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Danggui (当归) - Yiwu Gushu 2009, sample cake tasting session

Updated: Nov 4, 2017

The Danggui series - 2009 Yiwu Gushu

2017 October, sample cake tasting update (morning session)

This tea has been ageing in Guangzhou since 2012 and the pictured sample cake has been sitting out on display without any cover since (rookie mistake). As easily seen, the colour has clearly developed a redness that will not quite be so prevalent on the properly stored cakes. The cake still has a pleasant flowery aroma from the raw leaves.

We were a bit unceremonious with the leaves. As they seemed a bit loose, we just pulled off the dangly bits and threw in all the loose broken leaves as the wrapper was unable to hold them nicely as a display cake.

Once washed, the clear, bright liquor releases an aroma of honey sweetness. The initial brew has a soft but clear bitterness with only little astringency and a clear huigan. I pause to let the bitterness fade and enjoy the huigan. It is at this point I notice a pleasant light tingling sensation on the tongue. I take a few breaths to see what happens and a few seconds later I notice a pleasant cooling sensation on the tongue.

My wife says we’re using too much leaf (we almost never measure) and I think to myself, ‘maybe a little but this is a good brew and you’re able to adjust the brewing well so I have nothing to worry about’.

The second brew is stronger which makes me pause even longer between brews. This time the huigan is much fuller, once the bitterness fades and the sweetness covers my tongue and throat completely. The cooling effect becomes much clearer and it runs from the tip of the tongue down to my stomach. The cha qi is causing me to feel fully awake yet still completely relaxed. I also burp a lot at this point and decide to quickly eat a couple of mouthfuls of some dry granola before doing some more brews. Gushu is not to be taken lightly!

I’m eager to move on so the granola only lasts a couple of seconds before being swallowed – the salivation from the tea making this more than easy to do. I normally need lots of milk with my granola.

I drink the next few brews in succession whilst taking a few photos. I note that my quick bite to eat will spoil the tasting somewhat but it had to be done. The bitterness dies down, and the sweet, cooling sensation keeps coming and I continue to burp. My wife comments that the ‘cha qi’ is strong again. I nod in agreement whilst burping again. Note to self, again, try not to drink gushu on an empty stomach.

Time to take a few more pictures, but the clay pot is taking all of the camera’s attention. I’m too much of a newb when it comes to taking pics so I ask my wife to move some of the leaf into a small gaiwan. As you can see, we didn’t just pull out the large photogenic leaves, but also plenty of the broken leaves too. Some have a thing about not using broken leaves, but the only real difference is that they are easy to over-brew.

The tea definitely has a semi-aged softness to it as it eases down on the bitterness, we start to brew and drink faster. The flavour has a nice fullness and the medicinal notes are clearer to notice. Even in later steeps, the flavour holds and still has some fruity raisin notes to it. This tea has kept its raw flavours well despite being aged for five years in Guangzhou.

We are about thirty steeps in and I’m more than a little tea drunk now. My wife stopped drinking about ten steeps ago which was an added bonus for me. However, both my stomach and bladder are requesting that I stop now and my brain is reluctantly starting to agree. The amount of huigan I’m getting now is making even breathing a pleasant experience.

This is the last brew for the session - picture of the last brew suggests that we could've gone further. Note to self: need to find and share with morning Pu-heads in Guangzhou.

Final thoughts: The flavour from this cake is immense, has a lot of body, and holds-up well as a good gushu should. As my wife pointed out, it will take a bit of care in brewing as it is easily over-brewed. It’s not an everyday drinker, but it’s a special treat for those long-nights with tea pals.

I haven’t drank this tea for many years for various reasons, with the main two being focus on new stock and a long-needed storage re-inventory. Luckily for me, this quality of gushu left out on the shop front hasn't lost anything and in fact reminds me that the earlier years of Yiwu less documented in terms of source, but not short on quality at all.

Coming soon – tasting notes for the rest of the Danggui series, the 2011 and the 2013.

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