12 August, 2011

1999 CNNP 8582

Have you come across Tearoma yet?  This new shop appears to be based in Taiwan (and the US?), and has a small but very well-priced selection of cakes of a decent age (late 1990s, early 2000s).  Were the prices too good to be true?  Could it be that this 1999 cake is correctly priced at just $56?

1999 CNNP 8582 Green

To pre-empt my conclusion, I am decided that Tearoma is a decent shop, and that the prices are accurate reflections of the quality of the tea.  That this cake is low-priced allows us to guess my opinion of it.

The Tearoma representatives have been consistently helpful and friendly throughout my dealings with them, and this has given me a great deal of confidence.

The caveat emptor relates to the quality of the individual cakes, which is variable - however, they are all fairly priced.  "You get what you pay for."

1999 CNNP 8582 Green

Initially, no samples were on offer.  After some protracted wrangling, the proprietors kindly consented to sending me a package of four samples, as long as I paid the postage.  Fair enough, and much appreciated - more generous than most other vendors, in fact.  I plumped for a range of attractively-priced cakes with around ten years of maturity, this 8582 from 1999 being one of them.

Please take a moment to consider the above photograph.  Note in particular the colour of the leaves, which are almost green.  There is little to no sign of aging on these leaves, which is a surprise - it is not a heavily-compressed cake.

Associated with the rather troubling appearance is a similarly troubling aroma: the scent of the leaves is pure, buttery green.  I associate that butteriness with the wok, and so it is quite a surprise to be able to detect it after a supposed twelve years of ageing.

Perhaps that's just me being oversensitive, thunk I, and continued on with the brewing.

1999 CNNP 8582 Green

Feast your ocular faculties on the images above and below, and marvel at the distinct yellowness of the brew.  Something is clearly afoot.

1999 CNNP 8582 Green

Strangeness abound in the cup, as vibrant sweet straw is encountered, but not much else - it is energetic, but rather empty and passive.

1999 CNNP 8582 Green

If I were tasting this cake without information, I would say that this is a mainstream modern cake, of no more than three or four years of age - and not a particularly great one at that.  The spent leaves, pictured above, support this conjecture, given their overwhelming greenness - any red hue has been added by the colour-correction of my camera in this instance.

Was it a wrongly-packaged sample?  I gave Tearoma the benefit of the doubt, and asked them if it might be possible, and asked for a few words that they would be happy for me to quote in this article.  The response was polite and courteous, and stated that people's preferences vary, and that people's interpretations of tea vary.  I was reminded of recent experiences with Zhizheng Tea, who explained the thorough redness of their tea as being down to my inexperience with real pu'ercha.

The ever-polite correspondent from Tearoma included a scan of a page from China Teapot magazine, showing how the usual panel of "celebrity" reviewers couldn't agree on the ranking of a set of teas under review.  However, while I find it quite reasonable that a set of tasters might rank teas in different orders according to their preference, surely most experienced sippers could agree on the substantial, distinct, and obvious differences between entirely green tea, and a properly aged 12-year-old cake.  Deciding which is the better car given a choice of a Porsche, a Lamborghini, and a Lotus might vary according to driver*, but surely the differences between those three and a Ford Fiesta are fairly evident.

*Obviously, the Lotus wins.

So, my first encounter with Tearoma was a surprisingly negative one, in terms of the quality of the tea.  Perhaps this is implicitly understood by the seller, because younger cakes (such as a 2003 Menghai) sell for approximately double the cost of this (really rather dodgy) "1999" cake.

However, there were some good leaves to be had from Tearoma - I invite you to stay tuned for further fumblings.


Marlonm said...

Really enjoyed this post and look forward to future musings on Tearoma. I believe my friend Dylan purchased a small single sheng cake from them at the 2010 World Tea Expo. It's the one pictured in their "puer tea kit" here - http://tearomashop.com/products-page/all/pu-erh-tea-kit/

Your post inspired us to brew it up so we'll report back in the near future.

Thanks for the post,

Hobbes said...

Thanks very much, Marlonm.

The "Pu'er Tea Kit" has been advertised in the various Wuxing periodicals for quite some time, and I've had my eye on it! The rather blistering price tag has kept me at bay, however.

It looks like a very interesting collection, and reminds me of the Zhimingdu selection from China Chadao / Zhimingdu Taobao shop. I look forward to reading your notes.

All the best,


Brandon said...

The shop is run by a young lady in NYC. She has some family connections in Taiwan. It started out mainly as a US reseller of Wuxing publications - puerh is a recent addition.

Met her a few times and purchased some publications - but I was very curious/skeptical of the puerh selection. Thanks for clearing it up.

Hobbes said...

Dear Brandon,

Of the four samples that they kindly provided, one was very good, one was good, but a mislabelled, and two were very bad. More soon. :)



Anonymous said...

An informative article. Thanks !