Wow, it is beginning to look a lot like not Christmas, well, if you are paying attention to the weather that is. All of next week is supposed to be in the upper 50s-60s and that is kinda awesome, because it means I get to have my windows open and enjoy the fresh air. I might even have a tea picnic or just a picnic in general, get in one last frolic before it gets cold. Assuming it gets cold, if the long term predictions are to be believed it will be a mild winter for my part of the world. I wonder if that guy in Boston is going to be exporting his snow again this year…
Today we (it is the royal we in case you were curious) are looking at Tea Side’s Red Tea From The Old Trees, #3. This company specializes in teas from Thailand, and this particular red tea is made from rather large leaves from 100-300 year old trees, and let it be said, I have a weakness for large leaves, these remind me of long dark serpents that you might find while hiking in an old forest. The aroma of the pretty dark leaves with their smattering of golden trichomes is rich stuff. Blending notes of cocoa, strong malt, sharp wooden notes, honey, plums, and a very entertaining note of a bourbon barrel sans the alcohol bourbon note. I kinda love it when things smell boozy but lack the booze, certain red teas have that specific note and they make me rather happy.
I had quite the adventure with this tea, the first time I steeped it I used my standard amount of leaves (no, I don’t measure, I just eyeball to what feels right, though I really should get a scale someday to see how close I am to standard conventions) and steeping times, but that ended up with a tea that was too brisk and metallic with bitter astringency. So I tried grandpa style and it was much improved, but I wanted to gongfu this stuff, so playing around I found the sweet spot…the trick is light on the leaves and short steeping times. The aroma of the wet leaves is sweet and malty with notes of honey and oak wood, cooked plums, peanuts, and a very light touch of flowers, the website lists rose and tulip, and I do not necessarily get the rose, but I can definitely agree on the tulip notes. The liquid is sweet again, honey and gentle floral notes (not so much tulip, more a blend of distant flowers) burnt sugar, malt, and a woody bourbon barrel finish.
The first steep is light and brisk, this tea has a briskness to it no matter how I steep it, the briskness reminding me of an Assam, but the flavor profile reminds me more of cross between a red Jin Xuan and a Dian Hong. The taste starts out sweet like wildflower honey and ripe plums, it moves on to an autumn leaf pile and oak wood. The finish is very light, blending gentle sweetness and a touch of mineral.
I think that the steeping leaves look like sea monsters, which is fitting since the dry leaves look like snakes. The aroma of the liquid this time around is much sweeter, picking up strong notes of molasses, ripe cooked plums, honey, and burnt sugar. Underneath that sweetness is a delicate floral note and an autumn leaf pile with oak wood. These woody and leafy notes are making me think of late autumn when drinking this tea, so perfect timing. This steep is ramping up the sweetness and intensity, still brisk in the mouth a sensation that is good for waking up the senses. It starts with sweet honey drizzled cooked plums and tulip flowers, this moves to burnt sugar and malt. The finish is leaf pile and wood, both of these are dry in nature, not wet and loamy, the aftertaste is gently sweet and a touch mineral.
The aroma for this steep is sweet and fruity, notes of malt and plums with molasses and wood, but there is a distinct fruit wood finish unlike the previous oak wood notes. This steep is smoother in mouthfeel, it is still brisk but not as much so. The taste is gentle sweet, a near perfectly balanced blend of leaf pile, oak wood, fruit wood, honey, molasses, and plums. At the finish instead of leaf pile and wood, there is a resinous sap taste and burnt sugar that lingers. I was able to get a few more steeps out of this one, it is very light past this point and pleasantly sweet, though not very nuanced.