I went over to the Mandarin’s lair a few days ago to drink tea with him while I was spending some time in The City. It was a welcomed break from the stuff I was doing there. He’s got himself a nice tea room, with a lot of ware lying around. My tea room is decidedly more pedestrian and filled with all kinds of crap, which really should be cleaned out… but more on that later.
We started the session simply, with a Fengqing “high altitude” brick from the Best Tea House. The tea, from what I remembered when I tried it at the store, was strong, and this one, though mellowed a bit, still tastes of that strength. It’s probably going to be a pretty good tea given some years of aging, but right now is probably still too harsh for any sort of normal drinking, but of course, if you’re into that sort of thing, it’s a nice one.
We quickly moved on though, this time to a shuixian. As shuixians go, this one has a nice kick. We made it in a small “five shape” set pot which was perfectly sized for two person’s drinking. But that wasn’t the real highlight of the day either.
Having thus been prepared properly, we opened up the new bag of bug dropping tea that I bought in Hong Kong. This is the stuff that bugs leave behind when they are done eating the leaves of cakes, and the owner of the storage facility usually sweep these together when they open up the cakes (to break them into pieces for sale) and sell them separately. These are believed to have some medicinal value and aren’t all that cheap when considering the volume. They look more or less like sesame (Photos courtesy of Toki)
This is the way that I was taught to brew these things by the owner of the store — put them in a filter, add water, and drink. It’s quite simple. You can see the little pieces of bug droppings. Here’s a picture of the stuff, post water
And when they’re ready to drink
You can see it’s pitch black, but it’s clear (not cloudy). It’s also very thick — the consistency is almost syrupy, much thicker than normal tea. Actual consistency, of course, depends on how much you add…
The taste is actually quite fresh, in the sense that it doesn’t have a lot of random flavours. It has one clear, consistent taste of the storage that the store has — a “chen” taste, for lack of a better word. There’s a slight cooling sensation, and after a few cups, I was feeling pretty high.
These don’t last too long — four or five infusions and it’s rather spent. We then moved on to an aged cake that Toki owns, but which also has a bunch of bug dropping all over it — only this time it’s still on or around the cake/wrapper. We tried to collect some of them, and added a bit of leaves to it, and the taste is decidedly different — of course, having the leaves will change the way it tastes. Yum
Toki was still feeling pretty strong, and went on to drink most of a roasted oolong, chaozhou style. I had a little bit of it, but since I was feeling sick from the long plane ride, did not participate much. It’s obvious I’m losing my ability to absorb large amounts of tea….
Sorry for the long delays between posts these days, but I am hoping to start blogging a little more again in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.