Sunday, July 15, 2012

2010 HLH Yiwu Cha Wang's Consort

Today I whipped out another Birthday Beeng contender, the 2010 Hai Lang Hao Chawang Yiwu recommended by Jakub.  HLH does not reveal an exact location in Yiwu for this cake but they have been known to source from Yi Bi, Gua Feng Zhai and Ding Jia Zhai villages. At $205 for an entire cake, one would hope that this is 100% finest Yiwu ancient arbor to be had.

The scent is rather muted, but the first sips reveal that this an elegant tea with a special delicacy.  After the second brew I notice a sweetness under the tip of my tongue which is a first time experience for me.  I didn't know the undersides of my tongue had taste buds. Then after the fourth brew, sweetness spreads to the undersides of the entire length of my tongue as well as the usual topside. It is one of the few young sheng that doesn't outright bother my stomach.  This tea is not as fruity or intense as other Yiwus I've drunk and I could not convince anyone to do a Yiwu vertical tasting today so I'll have to compare this against other Yiwus another day.

The term Cha Wang (tea king) has been overused to promote products with less than regal standing and I wonder if I will ever meet the true Cha Wang.  Wang implies a more obvious show of power- this delicate flowery Cha Wang could easily be overtaken even by a Bulang commoner.  It's more apt this tea is the king's consort than the king himself.  Actually I will downgrade it further to the consort's handmaiden or one of the king's many concubines as observers of any palace politics would know that even the king's consort is someone to fear.

I received my 10g sample from Yunnan Sourcing at  $9. I used a 5g sample in a small glazed clay pot which was more than enough to experience the Yiwu charm.   So $4.5 for a lovely session among four friends is a bargain by today's standards.  I mistakenly ordered green tea at a London pub once for ~$4.5 and was served a stale FooJoy bag. (Actually my husband informs me that there is almost no difference between a fresh FooJoy bag and an aged one).  But would I plunk down $205 for an entire Cha Wang?  Alas I'm not smitten so much that I would put forth an amount which can also get you a Nexus 7.   

The Cha Wang leaves weren't in the best of shape and they did not look as plump as the HLH promo photos.  The leaves also reveal a fair amount of red oxidation.  I guess I expected glorious perfect leaves for $205 a cake. The 2011 Cha Wang 2 is a further record busting $240.

Can there really be a $100+ young sheng which lives up to the price tag?  Do these hyper-expensive teas really taste better than mid-level ones?  Social scientists who have done blind taste studies in the realm of wine indicate knowing a high price of a wine triggers us to enjoy it more. However,

“individuals who are unaware of the price do not derive more enjoyment from more expensive wine.”

I highly recommend listening to this freakonomics podcast episode on whether or not expensive wines taste better.  Do these findings translate to the world of sheng? The first issue of Art of Tea had blind tea tastings of 11 teas from 2000 by various experts and the results were all over the place.

Emmett has an interesting review of the MGH Yiwu Guafeng Zhai which is composed of mostly big leaf huangpin.  Even though he states the brew is not as complex as high-end GFZ, he enjoys it enormously.   After reading his post, I dug out the biggest leaf sheng I've got- the 2006 Douji Dayeqingbing. I quaffed quite a bit of it today and yesterday which offered heroically unflagging brews of pure refreshment on the same set of leaves.  This Douji has a cooling mouth feel that is immediately enjoyable - one need not think to enjoy this tea. The leaves are still giving so I may try to brew it up again tomorrow.  Even though this Douji is less than twentieth of the cost of the Cha Wang, I actually enjoyed it a lot more at a visceral level.  One cannot discount the simple enjoyment factor in our tea pursuits. 


  1. Hi,
    a pity you did not enjoy the Chawang as much.

    I think the tea is really subtle and not at all about taste - there are zillions of teas that are more interesting taste-wise - but I enjoyed the cha qi here, which I felt to be quite special. It may be a matter of a moment/body configuration...

    1. Hi Jakub,

      I enjoyed the Chawang enormously and am quite happy to have tried it. I may even try the Chawang 2. Unless it's a knock-your-socks-off kind of LBZ cha qi, I tend to feel a tea more when I am completely by myself without any distractions. I tried it among three friends with continuous non-tea related conversation so the session may not have been conducive. I have the second sample left which I will save for a special quiet occasion.

      Did you feel the cha qi both times or are you still saving your second 5g?