09 May 2008

Da Wu Ye Dancong from Tea Habitat

Da Wu Ye Dancong from Tea Habitat

Da Wu Ye Dancong - spent leaf with potThis sample came to me from Imen, proprietoress of Tea Habitat and, in my opinion, Queen of Dancong. Using eggshell-thin chaozhou terra cotta pots and water boiled in a clay kettle heated with olive charcoal, Imen can squeeze limitless numbers of beautiful infusions using 1/2 the leaf the prosaic dancong drinker would think to use. While the rest of us appreciate her skill as a benevolent mystery and make our attempts at home, she's cultivating her skills in the young teenage proteges that invade her store after school on weekdays.

When Imen makes Da Wu Ye, it tastes as sweet as yams. She pulls a complex carbohydrate out of the leaves. You can chew the infusions, but they're not garish like candied yams. They're subtle.

Da Wu Ye Dancong - leaf
So approaching the long, twisted eggplant-colored leaves, I hoped to emulate her result. My result was more floral initially. I screwed up the next two infusions, brewing it too hot and tasting green vegetables and then brewing it too quick and making it bland. Regardless, the head buzz was immediate.

Da Wu Ye Dancong - liquorThen, I started to treat the tea right, and it yielded its fruity floral affection like a lingering touch. Peach and orchids, the more common dancong flavors. I couldn't find the subtlety of temperature and timing that yielded yams, but I did get some 13 enjoyable brews that faded into orange blossom water that became syrupy if overbrewed.

I like this tea. At $8/oz it's one of Tea Habitat's less expensive dancongs, and for its quality, one of Tea Habitat's better values.

Pretty leaves:
Da Wu Ye Dancong - spent leaf

07 May 2008

2005 Liu An Basket of Anhui Keemun Liu An Tea Co

2005 Liu An Basket of Anhui Keemun Liu An Tea Co.

2005 Liu An - basket

Liu An is a love of mine. The real stuff is becoming rarer, although as demand is increasing, this may no longer be the case, thankfully. This Liu An from Puerhshop is a 2005 production of the Anhui Keemun Liu An Tea Co. The basket is squatter than most other liu an baskets I've seen. It has a rustic neifei:

2005 Liu An - nei fei

The leaves are bigger than average and green. Twigs make up about 1/3 of the basket's volume, but this is on par with older liu an. However, bigger leaf means that there are very few tips, which concerned me. Also, brewing raw liu an from 2005 usually results in very bitter, unpalatable tea.

2005 Liu An - sample

A close look at the leaves shows their color, size, and grade. Notice the prominent yellow-green leaves amongst the darker green.

2005 Liu An - sample closeup

The taste was mild, surprising for a young liu an, but not surprising for the size of the leaf. The twigs also help cut the strength of the tea, but I feel like this was a leaf grade issue. I can't say what this will age into. In fact, because of the huge production gap with liu an, late 1950s to the early 1980s, no one really knows what our new liu an baskets will become in 30~50 years. I've had some very good late 1980s Sun Yi Shun brand liu an, but that tea had few twigs and many tips. If that's the right recipe for good liu an, I'm concerned with this basket. However, liu an I've had from the 1930s and 1950s has had many twigs and a varied blend of leaf, so I have to withhold judgment of this basket.

I do wish it tasted stronger and activated more energy. There's no such thing as an "everyday" young liu an tea.

2005 Liu An - liquor

I won't be buying another basket, but I'm glad to have this one just to know what happens to it with time. Since the cultural revolution, so much about knowing what young teas will age well is reinventing the wheel, as much with liu an as with pu'er.