Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Rou Gui from Cindy Chen, and a bit on tasting variation

Just a simple, basic review this time, really.  And back to one of my favorite types, a Wuyi Yancha, a Rou Gui from Cindy Chen at that (my favorite tea farmer).  I'll mention again that she has developed a website in passing (wholesale sales oriented, a work in progress), and get on with it.

The look is a bit dark but I'm sure the roast will balance.  First taste:  it does.  It tastes like a roasted tea but that char effect is layered in a nice way, not heavy at all (all relative to preference, that, but then some people might not like roasted teas at all, I suppose).

A nice caramel aspect stands out.  There is some woodiness, and the normal layering of flavors that could be described as mineral (not pronounced in this, underlying), and then on to leather or whatever else.  The general effect is soft and rich, balanced on the lighter side, not a challenging tea at all, not the kind that only people really into earth-tones and dark roasting could appreciate.  This tea could be an eye-opener for people that haven't tried better Wuyi Yancha, but for me really familiar ground, just as it should be, a normal, good version.

How close is it to being the best-of-the-best, one of those teas that typically never leave China?  That I can't judge.  Maybe so few ever did leave China that I'd have no baseline to go on, and it's hard to tell to what extent I've tried great versus good related teas.  I don't claim to have the God's eye perspective on teas (God's palate?) that some people lay claim to, which is surely more justified in some people's cases.  One of Cindy's Rou Gui versions won a Wuyishan local competition last year; that's a good sign.  But then they would make lots of versions based on teas growing in small, separate areas, so they would produce it in lots.  It's really good tea though, per a normal frame of reference.

Next infusion I went just a little longer, still using short infusion times brewing Gongfu style (in the range of 20 seconds, but without using a timer).  That caramel taste extends out to a very complex experience.  Some really would say it's too heavy on char, but for me this range of aspects and balance completely nails it.  Breaking this taste experience into a flavors list seems wrong, oversimplified, maybe even disrespectful to this tea.  Of course there are aspect descriptions to be singled out but the experience is complex and continuous.  I'll do that anyway.

Wood tones lead towards bark-spice aspect range.   It's hard to pin down the wood tone more, nothing too dark, maybe cherry-wood, chestnut, or hickory (but it's been awhile since I've smelled a lot of wood).  As for spice cinnamon and root beer are pretty far from what I mean, but relatively close in that general direction.  I wouldn't say it tastes anything like mineral or leather, but then the complexity is based on layers that won't really describe well.  More range really is integrated with the wood tone / char effect / medium caramel / towards spice-tone range.

I guess if someone was expecting cinnamon, and thinking about cinnamon, maybe it would seem more like cinnamon (the translation of the name, Rou Gui).  It's towards spice range, just not exactly that spice.  In a sense if I were really well-schooled on obscure spices range, other barks and roots, I could surely mention others that are closer, at least a combination of others.  But then that wouldn't necessarily be more descriptive since I'd be talking to very few people that knew of them.

The overall effect is the nice part, the feel, the balance, the richness.  It's not like that heavy thickness that comes with lightly roasted Taiwanese oolongs but it has a presence to it.  To me there is absolutely nothing challenging about this tea.  Natural preference could mean someone else doesn't like it nearly as much as I do but I'd guess the normal, typical experience of it would be closer to my own, that most people would completely get it.  Better teas have that transcendent type of appeal to them.

A few infusions in the tea is tapering off a bit.  I suspect it will last well still, that it's far from finished, but it does fade a little quicker than some other types, not completely unusual for relatively more roasted teas like this one.  It's probably still medium, but medium for the general type is a lot of roast.  The flavors shift a little to emphasize the richer, earthier tones, the same general range, maybe the mineral underlying layer just picks up a little.

The tea is aromatic but that balances well with the flavors range.  I don't want to get side-tracked too much by what I mean by that, since I've beat it to death in the recent past, but it's an emphasis on scent that can come across similar to liquor characteristic or perfume.  It just doesn't smell like liquor or perfume, I mean the related general effect.  Some really floral and aromatic teas are perfume-like, and some aromas remind one of different liquors, but a tea could be aromatic in different ranges.  It's just a little perfume-like, in effect, but not floral (although it's complex enough that different people would interpret the complex range differently).  This range is tied back to the flavors aspects, earthy and complex, but on the soft and approachable side as those go, medium-tone woods versus dark wood, etc..

On the scale of which characteristics I like in Wuyi Yancha this is pretty much it.  Again, the words won't really communicate that, since I'm sort of saying I like wood, caramel, mineral, integrated char effect, etc., but it's how it all comes together, not just in terms of a balance but as a sum that seems greater than the parts.

Tasting variations, tasting error

I talked to Cindy about the tea and she said it seemed to have a fruit aspect to her.  Of course I didn't just mention that in this description.  I could see maybe something like lychee, since that taste range is subtle and tends to include spice elements (in some; there are different species of lychee).  This didn't seem like peach or something more pronounced to me, but it was complex enough that people would probably interpret it in different ways.  And it split the overall effect of flavors intensity and aroma, and that second part seems a little harder to read to me.

That does bring up another interesting subject, tasting error.  What I write is an impression, and sometimes in tasting teas multiple times my impression changes.  There is real variation to account for part of that, shifting temperature a little, or proportion, but to some extent it's about subjective interpretation, putting it together.  I keep talking about background noise as an element and that's a real example of one input, and I've discussed how your palate can shift a little over time, for example based on what you've eaten recently.

I suspect that people vary a lot more in their perception frame of references than they could possibly notice, and that people can practice and train themselves to lessen that, or that people have different natural capacities related to being more consistent.  I suspect imagination plays a bigger role in tasting than one might expect, that bringing minor inputs to the range of description isn't as straightforward as it might seem, and that connection process varies.  Enough rambling though; I'll probably circle back to this soon enough to go on and on about it.  There was an interesting discussion of ordinary causes of tasting variations in this  Gong Fu Cha Facebook group recently, if someone wanted to read a little further.

I tasted the tea a second time.  That helps narrow down variations in interpretation versus what one thinks of a tea in general.  It wasn't different.  I was thinking "fruit" while tasting it, more or less looking for that, and it can have an influence, but I didn't really notice that.

With the layers of complexity I described lots of things could be interpreted as underlying, as mixed-in secondary aspects, or woodiness interpreted as leather, spice interpreted as a type of mineral range instead, etc.  If there was fruit it might be in the apricot range, something on the sweet and subtle side that blends in with wood-tone and general spice.

The tea was nice, quite good.  It was so good someone wouldn't fully take the experience in based on one tasting, even though it didn't change a lot in trying it again.

sharing a cool image; those characters say "Maruko"

Monday, February 20, 2017

Doi Inthanon Thai oolong review, and re-roasting experiment

I'm trying a Doi Inthanon oolong, from the Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership.  It's described as a #12 oolong, Yun Bi, with that number of course matching the main Taiwanese TRES cultivar made in Thailand, Jin Xuan.  A co-worker bought the tea for me on a trip up North.  I do tend to keep buying and trying Thai teas even though a very small number of those prove interesting, as this one did.

There isn't much in their website about the tea, beyond this description of who they are:

The Doi Inthanon Tea Limited Partnership is a small family business located on Thailand’s highest mountain just below the peak and at the foot of Pha Ngaem rock formation. We have chosen the name of the mountain as our business name due to us being the first cultivators of tea in the area...   Thailand’s highest known cultivated tea. We are located in Bahn Khun Wang, Tambon Mae Win, Amphoe Mae Wang, Chiang Mai Province.

The generality is that most oolong is made around the Chiang Rai area, and black tea in the Chiang Mai area, with older tea production in the remote parts of the far North, including pu'er-like teas.  In the "history" page it says the cultivation occurs at 1500 meters.  I ran across an interesting Tea Journeyman review of the same tea, from a couple years ago, but it didn't shed much light on that type name.  The review sounded a little like I experienced it, but then I reviewed the same tea twice and the experience varied some between those.

First tasting notes

It's good, different.  The flavors are a little earthy, not as refined as some finished teas, but it really does work.  It's clearly oolong but not in a conventional style.  The leaves are twisted and brown, so not unlike lots of types.  Wuyi Yancha and oriental beauty fit that general description,  it's just different than those.  It looks a little like a Bi Luo Chun preparation (a Chinese green tea), with leaves twisted in circles, it's just not finished to complete that effect as much.

I'll go flavor by flavor; that's one way to go with description.  An earthiness stands out, a light woodiness, clean but still towards autumn forest floor range.  It's floral, and as usual the sweetness probably could also be interpreted as fruit, but to me more floral.  That range really does work in this case.

stronger infused version; yellow-gold when brewed lighter

It's not completely unrelated to spice tones, to the way nutmeg is warm in the same sense.  It's definitely not astringent but it has a bit of body similar to how building lumber comes across (so that would be pine, but the wood tone might be closer to a hardwood, maybe cherry).  Or it sounds like I'm probably just daydreaming that part, doesn't it?  Maybe.

I've had local Thai teas made in unconventional styles that were interesting, that sort of worked, but this being marginally better than those makes a difference.   Add a touch of cinnamon aspect to this tea and it would really be something; add a little tree fungus aspect instead and it would be terrible.  It's in the middle to start, and the novel character depends on the final balance to work.

A second infusion is still plenty woody, and still floral, not easy to pin down related to flower type, but might drift a little into spice.  It's not so clearly a spice that it's easy to pick one, still more towards nutmeg, but not exactly nutmeg.

It's interesting to compare to other standard tea types since it's not all that close.  It seems possible it's just not roasted (baked) or the result could be more like a familiar oolong. I'll try that, roasting it.  It's definitely on the lighter half of the oxidation scale but not that close to a green tea.

Roasting experiment, comparison tasting

A friend re-roasted a rolled oolong in Indonesia last year and the results sounded interesting.  I've read of people trying out re-roasting finished teas before but the process isn't familiar, so I just guessed it out.  I tried out baking the tea at 100 C for half an hour, checked the status, and then 120 for a second half an hour.  I'm not claiming that's an ideal approach, it's just what I tried.  It would seem much better to enclose the tea in something very suitable for being heated, something that seals a little but not enough to function as a bomb, to offset all the volatile components evaporating off.  But I didn't.  We have metal food containers that might have worked, which look to be stainless steel, but it could quite easily impart a metallic taste to the tea.

Of course the idea is to taste-test the original version against that baked version.  They look about the same, maybe just more stems in the roasted version due to some accidental sorting, and it's slightly darker.

The original version is even more floral than I remember.  I'm making the tea in a style closer to gongfu (modified, seems to typically be a light-proportion version of that), after using a relatively standard Western style preparation in that first tasting.  I'm noticing less spice and it's quite floral, a heavy and sweet version of floral at that, more lavender than rose.  Fruit is a little heavier, peach, or close to that, but that's a very minor aspect compared to the floral range.  It's much better prepared gongfu style, or maybe I'm just picking up more for whatever other reasons.

It's not quite as soft, not really astringent but with a bit of an edge, like a light version of how Dan Congs can be (with that effect varying a lot in those too).  It's a bit sweet, but not in exactly the same way as I usually mean by that.  I guess it comes across as closer to a green tea.  Of course the shape always had been a bit unconventional, and the colors were different than I would have expected, darker, compared to how it comes across, so some of the typical clues to the style matching a conventional version didn't work.

The roasted version isn't too far off, a little richer, shifted just a little into a light toffee.  The sweetness backs off just a little, giving way to a richer tone.  It changed a little, not a lot though, still essentially the same tea, the same aspects presented only slightly differently.  Better?  Maybe.

initially only slightly different colors

It's an odd tea to begin with.  It's not exactly like a conventional oolong.  It's floral, but not like other oolongs tend to be, sweeter and heavier, a bit of a different range.  Thai oolongs don't taste anything like that, so odd.

The next infusion (third) improves, perhaps as much from not screwing up preparation as an actual transition (I brewed it a little lighter).  The floral eases up in the character and a more pleasant balance of softer tones comes out, finally some of that wood and spice range I'd been going on about.  The astringency eases up, although it hadn't been pronounced, not really in green-tea range.

The warmth and caramel / light toffee sweetness of the roasted version works well, I'm just not as sure about the rest of the balance.  I like it better.  It gives up a lot of floral range for making that transition.  It still seems like a pretty light roast, like it would have changed a good bit more with more cooking.  The main shift was giving up floral aspects to transition to caramel / light toffee sweetness and move towards fruit, in the range of peach or apricot, a little harder to separate out for still including plenty of floral scope.

later infusion; the color shifts

Across another infusion the color difference in the two teas becomes more pronounced, with the roasted version moving to a peach colored versus the bright yellow of the original, with flavors not changing much.

Both teas drink better prepared relatively lightly; some teas are like that.  The flavors are intense enough that brewed as what might be "normal" for some oolongs or black teas it's too much.  Of course that's all down to preference, and some people might tend to drink every tea so wispy light that only hints of the flavors emerge, and someone else might like strong tea.

roasted brewed leaves left, a good bit darker

From there I'll leave off chasing the last couple of tastes in a transition series; the general point is mapped out.  For whatever reason this tea brewed a lot of infusions, just kept going, which seems to relate to the general character of more lightly oxidized oolongs.  The brewing experiment seemed a success, since the tea changed, and per my preference improved.  There would seem to be potential for the producer to use a more controlled and professionally applied roasting step to adjust the tea style with better results than I achieved in an oven.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Comparison tasting golden tips teas from Nepal, Darjeeling, and Laos

I happened to have three similar buds-only or mostly-buds black teas from three different countries, different versions of golden tips, so I compared them.  Two of them including some fine leaf material, or buds developing into leaves--and one not--is an inconsistency, but then lots of variables could change the results, and they're not supposed to be completely identical.  The point is only to compare similar teas, to taste how final results stand in the cup.  I tried a vaguely related black tea from Sri Lanka not so long ago but didn't have any on hand; probably as well since three teas is enough, and stylistic variations beyond origin differences are already problematic enough.

It's unconventional to compare teas from three different suppliers, stemming from the marketing function blog reviews serve.  This blog was never supposed to be advertising, that function and discussing tea just happen to overlap.  That makes for a good placement to mention that all three of these teas were contributed by the suppliers for the purpose of review.

In general I only review teas I like, since those are most interesting, although in discussing that scope with suppliers I'm clear on reserving the right to publicly express what I really think about any of the teas.  I suppose if a tea were bad in a really interesting way that could work for a post, like reviewing a ridiculously smoky lapsang souchong recently, perhaps due to chemical treatment instead of smoking.  That tea wasn't provided by the supplier; I bought it.  Typically suppliers provide nicer teas for review, so the most frequent concern is describing when preferences don't match a style, more so than for teas being bad or mediocre.  On to it then.

Himalayan Tea Shop golden tips (Nepal tea)

Rohini (Darjeeling) golden tips

Kinnari Tea Laos golden tips (Golden Flame)

The teas, and background

I've already reviewed one of these, a Kinnari Tea Laos Golden Flame (golden tips).  It's good.  The point here is to compare that to two others, a Golden Tips from Rohini Estate, a Darjeeling, and from a private vendor reselling teas from Nepal, the Himalayan Tea Shop.  Maybe interesting similarities and differences will turn up, for example comparison of region related (terroir) aspects.  Of course terroir can also refer to other things, to the effect of the specific micro-climate (eg. amount of direct sun, effect of fog), or the minerals in that particular soil, or to effects from other plants growing nearby.  A more experienced reviewer could say more about trueness-to-type, matching a typical range, than I'm going to here.

The Nepal vendor I'd mentioned in this post reviewing a green tea (a decent green tea at that).  That vendor's name is Arpan Khambu, essentially someone with a family business background starting to sell teas internationally on his own, a very small-business model.  That's an interesting back-story, one that would be more familiar for a vendor based somewhere like the US, but those circumstances change sourcing quite a bit.  In the future his business practice may evolve to include more information about the grower, including details about growing conditions (organic claims, etc.), but due to just starting out as of yet the related information that's available is sparse.

Rohini is a major Darjeeling producer, or really a sub-set of Gopaldhara, so there is information about them and their teas on their website.  Not about this particular tea though, since it is likely not a main production version, and that producer sells teas primarily through distributors, with only the main types described there.

I was surprised that Kinnari Teas had developed materials describing the teas in great detail, just not down to grower's photos and Google's coordinates of the farms.  Here is some background on the teas they are working with that I didn't get around to mentioning last time:

All our tea plants are grown from seeds from ancient wild Lao tea trees. These unaltered tea plants are perfectly adapted to their environment, evolved to thrive in this particular microcosm without the need for human intervention. In our highly biodiverse tea gardens, the collaboration of different plants, animals, insects, minerals and microorganisms ensure healthy and rich soils, no pesticides or chemical fertilizers are required. The tea plants’ strong taproots provide them with all the water and nutrients they need, while anchoring the soil on the hillsides. Each garden is a biotope: their cultivation contributes to the protection of the environment in rural Laos.  

Growing tea from seed and artisanal hand-processing also results in less predictable and more complex aromatic characteristics within one single garden and throughout the seasonal harvests. Like with fine organic wine, each harvest and each batch is an adventure and a surprise.

Interesting!  Someone with skeptical inclinations could reject that as less valid than an organic certification but it seems to really not be intended as standing in place of that, just a bit on context.  The part about genetic diversity of plants of course is a real thing, which leads to more questions about the differences between native types of plants grown through natural breeding versus use of clones (controlled breeding).  There's more on the general background related to this particular tea:

Southern China’s Yunnan Province is widely regarded as the cradle of tea, and famous in the west for its excellent black and puer teas. But plants don’t care about borders, and northern Laos’ geographical proximity to Yunnan can be felt in this exceptional tea from Phousan Mountain in Xiengkhouang Province, which echoes the renowned Chinese Dian Hongs...  Upon infusion, the tea releases rich aromatic compounds reminiscent of Yunnan blacks, but with a distinctive elegance.

That mention of Yunnan and Dian Hongs makes perfect sense.  These teas are not that far from versions I've been reviewing in the not so distant past (like this Farmerleaf autumn sun-dried Dian Hong).  

All of this about the Laos and Yunnan origins isn't to imply that Darjeeling and regions in Nepal are giving up a lot related to working with near-ideal high elevation growing conditions, or that great results couldn't be obtained from working with modern tea plant types or species evolved elsewhere.  It's really about the final results, and different good teas can be produced in different places, which is really the whole point of this tasting exercise.


Initial color difference seems to relate to teas including only buds (the Kinnari tea) or fine tea leaves and buds.  That will likely shift flavor profiles a lot, and change the effect of brewing times.  But then it's not science, just a comparison tasting.

The Nepal version (Himalayan Tea Shop; I'll just refer to these by country designation) is nice, darker, sweet smelling as a dry tea, and complex (they all are, really).  The initial taste is in the cocoa range, a bit subtle, sort of malty, but in that softer sense of that flavors range.  Malt is sort of complex anyway, not so definitive, but cocoa and malt describe most of the initial range.  It is nice and clean across that range, with a bit of bright citrus helping the profile.

The Darjeeling version (Rohini, a plantation associated with Gopaldhara, owned by them) is nice too, in a similar range, again malt and cocoa, maybe malt with cocoa versus the other way around.  The mineral structure below that seems to stand out more but it's still quite soft, and definitely not astringent, not even significantly "structured" versus biting, if that makes sense.  It might be the earthiest of the three, pulling a little towards wood tone, maybe even a hint of mushroom, but not in a bad sense, that clean tasting woodiness some wild mushrooms have.

The Laos version (Golden Flame from Kinnari Tea) is more subtle at the same parameters, without addition of some fine leaf content that would allow it to brew out as quickly.  It's more cocoa in the range of chocolate instead, that sweetness extended into those types of richer tones, maybe with a little brighter citrus tone mixed in.  Being more subtle offsets comparison a little; it might make sense to adjust brewing process since it may brew out slower.  I'll go a second infusion at the same times and judge that.

left to right:  Kinnari Tea, Rohini, Nepal tea

On the second infusion the Nepal tea is really nice, that cocoa and malt balancing even better.  Citrus is also there, with some spice tones joining in, close enough to cinnamon.  The sweetness is good and the feel is nice. There is a citrus element, a very light ruby red grapefruit (as a taste only; there is no bite / edge as from even mild grapefruit, just that warm sweet range is there).

The Darjeeling is in a different range, woody, maybe towards cedar, again with cocoa as dominant and plenty of malt (so maybe cocoa even picked up a little).  It's still nice, just different, it trades out citrus and spice for wood tones.  There is a lighter trace of citrus too but a different citrus, more toward bergamot.  The flavors are nice and clean.  It had seemed that woodiness could drift into a less cleaner over-all flavors range but it didn't work out like that.  That hint of wild mushroom transitioned to clean wood tones.

The Laos tea does seem to brew slower, so I'll be tasting it as a milder tea without adjusting to add time.  The proportion could also relate; going just a little heavier would add to the infusion strength.  This tea will probably last longer too, being only buds, or it might transition less later since the other two will see the fine leaves give out while the buds take more time to do that (at a guess).  The flavors are nice, again malt and cocoa (common to all of these), with citrus, and a light woodiness that's not the same as in the Darjeeling version (the Rohini).  That tea is more in the range of cedar, and this is really something that may be more like hay, it just covers the same range.  The last review also mentioned raisin, and between the more dominant cocoa and citrus underlying aspects could be sorted out as fruit, that raisin, or as malt (sweet malt, as in malted milkballs; there's nothing dry or mineral intensive about this tea, the standard pairing with other types of black teas profiles).

The citrus aspect may be the strongest in the Nepal version, or maybe it's that the spice tone adds to that sort of aspect effect, with those two sort of defining a "top" range, of sorts.  It's interesting the way there are so many comparable elements in these three teas playing out slightly differently.

On the third infusion the Nepal tea doesn't change much, maybe just a little nicer.  That cocoa, malt, cinnamon, and citrus integrate well together.  The other "earthy" range is more dark wood than mineral, or just a bit off cedar towards something darker yet, but not at all murky in effect.  The malt sort of has that brightness and complexity it seems to have in very different black teas, just not paired with astringency at all, and with different flavors altogether.  The spice tone (close to cinnamon, but not exactly that) covers range out towards coffee, just a mild version of it, a light roast, I guess.

Rohini plantation (photo credit)

The Darjeeling is moving into a richer, earthier range.  Without trying that Nepal tea just prior it would seem a lot different, brighter in comparison, with some of the same general aspects filling it out (cocoa, malt, citrus).  Due to direct comparison with the Nepal tea just prior a heavy, earthy tone stands out a lot more.  With that comparative bias going it seems a little towards a shou or aged pu'er, that dramatic, but once you adjust to tasting it on it's own it's nothing at all like that, just earthier.

Is all this clear?  It's covering similar cinnamon / coffee complexity range as in the Nepalese tea, just earthier, more centered towards a dark wood, and it seems the difference stands out more than the rest of the common flavors profile--most of what comes across--due to comparing the two teas.  It wouldn't be unusual for someone to attribute that to something else, peat, autumn leaves, mineral range, or something else, but it's clean and integrated, not "off" in any way.  The tea works well.

The Laos tea is more subtle than the others, again with part of that down to brewing parameters issues, trying to brew teas that aren't identical in the same way.  I can taste around that, and let it sit a little longer next time.  As with white teas this seems a little like tasting a silver needle style against a bai mu dan type.  Of course there is less complexity for including one type of thing instead of two (buds versus leaves and buds).  I think I'm biased towards that more complex effect, in general for both types, related to tasting these and for those white teas.  The opposite preference would also make perfect sense; it's subjective.  The tea is great though, as I just reviewed separately.  Cocoa, malt, hay, citrus, and fruit make for a nice profile, and it's quite clean and well presented.  It's possible to ramp up infusion strength different ways with brewing, it's just not possible to add more elements that aren't already there, and those aspects and balance are nice.

On the next infusion the Nepal tea is still similar, picking up just a touch of dark caramel tone.  I would expect it to start tapering off a little from here but who knows.  The Darjeeling version stays clean, with dark wood still pronounced, maybe shifting a little closer to the Nepal version, starting to come across more in between spice and light coffee.  It is a little more earthy than the Nepal tea.  The Laos tea is just hitting it's stride, bright in effect and picking up more complexity, but then it had already been complex.

not so related, but she does love tea

I think I'm liking these teas a lot more for calibrating my expectations to the range more, for appreciating them as a bit subtle (compared to leaf-only black teas).  It didn't hurt that two versions met me in the middle for including fine leaves in addition to buds, more familiar to me and a better match for my preference, that additional complexity.  And all three are really nice teas; that helps.

I suppose I am describing them in such a way that the Nepal tea sounds better, and I do like it better, slightly, but the Darjeeling is quite close in aspects range, so they are more similar than different.  The differences stand out a lot more for trying them side by side; tasted a month apart it might be harder to distinguish the two.  The Laos tea has a different effect going, brighter, in a slightly different range, but it's also nice in a different way.

It's odd the mineral aspects are so subdued in all these teas that I've barely mentioned them.  It must be an underlying element of the flavors context, part of the reason they come across as complex, but quite subtle for all.  I like the way the dark woods / spice range is doing more for the two more Himalayan teas, with different citrus higher notes supporting the more dominant cocoa for all three.

On the next infusion I think all the three teas are dropping back a bit  The same elements are there but they're thinner, and would surely keep getting thinner.  Based on the tasting last time that Laos Golden Flame really is able to go more rounds than one would expect, staying consistent across longer infusion times for a number of extra rounds.

lower left Laos, right Nepal, top Darjeeling

The spent leaves look a little different but the Nepal and Darjeeling versions aren't so far apart, more a slight color difference, with the Nepal leaves just a little darker.

That was interesting!  A word of caution about comparison tasting golden tips style teas:  the level of caffeine in these feels substantial, with that effect going a bit far given how many rounds I tasted through.  It took a good number of hours for that extra level of tweak to wear off.