"If you look at things with different lights you see different things."
-- from the Archimedes Palimpsest Project website
here), but that's a pricey and precious tea for this purpose. So as I read about heroic conservators and medieval inks I sampled a few different shus. First up was part of a sample I picked up based on an encouraging review from Mattcha's blog, an 80's ripe puerh from Menghai Tea Factory. It sounded like it held a lot of promise, but unfortunately I wasn't able to get quite the same pleasure from it that Matt did (yet another humbling tea lesson). It wasn't a bad tea, but I found it heavy and dominant with deep earth notes (after the initial musty storage aspects subsided) and was only minimally able to detect some of the same creamy cocoa sweetness Matt had found. It was just plain hard for me to listen past the very strong earth-wood notes of this one (which aren't bad but I like a broader profile), and it wasn't long before I was digging through my tea collection to see what else I could find.
I don't have a lot of ripe puerh, and the majority of what I do have was purchased earlier this year from an ebay vendor who was selling some interesting cakes for next to nothing. Up until now I'd only tried one of the pieces I bought from him, a tuocha listed simply as "2000 Yunnan Wild Old Tree." It turned out to be a rather disturbing tea drinking experience as it left my mouth and throat pulsing with a very strong distasteful chemical/metallic tingling that lasted well over a day. I was sure I'd ingested god-knows-what carcinogens (probably something banned in the US, likely manufactured by Monsanto and sold overseas for a bloated profit). I eventually tossed it in the trash. So I haven't been too motivated to try any more of this seller's teas, but decided to give some a go today.
|I promise I wrapped that cake on the left better when I put it back on the shelf|
Although I was pulling for the 2005 Tong Qing Bainian it just wasn't up to the challenge. The Longma was a hard act to follow. This Bainian still did admirably though, opening much like the 80's Menghai I'd started with. Lots of wood and earth dominated, with sweet notes underneath (in this case apricot) and leather, though it thankfully lacked the musty storage elements that the 80's Menghai had. One of it's downsides was an aroma that seemed fleeting, tapering off quickly to not much. Like the Longma it did a good job of pulling salivation to my mouth. It seemed a bit more penetrating as well, although I wasn't sure why. All morning I'd been thinking about that chemical-laced tuo which also had a penetrating quality, although the penetration in that case felt very definitely suspicious. With the Bainian I wondered if there might be some chemical action going on, as well. Not that it was anything like that scary tuo, but now that I've got more experience with puerh... well, I just wonder. Another characteristic the Bainian had in terms of 'feel' was a curious thickness in the throat. It also possessed a noticeable qi, but unlike the Longma this one had more of a jittery-buzz quality to it.
|(remnants of a boil-over there.. thank god for soapstone countertops)|