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I embarked on my tea journey when I studied abroad in China in 2008 and traveled around Taiwan that summer. I'm here to share my experiences and offer my own opinion, advice, and comments on tea.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Secrets

A recent conversation with a tea friend has touched upon this, but I'm sure that this something that everyone thinks about in some way or another. If it doesn't, than maybe I'm being too paranoid so just ignore me.

Secrets, tea secrets. Not so much trade secrets like processing technique or whatever (though I'm sure for farmers this is probably an issue). I'm talking about secrets regarding teas/tea-ware that you like. So why would this be a problem? Well, this is actually more of a problem with pots and pu-erh than it is with other stuff, since the former can be rarer and limited in quality. Especially when there are only one or two cakes left, it can get kind of tense because there's the fear that someone will buy it up. So if I, as a blogger, praise said tea highly...well, some random reader comes along, reads it, and decides to snatch it away from me.

This is more of a problem with random readers than it is with the couple readers that I've corresponded with, who I can trust not to purposely screw me over. Of course, this is capitalism, so it's really every man for itself...but just to keep the odds in my favor, well, maybe I'll be a little less specific about the teas I like.

Anyway, onto the tea of the day...which actually falls into this category of limited availability so until I decide to buy it I won't give it away: but if you're really curious, I might let you know.

This is a late 90s tea, that's seen some slight wet-storage, but luckily that doesn't really seem to affect the tea's quality, though I'm a partial to wet-storage. What's so surprising is that it's still go some bitterness on it, and not the bad kind. It's a good bitterness, one that melts away into a sweet aftertaste. It's like some sort of bitter tea that my parents drank growing up in Taiwan. I'm surprised that it still has that kind of edge on it, since the few teas I've tasted with similar maturity have been mellower. Good strength, excellent tenacity, and thick/luscious mouth feel, this is something that I could see really turning into something after more years or again. Of course, I need some sort of approval from the local tea-heads before actually buying it.

Oh yes, there's also the fear that a vendor will see a good review and jack up the price because of that...though I seriously doubt that vendors are bored enough to base their pricing on the ramblings of a tea neophyte

*EDIT*

and it was the 1997 Hen Li Chang Bu Lang from Essence of Tea. And although I said I would confer with my local tea heads, after tasting it again...even if they said it tasted like Satan's piss I would still buy it, because I like it. Unfortunately, I grabbed the last one; however, he might be restocking it in the next few months. Wary of a price hike in the mean time (which just recently happened with a 2001 Yi Chang Hao Yiwu I was so enamored with) and the fact that it may never be restocked...I quickly snatched it up. Keeping my fingers crossed for an eventual restock, since I really want more of this one.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Storage

Even though it may seem from my absence of posting that I'm not thinking/drinking about tea, the truth is far from that. Tea is becoming a constant subject on my mind, whether I'm awake or asleep. This is truly becoming an obsession that is consuming my life, and I love it.

I have two different spaces for my teapots, one for the teapots that I use most frequently (situated closest to my brewing station) and a second space farther away, where I keep unused pots, which are either too big or just unloved. On that second shelf sits a purion teapot, my first "real" teapot I bough almost two years ago in the quaint ceramic/stoneware town that is Yingge. I used it for a while, until I decided that: 1. it was a bit on the large size and 2. it doesn't season or develop a shine like yixing (at least to the extent of my understanding). So what prompted me to take a sudden re-interest in this particular pot?

Zero over at Something Smuggled In had something to do with it. He's experimenting with yixing storage, and I've had the same questions about storage in purion. I've seen purion jars pop up every once in a while, and I've wondered what this "magical" clay affects tea. I sure as heck didn't want to spring for a purion jar (which can be pretty darned pricey) so I decided to use my purion pot as a temporary storage container. I put some wet-stored loose leaf in there, just enough for a single session, for a few days. After two days the wet-storage all but disappeared, and the tea seemed to have a better flavor/aroma, with little storage taste. It tasted much better than if I had brewed it straight from its usual jar.

Of course, this may have to do with airing out of the tea, so I'm doing the same experiment with my yixing pot and just airing out in the open for a few days.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Moldy Tea, Part II

Well, I didn't die from the moldy tea (at least not yet).

I know this is a point that's been emphasized by others such as MarshalN, but one truly cannot underestimate the importance of airing out/awakening a tea, even if it's not a wet-stored mess. I aired out the broken up moldy cake, and let it chill out for a while in a partially opened paper bag. I tasted it last Saturday, and although you can still taste some of the wetness, it's relatively smooth with slight sharpness. Pretty tasty as a daily drinker kind of tea.

Now, the importance of airing out tea isn't just limited to moldy teas, however. I bought some samples a while ago, and one of the samples was a 2001 Changtai Yi Chang Hao Yiwu. When I first tasted the tea, the tea tasted okay but a certain musty scent led to a negative impression of the tea. I wanted to get a second opinion from resident pu-erh expert BearsBearsBears before dismissing the tea completely. I left the sample bag open for a while (two weeks I believe), slightly curious to see if the mustiness was something that could be "aired out."

It tasted very differently than I remembered

Granted, it could have been a difference in water (we actually used my pot for that tea), but even so...the mustiness was gone. It's difficult for me to assign words to the flavors/aroma that I taste, but it was good. It's mellowing out, but there's still some of that sharpness which you would expect from something this young. The tea body was good, and there was a nice aftertaste. It was also at a good level of maturity for its age. Definitely something I will order cakes of, assuming other samples don't impress me as much.