2014 Gua Feng Zhai, Wang Jo Cha

I know, I need to be a little better about posting regularly, especially since this blog achieved minor notoriety recently when Wisteria shared my Zinpin post on Facebook… So today I’ve got something a bit weird, a sample of some young Gua Feng Zhai from a small Korean shop.  A tea friend of mine did a year teaching in Korea, and brought back a tong of these very fine GFZ baby cakes.  You can view their website here, though it is in Korean: wangjocha.com

Also of note, I drank this tea at something like 5 in the AM following a bout of insomnia wherein I only got about an hour of sleep and gave up.  So kids, if you can’t sleep, then there’s always tea.

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Review is as follows:

Dry leaves in the heated gaiwan smell of sweet, pungent barnstraw. In fact, these are almost abnormally sweet aromas… The rinsed smell is much greener, like fresh garden peas. The soup looks pale, but really it’s hard to tell in the faint, early morning light. The first sip is vibrant in the extreme. The wet and dry aromas all come out in the flavor. I find myself sitting suddenly at attention in order to fully appreciate what I’m tasting as well as to deconstruct this crazy complex GFZ profile.

The second infusion is a bit rounder, with barn straw, tart cherries, green beans, and orchids. For anyone who hasn’t had real GFZ (I’ve had only a few myself), I always find these to be a little dry and thin, though not in a bad way… Really the character is more focused on texture, complexity and an aftertaste which is subtly mouth-coating and sweet.

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Third infusion picks up some bitterness. Combined with the cherry sweetness there’s almost a cough syrup quality. As with any higher quality raw puer though, the bitterness fades fast, leaving a dry, sweet, tingling on the tongue. This is, as expected, an elegant fucking tea.

Overall this is fairly consistent with my impressions on GFZ in general. While I’m personally not as stoked on these delicate Yiwu teas as some folks are (I prefer more of a creamy and pungent Lincang myself), I can certainly appreciate them academically. I’m always amazed by the poise these carry; with fast fading bitterness and heavy tannins, they almost seem like too much before quickly pivoting into soft floral affairs. The way good GFZ holds this duality is just impressive.

The energy of the tea is strong enough to give me slight jitters… Though sleeping for only two hours might also have something to do with that. Again, the delicate floral profile obscures the true strength of this tea. The tannins are very heavy, now in its later steepings. I’m reminded of Darjeeling, in particular, but with much more forward intensity. Like the dual nature of this tea, I’m now experiencing mental calm amidst a certainly elevated heart rate. Hm. I should probably take it easier than this at 5:30 in the AM.

-Ginko-san

2003 Zinpin Hao, Wistaria

It’s been a minute since I posted.  Haven’t made any recent purchases, and so had anything new to review in a while.  Of course, that all changed when the kind Mr. Andrew Harto was awesome enough to send out samples of this to the gongfucha diaspora.  Without further adieu, here is my review of this lovely tea:

 

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The rinsed leaves of this tea smell deeply earthy, pungent and fruity. There is wetness in these leaves, which after the first pour are a deep wooden brown. This wet and composted quality comes out in the first infusion, but the dominant character I’m encountering is tobacco-pipe-wood underscored by some subtle medicinal mintiness. The balance and poise of this tea is strong, and continues into the second cup, which has notes of forest log, tobacco pipe and wet leather. I’d say that there is a bit of mineral-astringency as well, so I let the water cool off a bit before re-infusing to see if I can’t reduce the harshness and smoke that I’m getting. As I sit for a moment I note how gently but penetrating the qi of this tea is; its as if I seem to be slowing down and watching the world move at a distance, and at its own pace.

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Orange soup!

The astringency is still there is the third cup. It seems to have the smokey quality of a Xia Guan tea, but atop an elegant, woodsy base that retains all of the many nuances already mentioned. By the time I steep the fourth cup, my water has probably fallen into the 175* range, which I think allows some of the more leathery and medicinal qualities to really shine. From what I can tell, this tea is everything it should be for Yiwu sheng in its middle years. It is rich and fragrant, gentle, woodsy, sweet and complex. The bite I’m getting probably really is just its middle aged awkwardness between vibrant green youth and dark, settled maturity.

Later steepings remain spicy and mellow. I’m preferring the cooler water for this tea as it does seem to be driving down the astringency now. Having imbibed this tea, my thinking feels easy and light. Lessening the grip of the more neurotic aspects of my mind, I fall into the spacious eternity of the present moment, recognizing that while form and function change, the nature of right now is nothing but surrender and peace.

-Ginko-san

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So sleep