Kayagum Sanjo provided the background, light Neutral water started the tasting... "Please, lets do 2 water tasting first..." I continued "This will let us understand the difference between soft and hard water, so we can build the tea on top of it." Everyone was surprised by the lightness of stored water, comparing to fresh drawn poland spring and how it cleans our palatte.
It was 8:30pm.
A super clear Saturday night, 78°F with moonlit sky and summer breeze, humidity is around 70's also. The 11 grams of "precious" was dry and solid, no oily surface, like last year's foliage under a dry summer noon. I set up 9 clear glasses for the remaining steeps at the far reach, so we can see and taste the progression of the session.
Here are the infusions 1 to 9, using a 350ml pot for 11g tea. 2 ranges of boils, Poland Spring water stored 3 days:
fish eye water.* shrimp eye with 1 shot of cold water.**
Dry leaves in heated pot: Chinese medicine, dry plum, dry chili, sweet cherry wood aroma.
Instant Rinse sit 2 mins. water* Saved for last, we did not drink this yet, just to smell from a dry cup. Complex Woody, Chinese medicine, Chan Hong, sweet aged plum, nuts and full strong talcum.
I never understand what true tea masters refer to as "Aged" or "Chan Hong" aroma was, but now I do. A complex mix of fragrance, like walking into one of the Louvre Museum's smaller room and taking a deep breath, which it used to be the powder/changing room for the Royal. (of course this will get more weird than this : )
1 INFUS. 1 sec. water** Liquor color: Deep dark cognac / Crystal Clear / Glossy Intense Chinese medicine, Nutty, cherry woody, talcum and I am saying Lots of Granny Face Powder (the really expensive one too : ), on flavor and nose! dry mouth and thick, Chan Hong transforming to taste... I divided to 3 slurps. On the 1st slurp, the chi blinded most of the group. 2nd slurp, blur vision turns into selective focusing (comparing to photography). 3rd slurp, breaking sweat. Very active but not aggressive chi, strong palette, numbing lips and tongue. Spiritual!
2 INFUS. 1 sec. water** Liquor color: Dark cognac / Crystal Clear / Glossy Sweetness coated all mouth and throat, deep throat sensation. Clean morning mountain / Minerals / metallic / talcum. Still Chinese medicine and light camphor. Aftertaste is too complex to break-down, warming to the body, instant relaxation. Numbing to all the face muscle. Breaking sweat continuing from the back to the neck. Sweet spot occurs at the middle of the throat.
Everyone lost words for a moment, no one was talking except me, trying to lead the group towards what to feel for, and how we should react to the tea. I pause for a quick intermission for all to settle in. The kayagum high notes from the background toned to the cha chi, every time the random wabi note hits, our minds get clearer and multi-dimensional sensation to our space and being. In a meditation trend perhaps....
3 INFUS. 1 sec. water** Liquor color same till the 5th. Talcum! Old time grandma's cosmetic foundation! Chocolate, woody camphor with more minty background. Clean and clear, hint of mint finish (breaking down the camphor characteristic). Like drinking fresh mountain spring water. Numbing persisted. Complex and Nostalgic. Full (dense) and Alluring. Little aged citrus peel, aged sweet cherry plum.
4 INFUS. 1 sec. water** Powerful. Minerals / Talc, pronounced sweetness overall in mouth-feel and aftertaste. Thickness and Chinese medicine receding. Very alluring because it's mellowing all senses. Refreshing!
5 INFUS. 5 sec. water** Liquor color: Adding Golden Amber The tea is in the stage of changing, to a more lively and fragrant stage. My senses at slow and awakening, entering the stage of calm and peace. Numbing affected the body. Sweetness lingers from the stomach to the mouth, floral note starts taking over. Mucus forming from the back of my throat. No breaking sweat, but cooling.
Tranquil but alluring. Only my wife is taking down my notes. The happy group started talking....
6 INFUS. 5 sec. water** Liquor color: Golden dark Amber, Louis XIII, Clear and bright Fresh, fruits, hint of dry plum, floral and dry rose? Talcum turned rose perfume? Like sitting down at the Louvre's powder table at humid night. Much more fragrant. Medium oolong, plum bouquet and finish.
7 INFUS. 10 sec. water** Liquor color: Same as 6th till 9th. Sweet and floral, aged citrus, lost the plum. Sign of a dying oolong, dry peach....? Cooked peach! Clean talc cosmetic, without humidity! Moisturizing the throat, mucus forming. Still numbing. We tasted the 5th and 6th steeps from the glass, to review the introduction of the peach and rose characters.
It's around 10pm. We are all in a very relaxed state-of-mind, making jokes and talking about old times. One gentleman in particular, who has been drinking puerh in Hong Kong since the early 50's, talks about his experiences.... "I think the tea (pu) has changed around the 70's... I don't usually have a negative reaction from the tea before that. But something changed after 1970's." He continued "Before... the puerh is like what I am drinking now, without understanding the CHA CHI, of course, I was only a teenager.... I drank pureh at a dim sum restaurant every morning with the family before going to school, and It felt great!" So I asked where the restaurant is. "Dragon gate, most of the time...."
From what I understand, before the invention of "Cooked" puerh in the 70's, most of the "Label" tea eg: Red, Blue, Yellow, Green Labels were commissioned by Hong Kong vendors. Most of which are for Dim Sum restaurants like Dragon Gate. But after the 70's, most of Hong Kong Chinese restaurants were serving cooked pu instead. "Of Course they are good, Uncle! You were drinking aged Raw bing before that! Who would complain about getting any allergic reaction from a Red Label!!"
We each took a cup of warm water for the 2nd intermission. And passes around the tea pot to see the leaves. "The leaves have not even unfurled. We are not even in it's drama yet...." I added.
Personally, I think it is difficult to have a big group for detail tasting, a smaller group tends to be more focused, and really lie back and feel the effects of tea a little more. A great thing about having a larger group is, we get more feedback, how the chi affects each body and mind. Perhaps the best part is the moment we all share in one space, all fused by a single 11 grams of leaves. A true tea moment, or life moment, the stories, the wisdoms and the laughters..... "First moment when buddha reached enlightenment, he started laughing... then he asked for a cup of tea." I continued.
8 INFUS. 20 sec. water* Dry Lotus seeds, Orchid and Rose Talc. Clean, minty finishes. The Chan Hong is coming back big time! The tea is at the beginning of its first stage. We then taste the first 3 steeps to remind us how far this tea had brought us. The chi had changed on the first 2 steeps and re-awaken us again.
9 INFUS. 30 sec. water** with a Hot water poured over the pot for an extra 20 sec. steep Enjoying its first stage... mellow, calm and breaking sweat again. Awaken. Chan Hong cosmetic talc, minty refreshing... it is around 10:30.
The session ended with the Rinse, and Turandot act II at the background. No more Kayagum Sanjo. Way too sleepy for that... to be continued....