London: cold, unwelcoming, distant. Much the same goes for the average Londoner on the street, too.
In a city of such size, maybe it's inevitable that individual humanity goes by the wayside. Distant eyes, distant faces, hunched shoulders. Big clocks ticking on big buildings. Bus drivers openly cursing. People soup.
I'm in the capital for a two-hour examination unrelated to my studies, and am looking forward to getting back to the peace of home. An oasis in the middle of town, TeaSmith is one of the good points of the city, along with all its forgotten churches. I get plenty of both before and after my exam.
The cafe doesn't change much, which is a good thing, as they're onto a winner. Warm conversation, good music, decent tea. Of interest on the current menu is a buttery baozhong. They were even kind enough to dig out a 2005 Xiaguan "Wild Big-Tree" cake from a cupboard.
Back at home, it's time to dig into some a 1990s Song Pin cake (originally from Dragon Tea-House), kindly provided by the ever-generous CB...
Yellow specks (pictured above)! Given the advanced state of decay of most of the cheese that we eat, a little mould won't stop me. Two rinses of boiling water, and we're ready.
There are plenty of "yellow leaves" evident in this cake, those thin and brittle examples that tend not to impart much flavour, but plenty of bitterness. These are mixed with a good proportion of small, furry tips.
I like shicang tea, so the plentiful shicang [wet storehouse] aroma is fine by me. It also explains the mould..
As you can see, the brew is an encouragingly deep red. The soup is not too potent; despite filling my small pot, and infusing for long periods, the result is not overbrewed. This could be down to the high concentration of small tip-leaves - always gentle.
Maltiness and "dustiness" are present in both aroma and flavour, while the texture is also "dusty", though there is no sediment. Some ku remains, but it is well on the way to becoming mature pu'er. If you like that familiar and enjoyable "numbness" in the mouth, you'll enjoy this tea.
The whole is very gentle. I look for larger leaves in a good cake, in order to provide a solid basis, but this is mostly tips and "yellow leaves".
This is easily worth the £40 asking-price. I have been drinking a lot of 2007 Xizihao recently, which is often much more expensive and less interesting.
Many thanks, CB, for a great tea.