Sunday, September 23, 2007

Dragon Tea House - Mystery "Red" and "Blue"

Somehow September has flown by, and I haven't had a chance to be actively blogging. To follow up on my last post, here are some brief notes on the other two mystery samples provided by Dragon Tea House care of The Half-Dipper.



1st infusion - 8 sec.

Infusion produces a very light yellow liquor. The smell is tobaccoey with a heavy sweetness. The taste is also of reminiscent of tobacco, similar to Russian Caravan tea I've tried. A little too bitter.

2nd infusion- 7 sec.

This infusion was shorter in an attempt to reduce the bitterness. It has a wonderful sweetness, combined with a sour-woody taste that makes me think of oak barrels. We had some in our back yard that were used as big flower pots, and whenever it would rain a sour wine smell would effuse from the wood.

3rd infusion- 20 sec.

Slightly greener liquor at the longer infusion time. The sweetness is still evident, with a nice wine and oak taste.

4th infusion- 25 sec.

It's still going strong, although this infusion is very dry in the mouth. I think this will be my last cup.

I have a very pleasant and energetic tea buzz. This tea was nice. I didn't know a young pu-erh could taste like black Russian Caravan, although this one had more sourness than any black tea.


This tea produces a yellow soup, which turns amber after a few seconds. At longer brewing times the soup is more green.

20 second infusion - All 5 flavors are apparent in this tea: sweet, bitter, sour, pungent, and salty. Usually there can be a few of this apparent in any one tea, but I have never tasted all five!

The tea doesn't have much stamina, petering out after just a couple infusions. The sweetness weans and the bite takes over. Some of the wet leaves of this tea have dark speckles, which can't be good, except in the case of some special teas.

Overall, a merely decent tea. I think next time I will try more tea and shorter brew times to better understand how this tea evolves.

Monday, September 3, 2007

2006/7 Dragon Teahouse - "Green" Shengpu

I am fortunate enough to be included in The Half-Dipper Tea Tasting Event, sponsored by Dragon Tea House. Three "mystery teas" labeled red, blue, and green arrive today by registered mail from Shanghai. The world feels a whole lot smaller as I sign to receive my package, and play my part in the ever-tightening system of international security. I notice a stamp on the envelope indicating a pass through customs, with "tea" in English alongside the Chinese 茶. The translation makes me think of how East/West cultural boundaries are articulating themselves in an era of globalization, especially in light of the concerns about contamination of Chinese imports. Tea never fails to fascinate me in its ability to provide a nexus of meaning and importance in my life.

Dry leaf appearance: Cake appears quite smashed, with a dark beige color and an earthy mushroom smell that is deep like a lion's purr.

I infused about 6 grams of this tea several times at very short (~8s) intervals with boiling hot water, and here's what I found:

The liquor pours out yellow, and browns to a light amber over the next 20 seconds. A jolt is felt from the moment it hits my tongue. The tea, or am I anxious? This bright note mellows into a warming quality, much like mushrooms. I search for words to describe the taste with pen and paper. A sweetness lingers after I swallow it down, and I am reminded to listen to the tea rather than the inquietude of my mind in a search to describe it.

A second infusion results a little too tangy, is 10 seconds too long?

A third 8 second infusion is nice and sweet, with bright notes occasionally jumping out as I listen to the tea talk. I become more aware of my body and posture. I notice that the tea does not leave my mouth dry, as tea often does, but that changes around the 5th infusion. Is this enduring moisture and sweetness what is known as huigan? A 6th infusion, 9 seconds long, is just shy of overbrewed, imparting an astringent tang while the sweet and woody notes still prevail.

Wet leaf appearance: The leaves are much less damaged than the heavily compressed cake made me suspect initially. They are whole and quite large, some almost 3 inches long. Despite their size, they are tender to the touch.

This "green" lion of a tea spoke to me with a demanding yet mellow purr. I am an infant in the pu-erh world, and while I definitely enjoyed it, I suspect this tea brims mediocrity. If I had to guess which of Dragon Tea House's 52 shengpus this is, I would wager their Mengku Rongshi Spring Tip bing or the DaDuGang Women Caravan Spring Arbor cake. Although my opinions here will surely all change as I revisit and spend more time with this tea, I give it a 3 out of 5 as a tea and a 7 out of 10 as an experience. :)