A deadline passed recently, for which I was working very hard. I stayed in my lab until 10 p.m. for a few evenings running, which made for some long days. The deadline arrived, I gave a presentation, and life returned to normal.
The next morning, after the deadline, I was cycling up the hill towards my department, and had composed half-a-dozen haiku in my head before I had even reached my destination. The details of life returned to me, once more. Breezes, leaves, sunshine. Surely, this is a sign that there is life after deadlines.
Back at home, the weather turning colder, and the leaves becoming tinged with red, I realised that autumn is not just threatening to arrive - it is here already. Little signs indicate its presence: condensation on the windows in the morning, the last days of the punting season, my wife wearing Chinese leggings underneath her trousers.
Summertime is fading, and with it, my chances to enjoy my qingxiang wulong - I prefer to drink them in the warmer months, along with green tea. So, to the last of my sample of "Dayuling" wulong, from Essence of Tea.
I have long suspected that the greatest profits for on-line tea merchants are in (i) pottery, (ii) wulong, (iii) everything else, in descending order. The products for the former two are untraceable, the margins are nebulous, and, more or less, one can charge what one wishes for pots and wulong. It is no coincidence that I buy neither via the internet.
The world of pu'er sales, of course, is much more competitive - especially when it comes to selling modern pu'er. The customer can simply look up the "real" price on Taobao, and suddenly one's margins appear for what they are. There is little space for creative vendor marketing and consequently comfortable margins when it comes to such transparently-priced goods, and I appreciate transparency. It is the defining factor of a mature market.
I can't imagine what the market for modern CNNP might be. I suspect it is aimed at the mass of the Chinese populace for whom pu'ercha is something special, unknown, and unknowable. Hence, there are now many brands that produce "friendly" (i.e., processed) cakes for immediate consumption by the general public.
This "Yun Tianxia" [charm/harmony everywhere under heaven] is probably some sort of special production, given its sweeping name. I get the impression from personal experience that the taste of the average Chinese nouveau-riche tends towards the ostentatious. Hence, the amusing vulgarities of "VIP" counters in most city banks, special private dining rooms in restaurants filled with loud large-screen televisions, and so on. One isn't successful unless he is waving it in the face of his peers, it seems - this is precisely the opposite to English culture, which makes for endless fun when travelling the Mainland...
This cake certainly looks the part, however, and is made from beautifully long leaves. The compression has been performed by hand, and it is easy to remove entire leaves from the bing.
I'm sure I don't need to bother you with my prejudice against modern CNNP. This cake does not shake my assumptions about the brand, it being sour, moderately sweet, tangy, and straw-like. It is not bad, per se, but it soldiers on through the infusions in an unchanging and unenthralling manner.
Thanks to Keng for generously providing Lei and me with the opportunity to try this cake.
In other news, Taobao Focus have recently provided me with a photograph of our latest order, collected at their warehouse in China, awaiting shipment to the UK:
Tongs of Xingshunxiang and Dingxing prior to shipping, plus some unexpected additions!