Thursday, December 02, 2010

Trophies from China

As tea lovers who follow this blog would know... to be chosen for the Mandarin's Tea Selection, a tea must go through a long, intense and very discriminating process. Only by learning and understanding the foundation (tree, place, process, storage and history), and the character changes of a tea, I can teach more people about how to brew, what to look for, and how to appreciate the unique personality of it. Thus the only way to achieve The Mandarin's Standard.

I don't usually acquire Shu puerh, except the 1980's original Menghai White Lotus Golden Needle. This time coming back from China had resulted in a couple of surprise samples which were intriguing.

The story behind this Shu bing is from a 70 years old puerh factory 鸿泰昌. Founded in Yibang, Xishuangbanna in the 30's as a puerh exporting company (producing border tea), They soon established a strong foundation in Thailand, then branching into Hong Kong and Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia. Eventually became the first puerh tea industrial giant. This bing was produced in 2000 and aged in Yunnan until releasing this year. We are still in the process of tasting and testing it at the moment, but if anyone is interested, we are more than happy to share part of the cupping process at our tea room.

Another interesting find was from my Puerh tea master in Yiwu mountain who had already produced 3 of my commissioned sheung bings

This was a 2010 sheung puerh, pressed in this fall using Yiwu mountain old trees, to commemorate the 100 years drought. The harsh condition created a very intense sweetness in the maocha. I am not a fan of gimmicky sales, but as a wine enthusiast, that's something a wine collector will jump right in. Most of the best red wine vintages from all over the world are from drought or harsh growing conditions... so will this translate to the puerh harvest? We'll see in a couple of months if this will be on my product list.


aneglakya said...

Hey Tim! I might as well begin the comments, as I'm sure others will follow and I'll be curious to see if they can corroborate my understanding of pu'er produced during dry years.

I've been taught that maocha quality is higher with lower rains - fewer growth spurts with more concentrated minerality. Higher elevation harvests are especially sought after under these conditions. Why might this be the case? Maybe because of cooler temperatures and the mists that invariably roll into the mountains to provide a sustained, moist environment for the gardens?

However, I also understand the shougong process to be harder on the leaves at such times. If there is not enough water content in the leaves at harvest, any undesirable side effects of kill-green, rolling, or drying could potentially be exaggerated.

And, unfortunately, low yields and high competition for maocha often encourage farmers eager for profit to be too quick and undiscerning with shougong and to over-harvest trees, while supply and demand drives up prices. Such was the case in 2007, when the tea mountains experienced low rains and more speculators (and spectators!) than they had experienced in recent memory.

I'd appreciate hearing from others in regard to the above. I'll be in Yunnan soon and will inquire further about this. And, Tim, great photos as usual. I look forward to drinking some of these teas with you!


Michael Vincent said...

Hey Toki! Thanks for the sample of the 10yr old shu!

The wet leaf aroma had notes of malt, French Baguette, Chinese Medicine, Dry Pasta, and stepping in to an old bookstore. For me, the highlights of this tea were the exceptional mouthfeel and sweetness. I'm very surprised by how silky and light it is for a cooked puerh- definitely evaporates in the mouth, and washes all the way down the throat. The finish left my entire mouth and throat feeling refreshed and sweet- especially way in the back of the throat, like having a small sugar cube stuck there! The Qi was also nice. I don't want to call it subtle, but it made me feel relaxed and focused without making me feel lightheaded or teadrunk. Though the flavor was great, I had a hard time picking out particular notes most of the time. Aside from the light, sweet earthiness, I had to really dig deep and pay attention to find notes of warm croissant, parchment, fresh snow peas, dried flowers and talcum powder. I would have liked to drink this tea with others to see what flavors they were finding!

This tea provided 7 solid infusions, and in the end, I think it is very unique and has enough strengths to be a keeper. I would be very happy to have a cake or two in my stash!

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