I actually received my Verdant Tea order a couple of days ago, but then I felt a bit under the weather and in a general bad mood for a couple of days. It’s not very conducive to trying new stuff, so I saved it. This morning, after a three hour nap yesterday and a full nights sleep, I’m feeling less worn out, so I gave it a go.
I couldn’t not buy this one. At the same time I bought it with many considerations first. You see, it has been so very hyped on Steepster lately. Everybody and their grandmother has tried it and they all think it’s the best thing north of the Alps. That sort of stuff tends to make me lose interest. Hype is the reason I’ve, for example, never actually watched any of the Star Wars films in full. It’s also (part of) the reason I’ve never read the Hunger Games series and don’t really intend to. (The other reason being that any book that comes with glowing recommendation on the front from Stephanie Meyers does not exactly win points with me. I have tried Twilight. Utter tripe.) I suppose my problem is that I expect I’ll just get disappointed.
So yeah, I ended up buying this one in spite of all of the above because I found the company’s description genuinely interesting, but I am still approaching this first cup with part expectation, part nervousness, part concern, part fear of disappointment, part sceptism, part curiousity and part excitement.
The aroma of the dry leaf and the aroma just when pouring the water on are very close to one another. It’s very sweet and cocoa-y. No, not cocoa. More like chocolate. A sweet milk chocolate. I’m reminded of that choco-milk powder I used to get at my gran’s house as a child. It came in a large yellow box with a rabbit on the front. I’m not sure if she gave me that because she wanted it to be a treat or if she had got it in her head that I couldn’t drink milk otherwise… If the latter, I wasn’t about to correct her, was I? (And that stuff, by the way, looks really strange when served in a coloured glass!) So, childhood association to my gran. This tea is already well on the way to awesome!
The aroma after it has been steeping is different though. Gone is the milk chocolate sugary powder stuff, and now we’ve got something that is much more like cocoa rather than chocolate. It’s a much deeper and more complex aroma. Along with the cocoa, there is also something very grain-y and another note which I can’t really work out how to describe. It’s a sort of inbetween thing of woodsy and leathery, kind of pipe tobacco-y but at the same time, so not like that at all. On top of all that, there is a rather prominent spicy note, but I can’t work out if I think it’s a note on its own, or if it’s just another aspect of that indescribable woodsy, leathery, tobacco-y, not-tobacco-y note from before. How very difficult.
So there’s a lot going on here aroma-wise and the flavour is no different. Actually, I find it very similar to the beloved Tan Yang Te Ji ♥ (which is STILL being held hostage by tax and customs, argh!). Already here I can say that YES, this tea does indeed very much live up to all the hype. Of course, with the Tan Yang association, I might be rather biased. :) It has that same cocoa-y flavour profile, but I find it to be more grain-y than the Tan Yang. It even has that same sort of fruity aspect to it. Not any particular fruit that I can think of, just some sort of generic fruityness.
Another tea I’m reminded of in this cup is Keemun, and that’s because of how strongly the grain-y aspect is coming through. Keemuns are, for me, very grain-y and have a sometimes floral but most times pseudo-smoky aspect to them. This tea makes me sort of try to imagine a Keemun which has been stripped of that top layer. What’s left then? Grainy-ness. Keemun is another very favourite tea of mine.
This particular tea I find to be a mixture of the very best bits of two of my favourite types. The Keemun with the grain and the Tan Yang with the cocoa and fruit-y business. It’s more Tan Yang than Keemun though, which suits me fine because Tan Yang is my absolute all time favourite. And at the same time, this also strikes me as being very much its own. It may taste like a mixture of the two above, but I cannot bring myself to believe that you could blend those two and get this result. Something similar perhaps, but not the same at all.
Generally, it has a lot of what I tend to think of as ‘Fujian-ness’, this tea, but it’s not Fujian grown at all, is it? I need to consult a map and find out where in China Shandong is. Still on the coast but much further north from Fujian, bordered to the north by the Hebei province which is where Beijing is. Funny, I would have thought that with such similarity in flavour profiles they would have been a lot closer to one another. There must be some similar growing conditions in those two areas. Shandong is also just to the north-east of Anhui which is where Keemuns come from. That explains that similarity. I need to explore this area some more, I think. What else grows there?
I see no reason to faff about with points here. This is a solid 100 if ever I saw one. I’ve fallen hard and will be coming back for more.
ETA: Second steep has gone all cinnamon-y! Forget about above comparisons, this is definitely new! I’ve never met a naturally occurring cinnamon note before. (I like it a lot better than if it had been actually cinnamon flavoured too. Not really a cinnamon flavoured fan, me. Uh, as in, not a fan of cinnamon flavoured things, not me being cinnamon flavoured…)