October 20, 2009

2000 Zhong Cha Tie Bing

It,s a beautiful day here in Austin so I thought I,d ride the Capitol Metro Rail to one of my favorite tea shops. Glad I did because I bought a couple ounces of a superb Chung Cha Tie Bing. This shop typically has half a dozen shengs to choose from ranging from teas you can find online and usually one or two that Ive never heard of before. Ive heard of Chung Cha brand before and if memory serves me it has a good reputation, lets see. The owner assured me that this is a very nice tea and that there is not that much more of it to be found (implying that it is rare, buy it, don't be a fool) so I did.
Now this tea is a perfect example of a well stored tea. The soup is a bright, clear, clean amber with a syrup like viscosity. I bought this from a local tea shop, the price of the whole cake is $175.00 To rich for me but a ounce or two is allowable on my budget. This is the first Chung Cha tea that Ive ever had. I don't recall ever even seeing Chung Cha for sale anywhere before. What a unique aroma wafts from the pot, woodsy and anise like spice is the first thing I notice. There is the very faintest of smokiness and camphor, so minimal that it,s really an after thought. The slightest bitterness quickly followed by a caramel like sweetness that completely coats my mouth and throat, even my teeth. What a unique flavor this tea has, something that is so subtle reminds me of licorice and anise. So rich that I can smell it long after the session is over. So many flavors and aromas. This is one of those teas that each time you drink it you notice some flavor that you didn't notice before. So much complexity in both the soup and the aroma.

This tea sets a new standard for aged sheng for me, just goes to show that not all aged tea is murky and musty. This Chung Cha,s flavors and aromas are clean and somewhat medicinal and they retain there individuality very well. Each component is very distinct from each other. The dry leaf is large and mostly whole. Considering it,s a tie bing the leaf comes loose from the chunks with almost no effort, all I have to do is threaten it with the pu knife and they just fall apart. There are some rather large stems in the mix but who cares? Maybe the stems are contributing to the over all flavor, who knows? If this tea has had any wet storage it was so minimal that no damage was done, the teas clarity speaks for itself. What a gorgeous tea. This is one worth saving for special occasions or when you have the time to savor it.
P.S. Thanks Will. I had wondered if Zhong Cha or Chung Cha was the correct spelling.

October 10, 2009

2009 Yunnan Sourcing "Ai Lao Jue Se"

The last in a series of seven teas that Scott made this year. I was honestly postponing trying this tea because neither the look or the aroma of the dry leaf appeals to me very much, I can smell the tart, green traits that tell my stomach to get ready for a little turmoil. I wonder if in time these thin, sour teas become more sweet and have a fuller body or if I,m always going to need Imodium after drinking them? Anybody with more experience with these teas feel free to fill me in. Grown at 2200 meters these wild arbor trees average about 200 years of age. Handmade, stone pressed and low temp. baking to dry the finished cakes. Ai Lao Jue Se is a more affordable cousin of the Wu Liang Lan Xiang, I think the cakes are priced at $20.00 each. The dry leaf is a flat dull green with some brown and red, leaf size really varies, small baby leaves and big chunks. The aroma is tart and floral, maybe a slight citrus coming into play. The teas flavor reflects the aroma but with more astringency than either sweetness or bitterness, puckery, thin and tart. Brews a perfectly clear bright yellow cup with fairly good durability. I don't really want to go into a lengthy, in depth description of this tea because for one, there,s not that much to say about it and two, I,m just not that into it. I just felt like I had an obligation to finish up this series of teas. It,s worth the extra money to get the Wu Liang Lan Xiang, it,s a much better tea. Much fuller rounder flavors that are nicely balanced. Sorry Scott but you cant win em all.