All of us have taste memories that influence our tea tasting…a reference point.
Almost 10 years ago, I worked part-time at Fortino’s Winery in Gilroy, California. I wanted to learn more about my dad’s life growing up in the Napa Valley. He trimmed grapevines as a boy at now famous vineyards in the days when horse and cart still moved between the rows of ripening fruit. My cousin Norma sells her grapes to that same vineyard (Beaulieu Vineyard).
When I traveled around Northern/Central California (Santa Barbara to Eureka and inland to Murphys) I would take an empty case (or two) to fill with wines along the route. (All wineries give discounts to any winery employees from other wineries!)
In some ways, the adventures were a bit like tea tasting.
Many wineries were small barns where I would be standing with the winemaker and nobody else.
The winemaker would pour a more average wine to check my reaction. If I met approval, the better wines would appear and the tasting continued with animated discussion and enjoyment.
We would discuss levels of flavor, what we tasted, the feeling in the mouth. Just as I do with tea.
Now, the first time I tasted Muscat wine was in Murphy’s…up in Calaveras County (Sierra Foothills) where Mark Twain wrote about the ‘jumping frogs’. The area is dotted with excellent wineries and a few have tasting rooms set up on the main street which are restored buildings from the Gold Rush days.
Stevenot Winery had a small brick storefront with bare wide-board floors and plain plank bar at the far end of the room. The high ceiling and tall windows let in muted light. On the bar were several glass vases filled with daffodils (the town plants them down the sides of the roads in the Spring). It was rustic and lovely.
I decided to try their expensive Muscat wine. Don’t know why. (My first Muscat ever.)
It was a revelation. The wine rolled over my palate like warm silk, more floral than raisin. I felt illumined, like a candle had been lit inside my body, not warm but golden. It was wonderful!
When I drink any tea that has a muscat flavor, I think of this first muscat wine (and I’m glad it was such a grand one).
My memory formed with this experience.
Brewed Western Style with more leaf than recommended. (1TB-16oz 3min)
The fragrance of the tea was fat and floral! Some tea’s flirt with your nose, this one fills it with beautiful, sweet candied white muscat perfume!
Don’t know why, but I took a gulp…an improper in public one to gorge my mouth with tea (I normally slurp..which is proper).
The flavor was lightly sweet, pink peppercorn with fresh muscat grape (the stage where they’re white with a pink blush and very small). Right on the finish, I tasted cashew.
It was a bountiful gulp!
Next I properly slurped the tea removing the cup from the vacinity of my face sans the scent. This to allow a separation of the savory from the sweet muscat flavor. (Sometimes, this works.)
I slurped again, bringing the cup close under my nose, inhaling
the sweet floral scent. The taste was more pronounced and the awareness of peppercorn was stronger.
Moving the cup around and playing with slurping and gulping…or changing the size of a cup…can make a difference in how the tea tastes.
This tea is smooth, gentle muscat with a beautiful aroma and one that I recommend.
The tea’s from Nepali Tea are a pleasure for me to drink and review. I respect their support of the farmers in Nepal that they work with directly and I know the staff personally.
All proceeds from tea sales go to support the farmers.