Welcome to the first Taobao Tuesday! Not only is today an alliteration, it’s a day where I try one of my random Taobao purchases and see if it’s any good. If you’ve never experienced Taobao, it’s basically like a Chinese version of Amazon. There are a few downsides to ordering from Taobao:
- You have no idea what you’re really getting – There’s a reason I refer to Taobao shopping as “fishing.” You don’t know much about what you’re buying beyond the picture.
- You have to read/translate Chinese – Sure, there’s Google Translate and Babelcarp, but are you going to find all of the answers or correct translations?…
- You have to use an agent (and pay a lot for shipping) – There are many Taobao agents that help you buy from Taobao. They’re simple to use, but they all charge commissions and the shipping fees are pretty high in most cases. It does a lot to even out the savings on an item when you pay more to ship it.
Today’s Taobao experiment is the 2000 Jianshen Tuo (健身 – jianshen; literally “healthy body”, 沱茶 – tuocha; literally “bird’s nest tea”) and is a sheng puerh (生 – sheng, 普洱 – puerh). Unfortunately, this tea isn’t available on Taobao anymore that I can find, but White2Tea is selling the 2004 version of this tea.
The tea was pretty tightly compressed, but dry enough to flake right off. Looks pretty well aged and the wrapper on mine is really frail. I may have ripped it a little bit when trying to re-wrap the tuo.
A short rinse of this tea didn’t really open it up, so I left the lid on for a little bit and had the residual steam open the leaves before I went further. The first steep was quite thin, slight smoke flavor, tobacco and wood notes throughout.
Steeps Two through Five
This tea starts very slowly. With short beginning steeps, the result is a very thin viscosity with subtle notes of flavor. At steep three, I accidentally let the tea steep for a good 30 seconds, which produced a much stronger, but not off-putting tea. Steep three was heavy on smoke, tobacco, and wood notes. I don’t smoke cigars, but I imagine that if you did, you’d be happy drinking this tea right now. What’s great about this tea is that it softens after you drink it and leaves a nice sweetness (回甜 – huigan; literally “sweet return”). Going through steeps four and five yield more of the same. I recommend steeping it longer for a bigger flavor. If the smokiness is too much, dial it back to shorter steeps. The tea also hits pretty hard in tea energy (茶气 – cha qi).
Finishing the Session
Honestly brutal tea. This tea can be anything you want – assuming, of course, that “anything” is a smoke-filled tea. It’s seems pretty legit for being off of Taobao, so score one for my fishing expedition. This one steeps out for quite some time, so sit back on a Sunday afternoon on your front porch and put some of this delicious tea in your gaiwan. If this sounds up your alley, give me a shout and I’ll see about getting you some.
Until the next cup.