Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tasting Notes: California Tea House, White Monkey Paw 2009

California Tea House does not indicate whether the three wishes I made on my White Monkey Paw (actually, a green tea) will go horribly awry, as I should expect all such wishes to go, per W. W. Jacobs's classic horror story. I'll update you if any undead show up at my door.

The Web site describes it thus:

White Monkey Paw is a green tea made from the very young leaves and bud of new season growth. It originates from the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian Province, China. With the pride of an Italian chef creating extra long spaghetti noodles, the tea leaves are very carefully hand picked with an artistic process to preserve the tea leaf form and then delicately steamed and dried. These perfect, prized tea leaves in our California Tea House collection resemble a monkey's paw, hence the name.
Similar to Silver Needle white tea, the 'down' on the leaves gives the leaves a silver appearance and indicates that these leaves were plucked very early in the morning and within the first two weeks of growth. Enjoy the art of one of our finest green teas with approximately 2 heaping teaspoons of tea to each cup of mineral water. Steep under 2 minutes in just under boiling water.

The above is as good a description as any of the appearance of the leaves before steeping. After steeping, I found a few unbroken leaves, though most showed some breakage; and the color was a rich, olive green. In spite of its name, this is not a white tea, but a green. (My first wish: that Chinese tea names would be useful to us Westerners.)

This pale amber tea is highly fragrant, and as I let it rest a few moments after decanting-- a practice I've found that helps bring out the best flavor of most teas-- I am surrounded by the bright aroma of sea, a touch of pine, perhaps, and French Toast. (Of course, that last may be caused by the remains of breakfast on the table.)
Very nice. As I drink, there is an elusive flavor I can't quite put my finger on, and quite pleasant, though not something easily translated into words. The mouthfeel is nicely buttery, but with a sharpness that catches at the back of the throat, which balances nicely. That quite elusive flavor is in the huigan, that sweet aftertaste that is produced retronasally, as the tea hits the throat and goes from there up to the sinus passages, which can distinguish tens of thousands of aromas.

(Wish number two: that I could sit and write a review without near-constant interruption.)

Coming back to the tea again, after it's cooled just a bit more, the vegetal characteristic is more pronounced, though, the tea is mild and relaxed. Quite nice, rather homey. This is the type of tea I could drink every morning.

I did steep this tea a second time, with the same parameters as the first. This time, the liquor was a pale, sunny, lemon yellow, and the aroma was not nearly as pronounced from the pot. There was no noticeable bitterness, and the flavors were too muted to be of much interest. Next time, I would perhaps double the time of the second steeping in hopes of getting the most from a second shot of this tea.

Thank you for reading this review! Now, if you'll excuse me, there's someone knocking at my door.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Serial Killer's Guide to Making Sweet Tea (and possibly murdering people)

"Iced tea: that magical elixir of dreams . . . and sometimes nightmares."

Oh, yes, my friends. It is time for Steve Sutton's guide to making iced tea. I defy you to watch this and not wonder if he is going to pull a human head out of one of those sugar canisters on the counter.