02 September, 2012

2011 Mengku Jinqiao "Xiaoyangchun", 2005 Jinuoshan "Taiyanggu"

Being a junior academic is a lot of work.  Specifically, attempting to get tenured is a lot of work.  It's like pulling teeth, and about as painful.  It is a siege that seemingly has no end.  Sieges are never very comfortable, both for the siegers and the siegees.  I'm still undergoing this particular siege myself; I may or may not be getting closer to the goal.  Time will tell. 

This agonising process is made all the more intricate by the Byzantine nature of the university that employs me and my dear wife.  I won't bore you with the details of the bizarre structure, which is the result of a long period of (very) gradual evolution.  Suffice to say that, if you want to achieve something, you need to be ready to engage in what Bismarck termed "the art of the possible". 

A consequence of this preternatural institutional convolution is that I end up moving around.  From year to year, I proceed in an ever-so-gradual series of incremental steps towards heaven-knows-what.  Looking back over the pages of this humble site, I see that some of these moves have made it into the images: my move to a college that reminded me of my grandmother's house (and to where Xiaohu has been going to nursery); a move to a little place famous only for having the fictional "Professor X" among its alumni; a move to a much larger place, famous for being almost entirely Welsh.  You can even buy stress-relieving "squeezy sheep" from the Lodge of that last one.

Entrance and Chapel

The academic year in England (and perhaps elsewhere?) starts in October, which means everyone's permutations occur in the preceeding months of summer.  Although not tenured, I have somehow been appointed as a Fellow of the college above, and a Lecturer of the college below, which are titles that are misleading when translated into the academic structures of other universities in England, let alone into those of other countries.  Fear not, I remain your humble, and entirely junior, dogsbody for the time being.  If there is some advantage in this latest move, it is that I will (hopefully) not be leaving these positions, as I have those in years past.  This place really needs an explanatory rulebook.  I first came here in 1998, and I'm still often taken by surprise.

From Broad Street

After a hard day's politicking, the tea-table seems comparably straightforward, and a delight in its simplicity. 

2011 Xiaoyangchun

This first sample comes thanks to the generosity of Bannacha, although it doesn't seem to be available there any more.  I appreciate the range of decently-priced cakes there, and have been enjoying some of William's samples lately.  

I found this Mengku Jinqiao cake for sale for 20 euro at a Barcelona outfit by the name of Cajchai, which, the web-site informs me, should be pronounced "chai chai".  They note that the cake froms from two villages near Xibanshan in Mengku county of Lincang prefecture.  The "Xiaoyangchun" name suggests springtime, but it is in fact an autumnal cake.

2011 Xiaoyangchun

The leaves look healthy, and the blend comprises both tips and basis leaves, which may well help its cause by offering the best of both worlds.  

Oddly, while I was Googling for information concerning this cake, I came across a German web-site which (in German) was discussing my personal preference for Lincang cakes (!).  I should get some "I heart Lincang prefecture" t-shirts printed.  "Ich liebe Lincang", maybe.

Which gender is Lincang diqu?!

2011 Xiaoyangchun

The buttery scent rather exceeds my expectations in its complexity and longevity.  For good or ill, I find myself becoming more dependent on scent when it comes to pu'ercha.  It is true that lighter scents are the first things to depart a cake as it ages, but that is not my meaning; rather, the content of a tea, in the relative presence of heavy and light compounds, seems readily identifiable in the scent, as well as in the mouth.  This scent is both in the wenxiangbei [aroma cup], but also in the dry leaves themselves.  The correlation between progression and components of the scent, and the progression and contents revealed by the soup in the mouth, often takes me by surprise.  Perhaps it shouldn't, given the nature of the olefactory senses.

I wrote in my diary that "this is not a grand tea, but it is rather good".  I should note that the seemingly low price of 20 euro buys you just 100g of xiaobing, and so, when scaled up to a full bing-equivalent 357g, it suddenly seems rather pricey.

There is a cooling sensation to be found, which is very positive, and, while it does have a low ceiling of green heaviness, it does a decent job of penetrating the mouth with its sweetness.  It has the nature of soft fruits, in keeping with its autumnal nature, but yet has some backbone - something autumnal teas can, from time to time, lack.  Perhaps if priced more reasonably, this would be a worthwhile punt.

2005 Jinuoshan Taiyanggu

Jinuoshan is what we drinkers may otherwise know as Youleshan, which is the old name for the region and the Chinese minority that live there (Jinuo / Youle).  Thanks to THE JAKUB for supplying this sample, which is called "Taiyangqu" [sun drum], and which is sold by Yunnan Sourcing under the name "Red Sun Drum" for $40.  Scott notes that it has been stored in Xishuangbanna, which is a good place to keep tea.

2005 Jinuoshan Taiyanggu

This 2005 tea is similar to the very strange 2004 version.  I couldn't get on with the latter, finding it to be almost processed to oblivion.  This 2005 tuocha has a fruity scent, and the body is particularly sweet.  It is remarkably cooling, suhhesting that the claim that the leaves come from 50-70 year-old trees may be true.  This is a better pu'ercha than the 2004, to my tastes.  Despite having generally similar processing, its cooling sensation and mouthwatering finish keep it interesting.  The yellow-to-orange soup has a body of malt and low, thick molasses.  It is quite strange, but good fun.

2005 Jinuoshan Taiyanggu

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it does not hold up very well in later infusions; tea processed in this manner tends to die quickly, both in later infusions, and when aging.  I wrote that it "seems to have had its heart cooked out of it".

As a most welcome diversion from all things academic, I am gratefully indebted to William and The Jakub for these two samples.  Thanks again, chaps.


shah8 said...

The first tea can be bought at Teaurchin:


This is better than the genxiang and the early jinqiao you've sampled before?

BR said...

What subject are you going through the tenure process for?

Hobbes said...

Dear Shah,

I liked all three cakes, which are cheap-and-cheerful, but, in order of increasing quality, I found them to be:

This 2011 Mengku Jinqiao
The 2010 Gexiang "Daxueshan"
The 2010 Mengku Jinqiao "Bainian Laoshu"

The latter was rather chunky and solid, and was the clear winner for me.



Hobbes said...

Dear BR,

My subject is machine learning and statistical signal processing, which is, in the UK, usually located in engineering departments of universities, while in the US it is usually located in computer science departments. Both have lots of overlap with statistics departments - there is a fine line between engineering, computer science, and statistics in this area, and our conferences typically include representatives from all three backgrounds.

My education is entirely in engineering mathematics, however. I think like an engineer, and not like a computer scientist or a statistician!



gero said...

Dear Hobbes,
I have to confess that it was me who wrote about you on the german tea forum. Still being a puer beginner, I opted for the academic habit of many cultures: referring to the classics to impress the readers ;-)
Hope I didn't get anything wrong - but I seem to remember several of your blog entries stating your affection for Sheng from Lincang.

Anyway - within the german tea forum I keep advertising your blog for the fantastic source of knowledge it is ... and I totally enjoy your writing style. Hope university politics will never interfere!

All the best wishes for setting up the tea room in your new home!


Hobbes said...

Dear Gero,

Thanks for the kind words!

One of the nice things about the university here is that, given that there are 30+ colleges, you can move college without changing university, and so don't need to move house. :)