China Cha Dao's seven mystery samples came labeled with greek letters. Has all my hours of diligent blog reading, puerh eye-shopping, swapping and drinking honed any useful identification skills? Since CCD is a Douji franchise and the samples came in a Douji bag with a Douji map, the possibilities are narrowed significantly. But still it's great fun to play tea detective. The general characteristics I'm checking with my eyes and nose are:
- shu or sheng or other
- approximate age
- leaf size - this inspection is best done after a brew
- bud ratio - all of the samples have a reasonable amount of fur
Attributes which are harder to suss out even with multiple brewings at least for me are:
- wild arbor vs plantation
- blend vs single mountain
- regional characteristics - I can reliably pick out LBZ since my physical response of such rocket fuel is so extreme but it's not likely such tea would be included in a free tasting.
- spring vs summer vs autumn pick - when something is not as potent, you can't automatically assume the leaves are not spring pick.
(I've put some initial guesses below even before brewing so don't read if you don't want to.)
- Epsilon (Shu beeng) - The only shu in the batch, it also came with a bonus strand of black hair. I have a few Douji Phonenix Tour ripe cakes I've never opened deeming them too young for consumption. Incidentally they are my best performing investment from last year at a 350% return.
- Alpha (Iron Brick Xiang Dou?) - Having the tightest compression of the sheng samples, it's definitely not stone pressed like the other shengs. Judging by the edge and the planar shape, it also looks like it came from a brick. Unlike their other stone pressed cakes, Douji ultra iron-pressed the Xiang Dou bricks to preserve the tea fragrance. I can see serious scrape marks from prying the chunk off that attests to how tightly this brick was pressed.
- Zeta (mao cha?)- Is it loose leaf puerh mao cha or something other tea to throw us off. I guess only brewing it will settle this matter.
- Eta (Oldest Sheng beeng) the oldest sample judging by the dark oxidation of the chunk but also the smaller sample size provided. I would venture to guess it's more than 4+ years. Although YiwuZhengShan Mountain Tea company started in 2005, Douji brand cakes first came out in 2006 of which I was lucky enough to be gifted five cakes.
- Delta (Sheng beeng) - the second oldest sample
- Beta and Gamma (Sheng beeng) - still working on it...