26 August, 2013

How Wild is Your Wild-Tree?

In the case of the 2009 Wuliangshan "Wild Trees" from Essence of Tea, the answer is: really rather wild.

Wuliangshan is an area of the world to which I have never travelled, and yet which I totally dig, in both far out and happening ways. 

Of course, this (really rather long) range of mountains is in northern Simao diqu, the next range over from Ailaoshan.  I have previously enjoyed, in excessively extravagant wise, the 2011 Wuliangshan from Scott at Yunnan Sourcing, which is heavily represented on my tea-shelves and which is Superbad.

This tea from EoT is completely different.

I am always grateful to Mr. Essence for his unique samples that give insights into otherwise unobtainable aspects of pu'ercha, usually those very hard-to-find guarantees of actual laoshu material.  I remember fondly, among many others, the 2008 Laobanzhang which was 100% laoshu, and quite an education in itself.

Shown above and below, my first impression of the leaves was, "Yikes: these are scarlet!"

The first time around, with this tea, I could not get past the "red" character: the soup was immediately orange, and, while light and crisp, it seemed to be everything that was difficult (to me) with red-leaf pu'ercha: I felt that it had a very "low ceiling", despite being crisp and fresh.  I piled in the leaves, and the character remained almost entirely unchanged - it was impossible to overbrew, such was (as I perceived it) the limitation of the leaves.

My journal had, after that first session, "I could drink this stable, fresh, crisp, and unchanging little red tea all day".

Taking pity on me, Mr. Essence sent me another sample - a much larger quantity, in fact.  He urged me to try it again.

It turned out that this charitable act was just what was needed.  It was an abject lesson in getting over oneself.  Yes, the leaves were very red.  Yes, there was a long distance to be covered between trees and processing location, giving time for oxidation.  All that is true.  Yet, the tea itself shines through its processing.  In the second and third sessions with this tea, it delivered a sweetness and charm that works slowly on the affections, winning you over such that, before you know it, you realise that you have thoroughly enjoyed the session.

What a curious experiment, and a lesson learned with thanks.


Jakub Tomek said...

Hmmm, that's really strange - my sample was definitely 100% purple varietal, yet your photos don't look like that too much... Or is it just confusion by background light?

David said...

"... a sweetness and charm that works slowly on the affections, winning you over such that, before you know it, you realise that you have thoroughly enjoyed the session."

That describes quite well my feelings about Mr. Essence's teas.

Hobbes said...

Dear Jakub,

The colour is (for once!) quite accurate in the images. They were certainly red, but not obviously purple-leaf variety to me.

Why do tea people use the word "varietal" for botany? :)

Dear David,

I would agree that Mr. and Mrs. Essence's teas have followed a trajectory towards the elegant and refined, in my estimation - I rather miss the older, pugilistic cakes. :)