368 Tasting Notes
March TotM is again pu’er, this time from Qianjiazhai, rather than Xingyang — as was perhaps already obvious by yesterday’s tasting note about shu. The sheng offerings start with this 2015 and work back to a 2010, and I’m going to do them in reverse age order so that I can experience the maturity growing as I go.
The first steep here is extremely soft & subtle. I’m afraid that lingering toothpaste may be convincing me there is more camphor here than there really is, so I’ll hold off until steep the second before getting too serious.
Now the sharpness of young sheng comes out in steep two.
Steep three actually has an emerging sweetness.
aaaaaand then the phone rang and I over steeped it.
Thankfully I have more leaf and will pick this up in a few days.
I cannot argue with the write-up, this is a sweet shu. It is also, at least in the early steepings, very subtle and soft. It is early morning and so my mouth may not be 100% awake yet, but I don’t think that’s out and out blunting anything that is going on here.
The steeps are rich and dark, the mouth feel is thick and actually a bit drying/astringent which is very unusual for a sweet shu (in my experience).
Some very interesting herbal and spice notes are coming out in the fourth steep.
I always look forward to the first flush options from Upton. I have a goal, thwarted most years by problems (storms &c.) either with first flush harvest or follow-up harvests to someday have more than one flush from the same estate in the same year, in order to do detailed comparisons of how timing affects flavor. Maybe this is the tea and this is the year!
I brewed this using a large tempered glass measuring cup so that the leaf had lots of room to open up and so that I had a wide-mouthed vessel to fish the remains out when I was done my session. Consequently I did have to use a screen to ensure that only the water, not the leaf, got into my cup.
Nonetheless the results were thick, full, dense and delightful. This tea reminds me a very great deal, to the point I had to keep reminding myself what I’m drinking, of a bai mu dan white tea. Very fuzzy, soft, notes including warm hay as well as floral, green brightness &c.
This is excellent leaf. A “good year” for first flush.
I’ve been forcing myself to hold off on this tea. Two months is all I can take, I need another cup. I’ve had a lingering head cold for almost two weeks now and I need it gone.
This is the kind of tea that makes you sad to be American; sad that access to something like this is so indirect, so uncertain, that you may never have anything like it again. I have the means to drink tea of this quality every day, and the gluttonous part of me wants that to become the truth.
But no, I’ll savor, and sip, and stare longingly at the canister for months at a time. Because that’s what this tea deserves.
TotM describes this as orchid, lotus, burdock, honey & barley. Also, “intriguingly floral” and I’ll give them that. I am consistently amazed that tea which is not actually scented with flowers can be this flowery.
The mineral terroir, the barley, the ganmaicha… these things I don’t get so much. Even up against a very sweet, home made, wild grape jelly this tea doesn’t present as anything but light and floral to my palate.
In the fourth steep a darker, more vegetal note does begin to emerge, but nothing mineral or roasted.
Blessed feast of Annunciation to everyone, and to those on Western calendars, a slightly premature Happy Easter (we have five weeks to go for ours this year).
Finally one of these oolong where I can taste something other than flowers!
The citrus notes here are VERY strong, creating something more like an orange blossom profile rather than jasmine or osmanthus. Big, tart, drying tones followed by back of the throat sweetness.