27 September, 2008

2008 Xiaguan "Hongloumeng" Tuocha

Hongloumeng [lit. "Red Mansion Dream", usually "Dream of the Red Chamber"] is one of the world's books that you must read, no questions asked. It's one of the world's classics, typically selected alongside the likes of Shakespeare, Dante, or Watterson* as being the peak of their nation's literary prowess. Indeed, the Chinese say that no intelligent conversation can take place without reference to Hongloumeng. It's big news.

And this is a Xiaguan tuocha named after it.


2008 Xiaguan "Hongloumeng"


I'm of the opinion that it is rather offensive to name what is (in all likelihood) a fairly standard tea after such a beautiful, graceful piece of human endeavour. In order for this tea to be worthy of the association, it would have to liquify my brains and cause me to rethink my approach to pu'er.

Given that this tea costs about $5 from Yunnan Sourcing or Dragon Teahouse, we have some strong prior suspicions that this tea might not live up to its billing.


2008 Xiaguan "Hongloumeng"


The (tenuous) link between this tea and Hongloumeng is that one of the characters drinks pu'ercha as a remedy for drinking too much alcohol. This is mentioned just once in 120 chapters.


2008 Xiaguan "Hongloumeng"


Despite the claims of the Dragon Teahouse description, this is "Big G" Xiaguan brand, and not "FT". However, the leaves are of good quality and there is a goodly number of tips mixed into the blend, appearing throughout the cake. Compression is, unsurprisingly, a bit on the tight side.

Unwrapping the tuocha reveals a potent leather-and-tobacco aroma. It is sweeter than its stablemate, the 2008 Xiaguan "Dali" tuocha, but just as provocative in its scent.


2008 Xiaguan "Hongloumeng"


First impressions are good! Though the leaves are fragmented, they are not the ground-down mulch that fills the rank-and-file of Xiaguan's annual tuocha productions.


2008 Xiaguan "Hongloumeng"


This is an early-morning session. I lift my wife out of bed, duvet and all, and deposit her on a sofa in the lounge, still wrapped in bedding. I put the theme music to the famous Chinese TV series of "Hongloumeng" onto the CD player. Offering her a book and a cup from the first infusion, she remarks: "This tea tastes great, because it is named after Hongloumeng."


2008 Xiaguan "Hongloumeng"


It's yellow, honest, straight-forward, and decent. Given that the entire tuocha cost as much as a single pint of beer, I don't want to over-analyse the tea.

Its character is mushrooms, with a very decent texture, being satisfyingly thick. Surprisingly, it also shows signs of the cooling nature, felt on the tongue and lips, that characterises good tea. The Yunnan Sourcing description notes that a fraction of old-tree leaves have been included in the blend, and that might just be the case.

Some bitterness exists, but I was very cautious with leaf quantity and infusion times, and managed to avoid the inevitable. It has a sour body, a sweet finish, and a yunxiang [after aroma] of mushrooms and straw.


2008 Xiaguan "Hongloumeng"


Refreshing and inexpensive, this even turned out to be thick-textured during an entire morning of extended brewing in my office. That sort of longevity is remarkable in a little tea such as this. $5, so you know what you're getting, but not really worth wasting valuable shelf-space to pursue.

Given their expensive tastes for all things refined, I can't imagine the Jia clan sitting down to a Xiaguan "Hongloumeng" tuocha, but it's better than naming your tea after a bank.


* The author of Calvin and Hobbes.

9 comments:

davidn said...

As you command, I shall read it. Or at least add it to the end of my (ever-growing) queue. Is there a particular English translation of the Hongloumeng that you would recommend?

Hobbes said...

Dear David,

I'm very glad to hear that you'll read it! I'm sure you won't be disappointed. The translation in Penguin is good. If you can find it, the Beijing Academic Press version is the best - as long as you can ignore the obligatory pro-Communist reading of the book that appears in the introduction (the actual translation of the book itself is excellent).


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

tieguanyin said...

Hello Hobbes,

Another enjoyable entry! Particularly a propos given the dreary weather currently unfolding in my neck of the woods.

Does the Beijing Academic Press version have an ISBN reference number? Does the Beijing Academic Press have a webstore?

Have a good one,

Alex

Hobbes said...

Dear Alex,

Good questions! I'll have a look at my copies when I get back home. They are one of the largest publishers in Beijing (and, I think, the largest academic publisher), and so I imagine they'll have something available. I'll write back soon!


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

Hobbes said...

Here are some of the particulars, less the ISBN and web-site, which I'll try to find later:

A Dream of Red Mansions, (Gladys Yang and Yang Hsien-yi) Beijing: Foreign Language Press, 1978-1980

Beijing Foreign Language Press is what you're after, my mistake.


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

Anonymous said...

What a touchingly beautiful post. Thank you, Eileen

R-James said...

Hongloumeng is now on my reading list. If anyone can stand e-books [I find them ghastly and much prefer my study and a good bound volume] translations to English can be found here:

Http://lib.hku.hk/bonsall/hongloumeng/index1.html

and

http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/9603

Here.

I have not read them as stated earlier but if you can tolerate on screen volumes give it a go. Personally I will be seeking out a friend of mine at Cambridge university on his masters course to see if he can procure me a copy from the legal deposit library.


R

Hobbes said...

Thanks, Eileen.

Rich, Well found! Are you sure you want to trust someone from Cambridge? :)


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

R-James said...

Ah yes, Oxford and Cambridge rivalries abound, even through chinese text and pu'er cha!


R