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.