12 January, 2015

Mo Shoops

When I was growing up, I was repeatedly advised (by school, relatives, strange cloaked Wotan-style wanderers slumped over a gnarled staff) to not become an academic, under any circumstances.  The careers of lawyer, architect, backing singer in a Japanese punk band - any of these is preferable to being an academic, went the Received Wisdom.

Being an academic, the chorus of guidance went, is a sure-fire way of (i) wearing cardigans before the age of forty; (ii) ending up in a state of penury; and (iii) smelling of mothballs and slightly suspicious ammonia-based fluids of a masculine persuasion.

I am here, Gentle Reader, to tell you that (i) I have always loved cardigans, and now somehow I have accidentally become temporarily cool, thanks to recent incarnations of Dr. Who* and a generation of British indie bands; (ii) while not exactly a license to print money, some branches of academia are apparently able to avoid destitution; and (iii) academics actually smell of old books, not urine, and old books smell like Gandalf.  What's Gandalf?  Gandalf's cool, that's what.

*Interestingly, my nickname among the undergraduates appears to be "Dr. Who".  The origin of this moniker is, I have discovered, due to my dress sense.  I was under the impression for the longest time that my nickname was actually "Dr. Hu", referring to my rule of iron discipline, like an Asian police state.

There are perks to being an academic, entirely apart from the ability to wear brightly-coloured cardigans, odd socks, and the occasional bow tie at dinner.  Some of these are intangible: they include, strangely, breakfasts served in the oak-clad darkness of ancient buildings that seem to benefit from the cathartic, healing scent of bacon and black pudding.  Others are more tangible: we have a post-doc from Malaysia who brings me back whopping great big stacks of tea from his homeland when he visits home.

The cake shown in the first half of this article is an awesome example of this generosity: a 2012 cake of shupu from an outfit named "Aomen Hualian".  The name refers to Macao ("Aomen"), and where "hualian" is a connection to (Mainland) China - a suffix often used in association with the various islands / provinces / independent nations [delete as appropriate] that exist around the coast of the PRC.

This cake is only the second that I have ever finished.

I am just going to let that fact sit there for a little while, and marvel in it.  I have only ever finished two cakes of pu'ercha.  The first was something from white2tea, and was, I think, another fantastic shupu.

This Aomen Hualian cake is probably not going to be too easy to find.  However, should you ever come across it, I emplore you to remember this article: buy this tea.  It is rocking, thick, brutal, strong, fat, calorific, and all-round-fine.  I had a period after Christmas this year in which I was encased in my office, working on a long EU grant proposal - this Aomen Hualian cake propped me up, slapped me in the face, and promptly punched me in a sensitive place that I really would have preferred not to have punched.  I can heartily recommend this cake.

Speaking of chugworthy shoopmasters, we now turn our attention to something from the Augean Stables of white2tea: no matter how much you think you've cleaned 'em out, they just keep on giving.

I am reasonably certain that through various channels, Gentle Reader, you will have probably heard the Gospel concerning this mighty little 1998 "white wrapper" tuocha.  Just in case you have recently arisen from a long hibernation beyond the grave, I here recount some brief notes to convince you that we have on our hands (yet another) good, random purchase from w2t.

I say "purchase", but, as you might conclude from the above, the tuocha in this article was received gratis and for nothing, by an unknown correspondent whom seems to know / be related to / be married to / be in indentured servitude to Paul, a.k.a. twodog2 of w2t.  As is often the case with some of the finest dealers of narcotics, the first hit is always free.

Then, the Jonesing begins.

And how, the Jonesing!  This is strong.  In fact, my diary appears to have "The tea is extraordinary."  It is thick, creamy, sweet, and obviously excellent.  This is a good tea to buy in quantity.  Amusingly, the tong of tuocha eventually come wrapped in some REALLY RUSTY wire, which is surely a good sign.  You can't buy risky fun like that.

Well, actually, you can - at about $55 / tube, which is a very fair price for brilliant shoops that might give you tetanus.  You just can't go wrong.

Addendum: it seems that I have already written about this tea!  I'm glad to see that I agree with myself.

The shupu fades after the 8th infusion, but is otherwise fantastic.  The creamy, well-rounded sweetness remains even after the body has faded.  It is a delightful tea, and a fine introduction to this week's haiga...

Cup of Cold Tea

cup of cold tea
returned to the teapot
after storytime


Jake // said...

Hm. I think that cake might have been produced by the same guys who pressed the infamous Hualian bricks. SampleTea sold one for $1500 (well above market price IIRC), however I can't provide a link, as they managed to break their own site somehow.

Brian Lindburg said...

Not to contradict (but actually yes, to contradict) I remember your post about the first cake you finished... It was definitely a sheng! I want to say bulang maybe, in th $15 ballpark. I remember because I wanted to buy it... but, alas, it was sold out

Dragoran said...

Am I exposed to a different pricing scheme? While the white tuo is quite good, it's about $87.50 a tube, not $55.

Also, in proof that I follow this blog too extensively, I'm pretty sure the finished tea in question was the Tiandiren Bulang from white2tea, described here http://half-dipper.blogspot.com/2014/01/running-out-of-tea.html

Hobbes said...

Dear Jake,

$1500 is either a bit on the high side, or I *really* needed to enjoy that cake more carefully. :)

Dear Brian and Dragoman,

Thank you! The Tiandiren, yes indeed - likewise finished by moving it to my office, where it was rapidly consumed as "background" drinking. It's a very handy way to finish up those old cakes...

The tubes are totally worthy $87.50, in my humble onion.



Hobbes said...


puyuan said...

1500 would be the price of the earliest famed Hualian brick. No relation to this cake whatsoever. I have the feeling that brick is not overpriced, btw...

This shu cake ranges from 40 to 90 on taobao. Just drop hualian + shucha.

They've been around tea since forever. I'm not surprised they can press decent cheap shu.

Jake // said...

Thanks for clearing that up puyuan!

Hobbes said...

I'm sure the haiku goes without saying: I read a lot of storybooks, these days. In the morning, before nursery; at bed-time. Tons, and tons, and tons of stories. Or, as my two-year-old likes to call them, "Doreesh".

Sometimes, the tea gets cold, but priorities are priorities.



PurplePotato said...

Thanks Hobbes for the recomendation on the Aomen Hualian, and to puyuan for mentioning that it can be acquired via the 'bao. I got this one: http://tinyurl.com/mm98jrb, which despite being labeled as 2011, appears to be the exact same tea (There is aso one for 50 yuan from the same producer that is from a later year and is a courser grade). It's (very) good.

shah8 said...

For future reference, in the event it's sold out, this white wrapper tuo shu is very comparable to a well aged Menghai Tea Factory 7592 of the same approximate age.

Hobbes said...

Dear chaps,

The prices do make me immediately think the following word: "niiiiiice". (Think "Jazz Club" from 90s comedy show, The Fast Show.)

I look forward to setting my sights Baowards. I have also bought 95 metric tons of the stuff from Dubs, and so feel as if I have something to compare it with.

All the best,


Ben said...

I finally tried this white wrapper shu tuo from white2tea. I think it's pretty good, but I'm not so effusive as others. I think dayi tends to be thicker and sweeter. This white wrapper is good when you pack the teapot- but you really need to pack it to get the yummy shu thickness. Dayi usually is more potent. I also think there could be more mouth-activity to the white wrapper shu tuo-- again, I think most Dayi wins in this regard. The white wrapper tuo has very little qi, which is generally the case with Dayi shu as well. So at the end of the day, I think it's a pretty good shu, but I don't think it's any better than Dayi or Haiwan. For the price, I think most Haiwan shu could beat this white wrapper tuo. Aged Dayi shu, however, is usually stupid expensive.


shah8 said...

My very limited experience with the tuo is that it's rather MORE potent than usual, in terms of flavor, which is part of the problem for me. Very sweet-tasting, but has warehouse funk that makes for a disconcerting sweetness. Also, even for shu, it's relatively boring. I do think that it was a fairly thick tea, with an issue that it's kind of gritty feeling.

Here's the thing though, a couple of them:
Menghai/Dayi is premium shu, when they're trying. Pretty much up to about 2005 or so. Since I've actually had a 90's 7592/8592 from MTF, let me tell you that a good example is no joke, and definitely preferable to some grotty sheng from that time. There's a reason that every time anyone ever talks about 80's/90's MTF shu, they complain about how "overpriced" those things are, going on about a decade of online comments, now. You pay more, now, or pay even more later, 'cause there will never NOT be a good demand for those cakes.

The other thing is that it seems to be relatively hard to make good shu that's any sort of interesting. Drink enough older shu, and you wonder whether if anyone can play this game? It's practically a victory when you have a pleasantly bland product. The white tuo has some affirmative virtues, and it's not sour, not totally weird, not totally grimy (other than all the hairs), with some body, a little qi, etc, etc. By the standards of what decent aged shu cost, it was a total bargain at $55/~450g of tea. Even now at $87, that's really rather more than reasonable, though expensive for non-labeled shu.

Hobbes said...

$55 for all that human hair, and tea along with it, is a total barg. Come now.



Ben said...

I guess I've been drinking some really potent shu recently, because this white wrapper seems less deep to me. But I do think it is good, and a good value. At $55 for 500g, it is a great value. At $87, it's fairly priced.

I have had about 200g of the White tuo so far, and in my experience I really have to pack the teapot to get thick shuiness out of it. I also, like Shah, get a wee bit of storage funk (but virtually no fermentation funk, I think).

I think aged shu is best when the leaves are lightly fermented to begin with, and I also think leaf quality matters a lot. Since most shu is over-fermenetd and made out of crap, most shu doesn't get all that much better with age (except for the dissipating fermentation funk).

I know that popular wisdom has it that Dayi/Menghai is the top stuff, and in most ways I agree with that. But I really really think that Haiwan generally uses better leaf material than Dayi and care seems to be taken to not ferment past light/medium. The problem, I think, with light/medium fermented shus is that, oddly, they take longer to dissipate their fermentation funk. Langhe is also a very good factory option for shu.

Ben said...

This shu is $75 for a standard 357g beeng. I think it is a much better shu than the white tuo- and just a little bit more expensive. Thick, vibrant, lightly fermented, aged enough...yummy yummy yummy


Hobbes said...

Tempting - thanks, Ben!

shah8 said...

Ben, well, what pre-2005 shu would you recommend from Haiwan? I've certainly seen some discussion of Langhe shu. Never had Haiwan shu and only a little bit of Langhe golden tips from 2006 sold at TeaUrchin.