Friday, November 4, 2011

2005 NanNuoShan (Menghai Banzhang)

Sometimes it could be quite hard to describe our feelings and impressions that it is perhaps better to keep them within ourselves and just contemplate. This is one of those days when I cannot figure out the proper words for what I feel and my thoughts are blurred with this indescribable state of mind. The Autumn is here, there is no way I can avoid its presence, it speaks to me through foliage on the road, misty clouds above the river and dark afternoons. This is the best time for contemplation... and a hot cup of tea. 

The shorter the days get, the more I feel the need to slow down with everything. Even with tea tasting and writing my notes. These days I have felt the presence of the energy of particular kind of tea in my body for a very long time, I can feel its flavour and aroma so well that I do not even have to drink it. To be honest, some of the teas I have tasted recently have made such an impression on me that it was simply impossible to drink anything for a few days. 

One of the cakes I have tasted recently is the 2005 Nan Nuo Shan I am writing about today. It was produced by the NanNuoShan Tea Factory which has been known under its new Menghai Banzhang Tea Factory name since 2005. 

I have had the cake at home for a few weeks already and have been coming back to it once in a while to get a more complex impression of its character. It is a nice cake with quite dark broken leaf which had been chopped on purpose, this is at least the official story from the vendor. Some cakes with large leaf are intentionally pressed with the leaf broken which is said to be the tradition, or in order to age well. In my personal humble opinion this tea would be more interesting if pressed more carefully and less traditionally.

The smell of dry leaf is sweet and fruity, and it is not hard to identify the typical Nannuo aroma, it is intense fruity and spicy. The cake is pressed medium light, it is easy to separate chunks of leaf. Due to its rather broken character, it is quite difficult to get some regular sample and separate the leaves well. After unwrapping the cake there were quite many small particles and fragments of what used to be leaves, and since it was stored in dry environment it is also quite fragile. It seems to contain some amount of stems and huang pian too, yellowed leaves which are normally culled from Pu'er maocha before pressing, but may be worth brewing nonetheless (thanks to babelcarp for the definition).

The colour of the first infusion is very dark despite short steeping time, it even resembles some hongcha (red tea) in both taste and look. It is sweet on the top of the tongue and very citric afterwards. The citric and a bit minty flavour is so intense that it even paralyzes the tongue for a while. It seems to be the former astringency transformed through some years of aging already, as there are still gentle bitter-astringent tones present in the flavour. 

Despite the lemonish trace, the flavour is still sweet and fruity, thirst quenching and refreshing. The leaf is very potent but due to the rather broken character of the leaf it is easy to overbrew it. Everything comes out of the leaf particles immediately in water, you can taste the whole complex character of the tea in the first few infusions. The later infusions are less intense, more mellow but the overall characteristics of the flavour and aroma develop quickly. The rest of the session you can enjoy less citric and more fruity and sweet tones and go like this for approximately ten or twelve infusions, depending on the amount of leaf and water.

What I really enjoyed every time I sat down to my tea table with this particular tea is its chaqi. Despite its rather confusing flavour, this tea has a very friendly energy. It is straightforward and fast but not too intense, it knocks on your door in the first cup already. I invited her in and she felt very welcome immediately, covering me in a very soothing and relaxing fluffy coat from within, a state not very distant from the feeling one can have after leaving a hot tub. Drinking this tea is like going through a thorny bush for a few meters to see wonderful sunrise.

2005 NanNuoShan Qizi Bing
Type: Raw large leaf maocha from Nannuo area
Aroma: Sweet and fruity
Flavour: Sweet and citric
Astringency: Some
Bitterness / Smokiness: Very little / None
Aftertaste: Nice and long, returning sweet which tones down the lemon-like feeling on the tongue

Interesting tea.
Enjoy Autumn.



Peter says:
at: November 4, 2011 at 8:19 PM said...

I agree with you about not be able to drink another tea after a last made an impression on you. Even if I drink the other day other tea, I still feel the presence of the previous one. Great post as all the others. I will be glad to swap a sample of this for other :-)

esteban rivas says:
at: November 4, 2011 at 9:26 PM said...

Thanks for a nice comment, Peter, exactly as you have written, these intense encounters with Tea have the power to ask for much longer attention than is the "usual" time dedicated to a tea session, very interesting experience I must admit. I am glad you enjoy reading the posts, I'll be happy to send you a sample, sure .)

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Drink your tea
slowly and reverently,
as if it is the axis
on which the world earth revolves.
Slowly, evenly,
without rushing toward the future.
Live the actual moment.
Only this moment is life.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Best to be like water,
Which benefits the ten thousand things
And does not contend.
It pools where humans disdain to dwell,
Close to the Tao.

Live in a good place.
Keep your mind deep.
Treat others well.
Stand by your word.
Keep good order.
Do the right thing.
Work when it's time.

Only do not contend,
And you will not go wrong.

Tao Te Ching, 8 / transl. Addis & Lombardo