15 June, 2015


William of Bannacha has lain tea thricely upon us.  When a man married to JINGMAI LADIES (probably in the singular) sends you Jingmai tea, you take it seriously.

These are, it would seem, the first 2015 teas that I have written about on this humble web-site; I have to create a "2015" tag for the occasion.  Let's drink some twenty-fifteen!

You know the drill by now: in tea, as in life, I start at the bottom and work up.  The least assuming of these three teas is the "Jingmai Natural", which is an amusing name in the sense that the other teas, by implication, are unnatural.  The price for this cake is not (yet?) listed at William's web-site, but I imagine it will be lowlowlow, based on previous pricing.

He be selling it low.  Low.

It has the smallest leaves of the three samples, and is all sugary sweetness.  It is rounded, especially saccharine, and perhaps none too fragrant.  It is not by any means complex, but is straightforward and enjoyable.  Combined with an assumedly rock-bottom price (the 2014 price was a shocking 7 Euro/200g), this might we worth considering.  Nice, probably cheap, I can get behind.

However, for now, we have larger aquatic lifeforms to saute.

...starting with the "Jingmai Single Tree".

This fad for single-trees is all very well, but it doesn't necessarily make for the most complex tea.  However, we get ahead of ourselves.  The maocha, pictured above, is delightful.  The locals have done a good job of removing huangpian [yellow flakes] but the odd stem remains - I am happy to brew the odd stem, by the way.

The soup is the purest, purest yellow.  That yellow really is considerably in its purity.  It has the buttery, spring-time aroma of good processing and we conclude that all is well in Jingmai residents ability to cook their leaves.

It is vibrant and bitter, but very well-defined in its own way.  It has obvious "gushu" flavours, but perhaps reminds me a little of kudingcha: it is 1-dimensional, but that single dimension is most pleasant.  And exceptionally pure.  Does it leave you wanting more, for all that purity?

The final act is by far the best: the "Jingmai Ancient Gardens".

I'm sure that this will be priced more cheaply than the "Single Tree", but I much prefer it: this "Ancient Garden" tea has a broader base.  In tea, as in life, one simply must appreciate a broad, well-defined base.

As with all three teas in this triptych, the leaves are well-preserved and very nicely wok'd through their shaqing [kill-green] process.

Most importantly, this "Ancient Garden" cake is just delicious to drink.

It has the vibrant spring-time freshness of good, young tea.  To those HUMBLE MORTALS who maintain that shengpu has to be old before it can be tolerated, I offer a respectful raspberry.  This tea has Jingmaishan flavour, but which is entirely complementary to the grassy power of the tea.  While grassy cakes might be questionable for aging, this big cake is ready right now: powerful, cooling, and enduring.  It is yummy and, in a very real sense, in my tummy.

If this cake sells for a price similar to the 23 Euro of the 2014, it would be foolish of me to miss buying some for immediate consumption.  The long hold on my faculties keeps the attention, and the more attention one gives this tea, the better it becomes.

Oh, the wallets, they are a-purchasin'.

my handkerchief jumps
into the lavatory
with a loud flush

08 June, 2015

Rolling the Dice, Playing Croquet with MJOLNIR

Every time drink the pu'ercha, you're rolling the dice - let alone before buying the darned stuff with the hope of it aging nicely.  We are, therefore, no strangers to risk.  We are not risk-averse.  Indeed, there can be little chance of reward without risk.  It's all about playing the probabilities.  You gotsta play the numbers, as the wise man once said.

I've been through the 1980s "Yiwu Maocha" from Teaclassico in the past (notes here).  That was in autumn of last year, in which I concluded: yum.

Sometimes, when you've time for a tea session and that time is becoming ever more scarce in its availability, you simply wish to minimise risk.  You wish to set aside learning and experience, and just get down to some tea that is THE MIGHTY THOR.

In this wise, I opted for low-risk 1980s maocha.  It is a Mjolnir among teas.

The photograph really emphasises everything we need to know about this tea.  It is so very good, and so very dependable, that it completely satisfies my desire to avoid risk.  The only hazard in such a session is to one's wallet.  Seriously, this one is wallet-critical in terms of risk.

It is instantly (INSTANTLY) dark, and even the first infusion is smooth and gentle in its texture.

It reminds of one of family heirlooms, of sorts: a wooden indoor croquet set, made for very young children, which belonged to my mother, when she was a girl in rural Anglia.  It then belonged to me, in due course, and its dark woodiness left a lasting impression on me - the scent of the dark, sweet wood in particular.  This croquet set really made an impression on my growing senses.

This 1980s Yiwu Maocha is almost the perfect recreation of that wooden croquet set.  It is a state of remembrance in which I dwell for the entirety of the session.

...and some days you wish only to roll the dice, and let the chips fall where they may.

I do not know where this cake comes from - Gentle Reader, if it is from you, then please accept my thanks.  Let's roll the d6...

This cake looks good, does it not?  The wrapper suggests that it is "Simao Cuiyun Wenhua", where Cuiyun is a town in Simao prefecture, and where "wenhua" is (very approximately) "tradition".  It also has a stamp tha reads "huaxing", which "means that the company is traditional", according to my dear wife.  Experience suggests that I rather like random Simao cakes, and so I am optimistic.

This cake dates from 2005, and its darker shade of leaf, along with the quite well-preserved maocha, suggests that we might even have something of decent "artisan" status on our hands.

Oh boy, does this cake suck.


Suction of a manner that I have not experienced for some considerable duration, in fact.  There is real, true suction on offer here.  It has the sweet, sticky character of red pu'ercha with a very low ceiling indeed - its processing has left it almost nowhere to go, and its dry storage has not been kind.

It is aggressive on the tongue and lips, and I do not mean that as a compliment.  This is agrochemical all the way.   The sensation persists for some minutes, and I have only had two small cups from the first infusion.

My poor, poor tongue.  I nurse it back to health with some of that 1980s Yiwu Maocha with which I started this article.

What did I learn?  I learned that not every roll of the dice turns up the goods.  This stuff is as [insert derogatory adjective] as the [insert name of body part] from a [insert name of continental European country] mother.  Like, for reals.

after our meeting
only one of us, minister
will scrub nappies

02 June, 2015

Be'elzebub and Aged Fish

When in 1816 that great Romantic poet, Lord Byron, wrote his famous verse

"I've got a love-Jones for your body and your skin tone"

he may well have had the 2014 Laochatou from Dubs in mind.

Laochatou [laow-char-toh] is the crystallised evil that is left over after the composting process for making shupu has completed.  They are, perhaps, the kidney stones of Be'elzebub.  Happily, when you brew those little badboys, they can produce some really satisfying tea.

Rock-hard and with a distant scent of shupu, they are almost comically inexpensive.  Such is the profile of by-products from making shupu.  The cost of these at Dubs is listed at $5.50 / 50g.  Paul writes that these are, in fact, made from springtime Bulangshan - we are thus primed for some tea with potential for power and endurance.

This is precisely what they deliver: power, and endurance.  They really do last forever.  It is cooling, and strangely smooth - the flavour of a pebble that has been eroded on the ocean floor for aeons.  It combines the activity of good leaves with a slug of pure molasses.   It tastes almost exactly like gloopy molasses syrup.  At $110/kg, the lab might well benefit from such a mighty and potent little fiend.

You should try these, if you like shupu, and if you like your teas dark and heavy.

The main event today is the 2005 "Gaoshan Qingzing".  Aren't they all gaoshan and qingbing?

At $40, this amusingly-wrapped cake could be a bargain.  It is cloaked in a wrapper that looks a lot like "big green tree", which it obviously is not.

We have fragments of smaller leaves, pictured above, with a most welcome aroma of aged sweetness.  This is a decade old!  2005 is a strangely long time ago.  I was just starting out into the second year of my graduate degree, and was married to my dear wife in the same year - after meeting just one year before, as it happens.

The soup is clean, clear orange and its first impression is: AGED FISH.  This particulary fishy note is one that I associate with sub-CNNP, and it not something that I have come to appreciate.  (Note to self: this is a whole different class of fish to the almost-pleasant Dayi fish.)  It is cooling, and clearly caffeinated.

Thankfully, the second and subsequent infusions lose the fish and gain a strong, pine-like sweetness.  I can take pine, in preference to aged fish, any day of the week.  The sharpness is rather appealing.  I interleave brews of this cake with the Laochatou (started the day before).  The Laochatou continues to be powdery and sweet.  By contrast, the 2005 Gaoshan seems to be rather unsettling on the stomach, which is not a sensation that I typically receive from tea.  The fishy character eventually returns, and I finish the session after some four infusions or so.

AGED FISH: just say "no".

I have altered the
bed time - pray that I alter it
no further