Dry Aroma: heady floral and spicy notes, muscatel and clover
Wet Aroma: sweetly muscatel almost metalic hints, caramel, wood spice
Appearance:mottled brown-green, moderate generally uniform chopped leaf
Cup: Deep ‘champagne’ golden yellow liquor. Creamy onset mouth feel that thins as it passes the tongue leaving a spicy, caramel, soy nuanced finish. The predominate flavor is a lush, floral muscatel with a finishing bloom that is complex and mildly astringent. First extraction is clinging with a deep pollen like aspect, that disapears in the following extraction and transforms into a more traditional grape-skin, spicy, honey note. Managed 3 solid, complex extractions with good color and blushing, dancing flavors.
Brewing method: 3g (1.5tsp) in 8oz gaiwan, in 200 degree water, steeped for 2-3 mintues, reducing temp and lengthen steep time with successive steeps.
If you do manage to go out to the G S Haly Company website you will find them to be a bulk/wholesale supplier with a diverse and interesting line up of teas. Not massively carrying lots of varietials, they have a tendency to choose a few very solid options and cover the ‘bases’. Having cupped a number of thier teas, I can attest to the quality of what they offer. In blind comparisons with many other tea wholesalers you will be surprised at how high they often come up being the top pick. The down side is the bulk quantity that is needed to purchase to make it worth the buy, but I’m quite sure there are some retailers out there with the storage, volume, and customer base that are benifiting from having aces from them. That being said, you will also note from the site that specific cupping descriptions are hard to find or minimal at best, so for those not able or willing to cup, the teas are a bit of a mystery unless you are already in the know.
I first was exposed to Darjeeling Ambootia Estate a number of years ago when it was a random sample and offering that made it onto Staufs Coffee Roasters holiday shelf. I was a professed Darjeeling hater, totally frustrated with the continuously bitter and astrigently expressive cup, that lacked the forgiving depth of white teas and the deep, carameled bodies of the Assams, yet falling somewhere in the wild middle. So when this tea came in I would have overlooked it, except it came at a higher cost, and under inspection showed a much larger leaf than I was used to seeing in a tea from Darjeeling. I was encouraged also by the seller to give it a go and so I did.
Darjeeling Ambootia opened my eyes and senses to Darjeelings. Its character, depth of flavor, sweetness, and forgiving extractions started a path that would only end after I had gone back to as many Darjeeling estates, including white, green, and oolongs from Darjeeling, and returned with the secret: treat it with the care you would a white tea – cool down the water temp and shorten the steep time. Stop the extraction when it was the color of ‘champagne’ – hence the nickname given to it by antiquity. Wow, what a difference that made.
I also learned that Darjeeling was special for another reason: it is actually a Chinese varietial that was transplated and unlike the rest of India, Africa, and Ceylon, it thrived there. I also loved the fact that its name translates as ‘lightning’.
So I decided to present this tea review as a gift. It was in this tea that my illusions began to crack and my deeper tea awareness began to form.
This particular crop is nice, though its not quite the leaf that I had those years back, but what a message it says, when a tea can scald the memory.