I would have to compare this tea to one of those hard rock ballads that start out slow and sweet and then build to an emotional crescendo (“Stairway to Heaven” would be the archetype). In the first flush of adolescence, at those high school dances, these songs struck the perfect balance—the slow dance at the beginning and the air guitar at the end. The honey and tropical fruit flavors explode in the back of the mouth. I can’t imagine a better first flush experience.
66 Tasting Notes
As I get older, I find that one of my big challenges is to hold on to the ability to get excited by the little events and experiences in life that are the links in the chain of happiness. Having young children helps because you get to see the first flush of the world through their eyes. But I often find that my reaction to events is more muted than it was when, for example, I first read the short stories of Andre Dubus or first heard Bob Dylan wafting up to my attic bedroom from my parents’ turntable.
My discovery of tea has been the catalyst for some of my present-day stimulating moments and none more transfixing than drinking this Jun Mee from Upton. It’s listed as a Keemun and has the same general flavor profile (chocolate, red wine), but it’s more nuanced and delicate than most Keemuns I’ve tried. And because the Keemun qualities are not as pronounced, other amazing flavors come into play, notably an amalgam of spice that reminds me of cardamom, coriander pods, nutmeg, and cinammon.
Yes, this tea is expensive, but if you really love black teas from China as I do, you’ll want to try this. Even at $45 for 50 grams, you’re only looking at a few bucks per cup.
I’m sure a lot of women I know (and some men) will not be able to relate to what I’m about to say, but I’m always looking for the holy grail of shoes, one pair I can wear for most occasions—work, a night out, at home in the country and city. I guess this is a quest that spans many areas of life: skiers want one pair of skis that will excel in powder, ice, moguls, and trees; motorcyclists want one bike that can go touring, race through the back roads, or putt around town. It is this impulse in humans that is the genesis of the Desert Island list (what is the one book/album/food/famous person you would take to a desert island?)
Now I know it would be heresy to suggest that there is only one tea that would satisfy all tastes, but there are those teas that I regularly turn to when I’m not in the mood for something specialized. A good mid-priced Assam or Ceylon, or now, this Yunnan from Upton, back in stock due to popular demand. It’s fancy enough for an elegant night out (chocolate and fruit) but unpretentious enough for a trip to the corner pub (malty, frothy, cherry pipe tobacco).
I wish I had found this earlier, but I guess I was too busy being wooed by the flashier golden-tipped Yunnans I love so much. But as every romantic comedy has taught us, sometimes the best partner is the guy or girl next door who has unobtrusively been there the whole time.
And the reviews of the first flush darjeelings begin! Luckily it’s still freezing and gloomy here in Maine, so a hot cup of flowery goodness really hits the spot.Based on Sungma’s reputation I went ahead and rolled the dice and bought a full bag of this. There’s very little to compare in the tea world to that first inhalation after opening a sealed bag of first flush tea. There’s something so fecund and manna-like about the smell—kind of like honeysuckle on a hot summer day.
This Sungma was shaping up to be a classic first flush until I tasted it and was surprised to find how fruity and effervescent it is. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does lack the deeper honey notes that I usually expect to find in a first flush. Maybe it was more lightly fermented, which results in something closer to an Oolong or a Nepalese tea. Anyway, these are mere quibbles, and will not prevent me from enjoying this top tier tea.
One does not immediately think of Ceylon when looking for green teas, but this is a wonderful selection. The dry leaf has a nice apricot aroma which turns to apple when the leaf is infused. The taste is a mixture of hearty/earthy and flowery. It actually reminds me of a raw pu-erh in many respects. This green definitely stands out from the crowd!
Okay, so there are some Shus you might date: they’re wild, unpredictable, and exhilirating, but slightly high-maintenance. You don’t want to always mess around with steeping times and water temps. Then there is the Shu you marry and she’s from Peacock Village. Beautiful but not flashy, never volatile, comforting, consistenly there for you. Satisfying in the “deep heart’s core.”*
- W.B. Yeats, The Lake Isle of Innisfree
A confession: I usually keep a green tea around only as a lighter alternative to my more highly-favored blacks and pu-erhs. I enjoy good senchas and dragonwells but I almost never crave green tea—my attitude toward them is utilitarian: lower caffeine levels for those times when I don’t want too much of a buzz.
That being said, I’m thrilled to find a green tea that has an in-your-face complexity that rivals the quality black teas I enjoy. The Yin Yang combination of earth and sea harmonizes into a heady brew.
Whe I was a kid there was this candy called Razzles that, when you first popped them in your mouth, had the consistency of candy but then transformed into a gum. The company that created them held a contest, asking kids to explain whether they thought razzles were gum or candy.
A true enigma. Well, this tea reminds me of that: a Chinese green tea that has a lot of Japanese characteristics.
This is one green tea I’ve actually looked forward to drinking for its intrinsic qualities, not because it’s green.
I’ve actually ordered this a couple of times because it has more flavor and substance than most green teas I’ve encountered from China. Delicious chestnut and honey flavor with a barley/malt base.
Upton is pretty spot on with their descriptions. This tea has more body than some of the super Assams from Marangi; it’s neat and clean with almost no bitterness. A very satisfying mid-priced everyday Assam.
I was looking forward to trying this tea, but I was a little bit disappointed. It was fruity, but not very buttery or sweet. I increased the amount of leaf, which helped some, but overall, a rather flat affair. Rarely am I disappointed by an Upton tea.
Every year I look forward to the second flush season with eagerness and trepidation. I’ve always found it a challenge to find that full-bodied, fruity tea that distinguishes itself from the more flowery, delicate first flushes. I’ve had some luck with Thurbo and Castleton, but in the middle price range I don’t think I’ll do better than this selection from the Goomtee Estate. This is definitely not a shy tea or a late bloomer; from the first sip you’re hit with classic Darjeeling flavor in the old school manner. It can turn a tad bitter if it sits too long, but the tea is so delicious, it usually doesn’t sit around too long!
Let me add my encomiums to the list of postive reviews of this “affordable luxury.” Even with a lower tea to water ratio than Den’s suggests (I want to make this 2 oz. last a bit!), this is a green tea you can really sink your teeth into—a vibrant brothy soup that (especially on the second infusion) tastes like the briny ocean. If you are not scared away by a bold, sweet, fishy spume of a tea, you’ll love this. As a black tea lover first and foremost, this is one green that really satisfies my soul, especially on a foggy day like yesterday, when the southeast wind blanketed my house in salty ocean air.
I had much better success with this tea steeping it Eastern style in my new little purple clay teapot. The shorter infusions really brought out a nice balance between the chard-like taste and the roasted character.
How can this tea be so good at such a young age? It’s like when you meet a young person who is mature beyond her years—an old soul. The first 30-second infusion blew me away with its sweetness and depth. After that the camphor and earthiness emerged to create a truly heady elixir. I probably could have steeped this tea 20 times with little reduction in flavor. I actually saved the leaves over night and started up again in the morning. I’ll most likely buy a brick to drink now and one to age because I doubt I’ll be able to resist chipping away at it.
After sampling a new medium roast Oolong that I found only so-so, I turned to this sumptuous and complex tea. The orchid is not overwhelming or even fundamental to my enjoyment. What captivates me is the lingering sweetness and a fine anise seed taste mixed with a lemony tang. A singular tea-drinking experience!
TeaGschwender makes great claims for this tea, which I am still trying to validate. It is light, and the lack of bitterness allows the fruity/nutty flavors to come through, but I’m still partial to the Mangalam Estate teas, maybe because I feel they have a greater foundation. I’m not sure Iike the direction toward which many Assams and Darjeelings are moving—striving for delicacy on the top notes, while sacrificing body in the process. Still, in the scheme of things, this is a satisfying Assam.
Wild, young, bold, and beautiful to look at, after drinking this, I felt like had been given a transfusion of blood from a sixteen year old (or V, for you True Blood fans). This tea is like an incredibly talented young left-handed pitcher who throws 100 mph and only sometimes gets it over the plate. There’s so much flavor and sharpness in this tea and I can’t wait to see how it ages and becomes more disciplined and focused. It will be hard not to chip away at this tea. Early infusions are surely on the bitter side, but that fades in later steepings.
Maybe it’s my ignorance about the term “medium roast,” but I expected this tea to have more oomph. The second infusion had a little more of a nutty bite, but in general this is a decent, light Tie Guan Yin, but I’ll continue looking for something with a bit more roast.
What a well-balanced Keemun! Just the right amount of smokey/leathery richness balanced by a bright sparkle that keeps the tea from becoming too burdensome. If you had a stable of motorcyles, this would be your go-to ride, the bike that gives you a lot of riding pleasure and is always reliable. Maybe not the fastest and most exotic, but also not a heavy cruiser that you have to wrestle around. An exemplary Keemun, that (along with Upton’s Keemun Mao Feng) would be the perfect addition to anyone’s cupboard.
A recent business trip to Chicago allowed me to make my first trip to a Teavana store, a small, quiet place with no hard-selling employees, contrary to my expectations. I was drawn to this selection because of my love for golden-tipped Chinese teas and after the first sip, I knew I had made a good choice. Much of the flavor profile echoes the Yunnan rare grades I love so much, but with an alluring orange flavor that is missing from the more chocolatey, creamy, malty Yunnans. I was pleasantly surprised that a chain tea store could provide me and others with such a satisfying tea that has its own special niche among the Chinese black teas I own.
It took a lot of work for me to get something from this tea. I started with a one-minute infusion and tasted very little, so I continued on to three minutes. I found a faint sweetness and a musty, earthy taste redolent of the cedar that Verdant mentions in its tasting notes, but even then I felt I was tasting not so much a delicate tea that needs patience and dedication to tease out its complex essence (an approach that I adopt when tasting lightly oxidized Oolongs), but a cup of lightly vegetal hot water. I guess I do need to have that “wow” or “aha” moment when I drink a tea. Emily Dickinson defined poetry this way: “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” I want that kind of experience when I drink tea.
Interestingly, this tea gave me a different kind of buzz than other tea. Maybe it’s all that energy packed in those buds.
Working my way through my Verdant Oolong samples and after three sessions with this tea, I have a handle on my feelings about this tea. First of all, the infused leaves are beautiful—I leave them on a white plate during the day to marvel at the size and brilliant green color with lightly bruised edges. The fragrance of the brewed tea reminds me of daylillies and cut grass and the first mouthful is nicely balanced between the vegetal (fresh steamed spinach or chard) and the floral. There’s a sweet fruity fizz that asserts itself after as few seconds—pleasantly so. This isn’t the kind of tea that is likely to have me writhing with pleasure—I tend to favor black teas and pu-erhs—but I can appreciate the unimpeachable excellence of its qualities and I defer to others who insist this is one of the best Tieguanyins available.
Incredible tea! Three infusions saw no diminution of the melting butter, baked fruit, and chestnut flavors that mix with the smoky essence to create a complex yin/yang experience. While I have always appreciated the delicacy of non-roasted, lightly-oxidized Oolongs, I tend to favor heartier teas in general and this gives me all the fruity flavors of an OOlong with the body of a smoked black tea. Like an album you fall in love with and can’t stop listening to, I can see myself pushing repeat on this tea for weeks on end.
This one took me by surprise. Maybe a bit unheralded, but from the heady camphor scent of the dry leaf to the sweet cherry flavor that establishes itself at the deepest levels, this tea might be my favorite Verdant Sheng of the three I’ve tried. I would really like to see how this sheng develops in the next few years, because right now it is delicious.