349 Tasting Notes
It has been too long since I’ve had a fresh off the shipment first flush Darjeeling.
Much. Too. Long.
The dry leaf here smells like fruit and flowers. Like a springtime picnic with fruit salad and warm sun out in the garden.
The wet leaf on the other hand is like a Summertime garden in full riot. Overwhelming aromas of fully ripe fruits and vegetables and the deep greens of the plants themselves competing with ornamental flowers as well as the flowers of fruit not yet formed. You know you are on the brink of a heady cup, here.
The steeped liqueur is the color of light amber, like honey in a sunbeam.
On the tongue the riot is somewhat calmed, but this is still bold stuff. There is a rapid onset of astringency which dries the tongue and mouth and prevents any long lingering unpleasantness — which can be a problem with some sweet teas.
This is what first flush madness is all about. I fully expect this leaf to be completely different after a month in the tin. I fully expect the second flush from the same garden to be completely different. In fact, I need to be sure to order it when it comes out just to compare them.
As Upton teas go, this isn’t a cheap one. But if you have an affinity for “the champagne of teas”, be sure to get in on this year’s first flush. They are fantastic.
(random aside, I’m starting a blog about non-tea related serious things. you can find the URL in my profile if you’re interested in reading it.)
Mostly I am posting that I am drinking this tea to give everyone a head’s up that Upton Teas has announced their first flush Darjeeling offerings this morning, so you may want to jump on that if you want in on that action.
I still love my own blend of tea. Go figure.
Cold steeped over night in the French press (to keep the buds in the water) in the fridge.
The result is much more profound than the hot steepings have been. There is a long, mouth sticking sweetness here that lingers long past swallow.
I’m not necessarily convinced that this isn’t an awfully long way to go for a cup of tea, especially one that isn’t hot. But the result is very tasty.
I’m on something like my 16th steep of this batch of leaves.
I really have to wonder what was going on with this (and other sheng) tea back over the winter when I keep getting such sharp, wooly, camphorous steeps.
Cup after cup this tea has been kind and sweet and I’m still on
Anyone else find that frequent shu consumption has a heinous effect on the color of one’s teeth in spite of vigorous and frequent brushing? Anyone found a solution? I’ve been indulging in dozen steep binges of this stuff for three days and my blood stream feels fantastic and my teeth look like a nightmare clown.
DJ Booth threw this in as a bonus sample in our swap (Black Dragon for Wild Yunnan Black).
I went with a two minute steep as I’ve found that even my beloved black dragon doesn’t hold up so well to gongfu style short steeps (they quickly become sharp and acerbic).
I like the particular smoke flavor this tea has, but the tea itself is a bit thin. That may simply be because I only have a small amount to work with and I ought to have gone with a smaller mug, I dunno.
Certainly a marvelous lapsang. Not bacon-y or pork rind-y as some of them can be and not all smoke either. I think with a steady supply I could dial in parameters to make this provide an excellent cup, but I’ll stick with my black dragon, I think :-)
I got a small sample of this leaf from DJ Booth (thanks!) in exchange for some Black Dragon (I hope you like it!) and I’m glad for the chance to try it.
The dry leaf has almost no aroma at all.
The wet leaf has a strong earthy smell, but more like a wuyi oolong than a pu-erh. That odd kind of pong that some oolong get. I’ve mentioned it on other notes on other teas.
Oddly, the cup itself is not entirely unlike Yunnan golden, just a bit more umph and a bit less fruit. In fact, it tastes almost exactly like what you’d get if you blended wuyi oolong leaf with Yunnan golden.
I’m not 100% sure the combination works for my tastes. But this is great leaf and I’m looking forward to cycling through all the steepings for more insights. I find first steep is rarely typical.
I received a sample of this with a recent order and I have to say I am a bit shocked at the other two reviews of it.
The leaf itself reminds me of dragon well tea, which shouldn’t surprise me too much, I suppose, since the flavor of dragon well has always reminded me of [Japanese] sencha, even if the leaves look nothing alike. I think this tea now closes the loop. Japanese sencha looks nothing like dragon well because of differences in processing more than differences in leaf.
No, this isn’t the best green tea I’ve ever had. But then, this is just a sencha, not a gyukuro or any of the other rare grades of Japanese shaded tea. We forget that sencha is not a grade, but a category, intended primarily to distinguish cut leaf tea from matcha powder in Japan.
And at $4.20 for 125 grams, it isn’t like Upton is making any unfair claims about this leaf, either. Their cheapest Japanese senchas (currently available) cost twice as much. Their best sencha costs ten times as much.
So let’s review this tea for what it is. Entry level Chinese green tea.
I’m brewing this in the gaiwan, gonfu style, and getting very pleasant cups. Grassy, yet bright, with only a touch of bitterness. I’m into my third steeping and the liqueur is not yet at all weak.
There’s nothing wrong with this tea except the expectations you bring to it.
Wild arbor, gongfu madness style: should be a white knuckled ride, you’d think. But as it turns out, combining 7 steepings (all under 10 seconds) produces what I’d almost describe as a “blended scotch” type result. All the hard edges and thin spots are evened out and the result is a very full, if a bit uninteresting, cup.
Uninteresting. That’s an unfair word. This is still phenomenal tea. But I’ve learned lately that with sheng, half the joy of drinking is to see where the personality of yourself, the tea and the moment in which you are drinking it are going to combine to produce a unique experience. That’s not going to happen with this approach.
That being said, I’m actually a bit glad for the gentle results because today marks the difficult beginning of a long journey and I am pleased to be easing into it with this tea.