2006 GuanZiZai "Nanlahe" Yiwu #605
I got up to sunshine today, a pleasant and totally unexpected Saturday surprise from Mother Nature. Another one was waiting for me at the local post office where I walked at noon to pick up a small package from China. These lovely birds from Kunming brought me a sweet after-lunch cake.
It is one of the cakes I bought at AWaShan, 阿佤山. I can never be sure of anything when buying a cake that I have not tasted before and therefore I intend to pick "intuitively" as much as I can. I am also quite curious and interested in discovering the variety of flavours and aromas, so this time I probably half intentionally chose an Autumn harvest cake.
GuanZiZai, 觀自在, is actually the Chinese name for Avalokiteshvara, the omnipresent Bodhisattva of Compassion (living manifestation of which is our dearest Dalajlama). Chinese name GuanZiZai is not a simple translation though, it has its proper meaning which refers to the attainment of the bodhisattva stage. One of the interpretations explains the meaning of GuanZiZai in Chinese as the one, who observes and therefore awakes own mind and the world through practicing the bodhisattva path (guan as to watch, observe or look at). The one who is free from samsara, who is able to halt the two kinds of birth and death and the five fundamental conditions of passions and delusions, can be called ZiZai (see more here).
I am not going to go deeper in this topic, no. It is nevertheless at least interesting to mention that it is believed by many (not only buddhists) that visualizing and contemplating the name we can come to understand its meaning (not in the rational way though). This is, btw, the principle of repeating mantras. Now you might already know what I am pointing at: what a gracious and compassionate deed the GuanZiZai company did for us! The beautiful GuanZiZai name, written in a calligraphy font on each wrapper, should in fact be considered the highest treasure of the cake (regardless of its flavour). You can see it written there even twice: in the right upper corner of the wrapper, and the third, fourth and fifth sign in the left vertical sentence.
Btw, the vertical sign in the middle reads this is a GuChaBing (litteraly ancient or old tea cake, 古茶餅, which means either tea that has been aged or tea from old trees pressed in the cake shape) from Nanla river (NanLaHe, 南臘河). For those like me who did not know, Nanla is a river in Mengla county of Xishuangbanna. This, then, is the clue to the strange Nanlahe term in the name of the cake.
This cake si QiuCha, 秋茶, tea picked in Autumn which is also composed of very long stems and large leaf. I was interested in both, the Autumn Yiwu harvest as well as the stems effect. Some people praise the stems for adding a special ingredient to both aroma and flavour and I was wondering how different it could be.
This tea asks for attention from the very first touch. It is simply beautiful. When separating the stems and leaves, they fell apart willingly and spontaneously as if they were giving me the permission to taste them. I must say this is a very special cake in all aspects.
It smells wonderful, sweet and fresh, sweet old Yiwu.
The first rinse was of very deep colour, I therefore expected the first infusion to be the same. It really was, as the picture above is supposed to show (with no contrast or saturation added). The first infusion has a very deep sweet tone within, it covers all the tongue and throat and it is very promising and calming. The flavour is however as if covered under the lid. There is almost immediate huigan though, sweet, mouth watering, intense and nearly infinite. It brings a special tone of almond skin, coming from sweet to slightly acidic with nutty background trace, offering a symphony of tastes.
This tea is definitely a nice surprise. Its chaqi is very friendly, warming and relaxing and it nicely underlines the whole smooth and pleasant character of the cake. I have had just one single chance to meet this interesting piece but I am sure it will always be a special encounter in the future, especially with such a name.