Friday, January 21, 2011

2008 Purple Tip, revisited

An updated review of one of my favorite young shengs, the 2008 Purple Tip, produced by Best Tea House of Hong Kong and sold in the U.S. through Bana Tea Company. True, "Best Tea House" is a decidedly generic name among the usual players of tea producers but the man behind the company is one of the most respected and long-established puerh experts in China, Mr. Chan Kwok Yee. He opened Best Tea House all the way back in 1988 and has been selling and producing fine puerhs, and training others in the art of tea, ever since. He carries some very rare and expensive teas in his shops, of which this is not one (currently $33 for a 200 gram cake at Bana, not cheap but not hugely expensive for a good young sheng), but that doesn't mean its not a thoroughly enjoyable tea (which it is).

A peek at the beeng, or cake (with a good part already chipped away as I drink this one often) --

I've started using the wenxiangbei (aroma cup) again and am realizing now just what I've been missing. The aromas of puerh are one one of the things I enjoy most about this tea and I'm amazed at the stark differences in fragrance between the wenxiangbei and the freshly rinsed leaves in the gaiwan. The wenxiangbei reveals the most refined and beautiful fragrances. By comparison, smelling the wet leaves in the gaiwan shocks the nose with garish harshness. But while the wenxiangbei is clearly the way to go to for the start of a tea session, the fragrances offered up by the leaves in the gaiwan also have a story to tell through the progression of infusions. That's my current stance for now, anyway. Onto the tea session..

While the wenxiangbei revealed soft fruits and beautiful florals, the leaves in the gaiwan nearly accosted my nose with overly sharp fruit and funky smells, making me wince. Lesson learned. I happen to know this tea possesses a particularly pleasing fragrance, so all this tells me is not to put much stock in the aroma of freshly rinsed leaves. I think its time to start collecting pretty little aroma cups :)

A first infusion of 12-seconds. The color of the liquor is just as pleasing as the fragrance -- a clear yellow-apricot orange. So pretty. And the taste of the first sip brings a smile to my face. This is one tasty tea. Smooth sweet wood with a gentle ku. Very pleasant and easy to drink. A second 15-second infusion reveals sweet leather aromas in the leaves. The tea returns a bit of sweetness to my tongue between sips, making me want to sit back and take my time with it. My breath returns some of that floral quality into my mouth and nose as well, and there's a mild warmth in my chest. Just easy-easy-easy. Such an easy tea to drink and enjoy. Nothing challenging at all.

As the infusions increase in number the aroma of the leaves settles into what could only be described as sitting in a small private library. The walls are paneled with old-but-not-too-old wood, the shelves are lined with leather-bound books and there's a vase of flowers by the window lending their fragrance under it all. This tea may not have as much ku or hui gan as some others, but it's got a great tea flavor with a lingering echo of sweetness well after the last sip. I keep saying this, but it's true. This is a very easy tea to drink and enjoy.

I've started to find great interest in examining the spent leaves. This cup reveals a variety. In amongst the more chopped-up leaves (would that be the plantation filler leaves I read are common in less expensive puerhs these days?) there are several mid-sized whole leaves and also some mid-sized tips. Some of the leaves have a more purplish-brown hue to them which I'm learning are indicative of the "purple leaves" referred to in these purple tip and purple leaf teas.

And lastly, a peek at the "cupboard of indulgences", with it's growing stash of beengs, some fine whiskeys and a few other libations (more my spouse's collection than mine), and in the upper right a small stack of fine extra-dark chocolate bars alongside a box of truly special Corallo chocolate (a chocolate that rivals the best puerhs in terms of complexity and nuance.. I may even write up a review for it one of these days).


  1. What's that bottle with 17 on it in the back?

  2. MarshalN,
    An honor to have you drop by :) I've learned so much from you. Love the new blog look, too. The bottle you're referring to is Royal Island Finest Old Scotch Whiskey 17. Maybe not the best, but not bad.

  3. Thanks for the kind words. You should let others know of this blog! I don't go around much, and only found it after seeing a link from here to mine.

    Royal Island Finest.... a blend eh?

  4. Yes, a blend. I'm afraid my palate for single malts hasn't been able to distinguish much beyond a tasting note of "airplane fuel" :) But I keep trying...

  5. Add some water, it'll do wonders.

  6. Lol -- I feel like thunking my head now with a "Duh!" :) Something tells me you may just have a whiskey connoisseurs blog hidden somewhere in cyberspace, no?

  7. Nah, no whisky blog. I enjoy it, but don't have that same desire to figure it out the way I do tea. It's pour-sniff-drink, much less interesting.

  8. I found this tea a little too 'easy drinking' for my tastes - but a friend of mine is quite enjoying it. Maybe it is because of his insatiable sweet tooth.

    It is probably a good thing we don't all share the same tastes, or our tea lives would have no variety.

  9. Brandon -- definitely an 'easy drinker', plus the sweet. Like your friend, I've got a thing for sweet :) But it's so true -- life would be very boring indeed if we all had the same tastes and aspired to such conformity.