Wednesday, April 25, 2012

2006 Langhe Factory Sheng Puer Cake

I first heard of the Langhe tea factory (郎河茶廠) about five years ago from their advertisement in Art of Tea Magazine. The ad caught my attention because it seemed to me much simpler and humbler than those of most other full-paged puer factories/brands in the same issue. It shows an aerial view of the factory surrounded by green hills and trees and states: "Our factory is within thousands of acres of camphor forests with large-leaf tea interspersed everywhere. The blue roof and white walls are mirrored in the sky above, the factory but a part of the surrounding nature."

It was a few years later that I tasted my first cake from this factory (a 2002 sheng reviewed here).

On a recent Friday afternoon at work I decided to review a newer Langhe factory cake for this blog post. The cake, with a production date stamp of August 15, 2006, has a handsome purple wrapper and a bold green "郎河" seal in the middle.

I used the new teapot that Chris Shaw loaned me (profiled here). It was just about one-quarter full of dry leaf. After a quick, boiling hot rinse, I steeped my first infusion for about 10 seconds. The next 4 infusions all ranged about 10 to 20 seconds long, while infusions 5 through 8 saw increases from 1 to 2 minutes in length.

This is a potent and smoky sheng cake. It pours a clear, amber color and leaves an "icy-hot" tingle on my throat and tongue. All infusions have savory, herbaceous notes such as sage, rosemary and mint. Some infusions also have a pleasant sweetness that reminds me of flowers and raw honey. It has occasional, refreshing, good-bitterness but some infusions have too much smokiness.

Afterwards, my muscles feel mellow and loose as though I were drinking an older, riper tea. Also, my toes are not tapping and my hands are not fidgeting like they normally do after I drink a lot of young sheng puer. In my opinion... this cake is a real winner.

My solo session at Phoenix Tea:

Monday, April 23, 2012

Daddy-Daughter Tea Picnic

These last few days the weather here in Seattle has been amazing. Today, during my son's nap time, my daughter C and I went outside for a little tea picnic under the cherry trees. We spent a glorious, barefoot hour sipping Bai Mu Dan (白牡丹) and nibbling raisins and muffins. A gentle breeze stirred the wind-chime, while occasional blizzards of white cherry petals fell from above.

Bug's eye view.

C sips her tea.

Checking on the Tea Plants.

They appear to be happy.

Apple tree is in full bloom.

Cherry blossom snow.

Friday, April 6, 2012

High Mountain Tea Dogs at Rest

These three sleepy canines are named Xiao Hua (Little Flower), Lao Hua (Old Flower) and Lao Hu (Tiger)! They live at Small Swiss homestay and tea farm in Shihzhuo (石桌), Taiwan.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Tea Jelly Brick

Today I'm drinking an interesting cup of puer tea that Cinnabar and I currently have for sale at Phoenix Tea. It is called Cha Gao (茶膏), which can be translated as tea-gel, tea-jelly, or even, tea-ointment. It is a decoction made by condensing brewed puer tea until it is possible to form a hard brick.

The brick itself looks a little bit like obsidian and can be broken easily into glassy shards. To brew the tea I dissolved a few tiny shards into about 8 ounce of boiling water.

That's all the tea I used:

The resulting tea has a nice color and a curious earthy, mushroom-like, shu puer (熟普洱) aroma. This heady redolence is both alluring and intimidating.

I sip cautiously. To my relief the liquor is pleasant. It has a nice syrupy sweetness and a subtle plum note. For the amount of gel I used the the tea is medium bodied. Next time I'll add a few more tiny shards... but I'm sure it will get too intense if I used too much. The mushroom smell remained, but it didn't present itself in the mouth. Given the option I'd probably prefer a normal "leaf" tea but I do like the Tea Jelly Brick, and can see myself drinking it from time to time.