109 Tasting Notes
Well, I guess I’m experiencing somewhat of a return to earth after yesterday’s Tea Urchin sample, not because this MGH is offensive or anything—quite the contrary. It’s smooth with a light miso/sweet corn/brussel sprouts flavor and a nice grapefruit aftertaste. It’s just that it’s like going to a Springsteen concert one night and going to see Backstreets, the Springsteen cover band, on the following night.
As I ascend into the rarefied air of truly upper echelon shengs, I marvel at the power of the ancient wild tea leaf to concentrate such a variety of flavors (citrus, teak wood, soy, vanilla) and to release such a transforming energy that, in one sip, swept away the cold, rainy Monday morning and replaced it with my own little tea Utopia. This tea should come with a warning: do not attempt to operate a computer or motorized vehicle after drinking this tea. Do not shop for this tea under the influence; hundreds of dollars will disappear as you stockpile the 2013 version of this tea. It’s worse than going to whole foods when you’re starving.
I know I’m dating myself, but when I was a kid there was this candy called razzles and the company that made them had a contest where you had to explain whether razzles were a candy or a gum. Presumably you would win a lifetime supply of razzles.
Well, you could play the same game with this scintillating tea from Yunnan Sourcing. Is it an Assam with Yunnan notes or a Yunnan black with Assam undertones? Luckily, all I have to do is enjoy the tea which has the body and heft of an Assam with the fruitiness and chocolate maltiness of a Dian Hong.
I’m in a good groove with this tea—drinking it for the past few mornings. I like how the initial impression is of a rather dry, dark chocolate and then a mellow molasses sweetness washes over the tongue. In contrast to the Yunnan teas in which I find a pronounced fruitiness, the Gao Shan has more of an austere quality that is very refreshing. I’m also beginning to take notice of the energy difference between teas (as opposed to mere caffeine effects) and this one never fails to make me feel ebullient.
I can’t overstate the importance of tea urchin’s presence in the current tea landscape. Their shengs possess the most incredible energy and depth of flavor, which bespeaks the care with which the leaves are chosen and crafted into beautiful cakes. Read the reviews on their website; their devotees capture far better than I the intense experience of drinking them.
Sampling this amazing sheng is like test driving a Ferrari or Aston Martin; it confirms that there is a level of excellence and a driving experience that is transcendent. Unfortunately, it also makes your own car seem like an ox cart. You buy these shengs from Tea Urchin for the long haul. Right now they are wild, mercurial, and exploding with fruity, grassy/grainy flavor, and there’s something enjoyably masochistic about the bitter fruit. The time will come when the this tea will mature into something incredible, but by then I’m sure my sample will be gone.
It’s hard to think of a more pleasing sheng. If it were an actor it would probably be Tom Hanks—consistently very good, eminently likeable, almost no bitterness or rancor. It might not be the Daniel Day Lewis of teas, but sometimes all that intensity can be trying.
Ah Spring. (Well, if it ever arrive here in Maine).
And this is one of the most anticipated releases of the season. Always amazing, this refined vegetable broth with its dynamic green color and briny base is one of the best teas in the world, IMHO. It’s also an incredible mood-booster, with astronomical amounts of theanine. Scoop it up before it disappears.