2009 high-fired roasted Nan Tou Fo Shou from Hou De

With the realization that a bit more balance was necessary in the cup, my attentions of recent have turned back to an old love of mine. As such, arriving packages have been a touch puerh deficient, oolong heavy. New additions to the table have come from Hou De, Postcard Teas, and Tea Habitat. A Tea Masters blog selection order is currently winding its way to a rather anxious me.

I had thought of returning to the ‘fold’ several times over the past couple of years. Yet I felt as if I had betrayed old friends after falling so deeply into the puerh wormhole that they would refuse me upon return. And why shouldn’t they? I had all but stopped paying them any attention, even browsing vendor selections had come to a screeching halt.

My fear seemed realized when my first handful of sessions yielded nightmarish steeping results. Too much leaf, too little leaf, etc. it seemed as if my memory had attempted to draw from ancient unknown history.

It was the most anticipated, a 2009 Nan Tou Fo Shou from Hou De, where I really missed the steeping mark. So much so that I decided it was best to put it aside for a while to focus my attentions on newer, less temperamental acquisitions that required only slight adjustments.

This past Monday as the rain and wind increased through the morning hours, and we waited for hurricane Sandy to fully arrive and pass here in the North East, the Fo Shou found itself once again in the pot. What was once read as a dimensionless cup of bitter roasted charcoal, however, had now become pleasingly complex and well-balanced. It seemed the ways of old love are never completely forgotten.

Scents of biscuit, dried dark fruits, and smoked wood rose from the pot. Once poured, its broth was notably thick and clean in the cup. The body of the liquor in the mouth was full, complex, penetrating. It sat notes of caramelized walnuts and malt in the mid of the cavity. A roasted backdrop of baked currants, and ripe-berry-leaning coffee essences hung from the back of the soft palate into the top of the throat. Cooling sensations developed quickly at the front of the mouth and the lips, and blossomed into the sinus cavity.

It exhibited an engaging mid level acidity, which contributed to the full profile. The warmth of its roasted aromatics moved deep into the throat and intensified with inhalations, on exhalations it suggested a cooling like warm skin coming into contact with cool air. The strength of its roast also clung to the hard palate and front teeth at various stages during the session.

A malty sweetness settled into the curvature of the soft palate as the roasted foundation began to dissipate by later steeps. At this point the liquor began to take on faint cinnamon and root-like medicinal tones as the session winded down.

The cha qi of this Fo Shou set gradually, yet deeply, into the body. I found it quite easy to drift. I felt calm, euphoric, near to feverish as I finished this successful exchange.

Its essence lingered in the mouth and throat for considerable time after the final cup –easily in excess of an hour– though I didn’t take note to when it had fully dissipated. The body returned to normalcy in a shorter period of less than an hour. At a mere $17.50 for 2oz. this tea provides in excess of its price. I couldn’t recommend it more to those with a taste for elegant roasting in their oolong.

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The occasional downside of sampling

In my currently developing quest to drink every tea possible I can get my hands on sourced from Jingmai shan, I ordered a sample of Xizihao’s 2009 ‘Spirit Of Dian’ from Hou De. This past Sunday I had my third go around with this tea, where my love for it was undeniably confirmed.

The dry leaf presented a muddle of stone-fruit, floral and spring meadow aromatics to the nose, which carried effortlessly into the first broths, generously coating the mouth and initially leaving a faint cooling sensation at the middle of the tongue.

Throughout the session the tea gestured expressively within the mouth in waves and curls. The heaviness of peach and rose pushed at the hard palate, while a cluster of minor notes –including peony, almond, lily of the valley, lilac– filled the soft palate and emanated from the throat originating at the base of the neck.

The mouth developed a glossiness and fluctuated between an elegant drying to a notable increased salivation. Moving past 10 steeps the liquor left the mouth feeling crystalline. The lips felt coated in a light wax.

The sternum became increasingly warm, and gradually moved into the full torso and shoulders. The body felt flushed, feverish, absolutely sedated.

A faint toasted note lingered shadow-like in the last few steeps.

As I pulled the leaves from the pot I noticed how tightly rolled some of them still remained. I had taken this pot easily into the middle to late teens, and apparently they still had some distance to go.

I also discovered a guest observing from the bushes.

At this point, I was more than ready to buy a full 400g cake. What a drag to then discover as I logged on to the Hou De site that it was no longer available. Saddened by the thought that I may only be able to buy a further sample or two, I fired off an email in hopes that Hou De might have one still available that they are not listing. Only time will tell.

It would be unfortunate to not be able to live with a cake of this tea, and experience its aging at greater length. It seems to have a potential future trace of the Evening Fragrant Jade cake in its younger leaves.

Should anyone be able to give information on how to get a full cake, I would be greatly appreciative.