This was yet another purchase from perennial favourites House of Tea.
I wanted to prop up the shou side of my stash, and at the same time try something new. I’d never had a shou from that particular area of Yunnan before, so this cake seemed to fit the bill.
This is a classically sized 357 gram beeng produced by the Guang Fu Tea Factory. The raw material is from the Man Nong village area on Hekai mountain, which lies in Menghai County of Xishuangbanna Prefecture, Yunnan.
As you might have guessed the leaves are of the famous Da Ye cultivar, but what you might not have know was that they grew at an altitude of between 1000 and 1800 metres, and were harvested by both the Hani and Lahu peoples in 2011.
This cake was only lightly pressed – I barely needed my pick to free off a decent sized chunk of leaf, and it was easy work to separate sheets of compressed tea from the chunk. Those sheets in turn quickly fell apart in the gaiwan once they met hot water. The leaf grade looked like it was towards the Gong Ting/Grade 1 end of the spectrum.
|Weight of dry leaf:||7.5 grams|
|Infusion style:||Gong-fu / Asian|
|Steeping vessel:||150 ml porcelain gaiwan|
|No. & duration:||a 2 second rinse, then a 1st. infusion @ 10 seconds, then @ +5 seconds until 35 seconds for a total of 6 infusions|
The first infusion’s colour was a deep red – more like that of a robust hong cha, rather than shou bronze.
This is one of the more complex shous I’ve ever tasted – paper, vanilla, medicinal notes, and camphor all fought for prominence against a background of somewhat muted shou earthiness. Despite the relatively light colour the body was already slick and smooth, with the promise of more to come on subsequent infusions.
The second steeping certainly gave the impression that we were heading in the right direction, with things getting heavier on the colour and mouth-feel fronts.
The third infusion really hit the spot – the soup had become a true Orc Blood job, thick, creamy, and dark. Just two rounds later, however, we had the first inkling that the tea was on the wane, and by the sixth infusion we were nudging back towards hong cha-ness colour-wise, with those rich complex flavours also beginning to tail off.
I often find that this is the case with shou comprised of finer grades of leaf – the larger surface area tends to mean that they dish out whatever they have to give over relatively fewer steepings.
After a few sessions with this tea I’m starting to think that its more complex flavours might be better suited to stand-alone session drinking, rather than using it as a post-meal digestive beverage. Given that we tend to eat heavily spiced food its interesting nuances might be shouted down by those bolder flavours.
Once you find a tea you really like a kind of hoarding instinct kicks in, so I logged on to the seller’s web site to re-order, only to find it now out of stock, meaning that I must have bought one of, if not the last cake they had in. Bah, etc.
So, now we’ve entered the tricky “is it worth tracking down elsewhere?” evaluation period.
Hmmm. Watch this space, etc…