Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Dian Hong - Cloudwalker Teas

Tea: Dian Hong (sheng pu'erh) from Cloudwalker Teas
Origin: China
Year: Unknown; its page on the company's website says it's three years old, but I'm not sure how recently the page was updated so it could be 2007 or 2008.

I've had a few samples of variously aged shengpu on hand from Cloudwalker Teas for about a month now, and this is one I somehow hadn't got round to trying until today during a visit from Director's Cut. According to the description on the company's website, this is supposed to be a good introductory pu'erh "processed similar to that of a black tea"; great for me as pu'erh isn't a genre I've had much chance to explore thus far. On the whole then, I don't really know a whole lot about this tea, but as far as I'm concerned a rose by any other name would smell as sweet so here goes.

The dry leaf in my preheated yixing teapot gives off a fairly typical aged pu'erh smell: wet wood. I quickly rinse the leaves, but the liquor looks too inviting to pass up so DC and I drink it anyway. For the first few infusions I normally use an aroma cup for pu'erh as I do with my oolongs, and the immediate impression with this tea is one of spice. There are undertones of smoother scents of mushrooms and wood, but they very much take a back seat for the moment. The liquid component of the tea washes over the inside of the mouth and down the throat, thoroughly coating my insides. An interesting contrast is created between the tea's warming action in my throat and the chaqi which leaves my mouth tingling.

Over the subsequent infusions the aroma evolves with a note DC likened to beeswax becoming more prominent while the spice which was initially so strong fades into a position parallel with the woody character, giving me the impression of a well loved and well seasoned kitchen countertop. Much to my delight, the beeswax note continued to sweeten, eventually acquiring a subtle floral quality much like the oolongs with which I am most familiar before subsiding alongside the rest of the aromas.

The tea feels thick and full of life, a characteristic which remains constant throughout the session as flavours come and go. The initial infusions are only slightly earthy, and over the course of the session this far from unpleasant quality eventually gives way to straw, grain, and abundant mouthfeel. In the middle infusions a wonderfully smooth cooling bitterness emerges, tickling the middle of my tongue before dissolving away.

The energy is noticeably relaxing, but not lethargic. A pleasant calmness envelops both DC and I as we drink.

The chaqi presses lightly on my glands and temples.

The spent leaves have a few twigs mixed in, but the leaves aren't very broken up and about half of them have acquired a definite green hue.

After eight or so infusions a very small amount of roughness started to appear at the back of the throat, but when I looked up this tea after the session and found out how young it is, I was astonished that there was so little in the way of unpleasant edges. This tea is wise well beyond its years. 

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