Saturday, November 29, 2014

1963 Toufen

Who's up for some OLD tea? 9 years older than the oldest tea on this blog (other than the monstrosity that was labeled as 1954), this is the Nineteen Sixty Three Toufen Oolong, brought to you by Camellia Sinensis. Toufen is a city located in the Miaoli region in Taiwan, in fact it seems like a good amount of aged oolongs come out of Miaoli. Longtime readers and archive diggers might remember my review of Floating Leaves Tea's aged Miaoli.

The dry leaf is small, curly, and brittle, with the yellowish brown color of dead leaves (which is what tea is anyways.). The dry leaf lost all aroma, which seems to be standard for all very old oolongs, and even some younger aged oolongs (such as the Aged Pinglin from Floating Leaves). A Yixing collector/seller based in NYC was telling me about an 1870s oolong he had, he said it lost all aroma and he also told me about how he had to boil it to get flavor out of it. However, he said it was a good tea overall. He seems to have a lot of very old teas, including some 1940s Long Jing, a few other very old boxes of tea (1800s), and some other ~40yr old oolongs. Aroma isn't a good way to predict the quality of a tea in my opinion, as a bland tea might have a strong aroma, and vice versa. However, I digress. The wet leaf is similarly un-aromatic (is that a word?), but it has a slight aged oolong earthy aroma. The tea, like the liquid that you drink, is dark, thick, and smooth. The mellow, earthy profile of this reminds me of aged Liu Bao more than aged oolong or pu'erh, very deep and smooth, easy drinking. The aftertaste is subtle, but present and long.

A common misconception with aged teas is that they're this incredible, ethereal, transcendent experience. The reality is that they probably won't be a mind-blowing experience unless you drink something special. A lot of the good stuff is gone, gulped down by enthusiasts just like you and me. However, each and every tea can serve as a learning experience, especially the rare ones.

Overall, I enjoyed tasting this tea, although it was weak in flavor it was overall a pleasant drink and a great learning experience. It seems that oolongs peak at around 30-40 years of age, which is a long time. I recommend this tea to anyone who is learning about aged oolongs or anyone who wants to drink really old tea (bragging rights? spiritual reasons?).

EDIT: I forgot to link music! This song is nice and mellow, just like the tea:

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hojo Teas

Hello everyone, this week we have some HOJO TEAS, from Japan. Except these aren't grown in Japan - they're grown in Taiwan and China. Hojo is a bit controverisal regarding their pu'erh storage method (vacuum sealed), but their oolongs seem to be universally acclaimed, especially their Dancong. Thank you so much to Akira Hojo for generously providing these samples to me.

First up I tried the Mi Lan Xiang (honey orchid fragrance) Dancong from 100yr old trees. It's been a minute since I had some good Dancong, and as soon as I smelled the dry leaf I knew I was in for a treat. So sweet, so delicious, honey, floral. I loaded it up into the gaiwan with a smile on my face. 5g/60ml, we don't mess around here at Drinking Teas, only the realest water/leaf ratios for us. So I rinsed it - and then smelled the wet leaf. Whoaaa boy, that's GOOD. You better believe I'm drinking that rinse. This tea is floral, but not in that perfumy fake way.  Smooth, natural (like wild flowers?) floral. Nice honey/fruity sweetness there as well. Incredible aftertaste, some hui gan, very lasting. Good mouthfeel. This tea lasted me about 15 steeps, giving me a good amount of tea. I really loved this tea, definitely lives up to the reputation of Hojo. Considering this is their 2nd cheapest Dancong out of 20 or so, I can't imagine how the others are. I'm seriously considering purchase (as in, give up some of my money) of this dancong, possibly the more roasted version instead.

Second is their 30 year old aged oolong. Right off the bat, the dry leaf smells fan-tas-tic. So sweet and jammy. Wet leaf smells normal, leafier. Steeps to a nice reddish brown. This tea is medium-thin bodied with a roasted aroma. I know this tea was re-roasted, but I believe it was pretty slight. I still get some nice herbal notes with a background of plum. It's pretty weak, although I did use 6-7g in my Yixing. This isn't really a great tea, but this might have to do with the brewing session this time. Sometimes things just don't work out.
Still, considering this is more expensive than that fantastic Dancong, you know what I'll spring for in this case. Again, big thanks to Hojo Teas, I enjoyed tasting these teas a lot.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Misty Peak Teas - young sheng

Misty Peak Teas is a Portland based tea company who sources all of their tea from a single family farm in Yiwu, which I find interesting. Nicole of Tea For Me Please interviewed him a while back, and he explains the background story behind his company, so go check that out if you're interested.

Nicholas of Misty Peak Teas got in touch with me via Instagram and offered to send me a few samples, and I accepted them (yeah yeah I'm thirsty). He sent me two teas - his 2012 Autumn pu'erh and his rolled pu'erh, which seems to be his answer to the mini tuocha.

First up, we have the 2012 Autumn pu'erh. I used 7g of this in a 100ml gaiwan. Dry leaves were pretty big, unbroken, and very loosely compressed. Very consistent leaf size, confirming the single farm status and also showing that the farm has a pretty strict picking standard. It seems that Misty Peak Teas intends for their tea to be more of a drink-now or maybe a dry-stored pu'erh based on the compression level. Dry leaf smells smooth and sweet and this steeps out to a light yellow. I was impressed with the flavor, it was incredibly sweet, no bitterness, and I got notes of milk, flowers, and grains. For me it lasted about 11 steeps, probably could have pushed it more but I decided to stop. Overall this is an excellent young raw pu'erh for drinking now, very smooth mellow and delicious. It's not something I would personally buy at the moment (as I'm trying to buy more aged teas), but people who like sweet young raw pu'erh should give this a try.

Next up - another young sheng from Misty Peak. This is a very good concept - a rolled pu'erh. This seems to have the convenience of a minituo while not sacrificing leaf quality. The leaves in this one are nice and full, and the "tuo" is not very compressed. This is an Autumn 2013 production. I used one "tuo" in a gaiwan, and it was not as good as the 2012. Although they were both around 7g, this was more bitter, and not as sweet. I got some buttery and vegetal notes instead of the creamy bready notes of the 2012. I really recommend just breaking up a cake all at once for consumption (as shown here) instead of using minituos/rolled pu'erhs like this. Although this is probably the best minituo out there, it's really just nicer to have variety. I'd much rather have the 2012 than this, the extra year did it good.

Thank you Nicholas for the tea sessions, it is much appreciated.

QUICK EDIT: Almost forgot my music selection of the week:

AHNNU - Non2