Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sometimes We Play Dirty

2005 Dehong Golden Melon
Gaiwan - Cranes
Infusion times - boil - 15s, 12s, 20s, 25s, 35s, 50s - boil - 1m30s, 2m0s, 2m0s, 3m0s, 4m0s, 5m0s

I have a confession to make; my mind goes overboard when it comes to visualization. I can't make a stark comparison between two things without thinking of a hundred different scenarios that could be related, and only settling down when I've either exhausted my own resources, confused my company, sidetracked myself to the point where I have forgotten where my rant began. I'll try to avoid that tonight, because this tea does a damn fine job of being swanky all on it's own. It's one of the tightest compressed touchas I've ever handled; my right hand still has indentations from the butt of the puer'dao.

I pulled it off the shelf tonight because I was underwhelmed the past two sessions. My taste buds didn't register the way I had hoped, and my senses only blended together like sidewalk chalk in a thunderstorm. I could smell it from three feet back. Thick, dense, iron-like smoke. Small leaf, choppy, with a few little twigs here and there. Not sure why, but I've always been fond of it, and tonight is no exception. The soup is a cloudy orange with a dash of pink, and the aroma reminds me of a barbequed candy cane. It's by no means special, but it's got an obvious effect on me. My mouth is tingling already, and after the third infusion, I remember that I have never been a fan of gentle tea. (If anyone remembers my bout with pu-pourri, you'll know exactly what I mean) I get excited when a tea has a punch to it, and much the way we are drawn to absurd storytelling, or shock cinema, this feels like a dirty joke that I can't help but share with friends, but would never dare tell to my Grandmother.

By the eighth infusion, it seems that the tight compression has finally opened up entirely. The leaves are actually pushing the lid upward. Unfortunately, the most fun came from the first five infusions, each one made my entire mouth tingle. I'll ride it out until the kettle is empty, but I think we are about cached here.

I was worried that I would find myself underwhelmed here, and after the first five cups, I'm back in that same boat. It isn't bad, and it's definitely bold, but it's just not that exciting. I have been spoiled by aged sheng, as I am winding down, I smell the empty gaiwan, pleasantly surprised. The thick smoke aroma is much less present; almost not at all. It's got body, and I am wondering if that can somehow translate into flavour. I've had many sessions where the tea catches a second wind. Three minutes on the clock and I will find out. That minty, camphor scent is heavily present, and now that most of the leaf has opened up, I am shocked to find that although I'm not really seeing whole leaf, the pieces of leaf are much larger than I had initially anticipated.

At the three minute mark, the soup has taken on the colour of rust, and is actually quite good. Mouth is dry, and there is something competing for my attention in the back of my throat. Most likely, it's just my palate adjusting itself as my brain challenges it to bring something to the table. As I pour the final cup, I'm happy to catch some of the aromas I haven't experienced in other teas of late. It almost feels like being in some sort of rehabilitation for my olfactory system, which is pleasing, but it makes me wonder how I let that atrophy to begin with.

I have no doubt that this tea has some time ahead of it before it does everything it set out to do, but pulling air over the soup causes it to bubble out a crisp freshness, and closes with a familiar young sheng after touch. With the compression, it's no wonder. It's naturally going to have that sort of layered taste for years to come, which eventually, could prove rather interesting. Overall, my level of engagement here went up and down and then back up again to an eventual point of neutrality. For the $11 I paid for it back in 08', it was an early shot in the dark, and the only pain I endured came in the form of red marks on my palm (which haven't faded, by the way) from trying to cut off enough leaf to brew up. I'm sure you could all think of ten other teas you would rather spend your money on, and I'm sure looking back in time, I might make another recommendation, but we all pay our tuition.


Amy Danger said...

Write on.

Mike Taster said...

I just doscovered your blog and read this interesting blog, thanks for you work here. Cheers!

Daniel@ Let's Drink Tea said...

Great description. I'm only just starting to get into Pu'er teas and I've never tried this particular one, but I've been having a hard time getting consistently good brews with the ones I have tried. I guess it just takes practice, especially when you're used to brewing Japanese green teas.