15 March 2011

Two Teas from Twenty Ten

Amongst a small cache of cooked pu'er MarshalN recently gifted me he included a sample of a raw pu'er from 2010, indicating only that it was one (the only one?) he liked, and that this tea is not inexpensive. For some context, I decided to try it back to back with another 2010 raw pu'er sample I received, the 2010 American Hao Youle Mountain (1001, spring). I tried them both in the same teaware using the same amount of leaf by weight.

Both teas have appearances I find attractive: mostly whole buds with 1 to 3 "flags" and healthy, furry leaves with minimal visible signs of excess oxidation. But one I liked and one I really disliked. To reiterate at a point I often repeat: a pretty appearance says very little about a tea.

The sample from MarshalN surprised me. When I think of what he has avoided in young green pu'ers in the past, it has been bitter and smoky teas like this one. In terms of flavor, it takes many infusions for the smokiness to disappear and the bitterness to soften. When it does, it becomes floral, rocky, and astringent.

But the sample from MarshalN didn't surprise me in that he normally seeks in young green pu'ers a "ubiquitous" sensory experience that only begins by hitting the tongue and affects and lingers as many other regions of sensory tissues as the tea manages to touch. In that regard, this 2010 is typical of his tastes, and in my opinion, pretty good. It's a little thin in terms of texture in the mouth, but it triggers salivation, soaks into the soft palate, cheeks, tongue root, and even into the throat a bit at times. It has a menthol/camphor effect as the flavor dissipates (evaporates?) off the tissues, and my face became quite flushed drinking it.

Also, it smells really nice, too, thicker than it tastes. And it lasted 15 infusions before I became bored and figured it was time to move on, and for the first 10 or so, I didn't have to increase steep time by more than a second or two.

The cons: at times pretty thin textured and there were some burnt flecks of leaf in my cup (hence the smokiness?). Minor complaints, overall.

If I had to venture a guess, I'd say this tea is a Bulang, because the flavor profile matches well with the Bulang samples I've had recently from Yunnan Sourcing and Nada and the leaves seem the right size. [EDIT 15 March: I was right!]

2010 Sheng pu sample from MarshalN:
MarshalN Sample (2010 Sheng) - dry leafMarshalN Sample (2010 Sheng) - liquorMarshalN Sample (2010 Sheng) - brewed leaf
The flecks in the cup make it look like the carp are coming to feed on fish food flakes.

2010 American Hao 1001 (Youle Mountain)
American Hao 1001 (2010 Spring Youle Mountain) - dry leafAmerican Hao 1001 (2010 Spring Youle Mountain) - liquorAmerican Hao 1001 (2010 Spring Youle Mountain) - brewed leaf
Looks are deceiving!

I had already tried the 2010 American Hao 1001 (Youle Spring) in 2010, but I suspected it was too fresh and thus waited to try it again now. Which is to say, I tried it and disliked it for flavor reasons that I thought might change as the tea aired out. As it turns out, it didn't change much.

The tea is confusing. It smells like green pu'er (smoke and all), but its flavors are very vegetal. It tastes leafy and creamy like green tea, and the very light color in the cup supported this idea. The bitterness in the leaf dissipated, rather than transforming into the lingering sweetness of pu'er it became alkaline, and there was very little detectable aftertaste. Past the 6th infusion or so, some pu'er flavors emerged: florals and straw. Although the texture was thin even when pushed, the tea certainly had more tenacity than a typical green tea, lasting upwards of 11 infusions. Another point in its favor was a certain tingliness in the earlier infusions.

This Youle also had many black burnt bits in the cup, even across many infusions. Maybe these are more frequent in newer teas, or maybe I have begun noticing them only now.

As a Yunnan green tea, it was actually quite nice, but as a pu'er, I don't know what to make of it. I almost want to buy a cake just to see what happens to tea like this, but I think I'll just keep the rest of my sample to try in a few years.