Thursday, September 25, 2014

1978 or 1967 oolong

Okay, so I ended up getting a new oolong from the same shop that the Gukeng is from (supposedly 1950's) so the Gukeng is delayed until next week or the week after. Good thing this week's tea is interesting enough to have a whole blog post dedicated to :).

This week we are drinking an oolong from 1978 (or 1967) that my friend picked up in Taiwan. It's from the same shop as Mystery Aged Oolong, so it's going to be interesting how they progressed in terms of aged oolong selection (three years have passed!). I believe it was $.50/g, so it's not cheap by any means, but it has quite a bit of age on it so time will tell. My friend said it's 1978, but the bag says 67 on it, along with some Chinese characters (roughly translated as aged oolong by my other friend).

The dry leaves are small, unrolled, and brown/red. They smell sweet and fruity but not plum fruity (a hint of things to come). The wet leaves are also small, but not broken, and have the typical aged oolong wet leaf aroma (sweet/earthy). It steeps out to a nice reddish-brown color and is not very aromatic (you know, the usual).
note that the year of the quarter is the same year as this tea potentially is!

Where this tea really discerns itself from others is the taste. It is quite sour/tart, but not at all like other aged oolongs. Other sour aged oolongs seem to present their sourness in a very harsh/unpleasant (for some, I don't mind it) way. Usually paired with some plummy sweetness. This one is tart, but in a different way. The tartness is definitely smooth and refined, and seems to have some cantaloupe/honeydew flavor along with it, which is very nice. The tartness reminds me of a good African (maybe a Burundian or Kenyan?) wet processed coffee, a balanced fruity tartness. Underneath that nice tartness is some of that nice earthy, leathery flavor that is characteristic of good quality aged oolongs. This was probably never re-roasted, which is a pleasant surprise as I blindly bought this tea without trying it and a good amount of aged oolongs are tainted with heavy re-roastings throughout their lifetime. This tea puts out for a while, giving nice, flavorful, full-bodied steeps for 3+ hours of brewing (probably 14-16 steeps). I'm also noticing a positive body response from this one, I'm feeling focused, but relaxed, although I also just took Allegra and Ibuprofen as well. Of course, this Cha Qi suddenly disappeared when I started playing some DOPE MUSIC.

one of the later steeps, was much darker earlier on.

Overall, this tea is both interesting AND really good, which is something that is rarely accomplished by teas. I'm heavily considering getting more of it when the opportunity arises (probably can get some in like a month). I'm going to get some clarification of the origin of this tea as well, for you guys. I find it quite interesting to compare teas available in the U.S. to ones only available in Taiwan, quality differences and such.

Next week: The Gukeng and the 50's from the SAME SHOP.
Week after: Two Teamasters oolongs - young and old, from the same farm.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Double (tea) Cup

I've been on two binges recently - Sheng Pu'erh and Footwork/Juke music. Maybe it's the contrast of a tea waiting to be brewed for years and a genre of music that is the backbone of the underground Chicago dance scene. Maybe it's the fact that I got tons (almost a kilo) of sheng last week and footworker Cakedog (Ahnnu) released a new (insane) album recently. Imagine me sipping slowly a carefully aged tea that's been sleeping for 30 years, woken up from its slumber to serve me and my tea habits. Imagine me contemplating the origin of this wonderful tea, analyzing every deep, earthy, herbal, and sweet note that has been gifted to this tea by Time itself. Now imagine me doing all of that while chanting along to footwork music (i.e. "FUCK OUTTA HERE", "I DON'T GIVE A FUCK", etc.). You might say that I'm living the good life, which is actually defined as a harmonious balance of Tea Life and TEKLIFE.  

 I'm back on my OOLONG GRIND though, as I tried an aged oolong (Dancong?) from Camellia Sinensis today. Feng Huang Wu Dong (say that quickly 10 times!) from 1980. Wudong is supposedly the "best" (please don't hurt me!) mountain for growing Dancong oolongs.

Dry leaf looks like... pu'erh. Dry leaf smells like... pu'erh. Wet leaf looks like....pu'erh. Wet leaf smells like, you guessed it, chocolate-covered caramels with a coating of crumbled Oreo cookies. Just kidding, the wet leaf smells like pu'erh. The liquor looks like aged/shou pu'erh (deep brown/black), and smells like a pu'erh. Pu'erh, pu'erh, pu'erh. The taste is also like a pu'erh, but with a nice sweetness and spiciness. It's honestly hard to describe it, other than pu'erh. Nice thick body and sweet aftertaste. For me, this calls for some serious research. I turn on some DJ Rashad tunes and hit the Google.

While searching "aged dancong" I got autocorrected to "aged dancing", which rewarded me with this masterpiece. Thanks, Google. Further searching had me find out that aged Dancong can be very similar to pu'erh, as according to MarshalN [1], Imen of TeaHabitat [1] [2] (hopefully I'll be able to review her teas on here), Life in Teacup [1], along with several others. Everyone seems to agree with me - this oolong tastes like a pu'erh. Overall I'm interested by this tea. I'm too intrigued to even assign this a rating, like the 1983 Gukeng. It was honestly pretty good though, but it's hard to rate such a learning experience. But I gotta do it, so I give it a Good-. If you're researching aged oolongs this seems like the most economical way to pick up a Dancong(-style) tea with 30+ years of age, as Tea Habitat sells similar aged teas for about $50/oz and this is closer to $18, however I cannot compare as I have never had Tea Habitat's teas. Fate chose this one to ease me back into aged oolongs from a Sheng bender.

I then reached into my sample box and pulled out Camellia Sinensis' 1989 Hualien. I recall TeaDB liking this one a lot, so I decided to give it a shot. The dry leaves are slightly curled and greyish, pretty normal. They don't have an aroma, which threw me off. Just a slight smokiness, but it's not noticeable unless you REALLY look for it. When I opened the bag there was no aroma either, other than something lemon-limey (like some sort of air freshener scent), so there might be something wrong with the specific sample. The wet leaves were small, pretty, red and... odorless. The liquor was a nice reddish-brown, and was odorless. There was VERY little flavor to be found in this one, just some mineral and bitter (???) notes. My heart was broken, I was really expecting more. However, all signs point to this being a one-off issue, a bad sample (maybe bad bag?). I'll have to e-mail them about this issue. For now the tea is Not Good, as the portion that I have has no redeeming qualities.

Next week preview: Two aged oolongs sourced from friends in Taiwan. One is the fabled 1983 Gukeng. The other....the other is another mystery. I should be Leavin' about now, see you next week.

Rest in peace DJ Rashad, the man responsible for bringing Footwork outside of Chicago. Your death marked a huge loss for the entire electronic music community, but your influence will live on forever.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Straight Outta Anxi

Long story short: Both these teas are Anxi TieGuanYins, one is 20y/o and one is 1985 from the NanYan factory, but was re-roasted. The Nanyan is the better tea. The 20y/o is pretty weak and sour, slightly mineral and herbal, boring, etc. The NanYan has some plumminess and sourness, some more aged taste (earthy leather etc.), and is generally stronger and more rounded. Both are mediocre in the end.

As I said to James about the 20y/o TGY (James sent me these teas, thanks for the opportunity): "It's okay as fuck. It's the definiton of okay. On a one to ten scale, it gets an "okay". This is the strongest neutral feeling I've ever had about a tea". The NanYan got a "better, but not that good. Gets an okay, cool, above average, don't mess up the aging by roasting next time, mystery guy.".

In conclusion, both of these teas are very okay. Some more okay than the others.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Tale of Two Aged Baozhongs

     First up is an aged Baozhong from 1976, from Origin Tea by way of James. The main draw to this tea is the fact that the storage was wetter than most aged oolongs. Wet storage is generally NO BUENO for aged oolongs, so I want to see what happens with this tea.

     The first thing that I noticed is the size of the dry leaf. Baozhong dry leaves are usually 2-3x the size of these, so I was confused. The dry leaf smells normal, fruity, earthy, blah blah blah. The wet leaf smells more metallic than most. The liquor is very dark, almost black, and smells mineral (making this tea a good replacement for breakfast cereal, as you get your essential minerals through the tea instead). The first flavor I notice is sourness, probably due to the humid storage. The sourness almost reminds me of alcohol for some reason. Beneath that sourness there's an intense earthy flavor. There's also some super-dark chocolate going on, which I like. After 2 steeps the sourness goes away and what's left is a solid, strong aged oolong. It goes pretty nicely for ~6 steeps until it dies out.

     Next we have another aged Baozhong - this time from 1982 and from Everlasting Teas. Their website just went through a big update, so I would advise you to check it out because they have some awesome teas.

     Dry leaf is also small, greyish, and smells normal (fruity and earthy). Wet leaf smells fruity and slightly metallic. Liquor is a very dark brown and smells herbal and fruity.

     I drank the rinse. Yep, even in the rinse there's that nice plummy sweet flavor us aged oolong fans have come to crave. Aged oolong connoisseurs like us usually have to make sacrifices though, that plummy flavor is ALWAYS accompanied by some intense sourness, right? Not with this tea. The sourness is still there in the background, but not even close to the intensity of the sourness of the other Aged Baozhong featured in this blog post. There's also some leather that comes through, especially in the later steeps, along with the strawberry jam-esque aftertaste (jam of a lifetime). It also picks up some soft floral-ness (lilac?) in the later steeps. This is a tea that will appeal to all of the aged oolong aficionados out there, as it has the essential flavor profile that fellow aged oolong devotees seek. The price is right as well, priced at $15 US Dollars for a one ounce canister of this tea. That's right, you get a free reusable canister with your tea, which run $2-4 each. This tea gets around ~9-10 steeps, which is good for aged Baozhong. Overall, I really like this tea, especially when made STRONG. It's much different than the other aged Baozhong that Everlasting sells (1972 from the same farm), which is quite interesting as the only difference between the two is the age, everything else surrounding it is the same AFAIK. This one is much sweeter and fruitier while the 1972 has an awesome herbal flavor. Both are great.

Note that this is one of the later steeps - so the liquor is a bit too light colored.

     Next Week: Two Aged Anxi Tie Guan Yins  fight to the death - Who will win? 20 Year Old or 1985 Nanyan? Find out on the next episode of: DRINKING TEAS

Closed captioning brought to you by Everlasting Teas.