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!
August 4, 2009
The unfortunate tea situation in most offices is tragic. A few forlorn Lipton packets of unknown vintage are normally about it, so you can imagine my (slight) delight when this assortment showed up!
Bentley's Royal Classic 12 Flavors
Sure, they’re not the finest teas from China or Japan but they are better than nothing when stuck in a meeting. My first selection was the Papaya Green Tea. I was completely happy with it! It was naturally flavored and the papaya is a very mellow undercurrent on top of a passable green tea. The papaya is very well represented and tastes exactly like papaya should, very subtly sweet and a mild peach/pineapple/tomato flavor. Together it works quite well. Bently’s has always been a decent teabag and I regularly stock their Mango White Tea at home which I really enjoy. It seems they have a knack for getting the flavored tea angle right and balanced and while it won’t blow your mind with complexity, it will get you through that next board meeting.
June 29, 2009
Summer has been fighting to make an entrance and we’ve had a couple hot days that could qualify as summery, and every summer I turn to a single, ashamedly, favorite. Sunflower brand Jasmine Green Tea, iced. Yes, that is the cheap one in the yellow/gold tin sold in every Asian market known to man. I can’t help it. I have plenty of high-end jasmine greens, but none of them make the great iced tea I know and love.
Unlike most tea brewed to become iced, do not over brew it. It will get horribly bitter. It’s a delicate ballet and they key is to make it strong enough that it stands up to some dilution from ice, but not bitter. Sure, you can cheat and just brew it to the desired strength and then put it in the refrigerator to cool it down slowly… but I prefer the instant gratification iced method. I’d say just under boil water and like 3 minutes steep, if this is bitter try 2.
It wil be a delicate flowery treat. I drink it straight but to sweeten it only use a natural sugar (yellow lump, turbinado, or palm) as white sugar or honey don’t pair well.
May 21, 2009
Six months or so back I had my cholesterol checked and when the results came the nurse and doctor were discussing the results within earshot of me and in hushed tones… I figured something was wrong. They came in and asked me a bunch of questions about my diet (for those who don’t know I’m a pretty big guy about 6’3″ and 240lbs. but I’ve always been active outdoors and played sports) I’m also a “foodie” (I hate that term) and love to cook and eat adventurously and in decent quantity but for the most part I stick to reasonably healthy options (outside of the occasional Wellington, 2lb. steak, wings/pizza). I figured I was going to have to cut out all of the things I like to indulge with (triple bacon cheeseburgers)… instead they ended by telling me that my cholesterol levels were actually so low that I should probably eat some more things containing cholesterol! I was shocked. I really had no answers for them and really thought it may have been an error and came out pretty happy except for their great concern about my low numbers.
I was discussing this anomaly with my parents a couple weeks back and my mother said, “well, it’s probably all of the green tea you drink.” I am a total non-believer in miracle cure-all health claims so this never even entered my mind and I never even thought to bring it up to the doctor. It could all be coincidence, it could truly be my diet (although I highly doubt that one), genetics, it could be my love for laughter (hey, who knows), it could be Venus was aligned just so with my belt buckle that day… but it really could be the liters of tea I drink each day (almost exclusively Chinese or Japanese greens). I honestly don’t know and after her comment it sent my logical mind reeling.
I’m stumped, but after downing about 5lbs. (no lie) of meat the other night as we were out with friends at a Churrascaria (Brazilian BBQ) and a few porters I’m thinking there has to be some validity. Although I’m still overweight and balding so the magical, mystical, powers have some limitations if true.
May 20, 2009
This Chinese green tea was part of the newly re-discovered Upton Tea cache I unearthed a while back. Upon opening the sealed bag i was instantly hit with a very strong woody/smoky/oaky scent that is not normally what I prize in a green tea, but I soldiered on. The leaf itself looks a bit brown and slightly wiry and twisted, it looks as if some Bi Lo Chun snails came slightly undone but not completely.
I tossed some into my trusty gaiwan and after about 30-seconds I had to “peek” to see and smell if anything had improved because, truthfully, from the scent and look I was dreading it a bit. It was a horse of a different color! Completely different. It had no smoky/oaky notes and instead had transformed into a buttery cross between Bi Lo Chun and Long Ching (Dragonwell). The leaf had unfurled into nicely green, but ragged and torn, pieces that also were much different than the dry appearance would have suggested. After the completed steep of about 2-3 minutes I was greeted by a tea that seemed an almost perfect mix of Bi Lo Chun and Dragonwell which mirrored the scent. I am impressed at this doppleganger. After sitting a bit overtime in my gaiwan the last sips started to produce a more astringent, strong, vegetal, and smoky taste that matched more with the initial dry aroma.
I can’t say it is a favorite because I could always have a more refined BLC or Dragonwell instead, and the later qualities that shone through are less enjoyable to me personally. But all-in-all it was surprising and enjoyable so there is also nothing “wrong” with it either.
December 15, 2008
I’m not a big tisane fan, especially anything with hibiscus in it, but I decided to take a chance on this one that involved actual green tea. My guess is that it is from Republic of Tea’s loose catalog but I bought it from a nondescript glass jar for about five bucks for 1/8lb. Goji berries are kind of a raisin/cranberry mix and I like them which was the hook, the raspberry though worried me a bit because with the tart hibiscus I figured this would be a pucker inducing red brew. I poured in some hot water and was greeted by a pucker inducing red brew. How’d I guess. The mix contains large pieces of Goji and full dried raspberries as well as the damned hibiscus petals and some other tisane bits amongst the generic and low-quality green tea. I’m sure if it were just the goji berries and green tea base it would be better, possibly even with the raspberries still, but as is it is a tough mix. If you like tisanes/hibiscus then the rest of this mashup is actually pretty enjoyable and well balanced but otherwise steer clear.