I spent the entire afternoon today in the Best Tea House again. This time I had the whole day free to do tasting. So after lunching, I went up to where the store is and sat down to do some tasting.
Here’s our host, Tiffany
The first thing we had was actually the 1997 sample of Xizhihao I brought over. It was, once again, a comparison test thing. She likes it, but was trying to sell me something else which she deems as better. That cake is this one:
Of which there are many tongs in the store
And the list price for one piece of this is close to $300 USD. Not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. It was one of the first generation of high quality cakes produced by Taiwanese merchants. It was made in 1996, and called the Zhenchunya hao. Taiwan is already pretty much sold out on this thing, and so the Best Tea House has the market basically cornered.
The cake is a more subdued tea. Compared to the 1997 Xizhihao, which is rather spicy in taste and has a strong menthol flavour, the Zhenchunya hao is more mellow and restrained. It is a bit creamy/milky in flavour and smell, with a bitter edge. It doesn’t, however, have that menthol sort of taste that is rather common, it seems, in Xizhihao cake. I do not know if it is the aging or if it is the tea, as menthol tastes do tend to disappear over time.
After this, which took about two hours, we went on to something else (and another tea buyer joined in, a gentlemen called Ben). Our skilled host brewed two teas at the same time like this
Bet you can’t do that.
On the left (our left) is tea from a 2005 tuo. It’s a 500g tuo, selling for 25 USD (yeah, that’s a lot of tea for not a lot of money, which Tiffany tried to push on me), made by the Fengqing tea factory. The liquor is slightly cloudy, with a very sweet, mellow taste, almost green tea like. I don’t like it, and I doubt I’ll buy something like this.
The one on the right, which was brewed simultaneously, is this:
Sorry for the unclear picture. It is a cake from 1997 as well, also from the Fengqing factory. This one brewed a stronger liquor, but the OVERWHELMING TASTE was cigarette. It smelled like cigarette, and tasted like cigarette. The smoke flavour was so strong, it overpowered everything else. However, smoke generally do go away after a while — sometimes after a long while. There are hints of camphor and wood and other things in there, even a hint of sweetness, but the initial, overwhelming taste of cigarette is quite jarring. I might buy one of these for experiment/education purposes. I don’t think it is bad. I think it is just not ready. Price? $60 USD.
By then, it was 5:15, and we were all pretty tea drunk (the three of us). Then, to top it off, I had to taste test for lesseps the loose sheng that they sell. Apparently, they mix a little shou in there, but still, the taste is mostly that of aged sheng, spicy, mellow, the usual mix, and going after 6-7 infusions. Not quite the same as my loose sheng that is aged, but similar enough, I suppose, for the purpose. (tell me if you don’t want it after this description)
I was going to try a dancong and other things too, but by then, it was too late, and I was too caffeinated. My stomach was also hungry after the aged sheng (aged puerh ALWAYS makes me hungry) so I was off.
But before I finish — just a few more pics of the place and the things they sell, this is only one part of the store.
Two display cases
And finally: the Red Label, selling for a grand total of $5000 USD.
Next visit is scheduled for Monday 🙂 and Sunday I will probably go to another tea shop. So many places, so little time!