22 May, 2010

2005 Tianlu "Yiwu Guchawang"

Tea from Maliandao.

2005 Tianlu Yiwu

This tong came from Xiaomei's shop, and was a selection made by Little Brother.  I expressed a desire to find some more pre-2006 cakes before I left, and this was his first choice.

2005 Tianlu Yiwu
Who they?

Never heard of this producer before?  Me neither.  This shouldn't be surprising, given that it is one of the many small family-owned labels from Kunming.  Xiaomei wandered into their backstreet shop while visiting the Yunnanese capital and liked what she found.

2005 Tianlu Yiwu
All is forgiven when the cake is naked

Medium-sized leaves and some huangpian [yellow flakes] are mixed with an actual twig.  Not just a stem, but an actual twig.  The compression is very pleasant, and I have a good feeling both from the colour of the leaves and from the particularly outgoing aroma.  This is a tea with something to say.  No boring "getting-to-know-you" chit-chat here, just straight down to business.

2005 Tianlu Yiwu
Loose compression

The colour is a wonderfully unadulterated yellow, as shown below.  While I watch, the colour gradually deepens in the air.  This is an active tea, and an honest tea.  I appreciate honesty.

2005 Tianlu Yiwu
Straight and by the numbers

By the time Lei and I came to taste this cake, we were already heavily loaded, carrying lots of tea, and with bellies filled from previous sessions.  However, despite that overload, this tea punctured our hazy states-of-mind and made itself obvious.  

Punchy, clean, sweet - this is a "big" tea.  It has a big presence in the mouth, it cools the tongue noticeably, and it tingles throughout.  It has some hints of age, but both Kunming and Beijing are dry places, and so it isn't too advanced.  That's fine by me - my goal is good content, something for the long haul. 

2005 Tianlu Yiwu
They don't come more honest than that

I later had to carry this tea through customs at Moscow (long story), which was quite amusing. The Brunhilde that stopped me took great delight in examining the wrappers.

At RMB150 (approx. $20) per cake, I couldn't fault it. Plenty of "trousers", unapologetically strong, without recourse to making it easier to drink, this is My Kind of Tea.

Xiaomei certainly knows her stuff, it must be said.

(Those expecting samples from me - I'll try to remember to include some for your consideration.)


Zero the Hero said...

Looks and sounds like a good one. Qing wen, what do you mean by "honest?"

Hobbes said...

Dear Zero,

Honesty here meaning a straightforward tea, unchanged and unprepared. Not dumbed down, just left unapologetically powerful and tasty. Excellent stuff.



Unknown said...

Hey Hobbes,

It seems like you had genuinely rewarding sessions at Xiaomei's shop. In my lone experience at Maliandao, the haggling was so relentless and draining that it drastically cut the time to try and purchase a multitude of teas. Was Xiaomei an exception to the rule? Did she provide a fair price right up front or did you still have to partake in some haggling. Just curious.



MarshalN said...

Looks decent, how does it compare with the Yisheng?

Heatwaves: If you're a foreigner, unfortunately haggling is almost a must. Hobbes had an "in" with Xiaomei, which made life a little easier I think :)

Hobbes said...

Dear Heatwaves and MarshalN,

When I've been to Maliandao on my own, I have always found it an uphill struggle, and, to be honest, not a huge amount of fun. It's like throwing a chicken to the foxes. Absolutely everyone wants to bargain, and bargain hard, and all the vendors treat you as if you know nothing, and consequently try to sell you bad tea.

However, going back with Lei totally transformed the experience. She quickly gives the impression that we know what we're doing, and the entire texture of the visit changes. Instead of being a haggle-fest, it comes a series of sweet encounters with nice people who want to share their hobby.

We didn't actually haggle very much at all. In fact, we haggled with Didi (at Xiaomei's shop) harder than most other places! The folk that sold us the 2007 Hongjie, for example, just gave us a fixed multiple (x1.15) of what he claimed was the wholesale price, and we left it there. The price was very reasonable, and he was apparently in no mood to bargain.

While that experience was unusual, 95% of my trips to Maliandao with Lei have involved drinking tea and talking about mountains, rather than haggling, which occurs right at the end, or as a background process during the drinking. I would say when I was there alone, I was haggling more than 60% of the time, and found it truly exhausting.

My advice, in short, is to take someone that (i) can speak putonghua and (ii) can communicate expertise (at at least non-beginner status) regarding pu'er!

Comparing the 2005 Yisheng and this 2005 Tianlu: the former is more dark and strawlike, and has aged more. The Tianlu has seen only Kunming, and six months of Beijing, and so is dazzlingly yellow. The Yisheng currently sells for 3x - 4x the price of the Tianlu, and is clearly the better tea, but the Tianlu is a clean, tasty, aggressive pick. It should do well.



Hobbes said...

Addendum: the Yisheng sells for precisely 5x the cost of this Tianlu. :)

MarshalN said...

Sounds about right -- it looks inferior, but wasn't sure.