10 February, 2014


Sampletea were very kind last Christmas, in sending me a little square parcel, rather like that sent one year ago.  "This can mean only one thing!" I concluded, and was delighted to find out that the Malaysia-stamped parcel in fact contained...

...a fangcha [square-tea] in a similar manner to that from 2012.

As you might decide for yourself from the images, this tea is already appealing, even from the wrapper.  "The first bite is taken with the eye", it is said, and in this case, I am already nourished.  I am a sucker for cherry blossom, it must be noted, and so I am hardly unbiased.

Perhaps more importantly than judging this book by its cover, the tea is a "winter" concoction of leaves from... Luoshuidong.  I cannot recall ever consciously enjoying a tea, knowing that it was from Luoshuidong, but there is a first time for everything.  This particular region of Yiwushan is not closely correlated to amazing pu'ercha, in my limited experience.

The characters that I could not read last year, and which are the name of the brand that SampleTea uses to mark its own tea, correspond to "Pudi".  I think, if I'm not wrong, that the "pu" character is, of course, that of pu'ercha, while the "di" corresponds to the character used for "emperor", in the sense of "Qinshihuangdi".  I therefore tentatively surmise that the name of the brand is "Tea Emperor", which rather reminds me of the humble, down-to-Earth (!) naming conventions employed by, among others, Sanhetang.

The name aside, this "2013 Yiwuzhengshan" cake is allegedly made from old-tree material, and the SampleTea web-site lists a 10g sample as costing $2.90, meaning that a full cake (at that price) would go for around $120, more or less.  I imagine that the SampleTea model permits a customer to buy an actual cake at a lower price.

Fluff aside, what say you about the tea?  Well, it is pretty, to start with.  The leaves look mostly whole, and the traditional stone compression is obvious.  SampleTea notes that the leaves were sun-dried, which is something to be admired, given the modern trend towards using electrical driers.  The tea itself has the expected yellow colour and consequent buttery-sweet scent.  So far, so Yiwushan.

However, this tea really shines when it comes to its character in the mouth, and the effect that it has on the body.  The long body of sweetness in the mouth is classical Yiwushan, and there is a surfeit of complexity in its base that constantly engages my attention.  "There is much to impress in the first infusion", I noted during the session.

Everything that one might look for in Yiwushan tea is here, down to the chunky base of tobacco.  The endurance is excellent; the feeling of comfort on the body is pronounced.  Throughout the mouth is a solid, non-chemical sensation of proper cooling.  It is a big tea that burrows under the tongue and refuses to budge.

It may be, perhaps, that it is better in the first infusions than in the last, making it therefore better at the beginning than at the end - but that is true of us all, is it not?

Thanks go to SampleTea for this delicious treat.  The irony that I return to Oxford from Malaysia only to drink a tea that has recently been posted to me from Malaysia is not wasted on me.


shah8 said...

Since UK flooding keeps interrupting my newsflow, might I ask how well you're doing, and the tea? Seems like a lot of rain has fallen, there.

Of course, lil'ole me is looking forward to lots more snow and ice than is accustomed to in the US south. But while seeking info about the storm about to hit me, I see yet another in a train of 950 mb storm about to hit Ireland. OOooh! And a SECOND major snowstorm about to ravage Tokyo folks. Oooooh, the weather is getting soooo interesting isn't it?

just keep the tea on a high shelf is all, mebbe with a net to catch it if, oh, you were on a faultline nobody's ever heard of--decides it has to go--now...

Hobbes said...

Dear Shah,

Thanks for asking! It's not so much dramatically wet here (Oxford floods quite often, so it's "business as usual"), but it's more the never-ending nature of the drizzle. It really is grinding. Apparently, it is the wettest January in England in 248 years (heh). It's really just non-stop, low-amplitude grimness.

Cold. Dingy. Drizzly.

You know, England. :)