2001 Gu Pu-er Ying Hao Tuo

2001 Gu Pu-er Ying Hao Tuo - in hand

A tuo in the hand…

I ran across this cute 50 gram tuo when putting together an order over at Green Tea Guru.

The Tea is a product of the Gu Pu-er (aka The Ancient Pu-er) Tea Factory. The raw material comes from the first flush of Spring 2001. Yunnan Sourcing also sell the same tuo, and Scott of YS descibes the material as “tippy“, which I guess explains the factory’s use of the “Yin Hao” name, something Babelcarp describe as a “…marketing term applied to various teas to indicate fresh young leaves.

Olli’s (the guru himself) descriptions of the teas in his store often tend to draw me in, not that I need truckloads of arm bending to start with, and this one was no exception…

2001 Gu Pu-er Ying Hao Tuo - unwrapped bottom

Honey sweet with mushroom notes and super lower bitterness!”, and “…smooth and substantial texture…“, was all I needed to hear. In the cart with ye!

I was also intrigued by the information that the tea had been rested in Simao, who’s tropical climate had, as Olli says, put the tea “far down the track regarding age.

The first impression you have of this tea once you get the wrapper off is of course its diminutive size. More often than not you’re going to be running across tuo that are 100 grams or larger, and so this half-pint has an almost whimsical charm.

When the greatly missed Anthony Bourdain visited chef Thomas Keller’s legendary French Laundry restaurant during the writing of his book “A Cook’s Tour” he noted the way that Keller used the notion of whimsy to powerful effect, as a psychological tool that could pre-dispose one’s senses to expect a certain taste, smell, or texture.

Similarly, this tuo is so damn cute you’re kind of wanting to love it even before you start to heat water up and assemble your kit for the session.

Steeping method
Weight of dry leaf: 7.5 grams
Infusion style: Gong-fu / Asian
Steeping vessel: 150 ml porcelain gaiwan
Water temperature: 100°C
No. & duration: a flash rinse, then a 1st. infusion @ 5 seconds, then @ +5 seconds until 30 seconds, then @ 40, 50, 60,and 90 seconds, then a final 5 minute infusion in a 400 ml glass pot for a total of 11 infusions

After I’d carefully removed the leaves for the session from the tuo I was immediately struck by how small they appeared. That suggested that the upcoming session might very well turn into a wham-bam pedal to the metal warp factor 9 affair.

You know that you’re in for a belter of a session when even the rinse comes out an almost orange verging on brown colour. Post rinse the leaves smelled of old leather bound books.

2001 Gu Pu-er Ying Hao Tuo - a cup of

The first infusion was a lovely deep hue, and for once I found myself almost completely in agreement with someone else’s observations of a tea’s flavour profile. Olli said to expect honey and mushrooms, and by golly that’s exactly how I would describe it. The only other thing I would add is a slight tickle of smokiness way to the back.

The second steeping, and the Qi surges in like a rip current and drags me far out to sea in what seems like an instant. This is fairly potent stuff, a clean tasting, supremely chuggable darkly sweet umami bomb. This session is clearly heading off in an interesting direction.

A few infusions later, and I’m more and more convinced that this is going to be a relatively short but quite intense session. Some leaves might want you to while away a whole afternoon with them, or even come back the next day and start all over again, but not these ones. What these leaves want to do is to take you to a Ramones gig, back at CBGB’s in ’76, a leave ’em wanting more experience made up of a glorious collection of short n’ sweet bouts of frenetic activity punctuated by moments of befuddled calm. There shall be “oh yeah, man“s a-plenty, along with the corresponding face-splitting grins.

I think it’s fair to say that the typical young / adolescent sheng-iness has been aged out of this tuo, but every now and then it kind of pops up in the aftertaste, a faint echo of green astringency.

Another sign of this soup’s potency – I was only 6 rounds in when I got the sheng munchies. The monster had roared, and needed to be accommodated. I grabbed the nearest foodstuff to hand – a banana – and threw it into the beast’s lair. It grumbled once, and was then quiet.

Right, where were we..?

So followed another 4 merry steepings, at which point i) the leaves were showing signs of quitting on me, and ii) I was most pleasantly Pu-zonked.

I was determined to extract as much grin-inducing goodness as possible from this tea, though, and so heated up enough water for one last hurrah in my ever faithful 400 ml Ikea Upphetta pot. This turned out to be a relatively long affair, with the broth transforming into a easy sipper right at the end. It was a nice way to end the session, like a warm-down routine at the end of a period of frenzied sporting activity.

2001 Gu Pu-er Ying Hao Tuo - used leaves

I think the best way to sum up this tuo would be to say that if you’d have been sat next to me at a tea bar, and would have seen and heard my grins, smirks, and appreciative slurping, you’d have looked disappointingly at the contents of your own cup, and then turned to the bartender and said “..I’ll have whatever he’s having…

A great little tuo this. Cute and sweet, but packing a serious punch too, like a “my little pony” with a rocket launcher. Good stuff.

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