17 October, 2014

Face / Off

In this battle between two adversaries, the part of John Travolta will be played by the 2014 "Huazhu" from Pu-erh.sk.

I've enjoyed a number of teas from PETROS THE DESTROYER this year.  In summary, each is well-made, each is a good and tasty example of each stopping-point on his travels around Yunnan.  One cake was "budget", the rest were... pretty expensive, actually.  Maocha prices etc.

Along with Nakashan, Huazhu is in the Mengsong region, and is talked about in favourable tones by PETROS THE DESTROYER.  He also notes that "Huazhu Liangzi is 'Banna's highest mountain", which is an interesting fact that I now know and which I will probably forget imminently.

Keeping up appearances, this Huazhu tea looks The Business, as you might agree from contemplation of the photograph above.  Once brewed, it has a long, flowery scent.  In the cup, we have the grape-like sweetness of new tea, with a substantial finish - cooling and bitter. 

Underneath it all, perhaps testifying to its Mengsong origins, is a broad, savoury character that supports all of that transient sweetness.  Of course, as with all of those teas made by PETROS, it is well-made and I do not doubt that these leaves are of excellent nature.

Big, bitter, broad, and smooth: this is strong and decent tea.  PETROS writes that it is "more or less accessible in terms of price".  However, the price of this cake is a seemingly-uncorrelated 96 Euro / 250g, which at US$180 / 357g is not at all accessible.  Objectively, after five infusions, I am left wondering who would pay $180 / 357g, but that's a personal decision.

If John Travolta is amusing but perhaps over-valued, then we now turn ourselves to the Nicholas Cage in our Face/Off: the 2013 New Amerykah from white2tea.

I enjoyed the 2014 "New Amerykah 2", in which PM stated that he was aiming for "fullness" rather than the "bitterness" of the 2013.  This further reinforced in my mind that I had missed a trick when I failed to try the 2013 before it sold out.

Having pity on me, PM kindly packed up a sample.

The leaves are hand-compressed, and aromatic.  First impressions are highly favourable.  The first infusions is reassuringly bitter, while being fresh and yellow.  It fills the mouth quite obviously, and I can imagine PM's reaction when he first encountered the maocha for this cake.  It really does stand out.  There is a cooling finish, and its body is smooth.

Every time the tea settles into its sweet routine, I add more leaves to bring it back to the fresh richness of the earlier infusions.  I can see why this tea sold out, Gentle Reader, and hope that you managed to land yourself some.

This is a sharp and charismatic cake and, at least in this little face/off, unlike in the film, Nicholas Cage was the clear victor.

10 October, 2014

Bigtime Bibendi

"OK, hard drinkers: let's drink hard."

Perhaps George Clooney's finest hour.

In keeping with the spirit of George's famous utterance, Neil of Teaclassico has kindly provided us with some hard drinkin'.

1999 "Xiaofa" Xiaguan French Export shupu

Surprisingly, this "faguo" [French] export tuocha smells of neither garlic nor onions.  It has had 15 years of Hong Kong storage, which might account for that.  The leaves are on the larger side, for Xiaguan, and in truth they do have a distinctive aroma of what can only be called "fish".  This is not a problem, just an observation.

Tiny Death Star + shupu

The piscine aromatics do not continue into the cup.  What we do get is a big, stable, and enjoyable dose of shupu.  There is a particularly silky and thick texture that reminds me Xiaguan really know their way around the manufacture of tuocha.  I enjoyed it very much, but perhaps not quite enough to spend $89 on it.

Yet more serious is this: a 1980s maocha from the Yiwushan area.

Pictured above, this is a big, deluxe pile of a tea.  My expectation is that the older maocha gets, the weaker it gets.  This one, however, still seems to be quite strong, which makes me wonder if it is actually 1990s, rather than 1980s - not that such things matter, anyway.

The colour is a more solid red than might otherwise be expected, which again leaves me thinking that it might be 1990s.  Its body is smooth, if a little thin.  There is a detectable trace Hong Kong in its history, but this has been aired out - presumably in Taiwan, along with many of the teas sold by Teaclassico.  HK then Taiwan is a good route to take.

Aged well, with deep HK mineral characteristics, this is a gentle, warming tea.  I read this tea in the background while annotating an MSc thesis for submission, and I think the tea put me in a good mood.

The star attraction, and one worthy of George Clooney's attention, is the following:

This 1997 Tongqinghao "Chi Cheng" is quite special.  It came in a sample bag as "Tung Ching Hao", and so I suspect that the cake's pinyin name is not actually "Chi Cheng".  Without seeing the characters, it is difficult to disambuigate Taiwanese (or, rather, Wade-Giles) romanisation.

The leaves, pictured above, surely already have you whipped up into a frenzy.  They have the scent of (you guessed it) Hong Kong.  The scent of the HK tea, that is, not the scent of the HK teargas.

The brown-red colour and BEEFY flavour are very welcome.  I used lots of leaves, knowing that it would not become overbrewed (HK tea, aged), and the result is a vivid and vibrant fizziness on the tongue.  It leaves a humid bookishness in the nose which, for a serial university type, is quite alluring.

Not that anyone ever goes in libraries any more.

With passing infusions, as the leaves open fully, the centre of the soup darkens in colour.  There is a wildflower note that reminds me of the 2003 Zipinhao from Zitenglu / Wisteria Teahouse.  Its core of deep, sweet mahogany is enjoyable and I am already beginning to wonder as to its price.

I kept adding leaves to Zidu, my pot, to prolong the session - so good was this tea, that I did not want to stop.  Eventually, Zidu was so full that I had to decant the leaves into a larger pot - and (its bulk pictured above) it was almost half-full when I did so.  I brewed them for two days, and they were decent.

Teaclassico will, I understand, be stocking this in future, but one cake could already be enpurchanised and coming my way.  Be ready, ye shelves, for Tongqinghao is very decent indeed.