Monday October 30, 2006

I went back to Maliandao today. A big part of what I wanted to get yesterday, but didn’t get time to shop for, was Wuyi teas. I thought I could bring them to my sister as a gift when I go to Paris next week.

So I went back to the Wuyi tea store that I liked, and where I bought a few things before, especially with BBB. The owner of the factory was there. She’s the mother of the person in charge of the store in Beijing, and is usually in Wuyishan overseeing production at the factory (which, from what I can gather, is more like a small workshop than a real factory).

I started out asking for that Wuyi tea that I tried with BBB again. It was a tea with extremely good cha qi. I remembered it basically making me go “wow…”. It was there again, and I tried it again. I want to get some of it, despite it’s very high price.

Then we went on to a higher fired Dahongpao. Tastes quite nice. Exquisite, and there’s a touch of softness to the brasher fired taste in the tea. Hmmm, I want this too.

Then, as we were drinking this, three middle aged women of leisure walked in (no, I mean they are married to people who pay their bills, or something like that — what Cantonese call SeeLai). They sat down, obviously one of them knowing the owner pretty well, and started asking for teas. I just sat there, and drank along.

We tasted no less than…. 4? 5? Teas. The first was a Zhengshan Xiaozhong, better known as Lapsang Souchong. First infusion — smokiness as usual, and expected. Then…. wow. I’m floored. This is really good. The tea is nice and smooth, and incredibly sweet. I’ve never had a red tea (Chinese call black tea red tea, indulge me) that tastes like this. It’s not astringent at all. There’s no hint of that nasty rough tannin taste. It leaves your mouth feeling moisturized, full, etc etc…. very nice.

And it’s dirt cheap!

Then…. we had a tieluohan, a shuixian, a rougui, a huangqi…. then it was time for the ladies to get their goods. They were about to go, but then decided to stay around a little longer. Then some other lady walked in. I was, by then, quite filled up with tea (having sat there for 3 hours). I got a bit of the two dahongpaos that I started with, and a bunch of the Lapsang Souchong to bring with me to Paris. Yum. I can drink this Lapsang Souchong all day. Usually I don’t like that tea, but this one….is quite special.

Then I walked literally next door to the Mengku place. No, the Yuanyexiang really is not there anymore. They looked. I wanted to also try some of their younger stuff, so the guy there brewed up first the organic cake for me from this year. It’s…. not great. I don’t know why i didn’t like it, mostly, I think, because the mouthfeel is not good. The tea leaves a very drying and very rough taste on the tongue. I feel like I’ve been scrubbed with sandpaper on the tongue…. it’s so drying. Not very pleasant.

Then I had the Mushu Cha, literally “Mother Tree Tea”, also from this year. It’s cheaper than the organic cake, and it’s better, IMO. Smoother mouthfeel, and a bit better tasting. I was thinking about buying a few of these. Then again, I have more than enough tea.

I was feeling the ill effects of having too much tea, and the young puerh tipped me over into feeling a bit ill, so I was sitting there, just chatting with the store guy about random topics, when this man walked in. He’s apparently one of the Mengku dealers on Maliandao, probably coming over to get some goods.

Apparently, the way they have to operate now is rather difficult. Since Mengku has a factory store on Maliandao, anything that the factory store sells is going to be mostly cheaper than any other store selling Mengku stuff, because, well, the factory store has a lower cost. So, the dealers are all stocking up on this year’s tea, while they’re all selling stuff from last year — what the factory store is no longer selling. This is the only way for them to survive, not a pretty picture. So, Mengku is thinking about closing down the factory store’s presence on Maliandao, and instead make it a real wholesale division somewhere else in the city (or just rent an office space somewhere with a warehouse in Maliandao). This will ease the problem of the dealers there trying to sell tea. Makes sense, although sucks for consumers. Then again, they need people to take the large orders from them, since, at the end of the day, factories can’t do retail all by themselves.

While he was there though, he dug up a brick from Mengku that isn’t available yet, but of which there’s a sample, and he took pieces of it and said this is something he wants to get. We brewed up a bit of it… and it’s quite good! Decent mouthfeel, etc, but it’s 1kg per brick, and it’s… not for sale, yet. I guess I will watch this one when it comes out, and maybe get one (1kg is a lot of tea) if the price is right.

Anyway, more tea than I could handle today, and yet, still haven’t tasted a lot of the stuff I want to try. Maliandao is a curse as well as a blessing. There were at least 3 stores I wanted to visit that I didn’t get around to. Oh well.


Comments

Monday October 30, 2006 — 4 Comments

  1. Haha. I like your description of the see-lai. What do you call independently wealthy women in Cantonese?
    Back on the tea, though, I’m glad you taught me the Mandarin translation of Lapsang Souchong — although I like how LSSC rolls off the tongue. I’m going to have a cup of bad LSSC now, since I do’t live near Maliandao… 😛

  2. As much as I want to be sympathetic to your plight, drinking many teas for hours sounds amazing. I think you have single-handedly made me interested in Wuyi Oolongs. So far I’ve only had Rougui from Jing Tea Shop and it was pretty interesting. Now I need to try other varieties.

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