Good morning all, and by good morning I mean it is 10 PM, yep, sleep schedule went all pear shaped again, but I honestly don’t care overly much. It currently is where I go to sleep late in the afternoon meaning I can still do things early in the day. No matter how nocturnal I am, it will always be a tad uncanny to wake up at night, guess I am not that hardcore! It used to weird me out when I worked night shift, especially in the winter, I would go to sleep when it was dark and wake up when it was dark, it skews the sense of time ever so slightly.
Today is an Oolong day, looking at Tao Tea Leaf’s Bei Dou Oolong. This is a not quite as well known as its cousins Yancha (or Wuyi Rock Oolong) whose name translates to North Star (must resist Fist of the North Star references, must resist!) This Yancha was first created in the 1950s, grown from cuttings taken from THE original very old Da Hong Pao bushes, the very ones that an emperor thought needed a fancy red robe. The creator of this tea, Yao Ye Ming had his research lab destroyed during the Cultural Revolution (thanks, guys, I really could go into such a rant about how revolutions that destroy art, history, religious things and science infuriate me, but I shall spare you all) but he continued in secret, Bei Dou surviving, allowing us to enjoy this tea scientist’s work. The appearance is a typical Yancha, curling and dark, and the aroma sings the song of its people, rich and loaded with char. Strong notes of cocoa, char, a distinct smoke along with the char, and a nice underlying sweetness. The more I sniff while waiting for the water to heat, I also detect a bit of nuttiness, but it is more like a nutshell, the sharp aroma of black walnut shell.
I have to apologize for the lack of photos. My camera corrupted the images, on the camera they look fine but after uploading they are unable to view, I desperately need a new camera, hopefully I can get one before it dies and this becomes a very sad blog. Help! I don’t want to just use my phone! Into my yixing the leaves go for their short steep. The aroma takes on a bunch more layers now that it is a pile of soggy leaves, along side the notes of char and cocoa are delicate notes of distant flowers, wet slate, cooked stone fruit, and a finish of black walnuts (not the shell this time.) The liquid is a three way tie between stone fruit (more plum than cherry, but there is a cherry hint too) wet slate, and char. At the finish is a distant crushed orchid sweetness as well.
First steeping time, the first thing I notice is the strong mineral presence, this Yancha puts the rock in rock oolong and I love that. Seriously, it reminds me of licking rocks, a hobby I have on occasion, since they have their own distinct flavors, wet slate and quartz being among my favorites. After that initial mineral burst the taste moves to a blend of cocoa and char with a touch of sweetness, the finish is woody and has a building sweetness that reminds me a bit of jaggery.
Onward to the next steep, I feel a pleasant tingling from the last steeping, Yancha has such great Qi! The aroma is roasty toasty, notes of char and smoke with roasted black walnuts and mineral, there is also an underlying sweetness like burnt sugar at the finish. The taste this time is less char and more burnt toast, there is a definite bready note to the empyreumatic notes this time. There is also a strong mineral presence and cocoa, again the finish is like jaggery with also a touch of lingering dark chocolate. I now want to melt dark chocolate and jaggery and drink it.
Third steeping time, the aroma is mostly gentle char, toast, and mineral. A hint of underlying sweetness remains, but the aroma is not as potent as before. Whoa, where did the mineral and char go? I am left with a smooth mouth full of jaggery, dates, cooked plums, and a touch of cocoa. I think the tea became sad that I wanted melted chocolate so turned on the sweetness factor in a plea to not leave. Don’t worry tea, I won’t leave. I got one more steep before it fizzled out, usually I find Yancha ends in mineral, so I found it fascinating that this one started with mineral and ended in sweetness.