This Yiwu Da Qiu Feng is much more to my liking than the Gua Feng Zhai. While the Gua Feng Zhai is an excellent tea it has some issues, but Ive already gone into that in a previous post. The Da Qiu Feng sells for about half the price of the Gua Feng Zhai so I was thinking this tea is going to be mediocre at best, but I rather like it. The dry leaf is quite brown, seeing how it was stone pressed last august this browning didn't happen after processing, it,s seen some oxidation prior to the pressing. But that,s alright with me, from what Ive seen it kinda helps to round out the flavors. No idea how that affects it,s aging potential. But anyways the dry leaf is fairly small, a little dried out and crunchy. There is depth in the aroma, smells rich and savory. No green or sour flavors in this one rather a tad beany and grassy. More sweet than bitter. Slight fruitiness in the cup, not so much in the aroma. While this tea brews a clear cup with a nice syrupy body, it also brews up dirty, meaning the strainer is full of little brown and black bits of charred leaf. This tea did get treated to low temperature baking in order to dry the cakes, traditionally the cakes are allowed to air dry. The Da Qiu Feng is gathered from 80 to 100 year old arbor trees that grow on the southern slopes of the mountain. I would think that more exposure to sunlight makes for faster growth and higher potential for bitterness and astringency. I find neither one of those to be an issue in the cup. I like this tea quite a bit. Durability is good. In some ways this tea reminds me of Xiaguans "Yun Mei" if you've tried that one. Should I buy some? At the price of $35.00 each, probably not. At the "secret handshake" price, maybe. I like this tea but there are plenty of other teas that fit into this same basic flavor profile, nothing all that unique here. If I was placing an order with Y.S. anyways I might get a cake or two but I wouldnt go out of my way for this tea.
September 26, 2009
Epsilon was the tea that saved the day for me, I was beginning to think that none of these teas are really wowing me, some are interesting and fun but nothing to write home about. Epsilon stands head and shoulders above the rest, as far as my tastes are concerned. The dry leaf is a multitude of autumnal colors, greens, browns, rusty reds and an abundance of grey / blue buds. There,s lots of depth in the cakes aroma, earthy and beany with rich notes of tobacco and leather. Perfect compression makes for such effortless coaxing of these long beautiful leaves from the cake. Ah, I love that crispy sound. Nine grams of leaf are scooped into the yixing, a quick rinse and a steam bath in the drained yixing makes for perfectly primed leaf. From the first pot the flavor palate has been established. Sitting on top of a foundation of malted grain and rich leather and tobacco is a delicious blend of long beans and chestnut. The sweetness and bitterness are in perfect harmony and in sinc with each other. On about the fourth infusion the flavors have opened up nicely and I see that the tea is so full and rich that I start to back peddle and slightly shorten the infusion times. It makes for a great session when you find a tea that you have to hold back, it,s usually the other way around. I find that this tea doesn't really need pushing until sometime around the eighth pot. Brews a rich yellow cup with just a tinge of amber starting to show. Clarity is good but not great, cant have everything I guess. Easily ten to fifteen pots before it calls it a day. The Ban Zhang is one of the more expensive cakes but it,s money well spent. This tasting turned out to be a lot of fun and educational. It,s interesting to read other peoples take on these teas. All of the teas in this tasting are excellent quality and each has there own individuality. Again thanks goes to Hobbes and Scott for making this tasting happen. It,s fun for all of us to be on the same page and drinking the same tea and discussing them. Hope we can do this again sometime but until then everybody enjoy your tea and support your tea vendors, without them where would we be?
P.S. Ive no idea if the cake in the top pic is right side up or not.
The Wu Liang is a pleasant, light hearted little number. The leaf is multi colored, greens, browns and reds. Not the big, chunky leaf of some of the other teas in this tasting but rather small and a little more deilicate. That delicacy reflects in the soup as well. The aroma wafting from the Yixing is rather gentle, green and tart, florals and light leather scents. The first infusions flavors carry along the same lines as the aroma, bitterness is there but restrained and balanced. Mid way through the session the flavor of toasted grain slyly makes it,s appearance. Kinda sneaks in the back door. Brews a beautiful yellow cup with good clarity. The Wu Liang is a reliable tea, never dropping out or shifting gears, it stays consistent from cup to cup. The floral aspects along with the fresh, green, tangy flavors stay for the ride as well. The gentle sweetness helps to balance all the flavors and aromas and makes for an enjoyable cup of tea. Not brilliant mind you but nice enough that I bought a couple of these cakes, by the way, they are very affordable. I,m hoping that with a little age on them they might develop some body and depth, we'll see.
Note: In the several months since the tasting this tea has gained more body and depth. The flavors are richer and much more complexity than when these cakes were fresh. Begining to lose some of the tart, green flavors that intitially was a fairly dominant in the cup.
September 22, 2009
Gamma,s got some big crunchy brown leaves. Obviously Gamma has gone through some fermentation at some stage of it,s processing. Not what your looking for when it comes to something with shelf life, but who knows how this tea could develop. Brews up orangey brown. Full round mouth feel with no bitterness what so ever. Gamma,s flavor reminds me of malted grain and dates. I kept thinking while drinking it that it reminds me of shu, minus the funky aspects. Gamma is a pretty mindless, drink now tea. Doesn't really give you much to think about but it is tasty.
Note: since the tasting event I had bought a couple of these cakes and have realized that this tea needs extra leaf and longer infusions than what I normally use. By uping the leaf / steeping time the tea takes on a more complex character. This tea has a rich date and grain aroma and there is a slight bitterness in the cup. Still not a very complex tea but there is more in the cup than originally thought.
September 19, 2009
Taking a whiff from Betas sample makes quite an impression. Very sharp, pungently green and tart with some florals. Electric yellow crystalline clarity pours from the pot. Herbal, citrus aromas waft from the cup, a delicate sweetness that is persistent enough to cut through the tang. While Beta does have depth it,s not woodsy, tobacco flavors that I usually associate with providing that depth. More of a green, herbal, light tobacco depth. Betas light syrup like body is the perfect match for it,s flavors. Green apple acidity and floral, meadowy aspects show up midway through the session and yet none of the initial flavors have faded, Beta goes the distance, but when it does start to fade it does so gracefully and gradually. Beta would make for an exellent afternoon sheng but not a "go-to" tea when Ive got the craves.
September 16, 2009
Alpha was a bit of a problem for me. Using my usual brewing methods with Alpha resulted in severely compromised durability. After four infusions Alpha was done. But what I tasted I initially liked. Slightly bitter and astringent with a flavor of under ripe pears and nuts, I keep thinking cashews.There was a very mild sweetness that balanced very well with the other flavors. Also a slightly grassy, sour taste that was also in the aroma of the dry leaf. Just fruity acidity and nutty. Nice enough. Brews a crystal clear yellow cup with the slightest tinge of apricot. Over all a nice tea but the durability needed to be addressed. So increasing the qty. of leaf and keeping the infusion times very short solved that but what resulted was a cup that was bitingly bitter and astringent. Not the clean crisp bitterness that we normally admire in a sheng. This was intense. A bitterness that really hunkered down and stayed a while, heavy penetrating chalky astringent bitterness. Alpha had some really good aspects but that aftertaste makes for an unpleasant session. I really wanted to like Alpha, but I just couldn't. So, seeing how Alpha was the first tea in the tasting and my just flat out not liking it very much, it kinda set the tone for disappointment for me on some kind of subconscious level. And I think I started to focus on the teas faults, very unfair, you can find fault in any tea if you look hard enough. Had I more experience with Alpha maybe this issue could have been resolved but the sample had been consumed. So all I,m left with is a memory of creepy, creepy bitterness.
Alpha = Yiwu
September 13, 2009
I,m sure some of you are familiar with this tea tasting. Orchestrated by Hobbes (Half Dipper) with tea samples provided by Scott of (Yunnan Sourcing) This tea tasting was comprised of five 2009 spring flush puerhs. The five teas are exclusive to Yunnan Sourcing. All five single origin, varietal teas. Stone pressed and about as handmade as you can get. All of them visual works of art. A testament to what skilled people who care about quality and tradition can do. Thanks to Scott and Hobbes for making this tasting possible. Very generous samples were supplied, enough for several sessions with each tea. The teas are as follows, You Le, Bu Lang, Wu Liang, Ban Zhang and Yiwu. These teas were sent "incognito" we have no idea what tea is what. It,s up to our wits and tastes to figure it out.
The "incognito " names given to the teas are, Alpha, Beta, Delta, Gamma and Epsilon.
Having sampled all of the teas, some of them a couple of times Ive realized that this isn't easy. Although I never thought it would be. It forces you to question yourself, do I really know what a You Le tastes like? As if there are no variations in You Le teas. For me this tasting is not so much a game of "name that tea" more of an opportunity to learn how much I don't know. I,m not going to go into detailed tasting notes here, they will be posted on Half Dippers blog. But for me there was only one tea that stood head and shoulders above the rest, Epsilon. Superlative in every aspect. The only sheng Ive ever had that made me want to have back to back sessions. The above photos are the Epsilon.
Again, Thanks to Hobbes and Scott for providing great tea and an even greater experience.
September 8, 2009
There is nothing I hate more than coming home from work to find one of these on my door. I know what I,m in for, a big freaking hassle. I hate the U.S.P.S. This package I,m sure is from Scott at Yunnan Sourcing, tea samples. O.K. for starters they are supposed to DELIVER your stuff. The post man didn't even ring the bell, I was home this morning, I would know. So finding this note later in the day I head off to the post office. I stand in line only to be told that the post man has the package with him. So, he will attempt to deliver it again tomorrow. Well, tomorrow I,ll be at work. That,s their final attempt. So I,m going to have to go back to the post office again on Friday and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if there is another problem. This is exactly why I will not order anything from outside the U.S. The parcels always require a signature and the post man makes a very feeble attempt at doing his job. I swear it,s like they do this intentionally. A barely audible knock at the door (if that) and then a mad dash to their truck and let the games begin. Jeez, what we go through for tea. But I,m sure once I drink some of these I,ll forget all about the mailman and how much I hate him.
Part 2, next day. O.K. so knowing that if I don't get to the post office early I,m going to have to wait in line for forever. Turns out I,m the first one in line, cool. 8:30 A.M. the magic metal door opens and I cant believe it, I,m the first one here. Keep in mind there is nobody else there yet but I can hear them filing in behind me. So I ignore the designated path that weaves it,s way to the desk and go straight to the man. I hear a voice yelling from across the room "Sir! you have to follow the line" What? So I turn around walk around the table to wind up where I started from. This is ridiculous I said, what purpose did it serve to make me walk around that table? Turns out by not following the path they don't have you on camera and that,s an issue for them. So that I understand, but at the time I as well as the people in line behind me laughed quite audibly at the demand for me to run around the desk just to wind up where I started from. Comical really! Like I said before, the things we go through for tea. I feel like I just played musical chairs to get this package. This tea had better be good.
September 4, 2009
Congratulations Steve! jas-etea . Opening day is imminent. A superlative selection of puerh tea,s and tea wares. Ive been buying tea,s from Steve for a while now and have always received excellent products and service. jas-etea has a large selection ranging from the puerh staples that we should all have in our collection. Menghai, Xiaguan, Haiwan. As well as some harder to find handmade premium puerhs that are a treat for the puerh enthusiast. Xi Zhi Hao, Mengku, Hai Lang Hao, Yong Pin Hao, just to name a few. Oolongs, Chinese Green Tea,s, Yixing, Gaiwans, Cups, you name it. And of course you can purchase sample size packets to try before you buy. Scheduled to be open in the coming week. We westerners have been needing a source of good quality, fairly priced tea and it,s been a long time coming. Again, congratulations and thanks Steve.