A Tea Addict's Journal

Entries from October 2008

Mixing genres

October 29, 2008 · 3 Comments

When you age something, you want it to develop that aged taste. Something happens to organic compounds that eventually they change in character, somehow, and us humans can taste those differences.

How that change happens we seem to know very little. I wonder — is there a way for anybody to test what’s in the tea/wine/cigar? Compare it with something that hasn’t been changed? Or is that simply impossible to do? I do want to know, for example, what it is that causes puerh to taste different when it gets old, and preferably, to know exactly what changes took place that made it taste the way it does after 10 or 20 years in storage.

I had a sample a few days ago (the first real tea session I’ve had in…. 3 weeks?) of an aged shuixian. It is an interesting tea — a bit weak, like all shuixians are, but if you close your eyes and don’t know what it is, you’d think this is a dry stored puerh of about 5-10 years of age. It has that distinctive sourness and fruity character that mark a lot of dry stored puerhs that I’ve had. It also has little bitterness, much faded in the distant background. The most obviously “shuixian” bit was actually the smell of the dry leaves — I smelled the bag and knew this was an aged shuixian, but that’s because I sniffed a lot of these things when I was in Taiwan. In an unmarked bag with relatively broken leaves, it’s not an easy thing to tell.

Even the color is a bit deceptive, lighting or no lighting.

This is what got me thinking — what is it that causes this shuixian to taste more like a dry stored puerh than a typical aged shuixian? Lack of reroasting? I don’t think that’s it, because I’ve had others that don’t have that puerh-esque taste. What else goes into the aging of a tea that makes it so?

Maybe one day I’ll get funding for a lab and find out for good. Until then… back to my aged baozhongs.

Categories: Old Xanga posts

Price report

October 23, 2008 · 2 Comments

I’ve been talking to my friend L in Beijing recently, and he told me that the price of maocha in Yunnan has once again fallen to reasonable levels. The price of regular plantation tea is back where they always were — in the range of at most $2-3 USD per jin (500g). For old tree tea that are not from the top areas, he thinks they’re more like $20 per jin. That, I suppose, is good news.

The not as good news is of course the fact that many of these old tree teas, which is what most people want anyway, are increasingly being locked up by individuals who have long term contacts with the farmers If you’re a random guy going on a tourist trip, it is very unlikely that they will bring you the good stuff, even if you’re accompanied by friends who have strong connections. They simply don’t have the interest in selling you top of the line stuff, and moreover, they KNOW they can probably get away with giving you lesser quality tea, and will do so. The friends or local contacts you might have may turn a blind eye, mostly because they don’t want to sabotage their relationship with said farmers.

In other news, as those of you who pay attention to such news must know, the Chinese Yuan is now almost 20% higher than they were in 2006 when exchanged against the dollar. Now it’s 6.8 yuan per dollar, which means that all tea coming from China will automatically cost that much more compared to two years ago, other factors notwithstanding. The Japanese Yen (for those of you who like grassy greens) is about the same — in the past two years we’ve gone from 120 yen to a dollar to today’s 97 yen per dollar…. not pretty, shall we say.

Obviously, not all these costs will necessarily pass on to the consumer, but I’d imagine a large part of it will. Since we can expect the Chinese Yuan to continue its appreciation against the dollar, if you’re buying tea today from China and keeping it around, it’s not a terrible investment considering your other alternatives these days…

Categories: Old Xanga posts
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More on this pot

October 17, 2008 · 2 Comments

Well, since people asked questions….. how about a few more pictures…. with a little cousin

Notice a few things…

1) The interior bottom of the bigger pot — it doesn’t have the grooves you find very common in modern day pots

2) The small pot’s lid has that interesting joint line

3) It’s really small

Categories: Objects · Old Xanga posts
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Shiny new thing

October 16, 2008 · 6 Comments

I’m still mired in work of various sort, which means I’m still drinking my daily aged baozhong. My attempt to switch it up today with Yunnan Gold backfired — the headache returned. No Yunnan Gold.

So, while I have nothing to report on the tea front, here’s a teapot for all of you to look at

Categories: Objects · Old Xanga posts
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Using a pot

October 10, 2008 · 10 Comments

This is what I’ve been doing the past few days

Is it any better than drinking with the leaves straight in the cup? I’m not so sure, actually. In some ways, having the leaves sitting in the cup actually makes it more interesting — one of the things I usually do is refill the cup before all the tea is gone, and so water mixes with the remaining (usually rather concentrated) tea. It seems to change the way the tea tastes, because when I use a pot to brew the tea and then pour it into the cup, the taste is sometimes sharper — cleaner, I guess you can say, but also less complex in a way.

I’m not entirely sure what’s better, necessarily, but it does stretch the tea out more with the pot — I can brew it for a day and half, instead of just a day. I’m burning through this aged baozhong though….

Categories: Objects · Old Xanga posts
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Are you cutting back?

October 8, 2008 · 15 Comments

I’m just curious about this. Everybody knows that we’re in the middle of a financial meltdown, with the credit markets in chaos and LIBOR rates that are through the roof, banks (or in the case of Iceland, countries) that are nearly insolvent and fear gripping everybody from Asia to South America.

Now, tea was an essential in a Chinese household, but much less so for an American or a European one. So my question to you is — are you cutting back on tea consumption/purchases? How about teaware, which is, obviously, much less of an essential good. Or is it more or less the same as before?

Just wondering as a former student of economics if this sort of thing trickles down to tea consumption at all.

Categories: Old Xanga posts

Puerhshop American Hao 2008

October 3, 2008 · 6 Comments

One of the things we do when we blog is to talk about teas we’ve tried. I have been slowly drifting away from that, as I find less and less interest in dissecting a tea. The reasons are manifold, but mostly it’s because my opinion is only that — my opinion. You have to try a tea for yourself before it means anything. The same is probably true too for teapots, teaware, water, and all that other stuff. I might like something, but a big, big caveat that runs through the entire blog is — just because I like it doesn’t mean you’ll like it.

Sometimes though, it turns into a bit of a service. Jim at Puerhshop recently contacted me and offered to send me a sample of his new tea. The tradeoff, of course, is that I’ll talk about it. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll talk about it positively, but I’ll talk about it. If it’s something that I think is worth looking into and letting other people know about, I will be happy to do so.

The tea in question is his “American Hao” or Meiguo Hao. The name might sound slightly unfortunate — it is a mix of the Chinese usage of “Hao” as a trademark name, and the obvious connotation that this is done by somebody from the US of A. Interestingly enough, the wrapper on the cake does not say anything like it — instead, it says “Mengsa Yuanyexiang” with the date 2008, April 20th stamped on it. Mengsa Yuanyexiang evokes the name of the now slightly famous (or infamous) cake that has been sold through a number of channels and which made some people a pretty penny when it got famous. These days you can find all sorts of cakes named Yuanyexiang… Supposedly, the 200g and 400g versions are the same thing, just different sized cakes.

The name of a tea of course doesn’t really say much of anything, especially those of you who are more experienced with puerh and know that what’s on the label rarely, if ever, matches anything within the wrapper. How does the tea hold up?

The tea is a somewhat typpical looking young puerh, green with some tips, not too broken. When it hits the warm pot it smells a bit like a green tea would, but I’ve found that to be quite typical these days of puerh made. The first thing I noticed is that it brews cloudy — I tried the tea three times, using the whole sample Jim sent me, and it has brewed cloudy every time. Cloudiness is not, in and of itself, a problem. From what I have learned, it might imply issues with humidity and should clear up with some time resting.

The first time I brewed the tea, I made it a bit too strong, and the tea turned a little sour and too bitter. The next two times I adjusted, and I think overall, the tea is a bit understated — nothing too fancy, nothing too interesting, and nothing too obviously bad either. There were ome signs of activity, but it’s not too pronounced. It did, however, make my stomach ache a little, but that’s almost par for the course these days. It might be slightly on the green side of things, but again, that seems to be more common than ever. You can tell I don’t drink much young puerh anymore. My stuff have been sitting in a box waiting to age.

I think this is, personally, not my type of tea, but then, lots of young puerh are not my kind of tea, so that’s really not saying much. I do think it might be something worth a try, given its price point and interest factor.

Categories: Old Xanga posts

Progression through a cup

October 1, 2008 · 4 Comments

I’ve been largely confined to drinking grandpa style these days, and almost always it’s my aged baozhong that’s the tea of choice. The key to doing this right is to keep at least a little tea left (and not empty out the cup) and refill — otherwise the cup gets too weak, and it’s game over.

Interesting notes that comes out are — raisins. A lot of it. It smells the strongest when I am just starting out — the tea smells like a box of raisins that just got opened. After a while, it descends into a more generic “tea” taste and will remain that way for the rest of the day — endless refills, and the tea still delivers a nice cup. You just have to wait a little longer.

Great for when you are too preoccupied to do a proper round of tea.

Categories: Old Xanga posts