Wednesday, April 1, 2009

REVIEW: China Yunnan Golden Downy Pekoe (Tea Gschwendner)

(Originally posted in the "A Cup of Tea Solves Everything" group in Facebook)

Good morning. Not much time here for a terrifyingly thorough review, but I'll do my best.

I have a sample of Tea Gschwendner's China Yunnan Golden Downy Pekoe tea. I made one cup, will make another single cup later today. Typically, I make a full pot, and it's the second cup in the pot that tells me whether I like the cup or not. This time, one cup will have to do-- at least, it should tell me whether I should go and buy more at the store and give it a proper review-by-the-pot.

Procedure: 1 cup boiling, 1 tsp, steeped in cup with cover, 2 min (per manufacturer's instructions)

Description on package: "A wonderfully delicate, slightly sweet and mildly spicy Black tea, close in character to Assam. Lightly rolled leaves with a high content of golden tips. Rich coppery-red in the cup. Top quality. Tip: 13g tea leaves (7 level Teelemass) to 1 liter filtered, boiling water. Allow to brew 2 min."

You can buy it here:

When I was looking at the leaves, they did not look nearly as golden as the picture on the Web site. Yes, a little bit of gold, but nothing like the Yunnans I've seen pictured here and there, which were primarily golden in color.

After steeping, the leaves took on a copper-rust color, nicely unfurled, and the leaves smelled like caramel to me. My six-year-old boy told me he thought it smelled like kid tea-- by which he meant, sweet and light.

In the cup, a very average reddish-brown color brew, scented (as above with the leaves, which is not always the case) with caramel.

The brew itself is rather unsatisfying and flat. I wonder if it's because the 2 minutes that Tea Gschwendner recommended is just not quite strong enough for my taste. I can taste-- barely-- the spiciness I'm used to in a Yunnan.

After trying black, I then put in a little bit of milk and sugar, to see what would happen. These ingredients entirely overwhelmed the flavors of the tea, making them fall completely flat.

Overall: I'm not happy with the first cup of this tea. I will plan to go to TG and buy a more substantial amount, so I can steep a pot or two to make a more informed review. I'll want to experiment a bit with various methods, as well, to see how to get the most out of this tea.

Because Tea Gschwendner always serves up wonderful teas, I'm willing to bet the problem was with the conditions I brewed under, rather than the tea itself. I'll update this once I've had the chance to tell.

(THIS BEGS THE QUESTION: When reviewers get a very small amount of tea from a vendor, how do they know they haven't messed up the first cup, as they have to take time to get to know the teas? I have found that some teas just take experimentation and experience, so that I can learn what I need to do to get something I will enjoy. Hmm, makes me wonder.)