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Danggui (当归) - Yiwu Gushu 2013, sample cake tasting session

2013 Yiwu Gushu – Danggui

2017 November, sample cake tasting update (afternoon/evening)

This is another sample cake has been sitting inside a cardboard box at the bottom of the sample pile for at least a couple of years now. Similar to the 2011 cake, this was mainly sold to family and friends with very limited stock left.

These leaves were made using the autumn gushu in 2013 with all of the spring gushu going towards single estate productions. The result is a cake which has quite different characteristics to our previous Danggui productions.

Brewing parameters:

  • dull, rainy day;

  • much cooler weather meaning increased humidity;

  • standard gaiwan ~ 120ml;

  • leaf amount - lots;

The initial aroma had some interesting notes of hay and forest. Out came a nice clean, thick liquor which started off with very strong bitter notes. I would say the bitterness is a combination of using strong autumn material, the weather and the excess leaf. Personally, I'm not used to this level of bitterness, especially in Yiwu leaf. However, it fades relatively quickly with some nice huigan and the flavour of the brew comes through quite well.

It's still relatively young at four years so and the young green notes have only started rounding off. The flavour is very full and intense with the brews remaining so for the first seven or eight brews. There's definitely still some light vegetal notes in this one. In addition, there's some light mouth-cooling effect and strong salivation. Honestly, we hadn't really calmed down properly after the busy morning and rushed lunch, so the nuances were a bit of a blur - anyone who knows me well will remember that I don't take written even when I should (uni lectures!).

Cha qi was definitely strong, warming through the stomach followed by rest of my body although definitely much more energetic feeling than calming. Was it the morning effect, weather, or just the tea?

We drank slowly while doing typical daily work - packing tea, answering queries, responding to multiple cold sales (calls and door to door). It was a bit of a strange day overall and it ended up as definitely not a great day to assess tea.

We were at least twenty-five steeps in and noticed that the tea has obviously lightened up in taste, but still steeping deep fruity and huigan sweetness. I took a moment to look at the leaves and it looks like they are still okay to be steeped a bit longer.

Things lightened off considerably after that but for an autumn tea, this really withstood the multiple steeps and transformed nicely from an early wake-up call to a relaxing sweet pick-me-up very late into the evening.

This is the type of cake that will test my patience just like our 2007 Gaoshan cake (another cake worth blogging about) which I could hardly drink, due to the bitterness and my recent introduction to Puer, but ten years later, it has really mellowed out and developed much deeper flavours and intensely sweet aroma and huigan. It sparks my imagination to think how this Danggui might develop over the next five to ten years.

Compared to the other Danggui, I think this could very well be a late developer. Using slightly cheaper base material, it loses out in the short-term as I find it quite hard to get through the bitter early steeps (I've never been a fan of bitterness, hence my attraction to Yiwu over other areas). The 2009 and 2011 Danggui are much easier to drink now, not only because they've got a few years, but also because Yiwu spring gushu material is always easy to brew and fantastic to drink. The 2013 Danggui, however, has the most to gain from maturing. Kind of like the ugly duckling situation - the other white swans were always beautiful but it is the ugly duckling's story that is the most interesting.

I should also mention that our washing machine broke yesterday. I'll have to update this with another tasting on a drier, cheerier day and make sure I've done this cake justice in not being negative.

Have you ever tried a cake you didn't love only to come back to it many years later only to like it much more than before? Share your own experience in the comment box below.

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