99 Tasting Notes
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.
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.