Sunday, November 9, 2008

Crouching Gaiwan, Hidden Pu-erh

Some teas, like the shape above, are impossible to destroy.  It seems that some of them cannot be overbrewed.  They are quick to deliver and maintain consistency throughout.  This is fine and dandy, but what of teas that require a little bit more of a skilled hand?  Tonight I was talking with Scott from YSLLC and the topic came up because I was doing an experiment.  I was trying to recreate whatever scenario it was one night that made the 2005 Dehong Golden Tuo taste so wonderful.  It's usually a 'meh' tea to me, but on occasion, it's got a lot of character.  The differing flavours all get in line to go a round with my tastebuds.  It left me with a tingling feeling in my mouth, a bit of astringency, and a thick soup that carried in the back of my throat for several minutes.  It made me wonder just what I had done that one night.  

I must say, as soon as I picked up the pu-erh knife, Marvin Gaye's 'Let's Get it On' randomly came on my Zune.  I knew this would be a special night.  This made me smile, because the compression on this tuo is so tight, I've been known to have marks on the palms of my hands from trying to work the knife through it.  So, after breaking off some of this demon-tuo, I prepared it the exact same way I've been preparing all of my pu-erh lately.  It didn't wake up until the fifth infusion, but when it did, it suddenly had that tingling mouth-feel to it.  It had just the right amount of bitterness that made it more than just 'decent.'  

That in place, I've been ordering a lot of samples lately.  This particular tuo had been an impulse buy.  I bought it back when I knew absolutely nothing about pu-erh.  What happens if you go through a 25g sample without having a solid steeping process in place?  You may get lucky and find something you enjoy, but more often than not, you'll end up with a cup that delivers far less than it would in careful hands.  Even then, there may be other variables that aren't working in your favour....water temperature, mineral content in the water you're steeping with, your mood...everything plays it's part.  

I've written about it before, but once again, just another example of how it pays to stay faithful to the fundamentals.  The control you get with a consistent practice is remarkable. Plus, if something tastes 'off,' you've already minimized the variables, so compensating is often easier.


bvowles said...

Yes, I agree with this post completely.

Whenever I get a new sample, I brew it in my gaiwan using the same times, same water, same temperature. If it's a fairly big sample, I brew it again the same way. Usually this brings about a different session. If it doesn't, then I start to switch things up. Usually by two separate sessions I've already started a good "conversation" with the tea so I know where to take it. I love that by the end of most 25gr. samples I know whether or not I want to buy something. It's very rare that I'm still stumped.

Also, along with your birthday presents in my next parcel, there is a number of samples we need to try.

Jamus said...

I'm definitely looking forward to all of these samples. I think the next time we get together, you should bring over your equipment as well. We'll get some fine spring water and see how each of our methods stack up against eachother. Perhaps we can fine tune that way.

I'm also very excited to share the Lao Cha Tou with you. I think you'll find it to be a very unique experience. Perhaps over a game of Go?