30 July 2008

2001 CNNP Yiwu Zhengshan

2001 CNNP Yiwu Zhengshan Old Tree Cake - dry leaf

Jim has a handful of adolescent young pu'er teas on offer, and this is one of them. Like the keyixing, whoever stored this tea kept the storage very dry. The leaves carry only the suggestion of brown. After 7 years, and the tea brews up the color of fresh tea.

The tea smells like the Tong Xing Hao cake I reviewed before, but more biscuity. It's not bitter unless overbrewed...prosaic the whole way round, really. Strong flavors, some sensation on the hard palate, some floral flavors.

2001 CNNP Yiwu Zhengshan Old Tree Cake - brew

I brewed the tea over the course of two days; it weathers multiple steeps very well, and doesn't seem to die. Admirable. Nice leaf quality, as pictured below, again with very few bud tips. I'm noticing this pattern amongst teas labeled "Yiwu"...

2001 CNNP Yiwu Zhengshan Old Tree Cake - leaves in gaiwan

11 July 2008

"3 Forms One Tea" Shuangjiang Mengku Old County Tea Co. 2007 tea

This Lincang-area tea is offered in three compressions by Puerhshop: 250g zhuan, 357g bing, and 1kg calabash. I'm not sure where my sample came from, but with its slight curvature, I figure Jim pulled the samples from either the cake or the calabash.

2007 Mengku Old County QZ Tea Co - "Three Forms One Tea" - dry leaf

The leaves have an unremarkable appearance, with some tips, few twigs, and very few huang pian. After brewing, a pinch of the leaves reveal their youth and tenderness. I would guess they harvested these leaves in spring.

2007 Mengku Old County QZ Tea Co - "Three Forms One Tea" - spent leaf

The aroma was sweet and carmelly, like young pu'er mixed with cola. Thick, round, soft, the flavor lingers, but not too long. Slightly bitter, not smoky at all, it had an odd energy that made me sleepy. For a young sheng lover like me, this tea really is a pleasure to drink now.

2007 Mengku Old County QZ Tea Co - "Three Forms One Tea" - liquor

Most interestingly, it shows a mild lincang flavor profile. Lincang has a bit of a funky taste to it, a little danker than Xishuangbanna and Simao teas. The regionality of the flavor is there, but not strong. Still, Lincang flavor intensifies during the first 10 years of aging or so, so I wonder how more apparent the regionality of this tea will become. I plan to finish the sample, though, and more cakes aren't in my budget until at least after I finish off all my remaining samples from this shop and others.

Fir Stump Tea Bowl

09 July 2008

An Experiment with Pu'er Flowers, Part Two: 2006 7562 Zhuan (Yunnan Sourcing)

7562 with and without pu'er flower - setupDavin invited me over to join him and a friend to smoke a brisket, grill some chicken, and watch Auntie Mame. I brought the tasting sets and decided to finish our look at tea flowers and pu'er as the food was cooking. Thankfully, barbeque and smoking cooks with little attention, so we could pay attention to the tea.

We had already decided our opinions of tea flower with adolescent pu'er: I couldn't decide which I liked better, and Davin preferred the tea unadulterated. I wondered if shu pu'er might benefit from the addition of tea flowers the way it can benefit from the inclusion of chrysanthemum buds.
7562 with and without pu'er flower - dry comparison
Parameters: 5.3g of tea in each cup, 1.2g of tea flower in one. We used mineralized filtered water (with bamboo charcoal and meifan stones) boiled with bamboo charcoal in a glazed clay kettle. Brewed each infusion for 10 seconds after a 10 second wash, the final infusion 30 seconds.

Davin made the poetic observation: "With the flowers, it smells like the forest floor in Spring. Without, like the forest floor in winter." I found hot cream in the smell of the leaves without pu'er flowers, and honey in the aroma of the tea with flowers. Davin found honey not as a flavor in the fleured pu'er, but in the viscosity of its brew.

7562 is a recipe I came to love at Scott's (Yunnan Sourcing) recommendation. It's a blend of different fermentations, from light to very dark, giving it a more complex aroma and flavor than other more fermented blends. It's not as rich as most, but it's very forgiving with brewing errors. The leaves offer notes that vary from coffee, earth, bark, and butter, with most flavors centered on the tongue. Decent energy, but little aftertaste. Already liking it so much, I should have predicted that I would prefer it plain before I thought of doctoring it with flowers.

7562 with and without pu'er flower - dry leaf with flower

Coffee vs. caramel, drying vs. thirst-quenching, woody vs. earthy, the plain 7562 and the 7562 with flowers different greatly. The flowers lended texture and a different aroma and flavor to the tea, but Davin and I didn't prefer it. Our third, a friend of Davin's, seemed to prefer the pu'er-plus-flowers.

7562 with and without pu'er flower - liquor comparison
Without flowers on left, with flowers on right

The flowers did not alter the aftertaste of the tea, as they had with the 1999 cake, nor did they stretch the flavors or make the tea more tenacious. In fact, at the final infusion the unadulterated tea ended better.

7562 with and without pu'er flower - without flower, wet
Without flowers

7562 with and without pu'er flower - with flower, wet
With flowers

I still reserve judgment about the inclusion of flowers. I'd like to play around with them more, using less of them, and with different teas. On a related note, I brought the sample to work and tried them with some Yunnan green tea with coworkers, and all of us preferred the tea with the addition of a few flowers.

08 July 2008

Ali Shan Anti-Fake Labels

An interesting news story in the Taipei Times indicates tea growers will use a new system to indicate real Ali Shan oolong. Inside each tea package will be a cotton swap and liquid. When the emblem on the exterior of the package is wiped with the liquid, the emblem would change color. Created by a biotechnology firm, the local Ali Shan tea and tourist industries hope this will protect consumers and secure profits for the farmers.

Like so many things in Asia that are faked, could this new measure be faked as well, or simply be stolen? Forgers may discover the specific biotechnology impossible to duplicate, but I imagine that a simpler, cheaper, already extant chemical color changing system could be substituted by tea forgers. It'll be interesting to see how well these new anti-fake measures work in practice.

01 July 2008

Amateur Roasting...

I roasted a mediocre Zhejiang tie guan yin or TGY analog in my new yixing gourd roaster. Before the roast, the tea was unpalatable: slightly sour and metallic. It had a long finish and a thickness to it, positive traits that I wanted to highlight with a more savory flavor. I roasted the tea in a yixing pot on low heat for about 20 minutes, then let it quench for a few days, then roasted it again over a flame in a gourd roaster, pictured below.

Yixing Roaster

Yesterday I drank the roasted version. Today, I drank the unroasted version after a five minute "refresh" roast. My notes for each are below.

The Twice-Roasted

Tie Guan Yin Roasting Experiment - heavier roast - leaf Tie Guan Yin Roasting Experiment - heavier roast - liquor Tie Guan Yin Roasting Experiment - heavier roast - spent leaf

Dry leaf in the heated gaiwan smells burnt, but once wet, the leaf smells like roasted oolong, as well it should, sweet and toasty. The first infusion was remarkably fruity, like raisins, and finished toasty. The second infusion, displaying mostly roasted sweetness, had an oily texture and faded to a little citrus note on side of tongue. The raisin flavor disappeared in the infusions that followed, and the citrus did, too. I expected the tea to taste less roasted with time, but it remained consistently toasty, getting a little bitter, the finish lengthening. Well balanced at the 5th infusion, the flavor faded to sweet wateriness, and at the last infusion it hit me that the tea had a neutral mouthfeel--it didn't seem to have an affect at all. Or, I just didn't pay attention.

The Refresh Roasted

Tie Guan Yin Roasting Experiment - freshening roast - leaf Tie Guan Yin Roasting Experiment - freshening roast - liquor Tie Guan Yin Roasting Experiment - freshening roast - spent leaf

Dry leaf in hot gaiwan smells a little sweet. Wet leaf in gaiwan smells vegetal and a bit fruity. The first infusion is meek, sweet, and finishes buttery. This buttery finish I've come to associate with mainland fist oolong. The toasted-ness of the refresh roast is in the aroma and just a bit in the center of the tongue. It does hit sour if overbrewed, but with shorter steep times, under 15 seconds, the sourness doesn't appear. It also gets bitter in the middle brews, like the more heavily roasted tea. It's sharper, like the unroasted tea, and tastes less roasted over time.


The roasted and reroasted oolong shared many traits, from the obvious (roasted aroma and flavor) to the more subtle (fruitiness, tongue-centered bitterness, grain sweetness at finish). My guess is the quicker, higher temperature roast I did to both teas takes the lion's share of the responsibility for changing their flavors, while the longer roast seemed to prevent the roasted tea from tasting unroasted or less roasted in later infusions. Only more roasting experimentation will tell for sure.

Both teas tasted better than the staled tea, of course.