Everyone should pity Ben’s grandfather, who overheard me talking about Kansas and Tyrannosaurus rex and discovery at a family event yesterday. A local museum has the cast of the first rex skeleton ever discovered and I knew it had something to do with Kansas but couldn’t remember what and told him I would email him the details later. Turns out the discoverer was from Kansas, and I could have put that in the email and called it a day but noooo, see he asked about Paleontology and that is the most dangerous thing to ask me about. So Ben’s poor grandfather just received a massive email about all of Kansas’s Paleontological history, details about the Permian-Triassic Extinction Event (Because I will always talk about the Great Dying given the slightest chance) the best place for fossils to form and how location effects the fossil record. I have a feeling no one in Ben’s family will ever ask me about dinosaurs again, the same thing happened last time someone asked me about tea, at least I left them with a nice nugget of information!
Today’s tea is one that never sticks around in my stash very long, a long time favorite, Sun Moon Lake Tea (#18 Red Jade) this one from Golden Tea Leaf. One of the reasons this is one of my favorites is each one I have had is different, it is fascinating, you can certainly tell they are all Red Jades, but they each have some wildly different but similar note, kinda like the difference between different kinds of chocolate. Some are sassafrasy, some like cherry, some menthol, some cinnamon…it is always an adventure with this tea. Notes of cloves, dried cherries, freshly cut tomatoes, sassafras, malt, and finish of woodiness and molasses waft from the pile of leaves. It is both sharp and sweet, almost tingly in my nose, and of course I love the sassafras note. I did find the tomato note to be very surprising, I have run into many red teas that have either tomato leaves or sun dried tomatoes as a note, but this is the first time I have smelled one where it is like someone handed me a fresh from the garden just sliced Roma.
I decided since the tea is named (among many things) Red Jade to use my red rice pattern set, it seemed fitting. After the first steeping the leaves are so potent, practically exploding with intense aroma, notes of cloves, menthol, and sassafras just wash over me, it is wonderful and invigorating. After this initial flood of intense notes, gentle notes of malt and chestnut with a very gentle tomato quality greet my nose. The liquid is intense as well, strong cloves and sassafras, only a gentle sweetness with a burst of menthol in the middle and a finish of strong tomatoes, it is very strong and brisk.
On the first sip I was surprised by a burst of sweetness, this tea is usually quite sweet in taste and aroma, but with the aroma this time around being less focused on malty honey sweetness I expected the taste to be more brisk than sweet. The mouthfeel is pleasantly tingly and smooth, it seems a contradiction, but it works really well. Strong notes of sassafras and menthol at the front with a building menthol in the middle, towards the end a savory tomato note pops up and then finished with a cinnamon honey note that lingers for quite a while.
This steep has evolved into something new and exciting! Less sweet and more intense, a starting note of dark chocolate and saffron with a cardamon finish. New idea, one day make a Red Jade Masala Chai…assuming I can convince myself to add milk and sugar, the idea seems heinous. The end of this tea is where the sweetness lies, along with the cloves and sassafras, both lingering into the aftertaste. I was seriously in love with the saffron note, anytime a tea has that naturally (and not from added saffron) it immediately jumps to the top of my favorites list.
The third steep might be my favorite, ramping up the sweetness to be more like the first, so it is dripping with honey and caramelized sugar. Then of course is a rich cocoa and saffron, a nice tingly burst of cloves and sassafras in the middle with a distant wisp of tomato. The finish brings in a mellow cinnamon that lingers into the aftertaste. Of course since this is a Red Jade I am going to push this tea until there is nothing left, which came around steep seven, so it has decent longevity.