A Tea Addict's Journal

A moving tea

December 15, 2007 · 6 Comments

I went to the candy store, and other stores nearby today. The first stop was uninspiring — a few nice teapots, but nothing in the way of tea.

The second was a store right next to my usual candy store. I’ve been in there once, but didn’t get anything interesting. Going back this time, the lady owner was pretty nice and approachable, and it was a slow afternoon, so I poked around. They were selling some puerh. Feeling like trying the puerh… I sat down.

I tried two puerhs. The first is a cake that I’ve seen before — supposedly 04 or 05 Yiwu. It’s…. very bland in a way, but it has a nice throatiness. I don’t know what to make of teas like this. There’s something, but then maybe there isn’t. It’s an elusive tea.

Then… on to a factory tea, supposedly 03 and from Menghai Factory, but not in the Dayi label. I am not a wrapperologist, so I don’t know if Menghai produced any (or many) 7542 in CNNP wrappers. The shape of the cake and the taste of the tea actually seems right — they look, feel, and taste more or less like Menghai Factory stuff. It was dirt cheap, for what it’s worth…. so I picked up some.

Then I asked my usual question, “do you guys have old tea?”. Yes, of course, lots. What do I want? I asked for tieguanyin, from China (as opposed to TGY from Taiwan). “What price range?” A dreaded question, as always. I never know what to say. We went with the cheapest first…. I loooked and smelled, and it doesn’t pass the test. So… let’s try the more expensive one. Looks good…

The owner of the store brewed it, and a brownish cup of tea was served. I drank it…. and wow, I thought to myself, “I haven’t had tieguanyin like this for…. a long long time”. Memories of when I first started getting interested in tea came back. Even then, the stuff wasn’t as good. This is an aged tieguanyin, so it’s fuller and rounder, and sweeter, but that power and feeling of drinking a good tieguanyin, I really haven’t had for a long time. Tieguanyin these days are horrid, especially the greener stuff. They didn’t used to make them this way. This tea brought me back to that kind of taste … and it’s such a pleasure to drink. The throatiness is incredible. There’s a tiny bit of sourness, but entirely managable, and the throatiness…. if you don’t know what I talk about when you feel something in the throat, this is it. The guanyin yun (aftertaste) that is so hard to find in tieguanyin these days.

So of course, being the sucker I am, I bought some of this too. Got some other stuff at the candy store, but it’s just stocking up more than anything else. This tieguanyin though… I think I will always remember that first sip.

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6 responses so far ↓

  • Anonymous // December 15, 2007 at 5:38 pm | Reply

    When you do series drinking, how do you know if a feeling is from the one you’re drinking, or one you previously drank?

    Like… sometimes the after sweet and throatiness can be delayed, and then you notice it as you’re drinking something else. Like.. what if some of the things you feel during your tgy are the aftersweet of the yiwu, or the throatiness of the psuedo 7542?

    Granted, effects fade, but when you’re tasting in a shop, you’re probably hitting the 3 in fairly short succession, and like.. aftersweet, and esp the throat thing.. can last a long time after you stop drinking.

    I’m not saying it’s not from the tgy, but I find experiencing teas differently on multi tea days. Like.. if I drink a DHP after a stong young pu to calm my stomach, the experience is different than if I started the day with it.

  • MarshalN // December 15, 2007 at 10:25 pm | Reply

    Hi Walt,

    I think there was sufficient time between the teas for me to know.  I mean, I drank the Yiwu first, then side by side with the 7542 (where the throatiness of the Yiwu was clear and the fullness of the 7542 was definitely better).  Then we spent a little time before I got to the tieguanyin. 

    If you drink a tea that is very good and has long lasting feelings, that can indeed be a problem.  However, most of the time I think it’s not so bad that it is impossible to tell.  The only time that happens is if you drink the teas side by side…. then it’s much more difficult.

  • behhl // December 17, 2007 at 2:32 am | Reply

    slurp slurp! lz – that TGY taste good even just by description!Yeah, even my local tea merchants (and there was a full page article in the local chinese newspaper few months ago as well talking about the same) say that oolongs nowadays just don’t get the amount of fermentation that would make them ‘traditional’ – it would seem it boils down to the Competition Tea judges (and the taste buds of current generation of drinkers whoever that is?); the way these teas are judged nowadays just makes everyone who cares to be a competition contender to make very green light teas. Nuts to this flimsy floosy pretender teas – need to find some renegade tea makers who don’t give a bush-arse care about this competitions and make some good tasting oolongs like their grand-daddies used to!

  • MarshalN // December 17, 2007 at 6:03 am | Reply

    If I have the time and the opportunity, I’d love to be that renegade tea maker 🙂

  • MANDARINstea // December 18, 2007 at 9:57 am | Reply

    I guess competition grade in the beginning can not be highly fermented nor fire. Because is a time and season sensitive subject.

    The competition (specially TGY) are held right after the harvesting. Fired or fermented time will not have enough time to mellow down. Afterward, will be a different story.

    Who knows if a competition grade Anxi TGY can fetches $1000US per pound right of the stage, on top of after processing eg. fired/aged, the price might double every year? -Tok

  • behhl // December 19, 2007 at 3:50 am | Reply

    toki, certainly seems whether by time and/or attitude – these competitions do not encourage ‘traditional’ oolong – and in fact encourages a greener lighter modern oolong style.

    As to price – you are probably right. I heard such teas (not winner just participant) sell retail more than USD$100 per 100gm. Meaning these are part of actual batch submitted and returned by the judging panel – the amount is very limited, so not only the quality but the quantity makes it a rarity for that year.

    As to whether teas can be further ‘processed’ to ‘improve’ I have no experience – I’m just a learner at the feet of giants. I have heard of different sifu with different opinions on this.

    My pragmatic nature believes that in all things GIGO is the rule.

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