The storm-clouds briefly part, affording a glimpse of the sun. Visitors to England would be forgiven for thinking that this country is a soggy, chilly land perpetually covered by grey clouds. My own lab is filled primarily with researchers from overseas, and they like to make it clear that, as the resident Englishman, the weather is my fault. To my colleagues, I can only apologise.
However, as the image below will testify, we have sunny days. Once in a while. What better way to celebrate than with one of Eugene's cakes from Tea Urchin? The amusingly-named "Gaoshanzhai" [high mountain village] is an Yiwu-area village, and has been cropping up in producer's repertoires more and more often.
Shown below, these leaves look mighty fine. The maocha consists of some of the longest leaves that I have seen in quite some time. They exude a very decent low, fruitiness, which is in keeping with the reputation for floral and sweet characteristics from this Yiwu village.
Pictured below, the leaves are so long, in fact, that I have to pre-moisten them such that I can bend them to get them into the pot without breakage. With leaves as luscious and long, surely the character in the cup must be similarly excellent.
The solidity of the yellow soup has a hint of green, a sign of extreme youth and very decent processing - neither overcooked nor undercooked. The aroma cup discloses a gentle aroma of sweet white sugar. In the mouth, it is an interesting and gradual tea: it opens quietly, but builds to a strong finish. The fruits for which the region is famous build similarly in the aroma.
Preventing me from waxing too lyrical is a fairly odd tendency to seem quite caustic, and quite citric in its character. This tartness develops as the infusions pass, and comes to dominate the body of the tea, which, I wrote in my diary, "makes it very difficult to enjoy." The strength is good, but the sharpness makes it unattractive for immediate consumption. This is no bad thing in itself, of course, because it could be that this citric power gives it something on which the aging process can work. That, however, is rather speculative - only time will tell.
At a hefty $70 / 357g, the price is rather too high for a gamble. It is clean and strong, but it has the muted body of an autumnal cake compared to the green brilliance of spring leaves. One would have to be particularly brave to gamble so much on an autumnal cake, I suspect.
Later infusions do not redeem the cake, and, if anything, the caustic nature builds further. Perhaps these will be golden in ten years time, but I suspect that this may be my last interaction with this cake for quite a while. An interesting, if not entirely magical, experience with a collection of leaves that were quite the prettiest that I have seen in a long time.