Drinking tea with ZH

It’s my birthday today, which is part of the reason I invited ZH over for tea. Of course, I would’ve invited him over anyway. I like other tea nuts.

We didn’t waste too much time and got down to business. First up was my Yiwu maocha that I got almost two months ago. I thought I would ask his opinion on the tea.

The tea, I have to say, changed a bit since it was picked. Now, the bitterness is coming through a little stronger. It’s a little more bitter, the colour’s a little darker, and the overall profile has changed slightly. I remember it was sweet, fragrant, and all that. It’s still mostly that, but turned slightly more like a regular puerh. The Yiwu taste is very obvious, and ZH agreed with me on that. He also noticed some sort of numbing bitterness in infusion 3 or so, but only slightly and not very obvious. By infusion 4-5, the bitterness went away and turned into a smoother, rounder, tea.

We were puzzling over the tea’s origins, because while it tastes largely like a Yiwu, it doesn’t taste exactly like a Yiwu old tree tea, because of the current presence of the bitter element (a little much for a Yiwu — very low standards). He also thought the colour of the maocha is a little dark, and some of the leaves didn’t look like old big tree. I suggested perhaps it’s partly plantation tea mixed it… which could be the case (or just teas that are plucked from trees in the same area but of younger age — after all, you have to have young trees in a forest!). The mystery remains.

The next tea we tried was a free sample given to me by Hou De. It’s the Xizihao 2006 Taiji series Lao Banzhang. The one I got is the Yang. I broke some of the tea, and brewed it up. I have to say that having just had the Lao Banzhang maocha from ZH two days ago…. the Xizihao pales in comparison. It’s not nearly as good, and doesn’t have that requisite profile that only Lao Banzhang has. The taste is mixed, and ZH thinks that some of the tea is from other areas in the Bulang mountain. Sigh. I will try it again, next time with more leaves.

Then after debating over what to serve next, I decided to use the remaining bits of the 95 Zhenchunya Hao that YP gave me. There’s not a lot left…. only enough for basically half a brew, so I filled the gaiwan halfway up with water to brew the tea, resulting in two small cups each infusion. Still the same as last time…. a very odd flavour for puerh, and now that I’ve had a whole bunch of older Yiwu recently, I have to say this one does NOT taste like a typical aged Yiwu. There’s a bit of that older taste, but a more prominent trait of this tea is that it is a little fruity with a bit of a plum note. Last time when I had this with BBB, I didn’t think much of it, but now… I am starting to think that this might be a tea that went through pre-fermentation before the pressing, during the processing stage of the leaves, and thus the tea is not strictly speaking puerh, or not pure puerh. What I am tasting here is a mix of older puerh taste, and more importantly, of older oolong taste.

Of course — a big caveat — this is all speculation on my part. However, having had that oddly fruity and sweet aged red tea a few days ago… I feel like I have connected two dots. This will explain where the fruitiness of the Zhenchunya Hao is coming from (which, by the way, I don’t really detect in the version on sale at the Best Tea House now — they are different batches). Older oolongs do have a note that tastes somewhat similar to what I had. That, and an old puerh shouldn’t be so light in flavour and aroma. The typical Yiwu aged taste (detectable now in the Yangqing Hao 2004, and the Jingye Hao 2001, for example) is just not really there. This is not to say this is bad tea — far from it, it’s very interesting, if a little odd, and the tea is very pleasant to drink. It’s just a different kind of taste, and if you buy something like this, thinking it will turn into your typical Yiwu (for example — not that this is available for sale) you will be surprised, but probably not nastily surprised.

The leaves look nice:

I saved the best for the last, but this also made sense in terms of age progression. We had the Zhongcha Traditional Character that was given to me by YP. ZH sat up when he too the first sip, realizing that this is good tea. The tea, as I’ve said last time I brewed it, looks awful. If you just look at it, you’d think it’s a cooked cake. It looks like one, it smells like one, but it does not taste like a cooked cake, or at least not entirely. It’s a raw/cooked mix, at least that’s what YP told me, and I think you can tell that the cake was mixed because during the infusions some obvious “cooked tea” notes come through. Yet, there’s an unmistakable presence of aged raw puerh in the cake. There are more plum notes this time, and a very soothing mouthfeel — round, moisturizing, sweet, huigan… it’s all there. The throat feels cool after drinking, and stays cool. A beautiful tea, and I’m really, really glad that YP gave these pieces to me. I still have enough of the sample left to brew it one more time. I’ll have to save it for some other occasion.

I decided to take some pictures of the wet leaves of the Zhongcha

Closeup

Even closer

This leaf is a little odd — the lone leaf that unfurled easily and that is particularly light compared with everything else

A nice meeting over tea, and I’m sure we’ll be meeting over tea again. It’s obvious that he is not nearly as expereinced as, say, some HK tea people, but he makes up for it by his enthusiaism. If I can go to Yunnan with him next year, that’ll be nice.


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