Some times call for good tea. What better way to see in the New Year than with an 8582 from the 1980s? Due to the immense charity of my readers, in this instance BH, my previously-held opinion that 8582 is a poor counterpart to 7532 and 7542 when aged has been overturned. Only a fool cannot change their minds, and in the face of the evidence, it is with great delight that I change mine.
Given the nature of the occassion, I opt for one, super-large session, rather than splitting the leaves into a pair of smaller sessions. I am not one of those types who can, most admirably, get by with a smaller amount of leaves. Hence, everything from the generous sample-sachet goes into the chahe, pictured below...
This session started at around 5.30 a.m., when the sun had yet to rise; at the end of the session, the cold sun was high in the sky. Such is the staying-power of this very well-aged example.
As with many older cakes, this 8582 has fragmented leaves, although they are of a large size. (The "8" corresponds to the size of the leaf, indicating larger expected sizes than the "4" of the 7542 or the "3" of the 7532.) I usually prefer a healthy mixture of longer leaves in the blend. The leaves are quiet and asleep when I start, giving a reticent bookish aroma in the cold morning air.
An advantage to using plenty of leaf is immediately obvious in the heavy, thick red colouration of the first infusion (shown above). Throughout the course of the 25-or-so infusions that I spend with this tea, they remain the heavy burgundy colour shown above for the majority.
Its intense darkness carries a sharp and powerful aroma: old and sweet. In the pinmingbei [tasting cup], it is reassuringly thick and smooth. It is consistently amazing to me how thick an aged tea can become, and even the fact that it thickens at all is a constant fascination.
As one would hope, its heavy sweetness dwells in the throat, lingering for over a minute after the swallow, as the warmth of the brew pushes into the furthest extremities. My breath simultaneously cools, as if I had eaten mint.
I had been saving this tea for a special occassion, and this was it. It is my habit to write in my diary while I drink at the table. A few sentences about the tea, but mostly about the curiousities of my little life, small thoughts, and so on. During the course of the session with this most long-lived of teas, my pen consumed a surprising 18 pages.
Many thanks, once again, to BH for this very special treat, and a very happy 2012 to all.