Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chawang 2006 Yunnan Silver 50 gram tuocha

I've let my yixing rest entirely for a day in the hopes that my shengs would taste fresher instead of a mishmash of all the shengs I've brewed in it. A tuocha is a portion of tea that is compressed to have a mushroom cap shape. The tea that I bought has an insane compression. I usually use a knife to pry off flakes of compressed tea, but for this tuocha I had to stab the head with my knife and tear off a single portion of pu'er. I was deathly afraid of stabbing myself, which I've done before, and I didn't care to repeat have a cut finger. But now that there's a portion of the tea pried off, wedging the knife in to the surface should be a lot easier compared to penetrating a rock hard layer of tea.

I have no idea the amount of tea leaves I used in my yixing, but it's enough for the wet leaves to fill it up halfway. tea notes as follows:

5 second infusion: Keemun like character, nothing bad. It's not sweet nor bitter, but predominantly middle range with an orchid like taste.

10 second infusion: darker tasting start, no change in the middle, abrupt finish. No more keemun taste. Fruit component coming in later. I'm still not convinced that this is a good sheng, maybe an adequate one.

18 second infusion: start same as above. Dark, vegetal, some pleasant bitterness similar to raw veggies. The finish/aftertaste is fantastic. Lingering, light, and refreshing.

25 second infusion: still the same start. Light, fruity finish, possibly peach.

30 second infusion: same except the finish and aftertaste are more noticeable.

35 second infusion: the same as above

45 second infusion: the darkness of the start has lightened up a little. Now it resembles a Keemun taste, but lighter, contrasted with the heavy mouth feel of the tea. The sweet finish is still very much present, perhaps diminished a little bit, and slower to begin. The tea leaves have now opened up fully and there are few whole leaves in the bunch. I expect the flavor to drop off dramatically.

55 second infusion: light and orchid. The "finish" I've been tasting is really an aftertaste. It's only present after I've consumed the entire cup of tea, and it's lighter and not quite as blatantly fruity.

2 minute infusion: very light taste, woods and orchids. It only took a minute for me to realize that this is what hot water tastes like when I pour it out of my yixing to clean it. The sweet aftertaste is still there, but coming through in wisps. I think this tea is finished.

Overall, I'll have to give it a few more sessions before I decide if I should buy more or not. The aftertaste is extremely sweet. I hope it's not caused by ethylene glycol, haha. But the predominant character of the tea is just so-so. It's just sort of dark and green tasting, but without much complexity or range of good flavors. What can I say? This tuocha cost me 2 cents per cup to drink, so I wasn't expecting too much from it. And I was not disappointed.

Update: I've had several sessions with this tea and can fully understand its low price and why it won a silver award for some sheng pu'er tasting in China. The tea itself is really nothing to write home about, having a little bit of a keemun character to the baste notes but there is a distinct fruit component to the tea that is vibrant, sweet, and refreshing which appears when the leaves unfurl. I'm giving the pu'er the benefit of the doubt and attribute the taste to the leaves, but at the same time I wonder if it's been enhanced, though I have no idea how to detect it. The fruit component comes into play when the leaves fully open up, so if the tea were intentionally modified, I think the factory would have to add the flavoring to the insides of the leaves, and then roll and compress them, so that when the leaves fully open up the flavoring agent would be released. That does not sound very feasible at all given its low price, but then again I've only seen pictures of a handful of factories producing pu'er. Ultimately, though, this tuocha is very decent based on its fruit component and its price. I would not hesitant to order several more.
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