2005 The Mandarin’s Tea Room Nannuo
Back from my vacation, I have time for extended reflection at the tea table, with two more OTTI Round 5 samples to profile, both from The Mandarin’s Tea Room. This morning, the 2005 Nannuo. After a triplet of three super-young and green-tasting sheng pu’ers from Essence of Tea (see previous posts), I expect these last two to be more like the majority of the lightly aged young sheng pu’er I have had to date. Following up on the concerns in my last post about having a poor traveling tea set, I ordered a small, inexpensive gaiwan from JAS eTea and will be breaking it in, despite the fact that I am at home, not on the road.
For starters, I must admit some potentially detrimental laziness. I used unfiltered tap water for this tea! Up until now, I have been using Pur-filtered tap water, which I think is pretty good here in Rhode Island, with a balanced mineral content (not too hard, nor too soft) and a pass through a filter removing chlorine and other small impurities. However, I have had to order a new filter housing and until it arrives, only straight tap water is available at the house. Alas, I was too lazy to go out and buy bottled spring water. That may not have mattered much, as Tim at MTR listed bottled spring water below unfiltered and filtered tap water. On to the tea, with my altered environmental conditions in mind.
Surprisingly, the dry leaf composition may have been at least a quarter small bits and near-dust. This may just be the way the cake crumbles. Despite many tiny pieces, the steeped leaves revealed a unique blend of very large leaves, small buds, and bits. The wet leaf aromas were swirling, complex, and shapeshifting. Rinsing brought a bevy of damp moss, wet bark, agarwood, decaying leaves and trillium blossom. Lots of dew. The first full steep ignited a resin-inspired forest fire. Further leaf aromas came with damp, wet rocks and further forest floor detritus. Flavors were seemingly light. Initially, I got a lot of cooked tomato out of it, but the flavors eventually developed into an enjoyable array of fresh mushroom characters, stemmy, woody, and with distant umami.
Unfortunately noticeable was a suffering texture. Slick, soapy, and with a soup nose of slight pool, the effect of chlorine came through, despite a hard boil of the water. It dampened the experience of the first steeps and clouded the liquor aromas. Redeeming the unfortunate damage I did to the tea, was the fact that it brought on a quick, warming, and rising qi. Soft, but direct, my core warmed and my head floated as the tea coursed through me. I sit now, pleasantly relaxed, and centered in a warm, autumn sun.
Revisited on October 24, 2010. Water may not make all the difference. Finishing off my sample of this tea with really nice, bright filtered tap water, I found many of the same textural flaws present as when I brewed this last with unfiltered tap water. The soup was cloudy early on, gave a distinct chlorine pool nose in the aroma, and still had a soapy, slightly slimy texture to it over the course of many steeps. All that said, this tea is aromatic to say the least, booming with honey, light pale mushrooms, campfire, forest floor, and mint. Perhaps at five years old it’s in a bit of an awkward stage.