January 4, 2007
Tea: 2001 Chung-Hwa Yi Wu raw puerh
Manufacturer: Meng La Man-Lo Factory
Infusion parameters: 10g used in 150cc purple clay Yixing pot; 20s rinse, 15s, 20s, 25s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 120s in 195-200°F water.
On the hi-fi: Nijiumu: "Live;" Vikki Jackman: "Of Beauty Reminiscing"
I acquired this tea at the beginning of 2006, and after drinking it once decided to shelve it for a while due to an astringency that seemed to me to be on its way out. I decided to revisit these leaves on a frosty January afternoon and was pleasantly surprised by the results of this brief storage period.
Dry leaves: There is a nice range of colors here, from dark browns to almost-yellows. The dry leaves exude tobacco, earth, camphor and almost mushroom-like aromas. There are thick and leathery big leaves, smallish twigs, and dry, wispy leaf tendrils.
1st infusion: With the tea still so tightly compressed, the flavors here were fairly faint. Even still, the tea brewed up to a nice dark-hued orange with exceptional clarity.
2nd infusion: Strong, pungent, dry citrus and wood notes became increasingly pronounced. I recall now that this tea's pungent qualities dominated my session with it the previous year. Nice, supple mouthfeel. Already I'm noticing a lovely complexity and some refreshing menthol notes that I'll wager will come to the fore in infusions 3-6.
3rd infusion (pictured below): An increased maltiness is present now, and the floral qualities magnified. This is a bold and supple tea which really fills the mouth with a vibrant palette of flavors. There is a nice, cooling aftertaste despite the slightly drying astringency that seems to linger the longest.
4th infusion: The camphor and musk qualities diminished in favor of a nice caramel sweetness. The drying astringency continued to hang around, but wasn't severe enough to be objectionable.
5th infusion: The flavors were much more subtle now, though the tea continued to brew up to a nice dark-brown. Cool menthol notes, caramel and earth dominated.
6-8 infusions. Dry fruit notes abounded, but really in aroma alone. The taste mellowed into a silky, earth sweetness not unlike an exceptional shou puerh.
All in all this is a tea that I'm quite glad to have purchased at a great price (I grabbed a few of these beengs before the price surge in the puerh market last year). Clearly, the maocha used here is top notch; I was very impressed with the quality of the leaves. It definitely still has a lot of room to mature though before it becomes a really exceptional sheng, and although the astringency is something which proves now to be a bit of a detractor, it is a characteristic that, along with the strong, vibrant complexity of this tea, will likely ensure that given proper conditions it will age into something truly special.