The Sting of Taobao Tea
Ordering $4 tea off of Taobao is kind of like playing roulette. The odds are against you – to a degree that make roulette look like a wise investment. After scouring taobao tea with dreams of winning big, but you would be thrilled to get any return at all. In all likely hood, you will walk away a loser. There is a reason the Venetian has enough money to hire gondoliers to sing to you; it’s a rigged game. So, why do we gamble?
Addiction Hope. Hope is the reason.
As for myself, I’ve never been a roulette man, a craps man, or even a casino man. What I am, is a taobao tea man. I enjoy flipping around $3 or $20 or…let’s not talk about amounts, the point is, I enjoy laying bets and seeing if I can turn up a gem once in awhile.
This habit has turned up its fair share of shit tea, but once in awhile, you get lucky. This cake is an example of the excremental side of the dice rolling. One of many cakes where I spun the wheel – and lost. So…Why write about? No reason really, except that somebody noticed a stray comment I had made on a message board referring to this tea, and was curious if it was this yexiangwang tea. I decided to clear up which tea was which, and also try to point out some of the silver linings of the cloud that is this “Naka” tea.
First, let’s start with a basic question – is this Naka tea? The most logical answer would be – no. Why is this not Naka tea? Well, for one thing, Naka raw material ought to be more expensive than $2 per 357g. If someone tries to sell you a real Rolex on a street corner for $10, the most obvious question is “why $10”? I knew this going in to the purchase, but was curious what they were trying to pass off as Naka for the same price as a happy meal.
After a rinse, this tea leaves the gaiwan smelling fruity and sweet. The lid also has a beany aftersmell (neither of those are actually words). The first steep is very cloudy and dirty. Lots of floating bits and a lack of clarity in the soup. I decide to pour it out and score it as a double rinse.
The first drinkable steep is a dark golden color, with higher clarity than the first two rinses, but a bit more dirty than most good puer. Black floaty dots stubbornly remain despite repeated rinsing; I decide to drink them, as the alernative seems to be an additional five rinses and I am a lazy, lazy man.
The soup is very se [astringent], with a very light kuwei [pleasant bitterness], and no throat or mouthfeel to speak of. The tea is in and out of the mouth in a flash, like drinking hot water.
The next steeps stay in the mouth a little longer, with the clarity maintaining its cloudiness. It is difficult to pinpoint where this tea is from, but I think Lincang would a reasonable guess. The price, flavors, scents, and clarity would make a convincing argument. The tea never really becomes cleaner, in flavor or clarity. The throatfeel has moments of comfort, but they are fleeting.
The tea drifts along through the session in roughly the same way it began, a bit harsh and dull. But, let’s review our fact sheet: $4. 357g. You don’t go to McDonald’s and complain that your burger is overcooked. For $4, you take what you get, which in this case, is a dirty lincang-ish cake. You could do worse, but you could also do better. I chalk it up to another small loss at the taobao casino.
I would not really recommend this cake to anyone, but if you want to try it for the sake of
masochism research, i can break you off a piece. I have plenty left. Or, go here.