28 November, 2014

That's the Essence That You're Smelling

Friends, Romans, Homeboys.  Lend me your ears.

2014 EoT GFZ

I have, it must be said, fallen a little behind with my writing here.  You know that I love you (long time), Gentle Reader, and you know that I would never abandon you without good reason.  The reasons are good!  But they are reasons nonetheless.  I could talk about a new academic year.  I could talk about the overwhelming crush of having the indescribable pleasure of (somehow being left in charge of) running a lab that is populated entire by ninjas.  I mean, these people actually have shuriken, and know what a "caltrop" is.  (If you didn't have to google the word "caltrop" to know it's meaning, you are my kind of town.)  I could also talk about evenings and week-ends spent programming two malleable young minds, who are simultaneously draining every last ounce of vitality that I have, and yet whom I love more than anything.  They are like parasites that I somehow wish to see thrive, because I have some sense that they are, in some baffling way, extensions of (the least bad) bits of myself.

But you, Gentle Reader, are above such quotidian quota.  You are, in a very real sense, rocking the free world, and you demand tea.  I am but your humble servant.  Let's put our tetsubin to the metal.

You may have gathered from the images in this article that I have been sucking at the ever-beneficent nipples of the Essence of Tea.  This is an outfit run by a man who speaks like the leprachaun from the "Lucky Charms" advertisements, who used to live in possible the greenest and most pleasant part of our green and pleasant land, and who recently upped sticks and moved to somewhere out beyond the Thunderdome.  I imagine his ginger locks blowing in the wind as he rides his motorcycle out in search of a battle to secure more gasoline for his makeshift homestead.

The first deposit from that copious lactation is the EOTGFZ.  It is a tea that is so massively costly that we might speak of it only in capital letters.  If you have to ask what they mean, you really shouldn't be buying this tea.  But you, Gentle Reader, are fluent in over six million forms of communication.  You know that the price of this tea is not unadjacent to £340/357g.  You chuckled when you read the product description that wryly observed "this may seem cheap next year". 

However, you would dig, in far out and happening ways, its precision, and its GFZness.  It is really rather good.  It is probably the most accurate sample of GFZ terroire that may be obtained.  I am grateful for the opportunity to add it to my limited understanding (or approximation thereof).

2014 EoT Yunyun

Yunyun!  It sounds like a Chinese girl's name.  The kind of girl who would wear big spectacle frames without any lenses in them.  I have an undergraduate student exactly like this.

This tea sells for £60/200g (a.k.a. £96 / 357g equivalent), which, for modern-day EoT pricing, means this must be as rough as your mother's facial stubble.  Only you, Gentle Reader, know the precise extremity of your mother's roughness of stubble.

The product description reads like a Stephen King slasher.  Man meets friend.  Friend tells tale of calling in at out-of-the-way service station ["gas station"].  Friend meets withered old crone in said service station.  Crone invites friend to macabre village of the damned.  Friend accepts invitation, only to find village is far from the beaten track.  Friend dons crucifix and readies his last bullet.  Crone introduces friend to 400-year-old "tea tree".  Friend sucks on leaves of said tree under the light of a gibbous moon.  Crone sells now-moist leaves to friend for low price.  Friend returns to the land of the living with only the leaves and a distant stare to show for his travels.  Man takes leaves from friend, presses them into bingcha, gives them a silly girly name, then puts them on web-site.

It's a tale we've all heard a thousand times before.

"Darkened with age, this would be appealing.  Now, it is fine, and clean, but somehow unattractive.  The overall effect is a hint of Menghai base, a roast-sourness above, and it is perhaps the latter that makes it seem citric."

Vendors' habits of not naming where their teas originate is not at all annoying, and it does not frustrate me intensely.

2014 EoT Duquan

Duquan!  Doo-choo'an.  This is a name with some charming Mandarin sounds.  It is EoT's most expensive cake, after the EOTGFZ, weighing in at £89/200g (£159/357g).  Selling xiaobing to make the tea look less expensive used to exercise me, when the practice first started en masse some years ago, but now my numbed, insensate nerves do not even register.  Do it, I say!  Sell 'em in 100g, even.  Sell it like wulong.  Let the chips fall where they may.

I tried this tea as maocha, thanks to the eternal milky generosity of EoT.  That particular maocha tasted very much roasted, which EoT's owner notes as being caused by having stored my sample in an unfortunate location (not to be disclosed, but please feel free to chortle as if I had).  This sample, from EoT's new abode beyond the Thunderdome, seems much better: its leaves are long, green, and fresh and do not at all taste of EoT's car (!).  They have a deep sweetness that seems just fine, again very much unlike EoT's car.

It is yellow, cooling, and enduring, and plenty of numbing sensations that suggest quality.  (The tea, not EoT's car.)  I begin to question my brewing skills, because I manage to distress this tea in its second or third infusion, in a way in which I distressed the Yunyun.  There is an edge of sourness, no doubt caused by my brewing, which nonetheless terrifies me as it reminds me of the sourness of dry storage gone awry.  I suspect that I may be somewhat out of practice with the ol' tetsubin and resolve to redouble my efforts.

Again, we are left wondering where Duquan might be.

Next up: Yuanwei.  I recall, when I tried the clutch of maocha many months ago, that this tea came out right on top, by an unassailable margin.  If you were thinking that you might assail this tea's margin, think again.

It has the buttery scent of thank-goodness-it's-processed-properly, which is a good hedge against future sourness.  Those of us who live in colder climes need to fear the road to sourness like we would fear the path that leads to the Dark Side.  Ironically, fear itself is that which leads one to the Dark Side!

Breaking the trend, we are told that this cake has an origin, that it came from China, and, more specifically, that it came from Mengsongshan.  I totes dig the Mengsongshan, and so this may explain the aforementioned margin-based unassailedness.

It is decent and safe, in a way that I felt the Duquan not to be.  At £54/200g, I teeter on the edge and come down on the side of "perhaps next time".

Finally, some 2000 Kaiyuan GREENSTAMP.  The wrapper, pictured above, looks nubile.

Check 'em.  Red, dark, little - this is Tea.  Actual Tea, not your silly modern stuff.  It has the humid scent of somewhere that you wouldn't want to take a good suit.  We are told that this was a special order from a Malaysian "tea master".

Gentle Reader, I feel as if we have known each other sufficiently long for me to confide in you that whenever I read the phrase "tea master" I immediately, and with neither forethought nor hesitation, punch myself square in the face as does Edward Norton's character in Fight Club.  I bunch up my right hand and just slam it into my own face.

I just thought I'd throw that fact out there, should it be relevant.

"Gosh - this is tremendous."  I don't tend to write that in my diary very much, and even less when in the context of tea.  Superdense, woody, thick, wildflower.  It's like tea cocaine.  That is meant in an affectionate, caring way.  The £140 price tag suddenly looks a lot more reasonable than it did at the outset.  Given that w2t is packing plenty of punch at around that price, I feel that this is something I could get behind.

Well.  It's done.  My face is healing slowly, after reading "tea master" again, from the above.  My thirst is slaked after much suckling at the udders of EoT.  I am appeased, and about to roll over like the mangy cur that I am, into a state of fitful slumber.

If you hear whining and yelping, Gentle Reader, it is merely my passing dreams.  I bid you good rest and fine drinking.

Addendum: notes added to the 2009 EoT Nakashan suggest that this tea is either caught in a bad place, during its aging process, or that it has some processing faults.

26 November, 2014

Chinese, VII

goodbye, old friend -
for looking after me, I thank
my hotel room

21 November, 2014

An Interview

Today, we interview the proprietor of white2tea.  While the actual proprietor could not be with us for what follows, the part of twodog will be played by selected lyrics from the classic hip-hop album, Liquid Swords, by the GZA.


Thank you very much for talking with us today, Mr. Twodog of white2tea. 

Much has been written about your business model of selling a limited inventory of well-selected cakes.  It looks as if you must sample widely; which criteria are you typically applying when you're tasting stacks of random tea?

I judge wisely
as if nothing ever surprise me;
between two pillars of ivory.

Well, that approach could be said to be working.  What are you looking for in a tea?  I notice that much of your inventory is particularly strong in some way. 

Dynamite force explode through your barrier
rips the retina;
who can withstand the astonishing punishing
stings to the sternum?

I think I know what you mean - the 2000 CNNP 7532 "Tiepai" was just like that.  My sternum, for one, is certainly still stinging.

You have gained a reputation for looking past the label - especially with cakes such as that "tiepai", which is probably a copy.  What advice can you give us about trusting the provenance of a cake from its wrapper?

All those labels
try to lure in like spiders to the web -
know what I'm saying -
you got to read the labels.

Well indeed, but some of us can have trouble identifying if the contents are fake.  How can you tell if it's major label or not?

Major labels:
flavour: tropical
punchlines: its unstoppable.

I suppose that's true - let the tea speak for itself, and the best producers will always demonstrate their special characteristics.  Isn't it a little risky, buying tea in an environment in which fakes are so rife?

Heavily armed military is necessary
it's a gamble.

Yes, it is.  Would you say that you were a particularly fussy drinker, or are you just looking for good, strong tea?

I ain't particular,
I bang like vehicular

Your inventory certainly suggests that is the case.  You have become infamous in the tea world for selling tea at an unsustainably low rate.  We're trying to understand your motivation here - what do you see when you look at the higher prices of other vendors?

What is the meaning of crime?
Is it criminals robbing innocent motherf'ers every time?

Well, no-one ever accused your higher-priced competition of robbing people, but I see your point.  So what is your motivation here?

I'm on a mission that n's say is impossible
but when I swing my swords they all choppable

Your "swords" here presumably referring to your combination of lower prices and decent quality.  Aren't you worried about the effect that this might have on the tea market?

I make the dope sales drop
like the crash in Dow Jones stock.

That's an uncompromising position, but at least the consumer benefits from cheaper tea.  What message do you have for other small-scale vendors out there, thinking about starting in the tea market?

Only raise your hands if you're sure -
Punk n's shatter like a glass jaw.

You do seem to like the "n" word, Mr. Twodog.  Are you saying that there is a large "churn" in terms of vendors, and that typical small-time vendors come and go quickly?

It's an everlasting game
and it never cease to exist,
only the players change.

That does seem to be true, looking back at all those who have tried their hand at selling tea.  Would you say that you are doing well, financially, out of this business?

Yo, I got more mils
than ho b's got birth-control pills.

While I fail to see the connection between female dogs and their contraceptive methods, I do take the point that you are at least breaking even in this venture.

You are, of course, based in Beijing and spend much time on your travels to find the next tea bargain.  Where does this activity typically take you?

I'm deep down in the backstreets
in the heart of Medina
about to set off something more deep than a misdemeanour.

Interesting, I wouldn't have considered the tea market there.  What do you look for when you're browsing a new neighbourhood tea market for bargains?

No neighbourhood is rough enough;
there is no clip that's full enough;
I can't fold I need gold I heat up and reload.

Do you have more white2tea-branded productions coming out soon?  I really enjoyed "Giant Steps", which you made in 2013.

Another production
coming atcha
rza-razor rza-razor sharp

That's fascinating.  Well, that's about all we have time for in this interview.  May we ask what our readers might expect to see from white2tea in coming months?  Are there plans for expansion?

The plan was to expand,
catch seven figures, release triggers
and live large and bigger than my n's
who promised his mom a mansion with mad rooms -
she died and he still put a hundred grand in the tomb.

Mr. Twodog, of white2tea: thank you for your time with us today.

19 November, 2014

Chinese, VI

at least you still know
the way to Tsinghua, old friend -
my faded shadow

12 November, 2014

Chinese, V

and this is where
the Japanese soldiers threw
the Chinese soldiers

05 November, 2014

Chinese, IV

roadside erhu
goes surprisingly well
with my wutang