hangzhou, one of the more famous Longjing producing locales. Anyway, the brewing was a little… weak, thanks to a slightly low leaf-to-water ratio. However, you can tell that this was a nicely aromatic, smooth, and slightly different Mingqian Longjing than the usual. Its aroma is not quite the “bean” aroma that we normally ascribe to Longjing…. there’s a slight twist to it, and I am at a loss for words to describe that subtle difference.

We then drank a cooked puerh from Tenfu, supposedly from the Nannuo area. ZH said he can tell it’s from the Menghai area, but since it’s cooked puerh…. it’s extremely difficult to tell exactly where it’s from. To me, it all tastes about the same, and I don’t really have much of an interest to figure it out any further… suffice to say it was not bad, smooth, without too many of the nasty flavours you sometimes find in cooked puerh, but expensive. For the price I can buy a very nice Yiwu cake.

Then, we drank a very nice tea — a real Lao Banzhang maocha that ZH has, a spring tea. It’s sort of the only thing that’s truly picture worthy today

The leaves don’t look overly big in the dried form — very thoroughly rolled. You can smell the Banzhang even when it’s dry. The tea is very smooth, nice body, full flavoured like a Banzhang usually is — but far less bitter than your usual Banzhang tea. A good “throat feel”, but really, the tea goes down nicely, never being too bitter, as some Banzhang tend to be. There’s a sort of subtleness to the tea that you only find in higher quality maocha, and this is no exception. Even when overbrewed with long infusions…. it’s still not terribly bitter, and most improtantly, the huigan speed is very fast — meaning that the transition from bitterness to the resulting sweetness is extremely fast, which I think is why we don’t feel it’s very bitter. This is something that lower quality teas, and plantation teas, do not have…

The leaf colour, when brewed, is very nice, with little evidence of redness. The single leaf is about 4cm long, I think, just to give you an idea. This will age really well, methinks, and best of all, ZH gave me the rest of his sample, enough for another brewing and half 🙂 🙂

After the Banzhang, we had a curiosity piece — he first didn’t tell us what it was. He opened a bag, which was vacuum sealed, and took out two mini-tuos that are about 2-3g each. He threw it
in the gaiwan, brewed it…. and it’s….. sweet. Really, really sweet, but with a tangy slant to it, sort of a citrus like taste/smell. The liquor is a nice orangy/red colour. I thought it could be puerh at first, but the taste told me no with the citrus smell. We made our guesses. Mine was either a puerh that was wrapped in a mandarin and aged a bit, or older teas of some sort, maybe a red tea that was placed together with chenpi, which are dried mandarin skins. No, ZH said — it’s just the tea, and this is the original seal that he just broke.

Turns out it’s a Yunnan red tea made for export, but somehow kept in its original seal all these years (something like 10 years old). The taste in the tea developed over time…. and I have to say while it’s not the greatest thing, it’s definitely a very, very curious thing. Something I’ve never quite tasted. It was odd, and it was fun.

Which reminds me that I still have a weird tea that I haven’t tasted since I bought it.

We ended the night with one more tea from ZH — a mini brick from Menghai, 1995, supposedly. It’s wet stored, or at least it got pretty damp at one stage of its storage. Some whiteness on the surface of the brick, and the taste is quite similar to the “home stored” loose puerh that I bought from the Best Tea House… except this is probably more expensive. He said this is what he liked two years ago, but now, he prefers the young Banzhang. Interesting. I think it’s just a wet stored tea that has gotten rid of most of the nastiness of wet storage taste, and thus produces a black, sweet, pleasant tea that most recognize as puerh. To the uninitiated, they might even think cooked.

That concluded the night, and I think I will be inviting ZH over for tea in a day or two. He did, after all, pull out a few good things, and you can sort of tell that he is actually interested and loves drinking tea in all its various guises. Also, he’s not trying to sell anything. He will be going down to Yunnan next spring again to press cakes for their company, and maybe, just maybe, I can tag along. That will be awesome.

Categories: Old Xanga posts · Teas
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Lapsang souchong

November 28, 2006 · Leave a Comment

After many days of young puerh, I need something more mellow and less harsh for the body. Zhengshan Xiaozhong (Lapsang Souchong) it is.

I really need a yixing pot for this tea.

This is the first infusion. i like this tea for its mellowness — it’s very soft, round, and smooth. The smoky flavour is only present in the first and second infusions, after which it remains as an aftertaste, but not part of the up front flavours. Sweetness is evident throughout, from beginning to end (about 6 infusions). It is very difficult to overbrew… it’s so, so, so different from all the Lapsang Souchongs I’ve had before. The lady who sold this to me said her family always made Lapsang Souchong back in the day, and her area all make this tea. Their terrain and climate does not work well for Wuyi Yancha, whereas this tea grows much better, so this is what they always made. Lapsang Souchong, by the way, is smoked with pine wood. Apparently, this is put in the attic area — basically the space between the beams and the roof. The smoke goes up while the tea ferments.

Another shot of the tea, with leaves in the gaiwan

And finally, the leaves after brewing

They are about as big as I’ve seen red tea in terms of leaf size. Yummy.

Categories: Old Xanga posts · Teas

Zhongcha visit

November 27, 2006 · Leave a Comment

I went with L today to the Zhongcha offices to taste some of their teas. L is a budding tea merchant, intending to set up shop in Shanghai, and he’s hoping to get some goods from the Zhongcha folks. Zhongcha the brand used to be pretty much the only thing used — almost everything was CNNP Zhongcha brand, since it was a nationalized company. We all know the ubiquitous wrapper. Then things started to splinter, but CNNP’s Zhongcha was still used until basically the past few years, when the rights to use them were more or less revoked and factories mostly use their own brands to make tea, but it is obvious that we have Zhongcha stuff even in 02 or 03. Now, there are, apparently, plans to revive the brand with the China Tea Co. making their own puerh (unlike in the past when it was offloaded to factories to do the work and just slapping the Zhongcha brand on whatever they made — something like that). Some of their first efforts are here:

We tasted a few things. Although the first is not by Zhongcha at all, but rather, the Shuangjiang Mengku factory again. It’s supposedly a cake made in something like 1999 or 2000, when the factory was first starting to make puerh under the current management. They sent a few jian of this tea to CNNP, and it stayed in CNNP’s warehouse. L said this is a good tea and he wants me to try it, since I told him I have tried a few older Mengku stuff before from the same factory…

The tea is actually quite similar to the 2002 cake I bought, but it’s obviously a bit better. The aromas are largely similar — the distinctive Mengku taste profile is there. There’s a strong feel of mintiness in the throat, and it felt very nice going down. The body is quite full, and the tea is flavourful. Storage condition seems largely good, with a little bit of white notes here and there on the cake, but not obvious and won’t be noticed unless you search thoroughly. It’s not cheap, however, but nevertheless I think is a pretty good tea.

We then tried a green tea “puerh” that reminds me of the fake Menghai stuff I had yesterday. It was so similar, except the bitterness is less pronounced. The initial two infusions were very sweet, nice, basically zero bitterness, almost no sense of astringency, but then the tea turns nasty on you, losing the sweet edge and instead turns bitter over time. It’s mostly made of those silvery buds. I think these teas generally just turn out this way — sweet and nice initially, but then turning out to be bitter and won’t age well. The fake Menghai, after all, is 3 years old, and hasn’t gotten any better. Puerh should end up with infusions that are sweet and mellow, not bitter and harsh. This is what happens with these, it seems.

We then had a cake that I liked

It’s an arbor tree tea from an area called Boma, which, according to the guy brewing it (he’s some sort of certified tea taster working for CNNP), it is a village in Nannuo mountain. Its taste is quite nice, reminds me of the Nannuo maocha from Hou De. Not as fragrant, but quite full bodied. There was a maocha we compared it to that was obviously from the same region (by taste) but obviously worse than the cake. Properly made, and not too expensive. Mind you, I wasn’t buying tea today. I think you have to order by the jian, or at least in large quantities there. It’d be odd to buy one or two.

The guy who brewed it for us was nice though, and we were having a good chat and might also meet up again over time to taste other things. I’d like to get second opinions on some of these things I am drinking. He is also responsible to go to Yunnan to press cakes during harvest season, and if the timing is right, I might end up tagging along. It’ll be good to go with someone who is there on a mission and thus definitely have contacts on the other side. I think going by myself can be quite difficult.

L and I might go to a tea event on Wednesday night at (gasp!) Tenfu. He learned tea there before, and knows the people there. We’ll see what happens….

Categories: Old Xanga posts · Teas
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Maliandao shopping

November 26, 2006 · Leave a Comment

Cloudstea just reminded me of something I looked at yesterday while at Maliandao. Since new comments don’t really show up anywhere other than with the original post, probably all of you will miss it (with the silly 5 post per page limit that Xanga imposes on me).

I flipped through the Puerh Yearbook 1998-2003, written by Chen Zhitong, for verification of the Yichang Hao I tasted in Paris. I was less than 100% sure of its provenance, and it turns out to be from 2001, not 1999, as I erronously thought. I thought about buying the book, but I know I could get it for less in Hong Kong. Here at Beijing they’re charging like 20% over what they would in Hong Kong. I don’t feel like paying a premium :(.

You can find the original post here.

Categories: Old Xanga posts · Teas
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A random tea trip

November 26, 2006 · Leave a Comment

(Warning: long)

I received an invitation over Sanzui last night from a tea friend (let’s call him W) whom I shopped at Maliandao with a few weeks ago to drink tea at his friend’s teashop and then go back to his place. I figured what the heck, might as well, so I went. I know he has a big stash of tea, so I wanted to see it. He is also serving a bit as the puerh advisor to his friend’s teahouse, where he goes and shops for stuff that he finds appealing, and then goes with his friends to do the buying.

We first went to his friend’s teashop, which is in a building that houses mostly stores for art and paintings and calligraphy (and paraphrenalia), as well as a few teashops. They’ve called themselves, at least at that corner, the “West Side Tea City”. It’s a bit further from my house than Maliandao, but there’s a nice little operation going on, with 5-6 teashops on the second floor of this mall-like-thing. We went into an enclosed space within his friend’s shop where he stocks his higher priced yixings, and started tasting stuff.

The first up is a Nanzhao cake, I think 2004.

This is made by the order from Feitai, a tea company from Taiwan. W likes their teas, apparently, and bought lots of them over the last few years. Feitai just opened a store recently in Maliandao, but their wholesale prices (W buys by the jian) is even HIGHER than some other stores on Maliandao selling the same stuff. Go figure.

The Nanzhao cake is….. well, like a regular Xiaguan puerh type taste. Bitter, astringent, a bit rough. Bitter is the most obvious taste. Much of the flavours/aromas/feelings stay on the first 2/3 of the tongue, and the back of your mouth gets nothing… I can’t feel much of anything at all, sweet, bitter, or minty, in the back. This is plantation tea par excellence. There’s supposed to be Banzhang leaves mixed in it, but my friend said after going through the wet leaves very thorougly before, he found maybe a 1:20 ratio of Banzhang:other stuff.

Nothing really interesting. Overpriced to boot. Why do people drink this stuff? It’s so overpressed I can’t imagine it aging quickly or well at all without some years devoted to it. In fact, in a dry climate like Beijing…. I honestly don’t know what will happen to something like this.

Then we started on a cooked puerh. This is a 2003 (?) mini cake of Golden Needle White Lotus from Menghai. There’s no wrapper — just the tea. The wrapper is a white cotton paper.

Price is almost the same as the Nanzhao. Daylight robbery.

This is the wet leaves

Cooked puerh is cooked puerh. I don’t usually put much stock in it, and this one is the same. Why drink cooked puerh when you can drink a nice roasted oolong?

Then we tried ANOTHER cooked puerh. I didn’t really feel like it, but since I am the guest, I didn’t want to say too much. I didn’t take pictures, but actually, this one’s not bad. It’s a “Purple Sky” cooked puerh, made by the request of Nantian Company in Hong Kong in the 90s. It’s called “Purple Sky” because on the wrapper is a purple seal with the Chinese character “sky” on it. Not cheap.

However, it’s quite nice. Drinking it right after the Golden Needle White Lotus, you can really tell the difference, and the Purple Sky wins hands down. Now, even if you factor in the price, I think the Purple Sky still wins, but then, if I have money to blow on it, I’ll buy a fresh cake of some big tree tea any day over this stuff…

At that point, we left the store of his friend’s. It was a busy day, with lots of shoppers. They are mostly uneducated about all kinds of tea, as Beijingers generally only drank green and floral teas until recently. Business is well, and the pots also bring in good money. Good for them. I should add that there was no pressure for me to buy anything at all, it was just as a friend going to taste stuff.

We went to W’s apartment, which is very big, and I checked out his tea collection. It’s quite impressive, actually, mostly consisting of Xiaguan tuocha, bings, some bricks, some Menghai bings, a few other random stuff. Mostly big factory tea though, very different from the sort of thing I’m buying these days. I think we have pretty different tastes.

We then drank a, literally, dizzying succession of teas. He goes through the teas very fast, brewing everything with a generous amount of leaves, and leaving each infusion in for about 20-30 seconds before pouring. It’s uniformly strong, although I don’t think that’s necessarily bad. What I found a little uncomfortable was that he sometimes leaves some water in the gaiwan — mostly because he finishes pouring very abruptly and quickly, meaning that there’s always a few ml of water left in the gaiwan…. brewing while we’re drinking the infusion, making the tea even more bitter. Yum

The first thing we tried was a fake Menghai cake he bought in 2003. We brewed it up. First infusion is very sweet, nice aromatic…. then it’s downhill from there. By the fourth infusion it was INCREDIBLY bitter. Bitterness to the end. We drank one more infusion, and stopped. You can judge the wet leaves for yourself

(It’s an accident that it’s in a star shape)

Does it look like green tea to you? It does to me, and it smelled like it too. Ovendried, and I think overdried, tea, that will not age thanks to it being not really puerh, but just high-temperature dried green tea. Tastes nice initially, but nasty after a few infusions. Buyer beware.

Then we tried two unremarkable iron cakes that are somewhat similar to the Nanzhao. I honestly don’t have much to say about them, other than they all taste quite similar to me. I don’t find them very exciting.

Then there was another tea… a Baoyan Mushroom, specially made also, I think, for Feitai, and probably two years old if I am not mistaken.

It comes in a nice special gift box, all wrapped up nicely. The reason we tried it was because after I showed him the 2002 Mengku cake (which he and his friend bought two tongs of) he realized that this is Mengku tasting… and it is. It tastes like the 2002 cake. Quite similar, and definitely Mengku. You can’t mistake it for anything else.

At this point, I was really drained by all the tea. It was…. a lot. I brought the 2004 Yangqing Hao to share with him, and we ended the day’s tasting with that, and I have to say I prefer that (or any good, big tree tea) over what I’ve tasted. It’s a different style, and it depends on what kind of taste you like. He likes the more heavy hitting, powerful, and “wow” teas that make an immediate impact. I guess I am more into drinking a little more slowly, stuff that is more mellow, that don’t necessarily wow you right away, but after a while you do realize that you’re drinking good tea afterall. As W observed when we started tasting the Yangqing Hao — this is a tea that is for sipping, and is quite subdued. He was, I think, interested in it, and thought it will age well as well with a comple
x taste in the future — and how the tea fills your mouth with various kinds of flavours, each brew being somewhat different. It was a nice finish to an interesting tea drinking day.

He gave me a tuo before we went off to dinner. This is also a Feitai tuo, I think, that is also, he thinks, made of Mengku materials. The packaging is the same as pretty much any other Teji Tuo

The tea doens’t look much different than your usual XG tuo, but the smell…. smells like Mengku tea. I’ll try it at some point. However, not all Teji use Mengku leaves. In fact, the September production (this is 04 May) that he owns does not taste like this one at all. Go figure. You can never tell unless you know what each region tastes like.

Tea really brings various kinds of people together…. And then there’s the Zhongcha visit tomorrow….

Categories: Old Xanga posts · Teas
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Quanji mixed tong

November 25, 2006 · 2 Comments

Well, it’s Saturday. No libraries are open. What else can I do but go to Maliandao (yeah, that’s sort of a lie, but let me rationalize my tea shopping trips, ok?).

It was a bit of a confused start. I made an arrangement to meet with a vendor today, and I also had someone else I was supposed to see who found me by a complicated way through this blog (let’s call him L). Eventually, I went up to the L’s store first. It’s actually in a place I’ve never been to on Maliandao — it’s the new building of the Beijing Tea Corporation, just completed and moved in. You can still smell the paint and what not in there. It’s an airy place, and there are a few stores with stuff that I might want to try later on. I will go back there next time. I think very few people know about this yet, so it’s mostly a place for tea dealers/merchants to buy stuff, I think.

Then I went to the Chayuan place where I was supposed to meet the tea merchant. I found them through taobao. I was looking for a particular tea — I think I might have mentioned it. The tea is made by a factory called Quan Ji, a small operation running out of Yunnan. I tried one of the cakes, a six mountain mix, at a store in Chayuan, but the initial price they quoted me was astoundingly high, so I balked and walked. I found these guys on taobao selling it for much less, so I contacted the owner and went to her store…

…which turns out to be the same store I visited. I found that rather funny, although not surprising. On my last visit to Chayuan I deliberately walked through the whole place to see if I can find another store that sells Quan Ji, but didn’t see any, so I had my suspicions that it’s the same store. Turns out to be true. Oops! 🙂

I sat down, and tried two of their Quan Ji cakes and had a pleasant chat with the owner of the place, a woman in her 30s or 40s. She’s very nice and seems like someone who genuinely likes tea. The manager, who was the person in charge last time I was there, eventually remembered me (I think the tea girl remembered me as soon as I walked in, but she didn’t want to say anything, I suppose). She was as annoying as last time. I really wanted to tell the owner that her manager is ruining her business, but who am I to say such things.

The two cakes I tried were from Gedeng and Manzhuan. Both are very good, big tree, properly made, and tastes like puerh should. Upon further inquiry, it turns out that they have tongs of tea that consist of one each of each mountain, and one cake of the six mountain mix cake which I tried last time (and which really impressed me). I wasn’t going to buy much today….. but I couldn’t resist.

So I ended up with this at home:

I debated whether to open it or not…. but I wanted to make sure I got what I was supposed to get.

The first cake is

While I left the rest in the tong — opening it any further would require dismantling the tong itself, something I didn’t want to do. Other than the six mountain mix, the rest of the six mountains are, properly speaking, Gedeng, Manzhuan, Mengsa, Wangzhi, Yibang, Youle. No, Yiwu is not one of them. Yiwu is technically a part of Mengsa, actually. This is from a text written during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) that I recently looked up.

I opened up this nice wrapping job

To reveal the tea

This is the six mountain cake…. which was really quite impressive. I have very high hopes. The tea doesn’t look very good — none of the Quan Ji stuff do, but somehow, the tea tastes just the way I think it should. Of course, I could be wrong and it could end up being absolute crap, but I feel pretty sure with this one.

After this, I met up with L again for dinner. He’s opening a store in Shanghai that sells tea, and is going to do some shopping for that. I am going to go accompany him on Monday afternoon to Zhongcha’s storage facility here in Beijing to taste some tea. That will be interesting…

Categories: Old Xanga posts · Teas
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Puwen factory Yiwu

November 24, 2006 · Leave a Comment

When I was going through my desk yesterday I realized that I have a sample pack of tea sitting in a corner. This is a sample I got from a tea vendor in the Puer Chadu, and which I never bought nor tried. I tried it at their store, and I remember not liking it enough. They wanted a pretty high price for the cake, I gave a counteroffer that was 40% of their asking price, and they balked. In the end, they hoped that I’ll change my mind with this free sample.

So I brewed it up…

The factory name is Puwen, and this is a Yiwu cake. As they are always Yiwu Zhengshan these days, it doesn’t mean much. Supposedly old arbor tree, the works… The dry leaves smells like Yiwu.

This is infusion 1. The tea is…. a little thin, not terribly so, but a little thin. There’s a bit of “water taste”. For some reason, the tea didn’t taste very tea like, and considering this is a 30 seconds infusion…. that’s a lot.

While there’s some Yiwu taste in this, I don’t think this cake is made up of 100% Yiwu tea, or, it’s low elevation tea, or plantation tea (likely some mixed in). It just doesn’t taste right, and doesn’t taste like the Yiwu arbor tea that I’ve come to know after trying a whole bunch of them. I don’t know exactly what might’ve been mixed in it, but this ain’t the real deal. The tea is otherwise fine. It’s not great, but not terrible.

Of course, I found out that on Taobao you can get a cake of this for about 35% of their initial asking price. Good thing I didn’t buy it. Even my counteroffer of 40% was too high.

The leaves look more or less like Yiwu, but it doesn’t taste right. I can’t describe what’s wrong… it’s just the aroma/taste profile is a little different than usual. Perhaps it’s a “borderline Yiwu”? Not sure….

Categories: Old Xanga posts · Teas

Rougui day

November 23, 2006 · 4 Comments

Correction: Yesterday’s tea was from teahub, apparently.

Anyway, today I went back to an old reliable — the rougui I got when I first got to Beijing. Most of the 150g is gone now. I have probably less than 50g left at this point. Then I’ll break out the 2005 version of this tea and compare it with what I’ve been drinking so far.

To answer the question of how much tea I use:

For Wuyi I generally put between 60-70% full of dry leaves, sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less. With the yixing I’ve been using a little less. With gaiwans it’s almost entirely covered with tea. Then you brew very short and quick infusions.

This is how the tea looks — same as before 🙂

This time I noticed a bit of charcoal in the tea, just a hint. I hate it when a tea is so roasted (or rather, so poorly roasted) that the only thing you can taste is the charcoal. This one has a hint of that, but not very strong, and the tea taste still dominates.

It’s really quite pleasant to drink, and very relaxing. Wuyi teas really give me a lot of enjoyment these days, whereas in comparison even roasted dancongs are a bit more…. stressful, so to speak. I’m not sure why that is the case. I guess my taste is changing.

The leaves are a bit broken, as you can see. Bottom of the pile… or close to it.

Categories: Old Xanga posts · Teas

Teahub Dancong

November 22, 2006 · Leave a Comment

My French tea host gave me this tea from Teahub

It’s a dancong. I’m not sure which one.

Dancong, much like Wuyi, tend to be difficult to decipher when dry. I can’t really predict how they will taste based on how the tea looks. You can guess a little by the way it smells, but even then, it’s not a guarantee.

Infusion 1

Infusion 3

Needless to say, this is quite a bit lighter than my normal dancong. The first impression, and in fact, the lasting impression, from this tea is that it tastes very similar to a Taiwan oolong, with a bit more fruitiness, and a bit less of the metallic taste from Taiwan teas. It’s very smooth, and very low in bitterness, which is nice, as dancongs tend to have a bitter edge. However, the water is also on the thin side of things. Bubbles that form during pouring pop on their own without encouragement. Then again, maybe I’m judging it by puerh standards. The tea is quite resilient in terms of rebrewability.

The leaves are very thin as well. I couldn’t peel open any without tearing them. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. I should examine my dancong leaves a little more closely and do a comparison…. as I generally only really bother with serious wet leaf investigation with puerhs.

Categories: Old Xanga posts · Teas
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