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!
February 10, 2012
Something about this time of year always brings on a craving for a dark and bold Puerh in me. Puerh is a unique type of tea that is heavily fermented, roasted, compressed into bricks, and then usually aged like a fine wine. There is also a raw or uncooked version which is greener and has an entirely different flavor profile. I usually go for the cooked variety and I prefer the wild/large leaf versions when possible which have a slightly different taste and seem to be a bit smoother.
Puerh prices are like a stock market unto themselves and the market has been up quite a lot in recent years with some old favorites fetching hundreds of dollars now that I used to pay tens for. Luckily, I have a small stash that I have been aging and I decided it was finally time to break into the last of my most prized selection which I haven’t touched in over 5 years now. It is an Ancient Maiden Puerh that is now aged for about 7 years. It’s incredible.
Ancient Maiden Puerh (stock photo)
I start with a 30-second “rinse” that is discarded to eliminate any potential mold or other unwanted extras. (did I mention Puerh is an entirely different animal from most standard teas? :) ) I then follow up with a brew time of around a minute for the initial brewing. I was hit with the smoothest aroma I have ever had from a Puerh! It actually had a whiff of a mango note which is something entirely new for me and this tea was carefully stored so it was not from any contamination from a flavored tea. I couldn’t wait to taste it, and I was so completely happy that the wait was worth it and produced a liquor that was every bit as mellow and smooth as the aroma hinted at! The usual darker, earthy/mushroomy notes of Puerh were heavily subdued and instead it did present as subtle fruity and sweet and carried through to the very end of the finish that had that small hit of earthiness. Wow! Then through multiple steeps the flavor really maintains and just grows softer slowly. Pretty much perfection, and as such of course I only have enough for one more brewing. I’m already dreading the day, but I’m also finding some great old leaf Puerh to put up again right now.
November 4, 2009
#3 Korakundha FOP 2009 Second Flush
Dry Leaf: Raisin and not a whole lot else.
Wet Leaf: Strangely enough, spinach.
Brewed: Very mild, almost like a Ceylon/Dimbula. Very faint fruity notes but not anywhere near pronounced enough to specify. Straightforward but wholly enjoyable black tea.
I don’t want to short this tea by such a brief overview but these are my tasting notes, as-is. It’s a bright cup of tea that does one thing and does it well, no massive complexities, no super long finish or standout notes. It’s grown at one of the highest elevations I believe and the wiry partial leaves look like they have eeked out an existence high up in some tougher climes. It is slightly sweet throughout and I can’t see it benefiting from any additional sweetener, and it is a touch too mild to really stand up to a shot of milk… neither of these are routine additions for me but I thought it may help those who do enjoy it.
October 28, 2009
I will be participating in Lochan Tea’s upcoming tasting of an array of their teas. One tasting a day starting on Monday 2nd of November. I will be posting the results from each day here as well as submitting my notes for them. It covers a range of Indian teas with a concentration on Darjeelings. I’m particularly happy because one of the teas in the tasting just won the gold medal at the 2009 Chinese Tea Expo for the Black Tea category.
August 19, 2009
Yi Hong Jing Pin is said to have characteristics of Chinese red dates, which was an aroma I picked up from the Rou Gui yesterday, but outside of a basic sweet aroma I was not getting any of this. My initial notes were: Sweet. Fermented. Tobacco. Wood. As the hot water hit the leaves in my gaiwan I was presented with more of a smoky/wood scent coming off of the liquor. The instant flavor profile I was met with was that of Bai Hao (Oriental Beauty) oolong but minus the sometimes present citrus note. Slightly malty and long after a very slight red date flavor is present in the back of the mouth.
While I can’t help but think that if I wanted bai hao oolong I would just brew some instead of going to a black tea to get almost the same result, there is something captivating here and it does make you want to explore it further. I personally do not like the citrus hints in Oriental beauty so this actually has an advantage in my personal tastes in that regard. It’s not super complex or noteworthy so it doesn’t really assert itself into a place in my favorites list but it is pleasant and interesting enough to finish what I have.