13 June, 2010

2004 Nanjian "Zhaizipo"

Grizzled veteran readers may well remember the heyday of Houde, in which the tea-buying community rushed to buy various cakes, causing them to sell out within very short periods of time. Such was the unique confluence of contributing factors, such as naivety on the parts of the buyers (definitely including myself, and including others to the degree that very little good information was available in English about pu'er at the time), very low supply (no more than half-a-dozen decent vendors), and very high demand.

For me, this was back in the day when I was spending the majority of my income travelling to a distant city every week-end to see my then-girlfriend, now dear wife.  My lack of disposable income protected me from the foolish spending of my ignorant youth, to a large degree.  On tasting samples of some of those fabled cakes that proved so popular at the time, I wryly consider myself somewhat fortunate to have been unable to indulge my naivety, and to have been insulated from making the mistakes that my foolishness would have made inevitable.

And, talking of mistakes caused by rushing to buy tea from Houde, I introduce the 2004 Nanjian "Zhaizipo" [djai-zer-poh]...

2004 Nanjian Zhaizhipo
Cautiously peeking its oranged jowls from under its wrapper, the Zhaizipo

This xiaobing cost a mere $10 per piece, and hence I figured that it was worth taking a punt on a recommendation, noting that this is six years old.  I suspect you may be able to guess my opinion of this tea already!

Given the redness of the cake, I figured that I needed to use a lot of leaves to get any character out of it.  This turned out to be the case.  Its soup pours a flat, undisputable orange, as shown below.

2004 Nanjian Zhaizhipo

Would it surprise you to learn that its character is the red, malty character of heavy pre-shaqing oxidation?  I suspect not.  Like most teas of this ilk, it tastes pleasant, in its red cedarwood kind of way, but has little in the way of complexity or longevity.  It seems that taking this route with ones tea trades so much of its content away that they seldom last in the cup, and this one is true to form, running out of steam quite quickly.

In my journal, I wrote "no huigan, no complexity, no point".  Harsh, but fair.  I can't remember who recommended this one, and I sincerely appreciate the suggestion - it's just that I've got more than enough of this kind of tea to last me a lifetime.  I try to be honest on these pages, as their function as a repository for me to look back on would be pointless if I was anything else. 

The moral of this story: don't indulge in the Houde rush!

That road is littered with corpses of the unwary...

January, 2011

Encouraged to revisit this little terror from a tea-chum, I sat down at the table happy to give the offender a chance at redemption.

There is a distinctly heavy camphor note in this cake, which is very pleasant.  However, it is malted to high heaven, as I noticed before.  I raise my conclusion (a little!), to considering this tea a fun way to spend an afternoon, but expect no further great things from it in the coming years.  Not a waste of money, but not one that I would try to obtain, were I to do it again.


Anonymous said...

Heck, small versions of that rush still happens. The XZH red tin stuff lasted only days. Both of them were worth the scrambling for, especially the gift set. Then there was that old Shin Ya and Big Snow Mountain maocha that lasted a mere 48 hours. Nowadays, I watch Houde just so I can see the rush whenever a desired item goes on sale. Like watching bluegills peck the heck out of the bread slice you threw in...

But this item? Sadly, not an especially exiting tea. And it still needs more years to wear more edges away to reach a plateau of smooth pleasantness. It was cheap though in wallet and shelf space.


drumhum said...

I'm sure all Pu buffs have these sorts of teas in their cupboard. I find the best thing to do... is to drink them!

There are those times when you want a mug of tea, to quench a thirst; when (dare I say it) even a bag of PG tips seems like the answer. You are perhaps in the middle of some job like gardening or washing the car, you need a big swig of something and the ponderous nature of tea trays and tiny cups just seems inappropriate. This is when my "poor pu" comes out. I'll just chuck in a lump of beeng in my large 300ml pot - or even straight into a mug. less "gong fu", more "bung and brew".

But then I'm so often surprised at how good my tea tastes! Even the nasty bitter stuff can be just whats needed to get back to the digging.

Lew Perin said...

And, to top it off with a problem you've complained of in the past, Hou De assigned this tea's name to their trusted employee Miss Pell for transliteration. Otherwise it might've been called Zhaizipo.

Hobbes said...

Dear Shah,

I'm not sure what time will do to something so oxidised. I have a seven-year-old bing of something similar, and it still tastes red. Sadly, the maturing process isn't a panacea: garbage in, garbage out.

Dear Drumhum,

I like your spirit! However, I try to limit my caffeine intake to just one session per day, and so every tea is valuable - a casual throwaway session with something undesirable like the Zhaizipo would mean no real tea for that day!

Dear Lew,

Silly me, taking Houde spelling to be accurate. I dug out the cake to find, with horror, that you are quite correct. Thanks for pointing it out.

I fail to understand how someone of Chinese descent cannot separate the two sounds "zi" and "zhi", but perhaps its a Taiwanese effect. I have heard of, but never met, Taiwanese people who deliberately take no interest in pinyin, given that it is a PRC construct. Perhaps even some Taiwanese who do not feel quite so politically about Pinyin merely have no clear understanding of its details.

Or perhaps Houde just can't spell :)



Anonymous said...

Alright, I'm sufficiently convinced that this is substantially different from before, so Hobbes, try this tea again and see if you don't get huigan/complexity/qi. This thing is no longer quiet, but just overloaded with camphor, with very sweet huigan, and interesting aftertastes. Primary flavor is still that oxidised honey, but I'm finding this *much* tastier than many other teas I have tried...i.e., for what it's worth, I'd much rather drink this iteration of 2004 ZhaiZiPo than the 2007 CGT Guafengzhai, not that this is saying all that much. I'd also drink this over the MingYuanHao '05 or the '07 XZH LongFeng.

Mebbe it's just this bing, but I'm enjoying the *hell* out of this since I started drinking it again (Houde gave me a spare in my last order). No pity appreciation of the runt of the litter, and I'm glad I didn't try to drink it up when I didn't like it *that* much.


Hobbes said...

Dear Shah8,

You're on! I'll try it first thing this coming week-end. I'd be delighted to be proven wrong. :)

Best wishes,