Sunday, March 31, 2019

Farmerleaf Spring 2018 Jing Mai He Huan


Tian Xiang left, He Huan right


I'm combining the themes of hectic work-day breakfast tea drinking with leisurely weekend tasting for review today, trying to do a quick tasting before I go with my kids to swim practice.  It would make sense to taste just one tea but to up the stakes in being rushed I'm comparison tasting a Farmerleaf sheng sample sent with a version I bought a cake of and already reviewed.  That other tea was a Jing Mai Tian Xiang, and this sample I'm just getting to is a 2018 He Huan version.  I'll include how they describe that in with the review section.


Review


Tian Xiang left, He Huan right


Jing Mai Tian Xiang:  it's like I remember, pleasant, only slightly bitter, floral, perhaps just a little towards tart or sour, which comes across as a hint of green tea character.  It's good though.  The sweetness and complexity also comes across a little as fruit, just a bit non-specific in the early going, and more in the range of floral.  I'll focus more on the second tea anyway, since I've already reviewed this in the last month, using it to judge how the other is different.


Jing Mai He Huan:  the flavor range is warmer.  I'd almost guess this had a little age on it given how only a year or so of aging can shift character in that direction, just to a limited extent, but then this is almost a year old now.  The complexity includes floral range but it also hints towards spice.  The teas are relatively completely different in flavor character.  The feel and aftertaste vary less; they seem in the same range related to those aspect scopes.  It's early to be concluding preference but I could imagine liking this tea more, even though the other is nice.  It gives up a little brightness and intensity for being warmer and slightly fuller, in a different taste range, but that spice edge to the flavors is really cool.

Second infusion


Tian Xiang:  still bright, sweet, floral, and pleasant, with a catchy honey sweetness joining a good bit of floral range, which also leans toward a fruit tone, maybe apricot, or something along that line.  I scanned back through the last review when editing this (later in the day; usually I don't publish these reviews in one day but an exception seemed in order given the theme), and I kept trying to pin down that fruit related aspect in that.  That made for a moving target as the tea transitioned, even though it stayed in the same narrow character range throughout.


He Huan:  again quite a bit warmer.  More mineral base comes across, along with a warmer tone, but using a slightly higher proportion (a bit more tea) is going to shift character in that way, unless I compensate by changing infusion times.  It's odd how well I can guess out amounts, and this did look like the second tea amount might be a bit more, and indeed it was.  Rushing the whole process changes everything, even though somehow being in a hurry also feels natural after a decade of going to work in a hurry, dragging a young child along with me to drop off at school for many of those years.


the warmth of that one last smile really sets a nice tone for the day


Honey can vary a lot in character, with some light and sweet, almost citrusy and bright floral, and with other versions of it warmer and richer, and these two teas taste like those two different opposite versions of honey, one brighter and one warmer.  This second has a little bees-wax character to emphasize that connection, a flavor that Jin Jun Mei tends to express in better versions, or one that turns up in a limited range of other teas.  A novel more-oxidized white that I tried not so long ago was a lot like that, even though the connection would seem more natural with black teas.

Neither of these teas seems challenging enough that they would require any age to improve.  I'm also not sure either would be better in a few years, or in a dozen.  This He Huan range seems more promising to me since a warmer-tone range is where aged sheng is going to head, and the bright intensity that works well in the other would largely fade, maybe shifting to something else just as positive, or maybe just dropping out.  Both seem soft and approachable, just fine now, so waiting a decade to see if they improve or lose ground wouldn't be necessary. 

Third infusion




Tian Xiang:  feel is picking up, and complexity, even though this was still a quite-fast infusion, not much over 5 seconds.  The tea has improved for adding that depth.  It's hard to describe what filled in; more of flavors that would describe in the same way, and feel structure, and aftertaste.  The taste range is a little more positive for adding just a trace of warmth with the slightly tart / sour green tea character related edge largely dropping out.


He Huan:  warmth probably picked up a little more, but this won't be able to be much warmer and richer.  I can't help but think that William probably should have recommended that I buy this tea instead.  The other is nice but this character is really interesting.  I checked their description, and this being priced at $58 per a 100 gram cake is one notable difference (the other was $79 for a 357 gram version, which seemed like a good letting-off point for what my budget supports).  Here is his description:


The tea features an oily and active mouthfeel. The tea leaves your mouth with heavy sweetness and flowery fragrance. The tea has a good upfront bite, medium bitterness is present and remains just long enough for you to notice it. This is a fairly aggressive tea, not because of high bitterness and astringency, but because it feels active and dynamic in the mouth. You will notice a mineral tone as well, which makes you want for another cup. The tea can be brewed over fifteen times and performs well during the long end-of-session steepings.


I'm not sure I'd describe the experience that way but he's right, it's just a matter of how to best put it.  Warmer mineral is definitely heavier, maybe bitterness is slightly higher than the other (although the two teas trade places in that regard later; the level varies across infusions for both), but both are still moderate related to that.  It is a little thicker than the Tian Xiang version, but in an unusual way, not structured in the sense many younger sheng would be, but heavy, as he says maybe a little oily.  It has depth in flavor range that doesn't describe easily; that's part of the appeal too. 

Someone might really go on with a flavor list description, or maybe most people who write tea reviews would, spinning off into comparisons related to rich dried fruits and warm aromatic spices.  Or to some it would just seem floral, just a warmer, richer version of that than in the other.  Neither seemed particularly citrusy to me but it would work to say that one is a little like a bright version of citrus compared to the other being warmer and richer, the first out towards tangerine (just not that) and the other towards blood orange.

Fourth infusion




Tian Xiang:  this tea does seem a little simple and limited in comparison, but it is still nice in character, and has its own different range of complexity.  Someone would have to love that bright, sweet, floral / fruit range flavor intensity to really appreciate it.  Feel isn't thin and aftertaste doesn't vanish quickly but it has slightly less going on across those ranges.  It's flavor intensive, or maybe as some would put it aroma intensive. 

I tend to not observe the split between flavor as a taste identified by your tongue and aroma as perceived through nasal passages as much as many do (or as seems standard in some strands of traditional perspective).  Most of the heavy lifting in flavor is going on via aroma based compounds and it works to just describe sweetness, bitterness, and feel-structure separately (along with tartness and sourness, and other mineral tones, whenever all of that range comes up).


He Huan:  this version is transitioning a little but the last description still fits. 

It makes me wonder if I see this as a $200+ full size cake, but then I don't have enough baseline of that range to be as clear on it.  Quite often teas are sold as $30-$80 per 357 gram cake with the next quality level up a $200 200 gram version, with less offered in between.  I don't try all that much of that second level in comparison, or whatever comes beyond that, but it does come up sometimes. 

This is pretty good tea; I don't get the impression that it's clearly not worth it.  A lot of better versions that I've tried fit into a relatively narrow box for style, a profile that matches what is sold as gushu (which may or may not relate to any particular tree age; who knows).  Those tend to be more intense teas, with a bit more bitterness, with sweetness pairing with distinctive flavors, and a higher level of feel structure and pronounced aftertaste experience. 

A tea version that was supposed to be LBZ I tried recently was unique for the flavor range being novel; it just tasted different.  This is a different paradigm, a bit closer to that form, a little softer in character and more unique, as more natural growth teas tend to be.  Not that I'm offering that as a claim; William only wrote this for description:


He Huan is a lovely ancient garden located on a hill above the village. This is the eastern end of the Da Ping Zhang ancient tea forest. Unlike most of the park, this garden grows on steep ground. Yubai's uncle has a part of this garden and we managed to get his leaves at the peak of the Spring season.


"Ancient garden;" that implies different things.  The main factor is about how it works out anyway, final results, and this tea is nice.


Fifth infusion


This will do it for final thoughts, the end of a busy half hour of speed reviewing.

The Tian Xiang isn't transitioning as much, but it is in a nice place now, slightly softer, decently full, still reasonably complex within a limited range.

The He Huan also isn't changing so fast I'd write a new description.  That complex flavor, warmth, floral tone, rich honey sweetness, bees-wax taste and fullness, mineral base (an oddly soft and warm version of one) all do work really well.  It's probably for the best this doesn't include more bitterness; it really works as it is.  I'm not sure it's more than twice as good as the other version but it is better, at least related to my preference.

Later thoughts


I brewed a few more rounds of both later and can pass on some last impressions.  The Tian Xiang picked up more bitterness in those rounds, and it largely dropped out of the He Huan.  The main observation is that this tea reminded me of something I was trying to describe recently, what Ya Shi / Duck Shit oolong tastes like.  It's floral, but a warmer version of floral tone, that extends into a warm version of honey sweetness, inclined a bit towards fruit tone, something like cooked pear.  The flavor of this He Huan sheng isn't a close match for that but it definitely overlaps a good bit.  Now that I think of it that typical Ya Shi flavor set may well lean a little towards beeswax too.

What to make of that, saying that a sheng tastes like oolong?  That alone is an insult and condemnation related to admitting it doesn't have the right structure and profile, or level of bitterness, even though I've just explicitly compared only part of the flavor scope, not feel or aftertaste range.  It's not like oolong, but part of flavor is similar to one version of one.  It is a bit soft, rich and full in feel, and limited in bitterness as sheng goes, so it's not unlike oolong either, as younger sheng goes, just not similar.

It would be interesting to see how this tea version changes over a dozen years.  I wonder if that warmth and depth would transition versus fading, even though there isn't a lot of bitterness and astringency and that one limited range of intensity to alter through what I take to be more standard sheng aging transition patterns.  It would seem a shame to buy a tea this good to experience it just fading away later on.  Somehow I would guess that it would be subtle but still interesting, but that's based on next to nothing.  It would seem best to at least drink a good bit of it young, to experience it at this stage.

one of the two swimmers on a break





it's a nice place to hang out for a couple of hours


Friday, March 29, 2019

Comparing Yunnan Dian Hong with Chiang Rai Thai black tea


Farmerleaf Jing Mai Dian Hong left, Thai Chiang Rai version right


Aphiwat Kokhue contacted me though Facebook recently to talk about Thai local teas.  I love that sort of thing, hearing about unusual tea versions from people working locally in production or sales, especially related to Thailand.  Or across South-East Asia, really, and to a similar extent elsewhere too.  Part of my interest in the subject of tea relates to taking related discussion and networking too far (like helping start a Facebook group).

It can be awkward if I agree to try a tea from someone for a review and then don't like it, or if it just seems really unexceptional.  But that usually goes the other way, and it sort of just is whatever it is, more typically positive and a bit unusual.

This post is mostly just a review, not about the story behind that tea.  I might get around to saying more about that part, and it would be interesting given how distinctive the tea turned out to be.  But for now I'll just credit who that contact was, Aphiwat Kokhue Aphiwat (probably only the first two names--funny it works that way on that Facebook profile), based out of the business ไร่ชา 720 (Tea Plantation 720).   The brand name is cited as Gaw Khee Cha instead on the label.  I can only translate the third of those words from my knowledge of Thai and I doubt that would be helpful to many readers.  That listed Facebook page location is getting pretty far out there in the Chiang Rai area; that's probably where they really are located.


credit their referenced Facebook business page


I don't know for sure that this tea is made from those young, conventional farming style plants in that photo.  There would be older local plant source teas around, they just may or may not be in that area.  I can't tell from photos if a tree is a tea plant or not, not without cross-referencing and some degree of uncertainty even if it's a close-up of the leaves, but pictures in their page do show what look to be older source tea plants:




At any rate I'd need more input from Aphiwat to know more about the background of the tea that he sent.  I suspect this wasn't from young tea plants, but it's as well I don't add to that, since that's a wild guess even compared to the typical baseless speculation here.  I can describe how it was brewed though, and probably will get around to discussing it more with him, and maybe trying later tea versions.  It's guesswork buying tea off chance online contacts who mention producing it, since there is no way to know what would show up if you did, but trying a version narrows things down a little, and the tea was pretty good.

It's odd leaving it at that, since I have talked to Aphiwat some, in spite of there being a language divide.  We didn't talk about ourselves but per his profile he has kids, and as a parent that one factor means a lot to me.  I respect people who take on that really important burden, although in a different sense I also respect people for not choosing that path.  Per the photos in his profile he is a Thai local in a completely different ethnic sense, part of a native Thai community, referred to as from a hill tribe.  That expression includes no negative judgement or connotation, not in my use here or in general in Thailand, it just describes background.  It's an interesting background story, to me, which means more to me personally than it makes sense to go into.




I reviewed it along with a Farmerleaf version I just bought, listed here as Spring 2018 Jingmai Sun-Dried Black -- Short oxidation (which of course is a reference to an area in Yunnan).  I can definitely judge how much I like a tea without direct comparison as an aid but that does help isolate where aspects stand in relation to another, and doubles the review pace, in a sense.

Here is some of their product description (William's, surely, who posts really interesting tea production background on Youtube worth checking out, with this discussion of Yunnan black tea styles and a video on black tea processing especially relevant to this scope):


Natural Tea Gardens from the top of Jingmai Mountain
Picked on April 11th, third flush
Processed in our tea factory, experimental
Loose leaf Yunnan sun-dried black tea

...As far as black tea goes, these leaves can be considered lightly oxidized. The tea soup feels very vivid and has an interesting depth in the mouth. The fragrance is complex and keeps coming out as the session goes.


Their black teas vary but I always like them, so I wasn't worried about that part.  The role of the Farmerleaf version in this was to serve as a positive benchmark.




Review


The Farmerleaf version is a little light the first round. Character that does show is nice, sweet, rich, and complex, but a description will work better next round. Earthiness might be centered on a sweet version of leather in this round, not bad, but adding complexity to that would help.

The Thai tea is also too light to review, but interesting. Sweetness is less, with an unusual wood tone incorporated, more in the range of sawdust. The main basic flavors are rich, earthy, and sweet but there is also a trace of sourness. It will make a lot of difference if that part passes or develops.


Farmerleaf tea left, Chiang Rai black right


The Farmerleaf version did add a good bit of complexity and depth on the next round. This complex profile could be interpreted in lots of ways, as including cocoa, dark wood, leather, and spice, towards cinnamon but more a root spice, or else a range. Even a little dark cherry wouldn't be a stretch.

The Thai tea version is more complex too, and better balanced. That hint of sourness has largely faded, transitioning to other range. It's woody in a different sense than the other tea, not an aromatic dark wood but more an aged hickory or oak lumber, so like a newly built barn. There isn't the same level of cocoa or spice or sweetness, but the balance and character works. The earthy depth is filled in more with a clean version of forest floor.




On the third infusion more of the same for the Farmerleaf version. With just a little more cocoa or fruit this would be great, but it's quite pleasant as it is.  The flavors are clean and the overall effect is balanced and positive. Feel is pleasant, just coming across as a little thin to me for being on sheng range for so long, with the same true for aftertaste. Those don't tend to have this catchy and easy to drink character, but this gives up complexity.

Fruit is developing in the Thai version; it's different and better. The specific fruit range isn't familiar, towards a warm version  of berry, which could be interpreted as blackberry, extending into roasted sweet potato. It's completely clean in this range, not sour or muddled at all. The wood tone is onto how a fall forest smells, more like damp sticks, but a clean version of that.

On the next infusion the teas were about the same so I skipped a round of description (three, for the Farmerleaf version; it's staying consistent, which works). It would be possible to brew this Western style, of course, to change proportion and timing to brew 2 or 3 rounds instead. I'm using between 15 and 20 second infusion times, strong for other teas but it works for these, mild and approachable as they are.


Farmerleaf left, Chiang Rai Thai black right


The Thai tea is shifting a bit. That fruit is a little towards grape now, but an earthy and sweet version of it, like Welches grape juice, with a touch more earthy range. It remind me of the fruit taste from a local grape plant version at my great grandfather's house. That dark purple grape version was unique and pleasant, thick skinned with a lot of seeds, with a very rich grape flavor. On the next infusion this Thai tea version flavor deepened just a little, with some of that grape flavor moving into raisin instead.  Both teas brewed more rounds but I left off the notes at that point since they were mostly just fading.


checking out a late round brewed strong, to see what that changes (not much)


Halfway through I had been ready to conclude that the Farmerleaf tea is good but could be slightly more intense across some flavor range, and the Thai tea wasn't on the same quality level but had some redeeming character.

The first part still works, but in light of this Thai black tea transitioning positively across late rounds it's better than that, and even more unique. It's probably a couple slight processing shifts away from being really exceptional tea, but it's nice as it is. It had been about as good as orthodox Assams tend to ever be (in my limited experience), but with that late round positive transition complexity it's at the top end of that scale instead.  It's seems possible that the Farmerleaf version might have lost some intensity over roughly a year of storage; sun-dried black tea versions are said to gain depth and range and oven-dried versions are supposed to be best after a couple months of rest, and then just fade after that.

Of course preference for aspects shifts interpretation. That Gaw Khee Cha version was earthy in a range that not everyone might love, especially before it transitioned to show more pronounced fruit, but even that part worked well for me. The Farmerleaf is more standard for decent Dian Hong character, which to me is not trivial since I love those teas. It was less novel (to me, having tried some of their Dian Hong and others in the past) but it might appeal to more people.

This experience reminded me of trying a Phongsaly, Laos area black tea version passed on by Somnuc Amnousinh not so long ago.   That tea was distinctive, with a trace of rough edge, but much better than more standard type teas for having more unique positive range, higher in quality than such locally produced teas might typically be.  I remember thinking when I tried that tea that I wouldn't really mind drinking a kilogram worth of it, and I think this Thai tea could work as a much better version of a black tea daily drinker than any grocery store in the world sells.


Right at the last moment Aphiwat got back to me with more detail on what the tea actually is; just in time (or just after I hit "publish," but an edit before anyone reads this is the same thing).  He claimed that the tea plants (trees) are estimated as 700 years old, sourced from a growing area of approximately 1200 meters in elevation.

I might have said what I only implied; there is no way this seemed remotely close to being made from young-plant source farm grown Chinese or Taiwanese (variety Sinensis) plants, and more the opposite of that whole set of factors.  The size of the leaves alone almost settles it.  One could take that 700 year old estimate with a grain of salt, since per my understanding it's only hearsay, but the sources are almost certainly from older tea trees growing in a relatively natural conditions.  It seems to go a bit far to claim that there's just something about the end result from that type of starting point that stands out, but at the same time that's exactly it.


that Laos version; you should try these teas


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Compressed teas and tisanes beyond pu'er


First published in parts by TChing, with the last post of three in sequential order here


This subject is familiar to most related to sheng and shu pu'er; both have long since been pressed into cakes (bings), tuochas (dented ball shapes, kind of), bricks, "dragonballs," coins, and other shapes.  This will focus on scope outside of pu'er, since those are more commonly encountered.

The common understanding is that this form related to ease of transport from condensing the size.  Teas from Yunnan could be shipped across the Tea Horse Road to all sorts of regional destinations, processed to be easier to ship, distribute, and later store (with further reading about the modern forms of that history here).  Same for Hunan brick teas, and at some point the same compression process was also applied to shou mei white tea.

More recently compressed black teas and others have become somewhat fashionable.  Why press these, though?  We're at the stage now where modern packaging solutions can cover a lot of the same functional concerns with the tea still in loose form.  Pu'er needs air contact to ferment (to change over time), and to some extent that could apply to other tea types as well, even though the same storage approach and concerns are most typically only extended to white teas.  Compression isn't essential for aging but it does work well to store teas in that form and it helps moderate level of air contact at a suitable level.

Cakes of other tea types seem cool; that's a good reason.  To a limited extent the reshaping could also change tea character slightly, it seems, so there's a functional aspect.  For other teas "designed" for storage and aging it still makes sense on that first level.  Most recently I've tried two versions of this approach applied to tisanes (herbs and fruit), which I'll cover at the end.


shou mei (white tea), or other white teas pressed in different shapes:  really this form is common enough too, but it can be hard for one person to explore even the considerable list of most standard types.  Those teas can be mild but rich-flavored, including caramel or toffee tones with aging transition, evolving to include dried fruit or spice tones.  This post reviews two versions that seemed relatively standard, one from 2008 and 2012, along with a gong mei (same thing, different leaf grade), and candy-bar style pressed white.  Comparison reviewing four white teas together in that account turned out to be a bad idea; not so many rounds in I was blasted on all that caffeine.



Gong Mei cake, a Dayi / Tae Tea version


candy-bar style compressed white tea


a unconventional white tea cake described as pressed Moonlight White (details here)


Hunan region / Fu brick teas:  these seem kind of standard too, potentially very pleasant, flavorful, and typically relatively inexpensive compressed teas that are distinct in character from sheng and shu pu'er.  I've not experienced enough versions to generalize, but of that limited set I have tried pre-fermentation was either not used or not nearly as evident as in shu, and the teas didn't have the same intensity that younger sheng possess.

Then again I've not really tried new / young enough versions of compressed hei cha to really place starting points, related to typical use of a pre-fermentation step.  This Yi Qing Yuan factory version I reviewed with "yellow flowers" was produced in 2009, and this 2007 Xiang Yi "Hei Cha Zhuan" didn't have that version of mold present in it.  That general fungus category and specific "yellow flowers" input is identified in this reference passage:


...The genus Aspergillus is a group of filamentous fungi consist of more than 250 species, which is the most economically important of the fungal genera.  Many species of Aspergillus are used in biotechnology for the production of various metabolites, such as antibiotics, organic acids, medicines or enzymes, or as agents in many food fermentations. The fungal genus Eurotium, which is the teleomorph of Aspergillus, has been proved to be a rich source of novel bioactive metabolites. 

...species formerly included in the genus Eurotium  [a yellow-flowers related reference] are displayed with their Aspergillus name.. it is considered to be safe under low- and high-osmolarity conditions...


The typical hearsay account is that the various types of fungus are generally good for you rather than potentially harmful, not exactly confirmed in that research article passage but to a limited extent supported by it.

Hunan Fu brick tea with "golden flowers"


shai hong / Yunnan black teas:  now we're talking.  I first ran across a version of those and tasted it without reviewing what it was first two years ago, back in 2017, covered here.  Yunnan black teas / dian hong (or shai hong, a reference to versions of that being sun-dried) can vary quite a bit but the range is nice.

That version reminded me a little of those Hunan brick teas for character, beyond being compressed, for being so mild, and for including pleasant dried fruit, rich sweetness, and other earthy complexity.  I've tried a couple of other compressed Yunnan black teas since and they just vary.  This other version was pleasant, and included a bit of tartness, which can be nice in the right balance.  The two main US pu'er vendors are now producing versions, Yunnan Sourcing and White2Tea, with one of the latter's versions boasting the catchy name of Natural Redhead, and the former's branded "Drunk on Red."  The marketing factor being an input seems to show up in the product names.

This video interview with a Yunnan black tea specialist (conducted by William Osmont of Farmerleaf, a Jing Mai based producer and vendor) sheds light on the processing differences in various types of black teas, it just doesn't get into the factor of pressing those.  One take-away from that matching conventional understanding:  Dian Hong, the conventional Yunnan style black teas, are oven dried, and Shai Hong are sun-dried versions, which are milder in fragrance and said to possess the potential to improve with age.  I've tried the same versions across a broad span of time before (a year or more), and they did seem to gain depth and intensity.

chunk of compressed Shai Hong (sun-dried) Yunnan black tea


compressed oolongs:  I had heard of these long before ever trying one, and did get a chance to in the form of a Moychay (Russian vendor) Da Hong Pao roasted oolong bar.  You could tell it wasn't the refined and subtle style of Wuyi Yancha that leans towards an aromatic liqueur or perfume-like aspect range, more flavor-forward and roasted to include sweet, rich caramel flavors instead, positive in character but limited due to being comprised of relatively broken material.  It worked well for me.

I have no idea if the unusual character in that product is somehow common to other compressed oolongs, if others are as flavor-intense and distinctive as that version was.  Some are probably great and others terrible, and all probably vary in taste and other aspect range; that's how that usually goes.  This looks like an interesting version of one (that I haven't tried), a 2006 pressed Da Hong Pao brick from Wuyi Origin, a well regarded producer who sells directly.


one chunk (square) of the Moychay DHP oolong bar


tangerine or orange peel stuffed shu pu'er or black teas (chen pi):  I don't want to add too much about these versions because they really deserve more background discussion and description than I have space for here.  I've tried shu pu'er and black tea versions (and have a white tea stuffed citrus peel at home yet to try), and the were nice, unique and pleasant.  And supposedly very good for health, bordering on a form of Chinese medical practice input.  I'll leave off at citing a reference to claimed health effects, framed in Traditional Chinese medicine terms.  The tea could have positive effects without that description framework being the most accurate model, or some of the benefits could be valid and accurate even if some others aren't:

Actions: Regulates Qi; adjusts the middle Jiao (acrid lifts the spleen Qi, bitter descends the stomach Qi); dries dampness; resolves phlegm; helps the spleen to transport; relieves the diaphragm; directs Qi downward.



shu pu'er stuffed tangerine (I think; could be a mandarin orange)


compressed tisanes:  a final frontier not everyone even wants to venture into, or would have heard of.  Again I tried two completely different tisane bars from Moychay (they sent me quite a few samples to review last year, and I've even started contributing some review-article content to a their website).  One was compressed fruit that seemed to contain a bit of spice, really far from standard tea in character, but pleasant.

One was a pressed version of willow herb, which also goes by fireweed, and is also called Ivan chay.  This herb is really unique for being able to oxidize, in a way similar to tea (Camellia Sinensis), although the couple of versions I've tried wouldn't get mistaken for tea.  The other was a pressed version of dried fruits, definitely different.  A version I didn't try is made of rose petals and cherry leaves.

If the way it works out similar to "real tea" versions pressing the herbs would only change loose material character a little.  They're not the same as Camellia Sinensis but the wider range of materials input enables a different range of potential.  Any herb, flower, or fruit blend could be combined and pressed that way, in theory.  Or mixes of teas and other inputs, which is a popular theme in Western markets now.  One potential down-side is that there's no current market demand for such a thing (pressed tisanes and blends), since it seems to have just started existing, but in a different sense that only increases the potential.

compressed willow herb bar (aka fireweed or Ivan chay)


compressed fruit bar


I think the compressed tisane theme was more appealing to me because trying the one local shop white tea bar and Moychay Da Hong Pao (roasted oolong) were such positive experiences.  Both of those could be brewed Gongfu style, prepared in a gaiwan using lots of short infusions, or they worked well made Western style, and probably just as well prepared "grandpa style."  That's a reference from a well-known tea blogger to a very common Chinese brewing approach, adding tea into a tea bottle with hot water and drinking it together, unstrained, re-adding water after finishing each round.  I most often use it on road trips, and wrote a post about trying out results on different tea types awhile back.

The fruit tea version would even work well simmered with black tea, perhaps with a bit more spice added, to make a fruit-oriented version of masala chai.  Or these could be added to a thermos and left to brew that way, over any length of time.  That would seem to involve committing a thermos to the practice since cleaning after something that aromatic might be problematic, maybe even if the liner was made of glass or steel.  Tisanes have the potential to be even more flexible than teas to brew, with the exception of tea types that aren't astringent and work well at any infusion strength, versions like shu pu'er or shou mei.


Really there are too many types of tea to get to among standard types as it is, but all of these make for interesting tangents and additional range to explore.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Qian Liang Hunan Hei Cha from Jip Eu






This hei cha version Kittichai, the owner of Jip Eu, passed on in one of the visits there a couple months back (my favorite Bangkok Chinatown shop).  I tend to bring them teas to try, and they give me more in return, and I buy some to drink, related to wanting to own that tea, but almost in part to keep up the pretense of being a customer.  To me they're great to visit with; that stands out as much as the shopping opportunity.  I don't even know if they sell this but it was my impression that they don't, that he was just sharing something interesting.  Or maybe they do. 

I bought other tea I liked so much I've bought it three separate times now, a sheng tuocha that's on the basic side but well-aged and seemingly quite underpriced, which I will get around to writing about.  I almost want to just buy the rest of what they have of that tea and let it go at that, but somehow that seems selfish.  Maybe I should split the difference and buy a couple more tuochas.

I might as well cover what this is first, even though I tried the tea and made notes without looking that up:





It's Qian Liang hei cha from Anhua, Hunan.  Kittichai mentioned that, and about it being made as a long cylinder, aged for a long time, and then sliced in parts.  Teapedia lists a short description:


Qian Liang Cha (千两茶) is a speciality from Anhua. Anhua county of Hunan province is famous for many dark teas. The tea is similar to Pu-Erh produced and post fermented. Qian Liang Cha is pressed to long and heavy poles from which later small discs or cakes are sliced. Qian Liang Cha means translated 1000 liang tea. Liang is a traditional Chinese unit for mass. While 10 liang are appx. 1 pound and therefor a Qian Liang Cha is about 100 pounds (50kg) heavy.


Tony Gebely's "Tea:  A User's Guide" adds detail to that, beyond identifying it as hei cha:


Hua Juan Cha is produced by pounding steamed Hei Mao Cha into a cylindrical bamboo basket lined with a layer of bamboo leaves and a layer of palm husk. The cylinder is then pounded with a large wooden hammer as it is rolled tight by several people. It is then tied off and allowed to dry outdoors for several weeks...

Each Hua Juan variant uses a Chinese weight measure called a tael (两.). During the Qing dynasty when this style of tea was first produced, a Tael was equal to 36.25 g. The most common sizes produced are Qian Liang Cha (千两茶, qiān liăng chá) or thousand tael tea, Bai Liang Cha (百两茶, bǎi liǎng chá) or hundred tael tea and Shi Liang Cha (十两茶, shí liǎng chá) or ten tael tea.


That does go on to list this version out as a size of 36.25 kg, 150–160 cm tall, and 20 cm in diameter.  My wife would go crazy if I brought one of those home.


Review


The first infusion is a bit light; this will need to be brewed significantly longer to show its character well.  I didn't weigh out the sample but this proportion is low compared to what I tend to use for other types, intended for a longer infusion approach.  I'll skip to the next infusion to say more.


earlier round infusion brewed a bit strong


It's different, earthy in a unique way; that is kind of how I thought it was supposed to be.  It tastes like brewing aged wood and dried fungus, so mushroomy.  I expect that will clean up a bit over the next two infusions or so, and even using really long infusion times will produce a lot of steeps.  It's not musty or sour so the flavor doesn't need to clean up in those senses; it's pleasant.  A dark caramel sweetness supports that other range well, with plenty of flavor that is more towards dried fruit, closest to date, or between that and fig.  The thickness is nice, a slightly oily feel.

It transitions a little on the next round but the same description still applies, the balance just shifted a little.  The fungus / mushroom range mostly cleared out, and might be faded further in the next round.  The other dark wood / dried fruit range is nice.  A mineral layer played more of a role than I described, which stands out more in this round.  Of course it's warm and towards earthy, between a dark version of a rock and corroded metal. 

It's like you might expect a meteor to smell.  There is a big chunk of one at the temple we keep visiting, but to be honest I don't remember picking up any smell from it.  This doesn't have the same kind of feel structure that even softened aged sheng has but the version of thick feel is interesting.

It's not that different on the next round; I think transitions may not make for much of a story for this.  This does match up with the only other "golden flowers" version of hei cha I've tried, a Fu brick tea, based on distant memory of that experience. 

One would expect the flavor to be earthier in a much different way than it seems to come across, heavier on fungus (it is mold).  But to the extent it works to extrapolate from only two versions--which doesn't work, of course--the resulting flavor is sweet, distinctive, and clean in effect.  It's a bit faint and mild, something like dried bamboo smells (not that it's so familiar; that description is a stretch).  Like some sort of tisane, maybe, a root-spice version, not so different than a smell component of visiting an herb market in Seoul that sold a lot of ginseng.




A lighter infusion round doesn't change things much, but it's still quite pleasant, sweet, complex, and distinctive.  It's interesting contrasting that with brewing a round for about 2 minutes after, much longer than I would any other type of tea (except shu would also be fine prepared extra thick).  The mushroom aspect comes back; that aspect coming out seems to be a function of the infusion strength.  The tea is nicer brewed light but including mushroom flavor isn't as bad as it might sound.  It's funny how that drops out completely brewed lighter and other flavor range doesn't change that much.  The feel isn't necessarily all that thin brewed for 15 to 20 seconds at a relatively moderate proportion (low, for me).


Back at that 20+ second infusion timing it's better again, light on flavor and limited in body but interesting and pleasant.  It's interesting comparing this to a 10 year old Malaysian-storage aged sheng I tried yesterday, the final rounds of that, now surely around 15 infusions in.  It's not right to say the experiences are similar but there are some parallels and overlap.  The flavor is in a comparable range for type, with that sheng including more tobacco towards dark tree bark, now light in feel for being somewhat brewed out, but still substantial.  It's catchy. 

This hei cha is earthier, with more in the range of corroded metal or mountain spring mineral scent, like the smell from a pipe coming out of the side of a mountain with water flowing out of it.  Some people would love it, but tea drinkers acclimated to better aged sheng range might not, as much for being different as being inferior in character.  To me both are nice. 

I can't really place exactly how good this version is, to pin down trueness to type or quality related to a standard range for versions.  The other golden flowers Fu brick tea I tried a long time ago might've been slightly nicer, but similar in nature, or then again maybe I've just been drinking a lot of better teas in the past year, so this is being judged against a tougher baseline.  Either way it's interesting and pleasant, if a bit simple across some of the aspect range.  The mushroom and corroded metal range could put some people off but sweetness hinting towards dried fruit and other complexity balanced that in a reasonable way.


I sort of start to get it why people evolve a singular preference for better aged sheng, in a range of character types I've barely been exposed to yet.  I'm not sure that I'll drop out my liking for all other kinds of tea, as is common enough.  There was just a discussion in a FB tea group about that, with results splitting in both directions.  Some even claimed to have been really into pu'er earlier in their tea experience but have since moved on to preference for other types, the opposite of the more standard form of transition.  I probably wouldn't switch my tea drinking habit over to include a lot of this form of hei cha but it is interesting and pleasant to try different teas.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Liquid Proust Sheng Olympiad 2008 Guang Bie Lao Zhai






I'm reviewing the last of a Liquid Proust Sheng Olympiad set, probably two months after most of the people who bought that set tried it.  It was nice.

Perhaps the main story behind this tea is the part of the label that I left off, "Malaysian Storage," or for others the producer name is the real novelty, made by Huang Chuan Fang.  The other samples in this set were younger teas (newer), and this will be a chance to check if my past impression of Malaysian storage lending a specific flavor to sheng is right.  Not conclusively, since it will take lots more samples of different kinds to really get to firmer conclusions, but it will still be interesting to see.  I don't know what the tea itself is; probably as well to leave that until the end to check anyway.

For here let's start in with the Liquid Proust description:

Malaysia: 16g 2008 Guang Bie Lao Zhai from Huang Chuan Fang 

Still new to Huang Chuan Fang... but these cakes have been stored in Malaysia for 10 years.


I got side-tracked reading up on that area designation and background (between the earlier statement and editing phase), but suffice it to say that it's a Bulang mountain location.  A lot of the tangents that turned up were interesting but these reviews are long enough as it is.  This reference seems to mention this producer, Huang Chuan Fang, and an interesting tea event awhile back, from Phyll's Account of the June 2007 Pasadena Pu'er Tasting Event.  It's odd that's no longer a news update, as presented there, and more like US tea culture history now.



Review


It's pleasant, and it definitely tastes aged.  I let the infusion run longer than I will for the rest of the cycle (well over 10 seconds), to move past a "still getting saturated" phase, so it's on the strong side this round.  Familiar age-related flavors are clear.

People describe those in all sorts of ways and I'm not sure if my own ordinary-language versions really mean much to anyone.  They probably only would to people who are familiar with the experience, which defeats a little of the point of communication, only talking to people who already know what you are saying.  I'll stick with it though.

That warm, mineral-intensive, sappy range reminds me of aged leather, stones, old books, and to some extent to warm spice.  Sweetness is along the lines of an earthy form of molasses.  A lot of this review will probably be trying to put better description to all that than I'm able to, and I think today I'll say less since adding more words won't really help anyway.  That spice is probably in between a tropical dark hardwood, an incense spice, and tobacco.  Maybe on the next round the general-scope descriptions can be clarified to a narrower set.



Next round:  it's still complex, hard to narrow beyond adding that laundry list of what aged teas (sheng) tend to taste like.  Tobacco probably does stand out more this round, but it's not alone, still in a complex other set.  Incense spice is on the same level, frankincense or myrrh or something such.  I should figure out where the modern versions of hippies are hanging out in Bangkok and go to a store selling products in those ranges. 


The level of aging seems right, pronounced for this tea only being 10 years old, and the flavor intensity and general character works.  Sometimes aged versions can seem quite thin across an aspect range, the body / feel can be light, aftertaste just missing, or flavor set one-dimensional.  Maybe that's related to a storage issue, or maybe due to not being suitable for aging in the first place.  I expected this to be slightly heavier yet in flavor tones (danker, to stick with that earlier theme), and it still strikes a decent balance.  I could see why people further along in experiencing aged sheng might possibly think this is great, or might think it's not how such teas are supposed to be at all, outside even a broadly defined range of potential preference scope.  To me it's nice.


On the next infusion the flavor didn't really need to clean up or sort out in any sense, and it has only transitioned slightly.  A different kind of warm mineral tone is ramping up, and the sappy resin-like character that had been there all along.  The rest falls into more of a complex and even balance.  In seeing positive feedback about this version in limited online discussion I was wondering if it was more the positive character of the tea that caused that impression or that it was a chance to try an aged version.  It's probably both; the tea is ok, and aged.

A kind of generic aged sheng version I bought in Chinatown was similar in some ways, or overlapped, especially related to the tobacco flavor, but it was a lot less complex and thinner in feel and overall impression.  Again the range that's there being positive depends on preference but it seems a decent fit to ordinary likes, beyond just lacking common flaws.  I've tried sheng this aged that had just faded away and this didn't.

I just ran across an interesting aging related review post describing teas seeming quite young at double this age, if stored in dry and cool enough conditions.  It stands to reason; just as this tea probably experienced an environment that more or less optimized related bacteria and fungus growth it would be easy to imagine the relative opposite in the form of a typical Northern US or Canadian indoor household, generally cool and dry.  I'll probably get around to mentioning more about it but I also ran across this interesting post on a series of combined-trial environment tests on aging.



On the next infusion flavors settle a little and the mineral picks up, still warm and complex but across a narrower range now.  I saw a post about someone drinking tea-bag tea (in a Gong Fu Cha FB group; it wouldn't be funny in others where that's common), claiming that it tasted like pennies.  This does too, a little, but it works.  From aged leather to incense spice then tobacco and now pennies; I could imagine it not working as well for everyone, but I liked it across that range.  It seems likely that it will settle into a character that's different and just as positive or more so over a few infusions, that also sounds a bit strange.

More of the same on the next round.  It's nice the way the mineral intensity balances, and a related feel coats your tongue and transitions to a pronounced aftertaste.  More of the same the round after.  There are going to be mild shifts in character but I'm not as much in the mood for trying to split that apart today.  I'll go slightly longer and add a few notes and let it go.

A tree bark / warm spice range is picking up, although some of that is the character seeming different infused slightly longer.  I could imagine that being interpreted as tobacco instead; it's close enough.  Mineral underlays that nicely, with molasses sweetness filling it in.





Conclusions


On the subject of storage-area and climate related changes, I think I can taste what I expected, but it's hard to be certain.  Other Malaysian aged versions seemed to have a warm, earthy, mineral and almost musty flavor range that this matches up with.  It's not so far off the smell in a basement, something hard to pin down, but noticeable and distinctive.  It smells a little like a wet cement block, or just a little towards a tree root from there.  It's not so far from the slate-mineral taste common to Liu Bao, just not exactly that.

It's hard to evaluate how good or bad a thing it is, but the effect / aspect I'm talking about is quite faint, with the general fermentation level something else altogether.  Maybe this could've achieved a more subtle and refined complex aspect range in another five years in a slightly less damp environment; I couldn't know.  At least it did get relatively completely aged (fermented) in 10 years, and the character stayed pleasant, not musty at all, in spite of how I've just described that aging effect.


Placing this in relation to other aged teas I've tried seems in order.  It's quite decent tea, it seems, per match against my preference.  It's not significantly different than the Thai aged shengs I've tried, Hong Tai Chang versions from Tea Side, one of which from 2006 I own what's left of a cake of.  I tried a Changtai version from that same year a friend passed on that shares some aspect range that seemed a good bit thinner, missing some depth, with limited complexity and a bit thin over-all.  Of course there's no guarantee that a tea is as presented, and all the details of that one weren't shared anyway, but the point here is more a general comparison.

This tea was pleasant for me going back to it and brewing a lot more rounds of infusions, so many that I couldn't guess a count.  It faded over those but stayed positive all the way through them.  Infusion count isn't necessarily a definitive guide to tea quality but to me it seems to be a marker, along with the character of the aspects (of course), and undergoing a pleasant transition cycle. 

It could seem odd that I'm not mentioning feel at all (cha qi), but I only tend to notice that in the most extreme cases, when a young old-tree sheng or older well-evolved sheng version stand out for intensity related to that.  Eventually I might be more "in-tune" myself in order to pick it up better but my kids would need to adopt more regular sleep cycles so that I could share in that practice.  The youngest is now 5; it's about time for that.  I spent some time as a stoner so I feel a bit over experiencing externally caused changes in myself, even if the character of those is generally positive.  My natural neurochemistry balance is working out.

I'm tempted to judge just how good the tea is, or try to place it further, or to estimate how fast it aged related to that storage location and climate.  It's as well to just let the description stand as a partial account; after a few more years of trying tea versions I'll be better prepared for it.


at a local water park with my daughter's friend and his father





Kalani and a cousin at a play area


that little girl is so cute and sweet


this one too


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Comparing Laos and Nepal white teas


Moonlight white lower left, Laos top, Nepal tea bottom left


This tasting was about getting to a few teas I've been meaning to try for awhile.  Anna of Kinnari Teas passed on teas at the end of last year, some versions that were sold as Kinnari teas and some that she had ran across in travels in Laos.  Her teas are great.  Laos teas are great, in general.  If this government initiative to support that industry works out you'll have broader access to try some, but don't hold your breath; SE Asian government projects take time.

Another friend, Somnuc Amnousinh, passed on some Laos teas I've written about as well.  He's not a vendor, just a tea enthusiast who gets out, and related to that he shared some great versions from Laos.  This black tea version works as a good example; it's a crying shame that anyone being able to order that tea online is only a distant dream.  If it sounds too good to miss then you need to get on a plane and fly to Laos.

The third is a Nepal tea, shared by a small producer friend there, Narendra Kumar Gurung.  His teas are produced through a Highlanders Farmers Private Limited tea-coop, which I said more about in this post, sold labeled as Barbote teas.  This review of a black tea version conveys how unique and well-made those teas are, just amazing they could be that good so early in their production history.  It's not as if he is new to growing tea though, and processing very good tea is nothing new in the local Nepal industry.  "Very good" is all relative; in this case I mean in the sense of not giving up much in terms of Darjeeling quality standards, or maybe as good but just different in style.  To me that's impressive.


It is nice knowing such interesting and diverse people through exploring tea interest.  Now that I think of it I've written about all three of these people in one other post about meeting interesting tea friends, here.

I've not actually met Narendra in person yet, and there really is an extra depth to that form of experience.  But it can still be nice sharing ideas through messages, and I've tried his teas, which have all been very nice.  It's probably luck of the draw as much as anything but all of the Nepal teas I've tried, not just his, were very pleasant, distinctive, and somewhat consistent in style ranges.  I won't add more about that background, though, since there's plenty of review to get to.

One of these is a Moonlight white and two are silver tips style teas (buds-only white, not so different than silver needle, but I take that to be a more type-specific reference).  It's odd comparing diverse tea types like that, just sharing being white tea.  The plan was for the contrast to make sense, for the Moonlight White to stand out for being type-typical and nothing like the other two, and then for them to make sense related to each other, with the contrasting descriptions as a base that fills in more about character.  It sort of didn't work out like that, but that's part of it too, seeing how things go.


Review


I used about a 30 second infusion time for the first round, which would be way too long for the shengs I've been drinking more of lately, but for these they'll just be getting started infusing in that time.

Laos Moonlight White (Kinnari Tea):  the tea is great, as expected.  It leans more towards spice than I thought it would, since I was expecting more fruit, but that works too, and the fruit will probably develop more over the next two rounds.  This is warm and earthy enough that it could easily be an aged tea version, it's just not, similar in some limited ways to a well-transitioned shou mei.  It's nice, distinctive and sweet.  As near as I can tell based on drinking a light initial infusion it's well balanced.  I'll do more with an aspect list next round.

I didn't take a picture of the dry teas before reviewing them, a bit of a lapse.  As memory serves this looked similar to Oriental Beauty in color scheme as these teas go, with dark, reddish, and brown leaf colors, not limited to silver and black as is typical for Moonlight White.  I really should take another photo since I have more at home, and may edit this to include one if I end up posting it before I do. 

I didn't do much with photos at all in this tasting; I'm not sure why not, since I am in the habit.  It probably related to family-originated background noise; I can't always wait for the kids to clear out somewhere to try and write notes about teas, and it's really hard to focus with piano playing, banging around, and screaming in the background.  It's like having wild animals in the house.


the sweet little noise makers out for pizza recently


Laos silver tip (or silver needle, if you like):  this is labeled "Yanchaw W;" I don't know what that part means).  For once this silver tips version doesn't taste vaguely like straw and flowers.  A good bit of spice comes across in this tea, even more so than in the Moonlight version, which included more spice than anything else.  Strange.  If anything the proportion is slightly lower for this white and it seems more intense than the Moonlight (although without weighing the teas that's just a guess, a guess that will be more informed once I see the fully saturated leaf volume, when it will still be just a guess).

I'm wondering if this wasn't contaminated by being stored too close to something else, the taste range is so unexpected and intense.  There were tisanes in that storage box too and one in particular was aromatic, an unusual form of compressed fruit tisane bar.  I had some pu'er and other long-term stored teas well isolated in a cabinet, and other samples and in-progress versions in a moderately sealed box in that same cabinet, and miscellaneous samples and boxes piling up all over the place, and my wife collected the strays into one storage box.  It would be odd if this whole review was about flavor the tea picked up along the way, and it's as much an actual possibility as a funny thing to say at this point.  These Laos sample teas from Somnuc were stored in plastic bags similar to ziplock bags, and those are a bit permeable, not a great moderate-term storage solution, and this has been around for a few months now.


Nepal silver needle:  this is interesting, distinctive, and pleasant; not on the weak side for being an initial round.  It does taste floral and like dried hay, so it is what I expect as a default from bud-only white teas, but a touch of unique range mineral seems to give away the Nepal origin.  There's a hint of citrus in it too, a dried peel that could be tangerine versus a sweet version of orange:  that's nice.  I'll leave off the longer descriptions to do a full list for all next time.


Laos Moonlight White left, Laos white middle, Nepal tea on the right


Second infusion

Moonlight white:  fruit isn't necessarily filling in yet but a nice savory sweetness similar to sundried tomato is.  That's primary; the spice range isn't as noticeable, and really at this point it requires imagination to split out the rest further.  Free associating a little to get to that:  milder spice is present, and some degree of light floral, but a sweet version of it, something like violet, or instead like a light version of lavendar.  Fruit is closest to dried apricot; to me that part does stand out.


Laos silver needle:  I hate to say it but this does taste like the spice in a tisane blend I tried not long ago, something really novel from Moychay, a pressed fruit bar that was quite heavy on spice (listed here with a description cut short since it's sold out).  This might be a rare case of an aborted review, leaving off as a warning about combined storage, especially if one of the teas isn't well-sealed.  Using ziplock style bags can be a problem; not much of the rest of how teas are stored is as open to being affected like that.  The tea is quite nice, for what that's worth; that hint of spice works well with the rest.  If it is natural it's a unique, positive aspect of this tea.  It's probably not (more guesswork), and most likely a happy accident that the flavor cross-contamination was positive.


Nepal silver needle:  the mineral, light floral, sweetness, hint of dried citrus peel, and dried hay all works together.  It's a distinctive profile that seems familiar.  I'd probably have to brew it stronger to draw out a thicker feel but it doesn't necessarily come across as thin, I've just accustomed to sheng lately, which are even more multi-dimensional.  I will let this run over another 30 seconds to get plenty of infusion strength out of it.


Third infusion

Kinnari Moonlight White:  more of the same, mainly savory, towards sun-dried tomato, with a bit of spice under that.  Or it could seem more like autumn forest floor:  warm, sweet, and rich, clean flavored but earthy.  Using either as a main flavor-range interpretation (or more likely seeing it as covering both for range) there's a hint of spice as well, closest to cinnamon, but also not so far off nutmeg.  Reviewers with a great imagination would add a lot to that, aspects like warm floral tone or rich berry, like blackberry, maybe closer to that than apricot in this round.  I thought it might be even fruitier but at least it does get to a little of that.


Laos silver needle:  I'm dropping this out of the review process; it tastes like warm spice and fruit, way too close to that Moychay tisane pressed bar.  Now that I think of it that tisane bar would be perfect for mixing with an inexpensive white tea to convert it to a flavored version.  To some that would seem like an unnatural act, way off their own preference, and I tend to not drink teas along that line much myself.  But it seems to work in this, and it's not even brewed together, seemingly just picking up a trace of flavor transferred across two layers of packaging.


Nepal silver needle:  the mix of flavors seems to evolve to include a bit of fruit.  The light tangerine peel aspect already was that, but it seems more pronounced and complex in this round.  It's a bit non-distinct, since it is coming across along with all the rest (mineral, dried hay, etc.), and since the profile extends to light floral too.  I'll guess out a range for that fruit as dried citrus fruit itself, versus the peel, maybe closest to blood orange, quite warm and sweet.


apparently I didn't feel like taking pictures that day



Fourth infusion


This will do for a final take; it's enough tea, even though these are probably only more or less half finished.  Using the longer infusion times would limit the count, so it won't make it to over a dozen as sheng tastings have (which brews a lot of tea too).  White teas are often durable related to what can be brewed from them compared to black teas.  Oolongs are in the middle; it just depends on the type.

Moonlight white:  other than fading a little the general effect is the same.  Even that change could result from a variance in infusion time, from not keeping track.


Nepal silver needle:  still in the same range, but the balance keeps shifting.  Mineral might be stronger than the rest in this round (a flinty / limestone sort of range mineral, lighter stone), with light citrus, dried hay, and floral tone standing out, more or less in that order.  It's quite flavorful as buds-only white teas go, in a range that's pleasant.


Conclusions


I really liked all three teas.  The Moonlight wasn't what I expected but it was nice.  For amounting to a tea storage glitch the Laos white was very pleasant.  I probably never will carry through on using that tisane for making a homemade blended version, mixing it with tea, but it would be great for that, and I tend to just not think along those lines.  I did mention in writing about it elsewhere (another story I'll get to) that the fruit tisane bar might work well for adjusting the flavor of a masala chai, doing a fruit-adjusted version of spiced tea.  That I might get to; it's interesting messing around with versions of those.

The Nepal tea was better than I expected, although I probably should've expected that character.   Buds-only whites so often come across as relatively flavorless to me that I don't start with high hopes but Nepal teas are often on the intense side, and Narendra's other versions have been really pleasant.  Someone with more exposure to Nepal white teas would've done more with placing that, comparing it to other range.  In the past I've been more of a fan of the really intense bud and fine leaf Nepal white versions, which can be heavier yet on citrus fruit with a cool mineral undertone, as Narendra's version of that type was.


Many thanks again to those three friends for sharing those teas.


at a local temple with a visitor recently


probably time to get back to a haircut theme


same week, same temple (Wat Pho), different visit


a photo with my wife and a very respected local monk