2011 Da Hong Pao – Wuyi Star Tea

I originally wrote this post for Cha Xi Collective, but I’m recording it here as well for reference.

Dark twisted dry leaves that look like the leaves on the trees outside on this chilly fall day. The aroma is pure warmth, like sweet wood smoke.

The liquor is a beautiful autumn leaf blazing red that glows in the lamp light.

The first infusion was without a rinse, so I allowed it about 45 seconds (a fair number of leaves were in the pot). I detect a subtle sweetness on the tip of the tongue, but a whole lot of smoke and earth. There’s a walnut shell or raw cacao effect: dry and textured. It really tastes like the smell of a walk in the woods on Thanksgiving day.

For the second infusion I returned to a more standard 20-30 seconds. The effect is similar if a bit more drying. But the next one packed quite a sweet punch like a really good toasted almond. The body gets lighter, but that crispness on the tip of the tongue does not fade.

This tea was the only one I purchased at the Ningbo tea expo. I’ve written about our adventures in Ningbo previously. We had tasted many different teas from many different booths as we were guided around by our tea friends. There was pretty much everything represented there, including a whole section (in a separate building) for Taiwanese tea.

The booth that sold this tea was one of the last I passed. Much of the visual draw for me was the fantastic (but expensive) teaware that various potters had displayed. This booth had no pottery at all, but they clearly had spent some money on packaging and advertising their products. Little colored tubes set up on a table really spoke to my love for the exotic. Each tube contained a different tea, and as I remember there was quite a nice selection.

Even though my initial reaction was along the lines of, “how nice looking, but I doubt they really know their tea”, I was intrigued. The same must of been true of my friends, as before I knew it they had all purchased one tube or another. Now, even excited as I was to be at a tea expo in China, influenced by the purchases of my friends, and attracted to the appearance of this booth, I have a fairly strict rule of not buying tea that I haven’t had a chance to taste. It was the proverbial straw that broke my will when I learned that in buying one of these tea samples, the customer was given a free gaiwan and set of cups. I suppose I am more of a sucker for teaware than anything else.

By the time I decided to get something, we were already on our way out, so I hurriedly excused myself from the group, ran back to the booth, and grabbed a tea I thought would be a rare taste on our trip (since we were enable to visit Fujian or Guandong), reliable Da Hong Pao.

As it turns out, the free gaiwan was not very strongly built, nor well packed. By the time I made it to Shanghai, the fine porcelain was cracked and punished into a pile of silt. I did manage to save some of the cups, but the real treat of this experience was the tea itself. It turns out that Wuyi Star appears to match their quality with their style. Quite a number of infusions (upwards of 7) were my reward along with a rich, nicely textured flavor that blessedly was free of over-roasting (as is often the case with similar Wuyi Yan Cha).

I hope to attend more tea expos in the future.

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