Thursday, April 7, 2011

2004 6FTM Limited YiWu Zheng Shan Wild Arbor

6FTM is short for Six Famous Tea Mountain, the manufacturer of this particular tea selection.  I picked up a sample of this one from Hou De last year and it's been sitting ever since with the ever-growing pile of sample bags accumulating in my house.  For the last several weeks I've been acquainting myself with The Essence of Tea's aged pu-erh stock and really loving all of it.  How fortunate we tea drinkers are to have vendors like that who so carefully choose such wonderful offerings.  I've been soaking in many of EoT's older selections, but today felt like a day for something a little younger.  Hence, this 2004 selection :)

Often when a tea has been sitting sealed in a sample bag for some time, it offers a concentrated gift of fragrance when opened, and this 6FTM was particularly yummy with endless notes of soft chocolate.  I was reminded of a few traditionally roasted and aged WuYi Shui Xian oolongs I've had, making me wonder if this pu-erh had seen a bit of roasting itself.  After a brief rinse and then a first 5-second infusion I was surprised to find the chocolately roasted scent had disappeared, replaced with a particularly strong aroma of sweet hay, with just some brief hints of malt and caramel filling in around the edges and meadow-like florals rising upon cooling.  The scent of sweet hay is a familiar one with younger shengs, but this one was notably strong and rich.  

The taste was soft and smooth with just a ghost of the bite and astringency it probably once had (which might have been more pronounced had I steeped it a little longer).  A soft buttery sensation spread over my tongue and filled my mouth.  Soft, smooth, almost oily but in the most pleasant of ways.  Truly one of the most beautiful mouth-feels I've ever experienced with a tea.  By the end of the first cup a sensation of coolness had moved down into my throat. 

Second infusion, 8-seconds.  The fragrance out of the gaiwan gives flashes of plum initially before settling down into sweet flower-strewn hay.  The soup is pouring a clear gamboge.  A gentle bitterness in the taste makes itself known but only to coax a bit of salivation in the mouth, lending an almost juicy quality to the flavor.  The hui gan begins to develop, filling my sinus and throat with a cool scented airiness. 

The remaining infusion times went something like this -- 10s, 17s, 20s, 30s, and then I stopped counting.  The fragrance off the leaves remained close to the sweet flowery hay theme, but by the 4th infusion it developed a perfume all it's own.  I love it when a pu-erh does this.  No one distinct note comes forth to announce itself, and while it's clear that the fragrance has grown from the usual notes I find myself at a loss for words other than "not floral", "not fruit", "not hay."  And yet it includes all of those and has produced something uniquely it's own.  I think of EoT's 2001 Jin Chang Hao Yiwu, arguably one of my most favorite teas which also has this characteristic of a unique perfume that's all it's own.  

As the tea session lengthened the buttery mouth feel settled into clean, fresh and sweet.  This tea offered much in the way of subtle activity and flavor in the mouth and movement through head, throat and chest, all combining to make it a most enjoyable experience.  Eventually a floral quality began to rise on the breath, which was wonderful.  The heady perfume of the 4th and 5th infusions soon gave way to a scent that is best described as a fresh rain in the countryside and I finished out the session with the feeling that my head and neck were filled with a sweet-scented cool spring breeze.  A wonderfully evocative tea (can you tell?).    :) 

Digging through the spent leaves I found, amongst the "chop", plenty of whole small young leaves, most with thick strong spines.  Of the whole leaves (none of which were much longer than an inch or inch-and-a-half), many had a reddish tinge to them and I was reminded of that chocolatey aroma I first smelled, wondering if this might be a clue to the origin of it.  

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