A long entry today…. be warned.
As promised, I decided to taste two teas today using my new supplies. The two cakes are:
Both Yiwu fall production tea. The one on the left, funny enough, is the one that BBB tried to buy but had problems with. The one on the right is the one I got from the Yiwu girl, and unfortunately, I think it’s not on the market at all.
The front of the cake on the left (let’s call it the L cake) is in yesterday’s post. This is a shot of the back
And the R cake’s back — you’ve seen this before long time ago when I first tried this.
Lacking a scale, I tried to eyeball it
I brewed them with basically the same parameters — pouring water in one first, then the other, and then pouring them out in the same order. There are, of course, tiny variations, but that’s about the best you can do. The dry leaves of the L cake smell a little smokey. The R cake is more fragrant and lacking any smoke — mostly just floral notes.
This is what turned out first
The one on the right is a little darker, as you can see. It would remain darker for the rest of the brewings. At first, it’s probably because it ended up that a little more leaves were on the R cup than the L cup. I took some leaves out of the R cup after two or three infusions, but the colour differential (which isn’t going to be noticeable if I brewed them separately) remained. I think it can be partly explained by the slightly smaller and more broken leaves in the R sample — the cake is more compressed, so when I took pieces out the tea was a little more broken.
L tastes a little smokey at first. The smoke would stay for about 7-8 infusions, under the 30/60/perpetual 30 rule (although later on I just brewed however long I wanted). It’s less sweet. The huigan is less obvious. R tastes more intense, the tea is probably a little stronger, with a sweeter taste and a much more obvious huigan. There was cooling in the throat, although since that is often a delayed reaction, I’m not sure which one was responsible.
In some ways, R is more immediately appealing, although I wonder if L might be longer lasting, and will taste just as good in the long run. It’s almost flavourless, in a way. The undertones are quite similar, both having that Yiwu taste, with R, again, being more up front about it. They are from different villages, so that might also account for some of the minor differences in taste. L is slightly more bitter. R is a little less, and the sweetness comes on almost immediately. Both are hardly bitter by normal standards.
A little later:
And even later (this one looks darker than the last because I left the water in for quite a while):
The last picture is probably around infusion 15. Both still tastes like tea, although getting rather weak. I gave up and decided to take pics of the wet leaves.
L has more sticks, R has more leaves. This might also explain why L was more bitter than R, and R tasted a little more intense. R’s leaves also contained more buds, whereas L is mostly big leaves. Could this also have an effect on taste? It seems like it might. Maybe R is a mix of spring and fall leaves, instead of pure fall leaves. There are just a little too many small buds for it to be a creditable fall only cake, I think…
Some exemplary leaves — again comparing L and R:
All in all, a pretty interesting experiment. I think at least in terms of rebrewability, they are about equal. In terms of strength, intensity of flavour, and that kind of thing, R comes out a bit ahead of L. I think some of the answers might be supplied by the sort of leaves present in the sample. That, and the tiny regional variation, as well as whatever other factors (processing, etc).
Was it useful to have done this? I think so. Was it a little tough on the body? Yes. At one point, I was sweating a lot (this was after 3-4 cups). Even with the tiny gaiwan, I’m still drinking a lot of tea, and big tree tea is going to be strong.
I sort of want to get more of both, and see how they taste say 5 years down the line. It will be very valuable to have that sort of comparative experience to know exactly what sort of thing will age well. Unfortunately, it might be difficult to get my hands on more of either of them. This is intensely frustrating.
It’s sort of stiffening my resolve a bit to go to Yunnan next spring to find my own tea.
Meanwhile… I stuffed the leaves (almost all of them) back into a single gaiwan and trying to get more cups out of them. Shouldn’t let good tea go to waste. 🙂
Edit: I’m drinking some water right now, and somehow…. when I was breathing with the cup in “drinking” position, I could sort of smell the Yiwu….. ahhhhggg, I think it’s withdrawal.