I went back to this sample – what’s left of it – today.
One thing about these teas is that they are stemmy — lots of stems
Stems are not a bad thing. In fact, some see it as an important part of a cake that will age well. Obviously Mr. Chen agrees.
It brews bright yellow
The tea is smooth (as young raw pureh goes), sweet, classic Yiwu taste, clean, deep, strong qi… the only thing I had a problem with was that it dropped off significantly after about 7. There was a steep drop off into another step — something much milder and sweeter, and it is on that plane that it remains. It still brews infusions after that, just… it’s a bit of a jarring turn.
One thing I’ve noticed about this after brewing it is that the leaves don’t unfurl on their own. Now, there are people out there who will claim that leaves that don’t unfurl is a sign of a bad tea, but I think that really only applies to aged stuff or highly roasted stuff. Here, the leaves are sticking onto each other (or themselves — rolled) and don’t unfurl despite long brew times. You need to peel them open. Is this good, or is this bad?
There’s a recent post on tea4u, a Taiwanese forum, that sums up all these debates – basically, the simple answer is “nobody really knows”. Everybody agreed that “it’s better to spend more on a good tea than to pay less for a crap tea”. Ok, that’s easy. The next question is — what’s a good tea?
That’s where everybody starts getting stumped. Keep in mind these are collectors, dealers, that sort of thing. People who are hardly unknowledgable about tea. People who are widely read, have drank lots, etc… and most couldn’t come up with a straight answer. When somebody proposes something, someone else will challenge it. My conclusion from all this is that — there is no concensus, and if you talk to 100 “experts”, you’ll get 100 different answers. The simple way of explaining this? Nobody really knows.
So we’re basically all guessing, and none of these newer cakes really have had enough time to mature into something truly aged yet. We’ve been doing this for, what, 10 years, since the mid 90s? All the new experiments are just now entering the second decade… whether somebody’s right or not will take considerably longer to figure out.
I guess one way to ensure you have a nice cake for the future is to hedge your bets — buy different styles of stuff, preferably from different kinds of people who believe in different kinds of aging formula. Or… just not worry too much and go with the flow, drink what you feel makes you happy. I’m somehow more comfortable with that approach, but just in case, I’m also practicing a bit of the first as well to hedge my own bets 🙂