After trying out last month’s box, I was looking forward to the Yunnan Sourcing August 2015 box. You may recall that I really liked the Tie Guan Yin they provided and that I was also pleased by their Phoenix oolong. So how do this month’s teas compare?
Certified Organic Yunnan Green Tea Spring 2015
Certified Organic by COFCC, this tea is picked in the early Spring and is from the Dali region of Western Yunnan. This is a high altitude green tea which comes from 1900 meters above sea level.
I’ve never been a big fan of Yunnan green teas, and this tea is no exception, unfortunately. This is a pretty middle-of-the-road green tea. The leaves are dark, curled little nuggets of forest green with a vegetal scent.
I tried making this tea twice before reviewing, using the same temperature and amounts of leaf to water, but using different steep times: 1.5 tsp of leaf and 12 oz of water at 80°C. I steeped it once for 2 minutes and once for 3 minutes. Both times the resulting liquor was a pale greenish orange colour. While the 3 minute steep was stronger, the taste for both steeps was otherwise quite similar: vegetal, somewhat smoky, somewhat mossy.
A perfectly serviceable green tea, but otherwise uninspiring.
Wu Yi Shan “Bai Ji Guan” Rock Oolong Tea Spring 2015
Bai Ji Guan (aka White Cockscomb) is a classic Wu Yi varietal originating from the “Bat Cave” deep in the Wu Yi mountains. First recorded in the Ming Dynasty it was given this name because the tops of bushes have a bright yellow-green appearance that in strong sunlight is almost white in color.
The leaves for this tea were long twists of dark woody brown with hints of khaki and green. Quite pretty! I measured out 5 grams of dry leaf into a gaiwan, rinsed the leaves for a few seconds, and did 5-6 steeps in 90°C water starting at 10 seconds and increasing the time by 10 seconds for each subsequent steep.
The dry leaves smelled bready, malty, and molasses-like — this is a flavour profile I’m quickly learning to enjoy. The wet leaf smelled smoky and fruity, like tobacco and fresh plums. All of the steeps brewed up a deep clear yellow, though the initial steeps had a greenish overtone that faded over time to show a more true yellow.
In the beginning this tea was really mild, with a neutral flavour and a slight honeyed sweetness and a mild orchid note. It didn’t smell very strongly, either. It woke up a bit on the second steep, where it smelled both of minerals and licorice and tasted more strongly of orchids, bread, and green wood. The second steep also had a grassy note at the back of my mouth.
After the second steep, the leaf lightened in colour and looked almost like army camouflage!
The third steep had a strong mineral smell (like wet granite or flagstones) and my tongue started to tingle. The tingling wasn’t quite astringent, but there was a chemical sensation to it. Over subsequent steps, this sensation spread all across the back of my tongue. The fourth steep continued to have that weird chemical/alkaline note — on the fifth steep I realized it reminded me of dish soap. Weird! Why do I keep tasting cleaning products in my tea?!
This tea tasted pretty consistent across 6 steeps, though I do wish it had tasted more like bread and molasses. The final steep resulted in dryness at the back of my throat, and I still got mineral/orchid/chemical notes.
Spring 2015 Light Roast Premium Tie Guan Yin Anxi Oolong Tea
This lightly roasted tea is made from Premium Grade Anxi Tie Guan Yin from Gan De village. The tea was roasted for about 6 hours at a low temperature of about 50C. This light roasting gives the Tie Guan Yin a softer almost sweet taste to it.
After last month’s revelatory spring Tie Guan Yin, I was really excited about this tea. Luckily, it didn’t disappoint. The big difference is in the leaves. Last month’s TGY had leaves that were a beautiful emerald green. This month’s TGY has leaves that are a darker, more muted green. However, they unfurl in the same lovely, crinkly way.
While this tea is not quite as distinctive as its counterpart from last month, it’s floral, light, and quite creamy. I brewed this western-style: about 3.5 teaspoons to 3 cups water at 90°C for 2 minutes. The resulting brew was a deep, clear buttercup yellow.
What’s interesting is that I can taste the difference that the light roast has made between this month’s TGY and last month’s. This month’s tea liquid itself is darker, and I’m getting notes of hay and wood in addition to the flowery orchid/gardenia notes from last time. The cream flavour that I sensed in last month’s box has deepened and intensified into something more buttery — if I didn’t know better, I would have thought this was a milk oolong.
I actually steeped this twice: I let the leaves sit overnight and made a smaller cup of tea the next morning. The liquor was still a deep buttery yellow but the flavour was more mineral/metallic. Still a pleasant cup, though.
There were actually four teas in the Yunnan Sourcing August 2015 box, an herbal tea made of dried ginseng flowers, but the smell was so weird (it smelled like broccoli!) that I decided to avoid that little adventure. My favourite of this month’s teas was the lightly roasted Tie Guan Yin. Who knew I’d go for this variety two times in a row?