Saturday, August 30, 2008

Durable Morning Tea

While reading the woes of the world and the bleak financial news on the papers this morning (not to mention Sen. John McCain's puzzling choice for VP), I sipped on what most likely the 20th infusion of 2005 Yichanghao "Ji Pin" sheng pu'er (Houde). Maybe it was the 19th or the 21st brew...I lost count. This last cup was steeped for a good 12 to 13 hours from the evening before. Its aroma and taste were still enjoyable, and the tea was drunk at room temperature.

For a vintage 2005, the dry leaves of this Yichanghao look interestingly darker than most other -- if not all -- 2005 sheng pu'er I have or tried. The beeng gives off a mild whiff of floral and straw notes. It made me wonder: is this one of those '04 - '05 Chang Tai tea that went through, as Danny Samarkand mentioned on CHA DAO, a "slight pre-processing fermentation"? [click here for the excellent 2nd installation on proper storage consideration for pu'er teas, written by Mr. Samarkand and MarshalN, as well as the ensuing discussion in the comment section, which touched briefly on the subject of Chang Tai teas]. Unless I misunderstood Danny's meaning, this '05 Yichanghao fits his opinion: the leaves are darker compared to similarly young teas, and the liquor is orange.

A very pleasant fragrance emanated from the tea liquor, which reminded me of straw, bamboo shoot, and of sweet smelling flowers. It's so fragrant that it almost felt unnatural for a young raw pu'er. Again, it made me wonder: is this more oolong or more pu'er? I couldn't be exactly sure.

The taste was smooth and astringency was hardly present, unless I pushed the steeping time exceedingly long. It's sweet-ish in the mouth and throat from the get go (as in no ku -- bitterness that turns to sweet sensations that one might expect from some young pu'er). The chayun and the huigan were all rather weak, but the overall package was very pleasant, actually.

On its chaqi: I felt a certain energy flow that first warmed my lower back and then it moved towards my stomach area, shoulders, chest and neck. The effect was calming and relaxing.

Conclusion: For a young pu'er, it is already approachable and ready to be enjoyed. I would think that anyone who hasn't acquired a taste for young raw pu'er should find this tea pleasant [enough].

Ageability, however, is hard to predict. There was not much strength or concentration of taste, aroma, chayun and huigan, all of which are necessary attributes that every candidate for a long-term storage should possess (or so I read). Certainly not lacking, however, is its good brewing durability. Therefore, it will be interesting to see what this tea has in store a few years from now. I should think that an investment in a few beengs could be warranted...some for immediate enjoyment and a few for a bit longer down the line.

Good compression -- not too tight or too loose. The wet leaves are healthy and intact.

What do you, dear readers, think about its aging prospect given my long-winded descriptions above?


Wes Crosswhite said...

Very interesting. I think that if it hasn't started in the typical young green way, then its aging is going to be equally different from the norm. Nowadays, pu-erhs seem to be crossing boundaries. I've had pu-erhs that were closer to white teas, and pu-erhs that were very close to tasting like a typical green tea. If it takes folks decades to learn how pu-erh changes over time, then these "new pu-erhs" are going to age in a mysterious and new way.

Sounds like you really liked it. You gotta to take it 20 infusions. I'll grab a sample next time one pops up, and write up my experience.

~ Phyll said...

Hi Wes, there are indeed a variety of pu'ers out there that make us wonder if they can be considered pu'er at all.

At first, I used a lot of leaves relative to the 6oz gaiwan I brewed the tea in. So, in the beginnning I flash-steeped it. Maybe that's why I was able to get a high number of cups out of it. I have also tried using less leaves in a gaiwan and lots of leaves in a Yixing pot. Three sessions so far, and each time with about similar taste profile. Quite a consistent tea, and I find it easy to enjoy.

I'd be more than happy to break apart the 1 beeng I have and send some to you and other readers interested in trying this tea out. Please email me at phyllsheng(at)hotmail(dot)com. I'm planning to obtain a few more soon.

Don't hesitate.


Anonymous said...

(not to mention Sen. John McCain's puzzling choice for VP)

Why so, Phyll? She's a reformer and a maverick quite like McCain.

~ Phyll said...


- inexperienced
- unknown
- untested

granted, it's too soon to tell. will be interesting to see how she holds up during the VP debates with Biden. but the immediate valid concern is if she will be able to handle the top job should McCain croaks while in office. all this has been discussed ad nauseum on the news and by political pundits. the above points are those that echo my personal opinion.

nada said...

I've been wondering about this bing for a while, and decided to buy one to see how it went.

I received it this morning, and I have to say I was a little disappointed. It had in it's favour, a thick liquor which tasted interesting at first, but upon drinking further infusions I noticed that all the flavour and sensation was very much at the front of the mouth and disappeared quickly. What was noticebly absent for me was any sensation or huigan at towards the back of the mouth or into the throat.

I got bored with this tea before exhausting the leaves and ended up abandoning the session to drink a different tea.

I had high hopes for this tea and had it in my mind that I'd probably buy a few to put away fr a few years, given it's relatively low price from Houde. Unfortunately I have to say that for me, I don't think I'll buy another.


~ Phyll said...

Hi Nada, thanks for the comment. I decided to only get 3 more of this Yichanghao Ji Pin. 1 for drinking now, 2 for storage. Also I got a beeng of the '05 Yichanghao Lao Chen De Cha for direct comparison with the Ji Pin.

I can agree that the Ji Pin can make for an uninteresting tea, but it has its pleasantness, too. Yes, weak chayun and huigan. A pretty straightforward tea, overall. I'm more curious about it than impressed.

Congratulations and all the best with your online tea store, Nada Cha!