Monday, November 4, 2013
two teas for breakfast
Recently my son woke me up early because it was his birthday (5th). The one good part of getting slightly less sleep was having more time to drink tea at breakfast, since he didn't have extra plans for the morning, he was just awake. Usually I'm rushing enough just to brew a few cups of tea and not drop him off at school late. Why I wouldn't save time by drinking just one cup of tea is obvious enough.
I've been drinking Darjeeling teas lately through as samples sent by Lochan Tea (thanks much to them; more standard reviews will follow), so I decided to try one from Assam instead. The tea was a Lattakoojan estate Assam black tea, 2nd flush TGFOP, which unless I'm mistaken stands for Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe.
I never drink more than one type of tea at breakfast--who would do that?--but with extra time to spare
I decided to try it. I picked a second familiar tea, a Thai oolong, a #17 Ruan Zhi / Jade Pearls / Bai Lu from Siam Teas. Bai Lu seems most familiar name to me so I'll go with that, with more background on the cultivar from Teapedia here.
The tea I have with breakfast is always about whatever I happen to feel like then, not reasoning out a selection or favoring a type to wake up to, so from that perspective drinking two teas made perfect sense. Lots of the rest of the day doesn't have so much to do with personal preference so it's nice to start out on that page.
Thai oolongs are a favorite of mine in general. The two I seem to see the most of here (Thailand) are both from Taiwanese developed hybrid cultivars. Where Jin Xuan (#12) can actually taste like butter, or might emphasize pronounced floral flavors, Bai Lu (#17) flavors generally include nuts or spices. This tea was medium in oxidation level, enough to let some malt come through but not too much to get away from that fresh "green" element. The nuttiness was in the range of a macadamia; rich, flavorful, and complex, but also slightly non-descript, with some vague spice tones underlying that.
The Lattakojan Assam--way different. The first infusion had a lot of tanninic astringency that really took over the flavor, but you could tell nice complex flavors were struggling to show themselves. Hard to say how much that was due to the tea itself or messy brewing technique; I brewed the oolong western style and the Assam in a gaiwan. There is no way I was getting the muchkin to school on time with all that messing around, even with an early start.
Amazingly most of the astringency just dropped right out next infusion, likely in part due to using a really short steep time. The tea was dark reddish brown and tasted like it looked; full flavored, a bit of grape / raisin, but not nearly as pronounced as with the Darjeelings I'd been trying, mild orange citrus, hints of spice too subtle to name, some natural sweetness, and more than all those flavors malt. But where the oolong was nutty and smooth, with slight vegetal undertones, leaning towards subdued maltiness, this was bright, naturally sweet black tea that really emphasized the malt.
I would consider sweetening some black teas, and wouldn't tell someone else how to drink their tea--put chocolate milk in it if you really must--but for me it would be crazy to have added anything. For a few more short infusions the tea lost no flavor and didn't change much, just softened, but then I ran out of time. During all the tasting I had also needed to eat to keep clearing my palate, since it was breakfast.
I've tried the Jin Xuan cultivar processed as a black tea instead of an oolong, and of course it starts to head in a similar direction, in a limited sense, but there is no way it could approach the same end point as an Indian tea. The Lochan teas I've tried could be sweetened, or drank with milk, or I suppose even iced (which would seem odd to me, even if leagues better than a conventional iced tea), but I wouldn't do those things.
This picture shows papaya growing at the house, not the tree that contributed the papaya that day, but the tree is working on it.
Drinking one type of tea with breakfast really does make more sense, especially since I'm just not a morning person. It was nice that the little bit of commonality--and there wasn't much, a little malt coming out in very different ways--tied the two teas together as much as it did, but it was really an experience in contrasts. It was interesting noticing the different feel and flavors of both, how each worked as a balanced and complex tea but in very different taste ranges, and experiencing that much taste shift.
And my son was on time for school, just barely.