Saturday, August 25, 2012

Tea for Two - 20yr 8582 vs Hengli Chang

Since last weekend, I've been scrubbing down the house for a special tea visitor.  I wanted to try the  traditionally stored aged sheng MarshalN sent with someone else who loves pu-erh.  Ira who I dubbed the most sensitive man I've ever corresponded with- turned out to be a lovely lady and a mother of grown children.  So I felt very comfortable inviting a complete stranger I met on the web into my home- something I have never done in my life.

It's always a bit nerve wracking meeting a virtual acquaintance in the sunlit world.  But the afternoon went by so pleasurably and so quickly, we talked and brewed for four hours.  I was so absorbed with Ira's company I totally forgot to take photos. The shot below is before Ira's arrival.

I had planned to try the 20yr 8582, 2003 7542, and some traditionally stored shu but we ended up with a smaller program.  We had the 20-yr 8582 brewed two different styles. I was sampling it in my new walnut teapot before Ira arrived.  She didn't get too much of the wet stored taste from the 8582.  Although I hadn't planned to, I brewed for her 1997 Hengli Chang to show her a sheng with an   unmistakable shicang flavor.  Hengli Chang's Bulang bitterness was much more assertive than I remembered- perhaps due to the fact we had the 20 yr 8582 first.

Ira brought out her gaiwans and she deftly flash infused the 8582 for us in the second full-sized tasting of this tea.  I'm not sure what either of us was expecting.  Mouth orgasm?  Ira talked about her first aged sheng experience which led her down this rabbit hole.  She was most casually served a ~60 year old aged sheng at an acquaintance's house.  The acquaintance's wife was no ordinary tea drinker and he insisted they try some of her tea.  Apparently the acquaintance could not find his wife's stash and so he had to use the spent leaves left over from his wife's morning brew.   Incredible, thick and powerful-  it hit her over the head with sheer amazing aged sheng magic one only reads about these days.  How can this tea compete I wonder.  Let's just say Ira was "unmoved" by both teas today, and she dinged the Hengli Chang for an "unpleasant" aftertaste. 

The highlight of this 8582 for me was when I distinctly tasted sweetness on the left roof of my mouth. This was an exciting first for me and I almost thought it was a trick of the mind.  I told my husband about it later and he didn't think it physically possible.  We both learn that the back roof of your mouth, called the soft palate, does indeed host a myriad of taste buds and minor salivary glands.  Actually some fish even have taste buds on their tail fins.  I wish I had some taste buds on the tip of my left pinky and I could just swirl my pinky around at tea tastings. 

I'm still on the fence about traditional storage.  I could tell this 8582 is superior to the Hengli Chang with it's complexity, clarity, and potency.  But I'm not sure this type of tea would be at the top of my fantasy tea list or tea fantasy list.  Well now that I've had aged oolong and they are so so easy on the mouth and the mind so to speak.   Tea is for me in a large part about pleasure, and while the taste of the 8572 is stimulating and interesting, I think I only need something like it only once in a while due to the trad-stored flavor. It's not something I voluntarily crave. (The photo above shows bubbling of the leaf- something I've only seen in aged sheng.)

Besides tea chat, it was also totally fun gossiping about various blogs and bloggers.  We discussed  the contrast between MarshalN vs. Hobbes.  MarshalN despite his liberal arts background is relentlessly rational in his approach.  Hobbes despite his engineering background is more prone to romanticism.  Ira is firmly on Team MarshalN it appears. The dragon and the tiger, both have their charms and flaws which are to be savored for another post.

Ira also brought me a bag of treasures- a shocking bounty of aged sheng, including the 1997 XG Butterfly Tuo and a Menghai 8972(ca 1990) among 4 others which will power this blog for months.  She also gifted me lovely teacup pads she had quilted and they will make a photo appearance soon. Truly she is my tea fairy.  I don't know what I ever did to deserve such generosity but I feel like the luckiest tea drinker in the Americas.

 (Actually my husband who had been completely disinterested in joining us today but after dinner  said he wanted me to brew the spent 8582.  It infused 6 more times still giving a surprisingly good show.  At first the only thing he would say is a tight-lipped, "I don't dislike it." But after a few rounds,  even without prodding said "This is good tea."  Dear readers- this is high praise.  Thanks MarshalN!  )


  1. It seems you had a great tea session.
    It is great that you got together as it is quite rare.
    Good tea makes great friends.
    Wish I was there.
    Can you post a pic of that walnut teapot?
    And wow what a bounty of fruit and beautiful pumpkins.