Monday, August 18, 2008

Vincerò! Vincerò!

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....


~ Phyll said...

This is wonderful! Reading your notes is the next best thing to actually being there. Thank you.

I might have missed it in your notes. But what kind of compressed, from Guangdong province is this? Black? Pu'er?

toki said...

Thanks phyll - I think this is one of those Puerh tea/Currency from mid-late Qing dynasty. It was part of a bigger blog of 9, the top left section? We can clearly see the sew out area on its right and bottom sides. Guangdong / Canton back then is the hub of South China tea trade.

Salsero said...

There's no way Act III can be better than Act II. The climax has to be here in Act II ... but I am staying around for the end anyway! These seats are too good to leave early.

TeaMasters said...

11 grams seem a lot. For such 'precious' leaves, you may want to use less in the future, if you want the tea to last for a long time (I'm not saying that as a criticism, just as a friendly advice). 'The leaves haven't even unfurled yet' and despite this you already got so many things out of it (with brewing times of 1 seconds!)

Such old leaves are so concentrated that I think that there will probably even be an Act IV! Please keep my seat next to you ready, Salsero! Phyll is right, this feels almost like drinking with Toki!

toki said...

thanks guys for the full house!

Thanks Stephana for your kind advice - from my previous experiences on 50s to 100 yrs old bings, I usually don't give up the pot until 2 to 3 weeks.

At this moment, we are still tasting an exceptional 200 yrs. old bush SX from Wuyi for 5 weeks and counting.... and it still surprises us on every steep.

I think it all depends on how big the pot is. I will prefer to fill up a pureh pot at least half, and for Wuyi at least 3/4 for such precious tea. On the long run, you will get more detail characters and pronounced hidden notes which might not surface with lesser leaves.

Will see how this goes. So far, I am like a kid in disneyland.

~ Phyll said...

The space right next to Toki on the floor is mine. I mean Toki the dog not the master.

On the old bush SX...why stretch it for so long? But more curiously, how? (please don't reveal if you're planning on posting the story in the near future).

Unknown said...

Great story! I'd sure be nervous about dealing with such treasure. When you say - stretch it out for 5 weeks - what do you do with the leaves in between sessions?

toki said...

Ozark-I just keep brewing it, twice a day. Always keeping it fill-up with water in the pot.

Unknown said...

Sorry - I'm still confused. For 5 weeks you just keep the leaves in the pot with water? I would think it would get too thin! If they are dry - do you keep it in the fridge? If they were left to dry I would think they would get moldy.

toki said...

Ozark - haha, the brew color might look clear, but it still have a very strong Cha Chi in them and the taste is thick and fragrant.... It's most important to feel the effects of the tea to your body, but more important is, not all tea are equal. Only a handful of vintage might deliver and tolerant this kind of brewing. I will not suggest leaving the leave to dry, that will be the end of it : ) cheers. Toki

Unknown said...

Wow - that's really amazing. A blog of technique would be great if you have a chance. After reading through your whole post I see that you started already. Now... if you happen to have a little stuff to spare... donations are gladly accepted ;-)

toki said...

this tea is still brewing at the Tea Gallery in NYC. Anyone who really love tea are welcome to have a cup : )

Code name: Toki (thru security)

GN? said...

I know this is very late but I have to say that this is my all time favorite blog post. I can almost feel the qi.

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