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.


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.


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

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