19 April, 2013

Ave, Apache, Pu'ercha Plenus

I hope that's the feminine singular nominative.  School was a long time ago...

Plenus or not, the big man rolled up at my place last week-end.  He was heavily laden.  I had bought 15 litres of water in preparation.  We were ready.


Tea with Apache


Apache, like everyone from Hong Kong (Kenny and GV, I'm looking at you), seems to have a long-standing relationship with The Fat.  And why not?  I've never been to the Fragrant Port, but would make calling in at the famous teahouse an essential part of my visit if ever it occurred.
The Fat does most things well, when it comes to tea, but I cannot say that I have ever tried their wulong before.


Tea with Apache

Pictured above, this is a miscellaneous "gongfu chawang" of which we know little, excepting the facts that (i) it is roasted, and (ii) it is still quite young.  This makes for a mighty fine wulong experience, and I even did the unthinkable and managed to find my roasted-wulong pot.  That little pot doesn't get much action.
This was, perhaps expectedly, a very good wulong: buttery, green, young - but smoothly roasted, without being heavy-handed.  A fine balance between light and dark, yin and yang, Force and Sith.  The running order for today's session was decided by Apache himself, and this was a great opener.


Tea with Apache
2003 Menghai Tea Factory "Qiaomu Laoshu" Cake

You may have read recently of Apache's hideous treatment at the hands of a vendor whose name cannot be named, in which we was peddled a fake 2003 Dayi Qiaomu Laoshu.  Keen to restore balance to the Force, Apache brought along a sample of the actual Dayi cake, provided by a friend of his from Guangdong province.


Tea with Apache
2003 Menghai Qiaomu Laoshu

This version, pictured above, does not suck at all.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.  The leaves, pictured above, are separate, long, and very well-aged.  The Taobaowang price at the time of writing for this little baby is currently 300 English pounds (approx. 450 Amurcan) for a full cake.  It is not at all cheap, but exceedingly cheerful.


Tea with Apache


Clean, elegant, heavily sweet, and yet laden with kuwei [good bitterness] even after a decade of storage in south China - this is quite remarkable.  Heaven knows how delicious this will be after another ten years; it certainly has the strength to turn into something even more fine.  As it stands, it is woody, enduring, and darned solid.
Dayi special cakes have come under heavy (financial) speculation within the last half-year or so, and the prices are generally going through the roof for anything Dayi that isn't a standard recipe.  You may not have seen this in Western markets, because we tend to see just the basics (7542, 8582, etc.); the better "specials", however, are taking a huge pounding.  The case of the amusingly-priced 2011 Jin Dayi is one that you might have come across, for example.  Apache and I bought that by the tong about a year ago, and the price has since approximately tripled.

Speaking of overpriced speculation...


Tea with Apache


Hualian ("Waloon" in Cantonese?) is the teashop on Macao that is famous for the "1997 Hualian Qingzhuan" [green brick], allegedly made entirely of laoshu leaves.  This 2004 cake is more down-to-earth, but is supposedly more Banzhang material.


Tea with Apache
"Banzhangwang", anyone?


The leaves are small and crunched, as one might expect (pictured below).


Tea with Apache


Interval: we discovered the following nestled inside the leaves of this tea.  We have absolutely no idea what these... pearl-coloured pods might be.  Tea-seeds?  Insect eggs?  You decide.  Either way, we chickened out and decided not to brew them.


Tea with Apache


Minus the worrying eggs, the actual tea was... pretty good.  It was lighter than the previous 2003 Qiaomu Laoshu, and quite obviously so.  There was good sweetness, and a decent body, but it was all rather underwhelming and quite straightforward.


Tea with Apache


The soup, shown above, looks good, however.  For completeness, an image of the wrapper is shown below, where "Shengtai Yesheng" means "Natural Wild".  The former term is sometimes translated as "ecological", referring to the manner in which the trees are (allegedly) maintained.


2004 Hualian Shengtai Yesheng
Banzhangwang


The cake that we drank next I choose to omit from today's proceedings.  This is merely because we gave it short shrift, and I went on to enjoy it the next day.  So delicious was this unnamed tea, in fact, that I will write about it in another article.
So, instead, let us move on to the next cake after that: the 2003 Menghai "Chawang Qingbing":



Tea with Apache
Menghai Tea Factory 2002 "Chawang Qingbing"

This final cake is a heavy hitter.  It is The Real Thing, where you should pronounce the capital letters.

Tea with Apache


With my pot given over to That Mysterious Tea omitted previously, we parked this 2002 Menghai "Chawang Qingbing" in Apache's appropriately-labeled gaiwan.  It is one of those rather huge Dayi affairs that seems entirely suited to brewing this tea.
I rather like gaiwan brewing for the speed with which one can evacuate the water from the leaves.  Perhaps I should use one more often, but I do so love my little zisha pot, "Zidu", who brews 95% of my tea.

By the time Apache and I got into this tea, we had been going some three hours or so, and were rapidly reaching tea saturation.  Such a thing appears to be possible!  This 2002 Menghai reset the clocks: it was immensely solid, with a base of cement.  Density, infinite density!  Sweetness, strength, unfathomably long-lasting... a tea to drink again.
In fact, Apache did it the very great honour of taking it home to drink the next day, which is wise indeed.

"Top tier for the year in which it was produced", concluded Apache.  I could only agree.  You would have to search far indeed to find a better cake from 2002.


Tea with Apache


And then, it was all over.  I always enjoy these epic sessions with Apache, and learn a great deal each time.  My appreciation for the rarer Menghai "specials" has reached new heights... as has the price of these cakes, thanks to Chinese speculators.  Therefore, we must "make hay while the sun shines".

Such lovely hay it is, too.

12 comments:

shah8 said...

Is the Dayi Chawang Qingbing one of those bok choy banzhangs, that's what usually comes up in searches? And I presume it's better than the '03 Jin Dayi? Was it hongcha in any way? There was a complaint on jft4u.com forums about that. How did it compare to other older banzhangs, if it's bok choy?

The '04 version of that banzhangwang is rumored to actually be Bingdao.

Happy to read a review of that Hualian--first comment in the West for any of their products. The early ones are said to be Youle.

Dayi is in a rather severe bubble, right now. The Anxiang that you'll eventually post on is not an awesome tea in my lights, but it's now effectively about $150. That's crazy talk.

147 said...

hi. i was wondering what is that dish that you have pictured in the second photo, the one with the tea in it?
this one:

http://i156.photobucket.com/albums/t24/HobbesOxon/Volume6/Kwok-April2013-02.jpg

Hobbes said...

Dear Shah,

If you're asking for my opinion, then it would be that the 2003 Chawang Qingbing from this post is more accomplished than the 2003 Jin Dayi, although it's a close thing. Given Apache's comment on the day, I suspect that he might be in agreement. No hongcha-esque cake could deliver such potency. :)

I am completely in agreement concerning the Anxiang; I just retasted it this morning, as chance would have it.


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

Hobbes said...

Dear 147,

That's a "chahe", translated usually as "tea lotus [leaf]" - although you'll see it rendered as "tea box" sometimes, but that's a confusion of the latter character being a homonym. ("Chahe" is pronounced, approximately, as "char-her".)

This one was bought by a teafriend in San Francisco, and I call it "Lesseps" in his honour!

Although not one for fussing around with extra materials, the chahe is very useful and I would find it difficult to have a session without it. Its role is far from being ornamental - indeed, I have no time nor place for ornaments. :)


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

Hobbes said...

(OK, perhaps I make an exception for my "qingchan" tea-frog, who keeps me company at the tea-table. He gets the second cup of every infusion that I brew.)

flo said...

Hi Mr Hobbes,

I hope that's the feminine singular nominative. School was a long time ago...

Actually it is the masculine singular nominativen but it is ok since Apache seems to be a man. "masculine" is probably what you meant anyway, but I guess your mind kept in mind the Ave Maria (gratia plena) and played you a trick while you were writing :D

You used to host a very decorative and photogenic cat as well. I miss him very much, I even dare say I always found him a more valuable addition to your blog than the frog. Maybe he is not very compatible with little children ? I hope he is well.

best
:)

147 said...

hey hobbes. so can you explain how you use the chahe? thanks.

Hobbes said...

Dear Flo,

Apache is male, indeed, and my selection of "plenus" came after debating with myself whether the saying of Gabriel to Mary was the nominative, ablative, or vocative of "plenum", all of which are "plena". My choice was for the nom., hence "plenus", given that gratia plena is a nominative title. These things matter!

I'm afraid that our dear feline friend, a pet of a neighbour, passed away some years ago and is missed very much. Thank you for remembering him, whom we called Heidu.


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

Hobbes said...

Dear 147,

It mainly serves as a buffer, from which leaves may be popped if required. It is generally an "extra pair of hands" to hold the tea. Sometimes, for long leaves, I precondition them in the chahe with warm water, to soften them sufficiently to fit into the pot without breakage. I'd miss it, were it gone. :)

Our tea tables, like everything else in our environments that we shape by living in them, tell us a great deal about ourselves. To know the man, just visit his house!


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

flo said...

I am sorry for the loss of Heidu
--a french woman never forgets a cat (but who doe anyway ?).

A bientôt de te lire !


apache said...

Dear Hobbes,

Yet again, this is another piece of very fine writing from you. Glad that I didn't have to do Latin at school, or I might have to suffer the humiliation of failing one more subject.

One thing I would like to point out, the Menghai "Chawang Qingbing" is actually 2002, I think "03" on the sample paper wrapper was a mistake. As I am typing this, I'm still brewing and drinking the very same sample from our tea session, it lasted more than 30 steeps. Dare I say, drinking this kind of tea is not so much about taste or aroma but about the sensation of the mouth. It likes have a massage inside the mouth.

Yes, it is one of the Bokchoy Banzhang series, predecessor of Fujin. Tea of this caliber is rather rare and difficult to source now.

I look forwards to read about the "unnamed tea". I will keep in suspense and say no more ….


apache

Hobbes said...

A good catch! I have updated the article. This could be the only 2002 Menghai cake I have tried, bizarrely enough.


Toodlepip,

Hobbes