March 28, 2009

NadaCha's 90's Sheng Tuo Cha

Here I sit, slap happy, drinking pu-erh underneath the acnalbasac noom. I've had this tuo cha for over a month, prying off a chunk whenever I feel the urge for a relaxing and mellow aged pu-erh session. At £12 or about $18 for a 100g tuo, it also means I have the liberty of enjoying the session without feeling like I have to make a special event out of it, like I usually do with more expensive aged pu-erhs I try. This has to be the best internet deal I've yet seen for aged sheng pu-erh.

The tuo is standard size--not one of those gargantuan 250g babies. It's also unwrapped, which I'm sure affects the price in a serious way. Nada says the size probably contributed to the tea's very aged nature--as the above picture shows, the leaves are quite visibly frosted (there were a couple human hairs pressed in my tuo!), the liquor is dark red with an attractive mist that lingers on the top, and there's no astringency and very little in the way of bitterness. Also notable is the size of some of the leaves--some are around an inch long, which is pretty large for a tuo cha.

When brewing this tea I like to break off a nice shell-shaped piece from the outer edge--I'm not overly picky about having the leaves seperate in the pot--the water can do the rest of that work, and I'd rather have the leaves in tact. After giving the tea a nice rinse for that purpose, the leaves come alive with aroma. Though they've been wet-stored, they don't smell quite as wet to me as a couple of Nada's other teas. More, I smell the light, sweet woody aroma that informs me this tea is aged sheng, not shu (sort of; I'll get to that later). It's certainly true that this tea's storage seems to have reduced the leaves' potency a bit--the first few infusions have a shy but pleasant sweetness, with the tea taste lingering in the background. What complexity there is must be sought out; this isn't the sort of flavor explosion found in Nada's more famous cakes like his 7542s and 8582s. Later, as the leaves open up, the flavor grows a bit stronger, bringing the notes of woodiness and mushrooms to full power, and the more humid storage aspects start to taper off. My fair cup smells extremely mellow and sweet, with little of that mustardy acridity (not necessarily a bad thing) from the other pu-erhs I've been trying lately. The storage aspects of the tea seem to linger most in my mouth after drinking, with an interesting cooling sensation arising in my mouth and throat. Nothing wrong with that, since I often drink aged pu-erh for relaxation.

The main reason I'm returning to this tea with a blog entry is because of a recent discussion about it on the Half-Dipper. A few of the participants conjectured that the tuo might be a blend of sheng and shu leaves. My experience with these blends is limited to two examples--an 80's and a 90's brick, both from NadaCha. After drinking I surprised myself by actually being able to easily differentiate between both types of leaves amongst the spent leaves of the pot. Here, though, I had a much tougher time--the only really dark colors visible in this pic seem to be stems, and it's tough to find any leaves with the type of texture that indicates they're shu. This, combined with the lighter nature of this tea's aroma and liquor, make me think that maybe it's not shu after all--plus, Nada has been pretty accurate about labeling the cakes he sells that are blends. Maybe I'll find some more convincing evidence one way or another in future sessions, but for now I'm just enjoying some guilt-free aged pu-erh whenever the mood strikes. Thanks, Nada!

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