Saturday, April 12, 2014

Teavivre: Fengqing Paddy Flavor Raw Pu-erh Cake Tea 2006, A Tea Review

It is so warm! The high temperature today was almost eighty degrees, it has gone from early spring to early summer. Hopefully it was just a nice warm spell and we get back to nice spring weather, or this is Midwest spring weather and I am still clinging to my days in the Northeast. One good thing about this warmth is the promise of storms tonight, I have been stalking the radar and have seen some massive Supercells out in the plains. Also, it seems overnight all the plants have exploded into full green and bloom. Spring is such an exciting season.

Today's Teavivre tea is Fengqing Paddy Flavor Raw Pu-erh Cake Tea 2006, a Pu-erh who is coming up on its tenth birthday! Produced in Fengqing, Yunnan from 30-40 year old Arbor Trees, made from Spring (Ming Qian or Chun Jian) harvested leaves and Autumn (Gu Hua or Paddy Flower) Leaves. Each season's leaves bringing its own unique aroma to the mix. And what an aroma it is! The aroma is strong, like old hay and a slight smoky aroma that fades to old flowers. It has an aroma that reminds me of late summer heat and the sweetness of decaying vegetation.

After the initial rinse and short steep time, the aroma of the wet leaves retains their old flowers and old hay aroma with a hint of barnyard. The liquid, however, smells very sweet and floral, to the point of being heady. There is a finish of smokiness. It seems like the leaves are autumn and the liquid is spring time, a very fascinating transition.

Teavivre says this tea can hold out for fourteen steeps, and I decided to make a day of it. The first steep starts off a bit smoky and a bit metallic, a bit of old hay and a bit of flowers. There are certainly flavors presents but they are faint with a promise of future strength. The mouthfeel is sharp and certainly the most distinct thing about the first steep.

The aroma of the second steep has one of the most complex blend of notes I have ever encountered in a tea. There are notes of anise, faint smoke, spicebush, copper, and crepe myrtle...and all of the notes work really well together. So, this is fascinating, the initial taste is at first metallic and faintly floral, this fades to a sharply bitter taste similar to when you swallow a pill poorly and get that residue in your mouth. This immediately causes a salivary response causing my mouth to flood with sweetness, just like a mouthful of honeysuckle nectar. As the tea cools (like really cools, I left the room and came back to a tiny cup of cold tea) the bitterness has vanished completely and replaced by a pine resin taste. It is really a fascinating experience.

For the third steeping the aroma is very faint pine smoke with anise and Sweet Annie and spicebush. The aroma of this tea keeps transitioning between different flowers and I love it! The taste starts out sweet, like sucking on a piece straw, like the previous steep there is (this time much subdued) bitterness then an explosion of sweetness that lingers for quite a while.

The fourth steep does not have much of a story, the aroma is identical to the previous steep. The taste is all flowers and sweetness, starting with spring time flowers and flowing into honey with a finish of hay. The mouthfeel is not at all sharp anymore, just smoothness.

Steep number six had a pungent surprise for me, the barnyard aroma from the wet leaves has finally showed up in the aroma of the liquid. The taste is a touch bitter with the barnyard aspect, think old hay and the faintest hint of manure. It is like mouth-breathing in farm country, not the most unpleasant experience but certainly not a favorite one.

For steep number seven and eight, I noticed no difference so they are getting lumped together. The aroma has only a barest hint of the pungent at the finish, the rest is all hay and flowers, specifically crepe myrtles, it is quite sweet. The taste is very sweet, blending flower nectar and honey with strong floral qualities. The finish has a bit of a fermented taste, similar to Grecian Honeyed Wine (basically white wine mixed with honey and left to sit for a week) leaving a honey aftertaste.

Steeps nine through fourteen are a fascinating journey of dwindling tea presence. The aroma starts off much like the previous steep, but slowly fades in intensity until there is none left. The taste is much the same, starting out with honey, hay, and flowers and slowly fading to honey and finally a ghost of flowers. This tea was really fascinating, I will not say it is my favorite ever (I am still pretty new to Raw Pu-erh in general) but I loved the journey I went on with this tea, especially with the aroma of some of my favorite flowers. It was like spring flowers and autumn hay and pastoral things.

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