Thursday September 28, 2006

I went to Maliandao again today. It’s tough being in Beijing by yourself — it’s a bit boring, and my entertainment so far has been tea shopping, hahaha.

I went to quite a few places on today’s trip. The first stop was the Beijing Puerh Tea Capital (Beijing Puer Chadu). I walked around twice, stopped by two stores. The first one sells cakes from a factory I’ve never ever heard of. I tried one of their cakes — a Yiwu Zhengshan cake. Supposedly from arbour trees. It was ok, not great, not too bad. I ended up getting a free sample of the thing so I can try this out at home for real.

Then I hit another store that sells only Mengku Rongshi stuff. I looked around, and tried out the Mengku 2002 cake that won some gold award, and is generally considered decent. The cake is, indeed, decent, and immediately tastes better than the Yiwu Zhengshan, but of course that’s not fair to compare, because the Yiwu is 3 years younger. Even then, however, I think the nice feeling you get from drinking puerh is stronger with this Mengku cake. The girl, however, wasn’t willing to budge much for the price, so I just walked.

And good thing too… I decided to explore the Chayuan Chacheng at the end of Maliandao a little more. One of the first stores I saw was a Mengku Rongshi store — in fact, one that is setup by the factory itself. They also had this cake, and the initial quote was already lower than what that girl claimed was their “baseline price” (which, we all know, is not really the baseline). I didn’t buy any, but I might go back and try it again, maybe with BBB in tow. There’s also an early Mengku Rongshi brick that is supposedly decent.

I walked around a little more, and settled into a puerh store that sells stuff from another totally unknown factory. There are zillions of these and you just can’t get to know them all. I tried 3-4 cakes there, all mediocre stuff. Nothing really struck me as good, but the owner is very nice (he’s the boss of the factory) and we talked alot about the puerh market, things that are happening, etc, and he was pretty honest about some of the cakes I was trying, like when he says one cake “well, this cake has a flaw — the shaqing temperature was too high”. I think I put my knowledge just acquired recently to good use and impressed him with what I knew (or pretend to know, anyway), so he didn’t feel like lying to me. Always a good thing, because otherwise these people think they can lie to you and get away with it.

But anyway, I ended up buying two cakes from him which, incidentally, is not really his stuff. Both are samples or what not he got from other people, and I bought them for basically what is a friendship price — I didn’t bother to bargain because I felt what he told me in knowledge was worth something too, and it’s always good to have a sort of person you can trust a bit. I might go back there, not so much for the tea, but for the company.

This is cake number 1

And cake number 2

This is one of those “three no” cakes, with no warpper, no neifei, and no big ticket. I have no idea what they might actually be. Guess which one is the more expensive cake? Which one do you think it’s better? Place your bets now. I will be tasting them soon. Maybe BBB can be guest judge. These are more education pieces, but I think both are probably better than the cake I bought the other day.

Then, after sitting there for almost two hours just chatting and drinking insipid puerh from his factory, I walked out again with these two cakes. He also gave me some loose tea, some weird looking maocha, basically. Might be worth a try.

Then I walked into my final stop of the day, a Wuyi tea store. These people also make their own, apparently, with the store owner’s mom being the tea master (she’s in Fujian). This is their Beijing outlet. I tried four of their teas in a very short time — the girl was brewing nonstop. Part of the reason was because 3 regulars were also there, drinking tea and just chatting about tea. I was, again, learning and just sitting there mostly listening. I’ve learned far more sitting in teashops and listening to older tea addicts talk about tea than I have ever done either reading books or taking tea classes (well, I only ever took one, decided it’s enough to know the basics). Didn’t buy anything, but I might in the near future to get some stuff to compare with what I got from Lao He. I got the feeling that these people have better tea.

So now I am rather buzzed with caffeine, and I felt today was a good day at Maliandao — genuinely made some contacts/friends. I also discovered for sure that prices at the Tea city at the end of the street seem cheaper than up closer to the Carrefour…


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