02 June, 2009

2009 Nadachayuan "Yiwu Mahei"

Summertime. I fear it is with us. No longer may a man dress as he wishes; he dresses as he must. Stow away the long scarves, hide away the hats. Any season where I can't wear a waistcoat for fear of expiring from hyperthermia is a season I dread.

On the bright side, we've been spending more time exploring the garden of our new house, and seeing what the previous owner has been growing in it. While undoubtedly miniature in comparison to the wide expanses of American homesteads, it is our first home of our own, and so it feels very special indeed.

Believe it or not, the colour of the garden is precisely this green, with no alteration.

Fans of Heidu (your name is Legion, for you are many) will be happy to know that, despite being inflicted with feline diabetes, fleas, and a stench straight from the bowels of Hades, he is back among us. In fact, he just likes to follow us around the garden and hang out wherever we go, which is very sweet. The pleasant smells of flowers and vegetables almost overcome his pungent aroma, too. Almost.

You're doing it all wrong.

Lei and I were very touched to read e-mails and comments giving us advice on how to combat Heidu's manifold problems. Much as we'd love to solve them ourselves, his real owner (our neighbour-but-one) is a lovely family lady, who loves him very much. We're attempting to mention his fleas as tactfully as we can manage.

Humans - can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em....

Thanks also for the generous e-mails regarding my on-going slog, career-wise. I may have painted too bleak a picture, for the news is good: I am happy to report that I secured a very pleasant five-year position with my current boss (actually, this was entirely due to his continued generosity), and was elected as a Fellow of a college here - an honour I feel largely undeserved given my humble junior status.

Maybe I can get the college to institute the position of a "tea steward", to go alongside that of the traditional wine steward - heaven knows, their tea is bad enough, as it is everywhere here!

Which leads us nicely towards today's tea...

This is my first shengpu session in a long, long time, simply because time and tide have kept me away from my tea-table (see entries passim). To get back in the mood, and to prepare the ol' tastebuds for the onslaught of a whole new year of tea, I thought I'd start with a good one.

I bought this tea from Nada, who selected it during his recent 2009 expedition around Yunnan, and comes from a village named Mahei, in the Yiwu tea-zone. The wrapper alone (pictured above) arrests my attention, as I am extremely fond of traditional Chinese landscapes. Their impact is as much in their use of the white space of the canvas as it is in the detail, and I appreciate the restraint and suggestiveness of classical Chinese artists in this genre. I understand Nada negotiated with the artist himself in order to produce the wrappers, which is A Good Thing in my eyes.

Below, some detail of the climb to the tea-pagoda:

...which reminds me, I must finish convincing Lei that we need a tea pagoda under the willow tree. (You look lovely today, darling.)

The maocha is entirely qiaomu [tall-tree], which took some darned hard work, as far as I can tell: even during the high point of the season, the sellers in Yiwu itself mix their product with plantation leaves to make it go further. This may or may not be made from the same maocha as are the cakes at TeaSmith, which I long to try. Actually, I'm coming to University College in London tomorrow, so I should I do exactly that!

The compression is excellent: firm, but not Xiaguan, and the leaves are sizeable and whole, with a clean and sweet aroma. My impression of the Yiwu qiaomu (actual qiaomu) maocha from 2008 was just that: clean.

The soup is pure, crystalline yellow, with the expected short-but-sweet beidixiang [initial scent] swelling to a long, climactic lengxiang [cool scent] of low sugars that lasts an absolute age. It dwells in the wenxiangbei [aroma cup] for several minutes, solid and potent.

The characteristics are mobile in the mouth: sweetness that moves to the throat and swells in as similarly dramatic manner as did the aroma. "Wow, this is so pure. Is it old-tree?" asks Lei, without knowing which tea it is. The purity and energy are remarkable.

It marches on forever, simply becoming sweeter and sweeter. Middle infusions fill out into a sweet-leathery affair, which recedes to pure, elegant sweetness by the eleventh infusion. Even then, the mouth continues to water after swallowing. There's plenty of content in these leaves.

After twenty (!) infusions, it being a slow and leisurely day, the tea continues to deliver solid sweetness and mouthwatering after-effects. Even then, it continues to swell in the throat, and is entirely devoid of any roughness or abrasiveness. Nada should be very pleased with his production. Due to pressures of time, other cakes bought from him remain in their boxes in my office, and have yet to be transferred home, but I look forward to doing so.

Here's to a great 2009 tea season for all of us.

March, 2012

This cake has darkened noticeably.  It has become vegetal and bass-like, while retaining a potent kuwei.  The body remains thick, but it has shifted significantly in the heavier, downward direction - in a good way.  It lasts for a very large number of infusions without sign of difficulty, and has the cooling sensations and brilliance of character that remind of its raw youth, three years ago.

I conclude that the aging conditions are sufficient for looking after this cake's future, and, in particular, that the humidity of the air is not stripping it of its character.


MarshalN said...

I'm sure somebody has told you about Frontline already. Just buy some, use it on the cat... the owner won't even notice.

Hobbes said...

Dear Marshaln,

I'm sure there's a British equivalent that I can get hold of - thanks for the suggestion. It's worth a go!



nada said...

Hi Hobbes,

Glad you enjoyed the cake. These were fun to make - involving rides on the back of a tractor and motorbikes to collect the maocha. It's nice to see the results being enjoyed.

best wishes,

(and if you're travelling to London, yep - it's the same maocha as in Teasmith's small Yiwu bings)

MarshalN said...

Like this


MarshalN said...

I should also say that if it has fleas and has been running around your house, you need to call somebody to fix this, because otherwise.... you'll keep seeing fleas.

The cat looks like it weighs no more than maybe 10 pounds. It shouldn't be that bad.

Hobbes said...

Dear Nada,

Thanks again - very good stuff indeed. I hope my meeting at UCL finishes early enough for me to make it to Spitalfields!

Dear Marshaln,

You know, there's a story behind that. Thanks for mentioning it. We went through a huge amount of effort to clean our house, carpets, duvets, etc. after the discovery of the fleas - it was quite something! Now, Heidu is restricted to the garden and conservatory, where he can do no harm.

Thanks also for the link - I failed to find a UK version, so it has proved very useful indeed. Thanks from Heidu, too!



Brandon said...

Hi Hobbes,
Did you get the try the old arbor Nannuo? I personally thought it was a much better tea and without the hassles of Yiwu. I suppose time will tell which cake turns out better.

MarshalN said...

If you need help with how to apply it -- just ask. I do have two cats, after all, although I don't let them out unsupervised for a good reason.

Hobbes said...

Dear Brandon,

I've got it, but it's in my office! I need to take it home - perhaps this week-end will give me enough time for another session. :)

I've had a quick session with it in the quick-and-easy setting of my office, and it tasted typically floral and smooth. However, the water here is rough, and I look forward to giving it the attention it deserves back at home.

Dear Marshaln,

I might have to do so, thank you - Lei and I were discussing getting some "Frontline" at your suggestion just last night.



eileen said...

This was a very beautiful post and the photography was right on. Heidu is very lucky to have found such a supportive couple and yes, Frontline is the best, use it on all my cats to good effect and we live in the country.

Hobbes said...

Thanks, Eileen - poor Heidu and his poor fleas!