March 30, 2010

2005 Chang Tai "Menghai Qiao"

Now this is a tea I could drink regularly and never tire of. A nice healthy 400 gm. cake of some gorgeous Jingmai maocha. The cakes compression is fairly loose and so provides easy access, no chipping away at it or any of the usual methods just pinch how much you want from it and start gently prying and the leaves willingly oblige. Big chunky leaves with some rather large twigs thrown into the mix, I think I,m seeing a pattern here in that I like my teas twiggy and rustic. The aroma wafting from the cake is mouthwatering. Very rich with tons of complexity. The slightest trace of smokiness still remains but that's something Ive learned to enjoy as long as it's minimal.

The teas flavors are comprised of a little bit of everything. Boatloads of full, rich flavors to be had and they are not in the least bit shy. There are rich leather and tobacco aromas and flavors as well as those beany, yam like flavors. Also just a tad of spice in both the aroma and the cup. Thick and gloopy with plenty of sweetness. The teas bitterness and astringency in the correct proportions. At five years of age this tea is very nice to drink now and there is plenty of everything required for it to continue to age very well. I,m starting to become a really big fan of Chang Tai teas, Ive yet to have a bad or boring one. He definately has his own style of flavor profiles.
Brews up a nice fairly clear cup with an orange, brown color. Durability is good enough, nothing special. This Menghai Qiao's flavors don't wash out early in the session, the tea stays rich and full a little longer than many other teas. This is a tea that I need to have more of, one cake is not enough. The only negative thing I have to say about this tea is concerning the wrapper. It's very thin paper that tears very easily and starts falling apart after a couple of times of unwrapping and rewrapping the cake. But that's not what I,m paying for is it?

Note: for anyone interested in purchasing Chang Tai teas please be sure to read the comments section of this post. Steve at jas-etea is taking orders.

March 27, 2010

2005 Chang Tai - Gold Bamboo Mountain

Gold Bamboo Mountain, sounds delicious doesn't it? A Chang Tai offering made from "wild grown arbor material" from the Qiunjia Zhai area, where ever that is, Yiwu? I don't know really, guess I could check into it. Ive been experimenting lately buying several Chang Tai teas. The reviews for Chang Tai's cakes are pretty much all over the place, people seem to either really like these cakes a lot or are indifferent to them. So far I'm liking them quite a bit. This Gold Bamboo Mountain cake is a good example of a cake made by people that cared about quality of product. Judging by the cakes ease of disassemble I'm assuming they were stone pressed. Very large and beautiful leaf with some rather large, healthy twigs and branches thrown in for good measure, artisanally rustic. The tea smells very fresh for being five years of age. The teas aroma kinda reminds me of the Wu Liang area teas, very fresh, green and kinda herbal.

The teas flavors are very enjoyable, the vegetal aspects are still there despite the five years of age this tea has. Slightly sweet with bitterness being nothing more than an afterthought. It's not smokey or tobaccoish, nor is it floral or fruity. Just delightfully vegetal, herbal and refreshingly clean. For a tea with such light flavors whats unusual about it is that it has a fairly heavy body, slightly syrupy. Brews up a cup with superb clarity, it just sparkles in the glass sharing pot. Durability is average, nothing really noteworthy there. A really enjoyable tea that Ive no intentions of buying more of. We have all had our share of those haven't we? For me this tea makes for a good afternoon session but not something that's going to get you out the door in the morning. The teas quality is reflected in it's price, $45.00 per cake. But I don't see it as having the potential to age very well. It's never going to change into one of those robust and stout teas that I love so much.

March 21, 2010

2001 Ming Yuan Hao - Yiwu Zheng Shan

 All kinds of new stuff has found it's way to my doorstep over the past few weeks, puerhs, greens, oolongs and even a few new pieces of tea ware. But this tea I bought from The Steeping Room, a local tea shop. Without a doubt they had acquired this from Hou De's as they are the only source for this tea that I'm aware of anyways. I had been wanting to add some sheng with a little age to my collection. But not being a big lover of wet storage that presents me with a problem because the vast majority of aged teas out there have been stored in very humid environments. I don't mind a trace of that musty wet storage flavor but to me less is better. This tea was a god send as far as I'm concerned. From what I remember of Guangs description it was stored in Taiwan for about three years but it's been at Hou De's ever since. I don't think Guang likes wet storage any more than I do.

This tea is the bee's knee's as far as I'm concerned. The flavors are intense. Woodsy with a bit of camphor, something similar to an anise like spice. I also noticed a touch of mintiness in the aroma as well as the aftertaste which lends a interesting counterpart to the teas woody notes. Without a doubt this tea will continue to age very well. It's still young enough that it has some astringency in the cup as well as a good bit of bitterness but a couple more years of storage should knock those aspects back a notch or two. Brews up clean and clear as a bell with a deep amber color. Exceptional durability. The pic of the brewed tea is a little on the light side (7th infusion) but still going strong. Compression is moderate, it's leaf is easily wrangled from the cake without breaking.

I bought a couple of these cakes but may decide to add even more to my cabinet. I love it! Such intensity yet still approachable. A far better value than many of the Menghai cakes out there with the same amount of age on them, much more complexity in the cup. You gotta give Guang credit, he knows how to pick em. An excellent value!