December 9, 2010

The Taming Of The Shu

Isn't that a corny title? Well, at least it's appropriate for the issue at hand. 2006 is the year that Menghai won the Gold Award for the V93 tuocha, and this is the same tea from the same year. I had bought these when they first became available (six years ago) and they have been in storage ever since. Still available (here) but at about twice the price they sold for when first released.

Menghai still sets the standard when it comes to cooked puerh, you really can't beat em. Although there are shu's from other company's that are well on their way to challenging Menghai's position. The world is full of average quality, mediocre shu and it can be a bit of a challenge to find the good stuff. But once the goods have been procured, it needs to go into storage for at least several years to mellow. At five years of age this tea has (in my opinion) reached it's potential. Well, maybe another year or two of clean, dry storage would bring further improvements but for the most part it's good to go.

I,m not a subscriber to the "older is better" school of thought when it comes to cooked puerh. Shu definitely needs it's storage time but it can't stand up to the lengthy storage time that a raw puerh needs. In my opinion, shu reaches it's potential within a five to ten year time span and then starts to fade and loose it;s flavor. The handful of shu's Ive had that were older than ten years were not very good, they were bland and boring.

The color of the dry leaf is exactly what I want to see, a nice healthy caramel brown with some red and gold bit's here and there. Not the dull, monochromatic shades of muck you,ll find in lesser teas.

What I really like about the V93 recipe is it's cleanliness in the cup. It's not one of those heavy, sludge like shu's. It's flavors and aroma's are woodsy, rich and nutty with a caramel like sweetness.  What also sets it apart from the others is the crisp and clean aspects it brings to the cup. It brews up a deep amber cup with sparkling clarity.

Easily brews ten to fifteen infusions, which is a bit much even for me. Autumn and Winter is the only time of year I drink cooked puerh, any other season and the flavors are too much for my palate. But in the cold of Winter it's very satisfying.

December 4, 2010

Ding Gu Da Fang

I always feel a little guilty about having all of these teas going un-drunk and wasting away in the tea cabinet. So, Ive been making an honest effort to consume a substantial quantity of these neglected teas before Christmas gets here and I get bombarded with more gifts of tea.

Ding Gu Da Fang is a China green tea that was once a tribute tea during the Qing Dynasty and at one time was included in the list of China's 10 famous teas. Legend has it that a Buddhist monk by the name of Da Fang invented this tea during the Song Dynasty. Ding Gu translates as Valley Peak. Grown in the An Hui province.

First thing many people say about this tea is that it reminiscent of a Long Jing, "Poppycock" it's only similarity as far as I can see is that the dry leaf kinda resembles Long Jing in that it's kinda flat, thin and a yellowish green in color. It has none of the toasty, yeasty flavors that I associate with a Long Jing. The leaf in the above picture looks pretty tattered (bottom of the caddie) but you can see in the top picture that the dry leaf is for the most part whole and beautiful.

Ding Gu Da Fang tastes of chestnuts, smooth and buttery, slightly sweet and vegetal with a medium body. It's not a dainty tea by any means.  Most of the descriptions Ive read about Ding Gu Da Fang tea always refers to it as being rather strong tasting, Ive never thought of it as strong. Ive also never had a Ding Gu Da Fang that was anything more than a really good everyday type of tea, just a rich and tasty cup that wouldn't hurt any ones budget. For my tastes this tea requires extra leaf to get fully saturated flavors, I typically use about 3&1/2 gms. per 6 oz. 185 degree water, with a 2-3 minute infusion time. Ive had a kilo of this tea in the cabinet since last spring and though I drink it almost daily Ive got a long ways to go before it's gone. For anyone interested in trying this tea "Uptons" has just re-stocked it (which is where I had bought this batch) and it's affordable too boot!

The only reason for the above picture is just because I like the cup, but it's not mine. I got it for a friend and it's on it's way to Canada. Oh well......we bonded a little, we laughed, we cried, but now it's time for you to go. The cups as well as the shiboridashi in this post were made by Petr Novak. The shiboridashi has some issues, the glaze is chipping off all around the edge of the lid. But I don't know why, it's never been treated roughly. Perhaps Petr can tell us why the glaze is crumbling?

December 2, 2010

That Red Tin Ti Kuan Yin Oolong

This tea was given to me by a well meaning person a long, long time ago. We have all seen these tins on the shelves of just about every Chinese market. I always appreciate the gift of tea, no matter how humble it may be. I had actually forgotten about this tin of oolong, it's been in the cabinet for a year or more. Today while digging through all the bags, tins, boxes of teas I found this and thought I,d give it a go. I,m probably not any different than most people reading this in that Ive got more tea samples and bits of this and that laying around than I,ll ever get around to trying. I,m making a concerted effort to try to whittle these teas down a bit before buying anything else.

I had to run some errands today and stopped by the Asian market and sure enough, there it was on the shelf. At $5.99 a tin I shouldn't expect much. I see that "Puerh Shop" has this same exact tea on sale for $13.77 Just go's to show that you should be very careful where you spend your money. Not all of Puerh Shop's teas are this over priced, some of his teas are very good and sold at a fair price.

Opening the tins outer and inner lids unleashes a very strong roasted aroma with some very pungent citrus aspects wafting into the room. The teas dry leaf is pretty darned strong smelling. Could be a good sign, could be a sign of overly roasted bland and lifeless tea. So......lets get some leaf into the pot, give it a good rinse and see what we have here.

First things first, the first infusion smells very strongly of the roast and a floral smell that Ive always thought of as "grapefruit flower" a very clean and tart citrus with just a touch of spice is in the mix as well. The aroma is impressive, it smells good. The tea brews up fairly clear with a deep amber color. The flavor isn't bad, actually, it's a lot better than I thought it would be considering it's price. It's body is a little thin and not much in the way of sweetness, but all in all, it's really not a bad tea. Perfectly acceptable as a matter of fact. Of course you can't compare this tea to others selling for a lot more money but it has some of the same flavors and aromas as those higher priced oolongs.

It was a nice gift after all. Now I,m not saying I'd run out and buy a few tins of this stuff but what I have I,ll drink and enjoy it. We all know that you get what you pay for but every once in a while I,m surprised at some of these mass produced teas. Most of them are not very good, or even drinkable for that matter. I don't always have to have some really expensive tea in my cup to be happy, and most days I,m too busy and don't have enough time to really appreciate my tea. So, I save my "good" teas for a time when I can give them the attention they deserve.  But having said that, sooner or latter after drinking these kinds of teas for a while I will get to the point where I,m wanting something sublime. And no matter how hard you look you are never going to find sublime for $5.99 or $13.77 depending on where you shop. Nope, your going to have to fork out the dough.