Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nannou Shou Cha 1997

These days America has no shortage of businesses that sell Chinese and/or Taiwanese teas. If you live in an urban area or have access to a phone or computer, then excellent tea is fairly easy to come by. In fact, I could easily name about 20 wonderful and trustworthy tea vendors right now off the top of my head. One of these tea shops is Red Blossom in San Francisco. My wife and I had the pleasure of checking them out last year when we traveled down to the Bay Area for our baby shower. We sampled many sublime teas at Red Blossom and ended up buying an ounce each of: 2007 Spring Heirloom Lishan, Spring 2007 Supreme Panan Dragonwell, and 1997 Nannou Shou Puer tea. Our total came to $48. That provided us with 25 amazing tea sessions each with 3 to 8 delicious infusions, so I'd say we got a fantastic value!

This afternoon I savoured my penultimate pot of Nannou Shou Cha 1997 and on a whim I decided to blog about it. Up until now I haven't posted many tea reviews, and when I do attempt a tea review, I rarely say anything critical or negative about the tea. The best tea reviews, in my opinion, are the ones that balance the "clinical" aspects of the steeping parameters (ie. the amount of leaf, the water temperature, the brewing vessel etc...etc...) with a good story. There are plenty of writers out there who can produce an interesting, informative and genuinely "readable" tea review. My goal is to be one of them (someday).

This loose leaf puer is from Nannou Mountain (南糯山), a famous tea producing area in southern Yunnan, China. Because I do not have much experience with region-specific puer teas, I will not be making any claims about how Nannou Mountain tea should taste or what particular flavors they usually possess.

I used about 4 grams of tea in Xiao Xiao (a very small clay pot). The dry leaf is a random assortment of different sizes, stems and colors. The colors range from orange to grey to black. They have an earthy, malty smell.

The dry leaf:

Because today's weather is cool and cloudy with a soft misty rain, I have cracked open the dining room window to let in a bit of fresh air. I believe that the sweet smell of Northwest rain can be highly beneficial when paired with some teas. (On that note, the smell of newly fallen snow is a heavenly compliment to Winter Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Taiwanese Oolong Tea.)

I used filtered Seattle water that had just reached a rolling boil and first gave the dry leaves a 5 second rinse, then I prepared five delicious infusions. Each infusion steeped for about 30 to 60 seconds and always produced a milky-black color. This puer had no smokiness and the flavor was velvety and malty like an infusion of roasted grains. I wonder if Nannou shan's tea leaves are known for thick, round, and smooth tastes or if this particular tea is an exception to the region's usual flavor profile?

Xiao Xiao and the fourth infusion:

I drank my tea slowly and mindfully while my little daughter sat in my lap. She is a peaceful and sweet baby who seems to enjoy good tea. When I pass my teacup under her nose she will instinctively stick out her tongue and try to lick it.

As I sip this satisfying puer tea I think about traveling to Yunnan, China. Someday I will go there and spend some time learning about puer tea production. Hopefully my wife and daughter can come too!

A quick look at the spent leaves:

No comments: