This was another purchase from House of Tea.
I have a soft spot for both tea-bricks (Zhuānchá) and the produce of the Haiwan tea factory, so once I clapped eyes on this baby a sale was always going to be a likely outcome.
These leaves were harvested in the early spring of 2006 in Menghai county, Xishuangbanna prefecture, Yunnan province. This is a machine-pressed brick, and so I was expecting it to be fairly tight.
Standing the brick on one long edge and attacking the other, uppermost long edge with my pu-erh pick enabled me to easily (i.e. safely) gain entry, and carefully lever off several small sheets of leaf.
Having read that this material in its youth was capable of delivering a fair old bitter slap to the chops, I was hoping that a combination of age mellowing it and the use of a clay pot would be able to rein in its toe-curling potential.
|Weight of dry leaf:||10 grams|
|Infusion style:||Gong-fu / Asian|
|Steeping vessel:||300 ml unglazed clay teapot|
|No. & duration:||a flash rinse, then a 1st. infusion @ 5 seconds, then @ +5 seconds until 25 seconds, then @ 40, 60, 90, 120, 180, and finally 300 seconds for a total of 11 infusions|
After the rinse the wet leaf smelled of tropical rainforest, with overtones of smokiness and hothouse flowers.
Right out of the gate the soup showed a nice oily body, not bad at all for a first infusion performed on a still quite densely compacted selection of leaf.
The dreaded bitterbomb never materialised, although a pleasant nip appeared three steeps in.
About half way through the session, though, that hint of bitterness morphed into a tangy sweetness reminiscent of green apples.
As I’ve said before, sheng often suggests music to me, and for some unfathomable reason this one had me humming “The Living Daylights” by Norwegian pop trio Aha. Go, as they say, figure.
Towards the back end of the session little green apples made way for a kind of broccoli stalk vegetal thing, which also heralded the arrival of the dreaded sheng munchies, but a rapidly scoffed banana soon put paid to that.
As you might reasonably expect with such a brick the material was somewhat torn and chopped, meaning that the session was never going to be a mammoth one, but for all that 11 rounds seemed fair enough.
As the session drew to a close I couldn’t help feeling that this tea had lost all the usual characteristics of a young sheng, but despite its age wasn’t the finished article yet, maybe having entered those troublesome adolescent years, despite being nearly 13 years old.
It then struck me that I knew nothing about how it had been stored since it was pressed, meaning that theories regarding how it had aged were going to be largely based on speculation and guesswork. Given that I’ve read that beengs from Haiwan pressed the same year from the same material had gone quite dark and medicinal after just 5 years or so of traditional storage, I’d probably plump for it being kept in a fairly dry environment. Having said that, I have no plans on further ageing, it was bought to drink now, as-is, and that’s just fine by me.
In conclusion, then – despite its lack of legs given its broken leaf composition, this tea is still put together from good quality raw material. It’s got a nice mouthfeel, and despite only being able to offer up a relatively short session I think I’ve already found a niche for it in my stash.
I reckon it will do well in that sub-section of Daily Drinkers that you pull out when you want something to simply steep and chug as you go about your daily routine, but still require it to sport a decent amount of character under the hood.
Can’t say fairer than that.