09 January, 2008

1999 CNNP Shupu

There's the scent of mystery in the air. The game's afoot, Watson!

Maybe... but I suspect asking my Chinese wife to read it to me will make it quicker!

It's a 1999 CNNP cake (hence the title), allegedly Simao-region leaves, a "tiebing" [iron-pressed cake], and "gancang" [dry-stored].

Let's give it a go; thanks to Norpel for the sample...

Despite the "iron compression", it comes apart easily. It looks and smells very much like shupu! I like shupu, though, so that's a fine thing.

The soup is dark, as you can see. I can't abide shupu that messes around; if you're going to forcefully oxidise a tea, at least make it brew a lovely, dark soup.

The flavour is smooth and sweet, and the years have been kind to it in that regard. 10-year-old shupu is a great age. Much of the shupu I've encountered that's much older than a decade has begun to lose its flavour, even when tightly compressed. Up until that point, it's like water eroding a stone... gradual, smoothing, and pleasant.

There's even a gentle huigan to this particular shupu. I always brew shupu quite hard, in an attempt to bully out some "oomph" from it; this one stands up to the bullying, and shows no obvious flaws throughout, delivering a solid, shupu character.

Shupu is a great evening drink. Somehow, it doesn't keep me awake at night. Thanks again for the sample, Norpel!

By way of thanks, here's a Buddhist cartoon for you. Admittedly, it's a Zen cartoon (made for my group in town here) and not a Tibetan one...

(Based on the koan of the same name.)


Nada said...

i dislike overusing of internet acronyms out of mere convenience but I did physically laugh out loud whilst reading this cartoon... very apt!

thanks also for your identification of this bing. Now it has a name. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

I note with interest your comments about shupu being a good bedtime drink. I also have found this. It feels as though perhaps the qi of the tea is depleted somehow during the fermentation process, definitely a very different energy (or lack of energy) than its greener cousin. What are your thoughts on this? I can see no reason why the simple caffeine content would be altered, but I'm not a chemist... perhaps someone can enlighten me.

nada (norpel)

Hobbes said...

Very interesting, is it not, the shupu effect?

Some subscribe to the presence of extra compounds in teas that inhibit the caffeine effect.

It could well be that chaqi is altered during fermentation - though some older shupu I've come across (and perhaps were included in the last parcel to you? My memory is frail!) are fairly energetic. Though entirely subjective, I find the "chaqi" effect from shupu to be quite calming, in contrast to the enervating effect from some shengpu.



Nada said...

I guess by definition it is indeed the shupu effect, though I hadn't really begun to think of it as such - just a tendency to reach for this tea late in the evening.

I take your point about the possibility of compounds that inhibit the caffeine effect, but I'm not sure why (or how) these would be a byproduct of the fermentation process. If they're not created somehow during the fermentation, perhaps we can discount these as being a factor in the noted sheng/shu difference.

I too have noticed several shu's that did have a fair amount of qi present (most notably in my memory a sample of 1990 'wild' shu Fuhai tuocha (from teamasters)). This manifested as a strong tingling throughout the mouth when drinking and this calming effect you mention, along with the spine tingling rushes that for me are the hallmark of a good chaqi.

This calming effect doesn't surprise me with a tea of this age, since I'd also experience it with a similarly aged shengpu, and seems to be just how the qi 'settles' over the years. (This 'settling' aspect of the qi is a purely subjective personal feeling)

One factor which seems as though it may be significant is that it seems in recent years shupu isn't generally made with such high quality leaves. It seems logical that just as a young sheng made with low quality plantation leaves doesn't display much qi also a shupu made with similar leaves won't display much qi either. It would be interesting to sample 2 cakes (one shengpu and one shupu) made from the same qi-rich maocha and note the effects. Alas where to find such quality bings?

I'll have a hunt in the box of delights you sent... there's still many envelopes I haven't opened yet, perhaps an earthy treat lies within :)


(I'm a little surprised at your description of the effect of drinking shengpu as enervating... I'd have thought perhaps the opposite)

Hobbes said...

Dear Nada,

Thanks for the comments; I like the description of chaqi "settling" with age, which fits my own subjective perception of it.

One thing I'd noticed is that even the cheapest leaves when left to age for decades have a certain something about them. Certainly, good leaves have more complexity and depth, but I was struck by how even very low-quality teas can definitely gain... something interesting over time!