(No, this was not a tomato-puer combination event, although this is the Bay Area, so anything is possible).
“And so we meet the 2012 Spring GuaFengZhai (Gwah–fEng–Jai)..”
is what I imagine I would write if I was the esteemed Hobbes.
But I’m not, so I shall start out by saying: Yum! I ordered a ton of samples from Tea Urchin. Today I tried the 2012 Spring GuaFengZhai (windy camp), which they’re calling 千葉蝶 (because I don’t like simplified characters), “1000 butterflies.”
One wonders: Why did Eugene and Belle name it this? Is it supposed to make you feel like 1000 butterflies? As if 1000 butterflies are fluttering in your stomach? (Is this the middle school-dance of puers?) That you’re so blissed out, it’s like having a magical moment where 1000 butterflies start flying through your garden as your eyes pop out of your head, the camera focuses on your sweat, and an anime-style version of you slowly says, “This flavor..so intense..like a wild forest..a grove of…1000 BUTTERFLIES!…!..!.. (Echo, echo, echo..)
Well, in any case, this is one of their finest selections, supposedly originating from 300-500 year old trees in a secluded area, only ever pruned once a year by an old lady who lives in a cave, etc., so I was looking forward to it.
First thought: The leaves are enormous! Wow. This is a good sign. Actually, there’s a lot of stalk here, so the net affect is one of some kind of Sasquatch tea varietal. Both the initial deep forest smell and the thin, grandiose leaves are strongly reminiscent of authentic Dan Cong I have tried in small quantities from Imen Shan of Tea Habitat (a principle difference being location and magnitude of price).
My room-mate, who is a frequent tea drinker, but a self-described “Harney and Sons Darjeeling” drinker, and doesn’t know much about the (dangerous) world of puer says, “It doesn’t even smell like tea.”
The 1st brew is orange-yellowy, the leaves still have a long way to go, as they’ve just started to open up, and they look very green and intact, with tinges of red.
The flavor is round and perforating, and once again, most reminiscent of some Dan Cong I have tried from Tea Habitat, and then of other high quality young Shengs I’ve had. Drinking this tea feels good right away. After the 2nd sip, I crack a spontaneous smile, and after the 3rd, I let out a little laugh. Joy and humor are sudden characteristics that strike us from deep within.
There’s a wonderful depth that really sticks on your tongue, a thick, but not too thick coating, all the more admirable considering how young this puer is–imagine what it will be like in just a few years, or a decade! Even better, I hope.
By the 7th brew or so (keeping in mind that I’m using a semi-large Gaiwan) it starts to water out, but the distinctive taste of, I want to say–old tea tree–is still there, lingering on in the throat and in memory. The spent leaves look really vegetal, like some kind of crazy green I’d buy at the farmers’ market from a guy who wears a funky hat and has lots of tattoos. Because of the clarity and distinctiveness of the taste, it’s almost surprising to me that it peters out “so soon.” That is, there’s a part of me that wants to think, that, like the the authentic Dan Cong that has similar energy and flavor notes to me, it should last roughly twice as long as it does–but, that Dan Cong is also 2.5-3x the price of this puer. You get what you pay for? In any case, this is an excellent tea that I’d say is worth owning a cake of, at an entirely reasonable price, says I.
Ah, could this be the madeleine of my memory? This tea could be the beginnings of a novel written in an alternate universe, after Proust finds himself traveling in Asia:
In Search of Lost Puer
One only wonders what these trees were doing back then. Plants are great.
The clouds were wispy and meandering today. The perfect backdrop for excellent tea and flow of the mind, through past and present.