An interesting bit of autumn Yi Bang mao cha

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.

a Pu-erh.sk Yi Bang Spring 2011 session soundtracked by John Lee Hooker

This is the second of two sheng pu samples from Yi Bang in as many months, this one from pu-erh.sk. This a spring plucking. (from the site: PU-ERH.sk is a website that will try to offer mostly selected “gu shu” Pu-erh’s from the 10 famous tea mountains of Yun-Nan province.)

I opted to use the full 10g sample provided in the prepped 150ml gaiwan. (Where in years past I had used a smaller quantity of leaf to water ratio, I have steadily increased this quantity to suit the increasing demands of my palate.)

The body of the broth was substantially thick. The color a clear yellow-gold –should the photos read darker I apologize as we have had about 3 hours of sunlight over the past six days.

The liquor delivered a well-tempered ku which moved in waves across the hard and soft palates, and streaked the length of the tongue into the deep of the throat. The ku se persisted across the dominant length of the session, continually provoking my want to take another steeping as it fluctuated in its strength.

A faint cooling note was present, stimulating the sinus cavity.

The throat feeling alternated between the sensations of catching half way into my throat, to slowly and deliberately moving down its full length. This later experience is where I found myself reminded of the thickness of gulab jamun syrup in its movement.

The leaves continued producing broths that increasingly saturated the mouth with a heavy sweetness by the later quarter, extending the session well beyond my anticipation.

This tea, for me, acted as a mild sedative. While my mind remained clear and focused on the experience, my body wholly relaxed. Even the tightness in my lower back which had been present since I awoke eased. A tingling sensation also developed throughout the session in my torso and upper arms. My ears even prickled for a few deep breaths.

What remains most impressive about this tea is how long the floral and honey sweetness has lingered since I walked away from the kettle and gaiwan. It has now been an hour, and it still persists. This, I can appreciate.

steeping listening:John Lee Hooker

Mr. Gao x Tea Urchin: Autumn 2011 Yi Bang Sheng Pu:

This is my second experience with a Mr. Gao x Tea Urchin produced sheng pu, this an autumn 2011 cake from Yi Bang. Yi Bang is a hilltop village lying within the township of Xiangming in Mengla County. I would be interested to know if anyone can verify a claim that I read suggesting that it was the birthplace of the tong (seven cakes wrapped in bamboo).

I don’t think it would be hasty at all for me to suggest that with only two co-produced teas, Mr. Gao has made me an ardent admirer. As I discovered during my experience with the cacao and baking arts, you develop a sense for the artistry of the truly dedicated. The sensitivity and dedication to the leaf is certainly notable in each aspect of these teas produced by him and the venerable Tea Urchin.

In contrast to the delicate, reflective nature of their Mang Zhi cake, this Yi Bang acted as a pungent and assertive counterpoint. Possessing of a poised and desirable bitterness that persisted throughout the session, its kuwei gently stimulating. I noted a tingling at the tongue tip before it began to arch up from the middle of the tongue creating a domed sensation into the soft and hard palates and then seeming to spray like fireworks into the sinus cavity.

The broth, which greatly appeared set by gelatin, possessed a lingering sweet tartness in its taste. I found myself repeatedly associating it with fresh white currant, or at times white grape skins, muddled with vanilla. Citrus notes fluttered along the tongue in later steepings, as did floral shades of rose and lilac. A sugary sweetness persisted from the sixth steep on, rising from the trenches at the back of the mouth and pushing forward.

The qi of this Yi Bang seemed relatively mild during the session until appearing full-bore in the latter half much to my surprise. I experienced a flushing of the cheeks along with a tingling perspiration in the lower abdomen, shoulders, upper arms and thighs. My palms went damp and my feet tingled. I felt light-headed and euphoric.

I have had such a fantastic run with the cakes sampled, some later purchased, from Tea Urchin, and the two with Mr. Gao. I greatly look forward to the cakes that they produce in 2012 separately and with some hope, jointly.

p.s. Should you not have already realized, my furry companion Newt was not present for this session. She was far more preoccupied with warming her fur on the radiator cover in my office.

steeping listening: Van Der Graaf Generator: The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other