14 April, 2011

2005 Douji "Purple Yisheng"

Recently, I chuckled aloud (Wrapper Mayhem) at the seeming similarities between my old favourite, the 2005 Yisheng and a red-labelled cake from Yiwuzhengshan Tea Co. (makes of Douji).

"Oh, you crazy Chinese chappies", I exclaimed to myself.  Yet, it appears consequently (from conversation with His Grace, Dr. the Duke of N, and from the Taobao descriptions) that these are, in fact, cakes from the same producer.  This makes me happy, because I rather like Douji cakes - particularly the earlier varieties.

Imagine, then, the dampness of my undergarments when I was informed that a purple-label "yisheng" (of the Douji variety) exists.

2005 Douji Yisheng Purple
This isn't what they usually mean by "spring and autumn"

Such is the way of things: Yunnan Sourcing, the merchant selling the cakes for a decent $60, promptly sold out of both cakes.  C'est la vie.

Fortunately, samples were still on offer, and a big box of samples generously provided by YS arrived at my office yesterday afternoon.  This morning, I snuck a quick tea-session into the hour before breakfast.

2005 Douji Yisheng Purple

The 10g sample looks rather anaemic in the large sample bag.  Do I use the whole 10g and risk it being too bitter?  Do I try to get by with 5g, so that I can have another session, and risk it being too watery?  I conclude that one decent session is better than two weak sessions, and use somewhere between the two - just the right amount for my pot.  (Heaven knows what the actual weight might be.)

The leaves, as you can see for yourself, look rather good.  While fragmented, they have an encouraging orangeness about them, while seeming well-defined and down-covered.

From the very first sniff of the wenxiangbei [aroma cup], my hopes are sustained: it offers a full, camphor-like scent that endures for long minutes, gradually evolving into a heavy, dark sweetness.  This is in marked contrast to weaker cakes, such as the recent 2008 Chenshenghao "Nannuo" - the Douji has some real backbone to its aroma, so to speak.

2005 Douji Yisheng Purple

It pours a straight orange that deepens as it sits in the gongdaobei [collecting jug, a.k.a. "fairness cup"], which indicates a good level of activity and life remains in the tea.

Happily, the success story continues in the mouth: those camphor notes swell to dominate the tongue, combined with the hoped-for woody sweetness that comes with it's few years of age.  

If you'll forgive some graphic detail, my mouth begins to water profusely as the tea sits in the throat, and its activity and decent quality can be felt in the pronounced cooling sensation left on the tongue.  This is a solid cake.

2005 Douji Yisheng Purple

It is not the thickest soup in the world, but it is highly active and has plenty of energy remaining that suggests it should improve with a few more years.  For future reference, I will err on the side of using more leaves, next time, as it appears to prefer a larger quantity.

I am left feeling entirely calm, in the manner of a good tonic, and yet freshened. 

Thus, my next concern is where I might find some of this zippy little fellow.  I turn to Taobao, and find that it sells for 350 RMB, which is around $53 - indicating that the Yunnan Sourcing price-tag was very reasonable.

I will order a test cake and report my findings in due course.  In the meantime, should you come across this purple label, I'd recommend having a go with it.

(Cf. MarshalN's notes on the red- and purple-wrapper Douji versions.)

Edit: these have since sold out even at Taobao!  Fine work indeed, and perhaps the first time that our Western pu'ermania has reached Taobao...


Australia said...

Hello. I came across your blog for the first time about two months ago, and I’ve been a big fan since. I just wanted to finally stop lurking!

Hobbes said...

G'day, and, if I may be so bold, streuth. :)

I'm very glad to read that the ol' Half Dipper has made it where the sun always shines!



Hektor Konomi said...

This is a great blog, thanks for the in-depth articles.
What would purple-label "yisheng" mean? Does it signify higher quality (sort of like Johnnie Walker Blue Label)?

Thanks and keep up the good work,

Hektor Konomi

Hobbes said...

Dear Hektor,

In this case, the "purple" aspect is merely the colour of the label, and little else. The producers used it to differentiate it from the red version, and it means nothing deeper than that for the Douji cakes in the article. THe purple cake is a bit more potent, I think.

More generally, "purple" pu'ercha can mean the literally purple-coloured leaves of a certain type. These are typically more fruity than usual pu'ercha leaves.