So . . . I joined Tinder last week.
Back in the spring of 2017, tea afficianado Nicky “Steady Hand Tea” Evers passed on a unique specimen.
A Wuyi oolong from 2005 that was wet-piled, dried … and stored in Taiwan. It fell into no discernible category. The taste was “like” a Hunan heicha … with notes of cliff side roast. I compared it to any ol’ dark tea being rubbed against a muddy, burnt cliff face, or jujubes that were sent to solitary confinement… then roasted on a spit. They died for my sins. Short version: it was interesting.
And as I’m wont to do after trying something far removed from any palatial paradigm, I began to wonder: were there other Fujian province-borne heichas out there. The only heicha or puerh-“like” things I’d encountered from that province were white tea cakes. Sure, those were good, but they weren’t dark tea. Or at least, per the definition I’ve come to adopt. (For now.)
Then I ran across . . . this . . .
I chose a weird time to talk about autumn flush Darjeelings.
For one thing, it hasn’t been a typical year for the region. (An understatement, true.) But before I get into that, I should probably explain what I mean by “Darjeeling autumn flush”. Here’s a bit of a primer.
In May of 2017, I asked tea peers on social media a simple question: Is Vietnamese sheng puerh style heicha a thing?
At least . . . I thought it was a simple question.
That query sparked a minor debate about the nature of heicha, and whether or not sheng puerh (or sheng puerh-style tea) was considered as such. At the time, I rested firmly in the camp that it was. After all, heicha (or “dark tea”, as it was more commonly known in English) encompassed all fermented teas. Sheng (or raw) puerh, following a long period of aging, went through a microbial change similar to heicha from other parts of China.
Or did it?
For those that have tuned in to my li’l corner of “the In-Tea-Net”, folks can tell I have an affinity for talking about where the tea comes from. I have focused a lot of text-space to estates, gardens, factories, and the farmers that supply their wares to them. Less frequent, though, are my forays into focusing on the ways-‘n-means of the artisans.
Mainly because . . . the opportunity hasn’t arisen.
Until Austin Hodge of Seven Cups Fine Chinese Teas contacted me.
If I were to sum up 2017 in one image, it would be . . .
Yeah, that about says it.
The year wasn’t quite the dumpster fire that 2016 was, but it did have its ups and downs. Winter flew by like a brisk, cold nap. Spring reverberated with optimism and hope. And summer, like an oppressive heatwave, took that hope and crushed it with a sweaty fist. Autumn tried to resuscitate some shred of exuberance, but flat-lined by the time the holiday season rolled around.
Through it all, my mood soured on salvaging even a shred good cheer. That dour outlook permeated throughout my writing work; and my various social media feeds. Some even wondered if I needed a really long hug. (To which the answer was a resounding, “Yes!”) However, looking back on the past year, I realized there were many positive occurrences that I completely skated over—moments of pure tea whimsy that I forgot to document.
Christmas is usually my favorite time of year. But this year . . . I simply wasn’t feeling it. And it wasn’t for lack of trying.
A week or so before the impending, I found a green bow on the floor of the parking lot at my work. It pretty much summed up how I felt. I tried to find yuletide joy in the little things around me, but even that proved difficult.
I’m not entirely sure if it was because I had to work through the majority of it, or because my finances were severely depleted—thus not allowing me to buy gifts for close family—or some combination therein. As December rolled around, I simply wanted it all to be over. Even Christmas music couldn’t lift my “bah humbag”-ish demeanor.
Then it hit me.
I’ve covered Assam before, and the many tea gardens that lie within the Indian state. To date, though, I don’t think I’ve focused on tea factories in the region. So, this post will be something a little bit different. But let’s start at the beginning.
World Tea Expo, 2014: it was my second such tradeshow. And the wholesale outfit that had the biggest booth there was Tealet.
My first day on the tradeshow floor, I recall making multiple loop-arounds to their booth. On one such boomerang, they were serving up a unique tea from Assam. A green tea that was smoked over oakwood.
In the fall of 2015, I found myself reading a tea blog (instead of writing one). Fellow tea geek Amanda Freeman used to keep one of the more prolific tea blogs in the community, and—at times—I suffered from a bit of professional jealousy. Often, she’d run into weird and strange teas before I did. And on this particular day, she wrote about this:
A white tea from Vietnam.
My jaw dropped and I salivated. So much so, that I contacted the vendor—What-Cha Tea—and begged for a sample myself. In typical fashion, I didn’t “punctually” drink it until . . . February. I remember it being a beautiful looking white made from exquisitely cultivated tea leaf buds, and the taste resembled nothing I had tried before; white or otherwise.
So, why haven’t I talked about it until now?
So, I decided to try something new. I have quite a few new teas to get through that don’t particularly fall within the parameters of my regular blog. That being, they don’t have much of a story to tell. Okay, they probably *HAVE* a story, but it was not one I could spin.
I decided that these teas deserved their own fair shake in the spotlight. As a result, I’m experimenting with doing a semi-regular video series called “Lazy Gongfool”. This is still experimental (and not in the kinky way). The idea is to churn out tea tasters, while still being entertaining.
I’ll let you decide if that was successful.
This week, I dipped into two sheng puerhs from Nan Nuo Shan (Mountain) in Yunnan province, China. (I.e. My favorite puerh mountain!) One is from 2017, but the other is from 2012. Both are made from old (but not ancient) tea tree leaf material. These were gifted to me by Jeffrey McIntosh.
Jeffrey McIntosh’s Puerh Mastery Patreon can be found HERE.
Thank you for watching.
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