EDIT: I served this at our book club last night and most everyone agreed. Andrew nailed this tea in regards to capturing the feel of the book. Bravo, Andrew.
Andrew (LiquidProust) had offered to make a custom blend for my tea book club to coincide with the book House of Leaves. I basically told him that I need/want something that is dark, full of depth, and a bit confusing. After some messaging back and forth, he came up with this concoction: a Lui An tea from the 1990s, a ripe puerh from 2006, a 2016 Dianhong black tea, a 2015 Bang Dong, Black tea, a 2014 Shui Xian Wuyi roasted oolong, and Mugwort.
Whew! The blend itself looks fascinating. Despite there being a lot of dark leaves mixed together, it certainly looks like there is a lot going on if you know what you are looking at/for.
I decided to give this two quick 3 second rinses. The smell off of the wet leaves had me a bit worried. It smelled… old and bitter. The old part was okay as I enjoy the sort of old pages of a book smell. It was the bitter that concerned me. Not like an astringent bitter… more like a medicinal green bitter. Maybe that is the Mugwort? Either way, I was concerned.
After the two rinses, I steeped for 15 seconds. The liquor itself doesn’t have much, if any, of the bitter smell. It brewed up a golden amber color not unlike a thick, locally produced honey. The flavor here is very smooth. It does have a tinge of that green, raw plant flavor on the back end put it is not overpowering. I, again, suspect that to be the Mugwort. Maybe Andrew can weigh in here and give his thoughts. The rest of the flavors, as I said, are very smooth. I would say it is a perfect combination of a puerh and black tea flavor. Kind of like drinking an antique book.
After this first steep, I am impressed. This is a tea that, on the surface, could be intimidating if just judging by the ingredients. But the flavor on this first steep lends itself to being very drinkable and approachable even if it is a bit complex and layered (which is what I had requested!)
Second steep (20 seconds) and holy shit. That bitter type of smell that I couldn’t place? I’ve found it. It smells like that earthiness that you associate with a fresh plucked and cut beet. Like a light bulb going off, it hit me. That is exactly the smell of the wet leaves. And that taste still translates into the after taste a bit. The color of the liquor is slightly darker, a cinnamon brown color. Yeah… this is still good. It has such a smoothness to it. I would say that, if you can get over the slight earthy beetness on the aftertaste, this is much more approachable for newbies than just a regular ripe puerh. It isn’t as muddy or heavy. It is a bit lighter, cleaner, and smooth.
Andrew… you could totally blend this and market it as something like “Dream Leaves” or “House of Dreams” or “Leaves of Dreams.” I don’t know… spit balling here. But, really, this is good. And, dare I say it, I’m feeling a bit of a tingly head buzz just two steeps in?? Maybe I’m inhaling too much of the incense I have burning but I am getting something going on.
3rd steep, 25 seconds. Beet-ness is still with us in the wet leaves. Let me just say here that somehow, for some reason, the song “House of the Rising Sun” is a damn near perfect song to go along with this tea. It came on Pandora and it just fits. The color remains the same here. The flavor is mostly similar but a little more beet flavor on the end. But not bad at all. And seriously, I feel ridiculously giggly. I don’t remember a tea doing this to me. I almost feel high… not that I know what that feels like or anything… But this tea is definitely having an affect on me.
4th steep, 30 seconds. Color holds. Cinnamon brown. Interestingly enough, that beet like flavor is slowly becoming the more dominating flavor. This makes me question if it is the mugwort at all. Having never had Liu An tea, perhaps the flavor is coming from that tea instead of the mugwort. I’m starting to assume this simply because I would expect the flavors the the fermented teas to outlast that of the mugwort. Perhaps I am wrong. Again, someone with more knowledge on these two leaves can lend some clarity.
5th steep, 45 seconds. During this steep, I smelled the water and leaves and I finally got a hint of a whiff of a classic ripe puerh smell. Also, because researching things tends to be a love of mine, I went on a search to see if I could find a taste description of Liu An tea. My search returned a lot of descriptions using words like medicinal and earthy. That would seem to fit in with my earthy beet description. So, maybe that solves it! The earthy beetness could very well be the Liu An. Yeah… still digging this tea and the impact it is having.
6th steep, 1 min. So, I decided to switch up my music selection from random to a more relaxing nature/spa sounds. Annnnddd now I just want to lie down and pass out. My brain and my body are trying to tell me, “It’s fine. Just lie down and close your eyes for a second.” Which, I would, but I have to pick my son up from school in about 45 minutes so… that won’t work. In the meantime, I’m in a consistent sweet spot with this tea. Color and flavors have hit a constant at this point. I am happy.
7th steep, 1 min 30 seconds. Andrew, dude, what have you done to me!? Haha this is some light headed, get lost in the clouds, stuff here. I’d give you a hug right now if I could. Seriously, I have never had a tea make me feel like this stuff here. I wish I could say that I am over exaggerating but… my head is tingly and soft, my body is super relaxed. I had a banana and oatmeal square for breakfast so I don’t think I can blame it on that haha. Oh, right. The tea is still good as well. It is getting slightly thinner on the after taste but it is still drinkable.
I would love to keep this up but the time has come to go and get my son. But yeah… Home. Run. Thanks Andrew.
Session picture: https://www.instagram.com/p/BLv3kr2BixY/