I have enjoyed a run of decidedly gentle and rather elegant teas of recent –well, and one truly pedestrian aged tea that left me greatly frustrated. From the 2012 Qi Sheng Gu from Essence Of Tea, to a 2012 Jingmai shan sourcing from Zhi Zheng, and now the 2011 Chan’s Thousand Charm from Bana. This latest –a Vesper Chan supervised production from hundreds of year old trees within the forests of Lincang– was graciously gifted by Linda Louie as a sample with an order.
As experienced with the leaves from other Vesper Chan curated cakes, the dry aroma is extraordinarily pleasing. The nose is a beautiful foundation of meadow heavily accented with overtones of stone fruits. Carrying into the warmed gaiwan, this scent blossoms to an even greater degree with the first measure of water poured on to the leaves post-rinse.
While substantial in cup appearance, the liquor is ethereal in the mouth, yet filling and complex. A gentle liveliness is quickly present on the tongue.
Throughout the ten plus steeps, expressive notes of fruits and green radiate and recede, quite similar to the visual of the ‘Breath’ video animation by Iranian artist Shirazeh Houshiary.
Latter broths seem to evaporate upon contact with the mouth, existing only as sensation.
The throat warms with inhalations, and cools upon exhalation. As this sensation rises from the throat it fills the back of the mouth before pushing forward and pressing against the back of the lips. It remains at the soft palate throughout, fluctuating with intensity.
The energy of this tea is notable, and arguably its most significant attribute. It develops at the shoulders first, increasing in heaviness. As it spreads, the neck thickens, the arms and legs become weighted down, and the chest feels swollen. When it finally moves into the head, the eyes feel drowsy beneath weighted lids.
A gentle drying develops at the front of the mouth as the leaves fade.
This tea is a study in softness, though far removed from simple or insubstantial. If you’re predominantly interested in tea with the ability to knock you clean off your chair, it would be best to look elsewhere. It possesses a character that will be found elusive to the drinker who expects, or is inattentive.
Akio Suzuki’s ‘NA-GI’ 1997, which I believe translates as <calm>, served as the perfect foil.