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Notes on Tea
Updated: 43 min 5 sec ago
Image: First infusion of Teaful's Ruby #18
Attention tea drinkers, 2017 is the year of Taiwanese black teas! At least in my book, and thankfully the second chapter of Teaful's Taste of Taiwan includes two black teas. One was a Ruby 18 and the other was an Assam, originally from India by way of Japan, grown in the Sun Moon Lake region. The other two teas are a milk oolong and a baozhong. I like the oolongs, who doesn't like Taiwanese oolongs?! But I really enjoyed the black teas. My local source for Taiwanese black tea is Te Company where I usually order the Petite Noir. Chapter 1 of Teaful's Taste of Taiwan had a high mountain black tea, a green tea, and two oolongs.
During the first session with each tea, I adhered to the instructions provided on each tea packet which is a vacuumed sealed foil bag. In terms of the amount of tea used, the information presented is use "a teaspoon or 5 grams" for 8 ounces of water. A teaspoon of tea often does not weigh 5 grams as I wrote about in my earlier post this week titled, How Much Tea is in a Teaspoon?. For example, a teaspoon of baozhong is 1 gram and of milk oolong is 2 grams. I used 5 grams of tea in all four cases. For the first infusion I used the lower end of the steep time given and increased subsequent steeps by 30 seconds to reach the maximum steep time given.
This fall 2016 green oolong was grown in Pinglin in Taipei County. The twisted leaves released a sweet and salty tasting liquor with sweet and very floral flavors. A second infusion revealed green and juicy flavors with a slight acidity. The final infusion was more vegetal than floral. The infused leaves had a mineral fragrance.
Another fall 2016 tea this time from Minjian in Nantou County. The small tightly balled leaves unfurled to reveal shockingly large leaves. The dry leaves smelled like a milk oolong - creamy, grainy, and sweet. The first infusion's liquor was consistent with the smell of the dry leaves. The second infusion was less intense but the buttery mouthfeel lingered on my palate. I could still detect the sweet grain flavor. The tail note was all vegetal.
Harvested in summer 2016 from Sun Moon Lake, this black tea has dusky black leaves with golden and red tips. The dry leaves smelled warm, sweet, and hoppy. The rinsed leves smelled of roasted yam and camphor. The amber verging on copper liquor of the first infusion had a big taste that was both sweet and bitter and reflected the smell of the roasted yam and camphor of the dry leaves. There was a bananas foster tail note (did I imagine this?) as well as spicy (read: cinnamon) top notes. The liquor was medium bodied. The second infusion was similar enough to the first one that I did not take notes while the third infusion became more camphorous with increased astringency and bitterness. In a subsequent session with this tea I did not experience any bitterness.
Like the Ruby #18, this black tea is a summer 2016 harvest from Sun Moon Lake. Wiry twisted dark colored leaves with reddish highlights smelled sweet, grainy, and spicy. The copper colored first infusion was rich tasting and medium bodied. The liquor was malty, brisk, smooth, sweet, and fruity - a lot of flavor in one tea. I could have added milk but did not. Oh, for this tea, I used 6 ounces of water and not 8 ounces as I did for the previous teas. You could used 8 ounces if you like but I appreciate the rich profile. The second infusion was still malty but brisker and thinner bodied. The third infusion was a well balanced cup of sweetness, malty, brisk bordering on bitter, and savory spices. Surprisingly it had more body than the second infusion and this cup's flavors lingered in my throat, a burned flavor of unknown origin.
Image: Second infusion of Teaful's Assam
The four teas in the this chapter of Teaful's Taste of Taiwan were very good in a second session where I used 2.5 grams of tea to 6 ounces of water (195F for the oolongs and 200F for the blacks). The black teas shone!
Taste of Taiwan Chapter 2 was provided by Teaful.
Bookish tea drinkers will appreciate that Teaful has branded its tea releases as chapters. Each chapter will contain 4 teas from Taiwan totaling 75 grams. Chapter 1, which I review here, is a selection of four Taiwanese teas: Biluo Chun, a green tea from Sanxia; Jade Oolong from Mingjian in Nantou; Alishan Oolong from Chia Yi; and High Mountain Black Tea also from Nantou County. Dong Dong mountain and Shan Lin Xi are both in Nantou County. Dong Ding is also known as Tung Ting. The Teaful Jade Oolong is a dong ding/tung ting. Ali Shan originates in the Chia Yi district. The first of the teas I drank was the High Mountain Black Tea. I had drunk around the same time a Taiwanese black tea at Te Company (either the Jade Rouge or the Petite Noir or maybe both) and a different Taiwanese black, and Alishan Back, from Unytea. A bit of a tangent here: the Teaful black, I think, is processed from the Alishan cultivar Qing Xin. This same cultivar is the base tea for Te Company's Petite Noir and Unytea's Alishan Black. The Jae Rouge from Te Company is made from the Hongyu/TRES # 18 aka T-18 cultivar. I didn't know any of this by rote. I referred to the company's websites and my tea school textbook, TEA by Gascoyne et al.
High Mountain Black Tea
How did I prepare my first session with the High Mountain Black and what did I think of it? I infused 5 grams in 8 ounces of 195F water for 4 minutes per the label. Oh, the dry leaves were long, dark, and twisted. They smelled sweet and of dark dried fruit, maybe cherries. There was definitely a note of very good unsweetened cocoa powder or maybe cacao nibs. (Did you know that raw cacao powder is derived from cold-pressed unroasted cacao beans while cocoa powder is roasted raw cacao powder?) There was also a note of citrus akin to bergamot but not at all similar to Earl Grey. The dry leaves were very fragrant. The steam off the first infusion smelled so good. The taste was sweet like maple syrup on waffles or like melted cotton candy. There were also floral notes. As I finished the first infusion I also detected dates. Have you ever had Deglet date? Try one. The liquor was all caps fragrant and aromatic. The infused leaves were various shades of brown and quite long. They smelled woodsy and of sweet, dark fruit. I resteeped the leaves for 5 minutes at 200F. The flavor profile was similar though less juicy. Also, there was a drying effect. I infused the leaves for a third time using the same parameters. The steam was still fragrant but the liquor was milder tasting, mostly of honey. The mid-note was of cocoa and wood while the endnote was sweet.
After this experience I was excited to drink the other three teas in Chapter 1. I also had my second session with the black tea. For this session, for each tea, I used 2 grams of tea, 6 ounces of water, and 3.5 minute infusion. I used the water temperature recommended on the labels. I took a closer look at the dry leaves of the black tea. They were dark with copper highlights. Some were twisted but some were flat. The dry leaves smelled of honey and fruit. The infused leaves also smelled this way with the addition of malt and cocoa. The taste of the liquor was sweet like maple syrup, malt, lots of chocolate, and fruit as in fruit liqueurs. It was incredibly aromatic. There were also spice notes, vanilla and possibly cinnamon but cinnamon grown in Vietnam. (I was gifted some 10 years ago.)
I learned this type of green tea as being from Jiangsu, China. Biluochun is also known as green snail spring. Teaful's offering is from Sanxia, New Teipei City in northwestern Taiwan. The dry leaves colored silver, sage, moss, and forest green are long and slightly twisted. A deep inhale releases notes of hay and cream. The infused leaves smell consistently with the dry ones with the addition of deeply vegetal notes. The liquor was a pale sage color, bright and transparent. It tasted sweet and creamy with a creamy mouthfeel, too. There was a quality that I wrote as "meaty" but this taste could have been green bean or even sunflower seed and walnut ascribed to Dong Shan, a green tea processed from the Qun Ti Xiao Ye Zhong cultivar from which Chinese Bilochun is made. The nose was of the flowers or the actual flesh of summer fruit.
This oolong consisted of small, tightly rolled beads of dark green leaves with flecks of sage green which smelled like a creamy malt cereal. The clear yellow green liquor also tasted like a creamy malt cereal. The creaminess was in the mouthfeel, too. There was a striking vegetal note.
Larger beads with more visible stems, this oolong also exuded a creamy fragrance. The pale green liquor distinctly floral and fruity. The lingering end note was sweet.
The High Mountain Black Tea was my favorite of these four Taiwanese teas from Teaful. It harmoniously encompasses many of the notes on the flavor wheel. The Bilochun is flavorful and would appeal to a palate that embraces umami forward teas. The two oolongs were delightful. I think they would shine brighter prepared in a gaiwan with less water and maybe more leaf. My next step is to prepare these oolongs gaiwan-style. Teaful just released Chapter 2 with Baozhong, Milk Oolong, Assam, and Ruby 18. Did you raise your eyebrows at Assam? Given that Teaful offered a Taiwanese Bilochun, a Taiwanese Assam should not be surprising. These types of double take moments are what makes this company's tea box stand out from others. They are offering delicious Taiwanese grown teas associated with other regions and countries. Read the Assam story here.
Taste of Taiwan Chapter 1 teas provided by Teaful.
Silver Needle courtesy of Art of Tea, 1teaspoon = 0.85 grams
Long Jing courtesy of ITEI, 1 teaspoon = 0.57 grams
Gyokuro courtesy of Arbor Teas, 1 teaspoon = 1.96 grams
Tung Ting Extra Fancy, McNulty's Tea & Coffee, 1 teaspoon = 2.38 grams
Ruby Oolong from Rishi Tea, 1 teaspoon = 2.86 grams
Thurbo 2nd Flush Darjeeling courtesy of Tea Dealers, 1 teaspoon = 1.12 grams
Diving Duck 2016 Sheng, White 2 Tea, 1 teaspoon = 1.09 grams