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.

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