Friday, October 5, 2018

Pasha Ciao Mu Yunnan black from Moychay

I have a little more downtime lately due to being out with an eye infection; finally an ailment that doesn't affect my sense of taste (last week really; I was behind on converting notes to posts, due to that tea taste profiling / machine testing post).  In between diligently working from home I had a chance to make up notes on a couple of extra teas this week, including this nice black tea version from Moychay. 

I'll taste them without referencing descriptions, and the vendor info section at the end will fill in their origin story some.  The Pasha Cioa Mu description doesn't mean much to me (listed as Qiao Mu instead on the site, with the labeled transliterations one letter off); I don't know where that is.  I didn't check the vendor description prior to tasting, until editing now, but I'll cite it:

«Red tea from tea trees of Pasha village» is made in the small farm situated in Galanhe district (Manhai County, Xishuangbanna) from the first spring shoots of tea trees growing at an altitude of 1800 meters (harvest March 2018).

In appearance: large flagella of brown leaves and buds. The aroma is restrained, spicy-floral. The liquor is transparent, meadow honey color.

The bouquet of ready-made tea is vivid and warm, multifaceted, fruity-spicy with woody, floral and citrus notes. The aroma is delicious, warm, with fruity and spicy notes. The taste is juicy and rich, refined and silky, sweetish, with light lemon sourness, turns to lingering finish.

I did try another similar black tea from this set, their Pasha Yesheng Hong Cha (wild tea from Pasha Village), and I really didn't care for that tea.  The oxidation level seemed a good bit lighter and it was more sour and just didn't work for me.  Usually if I review teas I don't like I just don't mention them, but this seems appropriate and fair to break form and say that much.  If deciding between the two or considering buying some of each I'd just go with only this Ciao Mu / Qiao Mu version instead. 

It sells for $33 / 100 grams, on the high side for Chinese black tea, but it is a pretty good version, complex and interesting, and it wouldn't be that unusual to find lower quality teas selling for that same amount.

It gets to be a bit much trying so many teas for review, given how long the note taking and editing process takes.  Still, it's nice trying the teas.  I've always had a thing for black teas and oolongs so although it has been nice doing a lot with sheng and shou pu'er for the past year it's always nice getting back to those.  I don't try to place this related to other versions I've tried (not simple since styles and individual aspects vary a good bit for better black teas) but it was nice tea.


The dry leaf scent is interesting, sweet, rich, and complex, slightly earthy with a good bit of fruit.  It seems familiar from Dian Hong range, maybe just a bit intense as dry scent might go for those, which are very complex and pleasant, and not really subtle.

I'll brew this Gong Fu style.  Western would work but for better black teas it's nice to catch the next level down of transitions.

this might have been the second infusion

This infusion is still a little light, still plenty strong enough to taste.  I went a bit under 30 seconds for this round, but then I'm not using a completely packed gaiwan for proportion, and the tea needed some time to open up.  Complexity hits your palate first; there's a lot going on.  There is a broad range of fruit in this tea, which would be described differently based on impression.  One part if warm and rich, towards tamarind.  That keeps extending into a savory direction, into a trace of sun-dried tomato.  Some of the range is brighter and sweeter.  It's not exactly blackberry but towards that.  A soft sweet malt fills in depth along with that, with warm mineral tones as a base.

The way those fits together makes it work well; it's complex but integrated.  The flavors are clean and intense, trailing into a long finish, with that mineral standing out at the end.  The feel is even nice, not thin, not rough at all, not exactly dry but maybe a little, with substance, a thickness and edge that seems to connect with the earthy flavor range.

Second infusion

This is really nice brewed a little stronger.  The earthy mineral range tone picks up, just a trace of rusty nail to go along with the fruit and light malt range, in a level and form that works well, still clean and balanced.  The fruit still seems to span a range of rich dried fruit:  tamarind, or maybe dried cherry, with depth that may extend into dried lotus root, and also into sun-dried tomato.  On the brighter side again blackberry works as a description.  It hasn't transitioned beyond that earthiness picking up slightly.

Third infusion

The cocoa picked up a good bit, or rather what I was interpreting as fruit and mild earthiness shows up more as cocoa to me in this round.  That probably would have been a reasonable description all along, but it's more evident now.  This flavor range seems to match up with Dian Hong style better on this infusion (it sort of is a Dian Hong, since that just means "Yunnan black tea," so I guess I mean for a type-typical style, as much as there is one for how much those vary). 

it works well brewed stronger or lighter

I suppose intensity has dropped off a little, so that a 20-some second infusion time wouldn't be enough for the next round, at least to maintain the same intensity.  The other range even fills in closer to Dian Hong typical profile, to me, onto more of a roasted pumpkin / butternut squash effect.  In losing a little intensity the feel is thinning some, but it still maintains a nice but lighter aftertaste that lends to an overall impression of complexity.

Fourth infusion

This round brewed just over 30 seconds; that should pick the infusion strength up.  It hasn't transitioned much since the last round but it's really nice as it is.  To me this would be a standard profile for a Dian Hong, where this has transitioned to.  Fruit stands out, a bit non-distinct for being complex, for covering a range.  It could be pegged as dark cherry, dried fruit, not far off date (or dried dark cherry), or as roasted butternut squash or sweet potato instead.  The brightness could come across as a dried orange peel, or maybe dried tangerine peel instead.  Earthy range has dropped off; the cocoa is still there but the rusted nail / warm mineral effect has diminished.

Fifth infusion

color a little darker from going longer

The tea isn't finished yet, I don't think, but from here on infusions will be drawing out what's there, and I expect it to keep thinning.  I'll give it more like a minute to keep the same level.  When you see infusion counts in reviews it's important to keep in mind that infusion proportion and length of time will be proportional to how many infusions a tea produces.  Add more tea and drop the infusion time and any tea produces more rounds. 

How strong someone likes that version of tea prepared (tied to proportion and infusion time) factors in as well.  I tend to like sheng brewed very lightly, since they are intense in flavor and other aspect range, and it moderates the inputs of astringency and bitterness to drink them like that.  I brew black teas stronger, because they're softer and sweeter, with less challenging aspects to work on balancing.  Shou just depends; if I'm in the mood for it I'll brew those inky black, and in a different mood I'll go with a more standard and lighter infusion strength.

Sweetness in the range of toffee steps up a little in this round.  Longer infusion times and switching from water temperature a little off boiling point to right at boiling point can draw that out (this is still brewed using just off boiling point temperature though, probably close to the 95 C they recommend).  It's similar to the last round, just thinner.

It's very pleasant, not "going off" in any sense, not turning woody as some tea types can, but then for this black tea type and aspect range that seems normal.  The character stays really positive no matter how much you stretch the teas, so that using long infusions or maybe resorting to a cold brew to draw out an extra one makes sense.  It might work to simmer this for a few minutes, to actually boil it; that's pushing it for taking an extra step but I bet that would still be tasty.

I tried the tea again within a week, brewed Western style that time.  Often it doesn't make much difference, and you just lose transitions detail for brewing it 2 or 3 times versus over a half dozen.  I did pick up a different aspect I hadn't noticed making it the other way, with a bit more spice present, that tasted like sage to me.  I love sage, it's my favorite of all brewed herb tisanes, so that was a nice surprise.  In general water temperature difference will draw out different flavor aspects but just changing proportion and length of time won't so much, but odd things can come up experimenting with changes.  Some teas are better prepared Western style; that's not unheard of.  I don't think I liked it more prepared that way but noticing that one aspect difference was interesting.


  1. Qiao Mu means "old Arbor" - plantations that have gone feral. It's not an atea

  2. Right, I ran across that idea after this post but never went back to make that clear.