A Tea Addict's Journal

Entries from March 2008

Water water everywhere

March 31, 2008 · 17 Comments

My friend from Beijing, L, recently took on a job to be an editor for a tea magazine that Zhongcha puts out, and he asked me to try to write a column for him. It’s going to be in English and Chinese (the column, not the rest of the magazine) and I thought I should give it a shot in English first before writing the Chinese equivalent. The below is my first attempt — please give any thoughts or comments you might have so that it may get a little better. Thanks 🙂

There are only two ingredients in a cup of tea – the leaves, and the water. The leaves we talk about very often. In fact, I would say the leaves are almost the only thing we tea lovers normally talk about. Water, however, is a much neglected subject, and for water, the preparation is usually the least discussed. Yet, over the years, I have found that the preparation of water and the water used for the tea is extremely important to a cup of tea. This is obvious among those of us who already drink tea often, but it is difficult to say something conclusive about water. While I certainly do not pretend to know anything more than my readers here, I do feel that it might be useful to engage in a discussion of the sort of variables involved in water that seem to affect the making of tea.

The first question about a type of water that we can easily know about is the source. Where is the water from? There are a number of old texts that deal with this question. Lu Yu from the Tang dynasty said that the best water is spring water, then river water, and the worst are well water. Other, later texts generally find that to be true, although there are smaller variations in their beliefs. I don’t think it is necessary to discuss which spring is the best, because that is partly subjective, and it is also rather difficult to pinpoint such things when most of these springs are not reachable by us. However, we do now have the ability to gather water from a source and ship it many, many miles away. So in some ways, we do have such access.

I think the primary differentiator between the different waters that we can usually access is the amount of minerals in each of them. Every water has a unique mineral profile, and in many cases, we can compare them easily as the bottlers who make the water provide these information to us. Without getting too technical into the chemistry, generally speaking I find the ppm of a water a reasonable indicator of what kind of tea it brews, but most of the time water contains mostly Calcium Carbonate (plus whatever other minerals there are). On the low end, I’ve seen water with as low as 10 ppm. This was, I believe, a water from a small island on the south side of Japan that supposedly had pristine conditions. On the hard side, you have famous waters like Evian, or even the new water from Tibet, that have hundreds of ppm of minerals in the water.

So what does it do for your tea when you brew teas with different hardness? I have done a test before using two different types of water and brewed them in an exact same way, using the same equipment. The tea used was a Yunnan black tea. This picture is the result

The water I used for the tea on the left is the new 5100 water from Tibet, with anywhere from 482 to 725ppm of dissolved solids in the water. On the right hand is the Nestle water from Shanghai, which I believe is a public source water that is treated. They don’t provide a specific amount of dissolved solids, but I believe it is quite low.

If you’re not convinced of the fact that this was a product of the water, and not of other variables, such as the amount of leaves used or the time the water spent in the tea, I brewed the next infusion by switching the waters around.

I think this shows that the effect of the color of the tea is mostly a product of the water difference, and not anything else.

The taste of the teas were also different with the two waters. The cup of tea made with 5100 is softer, rounder, fuller, with a heavier taste and seems to have some more depth. The tea made with the Nestle water, on the other hand, is a cleaner tasting cup, with higher notes and less of the body and depth. Yet one might say the tea taste crisper, and some may prefer this type of taste. I do, however, think that with more minerals there does seem to be an ability by the water to pull out more flavor from the tea.

When I was in Beijing for a year doing research, one of the things that always was a problem was the water used at the tea shops. Some shops use very good water that make the tea taste good, but some use very bad water that are basically filtered or even distilled water. That can make a tea taste very flat or boring sometimes, and so when I buy tea, I often will first buy a little bit to take home with me to first taste it at home, using water that I am familiar with, before I buy more. Unfortunately, for teas that seem bad at the shop, sometimes it is possible to miss a very good tea because the water they used was bad.

There was one instance when I remember such a thing happening, although in that case, it was a tea I brought to somebody’s shop, this time in Hong Kong. I had a tea with me, a Yiwu, that I thought was very good. I took it with me to the shop and we made it, and instead, the tea came out very flat. There was a very low level of aroma, and the body of the tea was also thin. It was not active in the mouth, and was barely showing any sign of strength. I was mystified, because the tea was certainly much better than what I was tasting in that cup.

Then I realized that they use a very advanced filter system for their water. The water filtration system is so good, in fact, that probably very little minerals were left in the water at all. If my theory that higher mineral content tend to “pull” more flavinoids out of the tea, then a very low content would mean a flavorless tea, which was true in this case. I walked outside to the closest convenience store, and bought myself a bottle of Volvic, a French mineral water. I took it back with me to the shop and we continued brewing this tea with the Volvic, and instantly, the taste improved dramatically. The tea now had a throatiness and a depth that was lacking before, and it tasted much more like the tea that I know. The shop girl, who is a good friend of mine, was surprised to find it so different.

What the above story illustrates is that water can sometimes be “too good”. Just because it is filtered for a million different things does not mean that it will make good tea. I believe that a good water requires a certain minimal level of minerals in it. There are some ways of fixing this problem. One is to use stones that can be placed in a kettle or a water container and which helps put some minerals back into the water. Another is to buy some mineral salts and add them to your water.

So what water is good with what tea? I can’t say for sure, for, again, it is a matter of taste, but I do feel that there are some general rules that might apply a little more universally. I think for teas that are delicate and light, which includes most green teas and white teas, as well as some lightly fermented oolongs, the water used should probably not be too heavy in mineral content. Using a crisp water would accentuate the freshness of the taste of the tea, and often will even make the tea feel cool to the mouth, which is sort of what you want anyway from a green. Using water that is too heavy for such a style would create a tea that seems unbalanced.

On the other hand, I think heavier teas, including blacks, darker oolongs, and puerh (and I put even young raw puerh in this category) water that has a bit more minerals in it would be beneficial.
In these cases, there is usually a depth of flavor and a complexity that is being sought after, as well as potentially a good solid body in the liquor itself, and even down to a deep, rich color for the eyes. Both of the teas that I tested for this purpose that I mentioned above benefitted from the heavier water.

The key here is that I believe there is no single water that works for all kinds of tea. Water that is good for green tea is probably not going to be good for black tea, and vice versa. Again, what “good” means really depends on the individual, and some people may just like the lightness that comes with a black tea brewed with a crisp water. But I think as a general rule of thumb, we need to adjust our water as we change the tea being made.

How to pick water that is available is obviously a matter of great concern. One is simply through trial and error. Try widely, and eventually you will find one that works for the tea in question. Everybody has their favourite teas, and in those cases, maybe a little more experimentation would be useful. Since each person’s favourite tea is probably also the one that he or she knows the best, it also makes experimentation more fruitful, as any change in taste due to the water tasting different would be more obvious.

More importantly though, I think tasting water on its own, without the tea, also helps develop a sensitivity in understanding the water’s characteristics. Whenever I am traveling I will always go to the local convenience store and buy bottled water that I have never tried before. Tasting them, sometimes side by side or one after another, can tell me a lot about the way different waters taste and the range of possibilities that exist. Doing a blind taste test at home, with maybe three, four, or five different kinds of water in identical glasses for taste, is also one good (and I should add, fun) way of getting a better sense of how different waters taste. When doing this, it might be useful to include the normal water that one uses for brewing tea, which in our case is most likely filtered tap water. Doing so will help locate exactly where on the spectrum the tap water is.

I have yet to do this yet, but I think at some point it might even be useful to try water cocktails – mixing different waters together to get something else out of them. I don’t know if it is something worth trying, but it’s definitely a thought. After all, teas are regularly mixed to maintain consistency from batch to batch. I don’t see why water can’t be mixed that way.

This is just the water itself. We haven’t even mentioned the preparation of water for brewing, but that is another topic entirely, and should probably be discussed on its own.

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Home stored tea

March 30, 2008 · 5 Comments

As I said yesterday, I was going to use the bigger tea caddy for a tieguanyin that I’ve been meaning to open for a while. Well, the day is today. This tea is something I bought maybe three or four years ago in Hong Kong. It’s been in its bag ever since I got it.

I bought it at the time having tried it at the store and knowing it was already aged for about 10 years. I checked again today, and the tea is actually 13 years old this year. The bag doesn’t look too good, although the leaves are still surprisingly intact.

(sorry, shaky hands today for some reason, maybe too excited)

The 150g bag of tea fit just right into the tea caddy with just a little room to spare. I then put it back in the box and left it. I don’t think I’ll want to drink this tea much — I’d rather let it age a little more. I do, however, intend on tasting it now that my ability to judge a tea has, I think, improved a little over the past three or four years.

This tea is not highly roasted. In fact, I’d say that when it was young, it was probably quite lightly roasted. The leaves are still green, even when dry (the lighting was a bit funny today too). When tasted, it yields a very orthodox tieguanyin flavour, with a strong yinyun (tieguanyin aftertaste, basically) and a very strong qi. I don’t think I’ve had tea with this strong a qi for a while, but it was a pleasant qi, not something that is particularly overpowering or uncomfortable. Rather, it was the sort that kept you buzzing a little, with a definite sensation of energy moving around your body that leaves you sweating a bit. If anybody ever asks me what a tea with qi feels like, I might just have to pull this one out.

The tea is definitely still youngish, but shows signs of aging in that there’s a hint of fruitiness showing through that is different from the floral fragrance of a young tieguanyin. Bitterness has also receeded, but it’s still there. I don’t think the tea is quite ready to drink yet, in the sense that it is a bit neither here nor there. If it were reroasted over time, it would taste older, but I think it would have also lost some of that power. It does taste a bit similar to the tea that Toki sent me, at least in its very core. That makes sense, because both these teas are tieguanyin, although their level of roast make them very different on the surface. The aftertaste, however, are quite similar, which I find to be a fairly remarkable thing.

The spent leaves are thick and solid, yet soft. I think I now have at least a little idea of how to properly identify a good tieguanyin, versus stuff that are mixed with all sorts of lower grade teas.

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Tea caddies

March 29, 2008 · 7 Comments

I’ve gotten interested (yes yes, among many other things) recently in tea caddies. Storing tea is pretty simple, of course. You just need a can that isn’t leaky, is preferably opaque so that light doesn’t penetrate, doesn’t give your tea a nasty smell, and maybe is cheap to boot. Beauty, however, has a price. Being somewhat dissatisfied with using cheap plastic Carrefour containers that sort of give off a plastic smell, and tired of paying $7 for a stainless steel can that is practical and air tight, but is rather ugly, I decided maybe there’s a better way to store tea, especially things like aged oolongs that need the sun and air protection, but which I hope to treasure (and avoid plastic smells of all kinds. So recently I’ve started paying that price.

I’m still in an exploratory stage right now with tea caddies, and am trying to figure them out as I go along. These are all made of pewter of one sort or another, and are of various ages. The oldest is probably the one in the middle, which is certifiably old (around 100 years). The newest, no doubt, is the one hiding in the back, second from the left. That one is in a style that is easy to find from places like Royal Selangor, which will at least set you back a Ben Franklin, or if you want a cheaper variety, China.

One of the issues with these things, especially the older ones, is that they sometimes have stuff either growing in them, or at least smell like they have stuff growing in them. I have yet to figure out how to clean them properly (anybody who’s skilled in dealing with old pewter ware, speak up now please!). The one on the far right has whitish powder on the inside. The second to the right has some green stuff and smells like old socks. I’ve put some of my cheap Benshan in it in the hopes that it will suck out some of the nasty smell. Failing that, I might use some of my old sencha to get the job done.

The cleanest one is actually the one on the far left, which I have to say is the best score I ever got through any auction site anywhere. You can hardly buy a new pewter tea caddy that is mediocre in looks and quality for $50. When it is an older piece, made of fine pewter, I probably have to pay triple that price, at least, to get something like this. Somehow I got lucky. I have a bag of tieguanyin that I’ve been carrying around for years, waiting to open it for a drink. I think I will do that soon and stick the rest of it in this caddy. It will probably just fit.

Unfortunately, pewter tea caddies is probably not the most practical in terms of tea storage on a large scale. It’s very heavy, and since it’s soft, over time you’re bound to get a few dents in the caddy. In addition to the cost of the caddy itself, the shipping also costs a fortune, as they are extremely heavy (the silvery one, for example is 650g, not counting the box and all). Still, there’s something to be said about owning a few pieces of fine teaware, and I like the idea of having some of my best teas sitting in nice looking jars… if only I can clean them properly.

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Revisiting some puerh

March 28, 2008 · 2 Comments

I am starting to revisit some of the puerh I bought at various points to see how they taste now. Living in a rural area actually means higher humidity, as I noticed. It seems like the soil traps moisture and slowly releases them, so that there’s actually less of a humidity fluctuation from day to day. I wonder what that does to tea.

What I drank today is a cake I bought in Taiwan

From Gan’en Tea Factory, made in 2004, and supposedly Yiwu leaves.

Looks quite dark. Shipping cakes out of their tong wrapping really isn’t a good thing unless they have ample padding. Otherwise… it results in much grounded down leaves, as this one has suffered after coming here from Taiwan. I just used a lot of those scarps plus a small chunk from the cake.

The tea is also quite dark, and when drunk, there’s a definite sense of age in it. This is, I think, from the Taiwan storage it received. While it’s not quite wet, it’s definitely not dry dry. It does taste like Yiwu, with a definite tart edge to the tea. Not quite sour, mind you, but tart. I find a lot of these slightly aged puerh have a similar sort of feeling to them. The tea is ok, but not great. It leaves some throatiness, but not a lot. Compared to the Zhangjiawan, which I re-tried two days ago, this tea seems less refined. A bit heavier, but also a bit less fun to drink.

The wet leaves are actually quite solid, if you ignore the fannings that are the result of rough treatment in the slow boat. Beats those paper thin leaves I see quite often these days.

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The beginning of an addiction

March 26, 2008 · Leave a Comment

After college I started working, and that proved a horrible, horrible thing for my tea habit, because, well, it became rather difficult to sustain when you’re in office most of the time. I remember I would normally only drink tea properly on the weekends, with weekdays being reserved for bad oolongs in the office brewed in a mug or something. I would keep that cup going all day, grandpa style, and squeeze it until there’s nothing left to squeeze.

Back in those days I mostly bought tea from Hong Kong or when I made the odd trip to New York’s Chinatown. There really wasn’t much online, if I remembered correctly, but then again, I wasn’t really looking at that point. It was also around then when I discovered the Best Tea House in Hong Kong. I had already started paying attention to tea shops in Hong Kong, but I didn’t look at them very seriously, preferring only to pick up random stuff here and there. When I went to Best Tea House though, I realized that I had been only trying a small spectrum of stuff. After all, at that time I was only still a novice, mostly self taught, and didn’t have anybody to talk to about tea. Here was my chance.

For a summer I basically went there every other day or something to chat. This was at a branch which has since closed (a shame, because it was close to my home). I remember a bunch of us would gather in the afternoon and talk tea. I learned a lot from various people there, notably YP, but also other more expeirenced drinkers who have been doing this for years. I bought some things, random things that I got just because I’ve never tried it, or because I liked the ones but this was better. Sunsing’s big Causeway Bay store wasn’t even open at that point yet. They were still stuck in their small store in Tsim Sha Tsui.

It was after I got into grad school when I became more serious about tea again. Grad school, as you can imagine, allows one ample time to do things, and tea became a daily ritual, something that I haven’t dropped since. I bought my first tea tray, my first fairness cup, etc, although I kept my thermos set up for quite a while until my third year. I remember back then I would still drink green oolongs, white tea, and I would delight in their aroma. I somehow don’t think I’ll feel the same way.

One of the most important developments in my tea making since I started this blog was, I think, the use of a water warming alcohol burner. That I acquired in Beijing, along with an electric kettle that I used to pre-heat the water. I remember the water would always be warm this way, instead of cooling down (and requiring reheating) every so often. I gradually got used to it, I think, because at first I probably oversteeped some of my teas. I have also gradually used more leaves and lowered the steeping time, but that trend has sort of reversed a little recently. The glass kettle that came with the alcohol burner broke, but the tetsubin has replaced it.

Ten Tea was ditched by the end of college. A few years later, Best Tea House would be ditched too (I still go, but I don’t really buy much from them anymore). It’s a funny thing, because while I spent more time on tea, the cost of my teas actually has gone down. I’m now buying much closer to the source than I used to. Instead of paying for rent in one of the most expensive cities in the world, I’m paying people who want to unload their old inventory. On the other hand, the cost for teaware never goes down. I wonder if I will ever get so lucky as to find somebody who wants to unload their stash of old teapots on me.

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Humbler days

March 25, 2008 · 3 Comments

I remember when I first started drinking tea on a regular basis out of my own volition (tea drinking in Hong Kong is more or less a part of life and isn’t an option). It was in my college dorm room, freshman year, and I just bought myself an ugly Republic of Tea teapot that had a mesh strainer that I now loathe, because the synthetic material on that thing absorbs any and all smells and taste. I would make green tea in that thing, or jasmine pearls, or earl grey, using a percolator for coffee to heat the water. I can’t remember where I got that percolator, but I do remember the water tasting like plastic after boiling.

I quickly learned that jasmine pearl, when oversteeped, would be nasty and bitter. Longjing was much better in that regard, but even then, the longjing I was drinking was pretty substandard in retrospect, low grade stuff that probably doesn’t even qualify for Hangzhou Longjing status. In many ways, earl grey was far more reliable, if for no other reason than bergamot oil tasting more or less the same everywhere.

My first tea revelation didn’t come until about two years later, when I went to Great Wall in New York’s Chinatown and bought myself a small bag of Mingqian (pre-Qingming) Longjing out of curiosity. I remember it was expensive, something like $120 a pound or some such. I thought it was a ridiculous price for a tea, but I also wondered why it cost so much more than the other grades of longjing they sold there. Great Wall, I’ve been informed, has since died. I will, however, already remember it fondly as the place where I bought the first tea that got me hooked. Mingqian longjing, for a few years, became my favourite thing. I still drink that stuff maybe once or twice a year, but nowadays my body doesn’t really like too much green tea.

I didn’t brew the longjing I bought until I got back home to college (I believe it was fall break when I went, or maybe spring). By this time, I had graduated from using the percolator, since I was living in a house with three other people and we had a functional stove. I used it occasionally for food, or what passed as food in college, but I used it often for hot water, boiled in my enamel lined kettle I bought from Wal-mart for something like $12. The enamel lining didn’t last very long, and by the end of the year I had to ditch the kettle for a better one, this time stainless steel with no silly lining that broke down after a year’s use.

Since I moved back into a dorm in my senior year though, access to hot water became a problem again. A solution had to be found, and I decided that I would boil the water in my kettle in the communal kitchen, and then transfer it to a thermos to be used in my room until it ran out. Since I was mostly drinking greens and some lighter oolongs at that point, that really wasn’t much of a problem, temperature wise. If anything, I tried lowering the temperature of the water by stretching out the pouring from the kettle into the thermos in order to cool down the water, and also to let the thermos sit with the lid open so that the water wouldn’t kill the tea. By this time, I had also acquired my very first gaiwan, a $50 affair from Ten Tea in New York. It was a nice gaiwan, with a rhomboid saucer, ruby red glaze, with black accents, but it didn’t last the year, as the lid tragically broke on the handle of a couch in my room. I was very angry for maybe a week.

I can’t remember what I used as a cup in those days. I think I was using the same mug I did when I entered college, and which I still possess, although no longer used much. After the gaiwan broke, I had to look for another one, and an opportunity arose when I had to go for a job interview in Chicago and I had about a half day’s worth of free time. I figured I could try my luck in the Chinatown there. Chicago’s Chinatown turned out to be not much, but it also had a Ten Tea, and I bought a set of a gaiwan plus a cup. Too expensive, obviously, but that was a nice gaiwan and a decent cup. I still have them, although the gaiwan is now too big — probably 200ml.

For more than a year, that was my entire tea set up. No tray, no chahe, no fairness cup. I didn’t need one. The cup that came with the gaiwan was big enough for all its contents, and I rarely had the chance to brew for others. Most people in college were not that interested in tea. The few who did would take a few sips. I think nowadays the college-aged crowd are more interested in this sort of thing, but back then, perhaps partly because information did not flow as quickly as it does today, even though we were already in the dotcom boom, students were more engaged in other things. My school’s students were all too busy protesting, anyway. I still remember that one time when a friend of mine simply refused tea. I asked her why she wouldn’t try it, and she just said she doesn’t like it (without, of course, having tried it at all). To this day, I don’t understand, and I think I am still a little insulted.

College ended almost as quickly as it began. I don’t know if I learned anything in those four years. I did, however, started drinking tea more seriously, and started learning about tea and brewing tea consistently. The habit, you can say, was formed. I learned that it is easy to screw up an oolong by overstuffing the gaiwan, or that brewing tieguanyin too long can yield a really nasty brew. My taste back then was mostly greenish teas, which, ironically, I no longer drink at all, basically. This is not atypical, from what I gather, for many people I’ve met in Taiwan and China share a similar trajectory in their tea-life. Greens and greener oolongs tend to be where everybody got started, and aged teas tend to be where you end up. I don’t know if that’s a function of income, a function of age, a function of constitution, or what, but I know in this respect, I’m not alone.

To be continued…

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Yixing mysteries

March 23, 2008 · 10 Comments

One of the very first thing I learned about yixing pots is that you shouldn’t use more than one type of tea in it. They say it mixes tastes as you season the pot, and will eventually lead to a pot that brews tea with weird combinations of flavours. This is something that I’ve heard repeated many, many times, and which I myself have told others before. However, I am increasingly skeptical as to the truthfulness of this claim, and whether or not such division is truly necessary.

I should first point out that I am not saying that all pots are equally suited for all types of tea. I do notice, for example, differences in my aged oolongs when I brew it with my black pot versus my zhuni pot. However, I am no longer sure that it is truly necessary to confine each pot to one type of tea, especially in some of the rather fine distinctions between, say, Taiwanese high mountain oolong and low roasted baozhong, to name a pair that can be distinguished from each other, but whose tastes are not too dissimilar.

I own a pot that is around 300-400ml in size which I occasionally use for lazy brewing of loose puerh of one kind or another, usually some wet stored stuff or the very rare cooked puerh. I haven’t used it for anything else thus far, but last night I felt an urge to drink some darjeeling all of a sudden, and pulled out some of the black darjeeling generously given to me by Mr. Lochan of Doke tea. It’s a fine darjeeling, sweet and mellow (and I think aged slightly since last year, when I got it). I brewed it in my pot, the same one that I’ve used all along for puerh. Did I notice anything funny that I could attribute to puerh? No, not at all.

Sure, one could say that it is probably because I haven’t used the pot enough for puerh yet, therefore it didn’t impart anything to my darjeeling that I could detect. It does make me wonder though, how often do you need to use the pot before it will start affecting the taste of the tea being brewed, and how much of that effect is dependent on the previous teas you’ve brewed in the pot?

My guess is we generally overestimate the amount of work that seasoning a pot does to the taste of the tea in the pot. Seasoning the clay certainly makes it look nicer, but I’m not too sure if it really makes the tea taste nicer in any meaningful way — or at least, a meaningful way that is detectable by most drinkers. If it takes, say, prolonged use over years with one type of tea for a pot to gain any sort of meaningful “seasoning” that will affect the taste of the tea (more than the pot itself would otherwise) then is it really useful to advice newcomers to tea to buy more than one pot? I have heard before that all of this is just a ploy by pot makers/sellers to sell more pots. It sounds like a conspiracy theory, but there’s no proof that it’s not true… or is there?

Mind you, all of the above is purely speculative. Yet sometimes I do feel that when somebody is led to believe that they must buy half a dozen pots for all the teas they plan to drink…. is that a bit much?

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Sample E

March 22, 2008 · Leave a Comment

Yet another one of what seems to be an endless stream of samples from Will — he sent me a lot of tea (thanks!).

Sample E this time. When I opened the bag and sniffed the tea, I thought “aged baozhong”.

When I brewed it

And drank my first cup, I also thought “aged baozhong”. So I wrote to Will and asked, is this aged baozhong?

After a few cups, I wavered a little. This is sort of like aged baozhong, but could also be some other Taiwanese oolong. I have one that’s very similar to this in profile, taste, strength, and otherwise. Just around then, Will wrote back. Aged baozhong indeed, from Stephane of Teamasters, supposedly from the 70s, although it tastes awfully similar to my mid 80s non-baozhong Taiwanese oolong. This is a nice tea. Good strength, aroma, a little bit of sour, but entirely manageable, making it more of an interesting fruity tartness rather than a nasty sourness. It has some qi, and good throatiness. If there’s any problem, it’s that the tea seems to have lost a bit aroma — it isn’t coming out as intensely as it probably could. There’s an interesting greenness that pops out here and there, but not consistently, which I find rather interesting and a little odd. Maybe I should’ve used a little more leaves too, but this is when samples run into troubles — if I dumped the whole thing in, it would be too much. If I used 2/3 of it, then the 1/3 left would make a really weak cup. Compromises, oh well.

The leaves are decent looking.

A good tea all around, and the kind of aged oolongs that I like.

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Davelcorp Yiwu

March 22, 2008 · 5 Comments

Two years ago I bought this cake off Davelcorp when he had a sale of excess goods

I think I got it for some rather low amount, certainly low by today’s standards. Ever since getting it, it’s been sitting in one closet or box or another, and I somehow never found time to drink it. Then I went to Beijing, so of course I didn’t get a chance to drink it, until now.

The cake looks all right, rather loose, not the most handsome out there

I didn’t expect much when I bought it, but I’m about to find out.

The tea turned out to be extremely pleasant. Sweet, some bitterness that fades very rapidly into a huigan, good, strong minty taste in the throat, qi, hints of aging, taste of Yiwu somewhere in the middle…. it’s got everything. It’s not the best, mind you, but it’s certainly not bad. I’ve had many a “premium” tea from the past two years that are not half as good. Of course, this cake has had some aging, but I somehow doubt some of these “premium” cakes will do as well in 5 years’ time.

And for the price I paid, it’s worth every penny. Davelcorp, regretting your sale yet? 🙂

The leaves are stemmy

I wondered if this might be a fall tea, but it doesn’t really matter much. The tea claims to be wild arbor tree, and there are definitely signs of that in the cup (and consequently, in the mouth). In fact, this is the kind of young puerh that I like — has strength, but not the nasty, knock you out kind of strength. Instead, it’s like a firm grip of a hand, vigorously shaking yours, making its presence known. Firm handshakes are always good, fists are not.

Categories: Old Xanga posts

The Leaf

March 21, 2008 · Leave a Comment

I neglected to do it last time because I was caught up trying to finish some urgently needed work, but this time around, I have no such excuse.

There is an online magazine out there, if you haven’t heard, about tea. Aaron Fisher puts it out, and it can be found at www.the-leaf.org. Take a look. It is advertising free and has some pretty interesting articles. Don’t read the ones by yours truly though, it’s not very good.

Categories: Misc · Old Xanga posts