Puerh in the winter

Fire Pits and Winter Worms – 90’s Traditionally Stored Shu

Manliness & Winter Tea

Nothing increases the masculinity of an activity like building your own fire. For example, the brewing of tea: generally not considered to be a very masculine endeavor. But, what if you build your own fire to heat the water? Boom. Instant masculinity. Ditto for fetching things. Turning on a faucet is a pretty mundane activity. But, what if you go to a spring to get the water? Bam. Instantly more manly.

1990s_Traditional_Stored_shu1
A sign I have never seen in China

My father and I set out to be the manliest of manly tea men and prepare some old fashioned-ish tea; the process involved some laborious tasks that give you a bit of perspective on what it means to have tap water and an electric kettle.

spring water for puer tea
Fresh spring water

Step 1: Get Water

There is a free flowing natural spring in the area, so we took our horse drawn wagon car with hand-thrown ceramic plastic jug in tow. (Perhaps not everything about the process was as old time-y as i led on) The spring, however, is old fashioned. Nothing more than a hose leading the spring out of the ground into a creek. We filled up our jug and embarked on the journey back to the fire pit.

Filling a jug with ater
Fetching water
Kettle for Tea
Filling the pot

Step 2: Make Fire

We lugged our axes into the forest, and fell a tree, thrice the size of a cabin. Our mules pulled the tree through the woods to our cabin, where we chopped for hours until…ok, none of that happened. We  had old firewood in the garage and built a small fire. We began with a tripod to suspend the pot above the fire. It took a little while for the bed of coals to be significant enough to heat a full pot of water, but once it was going it was efficient. The times in between brewing lead to some whimsical occurrences, such as a teapot covered in a thin layer of ice when a few minutes elapsed between brews. The enjoyment of a small fire heating a pot of water in a quiet surroundings more than makes up for the increase in wait time and ice on the yixing [teapot].

Tea fire
We began with this tripod until the coals settled
Homemade tea
Then we moved to the coals, expediting the boiling

Step 3: Brew Tea

My father has recently taken to drinking a bit of ripe puer and I decided to bring him a traditionally [see: probably too wet] stored 90’s cake for Christmas. I opened the wrapper and a small net of webs covered one corner of the cake. Upon further examination, it seemed to be the home of a small grub, who I dug out for a photo. Nothing like giving the gift of worms for the holidays. The worm must have been supremely confused, a large steel blade, digging him from his cocoon and lifting him in to a snow-covered forest.

Bugs in tea
My wormy friend on the tip of a knife
tea worm
The worms vanquished homestead

As for the tea, the cold weather and smooth warming effects of an aged shu intertwine nicely. A little bit of damp humid aroma injected into the chill of the snow. A bit of a humid warehouse, a chunk of mountain grown tea, and a winter wonderland. That contrast is a gift that I wish I was able to experience more often, but the rarity of the experience makes it all the more precious.

Steaming teapot
The steam was thrown off in thick bursts
warming yixing pots
The cold air kept us pouring onto the pot just to keep it warm enough to steep

 

 

Read More

Scottish Highlands

Dahongpao in the Snow

Dahongpao and the Winter Binge

Snowy Forest
Forest coated in snow

A heavy snow storm painted the forests in my hometown just before my return. The snow was heavy, wet, and sticky. This glue-like snow coupled with a strong wind resulted in trees plastered with snow on one side. The mixture was heavy enough to fell some large trees, some who were easily twice my age. Unable to bear the weight of snow and ice, the forest was a sea of tilted trees, broken boughs, and snapped trunks.

My mother and I braved the cold, with a thermos and gaiwan [cup and saucer] full of Dahongpao [big red robe, a Wuyi Shan oolong]. After some wandering about, we found a small patch of snow where we could brew up some tea and sit in the quiet to have drink.

Dahongpao Cups
Quaint cups filled with tea

As the winter cold sets in, I often find myself reaching for yancha [rock teas] like this Dahongpao more and more often. I go on kicks of a few weeks where my gaiwan is filled up with rock tea, and then spring comes and their appearances become less and less frequent.

Luckily, my mother had the foresight to bring a few small linens to set the cups on, as resting a gaiwan and cups in the snow cooled them very quickly. Unluckily, I chose not to use them, as pictured below. This may not be a bad thing though, as I find rock teas to be very pleasant when cool.

Dahongpao in a Gaiwan
Gaiwan, sinking into the snow

I was still battling a cold during this time, so I can not say I remember much in the way of flavors, other than the heat of the tea and the mineral feel in my mouth after drinking. Suffice it to say that the environment and the company superseded the tea on this fine December afternoon.

Little Red Riding Hood heading out of the forest
Little Red Riding Hood heading out of the forest

Read More

Jin Dayi

2003 Jin Dayi (Gold Dayi)

2003 Jin Dayi

With the passing of the New Year (and my cold), my first post of 2013 will be from a session that happened several months ago, thanks to the generous Apache. A session with this cake is indeed towards the higher end of the generosity spectrum, as 2003 Jin Dayi [Gold] is over USD 300 per 357 gram cake, making it a rather dear session.

2003_Dayi_Jin_Name
Generous bag of sample

 

2003_Dayi_Jin_Dry
The dark, dry leaves

The dry leaves are a dark umber color and throw off a strong aged smell.

A quick rinse  bumps up the aged smell. The first steep has a distant touch of astringency, which is quickly gone.

Gold Dayi
How the Jindayi feels
Gold Menghai
How it (more accurately) looks

The early brews are deep in color. Whether this is do to heavy handed steeping by yours truly or due to camera magic, I am not sure. The second photo is  more representative of the accurate soup color.

Pine sap wafted off of the gaiwan early in the session. The brew was tannic  on the sides on the sides of the throat, with a quick huigan [sweet afterglow]. My mouth was quickly dried out after each sip, followed by a flood from my salivary glands. I noted that I did not feel the kuwei [pleasant bitterness] was very strong, until I gave a friend a sip. They had been absent from the first five brews and upon drinking the sixth steep, they exclaimed ,”Man, this is bitter!”

I had noticed a sharp increase in the huigan around the third steep, but the kuwei crept up slowly across the session. I was the proverbial frog in a pot, who failed to realize the water (kuwei) was  was slowly climbing to a boil.

There was a gooey presence in the throat throughout, which is something I treasure. My last scribble for the session was that I had an oversteep that evening and noted:

I failed to notice how bitter this was in the morning session

Jin Da Yi
Spent leaves from the Jindayi

A question that several people have discussed with me is whether this tea and the 2011 Jin Dayi will follow a similar trajectory. I can not really weigh in on this issue with any accuracy, since the first time I tried the 2003 Jindayi was after it had been aged a decade.  What I can attest to is the strength and enjoyment I had in both sessions. The teas are different, but their similarities are in their body. The price of both is a little off putting, but the 2011 Jin Dayi is at least in the range of most drinkers.

 

Read More