I could go on and on. The puns, they write themselves.
I have a secret love of shupu, although I drink it slightly less than shengpu (95% of my consumption) and hongcha (4.5% of my consumption).
I was contacted by TG, a teachum from back home in my native East Anglia, a place famous for sheep, a lack of electricity, in-breeding, sheep, and once being home to Boadicea and the Iceni tribe. There is also a minor university there of some dubious repute.
Oddly enough, all those sheep made it the most populated and wealthy of all English provinces at one time, but that was in the medieval era. Amusingly, my grandfather's farm is mentioned in the Domesday Book of William the Conqueror (1086 a.d.). The central structure of his farmhouse is three centuries older than the entire nation of the USA. Suffice to say that East Anglia is a strange old place.
Drinking this tea, I was reminded of just how scrumptious shupu can be.
The first of two cakes for evaluation today, at the request of TG, is the 2005 Tiandiren from white2tea.
The leaves, pictured below, look red and exhausted. The blend includes all manner of grades of leaf, including tons of huangpian [yellow flakes].
TG was somewhat uncertain as to the quality of these two shupu cakes, and was after a second opinion. My opinion of this 2005 Tiandiren is that it is pretty solid.
The soup, pictured below, is a watery red - the cake takes its time to get going, and never has very much strength, perhaps because it is simply so mellow. However, that is in its favour: it is smooth, so very well-rounded, and has the permeating sweetness of a pleasant vanilla throughout it.
This is just $22, which is a reasonable price for this stable and pretty, if tired, little shupu. It makes no great claims, and is therefore very satisfying for such an appropriate price. As PM writes in his notes at white2tea.com, it has precisely the same character of red Chinese dates. It is uncanny.
I could drink this slow, tired, humble, but lovely shupu all day.
...and yet time and tide wait for no man. Instead, we change gear and check out the 2003 Fuhai "7576" cake:
At least, I think it is the 2003 - TG's labelling below says otherwise, but I cannot see anything else for sale at white2tea.
In contrast with the 2005 Tiandiren, this 2003 Fuhai is much more lively in the appearance of its dry leaves: they are not dusty red, but black, shiny, and alive.
The photograph below probably tells you everything you need to know about this cake - and this was from the first infusion...
Long, sharp, wood: a fine and strong scent, with significant activity. This has a charming flavour of sharp camphor, and is excellent. I should have a cake or two for my office: it is strong and herbal, yet soothing.
So very dark, like date soup... this is fantastic shupu: undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable that I have had - a real suprise, which has changed my tea session.
I love its potency, its sharpness, and, above all, the dense warmth that settles on the stomach with all of the soothing characteristics of a hot-water bottle. It is charming, and I must have some.
This 2003 Fuhai sells for $37, which is a decent price. As PM notes, it is already a decade old, and yet I think it has some potency that could allow it to settle even further. I admire its simple balance of straightforward shupu warmth with just a little energy and kuwei remaining from its original state. A comforting treat.
In summary, I would encourage TG to enjoy both of these cakes! I certainly did.