Dried cranberry & preserved plum tea snacks
Early Monday morning, I jumped in the car and drove out to Zhu Jia Jiao （朱家角）, a scenic canal town 1 hour’s drive from Shanghai. My friend Shangers has a house out there, and we decided to put some of our recent tea acquisitions to the test, with our wives present to stop us from getting too carried away!
The wives - Beibei & Weiwei
A classic rainy Monday tea-off with some heavy weight winter teas.
In Shangers corner, we had a 2006 Mengyang Guoyan 066 (勐养国艳), a 2005 Shuangjiang Mengku Lao Shu Bing (双江勐库老树饼 old tree cake) and a 2010 Zhengshan Sheng Pu. If you're not a puer geek yet, you better read up on the production differences between Sheng (raw) and Shu (ripe) puer.
Mengyang Guoyan 066
I’m not a fan of drinking young sheng puer because of the grassy astringency and the unforgiving short steep times. Also, sheng puer is supposed to be put away for a few years! But Shangers is a contrarian and slowly converting me to the dark art of drinking puer young & raw.
In the Tea Urchin corner, we had a long-lasting Wuyishan Fo Shou (佛手 Buddha’s Hand) and a beautifully deep roasted Chuantong Da Hong Pao (传统大红袍 Traditional Big Red Robe) both produced by my friend Mr. Yu, who won the gold medal for his Da Hong Pao at the Shanghai Expo.
The Fo Shou is a medium-roasted oolong, mildly smoky with iron biscuit & nutty highlights reminiscent of peanut brittle. It has a very well-rounded flavor profile, with a very full mouthfeel. Around the 3rd steep there was a hint of baked wheat & peanut skins, at the 5th steep a tinge of sweet fruit like peach. This tea just kept on giving. It was like the little tea that just could. From the 8th to the 18th steep the huigan continued to open up. We stopped at 18 rounds because it was getting ridiculous.
Fo Shou after 18 rounds - still looking good!
The Da Hong Pao had the aroma of deep roasted coffee beans & wet tobacco . The flavor did not disappoint with the strong bitterness of black coffee paired with a sweet tinge of dark chocolate. The girls felt this tea was so spicy (蜡嘴+嘛) it numbed the tongue! After four 30 second steeps the flavor body moved to chicory, with a beautifully smooth, silty mouthfeel.
China's finest Da Hong Pao
Sweet toffee & caramel flavors emerge after the 8th steep, along with cloves! We pushed it to 12 steeps, with 2-3minutes per steep towards the end.
There is a lot of talk about Da Hong Pao becoming the next speculative asset bubble in China, leading to a lot of dubious Da Hong Pao flooding the market, but this particular Da Hong Pao is hands down the best Wuyishan rock oolong I’ve tasted. With such a powerful & compelling flavor profile, evolution & mouthfeel, it’s the cigar of the tea world!
3 year old Longjing - look how brown the leaves are!
We even threw in some 3 year old Longjing, which if you read my recent post, does not keep well and should be drunk in the first year. The leaves had gone a dusty shade of brown but otherwise looked like high quality uniform pickings of bud & two leaves. We put them through one steep and decided it was drinkable but lacking all the sweet fragrance & complexity that Longjing is famous for. Life is just too short to drink bad tea so into the trash it went.
2005 Shuangjiang Mengku Lao Shu Cha
What happened to the detailed tasting notes on all those Puer cakes you ask? Well mid afternoon, we decided to break open some Woodford Reserve bourbon. Believe it or not, most whisky in China is actually drunk mixed with green tea, so this is not as crazy as it sounds. Some ethnic groups in Yunnan and Tibet also drink rice wine with their puerh. Personally I prefer my tea unadulterated, but I have found earthy puerhs to be a great chaser for a strong spirit drunk neat. Especially a fine small batch bourbon thats been casked in charred oak barrels. Just as adding a bit of water to a fine whisky opens up the flavour profile, sipping tea after a shot of bourbon takes out the harsh burning sensation and allows you to appreciate the more subtle flavours. Try it for yourself!
Can you tell which is the puer and which is the Kentucky bourbon? No? Well don’t worry, I got them mixed up too. All I can say is I enjoyed some terrific bourbon infused puer. Great stuff, tasted of innovation & worlds colliding.
Large leaves from the "ancient trees" of Shuangjiang Mengku company
Then with dinner, came the inevitable Baijiu. No point carrying on after the Moutai really. We watched The Other Guys on DVD and called it a night.
Cheers from Zhu Jia Jiao, Shanghai!