29 August, 2014

When Someone Asks You If You Are a God

...you know what to say.

Likewise, when someone asks you if you want to try seven samples of decent tea from around Yunnan, you say YES.

While we're on the subject, it is a truism that my entire childhood was changed when I first heard the following:

"Everything was fine until dickless here turned off the power grid."
"Is this true?"
"Yes it's true.  This man has no dick."

I was never the same person again.

So, then.  We've been annointed with samples from the chrsym of pu-erh.sk, sevenfold.

Beware of continental Europeans bearing gifts

When a man dumps samples on you, especially when that man is PETROS THE DESTROYER, proprietor of Pu-erh.sk, then you adopt a suitably grateful tone and doff your cap in deference.

Yes, they all look like this

We have, basically, seven different chunks to consider here.  They all look fairly similar when brewed, and so let's take the image above to be representative of every single one of the seven different cakes that we'll be slurping our way through in the remainder of this missive.  They're kind of yellow, they're kind of orange.  Job done.


First up: the village so nice, they named it once.  Wangongzhai.  Chinese is a fantastic language, if you're a fan of parsable grammars / finite state machines.  The name "wangongzhai" can be read one and only one way: wan + gong + zhai.  There is no "ong" in Mandarin, so it's completely unambiguous.  The reason I'm bothering you with this, Gentle Reader, is that I grew up in a land where (true story) the village name "Stiffkey" is pronounced "Stew-key".  The pronounciation of "Leicester" (LESS-STER) is often thought to be a function of the Anglo-Saxon grammer that created it, but not so: in fact, it is pronounced that way because we like to chuckle at American tourists who can't pronounce our place-names.

So anyway, Wangongzhai.  This is the only non-gushu cake that PETROS sells this year, and so (hoping that PETROS has his eyes closed here) it's the only cake that is likely to be priced at a level that isn't going to cause your wallet to go into spontaneous nuclear melt-down.  Thus, it is priced at 30 Euro per 250g.  How much is a Euro worth?  God only knows.  It's some dreadful continental invention, and its price seems to be related to how annoyed the Germans are with the nations of Greece and Portugal.  You may conclude, Gentle Reader, that England is not in the Eurozone.

Unlike the financial system of continental Europe, this Wangongzhai is actually very pleasant.  Again unlike continental Europe, it has a fruity and heavy scent that ends in a slug of rich aroma.  It is pristine Eastern-Yiwu tea, which is exactly Wangongzhai's location - out there, near the border, far from everywhere.  It explodes with a dominating mixture of fruit and bitterness, while being cooling afterwards.

The price is very reasonable and, unlike the financial system of continental Europe, I find myself rather well-disposed to this tea.  Not enough to actually buy it, it must be said, but the effect was positive.


I admire the annual travels of PETROS THE DESTROYER, in which he seems to make wandering around Yunnan part of his life, the way WOTAN made wandering the Earth in a Gandalf-like guise part of his life.  Am I suggesting that the owner of Pu-erh.sk is the father of the Norse gods?  Well, what I will point out is that one never sees them together.

For heavens' sake, we get poxy films involving Thor and Loki, but where's the good stuff with Wotan?  I'm not talking about Tolkien's knock-offs here, either.  I want to see Wotan stomping some Fafnir, not a bunch of hobbits singing as if in some awful Broadway musical.

The tea: we are drinking Nakashan.  We are back in gushu territory, for which read: ouchingly expensive.  This particular example is a mere 107 Euro per 250g, which is approximately 9,000 USD per 357g equivalent.  PETROS always makes good cakes, it must be said, but the prices are for your own consideration.

This tea is of the "warm bread" variety, with fresh, green flavours and good kuwei [useful bitterness].  It stands out in the mouth as being something rather special.  I even wrote "It is an excellent tea, and I am in danger of falling in love with it.  Given its extraordinary price, that would be dangerous indeed."

The comforting base is fruity and bready, soft, and yet dense.  If Wotan ever deigned to drink pu'ercha, this'd be it.


Mannuo tea is never a good idea.  Outside Yiwushan and Menghai region, I probably have more Mannuo tea than any other area, and it is always (i) great and (ii) greatly expensive.  It's good, but it hurts.  You have to drink Mannuo tea cognisant of the consequences.  Your wallet will burn, with an inferno of which you cannot imagine.

Keeping up the ability of this year's cakes to cost as much as a small automobile, this cake weighs in at a seemly 107 Eurounits per 250g.  "What a bargain", I can hear you think.  And you'd be partly right - this is thick and sweet, far thicker than the Nakashan tea above.  The dominating factor is a cooling gushu ninjitsu that does at least tell you where you spent all of your hard-earned currency.

For giggles, I decided to use the entire sample, and was rewarded with a super-thick and very buttery result.  It has kuwei, and how, but it is well-integrated.  The cooling edge gets under the tongue - it wedges right in there and makes it water.  It is fine.

Panting for breath, I take my rest as my dear wife provides me with a new teathing from our garden.  She is, like most fans of Hongloumeng, strictly against the practice of picking flowers, and these were windfalls.

Let's move on.


Yibangshan tea is like Beaujolais Nouveau - fresh, cheerful, and goodness knows if it'll age or not.  If your eyes were watering at the previous prices, then do please top up your tear-ducts before you read the price of this tea: 139 Euro per 250g.  You could buy a large part of Cyprus for that.  I'm pretty sure that price exceeds Portugal's GDP for last year.

Clean, fruity, with attendant Yibang sweetness, it finishes in a crisp kuwei that makes you wish it were priced at 2004 levels rather than 2014 levels.  It is hard to get away from the price, which is a great pity because this is a very accomplished tea, both in selection and in processing.

It has a purple sweetness that is long-lived but which raises the figurative eyebrows when it comes to thinking about storage: how many "purple" tasting teas do you have that taste decent after a good number of years?  Maybe my limited experience is nothing to go by, but purple teas: I don't trust 'em.  Not that this is "purple leaf" - it is very much your standard green leaf - but it does taste significantly purple to me.

It is a complex tea that I like very much, and whose price causes me to mourn the modern market for our dear ol' pu'ercha.


Yes, the above photograph is terrible.  Yes, it was taken in the pre-dawn darkness after child-waking-daddy events in the night.

This is, like many of PETROS' teas, very cooling in that gushu sense.  It has more gentle butteriness in the flavour, and its sweetness skewers the mouth quite noticeably.  Resonant in the throat, this is a long-lasting tea, and it has a bitter, citric edge that keeps it complex without being too dominant.  Lots of bitter, lots of sweetness, lots of mouth-watering gushu tang.  It is crisp and well-defined.

Last year's Hekai tea was 52 Euro / 250g; this year, it is 91 Euro / 250g.  I know the arguments, but still - this is a big step for twelve months.


This looks amazing, it must be said.  Look at those leaves.  Real pu'ercha, right there.  Then, inevitably, we are drawn to consider the price... oh, yikes.  It is 161 Euro / 250g.  In my diary, I wrote "This reminds me of the one bottle on the menuo that exists so that a crazy soul might spend their annual bonus."

Separating the tea from the price is a challenge, but we shall try.  Gedengshan is one of the canonical mountains in Mengla County, and not a region that has contributed very much to the cakes on my shelves.  This cake is soft, crisp, "bread-like", and smooth.  Its gentle precision lasts well in the mouth, worthy of its straightforward yellow colour.

It approaches the dark scent of "xiang gu" mushrooms, which is a scent you'll never forget if you've encountered it.  I wondered, in my diary, if I were to brew all of the 2014 Pu-erh.sk teas at once, and try them blinded, whether this would stand out as being worth is astro-galacto-exuberoprice.  I concluded that I would not be able to identify this as being markedly better than its peers.  Its pricing remains a mystery to me.


Finally, we end with your friend and mine: Yiwushan.  Oddly, it has huangpian in its blend - those broad, yellow leaves, pictured above.

This is a big, yellow tea in the old style, with the coloursweet sweetness of orthodox Yiwushan.  I am obliged to increase the number of leaves in the pot to get it up to strength, which is unusual for young tea.  Happily, the tea opens up after this, into a big and bold classic.

If relevant, it is priced at 118 Euro / 250g.

I feel as if I have been on a privileged tour of Yunnan with PETROS THE DESTROYER, during this round of recent teas.  All, as ever, were well-made; the non-gushu tea may even be worth buying.  I must be honest with you, Gentle Reader, for you would expect nothing else: for less money, one can buy some quite decent aged tea.

If prices are going to nearly double in one year (whether it be maocha prices or otherwise), I cannot be a part of that, as a point of personal principle.  The cakes get smaller in size, the prices continue to rise...  I can't imagine who is buying unaged cakes at this price.  Surely business is not booming.  It must be a difficult time to be a seller of unaged pu'ercha.

27 August, 2014

Nursery Breakfast

nursery breakfast
feeding from the rubbish bins
the baby fox

22 August, 2014

You're a Dinosaur - A Relic of the Cold War

Despite M's famous words, sometimes it's OK to be a relic of the Cold War.

Today, I am going to show you some photographs of black, gloopy teas from bygone days, one of which is definitely from the Cold War period.  All three of these teas were provided by Teaclassico, a splendid outfit of which I have written before.

1999 Tongcanghao

First up: shupu.  It's cooked, it's composted, and it's suitably old so that the rank dampness has departed.  This is the 1999 (or 1997?) "Tongcanghao".

I'm not too sure what's actually happening with this cake, because it isn't for sale at Teaclassico, but only at Generation Tea - although it was supplied to me in a Teaclassico sample bag.  Hence, the tiny image above is from Generation Tea, where it sells for $135.  There is some overlap of the inventories of Teaclassico and Generation Tea, but the former has lower prices than the latter.  The owner of Teaclassico assures me that there is no relationship between the two teashops.

My eyebrows wobble slightly at the fact that Teaclassico has actually replicated the Wade-Giles spelling of this cake ("Tung Chang Hao") that is also shown at Generation Tea.  If there is truly no relationship between Teaclassico and Generation Tea, then I suspect that they simply buy their cakes from the same Taiwanese dealer.

I am aware of Taiwanese spelling habits!

Either way, this is some MEAN looking shupu.  Checks ye out the leaves above: they really put the proverbial lotion in the proverbial basket.  If you are going to buy composted tea, then you may as well buy composted tea made out of some seriously chunky leaves.  The Tongcanghao does just that.

The leaves do, it must be admitted, look a little grey.  This is usually a sign of some substantial Hong Kong influence, or, alternatively, the use of a hose to spray down the cakes as if you were Boris Johnson trying to calm down a rioting crowd of Londoners with a high-pressure water cannon.  Kek.

What does the combined effect of shupu composting AND tons of water do to a cake?  What on earth do you think it does?!  It makes it humid!  And dark!  And super black!  This is like drinking liquid evil.  It is Lucifer's tears, or some other even worse bodily fluid.

Unsurprisingly, given its moistmoistmoist treatment, there isn't much in the way of power or duration, here.  Everything it had has been accelerated out of it, and traded away for pure, gloopy, darkness.  It is a deal with the Dark Side, and its soul has certainly been transacted.

That said, if you were going to drink only one Tea of the Thrice Damned this week, you might like to try this one.  As hellbound beverages go, this one is quite enjoyable.

Washing ourselves down with holy water and then having the teatable re-sanctified by a passing exorcist, we turn our attention to something a little less macabre.

1999 Commissioned 8582

"Commission" usually means "rocking" when it comes to Menghai Factory.  Believe it or not, I used to find 8582 a little underwhelming.  Apache, among (very) many others have since turned my eyes to the light, through a substantial exercise in collective generosity, and I now admit the error of my ways, and enjoy older 8582s on a semi-regular basis.  The big ol' leaves certainly make for some decent aging, in the world before Dayi.

What was 8582 like in 1999?  If this cake is anything to go by, then I'd say it is not too bad.

The difficulty with this cake is that we have to peer at it through the lens of Hong Kong storage.  This is no bad thing, but it is not a lens that leaves it subject unaltered.  It has been aired out in Taiwan, apparently, and this leads to a good, clean, crisp edge that pleases - its Hong Kong background is entirely pleasant.

As always with older teas, I use tons of leaves.  It's not like you're going to be able to overbrew something like this (assuming that you use water-in, water-out infusions as is my habit).  It has a "beefy" sweetness that reminds me of non-Dayi Menghai, and which I like a lot.

It is sharp and abrupt, and, it must be stated for the record, that it doesn't really endure particularly, either in the mouth or in its number of infusions.  Its starting storage conditions appear to have taken the wind out of its sails.  The overall effect is very positive: the Hong Kong storage has focussed and heated its sweetness; the Taiwanese storage has opened and crispened it somewhat.

I was on the edge of thinking rather seriously about this cake (price $199), but the trio listed here eventually trumped a purchase decision.

Let's now return to the title of this article, and end with a relic of the Cold War.

1980s Yinminghao

Admittedly China was a very different place to Europe in the 1980s, but there remains a certain feeling of nostalgia for those of us who were alive at that time.  Not that I remember it particularly well, but I am definitely delighted to try some tea from that era.

This is a serious $329, which is far beyond my limit, and so, thus freed from any other considerations, I therefore get to enjoy the tea without worry about whether or not I should be buying it.  This is a considerable freedom, it must be said.

As pictured above, this is a blend of just about everything, from tip to stem.  It has the red-grey colour of old Hong Kong tea, and is faded and distant in appearance.

The first infusion requires absolutely no time to open, and this cake slams its foot onto the accelerator right from the start.  It is smooth, dense, and very slippery.  There is a fine, enjoyable core of Hong Kong mineral humidity.  The older this mineral character becomes, the more dense it becomes, as if being compacted by gravity.  The first few cups entirely clarify my mind, and feel most positive.

This is a big, soft tea, and it requires maximum attention.  Its consistency prevents extended description: it is long, vanilla-like, and smooth, and stays that way as long as I stay at the table.  It is quite something, and you might be well-advised to procure at least a sample, to acquire the data-point in your training set.

With thanks again to Neil of Teaclassico, it has been a fine week for tea.

20 August, 2014

The Tired Father

the tired father
trying to sleep in a field
full of grasshoppers

15 August, 2014

White Tea

Be calmed, Gentle Reader.  Despite the title of this article, the Half-Dipper has not started a baicha regime; instead, we focus on a trio of pu'ercha (hoorah) from white2tea.  We're not quite so desperate as to start drinking baicha.  Yet.

2003 Keyixing

Regular readers will know that I have enjoyed plenty of the teas on offer from white2tea, up to and including some of the Taochaju cakes made by a mutual tea friend in Maliandao.  I like the focus on good tea, at a good price; I get the feeling that we are in safe hands with white2tea.

It's strong, it's orange, and it's better than a lot of others - and it's $70

Keyixing is, apparently, a proper old brand from the 1920s.  That means about as much as you might expect in China, and so some modernday outfit has been making tea under that label, perhaps, if we are feeling charitable, as an "homage".  Ahem.

Mr. White2Tea notes that this tea was dry-stored in Guangzhou.  2003 seems about right, as you might conclude from the photograph above.  It is an interesting little fellow: caramelised, in a way, with a cooked, raisin-like edge that reminds me of heicha.  Unlike Hunan's rancid nega-tea, this Keyixing is vivid and crisp, with a decent aftertaste.  It is by no means "grand", and perhaps a little suspicious in its cooked-style constitution, but it is, at least, aged and quite strong.  At $70, it's a tight little tea for the money, and reminds me of white2tea's good selection criteria.  (Note to self: is it this 2003 Keyixing?)

It reminds me of old (possibly poisonous) Chinese cigarettes.  In a nice way.

Somehow, I missed the "New Amerykah" cake from 2013.  I get the opportunity to redress this karmic injustice by trying the "New Amerykah 2" from 2014...

2014 white2tea "New Amerykah 2"

Like the Keyixing, this is $70 at the time of writing.  I like Paul's naming conventions for his cakes, and look forwards to the day when his tea starts quoting, for example, Monolith Deathcult lyrics, rather than classics from jazz and world music.  I fear that I may be waiting a long time.

It's good

It seems, from the blurb, that this cake is "old arbor Menghai" (aren't they all?) with some Bulangshan leaves.  Unlike almost every other vendor under the sun, I do tend to trust Paul's assessment of his maocha's origin.  This is a big, fresh tea that reminds me of years past, spent discovering similar-tasting leaves from maestro cakemeisters such as Essence of Tea.  Just like some of the best EoT, this is bold, sweet, and grape-like.  It packs a fantastically clean finish that delivers a precision, laser-guided strike to the deliciousness receptors in the mouth.

It isn't strong in kuwei, but then Paul notes that the emphasis is on "fullness" in this 2014 version, rather than on "bitterness" in the 2013 version.

"Quite mild", notes my mother, who is visiting.

Take note: when your mother calls a pu'ercha mild, then it is probably as soft as faerie urine.  There's mild and then there's "my mother just called that mild".  This is the latter.

Later infusions build on the faerie urine to make a dry, husky, sweet cake with a long aftertaste and decently citric, fruity finish.  It rather reminds me of a dry white wine.  By the third infusion, it has swollen into a mouth-dominating bigness that confirms Paul met his target of "fullness".  It isn't too expensive, and is a fun trip around the tea-table.  As ever, white2tea delivers on its ability to select decent cakes.  I am tipped over into the "do not buy" state by virtue of the fact that I have quite a lot of tea that tastes like this (many kg of which were bought from Nadacha, back in the day when they were £20).

Closing the show, we have the 2014 Laoman'e.  The blurb quite reasonably states that this "is by no means a bargain", which is testament to its $180 price.

2014 white2tea Laoman'e

A modern tea has to be darned fine to justify $180.  I'm just going to buy something aged for the same price.  I do understand that maocha costs money these days, but the result remains unchanged.

Nature always finds a way

The leaves are tippy and a little broken, but look good.  The soup, as you'll already have cleaned from the above, is very clear.  It reminds me of the amber from Jurassic Park, in fact, which is surely every chaos mathematician's playbook.  You would be genuinely surprised how many chaos theorists I meet who are still doing the Jeff Goldblum look.

The definite nature of gushu character is here.  There is a solid core of sweet, husky bitterness that seems compact and strong.  That density carries it on well, and is surely something that we're looking for in a candidate for aging: you want something heavy and irreducible, that will not fade with age.

As with much Laoman'e, it tastes like the bitter, citric, evil twin of Laobanzhang.  "It is excellent", I wrote in my journal.

As for me: $180?  I'll take the already-aged cake, even if it is of leaf from a lesser provenance, but that's just me.

Overall: white2tea continues to deliver the goods, to fit a range of wallet-tightnesses.

13 August, 2014

Four Centuries Old

four centuries old
her fingers running scarlet
with mulberry juice

08 August, 2014

The New Old Half-Dipper

The ol' Half-Dipper is coping with some changes, which you may or may not have noticed - it is the common story of a tea-site.  I thought that I might offer you an explanation, Gentle Reader, which is much-deserved given your infinite patience.

Back in the day, I somehow managed to write an article on this web-site almost every day, which was perhaps a  testament to exactly how much spare time doctoral students have on their hands.  I started as a graduate student in 2004, and met my wife-to-be in the same year.  Happy days indeed!  I drank a lot of tea.

Since graduating, in more recent years, I've written articles for publication on Mondays and Fridays, which fitted with the timescales of my post-doc status of the time, in which I was effectively working for a senior professor.  If you've ever served your time as a post-doc, you know that it can be busy, but there is a certain rhythm that allows you to, for example, drink and write about tea on a moderately regular basis.

The big change to my life happened in October of last year when, in a moment of uncharacteristic and substantial foolishness, my university decided to appoint me as a member of the faculty.  It subsequently handed me the steering wheel for a research lab.  Bear in mind that I cannot drive, and that I get asked to prove my age when I try to buy alcohol (heh).

Since that time, life has consequently become more and more rapidly accelerating.  It is a hugely enjoyable time, and it gives me the genuine privilege of working with some massively talented students and researchers - but it does mean that, as our lab grows (approximately doubling in size every six months), the opportunities to drink and write about tea decrease proportionally.

The new ol' Half-Dipper will, therefore, be a little less regular in its publication, and we will make permanent that arrangement that I have been trialling recently, with a summary article every week or so.

Let's kick off this new old Half-Dipper with an investigation of a recent week of annual leave, some of which I managed to spend at the tea-table.

The 1998 CNNP "Apple-Green" tuocha

I basically spent the mornings of the entire week with some mind-wreckingly good tea from an outfit called teaclassico.com.  Full disclosure: the proprietor, Neil, sent me a big box o ' treats without charge.

This actually caused me to reevaluate completely how I go about buying tea, such was the magnitude of the fabulosity of the tea.

Decent CNNP tuocha leaves in the old style

The tea market is a strange affair: modern pricing has inflated the cost of modern tea to tear-inducing quantities; even a few years ago, the same tea could be bought for a fraction of its current price.  These price increases have been passed onto consumers, and there are now very few outfits that provide good, modern tea at a reasonable price.

I would count white2tea, Chawangshop, and Yunnan Sourcing as my current "go-to" tea vendors, who have managed to keep a cap on prices, and I spend almost no money outside these three (excepting direct purchases via Maliandao or Taobao).  Other vendors are in no way bad, but their offerings are now frequently double or triple (or more!) the price of equivalent cakes from previous years, and I simply could not bring myself to pay that much.  In many cases, this is not the fault of the vendor, due to the cost of maocha - but, whatever the cause, the result is the same.

Price increases could be argued as being a good thing, if the farmer is seeing more of the profits.  We see signs of this throughout Yunnan, particularly in places such as Laobanzhang.  To estimate the proportion of the price increases that reaches the farmer is rather futile, given the lack of data.

Gloopy, strong, clean - what else do you need?

We have older teas, however, that have already reached a price ceiling, of sorts.  The only way that modern tea can comfortably be priced at sky-high prices is if all vendors simultaneously increase the prices of their older teas, but this they have not done - perhaps due to that intangible (and soft) price ceiling on older teas.  There is, after all, a limit to how much an old tea is worth, without demand for it increasing hugely.  With demand often confined to modern teas, hence the price rises, we have the strange effect that price pressures are tightly focussed on modern teas, but less on older teas.

Yes, the prices of the super-classics have gone crazy, but I maintain that there is a class of good, aged teas that has not seen the price increases of either the very modern or the very old teas.

Therefore, drinkers such as me, and perhaps even you, Gentle Reader, are being driven away from spending their money on modern teas (excepting obvious "white whale" bargains!) and instead spend their money on older teas.  This was previously something that I did not do, at scale, but where now I would much rather spend X units of currency on something of proven vintage and aging, than spend the same X units of currency on something modern, with all of the risks that arise from uncertainty over processing, storage, etc. Why take the risk, when older tea costs the same?

In that spirit, outlets such as Teaclassico are well-placed to capitalise on this new category of consumer, which comprises drinkers who are looking for reasonably-priced older teas, of similar price to modern cakes.  We are searching for those cleverly-prices teas from the mid-range, between modern and aged, and places like Teaclassico are meeting that need.  Such vendors are unhindered by trying to sell you modern cakes, and so can afford to price their aged tea at reasonable (Taiwan-esque) prices.

The first tea that meets my quality:price threshold is the 1998 CNNP "Apple Green" tuocha, shown here: this is $83/250g ($119/357g equivalent), which makes it much less expensive than many modern cakes.  Admittedly, this tuocha is not a grand tea, but it is (i) strong, (ii) aged, and (iii) priced nicely, which is a fine place for a tea to occupy, whereas modern tea can claim only (i) at best.

It is a heavy red-orange, as befits tuocha from 1998, and it very smooth, very heavy, and very enjoyable in the mouth.  It has a smooth, "beefy" sweetness that is clean and soft; it cools and tickles the tongue, and has the liveliness of good tuocha.  Purchase of this tea seems straightforward.

One step up the food-chain from the tasty 1998 Apple-Green tuocha is this 2003 Menghai 7542.  This could very well be the last 7542 before Menghai Tea Factory flipped over into Dayi.

2003 Menghai 7542

We're one step up the price ladder here, at $129/357g.  The cake started out in Hong Kong, and ended up being stored in Taiwan for some years.  This is a common story for the cakes from Teaclassico, which leads me to conclude that Neil has spent some time with sellers in Taiwan - this is no bad thing, as I never get to Taiwan, and I like the storage there.  In some ways, an initial period in HK followed by a cleaning-out in Taiwan is an optimum, as far as my tastebuds go.

Even the leaves look "Menghai"

It is a heavy orange-red, as you might see below, and has a sweet and tarry body that reminds me of other 7542s from this era that I have enjoyed with Apache.  It is clean, and cooling, and quickly fills the mouth.  There is a good quantity of Menghai house character, and this surely must be the best protection against fakery that one could hope to achieve: a recognisable house character.


As with many strong, good teas, this one takes a good two or three infusions before it reaches full speed: it needs a good run-up, which usually always corresponds to good-quality tea in my experience: it has tons of contents, and does not throw them all away in the first infusion.  Perhaps it is this "locked in" character, taking several infusions to rouse, that made it such a good candidate for storage.  Warmth, depth, mahogany: this is solid tea, with a penetrating, woody sweetness that leaves me feeling strangely calm.

Again, it is actually cheaper than many modern cakes, and is guaranteed to be good for aging - because it is already aged.

The prize for this week of teas is shown below.

2000 CNNP Zhencangpin

The "Zhencangpin" [lit. treasure-store product; e.g. "collector's item product"] designation is shown in the calligraphic text under the yellow zhongcha character - otherwise, it looks like standard yellow-label.  However, that calligraphy makes all the difference: this is a big, bad cake.  Big!  And bad!


The photograph of the leaves shown above makes the mouth water just from the image alone.  That's when you know it's good tea: when the photograph of the dry leaves makes you thirsty.

This is the only tea in the collection from Teaclassico that I actually drank twice, taking two precious days to enjoy it.  This means that, as far as I'm concerned, it is really rather fine.  It is a not insubstantial $220/357g, but compare that to modern cakes and you will be immediately convinced that this is, if not a bargain per se, then at least a very properly-priced cake (given recent pricing).

It is heavy, full, and continuous in its woodiness.  Again, there is a HK background of humid, mineral characteristics, but this has been sharpened and cleaned by the Taiwanese storage to magnificent effect.  In price, storage, and character it is almost precisely what defines "good tea" for me.  This is a personal decision, but it hits every single note that I need a fine tea to hit.

"OAK-PANELLED STRENGTH", I have in my diary.  Elongated,velvety, and strong.  If you have the opportunity to sample this tea, you may well be as enamoured as I was, during that week of annual leave.  Purchasement, as with the other two cakes shown here, is straightforward.

Everything that is good in tea

I hope that Teaclassico builds on its start, and that it continues to keep the pricing right - I will certainly be keeping an eye on their inventory from here on, as my buying habits have been forcibly changed.

Thanks again to Neil for a great week of teas that made for some excellent summer mornings.  The "Zhencangpin" was so good that I actually invented a new non-parametric Bayesian stochastic process during the session, and documented it over 17 pages in my log-book.  Not many teas manage to be both a great beverage and a muse...

06 August, 2014

Wi-Fi Authenticator

you seem to know
my name, wi-fi authenticator
but I don't know yours

- Beijing Capital Airport, terminal 3