My first 2012 spring sheng session paired with a little Matsuo Ohno

courtesy of Tea Urchin

My first sheng pu’er of the spring 2012 season, this a Tea Urchin production sourced from Jing Mai.

From the Tea Urchin site, “This Jing Mai cake is made from tall, ancient tea trees growing on top of the mountain at 1,700m. The leaves are a slightly smaller varietal, and were picked & hand processed by Dai tribes people in early April, after a week of constant sunshine. This period of excellent weather means this batch of tea is exceptionally good. These cakes were stone pressed in Yiwu.”

The sample shows full small leaf, buds, stems, and some broken leaf. The nose of the dry leaf is heavily fragrant with green, muddled with meadow hay and a trace of orchid. Once wetted, the leaf gives up some of its floral note, placing its faded trace along the lid of the gaiwan throughout the session.

The vigor of the tea is noticeable as it flutters along the edge of the tongue. It enters and fills the mouth beautifully, arching into the soft palate, ebbing and flowing into the sinus creating a flooding sensation.

The notably thick liquor increasingly coats the mouth and the lips.

The broth moves slowly down the full length of the throat, warming.

Eager to assert its youthfulness, it presents a pronounced and engaging ku se (bitterness) lasting well across 6 steeps. A drying sensation (this astringent nature is a signature of teas from this area from what I have read and experienced) develops, increasing throughout the length of the session, continually drawing me back to the gaiwan.

The hui gan is pensive in its nature. It moves with subtlety from the throat, along the length of the teeth before finally soaking the tongue. It progressively develops a seemingly textural quality.

Its energy becomes noticeable by the fourth steep, building through to the last. It arrives in waves of heat, spreading to the crown of the head, arms and legs. My body begins to radiate the excess by the end of the session. I actually thought of the scene from Melancholia where Kirsten has her hands raised to the sky.

I have become noticeably tea drunk.

Any edge in my mood has smoothed out.

Shortly after the final cup with the tea’s essence still lingering in my mouth; I note that the tongue, mouth and sinuses have now cooled. Yet, my shoulders remain prickly with warmth.

What an exceptional first cake to begin the spring season’s offerings.

steeping listening: Matsuo Ohno – I Saw the Outer Limits

courtesy of Tea Urchin

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The 70s

As I turned another year just the other day, I had decided a couple of weeks earlier that I would celebrate the day with a tea of similar… um, shall we say, vintage. I suppose this may sound silly, but it seemed a good idea.

Following some lengthy consideration I decided upon a sheng pu, the 1970 Jiang Chen from Bana. I wanted to try something unfamiliar, and chose a tea that had piqued my curiosity back some time.

As you can see from the photo, the 20g arrived beautifully presented.

Upon opening the bag, the aroma of dry sugared rose buds muddled with earthy roots and faint talc filled the nose. The dry leaf chosen was a decent, and perfectly sized, sheered off chunk composed of flattened twisted leaves and odd scattered stems.

Once wet, the fragrance intensified to a mass of tangled roots winding in rich black earth. It all but buried the rose fragrance that had been previously noted.

The first proper steeping filled the mouth with soft notes of ginseng roots and damp earth. The rose while present in taste from the second steep, was more pronounced in the sinus cavity. The roots continued to flourish across successive steeps, becoming sweeter and increasingly tangling around the tongue.

The throat feeling was full and warm, with a sporadic slight catching halfway.

This Jiang Chen possessed a rather penetrating qi. Within three steeps my body became profoundly warm, most notably at the abdomen which had become engulfed with heat. My palms became slicked with sweat. My body became calm. By the latter quarter of the session, I even noticed a heaviness set on my brow.

It proved a fantastic session with a tea that has since found me wanting for another exchange.

a Pu-erh.sk Yi Bang Spring 2011 session soundtracked by John Lee Hooker

This is the second of two sheng pu samples from Yi Bang in as many months, this one from pu-erh.sk. This a spring plucking. (from the site: PU-ERH.sk is a website that will try to offer mostly selected “gu shu” Pu-erh’s from the 10 famous tea mountains of Yun-Nan province.)

I opted to use the full 10g sample provided in the prepped 150ml gaiwan. (Where in years past I had used a smaller quantity of leaf to water ratio, I have steadily increased this quantity to suit the increasing demands of my palate.)

The body of the broth was substantially thick. The color a clear yellow-gold –should the photos read darker I apologize as we have had about 3 hours of sunlight over the past six days.

The liquor delivered a well-tempered ku which moved in waves across the hard and soft palates, and streaked the length of the tongue into the deep of the throat. The ku se persisted across the dominant length of the session, continually provoking my want to take another steeping as it fluctuated in its strength.

A faint cooling note was present, stimulating the sinus cavity.

The throat feeling alternated between the sensations of catching half way into my throat, to slowly and deliberately moving down its full length. This later experience is where I found myself reminded of the thickness of gulab jamun syrup in its movement.

The leaves continued producing broths that increasingly saturated the mouth with a heavy sweetness by the later quarter, extending the session well beyond my anticipation.

This tea, for me, acted as a mild sedative. While my mind remained clear and focused on the experience, my body wholly relaxed. Even the tightness in my lower back which had been present since I awoke eased. A tingling sensation also developed throughout the session in my torso and upper arms. My ears even prickled for a few deep breaths.

What remains most impressive about this tea is how long the floral and honey sweetness has lingered since I walked away from the kettle and gaiwan. It has now been an hour, and it still persists. This, I can appreciate.

steeping listening:John Lee Hooker