5 Tasting Notes
This is my first taste of a 2010 first flush and it is very welcome. Tea Emporium has provided me with some superb teas in the past and this is another one. I’d also like to give Tea Emporium props for good descriptions. The one for this tea is quite accurate with its references to apples and mangoes. It has all the qualities that I love about first flush Darjeelings. It’s light, vibrant, fruity, and the kind of thing that can be drunk hot even in the middle of summer because it seems somehow cooling. Overall, this is a really excellent tea. I highly recommend both this tea and this vendor. Brewing note: I recommend just sub-boiling water and a short steep (2-3 min.) for FF Darjeelings.
Along the great Path of Tea, we sometimes have the opportunity to taste a tea that is essentially perfect, at least for us. Such was my experience with Arya Estate’s autumnal flush from 2008. So when I realized a couple weeks ago that I was about to run out of Darjeeling and die, I ordered some of the current tea from Upton’s to tide me over until the first flush.
First of all, this is a gorgeous tea in its dried form—one of the prettiest I’ve seen. A nice mix of chocolate, olive, and silver in big, open, curly leaves. The tea brews up to produce a classic amber-colored liquor with a light rosy aroma. The taste is delicate, with the characteristic muscatel and rose, and maybe a hint of caramel. Not sure I’m getting the raisins that are mentioned in the vendor description, though. In fact, the tea is a little too delicate. The line between “delicate” and “weak” is such a fine one. Even brewed strong, I find myself wanting just a little more out of this one.
It’s a very good tea, but, knowing that the Arya Estate has produced some GREAT teas, I find myself a little disappointed. It costs more than my last batch of Castleton Moonlight (considered by some as the gold standard for second flush Darjeelings) and I’m afraid it isn’t as good.
Nevertheless, if you prefer your second flush teas on the light side, this may be just the tea for you.
This tea is a bit expensive, but worth it. In fact, I consider it pretty much the perfect oolong. If you like roasted oolongs, you really need to try this. Let’s be clear: this is seriously roasted. If you like your oolongs to be gentle and flowery, this might not be for you. But if you prefer something a little bolder and more substantial, you’ll love this.
A note on the name: The Tea Gallery uses the term "Iron Boddhisattva" for what other vendors call "Tie Guan Yin," perhaps to avoid the messy orthographic variants associated with the more common term. This translation is accurate enough, I guess, but it substitutes the generic term "boddhisattva" for Guan Yin, a specific boddhisattva who embodies mercy and who is especially dear to East Asian Buddhists. Tie Guan Yin traditionally comes from the Anxi province of China, although some are now grown in Taiwan.
This is a tea that benefits from a little thought in brewing. Done wrong, a tea with such a strong roast can just taste burnt. I brew it in a gaiwan and use lots o’ leaf, but very short steeps (< 1 min. in the earlier ones). I throw out the first steep. The liquor is a beautiful red-amber. The aroma will remind you of a campfire. The flavor is surprisingly complex, with chocolate prominent, but with notes of stone fruits and a subtle mineral quality. As you proceed with multiple steeps, the roasted chocolaty flavors recede and the fruity qualities come forward. This is one of the most fun things about the tea: there is so much difference between the early steeps and later ones. It’s beautiful to watch the tea evolve over the course of an afternoon. The downside to that is that you’ll likely keep drinking it and drinking it to see where it will go and before you know it you’ll have drunk ungodly quantities of tea and won’t be able to go to sleep.
This tea has been a favorite of mine since Adagio introduced it a year or so ago. I’m a big fan of Ceylon and Darjeeling teas, so I don’t drink a lot of Chinese blacks, but this is one that I can really get excited about. I brew it a little longer and with more leaf than most black teas and am rewarded with a very rich cup with pronounced chocolate notes and a really nice mouth-feel. It has a little less of the peppery quality than some Yunnan teas, but it’s there in the background. I’m enjoying a cup right now as my first tea of 2010!
I just received a sample of this and am currently sipping my second steep. I brewed it using a sort of “gong-fu” style: tiny yixing pot, lots o’ leaf, very short (< 1 min.) steeps. I’m very impressed! Classic Dancong flavor: sweet and flowery, but with enough astringency to remind you that you’re not drinking a Bao Zhong. Really a beautiful tea, and at a reasonable price compared to other Dancongs of comparable quality. I highly recommend this to lovers of oolong. One caution: in my experience, Dancongs can be a little finicky, so if your first try at this tea isn’t great, don’t give up.