Queued post, written April 30th 2014
I got this one out of the EU TTB round 2. It was one of those ’don’t think, just take’ things. :) The database entry on Steepster isn’t telling me anything useful about it, but I assume it’s either Yunnan or Fujian, because black teas called Golden Something usually are. Not always, but often enough that it’s a fairly safe assumption.
This one has a sweet, hay-y aroma which makes me believe it’s most likely Yunnan. It’s quite grainy with a bit of malt as well, but it doesn’t have the cocoa-y Fujianness. Some research was required here. I couldn’t find anything by the name of ‘golden needle’ on Teavana’s website, but I’m given to understand that they have a habit of changing their stock at the drop of a hat, so I’ll have to admit I wasn’t really expecting to find anything either. I did, however, discover a Steepster database entry called ‘Nine Dragon Golden Needle’ also from Teavana. Now I’m wondering if it might actually be the same one. That one was from Yunnan, so I feel I can say I was correct in my identification of the origin of this one too. I can’t be absolutely certain that they are the same thing, though, so I’m going to post this under the database entry that has the same name as my sample, not the Nine Dragon.
Now the taste. Oh, quite sweet and a little vegetal too. I was not expecting that sort of note. It made me think of oolong. One of those that are oxidised to the point right between the green type and the dark type and having gained a bit of both worlds. It only becomes sweeter as it cools and to my surprise the vegetal note stays. I had expected it to be a ‘first few sips’ sort of phenomenon (do doo dodo doot!) but this doens’t seem to be the case.
I think the sweetness, almost sugary in nature, is related to the grainy notes. That one was quite malty in the aroma and I believe this is what we’re having here in the form of the sweetness of malted grain.
On a related note, last night’s dinner involved pearl barley. I’ve never had that before, but it made my tummy rather happy so it won’t be the last either. Don’t worry, Steepsterites, this is actually relevant, because while we were eating it, I kept thinking it reminded me of something I’d tasted before. Something very familiar, but I couldn’t make a connection. Now, tasting this tea, I know what it was. It’s the grainy note that I so like in a black tea. That’s barley! I’ve always thought that note was much closer to rye, because it reminds me so much of a good rye bread. (I wonder if I can get barley flour somewhere around the vicinity of here… I must remember to have a look next time I come past that big health food shop in town. I want to try using it when I make biscuits.)
Towards the bottom of the cup, that Yunnan-y hay-y note is coming out more, followed by the characteristic twinge that some people describe as pepper. If I hadn’t already worked out the origin before, it would have been quite obvious now. Normally I find this note, in larger amounts, somewhat off-putting but since we’re getting towards the bottom of the cup here, I don’t mind it. The tea is also quite cool now.
I feel like this was a tea in three stages. First stage when it was very hot, the sweetness and vegetal note. Second stage, when it reached a more easily drinkable temperature, grain and more sweetness, and now third stage, quite cool, all Yunnan-y. I thought the second stage was the best bit, which is lucky because that really makes up the majority of my experience with this cup.