Wednesday, April 1, 2009

REVIEW: Darjeeling Risheehat, 2nd Flush SFTGFOP1, Tea Gschwendner

I thought I'd try posting some tea reviews, as I feel inspired. I by no means have a terribly sophisticated palate, but I thought I'd give it a go. I'm doing this as I do downloads for my business, so not the most formal arrangements.

Tea merchant: Tea Gschwendner (Algonquin, IL)
Tea: Darjeeling Risheehat, Second Flush SFTGFOP1

Method of preparation:
  • Run fresh, cold tap water through filter
  • Bring just to boil on stove
  • Heat four-cup black, cast-iron Japanese tetsubin
  • Add 4.5 tsps of tea and a pinch of salt to steel filter that fits inside tetsubin
  • Pour just-boiled water over leaves
  • Steep exactly 3 minutes, remove leaves
  • Let tea rest about 3 or 5 minutes before drinking, over tea candle

Remarks: Tea Leaves
Raw leaves are black with pale yellow tips, tightly rolled (though in long pieces, not balls). Has a rich, spicy brown smell, like a hot summer garden.

Steeped leaves, once removed from water, have a wonderful aroma: perhaps Concord grape, raw tobacco, grapefruit. Leaves unfurled light brown.

Drinking: First Cup
Served with milk and a little sugar. The sugar and milk overwhelmed the flavor of tea, so must try again without accompaniments. Tasted nice, but too muted. Dumb to put sugar/milk in with such high-quality tea, because it doesn't really need it at all, and it even detracts.

Second cup
Woody, astringent. The steeped leaves are more fragrant than the tea itself. At first, because the tea is so hot, it's hard to discern the flavors. While I wait for it to cool, I notice how long the aftertaste of the tea is. Maybe two minutes later, I am starting to notice this distinct but elusive grape flavor; like being in a grape arbor when the grapes are a little too early to be eaten (and you try one anyway).

Upon drinking the tea, I notice the aftertaste is better than the taste of the tea as I drink it. It's interesting, how this tea is tasted in the throat, rather than the tip of my tongue. Very smooth, woody, not terribly sharp.

I think I'll make another pot of this a few days from now and put the results here as a reply to this post. See if maybe using more tea leaves will make the tastes pop out more. As it is, it seemed just a bit weak for my taste, though still interesting.

....(time passing)...

By the fourth cup, suddenly the tastes of the tea are popping-- as I could tell by the "mmph" sound I made while drinking it. Very complicated tea with the characteristic Darjeeling sharpness showing up perhaps 30 seconds or more after swallowing.

I am convinced that a great cup of tea is like a red wine. You want to let it sit in the pot for a little while before tasting. Typically, a 3-5 minute wait is enough, but this Risheehat seems to need more like 20 minutes. I do know that there is a lot of complex chemistry going on in that pot as it sits there. Even after the tea leaves are removed from the pot, there are flavinoids (is that the right term?) that are releasing, which chemically combine with themselves and other substances in the tea, creating even more flavinoids... thus adding more layers of flavor to the experience as time goes on. By fourth cup, I'm tasting cherries, perhaps; some golden taste that rests on the tongue after the cherries, then resolving into that sharp astringency I expect from a Darj. On the fourth cup, I cheated and drank it with milk and sugar again. Ah, well, we can't all be perfect.

UPDATE: Also posted at