Gordon's Dragon Teahouse has a soft spot in my affections. Like a force of nature, his charming little outfit has been trucking on for ages, quietly and peacefully selling decent (mostly mainstream) tea at decent prices without making a fuss. There's something immensely appealing about discretion like that. It's very English, and very Chinese.
As I was searching the unnavigable depths of my shelves for something fun to drink, I came across a little pouch from my American tea-chum, Mr. Cahn, containing this home-made Dragon Teahouse cake. "Ayup", methunk to myself, "I don't think I've ever tried Gordon's cakes before." Back in 2009, Gordon had a whole collection of these made, and I somehow never got around to trying them - probably moving house and murdering the last bit of life out of DPhil thesis were responsible.
Like many hand-made productions, this one looks pretty. Gordon's familiar white photograph of the cake, pictured above, and the sample itself, pictured below, give the impression of decent handling, and decent leaves.
The cake was pressed by facilities at the Mengyang Guoyan Tea Co., a business famous for (i) being run by a person of a gender that is not male, and (ii) producing crushingly mainstream cakes (with the exception of the lovely 2005 Laobanzhang, which I have since bought in quantity from Taobao). However, Gordon follows in auspicious footsteps, as I recall that many of the 2007 Xizihao cakes were pressed in the same factory.
I appreciate Bulangshan cakes. They're usually unashamedly hardcore, and remind me of the gunnery sergeant from Full Metal Jacket, in a nice way.
These leaves come from Guangbie village, some 6 km away from Laobanzhang village. I approve of Gordon's decision not to open that hornet's nest of high prices and dubious practices. Without the commitment of time of, for example, Nada of Essence of Tea, it would be difficult to negotiate reasonable prices of Laobanzhang leaves with any confidence in the quality of what you've been sold.
How tall are you, Private? I didn't know they stacked **** that high
The leaves are clean, and have that familiar scent of fresh leather. Gordon has done well in his selection of glossy, downy, entirely healthy leaves.
The soup pours yellow, and then gradually turns orange in the air; with a time-constant of approx. 30s, this is a pleasantly active tea. It seems very positive.
Roasted, butter sweetness, with perhaps a little character from a wok or a drier. Some roasted sweetness in the body, with plenty of long-lasting kuwei [bitter taste] that stays well in the throat. Very pleasant, if not entirely untouched by human intervention.
A good down-to-earth tea from Mengyang Guoyan, who are known for being generally reasonable, and occasionally quite nice. Decent quality plantation-plus-a-bit-more maocha that starts well, and doesn't get too dominated by its bush-like base as infusions continue. Nothing that I'd seek out in quantity, but highly mouthwatering, nonetheless.
Dragon Teahouse unassumedly lists this tea under "Other Factories". Good for you, Gordon. I'm a quiet fan.