Sunday, February 19, 2012

Strange Encounters / 2011 YS "Ban Po Lao Zhai"


Trying to control the world?
I see you won't succeed.
The world is a spiritual vessel
And cannot be controlled.
Those who control, fail.
Those who grasp, lose.

Tao Te Ching, 29 (transl. Addis & Lombardo)


Strange Encounters

Time flies so fast but somehow this winter seems to be too long. And I am tired. I know, it is not the best way to start a tasting note. This extreme exhaustion is not something to be easily taken away with a few cups of puerh. Saturn has been transiting my 8th house and I can feel his omnipresence wherever I look. It seems that somehow I was pushed by my own subconscious mind to open Pandora's box and now I try hard to have a chance to observe the effect it has got on me. Most of the time I am affected without even knowing it and then I just end up realizing how uncontrollable life is. This winter has been really demanding and I have been counting days to welcome spring. 

This all is not the best state of mind for writing clearly but it might be a good opportunity to learn how to become the master of my own mind. This new transformational period blurs my own perception of all I encounter, everything feels different from my previous experience. Everything feels so new. It is a state of permanent flux where everything changes rapidly. My life has become a stream and all I can do is to go with the flow. I try hard to understand the complex situation where things that are going apart are coming together at the same time, creating new shapes of reality, new feelings and experience.

I have been drinking too much tea lately. Perhaps it has an effect on me too. I am aware more than ever before of the energy leaving the cup and then circulating in my body, looking for its place to exist within me. I can observe it in a time loop, a period of silence when everything stops for a while. It is a new dimension of tea drinking for me and I am grateful for having this opportunity to experience the non-existence of everything, once I disconnect from the everyday stress, insecurity, pain and chaos which slowly disappear and appear again, when I refocus my mind and pay my attention to them. I look for solace in tea and try to implement my newly shaped awareness in looking at things from new point of view..


2011 Yunnan Sourcing Nannuo "Ban Po Lao Zhai"

My new cake from Yunnan Sourcing (bought at Zeleny Muz) has become a good friend of mine very quickly, despite the fact that "to have a friend takes time". Ban Po Lao Zhai, 半坡老寨, is according to babelcarp the older, higher elevation part of Ban Po Zhai, which is a Nannuoshan village where taidicha is grown. According to Scott's information, this production is entirely first flush of Spring 2011 material from tea trees between 60 and 200 years old and in total just 50 kilograms were produced. For more information about the cake, see Yunnan Sourcing's website here.

It is a beautiful piece. It smells good, looks good, tastes good. I did not have to think twice when choosing what to buy. I have already mentioned my new interest in 2011 sheng and I have ordered several samples lately to confirm that I really enjoy drinking them now. This has been one of the blind purchases when I simply trusted my instinct more than any review.

The smell of dry leaf is sweet, the smell which stays in the cup is sugary and thick. The tea broth is sparkling yellow and gives away its sweetness easily with a simple look. It is aromatic, sweet on the tongue with a trace of caramel and in further infusions it uncovers its rawer side at the back of the tongue.

Given the fact that the cake is very young, it can have a powerful impact on a sensitive drinker so for those who prefer softer flavour it is better to keep the steep time shorter. Nevertheless, its rawer, more "aggressive" side of fresh young cha qi is quite interesting too. The aftertaste takes its time before entering the scene but when it comes, it is refreshing returning sweet, bringing the strong aroma of the tea back to life.

If you had a chance to taste 2010 YS NanNuo YaKou, a sample I reviewed here last year, you would probably find her 2011 sister more complex, more aromatic, thicker and also sweeter. Surprisingly, when I tasted NanNuo YaKou, I was not very impressed by the sample as its fresh characteristic was not what I was looking for in raw puerh at that time. However, my taste has developed or changed and now I am looking for the exact opposite. And all this makes me think that the more I taste tea as a simple ordinary consumer, the more I realize how much I do not enjoy comparing anything. I do not like saying what is better and what is worse as I somehow do not believe in these categories, at least they do not work for me. I agree, of course, that the quality of leaf, environment as well as processing is definitely an enormous part of the final outcome and it is something to be taken into account, especially when one is a vendor or a producer.

As a consumer I believe that I can choose intuitively what I like, or what speaks to me. I can therefore say that for me this cake is great which is absolutely subjective statement and again, I am not sure how different it can be after a few years of aging. I really like its fresh flavour as this is something I value the most at the moment but again, all of this is changeable and impermanent. 

2011 YS "Ban Po Lao Zhai"
Aroma: Strong, sweet, floral
Flavour: Sweet, thick
Bitterness / Smokiness: Some, very light / None
Aftertaste: Returning sweet, refreshing, long-lasting


T'ien hsia shen ch'i.


-ER-

~ 2 comments: ~

Ondra says:
at: February 20, 2012 at 7:06 PM said...

I like your expressions and the way how you express your inner feelings. It can help the reader to understand your point of view on the tea itself. Great description of the state of your mind.

Really like the photo No. 4 and its leaves how they are perfectly shaped in the pot. They look healthy and the freshness is just shining from them!

You are very right when you are saying you don’t like to Compare anything. I must agree. The best is just put the lips in the cup and the nose in the pot and enjoy the tea itself. Beacause we drink the tea itself and not the leaflet, don’t we?

Great post. Thank you!
Ondra

esteban rivas says:
at: February 21, 2012 at 7:58 PM said...

Thank you for the comment, Ondra. It's good to read that my post spoke to you in so many ways. It's not always easy to find proper words in states of mind like this. I'm glad my words resonate with someone else too. And I agree with your last sentence,

thanks for reading!
-ER-

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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