April 04, 2017

Three Teas from Tea Dealers

I like that I am always surprised by the malleability of Camellia sinensis. From this one species (and its two varieties and of course, its many cultivars), you get a world of teas. Technically White Lotus Leaf (sourced from Korea) is not a tea but I enjoyed drinking it just the same, especially at night. Can you drink caffeine at night? I no longer can. Many years ago, I could drink coffee close to midnight and sleep well. Ah, changes. The two other other teas from Tea Dealers are their Charcoal Roasted Tie Guan Yin and Thurbo Second Flush Darjeeling 2016.

I almost exclusively drank the white lotus leaf tisane at night. I used 1 tablespoon steeped in 8 ounces of 195F water for 30 seconds. The directions specified 1T/5g but 5 grams would be a lot more than 1T of leaf. The liquor has thick mouthfeel on the first infusion. The pale liquor tastes very sweet and the steam smells sweet as well. I am reminded of hot malted barley and corn on the cob. This tea is warming and calming.

Switching countries but not continents: the roasted tie guan yin from Maokong in Taiwan. In the case of this tea, 1 tablespoon equals 5 grams. I used the recommended 8 ounces of 195F water with an initial 30 second infusion and additional steeps of 10 seconds. I'll say here that with 8 ounces I did not get much a substantial tasting liquor until the third infusion. The fourth infusion was golden colored with a sweet taste of syrup on pancakes and caramel. The fragrance of the infused leaves was chicory and dark roasted coffee beans. As the liquor cooled, the roast became more pronounced but it remained sweet not savory or bitter.

Moving south to Darjeeling: Second Flush from the Thurbo Estate. This tea is graded FTGFOP1 or Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe 1 meaning that this tea not only has a lot of buds but it is of fine quality and the taster designated its specialness with the number "1". The dried leaves smell of the fuzz on warmed grape skins. The leaves ranged in color from dark brown to khaki green with silver grey and light golden tips. I infused 5 grams in 8 ounces of 195F water. I assumed a neat preparation which called for a 30 second infusion and no milk would be too light for my palate so I steeped the leaves for 60 seconds. The first infusion was sweet. The amber liquor tasted like guavas and grapes. I was happy with the extended steep time for this neat preparation. This infusion was well balanced especially as it cooled. The second cup, also 60 seconds, was sweeter with woody notes, and noticeable but pleasant astringency. I guess you could call it briskness and at this point you might consider adding milk, but I did not. The liquor was creamy on my lips and the sweet fruity guava and muscatel flavors were still present, if not heightened. The third steep of 70 seconds was a whisper of the previous infusions.

I don't have a clear favorite among these teas (and tisane). The range speaks to the versatility of Camellia sinensis, and in the case of the white lotus of plants, in general. Drink the white lotus leaf at the time of day you are most sensitive to caffeine or if you need something to satisfy a sweet tooth. Drink the Darjeeling neat in the morning. Tea Dealers charcoal roasted TGY is not the first one of its kind that I've drunk. I find this style of tea challenging to prepare. I know how to steep tieguanyin but the additional layer of the charcoal roast complicates the matter. You want to find parameters that  allow you to enjoy the qualities the roasting brings but not have it overwhelm the oolong's traditional flavor profile. So far, Ive found that infusing 1 tablespoon in 4 ounces of 195F for 3 minutes and increasing infusion times by 30 seconds delivers delicious results.

All teas reviewed in this post were courtesy of Tea Dealers in Brooklyn, NY.

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