Leaf Type: Yellow
Where to Buy: Camellia Sinensis
This yellow tea composed almost entirely of buds comes from Sichuan province.Its magnificent young shoots are selected before being covered with the fine hairs typical of that grade of imperial picking! Its light yellow liquor is sweet and tasty. Bold hazelnut aromas are complemented by hints of vanilla and herbs. The finish is supported by its creamy texture and sweet taste. In the tradition of great teas – preferably to be enjoyed in a Gaiwan in a careful ambiance!
Learn more about this tea here.
Stream of consciousness review, meaning once I get to the steepings/infusions part of this review I’m just going to be taking note of my initial impressions/thoughts. I initially recorded this as a series of jot notes but have obviously since edited things to be paragraph formatted and easier to read…
This was a birthday present from my Dad; with the expensive price tag that comes along with this one I didn’t think that I’d ever be able to justify buying it but when I was explaining to him why yellow tea is such a big deal and how it’s something that I’ve been dying to explore but, because of the rarity, having a hard time doing something must have clicked for him because he surprised me with 25g!
I should note, the only other yellow tea I’ve had was a flavoured one and definitely not this high of a quality – I think that’s obviously something of note with this review.
Dry smell: From the bag this smell very strongly smells of rich hazelnut with herby undertones. After measuring it out into my gaiwan and being able to smell it closer/more directly I notice those smells and an almost borderline graham like smell. I do think you need to have an at least somewhat refined palate to pick up on it though; I’ve had various family members smell the dry leaf for this one and each of them swears they can’t smell a thing. The smell is so distinct for me though so I can only assume the difference here is that they’re tea plebians/don’t drink tea at all and, well, I’m obviously not and I definitely do.
Visually, the dry leaf reminds me a fair bit of silver needle, but with a more “tarnished” dusty yellow/ light brown colour, and very slightly smaller and more compressed/flat. I think it looks very aesthetically pleasing!
Infusion One – 30 Seconds:
Strong herbaceous and hay notes with a particularly peppery start and just a smidgen of astringency and bite are the first and foremost flavours with a menagerie of buttery vanilla and creamy hazelnut notes offering contrast and softening the tea a touch. There are corn silk notes and very soft roasty ones that fit somewhere into the equation. Fades into a soft, lemony flavour that lingers for a very long time, but only after having swallowed. There’s a lot going on, but it’s very pleasant! The leaf left in the Gaiwan smells like lemon pepper and hazelnut; weird but mouthwatering.
Infusion Two – 20 Seconds:
Smells like pepper, lemon and hazelnut. Less bite and less generic herby notes but still has some grip and some hay notes; it’s much more distinctly lemon pepper in start of the sip fading into roasty notes, vanilla and lemon in the body of the sip. I’m losing some of the hazelnut now as the other flavours get stronger. I tthoroughlyenjoy the transition from savory to light and sweet. It almost reminds me of vanilla lemon sponge cake in the aftertaste but the confectionery component’s not all there. It’s the butter that’s forming that impression, though. Leaf in the gaiwan is very lemony with some hay scent as well. It’s ticking my nose a little and making me sort of want to sneeze. But in a good way?
Infusion Three – 20 Seconds:
Oh wow; the flavour has diminished quite quickly as well as lost almost all the bite/grip. I pick up on a lot of hay notes; it’s quite similar to the flavour profile of your generic white tea/silver needle. There’s some creamy, buttery notes and a faint hazelnut and vanilla flavour. Mostly, it’s a sweet but dull lemon flavour though. This is my least favourite infusion thus far and I think, probably, a good place to stop steeping – even though I think I could get at least one more decent infusion from this I personally don’t push my Gong Fu sessions too long; I’m the sort of person who prefers to experience multiple different teas in one day than spend my whole day drinking a single tea.
Overall, this tea had a lot of really varied flavours to it but I found it so fascinating and enjoyable, and I think I learned a great deal from it. I would absolutely seek out this varietal again; I’m so intrigued to see how other companies’ offerings would compare! It’s quite sad that all of the ones I’ve seen have been so expensive; it’s definitely not one of those teas I can afford to buy from several companies in order to sample/compare…
Personally, I thought the second steeping was the best and had the most range of flavour as well as distinct flavours. Even though I know I said that I feared a novice/less trained palate would have a hard time picking up on the nuances I may have been wrong there; I thought almost all the flavour notes were very obvious. And, I definitely recommend seizing the opportunity to try this one if it presents itself to you!
Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: Upton Tea Imports
An extremely well made special tea from Sichuan (Szechuan) province. One of the finest black teas available today. Reddish liquor, clean taste, mellow flavor. Exquisite!
Learn more about this tea here.
What a lovely black tea – this Sichuan Zao Bei Jian Black Tea from Upton Tea Imports. It is so well-rounded … so full of flavor. It is smooth and mild, but, it also has a certain heartiness to it.
I love the flavor of this tea … it is smooth from start to finish, with minimal astringency. No bitterness whatsoever. As I mentioned at the start, it is very nicely round, it seems to fill the palate with flavor without overwhelming it, providing a good, strong flavor without being overly aggressive.
There are lovely notes of fruit to this tea, reminiscent of sun-ripened stone fruit … a sweet plum, perhaps, and sweet currants, but without the hints of sour that often accompany a plum or currants. The sweetness is somewhere between fruit and caramel. As I continue to sip, I notice a drying astringency beginning to develop, but it is a very slight dryness, reminding me of the dryness that might accompany a dry red wine.
In fact, that is what this tea reminds me of … a sweet, dry red wine. Robust and full, but mellow and sweet. Just a very enjoyable cuppa – a nice afternoon tea.
Leaf Type: Pu’er
Where to Buy: Verdant Tea
A perfectly integrated blend with Yanxin’s Reserve ’04 pu’er, elderberry and spice that spans the whole flavor spectrum. . . .
We love pu’er for its multi-dimensional complexity. One of the most interesting and often overlooked elements of the pu’er experience is the vaguely numbing and tingling sensation that fine pu’er leaves in the aftertaste. Our goal with this blend was to highlight this textural quality of great shu pu’er, while at the same time creating a warming, rich and perfectly integrated taste experience.
We start with the incredible Yanxin’s Reserve ’04 Shu Nuggets. This tea is known for its pastry-like dessert flavors, and its smooth sweet aftertaste. We build on that richness with one of our favorite ingredients to pair with shu pu’er, dried elderberries. The dark sweetness of the elderberries brings out the natural berry qualities of the pu’er itself, and lingers on the sides of the tongue.
Next we draw out the pastry sweetness of the pu’er with a touch of licorice root, which helps highlight and blend the sweet spice of ginger root. Ginger starts to emphasize the tingling texture of this fine pu’er, but on its own, it doesn’t push quite far enough. That is why we added a touch of Sichuan peppercorn to round out this tea and make it whole. Sichuan peppercorn has a uniquely numbing flavor that elevates this blend to a new level. Taken as a whole, no one flavor stands out above the others. They work together smoothly to emphasize everything warm and satisfying that we love about shu pu’er.
Learn more about this tea here.
Verdant once again impresses with a blend that is masterfully created. I hesitated to order a sample of this because I do not like licorice, not even a little. However I love elderberry, love pu’er, and throughly enjoy anything with any kind of pepper in the blend. I had never heard of sichuan pepper so I was intrigued. Also it is getting cool in my area of the world, and anything that sounds remotely like chai is on my mind.
Also I know that often when tea is blended masterfully, as Verdant always does, some of the ingredients we often would shy away from do not come across on the palate as they would in their straight from. So I took a risk, although I knew it was a small one, that I may not enjoy this tea, and got the sample anyway. I could not be more pleased that I did!
As with any pu’er you get multiple flavorful steepings and this truly is a tea to sit down and take your time with.
What I love most about this tea is the leathery aspect. It is reminiscent of a historical library with old leather bound books in abundance. The elderberry is so present with a tart yet sweet existence that sneaks out now and then delighting the tongue with its ripe sweet flavor. The mouthfeel is creamy and thick. The pepper gives the perfect amount of “bite” without hiding the other flavors beneath it. Of course the pu’er allows for a sweetness of its own and that trademark earthiness that I love so much. There is a marked presence of ginger so if you are not one who enjoys a ginger flavor this may be the one thing that would dissuade you from trying this tea. However I have had many teas with ginger as a flavor element and none, so far, have been up to par with the quality of this ginger.
The ginger does not overwhelm the cup but rather says “yes I am here” politely with each sip. So perfectly blended is this cup that it is easy to pick out each element, forgetting the others, for a while, but then they meld together perfectly in a balanced unifying harmony. So the individual ingredients are the melody, the balance of the blend itself is the harmony, with the chorus being the huge smile on my face after every sip. Nowhere did I taste licorice as an individual component however perhaps I did not want to. Perhaps it is just as the tea description says: “Next we draw out the pastry sweetness of the pu’er with a touch of licorice root, which helps highlight and blend the sweet spice of ginger root.” Perhaps this is in fact why I feel that ginger does not overwhelm. When a master blender is given the same ingredients as a not so experienced blender the end result can be quite different. So licorice does not take on a single note of its own but rather tames the ginger from being too strong of an element. That is exactly what I get in my own tasting of this tea.
I no longer partake in drinking alcohol however I would compare this tea to a fine liquor such as a single malt scotch, or a fine brandy perhaps. I can envision myself sitting in a Victorian library, on a chaise lounge, curled up with a great book, bound in leather of course, (the book, not me), and a cup of this elegant tea.