; Cwyn's Death By Tea: 2009 Cha Tou Sheng Yun ;

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

2009 Cha Tou Sheng Yun

Combine a long cold winter with an old lady and I get to feeling like hell. Each day I'm sleeping later and later, and while this can be good for an insomniac like me, my son is starting to notice. "I haven't seen YOU all day," he says. Hard to confess I've been dozing. He wants me to be the young and energetic mother he remembers from back before the Flood and thinks if I try harder it will happen. As usual, I look to tea to solve my problems because it usually does. The right tea mimics youth for about ninety minutes, just long enough so that the child might ignore me for the rest of the day.

To stimulate what's left in the old gal, I decide to break in a new tea pot. This is a Jian Shui teapot I bought some months ago from Crimson Lotus Tea.

Jian Shui for Crimson Lotus Tea
Specs are 100 ml, single hole, hand finished and river rock rubbed. Most tea drunks are perpetually on the hunt for perfect teapots and I bought this one for two reasons. One is the size, my favorite pot is my 60 ml high fired 1980s Yixing from Origin Tea, but I gotta admit it's a bit small for all but the most precious grams of highly aged puerh. I need two steeps to fit my clear 125 ml glass cups. I also love my Mandala Tea Yixing 150 ml cauldron pot, it's perfect really but a bit too large unless I'm sharing tea with someone else. Still, I use it to brew tea quite regularly but I must guess-fill it just over halfway. I figure this new 100 ml Jian Shui might be perfect.

The other reason I bought this teapot is a cuteness factor. It was made by a very young villager, 20-something guy I believe, and it is not master ware by any stretch. Doesn't have the usual aesthetics we look for, a knob matching the shape of the pot, for example. The lid hangs over just a bit. But the black clay reminds me a bit of Santa Clara pottery from the southwest. It has a cuteness about it, because if a teapot could be a little teddy bear, then this pot qualifies. That is as lame a reason to get a teapot as I can come up with. And because it is just so cute I've been unable to start using it. But like many things with an old lady, it's now or never.

The only marking is a clay tool indentation, hard to see.
 I don't own many cups. I love looking at cups in tea blogs and so on but can't seem to find any to buy. I broke my pink porcelain vintage cup and am now stuck with a lone plate. The clear cups you see in my blog are literally all I own aside from two espresso cups and a couple of travel set gaiwans that have their own cup. You've seen those too. It's not entirely a shopping issue, however. A teapot is a necessity, but cup buying starts to get into visions of large hutch cabinets full of old lady knick knackies that hardly ever get used and end up in the charity shop when she gets put in a home. Insofar as tea pots make me feel like a Real Tea Man who can compete with the Goodfellas, cups feel diminishing somehow. Cups feel knacky. Maybe it's a northern cultural thing. If you can't cut a beer can in half in a pinch, you're not really ice fishing.

Okay, so what tea shall I use to christen my new tea pot? Recently a tea vendor wrote me and said, "I want to ask you if you've tried a type of tea, old tea nuggets." Thought that was the perfect endearment for an old lady, and I floated along on that for a few weeks until...wait. Tea nuggets are lumps of tea forming in pile fermentation. Tea vendors have Their Ways but he didn't mean that way, silly me. No, I don't think I've tried old tea nuggets before, but looking around stashes recently mailed to me, a reader friend sent me some old tea nuggets and I'm just now noticing it.

Some old ladies prefer chocolate...
 So here we are with a fine chunk of 2009 Cha Tou Sheng Yun Ripe by Yunnan Sourcing. I googled it and found Hster wrote about it back in October. She describes it as one of the few brick teas she has actually finished. That is probably the strongest possible recommendation for a tea I've read in awhile. And here I have a lucky sample. I give it a 5 minute soak in cold water, and in the pot it goes. Three rinses.

When hit with boiling water, the aroma from the pot is that of porto port, by that I mean Portuguese tawny port, not the red grape kind most Americans find in liquor stores. I started drinking Portuguese port after playing Eleanor of Aquitaine in college, in the play "The Lion in Winter," a joke from the line "the royal boys are aging with the royal port" wine cellar scene. For some reason playing that part meant a lifetime of gifts of port from theatre people, I still get bought port when I go out for drinks with actors. Tawny port aged in wood is quite remarkable, and my tea here has the smell of tawny port.

First Steep
As the tea cools, the aroma and flavor changes a bit and I'm getting mushrooms cooked in butter on toast. I don't know what, if any, flavors or aromas my new pot is imparting onto the tea. Another happy factor about these old tea nuggets is I'm not getting overwhelming dry mouth. Three cups on, I'm a happy camper and mercifully my son has lost interest in me. My teapot recommends itself with a fast single-hole insta-pour and no drip. A better day all around. See, tea really does fix things.

Second steep, plus leaves.
Three days, and more than 10 cups later, this tea is nowhere near steeped out. Still doing flash steeping. My teapot pours like a young master toddler in toilet training and I must be quick to catch with my cup. The tea continues to smell like port, though some of the mushroom flavor slowly dissipates over several days. Trotting over to Yunnan Sourcing US site, I see the 2009 Cha Tou Sheng Yun is still available. $27 a 250g brick ain't cheap but it won't break the bank either. And the good news is, 90 left in stock! Err...89 now.

Requiescat in Pace.


  1. That tea pot is (almost) everything I've been looking for! I like it a lot. :)

  2. I bought this tea brick in 2010. I had a sample, and I thought it was really petrochemically, but thought maybe it had potential with age and cheap at $11 at the time. So when I saw Cwyn's mention on steepster, I brewed some during the weekend. It's a lot less petrochem now, and more nicely odd to me rather than "whew!". Unfortunately, it seems to have gotten more sour, and the sourness takes a lot of brews to get rid of. I thought it was a little interesting because I do not have any other shu I've had for that long turn sour(er). This tea does last for a very long time, but then I always knew that. Does have some very nice fruitiness/wine taste that shows up from time to time... It's nice enough, but it's not something I'm a huge fan of, opportunity cost-wise. In 2010, there was a lot of frankly excellent shu available for not that much money--at the lower end, like this brick, three 100g bricks of (mistakenly priced at the time, but still) '09 Ziyun would had run to $13.50. '08 V93, which is very good normal shu today, ran to $20/5-tuos. Top of the line recent shu went from $37-$55/400g. But today, it's chatou, and well, it isn't bad in the scheme of things, a little variety...