Denong Wild Broad Leaf Species, purchased from Bana Tea Company
2009 vintage, mixed harvest
Type: Ripe (fermented), mixed grades
Production area: Remote mountain region on the borders between Yunnan and Myanmar
From Bana's website:
I love this tea. Definitely one of my most favorite pu'erhs. I've bought several bricks of it just to make sure I don't run out anytime soon (the brick size is quite small, only 100 grams). There's just nothing not to like about this tea. I've been making it for some time now in a gaiwan and it's fabulous. Lots of sweet nuts and pecans in both the aroma and taste. Not your typical pu'erh in that the floral and fruit notes are well hidden (or maybe perfectly combined?) in this great nutty characteristic. I love the qi in this tea, as well. It's very mellow and contributes to a clear sense of present awareness. No anxiousness at all, which is sometimes present in teas that possess a strong qi. I know when I drink this tea that my day will pervade with calm, even when my days are full of chaos. Love-love-love this tea :)
Recently I purchased my first yixing teapot. Actually, I bought two -- a really cheap one from Yunnan Sourcing (I think it was less than $30) and the one pictured below, from Jing Tea Shop (not so cheap, but I know it's well made and authentic). After spending some time getting the teapots initially seasoned from a few days soaking in tea water I made my first pot of tea this morning in the Jing pot. Of course, my first-ever yixing pot of tea had to be the Denong Wild from Bana. I knew that using the yixing pot would alter the flavor of the tea and I was interested to see how that worked. I definitely have a learning curve, though. I wasn't sure how much tea to use but remembered something somewhere about filling the pot roughly half full with tea leaves. That turned out to be way too much, so I had some pretty strong tea this morning. Thankfully, the Denong Wild is just as good this way, although I can't really speak yet to how the teapot altered the experience and flavor of the tea. From just this first experience I can say that the yixing pot seemed to soak up a lot of that great nuttiness of the Denong Wild, but in turn it really brought out the classic woody pu'erh aroma and taste. Something about that smell instantly transports me someplace back in time, a few hundred years ago to tea trading house in a port town in China. Don't ask me why I get this sense of transport, although thanks to Hollywood I've got these pictures in my mind of a darkly lit Chinese port town from those first scenes in the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Go figure..
UPDATE: June 21, 2011
Funny that this tea would be one of the first I had in that yixing pot. I've been using that little teapot almost everyday now and the speckles of clay have darkened quite a bit. I'm getting a ring of white mineral deposit around the lid now, too. Not sure how to keep that from happening, short of wiping it completely dry after each pour.
Today was a shu day, all Bana Tea Company selections. Their ripe puerh selection is really top notch. Started with the Zhang Xiang Loose Leaf from 1994. Zhang Xiang apparently translates to "camphor scent", and this one definitely had that going on, along with that classic deep woodiness. Dark and smooth. A very pleasant tea to drink. Next up was the 1998 Dahuazi Ripe. Another great shu, with a deep and creamy vanilla cereal sweetness to it, like vanilla oatmeal. Very long-lasting, smooth and clean. With all this good shu going on I found myself wondering how my beloved 2009 Denong Wild brick was faring. I drank a lot of it when I first bought it and loved its nutty pecan sweetness and calming qi. I wondered what 10 months of sitting in my cupboard had done to it (if anything)?
Last summer I had broken apart one of these bricks and stored it in a bag. I opened the bag and took in the smell, surprised to find the most incredibly delicious sweet red berry scent coming off the leaves. This was something new. There was just enough of the pried-off leaves to fill my yixing and I wondered if that intensely sweet berry scent would show up in the tea. Did a 20-second rinse and took in the fragrance. Wow! Even more intensely berry and very sweet. I tried to pin down the scent, but the best I could come up with was "blueberries except more red and less blue" (if that makes any sense). I was eager to taste it. Did a 6-second infusion -- again, intensely sweet berry aroma that stayed strong even as the leaves cooled. To my delight, the flavor showed up full of berries, too. In fact, it was so sweet it almost tasted like it'd been infused with real fruit. Incredibly flavorful. Infusion after infusion this tea just kept giving. Even at the 10th infusion it's still offering a sweet perfume of ripe berry and a terrifically flavorful soup, not to mention that nicely grounding qi it still carries. As the infusions increased in number the sweet nutty characteristic I had loved it for last summer began to rise again, although the berry sweetness remained intermingled, taking on a creamy quality after a time. This is a tea I could drink all day long. Very long-lasting, hugely aromatic and flavorful, nice grounding qi. It keeps my interest for a very long time, with a fragrance that continues to deepen and evolve, and leaving a great taste in my mouth and warmth in my belly. Still love this tea :)