I wasn't there to buy tea and only wandered over to the tea aisle as an afterthought. Shelves and shelves of colorful tins and packets, mostly greens and oolongs. I thought I'd see if any of the tins or boxes had pu-erh in them (and there were a few) but was surprised to find a row of several full-sized pu-erh cakes and a couple of tuos. I'd never seen these cakes there before. They were all labeled with a company called Tienxi, but the cakes themselves included some familiar factories -- Xiaguan, Yongde, Mengku, Menghai. Most were raw green pu-erhs. One of the tuos was a shu that sounded really yummy by the description of it, but sadly it was all sold out (although there were plenty of green tuos left on the shelf). The cakes were young; just a few years old, and not at all pricey. I bought the most expensive one, which was hardly expensive at all -- the 2009 BaDa Mountain Wild Arbor, for $19.99.
|"Best Before: 08/2012"... really?|
Tienxi Company apparently contracts with various tea factories, acting as a middle-man broker between the factories and businesses like Uwajimaya who then carry their product line. Interestingly, Tienxi is a local company, based in nearby Sammamish, a suburb town of Seattle. I've never heard of this company before and know nothing more about them.
In addition to the tea I picked up some good looking fruit. Last year I took part in a pu-erh tasting of some special aged selections, and while the tea was wonderful, the "tea snacks" were abysmal, including a bowl of over-salted, highly processed, vaguely-cracker-like crunchies from a local discount grocery. Ever since then I've given a lot of thought to this matter of tea snacks. What foods complement tea? For the most part I prefer to drink my tea without food, but when I have friends over it's nice to set out a few offerings. I have a definite bias for fresh fruits or high quality chocolate (cheap waxy chocolate was another of the offerings at that tasting last year). Little powdered mochi cakes are nice, too. Uwajimaya always carries an interesting selection of all of these and I was lured by some of the exotic fruits. I picked up a couple of deep red, spikey rambutan, some deep purple mangosteen, and an item I don't see there very often -- a dried persimmon, which was heavenly delicious.
|mmmm.. dried persimmon..|
Onto the tea. Expectedly, it opened with big green fresh hay, although there were deep floral overtones lurking in the aroma of the first few infusions that surprised me. The soup poured a pretty and clear straw yellow. I started with a 10 second infusion and found the taste surprisingly smooth and buttery. No hint of astringency or bitterness. I pushed the second infusion to 15 seconds, the third to 30 seconds and the fourth to 45, but I couldn't push this tea into any more than just a hint of bitter. Fragrance-wise, while there was some floral present (mostly in the first few infusions) it settled into hearty vegetal notes of asparagus, cooked beans and mushrooms (the asparagus gave way by the 4th infusion, leaving savory beans and mushrooms).
Undoubtedly the most note-worthy thing about this tea was how penetrating it was. From the 2nd infusion on it continually sank deep into my mouth and throat, pulling up a surprising degree of salivation and a spreading warmth in my chest. Some hui gan present as well, intially with floral on the breath but soon became more indistinct with a tingling and somewhat cooling sensation. Was there a bitterness there? I want to say there was, but it was so far to the back of the mouth and quickly sank deep into the tissues, transforming into a subtle sweetness, diving to a warmth in the chest, filling outwards and pulling significant salivation into my mouth. A pretty decent puerh, I thought. It left a nice clean sensation with me the rest of the day. I have no idea if this one will age well, but for the price it's certainly a fine daily drinker.