Saturday, June 23, 2007

2007 Spring Organic Baozhong by Mr. Wang Yiu-Li

Class: Oolong
Origin: Pin-Lin, Taipei, Taiwan
Year: 2007
Vendor: Hou De Fine Tea
Price: $17.50 (2 oz) / $29.75 (4 oz)
Verdict: 7.5/10

I had originally planned on doing a side-by-side comparison of this baozhong and the 1980's aged baozhong I wrote about in my previous post, but I soon discovered that these two teas share virtually nothing in common. This is not to say that one was good and one was bad, just that the time and roastings resulted in a remarkable change.

Guang shares a nice story about the farmer, Mr. Wang Yiu-Li, and I highly recommend reading it. I have to say, I was quite impressed by the first two infusions, though the flavor did drop off pretty rapidly after that. Guang writes that he only got 4 good infusions, and I had a similar experience. It *might* be possible to get a good 5th brew, but I doubt it.

Dry LeafDry Leaf:

Long, twisted, emerald green leaves. Not entirely aromatic, but enough to remind me of springtime and freshly-cut grass. It seems that this tea is focused more on flavor than aroma, which is an oddity among Taiwanese oolongs, from what I have heard.


4.5g leaf; 90-100mL preheated zisha gaiwan; 190°F freshly drawn tap water; 15s, 20s, 30s, 35s, 45s

First InfusionLiquor:

The first two infusions were absolutely lovely-- it is a shame this tea didn't have more endurance. The liquor has a smooth, milky flavor, with a haunting floral aftertaste. Yes, I know, milky and floral flavors may not seem like they would agree with each other, but this is the exception to the rule (if there is such a rule). Though light in color (the infusion pictured is the first, so it is understandably light), this tea had a very nice, thick, tongue-coating feel. Appropriately, considering the milky flavor, this was a creamy thickness, as opposed to an oily or "umami" kind of richness. The harmony is actually quite impressive-- it is as though the flavors and sensations were expertly selected and blended.

It is a versatile tea, in that it seems to fit any setting. It is a nice one to wake up to, as it is bright and awake, but it is smooth enough to relax with at night. It isn't disorienting or powerful, so while it may not be the best coffee replacement, it is a good lazy morning tea.

Wet LeafWet Leaves:

Dark green leaves, which are largely intact. There is a range of leaf sizes, which you can see from this picture, but most fall somewhere in the middle.


This tea's greatest weakness is its endurance, of which there is precious little. The first two infusions are excellent, but afterwards the milky flavor disappears and typical sourness presents itself, much to my dismay. Still, this tea is wonderful for a light, brief tea session, so it maintains a relatively high grade of 7.5/10.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

1980's Aged Baozhong from Hou De

Class: Oolong
Origin: Taiwan
Year: 1980's
Vendor: Hou De Fine Tea
Price: $24.50 (2 oz)
Verdict: 8.5/10

For those who know tea, the word "aged" generally conjures up images of 40 year old raw puerh cakes. Puerh ages due to microbial activity within the cakes, so it is an active, biological process. Oolong teas, on the other hand, do not contain these microbes, which is why I was confused when I first heard of aged oolong. I don't know the science behind aging oolong tea, but the process involves air-tight storage and roasting every few years. From what I understand, the time mellows the tea and the roasting wakes it up again, keeping it from simply going stale.

Unfortunately this tea is no longer available, so I suppose this review is a bit useless to you, the reader. Lucky for you I have no qualms about being useless.

Dry LeafDry Leaf:

As you can see, this looks very much like Wuyi rock oolong (at least to me), and very little like a fresh baozong, except for the wiry shape. The small, twisty, dark brown leaves have quite an interesting aroma. Unlike the cocoa/charcoal aroma one often finds in Wuyi oolongs, this is much smoother, more like solid dark chocolate. I also noted some caramel and cherries, though I must credit the latter observation to Salsero, without whose help I never would have figured it out. There are no upfront or aggressive aromas, which would normally leave the tea a bit flat, but for whatever reason it seems to give the bouquet an added depth. It is an inexplicable depth though, since I honestly can't say it's an exciting aroma. On the contrary, it is quite muted-- I wonder if another roasting would turn up the volume, per se.


4.3g dry leaf; 90mL yixing teapot; off-boiling tap water; Rinse, 23s, 30s, 27s, 27s, 32s, 34s, 39s, 38s, 39s, 47s


InfusionThis was a nice, dark flavored dessert kind of tea. Not necessarily dark in color, as you can see, but dark in flavor, with a consistent blend of smooth dark chocolate and red berries. I picked up almost no smokiness whatsoever, which was unexpected because of all the roasting this tea has experienced. Though the aroma had hints of cherries (thanks again Sal), I thought the flavor was more raspberry-like in the first infusions and strawberry-like in the end. The tea was relatively unchanging in flavor, except for a slight change in emphasis from chocolate in the beginning to berries with a sugary/vanilla sweetness in the end. This was not a particularly thick-feeling tea, but it did give a nice coating sensation in the early infusions. Overall, quite tasty, but no real surprises.

I also thought I'd mention another observation I made. Some of you may have heard of "cha qi." I have no idea what it is supposed to feel like, and frankly I'm hesitant to put much stock in the concept of qi. Nevertheless, there is no better explanation at this time that I am aware of, so I'll stick with it for now. Anyway, the observation I made was a sweeping sense of warmth, starting in my sinuses, sweeping up to my forehead, and then flowing down the back of my neck and ending in my chest/upper back. It was quite nice, but I'm not sure if it was the tea, or some combination of the hot weather and my imagination.

Wet LeavesWet Leaves:

Stiff leaves (arthritic, perhaps?), and dark brown color throughout. Unlike relatively young Wuyi oolongs which are dark green/brown when unrolled, these are all brown, likely due to a combination of age and repeated roastings. [Sorry about the bad picture, by the way]


This tea reminded me of the Energizer bunny in two ways. First, it keeps going and going. This tea easily lasted 9 infusions, when it just started showing signs of weakness. Second, you feel funny after you drink what's inside. I don't usually get disoriented or "tea drunk" until I've had a lot of tea, but one session of this stuff made me feel positively loopy.

***Disclaimer: Don't eat batteries.***

Overall, I have to say I was quite pleased by this tea. I will certainly miss it when it's gone. Perhaps it isn't the most engaging tea I've had, but it is interesting enough to keep my attention without requiring it. Overall, this gets an 8.5/10.

Also see Hobbes' review of this tea.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

New Toys!

Misc. Tea ToysI thought I'd post some pictures of my new toys-- four yixing pots, a teeny gaiwan, some tea tools, and a cute little filter + panda holder. Be sure to click on the pictures for more detail, as usual.

First off, the miscellaneous items:
Here we have the tea tools (from Chinese Teapot Gallery), the ceramic/steel filter + panda holder (also from Chinese Teapot Gallery), and a white ceramic gaiwan (Yunnan Sourcing). Though the gaiwan is listed as being 100mL, it's more like 50-60mL. Though I'm usually not a big fan of misinformation, I would much rather have a gaiwan this size than another one around 100mL, so I got lucky.

Yixing Teapots Now, for the teapots:
The tan-colored pot (Yunnan Sourcing) is about 120mL, and is being used for raw puerh; the darker brown/purple one (Mountain View Tea Village & Gallery) is 150mL and I've been using it for dancongs.

Yixing TeapotsThe brown one in the background (Yunnan Sourcing) is about 120mL and is my shupu teapot; the red one in front (Chinese Teapot Gallery) is around 90mL-100mL, and is getting quite a bit of use as my Wuyi oolong teapot, though I'll probably use it for other darker oolongs as well.

I am a happy boy. :)

Oh, and a little note: For whatever reason I could not seem to format this post very well, so I hope it doesn't look mangled and deformed on your browser.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Teacuppa Wrap-up

Although not much emphasis was put on identifying the teas in the tasting session, here are the results:

A: 2005 CNNP Shupu
B: 2005 Luxi Shupu
C: 2005 Tiandiren Shupu
D: 2005 CNNP “Big Blue Mark”
E: 2005 Jiangcheng Yesheng
F: 2005 Simao Yesheng

As you can see, I got 4/6 correct. I should have thought of that alphabetical order thing earlier, since it turned out to be right. :)

Anyway, thanks again to Teacuppa for providing the free tea, and to Hobbes over at The Half Dipper for organizing and directing the event.

Also, I have a few teas lined up to write reviews about, so stay tuned in the next week. I got a little tired of note-taking after the marathon six tea tasting event, so I took a little break from being critical and going back to actually enjoying tea!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Teacuppa Tea Tasting Part 2: Shengpu

To close the Teacuppa tasting, I present three shengpu samples, identified as D, E, and F. I am even worse at tasting shengpu than I am at tasting shupu, so I suggest that you consider my stumbling as more of an entertainment piece than an informational one.

Puerh D Dry LeafPuerh D:


4.7g leaf; 90mL gaiwan; boiling tap water; 7s wash, 10s, 10s, 12s, 15s, 12s, 13s, 14s

Dry Leaf:

Quite loose, like all the shengpu samples. Fairly light-colored leaves. None of the samples had enough aroma to really comment on, possibly because of the plastic baggies they have been sitting in.

Tasting Notes:

1: Some astringency, some smokiness. Nice body.

Puerh D Liquor2: Less astringency, otherwise similar to first infusion.

3: Slightly floral, perhaps. A bit more bitterness than before.

4: Even more bitterness.

5: Slightly floral again, softer astringency, and better body. Has a sweet taste not found in earlier infusions.

6: Similar to 5th infusion, but smoother.

7: Similar to 6th infusion, a bit weaker.

Puerh D Wet LeafWet Leaf:

Decent-looking leaves, but not as pretty as some other pictures I've seen. There were a good number of whole leaves, and they felt nicely tender.

Overall Impressions:

Drinkable, but pretty boring and unchanging. I don't know if this is what everyone calls energy or "cha qi," but I did feel a bit light-headed after the session. Overall, I'd give this a 3/10.

Puerh E Dry LeafPuerh E:


4.6g leaf; 90mL gaiwan; boiling tap water; 8s wash, 7s, 8s, 9s, 9s, 10s

Dry Leaf:

Darker leaves than sample D. Lots and lots of twigs and stems, which is even more noticable in the wet leaf. Loose leaf, doesn't seem like there was much compression involved.

Puerh E InfusionTasting Notes:

1: Very smoky tasting, and a bit sour (not a bad sour, though). Smooth, but boring.

2: Almost a creamy flavor. More astringent than the first infusion.

3: Similar to second infusion, less astringent.

Puerh E Wet Leaf 14: Thinner body, but still smooth. A bit of a grain flavor, which I enjoyed.

5: Same as 4th infusion, with a harsher sour note.

Wet Leaf:

As you can see, there are many, many stems here. The leaf pictured isn't exactly representative-- this was the biggest one I could find. Most of the leaves were largely intact, and often attached to their stems.Puerh E Wet Leaf 2

Overall Impressions:

I'm no expert, but I thought this tea was actually okay. Not great, mind you, but not as bad as the other samples I've tried in this tea tasting. The creamy taste I thought I tasted was refreshingly different. Overall, this tea gets a 4/10.

Puerh F Dry LeafPuerh F:


5.0g leaf; 90mL gaiwan; boiling tap water; 7s wash, 8s, 8s, 10s, 10s

Dry Leaf:

The best looking leaves of this tasting event, in my opinion. Nice colors, and fewer stems than sample E.

Tasting Notes:

1: Fruity aroma, smells like plums. Tastes similarly plum-like, which is somewhat enjoyable. Slightly bitter though, and otherwise boring. There is a slight cooling sensation on the tongue.

Puerh F Infusion2: Fruity sweetness, but very sour. Aside from the sourness though, fairly smooth texture.

3: Overwhelming sourness masks everything else.

4: Similar to 3rd infusion, even more sourness.

Wet Leaf:

Mostly broken pieces. The picture here shows the fullest leaves I could find, which as you can see is not stellar.

Puerh F Wet LeafOverall Impressions:

I had high hopes with the first infusion, especially after the nice fruity hints. However, it quickly turned sour and was almost unpalattable near the end. I'd give this one a 2.5/10.


Though I was disappointed by these samples, I did think they were a little better than the shupu samples in the first part of the tasting. I also have essentially zero experience with shengpu, so who knows.

I have to be honest, my reviews may have been negatively influenced by others' thoughts. I am pretty late in posting these reviews, and I found it difficult to avoid reading other reviews. Still, I did taste each tea before I read about it, so the tasting notes you see here are genuinely mine.

As for guessing which samples are which, I'll play along this time. I'll put them in alphabetical order, because I'm guessing this is the most likely order in which they have been labeled. Thus, my guesses are:

D: 2005 CNNP "Big Blue Mark"
E: 2005 Jiangcheng Yesheng
F: 2005 Simao Yesheng

Anyway, this tea tasting is over, and I have to say I'm glad. While I appreciate Teacuppa's generosity and had a good opportunity to learn about puerh, it was a bit of a chore to taste these. Hobbes has relayed to me that the kind people of Teacuppa purchased their puerh stocks before they had a lot of experience with it, and I think this is quite forgivable— I don't think I could do any better anyway. They also sent out a free sample of Rou Gui, which wasn't half bad, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.