Sunday, 29 January 2012

Long infusions and Yixing pots

One of the nice things about gong fu are the last long infusions. When the steeping times are over 5 minutes I pour cool water on the leaves and leave it for overnight (or over day), for the next steep hot water is used and left again for 8-12 hours. With some teas you can repeat this procedures a couple of times and thus the leaves stays in the vessel often for several days. It is also a good way to season a zisha pot. 

On the left my pot dedicated for aged sheng with the 1992 Da Ye loos leaf  (EoT) which was brewed several times over 3 days. On the right my hongcha pot with some Yixing hongcha (Dragon tea house) after the last overnight brew.


Thursday, 26 January 2012

2011 Black tea of Dehong (Yunnan hongcha)

Chinesse hongcha (red/black  tea) is a type of tea which is often overlooked. However, the relatively low prize and long shelf life makes it a good candidate for experimenting. In the past year I tried several one with different origins and there were a few really nice supprises. Here comes one of my favorites.

This tea comes from Dehong (Yunnan province) and wild growing purple leaf tea varietal was used to make this tea. Wild growing sounds always attractive for me.

6g/150ml zisha pot (zini clay), boiling water
no rinse, 25s, 20s, 40s, 1min, 2min, 5min, long
The dry leaves have an intense and complex fragrance with hints of grape, elderberry and with the typical sugar cane sweetness. In the wet leaves the grape smell is prominent, more precisely the pressed grape residue from the vine production (I used to help to my father during the grape harvest and vine preparation and therefore this unusual comparison, nice memories though) 

The liquor is thick, sweet and fruity, robust but not bitter or astringent, just like a good tea should be. Scott mentions hints of eucalyptus and I think I can pick up some (maybe :)). The sweetness in the aroma cup is on the low side, with some woodiness. The mouthfeel is fragrant and long lasting, the qi is warming. 

This hongcha is in the complex, fresh – fruity category rather than in the low chocolate-malty one. I like good teas from both of these groups and it depends only on my mood which one I pick up to drink. The price at yunnan sourcing is 11 USD for 100g what is, in my opinion, a very good deal. I am at the end of the bag but most probably I will include another one in my next order. I hope it will be still available. 

Thursday, 19 January 2012

2011 Yunnan Sourcing - Shang Chun

I think there is no need to introduce Scott from Yunnan Sourcing. For many of us, puerh drinkers, his China based tea shop provides a wide selection of young and semi aged puerhs of all kind of origin, including well known factories as well as small companies. I suppose he tries most of the teas he sells and thus the level of his experience has to be very decent. Good examples of this are the cakes from the YS brand. Those which I tried had single mountain origin, and I liked most of them. However, blending is a different story. I newer tried to mix up a blend of young shengs, but based on those few things I have read, blending is a very sophisticated kind of art. There are no equations which would help you to select the right quality and quantity of mao cha to get the desired result. I guess, all you can do is to use the trial and error method, but also here, the intuition which originates from experience is necessary to know where to start and which way to go after each attempt.

Scott often provides free samples with my purchases if the shipping weight allows it. (However, every time I buy something via internet I try to get the maximum from the shipping fee so there is often no space for more tea). This sample was also added to my order as gratis, probably to advertise the YS brand and also get the sympathy of the customer. Whatever is the reason a free sample is always very welcomed :). I had a couple of sessions with this tea, and here I am describing the overall impression.

5g/90ml gaiwan, 10s rinse, 10s, 3s, 10s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 1 min, 3min

This tea is a blend of maocha coming from ancient and wild arbours. Both the dry and wet leaves are fragrant, besides the thick, sweet aroma also a significant floral fragrance hits my nose, it reminds me some hongcha I have drunk lately. The liquor is full, chunky and the mentioned floralness continues during the most of the infusions also in the tea. Particularly interesting is the smell coming from the aroma cup. Most of the teas share the very similar low, sugar (or candy) like sweetness what is fine for me. In this case the sweetness wasn't that low, I would call it medium (but intense), and the floral character nicely appeared also there. The tea has its energy, it is active on the lips, and the initially calm-alert feeling turns during the later infusion to an energetic one; I felt it on my chest giving a bit euphoric “lets go run” feeling. There was a mild bitterness in the initial infusions and the aftertaste coming from it lasted until the end.

This tea is on the bright side, being fresh but thick. For me it is a tasty young sheng ready to drink it now. On the other hand the infusibility could be better and I would expect more “cruelty” for such a young sheng, what would give more hope for the further ageing. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the sample which, by the way, has gone rapidly and it was enough to convince me to by a full cake. Like always it will be nice to revisit this tea to see how is it doing.

PS: It would be interesting and fairly challenging to know which teas were used to prepare this sheng, try them and see whether I could recognise some of them in the blend. 

Monday, 16 January 2012

2008 - Menghai - Peacock of Menghai

It is Sunday, half past midday and I just woke up. As you can guess there was a party last night, some of my colleagues and good friends were celebrating their PhD defences. As I saw these guys so relaxed and happy yesterday, I felt good for them but in the mean time, of course, I felt a bit of envy :). I have a mild hangover but there is easy cure for this – young sheng. 

This cake is another safe bet, it was described by several bloggers (half-dipper, the_skua steeps, tea gobber) and if I remember correctly, always with positive conclusions. I bought it in dragon tea house. Among the shops I know it was the only place I found it available. The price was 43 USD (shipping included) and there was some hesitation at the beginning since his brother – Peacock of Mengsong – is approximately for half of this price at YS. At the end I pulled the trigger anyway (maybe I should work more on my self control). 

5.5g/90ml gaiwan. 10s rinse, 10s, 3s, 3s, 3s, 3s, 10s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 1:30, 3min.

The dry leaves have sweet smell with some fruits like orange. After the first rinse a heavy penetrating aroma is released: deep, sweet, dark and also fruity, definitely promising. As you can read above, the steeping times were short at the beginning; I was going with the in – out water method until the 5th infusion and the result was pleasant. Every time a tea has a bitterness level above the average I do short infusions to cut it back and see if the tea still has some depth, and this one certainly has.

The sweet, fruity and bitter elements are still a bit far from each other, however, they should get closer by time and give a hand to each other to make rounder the final effect. I use to associate teas with colours, it comes spontaneously. This tea evolves dark colours in me (not sadness), though it is still young. I thing a dark chocolate with pieces of dried oranges could be a good similitude. 

It is an honestly good tea, being strong and having enough fuel. It is tasty now and I am optimistic about its future as well. If the mentioned 2008 peacock of Mengsong has similar potency I think I will go for it.

PS: the hangover is gone :)

Sunday, 15 January 2012

2007 Hai Lang Hao - Bulang

There are cakes which are generally considered as a good value among the tea drinkers. Reading the blogs this young sheng from YS seemed to be a safe bet so I ordered a cake. My first session was in a row with other shengs and the second was in a kind of hurry. Its time to sit down and relax with this tea, a Friday evening should be just fine for this.
6.3g/90ml gaiwan, 10s rinse, 3s, 3s, 3s, 10s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 1min, 3min

Both the dry and wet leaves have a delicious aroma, sweet-nutty, with a lot of depth. From the previous sessions with this tea I remembered some bitterness (no wonder, it’s from Bulang) so I took it easy with infusion times. The result was great; mainly lower notes, lot of long lasting sweetness both in the aroma cup and liquor. 


The initially dry mouth feel turned quickly to salivation. Besides the deep, chunky character the aftertaste of this tea impressed me the most. It appeared in the early infusions and stayed clearly there during the whole session and also for a while after it, I drunk it slowly just to enjoy the huigan. 

I skipped the sampling part with this tea. The price was  40.50 USD what is ok for 5 year old sheng of this quality. I finished around 11pm with an alert qi but after an easy dinner I fall asleep, no caffeine buzz. Overall a very tasty tea from Bulang, with enough taste and energy.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

2011 Da Ping Mao Xie

I wrote that I don’t drink oolongs very often but once upon the time is good to try out something new. I made an order half a year ago from jing tea shop and there are still some small packages in the fridge. These small 25g samples are suitable for me as they last for 5-6 session and the chance that the tea goes stale is low. Is Saturday afternoon and the winter sun is gently warming the room, perfect for a session, so lets open something.
An xi oolong Mao xie, 5.5g in a 90ml gaiwan, boiling water.
No rinse, 40sec, 30sec, 45sec, 1min, 1:30, 5min, long

The dry leaves in the hot gaiwan give sweet aroma with dry fruits, its round, not to flowery. The wet leaves releases rich sweet fragrance very similar to the dry ones but more intense. The liquor is initially thin but later it is getting fuller, this tea seems to be better when it cools down a bit. In the initial infusion peach and citrus fruits are present later the grassy-nutty flavour dominates. The sweet base is constantly there. 

This oolong has an interesting cooling effect. I noticed it in the second infusion as I smelled the warm lid of the gaiwan and the initially sweet fragrance turned to cooling mint in the throat. During the following steps this cooling aftertaste (aftersmell?) was present also in the liquor and aroma cup. After four infusions a mild caffeine rush came and I also got hungry, so a break was taken and I continued after with longer infusion giving a bit thinner result but it was still enjoyable. The leaves are big and whole. 

It was a nice session; this tea is complex having some interesting features. My problem with anxi oolongs is that they often release a thick sweet fragrance but the liquor is not that full as you would expect. This tea doesn’t belong that much into this category. Not satisfying as a good sheng but I am looking forward to try it again in the near future.


1999 Fuhai Yiwu Yesheng

This sheng pu comes from essence of tea a well known England based tea shop. I tried most of their young shengs and a couple of aged one as well. I think most of them are reasonably priced. Unfortunately I am limited by my budged but this one was still affordable. Let’s see what does it shows.
5g/ 100ml zisha
10sec rinse, 10s, 10s, 20s, 35s, 1min, 2min, 10min, overnight

The dry leaves have a sweet-nutty fragrance, the aged character is there. After the first rinse an old but clean(!) basement scent is released, pleasant overall. The liquor still has something from its youth but I would categorize it as an aged one in its early years. The aroma cup gives a thick sweetness with some woody elements, the taste is good but not that impressive. Its stays on the simple sweet tobacco-woody side 


The colour of the liquor is rather bright for a 12 old sheng. I was going relatively light in terms of brewing parameters so therefore no bitterness was observed, however the astringency was a bit disturbing for me. Though I am not experienced enough I thing the described simple character and lack of depth may be attributed to the plantation origin of part of the leaves used for this cake, nevertheless the wet leaves looks yummy. 

Anyways, it was a good session, especially from the tea education point of view. It’s an average tasting, semi aged, dry stored sheng, but I think there are better values out there (also in EoT) for the price.  
update 5.4.2012

I tried this tea with cca 9 g of leaves and the result was better, however the mouth drying astringent character prevent me to like it. I was drinking it through 2 days and I have done many infusions and it is clear that the tea has the energy. The aged character is nice but I just can not to enjoy it yet. I guess within a decade after the edges fade it can become a very nice aged sheng.  

Friday, 13 January 2012

looking back and forward

My journey into the world of tea started ca 2 years ago. As most of the people also I started with green tea, first Japanese than Chinese. Later I discovered the wide variety of oolongs, teas like tieguain and da hong pao made some nice wow moments. Puerh tea was ignored for a while until I ordered a cheap lao thong zhi from 2005 with some other teas. After a month I found myself to drink it more often than any other tea though looking back, it’s a “nothing special” sheng. I started to read about the puerh on the net, found some commonly trusted vendors and ordered samples. After a couple of months of sampling I started to buy full cakes and puerh became my number one tea.
Few months ago I received some yixing hongcha samples with one of my orders and after the first session I asked myself that how comes that I never tried this kind of tea? Generally the hongcha is relatively cheap in comparison with other teas (especially yancha) so maybe it was the tea snob in me who was assuming that it can not be that pleasant like the more expensive types of tea. I couldn’t be more wrong. A good hongcha is sweet, robust and often complex.
To make the long story short I drink mostly sheng pu, (both young and aged) and Chinese black tea. Besides the reasons I just mentioned, the fact that these teas have no shelf life makes them very attractive for me. I just don’t like the situation when a bag of green tea is opened and I have to drink it within 1-2 month otherwise it will go stale. BUT it doesn’t mean that I don’t drink green or oolong tea once upon the time. If you drink too much of puerh, you can get bored of it even if you try to be variable (different age, origin, factory…) and then a good long jing or ali shan can be a pretty nice refreshment.
As a PhD student I live alone here in Milano so the most of the evenings are about tea drinking and blog writing about it could be a nice addition. 


Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Let's start

I think it is time to share my thoughts about my passion. There are some good bloggers out there writing about tea and tea related topics, many of them are the inspiration to start this.
Another reason is to have a tea diary, and I think this is an easy way to have everything organised, with notes and pictures. Will see how this turns out.