11 November, 2013

Slovakian Tea - Part I of II

Peter of pu-erh.sk has been travelling to Yunnan and making good teas for a while now.  In 2013, he has seven productions from his travels, numbered S01 to S07.

Looking at this article from a "bird's eye view", it must seem a little rarified: a list of teas, numbers, and leaves.  However, dig beneath the surface a little and it becomes obvious that this is, in fact, a map of seven places to which Peter has been.  At each, he has selected some leaves from us to try, and each we have something to learn.

Pu'ercha is great that way.  Every cake, from the humble to the grand, has something to show us, if we're willing to give it a little attention.  It is very good practice.

What might we learn from S01, which is a cake from Mansashan?  This is 'Banna tea, fairly near to Yiwushan.

If there is but one (kindly) criticism of this set of samples, it is that they are all 7g.  This is just a little too small for a satisfying session (for me), and the results may tend to be a little watery.  For this Mansashan cake, that was particularly the case.

The leaves themselves look good: they are small and fragmented, but have a dark, spiced scent that mark them apart from standard Yiwushan leaves.

The scent, when wet, is initially absent in the beidixiang [initial scent in the aroma cup], but it is reminiscent of Yiwushan.  The character in the mouth, similarly, is absent at the outset, before developing a long and comfortable butteriness in the throat.

This tea has a gentle and reticent nature, which is perhaps exacerbated by the smallish 7g sample.  It is clean, and sweet, with a gentle edge of kuwei [good bitterness], but is rather watery.  This is perhaps one to try with a larger quantity of leaves, such that its character might be better explored.

I should add that I started off drinking these samples "blinded", with the original intention of determining the identity of each as best I could.  However, after realising that the mountains were all fairly close together, I felt that this was going to be nearly impossible for me, and that it would be more instructive to drink the teas with knowledge of their identity.  Thankfully, Peter happened to be near his e-mail during my session with S02, and he revealed their true names.

This second sample is from Youleshan.  It has medium-sized leaves, fragmented as shown below, including huangpian [yellow flakes] which are usually removed.  The small 7g sample has a generic, sweet scent.

Unlike the quiet Mansashan tea, this Youleshan is big and buttery, and it fills the senses.  It is rather a relief in its heavy, sweet, and pollenated manner.  Agreeing with Peter, I have Youleshan mentally classified as being "a mixture of Yiwushan and Banzhangshan".  It is bitter-sweet, but perhaps a little more grassy than either of those areas.  This particular sample does not seem to get past the fourth infusion, and I wonder again if the small sample size may contribute to the lack of longevity.

Sample "S03" is from Manzhuanshan.

Unlike the Mansashan and Youleshan samples, this has long leaves and looks rather serious, as pictured below.  Amusingly, it has the creamy-sweet scent of a Douji "Dadou", which is also based on Manzhuanshan leaves.

This has the yellow-orange soup of a fresh and active tea, and carries the long buttery scent of a pu'ercha that has been recently made.  The low sweetness in the wenxiangbei [aroma cup] matches the character in the soup, which is combined with the spiced-green flavour of strong leaves.

As with the other two teas so far, in tea sessions that spanned a number of days, I feel as if I failed to get the best out of this Manzhuanshan tea: like the Douji blends that it partly resembles, it stays tangy and green, but does not seem full, potent, or as if it has much to offer during aging.  In the name of fairness, I should admit that my journal has "There are very many cakes indistinguishable to this."

However, while I am recounting my experiences with Peter's samples in the order in which I drank them, it turned out that I inadvertently saved the best until last, which are described in part II of this article...

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