17 September, 2010

2010 Essence of Tea "Mansai"

We've been undergoing antenatal classes, recently, in preparation for our new arrival. Childbirth and childcare are alien fields to me, so any information is soaked up like a dry sponge.  Our antenatal nurse left a life-size, actual-weight infant doll in our house for us to practice changing nappies and so on.  I found myself reading my weekly periodicals with Proto-George on my knee.


Antenatal


The proprietors of Essence of Tea have also been hard at work, this year, working on their own range of cakes.  They range between decent to excellent, and I thought I'd open the batting with what I believe to be the best deal from this year's range - the "Mansai".


2010 Nada Mansei


The story of the tea is amusing: Nada seemingly had to cross a rope bridge to get to the village where this tea was made, in the disputed territories between Myanmar and the PRC, at the foot of the Bulang range of mountains.

Adventurous procurement aside, the tea itself, like most hand-made cakes from vendors, is very pretty.  The leaves, pictured above, are dark, fruity, and sweet.  We have some stems, and some broken leaves (seemingly from the aforementioned journey that these leaves took to reach the outside world).

I originally tried this tea as a maocha, and it was immensely smokey.  The bingcha version, happily, has seen that smokiness dissipate, making this one of two of Nada's teas from this year that I really love.


2010 Nada Mansei


I'm not really one for nancified, feminine, delicate teas.  I can't see them managing to stay the course of years, with their effete, louche, elegance.  I'm on the hunt for beefy, chunky, fat, chubby, sweaty, calorific, overweight, aggressively obnoxious teas.  It seems that my tastes differ from Nada's in this respect, because the majority of his products seem to be of the former variety.  Hence, this cake was something of a pleasure.

This Mansai is active from the start, containing a big, buttery scent and flavour.  The huge energy and cooling characteristics are testament to the excellent quality of it contents.  I detected a hint of dry-roasting from the wok, which Nada conceded.

It is a gripping, buttery-sweet monster, with a pure, monolithic kuwei [bitterness], and a similar huigan.  It is dry, like a good white wine, but also cereal-like, as with Lincang and other "outlier" teas.

This is one of three Nadacha cakes of which I bought a tong, this year.  At £25, I think it's the best value of the batch, in terms of what you get for your money.  The quality is not really up for debate.



Addendum
April, 2014

Looking at the first photograph in the above provokes hearty chuckles: the baby that we were expecting back then is now 3.5 years old and bossing his poor father around.  Has the 2010 Mansai aged in a similarly effective manner?




It took me a while to find, but that is because I did not notice that the tong is entirely unopened - I was looking for paper-wrapped cakes, when I should have been searching in my bamboo zones.  It seems that I bought this tong (for a little under £25 per cake!) based on the sample alone, and have not tried any of the actual cakes.




Therefore, it is time to crank up the chiptunes and see what the Mansai has to offer.  A quick check of the cake suggests that all seems well:




The maocha looks as if it is no longer new: there is a darker, browner hue to the leaves that suggests they have seem some humidity.  The scent is sweet.  So far, so good.




If the original cake was yellow, this is more towards orange (as pictured below).  The scent in the wenxiangbei [aroma cup] is straightforward sweetness, with a decent lengxiang [cooling scent] that suggests the tea has some "finish"; i.e., contents that might dwell in the throat.

This is confirmed by the characteristics in the mouth: the sweetness remains, the kuwei has settled into a solid, back-end throatiness, and the texture is robust.  I can see why I chose this cake: it has the trousers that led me to imagine that it would not fade away with age, and it has a decent base on which "aged" characteristics might build.  This turns out to be not too far from the actual state of the tea after four years: it has become low, dense, heavy, and sweet in a most complimentary manner, while retaining trousers sufficient for further aging.




The price.  Oh, the price!  What can you get for a mere £25 these days?  Some ropey, grim plantation tea from a no-name factory?  What shocking bargaination occurred back then, in 2010, in days when Essence of Tea's prices were perhaps 20% of their current level - indeed, this was a time in which they were probably over-generous (i.e., too low for the quality).  It is no coincidence that the majority of the tong in my collection were bought before 2011.

I am pleased with how this cake has come on within four years; perhaps a direct comparison to the 2011 Mansai might be sensible.  Thanks again to NorberT and Tofu Miso for the suggestion of trying this cake again.

15 comments:

Nicolas said...

"I'm on the hunt for beefy, chunky, fat, chubby, sweaty, calorific, overweight, aggressively obnoxious teas". I think it's my way to adress puerh. A puerh too light is annoying.

Hobbes said...

I do likea bit of character - I'm not a subtle man. :)


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

Nicolas said...

;DD

Zero the Hero said...

I thought this tea had the most noticeable oxidation of this year's batch. Maybe from its long journey? I'm surprised not to see mention of that here, but then again it's pretty subtle and nowhere near the level of oxidation you sometimes rail against.

Thoughts on the EoT Jingmai? That one seemed like it might be to your liking as well...and of course, the mighty Bulang.

Best,
Zero

Hobbes said...

Coming up :)

B said...

I bought a tong, I hope it is as good as you say, or there will be trouble. :)

Hobbes said...

Good luck, B - please let us know how you get on!


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

drumhum said...

"I detected a hint of dry-roasting from the wok, which Nada conceded."

I'm just wondering what flavour or characteristic gives away the dry-roasting process? What am I looking for in order to be able to detect such things?


I took the range of Nada's 2010 offerings as small one-pot samples before deciding on what to buy. It can be very difficult doing things this way and I think in future, I'll go back to thinking of a whole cake as being a sample! I had to have the Bulang - I knew by the first sip, but my second choice was less easy. I shall be very interested to know what your other favourite will be. I nearly went for the Mansai but decided against it at the last minute. I'm wondering if I made the right choice now. heh.

Everything I've had from Nada has been excellent. I don't think he does second rate.

B said...

Dear Hobbes,

My tong arrived at the office yesterday ! I only got a chance to try it this morning as some Yunnan wild arbor oriental beauty oolong had arrived at home the day before so I'd brought that to work with me to try (very delicious).

As for the Mansai, I'm very impressed with it ! What a nice tea. I think I steeped it a little too long so looking forward to the next infusion to get all those nice flavours minus the slight hint of bitterness.

Could you mention what temperature you use and how long you steep it for ?

All the best,

NorberT said...

I tried this tea a couple of times lately but I wasn't impressed, I hope that this is only a strange period in the ageing process. :(
Nprbert

Hobbes said...

Dear Norbert,

Thank you for the comment, which has left me intrigued! I will try and find my own version of this cake for the next possible opportunity.


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

Tofu Miso said...

Hobbes , have you had a chance to revisit this yet ? --------- I await your update with interest ! All the best !

Hobbes said...

Dear Tofu Miso,

You know, I actually tried to find this cake this last week-end, but was called away for another task, and then was permanently waylaid from my mission. I will pursue this quest at the next opportunity!


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

Tofu Miso said...

Hi Hobbes , thanks for the update . Your time and effort is much appreciated and enjoyed ! I used to drink this quite regularly at one time - a firm favourite - but have not had any recently ------ must have a session with some of this again myself sometime soon !

Hobbes said...

It seems pretty good to me - that is, not amazing, but it has virtues. For £25, we can't really complain. :)


Toodlepip,

Hobbes