April 23, 2013
Ten years ago I was gifted a small purple box of Dimbula Ceylon black tea it was brought back from the region and was quite unremarkable in every way except that it offered a flavor that I still have not found again in a black tea. Any time I see a new/different brand or type of Ceylon tea I try it just in the off chance that it may be similar. I was at a small Middle Eastern market and saw this bright yellow box of Ceylon tea bags and decided to give it a shot since I tend to focus only on the teas of China, Japan, and India and in hopes that it might have that elusive quality from a decade ago. It didn’t.
The first brewing was extremely strong, heavy, and bitter with even just a 2 minute infusion. I realized this was meant to be high-powered and strong either to stand up to milk and sugar or other similar preparations. This would be a tea to rival a morning cup of coffee, certainly not a light and subtle drink. I then scaled way back to a 30 second infusion, this was still quite strong but more palatable. It had more of the taste of an American Lipton or Tetley tea bag. There were some malty notes peeking through as well. I backed off even more and went with a 15-20 second brew and this, for me, was the balance point. It yielded a lighter cup, but still medium to dark, and it was nicely malty and less heavy and almost no bitterness could be detected.
This is not an expensive or nuanced tea, it is a strong basic tea and it presents itself well enough in that regard. I can see how this lends itself to the more Middle Eastern style of brewing and enjoying tea and for that it definitely fits the bill.
April 21, 2013
This is a very uncommon tea that has managed to become one of my absolute favorites. The name is not quite representative of what it actually is since the Long Jing conjures up thoughts of the perennial favorite Dragonwell green tea. The Huang Pao might lead one to think of an oolong tea. The name translates to “Emperor’s Robe Dragonwell” and this is a black tea with really very little in common with either of those teas sharing its namesake. It comes only in small 3g packets and the tea is said to have been a lost art for over 300 years. Normally I am leery of tales of teas “lost” for centuries and then only recently rediscovered and recreated, it is usually less than genuine and used to add some mystique and interest to an otherwise unexciting tea. While I can’t vouch for the story of it having been lost to the sands of time and miraculously recreated hundreds of years later, I can say it is wholly unique and unlike any other tea out there.
Long Jing Huang Pao
It is a heavily fermented tea akin to Puer but with some very major differences. It is not fermented in humidity and it is processed very differently in almost every regard. Instead of the earthy and deep flavors of a quality Puer, this tea presents what I can only describe as an over-ripe almost spoiled fruity aroma and taste. That may not sound particularly enjoyable but it is incredibly successful and really comes alive on the palate with astounding complexity. The scent has a familiarity that I could not place for years and it has driven me crazy for a long time. A few months ago I was at the zoo and when I walked into the cave-like enclosure where the bats live I had a Eureeka! moment. The fruit and heat/humidity instantly registered as the exact scent I had been trying to place for so long! Again, not the most sensual thought to associate with a tea and I will admit that freely but neither are the earthy/mushroomy qualities of many highly-prized Puer teas :) It is subtle and not overpowering, more like biting into a super soft peach that is definitely over-ripe and would maybe be on the verge of being discarded in another day or two.
It is absolutely captivating to me and just a magical scent that transports me back 300 years easily with every sip.
April 21, 2013
After almost a year away I am going to try to make a go at continuing to share my journey with tea. I haven’t stopped drinking tea and my passion is still there, it is just that after over 12 years my tastes have refined and I don’t do as much experimentation as I once did. I still dabble and will try something new and different but it has slowed down. Each Spring does bring excitement and subtle variation in old favorites but that doesn’t always translate to exciting writing. I’m going to try to cover exactly what I am drinking, both the high-end and the low-end even if it is something I may have covered in the past. We’ll see how it goes!