64 Tasting Notes
A review of tea. As presented to me by L. Proust, Esq.
a 2012 Haiwan amuse-bouche
2004 BYH Manzhuan
1980s some sheng, rather wet stored
2004 Tejipin palate cleanser
2017 CLT LBZ upside the head
2006 Wistaria Silver Medal Banzhang, 18g in a vessel that wasn’t rated for 18 (but it was mighty fine regardless)
1965 Jing Gu brick for afters
Cigars and brandy…. ahh, who am I kidding? More tea! Lp’s favorite Kunlu and a very fine oolong I can’t recall anything about because at this point they were picking my brain matter off the floorboards a la Pulp Fiction.
It was quite tremendous. I would recommend it. In fact, I did. See upper right.
Amounts are approximated and may bear little resemblance to fact.
If ever there was a poster child for name recognition driving sales, this tea must be it.
I haven’t the slightest whether this bears any resemblance to a Menghai 8582, and after trying it, I’m certainly not inclined to she’ll out the cash I’d need to in order to find out. Lest you get the wrong impression from this intro, however, I’ll skip to the point – there’s nothing wrong with this tea, but I’ve had similar experiences muxh cheaper from more unknown old cakes that were much cheaper. Tastes like dirt? Check. Easy drinking? Check. Costs 200? That’s a negative, good buddy.
As usual, this could be end user error, improper humidity in the room I drank, the cheap gaiwan I was using, an improper spring water, or probably a half dozen other things – but a similar conclusion was reached by the person I sent a bit of the sample to, so I’m forced to conclude that the reason this price is so (relatively) affordable for what is, is regrettably due to what it is.
A comparative tasting of Plum Beauty Bronze vs. Gold
I was gifted either end of the Plum Beauty spectrum by a generous teafriend, so I did a side-by-side gaiwan tasting after two rinses, necessitated by the ball needing to be prized apart by fork after the first rinse and then re-rinsed on its essentially still bone-dry interior.
One thing was not expecting was that even at the post-rinse stage, prior to first steep, the odor would have led me to correctly identify which tea was which even if the leaf was not viewable. The gold has a most enticing aroma, while the bronze, not to put too fine a point on it, smelled like young pu.
The trend continued into the cupping – the bronze was certainly not bad, but embodied evetything about why I rarely drink young pu. It wasn’t bad, per se, but really didn’t bring anything much to the table that would lead me to choose it over even a decent, inexpensive oolong or aged pu of dubious material (hi zhuancha!). A bit rough, rather thin, altogether unprepossessing.
The gold, on the other hand, had a much fuller mouthfeel and left a nice aftertaste behind. It may have been somewhat overshadowed by my rather recent experience with F*ck What U Heard, which it simply isn’t on the level of, but it was an excellent drink and one which I am going to add a few of to the stash, as I expect it might be a splendid treat when I don’t want to mess around with separating something off a cake (or don’t have access to any more of W2T’s splendid but high-dollar beengs).
A definite eye-opening experience into just how much difference the initial leaf quality really can make.
This is the first extended session I have been fortunate enough to experience with someone else at the helm. The cake proved pliable, with a selection of leaves being removed by hand in a single intact chunk, with only minimal amounts of broken pieces left from the severing. The rinse was longer than my usual standard, and produced both a rinse of most enticing color as well as one of the most inviting odors from a pot of wet leaves I have ever enjoyed.
The water we used was around 200 – slightly under to start, and closer to 205 in the midbrews. I recommend the slightly higher temp – the leaves are large and healthy, and respond very, very well to the heat. I suspect that it would have been best to have operating there from the get-go. I will try to remind to edit in a postscript when I try it.
This tea had all the things I read about in other people’s better young pu sessions, some of which I had never experienced before. Mouth coating, lasting flavors, returning sweetness – they were certainly present, and very fine, but at that price point I’d expect it. What really bowled me over was the penetrating quality of the tea on the swallow. This party wasn’t content to stay constrained in the mouth – oh no. It led a parade down the throat and stopped to set up shop in the gut, selling unbelievably cheap and delicious pastry and tying wondrous balloon animals for kids and parents alike.
It was also incredibly easy to drink. Smooth as your favorite proverb, with only enough bitterness to keep things lively. Harder brewing in later steeps did not produce any astringent nature, and while the bitterness could be forced to the fore it was never jarring or any more than another element in a beautiful panoply of flavors I’ll never manage to describe. You might as well ask a small child to describe the dancing in the Bolshoi’s production of Swan Lake.
The energy was real as well, but settled in like an old friend you hadn’t seen for a while and soon enough it was like they’d never left. It did not make me uncomfortable, foolish, or lazy (any more so than I already possess those attributes). Additionally, despite the fact that we’ve been having some tremendously muggy scorchers of late, it did not lead to any overheated feelings. Extraordinarily well played, DJ Doublemutt.
I sat down looking at this tea as it sat post-rinse opening up, trying not to think of.all the info I’ve read online at Badger & Blade so as to taste wuth no preconceived notions.
It didn’t really work, but fortunately opinions were all over the place, so it’s not like I had any single strong impression anyhow.
The first infusion, around 10s, was a potent little brew, definitely grabbing my attention with a modest astringency and still very present (but pleasant) ku. The Bulang leaves it was supposed to contain werr very much in evidence, in all the best ways. I decided it would be unwise to make the second infusion any longer than the first, but I failed.to observe that a bit of leaf had wedged itself in the spout. That’s where the session took a turn for the strange.
The leaf chunk turned my poor pot’s pour into a painfully slow forty second affair. I cleaned the spout out as I pondered the option. I wasn’t about to dump it out, as there’s only samples available so I’m working off a mere ounce. I could dilute it with water, but that seemed… unkind to a tea of such cleanliness and beauty.
So I did what any good pu-head would do, and drank it.
The feeling in the mouth was of a thick soup. followed by the exact feeling of when my Italian grandmother used to pinch my cheeks as a young boy, but from the inside. The bitterness was very strong, but somehow still lovely. Then it hit my head like I’d been in one of those nature videos showing bighorn rams fighting it out during mating season.
Perhaps, indeed, this had been a bit more potent than I should have gone with.
I dank several more infusions, of a more moderate nature, but I cannot be trusted as a reliable observer as I spent the next little while reeling from the knockout blow of that second steep. I seem to recall thoroughly enjoying them, and am pleased to report I woke up the next morning in my own bed, with all my possessions and clothes accounted for.
In the name of science, I brewed the leaves again (they were on around 10-12 steeps now) three or four times with a clear head to see if I could make sense of the later steeps. I found them thoroughly unpleasant, with nothing remaining that would lead me to believe it even could be the same tea.
Either these are leaves that do not sit well (and I firmly believe some do and some do not, at this age range) or in my stupor from that overwhelming second steep I overlooked a great many flaws.
I’ll have to try it again to be sure – but at least I know how make the session memorable if it really isn’t doing it for me.
Just hold onto my cars keys, please.
This tea is big, and burly, and it does not mess around. It penetrated deep into my gut, and left a flavor behind that lasted for minutes. The dry leaf had a very distinct aroma of cocoa and coffee; the flavor changed intriguingly throughout the session as notes of cocoa, wood, nuts, sweetness, and grain came to the forefront, subsumed, and recombined into many varying combinations. The tea was incredibly thick, both in the mouthfeel and all the way down, leading to a feeling of fullness I haven’t really experienced from a tea before. Jethro Tull would liken it unto a brick, methinks.
I actually took two mid-session breaks with this tea, because I was satiated, and wished no more. Not because I wasn’t enjoying it thoroughly, but it reached a point if I drank too quickly where by body was thoroughly suffused with tea. This tea was definitely a stout, to use a beer analogy, as it was thick, rich, and not a chugging candidate, but very complex and satisfying to my palate. I think it stood up well to any aged oolong I’ve experienced. While not quite matching the initial taste grandeur of BTTC’s 1998 SLX, it was better in pretty much every other category, excepting price. In particular, the flavor post-swallow would burst forth, like a phoenix, and delight the senses with a final hurrah during the middle steeps. All in all, a wonderful experience shared with some wonderful folks via a series of tubes.
This tea, being a factory production, does not walk in beauty.
It does not go gentle into the good night.
Its flavor was perfectly adequate. Enjoyable, even. No hint of questionable storage of either the excessively damp nor murderously arid varieties. Good color, good nose, good aftertaste, acceptable huigan.
What really stood out for this tea, which is regrettably unavailable I believe, was the feeling. If I were to make totally unfounded suppositions (and when, really, do I not?), I would say that it made me feel like a beloved pet in the lap of its master, being stroked and fed treats. The sort of contentment that essentially no longer exists upon reaching adulthood, in which you feel all is right with the universe.
So would I recommend it, were such a recommendation even actionable? Of course not! I can’t even be sure I’ll get the same feelings from a second session with the same tea, much less anyone else.
But I’d recommend you give it a go, if you get a chance. Any chance to feel that pleased is well worth one’s time.