11 February 2012

Wang's Sheng

Wang's Sheng - dry leaf top

This sheng sample came to me from BK a few years ago, maybe 2007 or 2008. The tea was sourced from a "Master" Wang Ming Yi who supposedly comes from the Himalayan part of Yunnan, which doesn't exist because the Himalayas stop well before they hit Yunnan. Maybe he's from the Gao Li Gong Mountains?

Wang's Sheng - dry leaf bottom

Zenandtea.com sells his teas and book, and what teas do list prices seem expensive for "three no" cakes (no wrapper, no ticket, no neifei). Apparently, Jessica Simpson tried his "total vitality" program, and so did the owner of Teance; both gave good reviews. The program involves hydration (good) and that old quack diet, the alkaline diet (pseudo-scientific nonsense).

However I may feel about his background, the tea will speak for itself. You can see in the photos above that the leaves are not stripe-rolled, an instant sign one or more of the following is true:
  1. The tea is not from Xishuangbanna, Simao, or Lincang, where production is stripe rolled.
  2. The tea is older leaf, which doesn't hold its shape in stripe rolling.
  3. The tea is not Camellia sinensis.
The majority of teas I've seen in this style are from Dehong, which is where Gao Li Gong mountain is. However, there are some tea makers on that mountain who are using Camellia sinensis and stripe rolling. Other teas I've seen that have this effect are cakes of older leaf, like this one, but when this leaf is usually yellow green. The most common teas with this appearance are "yesheng" leaves from non-sinensis species of camellia, which share the dark emerald leaf color, like this one, but even they usually use more buds.

Wang's Sheng - brew

Huangpian sheng pu'er--raw pu'er made of older leaf--share some flavor traits with this tea: very mild flavor with an olive oil taste and soft, oily mouthfeel. There is little aftertaste, and the tea never tastes bitter, its tannins saved in the buds to deter insects from eating the tender new leaves.

But this tea was really, really mild, and here's why:

Wang's Sheng - chunky2

After 6 infusions, 5 of which were 60-90 seconds or more, the tea was not unfurling and separating into individual leaves. The flatness of the leaves and the high compression--evidenced by the iron press hobnails in the dry leaf picture above--created a brick of tea akin to plywood. The matrix of innumerable planes compressed together has resulted in a situation where the hot water cannot penetrate through, and only the leaves on the outside infuse well.

Try as I might to get a good steep, steeping this tea for 4+ minutes yielded an under-infused brew that tasted like weak black tea. Frustrated, I pried a layer off the tea and left the tea steep for 30 minutes, hoping to help along the unfurling. It didn't work.

The results are below. Two kettles of water and many long brews later, the leaves remain glued together.

Wang's Sheng - brewed leaf

My experience suggests to me that this tea used low grade (i.e. broken), old leaf from non-sinensis camellias and compressed them too much.

He appears to offer many other teas through the Zen and Tea website, and I hope the others are better. My recommendation, as with all teas one hasn't tried, is to purchase samples first.

08 February 2012

New Year, New Setup

New Tea Setup

For the moment, I have ditched the tea tray and opted for the "plates and bowls" setup. It's a little simpler and easier to clean.

I like tea trays with basins because you can get messy and think about it later, but the trays get dirty/grimy if you don't clean them constantly. The wood ones also tend to split and break because of the expansion and contraction caused by water. With this setup, the waste water bowl is emptied as soon as it gets full. If the bowl becomes dirty, it's easy to wipe out.

01 February 2012

Our Southeast Tea Affair

Reporting back on our first Southeast Tea Affair (SeTA: looking for extraterrestrial teas?), I am glad to say it was more than a success: it was a lot of fun!

First of all, a big dose of my gratitude to Jess and Duane of Aristeacrats for agreeing to host us. They have a great space in Downtown Lawrenceville, GA--comfortable and with the d├ęcor chic of a French country color palette. Also, thanks again to Bryan for the great photos below!

Everybody brought something to share. We started with a Taiwan gaoshan oolong I believe from San Lin Xi, and moved onto a 2000 Jin Chang Hao pu'er. 

Another tea chum took the wheel to brew a 2003 Changtai Hao Yiwu mini cake (very mild), and yet another took the wheel to brew an aged 1990s "harbor oolong," which was a hit. We finished off with some 1950s loose pu'er from Wistaria Tea House. 

After many infusions and feeling quite tea drunk, we parted ways.

Looking forward to next time! Feel free to comment here if you would like an invite in the future.