Fancy Tie Guan Yin Oolong Autumn Harvest 2012
Dry: Rich, clarified butter, orchid-floral
Wet: Oceanic, vegetal, faintly floral, almond
Leaf: Deeply luminescent green, tightly rolled knots that unfurl to huge full leaves. 4g easily fills the volume of an 10oz pot.
Cup: Pale, lemony-golden liquor with a cloudy appearance, that clears up to a bright, glowing white grapefruit translucent hue by the 3 extraction. The cup is deeply fragrant and hints at the buttery and sweet flavors in the cup. Rich, explosive layers of resonate orchid, with a sweet oceanic depth and almost sea salt lingering. The resounded waves that bloom throughout the mouth are like the ocean against the shore, laying new sparkling moments that linger for many minutes after drinking. The splashing flavors are rich with a texture that is like holding flower petals in the mouth, only to find them vanish upon searching for them. The flavors continue, steep after steep, only becoming cleaner, more mineral, elusive and sparkling sweet. It seems to hold onto the temperature of the liquor and translate it into something that is nearing a texture, but also a physical sensation that resonates against the top of the palate and against the uvula and intensifies each whisper of incoming breath.
Directions: used 4g in 10oz glass pot, decanted into glass tea ocean and steeped for 1-2 minutes using 190 degree water (with an initial ½ oz of cold water to pre-extract the leaves on the 1st steeping. 2nd steep same. 3rd steep 3minutes. 4th steep 4 minutes. 5th steep 5 mintues.
Notes: I have been assembling over a dozen Tie Guan Yin oolongs of various grades, types, oxidation, locations, harvests and crafts to hold a free tea cupping for the local public in my Tea Around Town program. Its been a very interesting journey and quite educational, as I have draw together aged oolongs, double fired, spring/autumn harvests, China/Taiwan harvests, and variable oxidation and this particular tea floored me. I have always heard about the quality of these oolongs being defined by the characteristic of ‘orchid’ notes and the tendency for them to ‘blush’ in repeated ways beyond the first sip. I guess I have experienced some of them in the past, but this was truly an example of this all the way. Later steeping even drew out flavors of Asian pear and granny smith apple. All I can say is with such a bounty in a simple cup, why would anyone ever need to flavor these? Wow…..amazing.
54 Tasting Notes
Fancy Tie Guan Yin Oolong Autumn Harvest 2012
Very excited about this tea and so I’m re-posting it as a link for any Steepster tea lover who is connected to me to get a chance to try and not only sample an extremely rare offering from Kenya and get it fresh and direct from the farmers, but also get a chance to support a project that I have been keenly interested in : The Tour de H20.
4 years ago in Columbus, OH and in California, Global Partners started a supportive bike ride that helps aid in the spreading of awareness and in financially supporting the cause of developing water projects, well development, and water infrastructure in needed areas of Kenya.
I developed a friendship with Steven Hurt and his wife who are both involved with this project and began riding to share awareness and support.
Joy of the Royal Tea of Kenya called today and wanted to make sure that I could get some of this tea to offer to others and I decided that with any of this tea purchased through me, that all profits would go directly to this years Tour de H20.
I felt this was a win/win for both the tea lover, tea seller, Kenyan farmer, and Kenyan water development project.
If you are interested in being a part of this, please contact me in a note and I will be offering this for $20/oz and I have only a limited supply.
Thank you all so much for even considering it and I hope we can raise hope and compassion with each cup of tea!.
Wild Orchid Pearl Oolong ~ Nepali Tea Traders
Dry: Toasted, malty, tomato, floral-spicy
Wet: mussels-sweet ocean brine, peachy-stone fruit
Leaf: Carefully twisted golden and umber leaves, crafted in spirals and knots, dark against light, with reddish-sienna leaf hints. Pale golden pollen clings to the leaves and the bag. Almost a ‘temple of heaven’ –like look but with a darker and more complex appearance, laced with fuzzy gold and straw-hued threads.
Cup: Rose-brassy-orange hued liquor. Bright and sweet, light bodied, with dancing mineral notes, hints of roasted squash, walnut, and marigold. As the tea cools, hints of vegetal and spicy-floral notes deepen and emerge. Summery and crisp this tea is flavorful and dynamic.
2nd extraction added hints of lime zest and deepened the body as the leaves unfurled further. Sparkling and bright with a developing herbaceous and toasted bread aspect and continued floral and spicy canvas.
3rd extraction is extremely smooth and rich with a clean, sweet muscatel and slightly dry, spicy wine-like finish. The body develops and orchid fleshy weight that is supported by the vegetal and floral balance.
Directions: used 5g in 8oz of 200 degree water, in glass pot and decanted into glass cha hai to aerate, and then poured into ceramic cup. All tea ware was heated prior to use. First extraction was 2 minutes, second was 4 minutes, and third was 3 minutes; 4th extraction was thin in color and character and was not included.
Notes: The brightness and hue of the liquor is captivating and has a deeply reflective and powerfully light catching radiance that is worth being mindful of steeping, just to capture it. The ‘orchid’ in the name is interesting, as I was able to understand it a bit more as I explored the extraction and steeps, finding that it did indeed carry a orchid ‘fleshy’ leaf mouth feel/flavor that was woven into is at various temperatures and extractions.
My experiences with the ocean and at the edges of the sea are occasionally triggered by some teas and this was one of those rare moments. The cleaned, ocean-brine scent of a cleaned mussel shell finds itself in the still steaming leaves of the just poured 1st extraction. It was not a aroma I would have expected nor the hint of earth or barn that also weave into it as the leaves cool.
The crisp and brightness of the tea is extremely refreshing when ‘drink-ably hot’ and becomes clean and smooth bodied as it cools. The spicy floral finish is akin to a Darjeeling 2nd flush but more subtle and tickling.
I would easily rate this as one of the best offerings I have had from Nepali Tea Traders and while very different from the Ama Dablam White tea, I would say its an easy second for its color, range, crisp flavor and the discovery of orchid notes in the cup.
Nepali Tea Traders had this to say: This distinctive tea is plucked just before Nepal’s tea plants go dormant in mid-November. The beautiful pearls produce a subtle flavor with an amber infusion. This exquisite, complex oolong produces aromas of wild orchids. The flavor is soothingly fruity, characteristic of the finest of the autumnal teas from the Jasbirey foothills of Sandakphu.
Harvest Russet Oolong ~ Nepali Tea Traders
Dry: Sweet, spicy, toasted, and hints of citrus orange
Wet: Sweet and gently vegetal, fresh garden bean pods
Leaf: russet, burnt sienna and dark umber hued leaves, with wild twisted forms and irregular cut and twists, allowing for dark and golden edges to intertwine and resonate in reddish hints.
Cup: Coppery-brassy orange hued liquor. Clean, refreshingly crisp body with muscatel and stone-fruit notes and a spicy-floral lingering finish. Gently textured mouth feel that softly builds, leaving a crisp, mineral finish. 2nd steep introduced toasted, woody, and sour notes that hinted at peach pit, with the cup remaining bright, crisp and dynamic with perhaps even a hint of alpine strawberry.
Directions: used 5g in 8oz of 200 degree water, in glass pot and decanted into glass cha hai to aerate, and then poured into ceramic cup. All tea ware was heated prior to use. First extraction was 2 minutes, second was 4 minutes, and third was 3 minutes; 4th extraction was thin in color and character and was not included.
Notes: The leaf craft is amazing to look at, resembling in some aspects dan congs and loose leaf wild-crafted shou pu erhs, unique and fresh in appearance and fragrant.
Another great offering and surprising for its character and extraction.
Nepali tea traders had notes on the black tea by a similar name but not anything under the oolong and this may be a new listing that has yet to post.
Ama Dablam White Tea ~ Nepali Tea Traders ~ new autumnal crop
Dry: Toasted hay, spicy, floral, wild cumin seed, fruity
Wet: Perfume-like, sweet, fruity aspect of poached berries and rhubarb with spicy element
Leaf: Beautiful glossy white needles against dark, olive and grape leaf-hued leaves. Voluminous by weight and thickly woven with bud tips, this tea has an aspect of its Bai Mudan cousins with leaf, bud, and stem present, but in this case, the carefully drying and craft of pluck makes it delicate and lovely and clearly shows the care of its farmers.
Cup: Pale, white grapefruit flesh-hued liquor with clear, bright translucence and a mere hint of yellow. Smooth, butter, and clean, hints of toast, almonds, sunflower oil, and white pepper dance within each sip; exchanging hands and leaving the last motes to spin and vanish. Extremely warm in its flavor, yet clean and refreshing, gentle pollen notes linger and there is a hint of juiciness. The flavor blooms repeatedly with each sip and there is a teasing floral hint that holds onto the back of the throat and the sides of the tongue.
Directions: Used 3.1g in 10oz of 180 degree water in a glass pot, steeped for 4 minutes and decanted and aerated into a glass cha hai and served in white porcelain cups.
Notes: Second extraction was less complex but cleaner with an almost rose water element and a clean almond note. Water temp was increased to 190 and steep time was 3 minutes. 3rd extraction developed a rich buttery note and I used 195 degree temp steeped for 2 minutes and it also developed a snow pea note with a sweet, floral depth.
The craft of this tea is wonderful and it has a freshness and delicate appearance that emanates in both the leave and the cup. One of the best teas I have yet to try from Nepali Tea traders and one that I think distinctly shows a careful and loving artfulness. I truly hope that this continues and it finds more receptive tea lovers who can appreciate the subtle range of this cup. Many I’m sure will find its flavors to be overly delicate and will drink it for its ‘white’ nature, but I imagine with time the rarity of this cup will shine and show itself to be truly worthy of an honest and complete listen.
From Nepali Tea Traders: This special white autumnal tea is grown and processed in the style of the prized Bai Mudans from China. It is made from a bud with one leaf shoot from a specially cultivated plant. The tea is dried naturally, fired and then cured for more than a month so the flavor profile develops to the optimum level. The liquor is very pale green and has a mild floral aroma and a soothing sweet finish, devoid of astringency, and grassy flavors.
As this is my 50th review, I think it is fitting to adorn it with such an amazing tea and if anyone is interested or frequents facebook to follow me at ‘Tea Around Town’ where I post additional photos and post ‘n’ host tea tastings and talks in the Columbus, OH area. Hope to see you there.
Vietnamese Wild Black Hand-Crafted ~ Tao of Tea
Dry: Deeply fragrant aroma of rose, cherry/amaretto and hints of osmanthus. Overall floral and fruity and very complex.
Wet: Sweet and deep woodsy aroma with nuances of baked-caramelized nuts, and an aspect of horse leather or naturally fragrant oils.
Leaf: Darkly oxidized, twisted and textured leaves, of various size and length with some leaves being nearly 3” long and the density of the leaves being variable.
Cup: A pale brassy-peach hued liquor with amber depth. There is an immediate aroma from the cup that is reminiscent of oolongs served in more traditional Chinese restaurants, where the metallic scent of the pot contributes to the deeper tea aroma. The initial flavor is deeply woody and wild, elusive hints of flavors found around the savored pit of a cherry mingle with a slightly spicy caraway-leathery note, slipping into sweetness and hinting with a glint of metallic on the aftertaste. Extremely smooth and the almost ‘thin’ delicate flavors are confusing as the mouth indicates a denser body and viscosity. Overall the cup is dynamic and is challenging to define, being both simple and elusive, but clear and distinct in the same breath.
Directions: 1st extraction: 5g in 8oz 195 degree water steeped for 2 minutes in graduated glass pot and decanted into glass tea ocean. 2nd steep: 200 degree water for 3 minutes, with same tools, resulting in deeper flavors that were more robustly woodsy and the spicy was lightly hinting at chicory, but the overall flavor remained close to the ‘pit of a cherry’. 3rd extraction: 200 degrees 3-4 minutes and resulting in excellent color extraction with cup beginning to fade into a soft metallic and textured cup and significantly mellowed profile.
Notes: This tea was my first black tea from Vietnam. I’ve had oolongs, green/scented-jasmine green teas from the country but never a cup that was truly black, nor anything so distinctly sources in North Vietnam or from an aged tree from the country. I can’t say enough about how amazing the dry aroma and the craft of the leaves are, particularly upon first inspection and with no cupping expectations. I was very excited to try this and to share it. The cup seems to want to communicate in a complex language of flavors, textures, and weight, with color being vibrant consistently and not a clear indicator of strength. The variable leaf size I think also affects the extraction and its strength and also contributes to the elusive nature of some of the flavors. The notes from the Tao of Tea state:
Northern tea region of Ha Giang in Vietnam is home to old growth tea trees also know as ‘Shan Tea’. A pilot project to help preserve these tea forests is underway. We work directly with this project to source this Wild Black. Long, stylish leaves, well crafted into a robust, hearty black tea.
Satrupa – Small Whole SFTGFOP 2nd flush
Dry: clean, fruity-mulberry notes, earth, warm spice, hickory
Wet: clean, mellow, sweet, tannic, tin
Appearance: gorgeous leaf cut, mingled umber hued leaves, with silvery and golden threads,
Cup: bright, brassy-orange liquor. Light front flavor, extremely clean, gently sweet, with silk-like finish and faint textural build with repeated sips. Elusive fruity, walnut, and spicy notes mingle and merge with the refreshing and fluid body.
Subtle and extremely drinkable.
notes: I owe Saunam Bhattacharjee a debt of gratitude for his wonderful and generous nature and the transparency that he has shown with regards to his family’s tea company and the knowledge he shared of its production and estate. I contacted him in 2011 and quickly grew to appreciate all that he does and his gifts allowed me to also create a graded example of tea from every sort that I use in my educational classes, demos, and tastings. The samples he shared literally go from PF through the whole range of leaf cuts and this has allowed me to not only learn a great deal, but also to share this with others.
I chose to write about this tea, even though its over a year old, because Saunam recently had a personal tragedy befall his family as his mother and father were brutally murdered. You can read more directly here: http://mkbasia.blogspot.ca/search/label/Konapathar%20Tea%20Estate
and please offer you kind words if you can as this is an example of some of the social and political upheaval that permeates tea regions that are important for all of us to be aware. His loss is horrible and unimaginable and I deeply wish him the best.
On a side note as well…I have begun a tea blog http://705thteadisambiguation.blogspot.com/
and a facebook site “Tea Around Town” https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tea-Around-Town/435275026553658
that I hope will link in to future events and help grow my local tea culture.
That may also explain where some of my notes/posts go :)
No notes yet.
Organic Elder Flowers c/s grade ~ Sambucus Nigra (Bulgaria)
Dry: mustard seed, lemon zest, musk, sesame seed ~ trisket crackers!
Wet: floral, fennel, musky, mustard greens
Leaf: pale tan yellow fine chopped flowers with brown hints the color of fennel seed. Some stems and pale green, yellow branch material mingles in.
Cup: Rich lemony-yellow hued extraction with strong herbal fragrance hinting at chamomile and lemongrass. Surprisingly full bodied and juicy with flavors that are deep, resonate and distinct, boasting with citrus, grassy voices, rich with hints of grapefruit pith and chamomile-floral flavors and a drawn out finish of brash rye and barley. The flavor hangs at the front of the tongue and teases the throat and it is sour, sweet and spicy.
Directions: used 1 tbsp (2.5grams) of flowers to 8oz of 200 degree water and steeped for 5 minutes in a glass graduated pitcher.
Notes: I totally hem’d and haw’d trying to figure out the nature of the aroma, searching my memories for the link that lit up the minute I drew in the aroma and after much mental searching through my spice cabinet, it dawned on me “Trisket crackers”! Wow, what a random connection and one that leads me back to being 14 and working on a fishing boat in Alaska, where snacking was constant to stave off the cold, wet, windy conditions and we would plow through box after box of anything we could quickly devour for calories (and that would mean we wouldn’t have to go through the process of taking off all the bloody raingear to eat).
It’s a very complex cup and flavor profile and I was surprised and pleased by how it is powerful and invigorating, in a way not so common in herbal teas. The sea-saw of citrus, spice, and floral is dynamic and interesting. I can see why many companies mix this with verbena or lemon balm, mint, or Echinacea as they would all amplify and merge with each other.
There is also an immediate effect on the nasal passages, a feeling not unlike drawing in a spicy, woodsy scent that seems to penetrate the nose and makes me think of the woods in Ohio in the late summer and early autumn. You can also taste a hint of the dark fruit long after the cup is done and you can ‘find’ the berry in the ‘flower’, so to speak.
Organic Elderberry ~ Sambucus Nigra
Dry: Dark fruit, tree sap, blackberry pie
Wet: fruity, medicinal
Leaf: in this case small, wet-looking, dark blackish-brown berries, raisin-like in texture but about the size of a black peppercorn
Cup: A pale, purple hued liquor resembling diluted concord or blackberry juice. Fragrant cup, with fruity, sweet notes. The flavor starts somewhat flat with the liquor lying heavy against the back of the tongue and leaving a acai-blackberry flavor to roll against the back of the mouth and a finish that is gently sweet and somewhat medicinal.
Directions: Used 3g in 8oz of 200 degree water and steeped for 5 minutes in a glass carafe.
Notes: I was asked for a ‘elderberry tea’ and after a bit of searching for recipes, I mostly found tea bag concoctions that were full of various ingredients and often included a wealth of other herbals that I’m use were there to produce the ‘desired’ effect: a fruity, health fortifying concoction that is supposed to help with the following:
(Health Benefits of Elderberry)
Native American tribes have for centuries used elderberry tea as an herbal remedy to help ease joint and muscular pains. It is still a popular herbal medication today and can be used for ailments such as:
Fevers, particularly flu or other virus-based illnesses, can be eased by drinking elderberry herb tea. It can also help clear the airways, breaking down mucus and phlegm, which can aid ailments such as bronchitis and asthma.
The common cold can be overcome much more quickly with a dose of elderberry tea, and drinking it regularly can help stave off a cold altogether. Due to the airway-clearing properties contained within elderberry, it can also help with allergies such as hay fever. The tea has also been used to help speed up the recovery process for sufferers of chicken pox and measles.
Elderberry herb tea is a popular choice to relieve water retention, as it has slightly diuretic properties. It can also aid in the detoxification process of the liver and kidneys. With this in mind, it may help those who suffer from frequent bouts of urinary tract infections. Elderberry tea is also a mild laxative and so can help ease constipation and the bloating and flatulence that may accompany it.
Elderberry also has anti-inflammatory properties. It can help to ease the joint pain associated with arthritis and can be used as a wash for skin disorders such as eczema and boils. The fresh herb can be placed into bath water, rather like a large cup of tea, as a whole body soak to alleviate muscle aches and pains.
Elderberry is a well-known immune system booster, and regular consumption of the tea can help the body fight off such ailments as herpes. It is particularly popular with those who regularly suffer from cold sores. It is also thought to help lower cholesterol.
Elderberry herb tea has sedative properties and so can assist with stress relief, be used as an anti-anxiety supplement, or aid a restful sleep. It may also be helpful for people who suffer from insomnia if used on a regular basis. As a relaxant, it may also be beneficial for those who suffer from high blood pressure.
Elderberry is believed to have emetic properties, meaning it can induce vomiting. The raw and unripe fruit leaves and stems contain cyanide. Unless familiar with this herb, it is not recommended to pick fresh for making homemade teas.
Generally the ‘tea’ is made from the flowers of the Elderberry plant and there are some cautions about using ‘natural’ sources as the plant’s unripe fruit, leaves, and stems contain cyanide and can be toxic.I have also secured a supply of the leaves and will be cupping that as well to see if it has any future applications in blending.
On the whole, I was surprised by the ‘wet’ sticky nature of the berries and the aroma and flavor reminds me very much of an old natural foods store (before the popularity of whole foods when such shops were scattered in small communities) and the mingling of dominate scents that gave each of those places a smell of wood, exotic dried fruits/vegetables, and spice. There is also in its aroma a scent that reminds me of the first breath that one takes walking into a Penzeys spice shop and also of the woods in the early wet, spring transition from winter where there is a mingling of fresh earth, developing berries and flowers, and wet humus.
The berries hail from Croatia.
Imperial Mojiang Golden Bud Yunnan Black Tea 2012 Autumn
Dry: Richly complex with sweet malt, spice, cedar, and elusive floral accents, finishing with a sweet, caramel note
Wet: A heady spicy, exotic wood dominance with hints Himalayan pink salt, and a juicy-roasted vegetal depth
Leaf: Lush yellow sienna hued, golden curls, light and airy and dance in the hand like fragile baby beach crabs; impossible not to be drawn to them, to handle and turn them over, to explore the delicate and textured silky down of the leaves. The leaves are deeply imbued with fragrance and this intensifies as your hands warm them and your breath draws in and out against them.
Cup: A deep, brassy hued liquor, darkening to coppery-umber with longer extractions and picking up reddish-sienna depth. The cup itself is creamy, silky smooth, sweet and initially elusive, the flavor slips along with a gentle, sweet almond-nutty threading through the citrus, malt, and lingering peppery finish. As the cup evolves with repeated extractions, waves of sweet give way to more malt and citrus, and the rise of a sea salt and woody, peppery flavor transforms the cup.
Directions: Used 4g in 8oz in 195 degree filtered water in glass tumbler for 3-4 minutes (allowing for color to dictate the adjustments in extraction time in subsequent brews. Expect 2-3 richly flavored steeps with thinner and distinct cups following.
Notes: As a lover of teas from Yunnan, I really enjoyed playing with this tea in a variety of brewing methods and styles, types of water, and steep times. I have a cured Yixing tea pot that I use specifically with Yunnan black teas (including pu-erhs) and I was surprised that this tea responded so well to other brewing methods and actually illustrated varying levels of complexity that were very clear and distinct in different brewing vessels. A tea to allow a complete chance to expand and utilizing a vessel that permits this expansion.
Importers Notes: This rare and beautiful tea can only be made from late autumn harvest is picked from established plantation bushes in the Mojiang area of Simao. The tea is carefully processed to keep its lovely appearance and guard its subtle sugarcane and malt flavors. This is an incredible and rare tea with an appearance and taste that will dazzle the drinker! Recommend using 85-90C water to brew this wonderful tea. Wash once briefly (5 seconds) and then drink the successive infusions. Keep infusion times very short initially!
Harvest time: October 2012
Harvest Area: Mojiang Town, Simao Prefecture of Yunnan
Originally in my notes as Serpent Mound Masala Chai, this blend was developed as I was asked to recreate the flavor of the discontinued Oregon green tea chai concentrate that some of our friends were using; also known as Kasmiri green chai.
It is not new information to many, but is to some, that Chai simply means ‘tea’. There is a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation around tea and the popularization of ‘chai’ in coffee/tea houses has done little to change that with regards to this particular beverage in America. Most think that ordering Chai means a cup of warm, milky, creamy sweetness with a spice note and a mere hint of tea tannins. Many are unaware that traditional chai is variable depending on what regional influences are present and often will be surprised (some pleasantly so) to sip chai at an Indian restaurant and find it unsweetened and without milk: simply Masala Chai- Spiced Tea.
Of course with so many tea companies attempted to add their own signatures and blends, flavoring and spicing, adding fruit, flowers, spices, oils, additives….the terms are not often utilized in a traditional context and can loose a bit of meaning.
I suppose I rest on this point only because it also explains my nom de plume- Kashyap (for more on that try here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kashyap) . I became very fascinated by the regional variations of masala chai and the spices, how they were used, why, and the local diets influence. I was pleased with the introduction of the Chaiwala in Slumdog millionaire and thought that the idea of chai might undergo a bit of an evolution, but its seems that is not quite as transforming as I’d hoped.
In any case, I was developing some chai blends and I was also asked to complete a project for one of our customers and in the process discovered some interesting facts about tea, spices, and blending. I also learned some fun things about matcha.
I developed this blend and was pleased when with a small amount of tweeking I found myself with this cup in my hands and these were my original notes:
creamy, verdant, floral, nutty, lightly spicy…mix of jasmine and cardamom creates and illusion of near almond flavor.
In the area of Kasmir, India there is a tradition of making masala chai with green tea, cardamom, cinnamon, and almonds. I wanted to make a blend that would respect that tradition and deepen its distinction. I also wanted to honor the deep roots here in Ohio and draw attention to some of its natural and cultural wonders – in a way bridging space/time, culture, and the love of tea.
The base utilizes the floral notes of jasmine jade pearls and the slow extracting nature they provide – allowing the spices to extract in at a similar rate and for them to achieve some balance. Since milk is often added, I wanted also there to be a strong tea note and perhaps a hint of briskness, and so I added a 2nd flush Darjeeling. The spices are all organically sourced and whole and crushed just before blending and the tea is made in small batches when ordered to preserve the integrity of flavors. The matcha stains it all verdant green and adds a murky, opaque aspect to the first steep, that adds to the creamy and tart profile. It reminds me of the spring here in Ohio at the Serpent Mound when the new growth makes everything an impossible bright green and at the same time illustrates the wet murkiness of the weathers muddy transition. The cup gives way on the second steep to a gorgeous, luminous yellow that has hints of reptilian green. There is an illusion of almond on the finish, which I imagine is the combination of spices mixing with the jasmine and it develops as it lingers on the palate.
Overall I’m happy to present this as a tribute to the ‘year of the snake’ and hope that everyone can renew themselves in this new lunar cycle.
Since I wrote the web description I’m going to instead write something a touch less technical and more personal in my response to this one.
This new lot came in just a few days ago and I just opened the full case today…a large bag standing more than half my height. As I do with every tea when it first comes in and I have a chance to cup it, the first act I do is lift a double handful of the leaves and draw in the scent. I was born with a powerful sense of smell (perhaps a tradeoff for my myopic vision limitation), one that has been known to identify even salmon species apart and which I rely on heavily with tea and coffee.
As the tea’s aroma broke free from its peaceful slumber the deep, rich aroma of ripe Ohio mulberries, with their glistening, just after the rain, purple flesh captured me and transported me to seasons yet to be born from winter’s open arms. So powerful was the aroma that I grabbed a fellow co-worker, whose life revolves deeply with Ohio’s seasons as he grows much of his own food, cures his own meats, processed and cans his own fruit and veggies and is all around in touch with his roots in the Ohio north east Amish Country.
His reaction was one of primal memory and he stuttered to find the words, but the final push of a second pass and he was as giddy as I was…there could be no mistake: Mulberry. Stories of his childhood and the acts of making jams, pies, and compote from those trees flooded out as did my tales of railroad walks and wild roaming.
A wonderful batch of memory lane but also a fantastic cup and one of my winter reminders that spring will come in her own time.
Royal Tea of Kenya – Royal Purple Tea
Dry: clean, sweet, softly vegetal, faintly earthy with elusive oceanic notes.
Wet: earthy, asparagus, grassy aroma
Leaf: very irregular cut, moderate to fine cut with some fine particulate, extremely dark, almost toasted woody or charcoal looking, upon steeping develops into a dark-green olive cast and the leaves look highly macerated and almost pesto-like.
Brewing method: 4g in 200 degree water in traditional porcelain cupping set, steeped for 2-3 minutes.
Cup: Liquor is a remarkable plum-flesh purple, with hints of rosy, peach, and lavender hues. Very faint liquor aroma, almost like pearled sake. The palate is gripped with a strong flush of astringency, transforming the mouth with a textured, faintly metallic note that bears some resemblance to the taste of green jade. Light to medium body with earthy, bold flavors that blush out and fade into a spicy resonance on the palate. There is a subtle floral note, reminiscent of lilac and a bolder flavor that is deeply eucalyptus. There is an interesting cooling effect to the tea and it is remarkable at clearing the palate of other flavors.
I first had a chance to sample purple leaf tea through this sample about a year ago. The notes I took still very much hold up, but after many different attempts to balance the brewing of this tea I stumbled upon a linkage of ideas that has me excited to share with others.
There is a big movement in the specialty coffee industry to offer pour over coffee service and Staufs Coffee Roasters in Columbus, OH has been sharing this with the public for a number of years now. Its rather simple, a manual Hario pour over, with pre-wet filter, carefully measured coffee/water and a simple, controlled pour of water, yielding an amazing cup of your hearts desire in minutes.
What does this have to do with tea?
Many years ago while working to share the bounty and variety of teas from Ceylon, I was gifted a traditional metal spoon with fine holes in it and a deep belly. CTC-FOP grade teas would be heaped into it and water carefully poured over the leaves and the resulting cup was used to profile.
My mind made the bridge between these two methods and I began experimenting with using the Hario pour over with ‘fine’ teas and when I was brewing the Kenya purple leaf I noted a mixed cut and a fine particulate would end up in the cup, clouding it slightly. So I used the Hario method with this tea and was blown away by how amazing a 30-40sec extraction with 190 degree water, simply poured through could be.
At the last cupping I gave featuring this tea, I showed this method and it blew the minds of the tea drinkers, both in the nature of the cup, but in the brewing method. Its created a strange situation where now many people are trying various teas done as pour overs. Its not just a fad, the method works amazingly well for clarity of cup, quick extraction, clean and distinct flavors, and for teas ranging in the CTC-FOP grade range…they produce flavorful cups without the expected and hard to avoid astringency and bitterness.
Wish I could add pictures to demonstrate…but trust me…its a method worth trying.
Sandakphu Silver White Tea – Nepali Tea Traders
Dry: Wild, sweet, vegetal-floral aroma, roasted potato and oceanic
Wet: spicy, hints of fresh cut green beans, toasted and dried pumpkin seeds, dried sunflowers in the field
Leaf: Gnarled and twisted leaves, bud tips ghostly hued with stains of bronze, leaves peppered with red and umber hinting at oxidation, bai mudan-esque pluck with leaves, buds, stems and thin twists of leaf that look almost as if they are writhing.
Cup: Pale, clear, luminescent grapefruit flesh yellow hued liquor. Tea gives an initial impression of weight, evolving into a sweet, soft honey accent that transforms into a texture of floral. Spicy flavors of Mexican oregano slip about, yet the impression of subtly renders these accents as a regional distinction and the nature of the white tea and its craft comes through. Very smooth, blushing sweet mid-note that crisply fades with floral honey in its rippling wake. There is perhaps a orange pith or zest hint, but it is more akin to the lingering flavor after you have bit into a blood orange and the flavor stains your lips from the contact.
Directions: Brewed 3g of leaves in 11oz of 190 degree water, pre –extracted in a 1 oz of cold water for 1 minute and then steeped for 3 minutes and strained. Glass wear and held back leaves with titanium spoon.
Notes: I hesitate to use the word ‘animalist’ to pair in a aroma description, but the combination and complexity of this tea’s aroma is akin to something feral and wild, living and animal and almost resembles the scent of horses. There is a hint of something akin to breaded trout frying or the banks of a river, wet slate, cat-tails…it’s a complex merging of scent and memory that is cloudy and mercurial, making it difficult to find specifics definitions that are ‘food’ related.
The cup is surprising. From the style of leaf and the appearance, it looks very much like many other of the teas from NTT and so I didn’t really expect it to be a balance of subtly that is usually associated with white tea. The balanced nature of this cup is really wonderful and I think it is distinct enough to warrant seeking the others out, just to note the range of what can come from these teas and this region. I will also mention that the orange-esqe flavor does materialize as a ghostly remnant lingering on the palate long after the cup has been finished and this is a wonderful surprise of the cup.
\As it so happens I also happen to have a small remaining amount of the Sandakphu Nepalese White Orange that won in the North American Tea Championship in 2012 in the hot white tea division. In direct comparison in aroma the Rare Tea Republic tea has a much more distinct citrus/orange zest floral note and from appearance seems to have plumper buds and a higher overall bud presence, where the NTT seems to have a smaller bud and stronger leaf presence. Both have a very similar overall hue and texturally look very similar with the RTR having a ‘brighter’ more silvery look mostly due to the visibility of buds. The aroma of the NTT is more conjuring and elusive to define, while the RTR is more distinct.
I had wanted to include a photo of the two teas side by side for visual comparison, but I didn’t have the image uploaded to share.
Organic Ilam Sencha Green Tea – Nepali Tea Traders
Dry: Fresh cut hay drying in the field, faint chestnut-toasted note, and an overall intensity like perfume.
Wet: Grassy, sweet pea, soy cream
Leaf: Long grassy shards, hues ranging from dark olive to mat, pale green, and variously textured on the surface with fine lines resembling Monkey King (where drying baskets imprint on the leaves in cross patterns that are distinct). Resembling preserved cut grasses and with some leaves nearly 2-3” in length. It does share a very ‘sencha’ hued and shaped leaf and the aroma is distinctly like a mid-grade Japanese sencha.
Cup: Bright lemony-white grapefruit hued liquor, with a delicate nose. Initial impression is one of weight and texture with a slightly granule-mineral imprint that then splashes with an electric, bright astringency, grassy overtones and sharp-clean citrus-lime zest hints. A small amount of particulate rests in the bottom of the cup and resembles yellow pollen, but the nature of the leaf would suggest otherwise. As one sips from the cup the mineral notes increase as does the impression of grassy-citrus, but the most notable characteristic is the building, cleansing texture on the tongue and the mouth rolling body. In many ways similar to the Chinese produced senchas that have been steadily supplanting traditional Japanese sencha, but with a much more dynamic mouth feel and a cleaner flavor that lacks the flat, grassy nature that is common to sencha replacements. I would lean towards shorter extraction times or the texture becomes too associated with astringency and then a bitter response builds.
Directions: Used 4.5g of leaves in glass vessel, covered with 1oz cold filtered water and then added 4oz of 180 degree water and steeped 2-3 minutes, judging extraction by color and aerating into second glass beaker to decant. Did a second hot steeping using 160 degree water for 2 minutes and then a cold steeping to finish.
Notes: The first thing that grabs me is the name. There are many origins and processes that are possible when a tea is rendered into a ‘green’ leaf and without going into a longer debate about fermentation, steaming, withering and the general process to arrive a this ‘type’ of tea it is important to also note the distinction of tradition, language and ‘grading’ that distinguishes Sencha from ‘green tea’. A quick online search will point out that Sencha is a common Japanese term for green tea grown in Japan and there is some debate as to whether it has a meaning other than one that language and cultural define. Case being that ‘sencha’ then is simply ‘green tea’ and so while the term may be borrowed and applied it is no more contextually relevant than the other words for ‘tea’ like cha, te, tea, ect… It seems the borrowing of the term sencha is then to draw in people in the US who have little to no exposure to a tea education and who buy tea based on what little they know (I.E. black, green, white…) and in the case of the word sencha, to draw in those people who have a particular interest in ‘Japanese-styled’ green teas. What is perhaps debatable is the connection to one level of obscurity that is becoming more and more of concern and muddies a transparency issue: the selling of teas under cultural names (like Sencha) that are actually produced in other countries in a style similar.
A great example would be the making of ‘sencha-styled’ teas in China that are marketing under the Japanese term/name and are then able to sell for the perceived value of Japanese teas ($$$) over the generally cheaper Chinese green teas ($). I recently explored a wholesale offering of gyokuro (a Japanese term) on a website that upon speaking with a representative about its geographic origin (to ensure that it wasn’t in the wake of regions affected by the Tsunami), learned that it was actually a tea from China. At a cost that was nearly what I have bought at retail Japanese Shinriku green tea!
The trend is very rampant in flavored green tea blends as well, where Japanese tea is too pricy to use and instead ‘sencha-styled’ green teas are used as a base. Often in descriptive write-ups, the vague term green tea or sometimes sencha is used without distinction of origin and this can lead a customer to think they know where the ‘base’ tea’s origins are.
The truth is perhaps we can simply call ‘green tea’ by any cultural name we like, allowing blenders and distributors to follow market trends, but we should be cautionary as they are utilizing and manipulating the level of customer education that is out there. We don’t need tea enthusiasts who know nothing about what they drink, as it is probable that then they simply will chase ‘titles’ and price; potentially leading to tea drinkers who care little for the teas origin, scarcity, or cultural uniqueness. Kenya is an example of this kind of market control, where many believe that only CTC or coarse grades of tea can come from the region and that they are only good for iced tea, blending, and full oxidation. Recent moves by a few passionate tea farms have begun to show that tea craft and quality can be just as great in Kenya as in other more recognized regions of ‘quality’ full leaf tea. The move to illustrate this as well as provide interest to the tea public and allow traditionally niche regions to break out of ‘expected’ molds and ask for premium prices, leading to a better living for the farmers and a more comprehensive picture of what tea can be.
I would think that a rare and special tea like this one would benefit from a transparency of origin that would use a name indigenous to the region of Nepal and then this could be a discussion and education point, a way of distinguishing the tea and setting it apart in a meaningful and educational way; one that creates a cultural bridge and draws attention to the humanitarian effort and the development of needed markets for progress and growth.
It is much like the term ‘pu erh’ and its regional specificity to Yunnan, China. Yunnan is pu erh’s tea homeland and its people gain recognition and gather a devoted interest from this distinction. I know much more about the mountains of Yunnan and the ethnic minorities who live there from my love of pu erhs, I can distinguish mountain/regional terroir and notice blends, and even identify various years of harvest, making the distinction important and defendable. It has led me to develop an appreciation for the cultures and the craft that goes into pu erhs and stimulates interest. I think this is in part due to the teas regional transparency.
To know Nepal from its teas, from its people, its land and its uniqueness, would in itself be a gift. Nepal has a long culture of tea tradition, with its history drawn along the teahorse road; a route hundreds of years old and involving many ethic groups and cultural traditions. Nepal is a home to legendary mountains and a rich cultural tradition of storytelling and myth, tea sharing and hospitality.
If the Nepali Tea Company really wants to share their mission of advocacy and cultural improvement, then it follows that they should celebrate that with the names of their teas and should create a conversation with them, rather than borrow names that call to other cultural contexts to appeal to a less involved market.
To capture a premium tea price, look only to pure Japanese gyokuro or a vintage Yunnan pu erh: the fans are there and the devotion is forever. Yet new traditions and interest can be born from connecting to a place through the flavor in a tea, with that depth only deepening with the questions that arise from its name and its origin.
If a tea is ‘green’ let it be so in its leaf, and let its name ring distinctly and elude to its native origins, development, culture, or mythology; don’t let it uniqueness hide it behind another region’s cultural term. The comparison is not worthy of either land or tea and merely pits mountain dragon against the rising sun.
As an afterward…I held a cupping of the Nepali Tea Trader’s teas at a local shop to great applaud and while I was packing up happened across a couple who were looking for a green tea and offered to share this rare tea with them (never calling it sencha) but identified it as a green tea from Nepal and they were spell bound. I cupped it out to them and they proclaimed it to be the best green tea they had ever had and they gravitate towards the story of the Nepali Tea Traders and their mission. It was a great moment.
Himalayan Golden– Nepali Tea Traders
Dry: Floral, spicy, Mexican oregano, Muscatel
Wet: Rich floral- spice note that is soft and delicate
Leaf: Gorgeous long, narrow twisted leaves, dark umber hued, woven with golden fuzzy threads and the occasional dark-brick red leaf.
Cup: Bright, brassy-orange hued liquor, emanating gently muscatel aroma. Clean, lively front notes and extremely smooth, with a blushing floral-spicy flavor that fades into a mineral finish that is extremely crisp. Floral pollen notes hang on the finish and render a summery, Yhen Zhen Silver Needle feel to the palate which grips the edges of the tongue and hangs at the back of the throat. Refreshing, delicate and complex with a similarity to 3rd flush Darjeeling teas.
Directions: Used 3.5 g in 8oz of 203 degree water steeped for 3-4 minute and poured on high to aerate.
Notes: Reminiscent of Golden Darjeeling from Tao of Tea, but with a more assertive spice note that springs from dry Mexican oregano to grape vine. Very clean and smooth.
Wrote this a few weeks ago and it was shared with the crew at Nepali Tea Traders…not a very ‘story-like’ rendering, but I cupped this along with many other of their teas within a few days time and there were distinctive moments and then cups that resonated and completed the bridge with others. The Himalayan gold shares a characteristic that is indeed a defining bridge to a common flavor that could be defined as a regional terrior. If you listen to each of the regions teas, you can hear it…a silken thread of flavor that snakes through them all and speaks the language of the mountains and hints at the crush of continents and the thunder of captured clouds.
Organic White Silk – White Lion Teas
Dry: Floral balance with distinct fruity-boysenberry elements and a almost candy-like nose
Wet: Fruit juice, sweet, dark fruit- acai
Leaf: Silvery-white buds, dark umber-hued stems, and shards of green leaves. Very much a Bai Mudan style and cut.
Cup: Crisp, golden, resonate yellow hued liquor. Smooth, rich body with slippery, fruity flavor that is white grapefruit and acai and that snakes around the typical Bai Mudan profile, of sweet, grassy and floral notes, hints of vegetal spice and calendula sweetness. Very smooth and refreshing, gently fruity and nicely balanced, with a subtle lingering flavor that glows on the palate. Gently astringent, so that after several cups the mouth is pleasantly cleansed and a light texture has built on the tongue.
Directions: 3.5g of leaves in graduated glass pot, steeped in 185 degree water for 3-4 minutes and decanted into double walled glass mug and aerated before serving.
Notes: I immediately deduced this to be a simple organic Bai Mudan and was deeply surprised when the cup resonated in aroma and flavor, such a predominate voice of fruitiness. If this is a flavored tea and not a natural characteristic, it is not mentioned in any of the information I have, but the flavor is so wonderfully woven, it doesn’t even resemble the typical flavored teas on the market, and instead is a sublime cousin who whispers into the ear of the tea lover and says ‘this too is possible’.
Royal Tea of Kenya – Royal Purple Orthodox Hand-Crafted Tea
Dry: Complex toasted aroma, woven with hints of floral/lilac and freshly dried pumpkin seed.
Wet: Delicate, sweet, and nutty, with a gentle floral/gardenia-white honeysuckle nuance.
Leaf: Gorgeous long, dark twisted leaves, thin and clearly showing stem and leaf. Some gold tipping and reddish-umber bud/leafs are woven into the darker, woody umber leaves, accentuating the beautiful texture and allowing the golden pollen a place to rest.
Brewing method: 3.3g in 190 degree water in graduated glass pot and poured from height to aerate, steeped for 3 minutes.
Cup: Glows with a golden-olive hued liquor whose edges darken with a hint of purplish depth. The tea has smooth, silky-buttery body, offering a clean, succulent mouth feel. At first, so smooth that defining it seems elusive, but successive sips build a sweet, floral marigold like flavor on the finish. The juicy cup is totally without bitterness, withstanding long steeps and hot temperatures. As the cup cools, hints of almond weave around a lingering aftertaste that hangs almost like mint, but whose flavor blushes long with mercurial floral notes.
Notes: I had a childhood that frequently was spent navigating railroad tracks, cattails, struggling mulberry trees, and feral honeysuckle bushes. Often my afternoon snack was scavenged from abandoned and neglected fruit trees and moments of sweetness were drawn from plucks of white and golden honeysuckle flowers, whose flavor would indelible be written on my palate. I remember the earthy, grassy, floral taste, the texture that would resist and then give way to your teeth as you bit it, and how there would be a sweet, vegetal honey note that was clean and crisp in the white flowers and gritty, deeply flowery and almost too sweet in the orange flowers. Drinking this tea takes me back to those moments of finding the perfect white honeysuckle flower, while walking home along the tracks, aware of the need to balance on the rail, while watching the rough rock and old creosote ties, and subtly aware of the raccoons and muskrats slipping from sight and the howls of the red-winged blackbirds that chided me from coming too close to their thorn tree nest.
The tea is one to drink and be transported, to set time aside for and to be in a place where the mind can find freedom. Truly a worthy gift to be shared for the rarest tea in Kenya and a labor of love and sacrifice for the farmers who dedicated their harvest and trusted that we could appreciate that there is more worth in a tea such as this, than in a forgotten teabag labeled English Breakfast.
I am extremely grateful to Joy Njuguna for sharing this with me and allowing me to try what is truly one such a rare gift of Africa.
- I published this with some difficulty to Steepster and I’m not sure what the trouble was. Either way, the review is mine and I hope it isn’t confused with the tasting notes that are the official ones from the Royal Tea of Kenya. **
Organic Quilan Oolong – White Lion Teas
Dry: Soft fruity-berry note that quickly fades into a yuzu-pineapple, woodsy-toasty, ‘Wuyi’ mountain aroma
Wet: Citrus rind-pith, grapefruit, soft berry, brazil nuts, slight hints of sugar cane
Leaf: Dark sepia, umber hue when dried and picks up a deep wood, peat green when wet. Leaves are long and chopped, twisted and moderately oxidized.
Cup: Gorgeous luminous yellow-orange hued liquor with caramel edges. Medium bodied, juicy and rich with layers of flavor. Hints of cocoa nib, milk chocolate, citrus, and exotic fruit (even a touch of durian creaminess), come in waves on the sip; first striking the sides and front tongue and then settle and eddy with sweet flavors and a citrus pith aftertaste that is finished with a cocoa nib lingering. Clean and smooth with many blushing transitions.
Directions: Used 3.2g of tea in 8oz of 190 degree water steeped for 3-4minutes in a glass pot and aerated and decanted into porcelain cup.
Notes: I have never been much of a fan of teas from Wuyi and the usual flavors that arise from the processing style and the area are usually very typically toasted, sour, edgy, and generally not my cup of tea. Those teas also often carry a signature aroma as well, that I can spot immediately, and if the leaves cut doesn’t give it away, then the oxidation hue will. This tea resembles that in every way, but the distinct cocoa note is very clear and naturalistic and the citrus is subdued and balanced. There is a sublime sweetness that is left by the cup afterwards and is surprisingly present and distinct. I would rate this very well against other teas from Wuyi and say this is a wonderful surprise.
I also did a bit of searching to fully flesh out the origins of the tea as the term Quilan seemed phonetic and somewhat referencing an old ‘English’ term (much like Quimun to Keemun) and stumbled upon a secondary meaning and translation as Qu Lan and its translated name of Rare Orchid oolong and online reviews place this tea indeed in the Wuyi mountains in the Fujian province in Anxi County. Where is commonly reviewed as : dark in color with a nutty aroma, while less oxidized are green in color with an orchid aroma and a liquor of bright gold, and a lasting sweet aftertaste.
Ruby Pu Erh – Nepali Tea Traders (dark tea)
Dry: wheat pollen, spice, toasty, with a hint of grape vine; a rich, deep aroma that seems elusive if details are sought after.
Wet: Damp earth in a corn field after a storm, wet stones, spicy, and wet vines with a hint floral spring.
Leaf: Beautiful, long-twisted leaves with variable colors ranging from dominant umber, to sienna and cadmium yellow with some olive hues developing with extraction. Some variable leaf size and cut, but large overall with a naturalistic pluck.
Cup: A rich, burnt orange, sienna tinged liquor with clean, coppery legs against the edges of the cup. Light to moderate bodied with spicy, tomato-vine flavor, bright and clean cup, with juicy mouth-feel and a growing velvety texture that gives way to toasty/baked notes that almost develop a flavor of walnuts. A lingering flavor stays on the palate, whispering a gentle earthy resemblance to shou pu-erh, but so delicate you have to listen deeply for it.
Directions: Used 3.1g of leaves in 4oz porcelain traditional cupping set, steeped in 190degree water for 2-3 minutes with following extractions being 3 min and finally 6 minutes. Only managed 3 extractions before color indicated spent.
Notes: When dealing with mountains there are often practical and poetic considerations. If there is a gift that tea translates from its place of origin, then it is often speaking a mountain language, one that translates its slopes and ridges, is stony bulwarks and frozen peaks, and its cold, swift streams. As a hiker, there is also the vibrating memory of body and mind that is penetrated by any trip linked peak to peak along a mountain’s thorny back. Whether slipping along the tree-line or summiting its peak, mountains have a lush language that is often only spoken in memory, as the body is often too busy to do much other that move and record, and so many of the sensations linger long after the journey; many lingering solely in the remembrance.
It is best thought that this tea is sharing this, so much of its flavor akin to vegetation, earth, and spice. Its resemblance to pu erh seems mostly in name, until after the cup is done and its voice echoes, much like a mountain view calls, and hints at motes of shou pu erh’s earthy legacy. Most who drink this cup and seek an experience with the mind of Yunnan pu erh, you will already be lost. Pu erh’s homeland being solely Yunnan and born in that land. “Dark teas” born elsewhere are a creature onto themselves, cast from different molds and fresh ideas.
Much of this cup reminds me of first flush Assam teas; something that I tried for the first time only a year ago. The juicy, vegetal cups, sweet and bright, brick-orange, and painting a textured tongue.
It is in the teas memory that its resemblance to pu erh is remembered, much like the alluded mountain walk where the view is stunning, vibrant and crisp, so too this tea presses its first impressions in uncommon views. It takes sitting down, the cup long empty, with the memory of its blush hanging much like a hikers remembrance of the stone under the feet and the cool mountain air at the nape of the neck, to find the earthy shou heart of this cup.
More than a cup of tradition, cast in a familiar and comforting mold, this cup is the brilliance of a view yet to be embraced and a walk towards cherishing what is at hand.
Additional note: When I was speaking with Pat from Nepali Tea Traders and pointed out the concern over naming this a Pu Erh he was quick to understand the reservation and made steps to rename this as a ‘dark tea’. Pu erhs are indigenous to Yunnan and all other teas produced in a similar manner are more appropriately called ‘dark teas’ (as was explained by a producer of ‘Dark Tea’ in Fijian to me).
Master Han’s Wild Picked Yunnan Black – Verdant Tea
Dry: Spice, Floral, Soft malt, Himalayan salt, elusive citrus and roasted tomato. There is an elusive autumn rain, oceanic note that is more impression than specific aroma, like a memory hidden in the scent, but a memory of many cups of teas drawing their roots in Yunnan mountains, and a history of cherishing this region and having its breath woven in a lifetime of cups.
Wet: Summery canopies of wet leaves, basking in a moments relief, capturing a quick splash of rain, with notes of minerals, earth, damp wood, distant and long abandoned camp fires, and spicy new growth. Hidden citrus emerges.
Leaf: Large, golden-umber leaves with dark oxidized stems and occasional reddish leaves that burnish from the gold and the black, reminiscent of the hues of Oriental Beauty oolong. The buds have an almost animal pelt-like appearance, fuzzy and layered in hue, coated in blonde pollen.
Cup: Bursts open with a rich, clean, and bright mouth feel. Luminous summer squash, golden-orange liquor that wafts a gently citrus aroma. Flavors of bitter orange, spice, citrus and soft leather balance lively against its crisp finish and lingering blush of savory sweetness. An indefinable nutty flavor swims around, almost like when a raw almond is split against the teeth.
Three extractions delivered consistent and vibrantly hued cups, with the flavors evolving and becoming increasingly subtle.
Brewing: Used 5g of leaves in 10oz glass pitcher, poured from varying height and steeped for 3-4 minutes in 190 degree water.
Notes: It is important to share that I have a long and deep love affair with the teas of Yunnan. I often cherish these teas and find them frequently, yet save them and share them and reserve them for a cured Yixing pot, adorned with dragons and who has no other region pass through its belly.
From the growing collection of pu erhs to the fuzzy crab curls of Imperial Golden Yunnan and so many others by that name, there are few teas so splendid to look upon, to hold in the hand and its golden, rusty liquor is a welcome homeland.
Over the years, as this affair has built, I have pursued cup after cup from this region, under many names; some offering an experience bordering on transcendental and others lacking and coarse. I still recall the mystery when one year I found a golden Yunnan whose heart was woven with seasonal blueberries, in such a natural blushing flush, that all who cupped it had their eyes opened as malt and citrus carried them to this new frontier, where flavors bloomed thick and deep.
Over the last few years, it has been noticeable that the cup has grown more and more elusive, rain showers and oceanic notes thinning the malt, citrus and fruit. The body has thinned, the cup has become a layer of veils, the flavors growing nutty and soft, regardless of the pollen glittering depths, or the gorgeously sensuous leaves. The transformation has born in me a curiosity that seeks to know what is happening, what is changing in those mist laden mountains, to know what is nestling in the earth around the roots, what is informing the leaf.
David has found a rare and wonderful offering, raw and wild, captured in the hands of a passionate master. Its worthy of the land and of the plant, of the tea and the cup and I hope bodes for the evolution of the region; harboring more and more compassionate and passionate hands to pluck and cherish these leaves. Perhaps with more hands like Master Han’s, the dragon will find a new voice and share further layers and return the depth and complexity back into the heart of Yunnan, or translate more fully the crisp, young voice that is emerging from the wise and aged arms of Yunnan’s amazing legacy.
Organic Vietnam Nam Lanh OP
Dry aroma: Soft exotic scent, resembling tarragon, muted 5-spice and the scent of the woods in Autumn.
Wet aroma: fruity currant, raw sugar, subtle spice
Appearance: Dark umber leaves and stems with fully-oxidized, fairly uniform cut and sort, some lighter blond accents
Cup: Dark caramel-cola colored liquor. Smooth, rich flavor with distinct notes of coriander, blushingly sweet finish, with lingering notes of hickory wood and ethereal smoke. Moderate bodied and exceptionally clean.I managed to brew 3 extractions on 3g in a 6oz celadon gaiwan and each had a similar strength and profile.
I received this sample from what I believe is the importer/distributor of this tea and so I can’t rightly say it came from Arbor Teas, but I do think it is the same tea and tea source. Either way I think this is a great offering and worthy to show case as a tea outside of the normal production arenas. Having had a few teas from Vietnam, I find them wonderful to share and I think they do have a natural terroir all their own and this shows itself even more clearly in the green and oolongs, where the mellow, smooth character displays distinct notes that grow more elusive in the black’s oxidation. A great tea for anyone who thinks black teas are all tart and tannic, bitter, or biscuit-like.
This tea blended well with the day in an unexpected way.
It’s a unseasonably warm March day, lingering on the Ides of March, which were made ominously haunted by the death of a good friend of mine a few years back. He was the best cowboy hat-wearing, coffee slinging, cycling-nerd, generous soul, and military hero that I have every known and one of the few people I would ever have considered a mentor. In addition, I learned that I buddy of mine’s ex-wife passed away, too young and too gentle a person to have gone so soon. So the overcast weather, dreary warm and unusual day has had in its swirling center, a cup equally elusive, mercurial, and worthy of celebration and remembrance.
“beauty is that which unrepeatable” – cherish each moment, each connection, each sip.
Many thanks to Indigobloom for a package of lovely teas to sample. I chose to drink this first as I have had a long and sordid past with Darjeelings, originally deeming them unworthy of drinking due to thier tendency to turn bitter and over extract, but found myself stunned by Darjeeling Ambootia and finding the error was mine, by lack of water temp, steep time and g. weight control. Once I realized this, I was won over heartily by Darjeelings and now find them to be a benchmark of craft and flavor complexity.
I was surprised that this one did not have an estate assigned to it; this usually meaning that the tea is a blend of 2nd and 3rd flush. The very fine cut of the leaf would also seem to support this.
Indigobloom was kind enough to have send 5g, which I place in a porcelian gawian and transfered to a traditional cuppers cup; using 200 degree water and almost pour directly from gawian to cup. 5 grams allowed for nearly 5 hearty steeps and while normally I would go the distance with aroma profiling, the package it came in also included a fragrant coconut oolong that dominated the other teas and I felt I wasn’t sure what aroma was carried over from that.
Upon first sip I thought perhaps the scent from the oolong had also gotton to the Darjeeling, but after 3 steeps I decided that the fruity flavor I was tasting was actually from the Darjeeling itself. The cup produces a dark caramel liquor, with champagne-golden accents. The flavor is overall very smooth, with a silken body and distinct lack of traditional muscatel, but rather this was replaced by a deep fruity character that combined with the body to have a taste almost like a Mckentosh apple. There was a lack of bitterness or astringency, but I was keeping the extractions very short, but was getting the hue I would expect, so I felt this lack of bitterness was a character of the tea. There was also a distinct lack of spicyness that I usually associate with most Darjeelings and while I missed it, I found the smooth fruity character to be quite pleasant.
The fine cut of leaf did allow for some particulate to end up in the cup, but the leaf was soft and fine and pleasant to nibble.
Many thanks to Indigobloom and I will be sending her and a few others some tea very, very soon.