Blind tasting tea is always a lovely idea. I can always let my imagination run wild, testing you taste level and learning from a wide range of speculation. So far, Mr. M (MarshalN) is on top of my list.
The careful planning and the skill of drama shown in the arrangement of these samples were artfully executed. I am not sure how deep his knowledge is to all his samples – meaning the understanding of what exactly the grade, storage condition and age these samples are. But I do believe he is fully aware of the effects of these tea. A job well done!
I received 4 samples a couple of weeks ago, numbered by 1 to 4. After a week of tasting with various tea heads from the Tea gallery, or still continuing the last sample. Here are the results:
Number 1: Hey, this is not oolong! This long and SX like 10 yrs +- leaves may perhaps be Luk An? After 4 cups of it, Michael and I were very puzzled. He then pulled out a 1976 Lui An for a comparison. Overall initial character is sweet and amber-like with a bite to it, the liquor appears to be a little cloudy. The ending notes both presented with a beet-like taste and wheat-like favor. Is there a storage problem? Too much circulation when aging or been air-out too long? Is LA popular in Taiwan? Specially the full grown (big leaf) version.... hmmmm. http://themandarinstea.blogspot.com/2008/01/70s-loose-green-liu.html
Number 2: Classic fired Min Nan Oolong. Judging on the de-stemmed leaves, this could be TGY grown in Anix and brought to Taiwan. or Taiwan TGY but using traditional Anix method to process? Good solid classical Kung-Fu, but only last a quick satisfing 4 cups of it. I guess the roasting skill is more enjoyable then the grade. Well aged also! Overall taste is sweet, mid-roasted TGY. Sticky/dry mouth, numbing to lips with talc-like rose fragrance and clean finish.
Number 3: Here is Mr. M's skillful arrangement level (in my opinion). This tea is a filler! The cleanser of the course. The sour sorbet that balances back your palate from the starter and the appiteizer. A not so well aged Oolong from Taiwan? The first cup of this promising fragrance light/mixed up/re-roasted/aged/Taiwanese/leftover Oolong didn't deliver on its taste. Tricky but clever steps.
Number 4: This is the MAC! I would say 35+ years? (Michael predicts 50 yrs.) Long leaves Min Na Tea. Could be a Taiwanese cultivar? But have Cliff tea structure to it. Both Michael were convinced that this is a type of puerh in the beginning! Well, tricked again by Mr.M. and Really Good Drama, I have to say. The dark liquor was mellow in the first 5 brews, enjoyable with very very good Chi.
Then the ride began, after the 6th brew. The floral unleashed with an well aged puerh taste! Talc/grandma's face powder overwhelming the palette. Well stored tea, no sour or fire taste at all. Great throat effects. We stopped on the 12th brew last friday and been brewing one overnight steeping until this friday. The end result is Korean red chili powder the kind that you make kimchi with! No joke.... Michael from the Tea gallery has not given up this tasting yet, we'll see if we can break the record of 4 week-long brewing. We'll continue...
The third week of tasting #4, ending with sweet floral notes. The body of the tea is still holding: Mild pepper, earthy and spicy. I hope Michael from the Tea galley can help me with more details. Not done yet.
The more I drink tea, the more I don't know about it.... I felt like a kindergardener over this weekend tasting a Taiwanese tea. The range of grades not just puzzling, but at the very less, amazing. This is a generous gift from a Taiwanese Sculptor. His knowledge of fine tea/tea-wares elevated me to a whole new level. The first time I had a competition grade Oriental beauty, was 7 years ago in Taipei. The mere difference of what I known of OB and what the taste of that cup, troubled and angered me. "What the crap OB have I been drinking for all these year!"
Oriental Beauty suppose to be a summer harvest. But this specimen show only tender shoot. All fresh shoots, no teenage of adult leaf at all! How delicate this harvest must be! Picking only shoots in the summer time and processing with extra afford. My mind can only speculate with wonder.
The taste is pure honey plum, muscat, Champaign, perfume. Long lasting sweeting in the back of the throat. Round and full but soft mouth feel. The brew started from light to dark and light again. All in all, more then 12 cups of spectacular color changes. Beautiful Beauty!
Overwhelmed and under stress with work, consumed my well-being for the past whole month. Although the cloud of intense deadlines and on-going projects still hover over me at this point. At the end of the day, I will replace this cloud of stress with my cloud of pure smoke joy. I had find nick of time thru breaks to exam my love of smoke paring with tea. Recently, my choice of a non habanos is this Puro Robusto limited edition 07 from Davidoff. Smokers raved it one of the best closest choice cigar you can get to a fine Cuban. Of Course, I am up for it. If I can even find a close resembling in the US to the Real Thing!
A mere 688 miles parted this two Country, but the different in soil, sees, climate and terrain was a world apart. The aging character is also very different. The Puro Robusto use a blinder of 1992 vintage leaves with fillers from different areas: San Vicente Ligero, Piloto Seco, Piloto Ligero and Olor Seco. Released last year 2007 September, only 12000 was made. All this effort is to produce something similar to the real Cuban. At the end... still a world of difference.
I did pared it with a range of tea. From 8 yrs. roasted Taiwanese oolong to a 03 Tuo, Yiwu young, 15 yrs. yiwu and highly roasted 15 yrs. TGY. I find it best with the Menghai 2005 Anniversary 2kg Limited Beeng. Why? I think is because of the use of blinding for both tea and smoke. The lack of complexity of the smoke could be balanced by the complex favor of the MH blends. The tea can give what's the smoke is missing: The floral and qi from the tea, exchanging the leather and earthy of the smoke. The spice of the smoke complementing the youth and energy of this young tea....etc
My thoughts on bending somehow relates to: 1. Hiding a floss. 2. Stabilize a product, and 3. Maintaining quality and enhancing the notes. This "Cuban want-to-be" Dominican do archive the basic level of a good Habanos: The fine oily aging of the wrapper, the smooth rich robust taste which produce a fine snow ash structure, and the aroma of an aged finest tobacco matching the body of the taste. But what its leaking is the aging complex characteristic.... The smoke overall is nice but with a mono, simple dimension. No evolution in its 2 or 3 stages. I had experience fine Cubans which can give 5 to 7 stages of character changes. Sounds familiar? I always draw parallel with tea and smoke. There are so many aspect which they both share: Plant quality, environment which they are grown, harvesting, pre-processing, skill of aging, skill of making into a final product, storage, aging, and the skill of consuming.
No matter how hard you age a fine non-habano, it will never archive the long maturity of a fine Cuban. Many Habanos are not even ready until a 10-15 yrs. first aging period: http://themandarinstea.blogspot.com/2006/05/some-great-aging-process.html. It will be interesting to age fine young habano side by side with a young yiwu cake. All in all, some tea are in the same level when they are young. But once they put to the test of time, many do fade. Can we afford to paid the price with time, discovering in the future, what been aging in our storage are too common? I think I will have a more relaxing state of mind, after the next few weeks....