Sunday, February 12, 2017

Kinnari Tea Laos Moonlight White

I'm feeling a bit behind in tasting lately, with lots of interesting options to get to.  I've not made it far into the teas I brought back from Taiwan a month ago, strange to delay that, with others from Darjeeling, Nepal, Yunnan, and Wuyishan in queue (Cindy's teas; really strange to not get to more of those straight away).  After some consideration I decided to try the tea that sounded most interesting to me, the Kinnari Tea's Moonlight White from Laos.

I tried a really nice version from Farmerleaf in Yunnan not long ago, so it will be interesting to compare this version.  Just for reference, that Yunnan / Farmerleaf version was interesting for combining a subtle floral sweetness with a subtle range of savory aspects, sunflower seed into sundried tomato, even with a hint of smoke.  This teas' leaves look and smell nice, the same mix of silver and dark-backed tea leaves, with good sweetness and complexity just in the scent.  The tastes description is so well presented on the label it's hard to miss:  green plum, leather, chocolate and citrus.  So we'll see.

The first infusion is a bit light, normally how I prepare most tea types, more or less drinking a long rinse first.  It just depends on the tea; for pu'er I'd really rinse it.

same tea; a bit black and silver

The effect is similar to that vendor description.  Cocoa is subdued compared to tasting their golden tips (Golden Flame, buds-only black tea style), where that really stood out.  Leather I'd usually notice more in earthier teas than this one, in Wuyi Yancha, complex with minerals and earth tones, or shou pu'er, where that type of range dominates.  Based on the light infusion I could see the light earth tone seeming closer to the range of hay instead.

Brewed a little stronger the next time, in the normal range, I can see what the green plum description is about.  Maybe I'm just not familiar enough with green plums to be more certain about it, but something quite unusual is going on in a related fruit range.  Maybe all of the reviews for these teas will just say "like they said," which could be worse.  Transitions will happen over infusions, so the description won't typically limit to four aspects, and I guess I can still describe relative strengths, or more about how those come across.

interesting look while brewing (not exactly Western style)

The tea is on the subtle side.  I'm getting acclimated to that.  I've tried one gold tips tea since that last one from them, which I probably never will post about, since the notes sort of said "similar to that last one, and subtle."  I am still picking up earthiness closer to hay than leather in this, which isn't so bad.  Cocoa isn't pronounced at all related the other aspects, and I might not have even got around to noticing it.  The wording said "chocolate," which is related to cocoa, but I'm not sure I'm noticing much of either, a faint undertone seems to relate to that.

The flavors profile is interesting, that unusual fruit aspect, surely as close to green plum as anything else.  It's not that far from raw pumpkin, not the orange jack'o'lantern kind, the versions that are closer to a type of squash that they eat here (pumpkin is a type of squash, but you know what I mean).  The sweetness and brightness reminds me of vanilla bean, although it's not a perfect match for that taste, just pretty close.  I am noticing hay in this.  It's interesting the way it expresses both the warmth and richness of a dried hay (similar to leather, described on the label), but also the nearly vegetal, sweet range of fresh-cut hay, closer to that green plum space.

For someone ok with subtlety, for a white tea drinker, this complexity and interesting range would make it a very nice tea.  For people really hooked on the more pronounced black tea range, or even more straightforward oolong presentations--lots of range in that broad category though--it might be a bit of a challenge.  I really like it.  Going back to the same line of thought that comes up a lot with white teas it would be possible to brew heavy and intensify the flavors but in a sense that seems to miss the point.  Of course judgement and preference are parts of that; the best preparation is what you prefer most.

It's the kind of tea you would want to drink in a quiet place to get more out of the experience, but one that rewards you with lots to experience when you do.  The noise level of this house is medium for this tasting, not ideal for that.  I just sent the second kid in here banging around to play outside with his sister but that might be too late given I'm pretty far along.

loud little people

Although the tea is subtle there is good complexity, so even though it's a struggle to get past the most dominant elements to identify the rest there is more happening there.  It's complex beyond how silver needle style teas typically come across, it just shares some space related to the subtle character.

A good number of infusions in it stays in a similar range; not so much transition.  Brightness and sweetness still stand out, joined by a bit more warmth.  Citrus isn't exactly wrong as a description, it's just on the faint side.  It doesn't come across as bright, tangy zest, or as sweet, rich orange juice, more a light supporting tone.  Someone could interpret that as a floral tone in between earthy and perfume-floral instead, one that's citrusy.  All the flavors being as clean and positive as they are makes it all work out well.  A hint of mushroom or even a poorly matching mineral aspect might really throw off the effect, even with the other taste range the same, but nothing like that is there, and it's all clean and positive.

Related to that Yunnan Moonlight white, it seemed similar in some respects but also quite different.  I'd have to try them side by side instead of months apart to be more clear on preference related to the two, and other differences would likely turn up, or maybe similarities I'm not flagging.

brewed leaves; interesting to consider oxidation level

I switched to hot water--full boiling temperature--a good number of infusions along to see what would change related to that and the earthiness came out more.  That light hay (maybe leather) moved into an autumn leaf tone, nice to me, but then I like that sort of thing.  I've had a Thai tea before that went too far in that direction, perhaps similar to really brewing some forest floor, but it works well as a supporting element.

brew at 95 C; plain as day

It would probably be possible to get a completely different experience out of this tea just by using boiling point water the whole time, or close to it, not necessarily better or worse, more just different.  That said, I just noticed they did recommend 95 C, while I was brewing this a little cooler, in the more standard white tea range.  I was trying not to read the label to taste it "blind" but I'd broke down and read that flavors description at the start anyway.

There's an interesting description of this tea in some supporting material that vendor had passed on:

So it might well shift a little with that extra 5 to 10 degrees, and the warm hay might move towards leather.

I can try it again since they sent plenty for more than one go, and I'll mention it if something more novel comes up.  In addition to the flavor balance shifting it might help offset the subtlety a bit.  It was nice as it was though.  Someone might need to experiment a little to see how they wanted to shift proportion, temperature and time to get it where they like it most, since the tea probably has some range.  Or there's always just trying out following the directions; I should try it prepared Western style while I'm at that.  If I ever ramble less in a review there is more I should say about Laos.  It's nice there, interesting, not so different than Thailand in some ways but quite different in others.

No comments:

Post a Comment