Today's tea, a sample from Bana Tea Company -- the 2003 Ba Mai (sheng) -- is a good example of how one should never approach a tea with certain expectations. As I wrote yesterday, it's been a few weeks since I've had anything pressed in the last 15 or so years. The 2004 6FTM, with it's big sweet hay aromas, brought me to this Ba Mai (only one year older) with expectations of the same. Silly me.
Although it rarely tells me anything about the taste and fragrance to come I do like to take a sniff of the dry leaves in these sample bags. The Ba Mai smelled of vanilla hay which only strengthened my foolish idea that, "I pretty much know what this one's going to taste like" (at least I have a knack for providing myself with some humorous entertainment during these tea sessions). I gave this one a long rinse as the leaves seemed to be reluctant to open very quickly. I probably could have gone two rinses as my first infusion of 5-seconds didn't yield much in terms of taste. But the story at this point was all in the fragrance, which started initially with big ripe fruit, sweet and full, and just the faintest hint of hay around the edges (which very well could have been my mind playing tricks on me, expecting more green hay from this tea).
Third infusion, 9-seconds: a decidedly fruit-n-vegetable aroma, back to whiffs of ripe fruit this time mixed with a rich bean fragrance. The taste is clean and savory but the mouth feel is thin and watery. Still, that pleasant bitterness remains, bringing up some nice salivation now in my mouth. Once again a long and lingering sweetness fills my mouth long after the sip.
Fifth infusion, 23-seconds: The aroma is all vegetables now. Mushrooms make an appearance with the beans, along with a sort of "vegetable sweetness." If you've ever sauteed vegetables (especially mushrooms) for a very long time until their natural sugars begin to caramelize, *this* is what the sweetness is like. Rich and savory. The color of the tea liquor, which started out a pale golden, is now dark yellow with an orange hue. The qi continues to deepen, bringing more perspiration to my skin. And then that fantastic lingering sweetness. Love that.
For the remaining infusions the aroma deepened more and more into rich sauteed mushrooms. The qi and the hui gan with this tea were terrific. The only thing I wished it had more of was a more substantial mouth feel and I wondered if this, too, might be something that could potentially develop as a tea ages? Might also be worth experimenting with various tea cups, water and kettles (nods to Mattcha here :).