Old Blighty has seen record quantities of rainfall over the past six months. It's been very wet. It once rained for two weeks without pause. Our conservatory roof collapsed.
This week-end, the sun has forgiven us.
Readers in Cornwall are invited not to comment on the mainland weather
What better way to celebrate a Saturday than to grab the cheeseboard and head into the garden? Nibbling unsociably mature cheddar under the falling apple-blossom. Watching the butterflies with my Chinese wife and our unborn Chinglish baby. Being indulgently lazy.
The weight of tea hauled around Maliandao really adds up quickly. Take a packmule.
This is the kind of day that calls for something sweet and different. Something interestingly complex. Something like... Lincang. Lovely, lovely Lincang.
Black, chunky leaves
This cake takes me back to our Christmas vacation, where Lei and I spent some time drinking with a Yunnanese couple at their shop in Maliandao. Our strategy in Beijing's tea district is to walk around until we find someone who (i) has lots of decent pu'er on display, and (ii) looks friendly, amusing, and sociable. The Yunnanese couple fit the bill.
He was a recent graduate of tea studies in a Yunnan agricultural university, and (I think) she was his wife. They lived up to their amiable appearance, and were thoroughly charming. You can tell a lot by people's appearances. If they spend their lives being miserly, conniving, and small, then, generally speaking, their face changes to fit that quality. Similarly, if they spend their lives in good humour, with lightness, and a certain degree of peace, then that's also visible in the structure and operation of the face. When it comes to people, the cover tells a great deal about the book.
(I'm not going to break out that Oscar Wilde quote today.)
We worked our way through a few selections, but the infusions seemed quite thin. We mentioned it, as tactfully as we could manage, and ended up on this beefy Lincang tea.
Hand compression makes for easy separation
Some twenty or so infusions later, I was adequately wooed to take a whole tong. The producer is an oddity: the "Pu'er Study Institute of the Yunnan Natural Sciences Support Project". This was a label that sold the output of the alma mater of our host. Not to be confused with the more regularly-appearing "Yunnan Tea Study Institute" (the folk with the ringed Saturn-like planet for a logo).
Lincang feels rather "out there". Its geography fits it character.
You know me by now - I like most pu'er, from the grubbiest 6FTM to the most exalted rarity. Lincang cakes have a special place in my heart, because they're very savoury. They have a fat, cereal-like quality that goes very well with the natural sweetness of pu'er leaves. Finish it off with some challenging kuwei [good bitterness] at the end, accompanied by a deeply calming whatever-it-is [chaqi / voodoo / The Force], and I'm a happy punter.
At 180 RMB ($25), this is a moderately pricey tea for Maliandao, but it's very chubby and enjoyable. I often find it hard to switch between "Western" and "Chinese" monetary scales when stuck in the sweet-smelling bowels of Maliandao, but this one felt like a bargain, and so it accompanied us home.
(Actually, it just arrived, after spending three months in a China Post parcel on a ship.)
It looks like the summer has come early, and fresh shengpu fits the mood perfectly. If you're expecting samples from me, keep an eye open for this one in your package, as I rather like it. Sure, it has a hint of plantation after 15 or so brews, but this didn't claim to be anything else. At 180 RMB, it does the job nicely.