Thursday, August 8, 2013

Tea Horse, Wuyi Yancha

{ I'm late. Well, not yet,
but if I keep fooling around
with this tea blog,
I will be. }
Oh, you tea-blog readers, sitting in your verandas, sipping your top-shelf cognacs and counting the butterflies as they flit through your walled English garden; you world travelers, stopping in at a WiFi station on Mount Everest; you CEOs who are pretending to work while you've cleverly delegated everything, and now it's a choice between your golf swing and a few minutes reading The 39 Steeps. You all think that all I do is, well, what you do. But, no! I am late. I have no time to write a tea blog today. I'm busy! So pardon the unedited writing, the quick typing, and the inevitable typos and stupid verbal tics I employ when I'm in a rush.

However, I have a tea that, if I don't write about it now, I never shall. I'm at the bottom of the package, the last portion, the final bit. If I wait until tomorrow, it'll be too late, and my brilliant observations will slowly fade, like memories of Collette What's-her-name, that girl whom I had a crush on in seventh grade. (Yes, I know her last name, but I'll spare her the humiliation of association with me.) The tea is a Wuyi Yancha, served by Tea Horse in the UK.

Watch the clock. Don't write too much. Pardon me, all, because I type 90 words per minute, and I don't have the time to make this shorter. --Hurry, hurry! Break all your rules about taking your time, so you can get this out and not blow your deadline!

{ Thank you, BoingBoing, for finding this lure. }

I'm going to make you do your homework. You know how to Google, right? Look up Wuyi Yancha. It's an oolong, grown around WuYi, which is to say, the Wu Mountain. (If you say Wuyi Mountain, it's like saying, "Wu Mountain Mountain." Unless I have my Chinese all screwed up, and I don't have the time-- the time!-- to look it up properly to double-check my assertion. Rats. Well, catch me if you can.)

the tea flight

As I finished my first steeping of this tea, gongfu style, of course, and I sat at my computer, the aroma hit. It's deep, with a kind of a musk to it. It's complex and foresty, sort of like a rich plummy taste; but not terribly floral, neither vegetal. You tea drinkers know what I'm talking about. It reminds one of Autumn, of the aroma of the mulch underfoot as you walk through a dark path in the woods, with mature grasses and decayed leaves in the underbrush. It's a deep summer smell, an almost-Fall smell. And it caught me, lured me in. (Ha! See? You knew the lure picture would show up eventually. Don't you love that pig-elephant-bee thing? Brilliant.) 

The flavor on the first, 30-second steeping: A touch weak (my fault), but complex with a beautiful aftertaste that lasts and lasts and lasts. (Missing Oxford commas. I'm late! No time to fix.) There's a sharpness there, along with the deeper notes, which nicely offset one another. This tea might have legs, but I don't know yet.

{ David Bowie's pants might also have legs. }

And the second steeping, clocking in around 40 seconds. The leaves are a deep black with hints of deep green; long, beautiful leaf-looking leaves, just opening up. They had been tightly curled, but now they're relaxing, kind of loosening up their ties, letting their hair down, and getting ready to dance.

{ Relaxed, but not as hostile or byronesque. }

The Yancha is, frankly, just a bit less exciting than I had hoped for. Strongly mineral in quality, rather less fragrant than the first time 'round, and the aroma from the pot is almost nonexistent. Note to self: Occasionally, follow the directions on the package. They said, Brew for three minutes, not for 40 seconds. Maybe, just maybe, they were right.

{ When a tea infusion fails, I doubt myself.
Like this guy, but without any plans to marry my daughter. }
In previous infusions of this tea, I had a livelier time of it, with a good second infusion-- not a knock-your-socks-off experience, but nicely solid, with a lot of flavor to sink your teeth into. Here, I'm thinking I may have used just a touch too few leaves for the amount of water, and I should have let it steep a bit longer for the full potential of the tea.  This shows the difference between, say, a vintage Cab and a tea. For the Cabernet Sauvignon, you just have to (a) keep the bottle an appropriate length of time; (b) open the bottle; (c) choose the right glasses; (d) pour the bottle into the glasses: (e) wait a while so the esters can uncoil, loosing the flavor; and (f) drink-- hopefully with friends.

But with tea, you actually have to make tea. It doesn't come in a bottle, and you have to get to know your teas, learning from them as they teach you how to make them properly. If I had a half-pound of this Wuyi Yancha, I would then relax over the semi-failure of this experiment, and I'd go ahead and make ready for another tea flight. More time! More leaves! Try again, until you get what you get what you came for!

But as it is, I'll have to settle for a rather mediocre drinking experience brought about entirely by me experimenting to see what works and what doesn't.

Still, a pretty nice cup of tea. When I sip it, I am experiencing it mostly in the aftertaste, what lingers on the tongue after the tea's been swallowed. Rich, complex, a touch smoky. I only wish I had listened to directions! I only wish I had more tea! I only wish I had more time to write and think more about this! But I'm going to be late if I write another word of this review, and I must be about my real bread-and-butter business.

Third steeping: Pleasant. Still on the weak side, but I can taste this smoky-musky-fruit thing that makes me think of roasted plums and perhaps an herbal tint, like a muted but distinct wild thyme. This is definitely a tea that opens itself up to you in the aftertaste, as it lingers on the tongue. Don't be fooled by the first bite of the tea, because the retronasal experience is da money. Advice: Allow the tea to sit in the pot for a few minutes for the magic of chemistry to do its work, complexifying the tea and letting it come into its full body. The third steeping was the place I was waiting for, and I'm happy I stayed for it. Now I'm definitely going to be late on my deadline. I blame you, gentle readers!

Thank you, Tea Horse, for allowing me to experiment with your tea!