Monday, December 28, 2020

Tea bringing people together (just less literally lately)


originally posted in TChing

I keep reconsidering and changing my impression of tea culture.  Or subcultures; it's not all one thing.  

What really started me thinking about this was a family tradition of having a cup of tea with my parents in the evening.  Odd timing for that caffeine intake, but one tea-bag worth didn't seem to matter.  It wasn't "tea appreciation," as I now experience it, but I would trade my entire tea habit for more contact with my parents. 

One of my favorite sub-themes relates to a circle of friends exploring tea together, basing social gatherings on that.  During the pandemic I met with a group of online friends in different places, related to tea, so I did get to experience one form of that, and that also meant a lot to me.  I'm really not a part of a local tea sub-culture, and I currently don't meet local friends related to tea.  I started a Facebook group based on starting to do local (Bangkok) tasting events awhile back but let the initiative go.

photo credit Suzana Syiem, if I remember right

Making online connections can be problematic.  Groups are a good place to exchange ideas, to ask questions, and share an interest with others, but translating that to social bonds that feel real is harder.  One of my initial social connections living in Thailand was participating in a popular expat forum.  That later experienced a decline as groups or sites can, and finally shut down. 

I keep exploring tea cultures in different places in blog articles, looking into how tea interest goes in Sweden, Poland, and Russia.  Russian groups can either take a formal version of the circle of friends or can relate to tea club attendance and events.  I'm really curious about China, since I talk to plenty of vendors and producers there, and a few close friends here were from there, but I've not ran across a close parallel to the US "enthusiast" culture.  To many people it's just a drink there.  

one of the main Moychay tea clubs (just not the best time for a gathering like that)

US-based tea bloggers and vendors seem to find it easier to form online and real-life bonds, through expos and local circles. Being part of a group-buy or monthly subscription circle could lead to connections, bridging over into discussion.  I've written about one form, Liquid Proust set buys (about the theme and the teas), and there are several others. 

Of course any shared interest can bring people together, especially online.  An international Facebook group can help with that, or a second "Tea" group that I also moderate, or a Quora Specialty Tea Space.  Online contact through text only goes so far, but video events like Tealet informal seminars could feel a little like joining a local Meetup or seminar event.  

In asking around about other options people brought up a group chat group through the Telegram app, Discord group discussion and other exchange, and a new app called Topia supporting virtual tea-room meetings.  Using standard communication tools in novel ways would work; in discussion someone mentioned a broad Zoom-based tea circle also using smaller break-out discussions after a main session.  It would be interesting to hear what else is out there.

local groups could meet online instead (how I think this site is arranged)

I know that meeting up in person can be a touchy subject in lots of places right now, but it could help that isolation is a shared experience, for many.  It's a good time to branch out online, and make some new connections, or experience a new contact channel.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Wuyi Origin prize winning Qi Lan (oolong)


I'll keep the intro part short here; this is another version of Wuyi Yancha from Wuyi Origin, sent by my friend Cindy for me to try (more so than for review, but both).  Their description:

Qi lan 奇兰

Location: Qing shi yan (青狮岩) zheng yan garden

Harvest date: 2020.4.28th

Roasting style: Two times Roasting, Medium Roasting style

The first time roast :  July 1st, the second time roast : August 14th 


The Qilan variety of Wuyi Mountain was introduced from Pinghe County, Southern Fujian in the 1990s. Because Qilan grows well under the unique and excellent geographical conditions of Wuyi Mountain, the Qilan quality under the unique Wuyi rock tea production technology is even more superior. Beloved by the masses, it is widely planted in Wuyishan area.

Dry tea: the strips are neat and curly, the color is brown and green, and the color is oily and shiny; the color of the soup: the tea soup is orange and yellow, the entrance is mellow and sweet, and the teeth and cheeks are fragrant after the swallowing; the bottom of the leaf: yellow and bright, with a light green bottom and red border.

The flavor is sweet, with the typical mineral taste of Wuyi tea. A flowery orchid aroma and cinnamon flavor. Very pleasant and smooth aftertaste as well. It has a pleasant, very subtle menthol-like effect in the aftertaste. Qi lan is a quite  popular Pinzhong among others pinzhong in Wuyi. 

There is more cited that defines the term "Pinzhong" after the review section.  

I tend to not usually bring up value, unless there is an unusual point to be made, but this seems to be a good place to break form.  That lists for $32 for 100 grams (which I'm assuming is identical to what I reviewed, although there really could be different batches or mixes of batches being sold).

If it is identical that's a great value for this tea.  It seems odd saying that about a 32 cent a gram tea; that's a bit for tea, for some types and quality levels.  Let's check a seemingly comparable source, the Tea Drunk shop in NYC (not a fair comparison, direct sales from a vendor based in China and a physical shop in a high-rent area, but I'll address that part).

Their Qi Lan here lists for $20 for 1 ounce, or 28 grams, so 71 cents per gram, more than double.  There's a really good chance this shop tea version isn't nearly as good; the Wuyi Origin package literally says "prize winner."  There are different local Wuyishan tea region competitions and apparently a version of this tea won an award, which I take to mean first place, but it could mean just "placing," ranked but lower.  They run through an awful lot of submission versions, with it a point of pride among local producers to be recognized; if it really was "only a top 5" award that's meaningful.

That's really not a fair comparison, since that shop has rent and staff costs to cover, with physical-shop pricing running higher than for online-only shops, even for online sales from such outlets.  It's good to also support your local shops, if you value them and want them to stick around, even if you do pay a bit more for the teas.  Let's check a well-regarded US online vendor to flatten out that comparison point, Seven Cups:

Qi Lan, Rock Wulong 2018:  25 grams selling for $24.30

So selling for even more, $1 / gram.  This tea may or may not be comparable in quality to the Wuyi Origin version; only trying both tells that story.  Styles can vary slightly, and that's where personal preference starts to inform more than an "objective" quality level.  Since that is a well-regarded source it will be interesting to cross-check their interpretation of the type-typical style:

Qi Lan stands out among rock wulongs by virtue of its distinctive lingering orchid fragrance. Named “Lan” (orchid) for its floral character, it is smooth and complex rather than sharp. Qi Lan producers strive for a tea with a well-developed aroma that has sweet notes reminiscent of caramelized sugar. Its initial subtlety encourages you to breathe its fragrance in more deeply and experience the lasting rich character. The aroma and flavor build up to a rich complexity as you drink this tea through its many bright yellow-orange infusions. 

Qi Lan is always lightly roasted to preserve its beautiful aroma. In addition, the traditional charcoal roasting of the leaves helps create a deep, full flavor. This tea is famous for the developing sweetness that lingers after the tea is swallowed. Its soft and slippery flavor betrays no hint of bitterness or tannic sharpness...

...While some varieties of Qi Lan are given a slightly heavier roast, our Qi Lan is the lightest-roasted variety with the highest aroma.

That's a citation of a much longer passage about the history, typical growing area, and processing themes related to the tea type, with the rest also worth a read.  That last sentence I included to fill in that earlier comment about stylistic variations; there is a norm for processing approach and final style in these types of teas, with some range for interpretation within that.  What people mean by terms like light and heavy (related to roasting) tend to be a bit variable, and again trying the teas fills in that meaning best.

I don't doubt that the Seven Cups' version is exceptional tea, even though I've never tasted a single version of anything they produce, based on accepting hearsay input.  I would expect it to be stylistically varied, if only slightly, from this Wuyi Origin version, versus "giving up" much in quality, and being on a completely different level.  Presumably it couldn't be substantially better than a local award winning version, even if individual batch differences may add some variation.  On the value side I expect that Wuyi Origin is just underpriced, related to how it could go selling teas directly versus adding a resale and import step.

It goes without saying but all of my guesses should be taken with a grain of salt.  Trying the teas tells the story; the rest is speculation, guesses based on hearsay and common patterns.


First infusion:  amazing, of course.  I get accustomed to their teas being lightly roasted, and this is more on the medium side; the input comes across more.  Putting it on a scale doesn't work because the entire over-roasted range is more typical than it probably should be, and reference to it means nothing to me in terms of placement.  A bit of the char flavor in more-roasted oolong versions comes across, but just a trace, limited enough that it seems likely that it could fade fast.  Resting these tea versions changes things too; this might come across slightly differently in another six months.

The rest of the flavor range is interesting.  To me it's closest to a combination of floral tone, which is warm and subdued, and more pronounced well-roasted almond flavor.  The way that underlying mineral, underlying warm floral tone, touch of char, and heavy almond flavor combine is nice.  I think a bit more of an aromatic effect I think of as congnac-like will develop as this keeps going, once it's really started [interesting that this comment was from trying the tea, not a type-typical expectation; I added these citations, and first read them, only after doing the review].

Feel is already pronounced, and aftertaste, and this is only the first round.  The feel coats your tongue, heavy and smooth, along with a heavy mineral tone, and both trail into a related aftertaste expression.  It's so complex and full in feel that it seems to affect your whole mouth, lingering on as aftertaste + "afterfeel."  Different.

Second infusion:  I brewed this fast since the intensity is high, also related to using a relatively full gaiwan.  This tea version is intense enough that for once using less tea to help moderate that might be better.  The proportion of earlier aspects present shifts a bit, and intensity ramps up.  Even using a lighter proportion really fast infusions would be enough.  It comes across as one single, integrated flavor range, but what is there is actually very complex.  In addition to the mineral tone, slight char (receded already), touch of floral, and heavy almond other spice-like tone seems to join in, something like ginseng, but I suppose maybe not that.  

It picks up a touch of vegetal character, like a very aromatic hardwood.  That probably sounds different than I intend it, since cheap oolong or black tea versions tend to be woody, but a touch of cedar (not that, but I'll call it that) joining all the rest of this is a completely different effect.  Or it would be natural to interpret that as an extension of the notable root spice.  It's complex.  This part is going to sound strange too but that combination isn't complete different than licking the back of an envelop, that particular form of glue.  It's really pleasant though, so crazy to be saying this tastes like wood or glue.  Those are descriptions that inform what one component is, but only the experience of the whole would pass on a more complete impression of that intended meaning.  

This is one of the more complex and intense Wuyi Yancha versions I've ever tried.  Since I really love fruit in them it's not in the range that matches my standard strongest preference, but I suspect this will evolve to include more aromatic range and an overall balance that is a truly unique experience.  It's just getting started.

Third infusion:  the aspects include most of the same as the last round, but the balance is different, with a shift in the vegetal range.  It went from relatively close to ginseng to more like a tree leaf.  This part is a little odd, because it's like the scent of fresh leaves, not so much the "fallen leaf" range, maybe maple or oak, a temperate climate range leaf scent.  Floral tone is still filling that in, and an almond flavor that's now evenly balanced with the rest.  Mineral is just as intense but less warm, shifting a little towards a light metal range, or actual salt.  It all balances really well; nothing stands out as dominant.  Nothing in this complex range could be considered a flaw, although of course preference would dictate if someone really loved any part or the whole.

To be clear all this end-effect is familiar.  Unless I'm remembering wrong an exceptional Ban Tian Yao I reviewed a long time ago--five years ago--was pretty close to this, complex across a floral / mineral / nut / root spice range.  Few teas I've ever tried match this for intensity, consistent and integrated complexity, and aftertaste expression.  Feel is interesting, and notable, but that kind of thing comes up.  

This might be the kind of tea that someone new to the range might not like as much, without really knowing why.  It's not at all challenging but it's a lot to take in, across a range that's not as immediately appealing as strong, simpler fruit or floral tone, or a plain-cinnamon Rou Gui.  You have to be able to appreciate the complexity, and to some extent how it's shifting from round to round, but without valuing that transition at all you could still like it.

Fourth infusion:  somehow the warmth seemed to bump a little; odd.  This flavor range is so tightly integrated but that sort of broken down list approach to explaining it seems wrong; it comes across as all one thing.  That cognac-like aromatic aspect did increase, an effect you get from that type of brandy, or maybe in some kinds of liqueur, or present in the scent of perfume.  

Roast level seems perfect at this stage, drawing out very pleasant complexity, and tying it all together.  There is no trace or hint of a distinct char aspect.  Even the other parts, almond, ginseng, fresh tree leaf, etc., all seem so well integrated that it's just one very complex flavor now.  It will be interesting to see how Cindy describes this.

Fifth infusion:  it probably did shift slightly from last round but I really can't describe how.  Maybe that warmth makes the spice range that had been more like root seem closer to cinnamon now.  A flavor break-down goes against actually describing this experience, since it's so integrated.  That pronounced aromatic range is really nice, the way it links with and extends from the rest.  It would make it natural to describe this as coming across as more floral now, but to me the complexity just integrates together.  It's interesting how a dominant early almond tone transitioned to balance along with the rest, and how strong underlying mineral also did.  

This is definitely one of the more interesting and better Wuyi Yancha versions I've yet to try.  I wouldn't say that it's "over my head" but my normal tastes are a little more basic.  I can appreciate what I'm experiencing, but a much simpler and less refined version would be essentially just as pleasant, in a range that matches my personal preference.  Taken in a different way more basic Wuyi Yancha versions would stand in this one's shadow, and seem less desirable for not matching it across those extra dimensions.

Sixth infusion:  more of the same.  Mineral seems to be playing a slightly larger role now, and I'd expect subtle shifts like that to keep happening, for the balance to adjust a bit.  The result is still completely integrated, very pleasant.  

I've not really mentioned sweetness related to this tea, and that input is moderate.  It matches the other range, which isn't exactly savory, but more towards that side (nuts, warm floral, root spice, etc.).  The overall effect is very pleasant balance.  I suppose I might appreciate styles more that include more sweetness and fruit, towards a separate preference for Dian Hong black tea.  Of course I've been more on sheng for a few years, so I'm open to a broad range, to lots of mineral, sweetness or not so sweet, and a broad range of flavor and other character.  Related to that type and range, the overall intensity and complexity of this version works well.  Of course it has no sheng bitterness or more structured feel, or the different range of complex flavors well-aged versions express, but there is lots going on.

I'll leave off here; it's nice to try a few rounds without making notes, and it must get old reading sentence after sentence about minor transitions.  This was really exceptional tea.  The description may not have did justice to how much I liked it, covering more on the analytical side, breaking down what was going on with it.  It's easier to "gush" about how fantastic a tea is when it completely matches main personal preference, and this was as much a case of noticing how exceptional the character and effects were.

I'd expect tea at this quality level to more typically be priced at double or triple this cost, so it is a good chance for someone to try a version on the next level for style and quality at a great value.  I would guess that this is a great version of Wuyi Yancha for people who already love Wuyi Yancha, and not as suitable a starting point.  It wasn't challenging in any way; I don't mean that.  There was no astringency, or any negative aspect to "work around."  The very clear quality level, refined nature, aromatic character, feel and aftertaste, integrated and balanced flavor set, and pleasant transitions across infusions were all easy to appreciate.  But they do produce sweeter or fruitier versions, or more familiar "Da Hong Pao" range, all of which might seem more conventional, to some, if based on limited type exposure.

Post-script:  Ming cong versus Pinzhong Wuyi Yancha types

Wuyi Origin / Cindy lists the cultivar / product types in these two different groups on their site, and it may be unclear to some what those mean (as it was to me).  She includes a blog section in that site that covers some growing and processing descriptions, with the most recent post covering this distinction (with most of that short entry cited here):

Ming Cong:

Ming Cong means they are all with long histories, and most of them were named with some special kinds of stories...  The  most popular Ming Cong in Wuyishan now are :

Qidan(奇丹), Beidou(北斗), Tieluohan(铁罗汉), Shuijingui(水金龟 ), Baijiguan (白鸡冠), Bantianyao(半天腰), Rougui(肉桂) and Laocongshuixian (老枞水仙)

For this Ming cong, except their own features, they always with very strong tea energy, we always bake them to medium or high-level degree. Through the baking can force their essence to come out and this kind of baking style is quite good to be drunk in the second year or third year...


Most of the Pinzhong were imported from other tea growing places or through Hybridization in the 90s.   

Now the most popular Pinzhong in Wuyi like Qilan (奇兰), Meizhan (梅占), Foshou (佛手)), huangmeigui(黄玫瑰), huang guanyin (黄观音), huang dan (黄旦), jin mudan (金牡丹), jin yaoshi(金钥匙), jin qian(金钱),  queshe(雀舌), Bairuixaing(白瑞香)baxian(八仙)and so on, too many different Pinzhong.

Like Meizhan is from Anxi tieguanyin growing area, Baxian is from Taiwan Wulong cultivars. Huang guanyin is from Hybridization of huang dan and Tie guanyin. Different pinzhong, they are with different kinds of aroma, but one same common thing is that they all do not have very strong body comparing to the Ming Cong. So for the baking, we always use bake them light style or medium style to keep their special aroma.

Of course there is more to be said about all that.  Her summary of two distinct, uniform preparation styles is surely oversimplified to make an abbreviated, practical point.  People love to try to "poke holes" in any simple definitions and categorizations, and separating that broad a set of plant types into two distinct groups could easily lead to sweeping aside a grey area, or other potential distinctions.  All the same, her understanding is much better grounded, and more developed and reliable, than standard vendor input, never mind tea group discussion hearsay or other online content.  She grew up around these plants, as her daughters now do.

Another TChing post about to "go up" is about tea themes bringing people together.  Given the holiday season timing this seems a good time to mention that I really do appreciate having online friends like Cindy, and the others I mention in that post, and the many that I don't bring up.  Thanks for taking part by reading some of these ideas, and humoring me if I ask you questions by random contact message, or go a bit far with enthusiastic tea group discussion.

This would be a great place to include a picture of Cindy's family but since I don't have a recent version I'll have to settle for more of my own munchkins, the standard inclusion here.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Tea Mania 2008 Bai Mu Dan (white tea)

I'm reviewing an aged white tea included as a sample in Tea Mania teas I bought earlier in the year.  I guess this had an extra half a year to age, set aside as a sample.  I was really looking for something else to try to review but ran across it, and it looked interesting.

There's not much to say about aged white teas or that vendor for intro.  I've went on about how it's one of the best sources I'm aware of for quality and value of a range of different teas.  Very strange, for being based in Switzerland.  No need to go too far into what aged white tea is all about either; the vendor intro and this description will cover that.  

At first look that fuzziness had me concerned, that maybe it was something growing on the tea, but it's almost certainly just trichomes in a white tea leaf version known for having those.


It's my opinion that it's just trichomes, but it is strange thinking that a tea is probably ok to drink.  When you look at that lower piece on the left it's the other leaf type, but that would have been compressed against the other leaf type (this was prepared as a cake), and they've probably become stuck to it from that.  It's odd giving the issue that much space here, given that conclusion, but I'd expect that others would run through a similar line of thought as a concern.

fresh Bai Mu Dan, with trichomes (credit Teapedia)

Aged Bai Mu Dan cake, 2008

Bai Mudan, better known as White Peony tea is made like Baihao Yinzhen of the Da Bai cultivar. Bai Mudan, sometimes also spelled Pai Mu Tan, is popular due to the refreshing and light flavor. Other variants are Gong Mei and Shou Mei which is harvested later. However, they are sometimes despite the late harvest also sold as Bai Mudan.

This Ba Mu Dan was pressed 2008 into cakes and stored in Zhenghe for 10 years. Through storage, the fresh and grassy aroma has changed to a hong cha like aroma. A very interesting tea especially for Pu-erh tea lovers.

Harvest: Spring 2008

Taste: Light, sweet and refreshing aroma

Origin: Zhenghe, Fujian Province in China

Preparation: Per serving approx. 2g, temperature approx. 75°C, time: 1-2 minutes

Tip: Compare this Bai Mudan to a fresh harvested Bai Mudan.

Interesting seeing that hong cha reference (black tea), since I just wrote the review notes.  The flavor definitely shifts from being bright, floral, and probably a little fruity to warmer, deeper, and more into oxidized range, so that's partly what happened.  There's no edge as in black teas, but then I love Dian Hong (Yunnan black) in part because they are heavy in flavor and complex, with a rich feel, but also not challenging at all related to having any astringency edge to work around.


First infusion:  a good bit of cinnamon.  Still subtle, with other dried fruit still more or less developing.  This should "open up" more and be more intense next round.  Of course it's soft and rich, with no astringency to speak of, with just a touch of body as feel.

Second infusion:  it's interesting how depth is a big part of what is going on with this, but sort of a "front end" intensity is really diminished.  That's kind of what one would expect, but experiencing it is something else.  There are no forward, bright notes.  Rich dried fruit stands out, and cinnamon, but the whole range is kind of how underlying tones usually come across.  Warm mineral plays a role too.  It comes across as several "layers," but it's all in the range that one deeper layer would usually be for other tea types.  It's interesting.  Flavors are relatively clean.  A touch of tree bark and something like tree fungus, those semi-circles, add a bit of less clean range but it's still clean, if that makes sense.

I think I'll let the next round go out towards 20 seconds to see how this is brewed stronger.  It definitely doesn't need it, since there is plenty to experience at a normal, lighter infusion strength, but it will change how the aspects present come across.

Third infusion:  interesting; the warm mineral depth picks up, but the rest doesn't really change.  It just shifts proportion of that coming across, with dried fruit and cinnamon playing a smaller role.  A version of dark tree bark is still prominent, maybe something like aged or cured wood, but the bark part instead.  It's odd that this comes across as clean as it does with those ranges being primary.  

I never really clarified what the dried fruit part was; to me it's closest to Chinese date, jujube, or maybe between that and the other Middle-Eastern date version, or including both.  There's a way that the mineral comes across in Middle-Eastern dates that present, and a bright, light dried fruit tone in Chinese dried dates that also is.  It's not that far off prune, if that's familiar and Chinese date isn't, but it really is Chinese date.  I eat that all the time in iced mixed bean deserts that I'm addicted to here (which I take to be of Chinese origin, but who knows); I should see if I can find a picture of that.  The general flavor tone of this matches that, how beans, Chinese date, candied lotus, and longan juice combine.

not the clearest image of Chinese dates, with two in the bottom center here

Fourth infusion:  slightly darker tones pick up.  It works to peg that as cinnamon and that tree-bark range, but really it's heavy on an unusual mineral tone too.  It's like an artesian well, but deeper and heavier in tone.  The scent of a spring flowing out of an enclosed area in the Pennsylvania forest is like that, layers of mineral tones, with depth from fermenting leaves.  Put that way it's also all like forest floor, but a different version of it than I usually associate with the description.  It's wet forest itself, not the floor.

This also helps explain how this tea manages to come across as complex, even though it's expressing a limited range.  That wet natural spring / forest floor type area I'm comparing this to isn't smelling like a broad range of scents, but it is incredibly complex.  Maybe this part gets strange but I have a specific location in mind, near my parents house, which is deep in the PA woods.  Most of that area smells much drier than this, warm and sweet, brighter, even though a stream runs through it.  But the natural spring zones are something else, where water flows out of the hillside.  The feel is different there too, as if there's an energy to places like that, a noticeable one.  Maybe just my imagination, combining with the unusual scent range.

Fifth infusion:  this is fading a bit.  Pushing it the tea will make a few more positive infusions but the interesting themes won't continue to evolve, it seems.  It seems like it dropped out early, in relation to drinking so much sheng lately (for a few years), but it's my take that oxidizing tea or roasting it trades out duration in terms of infusion count for the change in aspect range, and maybe something similar happened here.  I could go on about whether I think aging white tea is oxidation or if it also overlaps with sheng fermentation but what do I know.  I think it is a form of oxidation, so the question reduces to whether it ties to both, and I don't really know.  If it does the form, biological activity (microfauna input), and compound transition isn't the same.


I liked it.  The tea seemed a lot like the other aged white versions that I've tried.  It made me consider exactly how it stacked up, if it was better or worse, more complex and intense or the same.  Since I've not been reviewing aged white teas for a few years it's hard to say, but it definitely at least looks like a higher grade version.

Descriptions of such teas always make them sound a lot more complex and intense than I've found examples to be.  It's quite possible that someone could try version after version that is average in quality level or interesting style, so that trying any number wouldn't guarantee sampling the best of the range.  Being a bit of a skeptic I don't necessarily accept that vendors selling versions described differently necessarily are different.  

Take this version as an example:  it tasted like cinnamon at first, then dried fruit, especially Chinese date along with the other more common date, the Middle-Eastern version, evolving to tree bark and damp forest floor.  So far so good.  If we add a few more flavor descriptions, maybe dried elderberry, marshmallow, and vanilla, it sounds like a much more unique experience.  I didn't taste those, but with a little more imagination maybe I "could have?"  I'm trying to leave Mei Leaf out of discussions or comments, to stick with positive range, but let's go there, to cite an example:

Midsummer Lightshow, 2010 Fuding Shou Mei

NOSE - DRY LEAF:  Date syrup, vanilla tobacco, dark baked cherry crumble.

NOSE - WET LEAF:  Steamed plum pudding and dried oregano.

...MOUTH - TASTE:  Thyme, cinnamon and prune polenta cake, cellar wood and tuica plum alcohol.

NOSE - EMPTY CUP:  Raspberry jam and dark toasted sourdough.

Aged white tea is interesting for what it is, deep and complex across a narrow flavor scope, and not challenging at all.  Whether or not I've not yet tried the best of the range yet this tea was positive, pleasant, and interesting.

back to outdoor tasting with two visitors

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Kayley green Ceylon


This follows reviewing nice black and white versions of Ceylon from a small producer, Kaley, sent for review.  It looks pretty good for green tea; long, twisted whole leaves, moderately dark coloring, rich smell.

Green tea isn't a personal favorite, but I've reviewed dozens of versions here, and I can relate to it.  I wrote about how that preference yardstick isn't critical in tea evaluation not so long ago.  It's helpful for a type to be a personal favorite but something towards the other extreme you can still evaluate.  

Some green teas are exceptions, in that I really do enjoy them.  The character of Longjing works out for me, that nutty / toasted rice flavor, versus some others being heavy on grass, seaweed, or cooked vegetables.  I really liked a steamed green tea from Thailand (from Tea Side), even though ordinarily that wouldn't be the best starting point.  Good sencha and gyokuro transcends that issue too; almost anyone could appreciate the pronounced umami, clean flavor range, freshness, complexity, and pleasant intensity.  We'll see where this stands.

I usually keep the reviews a bit "blind," not reading a vendor description of a tea before trying it, but I'll do it the other way this time, citing their description:

Black twisty tea leaves, unusual for a green tea, turn into a luscious leafy green with at infusion, revealing a light golden liquor. The cup is metered by addictively mild notes of seaweed that float in sync with a fishy vibe. Trifling sweet notes rise up to provide a striking counterpoint. A light vegetal fragrance is gently unleashed, enveloped by an air of bee’s honey. This Green tea is extremely delicate on the palate.

This tea is made from two leaves & a bud, is slow withered, pan-roasted, twisted to perfection, dried & packed within a day of plucking. The crowning glory of this tea is the high level of antioxidants & immune boosting natural goodness.

Alright then; let's see.


First infusion:  since I'm making this Western style I probably will only review two infusions of it.  It's quite pleasant.  In one sense it strikes me as brewed a bit lightly but if it were stronger it would be too much.  I'll try to sort out what that means, feeling internally conflicted about a likely optimum infusion strength.

For flavor it is vegetal, but in a sense that works.  It's not straight-grass or seaweed, but some aspects of both build into a complex flavor profile.  It has some umami range, for sure, in a form that works with the rest.  I suppose some of the more vague sweetness is floral, although saying that sometimes seems like a shortcut to avoid really identifying anything.  Most teas could reasonably be interpreted as floral.

A flavor-list approach to review might do this tea more justice than works out for some others, because you do get a sense of complex flavor range, of a lot combining and integrating.  There's nothing negative to bring up; that helps.  It's not too vegetal in any one way, there's no odd mineral or mustiness, no gaps in feel, aftertaste, or intensity.  On to that list then:  grass (but most of the range isn't that), seaweed, bell pepper (minor; that would be easy to miss), floral range, roasted sunflower seed, warm underlying mineral.

Looking at the vendor's list that includes fish and honey.  Odd they would describe their own tea as fishy, even if they thought so.  There's a fine line for any seaweed aspect to seem fishy, since the umami range is also present in seafood protein, and a vague sea-like theme runs through both, the smell of the ocean and such.  I could see interpreting some of the richness as comparable to a roasted scallop, the part that overlaps a bit with roasted sunflower seed, and the mineral.  Once you think "roasted scallop" it tastes a lot more like that, but in 100 years I wouldn't make that connection without a prompt or reminder.  

Oddly I like that part, and the overall tea.  It's crazy to say it tastes a lot like roasted scallops and then say that but it's an interpretation of a supporting aspect that integrates with the rest.  It's more vegetal, and mineral is as much an input as that warm, rich flavor element.  If you are "looking for" floral that stands out too, maybe along the lines of lotus flower, sweet, rich, and warm.  It helps a lot that it's all clean and balanced; shift the range so that a few of these notes dominate and it wouldn't work as well.  Stronger grass, seaweed, and green pepper wouldn't be pleasant for me, but mixed in this set I like it.  

Mineral is playing a much bigger role than I've done justice to explaining.  It's almost like tasting a penny, like copper.

I don't love it; I wouldn't want to drink a kilogram of this.  But then if I had a kilogram and used it for a daily drinker that might well change; I'm just not acclimated to green tea preference now.

I drank straight through 50 or 100 grams of jasmine green tea I picked up at my favorite local shop (Jip Eu) about two months ago.  It was odd "changing gears" to that extent, but I tried it there meeting someone and I liked it.  It was nearly free; somewhere around $1 for the amount I bought (which I think might have only been 50 grams, but I lose track).  Probably drinking more of this would go like that, that it would be nice to be on a different page.

after one infusion; not quite completely unfurled

Second infusion:  this is transitioning; that's cool.  I won't write notes for a third infusion because this will be enough to express though.  Richness picked up, mineral dropped back just a little, and a sweet floral aspect picked up.  Grass and seaweed are quite diminished.  I like it even better like this.  I would drink this regularly, even without acclimating.

The thing that works for me about Longjing (Dragonwell) that doesn't as much with other Chinese teas is the lack of that straight-grass, seaweed, and vegetable range.  There's a little of that but not much.

It's interesting noting the comparable input mineral contributes in this tea, related to their other black Ceylon version, or Ceylon in general.  It's pronounced.  To me that works really well, it's quite positive, but of course that take could vary.  I've been on sheng pu'er for a good while so I would see it that way.

The third infusion was similar but a bit narrower in range, picking up a touch more wood-tone, so not as positive.  It was still pleasant, not transitioning as some teas do so that you end up throwing out half or most of the extra round at the end.

All in all quite positive.  Some of that judgement does relate to personal preference, to this matching what I like best about some green teas.  Beyond that it seems "objectively" positive, well-balanced, clean in character, complex and intense.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Moychai 2020 Hekai gushu sheng pu'er


Moychay sent some really good tea to try with versions in a set; I've not started in on the best of it yet.  I was busy with some other samples and don't tend to try teas in any particular order.

I don't know more about this tea than the year or location.  I reviewed a Hekai maocha (loose) version from Chawang Shop last year, and that post included a map of where it is, in Xishuangbanna, in the Bulang area within Menghai County.

Xishuangbanna prefecture, from the King Tea Mall site, original image credited to this site

I hadn't planned to say more about locations or even try to compare it to a local area version I tried a year ago.  Per my understanding teas vary a lot based on different factors (general area location, growing conditions, age and type of plants, processing, etc.).  To add more depth to that part I'll cite a reliable, well-written source for pu'er input, a vendor business owned in part by Jeff Fuchs, Jalam Teas:

...Red clay earth, superb humidity and drainage, and not so much sun have long provided ideal surroundings for tea to thrive. The Lahu people have long been one of the lesser-known minority groups in the area and their teas have long been collected by others to produce outside of the region because of inconsistent production. Now the Lahu have benefited from being ‘tutored’ by the nearby Hani people, and their teas have reached level of predictable strength. They now cultivate, harvest and produce their own teas and Jeff’s expectations have been sated.

He Kai lies west and south of Menghai in southern Yunnan province near the fabled ‘Ban Zhang’ area of consistently high quality teas (and stupendous prices). Teas from in and around the Bulang Mountain region have a long fabled history and now command huge interest and the expected prices...

The "gushu" part I've had some exposure to, but even for trying a good number of teas represented that way I'm still more or less guessing on generalities.  It seems a little strange to be saying roughly the same thing about exposure level that I would've said three years ago, before spending those years focused mostly on sheng, trying a lot of versions.  I guess I'm still somewhat new to exposure but in a different sense now.

Dry leaf scent is very promising, sweet, fragrant, and complex.  I don't typically start any breakdown until the actual brewed tea though.  I can cite the vendor description, which I didn't read before editing:

Hekai Gu Shu Cha, spring 2020

"Hekai Gushu"(“Old trees of Hekai”) made in Hekai village (West Xishuangbanna) from the spring shoots of ancient tea trees.

In appearance: large, twisted tea tips with long cuttings. The aroma is restrained, woody-balsamic. The infusion is transparent, with a shade of white grapes.

The bouquet of the ready-made tea is fresh and vibrant, woody-balsamic, with floral, herbaceous and nutty notes. The aroma is complex, woody-balsamic. The taste is refined and full-bodied, sweetish, oily, a bit astringent, with a fruity sourness and minty chill, turning into a juicy finish.

Brew tea with hot water (80°C) in a gaiwan or a teapot made of porous clay. The proportion is 5 g per 100 ml. The time of the first steeping is about 5-10 seconds. After that do short steeps (just for 1-2 seconds)

That lists for 50 cents a gram, which may even be a good value for what the tea is.  But I don't have the right background to make that judgement, lots of exposure to very similar origin-source teas.  To me it seems quite fair.

Any brewing advice is a matter of preference, and that sounds reasonable, maybe just a bit fast.  It would be fine for using flash steeps, and the proportion is ok, but I'd expect conventional preference to brew rounds between 5 and 10 seconds, so fast, but not that fast.

About the flavor description, I probably would have flagged it as being more like white grape if I'd read that first.  It seemed more citrusy to me, and then with mixed floral range filling in the rest, and mineral, etc., but fruit definitely works as a general identification, with potential for differing interpretations.


First infusion:  just lovely.  There's a creaminess that's present in the feel that seems to extend to the flavor, adding a cream taste.  A citrus note stands out as much as anything, with a nice complex floral base beyond that.  It's almost disrespectful to a tea this good to bring it up but the citrus (which really does seem to be between lemon and a sweet version of orange) along with the cream resembles a creamsicle a little.

Bitterness and astringency are at a nice level, enough to add those dimensions to the tea, but not enough to overwhelm the rest.  I have a reasonable tolerance for bitter newish sheng but this doesn't draw on that; if anything bitterness and feel-structure are present but moderate, approachable.  A pronounced base mineral tone is present, which I take to be characteristic of gushu versions.  I won't be evaluating this in relation to a standard gushu form though.  If I'd been trying more of those lately I might have ran through some prior guesses about standard patterns, but I'll skip that part.

All of that was about the tea just getting started, a fast first infusion; it will show more of how it really is over the next couple of rounds.

Second infusion:  base mineral ramped up a bit.  I let this go longer than I typically would snapping a picture of it brewing, so this will be about a slightly strong infusion, probably trying it on the light side next time to define the range.  It's quite catchy.  A bit more bitterness is still at a level that works really well, translating into a very sweet and positive aftertaste.  I don't tend to even mention "cha qi," the feel effect that is said to adjoin some sheng versions, because I'm not especially sensitive to that, but it is odd that I'm feeling this before finishing the second round.

Changing the infusion time alone should ramp up the other flavor beyond that bitterness and mineral, at a cost of dialing that down just a little, but this was still developing.  It might just stay even for intensity and character / aspect balance brewed faster.

Third infusion:  that shift did occur, with the lemony character ramping back up for brewing this fast.  There's still plenty of mineral undertone, but the bitterness level scales way back.  I'm going to be really feeling this tea; different.  It's kind of a heady buzz already, more than a body sensation, if all that rings a bell.  Flavor alone is catchy but the extra layers makes this interesting, the way bitterness and mineral balance it, the way a mild dryness adds mouthfeel complexity that doesn't intrude, and a longer aftertaste than I've experienced for some time.   The effect of intensity is interesting too; even brewed light this hits on those different levels.

For age a half a year of rest is a nice stage.  It's interesting and quite pleasant trying sheng when it's essentially brand new too, but per some limited exposure it kind of comes together with extra rest like this, more than it really gets started on changing character through fermentation.  Further storage in Bangkok humidity and even the cool-season weather (it was down to 21 C / 71 F last night, more or less our annual low) will let it change some more over the next month or so, and a more noticeable amount over a few months.

Fourth infusion:  it's cool to be three infusions in wondering when I'll have to throw in the towel.  I don't value this "cha qi" buzz as much as some develop related preference, but it is novel.  This isn't transitioning that much so far so I'll not keep on about that.  It's in a nice place.  It's interesting how lemony fruit range fills in more than floral tone.  It's been awhile but at least one of the supposed LBZ versions I've tried seemed a bit like that, approachable and interesting as flavor went.  Maybe just not as clearly lemony.

unfurled in this brewing example

Fifth infusion:  it all links together in a different way this round; the feel picked up more creaminess, a velvety sort of edge.  Some of those more pronounced notes seemed to fall into a nice even balance with each other, with a touch more floral fragrance ramping up (like plumeria, much as I can flag those).  Sweetness level is fine, and bitterness is pronounced but moderate; that works.  It's really the synchronicity of this that works best, more so than any of the individual inputs.  I would imagine that getting stoned on the tea would tend to draw out appreciation for that, more so than that being seen as negative.  

Even brewed light there's an intensity to this that's hard to describe.  That flavor list hits a lot of tongue range, so much so that you seem to taste it with the sides of your mouth too.  There are aromatic components to appreciate, also called fragrance by some, but this hits hard across tongue based taste, mouthfeel, and aftertaste intensity.  Then it's odd that there's nothing really edgy about it, no negative range, not even a woody flavor aspect, it's just intense.  Underlying mineral being that intense would seem more unusual if that's not on the normal side, just atypical related to what I normally drink.

Sixth infusion:  it's not changing a lot but it is interesting that the experience shifts enough that it's not the same.  Warmth is picking up.  I interpret that as within a floral tone range more than most of the rest, or that lemon part really dropping out, but I think people would interpret it in completely different ways, related to specific flavors.  The aftertaste is really smooth, creamy, and fruity now, tied to a different fruit tone; that part seems to be changing.  

I get the sense that you can dial up or down the bitterness and mineral base level quite a bit by shifting infusion time just a little; drinking it however you like it.  With the overall intensity being high that costs you nothing related to drinking it strong, even brewed relatively fast.  It's strong both ways, brewed relatively quickly (10 seconds or so, or even less), or towards double that timing, just "strong" in a different sense, with a different aspects balance.

I did eat some breadsticks to keep my stomach settled and to moderate the effect of the tea, the drug-like effect.  I don't suppose this would be that hard on your stomach given astringency seems moderate, but the feel effect is pretty significant.

Seventh infusion:  not so different than last round.  I'm getting the sense that some of the aspect range might fade from here, with some warmer mineral picking up, replacing slightly dryer mineral range from earlier on.  I never did try to fully identify which rock-type the significant mineral reminded me of.  It could as easily be extracting from a clay, so a description might better tie to a type of that.  It's a bit much guessing that out.  

I think this is far from finished but it seems to have started a downward trend related to intensity.  At this rate it will take it 2 or 3 more rounds to that be much more noticeable, then it will be on to the later stage range, probably for as long as I'd stick with it, maybe with this at the half-way point.  It seems a good place to leave off taking notes, since I really don't want to go through another half dozen rounds quickly.  This would be a great tea to take a couple of hours to drink, to not bang through a fast dozen rounds.  Or to share with people, so they could get the effect, probably more suitably divided up among a half dozen people if brewed through a full cycle quickly.

I went way too far with a more basic sheng getting grandpa style brewing wrong this weekend, and it's interesting comparing common ground and the difference with that experience.  I tend to only use that brewing approach for road trips, as I was then.  It's hard to scale back putting half or less what I usually brew in a tea bottle, with one third probably most appropriate (so about 2+ grams, at a guess).  Drinking too much caffeine and taking in too much astringency does blast you, on two different levels, but the effect only overlaps so much with drinking a stronger tea.  You feel not-right, where this is more a buzz.  Sometimes cha-qi can be more a stony body-feel effect, but this went to my head.

All in all a very pleasant experience, on a few different levels.  It's nice trying a better version of sheng than I typically drink.

back to a school routine, in between December vacation outings

including the other one

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Thai OB white and Honey black teas from Alex Phanganovich


A few weeks ago I mentioned meeting a local new contact and friend, Alex Phanganovich, and having tea at the swim lesson my kids go to.  We first met at a Monsoon hosted talk about tea, ecological preservation, and biodiversity, presented by Alexey Reshchikov.

not the best shot of him, looking away

I'll keep this simple today.  I'm a little burned out from doing a two-day trip to Kanchanburi, way too fast to get out there and check out that "Death Railway" WW 2 prisoner theme.

It will help that I'm not trying to market these teas, or make firm claims about what they even are.  Alex said that both are from Thailand.  He isn't exactly a tea vendor but if anyone is interested in unusual Thai teas, or just discussion, he's up in the Chiang Rai growing area now. 

Tea Side is a good standard vendor for sourcing the normal range out of Thailand, or even beyond that; that seems relevant.  For just branching into South-East Asian tea range, and trying novel teas at a great value, Hatvala is worth looking into.  Enough on the commercial themes.

One tea was described as a white tea version of Oriental Beauty (which is odd), and the other as Honey Black tea.  As I recall that is usually used in relation to being a certain cultivar source and processed black tea type in Taiwan.  White tea Oriental Beauty from Thailand contains at least two different type convention contradictions, the category and origin, and probably a third related to plant type used.  It may not even be white tea; I'll focus more on an impression than trying to pin down any inputs or putting it in any boxes.

I doubt Alex has enough of these still around to share more, but you never know.  Again, at least on my side this isn't marketing, which to me takes the pressure off related to confirming or passing on details.

I don't recommend combined tasting black and white teas, side by side, but if you want to why not.  It takes some practice to not get thrown off by the contrast in style, and to some extent I still would too.  Reviews with contrasting teas focus more on flavor aspects, and tasting just one to two very similar types would go into feel and aftertaste range more, and probably get further with finer level flavor description.


OB White:  It's quite pleasant.  A nice hint of cinnamon joins other lighter, brighter, and sweeter range.  Maybe more than a hint; it's about half cinnamon, at this stage.  It's cool the way the rest is a bit warm but also light and bright.  I suppose it's mostly floral, with part seeming like fruit, but no dominant citrus tones stand out, as can occur with OB versions.  It will be interesting to see how it evolves, how it's different in another two rounds.

Honey black:  first impression:  strange.  It shares some common ground with that Taiwanese "honey black" theme, to the extent that is just one thing, and I remember it.  Sure that tastes like honey, but beyond that there's a way that a somewhat standard black tea range comes across that defines that, not malty like Assam, not mineral intensive like Ceylon, not fruity, floral, citrusy, and sophisticated like good Darjeeling.  Novel mineral is one layer to it, but it's about the warm earthy range tone, in a range 10 different people would describe in 10 different ways (like leather, root or bark spice, some variation of wood, roasted chestnut towards dried fruit, and so on).  

Often coming across as generally very positive, but also slightly limited in range, is part of the theme for those Taiwanese black teas, at the moderate quality level of versions I tended to try.  Versions being more consistently positive across complex character range, and quite refined, only happens with the best examples.  It's the same with all teas; buy a standard Da Hong Pao or Rou Gui and it would be nothing like the Wuyi Origin versions I keep reviewing.  This tea being this broken would limit results; that always bumps up astringency and makes results less positive.  It's not astringent at all though, due to the starting point, that not being a main part of the character.

The "strange" part is something else.  It has a funkiness to it, not exactly musty, but maybe closest to that range.  There's a decent chance that whatever that was about will be "burned off" in this first infusion.  I don't think it was a storage-input flaw, probably just an odd part of the character of this tea, tied to how it happened to change through oxidation.  But what do I know.  

It might include a trace of cinnamon too.  Along with the mustiness there's a hint of sourness.  To some this would be a huge flaw in the tea that really puts them off; to others just a normal part of experience very novel tea types, well-balanced by the other positive aspect range.  To me this tea will only really fully show its character on the second infusion, so I'll leave off further description until that.  The other tea will develop but it was obvious what it is like in the first go, to help place what I meant by that.

Second infusion:

OB:  more of the same, just becoming a little richer and deeper.  Cinnamon still really stands out.  There is complexity beyond that cinnamon range but the rest is really subtle.  Pushing this tea a bit more would help with that; I'm brewing both on the fast side, and the black tea version will extract faster for being black tea, and for being broken leaf.  It's pleasant brewed light still.  Probably intensity across a broad range just isn't a strength of this tea anyway, but a check on that brewed for closer to 20 seconds next round will help clarify that.  It's quite pleasant, maybe a bit simple, but pleasant across the range that is there, with some feel depth making the experience broader.

Honey black:  the unusual strengths and weaknesses of this tea make it an interesting experience.  At least it's not boring.  There's that honey sweetness and standard "honey black" flavor range, all quite positive.  Character related to astringency isn't bad; it's not edgy or negative.  Then there is a funkiness to it that's hard to describe, probably mostly or at least partly related to drinking this as such a broken-leaf version.  Some of that would probably seem more familiar if it wasn't that teas like this aren't typically prepared that way.  There's a good chance that this one wasn't either, that I'm trying the bottom of the bag for a very large batch, and the top, or the rest, looked more like I would've expected.

I think just as a more whole leaf version this would come across as much cleaner in character.  It's not musty, or as sour as initially, and even a trace of off mineral or mushroom would drop out a lot of the positive overall character, if there had been any present, but there's not.  

I wouldn't buy a tea like this one, but to some extent that depends on personal preference for type.  Five years ago I think I would've (and a search by name turns up reviews of two versions in this blog), and I've shifted into loving Dian Hong range more (Yunnan black), and am more open to good Darjeeling and Nepal black than this.  I never really "got" Ruby / Red Jade as another standard Taiwanese type (the cultivar name; it can be processed in different ways), that mintiness or eucalyptus flavor.  It's just preference.

That makes me wonder what tea plant type the "honey black" version from Taiwan is made from.  One vendor's description:

Very precious since only the tea bitten by Jacobiasca formosana can be made into Honey Black Tea.

Honey-like taste with slight sweet.

No pesticide in the tea plantation having Jacobiasca formosana, natural organic team.

Only being harvested once a year in summer in Taiwan.

The tea stored for more than one year give better taste.

Other vendor posts are essentially identical.  A blog-type review (through Tea Masters, written by Kevin Craig, who had reviewed teas as Tea Journeyman) mentions a cultivar type (which may or may not be universal):

This tea is generally made from the harvested leaves of TTES # 13 cultivar bushes (Tsuiyu), and are grown at around 500 meters altitude (1,600 feet) in Nantou County, Taiwan. The leaves are allowed to oxidize over 50%, then given a heavy roast. The Mixiang Hongcha is another of Taiwan’s bug bitten style of teas, so I expect to smell and taste honey in the tea.

Third infusion:

OB:  creamy, with notable cinnamon, and pleasant other depth, so not different.  If this really is a white tea one might wonder, why?  It's possible to draw out even more flavor complexity and intensity by making a similar oolong version, so why not do that?  Then again maybe one of the inputs is different, leading to this white tea version being more positive than an oolong would be, made from this material.  That seems unlikely, but the point is that me guessing would only get so far.  

I do like it.  The heavy cinnamon range and other non-distinct complexity make it pleasant.  Prepared as an above average quality oolong it would seem that it would be even better.

Honey:  I like this tea too, but it's another story of limitations cutting short achieving the true potential.  All the positive aspects of a honey black tea are there, the unique flavor complexity, approachable nature, interesting balance, overall novelty.  

There's a longer flavor-list of aspects I could be saying more about, probably offset and made harder to identify by the broken leaf adding more mild astringency and dry earthiness.  The slate-mineral undertone is actually positive, mixing well with the honey, cinnamon, and mild dried fruit range (to try to put a name to it), but there's a bit more countering that, more towards the smell of a galvanized pipe.  It's not a flaw, a limitation that's bad, but not positive either, and not something that makes the final effect better.


It seems that there are two ways to interpret what I've said here.  One is that both are novel takes on established types, positive in the same ways, interesting and pleasant, good for covering most of that standard range and for being a bit different.  I've literally said all of that.  Or someone could focus on what I've said about limitations, and could only want to try the "best of the best," or highest forms of standard types, and all of this could sound like condemnation, accusing the teas of not quite getting there.  I think others' tasting experience would probably also head in those two different directions, based on their pre-conceptions and biases.  These could seem like really positive, interesting teas or else like complete misses.

I think it's important to stay open to experiencing a broad range in teas, but that's just me.  Doing the opposite definitely works too, narrowing what you like to very few types.  Or even a single type range, and only ever experiencing very good versions of those, higher and higher quality levels.  On both sides that could be interpreted in different ways.  On the broad-themed approach someone could explore geographical origins, or even stay open to blends and flavored teas, jasmine or lotus flavored versions, masala chai, and so on.  On the narrower end someone might only drink a limited sub-set of Dan Cong, or Taiwanese oolongs, or sheng pu'er from a few villages within a narrow age range.

It would make sense to write about trying the next three rounds of these but I won't.  On the next round warm richness comes out all the more for the OB, but distinct fruit and other range is still limited.  That same honey and fruit / spice complexity is present in the Honey version, with a hint of dryness and mineral that doesn't match the standard throwing it off just a little.  Both are good.  Both are off the general standard type a bit.  For being from Thailand the match is actually pretty good, especially if you factor in one being a different tea type (category) and the other a bit broken.

I never did develop how this OB is different related to being "white."  That would just add more guesses and discussion, not explanation.  It's probably a bit more subtle, developing light brighter flavors versus warmer tones.

meeting up at a local shop, Jip Eu

light and sound show at the Kanchanaburi bridge; too much sound, really

in memory of a lot of people who gave everything to protect everyone else