Saturday, October 20, 2018

A Guide/Advice on Purchasing the Best Teapot Online

Recently after the breakage of two of my only yixing teapots I set out to find some suitable replacements.  I quickly learned that buying a teapot in person is very different than purchasing one online.

Firstly, you cannot accurately see the quality of the teapot online.  Any imperfections that a trained eye can easily spot can be hid or cannot be determined with pictures online.  Also the size of the lid hole, tightness of the lid, any rough clay inside the pot that might cause potential problems, testing of the pour, general thickness of the teapots walls, the weight of the pot, etc, cannot be reliably determined with photos online. 

Obviously, the tactile feeling of the pot also cannot be determined online either.  More importantly, the overall feel of the teapot, its energy, its Qi, the way it feels in your hands and the way it makes you feel cannot be accurately assessed.  For someone who has an eye for, experience with, and a background in such things, buying a teapot online put me out of my comfort zone.

I think it’s always a good idea to first make sense of your tea drinking.  I did this and I think it will help give you a better idea of what exactly your teapot needs are before you go out a buy one.  It should be noted that really you don’t really need a teapot at all.  However, if you hope to practice gong fu cha “skillful tea brewing” and feel like using the brewing vessel as a way to refine your tea steeping skill or feel that the esthetic of a teapot elevates your tea experience, then you might want more than a cup and some loose leaves with a fork as a filter.  But really, it isn’t at all necessary to own a teapot and still enjoy tea.  In many ways adjusting water parameters, leaf to vessel ratios, water temperature, and steeping times will probably give you much more out of your tea leaves for less money.  But to me, I felt that the teapot was a needed esthetic and a convenient necessity.

For me I determined that I need a teapot that:

1-      Would be for drinking tea with my family in the morning

2-      Would be mainly used for and enhance the flavor of aged/ semi-aged sheng puerh which we almost exclusively consume in the morning

3-      Should be of relatively large volume 200-300mL due to the short time period and the higher output our family demands while gong fu steeping in the morning

4-      Should be of durable and study design and feel, preferably with thicker walls (will withstand potential toddler throws)

5-      Should be a functional design and easy to use because it will be used daily

7-      Should be of yixing clay

8-      Won’t break the bank

After I determined exactly what I was looking for then I went shopping at some reliable Western puerh vendors.  Browsing online, is the first step if you think you know which pots will improve the tea you hope to steep in the new pot.  I think if you contact the place where you are buying a majority of your tea this is a good logical place to start.  This makes sense because the vendor should ideally have the best teapots to bring out the best in the teas which they sell.  It seems reasonable that this would benefit both vendors and buyers alike.

Here are a few that I would recommend and trust and places that I actually went looking for a teapot.  They are all old bloggers that I have had personal connection to for over 10 years.  They are also dealers that focus on aged and semi aged puerh (on the tea that I will use the pot for).  They are also places where I commonly buy tea as reflected by frequent reviews of their teas on my blog:

Stephane has been writing about yixing teapots transmitting knowledge from his teamaster, Teaparker for over a decade now on his blog.  He often helps his patrons chose the best teapotfor the tea they are drinking.  He has anextensive catalogue of yixing pots, many which are quite beautiful and are priced accordingly.

The title of his blog Travelling Teapot pretty much tips you off that this might be a great spot to look for teapots.  His teapot inventory has dwindled down over the last few years but his knowledge of love of yixing teapots makes Wilson a good person to go to.  I feel his selection of drinker quality semi aged puerh matches closely the tea I would be drinking in my future teapot.

The new the Essence of Tea site has by far the best pictures.  It allows you to really zoom in and look at the details of the pot.  He bought up huge amounts of factory 1 yixing pots and quality private commissioned yixing while living in Malaysia.  Its super fun even to just browse at those beautiful shapes and forms.

I actually ended up checking the sites of Yunnan Sourcing and white2tea as well as pretty much all the western vendors I could think of but many of these sites didn’t have anything or very little that met the above criteria.  However, if you reach out by email or message, the vendor that you most frequently purchase from should be able to direct you to a teapot that they feel will work best for the teas they sell.  If they don’t have one that you are looking for they probably will be able to track one down.

Another great place to look is the used market.  Nothing I found met my above criteria but I would have much preferred to buy used and save the money than buy an unused teapot.  That’s just me.

I hope my personal experience in searching for the right yixing teapot online will help any readers to find the right pot for them.  If there are any readers who wish to share any other tips or their experience feel free to do so in the comments below.

So, did I end up buying?  Yes.  I ended up getting two old and beautiful yixing teapots that I feel are the right fit for my teas and tea drinking.  So far, I’m happy with them and feel no need to buy anymore.

Could have I just used an empty cup and a fork to hold in the leaves and gong fu-ed the tea in this make shift, minimalist, gaiwan type of brewing vessel? Yes, it probably would have done the trick just fine.

Could I blindly tell the difference of tea made in one of my yixing pots verses in a mug with a fork strainer?  Who knows, but I certainly hope I’m at that level.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

2018 Spring Essence of Tea Gua Feng Zhai and Thoughts on Blending Huang Pian

This fine sample made it to me free in a recent yixing teapot order along with these others (here and here).  The description on the Essence of Tea website for this Guafengzhai states, We left some yellow leaves in this cake since the quantity was so small and priced it accordingly.  This gives a good range of flavours in the resulting tea.  This is something interesting and new.  I have not ever heard of this before but it makes sense to me as a possible way to both add depth of taste as well as to help keep the price down (because this region is pretty expensive these days).  It appears that this 2018 Spring Guafengzhai has just recently sold out but used to go for $224.00 for 200g cake or $1.12 /g .

The dry leaf smells amazing, like puerh candy with a layered high noted sweetness and subtle rainforest sensibility.  “This will be good tea” I think to myself…

The first infusion has a nutty roasted squash taste which transitions to bold pungent flavours then into a quick moving splash of returning sweetness.  The mouthfeel is gummy, and sticky and nice.  There is sticky rice base taste throughout and intense sweet tastes pop up here and there. First infusion shows nice signs of complexity.  The tea pours a golden yellow colour that is similar to the 2018 Spring Essence of Tea Yiwu.  This might have something to do with the long processing that David is a fan of or maybe it is a product of the weather this spring in Yiwu?  Or the addition of the huang pian (“yellow leaves” or the big yellow mature leaves they usually discard when sorting the picked leaf)?  I’m unsure but it is something I am not used to seeing in such young puerh.

The second infusion has an initial nutty sweet initial taste mixed with a fair bit of pungency there is a squash like and sticky rice base taste under the flavours, slight wood.  The returning sweetness has a cooling menthol finish with light, soft candy like sweetness.  The throat feel is medium depth and the mouthfeel is soft and slightly sticky.

The third infusion has a slightly woody, swash, nutty onset which transitions to a long pungent taste where sweetness returns.  At first the sweetness is a minty pungent mix then it trails off into a mild candy-like sweetness.  The mouthfeel has a mild tingling feeling.

The fourth infusion has the same woody, squash like, nutty onset but it is leaning towards less nutty now and more woody.  The pungency is a touch less now or maybe it just carries a squash like sweet taste.  The sweetness unravels into a mild candy sweetness. The mouthfeel is mild and the mild throat opens unpretentiously. The qi slowly and gently builds up in the body. 

The fifth infusion has a more cohesive taste to it now woody even savory onset that transitions to pungency then to sweetness.  The initial taste has shifted a bit here the throatfeeling is on the edges of constriction in the mid throat.  The mouthfeel has a mild sticky, almost dryness to it.

The sixth infusion starts with an almost juicy nutty treading toward bitter but not quite onset.  The taste transitions to more woody then to a soft quick pungency then to a woody, almost watermelon and squash sweetness and less an intense candy sweetness.

The seventh starts with a nutty squash like taste with undertones of wood and pungency.  The sweet returning taste is less now and mixed with a menthol pungency.

The eighth begins a slight almost milky woodiness with and ending nutty taste and returning pungency that is cooling and not as sweet.  The qi is a nice relaxing Qi but not overly present. The physical body feels like its floating a bit.  The mind relaxed.

The ninth has a woody and nutty onset with a mild pungency and faint on the breath returning sweetness. It weakens here and seems to need pushing early on.

The tenth is pushed 10 seconds beyond flash and gives us a pumpkin/ squash taste with an almost bready and woody like taste.  The sweetness is almost a bread like sweetness with a faint nuttiness lingering beneath.

The eleventh infusion is pushed 30 seconds and delivers a woody, squash and sweet potato like taste.  The mouthfeel is shored up here and is almost silty in the mouth with a nice woody pungency.

The twelfth is put under a 30 steeping is mainly dry wood.  Not too exciting, slightly drying in the throat almost bitter finish with subtle suggestions of menthol.  Qi is a mild relaxing kind of thing but nothing notable really.

The thirteenth is a good 30 seconds plus and comes out rather grainy and cereal tasting mainly with a slight pungency.

The fourteenth is long steeped and gives off a nutty almost juicy but drier wood taste.  The mouthfeel is dry here and constricting in these long steeps.

I put it to an overnight steeping and get better results with a very viscus full syrupy sweetness with fruits and gourd tastes and full coating in mouth.

Overall, I would have never guessed this to be from the Gua Feng Zhai producing area.  The huang pian leaves mixed in gives it an interesting and contrasting depth that you wouldn’t normally experience in a Gua Feng Zhai puerh which is usually quite light and pungent.  It almost tastes autumnal, unnami, deeper, and warmer.  I wonder if we are going to see more of this mixing of yellow leaves?  It’s almost worth trying for this experience.

The qi is of medium- mild intensity and makes the body feel as if it is floating at times and the mind feels a bit relaxed.  The mouthfeel can be a bit off putting and dry and almost constricting if this tea is pushed too hard.  This tea lacks stamina and had to be pushed hard early but then the dryness feeling in the throat and mouth are more apparent.

Reflecting on my day, I felt pretty good drinking this yesterday…



Tuesday, October 9, 2018

2018 Spring Essence of Tea “Piercing the Illusion”

Some people pierce their ears, others their nose, belly button, and even other unmentionables but, for the puerh drinker, there is no better piercing than their illusion.  And so it brings us here to this very first experimental blend by Essence of Tea…

I must admit, I was quite excited about this free sample (usually goes for $128.00 for a 400g cake or $0.32) that made its way to me in a recent Yixing teapot order.  First, on a very superficial level, the art on the wrapper by Maggie Taylor is probably one of my favorite all time.  Appreciation of the wrapper art is part of the ecstatic of puerh tea.  Brilliant brilliant year of the dog art in a style that I have not yet seen on a puerh wrapper.  There is a very clever play on words because the dog is sporting very eccentric Elizabethan fashion around its neck called a “Tudor ruff”… get it… hahhaha
Secondly, I am excited that this is Essence of Tea’s first experimental blend.  Essence of Tea has brought us a lot over the years but an eccentric blend is new territory for this very traditional producer. 
Thirdly, I love the concept of blending wild tea with puerh tea.  One of my favorite puerh I purchased this year was a Lao Man E with 10% wild tea blended in- it really gives the tea a different engaging angle.  Also, I am a fan of wild tea and have blended it in my pot at home to some decent results. This 2018 “Piercing the Illusion” is an unspecified “blend of wild tree leaves along with a leaves from cultivated ancient trees”.

Dry leaves smell of intense vibrant deep forests and layered berry jam-like intense wild sweet odours.

First infusion starts with watery empty sweet notes of distant strawberry and has a straw/ hay type of base taste underneath.  There is a subtle cooling aftertaste and a woody finish as well.  The mouthfeel is nice and slightly chalky, slightly opening in the throat.  It leaves a painting of stickiness on the lips, tongue, and opens the mid throat up.

The second infusion starts watery and slightly fruity with a substantially more woody base taste.  There is hay in there as well.  The aftertaste is cooling and slightly fruity but has a vacuous rubbery taste.  I am starting to feel lightheaded as the Qi builds in this tea.

The third infusion starts with a light buttery, barely fruity taste with subtle strawberries lingering in the watery broth with a base of straw and hay.  There is a soft faint cooling aftertaste.  The qi starts to build up in the head like a balloon with slight pressure.

The fourth infusion has a watery buttery faintly fruity initial taste. It has a wild flower almost rubbery, kind of faint vacuous, not really fruity taste.  There are hints of hay, honey, and even mushrooms but all tastes seem a bit distant.  The Qi is not distant but upfront and imparts a slowness to the vision.  The body feels relaxed, the mind slows.

The fifth infusion is a bit creamier with subtle edges of strawberry and juicier fresh fruits initially.  The mouthfeeling is skirting dryness but not quite.  It has a sandiness to it.  The aftertaste has a mildly cooling and slight cherry fruit mild edge to it, slight rubbery.  The minutes later returning aftertaste is of cherries, slight rubber.  The tongue feels sandy.

The sixth is a smoother, velvety building grape, elderberry, cherry taste.  It reminds me of a grape flavored medicine I took for sore throat as a child but it’s tasty.  The woody/ hay profile has pretty much disappeared now.

The seventh is much the same but with more of a peaking sweetness followed by very mild menthol.  Each infusion is immediately felt in the head.  The minutes later aftertaste is of berry syrup.  The mouthfeel is slightly vacuous and sandy, the lips barely sticky.

The eighth infusion starts with a more woody but shares room with a sweet burst of taste.  There is a rubbery fruity retuning sweetness.  The minutes long sweetness is almost candy like now like berry syrup but not overly powerful.  A rubbery feeling is left in the mouth.

The ninth infusion has a cinnamon pungent sweet onset that has berry tastes layer underneath.  The initial taste also has a melon taste in there as well.  The wood base taste comes slowly and fills part of the aftertaste.  The mouthfeel skirts dryness in the mouth.  The mid throat opens mildly to the aftertaste of fruits berries and wood.

The tenth and eleventh infusions starts lighter slight butter and fruit in the distance.  There are slight woody tastes things are a bit muted here.  Sluggish feeling in the thoughts and minds, I begin to feel sleepy.

The twelfth and thirteenth I add 30 or so seconds.  It kicks out more leathery woodys and faint syrupy sweet notes.  There are round fruit tastes in there and a significant cooling aftertaste.  There is a long lingering sticky rubbery almost fruit taste.  The qi feels real sleepy in the body- I feel like a nap but resist such suggestions.  The body qi is still a touch raw on the stomach as new puerh often is.

The fourteen I put to a long infusion a woody fruity rubbery taste emerges with a cool and woody rubbery fruit ending.  The rawness on the stomach is such that I don’t wish to push it any further.

I put this tea into a round of longer and overnight infusions and collect them all into one thermos.  The next day I drink some and am left with a very intense wild leaf fruity profile with edges of a sheng puerh woody taste and mild menthol cooling aftertaste.  I feel immediately tired and my mind slows.

OK, a confession of sorts… I really was expecting some crazy qi sensations something intense and otherworldly… I basically was expecting to turn into a dog dressed in Elizabethan era clothes and have musical clouds full of random sirloin tip steaks, empty cans, lotus flowers, and other random things play out of my head on the moon while I hallucinate about floating dog bones.  Nothing close to this ever happened with this tea experience… Maybe my hopes were just too high?… or maybe, just maybe, this tea really did pierce my illusion or at least expectation of what this tea is all about?

Overall, this tea has layers of sleepy qi in the mind and a medium to strong-ish head sensation.   I am not a big fan of sleepy qi in my puerh but for some people it is their favorite Qi effect- “the downer effect”.  This tea has a strong predisposition for this type of feeling and maybe it was specifically blended for this effect.

Some aspects of this tea’s taste and feeling reminds me of 2017 Spring Essence of Tea Nancai.   It would not surprise me if the puerh that was used in the blend was from Nancai.  Overall, this tea shares some characteristics of puerh and some of wild tea.  I would guess maybe it is close to 65% wild 35% puerh but it is hard for me to tell.


Saturday, October 6, 2018

10 Years to Sharpen A Sword: 2018 Spring EoT 10 Year Anniversary Yiwu

Jia Dao (779-843)

It has been quite a ride David and Yingxi … 10 years.  Over these last 10 years, much has changed in the puerh world and we have learned many things.  As I shared previously on this blog, David and I go way back to when it first started.  I had a feeling, and it is so fitting, that this 2018 Spring EoT 10 Year Anniversary Yiwu ($560.00 for 400g cake or $1.40/g) comprised of GuoYuLin or protected state forest material would magically make it to my tea table.  On the wrapper is commissioned calligraphy of the above Tang Dynasty poem by Jiadao.

The first line in the poem above suggests that David and Yingxi have spent 10 years learning.  There is humility in these lines, patience, meticulousness, carefulness, responsibility.  They, like us, are students of tea- this great mystery of puerh.  They are also our teachers and have taken us on this beautiful 10 year journey with them.  It has taken us to the most pristine puerh trees, to the tea markets of Malaysia, to the Warehouses of Kunming, and beyond. This first line not only refers to them as students but also as business people, and probably, about each other as a couple.

The totality of David and Yingxi’s acquired experience, hard work, patience, learning from past successes and failures and knowledge of what makes puerh so wonderful is presented to us right now.  In this very cake “Today, I hold it unsheathed before you”!

That is a LOT of hype to live up to…

Dry leaves smell of fresh foresty, deep wood odours as well as lingering but not overly sweet distant cherries and plumbs.

First infusion has a sweet onset followed by a deep forest taste then sweet fruity then a sweet icing surgar pungent finish.  Wood tastes appear under the sweet and a slight almost rubbery feeling in the mouth and throat.  It is immediately apparent that this puerh has interesting depth to it.  The mouthfeel is mild and sticky in the tongue but nice and opening in the deeper throat.  The liquour is a golden brown hue to it, unique among puerh this young.

The second infusion starts off with a burst of sweetness that is part fruity and part icing sugar- there is a deeper sweet taste in here as well- like edges of dried apricot mix with mainly freshness.  The wood base appears throughout giving another dimension of depth in this puerh.  The mouthfeel is somewhere between astringent and sticky.

The third infusion is surprisingly strong it has edges of slight bitterness and astringency but is nuanced by layers of sweetness and forest/woodiness.  The aftertastes is pungent and the throatfeeling is deep.  There is strength and power in this Yiwu.  The falvours are both vibrant and deep.  The taste of the skin of a prune plum is interesting.

The fourth infusion is a powerful astringent and sweet wood affair.  The mouthfeel becomes almost puckery with an astringent plum and, in some ways, slightly candy-like with a sweet edge.  Wood tastes are still there but the astringency even hits the corners of the mouth.  It is not at all that choking astringency at all but a full, healthy, bringing out the flovours type of ordeal.  I consider removing leaf but the intense mouthfeeling and throatfeeling bode very well for this tea.

The fifth infusion has much more of a round taste in a powerful full mouthfeeling.  The fruity taste stands out and is long and round throughout the profile.  I love this mouthfeel- this will be an amazing tea for aging.  The sweetness almost has 3 layers to it.  The aftertaste feels almost spicy and warming with a pungency mixed with astringency.  The Qi is really starting to kick in an pushes me into a mild sweat, my head and thoughs feel stalled.  My mind is crisp but my thoughs are slow.  Its effect is strong.

The sixth infusion starts into a very nice round malty sweet or deep sweetness ininitally.  The wood tastes round out the profile.  Highnotes and fruit tastes glances the midprofile and sticks around.  The taste has mellowed but is equally complex with many deep and high nuances.  The moufeel now seems almost as sticky than astringent.

The seventh infusion taste of deeper, darker fruity tastes initially like grape and plumb the wood/ forest taste is underneath and almost seems to blend with the darker fruity tastes.  The profile of this puerh is very long and ends in a pungent cooling taste.  There are some grainy and even nutty notes in the mix as well here.  The lips are tingling here as fruit tastes pop.

The eighth starts off with fruity grape like sweetness which tapers off into a slighty grainy slightly woody taste.  The aftertaste is long and pungent.  This infusion starts to loose its boldness but not much complexity.

The ninth infusion starts with that blast of fruit before deeper forest tastes and astringency and mild bitterness appears.  There is a deeper warmer spicier note developing in there as well.  The aftertaste is almost bready, almost candy, and quite pungent.  The throatfeel of this tea is quite deep- very nice.

The tenth infusion has a deeper fruitier taste with nuances of wood and forest.  The fruit taste is almost like a blackberry preserves type of taste mixed with grape and plum.  Qi makes for a relaxing session with a noticeable thought slowing Qi.

The eleventh infusion I add 15 seconds to the flash to push it a bit. It gives off a malty fruit taste of nuanced dried and fresh fruits.  A grainy taste develops over a returning pungent sweetness.

The tweveth infusion has 20 seconds added to the flash infusion and has a fruity taste, slightly astringent, slightly bitter.  Long fruitiness in some pungency.  The mouthfeeling holds but the fruitiness is less here.

The thirteenth has 25 seconds added and has an apple pie like taste initially with bitter and astringency tucked in there.  Woody tastes emerge and start to dominate now.  The aftertaste has a grape fruit edge which is long lasting.

The fourteenth is at 35 seconds and gives off a very fruity grapy taste the fruit taste is deep here but there is a certain vibrancy to it still.  This infusion is much more fruity again.  A rubbery taste is in the aftertaste with a mild lingering fruit sweetness and menthol.

The fifteenth is steeped for maybe 50 seconds and is a touch bitter and astringent and woody and not as fruity.  There is a rubbery barely fruity lingering aftertaste along with wood tastes there.

The sixteenth has a minute or so on there and gives us a more woody taste mixed with lingering fruits and lingering menthol.  The mind is nice and relaxed curled up by the fire somewhere and yet there is a robust feeling in the chest, a subtle fluttering feeling that give me a soft nudge of energy throughout this session.

The seventeeth is put into a long infusion and is a bitter, very astringent, fruity taste.  Interesting but truly overpowering.

Overall, this is one of my favorite new fresh tastings of Yiwu puerh in recent times.  Last year, Essence of Tea released a 2017 Essence of Tea Spring YiWu GuoYuLin that I had the pleasure of sampling.  The description of the tea on Essence of Tea’s website stated that this was their favorite tea pressed to date- it sold out pretty quickly.  I think this one is considerably better in that it offers a much more engaging astringency and mouth feeling as well as a deeper throatfeeling.  Apparently, many GuoYuLin puerh in 2018 have shown much more astringency due to this year’s weather patterns. Some see this as a negative but in my experience this can be a big positive.  The astringency ensures that the tea will have might even with age.  Another thing is the Qi, the qi is much more deep and penetrating and overt in this 2018 than the 2017 as well.

“Ten Years to Sharpen a Sword” to me means that the last ten years was just the beginning.  The true treasure from Essence of Tea has been presented to us in this extraordinary example of puerh tea.  If this is any indication of things to come, I welcome it.

Congratulations David and Yingxi.


Thursday, October 4, 2018

Marco’s Most Interesting 3: A Zheng Si Long Report

Humble readers, I hope you have enjoyed the recent focus of Zheng Si Long puerh here on this blog- I know I have.  Since the beginning of time, puerh bloggers have played an important role in debuting the the good, the bad and the ugly (but mainly the good) of newly minted western puerh vendors.  I take this as part of the responsibility (and fun) of the puerh blogger, if they so wish to take on such endeavors.

As it stands today I have worked my way through all the samples that I have received- it was a lot of fun.  I have posted the reviews of 12 of the 18 Zheng Si Long on offer at Tea Encounter (if you include the 2018 maocha which may or may not be the same material and/ or not the finial processing as the actual 2018 cakes).  Links to the reviews are as follows in the order listed on Tea Encounter’s:

My overall impression of the Zheng Si Long brand as well as the value of Zheng Si Long is favorable.  I feel that Tea Encounter has identified a gap in the Western puerh market for seemingly accurate single mountain Yiwu puerh that is of decent medium-high-to-higher quality. Many Western puerh sellers either offer less quality plantation Yiwu at a priced that reflects this or medium-high quality at prices much higher than this.  There are others that offer very high end state forest type things but at prices that reflect this.  Zheng Si Long offers Yiwu puerh of a quality that falls between these distinctions but at good value, I believe.

For those that still believe in the idea single mountains can actually be what they say, I recommend giving Zheng Si Long a try.  I must admit that I am no pro at determining a producing area from just drinking a puerh and cannot be certain that 100% the material is exactly what is claimed.  However, my preconceived notion of the characteristics of specific growing regions aligned closely to what I tasted from these Zheng Si Long samples.

When first introducing Zheng Si Long a few months ago I had promised Marco that I would let him know what I thought were my most interesting three I sampled out of the lot.  So here they are:

The above three represent interesting Qi sensations as the primary reason I selected them with taste/aroma and mouthfeel/throatfeeling as secondary criteria.  If I was going on taste alone I could have easily added others in the selection.  I also didn’t take price into consideration.  If I were to do that maybe the pricey Wan Gong would be replaced… but I like that happy Wan Gong.

Haven’t yet decided on purchase but will surely let you know if I take that plunge.


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

2014 Zheng Si Long Ding Jia Zhai and Warming Qi

I enjoyed the 2018 Zheng Si Long Ding Jia Zhai maocha for its nice Yiwu like base favor and warming qi.  Very different from other tea of Zheng Si Long that I have sampled in this recent focus of Zheng Si Long that Tea Encounter is offering.  I wondered how similar this 2014 Zheng Si Long Ding Jai Zhai ($168.36 for 400g cake or $0.42/g) would be…

Dry leaves smell of a distant malty and hay like sweetness.  Deep darker odours.

First infusion has a nice warming spiciness to it with a brown sugar like sweetness to it.  It has a mineral rock-like taste as well as woodiness to it.  The returning sweetness is almost like a pear and potato taste.

The second infusion starts with a mildly sweet woodiness there is a short burst of warm spice sweetness that you would get from cinnamon that is very mild and quick moving here.  Its liquor is a touch light still with sandy edges in the tongue and mouth.

The third infusion has the cinnamon almost brown sugar sweetness in a lighter broth.  It moves to a mild woodiness before this same sweetness returns on the breath.  It fades to an almost faint bubble gum sweetness barely recognizable in the distance.

The fourth infusion has a fruitier, almost candy-like mixed with cinnamon and spiced plumbs, kind of sweetness that shares the profile with a mild woodiness.  There is a bread taste in there now as well an almost chicory, licorice taste too.  The mouthfeel is becoming sticky now with sandy edges in the mouth.  Not as much in the throat.  The returning sweetness is higher noted than the main body of the profile that peaks minutes later.

The fifth infusion has a deep lighter molasses taste too in the returning sweetness is of spiced cinnamon and plumb.  There are lighter fruity tastes almost bubble gum that are faint in the aftertaste that contrast the deeper tastes.  The mouthfeel is a touch sticky and slightly grainy.  The qi of this tea is warm and comforting in the core but the forehead feels cool and the head a touch light.

The sixth infusion has a dense foresty deeper chicory and licorice type of sweetness initially then returns as a lighter muted candy sweetness.  The mouthfeel is becoming sandier and less sticky.  A very mild lingering menthol is in the breath later.

The seventh infusion has a more pronounced leathery brown surgery like sweetness initially over a foresty taste then it returns as a higher, almost fruit, sweetness.  A faint candy/bubble gum taste lingers on the breath.

The eighth I push a little harder with 5 seconds more than flash and receive woody sweet notes with a fruity plumb subte menthol finish.  There is still that lingering high-noted candy taste on the breath.  Even a cinnamon taste lingers minutes later in the mouth.

The ninth- I add 10 seconds to the flash and receive a woody base taste with strong mellow low fruity tastes that look similar to the eight.  The qi can be felt in the chest and a bit heavy in the digestion.

The tenth- I add 20 seconds and get a robust woody, slightly warmer, spiced fruity plumb taste.  It’s a nice classic Yiwu taste for me.  There is that overly highnoted finish in here that I find appealing and gives this tea some interesting depth to it- not just deeper Yiwu tastes nor just fuffy Yiwu high notes.

The eleventh infusion I steep 40 seconds longer than flash and have a really beautiful infusion full of dense flavor fruity flavours- both high sweetness and low brown sugar sweetness.  The bubble gum sweetness is more throughout but strong in the aftertaste the tongue coating is sticky and full.

The twelfth infusion, I’m steeping at about a minute and it gives off deeper tastes with a licorice/ woody taste overall.  The higher notes are embedded almost overpowered by the deeper sweeter tones and woody even mushroom tastes now.  The thirteenth is much the same licorice, almost medicinal, sweetness.

I push this tea into overnight steeps from here.

Overall this one is darker, deeper and warmer than any Zheng Si Long I’ve tried.  It’s so familiar in many ways to the 2018 maocha that I’m confident enough that it came from the same family in Ding Jia Zhai.  Nice warming feeling to this one.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

2017 Zheng Si Long Gedeng & Thoughts On the Gedeng Producing Area

Well, I lost this 2017 Zheng Si Long Gedeng sample about a month ago.  Tiago, the owner of Tea Encounter, kindly included this in a recent order.  It goes for $164.32 for 400g cake or $0.41/g, but is currently sold out.  Tiago assured me that his stock gets regularly replenished so watched for its return if this review peaks your interest…

Dry leaves smell of mellow cherry fruits and of distant mountain dew, a rocky and almost forest like odour.

The first infusion has a mineral, rock-like taste, almost like literally eating a rock initially with a slippery almost sticky mouthfeeling.  There is a mild cooling and slight sugar and distant fruit.  The fruit element slowly expands in the mouth and shows subtleties of a more tropical fruit taste.  The mouthfeeling is reasonably long and still carries the mineral rock taste that is a touch forest like.

The second infusion has a very nice and full mouthfeel that is like a dense coating of slightly astringent paint over the tongue and mouth. The throat takes note and opens to such suggestions.  The mineral rock taste is there but along with distinct florals in the background as well as subtle fruits.  The feeling in the mouth and throat is really nice off the go here.  Subtle fruits and floral stretch long into the breath.

The third infusion has much of the second its mouthfeel is nice and strong, thick feeling liquor in the mouth the mineral, rock, mountain top, taste is distinct and dominating throughout.  The high notes linger in the back ground distant wildflowers and almost tropical fruit suggestions.

The fourth infusion has a nice full mineral, rock taste with edges of forest and opens up to a more distinct menthol taste with a hallow sugar finish with slight wildflower and honey.  The returning sweetness is a nice exaggeration of this with touches of tropical fruit.

The fifth and sixth were much the same the astringent up front mineral and forest base taste is interesting and a signature of Gedeng.  The sweetness is all on the back end in the form of almost buttery wildflowers and edges of clear tropical fruit tastes.

The seventh infusion has fruit tastes mix with forest.  The mineral, rock taste is less now and the fruity taste with a bit of slight astringency is found throughout.  The returning sweetness swells with a touch of cooling in the throat where tropical fruits appear. This infusion is much more sweet and fruity now.

The eighth and ninth is more mellow fruit with slight cooling and edges of astringency.  The fruity taste becomes more dominant now.  This tea is becoming very fruity and approachable with a distinct cooling aftertaste and long fruitiness.  The fruitiness is not that vibrant over powering thing, instead its a mellow almost foresty thing.  The qi of this tea is not ground breaking but soft and gentle you can feel a fluffiness in the head but nothing too much.  A touch relaxing, a touch alerting- nothing to strong, a mellow qi.

The tenth has a creaminess and sweetness to the fruity flavours which now dominate.  The eleventh still has a thicker viscus feeling, slightly astringent.

11, 12, 13, 14 it starts to weaken so I push harder but mainly enjoyable fruity tastes are pushed out.  Still a mild menthol, a mineral rock forest is mainly found in the aftertaste now still worthwhile and tasty.

There is lots to enjoy about this puerh mainly in its taste progression throughout the session.  There is interesting depth in this Gedeng due to its astringent mineral forest taste that at times is almost or barely bitter which helps to balance the interesting mild fruits and florals that wriggle themselves out especially later in the session where they dominate.  It offers a mild qi sensation, mellow.  Another thing that might interest people is its very characteristic Gedeng profile.  This might be worth a sample for those out there that want to get familiar with this famous (but not that common) classic six mountain puerh producing area.  The thing is, I have never really been a big fan of this area.  Either way, this is a great example even if just for education purposes.