June 19, 2012
Christ, have I ever got the tea-jitters. Three teas today, Silver Needle this morning (which is always good for a caffeine buzz) plus two teas from the Big Box. I usually don’t review teas at the first infusion, but since there are just so damn many to review from the Big Box, it would take forever to drink each of them at least twice. So here we go with first impressions.
Goomtee Spring Green
Hmm, a Darjeeling green. I liked the Goomtee Muscatel Valley quite a bit, hence why I decided that their green tea would be the first Darjeeling green I tried.
Opening up the bag and taking a big whiff, I was reminded of how some of the Chinese greens I’ve had smelled in the bag: strongly fruity, almost sweaty. Much like my beloved Wild Orchid Fairy Twig.
Quite dark for a green tea, eh? In the warmed gaiwan, the dry leaves smelled a lot like Meng Shan Cloud Mist: like tomato soup, mostly. At this point I thought maybe I’d used too many leaves, but decided not to go back. I’d learn soon enough if my hunch was right.
I brewed this tea sort of like how Rare Tea Republic said to…to be honest I brewed it like I would a Chinese green, in a gaiwan for 1 minute for the first infusion. I made sure the water was at the temperature they described, though, a cool 190.
The wet leaves gave up an overall citrus sparkle along with the usual “just brewed green tea” aroma we all know and love. The first infusion itself was very crisp and kind of bitter, proving that yes, perhaps I did use too many leaves. Overall notes of citrus, tomato, and spinach.
The second infusion had a nice bite, though I failed to detect much of the roasted pumpkin described on the website, though I suppose I did get some subtle hint of the purported pecan and honey.
The third infusion was pleasant and a bit sweeter, I think the leaves were pretty well exhausted.
Overall, I’d say this green tea is fairly competent, despite my own brewing incompetence (I mean, give me a break, it was my first try!). I’d love for the RTR to give Chinese-style brewing instructions, since I think their directions are definitely more for the teapot-brewing set. In any case, following the usual path with this green tea got me a good but not great results, so this is definitely a tea I’m going to experiment with. We’ll see if a Darjeeling green tea can go toe-to-toe with its Chinese older cousins.
Sandakphu Spring White
I love white tea, I really do. Despite having a reputation for being “delicate”, I’ve always found white teas to be very hearty and punchy, more like a Merlot than a Rosé.
So, considering how much I like the Nepali green tea I have (Jun Chiyabari Himalayan Spring Evergreen), how could I resist getting a white tea?
I was a bit conflicted about this one, honestly. I was thinking to myself “Do I brew it with colder water (185) for the recommended 4 minutes, or do I go with boiling water for 5 minutes with the lid on, @gingkoseto style?” Treat it like the West usually treats white tea, or go with what I know makes my beloved Silver Needle shine so bright?
In the end, I went with the latter. Boiling water, five minutes, lid on. After the tea finished brewing and I poured it into my serving teapot, I noticed lots of steam coming from the leaves, like they were a veggie casserole that had just come out of the oven.
Now, the dry leaves smelled a lot like Silver Needle does…sort of like a sushi restaurant smells, to my nose. The steaming wet leaves smelled NOTHING like that, at all. Instead I got veggie casserole, specifically, green bean casserole. It was seriously veggy, alright, so much so I did a double take. I’ve seen teas called vegetal all the time, but this was such a doppelganger for cooked veggies that even my taste-dumb mother (bless her tobacco-blunted tongue) identified it. This was definitely interesting but also a little scary, because I absolutely HATE green beans.
Another surprise was the colour of the liquor. The website shows a very pale, almost perfectly clear liquor. I got a semi-intense yellow. Perhaps, I thought, I have cooked this tea into a form its makers (or at least, sellers) had not intended.
So, a slow sip of the first infusion and…yes, green beans. Other veggies, too, like spinach and maybe, but definitely dominated by green beans. This is, by far, the most vegetal tea I’ve ever had. And despite my hatred of green beans, I really, really enjoyed it. I enjoyed how little it was like the other white teas I’ve had, how unique in taste and personality it was. This tea is absolutely bonkers and I love it.
The second infusion (6 minutes) was much the same as the first but slightly less intense, a bit less bitter. The third (ten minutes) was quite a bit sweeter, different enough from the first two infusions to again raise my curiosity level. The third infusion (16 minutes) added a creamy note and kept the sweetness, while the final infusion (32 minutes, yes you read that right, I went to do some errands while it brewed) was bland in a nice way. Good job, Sandakphu, for making such a distinctive entry into the the white tea world, and thanks to Rare Tea Republic for selling it at such a fair price.
All in all, a great day for tea. There’s gonna be a lot more of these, I think. Now, to try and walk off these tea-shakes…I’m vibrating like bee’s wings!