Life In Teacup
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Recent Tasting Notes
I am a meat lover. I love meat to such a degree that I already feel guilty about it and set aside two days a week as vegetarian days… But today is my carnivore day. I am not an active drinker of puerh. But I have to say it feels so good having puerh after a lamb chop dinner! No wonder puerh used to be exclusively enjoyed by nomad people.
When I broke off leaves from the tea cake, I got greedy and took too much. Forgetting that I would use my new 120ml teapot, I took enough leaves (maybe 5-6g) for my normal 150ml teapot. Then I used very short infusions, shorter than 15 sec. so that there was no waiting time before pouring in water and draining the teapot. My hubby, who only likes highly sweetened fake coffee and barely drinks tea, sometimes can enjoy sheng puerh, including this tea with great aftertaste. But this time, he was entirely freaked out by the tea I made. “Bitter and astringent!” he said. I am not good at dealing with bitterness or astringency. But oddly, now I am totally cherishing the bitter taste, which hit the tongue hard but is soon converted to a sweet aftertaste. Very strong tea though! I guess if I keep drinking this tea, the meat in my stomach will be digested sooner and I will need some dessert before going to bed!
Is it because I am so in love with this tea that I would even take its bitterness? I can take it at normal level and I can take it strong. Maybe next time, I will wrap its leaf debris in a teabag and try low concentration and long infusions.
As a tea seller, whether or not the business is successful, I’ve got to count my blessings for all the tea I’ve tasted in name of business. :-D
I didn’t set out to look for this tea but it was an accidental encounter. Then I took all this tea from the supplier who showed it to me. Hui Yuan Yan Cha Tea Factory is a highly reputable factory in Wuyi Region. It’s named after Hui Yuan Cliff, where it’s located and all its tea leaves are from. I didn’t have much experience about their tea, but heard of this factory for so many times. So it was absolutely an exciting moment when I saw this tea.
It is a high fire roasted Da Hong Pao, made in 2008. The dry leaves don’t look as pretty as some medium fire Yan Cha, since roasting will always crush some tea leaves. The leaves don’t smell of much fire, due to the one year of rest.
I filled a 50ml small gaiwan with probably 4-5g leaves. As usual, I gave the tea a super short warm-up infusion, and as usually, I drank the warm-up infusion (while it’s often called “wash water” by people and most people won’t drink it). It already bore strong flavor. So the next, I made the first a few infusions roughly 10 sec. each.
The liquor is in a bright red color and the color is quite consistent in the first 7-8 infusions. What’s great about a rested, high-fire Yan Cha like this one is, it hits your throat strong without letting your mouth feel the fire. The liquor has slightly thick texture and leaves a sweet aftertaste in my mouth from the first infusion. The flavor feels heavy on the back part of the tongue and the throat, but it gives a lighter note at the end. In Wuyi, people describe good Yan Cha as having “the character of a rock and the fragrance of flower”. It’s an amazingly proper description!
I am extremely happy with this tea. That being said, I don’t drink tea of this level every day. This is a relative expensive tea in our store. Most of the days I am happy with inexpensive teas. To me, part of the fun is tasting teas of different levels and comparing them back and forth.
Hmm. This tea smelled intriguingly nutty, but it tasted very weak. When I tried steeping it longer, it got distressingly bitter without getting any more flavorful. Probably I made it too weak — I’m still figuring out the best way to judge proportions. I will definitely try it again, because a tea which tasted the way this smelled would be fantastic.
(Backlogged from Saturday.)
My order from Life in Teacup just got here yesterday and overwhelmed me with the shiny foil-wrapped temptations waiting within! I feel like a really need to find some time to sit down and thoroughly taste everything. Today I don’t have that time, but I do have a whole fresh pile of this lovely tea which I already know I love. Mmm, smoky and delicious.
You know, I’m starting to wonder if I didn’t do something wrong in storing this — I put it in a tin, but it’s a biggish tin for a small sample. This pot, like the previous one, is just not as flowery as the very first one. I mean, on any other tea I’d be calling this flowery, but here? Only barely.
Well, I’ve already ordered a bit more. I’ll have to see if I can treat the next batch better!
A tea shouldn’t be judged by its name, price, or outfit. That being said, I just can’t help being a visual tea drinker!
People say Guan Zi Zai puerh is often over-priced for its pretty wrap. Probably that’s true. But I just can’t help loving the pretty wraps of Guan Zi Zai. This is a relative plain design for Guan Zi Zai. But I love it as always! As for tea quality, I am not experienced enough to judge. But my heart often leans toward successful, small factories like Guan Zi Zai. Puerh market can’t be without the good old Xia Guan and Da Yi. But as in all other tea genres, the perpetual vitality is from small factories.
When it comes to tea leaves, again the visual sense kicks in. Many people said it, and I agree, that in puerh, pretty leaves are not that important. But probably because I grew up as a green tea drinker, I just can’t stop being judgmental on outlook of tea leaves.
This is not my favorite puerh, but I have to say, I started to admire it the first moment it was unwrapped. Look at those big leaves! It is generously made with nice big leaves from old tea tree, inside and out consistent (although it’s a common practice nowadays that better leaves are spread on the surface of a tea cake to make it look better).
The tea cake is quite easy to break. And I did it very carefully so that most leaves are uncrushed. Love the big leaves!
Ok! Puerh is not about pretty leaves. But I just can’t help admiring these beautiful, long leaves.
The taste is almost like some green tea with rich flavor, which may or may not be appreciated by people depending on what they are looking for. I like it very much, but suspect some seasoned puerh drinkers will think it’s not strong or aggressive enough. The flavor is very mellow, no astringency or bitterness (with 15-20 sec. for initial infusions). But again, some of my friends would say, “A tea (especially puerh) is not worth it if it’s neither bitter nor astringent!” It all depends on what you are looking for. The tea tastes rich, dark, vegetal, with immediate prominent sweet aftertaste.
Overall I think it’s a great beginners’ tea for people who want to try puerh but don’t want to handle the astringency or bitterness. It may also be appreciated by people who have a heavier taste on green tea. Besides, for a 5-year-old sheng, it’s one of the most drinkable. On the other hand, it may not have the “kick” demanded by seasoned puerh drinkers who are after a strong taste that hits you all the way into the throat. After all, puerh, by origin and basic characters, is a tea of nomads and warriors. This one, in my eyes, is more of a tea of literati.
Pasted from my blog. And there are additional pictures.
I tried this with short steeps, but the resulting tea was barely there (despite turning a beautiful deep golden color almost immediately). So I steeped the third time for two minutes, and what a change! This tea isn’t sweet, per se, but there’s a hint of burnt sugar around the edges; there’s still not a lot up front, but the back of it hits almost immediately with a savory grilled flavor that just keeps going.
This is the third sample I got with the earliest green tea of 2010. And this is the end of the sample. It seemed appropriate to have it today because I’m in that oolong frame of mind (and now I’m going to have Billy Joel in my head for the rest of the day, unfortunately).
I have to admit to a bone-headed mistake the first time I tasted this. I was working at home and in a rush to get a cup ready before my next phone call, so I misread the package; I had it in my head that this was a green tea for some reason and I completely screwed up the steeping. Now I find that I don’t have enough tea left to steep a full cup. Under these circumstances, I don’t feel comfortable doing a rate-by-numbers on this one.
I will say, however, that having just come off of tasting another oolong that was essentially “meh”, this has a lot going on. Even with less than perfect brewing conditions both times I steeped this, its delicious, roasty flavor came through. There’s a white wine-like fruitiness in addition to the toasty flavor. And I want to say there’s something that’s an almost coffee-like note as well. That might be a hint of the smokiness Cait mentioned (but since I had Samovar’s Russian Blend earlier today my smoky radar may be a bit jammed right now for anything subtle).
I’d like to try this again, as I expect there’s a lot more to discover here.
Interesting! I made this in my larger pot this morning because I wanted to take a full-sized mug and go, and I don’t know if it’s that I got the proportions different or that the bigger pot is making the water temperature change or what, but this is a much less flowery tea this time! It still tastes of orchids and sugar, but they’re much farther back and the tea taste is much thicker now.
Xia Guan Tuo, is the legend of “people’s” puerh. By people’s, I mean, it is one of the least expensive yet excellent puerh. (I should also mention many people don’t believe Tuo Cha should be put in Puerh category, although most people do call Tuo Cha puerh. Nomenclature of tea is a jungle, so let’s not get there!)
I am very glad to have obtained this 2004 Xia Guan Tuo, because in my eyes, new Xia Guan Tuo is simply undrinkable. It’s one of the excellent teas, but it’s undrinkable when it’s new. At least I can’t bear with the smokiness, astringency and possible bitterness in its new tea. Then, time changes it. A 5-year-old Xia Guan Tuo is still relatively in expensive, but now it is very enjoyable and still very strong.
The dry tea has a nice smoky aroma. It smells almost a little like Lapsang Souchong, smoky and plumy. The tea block is much easier to break than new Tuo, (many people say, new Xia Guan Tuo is such a hard rock and can serve as a weapon!) I used a 130ml teapot, and dry tea leaves about the same size as one and half Triscuit. The first infusions were about 15sec each. The tea is very strong. It is lightly smoky, in a pleasant way. There is very prominent prune aroma. After several years of storage, the smokiness, astringency and bitterness of this tea have mostly faded. There are still hints of astringency and bitterness. I enjoy them at this level. They hit the tongue but don’t stick to the tongue. Very often, astringency and bitterness are what cause the sweet aftertaste several seconds later. Besides sweetness, the aftertaste of this tea also contains some fruity aroma. To me, the sip of tea provides the source of energy that hits your throat solidly. And the aftertaste is the fun part of this tea to enjoy.
A dozen infusions down the road, the tea becomes much weaker, but still stronger than initial infusions of many other teas.
I always believe tea is a luxury of time, but not necessarily a luxury of money. Puerh, especially Xia Guan Tuo, is an excellent demonstration. Five new Xia Guan Tuos of 5×100g are less than $5 in Chinese market. Since puerh tea is deadly heavy, shipping from China costs more than the tea. But still, it’s possible to get them with less than $30. If you keep them for some years, these inexpensive Tuos will become miracles! Current price of 1980s Xia Guan Tuo is many times of 2009 Xia Guan Tuo price, because Xia Guan Tuo is one of the teas with best potential of quality improvement over years. However, how many people are willing to, and able to keep some Xia Guan Tuo for 20 years? There are barely any difficult technical details involved. The most challenging part is the 20 years of time. The very fact of keeping some tea for 20 years in your primary living unit (hot attic and wet basement won’t work) means it has to be one of the priorities in your life.
Should I, and can I stock up some of this tea and keep it for another 5 years or 15 years? I don’t know. But I am very much tempted.
This was one of the other samples I got with the earliest green tea. I’d wanted to try a version of this ever since I read about it, as I found the descriptions in books of how it smells and tastes fascinating.
I’m hesitant to rate it yet because I have some other Lapsang samples and this is my first experience of one. But it’s pretty awesome stuff.
The dry leaves give off a whiff of charcoal when the package opens. They’re very, very dark — a dark chocolate color, almost black. The liquor is a deep, brandy-like color that makes you want to put on a smoking jacket and light up a cigar.
The aroma is deep and woody and rich. It’s like cooking on a campfire: smoky, piney, almost bacony. The taste is very much like the aroma. There is a smoky, spicy sweetness to it that makes you want to wrap yourself in a blanket in front of a fireplace in a ski lodge somewhere, staring into the flames and becoming hypnotized by them while you sip on this.
I think I’m joining the smoky fan club.
I tried a shorter steep this time, and the tea was a bit different — it tasted strongly and smelled even more strongly of raisins! I’d heard people describe tea as tasting of raisins before and always wondered what that would be like, since I’d never found it before. Well, here it is, and unfortunately it’s reminded me that I don’t like raisins. Alas!