Monday, March 14, 2011

2008 Zhi Zheng "Xian Xiang"

What a darling little fellow.  Just 100 grams in all, like a paper-wrapped cookie.  The Zhi Zheng Tea Shop has produced a small series of these mini cakes (4 in all) but only this one remains, the rest having been sold out.

Some beautiful calligraphy by Li Chun Lin

There is much to appreciate about the aspirations of the Zhi Zheng folks.  Describing themselves as a "a young Sino-British company based in Jinghong" (I have no idea what "Sino" means) they offer a small and supposedly organic puer tea selection.  I particularly like the explanation of the meaning of their company name: "Zhi Zheng is a Chinese term which... conveys notions of a devotion to genuineness, morality and refinement and the pleasure that comes from that.  A sense of respect for the beauty inherent in nature and in simplicity."  I can appreciate these sentiments so I've been interested to try out some of their teas to see if they live up to the name.

This little cake reminds me of a flat squashed tuo.  Although it was hand pressed it wasn't quite as easy to break into individual leaves as a larger hand pressed beeng would be, but I managed.  After a good rinse the initial aroma was full of fruit with deepened dark sugar elements to it.  No hint of that green hay smell I often find in younger shengs.  The soup poured a slightly darkened yellow flax color.  Very clear.

When I sit down with a new tea I'm always wanting it to be special.  Always hopeful for something to sweep me off my feet.  I was watching this tendency in myself during this session and noting it's desire to judge and make declarations of 'good' and 'bad.'  But like anything in life, a tea just expresses itself as it is.  We can like or dislike it, but it is what it is.  Sometimes when drinking my tea I think of that Indian fable about three beings who drank from a single creek.  One was a god and he drank ambrosia; one was a man and he drank water; the third was a demon and he drank filth.  What you get is a function of your own state of awareness.  Does this mean even (supposedly) really "bad" tea can be drunk by certain individuals and perceived as heavenly?  Well, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I wish I could say my state of awareness is of the higher kind, but like the tea I simply am who I am.  Warts and all   :)

There were times when sipping this tea I found a nice depth to it, while other times the fragrance and taste felt flat to my senses.  Was it my lack of skill in brewing that was failing to bring out the best in this tea?  Or was the tea itself a bit unsettled in it's expression of it's character?   Hard for me to say.  In the best of moments this tea expressed a nice complexity of fragrance; mature fruit initially, with middle notes of dark sugars and a base arising from the wood/leather/tobacco camp.  But it lacked strength and longevity, giving way quickly (fragrance-wise).  In its lesser moments it was one-dimensional and not so interesting.  The taste was nothing too remarkable -- some good bitterness in the first cup that never reappeared thereafter, and some quiet plum flavors that arose at the back of the mouth long after the sip which was nice, but like the fragrance it lacked strength and longevity.  A nice unspecific qi with this one, just leaving me with a pleasant and mild overall buzz.  It also possessed some penetrating qualities about it, pulling up a bit of salivation around and under my tongue and leaving a particular "soft sand on the tongue" sensation in my mouth.  


  1. From the Latin Sinae, the prefix Sino- describes China, like the Sino-Japanese war.

  2. Thanks Brandon -- I knew someone out there in the tea community would have have the know-how on this one!