I'm drinking this tea at 4 a.m., following a brief awakening of Xiaohu. I never object when those better of my students want to go rowing in the mornings - it is an early-morning commitment every day, and yet it has the effect (on a strong student) of focussing the mind on the hours that remain. (Weaker students tend to get bogged down, losing time and energy, and we soon ask them to stop rowing.)
When time is limited, the remaining time perhaps becomes more productive, due to an increased sense of gentle urgency. It is this way with my rowers; it is this way with my working day. Between the morning Xiaohu routine (dressing / feeding / cycling to nursery) and the evening routine (cooking dinner / reading with Xiaohu / putting him to bed), the hours between are compressed... and yet very alive. It is a fascinating effect - my traditional recommendation still stands, that male readers should impregnate someone to find out for yourselves. It's great.
So what is keeping me awake at 4 a.m.?
I think Scott is getting busier. I used to drink all of his cakes, but these days can only manage a selection of the better ones. They're usually in the range good-to-very-good, and so it's not hard to enjoy them.
This particular cake is the autumnal version of the most expensive of his spring cakes (which sold for over $100). I very much enjoyed that spring cake, but was a little put off by the price. This autumnal ("guhua") tea is around half of the price of the spring version, for an equivalent weight. Scott is usually fair with his prices, and this leads me to suspect that something is "up" with this tea.
Unsurprisingly, it looks lovely. Despite my ropey pre-dawn photography, pictured above, you can see the lovely, long leaves.
The first sign that this isn't up to its spring counterpart is the particularly quiet aroma; the leaves exude a remote, gentle sweetness, but little more.
This continues in the cup: the first infusion is almost entirely dormant, while later infusions gently gather a heavy body, with a gently sweet character. However, the heights of the springtime leaves are not scaled. Autumnal cakes are usually less potent, but perhaps darker, richer, and lower. This cake, unfortunately, just seems more distant, weedy, and simple.
I drink the remainder of the leaves to exhaustion in my office, background brewing, and they last well. However, the basic sweetness, with a tangy body, are all that remain of my hopes for this cake. If you haven't yet tried a sample of the springtime version, I highly recommend it. This one didn't really enthuse me, though.
Happily, there are plenty of other cakes with equal promise in Scott's autumnal range...