Monday, August 15, 2011

Within Today's Leaves

As I have already mentioned a couple of time on this blog, I am not much of an avid Puerh drinker, consuming it only occasionally. However and considering this fact, I seem to have an unusual luck to find unintentional things while disassembling the cakes - (maybe) surprisingly, especially the "high-end" ones.
This definitely is neither the first nor the last bug for me to find in a good Sheng Puerh. The initial, maybe a second-long reaction of my brain is usually obnoxiousness (I've never really been on the best terms with bugs); just then, however, I realize the exact opposite, the positive side of such find. Can tea get any closer to nature and can it be any purer from any kinds of chemicals and pesticides than this, attracting (and, unfortunately, taking) so much life even during its processing stages?
From this point of view, finding bugs within pressed cakes is a good sign and, at least for me, possibly better than any shiny "Organic" sticker on the packaging.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

2011 Kim Jong Yeol's Balhyocha Noeul Hyanggi “Sunset”

Today's weather isn't exactly green. The sky is cloudy, air quite breezy and it occasionally rains – somehow, it feels like this is the day I've been awaiting to open this special tea.

This season, Teamountain offers two yellow teas made by tea master Kim Jong Yeol (and it seems like one made by Kim Shin Ho is on the way as well), named poetically “Sunrise” and “Sunset”. I purchased Sunset on my visit to Brno's Sklenena Louka teahouse, owner of which also told me her impressions of these teas – while Sunrise is more chocolate-like and dark, Sunset is supposed to be more spicy and somehow reminiscent of Taiwanese Bai Hao oolong. While I haven't bought both of these teas and, therefore, will not be able to compare them in a similar way, I'd very much looked forward to trying Sunset on its own.

The origin of this fermented tea is Yonggang-Ri, Hwagae-myeon, Gyeongnam, it was picked during the second week of May and is made of wild, approximately 20 years old tea bushes.

This simple, yet beautiful packaging is opened and immediately releases intensive, deep smell of meadow flowers, honey and cinnamon. In terms of appearance, Wuyi Yancha is the first thing that comes to my mind; these leaves are dark with shades of black and brown, curly and mostly unbroken. When placed into the preheated teapot, their aroma intensifies even more, now being even sweeter and revealing a slightly roasty, bread-like note.

The first infusion is brewed with freshly boiled water and is orange-golden in color, still retaining the deep smell of dry leaves. Its taste is equally deep and sweet, offering countless tones, both those already revealed in smell as well as many new – dried fruit, particularly apricots, honey, flowers, cinnamon-like spiciness and very subtle, refined roast. Immediately after the first sip, this tea feels strong – not in a way of being over-brewed or too harsh (the exact opposite is true – this tea is very mild and noble), but it seems to have strong, warming and yet calming energy, which is impossible not to notice. This infusion also has expectably long and vivid aftertaste, filling the throat with subtle deep sweetness.

The second infusion is slightly darker orange in color, very transparent and very aromatic. Honey, fruit, meadow flowers and cinnamon remain the main tones, though they now seem to have a bit different mouthfeel – even deeper and smoother. There isn't a single trace of bitterness in this brew, instead, it fills mouth with various tones of ripe and dried fruit, seemingly alternating and complementing each other. The aftertaste of this infusion is more pronounced and even warmer than that of the first brew, evolving over time and becoming sweeter and sweeter.

The third infusion returns to the lighter orange-golden color of the first one, though its taste remains similar to the second brew, being very fruity, sweet and slightly spicy, now revealing a new tone as well – citrus-like juiciness, which overtakes the aftertaste as well – a bit like warm orange or lime with honey.

This citrus-like note gradually becomes dominant in the fourth, fifth and sixth infusions, though most of the other fruity and sweet tones remain present as well – just not as dominant as before, now they seem to be hidden under the main citrusey nuances. All of these brews retain the significantly warm, calming energy, detectable primarily in the long aftertaste.

With its clear, deep character and warm, remarkably soothing energy, this Balhyocha makes a simple session feel like a very special, important occasion. Its lyrical name Sunset seems to be very well chosen – it really has power to create the atmosphere of a calm, silent evening on a meadow inside a wild forest, watching the sun going down slowly; all that in a single cup, even in the heart of a city.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

New Companion

This is the little Black Magda kyusu made by Petr Novak I've talked about in my previous post. It holds about 120ml of water and I intend to use it mostly for Korean tea. And, after the first recently finished session with Gyeun Farm Saejak, I can already tell that this pot seems to fit these teas wonderfully, just as I imagined.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

One Afternoon at Brno's Glass Meadow

Staying in Brno, Czech republic for a while now again, I met with some friends and visited yet another of the city's amazing teahouses - one called Sklenena Louka ("Glass Meadow"), or, in shortened and simplified version, just Sklenenka.

sorry for the blurry photos - taken by phone camera

This teahouse sources its teas from two of my most favorite Czech vendors, LongFeng and Teamountain. This time, I was especially aimed for a group of particular teas, recently imported by Martin Spimr's Teamountain - fresh Korean teas made by two famous teamasters, Kim Jong Yeol and Kim Shin Ho.

I ordered Kim Shin Ho's Saejak Samtae, tea which exceeded the high expectations I had for it. Sweet, smooth, fresh and almost impossible to over-brew, this green tea had an amazing effect on body, harmonizing it in a way that left my mind calm, clear and yet sharp.

Originally, I was planning to buy two different Korean teas made by Kim Jong Yeol for my home consumption as well; this idea was, however, quickly dismissed when I saw brand new pieces of Petr Novak's pottery unladen on a nearby table. Among these pots was a little Black Magda-glazed kyusu, completely fitting the idea of my dream-teapot for Korean teas... and I suddenly knew one of the teas will have to wait.

In the end, I was leaving this magical place with new teapot, a pack of fresh Balhyocha and the aftertaste of Kim Shin Ho's Saejak still present in my throat. All this together with the opportunity to chat with some long-unseen dear friends over a cup of great tea - beautiful day.