(One of my favourite childhood films, particularly Brian Blessed's hawkman...)
Regular readers may have gathered that my Singaporean teachum, Keng, has provided me with tons of tea over the past few years. Absolutely tons. His generosity really is genuinely staggering.
His Kengship recently sent another enormous box, which seemed to make the Singapore-to-England trip in just a few days.
It's like an early-spring version of Christmas. The star of the box, without any doubt, is the frankly rather amazing 1980s Guangdong Qingbing, pictured below.
Such an undeserved treat requires plenty of time to appreciate, and I set aside a chunk of hours to spend some time with what is probably now the oldest whole cake in my house.
There is no wrapper to this old fellow, but a tiny, circular neifei (pictured above) which has been pressed into the cake, in the central area flattened by the mould in which the cake was pressed.
This cake has been through some heavy compression, as you will be able to see immediately from the above image. It is dense, heavy, and very thin, comprised of tiny "high grade" (i.e., small) leaves, which have turned a rusted-red colour through the twenty-to-thirty years of this cake's lifetime.
To keep Zidu [purple belly], my big pot, company, we decide to give "Xiaodu" [little belly] his first brew. What better first tea to brew than this fine, old example. I can fit a few grams inside his little belly.
This cake is still very much alive, thanks to its excellent storage and tight compression. It has some of its kuwei [good bitterness] remaining, but evolved into a heavier form, which sits very well with the mahogany-wood richness of the flavour.
Smooth, heavy, and full, it dominates the throat after the swallow. The density of its colour is accurately captured in the photograph above, which goes to show just how much power and content this tea has developed.
The sweetness lasts seemingly forever, and I have a hard job even denting its power - after twenty infusions, it remains as potent as the first infusion, requiring instant water-in, water-out brews even after so much time. It is a remarkable tea.
Xiaodu seems to like it very much, and his skin begins to shine under the influence of the fresh soup. He brews precisely enough to fill one tiny cup, as pictured below.
I try to keep the amount of equipment that sits on my teatable down to a reasonable level - our table is not as one typically sees in Chinese teashops, in which every horizontal surface is covered in pots and vessels. However, my regular company at the tea-table includes Zidu, Gertrude (our qingzi / celadon gaiwan), Lesseps (our chahe - "tea lotus"), and Qingchan (my zisha frog), as well as the usual array of chadao. To that company, little Xiaodu will be added, and I will build up his patina along with Zidu's, so that our son Xiaohu has a pretty, seasoned pot when he is ready to brew his own tea, one day. We'll be able to tell him that his pot was a generous gift.
I'm looking forward to getting to Singapore, one day. It seems that we have a lot of tea-drinking to catch up on.
Be prepared for a bevvy of new articles as Lei and I explore Keng's new box of delights...