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Premium Iron Buddha 20 Years Old Aged Traditional Oolong Tea (Charcoal Roasted)
Since the beginning of my tea excursions I have always strongly favored Oolong teas as they are, in my opinion, one of the finest varieties. Even the smallest sip may bring intense and pleasurable sensations to the mouth and mind. That said, the perfect Oolong tea for me is predominantly bitter in the mouth and delectably sweet on the throat and tongue upon swallowing. For so long do the flavors linger--notes of succulent fruit, caramel, or toffee wade on my pallet, bringing me great joy and refreshment.
To my incredible satisfaction I discovered that Daniel's "Premium Iron Buddha 20 Years Old Aged Traditional Oolong Tea (Charcoal Roasted)" is of the finest quality and is certainly more than capable to deliver these fine tea qualities. I was (and still am) thoroughly impressed with all aspects of the tea and am pleased to say that it has raised my standards of how Oolong can taste if aged and prepared well!
I enjoyed my tea gong fu style. The colors of the pour and onward were intoxicating; deep, dark and luscious browns of mahogany and fine leather looked up at me from my cup. The first three of four infusions confronted me strikingly pungent notes that would send chills of pleasure down my spine. Upon swallowing I was amazed at the lingering sweetness and depth of flavor that could come only from a tea with years behind it. Long after my sip I would come across strong wafting notes of toffee and caramel smokey-sweetness. I continued roughly a dozen more times to re-infuse my tea and take pleasure in its long life. As I continued to brew, the bitterness faded and the tea gave off flavors that were predominantly sweet with notes of lychee. There is no doubt in my mind that this Oolong is the real deal. I am already looking forward to purchasing a small quantity to treasure and share with close friends on a rare and gleeful occasion.
In the sixth and seventh infusions the tea develops a woody, slightly spicy character with the vanilla and chocolate notes just present as a back taste. It finishes dry and slightly bitter. The mouthfeel is lighter and sharper. The aftertaste is deliciously long and starts to develop a sharp tartness. The flash of heat comes much later and is just slightly noticeable now. Strong relaxation is induced.
This tea is taken a few more infusions. This last push contains sharper, thinner flavours of spicy wood with even some subtle fruity notes.
Pu-Erh Tea Cake, "Iron Mold", Import/Export Corporation, 1990s (Raw/Sheng)
Its becoming apparent that the more I drink Daniel's tea, the more I learn what exquisite tea is supposed to taste like. The 1990's "Iron Mold" Pu-Erh is no exception. I realize now that the age factor for tea plays an incredibly crucial role in how the flavor and essence exists in relation or even opposition to the initial taste. One could not drink this Pu-Erh without taking notice of how the flavors change in the mouth and throat--five, ten minutes after one glorious sip! I have had many mid-grade Pu-Erh's that can be described as "earthy" or "muddy," however not until enjoying the 1990's "Iron Mold" have I tasted both notes of earth as well as sweet, fruity sensations in the same spiritually uplifting moment! The initial flavors of the tea present me with a sort of poetic image of "muddy rain" and a deep sweetness. Upon swallowing my mouth, tongue and throat were enveloped by notes of mango, blueberry and plum. This was nicely accompanied by hints of cinnamon, caramel, and vanilla, all which lended themselves to making this tea so surprisingly sweet! The color of this fine Pu-Erh ranged from mahogany to a deep, powerful blood-orange. Thinking back now, I'm amazed how greatly this tea made me feel so connected with nature through its flavors; as if I were a fresh seed in the soil and damp earth and grew until I were a ripe fruit. How amazing!
1995 Yi Yang Fu Zhuan Brick Tea
Over the last few weeks one has consumed Fu Zhuan Cha on an almost daily basis. The decades old bricks which one has consumed over the last five years or so are dwindling. Thankfully Daniel of The Chinese Tea Shop provided a generous sample, this dry stored 1995 Fu Zhuan Brick from Yi Yang factory, and one has been dipping into it off and on. Let's heat up the kettle and see what this old brick is all about...
The dry leaves display visible flecks of "golden flower" mold and smell of very sour but dry wood-bark. The sour notes linger in the nose- an almost fermented sweet odour.
The first infusion is prepared and gives off a flat sweet initial taste which gives way to a malty flavour then to wood and cereal with undercurrents of sweet-corn and flat-caramel. There is a faint sweet caramel and sweet corn-wood aftertaste. The mouthfeel is slightly dry and is felt in the mouth and barely in the upper throat. The taste seems, like most fu tea, to be on one monotone plane with different tastes coming and going with ease.
The second infusion delivers a flat, dry, maple-wood sweet taste in the initial profile. This profile disappears leaving sweet-corn and dry woody-sweet tastes over a distinctly malty base. The aftertaste is simple and malty with faint corn and a slightly caramel disposition. The qi of this tea is very relaxing, ones breath feels much more relaxed- nicely calming.
The third infusion has the same initial taste with slightly stronger dry wood and slightly less flat sweetness. It seems smoother now and transitions less noticeably through the same profile.
In the fourth infusion the tastes become slightly less distinct with more dry-wood taste apparent. Still it is pretty much the same as last infusion with more of a slightly deeper malty-sweet lingering aftertaste which resides in the upper throat.
In the fifth infusion the lingering malty-caramel aftertaste becomes even more distinct and has some nice sweet edges to it.
In the sixth and seventh infusions things get more creamy and smooth. The tea develops a velvet-like feel in the mouth with the malty-sweet-caramel taste dwindling over wood notes throughout the profile. The seventh infusion has slight, creamy, vanilla notes in there as well.
In the eighth and ninth infusions woody tastes and malty tastes offer a nice very simple balance. The tastes become uncomplicated here.
In the tenth infusion has a distinct wood broth with a thin pear aftertaste. Fruity qualities are starting to emerge here. This tea is put to a few more long steepings and it gives up tangy, flat plum fruits, in a watery, subtle smokey broth. Peace.
2012 Tian Rui Xiang Lao Ban Zhang
A sample of this fine Lao Ban Zhang cake was gifted by Daniel Liu of The Chinese Tea Shop. He provides excellent background on this tea and on Ban Zhang in general on posts on his vendor blog (see here and here). Especially interesting is his commentary on Lao Ban Zhang, Xing Ban Zhang, and Lao Man Er and the statistics on tea in Lao Ban Zhang. No doubt, old Lao Ban Zhang is the talk of puerh circles. Let's see what this cake has in store... The dry leaves are a multicoloured mix of medium young fuzzy leaves, mainly buds, which give off a savory-meaty odour with thin tobacco smoke, strong pungent deep forest odours and sweet light fruit smells under all of it. The first infusion pours a pure vibrant yellow. Sweet, cool, pungent tastes expands in the mouth there is a light, savory base that is barely noticed underneath it all. A long pungent pure tingling occurs on the tongue. Minutes later sweet, slightly creamy, root beer tastes The second infusion presents with sweet, clear, pure initial tastes which numbs the mouth with a soft tingling mouthfeel before pungent-sweet notes bring on light candy-melon-fruit notes. The mouthfeel reaches the mid-throat and opens it with a soft-creamy-candy-sweet coolness. The third infusion has an initial taste that is pure, sweet, and stretches into a cool, sweet taste. The mouthfeel sticks to the teeth, saliva pools deep in the throat, and a strong vibrant banana-melon, sweet creamy-candy aftertaste is The fourth infusion sees a sweet, pure, initial taste that is smothered by a mouthfeel which coats the whole mouth and throat. After this sensation recedes, there are barely savory-pungent notes under more vibrant, distinct sweet creamy fruit notes which open into the throat. The qi is very relaxing and cooling to the extremities. In the core there is a slightly warming sensation. The fifth infusion is much the same with more distinct sweet candy-like fruits in the initial taste. A cool sweetness starts to gain momentum in the throat then slowly expands outward. There is a very light pungent taste caught in the mouthfeel which adds separation and depth from the dominating sweet high notes. This depth is clear in this fifth infusion. The sixth infusion has even more distinct fruits and sweet high note tastes up in the initial flavour. The thick mouthfeel overtakes these light flavours somewhat and leaves a long, fruity-sweet aftertaste behind. In the seventh and eighth infusions everything becomes slightly softer with the high notes still quite strong but more smooth, less distinctly vibrant here. There are noticeably tangy melon edges now. These high note tastes are most noticed along with distinct returning coolness in the aftertaste where they maintain there overly vibrant quality. The qi strongly brings up the mood, and intensely focuses the mind, and makes the hands and feet feel cool, almost tingling. In the ninth infusion crisp, sweet high notes begin to be muddled with forest notes in the initial taste The tenth infusion sees a slight, quick flash of savory and bland forest which turns sweet then is washed away with a mouthfeel which later brings sweet-creamy fruits on the breath. The mouthfeel continues in the deep-mid throat and mouth but is becoming slightly less dense now. In the eleventh and twelfth infusions sweet, but mild banana-like fruits are in the initial taste and distinctly span the profile of this infusion. The flavour has softened considerably now. The mouthfeel softens but continues its strong presence. There is a long-candy-like aftertaste left in the mouth. In the thirteenth infusion there is more wild foresty depth found but still may high notes to be enjoyed. This tea has stamina because in the fourteenth infusion is finally starts to loose lots of its flavour. There is still a faint spattering of previous flavours, the mouthfeel still full in the throat. Put to an overnight infusion these leaves give a pungent, cool, vibrant offering of fruity high notes. Peace
2005 Yichanghao "Zhengpin"
My erstwhile chum, Yichanghao. Yet perhaps not entirely erst, for you keep on delivering solid, reliable treats at a very decent price.Ladies and mentlegen, I give you the 2005 Zhengpin The dry, dusty, shoelace looking leaves of mainly brown were placed in the warmed teapot and rinsed. The first infusion yields a rich creamy sweet start carrying a malted creamy finish. In the taste under the creaminess is a layer of sour wood and even cooling eucalyptus finish in the mouth. The aftertaste is woodsy and fairly dense with a touch of sweetness. The mouthfeel is quite satisfying with the mouth and tongue tingling just slightly from having the mouth's saliva retreat into the throat. As shown above, the leaves are fragmented and dark - although certainly less fragmented than in the lesser recipes. I am surprised by a distinct lack of aroma in the dry leaves. This character, oddly enough, continues in the cup. It cannot be said to have a significant density of flavour, and yet it does have a big, fat body and a dominant presence in the mouth. It is a fascinating thing: light in character (being mainly pinewood), and yet thick, sweet, and satisfying. This sample was generously provided by Daniel, of The Chinese Teashop of Vancouver. In months past, I mentioned that I had queued up a half-dozen samples or so, only to find that the postage was a huge amount; this has since been remedied, and the store looks entirely appealing in its range and pricing (certainly on the Western scale). This cake currently sells for an entirely reasonable $45. There isn't a huge amount that one can find of any quality from 2005 for less than that price, and this does a very good job of keeping my attention throughout the session.
Caveat emptor: I am a confessed Yichanghao fanboy. If you like their products to a lesser degree, then temper my enthusiasm at the appropriate heat.
1997 Menghai "7542 Orange Mark"
This sample was sent compliments of Daniel at The Chinese Tea Shop. The dry leaves have a faint sour fruit odour to them as well as a very unnoticeable dry storage smell. When the water is boiled it makes its way over the dry leaf, embracing it, rising it. Then the first infusion is prepared...
It delivers a very soft, buttery, slightly floral upfron ttaste that is not so sweet. It has a somewhat greeny wood, earth base to its flavour. It slowly turns into a very soft and creamy caramel. The aftertaste has very light, not that full, barely earthy, caramel taste. The mouth feel is soft like moss in the mouth.
The second infusion comes on with a soft, creamy, earthy mineral taste. There are light undercurrents of caramel with very subtle returning floral plummy sweetness. The after taste develops into an earthy almost plummy taste in the mouth. Spots of subtle coolness come up as a cool barely floral menthol on the breath. A throat feel develops as a mossy sensation dwells in the top middle of the throat. The third infusion is very much like the second.
The chaqi that develops is mild, tranquil, and calming with just a slight warmth sauntering about through the body.
The fourth infusion presents with that creamybuttery smooth start with a taste that is not that powerful nor sweet. It turns into a mineral, almost coco, taste before adding a lingering caramel sweet note that lingers in the aftertaste. This tea is soft and smooth all the way through from mouthfeel to flavour, smell and qi.
The fifth and sixth infusion show more of its greeny wood base as the initial flavours of mild creamy earth carry almost no sweetness. There is a faint floral plum caramel taste in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel supports the overarching smooth feeling of this tea. The seventh infusion carries a mineral-earthy-wood initial taste which has lost most of its creamier tones. The taste shuffles to dry wood with an almost unnoticeable coolness to it. The aftertaste turns into a flat dry wood. In the eighth infusion light green wood tastes are mostly noted. There are back notes of caramel notes that are hardly sensed and trickle into a dry wood taste. There is also touches of mineral and spice that are faint and mostly present as the first tastes are registered. The infusions that follow contain a very light plummy wood taste that fades away on the breath. The next few infusions share very light flashes of spice and soft smoothness but all fade away quickly to a green woody taste. The mouthfeel here is isolated to the front of the mouth. This tea fades away fast and by the twelfth infusion it is just a memory- these tasting notes and a touch of plummy water. Peace
1980s Menghai "7572" Puerh
One usually doesn't consume much shu puerh, indulging only occasionally during the hot summer or once in a while for meditation. Today one has a craving for some old shu. This sample was gifted by Daniel at The Chinese Tea Shop in Vancouver, who stocks a nice variety of cakes. It is of the classic 7572 recipe. This recipe was one of the first to be pressed into a cake by Menghai in the 70s. Let's boil the water, take in the moisture kicked up by the kettle, and enjoy some classic shu... The smell of the dry leaf is pretty generic- the dusty, stale, must of a long storage. Faint dry wood notes predominate. The tea is placed in yixing and a rinse pushes outmore of the smell of storage. The first infusion reveals an initial burst of sweetness under the strong heavy characters of this tea. A velvety mouthfeel is full of creamy but sharp coco notes. The aftertaste is slightly fruity with a nice grain character to it. Minutes afterward creamy chocolate is carried with the breath. The mouthfeel further evolves into a mild comforting dryness which coats the mouth. With creamy chocolate echoing in ones mouth the second infusion is prepared. It starts off with a slight sour-sweet burst lying in the thick oily soup of coco and decomposing wood. There are very medicinal notes that hide under other flavours then fade away. The mouthfeel is malty, thick, oily, and finishes slightly dry. The chaqi moves downward warming the lower cavity and comforting the stomach. The third and fourth infusion start once again with a sour-sweet kick. There are raisin-like and medicinal notes here but they are smooth and meld into creamy coco on the breath. The mouthfeel remains viscous with a slight dry finish. It really gloops over the mouth and paints it in a thick coat all the way to the throat. The chaqi is quite heavy and burrows deep and downward. Ones hands and arms feel almost cool in juxtaposed with the light, soft warming feeling down below. The fifth and sixth infusions have much more woody notes up front along with thick creamy coco notes that dominate the creamy taste of this tea. Thin dry wood stretches into chocolate in the aftertaste as well. The mouthfeel is very full but slightly less oily. The chaqi is compounding and bringing elevated alertness. One quiets here in the present. The seventh, eighth, and ninth infusions maintain the core creamy, smooth coco, velvety taste with a progression to more dry wood notes in the aftertaste. The woody flavour is a creamy, velvety wood much more than it is drying. One takes a break from this tea and goes for an evening walk before returning to the table. The tenth infusion comes once again with more woody, dry notes within the creamy coco base which is becoming more and more ghostly as the session progresses. Slight plum now accompanies wood notes. The eleventh and twelfth infusions are long and slightly dry. Milky wood notes and many sweet, fruity hints are in there as well. The mouthfeel has lost its oily core but applies a thin fuzzy coating over the mouth and throat. This tea is taken for a few more long infusions late in to the night before being put to rest with an overnight steeping. In the morning, one is greeted with cinnamon, mainly musty storage, and deep medicinal tastes.
20 Year Old Tie Guan Yin
One received this sample when in search for old puerh. It was kindly sent with other puerh samples from Daniel of Vancouver's famed The Chinese Tea Shop. According to his webpage it took a long time to acquire this tea, which came from an old source. It has been charcoal roasted the traditional way and re-roasted every 3 years or so. With all the talk on Life In Teacup about whether Tie Guan Yin ages well, and being that it is seasonally the most appropriate time to consume such a tea, it feels like a good time to give it a whirl. On this cool early autumn day, with water boiling, lets sit down, slow down, and enjoy some tea... The dry leaves are oily, dark brown pellets full of sweet, spicy, fruity notes. Upon closer inspection the leaves are a very dark brown. The smell is deep, spicy apricot and apple. These leaves receive a quick rinse before the fist infusion inducing a cloud of smells. The first infusion is prepared with just off boiling water. A fresh, malty chalkiness lightly coats the whole mouth with a lingering vanilla note. It has much flavour to pick on with a baked spicy and very light, sweet fruity notes apparent as well. The flavour and feel has an aged hardiness to it yet still retains its elegance. The thick but very slight aftertaste stays around for a long time while transmitting more of the dominant vanilla, and now, coca sweetness. A sweat breaks instantly. The chaqi moves, rises, disperses- the light, aromatic, floating, dispersing energy is powerful and calming. It's direction is quickly outward and upward. Ones forehead immediately perspires. In the second infusion malty-thick, viscous, slippery flavours slide over the mouth- completely embracing it. A light sweetness with thick malty bottom comes over the mouth like a wave leaving behind the deep, mysterious, and chalky. Light into dark, light into deep, summer into fall. The tea reaches deep into the throat. The aftertaste is just a continuation of the initial sip. The third infusion has an initial flavour that bends to more of a caramel-maltiness. There is a fresh quality that presses against the heavy, viscous bottom of this tea. A gritty, chalky nature is revealed in the full mouthfeel and throatfeel of this tea. The chaqi induces a sweat every time the first cup of a new infusion is consumed. Besides dispersing up and outward, the chaqi also warms and strengthens the middle jiao as it slowly creates a comforting warming sensation in the guts. The fourth infusion has the vanilla notes more prominent. The taste becomes a bit more creamy with deeper notes becoming less overpowering. The mouthfeel becomes more sticky and slick. The aftertaste is as full as ever with chocolate vanilla notes burrowing deep into the throat. The fifth infusion tastes lighter and fresher with ghostly, but still very present, deeper notes hanging on. The finish is still that sweet, light, ethereal, vanilla coco. The mouthfeel is thinner initially and thickens out in the throat. The qi here is warming and disperses slower now. A hot flash now hits the head minutes after finishing the pot. Now the warming- middle nature of the chaqi is more predominant over the dispersing nature. In the sixth and seventh infusions the tea develops a woody, slightly spicy character with the vanilla and chocolate notes just present as a back taste. It finishes dry and slightly bitter. The mouthfeel is lighter and sharper. The aftertaste is deliciously long and starts to develop a sharp tartness. The flash of heat comes much later and is just slightly noticeable now. Strong relaxation is induced. This tea is taken a few more infusions. This last push contains sharper, thinner flavours of spicy wood with even some subtle fruity notes. Peace
2010 Hao Ren Sheng Yin Zhen White Tea
This silver needle white tea comes from Daniel at The Chinese Tea Shop in Vancouver. It is a very early spring pick from an unspecified region of Fujian. The dry leaves are fresh, floral, and sweet with a slight tangy, earthy grape pungentness to them. The floral scent is almost rose. There is lots for the nose to enjoy. The boiling water cools and the first infusion is prepared. It is a soft, creamy with slight earth notes that finish floral on the breath. The mouth feel is very soft and thin. The second infusion is prepared and it is much of the first with more depth. A fruity pear note emerges which is very slight. It arcs from soft and fruity to more of a floral taste that is left in the aftertaste. Even the lips and throat are covered in this soft, misty, mouthfeel that, although thin, has a presence to it. As the aftertaste continues, the very light fruit notes seem to have more stamina than the floral here. The third infusion is creamy with a very slight pungent, earthy sweetness that eases into light fruity grape notes that ease into your breath. Melon notes can even be pulled out here- the fruit notes are very subtle. The chaqi of this tea is light, airy, and dispersing. One feels a mild calm with a peaceful elevated alertness that brings mental clarity. The fourth infusion is light, creamy, with a fruity aftertaste that is much stronger than in its initial taste. The flavour has hints of pungent character mixed with measures of floral and fruit. The mouthfeel feels full from the lips to the upper throat. In this fifth the pungent-earthy notes carry a sweetness to them now. The taste and mouthfeel starts to become more course even the aftertaste is more pungent and earthy with floral tones mixed in. In the sixth infusion the pungent-earthy notes back off a bit leaving more distinct creamy floral notes of orange blossom to be enjoyed. In the seventh and eighth infusions things start thinning into a fruity water with a mouthfeel that is limited to the front of the mouth. Creamy melon, sweet potato, even squash are some of the notes that glimmer from this light watery soup. Peace
2005 Shuangjiang Mengku "Daxueshan"
This is the second of two pu'ercha samples kindly provided by Daniel, of Vancouver's aptly-named Chinese Teashop. Like the other sample (which was a 2005 Yichanghao), this comes from a brand that I have come to appreciate for making solid tea. While it may not stop the clocks, the brand usually provides me with decent tea at a typically low price. I recall ST being so kind as to provide me with a sample of the 2004 version of this cake, whose name, of course, refers to "Big Snow Mountain" in Yongde County, of Lincang diqu [prefecture]. Shuangjiang, which is where the Shuangjiang Mengku Tea Co. is based, is also in Lincang. That whole area reminds me of beany, savoury flavours, which I find entirely adorable. The sample comprises medium-sized leaves in large fragments. Daniel is generous with his quantities, and I believe that some of this sample has since made its way in a care package to Matt. This is a fitting end for it, because Matt was the reason I have these samples from Vancouver in this first place - so thanks again. I found the 2004 version to be somewhat reddened, but this version from a year later does not appear to be too cheekily processed. Yes, they are a mainstream brand not known for their hand-crafted extravagance, but they are well-known for being good blenders. When you have good Lincang leaves to work with, you can work wonders, it seems. This is a very appealing tea. It is sticky, sweet, and leaves behind a candy-like aroma and a gripping kuwei [good bitterness] in the mouth. I wrote that it is "enjoyable, sweet, and nicely mouthwatering with no obvious flaws". It marches on well, and delivers stable, honey-like tones with a thickish body, and a good grip of the tongue. Perhaps it is just wishful thinking, but I even detect a little bean-like character, in the Mengku fashion. There is just enough fun and tantalising naughtiness in this tea to keep my coming back for more infusions. At $40, it's well-priced, and compares well with other 2005 cakes. Shuangjiang Mengku tea is seldom very expensive, but, like this little fellow, provides plenty of interest for the relatively low price. Decent.
Pu-Erh Toa Cha, Xiaguan Tea Factory, 1990s (Green/Sheng)
1990s Puerh Tea Brick, Menghai Tea Factory (Green/Sheng)
Emperor Delight Iron Buddha Oolong
Phoenix Oolong Tea Natural "Fruity" Flavour
Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) - Medium Smoked
Pi Lo Chun (Bi Lo Chun) Green Tea
Phoenix Oolong Tea Natural "Flower" Flavour
Iron Buddha Emperor's Delight Oolong Tea (Tie Guan Yin)
Shui Xian Rare 20 Year Old Chinese Oolong Tea
Pu-Erh Tea Brick, Xiaguan Tea Factory 1990s (Black/Shou)
2002 Aged Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) - Fully Smoked
Long Jing (Dragon Well) Green Tea