09 February, 2015

When Shi'itake Gets Real

Gentle Reader, let us parley.  I have three good 'uns for you this fine morn: one solid, one stanking (sic), and one that could only be described as being like the planet-eating deity, Unicron.

Let us open the batting with "solid".

Ah, the delights of the pre-dawn sesh.  It is called "burning the candle at both ends": aiming to have something resembling a social life in the evening, after the dear children have been coaxed to bed, and then rising early to have some tea, being paradoxically unable to sleep, even though immensely tired.  

Thusly, tired, and yet unable to sleep, I make matters yet worse by taking on a hefty slug of caffeine.  It is a cycle that I have, at the time of writing, managed to break simply by going to bed immediately after my children, for a night or two.  Sleep heals all wounds, and I have latterly discovered my love of it.  I have become rather good at sleeping, in fact, and have made something of a hobby of it.

The "solid" cake is the 2007 Chenyuanhao "Guafeng Laozhai".  I cannot recall from whence cometh this one, but it might be Dubs, or the now-vanished Origin.  Or someone else.

The leaves, pictured top, are unusually dark, even at 4.30 a.m., and they have a mightily-enticing scent of tobacco.  I am a vicarious tobacco consumer, initially from my father's distant pipesmoke, as he puffed beyond the jurisdiction of my mother, at the end of the garden, and more recently via pu'ercha.

This cake, like much of Daddy's pipeleaf, is solid, sweet, and rather clean.  Unlike the contents of the patriarchal pipe, this tea also has a note of fishiness to it.  That is not a matter of immediate concern, given that almost everything out of Japan (and the tea!  ho ho) smells of fish.  It is a full and heavy little tea; its "GFZ" character is typical, and, therefore, welcome.  I liked it, but not enough to pursue.

The "stanking" tea is the 2001 Changtai "Red", from Dubs.

My diary has, and I quote directly, "This tea stinks, like Nurgle."  For those few of you not familiar with the collected works of Games Workshop (i.e., for anyone who has not previously been a teenage British male), Nurgle is the Plaguebringer, a deity of pestilence and decay.  He looks like a smiling, fat Buddha, except he is green and decomposing.  The 2001 Changtai cake is exactly like this.

This is $150 from Dubs, and the cake is grey (grey!) with humidity.  I like my tea so wet that it's likely to decompose before it gets brewed, and so this appeals to me greatly.  I like teas that have been colonised by as-yet undiscovered bacteria, which may or may not confer super-powers on the imbiber.

"Heavy minerals" notes my diary, which is par for the course.  Its tangy, humid warmth pushes its way through the dried-out soul.  However, as you might expect, the excessive pestilence of this cake has given with one hand, only to take away with the other.  It does not endure, and the fairly low (for its age) price reflects its various qualities and limitations.

And then there was the Unicron.

I really like this cake.  It is the 2000 CNNP 7532 "Tiepai", from the aforelinked Dubs.  You know this is a cake that needs to be owned the minute that you break it open. 

Does the above image convey a sense of thickness?  I think it looks rather like a serious claret.  You probably cannot detect, from the photograph, its sweet and floral scent, even though it has the dark red-brown character of good age.

Unlike many other cakes of this (comparatively reasonable) price-range, which is $140, its scents and residual aftertaste are well-developed, and suggestive both of good leaves and good storage.  I must confess that I brewed the entire 25g of the sample to gain this degree of thickness, but that's fair game.  The result is Unicron, plain and simple, crunching his way through planet after planet.

"This tiepai cake is pure blackness."  Note that "tiepai", meaning "pasted brand", refers to the probability that this cake is some sort of unorthodox pretender, dressed in an authentic 7532 wrapper. That said, one has to keep an open mind.  If the wrapper contains Unicron, then it's all good.


Charles! you look young!
back from India I see
how is Lucy?

my name is not Charles
I've not been to India
and who is Lucy?


Petr Novák said...

25g for one session, o my gash, you are walking on dark side of the moon, dear Hobbes. I have to take a look there and use bigger chunk next time. I like that tea.

Hobbes said...

In the words of a modernday poet, "I'm out there, Jerry, and I'm loving it."



Hobbes said...

The haiku pair is a fun one, from when I first started at my new college. It is a very gothic place, and not just in architecture: it is one of the fallen giants of England. Its past is filled with glorious tales of producing many of the senior figures of the British Empire - nowadays, it is a large but largely less distinguished place. It is not fair to say that it has fallen on hard times, but it is not quite the Empire-ruling bastion of hard power that it once was.

What it does mean is that you get old members of the college coming to lunch or dinner every now and again, because they have "dining rights" to exercise. (The magnitude of your "dining rights" is a good proxy for academic seniority in my university. I have recently graduated to having breakfasts added to my dining rights. I cannot stress the importance of this distinction over my previous state, in terms of academic standing. The university is divided into those who have breakfast rights, and those who do not.)

The old chaps that turn up (they are almost always male, for some reason) are typically lovely, often deaf, and as gothic and faded in their splendour as the college itself.

The haiku in this article represents a somewhat baffling, if charming, remark made by an economist of some extraordinary seniority, although well past his "sell by" date. On meeting me, he was absolutely convinced that he knew me. Of course, I was polite in return, and didn't actually verbalise the response-haiku, but you get the idea...



Amanda Wilson said...

Eee! Nurgle! Now I need to get a Great Unclean One just to have hanging out with cups of Puerh ;)

Hobbes said...

I was always partial to the nippletastic Slaanesh, personally. :)