; Cwyn's Death By Tea: 2015 Chawangpu Lao Yun ;

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

2015 Chawangpu Lao Yun

Could be this year's.
Although I've finished up testing my new 2015 Chawangpu cakes, a sample of the Lao Yun was included in my package. I can't quite make out the date on the bag, it looks like 2013, or 2015? Not sure. But I wanted to give this a try because Chawangshop has 2013-2015 versions of this cake available. Ringing in this year at a mere $12 for a 200g beeng, this is the lowest priced budget cake of the house label teas. That means just $60 a tong for this one. The Lao Yun has been reviewed elsewhere on other tea review and blog sites so definitely take a look around at other reviews if you are considering a purchase. I initially passed on this cake because from the photo I thought I could see some uneven processing and decided that perhaps some burnt leaves might be the cause of the low price tag.

Can't quite make out the year.
This tea is made by a group of old women for their own consumption. When looking at the leaves I couldn't help but think a few of those gals might need reading glasses but just don't want to wear them. My own grandmother refused to get her own set of readers, and instead borrowed my grandfather's pair for 30 years. My grandfather continued to work well into his 80s, so that meant my grandmother waited all day until he got home to borrow his glasses. I needed bifocals when I hit 46 or so, but since I already had worn glasses since age 10, this change in my eye sight didn't bother me so much. When you see resistance to reader lenses, it's always in people who had perfect eyesight all along, and perhaps still have perfect distance vision. They are proud of their eyesight and don't want to break down and admit they can't see up close any longer. As for me, I didn't want to break down and sell the handheld video games.

Turns out those ladies might see just fine, and at the same time I wasn't too far off about the tea. As soon as the hot water hit the tea, the straight up smell of campfire hits my nose. When we taste smoke in a sheng puerh, very often it is referred to as a tobacco flavor or scent. Or we see a lot of char in the strainer. In this case, I don't see much if any char, rather the whole cake has been infused with wood smoke. So I guess those old ladies can see just fine, but they are doing a kill green just over a very smoky wood fire. Some of this dissipates within a few steeps, but I can definitely smell it within what is otherwise a good quality champagne grape start to the tea and then the descent into straight up bitterness.

I kept my brew temps at a 208F, just off the boil. Going lower on the temps might have mellowed the bitter flavor in later steeps, but honestly this is a tea for aging and it's too much for me to drink this young. One reviewer at We Rate Teas reported a stomach ache from this, well that's what you get drinking a bitter young tea like this. No, this is one for the crocks.

Might be interesting to see how the campfire smoke integrates or dissipates. I am reminded of the wood furnace my dad bought, stoking it in the middle of the night with more wood. At home I never really noticed much of the wood smoke, but outside the house my clothes certainly smelled like it. Although I enjoyed the fireplaces and wood furnace, in my early adulthood whenever I got a cold, I'd end up with bronchitis every time. This tendency disappeared eventually, but I read someplace that problems like this are common when you grow up with wood fires in the house. And that big furnace was in the room right next to where I slept. The scent on this tea takes me back to that basement bedroom of mine near the wood furnace.

Second Steep
The tea soup is a really bright yellow, and has a bit of body by the third steep. Leaves are a nice mix of small and large, a few buds, and some older brown leaves indicating some age. I made it through three steeps and then stopped drinking for the sake of my system. Overall the tea has a high quality taste that is infused with the wood smoke, and this justifies Chawangshop's classification of the cake as a "Craft" or farm product tea, and the price tier. The cakes start at $12 and then go up by $2-3 after a year.

Bifocals, anyone?

Personally I appreciate the classification of "craft" tea, and I like some of the craft Heicha teas that Chawangshop also sells which are much easier to drink. I've seen plenty of sheng out there that really should be classified as "craft" due to the rough processing, but all too often the tea is sold for premium prices. I don't think sellers should shy away from offering a tea like this in their shop. The low price and unique experience justify picking up a cake. If you're into tea aging experiments, this cake is worth tossing into your cart to learn whatever you can, while you can.

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