102 Tasting Notes

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.

Bonnie

Very nice!

ScottTeaMan

I wish I’d have gotten this sample when I ordered. ://

TeaBrat

Hurray! Glad you found one you liked!

ScottTeaMan

Maybe I can at least get a sample with my Fall order. :))

Doug F

This was the best the bunch. I liked the Castleton but it was a little too well-mannered.
Scott: I wish I had your self-control and could limit myself to seasonal orders. I have to refer to mine by month and day!

ScottTeaMan

Triumph…….if you only knew how much tea I have, you’d realize I have little to NO self control when it comes to tea! :)) SERIOUSLY!!

TeaBrat

@scott – let’s see some pics. :-D

ScottTeaMan

Of what?? My boxes of tea, or the tea seperately? I’ve mentioned being buried in tea. Now there’s a picture for sure. Me…….buried under a huge pile of my different teas! Seriously, you wouldn’t be able to see me. :D

Bonnie

Are we going to see you Scott on Hoarders Buried Alive? The man buried in Tea?!

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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.

TeaBrat

this one is pricey!

Bonnie

The thing I like about tea is that sense of wonder that keeps you young!

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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.

Bonnie

Too true! I think I’m old enough to appreciate this way of thinking. My go to tea is Verdant’s Laoshan Black. All choco malty yam wonderful that I’m hoarding a good amount for fear the stock will run out (happens with small farm suppliers!) .

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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.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec
TeaBrat

hurray! this sounds nice.

Doug F

Can’t wait to try the other samples. Even for all the attention they get, I still think First Flush Darjeelings are underrated. There’s just nothing like them.

TeaBrat

I agree – they are wonderful!

Doug F

Mea Culpa, Sungma. I brewed this again with more leaf and found what I was looking for: FF nirvana! The honey blossomed, so to speak, and I’m finding this to be a near perfect cup.

TeaBrat

Hurrah! Yes, they certainly are nirvana!

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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!

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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
Spoonvonstup

Love this review!

Doug F

Thanks! I haven’t had many new teas on which to comment. I’m putting in an order at Upton for some first flush darjeelings which I’m excited to try.

Spoonvonstup

Looking forward to reading more from you; glad to see you back.

Geoffrey

Awesome tasting note! My thoughts exactly. And bonus for the Yeats reference. Cheers!

Doug F

Thanks Geoffrey—I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to work some poetry into my comment.

Bonnie

If I wasn’t an old woman who would gross you out I’d give you a big kiss for a review like this one with tears in my eyes! So short but beautifully expressed!

Doug F

Kisses are always welcome and never gross.

Bonnie

Ha Ha, I had my issues wrestling with this Pu’er…until I could hear what it had to say. (Your’s was female, mine male…I must have received her brother! And I do find romance in a muscular Shu who would be more like one of my Highlander kinsman in a kilt! (Yeats would approve although the setting for the longing in the poem was for Ireland it meant a longing for the freedom from city life.))

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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.

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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.

TeaBrat

I need to look into this one…

ScottTeaMan

That’s funny, I didn’t get the chestnuts with this tea.

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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.

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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.

TeaBrat

I’ve had a few red robes are none of them have been buttery or sweet. more like fruit and charcoal.

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Bio

I love tea and living in a place that is cold or cool nine months of the year, tea is a constant source of warmth and education. I always drink tea straight and rarely drink flavored teas or Tisanes, except for the occasional Rooibos. I’m a proud father of two young boys, an avid skier, motorcyclist, reader, and runner. I have a doctorate in English (dissertation on Emily Dickinson.)

Location

Maine

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