09 August, 2009

2004 Yangqinghao "Chawang"

The media made a big fuss over weather predictions for this summer, which were for one of the hottest on record. In fact, it's turned out to be unseasonally chilly, and consistently rainy. Dark, low grey clouds. Drizzle. Oppression.

It's time to combat the grimness with some good tea.

Raindrops and Flowers
This is summer?

I rather like the productions of Yangqinghao, a Taiwanese brand. I've never bought any so far, because I don't believe that it's sold at very realistic prices, but it's good stuff. So, I was particularly chuffed to receive a sample of "YQH" from Dr. Kim (thanks again!) that I'd not encountered before: the 2004 Chawang.

2004 Yangqinghao Chawang

Like many Taiwanese teas, this is an interesting blend, made from small fragments of small leaves. They seem to like them maximally traditional, and that's no bad thing. Every pu'er has a place in my heart: blend or single-mountain, fragmented or whole-leaf. Just so long as it's tasty.

The aroma of the dry leaves is suspiciously quiet: a little distant mushroom is all that I can taste. Heading into the first infusions, I am struck by the fact that this tea has absolutely no flavour, nor aroma. I sniff the leaves - dark green scents, as expected. Curious - where is the character?

The body is thick and strong, the chaqi is a knockout, it vibrates on the lips, and it leaves the tongue cool - all signs that I associate with being in some way indicative of good tea. It feels as if there's a lot in this tea, but it has no flavour!

2004 Yangqinghao Chawang

I'm no stranger to messing up tea sessions. This time, I went to the kitchen and sampled random substances to see if it was my senses that were at fault. I could taste salt. I could taste soy sauce. However, the sugar was only texture - it had no flavour or aroma. Similarly, the coriander pods.

A friend of mine has a peculiar defect to his sense of smell: he says that he cannot detect "herbacious" scents or flavours, such as tea. At the time, I considered this an unusual freak occurrence - but here was I, with precisely the same symptoms!

Then, I realised that I had just eaten a sandwich containing (i) lots of chili sauce and (ii) lots of jalapeno peppers. They stripped my mouth of the ability to detect herbaciousness and sweetness!

I came back an hour later, and the Yangqinghao was revealed: woody, thick, spicy, and yet wonderfully sweet. At last, the textures and chaqi came together with some suitably pronounced and potent flavours to relieve my concerns.


Remember ye well: perhaps unsurprisingly, chili and tea don't mix.

Raindrops and Flowers
Winds batter the windows, as I tuck myself in behind the tea-table


geneviève meylan said...

I like the contrast outside/ inside . Water is inside but warm and cosy with the tea and outside the rain we can imagine a little bit cold.
And I would like to have so many tea "cakes" you have ...
best wishes

Hobbes said...

Dear Gingko,

There's nothing better than to be tucked up in the warm with friends while it's cold outside. The Dutch language, I believe, has a word to describe precisely that feeling!



P.s. Be careful what you wish for - I'm sure that you'll have more cakes than you can cope with before too long, because they accumulate quickly ;)

Lew Perin said...

Very illuminating post! It was smart of you to check your sensory apparatus when surprised by the apparent tastelessness.

On the subject of desensitizing foods, it's my impression that lots of garlic in a meal is a bad prelude to a tea session, and so is food that leaves a gummy coating on the tongue. In other words, I wouldn't dat hummus.

Justin said...

Whenever I have a bad session I try to keep in mind that it could be a result of the food I ate previously. I would hate to dismiss an otherwise excellent tea because of it.

Veri-Tea said...

I also usually try and avoid strong flavoured foods if I'm about to drink tea... Chillies, garlic, even marmalade can mess up my tastebuds! Or if I want to combine the tea with food, I try and match them up... marmalade is ok with Earl Grey, for example (indeed, even recommended)... ;)

Hobbes said...

Dear Lewis and Justin,

Absolutely - it's not smart to eat strong flavours before drinking tea. I usually just have a little toast to ensure that my stomach isn't empty, but was more relaxed today.

Dear Veri-tea,

I remember loving Earl Grey! These days, I can't get past the feeling that someone has just added some industrial flavouring to my tea. I wonder if there's a brand out there that uses actual bergamot? It certainly isn't Twinings!



speakfreely said...

Our weather has been similar this Summer - plenty of rain, not enough sun. I should go out hunting chanterelles; this is the time, and conditions are what they like.

Hobbes said...

You hunter-killer!

toki said...

hobbes... where can I send a email to? Here is mine:

Many Thanks, T

Hobbes said...

E-mail sent!

Unknown said...

I hate worst when I have mild sinus congestion that doesn't affect me in any way, except it makes my nose less receptive.

Hobbes said...

Me too - if you can't drink tea while you're poorly, where's the fun in being poorly?!