Who knew…?

Who knew that one simple cardboard box that held this little treasure on its way to me:

would be such a comfort to this other little treasure deposited on my door step as a wee kitten over three years back.

I haven’t the heart to get rid of the damn thing, even though it’s plunked under my kitchen work table, and not the most attractive addition to the kitchen. Ah well, more on this tea later…

Lok On Tea Stalk?

So, I am hoping that perhaps someone could shed a little light on this Lok On Tea Stalk. I picked this up at the Hong Kong Supermarket near my office on break yesterday afternoon. I swore I had remembered something about it online, but upon returning from break I could only find one message board discussion which didn’t seem to entirely resolve the original posters question about it.

I feel certain that I read somewhere that is a by-product of Liu An Gua Pian or Liu An Basket tea, but was unable to find anything definitively confirming this online.

I have included photos of the two sides of the paper bag that it came in.

There were some small remnants of leaves mingling among the stalks when I had it this morning.

The broth, as seen below, comes up a pleasing shade of amber (perhaps red amber). The liquor is thinnish in consistency, but nicely mouth filling.

My partner thought it smelled and tasted of steeped old wooden furniture, my co-worker suggested old upholstery, that had been stored in an attic. This as opposed to the old basement, which he sometimes refers to, when I drink other aged teas.

It definitely presented a very unique woody flavor which lingered for a substantial amount of time after the last cup. I want to say it tasted of wood pulp, though I’ve not personally sampled any wood pulp recently.

It exhibited a lovely golden ring, and was rather lively in the head.

From the steeping sessions I have had with it so far, there is not much in the way of flavor progression. It’s pretty straight-forward. There was no notable bitterness, even when steeped for lengthier durations of time.

I realized later on this morning that I remembered seeing it, or something similar, (at least I think it is the same thing obviously not of this vintage) at sampletea.com:

http://www.sampletea.com/product/1920s-anhui-liu-an-zhi-anhui-liu-an-stem-loose-tea

I would be grateful to anyone who could shed some light upon this curio. The cashier at the market even picked the bag up three times to look at it, once from my just packed shopping bag. She remarked that she thought it was a curious product for them to have in stock. There were two of these bags, though the other one was torn a bit on the bottom, so I purchased just the one.

While I certainly wouldn’t say that I would want to drink it every day, it is interesting. I also wonder how it will mature with time, if it is indeed the same as the tea at Sample Tea.

Mr. Gao x Tea Urchin: Autumn 2011 Yi Bang Sheng Pu:

This is my second experience with a Mr. Gao x Tea Urchin produced sheng pu, this an autumn 2011 cake from Yi Bang. Yi Bang is a hilltop village lying within the township of Xiangming in Mengla County. I would be interested to know if anyone can verify a claim that I read suggesting that it was the birthplace of the tong (seven cakes wrapped in bamboo).

I don’t think it would be hasty at all for me to suggest that with only two co-produced teas, Mr. Gao has made me an ardent admirer. As I discovered during my experience with the cacao and baking arts, you develop a sense for the artistry of the truly dedicated. The sensitivity and dedication to the leaf is certainly notable in each aspect of these teas produced by him and the venerable Tea Urchin.

In contrast to the delicate, reflective nature of their Mang Zhi cake, this Yi Bang acted as a pungent and assertive counterpoint. Possessing of a poised and desirable bitterness that persisted throughout the session, its kuwei gently stimulating. I noted a tingling at the tongue tip before it began to arch up from the middle of the tongue creating a domed sensation into the soft and hard palates and then seeming to spray like fireworks into the sinus cavity.

The broth, which greatly appeared set by gelatin, possessed a lingering sweet tartness in its taste. I found myself repeatedly associating it with fresh white currant, or at times white grape skins, muddled with vanilla. Citrus notes fluttered along the tongue in later steepings, as did floral shades of rose and lilac. A sugary sweetness persisted from the sixth steep on, rising from the trenches at the back of the mouth and pushing forward.

The qi of this Yi Bang seemed relatively mild during the session until appearing full-bore in the latter half much to my surprise. I experienced a flushing of the cheeks along with a tingling perspiration in the lower abdomen, shoulders, upper arms and thighs. My palms went damp and my feet tingled. I felt light-headed and euphoric.

I have had such a fantastic run with the cakes sampled, some later purchased, from Tea Urchin, and the two with Mr. Gao. I greatly look forward to the cakes that they produce in 2012 separately and with some hope, jointly.

p.s. Should you not have already realized, my furry companion Newt was not present for this session. She was far more preoccupied with warming her fur on the radiator cover in my office.

steeping listening: Van Der Graaf Generator: The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other

Camellia Sinensis: Liu Bao 1970 Guangxi 6608

1970 Guangxi Liu Bao 6608

Liu Bao is a post fermented tea originating from Liubao village in Cangwu County, Wuzhou prefecture in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. It is often compared to shu pu, which inherent processes in its production actually predate.

While this point of reference is not completely off the mark based on my experiences with these types of teas; I prefer to keep them separate, as they are ultimately two different teas. This particular Liu Bao, a 1970s 6608 from Camellia Sinensis, is assuredly one of the most pleasant productions that I have experienced.

The stems and flattened leaves of the sample displayed varying shades of cocoa brown and exhibited the texture of crêpe paper. It was similar to the crisp dryness of the bamboo wrapped Ya Xi Tibetan tea that I purchased from Life in Teacup. I derive a great pleasure in the sounds these teas make as they are prized from their wrappings, or tumbled into porcelain; it seems rather singular.

While little aroma was present in both the sample bag and cha he, the dry leaf cast a clean wood note with a hint of spice into the rising steam as the cluster tumbled into the warmed gaiwan.

A heavy scent of musty loam developed with the first steeping measure of water, as the liquor immediately assumed a beautiful, clear shade of mahogany.

The broth possessed a pleasing medium body that delivered a full mouth feel, exhibiting its 30 plus years of age in taste with a pleasing mustiness shadowing the dominant wood and old leather. A mineral like quality was present from the beginning, and persisted to end.

A note of eucalyptus induced a gently cooling sensation which emanated from the soft palate into the forehead starting with the third steep. The old leather note continued to linger into the sinus cavity until the fifth. As this diminished, I began to detect a light touch of aniseed in the throat. I was most pleased when that old tea calming sweetness began to present itself by the sixth.

The hui gan strengthened throughout the length of the session, really taking hold around this pivotal sixth steep. It proceeded to gradually fill the mouth until it had penetrated the soft palate. I steeped this enduring leaf well into multiple minute intervals, and continued to coax pleasing broths until the liquor lightened significantly and had become mere shades of sweet in taste.

The qi of this tea was subtle, but ultimately calming.

On a day such as today, when spring seems to have retreated into a second round of late fall, this tea was the perfect companion.

someone else also wondering where spring went...

Notes taken on March 31st, 2012

steeping listening: Phill Niblock: Touch Works, For Hurdy Gurdy And Voice