Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I've been on a bit of a hiatus from writing about tea because I've been gnawing my way through a pound of Imperial Tea Court's Aged Oolong, a long leaf and therefore lightweight medium bodied "Chinese Restaurant" style oolong. It's cheap and not bad for a daily cup, and a pound of loose rolled tea lasts a very long time. I'll review it at some point, I still have about 1/4 lb left, but I got a slew of new teas in to review. My general policy is to order an assortment from a new vendor each time, usually everything from China with Wuyi, Monkey Picked, or Tikuanyin in the name, and then buy a pound of my favorite. When I get back down to about a quarter pound the process starts over. Thus this blog will have lots of entries all at once as I sample the new haul, then go quiet as I drink the winner off.

Yesterday two boxes arrived, one being a half pound of my favorite tea in the world, Teance's Monkey Picked Tikuanyin from Mom for Xmas. I haven't tried the 2005, but I'm sure it's dreamy. Thanks Mom. I also received my assortment from the new vendor, Upton Tea Importers. I liked their website, they seem pretty serious about tea and offer samples of everything. I ended up picking like 10 teas that looked pretty good.

First Grade Tie-Guan-Yin, China, Upton Tea Imports
Out of 5.
Overall - 2 1/2
Primary Flavors - 2
Secondary Flavors - 3 1/2
Aroma - 1
Finish - 3 1/2
Temperament - 3

This was a confusing tea... with its tight little green rolls it looks like another formosan tea aka dish water, but when brewed is "actually not so bad". I was heartened to notice that this was one of the Chinese varietals and my hatred of all Formosan teas remains unabated. Upton convinced me to try a couple with florid prose about dark chestnut chocolate woody yummies, so I got a couple of Formosans to try later. Back to our Wuyi disguised as a Taiwanese, the dominant flavor is quite mellow, but not green at all. The undertones are even milder, but touch on spice and bamboo. It's the sort of tea that makes you wish you'd used the light colored yixing and the good water, less because it is so wonderful than because you can taste *everything*. The finish holds only the undertones, and creates a good balance of wood and spice. Aroma is basically nonexistant. This is a truly neutral tea and though I can appreciate the sublety, a better tea would leave me more satisfied with the main course as well.

In defense of this sampling, it was made using hot water and a strainer by Jocelyn... she makes a fine cup of tea but to be fair I ought to test it out using a light clay yixing and 200+ degree water. But I probably won't, I have a huge amount of really stellar tea going stale at home and no amount of zazen preparation is going to make this into a winner. Way better than the Formosan that it looks like, but I wouldn't buy it in bulk.