Wednesday, November 12, 2008

2007 Haiwan Lao Cha Tou

When I arrived home from work today, I was pleasantly surprised to find a package from Norbu sitting on my porch. As always, the green rug pulled over top to ensure nobody knows there was a box 8 inches tall hiding underneath it. Inside of this box lies a sample of the Haiwan 2007 Lao Cha Tou Ripe pu-erh. I already know I love the Menghai equivalent, but considering it's the same price and you get 500g instead of 250g, I wanted to compare them myself.

The first thing I notice about it is the aroma. It's oozing with this incredible scent that rips right through the bag. If anyone has ordered from Norbu yet, the first thing you'll notice is the quality of the bags he ships in. They're thick, durable, and have a solid, reinforced feel about them. One close-up look at the bags and you'll immediately understand why I'm impressed the aroma carries as strongly as it does.

It really starts to wake up around the fifth infusion, much like Menghai. The nuggets are slightly larger and appear to have a bit less compression. It doesn't really seem to be a factor in the taste or the longevity of the tea. As for the soup, a rich amber liquor that quickly shifts to a much darker shade of red. I'm talking about the sort of colour you'd expect from a mature cake. In my experience, this seems to be a pretty standard characteristic of most shupu.

The Haiwan is, as expected, full of flavour. It's complex, warming, leaves my mouth tingling, and dries out the back of my throat. The menghai may have a little more kick to it, but they're so close that I can't immediately justify a reason not to purchase the Haiwan brick. It's my understanding that Menghai pioneered the Lao Cha Tou, and because they don't release annually, their bricks fetch a higher ticket price. Either way, both of these factories have created something special. Is it really any wonder, considering both factories have felt and been rewarded by the brilliance of Mr. Zhou Bing Liang?

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