Sunday, January 23, 2022

Gopaldhara Spring White Teas

Not exactly timely, reviewing spring versions of white teas in January, but I wanted to keep on with trying spare samples, and passing on thoughts on those.  I never did get around to this range trying Gopaldhara versions from a set sent by them to try last year.  They'll be really good, of course, but maybe in some interesting way.  Or maybe I'll just keep writing about them being sweet, complex, fruity, refined, etc., just what I expect.

One is described as a Bai Mu Dan; that might be different.  It's a reference to a Chinese white tea style, of course.  The other referenced something about being an early harvest version, which only became clear later after talking to Rishi about what it was, since that didn't match up with a website marketing name version.  It was something they didn't sell by direct retail, a batch they only sold wholesale.

This review gets a little strange because that earlier guess, from the review notes, that their white teas just repeat in style was completely wrong.  The Bai Mu Dan was really unusual for being processed in a different way than was typical for them, which I've just heard about, but which I'm not really going to try to summarize here.  Processing details tend to go in one ear and out the other, so I wouldn't do that justice.  It was pretty much just left to dry, so it's a standard white tea, but there was a little more to it than that.

The other white tea version was relatively broken.  In these review notes--written while I tried the teas--I guessed that it probably wasn't like that as they sold it, that I probably got the last of a large bag for the sample, broken material that had settled out, and Rishi guessed that's probably what it was too.  To me that makes for an interesting test case, because I've wondered how similar their teas would be to more conventional and more broken leaf Darjeeling, and this will test that.  Of course I could just split a sample that's relatively whole leaf and crush half, and then brew both parts separately, but I never get around to that.  Intuitively astringency level would be higher, and flavors might change just a little, and that's kind of how it worked out.

I'm not changing the contents of these notes based on learning those extra details, but not that much changed in relation to the Bai Mu Dan version anyway.  I think Rishi said that it's from AV2 material, but that's already in the web page description anyway:

As is typical they keep a flavor description limited, which is probably for the best since different people would always interpret flavor aspects differently:

Instead of rolling and oxidizing, this tea is sun-dried in a controlled method that preserves its unforgettable smooth, creamy and fruity texture. The picturesque dry leaves are greenish-grey in appearance with lots of silvery tips which brew into a pale yellow-green coloured liquor. A hint of honey and notes of wildflowers can also be felt in this tea.


Gopaldhara Early Harvest White (2021):  I might've went with the more typical fast infusion time to adjust for this being more broken than usual, but instead I let it go longer to avoid writing about how I would know better next round.  This is too astringent to really evaluate.  In a sense that works to help identify flaws in the tea, what the rest of the character is really like, but it won't work to evaluate it against preference.  Except that nothing really stands out except the astringency.

This is oxidized more than I expected.  White teas vary a lot related to that; it just depends on how much air contact occurred during processing.  And using broken material would really ramp it up too. This is going to seem more like a black tea than their first flush versions typically do.  I'll try a fast infusion next round and can talk about how it is then.

from their website; I spaced taking dry leaf pictures, which never happens

Bai Mu Dan:  infusion time was just about perfect for this version (towards 20 seconds, quite long for a typical Gongfu first infusion).  This is really unique.  At first it seems like that novel flavor includes a lot of melon, but I might adjust that after considering it.  Yep, melon.  Probably like honeydew or something such; I kind of hate melon so those could be more familiar.  Oddly that really doesn't carry over to disliking teas that taste like melon, so this is nice.  

Beyond that it's hard to describe.  There's a warmth to it that's hard to place, and a depth of fullness to the feel.  Warmth might be a bit like really fresh croissant, with a warm and mild floral tone mixed in, like chrysanthemum.  It's really unlike anything else that comes to mind.  And this range isn't too far from how Bai Mu Dan can be too, which is odd.  I suppose for being this novel it would be atypical but still that's right somehow.

oxidation level difference is easy to see in the brewed liquid

Early Harvest, second infusion:  for normal Darjeeling this would be good; it has plenty of astringency edge, and lots of floral flavor, and it's clean, with good sweetness.  It's hard to even place that in relation to the other Gopaldhara teas I've been trying, for awhile.  It's that astringency bite, which brings with it green wood flavor, or at least seems connected to that to me.  At half this proportion it would be brewing better, even at the same flash infusion I just used.  

It's just not what I expected, the intense, fruity and floral, approachable, very sweet range.  I can't say that a tea that seems like a typical Darjeeling is a complete miss to me; that doesn't seem fair.  It just seems harsh in comparison to their other range.  Most likely if I try another white from what they sent (I think there might be two more in that set) those will be what I expected, and this just isn't.  

It can happen that you get a sample from towards the end of a larger package, that it being this broken isn't really typical of what it's sold as.  Tea reviewers, or customers in general, can end up feeling put out by that, but it is what it is, and results aren't always really negative in relation to that.  Last year a vendor sent me what had to be the end of a batch of Thai Oriental Beauty (an interpretation of that style, really) and that really worked, with the extra astringency and edge supporting the mild style of that tea nicely.  That was a tea I bought a normal amount of, not a sample, but since I liked the tea there was nothing to complain about related to that form.  Looking back at that post the tea in that bag near the top wasn't as broken, with the bottom half just fragments.  Either way, it was nice.

Bai Mu Dan:  warm tones pick up a bit, so that melon doesn't stand out as much.  It's still a bit bright and sweet, but offset from just that in tone.  The way some faint aspects come together is catchy, the general effect.  It wouldn't be completely off to interpret this as including mild citrus, it's just not exactly how I see it.  It's mainly floral tones, but a range of those.  That warm part I mentioned is similar to fresh baked bread of some type, or interpreted differently leaning a bit towards balsa wood.  It all works though.

Early Harvest, third infusion:  getting a lot more pleasant.  That floral range is really intense, and the astringency is really easing up.  Probably next round it will be in an even nicer balance.  "Intense floral" can mean a lot of things but most of those wouldn't be this intense.  A different reviewer might question whether or not this is a flavored tea, but it's absolutely not, since they wouldn't send that, and the difference in effect is clear enough.  

It's odd how this comes across as more oxidized than standard first flush Darjeeling.  Brewed color alone clearly indicates that, and of course warm toned flavor range and astringency.  The next round should indicate what this really is.

Bai Mu Dan:  it's strange how richness picked up a lot, even though the other general aspect range didn't change that much.  It's a little "cleaner," not that it was musty or murky in some sense before, but the flavor range is brighter and clearer now.  No set of words would capture that one "catchy" effect that I mentioned.  It's an emergent property of how the other aspects come across, not one thing, or even clearly tied to a set of a few aspects.  That said I think there might be one main thing causing it that I've not done justice to describing.  Maybe it's how that fruit tone, now harder to identify, mixes with the floral tone and warmer range, what I've described as like fresh baked bread.

Early harvest, fourth infusion:  it's interesting how this reminds me of most Darjeeling first flush versions I experienced in the past.  Heavy floral tone is offset by an astringency edge, which has moderated to a level that's pleasant.  That floral range is so intense that it carries over as a more pronounced aftertaste than most tea types provide.  

This would've been better made using half as much tea; I wasn't thinking that broken leaf effect through.  It's just not the page I'm typically on, and I've been preparing teas more or less on autopilot for awhile now.  Using the same proportion and modifying timing works really well for a broad range of teas, just not necessarily this example.  Or for broken leaf versions in general, really.  This would've been a more positive sounding review if I had dropped dry leaf amount to half this, even though I'm trying to describe how the input changes things.  Or Western brewing probably would've went better.

Bai Mu Dan:  this is going to come across much differently not just for being whole leaf, and a different character of tea, but also because I used less dry tea to make it.  It took up about one and a half times the gaiwan space as the other dry but double would've been more suitable (best achieved by cutting back the first, as described).  Of course I'm adjusting timing to longer for this version than the other to offset that, but I'm still drinking these at two completely different brewed intensity levels.

All that said the description from last round still works.  I'll probably not add any more notes on later rounds, even though these will shift some, because the basic story is already covered.  Some degree of brewing error is part of it in relation to the first, but it's also just broken leaf first flush Darjeeling, which is pleasant enough brewed as fast as I'm making it, just not the type I expected.


That Bai Mu Dan version was interesting, and novel.  I'm not sure that I like it more than their typical first flush white tea versions, but it's in a similar range for positive aspect character, and sometimes just being different is better.

The other version was interesting for that broken leaf form experiment.  Tried as a whole leaf tea it would've brewed a lot slower, with much lower astringency, and less of a green wood / plant stem sort of flavor input.  Not that all that is so terrible; someone could actually prefer both those inputs, especially if they were acclimated to expect them.  To a limited extent we like what we expect to like.  Only to a limited extent though; people are generally also open to new experiences being positive.

It's drifting way off the subject but let's consider an example from my life; what kinds of things did I experience moving to Thailand that were novel at first, that I liked a lot right away or else needed time to adjust to?  Sticking to foods will keep it simple.  One of my favorite deserts, that I'm reminded that I could eat and enjoy every single day when I have it, is something I didn't like at first, a mix of  Chinese beans, dried fruits, ice, and longan juice.  That's a little different, about a set of flavors and overall food experience being novel.  

Food texture differences stand out a lot more here; lots of things are mushy.  Some mushy foods I absolutely love now, like congee (boiled rice soup), and others I'm still so-so on, like those gelatinous desert cubes they make from rice starch.  I think I loved mango and sticky rice the first time I tried it here, but to me it would seem odd for someone not to.   Those could hardly pair any better, with the sticky rice flavor and texture adjusted by adding coconut, and with an extra coconut sauce.  All of this isn't really supposed to tie back to how Darjeeling style expectations would work out, it's just a tangent.

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