January 23, 2011

90's Blue Dingxing "Yiwu"

Bug bites and all, I think the wrapper is what lured me most to this tea, very old fashioned looking. I wish I knew what is says. Like most everyone else, I had first seen this cake at Essence Of Tea  and had since read both Hobbes and MarshalN's review of it. EOT has several teas that I am interested in but could never muster up the gumption to pay EOT prices, (nothing personal EOT) Thankfully there are a few of these cakes showing up here and there,  Puerh Shop has a few interesting cakes in the "Aged Tea" section and offered at a price that is more in line with my budget.

The date of manufacture seems to vary depending on your source of information. Puerh Shop claims it to be from the 90"s. Others claim it to be from 2001. I don't think it matters all that much. What matters is the content. So, lets dig in and see what we have here.

The wrapper has turned yellow with age and dotted with oil spots, that's a good sign.


What a chubby cake! I don't know why but it always pleases me to unwrap a new cake and find a nice, thick, chunky, slab of tea. Ummm......yeah I do, because it usually means that the cake has been stoned pressed and consequently will be easier to break apart without breaking the leaves.

Thick and chunky leaves with a generous portion of twigs, I love rustic teas. There is the faintest of woodsy aromas wafting from the cake as well as the smell of wet storage. But as the wet storage smell is not all that strong I,m not too alarmed, I,ll give it a couple of good rinses and see whats left of it.

Whats in the cup is a pretty tasty tea. Woodsy and earthy with just a trace of astringency and some vegetal flavors from it's youth are still in the tea. Plenty of sweetness in both the soup and the aroma. Here and there I detect florals and sometimes spice. But the predominant thing is wood and earth. The wet storage aspects fade fairly quickly as I hoped they would. By the third to fourth infusion the tea has really opened up and it's origins become evident. I bet this tea was kinda fruity when freshly processed, I can barely taste something that reminds me of pears.

This is a decent tea (in my opinion) I can see how it could benefit from further storage but I,m liking it now. A hearty tea with a robust and sweet aftertaste. Very durable, I,m up to ten infusions and it's still going strong but just starting to wane. Brews up a nicely orange"d heading towards amber cup with good clarity. At Puerh Shops prices this is a decent tea. If I were to have bought this from EOT at his prices, I would have been kinda disappointed.

As you can see the tea is comprised of lots of chopped leaf, some rather large whole leaves, and plenty of twigs. Some burnished red and brown, and some still clinging to the greenness of youth. Not bad really, not bad at all. I couldn't see myself stockpiling this tea, but a couple of cakes for future consumption sounds like a good idea.

January 22, 2011

2010 Dragon Whiskers Mao Jian

He's so sleepy, he can just barely keep his peepers open. I think it's safe to assume that I can now have an un-interrupted tea break, if I,m very quiet about it. Tyson thinks he needs to be involved in everything I do. Boxers are a great breed of dog, good natured and fun. But if they have one fault, it's separation anxiety. He has to be constantly touching you, leaning against you, or worst of all, staring at you.

If I had to choose just one type of tea to drink for the rest of my life, it would undoubtedly be green tea. I generally like all types of tea but green tea is the only tea that I actually crave. From "Tea Trekker" this Mao Jian is a fairly new addition to their catalog. Bob and Mary Lou bought this tea during their recent trip to the Fang Cun Tea Market in Guangzhou China. They made the decision to add this to their catalog immediately upon tasting it, and I can see why, it's delicious! Ive become a big advocate of Tea Trekker, everything Ive had from them was excellent quality and priced fairly.

This Mao Jian is an early spring harvest tea from Zhejiang province. The Mao Jian pluck is defined as one bud and leaf. Hand rolled and pan fired. When it comes to green tea I don't bother with scales for weighing the quantity, I just get a feel for it. It's probably around 3 grams of leaf to six ounces of water. This Mao Jian needs cooler water than other China greens. I get the best results using water at about 175 degrees. Water temperature and brewing times are important factors of brewing green tea that I am fairly diligent about. Timing is everything, it's not that this tea will become bitter or astringent if the water is too hot, but you will exhaust the leaf prematurely and you won't get as many brews from it.
 Be observant and pay attention when brewing green tea. Decant too soon and the brew isn't all it could have been, the flavors and aromas haven't been fully developed. Wait a little too long and the best flavors to be had are long gone and there's no way to go back and get them in the subsequent brews. You blew it! Brewing first pluck greens can be a challenge, but it's worth the effort when it comes to some farm fresh, high quality teas.

That picture up there speaks volumes about the quality and the condition of this tea. Absolutely beautiful leaf with such a healthy green color. As you can see below the brew is a crystal clear, golden color. Slightly sweet, rich and vegetal. As soon as the water hits the dry leaf there is an explosion of the most mouth watering aromas wafting from the shiboridashi. This is what good green tea is all about. And whats more is that it's not a very expensive tea.At $60.00 a lb. it's a very fair price for a tea of this quality.

Very easy to brew, I get three good infusions from the leaf. This tea infuses pretty quickly, about 1&1/2 to 2 minutes. The second infusion is almost indistinguishable from the first, no real noticeable difference in the flavor, color or the body. The third infusion is almost as good, definitely fading but still too good to let it go to waste.

Well, I almost made it through the entire session without Tyson waking up. The Postman rang the doorbell and Tyson was off and running again. Both a blessing and a curse because the Postman brought more tea.

January 8, 2011

90's CNNP 7542

 It's one of those days that I don't know what I want to drink. Growing bored with all of my go-to teas Ive been drinking lately, so I resorted to my box of tea samples and tid-bits for inspiration. And bless my cotton socks I might have found something here. I don't know where I got this from or how long Ive had it. Ive always liked Menghai's 7542  but Ive never had the old school, CNNP version of it before. So this is the proper, back in the day (before Dayi) version of 7542. Although I have to keep in mind the 7542's price point, which tells a lot. I figure that if a cake sells for $17.00 or so, what could the ratio of high grade mao cha to plantation grown filler be? After having travelled through all the middle men before it got to me and that's the price I paid, then these cakes must be cheap as dirt to produce.

But then again, even though this is pre-Dayi, it's still cheap tea and maybe I shouldn't have high hopes for this tea seeing that it's been in the sample box for God knows how long. Also it's a fairly small chunk of tea, it's not going to be representative of the same tea stored as a whole cake in a proper storage environment.

There is indeed a noticeable difference in the teas composition. Modern day 7542 is made from a much more consistent leaf size. This tea also has some twigs ranging in size from insignificant to full blown sticks, that's something I haven't seen in a Dayi 7542. This tea consists of various leaf sizes and it's much easier to see the blend itself. Some of the leaves are kinda thin and paper like, while others are quite thick and chunky. The dry leaf has only the slightest of wet storage odors remaining.

Seven grams of leaf go into the yixing, two good rinses (trying to diminish any traces of wet storage) and lets see what we have here. The characteristics that Ive come to expect from the 7542 recipe is definitely in the cup. Woodsy and leathery with barely noticeable traces of smoke. Almost no bitterness to be found and just enough sweetness to provide contrast to the wood and leather.

This tea was initially wet stored, and probably quite heavily, but it's been dry for so long that it brews up a pretty light and clear amber color. This is pretty much a straight forward, basic sheng with not much in the way of complexity. What Folgers is to coffee is what this tea is to raw puerh. Nothing wrong with it but nothing to write home about either. This teas less than ideal storage hasn't "ruined" the tea, but even if it were to go into a moderately humid environment for revivifying I,m not sure it's salvageable. It's lost too much at this point.

Drinking these kinds of teas provide some insight into how important storage environments are to puerh. I,m kinda leery of buying "aged sheng" from online vendors for this exact reason. Just because it's from a reputable maker and it's a popular tea doesn't mean anything really. Whats been done to it over the years plays such a big role in the teas outcome. This tea is probably still available online somewhere out there, but I wouldn't want it if they were giving it away. Just doesn't cut the mustard in my book.

I wonder..........is it possible that you can learn what good tea should taste like...... by drinking bad tea? I think what you learn is the tell tale signs of improper or negligent storage conditions. The year the tea was made doesn't matter, the name brand or maker doesn't matter, nor it's blend or mountain of origin. These three issues can give you an indication of what to expect or what the teas potential might be. But there is only one way to tell for sure........Drink It!