It’s now a little over five years to the day since the first beeng I ever owned came my way, when I received a 357 gram cake of 2010 Qian Ye Hao as a birthday present.
Seeing as I was scheduled to have a quiet afternoon home alone I thought it would be a good opportunity to pull the beeng out of its box tucked safely away in my tea chest of drawers, tease off a few grams of leaf, and see how it’s doing these days.
I’d forgotten how light the compression is on this cake. It took no effort at all to free off a single sheet of leaf that weighed in at a near perfect 7 grams.
The dry leaf was giving little away – if anything it smelled faintly of Hong Cha, but that all changed once it had been given a few seconds and a gentle shake in the warmed up pot. Then it was all late summer hay, the inside of an old-school candy store, as well as something far-off and floral.
I didn’t want to be too forceful with the leaves, so decided to go with an initial infusion of 15 seconds, and let hot water and time take care of the business of pulling the leaves apart.
|Water Used:||Filtered tap water|
|Weight of dry leaf:||7 grams|
|Steeping vessel:||200 ml ceramic teapot|
|No. & duration:||12 infusions of 15, 15, 20, 30, 40, 55, 70, 90, 120, 180, 240, and 480 seconds duration|
The first infusion was a classic “early days” one as the leaves began to open up. The soup was mostly all about a spicy sweetness that had something of crystallized pineapple chunks about it, which felt all the more up-front as there was virtually no bitterness whatsoever facing it down.
The body was still a touch on the light side, but experience suggested that there was much more in the tank and that it would be unleashed soon enough. One thing that didn’t hang about though was the Qi. That had me sweating like crazy long before this initial round was over.
The second steeping opened up the leaves a good deal, and new tastes flooded into the cup. A shiny flint like edge typical of a Ceylon waltzed into view carrying the sweet hay of a Silver Needle on its back. The sweaty heat was dialled up a couple of notches.
A couple of rounds later that dark-coloured soup came over all aged sheng medicinal on me, that curious combination of preserved fruit sweet, old varnished wood, and a side order of bitter.
By the sixth steeping it felt as though every part of me from the armpits up was leaking like a badly maintained tap, and I slipped into what I referred to in my notes as a “sleepy smiley” frame of mind. The liquor’s body felt as though it had peaked out, firmly in the middleweight division. This was sort of confirmed in the next round, which saw a noticeable slip in the intensity of the broth.
The ninth round saw just the medicinal thing left on stage to deliver the epilogue, and after a 6 minute long 12th. round I reluctantly called time on the session.
It’s always interesting to come back to a tea you’ve set aside to age for a progress report. Even though I’ve “only” had it for 5 years, this beeng (or what’s left of it!) now has a total of 10 years under its belt, and I think it’s coming along nicely. If it ever had a troublesome “adolescent” period I luckily seem to have dodged it, evidenced by the fact that it seems to be doling out tasty complexity a-plenty without carrying any less than delicious baggage around with it, if you follow.
So, it’s gone back into its cool, dark lair to allow time and microbes to do the voodoo that they do so well.
Looking forward, this session was such a success that I’m really going to have to make a mid-May tasting of these leaves a hard and fast annual event on my tea calendar.
Watch this space, etc…