December 10, 2009

Some quick reviews

Today I spent the afternoon enjoying the second half of a 12g 60's Guang Yun Gong sample I purchased from Nada Cha a while back. It's been a great time; tasty tea, excellent feeling, and it's lasting for so many infusions. Is it the caffeine, flavor and qi that make me feel so at ease and happy, or is it the simple act of sitting down and focusing on a leisure activity for a couple of hours without looking at any screens or worrying about getting anything done?

After my last gabby post I had a couple people ask me which aged pu-erhs I'd recommend, so here are a couple very brief reviews of aged sheng I've recently been drinking that can be purchased as affordable samples.

The good:

80's Xia Guan Tuo from Nada Cha. This tea has become one of my standbys. It's mostly mature with little astringency, smoke or bitterness, though the character is still quite strong and bold. Not a tea for when I want to completely relax, but a drinking experience free from any serious flaws at a price that seems to match the value of the tea.

80's 8582 from Hou De. Available in 20g samples (3 pots' worth, for me). Really soft and clean tasting, with delightful sweetness and nice healthy leaves. Reminds me of the 80's dry-stored 7542 I tried from Hou De way back when samples were available and I didn't know anything about pu-erh! Price is not bad for the quality--if cakes were available, I'd probably be saving my dimes. If my younger 8582 cakes come out anything like this within the next 20 years, I'll be a happy guy.

90's Zhong Cha Yellow label from Hou De
. Another clean-tasting (seems to be the ideal Hou De M.O., for pretty much every type of tea they carry), fairly mature tea with light and sweet liquor. Didn't take detailed notes for this one but I was pretty happy with it.

The bad:

90's Zhong Cha Hun Yin from Hou De. If this isn't cooked pu-erh, then I don't know what it is, because it doesn't taste or look like any aged sheng I've ever had. Not even the wet-stored ones; I'm no expert, but this REALLY tasted like shu pu-erh to me, and not one of the better ones I've tried.

80's Zhong Cha 7542 from Hou De
. This tea tasted like it was from 1999; uninvited party guests included bitterness and astringency, although the flavor was pretty clean and it wasn't really smoky. There was some of that dusky aged flavor around the edges, but the whole experience left me wondering how a tea could be so old and taste so young. Storage too dry? Who knows, but I'm done with this one.

The completely unrelated:

2009 Fo Shou from Hou De. No, it's not pu-erh, it's high-fired Taiwanese oolong. This was one of my first post-tea-moratorium purchases of December. This tea is really high-fired; the leaves never fully open and they're a bit crunchy even at the end of a session, but somehow the roasting was just completely perfect. There's none of that acrid, burnt taste that accompanies poorly high-fired teas, and it's really tasty right now. Be forewarned, the roast dominates the flavor--it's got that inimitable Taiwanese roasty taste (if you've ever been inside a room where Taiwan oolong is being roasted, you definitely know what I'm saying), but the leaves' flavor asserts itself with a mellow sweetness and a trace of fruitiness. The body is full, no astringency, and the leaves can literally be infused 20+ times with continuing pleasant results. The tea taste/roasting taste balance is nowhere near as sophisticated as the Muzha Tieguanyin Hou De just sold out of, but the price is way better. This is a simple but very well-made tea. I liked it well enough to grab a half pound; check back with me in 2029 and we'll see how the quantity I've squirreled away tastes.