I came to a very silly realization last night while lying in bed, thinking on how a lot of my tea gear is imperfect, and how that endears them to me, gives them personality, it makes them beautiful. I started this very early in life, mostly because of shopping at thrift stores and yard sales (long time bargain hunter) those imperfections usually meant history and life, and I get to carry on its legacy. The only time I find myself unhappy is when I buy something and it is different from the description, like the beautiful Zisha teapot that turned out to be painted black (why?) and is taking some thoroughly cleaning and boiling before I even consider using it for anything other than a vase, it is safe to say that ebay seller got negative feedback. My larger point is, I realized I have been a follower of the art of Wabi-Sabi most my life, and that it has taken me this long to realize it is a bit silly!
Today’s tea might win the award for the most applicable for my blog, at least with the name, TanLong Premium Tea Collection’s The Home for Butterflies-LanCang River Basin- XiGui ManLu Mountain Ancient Tea Tree 2013 just fits, because butterflies! The LanCang River Basin is a resting place for butterflies, the story reminded me of a place I visited in Georgia where there were hundreds of Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies drifting through the air and resting on the river bank (it was actually a creek, but shh) it was magical. This Puerh is made from old tree’s leaves, 100+ years old, these trees grow in the shade of mango trees on Man Lu Mountain. It is of the large leaf variety, and you can certainly tell because the leaves are rather large and twisty, with a hint of silver down. They have a very sharp aroma, mixing camphor and a lite sour straw and wet greenwood. On top of that is a strong smell of fresh spinach and wet hay, this is a very pungent pu! Pungent in a strong way, and intense way, not in a smells gross way. This is one of those Shengs that you can smell the Cha Qi, it is strong and invigorating, which is pretty impressive.
Giving the tea a rinse and short first steep, I am pleased I got the leaves in the pot, the one problem with drinking large leaf teas with a tiny shui ping! The aroma of the now wet but not fully uncurled leaves is pretty intense, a good kick in the face of camphor with a touch of cedar, along side that intense cleansing aroma is very sweet broken hay and honey, toss in a bit of green wood and spinach and a delicate finish of walnut shells and you have the aroma of the soggy leaves. The liquid’s aroma is honey sweet, with notes of sun-warmed fresh hay (if you have ever spent time on a farm, you know that smell) a very light camphorous note, and a finish of delicate fresh cherry.
The first steep with its golden hay coloring can be best described as subtly beautiful. It is mild and delicate, with notes of fresh sweet cherries, distant flowers brought in on a breeze, a bit of freshly broken vegetation, honey and hay. At the finish there is a tiny hint of smoke, just a whiff at the back of the tongue, the aftertaste is a delicate lingering camphor note and honey.
The second steep’s aroma is similar to the first, a blend of honey sweet warm hay and a touch of cherry, this time the camphor note is stronger and there is a note of fresh spinach at the finish. The taste is also very similar, but the delicate notes have more of a punch this time. The green vegetation notes are replaced with a mouthful of fresh spinach and the camphor is more present, causing a salivary explosion. There is a tiny bit of bitterness, but it is mild and quickly replaced with honey sweetness. This tea has a wonderful Qi, very invigorating!
Third steeping, the aroma is more camphor and more spinach, taking the sweet notes and giving it a touch more savory. It cools the nose and throat as I sniff it, some powerful camphor notes! The taste is very refreshing and cooling, like drinking a hot cup of tea with the feeling of drinking spring water, camphorous Yunnans are confusing at times. Like the previous steep there is a touch of bitterness that faded very quickly to sweet honey, the spinach note dominates the midsip along with a strong note of crushed vegetation. The finish is one of camphor and honey, both linger for quite a while.
As is my tradition, I continued with the steeping past the third steep, the fourth was deliciously sweet, almost no bitterness. By the sixth steep the camphor had calmed down a good deal, and the tea had mellowed out to just sweetness by the eighth. This is a tea I want, not just because of butterflies, but because I enjoyed the taste. It seems the more I drink Sheng, the more I prefer it over Shou, which is such a contrast to a year ago where I only kinda liked Sheng and preferred the earthiness of Shou.