; Cwyn's Death By Tea: 2015 Chawangpu Hekai Gushu Xiao Bing ;

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

2015 Chawangpu Hekai Gushu Xiao Bing

Spring puerh cakes are coming in, and the prices favor the tea drunk this year, thank the gods. Chawangshop's entire spring line of 200g cakes can be sampled, in full cake form, for just under $200. I've been thirsty for some gushu, given I didn't order any other spring teas like longjing, saving my 2015 tea virginity for pu. With aged oolong years rapidly approaching for me, I realize have little time in life to actually drink really fresh tea. I plan to make the most of it while I can, so let's get right to it.
200g cake
This gushu puerh is described as hailing from Man Nan Lao Zhai, Hekai Mountain, Menghai County and is a ridiculously low $36.00 a cake, 5 cakes per tong. Stone compression comes apart easily giving me more leaf on my plate than I can brew in one session. I'm going with 9 grams and my usual 110 ml Celadon gaiwan. I hit this hard with boiling water and started digging in the leaf before even trying the tea.

Soup pours out light green, so the photos on Chawangshop are very accurate. Mine appears a little yellow because of the lighting. First two steeps are very sweet with that champagne grape profile of fresh gushu, no apricot here. The processing is very fine in my cake, almost no char my strainer and definitely no smokey flavor whatsoever.

Stone compression means a looser press
The tea coats my tongue in steeps 3 and 4 with a bittersweet flavor which lasts quite a long time. I'm not noticing a whole lot of astringency, and I'm on medications that tend to give me more dry mouth than normal. I tend not to rate astringency for this reason, but the fact that it has less than I normally get from tea means that most other people might not experience much, if any.

Second Steeping following two quick rinses
I'm getting an easy relaxation and some pressure around my ears but not a huge tea drunk. The relaxation helps when the mailman arrives and drops off a newsletter from my former convent of nuns. I know all four of these nuns in the Memoriam section. The photo farther below is the newsletter.

The sister in the upper right cameo photo was a cousin of mine, and the dearest friend I ever had. Sister Alice's brother married one of my paternal grandmother's nieces. We became close friends in the years before I left the community, and before the time when she served as what was once called the Mother General. Alice was a loving, happy person. Her gift to me was a lot of love and gentle attention to my sensitive shy side with cups of herbal tea. Without all this, instead of the tea drunk I am today, I would have become an alcoholic, or worse. Sister Alice had a stroke suddenly around age 62, which left her almost unable to talk. I visited her a few times and heard her frustration with losing speech and other functions that left her in a wheelchair and living in the convent nursing home much too early.

The photo below my cousin is a nun who was my first director in formation, a position once called the Director of Postulants.  Sister Leclare was also a nurse, and had been a missionary nun. When I lived with her, she had just started a clinic for Laotian and Thai refugees who were moving into our city at the time. A no-nonsense and energetic person with a large open heart, her gift to me was guts and some backbone. I lived with her at the time when I found myself in a school shooting situation. She listened with some sympathy in the days that followed, and eventually told me to stop moping and get on with it. I doubt I could have gone on to work in dangerous forensic mental health settings without the courage I got from Sister Leclare.

Sister Alice, upper right; Sister Leclare lower right. I knew the other two on this page, but not well.

These sisters passed away last fall, and I had asked to be informed when Sister Alice passed, but no one did and I missed her funeral. The tea I'm drinking helps me in a pensive moment like this, making me glad to be a tea drinker and not someone needing to drown my sorrows in booze. Because this would be one of those moments to do so. However, I've known of these deaths for some months now and today is more of a moment to think of the sisters fondly. I also notice in the newsletter that the community dropped the age to join the convent down to age 45 for the top end. They must have done that to make sure Old Cwyn doesn't come back. hehe Tea drunks probably shouldn't apply.

A few darker buds and one with a thick stem.
This interruption to my session leaves me with a bit of mental confusion so it takes awhile to get back on track and steeping the tea. The tea is still going strong at 8 steeps, and I'm getting more bitterness coating the tongue. This might be a good sign for some people who look for bitter teas to age, but I'm not going to recommend this for aging because I think it is a shame to let gushu like this dry out too much. In my opinion, I will treat it like a long jing, to enjoy gushu fresh. For aging I want something with a bit of big leaf, maybe a blend of summer and fall tea thrown in there for balance.

A happy pile of leaves.
This gushu doesn't develop the thick body in the soup, that engine oil type liquid I find in higher tier teas. Those folks willing to pay for the high end experience should look out for something more like white2tea's 2014 Last Thoughts. But if you have never tried gushu, at all, this is a chance to do so as a learning experience to get the flavor of that grape-y bud tea firmly ensconced in your memory bank. And it is almost inexcusable to pass up the chance at the price of $36, because buying a small sample of this, even if Honza offers it, is really not cost effective when a cake is this reasonable in price. This tea is going to be gone quickly, I think, because of the price.

In my realm of puerh, for me this is tea I will want to drink up before the drying air of winter returns. For me it is a cake that would be a shame to dry out and store. It is good to drink fresh and give as a gift to friends to drink right now. Sister Alice and I drank a lot of tea back when she lived in Woodruff, and I think I'll have some more of this gushu for them all, in memory of her.

Requiescat in Pace, my sisters. And thank you, because I would not be here right now, as I am, without you.

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