I'm reviewing the second of several types of teas passed on by that Nepalese producer, Narendra Kumar Gurung, owner of Barbote teas. The golden needle version was nice, and an earlier round of Spring teas were great, so this should be more of the same. I tend to like white teas most from Nepal, since they're generally very distinctive, flavorful, and intense across all aspect range, not as subtle as some types and versions of white teas can be.
The brewed tea leaves looks a bit green; this may be less oxidized than the last version (or my memory of it). I might've confirmed how harvest seasons work out there and included when this was produced, but didn't. It seems best to just relate an impression of the tea.
My initial impression is positive; the tea is warm, complex, sweet, and very pleasant, with reasonably good intensity. The earlier version really hit you with citrus and light mineral, even more intense, but there's something to be said for depth and range of aspects in a tea version, and subtlety. There's no judging a tea based on one sip so I'll ramble on across a few infusions. This will brew a half dozen, at least, since I'm preparing it Gongfu style. At a guess it will give slightly better results made that way, versus Western style, but brewing it both ways would identify that better than guessing.
The light mineral from the earlier version is still present, flinty or like limestone versus "warmer" minerals. It's perhaps just less intense. This version doesn't seem quite as sweet; it's more subtle, with less distinct aspects filling in additional complexity. That includes flavors along the lines of wood or grain, but I'll try to break that down further in the next infusion.
The tea is transitioning, or maybe just infusing more completely, more fully saturated after an initial round. Some vegetal scope fills in that might overlap with green tea character but none of the astringency or grassiness common to that range is present; interesting. Beyond the light mineral floral tone is the strongest component. That seems to trail into a mild fruit, towards strawberry jam or marmalade. It's a cool effect, that much going on in those ranges. It compensates well for the later harvest version losing the intensity of the earlier one. The flavors are very clean, well balanced, and well integrated. It's "good" tea. Good is all relative, it can mean different things, but the quality level is apparent.
It's odd the way that the tea is so green with edges that are so much darker, surely a by-product of a processing step's input. I won't speculate further about that, comparing it to whatever else or guessing about the aspects input, just pointing it out.
Citrus seems to be picking up in this infusion; it's more like I remember the last version. Anyone who loves that distinctive mix of light mineral and citrus in Nepalese whites wouldn't be disappointed. This is essentially the profile that seems standard to me. Citrus is bright, towards lemony, maybe without actually tasting exactly like lemon, or only a little. It's not that far off how I'd imagine the zest of a mandarin orange would taste.
Perhaps not surprisingly those oranges aren't called that here in Thailand, only referred to as Chinese oranges. For all I know there could be variations of small, sweet types of oranges in China; that's kind of how that tends to go. There are lots of versions of papayas, mangoes, and pineapples here, without English translations for almost any of the types, as far as I know. I just bought a "Holland" papaya; that doesn't seem to be an original Thai name for that one.
This review seems to amount to random observations about flavors versus a comprehensive description. I'll try to round out more about general character next round, an overall impression.
Warmth picked up a little. I think part of these transitions is that slight variations in infusion strength allow the tea to show off different aspect range; very light and brighter elements come across more, slightly heavier and flavors seem to warm and deepen. It's an interesting effect. That would seem to get lost in preparing the tea Western style, but I can't be certain there isn't some other benefit on that side. Maybe even brewed to moderate strength for 2 to 3 minutes complexity would seem greater, for example. I doubt it, but messing around with approach and parameters and testing it out is the only way to tell.
A more complete summary then: citrus and mineral stand out the most to me, at this point, although interpreting that sweetness and flavor complexity as floral range instead would be reasonable. Mineral isn't quite as bright and light as I remember in the spring version; it's a bit warmer, towards a different kind of rock. Feel isn't thin but this type of tea doesn't have as much feel-structure as some other types; it's not as full and round as oolongs can be, or as complex in feel as sheng range goes.
Aftertaste experience is also moderate; it doesn't leave your mouth quickly, but isn't as drawn out as for some other tea types. It's a generally flavor intensive experience though, which works well enough for my preferences. The flavor has good complexity and depth beyond that. An underlying tone might be grain or wood, or to me closer to a warm, neutral tone flower type, like chrysanthemom. The overall flavor is so complex that a bit of dried fruit might join in with the rest, but those more pronounced aspects stand out more.
I let the next infusion run a bit longer, adding jam to bread since I'm having this tea with breakfast. There is a simple tip for how to only taste the tea when tasting along with food: drink a couple of sips of cool but not cold water in between food and tea. For more taste-experience precision skipping the food is better, while still cleaning your palate along with that using the water, but even for a tea blogger tea can be an integrated part of the rest of life, not something set aside for some functional or ceremonial form and context. Or it can be that; someone could be wearing special clothes sitting at a special table in a special room instead; it's just up to the person. For getting the most out of tasting for review detail keeping background noise and distractions to a minimum is critical; even turning down the music or turning off a television program makes a lot of difference.
Brewed a little longer the mineral tones emerge stronger, and citrus drops back. Sweetness still gives it balance but the overall effect is different. Even the citrus shifts from a bright lemon to a richer, heavier orange peel, or maybe relates a different kind of orange.
I brewed the tea a few more rounds and it's not finished yet. Later infusions stay positive but longer times draws out more of a woody aspect, which works ok with remaining citrus and mineral.
On a different topic, the subject of tea blogger bias came up recently. Is it clear how much I liked the tea, where it stands in relation to others, and what I see as its limitations? To me it's good tea; a good version for the type, in a style I personally like. I liked the spring version just a little more for being more intense, and maybe slightly sweeter, but after a few infusions of transition this isn't so different. Related to other Nepal white teas made in a similar style it compares well; it seems above average. Then again the versions I've tried were all fairly consistently positive, which could just relate to the luck of the draw.
The main limitation seems to be that the style might not be for everyone. Flavor intensity (or even flavor aspects range, what it tastes like) is positive, but feel is a little thinner and aftertaste a bit less pronounced than for other tea types. It's a set of concerns that applies to black teas in general too; they're often pleasant in flavor but might give up overall aspect range to oolongs or sheng. Not to shou / shu pu'er so much, it seems to me, but even those can be very rich and full in feel. Mostly the taste range just might not be for everyone.
It would be hard to judge that (trueness to type, quality related to the rest of the same range of tea versions) without direct comparison with a good version of a similar Nepalese white tea. Not necessarily tasting them together, but using that as a benchmark. Those seem more consistent than oolongs, sheng, and even black teas seem to me; most I've tried were quite nice. Someone could drink only below average woody or cardboard tasting Wuyi Yancha for years, or only younger sheng that tastes bitter and a bit like kerosene or snuff. Yiwu would tend to be floral and sweet instead but even for teas from that broad area drinking only the lowest cost versions might naturally turn up the worst examples. From what I've experienced of Nepal white teas in this style versions being pretty good is normal.
I never really did include much of a "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!" section in a post. I hope that you have had a great holidays and end of the year, leading into another positive and interesting year. Of course 2018 had some glitches to work through, on the broader scale of events, but sometimes people go a bit far with the negative spin. The world we had known is continuously ending, and some aspects of present reality are typically a bit messed up.
It's been a busy week here; lots of Christmas details to work out, three trips to a local play area, a good bit of tasting, and the normal errands never stop.
As usual I mostly just want to share pictures of my kids; they are the center of all I do. Tea works well as a hobby for me to have an interest and focus beyond the work and parenting role but they still mean the most to me.
Christmas with family
an Elsa doll; Santa knew what she wanted
the Funarium, a Bangkok play area
their favorite gift
my view from the final edit too
we usually travel now, and add more activities this year instead