A Tea Addict's Journal

Entries from June 2013

The retaste project 15: 2005 Jabbok “Select aged tea”

June 30, 2013 · 2 Comments

This tea is something I bought in 2005/6. The cake is a bit dark now.

The tea is similarly dark when brewed.

Alas. That’s it. It looks fine, but it tastes terrible. It starts off sour, with some really weird off notes. There’s no real body. I suspect this tea was made with some really low quality leaves, and then sold. I bought it at the time because I didn’t know any better, and also because it was cheap enough. The guy who made this calls himself “The Professor,” because he’s been invited as a visiting professor at one or two places in China. He has a bit of a reputational problem here in Hong Kong, and I can see why. The tea left such a nasty taste in my mouth I went to something else also immediately after to wash it out. Thankfully, that tea has also been in my storage for the last six years or so, and isn’t turning out badly. At least it’s not me.

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A blast from the past

June 22, 2013 · 7 Comments

As I was sorting through old files today, I ran into this

For a few years Hou De was the suppler of choice for a lot of people in North America and Europe as well. He sold a lot of tea from Taiwanese puerh producers. In the last few years his sales of puerh has really slowed, and he hasn’t brought over much from that side anymore. I think he continues to do some business in yixing and Taiwanese oolongs.

I can’t seem to find any of my notes for the 2005 sample. I do have my notes for the 2004 version. I was in Beijing at the time, and I don’t think I really knew what I was doing. I did, however, like the tea. The 2005, if I remember correctly, was not nearly as good as a tea. I think back then each cake was selling for $70-80 USD a cake, which at that time was really high, but in retrospect, it’s not that bad.

I’ve been trying to go through some old samples, some of which are from Hou De that I have kept in little glass jars. Some were labeled, others not. There was one, the 1999 Yiwu Zhengshan from Dayi (not Green Big Tree), that really tasted good. Now if I could only find the thing without costing an arm and a leg…

Categories: Teas

Hitting hard with a hammer

June 19, 2013 · 11 Comments

When I was in China in 2006 doing research, I was a poor grad student and generally couldn’t afford to buy a lot of tea. I sampled a lot, and tried as many things as I could. I bought some things that I thought I liked. Looking back now, the biggest regret from those days is probably me not being able to buy enough of what I like. Some of the teas I bought obviously turned out to be crap. Others, however, I wish I have more of. A more experienced tea friend in those days told me that whenever she was buying stuff, she liked to “hit hard with the hammer,” meaning buying lots of the tea. Otherwise, you run the risk of not having enough of it when you want it.

Having learned that lesson, these days when I run into a tea I like, I tend to buy a lot of it. There are a few teas like that that I have. This is why I recently ended up with 50 of these.

This is a tuo that is supposedly from 2003, 250g each. It’s something a local store sells here for a measly $10, which is an impossibly low price in this day and age. The tea is naturally stored, and when they open that little cupboard storing the tea you can smell it – as you can also when you open the wrapper. With these early 2000s teas one’s never quite sure exactly what it is, but at least the wrapper and neifei suggests its Dayi, and it does taste like Dayi. It’s still a bit sharp, but that’s mostly because it’s a tuo – tuos tend to be slower to age, and it also has that nice, robust Menghai area taste. It’s a little similar to the Menghai early spring, but minus the smoke and a little bit lighter. I like these teas that have a bit of age on them – you’ve weeded out the ones that are going to turn bad. Usually within two years you can tell if something is going to be bad or not – if it’s already getting bland, yellowish, or just bad. If it gets past that point unscathed, then it’s probably going to be all right. If it’s good ten years down, then it’s going to be just fine to age. Finding these at an attractive price – it’s a gift. I can’t let this gift go.

It’s risky to buy a lot of the same thing when one’s not sure, but if you are sure, don’t hesitate. Hit it hard. Otherwise you’ll regret it.

Categories: Teas

Not all old tea is good

June 5, 2013 · 6 Comments

We are always told that older teas are, somehow, better. Imagine if your old tea came from here though

This is a tea display from a grocery shop not too far from my home. They sell some pretty dubious teas, not sourced from this little display, of course. Nevertheless, if you ever need convincing that storage environment matters, this is it – it’s exposed to the sun, probably really hot, and hasn’t been cleaned in decades. God forbid you end up with a cake from here.

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