Thursday, March 31, 2011

1970's Liu Bao

Well, this is different.
This is liu bao.  I’ve had it before, but nowhere near this old.  This small amount comes as a gift from Kenny.  Thank you!

The leaves are dark, smallish, and broken with a tiny aroma hinting at sweetness and camphor.  I try my best to note the differences between this one and a few other liu bao samples I have at hand, one of them being a newer one also from Kenny.  In comparison with other teas, I’m inexperienced with this type and fail to smell any difference in the dry leaf.
The Leaves

I used 4.4 grams of leaf in a 100 milliliter Gaiwan for this session.

The first infusion opened up strong - bitterness and a dark chocolate flavor along with a note similar to cooked pu-erh.  The mouthfeel is extremely smooth, while the body is average.  This is the first infusion, so I understand that the leaves haven’t really awakened yet.

The following two infusions showed what the tea was like when it really opened up.  The body in cup two was thicker, and the smoothness remained the same.  The sweet flavors had increased somewhat, showing themselves to be similar to caramel and toffee.  Mellow would probably be the best way to describe that.  Also, a pleasant forest-floor type dampness appeared, which was followed by the first hints of camphor.

To me, the third infusion was where the flavors, body, mouthfeel and qi of this tea peaked. The smoothness of the liquor was actually distracting from the other facets of the tea at first - think of a really fine chocolate pie from a nice restaurant.  Got it?  That’s the kind of smoothness I experienced.  The qi was dominant around my head and chest, with a warm, pulsing sort of feeling.  It was calming, but not sleep inducing like i’ve felt in various other teas.  Cup four was practically identical.
The First Cup

The fifth infusion was where the body began to thin.  A small, light sweetness and a more subtle earth/ damp forest floor flavor would fade in and out, various facets of the flavors making themselves known as I swirled the tea around in my mouth.  The mouthfeel was still smooth, and the qi just kept on coming.

The last two infusions were pretty interesting.  I figured that brewing it longer (about two minutes each) might make a decent, yet somewhat weak cup.  The first cup was actually rather flavorful, with a moderate, bright sweetness and a hint of red plum.  The following cup was very weak, with a simple brown ‘leafy flavor’ and a light soapy note.

Overall - if you can find this stuff, at least try it.  I mean to say, try it if it fits into your budget.  It’s quite fine, with a pleasant qi, smooth body, and a mellow palette of flavors.  There’s nothing quite like experience.

The 1990's(maybe) Yiwu of Songpin Hao

The last time I had visited pu-erh shop, they had two 90’s cakes that looked quite appealing.  The first cake being the Dingxing cake, and the second cake was this one, the Songpin Hao.  I know practically nothing about this cake, and no offense to Jim, but the description wasn’t too helpful.  I have a feeling that he can only go on what his vendor told him.

The leaves on this sample are small to medium sized with a mild, musty, and sweet aroma.  There aren’t too many buds, and that could mean any number of things.

I brewed this tea gongfu style using 3.6 grams of leaf in a 100 milliliter Gaiwan.  I tried to be reasonable, as I didn’t know if this tea would be strong or weak.  There was a rinse, of course. I do that with every pu-erh and any other aged tea I may be brewing.

The First infusion was dark and medicinal with a smooth mouthfeel and a clean finish in the mouth.  The body is thick and swirling, while a mild wet-store flavor mixes with dusty leather in midpalate.  And right off the bat, I’m liking it.  What else will this stuff give me?

The second cup started off differently.  That mild, wet stored flavor from the first cup was still hanging around in the second one - no surprise there.  A new combination of old cedar and raw tobacco buzzed inside my mouth, as if it were trying to change into something else.  As a reminder to me of it’s not too distant youth, a slight bitterness appeared right in the back of the throat.  I read that some think that is where the bitterness should be, and others who say differently.  All I know to write here to you is to decide what you like.

Cup three was identical to cup two.  Exactly identical.  Wow.

Cups four and five were where changes started to really occur.  The stronger wet-stored flavors had dissipated, along with the old cedar notes.  Now, there was a mild sweetness and a nice earthy flavor with just a hint of dampness.

The last two cups faded into blandness, with a rough feeling finally appearing on the seventh cup.  I have no idea if this stuff is truly old tree or not, I just know that I found it rather enjoyable.  And at 46 bucks a cake, it’s quite a deal.  Take care, readers.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Norbu’s 2010 Autumn Ban Po Lao Zhai Mao Cha

I have been eyeing Greg’s newest maocha for a while now, particularly the Pasha shan and Nannuo shan harvested last autumn.  The Ban Po Lao Zhai is from Nannuo shan, with large, full leaves that have a hint of olive in the aroma.  Even dry, the leaves look well defined, with good veins.


This tea was brewed in a 100ml gaiwan with 3.5 grams of leaf - from what I might call a standard amount.  1 gram per 30 ml, and the half gram from the remaining 10 ml, since I don’t want to measure in thirds of a gram.
rinse, 15s, 4s, 6s, 10s, 12s

The first cup was richly flavored, with pleasant notes of leather, fruit, and smoke.  There is practically no astringency in this cup, which is understandable.  I won’t claim that it’s from old tree/ ancient arbor/ the oldest tea tree in the universe...I don’t do that kind of thing, especially when I myself wasn’t even there at the picking and processing.

Cup two had woken up the leaf fully, and it was really showing off at this point.  The mouthfeel was smooth and the body was thick, with notes of leather, basil, and a light smoky note.  After a few seconds in the mouth, the liquor did develop a light astringency, but nothing close to the power of those young menghai cakes.  The aftertaste was pleasant and long lasting, with notes of mixed herbs and sweetness.
A solid yellow liquor from cup four.

Cups three and four were similar in how they had changed, with a slight bitterness that was creeping around in the throat along with sweetness, camphor, and mushroom.  This signaled to me that the tea was running out of juice, and pretty quickly, too!

 Cup five had gently faded into notes of grain and general blandness with the essences of leather and mushroom.  A nice ending, in my opinion - I’m sure most of you out there know what it’s like to try and finish off a plantation grade pu-erh with the roughness and sourness that one sometimes will find.
The spent leaves were large and looked healthy.

Overall, this is a rather enjoyable tea, with good flavors all around, a thick body and smooth mouthfeel in all the cups minus the last one.  There were no off flavors or strange feelings from the tea either.  In fact, I felt clear headed and bright after drinking it.  I think if this tea is stored well it will be quite good in ten years or so.  I’ll see you then and tell you how it is!