Tuesday, January 18, 2011

2006 Xi-Zhi-Hao "Meng Hai Nu Er Zhuan" Brick

Purchased from Hou De, this XZH brick from 2006 is made from MengHai spring tips and Ban Zhan sun-dried mao cha. According to the Hou De site "this finely crafted brick was made to resurrect the Nu Er (daughter) Zhuan tradition." Well I don't know what the Nu Er Zhuan tradition is, but if the drawings on the wrapper are any indication, it involves plenty of hanky panky!

Who knew a tea party could be this much fun?

X-rated tea wrappers aside, this was a very enjoyable tea session (although I can't say it produced the "libidinal qi" the wrapper seemed to suggest). The compressed leaves were big and meaty, shimmering with plenty of downy silver fuzz (not sure my camera catches it so well here), and they offered a promising aroma of rock sugar.

Inspired by the ever-informative Hobbes of the Half-Dipper site, I decided to dust off the aroma cup (wenxiangbei) I purchased when I first became interested in pu-erh. I remember playing with it when I first got it but was never able to find much use with it. The aromas from the freshly wetted leaves were so much more robust and enticing. I soon abandoned the wenxiangbei and developed my own routine of noting the changing aromas from the leaves themselves from one infusion to the next. But that was then, and this is now, and being that I've got a tad bit more experience with tea I figured I'd give it another go.

After a rinse of the leaves I filled and then emptied the aroma cup. The tall narrow design of it makes for a can't-miss channeling of aroma-to-nose. True to the promise of the dry leaf fragrance I gratefully inhaled the soft smell of butterscotch candy. Mmmm... Curious to know if the wet leaves in the gaiwan would offer the same, I picked it up to take a whiff. !!! Nothing like the aroma cup at all! The wet leaves were all about big high-note fruits, jujubes and oranges. Clearly I've been missing out by shunning the aroma cup and I vow to start using it again.

I won't go on and on about each infusion with this post. I'm in more of a summary mood tonight. The color of the soup was a darkened yellow, like yellow ochre with a bit of burnt umber mixed in (one of the benefits of being an artist is a much-expanded color vocabulary). It was also slightly hazy. Not crystal clear. The rock sugar, fruit and butterscotch aromas of the initial infusions soon settled into a unique sweet-and-savory buttered fruit aroma with an occasional note of coffee underneath. Very nice. The taste had a nice hui gan that showed sweet around the edges and was fairly long lasting. Even though it's evening now as I write this I can still taste the echoes of this tea in my mouth (I love it when a tea does that). A nicely balanced ku with this one, too, giving it a mouth-watering quality. There was some nice qi, as well -- not the kind that makes you feel floaty, but one that seems to round all the sharp edges off of life. Outside my window as I was drinking this tea the sky was overcast but still bright. The kind of light photographers love for its gentle diffuse quality. That's what this qi was like.

I spent much of the morning sipping on this tea. The later infusions increased in sweetness, making it a pleasure to drink.

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