I, along with a number of other people, have gotten samples from Hou De for the new Yiwu teas they are offering, specifically the Chenguanghe Tang 2006 Fall Yiwus. There are two of them, one called the Yecha, or wild tea, and the other a supposed Chawang, or literally tea king. The Chawang is almost double the price of the Yecha. Since I’ve been drinking a lot of Yiwus these days, I thought I would give them a try.
The samples I got are both close to the center of the cake. Here’s a comparison shot of the dry leaves. The left is the Yecha, and the right is the Chawang:
The only noticeable difference between the two, in terms of their dry appearance, is that the Chawang has more whitish haired leaves, while the Yecha is darker. Other than that though, they don’t look all that different. Both smelled a bit of smoke when dried, certainly foreshadowing a taste of things to come.
I tried the Yecha yesterday with D. It was the first tea we had of the day, so my tongue was not adulterated by other things. I used a generous amount of leaves
Which brewed a decent coloured tea. I think this is the second or perhaps third infusion.
The overwhelming taste, at first anyway, is smoke. It was smokey. In fact, I would say that the first two infusions there was little else going on other than the smoke. Then in the third infusion, the smoke started receding a little, and a little more of the tea came out. However, I generally found this tea to be somewhat on the weak side, without much that appealed to me immediately. Chaqi was not particularly evident, nor was there a strong huigan. There was a bit of it, but it wasn’t lasting. The body of the tea was a bit thin. D didn’t particularly like it either.
The wet leaves… look a little old and thin. I can’t say I was particularly impressed by this tea.
Now, on to the Yiwu Chawang.
I put a very generous amount of tea in the gaiwan. The liquor from this tea is a bit darker than that of the Yecha.
It is also smokey, which is a little unfortunate. I would hope that the tea wouldn’t be so smokey, but it is. It does detract from being able to evaluate it on its own merit, but I suppose smoke is part of the tea now.
The tea is obviously stronger than the Yecha. Not only is the colour of the liquor darker, it is also generally stronger, with a more obvious huigan, and some chaqi. The tea, however, is quite bitter. It’s a little uncharacteristically bitter for a Yiwu, quite unlike a lot of the other ones I’ve had, many of which I personally think are very good teas. I’m not quite sure why that is the case, and I don’t think the fact that this tea is supposedly from Guafeng Zhai has much to do with that. A comparison with, say, the 2004 Yangqing Hao Yiwu would make the difference very apparent. I haven’t tried much of the recent Yiwu offerings from Hou De or any other US vendors recently, so I can’t really comment on anything else.
The Chawang lasted many infusions (I gave up on the Yecha before the tea gave up on me). That in itself is quite nice. I think this is a tea with some good aging prospects, but again… it doesn’t have the familiar Yiwu taste that I’ve come to know as the signature taste of the tea of that mountain.
The spent leaves of the cake show that they were a bit broken. Some is due to the fact that I used some of the shavings in my brewing, but others… I’m not sure what happened. I tried my best to squiggle the teas out of their position so as not to destroy the leaves, but somehow still ended up with a lot of broken bits.
Most of the leaves looked like this
Of the leaves that I could find (there were lots of stems) they were very heavily rolled, which I suppose could’ve contributed to the fact that I couldn’t find many complete leaves. I have also read that heavy rolling contributes to a bitter taste.
In my sample I could only find these leaves…
And this, which was paper thin…. there were another one or two that were also on the very thin side.
It is obvious that the Chawang is better as a tea. I’d even say it’s 2x better than the Yecha. On the other hand…. I’m not entirely sure if there aren’t better teas out there for that price, even in the US market. I know I am prejudiced given my access to teas in a much cheaper market, but even when compared with other teas available in the US market, whether this is good value or not is up to debate. I wonder what everybody else thinks.