Thanks to Mike for this sample, which is a Houde purchase, where a bing sells for $35. The web-site describes this as a "gift" tea, produced by the Changtai Tea Factory in 2004 "to prepare the upgrading to Changtai Tea Manufacturing Group in 2005" - the meaning of which can be read in several different ways.
The Houde description quotes the neifei as indicating that it is a blend of old-plantation, big-leaf Yiwu with maocha from other areas.
Caledonian Springs @ 100C in 12cl young shengpu pot; ~5-6g leaf; 1 rinse
Attractively chunky leaves, in an apparently two-headed mixture of dark leaves and green leaves - perhaps evidence of the blend to which the neifei refers. Delicious pine-wood, mushroom-like scents that are very nearly, but not quite, fishy.
It's good to be home, seated on my little red cushion, behind the tea-tray, watching the tree-tops blowing in the distance. The colour of the blue sky, the green bushes, and the pink flowers visible from the window look almost unreal in their vividness, compared to the dust-and-stone of Baroque Turin.
3s, 5s, 9s, 12s, 20s, 60s, 45s:
A good orange-yellow colour, which is pretty and clean, gives an immediately positive first impression. The first sips from the first infusion are very good: rich, bass flavours are almost salty, making my mouth salivate. The travelling time to the throat is long, and the progression of gentle fern-like scents in the wenxiangbei are similarly unhurried.
This appears to be a tea to drink slowly; it would be a mistake to overlap the mouthfuls, or to not give the wenxiangbei at least 30s of attention.
The flavours are rich: fern and pine, so very plant-like. The stimulation of the salt-sensitive taste-buds is an interesting sensation, which I have previously described in other teas as "food-like".
These initial infusions appeal to my personal tastes.
Later infusions lose complexity, and the fern-and-salt interest fades into a different set of flavours: the simple tastes of dried fruits (apricot, mango) that remind me of the 2002 CNNP sample, kindly sent out by MarshalN last month.
Throughout the tea from beginning to end is a potent ku, which is really only evident at the back of the throat - a good place for it - where it provokes a mouthwatering huigan after the long progression to the throat is completed. Again, don't rush this tea.
All is revealed. There are three major components to this tea [pictured].
Some leaves, as noted from the dry sample, are hard and black. I suspect these give the low fern-and-salt interest that I experienced in the first infusions. The toughness of the leaves means that their contribution would not last too many infusions, and the bass, low range of flavours could easily be ascribed to these dark specimens.
Some leaves are green and strong. The continuous ku is probably derived from these youthful examples.
Some leaves are more tippy, and show the considerable redness of oxidation. Just like the 2002 CNNP [revised notes to follow], these give the tea that latter shallow fruitiness. Houde describes later infusions as "floral", and I suspect we're describing the same phenomenon.
Lovely to begin, becoming merely pleasant later on. The presence of the red-oxidation is cause for concern with its long-term storage prospects. Houde notes that "the flavour should improve after 3-5 years of storage", but the presence of the under-processed (kill-green stage) leaves causes me to respectfully disagree.
The opening infusions were very enjoyable, and I was nearly sold on this tea straight out. It is fortunate that I kept on to the latter infusions, which has caused me to revise my opinion, for which I cannot recommend buying this tea for the long-term.