Sunday, September 26, 2010

20 Year Old Tie Guan Yin

One received this sample when in search for old puerh. It was kindly sent with other puerh samples from Daniel of Vancouver's famed The Chinese Tea Shop. According to his webpage it took a long time to acquire this tea, which came from an old source. It has been charcoal roasted the traditional way and re-roasted every 3 years or so. With all the talk on Life In Teacup about whether Tie Guan Yin ages well, and being that it is seasonally the most appropriate time to consume such a tea, it feels like a good time to give it a whirl.

On this cool early autumn day, with water boiling, lets sit down, slow down, and enjoy some tea...
The dry leaves are oily, dark brown pellets full of sweet, spicy, fruity notes. Upon closer inspection the leaves are a very dark brown. The smell is deep, spicy apricot and apple. These leaves receive a quick rinse before the fist infusion inducing a cloud of smells.

The first infusion is prepared with just off boiling water. A fresh, malty chalkiness lightly coats the whole mouth with a lingering vanilla note. It has much flavour to pick on with a baked spicy and very light, sweet fruity notes apparent as well. The flavour and feel has an aged hardiness to it yet still retains its elegance. The thick but very slight aftertaste stays around for a long time while transmitting more of the dominant vanilla, and now, coca sweetness. A sweat breaks instantly. The chaqi moves, rises, disperses- the light, aromatic, floating, dispersing energy is powerful and calming. It's direction is quickly outward and upward. Ones forehead immediately perspires.

In the second infusion malty-thick, viscous, slippery flavours slide over the mouth- completely embracing it. A light sweetness with thick malty bottom comes over the mouth like a wave leaving behind the deep, mysterious, and chalky. Light into dark, light into deep, summer into fall. The tea reaches deep into the throat. The aftertaste is just a continuation of the initial sip.

The third infusion has an initial flavour that bends to more of a caramel-maltiness. There is a fresh quality that presses against the heavy, viscous bottom of this tea. A gritty, chalky nature is revealed in the full mouthfeel and throatfeel of this tea. The chaqi induces a sweat every time the first cup of a new infusion is consumed. Besides dispersing up and outward, the chaqi also warms and strengthens the middle jiao as it slowly creates a comforting warming sensation in the guts.

The fourth infusion has the vanilla notes more prominent. The taste becomes a bit more creamy with deeper notes becoming less overpowering. The mouthfeel becomes more sticky and slick. The aftertaste is as full as ever with chocolate vanilla notes burrowing deep into the throat.

The fifth infusion tastes lighter and fresher with ghostly, but still very present, deeper notes hanging on. The finish is still that sweet, light, ethereal, vanilla coco. The mouthfeel is thinner initially and thickens out in the throat. The qi here is warming and disperses slower now. A hot flash now hits the head minutes after finishing the pot. Now the warming- middle nature of the chaqi is more predominant over the dispersing nature.

In the sixth and seventh infusions the tea develops a woody, slightly spicy character with the vanilla and chocolate notes just present as a back taste. It finishes dry and slightly bitter. The mouthfeel is lighter and sharper. The aftertaste is deliciously long and starts to develop a sharp tartness. The flash of heat comes much later and is just slightly noticeable now. Strong relaxation is induced.

This tea is taken a few more infusions. This last push contains sharper, thinner flavours of spicy wood with even some subtle fruity notes.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Korean Tea Classics Book Club- Cha Bu- Rhapsody To Tea by Hanjae Yi Mok 5. Seven Bowls Of Tea

"On drinking less than half the seventh cup, emotions swell on a fragrant, pure wind, wafting towards the Gates Of Heaven very near the magestic forests on the boarders of Penglai."

from Cha-Bu Rhapsody To Tea by Hanjae Yi Mok translated in Korea Tea Classics

Feel free to join the online book club at anytime by simply purchasing Korean Tea Classics. The classics will be covered one section a week which will go on for about a year.

Additional Readings:

Lu T'ung and the "Song of Tea": The Taoist Origins of the Seven Bowls (Part 1 of 2)

Lu T'ung and the "Song of Tea": The Taoist Origins of the Seven Bowls (Part 2 of 2)


Friday, September 17, 2010

Korean Tea Classics Book Club- Cha Bu- Rhapsody To Tea by Hanjae Yi Mok 4. Tea-Forest Landscapes

"What can be seen above?... What can be seen below?... Even experienced hill-climbers find it hard to reach here, spirits seem to be very near."

from Cha-Bu Rhapsody To Tea by Hanjae Yi Mok translated in Korea Tea Classics

Feel free to join the online book club at anytime by simply purchasing Korean Tea Classics. The classics will be covered one section a week which will go on for about a year.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Drinking Tea To Harmonize With The Seasons: Colour (Type of Tea) As An Indication of Qi Part 2 of 2

Spring- Green- green teas -

The rising energies of spring harmonize with the rising energy of the first green shoots of tea. These first green leaves are some of the first growth of spring and have come to symbolically represent springtime. The cool nature of green tea and its sweet flavour prevents the rising energy from overflowing and keeps us in check. It also cools us to hot weather of which our bodies have not adapted.

Summer- Red- shu puerh-

Although most red teas (hong cha) don't really harmonize our energy with summer, shu (ripe) puerh is often used for this purpose. It's reddish soup and warm nature remind us of summer. With summer comes extreme heat. On these extraordinarily hot days it is sometimes wise to consume warming qi. This is especially so during the peak of summer, the hottest time of the year. In the 24 divisions of the Chinese solar calendar (solar terms), food with warming qi is consumed ritually on the solar term of dashu (Kor: daeseo, Eng: major heat) which takes place around July 23. They consume warm qi to balance the bodies warming energies and store heat on the hottest day of the year so they have enough fire to last through the winter. It is commonly thought in asian cultures that warm qi is best at balancing your body when it becomes overheated. This idea applies here to the consumption of shu (ripe) puerh, especially old shu, on summer days of extremely hot temperatures. Only very keen teamasters are aware of such uses of shu puerh (such as Teaparker in this Tea Masters post).

Late Summer & two weeks before and after the June and December Solstice and March and September Equinox- Yellow- yellow teas-

Late Summer, which usually starts around the third week of August, and the transitional times of the seasons marked by 2 weeks before and after the Equinoxes and Solstices are best harmonized by the qi of teas with a yellow coloured soup such as Korean yellow tea (Balhyocha), Hunnan aged teas, and old ddok cha or oolong. These teas have strong harmonizing and stabilizing effects which prepare us for the sometimes turbulent nature of seasonal change. Often we resist change, these teas reassure our bodies and minds that change is only a normal part of life. These teas are light, sweet, moistening, not too astringent, bitter, or dry, have a mild calming effect, and often have many medicinal properties.

Autumn- White- white tea

Autumn doesn't really apply to white tea as much. Certainly a bit of white tea is okay in autumn. It might help cool and bring down energies in the body preparing it for the coming winter especially for those people who's energy is still forcefully rising. Too much white tea in autumn will store to much cool energy for the winter which is not good. In autumn herbal tea like chrysanthemum tea is much better though. Traditionally many tea drinkers in China and Korea would switch to chrysanthemum tea during this time. Often one drinks "Late summer" teas or other teas of a warmer nature in addition to many cups of chrysanthemum tea, in preparation for the oncoming winter.

Winter- Black- aged puerh

English "Black Tea" (hongcha) does harmonize pretty good with winter but other theories other than colour-qi can explain this one much better, partly is the close relationship between Summer and Winter, fire and water and heat and cool, and other theories of chaqi. Old sheng puerh is the best tea to drink during the cold winter. It's thick, black liquor warms us deeply infusing us with the radiating heat of years of fermented, warm qi. There is no better tea to combat the winters cold than the deep warming nature of a very old puerh.

Consider Local Geography & Climate First

This system is based on the seasonal change in East Asia and China in particular. Here in Victoria one doesn't follow these guidelines so strictly at all because the climate and seasons present themselves so differently here that harmony is achieved through the use of modifications to this season-colour qi theory. So, geographical location and local climate should be considered before the season-colour pairing if harmony with the season is to be achieved in your climate.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Drinking Tea To Harmonize With The Seasons: Colour (Type of Tea) As An Indication of Qi Part 1 of 2

There is much ancient wisdom about the essence of tea that can be found by meditation and reflection on Chinese classics and ancient Chinese theories. Theories that predate written history and old classics don't necessarily have to talk about tea explicitly to be applied to tea's deep nature. Some of the oldest Chinese texts reveal some of the deepest meanings of tea without even mentioning it.

One such text is Huangdi Neijing (The Yellow Emperor's Inner Canon) which offers insight into Daoist thought and traditional medicine. There are many secrets of tea hidden within this book. One important lesson that can be inferred is how the colour of tea can be used to harmonize yourself with seasonal change.

The theory of Five Transformations (Five Movements, Five Phases, Five Elements, Wu Xing) is thought to have originated before recorded Chinese history. The theory pairs the five traditional Chinese seasons- Spring, Summer, Late Summer (or two weeks before and after Equinoxes and Solstices), Autumn, and Winter with five colours green, red, yellow, white, black (colour is only one of many different pairings). The pairings are as follows:

Late Summer (or two weeks before and after Equinoxes and Solstices)- yellow
Autumn- white
Winter- black

Huangdi Neijing states that we should consume food of a certain colour during its paired season to optimize our health and harmonize our bodies and mind to the seasons. One feels that these colour-season pairings also apply loosely to tea.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Korean Tea Classics Book Club- Cha Bu- Rhapsody To Tea by Hanjae Yi Mok 3. Tea-growing Regions

"As for the tea-producing regions, they are... In such places the ground is good, so the roots grow deep, while thanks to the plentiful rain and dew, the plants flourish."

from Cha Bu- Rhapsody To Tea by Hanjae Yi Mok translated in Korean Tea Classics

Feel free to join the online book club at anytime by simply purchasing Korean Tea Classics. The classics will be covered one section a week which will go on for about a year.


Monday, September 6, 2010

2010 Essence of Tea Man Mai

This tea comes from the village of Man Mai in the Bada region and is one of the latest offerings from Nada at Essence of Tea. The dry leaves smell pungent, creamy, and mainly sweet. The predominant sweet odour is more like the sweetness of vegetables than that of say sugar, honey, or fruit.

The first infusion is prepared and light sweet hay with subtle floral is present. The predominating flavour is of strong mushroom which is almost meaty in constancy in this oily infusion. Light flavours slowly fade in the mouth to a slightly dry grain character. There are no harsh ups and downs when drinking this tea just a smooth ride that fades into the horizon. The chaqi descends strongly from head down the spine from just the first sips.

The second infusion is more very fungi, very mushroom tastes, that fade into a very light touch of creamy sweetness that underlies everything. This delicious sweetness is the last to slowly fade into dry graininess. There is a very soft grainy and light mushroom aftertaste that is left behind.

The third infusion pours a pale greenish-tinged yellow. It has some bean notes mixed with mushroom and the sweet creamy base. The soup is pretty oily then ends up grainy and slightly sandy in the mouth.

The forth infusion still tastes of strong mushroom but has some slight malty brown sugar notes tucked in there and finishes more sweet that the preceding infusions. The chaqi is quite strong but in a very mellowing kind of way.

The fifth and sixth infusions are much more mild but still contain an initial burst of flavour that turns quickly over to a dry, lightly sandy mouth feel. These infusions start to develop more of a musky tone to them. The aftertaste is mainly sweet and contains a slight suggestion of floral.

The seventh and eighth infusions start to carry more of the grainy profile the whole way through but it starts and ends sweet and even a touch floral.

The later infusions still have some flavour especially in the initial burst. The feel becomes grittier but still shows nice stamina that carries very mild flavours. The chaqi is still strong-mellow it too lasts for a long time.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Korean Tea Classics Book Club- Cha Bu- Rhapsody To Tea By Hanjae Yi Mok 2. The Names For Tea

"Each embodies the pure essence of Heaven and Earth, each imbibes the bright beams of sun and moon."

from Cha Bu- Rhapsody To Tea by Hanjae Yi Mok translated in Korean Tea Classics

Feel free to join the online book club at anytime by simply purchasing Korean Tea Classics. The classics will be covered one section a week which will go on for about a year.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

2010 Essence of Tea Bang Wai

This tea is another of the fresh new sheng offerings from Nada at Essence of tea. This one is from the village Bang Wai near the famous Jing Mai.

As steam from the boil fogs the inside of windows, one examines the dry leaf. The loosely pressed leaves smell of musky, rich tobacco. The note is noticeably sweet.

These leaves are placed in yixing and flash rinsed. The first infusion bears a distinct mild corn taste with bean flavours that also come and go gently. There is also an earthy, slightly mushroom taste somewhere in the mix. The taste starts a touch creamy and finishes a touch dry. There is something almost meaty about the taste. The aftertaste is of bland pungency.

The second infusion has a very mild, smooth creaminess at first, then corn and bean flavours follow. There is a present bland taste that occurs with these flavours but is more apparent in the finish. The aftertaste is also much the same but also with more of an overall bland taste to it. The mouthfeel has a certain thick viscosity to it.

The third infusion has more of an overarching pungent sweetness that emerges. The mild, slightly creamy vegetable flavours really start to come out here. The chaqi is already apparent and all indications point to a strong qi sensation with the core of ones body starting to warm.

In the fourth infusion much of the sweetness and mild vegetable flavours have dropped off considerably. Left is a slightly sweet flush of cream which trails off to mild pungent tastes that hint at tobacco.
The chaqi is very warming for such young puerh. The core of the body seems fortified with qi as the warmth is held tight.

The fifth infusion is mild and creamy at first then turns watery. There is a slight sweet pungent mushroom taste that is a touch spicy. The flavours of this tea are quite mild across the board although they show enough complexity to keep one amused. The mouthfeel is not strong as well but is sticky and blanketing.
The sixth and seventh infusions start with a sweet note that fades into a flatter, grainy/ corn sweetness. There is almost a candy-like quality to the very very mild sweetness found throughout this tea. A mild floral aftertaste develops.
Although this tea is characterized by mild taste and feel the chaqi is quite the opposite. It makes ones mind turn and turn while ones body feels extraordinarily calm and light.

This tea doesn't go bitter nor does it really wash out, it has a strange kind of stamina which carries these mild flavours for many infusions. One ends the session with a renewed sense of energy within.
Link to Adam's (The Sip Tip) Tasting Notes
Link to Hobbes' (The Half-Dipper) Tasting Notes
Link to Sabestian's (Vacuithe) Tasting Notes

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

When To Drink Fresh Young Puerh and Tasting Notes From 2010 Essence of Tea Man Sai

Young puerh has very harsh chaqi that can be detrimental to your health. Middle aged and the elderly should never drink fresh young puerh. There are definitely some constitutions that should also never drink young puerh. Its harsh raw energy tends to attack the middle jiao and can lead to many health problems in those who can't handle it. This is especially true for those with cold constitutions and/or digestive or bowel problems. Very young raw sheng should only be consumed by certain people and in certain seasons.
When the fresh puerh tea of the year starts to trickle out, one is always very tempted to try it out immediately. In the spring, young puerh is still too raw and harsh for consumption and is recommended against. The summers here in Victoria are dry and not that warm, the raw bitter taste of very young sheng is also quite harmful. So one usually waits until the cooler days of late summer or warmer days of early autumn, when the energy of nature starts to descend, to try out the latest seasonal offerings of fresh sheng puerh.
One has been tasting allot of Nada's fresh puerh from Essence of Tea over the past few weeks. Expect reviews of his teas scattered throughout the next few months. The first sheng will be this cake from Man Sai.
It's lightly compressed dry leaves are quite long with creamy, very sweet, tangy tobacco smells coming from them. Boiling water splashes from the tea table and it is time for some tea.
The first infusion is full of strong creamy banana sweetness which melts into dry. There is a deep underlying pungency to it with subtleties of hay and some beany, light earthy notes. The feel in the mouth is very smooth and finishes dry and very sweet.
The second infusions has strong initial creamy sweetness that moves into a somewhat pungent flavour then turns dry and tart. The aftertaste is quite sweet. The mouth feels coated in a thick gooey layer that is somewhat chalky in consistency. The sweet notes of this tea are strong and almost seem to drown out its deeper notes at times. The chaqi is very alerting. This tea has nice strong qi.

The third and fourth infusions follow the same creamy sweet to pungent to tart and dry. There is much more flavour in these infusions with earthy mushroom notes detected in the pungent middle and tropical fruit notes caught in the predominantly sweet aftertaste. The sweet nature of this tea hogs much of the profile from the initial taste to the aftertaste. There is a deep throaty feel to this tea.
The fifth and sixth infusions are more round with a smoother body and long aftertaste. There are some slightly deeper earthy notes and some spice that seems to naturally come out here as the strong sweetness seems less greedy. Straw, beans, and light wood are reflected in the complex pungent middle.
The seventh and eighth infusions have a very sweet floral touch to the initial sweetness which skips along the tongue into a less pungent, more light woody bottom. The chaqi here is inducing a nice sweat as it goes deep within.

The last handful of infusions at the end are still sweet with dry wood notes and still lots of depth though of the lighter variety. When things get too light the session is called to an end but with a smile on ones face.
Link to Adam's (The Sip Tip) Tasting Notes
Link to Hobbes' (The Half-Dipper) Tasting Notes
Link to Sebastian (Vacuithe) Tasting Notes