Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Winding Down and the Strangest Green Tea I've had to date.

The end of the year is upon us.

For a good many, this means parties, resolutions, the typical stuff.  I've been there, done that, bought the t-shirt, and even got stranded on the highway heading home.  It's time that one needs to truly change, rather than just repeating the same socially influenced mantras over and over again.

Since I'm fresh out of quotes from real people, I will have to use a quote from a syntax-challenged creature.

  " Do not try;  Do."
                                - Yoda

Yes, Dear Blog-Reader.  Yoda said something that actually influenced me.  So now, instead of talking or writing about what I'm going to do, I will simply do it.  Boom.  Done.

And tonight, while sitting at the tea table, I definitely did something.  I don't know exactly what, but by golly, I did it!  The Yunnan Mao Feng Lu cha from Norbu is of a different class of green tea.

Starting out, it looks like a green tea.  That's it. Everything after that doesn't really match up.  Let's Continue:

The aroma from the leaves reminds me of the 2009 and 2008 Puttabong Estate First Flush Darjeeling.  Fresh cut green apples, muscat grapes, and the super-trippy "cool mountain air".  I furrow my brow...twice.

I place about 4 grams in the gaiwan, not really knowing what to expect.  The first cup: sweetness, floral notes, and a seriously misplaced First Flush Darjeeling.

Practically every cup after that was the same, sans the fifth cup, which had run out of steam.  I examined the leaves to possibly find the culprit (sorry, no pictures as my camera has been borrowed).

Aha!  Oxidized leaves!  I'm not much for building up suspense, I'd rather just to the point.  I know you readers out there have things to do other than read tea blogs.   That is, unless that's your job.  If it is, I envy you.

So yes, there were many leaves and buds which had begun to oxidize around the edges.  Truth be told, I wasn't too surprised.  I didn't pay too much for this stuff.

That's all.  Poof.  Done.  (Happy New Year!)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The 2000 Kunming Blue Mark

Ah, Earthiness.

I’ve spent a good few years now reading about aged and semi-aged pu.  Judging from the way other’s wrote about it, it seemed like something worth trying.

This aged raw pu-erh, the 2000 Kunming Blue Stamp was gifted to me from Spikey, whose kindness I am very grateful for.  More teas from him will be discussed here as well.

I’ve only heard of this tea once before - in a small forum discussing pu-erh.  Other than that, I don’t know much.  It’s from the Kunming Factory, first of all.  And it’s from the year 2000, or at least it was pressed during that time.

The leaves here are dark, with practically no bud - maybe one or two at the most.  The aroma was light and sweet with no mustiness.  I’m figuring this means that the tea  was stored in a rather dry area, since most teas that are stored around a little bit of moisture seem to acquire a ‘damp’ aroma and flavor after a few years.  Also, the leaves are broken.  No surprise there.

Dark Leaves with a Light, Sweet Aroma

5.1 grams | 180-200(depending on infusion) |1 rinse, 7 seconds | 6s, 5s, 8s, 12s, 20s, 25s, 45s, 1min, 1min 45s

The first three cups were dominated by an ‘aged’ musty flavour but still had a slight bitterness left over from it’s youth.  Herbal, Floral, and Caramel notes ran through various infusions as well, with an actual camphor note appearing at the fourth cup

Cups four through seven were a gradual lessening of earthy “forest floor” aroma and flavor, which isn’t too surprising for me.  Sweetness was not persistent at all.  The fifth and sixth cup carried the most sweetness, which was a caramel and raw brown sugar hybrid with a hint of slightly tart fruit in the background.  The later cups had a damp, dark bitterness, until finally fading out in the 9th cup with plenty of  mineral flavors and water.

The Ninth Cup

Overall, I found this very enjoyable.  The qi was light and glowy, helping me fall asleep rather quickly.  I have a feeling the leaves could have kept going, but I simply didn’t add enough leaf - I realize now that I was given a 12 gram sample for a reason - and that is for two sessions of 6 grams.
The Spent Leaf - Few were in their entirety

If you find this tea anywhere - at least get a sample.  It’s worth it.
See you next time!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Norbu Teas 2010 fall harvest Lao Tai Di Qing Xin Oolong

Winter is here.  That doesn't mean much to me, as the south doesn't get cold like the Dakotas do.  With that seasonal change comes a change in my preference for tea.  The green teas and unroasted Tie Guan Yin fall to the wayside for darker, more robust teas.  In this case, Roasted Formosan Oolong.  It's a new joy of mine, that stuff.
One Heck of a Surprise

I stumbled upon it recently.  I recieved two packages of tea and tea samples, with pu-erhs, greens, oolongs, whites, and even a small packet of sencha from a close friend.  I had no idea what to do, and cue in the little packet of Lao Tai Di Qing Xin Oolong from Norbu.

This fall 2010 harvest didn't impress me at first.  I've had unpleasant experiences with roasted teas in the past, which tended to bias the choices that I make when buying tea or choosing a sample.  Most of these roasted teas were flavorless, bland, bitter, or overwhelmingly smokey.  These Surprising little leaves were delightfully different.
See The Difference? Me Either.

4 grams | 160 degrees | 60s, 40s, 45s, 65s, 90s, 125s, 195s

The infusions were long, I know.  I beleive that a combination of too little leaf and too low of a brewing temperature may have made this happen.  Either that, or the fact that I am not too experienced with brewing roasted oolongs.
The Third Cup

The Key flavors here were a caramel sweetness and floral/buttery notes.  The toasted flavors came and went through each infusion, and seemed to enhance the sweet flavors when the cup was toastier.  This was especially enjoyable.

My favorite infusion was a tie between the second and third infusion.  The toasted flavours mixed perfectly with the  caramel sweetness and floral undertones.  There was even a slight tartness, which in my opinion,  gave better balance to the tea and allowed it's complexity to shine through even more.

That covers the interesting part.  the final 3 cups, or infusions five, six and seven, were merely ghosts of the amazing flavors that were there before.  Next time, I'm using more leaf.

The Leaf.  (Duh)

In closing, try this tea at least once.  The complexity and richness of flavor is tough to beat in a tea at this price range.  Also, the calming effects on this tea was quite substantial.  I figured the caffiene would have gotten me, but I was already prepping for sleep once I put my utensils away.

Thanks for reading, and see you next time.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A package arrives!

I've arrived home from an interesting trip north to see my friends.  It had some stresses, all of them from the trip itself as well as the car, but the actual time spent with friends was simply priceless.

Walking inside, I noted some mail left for me.  A large envelope with tea!  Such joy.  Sp1key sent me these wonderful samples, and I very much look forward to sampling them and writing about them here, dear reader. Now onto the sample.

Boredom is an interesting thing.  As I was wandering my old stomping grounds in Charlotte, NC, I decided to see how my friends at a small japanese grocer were doing.  As luck would have it, I perused through their small selection of teas, seeing the usual.  But Hark!  A new sencha!

I'm willing to try whatever I can.

First off, this stuff is higher quality than what I would usually see in the japanese markets, but it still might fit in as 'everyday sencha' on most online tea shops.
As all fukamushi sencha goes, it has lots of small broken leaf.  The leaves have a decent shine to them, with an aroma of tropical fruit and an underlying toasty note.

For this review, I did things a little different - I changed the temperature of the water for almost every infusion.  I got the idea by imagining that all infusions could brew somewhat identically over time.  It's just an idea, and it didn't really make that much of a difference other than the smoothness of the tea overall seemed to be improved somewhat over other sessions that I'd had with this tea.

water temp - 150 | 4.7 grams |  45s, flash, 3s, 7s, 12s
It has a few "sticks" in it.  uh-oh.

The flavors in the first two cups were similar in their bitterness and intense flavor profiles.  The very light roasted flavors came through which really wasn't a surprise to me. It also had a "bland" taste underneath the initial flavors.  I didn't pay too much for this tea, thank heavens.
The First Infusion

Infusions three and four were much milder with a more noticeable sweetness and overall balance of flavor .  Infusion five was slightly sweet and vegetal, with a minty note that i've seen in at least one other sencha, now that I think about it.
Cup Five was much darker

In conclusion, this stuff isn't really worth your time unless you are absolutely impoverished and can't get anything else.  There are hints of quality at first, but they fade very quickly into mediocrity.  See you next time!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Back to The Blog

Sometime during the summer, I witnessed a change like nothing I had seen before.

I was literally sick from tainted pu-erh, and taking a two week break from serious tea reviewing in general.  Given all of my newly found time to think, I recalled my exalted state during my last semester of college.  Every day, I was drinking 4 cups of  asamushi sencha,  and I felt great.  So I thought “Why not just get back into sencha, like before?”  and poof, a change was made.

I focus mostly on greens and light oolongs these days, with the occasional sheng pu or shu pu coming to my attention.

Yuuki Cha’s Kagoshima Sencha Saemidori is somewhat predictable, but different enough to warrant being written about.  The leaf here is typical: smallish broken bits of leaf from the long steaming, with a mellow greenness in the nose, followed by a hint of that roasted aroma that I see in some sencha.
The Leaf, With a Few Stems

 Water temp: 150 | 4.5 grams | 50s, flash, flash, 6s, 15s, 70s

The First Cup

The first two infusions were very, very intense, given that I have become accustomed to the flavors of the light steamed tea.  The umami present was very powerful, with little else at first.  After swirling the tea around in my mouth,  bitter and sweet flavors slowly crept around midpalate, releasing that endorphin rush that comes with the first few sips of good tea.  As the tea cooled, it took on an unmistakable minty flavor - this isn’t anything new, but I haven’t seen it much in sencha.  By the end of those two cups, I was already feeling warm and slightly dizzy.

The third cup was largely flavorless other than a light toasty flavor along with a gentle creaminess and sweetness that seemed to be hiding, as if I hadn’t brewed it correctly (I learned later on that this would be true).  Cup four had fixed cup three’s flavor issues, but brought along the signals that the leaves were running out of flavor fast.

Cups five and six were the end of this session, having no aroma, just a rich green color and a very smooth ‘green’ sweetness that hung around the tip of the palate.

In my summary in my tea journal, I described this tea as a “...Rich, Luxurious experience…”  despite only  three of the six cups having decent flavor.  Upon brewing it for a second session, I had amended my mistakes and now had an excellent, well rounded flavor throughout each cup.  Also, this tea seems to have mild psychoactive effects, (I’m not kidding) so see how you react to the stuff before doing anything like driving or operating a truck full of nuclear waste.  A rich tea indeed.

The Second Cup

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Time Spent Working.

I can promise you that I'm still here, but my work in real estate and videography has kept me quite busy.  In the meantime, I have reviewed well over 60 teas since my last blog, and many of those will most likely end up here!

Thanks for staying tuned!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The 2010 Yuuki-Cha Kagoshima Shincha Magokoro

Having been a long-time sencha drinker, I decided to give Shincha a shot.  This is Fukamushi, so I know my kyusu will most likely spill a good bit of the smaller, broken stuff.
I will purchase a new camera soon

The leaves have a pleasant shine to them, and have a sweet aroma with the hint of some kind of vegetable - Asparagus, perhaps?  

50, 2, 2, 5, 15

I had hoped to get more than five infusions from this stuff, but from what I understand, 4 grams of leaf is not enough.  This isn't chinese style, mind you, so the 7-10 grams per session is way too much.  So five or six grams should do the trick when I taste and review this again.

The first cup was extremely bright and sweet tasting, with a rich umami profile that seemed to stay with me after the gulp.  The smoothness!  It had the smoothness of a high quality young-pu-erh, without the thick liquor, of course.  Some grassiness crept in as the tea cooled.

Cup two was flash brewed, revealing a much darker colour and a thicker mouthfeel.  The sweetness and tartness here were much more balanced, having enough of each so that they complemented one another. I detected herbal notes here, something that I have never tasted in a Japanese green tea before.

Cup three revealed to me that flash brewing can only work for so long - and in my case, shorter than expected.  The colour of the liquor was incredibly pale compared to the rich neon green colour from last time.  The flavor was mild, with only a tiny bit of sweetness and a slightly grassy aftertaste.  

Despite the lack of flavor in the previous cup, I continued on with the last two.  I increased the infusion time to try and get something from the leaves, and it worked!  The flavor was sweeter, with a more pronounced mouthfeel and a hint more of grassiness.  The umami was present, but rather small.

Cup five had faded into warm blandness with a livid green colour.  The aroma of the liquor had even faded somewhat, something grassy with a creamy sweetness.  
A new camera or photographer is greatly needed!

Overall, the tea was enjoyable.  I could fault it for it's short brewing time, but I also figure that my lack of skill in brewing this tea may have contributed to it's short life.  There were no toasty notes present anywhere, so I suspect no baking or either a very light baking.  If you have 20 bucks to spend on a few ounces of tea, give the stuff a try.  You might like it!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The 2009 Haiwan Pasha Mountain Organic pu-erh

When I had first read about Haiwan, it seemed to me that it was mostly bad news.  My education has taught me that no matter how much someone praises or criticizes a certain tea, the best experience lies in tasting it yourself.

Thar be the Leaves...

This leaf was aromatic - much more than I had anticipated, given how I had preconceived notions about this tea (a big no-no on my part).  The sweetness reminded me of gummi candies, the kind with the slightly tart tasting ingredients to help balance out the sweetness.  The aroma of  sweet peas and purple coneflowers hinted that this might be very, very strong.  From my experience(and my water and brewing techniques) super-sweet smelling teas can be rather bitter.  I do not know the reason behind that, but I'm sure I'll find out one day!

8 second rinse,
5, 3, 4, 4, 5, 7, 12 

Despite the risk of bitterness, I added about 7 grams of leaf.  That is slightly more than I would usually add, but I figured I could always remove leaves if it became overwhelming.  Sure as sunrise, the first infusion was bitter, but not too bitter.  In fact, it added some interesting dimensions to the flavor:  Mid-level white wine, tropical fruits, cereal grains, and various spices.  One of the more interesting aspects was the mouthfeel, which was already quite thick.  I wasn't expecting that, but I wasn't complaining either.  The aftertaste continued on for a while with more fruity flavors - pineapple, slightly under-ripe mango.  Interesting!

The second infusion was the other more interesting cup, with an even thicker mouthfeel and grain and sweetness flirting with a Xiaguan darkness and tobacco.  As the liquor cooled, hints of smoke came through, which seems to explain the lack of bitterness in this one.  Dryness and fruit follows in the aftertaste.  

Cups three through five showed a slight increase in acidity, with basically the same flavors of smoke fading into creamy leather notes with sparks of grain and fruit zapping my tongue.  The drying, fruity aftertaste continued on.
Cup Five- the Turning Point

By cup six and seven, I reminded myself that all good things must come to their end.  The flavours faded gradually, while the acidity increased alongside the bitterness.  By the 7th cup, it was basically hot, bitter water with a rough feel.  

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this stuff.  I didn't get an insane amount of bitterness, and the roughness arrived when the tea was at it's end, which is just fine.  Due to it's complexity, I think that this tea would be a decent candidate for aging.  If you have the money (I don't) then give it a try and see what it does in your individual storage conditions.  Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 31, 2010

2008 Xiaguan Bao Yan Jin Cha

There's something about this tea that is very interesting to me.  Of all of the young sheng that I've tried, this one lacks that intense bitterness, astringency, and acidity that I often experience during my brewing sessions.
                                                                                  chop chop chop 

Viewing the dry leaf reveals a dark, leathery aroma with little to no "brightness".  Brightness for me describes the presence of sugary or floral aromas.  There is a tiny amount of mellowed smoke, not unlike the smell of a bonfire about 4 or 5 days after it has been extinguished.  

The leaves are also chopped.  When I was less experienced with pu-erh, I may have discredited this tea as being inferior due to it's chopped leaves.  Today,  I believe that a pu-erh can be good regardless of if the leaves were chopped or not.  

Five Grams, Cloud Method, 80/20 Chunk/Loose mix
5, 5, 7, 9, 12, 15, 22, 30, 30

The flavor theme of this tea was leathery, tobacco-like darkness.  The cloud method didn't work as well as I hoped it would, due to the intense compression of the four gram chunk that I had thrown into my gaiwan.  As a result, my first couple of brews were rather light coloured, rather than being a more robust yellow-orange.

The flavor in cups one through three were practically the same, with notes of dark leather and freshly cured tobacco.  The chunk had finally broken apart by the end of three, so cup four had an intensely thick mouthfeel with deep, rich leather and tobacco mixed in with a sugar plum-like sweetness and hints of mineral.  

Cups five through eight were simply a continuation of the flavors from the beginning, with the addition of a slight roughness on the tongue.  There was Qi, starting at cup seven - very calming and sleep inducing, which isn't good when you have to be somewhere for memorial day celebrations.
By cup eight, my pores were opening up.

Cup nine was the odd one out.  I had expected almost no flavor, given that cup eight was so weak.  By some miracle, however, the flavor was back.  Notes of mushroom and earth made themselves known - in fact, it was very similar to shupu. 

                                                                                       The Elusive Ninth Cup

Overall, this tea was very enjoyable, but I suspect that some special processing was carried out in order to achieve those dark, rich flavors.  I'm planning on ordering a few of these to see how they age.
Also, this is an excellent cold weather tea.  The qi is comforting and warming, and the rich flavors are quite pleasant.   

Saturday, May 29, 2010

2009 Fan Ji Early Spring Bing Dao

I tend to think that all things strive to have balance.  As our bodies change, various glands and organs work together to keep the body balanced - homeostasis, they call it.

When it comes to tea, balance is hard to measure.  It could be something that is understood only by each individual taster, given the wide ranges and intensities of flavor that we experience in each given tea.
Today's tea challenges my concept of balance.  My first round with this tea a few weeks ago revealed no aroma or flavor, so I simply put it aside.  Revisits revealed nothing as well, so for this tasting I've decided to bump the leaves up from five grams to six and a half grams.

4, 2, 4, 5, 4, 5, 5

Given the loose compression, I decided that a flash rinse would be fine.  The first four cups had an aroma- a first for me, but the bitterness became so overwhelming that I removed some leaves in both the second and third cups.

The thickness was impressive, but the bitterness was getting in the way of the leather and grain flavors that were emerging.  By the third cup, I felt very nauseous.  I let the water cool down and walked around a bit, which helped.

The fourth cup was the last one that had flavor, and all I could detect was a hint of mushroom with a powerhouse of bitterness.  The last three cups continued down the dreary road of flavorless, thin liquor with an abundance of bitterness.  I even added the leaves that I had taken out earlier in the session, but they didn't have much to give, either.

I seem to have had trouble with Mengku area teas before.  They seem to be extremely finicky brewers, as I have proven to myself in the past with this tea and other similar ones, like the Shuangjiang Mengku Wei Zui Yuan.
As previously stated, this tea challenged my concept of balance by showing no balance whatsoever.  It was either much too bitter or it had no flavor at all, even with minor changes in brewing parameters.  Perhaps a few of you will decide to grab a sample of this from Yunnan Sourcing and have better luck with it.  If you do, let me know what you did.

In the next few days, there will be more reviews, so stay tuned!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

2009 Yunnan Sourcing "Road to Yiwu" series Ding Jia Zhai

I received this as a free sample during my last order from Yunnan Sourcing. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw it, realizing that this was one of Scott's more expensive cakes.  Thanks, Scott!
                                                                       Some selected leaves from the sample.  

The website's description of this tea claims that is comes from 200-300 year old trees around Ding Jia Zhai, near Lao Man Sa.  From what I have seen in other "Old Tree" cakes, these leaves seem to be about the same in size.  I have no way of knowing the origin of these leaves other than through Scott, but we all know that we can trust him.  I'm taking his word for it.

The sample arrived mostly loose, and the only chunk that was in the bag was falling apart.  I did my best to use the cloud method - in this case, a four gram chunk of leaf and one gram of loose leaves.  The leaves were mostly large and had a gentle aroma: sweet, with a hint of leather and some kind of altered cinnamon aroma.

7, 5, 5, 7, 10, 12, 11, 20

Lighter notes of leather were the dominant theme during the first few cups.  The first cup took me by surprise with it's depth and complexity: Second flush Darjeeling like fruitiness with a smooth, thick liquor and bass notes of leather and various warm spices.

The third cup had changed direction somewhat.  The dark, leathery notes had faded away, revealing a crisp vegetal taste with acidic notes nipping at the sides of my tongue.  The mouthfeel had the same good thickness, and the aftertaste was a continuation of tropical fruits.

Cups four through eight changed quickly.  Mushrooms were the dominant flavor through these cups, but the low-note and high-note (dark and bright flavor characteristics) were different for each cup.  Cup four was brighter, with a citrus fruit high-note and a cereal grain like low note.  Somehow, there was still smoothness and thickness in the liquor despite the citrus fruits.  The ku had begun to kick in, but it was extremely short lived.

By cup five, I could feel the Qi - warming, "glowy", and relaxed.  It didn't last very long, for some reason.  From cup five through eight, the flavors faded, but still continued to change.  Flavors ranged from cereal grains and fruit to a cheap-candy sweetness.  The aftertaste at times had hints of leather, which was a nice surprise.  

Overall, this was rather good tea.  Excessive bitterness wasn't a problem, and the complex and changing flavors kept it interesting.  The qi present was short lived, but still enjoyable.  I figure that six more months of aging the sample might add a little more qi.  Despite all of the good qualities, the 44 dollar price tag is a little high for me.

These leaves were big - some of the biggest i've come across so far.  Not many leaf buds, which could explain why the sweetness wasn't too prominent.  There were also plenty of broken leaves swimming in the cha xi, but they too were from larger leaves.  

Give it a try, you might like it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The 2006 A-Gu-Zhai Wild Arbor of Bulang

After realizing my interest in shengpu was growing ever greater, I decided to grab a sample of this, along with many others.  What caught my eye here was the plain white wrapper with the handwritten characters, along with the larger leaves and the fact that it wasn't from a major label.

                                  Sketchy photography is brought to you by yours truly.

This tea comes from the town of A-Gu-Zhai in the Bulang mountains.  The description on Yunnan sourcing doesn't say if these leaves are really from wild arbor trees, but a sentence claims that "Wild arbor trees between 200-400 years old are numerous."  For the sake of honesty and all things good, I'm not even going to assume anything about that sentence.  I don't want to lead anyone astray, since I don't even know if these are plantation leaves or what.  Either way, the dry leaf looks great right from the bag - big, well defined, and aromatic.


Given the light compression, I gave these leaves a five-second rinse.  The following first infusion came out complex and rich, with notes of dark leather, grain, spice, and a pleasant "creamy" sweetness.  The mouthfeel was thick - much more so than I expected for the first infusion.  The huigan was the icing on the cake, so to speak.  It was rich, carrying the previous flavors from the cup to my throat, where they lasted for entire minutes.

Each cup changed drastically, keeping only one or two characteristics through each subsequent brew.  The only theme that lasted all the way through was the rich mushroom flavor that sat on the front of my palate before fading away to sweetness.  The leathery notes stuck around for the first three cups, accompanied by an intense thickness in the liquor and a huigan enhancing ku.

The fourth infusion was the bridge between the first and last three cups.  It was literally a mix of what was left over in the early infusions and a sign of what was to come.  A roughness appeared with a light floral aspect, but the mouthfeel was still thick - just thick enough.

Cups five through seven dug deep into the leaf, revealing some very interesting flavors.  The mouthfeel was starting to thin somewhat, but I wasn't too concerned about that.  The common theme here was herbal - something similar to cinnamon basil, maybe even the juice from young italian parsley leaves.  By the seventh cup, the flavors had faded into a menghai like mushrooms and sweetness, leaving the pleasant herbal notes behind.

As far as Qi is concerned, this tea had it.  I was feeling it by the second cup, leaving me with a sleepy, warm feeling almost all over.  I fell asleep rather promptly, which is rare for me.

If you're feeling like trying something that is a step or two above the Menghai offerings, give this a try.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

2008 Menghai Dayi "Classic"

I purchased a bing of this after reading Hobbes' blog on it.  Menghai is obviously well known - it's easy to find, and quite affordable when young.  Yunnan Sourcing describes this bing being made from "semi-aged sun-dried yunnan tea".

I've tasted this tea quite a few times in the past, and found it quite good.  Recently, this tea has taken on a rough aspect.  It is plantation tea, after all.  I found the compression to be slightly tighter than some of the other Menghai bings that I've tasted.  It wasn't too much of a problem, but it did result in more broken leaves.


The first and second infusions carried on as I remembered them - mostly notes of leather and sweetness with a pleasant amount of ku.  The brewing on the third infusion was a mistake on my part.  Given that the ku had not become overwhelming on the previous brew, I decided that an extra second would be fine.  I was wrong.  The ku was now the dominant flavor, followed by an incredibly rough mouthfeel.

Every cup after that was pretty rough.  I took fifteen minute breaks between them to try and find any huigan, the only one popping up at the third infusion - Sweet, with acidity that tended towards spice, such as nutmeg and anise.  The fifth through eighth infusions faded slowly.  The ku did as well, thankfully.  "Mushroom and sweetness - typical menghai"  I noted.

For some teas, I use Cloud's method - about 75-80% chunk to 20-25% loose.  This tends to work well with stronger teas that have a lot of ku, but not with the mellow stuff.  Previous notes on this tea told me that it was mellow in comparison to some of the younger (2009) material.  Given that information, I brewed this stuff all loose.  That was most likely my first mistake.  The water temperature was rather low as well, from about 180-190 degrees - I really wanted to avoid excessive bitterness.

Overall, it was a mediocre experience.  The roughness present greatly detracted from the tea, but there was some flavor underneath it.  The thickness of the liquor never became anything special, either.  All the leaves in the gaiwan were broken - no surprises there!  In the meantime, I will give this guy another shot and place an addendum towards the end.  Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The 2009 Menghai Silver Peacock

It’s mid-evening as I write this, and the trees are swaying to the pulse of a cold, damp wind that is following a rainy deluge.  Given the glum weather, It’s time to have some tea.
The Trusty Goldfish Gaiwan
Today’s sample is the 2009 Menghai Silver Peacock acquired from the wonderful Yunnan Sourcing.  The pleasant aroma of leather and dense air from a cold autumn night had already put a smile on my face as I begun working on loosening the leaves from the chunk.
The leaves are larger than that of the 7542, so the leaf "grade" might be slightly lower.  In many cases, the leaf grade doesn't matter too much - if it tastes good, then it tastes good.  Even very careful removal of the leaves saw broken looking leaves, so the leaves were sitting like this in the cake, fortunately.  
I’m using five grams of leaf in my trusty goldfish gaiwan.  Given the choppy looking leaves, I’m expecting some bitterness, so I sift out the fannings and dust to help keep some of it at bay. 
The rinse started out normal enough, using freshly boiling spring water straight from my kettle.  I looked at the leaves sitting in the bottom of my gaiwan, pouring the water on them for their rinse.  As I poured the rinse into my cha hai to look it over, I noticed a rather deep orange color.  I understand that Menghai uses mixed maocha from different years in this blend, but the color tells me there might have been a little pre-oxidation before the shaqing, or kill-green process, was carried out.
Because of the unusual rinse color, I decided to cut the first infusion time down to 7 seconds.  Fortunately for me, I timed it pretty well.  The bitterness in the first four infusions was mild enough so that I could detect pleasant, strong notes of leather, mushroom, and sweetness, which is pretty much the standard for Menghai.  The aftertaste changes constantly from infusion to infusion, ranging from sweet flowers to pumpkin as well as cedar wood and ripe tropical fruits. 
By the end of the fourth infusion, I felt rather sleepy.  I’ve had some teas that energize and relax me to a small degree, but never to such a degree as this one.  I actually felt slightly dizzy from the intense qi of this pu-erh.  The fifth through the eighth infusions gradually mellowed out into a gentle background sweetness with a hint of mushroom.  They also put me to sleep.
Overall, this tea was enjoyable, given the good balance of bitter and sweet flavors.  The flavors were strong, but not quite as strong as say, the 7542 or any other similar product.  The Silver Peacock could have some potential for aging, but I will just have to wait and see, won’t I?