August 25, 2009

2008 Yong Pin Hao " YiWu Wild Arbor"

I just received a pair of these handmade cakes yesterday from jas-etea. I was wanting something a little different from what Ive been drinking lately.(and this is) Never having even so much as sampled this tea before I knew I was taking a risk but I had read some pretty good things about them and felt it was a fairly safe gamble. Everything about these cakes spells "attention to detail" even down to the paper wrapper, it feels like silk. The Yong Pin Hao gang who are all about using old school, traditional methods have even gone the extent of setting up an on site pu-hut so they can process the maocha in the same area that it was harvested in. Avoiding the lengthy transit time and the potential for oxidation of the leaf. Made entirely from 2008 spring, first flush maocha gathered from wild arbor trees that range from 100-200 years old. The maocha was dried in small batches by hand using woks. And the finished cakes were air dried naturally, instead of low temperature baking which I guess is common practice.

The level of compression is pure perfection, loose enough so as to make prying very easy yet tight enough to hold together and not fall apart with time. The cakes are made from large, whole leaves that are a thing of beauty. The aroma emitting from the cakes is very mild, fresh and clean. Nothing heavy or overly rustic. This tea needs a heavy hand to realize it,s potential, ten gms of leaf is the quantity determined through trial and error. I go for the typical infusion times starting at 8-10 seconds and progressing and that approach works out fine for me. Brews a golden yellow cup with a tinge of orange starting to show up. The durability is good, 8-10 infusions. This tea doesn't really smack of YiWu,s typical flavor profile but there are some similarities to be found, if you look hard enough. At a price of $30.00 for a 400 gm beeng I wasn't really expecting anything too spot on.

The teas aroma is fresh and green. Again, nothing heavy but actually a fairly light, clean, woodsy, faintly tobaccoish, slightly floral tea. Just the right amount of sweetness, given the delicacy of this tea I was worried that it was going to be too sweet. But it,s not, it,s nicely balanced. At the risk of sounding cliche, there is an aspect of fresh spring meadow in both the flavor and aroma. The tea has just the slightest bitterness that quickly transforms into sweetness. This is a pretty easy going tea. Almost refreshing in it,s clean, crisp flavor profile. This isn't a sheng that,s going to kick you in the head. It just doesn't have it in it. Very low key but with lots of class and style. Not to be confused with a tea that,s thin or weak but rather a sheng that,s light and delicate, there,s a difference. With proper brewing parameters this sheng does have a nice viscosity. For my tastes it,s not one to start the day with but fine for an afternoon session when your not up for something too intense.
I cant imagine how this tea will age, I cant see it turning into anything other than what it is now, maybe a more concentrated version of it,s present self. It will obviously loose the fresh, crisp and clean aspects it now has. I also don't see the potential for any real body to develop over time, it,s always going to be a light to medium bodied tea. I guess what I,m trying to say is that I just don't see this tea as having the required traits for long term storage, it,s going to peek fairly young then peter out. I can see this tea reaching it,s potential in about four to five years. But I could be wrong (it,s happened before)
This pu-purchase gave me yet another example of the scope of flavor profiles or styles of tea to be had that I hadn't experienced before. All in all, The Yong Pin Hao boys definately know what their doing. A beautifully made tea that in every aspect shows that they cared about it. A very nice couple of cakes Ive added to my collection, I,ll enjoy dipping into from time to time. But two of these is enough. I guess I like getting kicked in the head, repeatedly.
P.S. Something that I didnt notice during my initial sessions with this tea was that there is the faintest of cooling sensation in the brew, almost mint like. Drinking this tea now I dont know how I didnt notice this before, as it,s there plain as day.


August 21, 2009

Xiaguan Green Tuocha

Wow! Ive been on such a Xiaguan spree lately and loving every sip, until this one. The 100 gm. Green box tuocha. I bought a couple of these from a Chinese shop, at $3.99 each. Never having had these tuo,s before and knowing that they are bottom of the rung sheng, my expectations were meagre. Visual inspection sounds no alarms, nor the lack of aroma from the tuo. Looks to be an everyday, nothing special tea. The tea leaves appear to be o.k. Compression is normal. I brew some up and....nothing. Literally no flavor aside from generic green bog water. It,s not a case of me being spoiled by the good stuff it,s just this tea has virtually no flavor. Thin, weak and insipid. I immediately rushed to the pot to wash this tea out and made myself some proper sheng. I wonder, could they be counterfeit? How does one tell? When an Xiaguan tea has no flavor there is something amiss. At least they didn't cost much. I would be interested to try this tea from another source for comparison and then I think I could solve the puzzle of the flavor that,s gone missing.

August 8, 2009

Nepal Kuwapani Estate SFTGFOP1CL/SP

Every once in a while I get a wild hair up my butt and buy something a little out of the ordinary. Ive never had a Nepalese tea before and thought I,d give it a try. I don't usually spend too much money on these excursions and I,m not expecting too much in return. But this tea surpassed my meager expectations by leaps and bounds. This stuff is good, really good! At just under $10.00 for 100 gms it,s an affordable tea that I,d be hard pressed to find anything anywhere close to the unique qualities this tea has to offer. I ordered this from Uptons two days ago and it was delivered today, now that's fast service. The dry leaf is a multicolored mix of browns, reds and greens with plenty of silver buds. The aroma of the dry leaf is pungent with muscatel and an unusual rustic earthiness. The aroma from the brewed tea comes out swinging. There are so many smells to be savored here. The muscatel aroma is neck in neck with the smell of fresh peaches and apricots. The rich aroma of honey is also there as well as a sparkling clean citrus smell. You know the smell of a freshly opened jar of wildflower honey? I,m not referring to the obvious sweet smell but the smell that lays just underneath that, the smell of the terroir that the bee,s toiled in. That,s the rustic, earthy sweet smell that this tea has. Brews a crystal clear brew of the most beautiful orange, amber color you've ever seen. The teas flavor follows suit with it,s fragrance. A fairly complex cup with a medium body. I could just sit and smell this stuff all day, almost worth the price for the smell alone. I think teas from Nepal are generally considered a Darjeeling wanna be. If this Kuwapani Estate tea is a typical Nepal offering then Darjeeling,s got nothing on them. While Nepalese teas share some of Darjeeling,s characteristics they bring a few of their own to the cup that in my opinion makes for a much more complex cup than any Darjeeling can muster. This is definitely a buy more of this situation here. As far as brewing parameters go I approached this tea like a Darjeeling. About two tsp. per eight oz. of boiling water with a three minute infusion time. I tried this tea using a gong fu approach but it doesn't work, the flavors are washed out after the initial steeping.