02 July, 2009

2009 Mingxiangyayuan - Hailanghao "Zhang Jia Wan"

Reasons to go to Dublin:

i. Real Guiness (see below), not the black water we get in the UK
ii. Irish stew
iii. "Irish Breakfast" tea
iv. Hordes of tourists from the USA

Amusingly, "Dublin" means "black water" in Gaelic

Trinity College is beautiful, too. I've never seen Georgian architecture on such a scale, without mixture of other architectural styles - it's as if it has been lifted out of the past, and perfectly preserved, without later addition.

Critics of the city would say that this is because investment in Dublin promptly halted after the Georgian era (approximately when we were scrapping with our colonies in the New World) - I prefer to think of it as an opportunity to glimpse a bygone age. What Georgian examples exist in Oxford, Cambridge, and London, for example, live shoulder-to-shoulder with Regency, Victorian, Edwardian, and modern buildings, and so the sheer homogeneity of Trinity College's main quad is unique. And very pretty:

What is in fact a Tudor university appears remarkably Georgian...

The UK academic community in my field is fairly small, and so the same faces keep cropping up at most conferences, which is nice. Most people are connected to one another through two or three steps, which makes for a friendly atmosphere.


Enjoying the peace of being back at home, Lei and I decided that the only real benefit to going away is to remind you how much you love your home.

2009 HLH Zhang Jia Wan
The quiet joys of home

Huge uberthanks to ST for providing this sample of Hailanghao's "Zhang Jia Wan", sold by Yunnan Sourcing for the heady sum of $74. It is part of an unholy trinity of limited-quantity Hailanghao cakes, including a Manzhuan for $64 and a "Gao Shan Zhai" tea for heaven-knows-how-much.

The price is a big sticking point, and obstructs my approach to the tea. Ordinarily, I like Hailanghao teas (as you've probably guessed from my numerous previous articles on the subject), because they are low-maintenance, enjoyable, and inexpensive. I wouldn't have thought that the quality of Hailanghao could ever aspire to the "serious cake" prices attached to these cakes, but I'm willing to be proved wrong!

Chums have looked at the prices and commented "I won't be buying those." I guess these cakes are for the real Hailanghao fans out there. I consider to be myself a card-carrying fan of Hailanghao, and so I hope for great things, despite my suspicions.

The extraordinarily high price means that the tea comes under a bright spotlight - much moreso than, for example, the inexpensive Hailanghao of previous years. Can dear old "HLH" make the jump into the big leagues of expensive cakes?

2009 HLH Zhang Jia Wan
Sweet and smooth, it's all a bit wulong

Those leaves shown above are dark and appear in large fragments. They are leathery-sweet, and darkly grapish - very young and clean, but certainly very "green".

Perhaps it doesn't come out in the above photograph, but the soup is a melon-orange colour suggestive of sourness. Indeed, it is a bit sour - particularly in the throat, where it seems rather abrasive.

Most obvious is a great big pile of buttery sweetness in both body and aroma, which rather reminds me of a Dayuling wulong I had from Teamasters some years ago. This heads nicely into a savoury, grainlike character. I could believe it is Yiwu, but it seems a touch unusual in its butteriness (in a decent way).

2009 HLH Zhang Jia Wan

I have two primary concerns about this cake:

i. it's a bit harsh in the throat, and has a sourness back there that I don't enjoy; and,

ii. it is lacking in content, and I had to add more leaves than usual, and brew harder than usual, in order to get much out of it.

It is a very difficult cake: its thinness means that you need to push it quite hard, but it doesn't stand up to stress, and rapidly becomes sour and rough.

Noting the extreme price of this cake, I couldn't recommend it. It has the usual flaws of Hailanghao, being none-too-potent, and none-too-smooth. At the ordinary Hailanghao prices, these are entirely forgiveable, and I have bought many solid performers of this brand over the years. At $74, this tea simply is not up to par. It's high price must surely be a function of its rarity (YS listed 13 cakes) rather than its quality.

Thanks again to ST - I can understand your disappointment!

Many conference presentations don't tend to generate positive audience responses

(Facebook chums can see the remainder of my infantile sketchings from Dublin.)


Unknown said...

I recently bought some Hai Lang Hao cakes, and as a appreciation of your blogg I would like to send you a few samples if you are interested.

Hobbes said...

Dear Terje,

That's very kind of you, thanks! Please send me an e-mail (hobbesoxon at gmail dot com), and we can exchange some samples.



Unknown said...

e-mail sent with a small list of what I have to offer - which doesn't include anything special, by the way, but maybe there is something you would like to try.


Hobbes said...

Brilliant - thanks so much, Terje. :)