So heeding my own advice from my little Darjeeling tasting earlier, I decided this afternoon to drink one of my more recent fine tea acquisitions. As with most of my silly tea rants, I’ll start of with a bit of personal history (By all means, skip ahead)…
Last year, I spent a good 4 months living in London. One of my first missions when I got settled into my flat was to find good tea. The thing that everyone kept telling me beforehand was “It’s England, there must be tea everywhere!” which was true. The thing is, there is more of all kinds of tea: good, medium, and, let’s just say, not-so-good… It almost makes it harder for a foreigner to find their way to “the good stuff”.
Anyways, it was a pure stroke of luck that one day in late January, I came upon TeaSmith in the Old Spittalfields market. I had a look around at the teas on display and knew that I had found a match for my particular tea interests of the time. In addition to being a tea shop, they have what they call a “tea bar” which is almost exactly what it sounds like. You can come in, have a sit on a tall seat and one of the extremely kind and knowledgeable staff members will expertly prepare a wide variety of fine Chinese, Japanese, and Korean teas right there. So not only do you get to drink professionally prepped tea, you learn a lot just by watching.
For example, they have such a wide variety of teas ranging from pu-erh cakes, to high mountain Taiwanese oolongs, to Korean Nokcha, to Japanese Sencha, Hojicha, Karigane, Genmaicha, a marvelous Gyokuro, and even matcha. (They also have some pretty basic Assam and Ceylon loose leaf for the occasional customer who explicitly requests “Only regular tea!”) The beauty is that they have a ton of teaware and accessories that they use depending on what tea you order. No cut corners here! Yixing pots for some of the oolongs and pu-erhs, gaiwans for others, small porcelain pots for most of the Japanese teas, and lots and lots of teany cups!
Needless to say… I fell in love with this place and made it a permanent part of my weekly schedule (I went 2 and 3 times a week as my time in London drew to a close!). Thanks to TeaSmith, I was able to try more varieties of tea than ever before, and thanks to the staff answering all my questions, learning quite a bit! Sometimes I would stay for a few hours, try a few green teas, chat, and head home. Other days I would devote to drawing out infusion after infusion of an aged oolong or pu-erh and enjoying the invigorating evolution of flavor.
Long story short, before I left, I picked out a bunch of my favorites that I had tried to have shipped back so I wouldn’t have reverse TeaSmith culture shock when I returned to the U.S. All of these TeaSmith tasting notes come from this batch.
Okay, start reading now!
This is just such a magical tea. The buttery smoothness and fruity aroma are as good as any light oolong I’ve tried. As with any teguanyin or tea rolled into “fists”, I like to do a 10 second rinse, and make sure my cups and pot are all nice and warm. Even if you don’t prepare this in a super-fancy way, I’m sure it’d still come out tasting phenomenal. With small “gong fu cha” -style infusions, I usually will push this tea at least through 6 infusions, and even double digits if I’m feeling it.
I’m just going to drink this tea for a few hours. Mmmm.
Moral of the story: If you are ever in London, check out TeaSmith on the east side.