I know what you're hiding in that unplugged fridge, collection of jars, your dedicated cupboards, those boxes under the bed, and lined drawers that you can shut so no one can see. You're the one who catches the mails before anyone at home says "more tea???!" or worse. You go around and sniff in the middle of the night when people are asleep, just to see how your cakes are doing. After all, you're awake anyway because you drank too much. You have so much tea stuffed away that the insurance agent gives you a blank stare when you ask about an extra rider for tea on your home policy.
One big reason for me to buy young tea cakes is gift giving (classic rationale of the Tea Hoarder). This year I've already given away quite a bit of tea, and I look for tea cakes around the $20 price point for this purpose. I have a big advantage living in an area of the world where nobody knows what a fermented tea cake is. Nobody has one. Thus I retain a stash of perfect choices for the occasion when I need to bring a $20 gift. In small towns like mine, one has to plan ahead for gift giving, because we can't just run to the Dollar General store and hope to find something nice. Especially for that person who has a little bit of a taste for the finer things, or is a foodie person or a wine person. And a young tea cake is great for gift giving, because I don't need to feel bad if the recipient goes home and throws the thing in a drawer.
At the moment I'm still having a challenge looking for a gift tea. One problem with gifting tea is whether I think the recipient will try and drink the cake right away. If that is the case, then I don't want to saddle my friends with a bitter and disappointing brew. Mandala's Wild Monk cakes are great for small gifts, but a bit too small for the family gift situation I'm looking at right now.
One other consideration is that the couple in question is not a young couple, but more in my age range. And they have health problems too. A shou is a safe and healthy bet, but not terribly interesting and a challenge for new puerh drinkers to taste and enjoy. My friends have the best weather for aging tea too, so regardless of what I choose, storage is not really much of an issue. I need a young tea that tastes good, or an older tea cake that tastes good and has lost its bitterness and most of the astringency. Astringency is something you don't see much reference to in my writing about puerh tea, because I feel I cannot objectively evaluate this trait due to the medications I take, at least three of them have a xerostomic side effect.
Sigh. What's an old lady to do?
I guess continue digging through my own tea collection first and see if I have anything that would be appropriate as a gift for my friends. I still have a few teas that I haven't tried yet, might as well work my through a few more tastings before trying to buy something new. Another advantage of considering a gift from my collection is that if a cake needs airing out, that process is already done.
One tea I haven't tried yet is the 2014 Ban Payasi I got from Chawangshop. Do you have any Laos or other "border" tea cakes in your collection? Of course you do. A few bloggers reviewed Chawangshop's 2014 Ban Komaen earlier this season, but I don't think I've seen much on the 2014 Ban Payasi, which is the cake I bought, and less than half the price of the Ban Komaen. Actually I bought a tong of Ban Payasi village tea cakes. After all, a single cake is just a sample, right??? (yet more of the thought process behind Tea Hoarding) The Ban Payasi is a value anyway at $22, and buying a tong drops the price down to $19 a cake which is why I went with the 5 cake tong, that's 4 gifts at the $20 price point plus a cake for me (another rationalization for Tea Hoarding...I might a candidate for clomipramine).
|2014 Ban Payasi by Chawangshop.com|
I liked the Chawangshop description of the Ban Payasi village reaction to inquiries about buying fresh tea leaves. Something like "nope." As I wrote back in September regarding the same shop's 2007 bamboo Naka, I've often wondered how many villages just say no when yet another SUV or motorbike roars up the road looking for tea leaves. Do they ever sound a village warning, something like "Ray Bans and Gucci bag closing in at 2 kilometers. Lock up, people." The need to hoard kicks in when an outsider gets too close. Not that I'm judging, in fact I completely understand.
Reading around the internet, I found a blog of a Russian tea group who traveled to Ban Payasi in early 2012, and they did buy fresh leaves. They are selling the loose tea collected from the village that year at $17/oz and their cakes are $100/250 g, which seems rather pricey to me. I can only account for the difference if their tea has a high bud-to-leaf ratio, but guessing it's a 1:3 at best, and perhaps worse since the diary shows leaves bought from a small child who went picking willy-nilly for a half hour. The blog diary is a lil' bit pithy, and I wonder why they only have 2012 tea, it seems they haven't gone back to the village. Is it because they still have 2012 tea left to sell?
On tea forums, comparisons of the Phongsaly region teas with Yunnan puerh seem to range from "meh" to "tastes like Yiwu." The Ban Payasi cake description reads like the village dug up a bag of leaves to sell, maybe something older or what they had maybe picked the previous autumn? Since I haven't tried the tea yet, I can't say, but it cost half the price of the other Phongsaly cakes that Chawangshop offers, so there must be a good reason for this. Get out the tweezers just in case?
The cake is only a few months old, and of course is still very green, but quite fragrant. Looser stone compression on this one, and not hard to remove about 9 grams for the 110 ml or so I plan to steep. Eeek, bracing myself for the worst of young sheng brashness.
|Still pretty green. Sorry for the blurry photo.|
|First steep...CrimsonLotusTea has some cute tea pets!|
I think this will be a perfect gift tea. And one more cake goes out the door...