23 May, 2014

Stockholm Syndrome

This curious effect, Stockholm syndrome, refers to the fact that captives (in approx. 8% of cases, according to Wikipedia) may develop positive bonds with their captors. It is not clear if this effect is more prevalent among residents of the Swedish capital.

Long-time readers of this humble web-site may recall mention of my spending time with a cake while we moved house one year. During that time, our tea collection was in storage (of an inaccessible variety), and my tastebuds were held captive by a single bing. This article is about that bing, which I seem to have not tried since that special period in my life.

The Menghai "Bada Gaoshan" is, supposedly, an organic cake ("youjicha"). Naturally, with organic certification (and any other manner of certification) being such a mutable / purchasable descriptor in China, we must take claims with a moderate dose of salt. At the least, Menghai Tea Co. is tacitly admitting that pesticide-free tea is a good thing, even if this tea may or may not contain Heaven-knows-what in terms of man-made additives. Such are the gambles one takes when buying Chinese tea! Roll the dice, and take your chances...

The leaves of this old friend of mine are small; it is easy to overbrew, because I tend to use too may leaves when they are small.  Looking at the photographs above and below, you might immediately recognise the typical "Dayi" appearance of the cake.  This is an advantage if, like me, you are rather partial to the straightforward-yet-appealing charms of this factory's output.  They are cheap and, often, very cheerful.

Well, they used to be cheap.  This cake certainly was, at £9 back in 2009.  What can you get for £9 these days?

This time, I win: the first infusion is sweet and well-structured.  The grassiness of Badashan is a charming addition to the usual house style.  The finish is sweetly resonant in the throat, which is likewise fine.  We have the complexity of old honey; this cake benefits from attentive, slow consideration.

While this tea is not, objectively speaking, the biggest ninja in the clan, it holds special appeal with me, which brings me back to Stockholm syndrome: I spent so long with it, and drank nothing else but this tea, that it has defined "Badashan" for me. All Badashan cakes subsequent to this are immediate in their comparison: I was going to write that "it is like one's first girlfriend", but then I decided against it.

This cake is aging nicely, and whether or not it is "youjicha", it certainly has its virtues. When weighed against the fact that it cost a hideously offensive nine (9) English pounds, and the fact that it has such a unique place in my heart despite so many good cakes that have come since, we cannot conclude anything other than that this cake is mighty fine. Try some - I'm sure it's available somewhere, for lovers of basic but reliable Badashan tea. It used to be available all over the place at one time.

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