189 Tasting Notes
Thanks to Charles Thomas Draper for mentioning this sheng. I bought a sample (cakes are very expensive) and immediately fired up my little pot and steeped it three times: at 30 seconds, 1 minute, and 2 minutes. The first steep was exquisitely smooth, with a light camphor taste and a more pronounced mandarin orange flavor. Things got pretty wild on the next two steeps; the orange remained, and was joined with chestnut and what reminded me of a perfect black bean sauce. This is a high energy tea that had me buzzing along way into the night, right through an excellent set by the Futurebirds at the Press Room in Portsmouth, NH. I’m going to try and conserve this tea; as good as it is now, it will be even better when some of the bitterness fades away over time.
I don’t often drink green teas, but I have a fondness for Senchas, especially these first flush ones from Den’s tea. The broth looks like lemon-lime Gatorade and smells like fresh grass, Miso and seaweed. I probably brewed this a little hot; nonetheless, this is such a pure, essential tea, so reminiscent of the terroir from which it springs; drinking it is akin to hauling oysters out of the cold Gulf of Maine, shucking them and pouring the icy cold meat down your throat. There are some elemental tastes that should never be diluted. This tremendously fresh and energizing tea is one of them.
I like the soft wither style of darjeelings because I feel they result in a darker, richer cup. The current fashion is for darjeelings to taste more like oolongs, so it’s not easy to find teas of this style. Luckily, Upton always procures a couple. This cup has a pleasant roasted note and a deep muscatel aroma. There’s not a hint of the astringency that can make darjeelings temperamental and it tastes like wild grapes chased with water from a cold rocky stream. A tea like this one is always one of the pillars of my tea collection.
This has a similar flavor profile to other Yunnan teas I’ve been drinking but it has less oomph than I would like in a black tea, even with extra leaf and a longish steep. It does have a nice flavor of bran muffin with raisin and a hint of honey, making it a pleasant, easy tea to drink.
Sometimes I enjoy being a contrarian when the vox populi is overwhelmingly laudatory about something. But in this case, I just can’t. I don’t know what it is about this tea, maybe it’s the perfect balance between spice and sweetness, or the brininess encapsulated in each mouthful, but my thirst for this tea is never slaked. I’m drawn to it like Ishmael to the sea.