; Cwyn's Death By Tea: Purple Haze ;

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Purple Haze

I'm having a mild panic attack at the moment. The kind a tea addict gets when faced with the prospect of a favorite tea selling out. Right now I'm still in the initial moment of sitting in frozen limbo, not yet at the place of forming a plan of what to do. People who drink loose leaf tea blends panic loudly on tea forums when a vendor discontinues a blend which has been available for several years. Or when a seasonal tea passes it's "season," like when pumpkin spice tea, or eggnog peppermint fruitcake chai sells out for good and the vendor won't be making any next year. Swap beggars hope that somebody is holding a stash, doesn't love the tea, and might be willing to part with a bit.

Puerh drinkers experience more tea panic, or less depending upon one's  perspective. Those with more panic have Yunnan Sourcing Facebook feeds on their cell phone, just in case new cakes come in, or when the 12 hour flash sale is announced. The ability to hit the Buy button immediately is the best way to keep the anxiety at bay. On the other hand, puerh drinkers might experience less tea panic because they are faced with the sold-out situation far more often, what psychologists consider an "exposure cure" for a person dealing with a phobia. A really good tea cake is incredibly limited to begin with, so "you snooze you lose" is a more common scenario than not for cake-ers, or tong-ers, depending upon your buying strategy. For the budget-minded, we employ strategies like filling up the shopping cart and then not quite checking out immediately as a way to deal with the problem, to put the anxiety at bay long enough to either steal from the kids' college fund or return to a rational perspective and log out.

This week I had planned to write up the purple Dehong leaf, a tea leaf much written about over the years. By coincidence, Yunnan Sourcing just announced their new monthly tea subscriptions. I'm guessing nearly everybody reading this already knows about the subscriptions. A tea addict who doesn't is really living under a rock. More likely all my friends here probably are the RSS feed type, this sort of announcement appearing on a cell phone could cause a person to miss a bus stop or fry a client's hair with perming solution. Adding to the allure are the various subscription types: one can get just puerh, or only black teas, or green and white teas. If you're a real drunk, then you're in for the Premium to get it all. It's amazing how our tea pimps devise more ways to make it easy to keep us staggering and babbling incoherently, while spending the wife's shoe money. In the case of Yunnan Sourcing, the tea subscription is an idea that is surprisingly overdue given how long YS has been around. But not surprising that the announcement follows White2Tea's lead last month in forming a new tea club. I expect a few other companies may not be far behind, because nobody wants to lose their tea addicts. We have a real dilemma on our hands if budget is a consideration.

However, it is Yunnan Sourcing's tea subscription causing my current tea anxiety. One of my favorite black teas at the moment is the Wild Dehong Purple Black tea because it is in TWO of subscription packages for this month. Even before this week's announcement, the US site only had 18 packages left of the Wild Dehong Black. I'm afraid to look at the China site. But I'm also sitting here looking at my baggie which is starting to run low.

The Wild Purple Dehong Black has two different labels which is a little confusing when I'm already anxious. One is the "Light Roast," which oddly looks darker in the photo than the regular Wild Purple. Naturally I bought both last spring, but even stocking up ahead of time isn't enough. For me, this black tea is the best black tea I have ever tasted, and given my short time left on earth to drink tea, it might well be the best I will EVER taste. I've written maybe just one tea review on a vendor's site, and it was for this tea that I did so, because I wept the first time I drank it.

Wild Purple Dehong Black (regular roast)
This leaf is the xAssamica varietal which is naturally purple, grows wild, repelling bugs and sun on its own. I'm brewing it strong here, you know me, but even a small amount of this tea is lovely. Here I have 4 grams of this purple haze for my 125 ml cup, flash brewing in the gaiwan. My first brew was a little light, subsequent brews turned out darker, needs about a minute or so to brew.

First steep a little light, needed a good minute to brew
The real wonder of this tea is that the scent actually translates into the cup, so I can taste what I'm smelling. Not all teas do this, many darjeelings smell floral but you can't always taste it. This tea has that fragrance and taste which some call peony, or pea blossom. To me, I smell and taste roses. You can look at a rose and smell the fragrance, but can you taste the flower? One can even dry up and brew rose hips and petals which are actually sharp and sour, a rather nice flavor, but nothing like the scent of the rose. This Purple Haze actually tastes like roses. Stendhal Syndrome, overcome by celestial beauty of nature and art, fear of falling, I had it all.

The "Light Roast" looks no different from the regular roast when comparing the dry leaf. Both teas are first oxidized and then fermented for a month or so.

Light Roast, same leaf
Even in the cup they look similar.

Light Roast, steaming hot
Drinking both side-by-side with boiling water, and about a minute or so of steep time, I notice that the Light Roast produces a slightly more bitter brew. Both teas fill the mouth completely with a zing that is typical of the Dehong Purple Assamica varietal, the zing that says "bugs, stay away," and natural sunglasses for this leaf.

I get a good 4 steeps from the leaf before really increasing the steep time. Finally I let the leaf sit in water overnight and drank the cold brews in the a.m. I noticed the Light Roast had a tangy bitterness that the regular roast completely lacked, staying sweet despite having soaked all night.

These lovely teas and much history of online discussion persuaded me to purchase a few Dehong puerh bricks, despite my better judgement. By that I mean I don't usually want to buy teas that need a lot of aging before they are drinkable. However, the recent droughts in Yunnan have reportedly produced concentrated tea leaves, so even if the teas are strong they make a good buy for aging, and for leaving in my collection for my son to try in the future. I purchased a tong of five 2013 100g bricks for about $30, these are the small bricks. This has since sold out from the US site. You can find a 2008 Wild Purple 500g brick at the US site, or a 2011 500g brick on the China site. The tea is also available in 2014 beeng form, and other aged versions as well.

Tongs are the most reassuring form of tea
One big inspiration for me to break open this tong is a vintage 1950s Jadeite glass tea canister I found at a local charity shop.
Green glass known as Jade-ite
 This isn't exactly the best aging container for puerh, but it's not easy to find a container that will snugly fit these rectangle bricks. I really want to get this tea out of the bamboo, my goal is to keep the flavor of the leaf and avoid any additional bamboo taste.

Packin' a punch
And I now have an excuse to taste the tea.

Dehong brick puerh, easy to see similarities with the black tea versions
Went strong on this, about 8 grams rinsed three times. The result is an incredibly strong and bitter brew.
First steep 2013 Dehong puerh brick
My Yixing produces a slightly more orange brew than a gaiwan would, but I kinda need the softening from the pot. Because this tea is a gut bomb, unlike the gentle sweet leaf I've read about in years past going back to 2005. Lemme say that this brick + NSAID = drain cleaner. I drank probably 8 steeps of the tea and it was still going plenty strong. Awesome tea drunk.

Digging in the gaiwan I find at least three buds along with the older huang pian, a nice mix for the little price of around $6 a brick that I paid.
At least the bricks fit.
I paid hard the following day with cold feet and a complete cleanse. Aside from that, under the bitterness is that lovely floral 'n roses that I taste much more strongly in the black tea. I think this puerh needs to age in a better container, something stoneware. Right now it's safely tucked away until I find that perfect vessel.
Curved clay shard takes up remaining space
And...I'm in for a two day shou recovery session.


Requiescat in Pace.


  1. Dear Cwyn,

    The 2012 Wild Tree Purple black is quite juicy and tasty as well. I'm not sure the De Hong bricks will age that well- my 2005 brick is weak and quiet. I have other disappointing aged purples as well so it's good to enjoy them in their youth.


    1. Okay. What I will do is cross out Tea on the canister and write Enema instead.

      I read about the 2005 on that men's shaving forum. Wonder if the tea is any different now or it just my constitution.

      Thanks for stopping by! :)