An interesting bit of Yi Bang autumn mao cha recently came into my possession following an order from Tea Urchin.
Eugene had noted in a confirmation email that he had included a last-minute sample from Yi Bang with my order. A nice bit of timing that… Apparently it was a bit of an outlier among the four other autumn mao cha blind tasted, and he was the only one to enjoy it.
When he also mentioned in the same email that it was strong and smoky, I must admit it worried me a bit. While I greatly enjoy high quality Zhengshan Xiaozhong; ‘smoked’ flavors otherwise do not always agree with me. If not done well, it can easily lean-to the side of being vile, and frankly, nauseating.
As I opened the sample bag for the first time, strong smoked aromatics unabashedly flooded the sinus. It was, admittedly, a little overwhelming… yet uniquely thrilling. A faint trace of dark fruit was also detected in the background following a few deep inhalations.
The mao cha, as obvious from the photo above, was gorgeous. Lengthy stems, single to two-leaf bud sets, and full large leaves mingled freely. The measure of leaves placed in the warmed gaiwan appeared as a cluster of Daddy Long Leg spiders attempting to escape.
The mouth feel of the liquor was surprisingly light, yet generous and penetrating. It easily coated the full cavity in shadowy notes of smoked forest and ripened vegetation. A touch of indefinable otherness persisted on the tongue from beginning to end.
Later steeps offered the mouth low fruit notes nosed in the dry leaf.
A gentle cooling coated the tongue at intervals throughout the session.
This mao cha was vibrant, expressive, and engaged the palates of the mouth with thick banding sensations. It sat within the throat nicely, intermittently warming and cooling.
The body felt the tea quickly. The skin became feverish, near to damp within a handful of steeps. It calmed, yet kept the mind alert and focused.
A peat-like sweetness lingered at length across the back of the tongue, trenches of the mouth, and top of the throat following the final cup. The front of the tongue and hard palate carried mineral and vegetal remnants. Bittersweet notes hung at the soft palate.
It was surprisingly enjoyable, when considering my initial fear. I found myself wanting more of it later the next day, should that be any sort of endorsement. And for myself, it is.
I am not certain at the time of writing if there are intentions of pressing cakes, but I imagine it would find itself a healthy fan base. Fans of smoked and savory profiles in puerh, or the various levels of Zhengshan available would assuredly find a dear friend in this leaf.
Thanks again to Eugene for the gift, and the unique opportunity.