311 Tasting Notes
5 grams of Yunnan “Snow Dragon” white tea from Norbu in a 6 ounce glass teapot. The dry leaves have a wonderful scent, sweet, fruity, grassy—and they’re pretty, beautifully curled, feathery and lovely.
Water 160 degrees, first infusion, liquor is pale yellow. The leaves have hardly begun to unfurl, but they’re released sweet floral essence into the liquor already, delicate and delicious. Not sure about the timing, at least 30 seconds, but not more than a minute or so—I was distracted taking a few pictures. The flavor is very reminiscent of several Yunnan green teas I’ve enjoyed in the past couple of years—one called Jade Pole from Yunnan Sourcing and Yunnan Mao Feng from Norbu—obviously the same or very similar tea cultivar—but no hints of astringency or bitterness. The tea hasn’t opened up much yet.
The second infusion, about 90 seconds, has a hint of astringency underneath the floral and sweet. The curls are opening more now.
Pushing up the temp to 170 for the next infusion: there is a new flavor coming to the fore, not bitterness, exactly, but a spicy/astringent quality, as the sweet and floral notes decline a bit. Still some curl to the pretty leaves.
At 170 and 3 minutes, the 4th still has sweetness, fruitiness, and the astringent/spicy is now less apparent. It really does need to be drunk quickly, because if the same infusion sits and cools a bit, the more astringent/spicy flavors take over.
After a 5th infusion, the leaves are straight, thin, small, and olive green, and quite intact, no stem or broken leaves.
Like the Jade Pole and the Yunnan Mao Feng, this tea gives up the marvelous initial flavors quickly, so it doesn’t yield a lot of infusions. It’s quite odd to me that similar tea varietals, processed in slightly different ways—for white/green vs for puerh—have such different tolerances for multiple infusions. Processed as white or green teas, these give up their floral and fruity notes immediately, in a marvelous rush of flavor, and then the spicy/astringent notes take over quickly. Processed for puerh, the astringent and bitter and earthy notes may dominate early infusions, and the sweet/spicy/fruity notes take several infusion to start opening up, but the sweet/spicy/fruity just keep going on and on and on. Fortunately, these lovely white and green Yunnan teas are inexpensive enough that a few marvelous infusions are enough to get my money’s worth.
My anticipation was great this morning as I opened the newly arrived package of this tea from Norbu. A sample of this tea gave me one of my best tea experiences ever when I first tried it a month ago, but between then and now, my beloved shiboridashi broke, and my first attempt at brewing the same tea in another vessel was slightly disappointing compared to the first transcendent experience. My first attempt at repairing the shibo was not entirely successful—there was a slow leak—but I decided to try it this morning for the GZZS anyway, because it was a SLOW leak, and magic happened again…..I am drinking a meadow of spring flowers.
I recently opened up my first package of this 2010 harvest. I’ve been trying to space out my TGYs and other greener oolongs so that I don’t have more than one or at most two open at a time in one place, so it was some weeks since I’d finished my previous package of TGY, with other green oolongs in between. And….I’m not having quite the usual ‘aaahhhh’ response I have to TGY when I open a package after flirtations with other teas. Since I’ve been trying to be more conscientious about not opening too many at once, I don’t have any of the previous vintage/order available to compare this with, so I’m not sure if the issue is a change in my palate or this particular vintage (as I’ve been having more trouble with my allergies lately, the possibility of change in palate is very real). The rich sweetness and sense of drinking a meadow of late-summer hay is still there, but something else is not…..or perhaps, something else is there in such abundance that it is masking something else I crave—an overwhelming richness in those first infusions, which may simply need to be a lot shorter. I’m well into this package and I haven’t figured it out yet, but it’s certainly rich and sweet and TGY-ish enough to make continued investigation worthwhile—particularly as I have a lot of it left in the tea drawer at home!
I started with 2.3 grams of very powerful smelling tea in a small gaiwan (about 75 mL), water 205 degrees.
A bit dusty/musty, going to flash rinse before drinking an infusion
Waited a minute, then first infusion pour in/pour out—less than 10 second steep
Let it cool a bit—grabbed the wrong cup for this—it is mild, sweet, bit of smokiness and earthy with the camphor. As the infusion sits between sips, the smokiness, earthiness and camphor all intensify, and the sweetness drops into the background.
2nd infusion—also pour in/pour out—sweet, smoky, earthy, camphor, but the first note is the sweet. Long camphorous aftertaste.
3rd infusion—pour in/pour out—the sweet is still there, and the smoky/earthy/camphor is starting to overtake the sweet even at the beginning of the sip.
Brought it home with me in the gaiwan, then left overnight, starting again in the morning, and it is again earthy, camphorous, smoky, powerful stuff….and this is another flash infusion.
Longer infusion is strong, earthy, camphorous, a little sweet….and if this is after a dozen years of aging, what must it have been like when it was young? 5th infusion was longer, about a minute, because I forgot it, but even though stronger than I really enjoy, it still was not bitter or actually unpleasant.
Quite an amazing tea.
Another half dozen short infusions character changing only gradually.
Infusion 12 still is potent, but the sweet is coming more strongly now, again. Those early infusion were rather rough, but this is really getting very nice. At this rate, this is going to be a 20-30 infusion tea, methinks…but will need to heat up another kettle’s worth of tea.
2.3 grams may be a whole day’s worth of tea at this rate.
Started this one Friday evening, just four infusions; continued Saturday, probably 20 infusions; and Sunday, another 4 or 5 before I stopped. At about 2 oz per infusion, that was a couple of liters of tea from 2.3 grams of leaf!
The later infusions were well towards sweet water, but still had distinct flavor. Mmmm.
And the leaves were quite impressive—most were quite broken up, but look at the size of the one on the left—penny added for scale. Big leaf with a very big flavor.
I prepared this one with 3 grams of tea and about 60mL of 205°F/96°C tap water, in a small unglazed porcelain pot. First infusions (about 1 minute) are very strongly floral, sweet, and delicate; the second one brings out a bit more spiciness; the middle infusions nicely balance a rich caramel sweetness, fresh summer hay, and a peppery spiciness, but if they go just a bit too long, some astringency and even bitterness comes out. Later infusions again fade to sweet water—with this tea to water ratio, the 5th and 6th are already stretching to 2-3 minutes, and by 7 and 8 it’s at least 5 minutes.
It reminds me very strongly of another new tea from Norbu, a “White Oolong” also from Taiwan. I believe it is a different tea varietal, but they do quite remind me of each other. A comparative tasting of both is in order…..but in the meantime, this is a very lovely tea.
First time drinking this one. Free sample included with a large recent order.
3 grams, six ounce glass pot, water 150 degrees
60"—probably a little short, given the small quantity of leaf—but delicious infusion, floral, sweet, fruity, like drinking peaches, very nice
165 degrees and probably 3 minutes—got distracted, but it’s good to ‘push’ a tea on first testing, right? Still quite tasty, fruity, stronger than I really prefer, but nothing unpleasant revealed by the overlong infusion.
180 degrees and several minutes again, liquor is becoming light amber, quite floral and fruity still, though not so strong or sweet as at first. I like this quite a lot. I kept at it for a few more extended infusions, and it gradually faded very pleasantly.
The iced version was also very good. I put some of this in the shopping cart for my next order.