More lovely samples of Chen Yuan Hao await my discovery, and today I plan to drink a 2016 Yiwu tea. The sample is courtesy of a tea friend, who labeled the tea Yiwu, so I am guessing the sample is the 2016 Chen Yi Zi Hao aka Yiwu Chawang here from Teapals.
I own plenty of Yiwu teas and while the best ones have a grape top note and honey base, Yiwu teas are fairly diverse in the finer points, including leaf size and aging potential. In fact, Yiwu varietal teas extend south of the Yunnan China border into Laos where they cannot “properly” be called puerh tea even though the trees themselves do not know this political requirement. I should not necessarily generalize about a Yiwu tea before actually trying it, because the smaller distinctions make a huge difference in price.
Before I try this tea, however, please note this image of a pristine porcelain gaiwan.
|Gaiwan by Inge Nielsen, Etsy|
Because the truth is this type of tea staining is not Patina, but Tea Scum. Tea Scum is the result of tea trapped beneath a combination of oils and minerals in water which eventually form a crust. Rather like this:
"How to remove hard water stains"
For educational purposes, going beyond the focus of my blog which is mostly confined to Tea Filth, let me show you what Real Patina is.
|Two years of use produces a very light patina|
Lin's Ceramics cream color cup
My advice, always travel with your own gaiwan and cup as a backup contingency. Inspect all tea ware carefully before using anyone else’s. Having a wet wipe in your wallet is certainly worth a thought if you don’t want to insult the host by insisting on using your own tea ware. You can pretend to inspect the “beauty” of the piece by holding it at a distance far below the level of the table while applying a discreet wipe, and remind the host of properly warming the wares with boiling water afterward, prior to brewing.
|2016 Chen Yuan Hao "Yiwu"|
This tea also possesses a strong throat feel that lingers long after drinking, like a ball in the throat you know the tea is there. The flavor range is representative but somewhat narrow, a single octave like G below middle C to G above. None of the thickness of more premium Yiwu teas but of course that may improve and the tea is not even out of the first year yet. This one brews long, past ten brews and thickens a bit in steeps eight to ten.
I notice how small the leaves are compared to other productions, rather like the 2002 Yong Pin Hao Red which is also a first flush spring tea. A well-cultivated garden behind these teas, and both have dry storage. The 2002 YPH is now up to $260 a cake, just $10 behind this CYH but of course you’re paying for the age in the former, and the label premium in the latter. Ah, my white wrapper 1999 Yiwu, were that tea still available, seems like bargain now at $330-ish before it sold out.
The tea has some durability in steeping, I went ten steeps and the brew still had strength, however I noticed some disintegration of the leaves. Doing a strength test by rubbing the leaves between my fingers, some turned to mush but others did not.
Cloudy brew from disintegrating leaves
This tea is definitely a better experience than a plain drinker and really one’s collection is a determining factor. Do you want yet another Yiwu in your stash? If you don’t have a decent Yiwu tea this is a good consideration. Or if you’ve tried the YQH teas and don’t care for the Taiwanese heavier storage, this tea is a new one you can try your hand at storing dry. This is where I think the tea has the most merit for me, the opportunity to age and retain more of the top notes. Quite honestly, the leaves themselves interest me more than drinking the tea they make, just for observing changes over time. This could be one of those long-drinking Yiwu cakes as long as it doesn’t sour along the way. Care is everything and the storage challenge is intriguing.
|Leaves after steep 10 when I stopped|