Monday, November 30, 2015

Shangrila estate white tea from Nepal

An online tea friend, Ethan, visited Bangkok last week and we tried some teas and traded some.  One was a really nice version of a white tea from Nepal, from the Shangrila estate.

Ethan!  Rouging it local-style in a Bangkok hotel restaurant

First a bit about what it is.  This link includes some information about the grower, but the tea he bought from a shop in Nepal, with nothing like a shopping-cart style website with product descriptions to go on, so I'm just not turning up those sorts of details.  It's white tea, with lots of fine buds and very small leaves, of course grown at elevation--it's from Nepal.  It would take more research to get further, but there is more for a lead to look into in the Buddha Tea Shop in Katmandu here, or in their Facebook page here.

an interesting look; lots of buds, a bit of oxidation

The dry tea has such a strong fruit smell that it reminds me of some oriental beauty teas I've been trying lately.  Of course some of that general range is also common with Darjeelings, intense fruit aroma with so many aspects that it's hard to separate them, grape and orange, berries, with some fresh vegetal aroma.

The first time I tried the tea with Ethan we had it brewed lightly, which does work for this sort of tea.  Of course I brewed it stronger the next time; easier to tell more about what those subtle flavors are that way.  I split the difference between Western style and gongfu approach, using a relatively high proportion of tea to water, and limited infusion times, steeping around a minute rather than the range of 20 seconds or less.  Why would I do that?  Intuition; just trying it out.

brewed lighter, orange-gold

It comes across more like a Darjeeling prepared that way, but as a unique version of one.  It was still hard to list out the flavors with so much going on, definitely fruit oriented, with lots of orange-citrus, maybe hinting towards a berry character, most like blackberry, with a bit of subtle earth element.  Of course it's natural to compare the orange citrus element to muscatel, that related component in Earl Grey, essential oil from a bergamot orange, but it's really more like orange zest than that, lighter and brighter.  There is a bit of astringency, but of course adjusting brewing parameters varies that aspect.  In this case it wasn't along the lines of needing to brew around a flaw, more about balancing and optimizing the different aspects.

brewed stronger, more copper colored

The next time I tried it I went with an approach closer to standard Western brewing, a bit longer with a more typical proportion of tea to water, backed off of boiling point water temperature (so more like a Darjeeling is normally prepared).  The character of the tea changed.  The flavors might have been a bit brighter, with the astringency dropped off.

It tasted of bright orange citrus, more pronounced this time, and grape, even raisin, again with some berry, along with a little underlying richness, something like walnut coming through better.  It tasted a bit like a fresh fruit salad.  Changing the brewing adjusted the effect of the astringency, not just the level but the feel of the tea.  It shifted from seeming like a greener Darjeeling towards how lighter and softer versions of black teas come across, and of course with aspects related a white tea, which it actually is.

buds and small leaves, just a bit of oxidation

Someone just raised the topic of general impressions of Darjeeling teas in a tea group, and I guess some of the strengths and weaknesses apply to this tea.  It doesn't give up much in terms of complexity and strong fruit flavors compared to any other teas, although preference for tastes within certain ranges would vary.

The body or feel of the tea is a bit thin compared to some styles, which--per my experience--holds true for Darjeeling in general as well.  It's just not rich and full in the way oolongs from Taiwan generally are, or some darker oolongs (Wuyi Yancha--I can't go a post without typing that), or even as Silver Needle teas can be.  Definitely an interesting, pleasant, unique tea though, with a lot of range of aspects expressed by one single tea.


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