Dec 21, 2013

2005 Chang Tai Gold Bamboo Mountain

This tea is from Bret at Tea Goober blog (many thanks!).

In my impression, most of Chang Tai's tea of those a couple of years named after "mountains" are quite enjoyable. At that time, Chang Tai was the leader of "mountain tops" teas, and was probably the only private company that could share the same table with Dayi and Xiaguan. Gold Bamboo Mountain is one of the relative stable series of Chang Tai and was offered in most of the years since... around 2002?? (I remember the starting year of Gold Bamboo Mountain is a big puzzle and hot spot of Chang Tai gossips...) It's in medium price range and a style I like very much. Just last year or early this year, I learned that Gold Bamboo Mountain (金竹山) is actually the same as Bitter Bamboo Mountain (苦竹山). Bitter Bamboo Mountain is a series that I like very much from another tea producer. And I didn't know these two "bamboo mountains" were actually the same mountain! It looks like that Bitter Bamboo Mountain was the original name, and Chang Tai (or somebody else around the time) renamed it to Gold Bamboo Mountain. You have to admit, in a commercial market, the latter one sounds more upscale and romantic. And indeed Chang Tai is good at this kind of things ;-)

Gold Bamboo Mountain is in Jing Gu (景谷) region, one of the home bases of Chang Tai. Although Chang Tai established their fame mostly with Yi Wu tea, some of their Jing Gu teas are very good, such as these twins.

Lovely dry stored leaves!

Sometimes when I get a chunk of tea, I would be reluctant to further break it. Then I would ended up using too much tea and regretted... I've been working on "not to use too much tea."

This is really too much tea... But this tea is very nice. It tastes like some arbor tree tea that doesn't get too harsh even when highly concentrated. But still, I think using too much tea is not a good situation and very often too wasteful. I brewed many infusions out of this tea. But later on, when I could taste the "straw-like" flavor from the top layer tea leaves that's typically found in a puerh near the end of brewing, I knew the leaves in the middle layer hadn't completely release all their flavors yet. I would rather brew these leaves in two different sessions instead of confining so much tea in such a small space. That's the number 2 reason I object brewing too much tea in each session - the number 1 reason is too concentrated tea polyphenols and too much caffeine all at one time is not very healthy, at least not healthy for my little subtle stomach :-p

This is the type of tea broth that I like very much!

In recent years I tasted quite a few samples of Gold Bamboo Mountain around 2003-2005, most of which are Guangdong dry-stored. Bret's Texas stored is one of the tastiest (and I guess Bret got his tea from a US source, likely from a dry enough place), along with a few other dryer stored samples. Many Guangdong dry stored teas I've tried are clean enough, but the humidity takes tolls on the aroma of the tea. And I think the unique aroma is the signature strength of Gold Bamboo Mountain. In contrast, some other teas I've had seemed to benefit some level of humidity (all of these are still within dry storage scope), such as the 2004 Xin Yun Cheng, and the Guangdong version in the 2003 Yi Wu twins (I will finish the report on the twins soon).

Dec 15, 2013

2004 Chang Tai Shi Kun Mu Xin Yun Cheng Ban Zhang (2004鑫昀晟班章)

This tea isn't labeled "Ban Zhang" anywhere. But it seems everybody calls it Ban Zhang - probably as unofficially released by the producer.

The photo on the left shows the two Xin Yun Cheng from that year, Yi Wu on the left and Ban Zhang on the right - it was about the time when people enthusiastically talked about "Ban Zhang is king and Yi Wu is queen." So these two make a happy couple.

Both cakes are 300g only, although both wrappers say 400g. The producer explained that it was a production mistake. I don't see how it could be even possible... As cynical as I am, I suspect it was because the tea material wasn't enough while they still wanted to produce so many cakes. With what I know about Chang Tai, I think my cynical theory is totally possible :-p

I haven't tried the Yi Wu yet. My puerh icon Ulumochi of Taiwan seems to have great faith of Xin Yun Cheng Ban Zhang, while in his critiquing with Tea Art magazine (some issue of earlier this year) he didn't give very good comments on 2004 Xin Yun Cheng Yi Wu - not very harsh critique either, though. What's interesting is, in the publication, Tea Art magazine mentioned the name of Xin Yun Cheng Yi Wu, yet printed on the same page a photo of Xin Yun Cheng Ban Zhang. Afterwards, Ulumochi mentioned that he was sure the tea sample for that tasting session was Yi Wu, not Ban Zhang, and the photo on the magazine must be wrong - I do believe him, knowing that his comments on Xin Yun Cheng Ban Zhang is very very positive.

The next a few photos aren't meant to be a blame on this tea at all, although they may look a bit astonishing... I'm sure this is a very, very rare case, because I know Shi Kun Mu tea is overall very carefully made and very clean for puerh. But when I first opened this tea, I was scared to see a bunch of... seemingly... black hairs!

Turned out, it was just a piece of nylon string, a quite long one!

Definitely much better than any black hairs :-p Actually this didn't give me any negative impression about this tea. For puerh tea, producers and sellers should hold high standards for themselves about hygiene. On the other hand, we know that at least up till this day, "gift with purchase" in puerh is almost inevitable, unless puerh is converted from an agricultural product to an industrial product.

The tea tastes quite young and obviously hasn't reached a peak yet. However, it does taste quite interesting, and not harsh.

I've had this tea for several times, sometimes it was less interesting, sometimes more interesting, but overall a tea of rich flavor and mouth feel. A few months ago, I got a small sample of this tea from a tea friend in Zhanjiang (a coastal city in Guangdong Province). The tea was stored at his home and he tried all he could to keep it as dry as possible. So the tea doesn't have the worrisome smell that we sometimes could find from a Guangdong stored tea. However, the storage was still more humid than my tea, which was stored in Shandong (a northern province) before I got it. I think my Zhanjiang friend's sample tastes so much better than mine. His tea seems to have already reached a small peak for enjoyment. 

The more I tried this tea, the more I like it. Tasting my Zhanjiang friend's sample made me feel I could see more of this tea's future. But by the time, it was already nearly impossible to get more of this tea at reasonable prices. This kind of things always happen in puerh. When a tea is still at its earlier stage, most people don't know how good or how bad it could be in the future. Sometimes we could choose to follow the guru's words, but then we don't know if we have the same tasting preferences as the guru. By the time we are sure we really like a tea, it may no longer be affordable. But what could we do? That is life. Fortunately most people having this problem actually also have more than enough tea to drink, haha! So if you take turns to drink different teas, for each tea, one or two cakes are enough to last for years, and during the time, there will be discoveries of new loves.