Yellow Goddess of Mercy from Old Ways Tea . . .

This tea sample came to me in a crisp, red and gold package with simple, symbolic instructions and the tea’s name: Huang Guan Yin or Yellow Goddess of Mercy. With a name like that, it certainly felt special to crack the seal on the red and gold foil and pour the lovely dark tea leaves into my teapot.  The dry leaves smelled faintly musky, like newly-turned earth, but were otherwise very mild.

I did a little more research on brewing tips beyond the information on the package and found that this is a wuji oolong, meant to be steeped for a short period of time over a few sessions.

For the first brew, the leaves quickly turned the water dark.  The brew smelled toasty and rich, like caramel and burnt sugar.  I always tend to associate oolongs with the fruity, floral, green notes, but then I encounter a tea like this, heavily oxidized, and am reminded that some oolongs can be just as bold and dark as black teas.

Upon further steeping, the brew has stronger sweet rice and breakfast cereal tones among all the toasty caramel notes.  The mouthfeel gets smoother with each steep, and brings out a oddly fruity note, a bit like raisins.  Beneath all these flavors there is a musky depth, slightly sour and reminiscent of tobacco.

This was a delicious bold oolong, rich and full of complex and tasty flavors.  Though the tea itself isn’t yellow, I still love the name, Yellow Goddess of Mercy.  Have mercy on yourself after a long day and have a tea session with this oolong to help bring you comfort and solace.


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Oolong
Where to Buy: Old Ways Tea
Description:

Also known as 105 this tea is a cross between Tie Guan Yin and Huang Jin Gui. The name Huang Guan Yin means Yellow Goddess of Mercy. This is the newest Wuyi oolong cultivar, having been introduced in 2003 by the Fujian Tea Research Institute.

Huang Guan Yin is interesting since in many ways it is one of the least traditional of the teas being produced in the Wuyi mountains. It is newly developed, and has genetic origins outside the original mountains. At the same time it is often packaged in a bag reading “Da Hong Pao” and processed in the same manner as the other Wuyi teas. The interplay between new and old provides for an interesting experience. Personally, I greatly enjoy this tea and when I can not decide which to brew will grab a bag of Huang Guan Yin.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Golden Dragon Yellow Tea from Teavana

GoldenDragonYellowTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Yellow

Where to Buy: Teavana

Tea Description:

We are proud to offer one of the rarest teas in the world; our limited edition yellow tea direct from China. The name ‘yellow’ tea refers not only to the unique processing and the lovely, bright golden infusion color, but due to its rarity it is also associated with the imperial yellow worn exclusively by emperors for centuries. Unlike any tea you have tasted before, at first sip it evokes the exquisite pleasure of everyday luxuries. Captivating high floral notes mingle with a smooth honeyed body and a subtle creamy, buttery finish. A perfectly balanced tea curated just for you.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

First a brief disclaimer of sorts;

I am NOT a fan of Teavana. I have never purchased a blend from them and likely never will. However, this has absolutely nothing to do with the blends they sell themselves.While the store serves it’s purpose of acting as an introductory loose leaf tea shop, for which I am grateful (as I’m sure they’ve turned many people on to drinking loose leaf tea) I cannot personally support their business model nor will I give money to a company with such consistently reported poor customer service.

Any of their teas that I’ve ever tried has been received as a sample, and not purchased out of my own pockets. That said, I’ve never let my personal views of the company’s business model affect the way I perceive their teas. This has meant occasionally finding a great blend but not pursuing a revisit, which can be disappointing, but is something I can live with. As for this tea, I’m going to review it as if I didn’t know the company from which it was sourced and give my opinion PURELY about the tea itself.

And so carrying on…

Visually, the dry leaf of this blend looked like somewhat tarnished, lightly browned Yin Zhen (Silver Needle tea) but a little more twisty. Steeped up, the liquor is a very flat, dull golden yellow. It’s very beautiful, even if it’s not a more lively looking liquor. Personally, I’ve only had three or four other plain yellow teas and they’ve been prepared in blue teaware, so I can’t really use my personal experiences to say whether this colour is normal for steeped up yellow tea though. The aroma is interesting; it’s soft with a bit of a buttery vegetal smell and some malt and sweeter notes as well.

Drinking this, it was really apparent to me that the nuances of flavor take after traditional Yin Zhen and Green Tea pretty equally; of course that makes sense given that yellow tea is halfway between white and green tea. I could actually tell it was produced in China without reading the description though; China’s green teas tend to have a more distinct smokey and nutty flavor to them while Japanese greens lean more heavily on the marine side of this (seaweed) and the flavors here weren’t an exception to that. On the greener end of the spectrum, I noticed very gentle smokey notes, buttery vegetal notes, a bit of a peppery flavor leaning towards lemon pepper more so than black pepper (or the actual vegetable; bell pepper, etc.), and some less distinct herbaceous notes as well. That lovely peppery quality definitely falls in line with other yellow teas I’ve been lucky enough to sample.

On the whiter side of things; there was a lovely supple sweetness that reminded me of honey or, combined with the weaker floral tones present, honeysuckle. A more vague hay-like flavour was present, and a flavor that kind of crossed over between malt and cream with a soft fruity edge; very similar to some of the Kenyan white teas I’ve gotten to try. I like to describe that flavor as kind of tasting like a Hot Cross Bun/Easter bun, in a way.

This was a super interesting tea, and I loved all the flavors present that bounced off one another; I’ve only gotten to try a few different yellow teas, and this isn’t my least favourite but it’s not my favourite either: so far Camellia Sinensis’ Meng Ding Huang Ya is my favourite. Both this tea and CS’s heavy big price tags; but with the quality difference I’d go with CS’s yellow tea. However, I think this is definitely worth trying if you get the chance because it WAS lovely.

Meng Ding Huang Ya Yellow Tea from Camellia Sinensis

Meng Ding Huang YaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Yellow

Where to Buy: Camellia Sinensis

Tea Description:

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.

Taster’s Review:

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!

Huang Ya Yellow Tea from Nan Nuo Shan

HuangYaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Yellow

Where to Buy:  Nan Nuo Shan

Tea Description:

A truly original yellow tea produced according to a traditional recipe in an ancient Chinese tea region. The sprouts are picked when still tiny and tender to be carefully processed in small batches.

The taste is very clear and rich, refreshing but not fresh. Warm, brisk and mineral with hints of hay and a pleasant, slightly sweet, aftertaste.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

For those of you who are familiar with my love of tea, you are probably aware that yellow tea is my favorite variety of tea.  So when Nan Nuo Shan offered to send me their new harvest of Huang Ya Yellow Tea, I leaped at the opportunity.  Yes PLEASE!

To brew this, I got out my gaiwan.  They sent me 6 grams of the tea and since I have a fairly large gaiwan, I poured the whole 6 grams of tea into the bowl of the gaiwan.  I gave the tea a 15 second rinse and followed it with six infusions (1 minute for the first infusion with 15 seconds additional steep time for each subsequent infusion).  All six infusions fit quite nicely in my YiXing mug designated for yellow teas.

And how I love this tea.  It’s so lovely!

Before I proceed with the review, I wanted to highlight some information on the Nan Nuo Shan website about yellow tea that I found rather interesting:

The production of yellow tea is not only difficult but also risky. During yellowing the tea might turn moldy, causing the lost of precious raw leaves. So former yellow tea producers decided to focus on more popular and risk-free green teas or at least to shorten the yellowing phase to few hours instead of days, thus producing yellow tea undistinguishable from green tea.

That is something to keep in mind when you’re purchasing yellow tea in the future.  It’s important to communicate with your tea purveyor to find out what you can about production of your teas!

This tea!  It is pure loveliness and joy in liquid form.

Sweet!  The tea is sweet with a lovely contrasting note of bitter toward the end of the sip.  This is not the “oh no, I steeped the tea incorrectly” kind of bitter.  This is not an off-putting kind of bitter.  It’s a delicate, savory note that contrasts with the sweetness and adds complexity to every sip.  It hints at the layers of flavor that are waiting to be explored by the sipper.

It has a soft, creamy texture that is similar to a Chinese green tea but without the strong, grassy/vegetative and/or kelp-y taste that you might notice with a typical green.  Hints of butter with a light, tangy quality that reminded me a little of the tangy note that I might experience from buttermilk.

It’s lightly earthy as opposed to what I’d call vegetal, but the earthy tones are vegetal tasting.  It doesn’t taste like earth as in loam or peat, it tastes like an earthy green taste.  Like kale that has been cooked to perfection:  earthy with a little bit of bitter and and a hint of tangy.  Only this is better because it also has that delightful sweetness!  I’d take a cup of this over a plate of kale anytime!

It’s so smooth.  There’s no astringency.  Even the tangy quality here – it’s a flavor without the sensation that accompanies an astringent tea.  This is one of the very best yellow teas I’ve yet to encounter.  I highly recommend this to all who are looking to expand their experience with yellow tea!  (All of you, right?)  It’s an incredibly beautiful tea!

Sweetfern Tonic Tea from The Algonquin Tea Co.

sweetfernTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Herbal/Functional Tisane

Where to Buy:  Algonquin Tea Co. 

Tea Description:

Delicious daily tonic formulated to assist every major organ in the cleansing of toxins. Immune boost and detox. Great iced tea. Tastes similar to black tea

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn more about subscribing to Postal Teas here.

Taster’s Review:

The above description suggests that this tisane tastes similar to black tea.  And despite this ‘promise’ – I found myself still hesitant to try it because … well, because it’s a tisane.  And I know that I’ve mentioned more than once or twice my apprehension when it comes to tisanes.

But I finally decided that it was time to try it.  So, to brew this, I measured out three bamboo scoops of the tisane into the basket of my Breville One-Touch tea maker and added 500ml of water to the kettle.  Then I set the temperature for 195°F and the timer for 7 minutes and I let the tea maker do it’s thing!

I let it cool for a few minutes before taking the first sip.  And yes, it does taste a bit like black tea.  More accurately, it tastes like a ‘thinned’ black tea with herbaceous notes.  Like maybe someone took half a cup of black tea and topped it off with an herbal tisane.

It’s actually quite pleasant to sip.  And this tea has a few “pros” to it:  a) there’s no hibiscus!  Yay!  b)  it has echinacea which is a fairly well-recognized herb that boosts the immunity system.  c) it’s pretty tasty.

Unlike many tisanes I’ve had in the past, this tisane is more like a unified flavor of all the components.  That is to say – this tastes like one flavor and I’d find it difficult to discern the different flavors/ingredients of the blend.  I taste a gently warm flavor to it – like a subtle spice.  I notice a slight “root-beer-ish” kind of note that I attribute to the burdock.

But other than the “thinned black tea with herbaceous notes” – that’s really all I can taste.  I taste a thinned black tea, herbaceous flavors, warm, subtle spice and a hint of root beer.  It’s a tasty tisane.

The brochure from Algonquin that was included in this edition of the Postal Teas box suggests that tea is an effective “cleanser” or detox type of tisane and this is a detox tea that I wouldn’t mind drinking now and again because it does have that black tea + herbal tea taste to it and I’m finding it to be pleasant.

One thing I gotta say about Algonquin, their packaging is beautiful!  If I saw these packages in the store, I’d definitely be tempted because the artwork is stunning and as I’ve said before, I’m a sucker for artwork!  The packages that we got from Postal Teas are not as lovely as what I see on the Algonquin website, but if it wasn’t for receiving this 9th edition of Postal Teas, I probably wouldn’t have discovered the beautiful artwork!