10 January, 2009

2007 Changtai - Yichanghao "Yiwu"

We moved house a few months ago, and I found a pair of mystery Changtai bing. Incredibly, it's a tea I don't remember buying - or even seeing before... is senility coming early? I am reminded of my College porter's words...

We have a really heavy front door to our College - big, oaken, and with rusty hinges. To open it, you have to place both hands on the side opposite to the hinges, bend your back, and then really shove hard - it's like moving a boulder. (Pictured below, in a lovely old antique postcard.)

St. Cross

Four years ago, for reasons inscrutable, they changed the hinges from being on the left side of the door to the right side of the door. Obviously, you now have push the other side of the door to open it.

To this day, I still push on the wrong side. I push and push, then remember to change sides. I never seem to learn. Even monkeys learn. Even the undergraduates learn. Still, I push away on the wrong side of the door. It's quite frustrating.

One day, the porter laughed and said, "It's only you and the old duffers that can't remember."

So, I think senility is kicking in early. The way I see it, this gives me ample opportunity to forget things that I don't want to remember without fear of recrimination.

After some rifling through old e-mails and spreadsheets, it turns out that I bought this pair of Changtai cakes (shown below) by proxy, from a generous travelling friend who was kind enough to allow me to buy some cakes through him (thanks again!). They arrived with a bunch of other teas, which I enjoyed during last year, and then my thesis burden landed on me. and squashed my free time. These cakes, and one or two samples, quietly made it into our tea collection but have not yet been enjoyed.

I notice from the slightly eaten bing that I've had a session or two with these, but I can't remember them. There's that senility again...

2007 Yichanghao Yiwu

I like Yichanghao - it's always a good brand. Changtai are a great producer, mostly sold by Houde in the west, and are responsible for one of my favourites, the 2005 1st Pu'er Trade Fair. I'd be delighted if more vendors sold Changtai products (and Yichanghao in particular) - why are they so rare? They're generally very good without attracting the almost unethically large price tags of brands such as Xizihao. Maybe we'll see some more Yichanghao in 2009!

As I'm sure you know, "Yichanghao" is that typical Chinese combination of two characters used to show the conjunction of two concepts; in this case, it is the combination of "yi" from "yiwu" and the "chang" from "Changtai", making this the "Changtai-Yiwu" brand.

2007 Yichanghao Yiwu

I think neipiao [inner tickets] are becoming more mature. The Yichanghao version, shown above, describes the nature of the tea and makes absolutely no claims to curing cancer, helping you to win the lottery, or bringing about lasting peace in the Middle East.

The cakes (pictured below) are real beauties. The Yichanghao approach uses large fragments of leaves, which gives the cake a pleasing homogenous character, and no doubt equalises the contribution from small and large leaves alike in the blend. There are definite benefits to chopping leaves.

The hand-pressed cakes come apart easily. The leaves look a wee bit dark, and yet the aroma is orthodox Yiwu sweetness.

2007 Yichanghao Yiwu

While the soup comes out a solid orange, in correspondence with the darkness of the leaves, it is crisp and clean, and the aroma is sharp and sweet.

If I were to boil down some lovely cedarwood shelves and drink the result, I would have this tea. It is full of youth and energy, yet has a rich, low, woody tobacco character that dwells wonderfully in the yunxiang [the after-aroma that sits in the nose]. Unlike many tobacco teas, this one has retained its bitterness, and isn't afraid to deliver a full, bitter tang in the finish just to remind you who's boss.

A wisp of wood-smoke makes me happy. These are good cakes, and I have absolutely no idea how to go about getting more, short of taking an early trip to China.

2007 Yichanghao Yiwu

Later infusions open out into a rugged sweetness - I think of rustic honey, the kind that our bee-keeping neighbours used to provide back in my home town. I always thought being an amateur beekeeper would be a lot of fun, plus you could tell people that you were an apiarist.

The chaqi of this tea simultaneously wakes me up and calms me. What a fine thing this is.

People of the world, rise up and demand more Yichanghao!

April, 2014

This has long, unbroken leaves and "hand-made" compression.  The dry leaves have no scent at all, although they have been sealed in plastic for five years: while I have two cakes, I am drinking the remainder of my original sample, today.  This is a heavy, yellow-orange pu'ercha with a good, solid core of sweetness.  There is a straw-like characteristic, and it lasts well after swallowing.  Even aging while sealed in plastic, changes may be determined.  The sweet rough-straw of the body is challenging, and keeps the session interesting.  

"The tea seems to last forever", my journal records.


LaoChaGui said...

Your last two reviews have been great with the stories woven into the experience of the tea. Speaking of great stories, I noticed you have a copy of Six Chapters of a Floating Life, one of my favorite books ever. I have the same version.

LaoChaGui said...

I didn't know Lin Yutang wrote a biography of Su Dongpo! I want that book! You must have a lot of great books.

Brian Lavelle said...

I have a bing of this tea I got from Nada last year, but I see he no longer has any for sale. It's wonderful stuff and your review is spot on. I couldn't resist when I read how good he said it was and the look of the cake itself.

Perhaps he could be prevailed upon to get some more of this in the course of his travels... :-)

Hobbes said...

Dear Laochagui,

Six Chapters is one of my favourites, too. In fact, I seem to remember recommending it to Nada, who had it subsequently stolen while in Kunming. We can only hope that the culprit receives some education in gentility from the book!

Lin Yutang is a mighty fine writer - I appreciate his spirit more than anything. It's diametrically opposed to the pomp and nonsense of "The Way of Tea", for example.

I've seen some writers call Lin "the last Chinese scholar"...

Dear Brian,

Let's hope so, I wouldn't say no =)



小 約翰 said...

A case of "Juvenile Dementia" a great ploy, especially if the wife buys it .. john

Hobbes said...

Dear John,

I just realised what you meant! I thought "if the wife buys it" referred to my wife actually purchasing the tea - this is rare, but it has been known to happen!

You've been in the US too long, you're using their phrases and confusing me... :)



Anonymous said...

I like green tea.