I drank one and half teas today, bad me.
The first one was at a teahouse. I went to Liulichang today to buy a book for my girlfriend, and on my way back, I stopped by the Lao She Teahouse because it was sort of on the way, and because they sell a puerh called “Chen Yuan Hao”. Chen Yuan Hao is much like Yang Qing Hao and Xi Zi Hao from Taiwan — all of them are made by Tainan tea merchants who go to Yunnan and collect maocha and press their cakes under their own labels. Lao She Teahouse, somehow, sells Chen Yuan Hao, as I discovered on their website yesterday, so I went.
It was a nicely decorated place, and most of their guests are probably tourists of one kind or another — lots of foreigners, I’d imagine. There are some puerh on sale there, but not a lot. They mostly do oolongs and green teas, and that’s not really a surprise. I asked if I could taste the Chen Yuan Hao, and with a little hesitation, they were ok with it. I think most of the time their guests don’t ask for tastings, and even if they did, it would only be your run of the mill oolongs or greens. In fact, the store people told me that none of them have ever had the Chen Yuan Hao there.
There were actually four types of CYH there. The one I had was from 2002, a Yiwu. They also had a Yiwu from another year, a Mengsa, and I think a Nannuo (can’t remember for sure now). Some of the cakes looked a bit odd in terms of their setup and also the compression. It was obviously stone mould, but a few cakes the depression on the back was so deep that there was literally only one layer of tea leaves in the center — and you can see through the tea to the other side of the cake!
Anyway, so I sat down and they put the shavings of the cake into a gaiwan and brewed. The tea is a little light for a 4 year old cake, although I think they could’ve put in a bit more leaves. Like a typical Yiwu — mild, soft, full bodied, decent cha qi, but not very impressive when you just drink it. I detect a hint of fruitiness, and I think give it another 5-10 years, it will develop the same sort of plum taste that the Zhenchunya Hao I had a few days ago. It was fresh on my mind, so I was able to make the connection. Maybe this is what pure Yiwu tastes like when aged? Fruity?
There was one problem with the tea — after a few infusions I started feeling very thirsty. The tea soaked up all the moisture from my mouth and throat. I’ve read that it could be because the environment in which it is stored is too dry, and thus it does this to you. I’m not sure. The price was something like $70 USD. I didn’t buy it. Not THAT good. This is definitely something I’ll seek out though when I go to Taiwan next year.
I came home afterwards, feeling a little tired. I have been itching for a whole day now to drink the new cakes I bought, so I broke out the 2002 Mengku bing and decided to brew that.
Just a reminder:
I took a corner, carefully peeling off the leaves (and also took the shavings). The tea has an odd aroma when dried. I can’t really describe what it is. The same aroma exists in brewed form and is an important part of the taste profile.
The tea, when brewed, is a bit bitter. I think my tastebuds are now quite numb to bitterness, but for the uninitiated, I think this tea will taste quite bitter. There’s something of a metallic taste to it, and now that I think about it, it reminds me a little of the 7542 Shui Lan Yin from HouDe in the way it tastes. Not quite the same, but there are a few notes that ring a bell.
This is the first infusion
I think this is the second infusion leaves
And a pair of later — around 10 infusion — leaves and liquor
The colour really didn’t diminish, and the tea was quite resilient.
One thing I really like about it is that the mouthfeel is GREAT. The water tastes round, soft, moisturizing, and goes down very smoothly. Interestingly, especially in comparison with the CYH, it does not make my mouth dry. There’s a bit of salivation, and a bit of huigan. The sensation in the throat is not prominent — only a bit here and there. That’s perhaps a flaw of this tea. The aromas …. are hard to describe. I’m a bit loss for words. The smell under the lid is a consistent Chinese medicine smell, while the tea itself is perhaps what can be described as woody? I’m not sure. I have a feeling this is a tea that will turn to the “medicine aroma” type of puerh in the longer run. Worse comes to worse, I can drink this now and be fairly happy with it, although I really hope it’ll turn into something greater over time.
I had a bit of doubt as to whether this is really a 4 year old, because I know the 2004 also has the same wrapper and neifei, but looking at the tea again, and especially in the brewed leaves and the liquor, I think it is quite plausible for it to be 4 years old.