Black teas can be one-note. At least, you have to look a lot harder to find the differences between cups. The unmistakable distance between oolongs or the space between a longjin and a gyokuro doesn’t usually come up between different black teas. It takes an exceptional black tea to stand out from the rest, and that’s what buyers hope for when they purchase Purple Voodoo which, unfortunately, fails to deliver.
Yunnan Sourcing’s now sold out “Drunk on Red” black tea cake, for example, offered a very similar cup at a tiny fraction of the price. It’s unlcear exactly what you’re paying for with Purple Voodoo, which is not tippy, organic or single estate. The prestige of the tea is in the “first flush” and, of course, the “purple” distinctions — but these translate to only SUBTLE differences/improvements. On offer from Yunnan Sourcing are far more dramatic step ups, including the Camellia Taliensis black tea and a variety of “pure gold” or gold-streaked offerings that deliver with big, malty tones. Think spring tips, golden needle, pure bud…if any of these were pressed into a cake, that would be a different story. The fact Purple Voodoo’s tea leaves were once purple doesn’t powerfully translate to the cup or even to the finished leaf. Some black tea processes, comparable to a dark roast for coffee, are very good at covering up imperfections, but they also bulldoze a lot of the nuance of delicate purple leaves that end up brewing the same as their green cousins.
It’s a far better tea than the stuff you’d buy in a bag, but the aroma notes are comparable. This tea ultimately fails by being good when, I think, the consumer is looking for something exceptional. No tasting notes to report, nothing that stands out. If you are looking for a tea that will change the way you think about black tea, skip the Purple Voodoo and opt for “Purple Wild Buds” which is probably the leaf material that SHOULD have been pressed to make Purple Voodoo, having the precise bitter quality that would soften after being stored as a cake.
Purple Voodoo benefits from longer steeps and does not become bitter.