The life of a young academic is nomadic. There is very little certainty, and we tend to roam. Stability and permanence are not usually available to the likes of us. Lei and I both fit into this category, and we are continually grateful for the (relative) stability that has been afforded us of late. Many of you, gentle Readers, are in the same boat.
This year, for me, was typical: I waved goodbye to my old college and decamped for another, halfway across town. (In fact, it is my brother's college, which is pleasantly weird.) There are over thirty colleges in our university, and I have now travelled through seven of them - student at two, lecturer at four, fellow at one. Ever the traveller. Like the character in the old TV series Quantum Leap, I hope that every next leap will be the leap home.
You never know.
My new college is a little older than my old college; however, it is not New College, which is one of the oldest colleges. My new college is newer than New - by a few centuries, in fact, being founded when Shakespeare was seven years old.
The city is never this sunny. Ever.
With the coming of the new Michaelmas term, a new batch of Freshers throw themselves willingly into the fray. Wide-eyed new souls to be forged, manipulated, and bent to the evil will of their tutors. Before the chaos of "1st week" begins, I enjoy the last fleeting wisps of summer freedom in this, "0th week". That means tea.
To bid adieu to the departed summer, I select a sample of "Nanpozhai" [nan-poh-djai], kindly provided by Scott of Yunnan Sourcing with my last order. The wrapper is shown above; Scott has returned to the traditional calligraphic renderings of the Hanzi, on a white background. It's simple, it's elegant, and it's probably not going to have evil coloured inks that adversely affect the tea. A fine choice.
I wasn't aware of this until I read Scott's detailed notes (which are always very welcome), but Nanpozhai is the next village over from Bingdaozhai, which is the place in Mengku County (of Lincang prefecture) famous for its centuries-old "mother trees". He has another cake from Bingdao [ice island], which is, appropriately, called "Mushucha" [mother-tree tea]. It will be interesting to see if this Nanpozhai has inherited any of the regions famously cooling, mouth-chilling characteristics.
The leaves are medium-to-large, and reaffirm my confidence in Scott's ability to select healthy, well-handled maocha. As the sample pack is opened, a fruity aroma forcefully elbows its way out of the bag.
As with most of the Yunzhiyuan cakes, this brews a healthy yellow, which unhurriedly turns a dense yellow as the action of the air works upon it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is most cooling on the tongue. However, it combines with a clean fruity bouquet, much like that of the dry leaves.
Each of us has our own tastes in pu'ercha, and this cake begins by playing quite strongly to mine: it has a sweet, cereal-like base, much beloved in Lincang teas, with a great deal of tobacco and other heavy flavours to keep me happy. Over the top of all this develops a minty freshness of chilling Bingdao.
Later infusions build in kuwei [bitter taste], and it pushes out into a sharp, citric territory that makes me think twice about loving it too much - although it is not at all unpleasant. By the end of the session, I am left with a gentle soup of low, decent activity. There is a good quantity of contents to be found in the leaves, and it has the sheer trousers to do well after a few years, I imagine. The charm of the first infusions wears off quickly, and this talks me out of buying a cake - but, if your shelves have room for a most interesting Lincang cake, comprising Bingdao ice with Mengku cereal, this is definitely worth at least sampling.
Let the term commence!