I went back today to the Tsim Sha Tsui branch of the Best Tea House. When this was closed, it was a trek to go all the way out to their main store, so I didn’t go very often, but now… it’s much easier.
A younger tea drinker, B, was there, and they were just about to brew a 1975 old tree tea. The cake itself looks somewhat unappetizing:
Yes, that’s white stuff on the tea. It’s been pretty wet stored (or just pretty poorly stored). You can smell it.
The tea brews a dark brown/black liquor. The first two infusion has a “wet store” taste to it, quite prominent, and somewhat unpleasant. However, it does clear up, as they usually do, after a few, and the resulting brew is still pretty reasonable, and nice to drink. I think wet storage really gets a lot of bad rep, but when it comes down to it, I think I might prefer this cake to the 88 qingbing, which was just a bit bland and flat. Of course, it’s got another 10-15 years extra aging, but still…. in terms of prices they are very close to each other.
The wet leaves:
Then some Japanese customers came in and they tried some tea, and bought a bit. After that, I pulled out my Mengku 2002 cake for them to taste. They all liked it — thought it was pretty decent and tasty, especially given the price. I told them that the Beijingers don’t really like this when I brew it for them, and they were surprised. I think the Hong Kong palette and the Beijing one are so substantially different. They look for different things, different tastes, different feels, and I’m not sure which one’s the right one. The Hong Kong one places heavy emphasis on how a tea feels — whether it’s soft, round, smooth or not. The Beijing one, although also taking these into consideration, is very particular about whether or not a tea is clean — something that Hong Kongers rarely consider. When they say clean, they mean whether or not there are traces of wet storage, and if there is, they generally don’t like it, even if it’s just a hint. I personally think that’s great, as it means that I can usually say “this cake was wet stored” and try to get a discount on the tea in question in Beijing. Can’t do it here.
We also tried the water experiment with this tea… and the tea tasted softer with more mineral water involved. Mark this down in the “mineral” column.
In the middle of this, two guys walked in, one being a famous calligrapher/painter and the other his friend (and host, I think) in Hong Kong. They sat down and tried some tea, and the calligrapher got very happy and wrote some words for Tiffany & Co. After they left, we drank a few more cups, and I took my leave.
On my way back to home, waiting for the Star Ferry, I am reminded of how nice it is to spend Christmas in Hong Kong
It’s good to be home.