středa 20. srpna 2014

2003 CNNP Big Zhong 7542

And here goes another tea from Teaclassico - a 7542 from the year of 2003, for a promising price of $129. There is perhaps no recipe more classical than 7542 and a rather many have found their way to my cup, generally to my pleasure. I even had a 2003 example, thanks to generosity of MarshalN - and, slightly surprisingly, it seems to be similar to the one currently in my teapot. Why surprisingly when it's the same tea from the same year? Well, because 7542 (showing that 42 is not the complete answer!).

Being not too wetly stored, there is still a clear degree of green-ness in the leaves.

And it is good! Not surprising, but still good - and very balanced. 7542 is a generally balanced recipe and the year of 2003 is, with this type of good storage, is right between youth and age, in my opinion.

It is very thick and sweet (with light honey taste), which always appeals to me, as does the (also present) tingling and cooling of palate. The taste is a good mixture of warm earthiness (not realy storage wetness though), woodiness, herbs and a sort of fruit. None of these dominates the others, leading to feeling of richness and complexity. It's well within the characteristics of 7542, which probably says more than an attempt at direct description.

Unlike in most other real 7542s I had, there is a chestnut tone in the aftertaste, suggesting there might have been some tobacco smoke taste earlier.

It's still perhaps a bit young to drink - it is thick and silky, but there is still bitterness that is painfully obvious when you use more leaves; similarly, there is an astringency that can be clearly felt. MarshalN's sample was more ready in these aspects

All in all, a very solid tea at a solid price; perhaps not surprising, nor very dynamic, but good, and I'll be happy to enrich my teabox with one of these I think...

neděle 17. srpna 2014

1990s CNNP Apple Green Tuocha

I recall that as a young boy, 6 or so, I've dreamt of unexpected discovery of a hoard - the general form was looking under the bed and finding a package of collectible cards in there (anybody remembers Middle-Earth game? Not the after-movie LoTR.). Surprisingly, such a thing once happened - a small deck of cards that fell out from a book I was taking out of library. My parents said they did not do it so I have forgotten them there myself or there are supernatural forces out there. Nevertheless, I had to wait about 20 years for the next miracle - how does it sound that your darling wife comes home to you with a paper bag filled with packages with labels starting with 1980s, 1998, 1990s, etc.? Sure sounds good to me! However, this time, there were no supernatural forces behind it, as the package has been most kindly provided by Hobbes (thinking of it, the presumption of non-supernaturalness might be invalid). The teas come from Teaclassico and we'll get to them  all soon. Let us start with the 1998 Apple green tuocha. Or, rather, spelled "toucha" at the website, which always sounds like "gotcha" to me. Based on online shops and discussions, I wonder whether toucha is US and tuocha being used by the rest of the world?


The white coating is quite clear and it does not seem to be present only at the surface of the tuo, but also inside, which, together with tight compression, suggests a rather wet storage (where dry HK storage is written at Teaclassico's website).

Rinsed leaves, however, do not smell all that damp - there is some classical aged mixture (with fishiness as a not-entirely-welcome bonus), but as they cool down, the aroma gets sweeter, more fruity and more woody.


The color of the liquor is dark brown rather than dark red one might be used to - I wonder what are the variables explaining the progress in hue with aging.

The tea does smell quite interestingly, reminding me of coconut milk with some sort of fruit.

In the initial steepings, there is an unwelcome fishiness in the liquor, but it's not too bad (certainly not making me pour the tea out) - and the tea is already sweet and reasonably smooth. As the taste goes away, cooling feeling takes its place. Fortunately, the taste of fish soon dissipates and gives way to much nicer spectrum of tastes - wood, herbs and garden fruit - all quite aged, but not really earthy. The fruitiness gets strongest in the aftertaste - it's a bit like what you get from 85+% chocolate.

The tea can be well felt in mouth - there is still bitterness left and it is overall active, cooling and sometimes numbing.

What is always important in tea is - do its parts work in harmony? I feel that they do  here. The tea is not really "normal" - on one hand, it is covered in white frosting, on the other hand, it has very little if any taste signs of much wetness in storage. The color is not exactly ordinary either. But I  like it - it tastes clean and right. I wonder if the discrepancy between looks and taste might be explained due to initially wet storage with a drying-out period afterwards. Sometimes, such an approach causes weird flatness and lack of body, but if it has been done here, it has been done right.

While the tea is not super-excelent, when I saw the price of $83 per tuocha, I thought it is not entirely horrible, certainly not a complete ripoff. Then I've noticed that it's a 250g tuo, not a 100g - at first, I thought "This cheap? I'm not buying that" - but after looking again, I reconsidered - I am.

neděle 3. srpna 2014

2013 Chawangpu Shuang Shu

I believe this is the last of Chawangpu's teas from 2013 I'm writing about. It has been a good year, with teas like Hua Zhi, Lao Yu (!) or He He that I consider very good. I kept postponing the "final tasting" for some time, but the time has come at last...

This is one of the more expensive teas at Chawangpu at $90 per 400g of tea (sold in 200g pieces).


It's probably quite a fancy tea, old tree material, pretty, whole leaves and all that.

The aroma of rinsed leaves is deep green, quite sweet, having a mixture of flowery aromas, such as lilies or magnolia. It has nothing of the "flowery meadow" (found, e.g., in Youle or Bada) - this is more like what you can smell at a flower exhibition.


After a year or so of existence, the liquor is greeny, turning into pale orange.

The first impression upon tasting the tea is the sweetness and then thickness. Other than that, the taste is buttery and sugary, with the above mentioned "garden" floralness (if I went more deeply botanical, I'd say I taste violets in there). However, even with tea stove water (that makes the taste more noble and clearer), I can't help feeling I'm missing something in the taste.

The old-tree-ness is not only apparent in the taste, but also in the pleasant cooling feeling it leaves in the mouth. There is no bitterness transformation due to no bitterness present... however, we're reminded that this is a puerh by the astringency, which is not indecent, but still noticeable. Eventually, it goes into a nice long-term aftertaste.

One locally famous chef has once said about a certain food that it is good, but it lacks the right jeb, which is a somewhat vulgar (he's a chef) Czech word for a "one instance of sex" - it is usually used as a verb (to-have-sex), but used like this, it basically is a punchy way of saying "the kick". I guess that the G.W.Bush's brother, Jeb, might find it difficult to lead a common life in the Czech Republic... Anyway, I remember this because this tea, in my opinion, also lacks the "X factor", despite being quite good otherwise.

I can drink this and be happy, but I won't be excited about it... which is not a major concern, of course, just noting... In this regard, it is similar to the previous year's Jingmai (leaves from there are also present in the Shuang Shu and the taste has not changed dramatically between 2012 and 2013) which ticked basically all the boxes of desirable properties, but failed to excite me too...


pondělí 21. července 2014

Mid 90s CNNP Ba Zhong Red Mark

This tea originally came from Origintea to Hobbes, who has kindly gifted me with a sample of this. It happened after the announcement that Origintea is closing - given this tea, sadly. In my first order sampling their around-2000 puerh and some oolongs, I've received very nice oolongs (even one from Tony's private stash that was among the best oolongs I have ever had), but the puerhs were, unfortunately, not to my taste, being uniformly distributed in the range between "where is the dissinfection" to "rather good". I am well aware that the prices were not that high, but I have had many much better teas from that tea even in that price range, so I don't buy that argument entirely. Therefore, it is perhaps unexpected that this "gravestone" cake should be good, especially as the part of its marketing was its low price.



The cake looks amiably brown and rusty, containing a mixture of all sorts of materials (leaves, huangpian, twigs,...). It is rather lightly compressed too. The dry leaves give a happines-inducing aroma of clay.

After rinsing, the  clay/earthiness goes away surprising quickly, leaving nuttiness (cashew). The edges of the cake seem to me to be a bit more earthy - possibly due to larger area being in contact with aging-inducing surroundings in there?


Even though the tea has seen some wetness, it is not really dominant at all. The color of the liquor is not too dark either, for a mid-90s tea either (mind that this is quite a deep cup). It's like if this tea was kickstarted in HK and then moved somewhere to dry out. It ttends to form a layer of something on the surface, I wonder what it is. I don't think that it's merely Oxford water this time.

When a normal amount of leaves is used, the taste is mainly about old paper, wood and slightly rancid nuts, feeling slightly stale and hollow overall. Nevertheless, the taste tends to hold for a good amount of time, however not-awesome it is.

Hobbes suggested to me to use more leaves  than normal - when I have done so, the tea has improved, becoming stronger and more concentrated, without acquiring sharp edges. It essentially becomes a quite nice, easily drinkable aged tea with enough sweetness and thickness to feel pretty good. With many leaves used, it can also sometimes cool the tongue down, which I do enjoy. It is calming and recharging at the same time, which is what I like about teas with some age to them.

What I miss is the long-term aftertaste of fresh plums that is often found in Red Marks (and in 7542 recipe too). There is a hint of it, but not enough.

Overall, even though this is possibly the weakest 90s Red Marks I've tasted, it is still plenty good for normal drinking and I'm always looking forward to tea sessions with it -  not bad at all! I just wonder what the price was - could someone please fill me in on that?


čtvrtek 10. července 2014

2002 White2Tea White Whale

This little brick (for which I thank Hobbes) seems to have aroused some interest lately. It can be attributed to its reasonable age (12 years) and low price of $15. The price is actually so low that it nearly did not pass TwoDog's own scam alerting system

England, contrary to popular belief, is not constantly lashed by rain... only almost constantly. However, there are certain moments when there is no rain for a whole day or so - which calls for enjoying a tea outside.



John Henry Bonham... Moby Dick dick ick ick ck... and you know the rest. Or is it different whale that has been the inspiration to the label of this brick? It might be also that TwoDog is obsessed with finding good tea for good prices and this brick epitomises that painful pursuit - putting TwoDog into the position of captain Ahab (in this case, I'm sorry to break this to you, dear Ahab, but you've got a couple of white whales already).


The little (100g) brick is perhaps not composed of the fanciest materials, but it has got a decent color and aroma - not all teas from 2002 can say the same. 

The leaves, dry and wet, smell of wood, camphor and perhaps a little woody smoke. There is not yet the aged earthiness, but the depth of aroma suggests a proper aging process.


The color of the liquor is pleasantly amber, heading for darker and redder hues after a couple of steepings.

Now, how does the tea do in mouth? I must admit that I was not really that thrilled about it as some others seem to be, however not bad the tea is, but that may be just that I do not care for this family of tastes so much. It seems to be mainly woody and camphory, with a varying amount of smokiness (I do not yet understand the latent smoke function except perhaps that yixing clay ameliorates it considerably) and longan. Despite the undoubted strength and relatively good balance of tastes, there sometimes is s a taste of something rancid which slightly irritated me - fortunately, when it appears, it is more in the aroma of wet leaves rather than in taste. Despite not high thickness and not that much sweetness, the liquor does coat mouth nicely and pumps taste for a good amount time - it might be also due to the bitterness that is still present and that sometimes acts as a carrier of tastes.

The general characters heads towards north on puerh map, in my opinion - Mengku, I'd say. It's not unlike some Xiaguan cakes from 2003 which, despite looking a lot prettier, were actually not that much better if at all (they did cost about the same too). There is a clear link between the taste of this White Whale and 2001 Mengku Yuanyexiang (which bolstered my belief that the WW comes from Mengku), which is good. The grandeur, sweetness and all that is missing in WW, but that was not really expected of it, was it?

The tea did not do anything to me physiologically - I think it to be a good workhorse tea rather than something fancy... which is not that surprising given the nature and price of the tea.


Right... I think this is one of the non-prettiest teas I've seen in some time. But then again, a lot of the prettier teas sucked, while this little brick does not.

In general, this tea shows how important a decent aging process is. The brick seems to come, in my opinion, from relatively low quality of leaves, but due to good storage conditions, it has actually beaten many nicer teas that either changed into dried out mummies, or moldy manure in the process of 10 or so years. And due to its baseline character, it retained a reasonable price tag, which is important. 

$60 per 400g for 2002? Why not? However, before clicking BUY 100 times (it's too late for that anyway), I have to say that there is still some competition even at that price tag. Some time ago, there were several shops selling 2003 Xiaguan Jia Ji which, in my opinion, is from far better leaves and while aging more slowly, it is likely to get better. Finepuer has 2003 Xiaguan Blue Label for $45 that is somewhat similar to the White whale, better in something, worse in something else. Sampletea has Purple Dayi 7542 from 2004 (also rather quickly aging) for $80 or  so, which sounds like a good deal and that cake is more to my taste, like the 2004 Shi Kun Mu Menghai (which is, imho, a really nice tea). If you dare to go to 2005-6, one starts encountering teas made from a nice-ish material that are likely to get pretty good. All that said, the teas above that I consider better than the WW (i.e., everything but the 03 Xiaguan Blue Label) are slightly more expensive.

By mentioning some competition, I do not wish to imply that the 2002 White Whale is not worth buying or anything - it is a really good tea for the price if you don't expect too much and I'm afraid that such finds, while not impossible, are less likely to happen in the future. Thank you, TwoDog and Hobbes!

P.S. I've just read the description on White2Tea website - it is pleasant to see vendors accurately stratifying their offerings. Some others would go how the brick is super-awesome and how the last Chinese emperor actually died of happiness when he had been gifted a similar brick and all that, which is not the case here... 

pondělí 7. července 2014

2013 Chawangpu He He

I consciously postponed writing about this tea of somewhat funny name - Honza, the maker, has warned me of it, that it may need some time to settle down. It did indeed - I'm periodically checking it and it is only two last months or so when it has stabilised. Before that, it kept switching between several characters, none of which were super-pleasant.

Once, I had a piece broken off and when I tasted it, I was surprised how lemony it was - I haven't seen such a strong lemon character in a tea. I wrote to Honza, whether he thought the same, but he did not. The strange taste has been explained later when I discovered that the piece of He He has peacefully resided next to a small pouch with lemon scented mate for some time... However, even excepting this genuinely "off" case of changing taste, there were enough changes to make the tea quite unstable for some time.



After reaching the stable state though, this tea is a most pleasant one!

The taste is a very solid one, classical and powerful. Even though interregional blends often don't work so well (this is a blend of 2007, 2012 and 2013 leaves from Yiwu and Menghai), it all does work really nicely here. The start of the taste is dominated by the Yiwu part - sweetness, sweet tobacco, some leather and fruitiness - with the Menghai part kicking in a bit  later, keeping the taste strong and "puerhy". Possibly due to two strong sets of leaves, the taste feels really strong and muscular. Admittedly, after the "simply nice" initial phase, a not inconsiderable bitterness arrives, but it's not an unpleasant sort, at least for me. As steepings go, the garden-fruity characters gets more pronounced and more flowery and honey tastes are suggested for the future (in the way, e.g., of my favorite Spring of Menghai recipe).

The tea feels very warm and pleasant, which is a no mean feat given its nontrivial bitterness. Also, it is surprisingly full in taste and body - I'd expect the 07 Yiwu component to give more hollowness (as I expect it has aged uncompressed, which often yields a somewhat empty tasting tea). Similarly unexpected is the fact that it is so coherent now - it's really not a slightest problem that it comes from such a wide range of age and places.

I suspect that due to the good strength of character, there should be no problem in the future either. Of course, it may happen that all the components forming this little chamber orchestra fail to cooperate - we'll never know until it happens, but at least, I don't see an immediate threat of that happening. At $17 per 200 xiaobing, I can't fault this cake at all, it's really very nice. I think that Chawangpu may be actually hurting themselves a bit, selling such teas this cheap.

pondělí 23. června 2014

2003 Wistaria Tz Ing

Is it really almost a month since the last post? Time seems to speed around so quickly now. It's not that I'm not drinking tea - I'm drinking gallons of it (most notably and happily, 1997 Red Mark, 2013 Chawangpu Lao Yu, 2006 Haiwan Pa Sha and 2012 Jalam teas Meng Zhr), it's just I'm not having so much new tea. Possibly peculiar, but I don't feel as strong urge for discovery as I used to - now, I'm more in the process of discovering new things in what I already have.

That said, I discovered the rest of the sample of 2003 Wistaria's Tz Ing and so I took my old notes and reinforced them with a new experience. All the teas from Wistaria I had previously ranged from good to excellent, so I was approaching the Tz Ing with anticipation.


The aroma of both dry and leaves is characteristic of Wistaria's production/storage, rather than the raw material. I can try shooting at the "house taste" saying it's herbal, woody, slightly plummy and very slightly smoky, but you have to taste it really. I found people for whom this specific taste is a "no go" as it tends to somewhat overshadow the original character of the tea.



















The taste is kind of ok, but not very special - and, again, dominated by the "Wistaria taste". I did not mind so much in the other teas they make, as they were part Wistaria, part their own character, but in this one, I really struggled to find anything beside the house taste. I'd say that it was a bit more herbal than most their other teas, with sandalwood type of taste and a bit of smoke. I'd guess that from behind the veil of Wistaria taste, a not-so-super Bulang tea was peeping.

The taste is okay, but not great. It is a bit thick, but not much. A bit sweet, yet not so much again. One thing that is not "not so much" is the dry bitterness which reluctantly transforms and disappears, but again, the pleasantness of the process returns to the "not so much" territory.



I felt subtle qi in the leaves - i.e., the tea is not a hollow trunk of mediocrity... but it does not really shine either.

From Wistaria, I was used to AAA teas (or AA), but the Tz Ing is, I'm afraid my least favourite. It was not bad, to be sure, quite ok, rather, but entirely forgettable.