Saturday, 8 September 2012

The Big Day

This year is quite busy and there is a couple of milestones which happen during the year 2012, among others perhaps the most important day of my life. Wish me good luck :).

E + N

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Water, and the lesson learned

Water is an often discussed topic among the tea drinkers and every one who takes the tea drinking a bit seriously faces this issue sooner or later. I think it is important to find a good water (source) which suits for tea. 

I wanted to write about this issue for a while and some recent experiences made me to do so. In Italy I was quite lucky since I found a good bottled water named Guiza Alpe, with TDS around 100mg/L and with slightly basic pH. The water had a sweetish taste itself and suited well for most of the teas I drink, moreover the price was excellent, around 1 euro for 12 litters (6x2L). 

The situation back home was a bit more complicated. I struggled to find a good water for quite some time. The tap water is very hard and heavily chlorinated here, so I looked up what kind of bottled water are available. Most of them had higher mineral content and I was also discouraged by the relatively high prices (what is interesting since our country is rich on natural mineral waters). So I went for filtered water. I bought a simple brita pitcher with filters, what helped to reduce the lime from the tap water but the filter had to be changed every to week. The frequent filter change made me think and I figured out how to overcome this problem. First I boiled the tap water in a kettle, then let it to cool down.

During the cooling the limestone precipitates what can be filtered off using a Brita pitcher with a filter cartridge which is not active anymore, so the filtering is only mechanical not chemical, thus the cartridge doesn't have to be changed. After this step the water is still not very good for tea due to the salty taste what comes from the decomposition of chlorine. The "chlorine" used for disinfection is sodium perchlorate which decomposes to oxygen (O2) and sodium chloride (NaCl, kitchen salt). Therefore, the water after the first filtration was filtered again using a second pitcher but this time with an active cartridge. The resulting water was soft. But softness itself is not enough to get good tea.
I was developing this system of getting the right water every now and then when I came home for a couple of days but after I returned 3 weeks ago and I have had more time to test this water, I realised that something is not right with it. I was re-tasting shengs from my collection and many of them which I remember as excellent tasted strange. In general they missed the thickness and the taste was often sour, especially in the case of younger shengs, though for Japanese greens and lighter oolongs it worked relatively good.

There is one important thing about filters, namely that the result is not constant. Activated carbon need some time until the filtering power reaches its maximum. Then, after each filtration, the efficiency drops resulting in different water, and at the end, in tea with different taste. It is also not the same if the water is filtered right before it goes to the kettle or if it's left in the pitcher for a couple of hours during which the activated carbon has more time to absorb the minerals. And lets face it, going through the procedure I described in order to get the right water is ridiculous, especially if the results is not as good as it should be. So there left nothing else just buy some bottled water in the local supermarket and test them. I found one with lower mineral content (148mg/L) but the tea with this water wasn't good, it had a metallic taste plus a sour-acidic finish. So I started to add another water with higher mineral content (388mg/l, water meant for babies). At the ratio softer / hared = 1/2 the taste was surprisingly good. Another interesting thing is how the water influences the colour of the brew. I was steeping the same tea with softer and harder water and the colours were quite different (harder water results in darker brew).
1) The water used for the tea preparation is more important than I thought.
2) Soft water doesn't always gives better tea. If the water is too soft the tea becomes sour-acidic and flat, on the other hand, if the water is too hard the tea may be fuller but its character and taste is suppressed by the soapy-salty taste of minerals (that's especially true for fragrant teas). 
3) When there is scale developing in the kettle it doesn't necessarily mean that the water is bad.
4) The hardness of the water has a significant effect on the colour of the brew, therefore comparing the colours of certain teas makes sense only when the brewing parameters, including the water, are the same or similar. 
5) For shengs the mineral content around 300mg/L seems to work well. Basic pH (above 7) gives better result and also helps to buffer (or neutralise) the potential acidity of the tea.

Finally one important note. A couple of months ago MarshalN wrote on teachat that he uses harder water for darker, heavier teas. Tim wrote the same and I was surprised and also sceptical that such water can work. Now I know how right they are.

Friday, 17 August 2012

2005 Changtai - Quian Jia Feng

It’s summer, the weather is just about right, so lets take the tea corner from my room outside to the garden. Outdoor tea sessions are very pleasing for so many different reasons. We are lucky since our backyard is full of trees and neighbours with other gardens what makes it a kind of an isolated island with a high level if privacy. I also brought my laptop but the sunlight makes difficult to read the monitor so the attention is focused fully on the tea. 

Today I sampled another Changtai cake from 2005. Nearly 7g of tea goes into the pot; the dry leaves smell youngish with some nutty-woody elements but without any particular sweetness. 

After the first rinse the liquor is particularly clear. The wet leaves keep mainly the woody character but as they cool down the sweetness is more pronounced. Whereas the fragrances of the tea are not that intense (probably due to the fact that the garden is so full of other things which scent intensively in this period), the taste is definitely there. 

The tea is strong, nicely coats the throat creating a good mouthfeel. The kuwei induces salivation and turns to sweet with some delay, as a proper huigan does. Good stuff! The tea still has mainly young character but I notice the plummy taste which can be usually found in some dry stored (semi)aged shengs. The tea opens relatively slowly and the sweet-bitter characters peaks around 3-4th infusion with steeping time still around 3s. The leaves keep on giving flavor steep after steep and at the 8th infusion I am quite full so I decided to stop. The tea is left to steep overnight to season the pot. The tea has a fair amount of kuwei but I didn’t notice too much astringency, that’s very important for me.

There is a huge walnut tree in our garden

Now, let’s do the comparison with its sibling. First of all, the storage is different; while the Yi Bang has a wetter character, it seems that this one spent the last 7 years in a drier environment (though with enough humidity to provide some ageing). The Yi Bang is smooth and round with a noticeable aged character in its profile, its qi is relaxing but not particularly strong and I had no problem to fall a sleep after it. On the other hand the Qian Jia Feng still has the edges in both the taste and energy. The tea is active on the lips, induces sweating, and I finished the session with a strong urge to eat something (even though I ate just before I set to drink the tea). Its overall qi is strong. 

The conclusion is that the Yi Bang is nice tea to drink now and there is still room for further ageing, possibly in a bit drier environment which would eliminate the wet storage character.
Quian Jia Feng is also relatively nice to drink now but with less leaves. For those more sensitive tea drinkers the bitterness can be a bit disturbing. On the other hand I am fairly convinced that in proper conditions this cake can turn into something really nice. 


Ps:  The natural sunlight has a significant positive effect on the quality of the pictures.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

2005 Changtai - Yi Bang

After I defended my degree I decided to give myself a present, and what else could it be than half dozen of pueh beengs. This time I made the ordered form Red Lantern and I went for slightly older shengs, mainly form the 2005 vintage. After 3 weeks of waiting finally arrived …wait for it… the bill for the custom fee. This always rises my blood pressure since 20 % from the total price (including shipping) is not negligible. But I payed it, the package arrived and after the opening (which reminds me myself as 7 years old on Christmas eve) I did the usual fist contact ceremony: sniffing and smelling each cake a couple of times. This gives and idea about the storage. For instance I rarely buy Kunming stored puercha which is older than 2008-2007 since in that dry climate the teas age very little and makes no sense to pay the extra money. But this time the scenario was different. The 2005 cakes are dark with low and heavy fragrances, some of them with developing aged character. I picked the one which seemed to be the most aged. 

I never had tea from the Changtai brand before, but Hobbes usually writes positively about them, what can be promising. 7g of leaves goes into the zisha pot (100 ml) dedicated for those shengs which have already a bit of age. This session was done at the evening after a rather hectic day what can alter the overall impression, but nevertheless, here comes a brief review of the first trial. 
After the rinse the wet leaves show a sweet – crispy smell with a basement touch. The taste feels aged, sweet and smooth with some spiciness. The storage seems to be wetter which may be disturbing for somebody but certainly not for me. I personally prefer a bit wet than too dry. The tea also have a cooling effect on the early infusions what I usually take as a good sign. The fragrance from the aroma cup is intense on the sweet-woody side. My mother stops by and asks for a cup of tea. She also likes this sheng a lot what makes her to stay for a while to drink tea and chat with her son who happen to roam in Europe lately an such moments are becoming more and more rare.The leaves at the end of the sessions are fairly large and on the dark green - brown side. 
This sheng is a nice surprise with his full body and the developing aged character, but I miss some kuwei what would make it even more interesting. Its comfortable to drink it now and I am curious what will happen with it in the following years. Meanwhile, it goes to the drier part of the puerh cabinet.

Monday, 13 August 2012


Yep, that’s right. 

The last couple of months were pretty intense, but finally the thesis is done and the long expected period of relax and rest is here. Write down a book is not trivial. There have been so many data generated during the last three years and just to organize them can take several weeks, and once you have it the actual writing can start.
Writing is an interesting thing. The beginning was very difficult and as further I was with my thesis, as easier the writing seemed to be. Once the work is heading to the end, the situation becomes again complicated, since the structure of the work is often edited and re-organized. The day of printing is very relieving, but the day after usually brings some anger since errors and mistakes are found (but as others said, that’s how it goes). Meanwhile, I had to finish the projects, work on publications, solve the housing issues and figure out how to move all my stuff back home. 

I came back home two weeks ago and I think it is time to return to my blog. I drunk so many teas in the last months and plenty of samples are waiting to be tested. I will try to share the outcomes here.      

Sunday, 3 June 2012

How to enjoy a tea

Things are starting to calm down, and here is finally a weekend which is not about the writing of my thesis. This time I would like to share a couple of thoughts about the way I enjoy a tea. 

The first important question is when.
I used to drink tea at the evenings after the work, however it had a really bad influence on my sleep and digestion. Moreover, it is not so easy to focus on something after a hectic and tiring day. So, I switched to the mornings. I wake up earlier, have a proper breakfast then sit down with a good tea. I think this is the best time to enjoy the energies of certain teas. Some of them wakes me up after the first couple of infusions, whereas others have a calming or tranquilising effect after which I would like to crawl back to the bed :).

But in general, after a morning session I am fully awake and ready to go to work. It is much better than pumping caffeine to my brain at the evenings. 

How much
In my usual setup I use 5-6 g of tea for ca 90 ml of water. This works well for young shengs and wu yi yancha. For black teas, i use 6-7 g of leaves for 140ml of water. For old teas the ratio is higher: 5g for 50 ml.  I almost always weight the tea I am going to drink, especially if I would like compare different teas. Some people eyeball the amount of leaves, but frankly, it requires years of experience to be able to say that weight of a compressed chunk of tea, in my opinion. 

In what
Yixing pots seems to be very popular these days and I also like them, but it is so difficult to pick the right pot for a certain tea. To avoid this I go with gaivan for everything what is fragrant or "green". In this category belong green tea, young sheng (<10 years), Anxi oolong and Wu Yi yancha with lower oxidation/roasting. For things such as aged sheng/oolong, shu, black tea and stronger yancha I have zisha pots. I  almost always use pitcher which helps to cool down the tea a bit and also give a chance to observe the colour and the fragrance of the liquor.  The tea from the pitcher goes to a sniffing cup or directly to small white sipping cups.

Steeping time
There is usually a rinse at the beginning which is discarded. The first steep is a bit longer with 10s, while the following infusions are just water in - water out. At the point when the tea starts to loose its depth, the infusions are becoming longer; 10s, 20s, 30s, 45s up to the point when there is no flavor or the tea starts to be harsh. With the teas which are infused in yixing pots, the last infusions are left for longer time (overnight, overday)

How long
I like to take my time, especially with strong teas it can take 1-2 hours until I finish. It is also necessary  to give space for the aftertaste which can appear minutes after swallowing. I don't like my tea to hot and I prefer to wait until the soup cools down quite a bit, especially with the early infusions. If I drink my tea to fast my taste buds gets saturated and it becomes difficult to pick up the tastes. Moreover, a gongfu is mostly about relaxation, so no reason to hurry. 

Activities during
I must confess that in most of the cases I am browsing on the web during the sessions. I like to answer emails at the mornings or just read the news or tea blogs. If I am at home I enjoy the tea with my family so we are just simply chatting. 

Some teas can fairly mess up my stomach, usually there is no problem during the session, the signs starts to appear after. To prevent this, I found that if I drink pure water after the session I can prevent the problems. Probably it just dilutes the gastric fluid. After an hour of so, I have to eat something more solid. 

So this is the general setup, and I am aware that different people enjoy tea in different ways, so feel free to share. 
All the best

Friday, 20 April 2012

1970s Pingling aged oolong

I sampled a couple of aged shengs so I am a bit familiar with this group of teas and as more I drink it more I like it. On the other hand, the area of aged oolongs is unknown for me and for some reasons I was avoiding it. However there are a couple of reviews out there which encouraged me to include a sample of this aged oolong into my last order from EoT. 

The fragrance from the sample bag is very particular, I never experienced something like this with other teas. It is heavy spicy reminding things like mayonnaise and mustard mixing with the typical wu yi frangrance. The leaves are in good shape, relatively long and unfragmented, but fragile and delicate on touch.
I pack 5 grans into my new 60ml zisha. 

The first rinse changes the scent of the leaves quite a bit revealing a fragrance very similar to aged shengs with the creamy sweetness of oolongs. The spicy character is still there but with lower intensity. The taste is also unique but also reminds an aged sheng at some points; a mixture of woody-nutty-spicy and sweet, very interesting. It is strong but without edges.  The taste becomes prominent after the swallowing and stays for long time. After the first couple of infusions I am very excited. The taste is developing nicely and reaches the peak around the 4th steep. 

The qi is particular. I don’t know if it is uplifting or calming but it is strong and slightly euphoric. I watched a few episodes of the two and a half men during the later infusions and I was laughing on every sketch like I am high. The last infusions are simpler and I would describe it like a mixture of aged puerh with the roasted sweet taste of yancha. I have done around 4-5 very long steeps at the end which still delivered pleasant soups.
It was a very nice experience to drink this tea and I was thrilled after the firs session. As I was drinking it I remembered the “wow” moments which I had when I first time tried high grade da hong pao or aged sheng.

The next day I drunk some young sheng which was good but somehow boring this time, showing me the difference in complexity of a young and old tea. 

And the conclusion is that I have to dig more deeply into the world of aged oolongs.  

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Grandpa in the hotel

I am on a regular network meeting and workshop in Prague for the whole week, so no gong fu this week only grandpa style. The quality of the tap water is very good BTW.

Some nice yixing hongcha in the cup. Just enough to survive.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

2004 Yong Pin Hao -Xiang Ming

This is another long forgotten sample coming from one of my first purchases from Yunnan sourcing. I think I tried it only once or twice but it left mi unimpressed. However, as I mentioned in one of my previous posts the way how I look and experience a tea is changed in the last two years. I remember this tea as mild and therefore not interesting however this attitude comes from the period when I was thinking that a good puerh with ability to age, has to be necessarily bitter. But as I realised later this is just a myth created by me for myself to simplify the evaluations of some samples. 
This sample was sitting in the drawer for more than one year here in Milan. The flat where I am living can be pretty hot and humid during the summer months since its position is right under the roof. The temperature usually rises to 30-35°C for a couple of hours during the day while the humidity is ranging from 60-80%. Luckily I leave my flat at the morning and return at the evening so I don’t have to “age” in these conditions. On the other hand this environment gives a very nice boost to my shengs what is already noticeable after 1year.

After a relaxing afternoon in the park I have a taste for something semi-aged if not aged. 


8g, 90ml gaiwan, 10s rinse, 3s, 3s, 3s, 3s, 10s, 10s, 20s, 30s, 50s, 2min
As I open the small bag an aged character salutes me. My first impression is that I picked up some shu sample instead of the 2004 YPH. The first rinse seems to fix this and reveals a nice fusion of young and aged characters, the smell is sweet with lower notes: tobacco, walnuts.

I used a fair amount of leaves and the result was pleasant. The texture is thick and active in the throat and the nutty character is really nice. There is a slightly bitter finish which leaves a mild huigan (but nothing remarkable) however no sign of astringency. The durability is good with 10 infusions.
This tea changed during the last one year and the developing aged character is promising. However the liquor has a suspiciously brown-reddish colour. 

the colour is nice but unusual for an 8 year old, mainly Kunming stored sheng

The later steeps became a bit rough but nothing disturbing, it reminds me the bitter-sweet taste of that thin layer on the walnuts.
I was pleasantly surprised by this sheng but I don't know where to put the aged character. The description says that it was stored two years in a more humid environment of the Yi Wu mountains. It is true that the (loose) sample was sitting in my room during the hot and humid summer but this tea spent most of his life in the very dry climate of Kunming. I am confused.

In any case, it is better than its younger brother, the 2005 YPH stone pressed yiwu, but the price is also higher. 58USD for an 8 years old cake with promising (?) aged notes, is not that much, however I already have my eye on other cakes from the same period.

For now, I put this tea at the end of my imaginary wishlist, and since I still have around 7g, I will try it again sometime in the future.

 the setup is the same like always

Thursday, 5 April 2012

2011 YS - Feng Yun

I am pleased by the 2011 production of Yunnan sourcing and I am more and more a fan of Scott´s cakes. Especially the blends were really impressive and after the rather tasty Cha Qi and Shang chun I was pleased when Scott sent me a free sample of the last blend coming from 2011. 

The first session was not that impressive so I took my time this morning to enjoy this tea with more focus. Though the descriptions says that this is the lightest among the blends both the fragrance and taste are quite strong. The aroma is heavy and penetrating in a good way. The liquor has good thickness with a light cooling effect. there is a nice load of ku wei and astringency but it is acceptable for a such young sheng. At some points the taste reminded me the 2011 Jing gu mini cake which has a typical character reminding me the taste of crude corn and thus giving a chunky-meaty tone to the soup. The durability is very good. I did many short steps but I had to give up at the point when there was still some stamina in the tea. The only thing what I miss in this blend is the sweetness. There is some but it is nowhere near the heavy sweetness of Shang chun. 

Anyway, the 20USD is a fair price for this 400g cake. 

Sunday, 25 March 2012

2011 Yixing hongcha

The last Sunday was a bit unusual. Unlike the most of the weekends I woke up early for a sport event called stramilano. We subscribed for a 10km running with two colleagues with whom we go run 2-3 times per week. Physical activity is good! Is good for both the body and mind and I am convinced that humans are meant to do physical work at first place. No wonder that siting all days in an office or in a lab can bring health problems if it is not compensated with some sport (at least in my case). 

But this is a blog dedicated to tea, so lets focus on that.
A free sample of a red tea coming from the birth place of zisha pots, Yixing, was the one which introduced me into the world of hongcha. Since that, I have tried a couple of them and here comes the one which I am drinking recently.

I bought this package in DTH a couple of months ago. The leaves are small and curly. As I open the bag the fragrance is silent but tasty, however, as soon as it hits the hot pot the smell became strong; chocolate, cocoa and cereals, my zisha pot nicely brings out these lower notes. 

This tea requires high load of tea but the result is good. Every time I drink it I am amazed by the sweet (dark) chocolate notes which dominates on every level; it is present in the fragrance of the dry and wet leaves as well in the scent of the liquor and in its taste.
The character is smooth overall, I miss a bit the wildness which I happened to find in some Yixing red teas. There is not too much of that acidic finish which is also characteristic for these kind of teas, but since I am not a big fan of that it doesn't bother me. 

After the first steeps the body loses some thickness and the infusions can become mono dimensional (or one could call it boring) if the steeping times are not kept sufficiently long.
The qi is energetic, if I drink this tea too fast the caffeine rush can be overpowering (especially with the high amount of tea) but it's probably just me. 

My zisha pot (zini clay, 150ml) likes this tea quite a bit, it seams to enhance its smooth an creamy character. 

In overall, it is not the best tea I've drunk but is highly enjoyable once upon the time, especially for the price, and it may work well as a nice introduction into hongcha.

Ps: despite the slow beginning caused by the "traffic jam" we did the 10km in 54minutes.

Friday, 23 March 2012

2010 Douji - Ban Zhang

This is another high end Douji product and it was the last sample I tried from the 2010 production. Shengs from the the Ban Zhang area are highly demanded and this fact is reflected in its price which is growing from season to season and god knows when will it stop. However the price for the sample was reasonable at 5.70 USD for nearly 30g. There was some travelling during this week so not to much time left for tea drinking, but it is finally weekend so I can sit back and enjoy something good. 

 5.4g in a 90 ml gaiwan
10s rinse, 10s, 3s, 3s, 3s, 10s, 15s, 30s, 30s, 50s, 1:30, 3min 

The dry leaves are very pretty as you can see, big and healthy. I used the loose leaves from the sample so I can not tell to much about the compression of the cake but I guess its not too tight. The smell of the wet leaves is intense and penetrating being on the sweet-low side without any significant floral aroma (maybe a bit of dry fruits).

The first infusion at 10s gives an unusually strong soup. The kuwei is intense giving the hint that there is energy in the leaves. I kept the next infusion as short as possible and the result was really delicious. There is plenty of sweetness which nicely balance the bitter character. The aroma of the liquor has medicinal notes and the taste is broad and full bodied, on the low side similarly as the aroma of the wet leaves. (It is on the low side but not at the dark-tobacco-menghai-like-low end, just a couple of levels above). The mouth feel is dense and throat tickling. The huigan is potent keeping my breaks between the infusion long.

The colour of the liquor seems to be right for a two year old sheng. The character of the tea doesn't really change during the session, the steeps are equally tasty without loosing thickness or becoming rough. 5 and a half gram of leaves gave 11 strong infusions, what is impressive and I was enjoying this tea practically during the whole Saturday.
The wet leaves are equally chunky and attractive  as the dry ones.

For me, a good tea is mostly about the balances between the sweet and bitter mouthfeel, low and high notes, uplifting and calming qi and this tea has it right.

I tried just a couple of samples coming from the famous villages  (Ban Zhang, Gua Feng Zhai, Xi Kong...) so I cant really compare but as you probably found out I enjoyed this tea and is among the best ones I tried so far.

And the price? 80 USD for a 357g bing. Do I want it? YES! Do I buy it? unfortunately no! Taking in account the origin of the leaves the price seems to be right, however, it is simply too much for me. Unlike Hobbes who is running out of space I am still in the shelf-filling period, so I prefer to buy cheaper but decent cakes in higher quantity. Moreover, one could find a good semi-aged sheng in this price category. 

Anyways, If I do some math, the price for a session (leaves coming from the sample) is about 1euro, and it is difficult to find anything for this price what gives that much joy like this tea.  

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Too much tea?

Some of you may know the situation when too much strong tea mess up the stomach. Unfortunately, this happens to me often lately since i like to push the limits and my digestion is delicate anyways. The cure which I use in these cases is a warm meal and a good beer.

 This combination helps to reset my stomach. The food soak up the caffeine, and beer is good digestive in general promoting gastric fluid secretion and bile flow. Moreover if the qi is overwhelming it can work like a kind of an antidote :).

 Of course, too much of this "cure" can have the opposite effect.


Friday, 16 March 2012

90's Raw puerh brick

Huh, it has been quite some time since this tea arrived, maybe a year or so. There was this thing called OTTI9 which was about aged shengs from the 90s and I was lucky enough to participate. In this period I had tried only raw puerh form the last 10 years, so I was quite curious what can a nearly 20year old tea offer. The samples were provided by Nada (EoT,1997 Bulang) and Brandon who shared a wet stored example of the 8582 Menghai receipt and a dry stored sheng brick. The event was organized by the moderator of teachat, Chip.
The package arrived and after the first sniffs I was sure that this will be something special. And it was.

As it was mentioned I had no experience with aged sheng at that time so I was handling these samples quite preciously. As Jakub mentioned in one of his recent posts it is better to get to the good stuffs slowly, step by step. Since I share the same attitude I kept this sample until I will be over at least a couple of aged teas.  

It is Sunday evening, and I am searching for something good in the sample box. And look, the dry stored shengpu from the 90s.
 The whole sample, 5 grams, goes into my zisha pot which has around 100ml. This is a low tea/water ratio for an aged sheng, but since this pot does nice thing with them, I go for it.
The dry leaves from the hot pot give a sweet aged smell, with some tobacco and smoke; there is also some spice at the end. After the rinse the tea wakes up from its long sleep releasing a strong sweet fragrance, the smoky-like character remains but doesn’t disturb, on the contrary. As it cools the fragrance become creamier.
cause the last drops are the best
The first couple of infusions were light but the taste got stronger steep after steep. At the 4th infusion the liquor became orange-red, thick and sweet with mainly aged character, though there were hints of fruits from the youth. I could pick up (ripe) plum notes which mixed very nicely with the tobacco base. This tea reminded me at some points the 2002 Hai lang hao Wild arbour sheng, which is of course younger, but nevertheless. There is some bitterness when the tea reaches its peak and a bit of astringency at the later infusions.  

The overall impression is specific. I used to read that good shengs develop their own character during the ageing and I think, this could be a nice example. 

And the qi? Calming and suits nicely for a Sunday evening. The combination of the meditative tea brewing procedure and cha qi of aged shengs often helps me to look at the things from a different perspective, from more “above”.

Despite the low tea/water ratio and light initial infusions the durability of this tea was decent. I had 6 steeps at the evening, another 3 at the morning and a couple of overnight infusions.

I am grateful to Brandon as well as to the others who put this OTTI together. Sacrifice such valuable shengs just to introduce them to us, newcomers, has to mean a real passion for teas. Thanks again.   

tea 'n' skype

Sunday, 11 March 2012

2010 Douji - Jin Dou

This was among the first sample which I tried from the "Douji package" I took it out randomly and the only criteria was that it had to be a 2010 production.

It is categorised as top blend and the description tells that old arbour tree leaves were used from Ban Zhang, Yiwu, and Jing Mai. All of these areas usually provide good shengs  (though the place of origin is not necessarily a guarantee) so I am curious how they perform together.

Like usually, 5-6 g of leaves goes to the preheated gaiwan. After the first rinse the room is filled with sweet and strong shengpu smell.


The first infusion already delivers a delicious soup. The sweetness is complex and rich and after the swallowing the aroma is lingering in the back of the mouth up to the nose. The prominent cooling effect may be attributed to the old tree origin and I usually take it as a sign of good quality. The subsequent infusions were more intense with nice kuwei which turns to a sweet-orange long lasting aftertaste. 

cooling the mouth warming the soul

The liquor is thick, one could chew it. There is just enough nice bitterness turning to huigan already in the first infusion and builds up with each steep. The durability is good and the tea remains rich in the later infusions without becoming thin or rough. I did even a couple of very long steeps after the session resulting in sweet soups.

The qi starts as calming like with the most of the shengpu and stays calm during the whole session and long after it: doesn't become too energetic or overwhelming.

My impression is very good, though it may seem a bit expensive with 57USD at china cha dao, but there are not too much cakes with similar quality in this price range. Fortunately, this tea is available also as a 75g brick for 10 USD and most probably I will take 2 of them, one for ageing and the other will be tested once upon the time in order to follow how does it change.  

a family picture

Friday, 9 March 2012


I made an order of Douji samples approximately a month ago. I was running out of shengs here so I was waiting impatiently for this packages. It took some time probably due to the Chinese new year but it`s finally here.
Based what I have read the Douji products are quite decent and popular among the bloggers (Hobbes reviews are mostly very positive). These 13 samples from 2010 and 2011 should gave me an idea about the recent production of this brand. 
I already tried a couple of them and it looks quite promising. 

Sunday, 4 March 2012

2011 YS - Cha Qi

After the positive impression of the 2011 Shang chun I decided to try the other blends from the YS production. Cha Qi is a blend of maocha coming from the Bulang mountains. Shengs from this region are known for strong bitterness, but as Scott mentions in the description, in this case, the resulting blend is less bitter then the starting materials.      
The session was done at the morning before going to work and there were no pictures taken, so I dare to use some from the YS site

To make this review short, this tea is delicious being thick, with strong mouth-coating effect and good durability. The bitterness was well balanced giving enough space for the sweetness. The qi is powerful and its energy lasted until the lunch. 


Probably the bitter character of each maocha of this blend had opposite charge and once they met the annihilation exploded into a unique matter having the best characteristics of each starting component.

This is another nice example which proves that blending is a beautiful art. I have done only one session and as experimental scientist says "one result is no result" or "an experiment is valid only if it is reproducible" I will need to re-try it soon and possibly update this post. But so far 1 or 2 cakes  are already on my whislist. 

Ps: I recommend to drink young strong teas at the early morning before going to work, it gives a nice boost which may last until the afternoon.