21 August, 2007

2006 Kunming Guyi Chatou

If yesterday's morning tea was a somewhat ungainly bruiser of a leaf, this morning's is a little more dignified - if unusual.

At the very bottom of the wodui [moisten pile] fermentation heap used to "cook" shupu, the high pressure and high heat give rise not quite so much to diamonds, as to tough little nuggets. These charming little lumps are exceedingly inexpensive ($28/Kg from Tuochatea, for example) and make for a somewhat unusual experience.

Many thanks to the infinite splendours of the Davelcorp Foundation Shichangpu Associates Inc. for its most munificent blessings in providing these samples.

The tou in "chatou" means "little piece", and is also the word for "head". I was long familiar with the term kowtow, for example, referring to the famous Oriental prostration, without knowing that it was Chinese, with the latter syllable being tou in modern Pinyin. It just goes to show what you don't know you know.

Scottish Mountain @ 100C in 10cl shupu pot; ~5-8g leaf; 2 rinses

Dry leaf:
Small rounded nuggets, these charming little items are a dusty brown, and smell of the somewhat salty fresh-shupu aroma.

5s, 7s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 40s, 60s, >90s:
Deep burgundy soup gives the immediate impression that I have overbrewed. CB's description of overbrewed young shupu as "burning tyres" springs to mind. Alas, no tyre! Merely the rich scent of currants and sultanas, with some maltiness, and a touch of saltiness.

Though the colour is strong, and the character is rich, this tea is confoundingly mellow: it is "worn out" in the most lovely way, like a faded painting.

Saltiness fades after an infusion or two, transmuting into an enjoyable creaminess. What a curiousity is this eroded leaf!

It remains stable and enjoyable right until the end, without any sign of cracking apart as poor shupu is wont to do.

Wet leaf:
Small shreds of black leaves, there is little to be seen.

What an experience: it has the potent power of young leaf, evinced in its caffeine content, and rich aroma, and yet the flavour is so well-eroded and muted (presumably by the intensity of its "cooking").

It is rather wabi-sabi, in that it contains a beautiful simplicity with a humble, worn, threadbare character.

I cannot see myself ever getting through an entire kilogram of this tea, but it does make for a fascinating experience. It is warming (medicinally speaking) and enjoyable, if steady and uncomplicated.

One for the shupu-tolerant, of course - but worth trying a little taste, if only for your own palate's sake.

You can read Geraldo's ever-excellent notes on this same tea (in comparison with a Menghai chatuo) within the leather-bound comfort of Chadao.


Anonymous said...

Another wonderful review. Your blog has become one of my daily readers. You make me want to try every tea you've listed!

David Lesseps said...

I should point out that this sample did not come from me. My guess is that it came from Mr. ShiChangPu/Psychopuncture.

My latest package to you should be arriving shortly (if not already.)

David Lesseps said...

However, you have inspired me. I'm going to dig out my sample of the chatuo and give it a try today.

shichangpu said...

correct! i did indeed send this to our esteemed host. but, no worries. as long as the tea gets around...

(and i think davelcorp and i have been using the same sample envelopes, which may add to the confusion.)

i do enjoy this tea, although i haven't yet figured out why. considering the 2 kilos i have stashed, i may have ample opportunity to explore my attraction to it.


ankitlochan said...


can i please know the year of production for this tea?


ankitlochan said...

i m sorry - i am stpid - i read the review again - i got it - its 2006.......

Hobbes said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thanks for reading - I'm glad that you're enjoying the web-site.

Dear Mike and Dave,

You know, it was the envelopes that have me confused. I pulled it out of my sample box and thought "Mike? Dave? Dave. Dave? Mike? Dave." It's funny how we always come down on the wrong side of 50-50 decisions. ;)

Dear Ankit,

Reading Geraldo's notes on Chadao, it might also be worth examining cha gao, derived from what seems to be Pu'er resin. I suspect chatou is more pleasant, though.

Toodlepip all,


P.s. Mike: two Kg?! That's a lot of nuggets!

shichangpu said...

yes, a lot of nuggets.

one finds oneself justifying excessive purchases when the tea is less expensive than the shipping. i bought a few things from tuochatea, and an extra kilo of the cha tou just seemed to make sense. at the time. hmm...


speakfreely said...

I like how you describe the taste as "confoundingly mellow...worn-out in a most lovely way." I agree. We also agree that this tea comes on strong with its color and aroma, but where you're picking up currants and sultanas, I'm getting tarry petrochemical aromas. Ick. The mellow taste is quite a relief after that!