Yunnan Sourcing is a tea vendor based in China with a very good reputation among tea junkies for providing high-quality teas from across China and Taiwan for very reasonable prices. They also offer a variety of monthly subscription boxes. I’ve signed up for a subscription box of oolong and green teas (aka: the “jade” box) to share with a friend, and this is the first month of our joint subscription.
I’m super excited – let the tasting for the Yunnan Sourcing July 2015 box begin!
Certified Organic High Mountain Bi Luo Chun Yunnan Green Tea Spring 2015
High altitude green tea grown in the mountains of Dali Prefecture of Yunnan. This tea is processed in the traditional method of Bi Luo Chun. It is rolled and heat-dried by hand in a wok.
The first tea in the jade monthly box is this Bi Luo Chun from Yunnan. I really like Bi Luo Chun teas, but it depends on where they are grown. Yunnan greens have a smoky, rubbery smell to them that I generally dislike, and, sadly, this tea is no exception.
The leaves of this tea are dark green-brown curled nuggets with a thick, vegetal scent that, in addition to the smoke/rubber note I mentioned above, smells somewhat roasted. In fact, it reminds me rather of an oolong than a green tea. Interesting.
I steeped 1.5 tsp of dry leaf in a 12oz mug with 85°C water for 2 minutes. The resulting brew was a pale orange-yellow and smelled similarly to the dry leaf — roasty, somewhat vegetal, but still smoky.
The tea tasted similarly — roasty and vegetal, with a lingering grassy aftertaste reminiscent of barley. For me, a really good Bi Luo Chun should be vegetal and buttery but also sweet. There are some I’ve had that tasted like honey, or had a natural sweetness upon the second steeping; I found no sweetness here, unfortunately. However, if you shift your conceptions and think of this as a lightly-roasted oolong, it’s not that bad!
Spring 2015 Imperial Tie Guan Yin of Anxi Oolong Tea of Fujian
This is the highest grade of Tie Guan Yin normally available. Picked in a small window of just 2 days during the spring and autumn harvest and hand-processed in small batches to achieve a high level of aroma and full Guan Yin taste! Also known as AAA Grade!
The dry leaf of this tea looks exquisite: beautiful, dark emerald green nuggets. It smells exquisite, too: lovely, floral, creamy, and fresh. You can really tell that this tea was harvested only a few months ago. Normally the floralness of green oolongs turn me off because they have a weird sort of astringency to them, but this tea is mild and light.
I brewed 1.5 tsp of the dry leaf in a 12oz mug with 90°C water for 2 minutes. The resulting liquor was pale yellow and redolent of flowers and cream. The brewed leaves unfurled into dark green crinkles that remind me of spinach. And the taste? Smooth, balanced, gentle, and floral, like I’ve got a dream in my mouth.
This has to have been one of the best teas I’ve had in ages. I couldn’t stop talking about it for at least a day afterward! So delicate, yet so smooth; intensely flavourful, but not in an obnoxious way. It’s a tea that makes me think of quiet confidence and skill. Seriously, it’s good!
Phoenix Village “Da Wu Ye” Dan Cong Oolong Tea Spring 2015
“Da Wu Ye” known as Big Black Leaf grows almost exclusively in Phoenix Village in the Wu Dong Mountains of Guangdong. Da Wu Ye is a medium leaf varietal and natural hybrid of local “Ya Shi Xiang” bushes and “Shui Xian” varietal.
The dry leaf of this tea was long, spindly and dark brown, like little twigs or spider legs, and had a lovely autumnal, roasty smell like corn or barley. Unlike the other two teas in this box, I decided to steep it multiple times in a gaiwan rather than do a single western-style steep. I did a 5-second rinse with 90°C water, then 5 steeps of increasing length, starting at 15 seconds and ending at 30 seconds.
The tea from the first steep was amber like beer and had a thick, soupy mouthfeel with a grassy aftertaste. I think I also smelled some orchid in the cup. The aftertaste was sharp, slightly bitter, and had a fresh greenness at its heart, like the inner flesh of a plant’s stem.
The second steep tasted and looked very similar to the first, although it added some astringency that wasn’t there before. The third steep was 20 seconds, and at the front of the first sip I tasted a sweetness that reminded me of smoke, molasses, and baked beans. Weird, but cool!
In contrast to the previous steeps, the fourth steep produced tea that was a deep buttercup yellow in colour, and it had a mineral note to it, as well as a tartness that reminded me of chewing on the skin of fresh plums. The mineral taste made another appearance in the fifth and final steep, and so did that molasses/baked beans flavour from the third steep. Interesting! I’d love to try similar oolongs in the future.
I could take or leave the Bi Luo Chun, but I did enjoy the Dan Cong oolong once I had a chance to play with it. However, the clear winner was the Anxi Tie Guan Yin oolong. That shit was literally redemptive. I’d buy more of it in a heartbeat, though I’m worried it will have spoiled me for other green oolongs!