A long time ago, I wrote about a cake that I enjoyed very much, the 1999 Chen Guanghetang "Mengsa". Its sister, the 1999 Yiwu Longma [Dragon and Horse] proved rather more popular with Iwii and Nada at the time, and now, years later, I return to examine the other half of the story.
Lei tells me that "Tang" (as in Xizihao's "Sanhetang" and Chen Zhitong's "Chen Guanghetang") literally means "hall", and that it is the ancient manner of naming a company in Chinese. "Guanghetang" would therefore be, approximately, "broad/covering together hall". Very roughly.
In the manner of the stereotypical Chinese / Taiwanese merchant, Chen Zhitong does not give the immediate impression of being a modest man. "This is better than Big Green Tree!", quoth he.
If there's one thing that rubs me up the wrong way, it's bluff old bravado. Then again, he does make good tea, so his claim may be entirely fair. The proof of the pudding is in the tasting...
This is pretty tea, you have to admit. Feast your ocular facilities over the long, lustrous, lascivious leaves shown above. Desirable, non? Some twelve years after plucking, and they resemble wulong.
Fortunately, that is where the similarity to wulong ends. The soup turns out to be a chunky, fat red (as may be seen below), which contrasts immediately with the yellow-orange of the similarly aged, but dissimilarly stored, 1999 Dadugang "Yunnan Yuanbao".
Smooth, thick, and heavy in chaqi - however, the flavour is hidden, being distant sweetness, behind the texture, and overall kougan [feeling in the mouth]. This is a tactile, lively tea, but it doesn't taste of a great deal.
By the fifth infusion, it requires substantially lengthened infusion times, which, combined with the very distant character, make me wonder if this tea is a touch exhausted in some way. It has been stored in a sealed sample bag for some years, and so I'm sure that it isn't at its best - but other teas from the same year, stored in the same imperfect manner, have retained their potency where this has not.
I pile in the leaves, but little difference is made. On reading Houde's notes, I suspect that we may have found the reason why: this is a blend of maocha from various years, from various locations throughout the Yiwu region, from various seasons, and from various types of growth. It is a varied blend, but this seems to have detrimentally affected its potency.
On the face of the evidence, I must conclude that Mr. Chen's claim that this is "better than Big Green Tree" is, unfortunately for him and for me, pure bunk.