Sunday, June 12, 2011
2004 101 Tea Plantation Commemorative Tea Cake
here, which I have appreciated. 101 Plantation produces a lot of tea, much of it wholesaled to worldwide markets and all of it certified organic according to European, American and Japanese standards. This particular cake is one of their high quality productions, produced to commemorate a business partnership between the 101 Tea Plantations company and the Lan Cang government, picked specifically from their oldest tea plantations on Jing Mai and Mang Jing mountains. According to the box they "selected only the choicest leaves from our over 1000 year old trees" to make these cakes. Although I haven't been able to verify that the leaves are 100% from 1000 year old trees, it's certain that these cakes are 100% gu shu leaves from trees at least a few hundred years old to perhaps a small portion of the oldest leaves.
I picked this cake up from The Best Tea House, Vancouver branch. Michael Fung is the owner and has tremendous knowledge about tea and puerh in particular. Although the website lists prices for whole cakes only, I know they also sell sample size portions of all but their oldest and priciest teas. Contact the store to inquire.
I've spent the past two weeks sampling this tea in different ways, trying to "listen" to it. Gaiwan and yixing, varying temperatures, varying infusion times, varying proportions of tea leaves to water. When using fewer grams of leaves to water, this tea is filled with a beautiful floral delicacy. One of the most floral puerhs I've ever had. Upping the amount of leaves, though, produces a liquor with surprising strength and a far-reaching ku wei that lasts and lasts. Given that every session with this tea produced different results in terms of taste and aroma (thanks to my fussing around with parameters), it would be silly for me to give one of those infusion-by-infusion reports. But there were certain consistencies I can tell you about.
Strength. This tea has a great deal of assertiveness, evidenced in taste by a ku wei that will grab you hard if you're not careful. This was part of the reason I spent some time with this one, trying it in different ways. This is a tea that will test your brewing abilities. The strength of the ku wei goes deep into the body and as a result pulls both perspiration and salivation, but also moves into a full-body mellowness as an expression of qi.
Leaf quality. One of the most impressive things I discovered about the 101 was when I examined the spent leaves. They were big and beautiful, with plenty of whole strong-spined leaves and very little chop. In fact, the dry leaves were just as much fun to examine since they separated easily and fully whole from the cake. Every curled twisted dry leaf from the cake would fully expand in the tea water, expressing itself completely. Sometimes I've had teas where the leaves seemed reluctant to open, but not this one.
I was told that the 101 is currently working through a changing period in it's aging process, and as I sampled it on different days I wondered what might be it's weaker points and how another few years of aging will change it. Although there was hui gan present, it wasn't as strong as other teas I've tried. I wonder if that might change with a few years' time? There were a couple other points about this tea that I made note of in my journal and which I'll be watching with interest when I try this again in the coming years. The whole matter of how a puerh ages is a fascinating one, and those who have a lot of experience with puerh will tell you it's not a simple straight-line graph from "green and astringent" to "woody-sweet mellowness." Tea goes through periods or maybe 'stages' as it ages, and it seems the 101 will offer a good window into how a puerh works through one of these periods. I hope to update this blog entry as I try it again in the coming years.