17 March, 2014

The End of Winter

My friends, I hope that this post finds you well.  Wherever you are in the world, it is probably warmer than here, but that gives me hope.  Today is the first day after the end of term, and with it comes a feeling that something significant has come to a close.

The start of the "vac" is always a special feeling, but this year seems moreso.  The winter, here, was long: it rained almost non-stop for two months (which is unusual even for England), the sky seemed constantly dark and low as a result, and our two youngs boys were almost perpetually suffering from minor colds.  Today, with the end of term, the sun has come out.  The flood waters are receding.  Where once was deep water, now there are blossoms - actual flowers - of all shapes and colours.  First, the daffodils, in the vanguard of spring, and now finally the cherry and apricot blossom.  It is as if Mother Nature has finally said, "OK, let's do this."

On days like today, you will, I hope, forgive me for defaulting to a low-risk, high-reward tea.  This is the 2003 Dayi "Badashan tuocha".  I like Badashan, I like tuocha, I like teas from 2003, and I like Dayi ("so sue me", as our colonial cousins might say).  The game is afoot.

This tea was kindly given to me at the end of a lecture, believe it or not.  Hilary term is always a bit pressed for time, but this particular Hilary term was perhaps moreso: a close colleague just left for the USA, to be with his wife and child, and so my commitments have immediately changed as a result.  It has been a fun term, filled with opportunity and bright new people, but it has also been quite demanding.  Perhaps that makes this 2003 Dayi tuocha even more well-timed.

You can imagine the scent of the dry leaves, I bet.  Each one of us, to a greater or lesser extent, has "Dayi memories" that we can recall on demand.  They may be pleasant memories, or not so pleasant, but such is the ubiquity of Yunnan's oldest brand (approximately) that the Menghai Tea Factory has its own little place in each of our repertoires.  Suffice to say that these leaves are precisely as you might expect.  For me, that is A Good Thing.

Again reassurringly, the blend contains very few tips and is almost entirely made from dark Dayi mulch.  I have, this morning, just finished cooking my family a week-end breakfast, and the scent of fried eggs mixes surprisingly well with the rambunctious potency of Dayi.  My hot-plate, during the warm-up for this session, broke down, but not even a broken hot-plate can stop me today.  I grab a spare from the kitchen, and continue.

This is red and spicy, in exactly the right way.  As with many Dayi products of a certain age, as I remember noting before, it has a certain "fishy" character, for want of a better adjective.  This isn't at all bad - it is merely a description.  There is also, as ever, plenty of sharp sweetness.  It is not especially complex, but we do not turn to Dayi for complexity.  Instead, we require stability, a super-strong base of concrete kuwei [good bitterness], and that welcoming, cooling warmth that aged Dayi can sometimes achieve.  It is not noticeably "Badashan", but I am not one to quibble.

This is a fine and timely session, and I am grateful for JT for the sample.

I look forward to a warm spring, and look to sharing some tea with each of you, Gentle Readers, in our own distant, but connected, manner.

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