Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Geraldo on Dehong Ye Sheng Xing Gu (Purple Leaf) Zhuancha

[from an email to corax. posted by permission.]

Dehong Ye Sheng Xing Gu (Purple Leaf)
Sheng zhuan brick, 2005 harvest
Factory: Dehong
Vendor: Yunnan Sourcing LLC

Dry State: The brick is dark. The face is prettier than the interior. The outer leaves are smaller than the inner leaves. most of the leaves are very dark green, and a few are brown-gold. The interior contains quite a few yellow stems. The brick is tightly compacted. I used a butter knife to split it lengthwise for inspection. I bisected that puppy on the transverse.

I have done two separate tastings of this tea.

First Tasting

Parameters: 7.5g in 5oz glass gaiwan. Short rinse. Four-minute rest. Infusion times similar to those I found posted recently at RFDT. 25s, 15s, 30s, 38s, 48s, 1m, 1m30s, 2m, &c. Gently boiling water.

1st infusion. Excellent clarity as advertised. Quite dark for a first infusion. The liquor is golden and carries a nice perfume. Flowers? The first hot sip: wow! Today has been a five-tea day already, this pu’er being the sixth tea, but it immediately stands out as the best. The flavor of tea is strong, no discernible smoke, sweet and dry combined, reminds me a little of baling straw, the clean, grassy taste. No earthy flavor. I am accustomed to a little less leaf and shorter infusions, so this bolder taste on the first infusion is a fascinating change.

2nd infusion. The liquor’s color and hot aroma are unchanged from the first infusion. The first hot sip is still very brisk -- not surprising for a second infusion -- and heavy with flower aroma. The initial flavor on the tongue is still sweet and dry. This pu’er creates a warming sensation in the chest. The flavor remains in the mouth.

3rd infusion. This infusion is the best so far: the flavors are balancing and the brisk dry flavor is backing off a little, but the tea is still very bold. I feel this tea might age well. The strength of the tea might hold up well to the passage of time. There are relatively few buds, and I have heard that leaves age better than buds. Since there are fewer buds, I am a little surprised by the sweetness in the first two infusions. This is a power-tea, and I will try another session with shorter infusions, cooler water, and perhaps a little less tea in the gaiwan. I am amazed by the clean-ness of the taste -- almost like spring water.

4th infusion. The pu’er is even better now. The nice aroma continues. Much young pu’er does not have a strong aroma, especially an aroma that stays through several infusions. In this infusion there is a hint of mint, a cough-drop coolness that persists in the mouth after I swallow. It’s not camphor exactly, and it’s not a flavor -- more a sensation.

5th infusion. This young pu’er is distinct from others I have had. It lacks the spiciness and demure shyness. The flavor is commencing to fade a little -- but not much. The cooling after-sensation has intensified. I do not understand qi, and I do not use the word lightly, but this brick might be qi-laden. I will be very excited to try this in two years, five years, eight years, and on. The nice aroma continues.

6th infusion. The tea is mellower, calmer, smoother, less irate, less dominating. It’s growing friendlier. I am excited about brewing a new batch right away, and using less tea, cooler water, and shorter infusions. I am still fascinated by the mint cooling effect.

Second Tasting

Same tea, much shorter infusions, length to be determined in process. Same short rinse and long rest. Same five-ounce glass gaiwan. 6.5 grams rather than 7.5 grams of pu’er. Forty-second cool-down after boil. Ate some crackers. Rinsed my mouth with water.

1st infusion, 10s. Well, this is much milder. No surprise there. The tea is much more sedate, but the wild bouquet is absent. We will see what the second infusion brings in aroma. There are no different flavors. In some older teas, shorter infusions can reveal new flavors.

2nd infusion, 12s. I intended 10s, but fell asleep at the switch. I believe I am pu’er drunk. I should start seeing dinosaurs any moment now. They sometimes have interesting things to tell me. This infusion is darker than the first. The aroma from the first session is back. I am relieved -- I feared these parameters would not bring the aroma forth. Well, this infusion is sufficiently strong. Now there is a new flavor, a very faint smokiness that feints and then steps back, in no way unpleasant. Odd that the different parameters would reveal this; I would have imagined that bigger parameters would bring forth bigger smoke flavor. The fresh-bales-of-straw-flavor is there again too.

3rd infusion, 7s. Recently I tried a mixed shu-sheng mushroom-shaped pu’er sample from the eighties that presented very subtle and wonderful aged sheng flavors through very short infusions. I will see now what happens with this nascent green brick’s liquor after a rapid infusion. Wow! Still this tea is not too weak. The smoky pungency and mint-cooling effect are there, but somewhat softer-spoken. Less bitter, the tea is more mouth-watering. In the first session there was a drying effect. Now the purple brick causes salivation.

4th infusion, 5s. I tried a 100-tael tea that spoke with the same authority and loud voice. In fact, I wonder if the 100-tael came from the same factory. This infusion is very, very good, very much to my liking. I believe that pu’er has more variation than Darjeeling or lu cha. I would even go so far as to say that uncooked pu’er by itself presents a wider range of experience. This wider range is a chief source of my joy in the pu’er cha dao. Drinking tea, and pu’er in particular, brings me into the moment. The concentration that I place into the experience does not focus my mind as much as it sets it adrift to free-associate. In that regard, seriously tasting tea is akin to a writing a poem, in that both creating a poem and tasting pu’er bring us to the experience of the moment and the physical world. Both leave us open to the unexpected, and both allow full control to that part of the brain that seldom gets to drive the car. Seriously trying to describe tea, while odd in some ways (sitting alone, floating in space) is most likely good for my mental health.

5th infusion, 10s. The aroma is still present. This infusion is very much like the previous.

6th infusion, 30s. We shall test the tripling effect. The bouquet is still present and the color is still dark. A longer infusion does wake it up, but the taste is beginning to subside, and I am suffering from tasting-fatigue.

Overall Impressions

This is an excellent pu’er. However, I believe that most pu’er is excellent. These two very different sessions have taught me a great deal, and this is a good tea to explore strength and youth in sheng pu’er.

This tea also illustrates that one session is not enough, and that small samples might be inadequate. The fun of exploring tea resides at least in part in the discovery how one’s own taste can best match the tea’s taste.

Taste is a matter of taste. Some people (such as corax) are made of sterner stuff. They brew strong tea. corax sleeps on a bed of nails and eats chunks of basalt dipped in Tabasco sauce. The first session was an intense experience, but it did illustrate the power of tea. The second session, oddly enough, illustrated the same point.

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