A 2012 spring Gao Shan Zhai, and a dash of wrapper appreciation

I haven’t had much quality time recently for taking tea due to an impending house move. Which as I recently commented to Bev of the wonderful Listening to Leaves, has made me just a wee bit cranky of recent.

Over the past weekend, however, I finally managed to steal some time for a session in between painting, packing, and donating. I decided on a bit of a sample from Tea Urchin’s Gao Shan Zhai spring 2012 cake acclimatizing for the past few weeks in a favorite earthenware jar. Amusingly enough, Gao Shan Zhai is the one cake that I hadn’t sampled from their autumn 2011 productions. So, unfortunately, I won’t be able to compare-and-contrast on this occasion.

The tea, however, in and of its self, was exceptional.

From the site: “This is our favorite Tea Urchin pressing from the first batch of early spring 2012 maocha. This Gao Shan Zhai puerh cake is pressed from un-pruned 300 year old trees and has amazing chaqi that is almost euphoric. Completely hand processed according to traditional methods and stone pressed in Yiwu.

The nose of the dry leaf reveals an exceptionally fresh, very green, and heady fragrance.

As the leaves awaken in the gaiwan the broth deepens to a limpid yellow, losing the smudge of pale grassy hues from the first two steeps.

The liquor is clean on the palate, accented by gentle floral notes. It is full in the mouth, coating the tongue. Where most teas I have had of recent presented a gradual arching into the sinus cavity, here its’ nature bolts straight through the hard palate.

This Gao Shan Zhai is incredibly vibrant, offering a well placed bitterness in the form of a prickling sensation along the length of the tongue. As the session progresses it moves to the back of the tongue. A mild astringent sensation reaches briefly into the throat and then dissipates. A gradually developing warmth replaces this slight drying, and spreads ever deeper.

The huigan is a significant aspect of this tea, dwarfed only by its dynamic qi. Wave upon wave of complex sweet notes rise from the throat with each exhalation, lingering at considerable length in the mouth.

The energy builds with measured pacing, rising out of the body with a suggestive sensation of pulling at the physical body. The shoulders and the upper back become warm and slightly damp, yet the core feels cool. Every pore is open and tingling, and physical awareness heightens. As the tea sinks further into the body, the middle of the back feels humid, yet remains dry.

Really, there is so much more to this tea than what I have detailed in the above notes. However, as time is rather limited, I chose to stay in the moment writing less than I would normally.

steeping listening: Dead Can Dance: Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun

I had planned to write a separate post drawing attention to a recent series of Tea Urchin’s wrappers that really struck a note with me. However, as I was finishing this post knowing the amount of packing and painting that the next two weeks hold in store for me, I thought it a good idea to tie it in to this post as the Gao Shan Zhai is one of my favorites. (And yes, I know the most important thing is the tea within the art.)

Eugene made note in an email that his inspiration for this series came from his sourcing travels in Yunnan. Happily, I have already found the inspiration for two wrappers from photographs in his posts. It has become a bit of a “Where’s Waldo?” game, which I am greatly enjoying.

My favorite wrapper of the series: Gua Feng Zhai by Tea Urchin

Yi Shan Mo by Tea Urchin

Man Zhuan by Tea Urchin

Gao Shan Zhai by Tea Urchin

Luo Shui Dong by Tea Urchin