12 April 2013

April 2013 Southeast Tea Affair

Now finally back in the swing of my addiction habit hobby, I decided to risk a caffeine binge and hosted a meeting of our local Southeast tea group.

Unfortunately, a Facebook event snafu created a duplicate posting that made one member get the day wrong. So, there were only three of us.

We drank an unreroasted 1980s baozhong that reminded me why I don't seek out aged baozhong. I have drunk a few good ones, but the other two dozen or so have been like this one, rather bland and single character. Still, with no off flavors and good storage, it could have been worse.

April 2013 SETA - brewed 90s liubao

We moved onto a more recent dong ding from Houde, that bryandrinkstea bought the last of, and we could see why. It was punchy, delicious, and didn't want to quit. Beautiful strong leaves with great structure.

We had a 1999 Dayi brand tuo sample given to me by a tea friend who travels regularly to Xishuangbanna. It was dry stored—authentic dry stored, not American dry stored—and quite well on its way. I was sad I waited so many years to finally try the sample.

Then we dug into some liubao, a 1990s liubao I bought in Guangzhou's fangcun market in 2006. The shopkeeper had it in a large tin that said "aged pu'er" on it; one of the older vendor tricks still alive and well! The tea still bit back, but it's definitely mellower than when I first bought it.

We ended with an early 1990s 7542, also authentic dry storage, that still needs a lot of time.

All in all, very good session.

If you're in the Southeast US and would like to join us sometime, leave a comment with your email address and I'll add you to our Facebook group!

April 2013 SETA - happy bunny

30 March 2013

7581 from Su

7581 from Su - dry leaf

This was a Chinese New Year gift from our favorite munificent Malaysian, Su. It's a 7581, a brick whose recipe is normally shu pu'er of a lighter fermentation, but this incarnation is sheng. In the picture above, you can clearly see all sheng leaves in the brick: the leaves are greenish-purple, but more importantly, each sits individually with well defined edges. Shu pu'er tends to have reddish brown leaves with more golden colored tips, and in shu pu'er the edge where one leaf ends and another begins is blurred. 

I don't recall what year it's supposed to be from or how it was stored or with whom it was stored for most of its life, but at first waft of the rinsed leaves, a few things become apparent: this tea had dry storage, almost too dry for my tastes, and the leaves are probably not from Xishuangbanna. The fragrance smells very strongly of hay, not at all floral, and more savory than sweet. The first taste has me guessing the leaves come largely from Dehong, and perhaps the purple on the dry leaf indicates a local, nonstandard daye varietal. Flavor-wise, it shares features with Pingxiwangfu brick Su sent me previously, but with more unpleasant bitterness.

The leaves quickly shed their dark colors and turn brighter shades of olive green during brewing, and this, along with the orange brew, makes me think it's been rather dry stored.

It hits me in the stomach, and I wish I'd eaten something before drinking it. 

It offers little aftertaste, which is mostly metallic and herbal. The liquor feels very soft, but  this could be my water. The brew tastes best when piping hot and in later infusions, when it becomes a little sweeter.

This 7581 is something I'd want to put away for another 10 years before revisiting!
7581 from Su - brewed leaf

18 December 2012

Quitting caffeine

Today is roughly three and a half weeks since I last had coffee or tea. After a brief hospital visit, I decided to quit caffeine for a while.

The hospital visit wasn't caffeine-related, and during my post-hospital five-day recovery I drank some coffee. But once I started feeling physically better, my head was still cloudy, and I was tired all day long. Yawn-a-minute tired, sleep-under-my-desk-on-breaks tired. No amount of coffee or tea helped. I brewed my tea stronger and stronger, then tried a shot of espresso in a brewed coffee, then tried two shots of espresso in a large brewed coffee—and nothing, no effect, still yawning and foggy.

I couldn't determine the problem. I had rested, and I felt better otherwise. No symptoms of any other sickness. I kept hydrated, I ate healthy. I ran down the list of potential issues until I settled on a likely culprit: caffeine dependency. So I quit.

Quitting gave me a 24/7 headache for three consecutive days, a horrible headache that moved behind, pierced, and throbbed my eyes, teeth and sinus cavity. But I didn't get better, my fatigue became worse and my head more densely clouded.

After another four days of sporadic headaches, my fatigue lifted. I neglected to notice at first, but I slept more easily and deeply than I had in many months. Two weeks in, tasks became more interesting, and I encountered bored where I would normally enjoy relaxing.

I don't blame tea for my dependency; in fact, I suspect a period of using workout supplements very high in caffeine played a big role in tying me to a need for higher and higher daily doses of caffeine.

Initially, I wanted a hard reset of my caffeine tolerance to boost caffeine's effect on me. Now, I've decided to moderate my intake, too.

I'll post an update when I begin to drink tea again, probably in the next two weeks.

28 May 2012

2003 Changtai from Su

Su, being so awesome, mailed me two samples of tea to try from her stash in Malaysia: a 2003 Changtai factory sheng and a 2006 sheng brick by Pingxiwangfu. Today, we drink the 2003 Changtai.

03 Changtai from Su - dry leaf

The brown-gray-green leaves with leaves distinctly separate from one another show the tea aged in a drier environment. The dry leaves carry a strong, sweet fragrance.

Once rinsed, the steaming leaves smell like suede, then like raisins. The first infusion is biscuity and sweet: carob, Darjeeling, fresh cut wood. It lingers on the soft palate and the back of mouth with an evaporative effect. Tasty, but the liquor is a bit thin.

The bitter flavors in the next infusions reminds my guest of the smell of dried pine needles. The Darjeeling muscatel flavor continues, very pleasant, and with cacao chalkiness underneath. In terms of flavor and aroma, Changtai has done well by these initial infusions.

03 Changtai from Su - brewed

But then, something changes. The sweetness disappears, replaced by the kind of bile-tinged flavors so strongly associated with leaves from Lincang. For a few infusions, its musky and alkaline flavors show some Lincang leaves are in the mix, and they thankfully bring a stronger mouthfeel and aftertaste to the tea, softening eventually into savory, bready flavors and more chalky sweetness.

I enjoyed the tea for its flavor and aroma, although the Lincang elements surprised me. I wish it had a thicker body and more aftertaste early in the infusions, but these features improve in later infusions. The still-present bitterness implies that the tea has room to grow as it ages, I think.

The blend is a mix of many larger leaves and some broken smaller leaves, most leaves having thick veins and a healthy tensile strength. No bud sets in the blend raise a suspicion that none of the leaves were harvested by hand, or they were handled very roughly in transport and manufacture.

My gratitude, as always, to Su for providing me these little treats!

03 Changtai from Su - brewed leaf

04 May 2012

Live in the Southeastern US? Join us!

Hello Floridians, Georgians, Alabamians, Carolinians, and Tenneseeans who drink and love Asian teas:

While a few of us have been meeting every over month for tea, I know there are others out there who aren't able to make our get togethers. I thought you might want to keep in touch with us, and perhaps find other friends in your area, to meet and talk tea.

To that end, I've created a Facebook group. Please comment here with your email if you'd like to join us! (Comments will not be made public).