An afternoon with a beast from Naka and Cabaret Voltaire

I can’t for the life of me remember exactly what triggered my interest in Naka.

There might have been a mini-brick online somewhere that first put the name into my head, or perhaps it rang in my head as Naga –one of my favorite features of the Wats in Thailand when I visited years back. Whatever the exact reason, I made mention of the village to Eugene at Tea Urchin during an email discussion about teas, prompting him to make note of a tuocha Che Ma Xuan sourcing from the autumn of 2009. I ended up falling in love with the purchased sample, and a short while after happily invested in a 250g tuo.

After an exchange which included mention of their 2012 Spring sourcing, a sample arrived gifted with a recent order. It, however, sadly appeared just as I packed away my tea’s into boxes, where it has patiently waited for me since.

Today, as I sat out on the back patio on this lovely day, it seemed as good day as any to give it a first run. After a bit of rummaging about in a couple of boxes, the sample was found.

With just a dry nosing, the invigorating aroma from the leaves drew me in before they were even wet. This is also when what became the dominant flavor note in the first half-dozen steeps appeared. I couldn’t place it just then, and it took me a handful of sips to name it.

Toasted rice powder.

The liquor was clean, bright. It provided a mild ku along with an anchoring note of the toasted rice powder. This fragrance also lingered on the lid of the gaiwan, even as it began to fade in the mouth by later steeps. As the session progressed, the tea rounded out with increasing array of notes and subtleties.

It felt incredibly soft, buttery perhaps, in the mouth. And while it might be a clumsy way of describing the progressive sensation, ‘glossy’ best sums it up. It wasn’t the high buff shine experienced from the Legends Of Puer Bingdao cake I had recently (which I will post about shortly), but it was in a similar league. It cooled the tongue, and even the lips, at points.

What I wasn’t fully prepared me for was the energy lurking within this Naka. It was unapologetically powerful. Within the first three steeps it began pulsing energy into the brow where it increased in weight. It weakened the strength of my legs. My torso felt impossibly warm. I was absolutely consumed whole by its energy. I had to walk away from the beast for a break around the seventh, perhaps eighth, steep as I was fully intoxicated. I was reluctant, truly, but sometimes you have to know your limit.

It will certainly be interesting to see how the qi transforms with time. Will it fade? Will it strengthen? I can barely even imagine the latter –though I have a sample of an eighties Shui Xian from Essence Of Tea lurking in the wings which reportedly knocks the drinker for a loop within a steep. Might this also be the future for this Naka? I kind of hope so.

steeping listening: Cabaret Voltaire: International Language

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