Yah, okay, I’ve been off the tea radar lately, but as usual it is not my fault. This is the sort of thing that happens after doing tea sessions in public, as I did two weeks ago at the Wisconsin Fermentation Fest. You see, the folks who run this festival told me to prepare for 50 people, and so naturally I did. Not wanting to skimp on the tea for the fine festival-ers paying the $25 big ones for the session, I gong fu brewed using western teapots, well maybe they were coffee servers actually. I think I brewed 30-50g of tea per pot. In fact I’m pretty sure that’s the case but I didn’t think to measure the tea beforehand. I just know that two weeks later I’m still steeping out the same tea, which is why I haven’t had anything new to post.
The first tea I served was 2015 Poundcake from white2tea. In fact, white2tea donated 2 kilos of shou balls for the Wisconsinites attending my class, but we’ll get to that in a bit. To start, I wanted to serve a very fresh tea so people could taste what puerh tea is like in the raw. I did bring along the 2015 Menghai ‘Shroom but I didn’t want to bomb the newbs with gut-wrenching bitterness, and that tactic paid off. For the 2015 Poundcake ended up as the class favorite by a large margin. However, a couple of tea heads attended the class and their votes and subsequent panhandling of my more aged teas indicated wise and learned tastes on their part.
Next, I served white2tea’s 2005 Naka, and if you’ve read my blog then you know that this tea is one of my favorites and a personal hoarding project of mine. Tiny leaves of the good stuff, and my aging has sweetened up the tea at ten years, but still retains some green promise left to go. I used at least 40g in a bowling ball size teapot. Naturally I’m still drinking up these leaves two weeks later, and that’s after giving some away and filling a few thermoses for participants on their drive home. I know for sure one tea head is still alive because I got an email a few days later saying he’s still steeping the Naka at 10 pots himself.
My personal favorite served next was the 1998 Yiwu, also from white2tea. It’s long sold out, so no need to run over there to look. On that festival Sunday as I pre-rinsed all the leaves so I didn’t have to bother doing so during the class, I thought “gosh I’m tired and don’t feel like doing this.” But the moment I packed the 1998 Yiwu into a large Tetsubin strainer and rinsed it, why the smell of those leaves, all spicy and sweet got me in the mood for some serious tea drinking. Now our weather had included some mild and muggy days prior to the class, following a muggy hot summer, and the 1998 Yiwu tasted prime, spicy and woody and sweet, and damn good. Like a fine cognac. I paid nearly $400 or so for that tea and it is worth every penny. This tea is reason enough alone to never look at Taobao ever again.
However, I didn’t want to deprive the Wisconsin Fermentation Fest of Taobao, which would be remiss and certainly indicative that Tea Education has truly gone to the snobby pigs. So for the Shou finisher I served up dzpuer’s 2013 500g shou brick. No not all 500 g, but yessir I served it so strong that any water sitting on those leaves turned to gelatin without carefully watching and I had to pour some of that gelatin out when people wanted a bit more after the class, in order to add fresh boiling water. One doesn’t need a fine shou to balance out a sheng session, an ordinary one will suit. Instead, I sent people home with the samples of white2tea’s much finer shou balls and some raw Yiwu mini tuos to brew at home. I’m not gonna say where I got the Yiwu tuos, but rest assured the gift samples are education in a bag. The best part of the class was the after-session, when three tea heads stayed to guzzle as much tea as we could drink. One guy begged off some unbrewed 1998 Yiwu to impress a Chinese colleague at work who is a puerh drinker. I couldn’t say no to the opportunity to outdo one’s colleague with tea cred, and forked over a good 15g, or so I hoped.
After the class I had to clean up the room, and I’d made a huge mess. The class took place in a closed up clothing shop in an old 1800s building, and I had to do tea on a white plastic table. Stained up the entire table with tea rings and puddles, and cleaning those off took a good half hour with me and my assistant scrubbing away with bleach cleanser. Also I picked up tea leaves from the floor and a few dead flies I’d killed during the class with a flat paint brush. Once finished with all that I got to drive home in my beater car over the bluffs and high hills, when just the day before a friend of mine did a brake job on my car and hadn’t bled the air out of the lines and so I had no brakes on the entire 50 mile round trip. He had threatened to kill me in July and just about made good on that promise.
Big props to the Wormfarm Institute for arranging the Wisconsin Fermentation Fest, and for sending me a real tea head as an assistant, the organizing all around was top notch. But being the messy woman I am, I kinda doubt I’ll be invited back again anytime soon. Next time they’ll probably be looking for one of you for-real Tea Sommeliers who can pour a fine thimble. Just remember that Tea Education is going to Hell when you drink your thimble and pine after the days when Cwyn the Pu Pig showed how it’s done with 50g of fine puerh.
While I’m still drinking out the 2005 Naka two weeks later, (and no way will I be throwing those leaves until they are done), none of this prevents me from trying the 2015 white2tea Tuhao as F*k, or whatever it is called. Apparently the name of this tea comes from some sort of hip hop album, a reference which escapes me, but at least doesn’t carry the heavy juju of the Colbert Holland moniker cake. I got a sample of this tea from a friend who purchased a larger amount, lucky me. He hoped I might write about it, so here goes.
The rap I’ve heard about all summer with the Tuhao is how “aggressive” the qi is, which means I might have a chance of avoiding a nap after trying it. My friend sent me a beautiful sample and obviously took great care when separating some leaves to send, as they are beautifully intact. I managed to eyeball 7g and confirmed my guesstimate at the electronic scale. Two rinses and a nice fresh tea smell brings some curiosity, as I’ve heard often the Tuhao has a “typical Menghai profile” and to me that usually means the acrid apricot of cheaper teas, but I’m getting the lighter grape notes rather than that sour orange we see all too often. My palate confirms the lighter flavor, though I’m steeping heavier than I expected, maybe only 75 ml or so.
A few cups in and I’m not finding this particularly aggressive. But then I’m the Pu Pig who just brewed up a whole pile of teas in coffee server size vessels. And I’m the old lady taking an ace inhibiter too and using my meds as an excuse to drink more rather than less. A bit more dissembling and thinking, and hey I know plenty of tea heads who start in on the Pu –bah early in the morning and are still at it well into the late evening, so any of those folks can easily enjoy the Tuhao without much fuss. Tuhao may not be a early morning tea, but easy enough to drink with a meal under the belt. I'll admit my meal an hour ago of eggplant parm and a bit of beef leaves my palate wanting fresh and light, so perhaps I'm missing out on deeper notes in the tea after such a heavy and sweet meal.
And that points to the real chatter going on around white2tea: I think people are talking about the teas for the wonderful experience we get drinking them fresh more so than for aging.
Fifth cup and the tea is getting a bit lighter, no doubt the loose leaf at the start gave me more punch in the first few brews. Still so fresh and light, a bit of summer into mid-autumn, the grape flavor holding consistent. Not tasting any reason here to want to tuck away this fresh leaf into storage with my older cakes. No, I’d peruse the older catalog teas on white2tea for something aged. In fact I’ve got a sample of the 1990s Blue Mark from the same friend, and I look forward to drinking that for a future post.
Finally, just a note about my reviews for people new to reading my blog: I primarily purchase the teas I review for myself. If I got a free sample from someone, I will say so. If the vendor gives me a sample, which I normally don’t solicit (why would I? I have too much tea already), I will say so. I do chat with tea vendors and mostly we talk about…tea. The vendors I chat with about tea aren’t trying to sell me anything and in fact tea pimps cut me off after awhile from buying tea for reasons I can’t discern and mostly stress over. I tend to buy full cakes rather than samples, and find vendor samples often dry out after a short time away from the original cake. If you can afford it, I suggest buying the full cake when possible and if you don’t like it, use it for swap currency with another tea head.
Til next time!