2005 Yiwu - Mountain Tasting 4
I know Yiwu shan well. I have had half a dozen or so different teas from different years from this fantastic mountain. I have had a spring 2013 Bing and scattered years dating back to ‘86 but for this tasting I pulled out an old favorite. 2005 Yiwu Zheng Shan sheng
I purchased this 357g bing from the Six Famous Mountains shop in one of the Kunming markets. It is not one of their labels but rather from “Lucky Brand” We went into the shop looking for a Yiwu tea as we had only encountered one or two others in the markets and I knew I couldn’t leave China without getting at least one Yiwu Bing (I ended up getting 2, one of this and one not as good 2003 Bing) The woman in the shop (who happened to be the Daughter of the woman who founded the company and does most of the travelling/buying for them) pulled out a few bings of varied years. When she opened the wrapper, the aroma was intoxicating and filled the room quickly. The leaves were already fairly red as you can see from the picture and you could see an abundance of large leaves that made a great first impression of the quality of the raw materials.
We had already come from tasting a few teas at other shops and were pretty well infused before we even sat down with this woman. My travelling companions Payton, Matt and I all fell in love with this tea probably even before the first sip. Matt bought a bing as well but Payton decided he would get enough chances to drink some of our tea and wanted to branch out and get a bing of Yiwu Shou from the same year, this time with the Six Mountains label.
When we came back to the homeland, Payton and I gave a presentation for some of our coworkers and I brewed this tea for everyone. We drank ten or so infusions along with many other teas so we were pretty tea drunk but still enjoyed this tea. I saved the leaves and brewed another 15 or so infusions the next morning, still great!
I have revisited this tea maybe 3 or 4 other times since then and each Cha Xi has been a long relaxing experience often shared with good company.
For this Cha Xi I used my Yiwu teapot, a Hei Ni ( I’m guessing) Shui Ping style single-hole Yixing. I have only brewed Yiwu Sheng in this pot (although I got it used so who knows what was brewed in it before) The pot is medium fired so some of the sharper notes do come through if you over brew a infusion but it is soft enough that with the smoothness of Yiwu teas, you are pretty much drinking velvet.
The aroma is still quite intoxicating, a warm blend of straw, malt and dried fruit. The color of the first infusion is light amber, leaning towards a deeper, grade B honey. As I take the first sip, I am trying to quantify the complex flavors in my mouth. There is a bit of cereal like flavors, oats maybe. I often find that the woody flavors of Arbor and Ancient Tree are reminiscent of oak, especially in Yiwu teas. This bing certainly has that quality, and I think the best way for me to describe it is like a peated scotch without the alcohol. You may be saying “But I want to alcohol, what’s the point without it?” this is valid but my point is that the flavor characteristics are similar. The wood-like texture is close to a peat like you would find in a Laphroaig or even more specifically I kept tasting the smoothness of the 16 year Lagavulin.
The price of the bing was close to that of a bottle of Lagavulin but is lasting much longer, thankfully. I am getting more than my money’s worth because every time I drink this tea I know I am getting 25+ infusions of the same, wonderful elixir. I had 26 infusions this time around and I probably could’ve stretched it to 30 if I upped the brew time to 5 or so minutes but then the tea is not so warm and takes away from the experience. 26 infusions is definitely enough to turn your brain to mush with some teas but this tea has some of the best Cha Qi I’ve ever encountered. The roots of an Arbor or Ancient tree extend deep into the earth which translates to the tea from its leaves making you feel quite grounded.
In this country, Yiwu is probably the easiest famous puer mountain you can find, but that doesn’t mean the market is flooded with cheap materials from the area, it just means that people have widely accepted the quality of the mountain and consider it a safe investment. I highly recommend trying a Yiwu tea if you get the chance. I would say anything from 2007 or earlier although the younger teas are still going to taste good albeit on the fruity side.
There are plenty of online shops and many teahouses in the US that carry Yiwu teas, pick your favorite supplier or ask them if they don’t have anything listed on their menus chances are you’ll find some great tea at a decent price.