26 April 2010

2009 Xi-Zhi Hao Shu minibeeng

This is the second minibeeng from the Xi-Zhi Hao pu-erh tea gift set sold by Hou De. As Hou De stated, it's made from tiny pieces of mao-cha that left after sieving the spring 2009 Xi-Zhi Hao mao cha used for sheng cakes. These leftovers were then fermented by an ex-Meng Hai Factory master.

2009 Xi-Zhi Hao Shu minibeeng

The beeng looks and smells good, the smell reminded me of 2005 Menghai Golden Needle White Lotus I have. Not a bad start. The tea brews very dark yet clear soup with no fishy or pondy taste or smell. I drink shu pu-erh only once in a while, because I know, how it's made, but this tea is fine by me - it's gentle and smooth.

2009 Xi-Zhi Hao Shu minibeeng
What is hidden in the dark depths of this tea?

Now, the negative side of this tea. As you can see on these bottom picture, the tea leaves are extremely fragmented, it's almost a tea dust, so you cannot expect too many good infusions made of this beeng. Even when I broke a whole chunk, it fell apart in seconds, making a coffee-colored liquid and in fourth brew it sharply started to fade into nothingness.

This pu-erh requires either very short infusions with moderate amount of tea leaves, making it into sixth or seventh infusion gracefully, or slightly less leaves with longer infusion times - but then you can expect only two or three good brews. Even prolonging the infusions at the end does not help, the tiny bits of tea already totally gave up.

2009 Xi-Zhi Hao Shu minibeeng

So my resume is: this xiao beeng, like it's sheng counterpart, is good for softcore tea-drinkers (is this an accurate opposite of hardcore tea-drinker?), being easy and smooth without unpleasant taste. For more experienced tea-drinker this pu-erh may be a bit light and short-living.

To be continued... with the two minibeengs as a whole gift set.

25 April 2010

2009 Xi-Zhi Hao Jing Gu minibeeng

A good sheng beeng, at last!

Or, according to the small size - a good sheng sample, at last! (© by Hobbes)

This is one of the two xiao (mini) beengs from the Xi Zhi Hao gift set sold by Hou De. According to the description, this is from Jing Gu area, same, as the 2007 Pu Zheng beeng. Unlike MarshalNs experience with Jing Gu teas, the Pu Zheng is one of my favorites. Expensive, yet very solid pu-erh.

2009 Xi-Zhi Hao Jing Gu minibeeng

I really like this pygmy beeng. The mao cha it's made from is said to be from 2100m high ancient plantations near the Daoist temple "Da Shi Si". I believe this claim - the leaves are whole, big and strong. This is the fourth year tea trees are harvested in this area and they still possess some kick and character.

As I see it, Mr. Chen made this tea as a "gift tea", designed with less orthodox tea drinkers in mind, so we can expect a pleasant experience, not an overpowering one. No smokiness, slight bitterness, good acidity, thick soup with peach notes. On the other hand, the tea isn't powerless or bland and has nice and clean aftertaste.

I believe this is one of the better teas Xi Zhi Hao made after the first productions in 2005. And here is a proof of my appeal for this tiny and young sheng - I'm used not to drink the same tea more than once a week, and yet there's the same beeng after ten days.

2009 Xi-Zhi Hao Jing Gu minibeeng

To be continued... with the shu xiao beeng from the same set. And then, my thoughts on the whole gift set.

13 April 2010

Inner change

Today I (finally!) got my parcel with Xi Zhi Hao samples from Guang. The long waiting is over. I haven't tried the teas by now, but I immediately noticed a slight change - the Xi Zhi Hao changed its logo.

As Guang wrote, the original Xi (Double Happiness) character contained a drawing of an 18th century educational poster. As I heard, that made harder to sell Xi Zhi Hao pu-erh in conservative China. So, the Xi Zhi Hao went the easy way and changed its logo.

Xi Zhi Hao old logo
Here is the original Xi (adult content).

Xi Zhi Hao new logo
And here is the new, safer Xi.

Even the paper changed from hand-made to mass produced shiny white. Well, I liked the old style of Xi Zhi Hao more.

01 February 2010

Light Roast Da Hong Pao

Most tea lovers in my area become addicted in the same way. They were introduced to tea other than tea bags in tea-houses or by friends. Most of us started with simpler and cheaper teas and only gradually learned how to enjoy expensive high quality specialties.

Light Roast Da Hong Pao

But in search of great tea the tea lover should never underestimate the cheap ones. Happens, not often, but nonetheless, that even among them we can find real treasures. One of them is this light roasted Da Hong Pao, sold by Yunnan Sourcing. When I first tasted it, I immediately realized that I discovered something special. Fortunately for me, I already got half pound of this Wu Yi Rock tea.

Of course, you can’t expect a masterpiece, "just" a really good everyday tea. Yet, in this category, it’s among the best that I drank over last two or three years.

Light Roast Da Hong Pao

Leaves are uniform, whole (the post office workers handled this parcel with less aggressively than they usually do) and they carry pleasant fruity-floral aroma. Actually, fruits and flowers can be found in all characteristics of this oolong, giving it balanced, fresh and energetic taste with pleasant mild bitterness.

Actually, mostly due the very light roast, the taste of the tea differs from the usual Da Hong Pao taste quite a lot, being much closer to the taste of Dan Cong teas. This Dan Congish taste is totally unexpected, especially given the price.

Light Roast Da Hong Pao

Durability of leaves is reasonable, giving 5-7 good brews in gaiwan or yixing teapot, and only then are the last bitter and fruity flavors lost and the tea transforms to a sweet and refreshing juice.

I apologize for slightly propagandistic nature of this article, but I am really excited about this tea and I wanted to share my feelings.

22 January 2010

Gamma - "Bulang Shang Yun"

After quite a some time I'm finishing the five samples Hobbes sent out to us in the Yunnan Sourcing tasting event. This is Bulang tea made of semi-aged 2006 autumn maocha harvested in Man Nong village near Ban Zhang. The leaves should be harvested from wild arbor trees.

Bulang Shang Yun

The beeng looks nice, with medium-light compressions – it separates easily into leaves. The leaves are definitely darkest of all five samples without any detectable smell. The pictures are somewhat darker because of my dark tea tray, but they show off the leaf and liquors real color quite well.

Bulang Shang Yun

The liquor is orange, maybe a bit too orange for its age. This certainly isn’t a very complex tea; the taste is clean with some aftertaste. I was surprised, how short living is this pu-erh – it turned into sweet juice by sixth infusion. Also, I disliked the mushroomy taste in late infusion – I hate the smell of mushrooms.

Bulang Shang Yun

I’m not fan of this tea. It’s short living, lacking the so needed kick and real character, just a shade of best Bulang teas. I judged it as last of the first three samples.

The samples so far, from best to not so best:
1. Alpha - Yi Wu
2. Beta - You Le
3. Gamma - Bulang

Other reviews - Tea Goober, MattCha's blog, My Private Tea Collection and The Half-Dipper.

08 January 2010

Korean Tea Jelly

One of my favorite blogs is Mattcha’s Blog. I love his photos of Korean pottery – cups, pots and other teaware. Also, his description of Korean teas makes me drool like a Frankensteins monster. Unfortunately, genuine Korean tea is very hard to get, with probably none online sites where one can get few grams of these delicate tea specialties.

So I was very happy, when I discovered, that not far from us there is a grocery store with genuine Korean cuisine – the shop opened for Korean management of automobile factory that opened in Slovakia few years ago. So I made a visit to sea, if they have some decent tea.

Unfortunately, I found only few teabags, one Japanese sencha and a bottle of jelly labeled Honey citron tea.

Korean Tea Jelly

Ok, I couldn’t resist a tea jelly, so I got a bottle and decided to try it on my colleagues. The preparation was easy – just dissolve a spoon or two of orange gelatinous mass in hot water and let your boss to drink it.

Korean Tea Jelly

Since the colleagues (both) survived the experiment, I had a cup for myself. Actually, the beverage itself isn’t as bad as it could be – a very sweet citron-like slightly orange “tea”. I can finish the whole bottle in my work, though I will probably not get another one (I will certainly not get another one).

Korean Tea Jelly

Yet, the hunt for Korean tea still continues.