Archive for Tea Review
China Oolong. Da Hong Pao. Upton, Product ZO25. 2.2 grams steeped for 5 minutes at 190℉. Impression: Dark brown wiry strands. Dry tea has a woody and fruity scent, reminiscent of apricots. Brewed tea has fruity and floral scents. Taste is mild, with hints of fruit, the ‘mineral’ tastes of Wuyi rock teas, and toasted notes. Grassy, vegetal finish. Mildly astringent.
Da Hong Pao, ‘Big Red Robe,’ is usually listed among China’s ten most famous teas. Upton’s variety was my introduction to the Wuyi oolongs. I’ve posted a review before, but not with photos. I hadn’t drunk this particular tea in three years, because Upton ran out and was unable to obtain more. I noticed a few weeks ago that they had it in stock again, and grabbed it while I could. I’ve tried Da Hong Pao from other vendors, but Upton’s is still my favorite.
Incidentally, this tea is a good example of why tea should be weighed, not measured in a teaspoon. The wiry strands would take up a lot of space in a spoon, resulting in too little tea brewed and a weak tea. Conversely, tightly curled teas like Pi Lo Chun or gunpowder types will take up too little space in a spoon, perhaps resulting in a too-strong tea. Weighing solves this problem.
“Green Tea.” Lipton. 1 teabag steeped for 3 minutes at 180℉. Impression: tea: see photo. Brewed tea scent is savory. Taste: Mild, vegetal and herbal with one mild unpleasant note I find hard to characterize. Not astringent.
I don’t drink much supermarket tea, but I wanted an easy bag tea for a trip, and bought this one. It is only labeled ‘Green Tea’, without even the country of origin. I’m guessing it’s from China, probably Chun Mee-style. Not bad for a cheap bagged tea in a pinch.
“China Oolong, Huang Jin Gui.” Upton No. ZO22. 2.2 grams steeped for 5 minutes at 200℉. Impression: tighly compressed leaves, see photo. Dry tea has little scent. Brewed tea scent is floral, resembling Tie Guan Yin. Taste: Floral, resembling orchids, mild, milder than the Tie Guan Yins with which I have had experience. Not astringent.
This teas, like many oolongs, is from Anxi, in Fujian. This tea wasn’t bad, but I see no advantage in it over a good Tie Guan Yin.
Lung Ching, ‘Dragonwell’. Upton No. ZG71. 2.2 grams steeped at 160 ℉ for 2 min.
Impression: Large light whole green leaves, flat, as if they’d been pressed in a flower press. Well sorted, no fannings or dust. Musty scent. Very pale green-amber liquor. Scent of brewed tea is savory and sweet, almost perfume-like. Taste: some fruity character, some vegetal quality, a little musty, woody quality. Not much mouth-feel. Mildly astringent. Quite pleasant
Lung Ching (there are different romanizations of the Chinese) is a famous tea, found consistently on lists of “Ten Famous Chinese Teas” (of which there are many). Dr. K.S. Tom, in Echoes from Old China, says that Lung Ching is the finest of all Chinese Teas. Others will differ, but it is certainly a fine and famous tea, and if you have any interest in tea, you owe it to yourself to try it. The name ‘Dragonwell’ is said to come from a well near where the tea was originally grown, in which water swirls around in a manner that suggests the coils of a dragon.
“Tea Bank Estate, Ceylon FBOPF EX SP” Upton No. TC23. 2.2 grams steeped for 5 minutes at 212℉. Impression: dark BOP-size bits, see photo. Dry tea has scents of wood, spice and fruit. Brewed tea scent is flowery, lily-like. Taste: typical black tea flavor, slight woodiness, but without other marked notes. Not harsh. Minimal finish. Moderately astringent.
This Ceylon tea is unusual in its usualness. Most black teas have the typical black tea taste, plus other flavor notes. Except for a slight woodiness, this tea has no special flavor notes. An interesting tea, if that’s what you’re looking for.
Upton No. TA14. 2.0 grams steeped for 4 minutes at 212℉. Impression: dark brown BOP size fragments, see photo. Dry tea smells slightly spicy, typical dry black tea scent. Brewed tea scent is sweet, woodsy, faint traces of tobacco. Taste: Bitter, somewhat harsh, brackish, tobacco tastes. Not much of the malty tastes Assams are famed for. Moderately astringent.
Drinkable, but not my favorite, and not very Assam-like.
Upton ZH60. 2.3 grams steeped for 3 minutes at 200℉. Impression: medium brown, broken pekoe size. Dry tea smells musky, like leaf mould, like an overturned compost pile. Brewed tea is deep red-brown, with scent similar to dry. Taste: musky, woodsy, with unpleasnt compost-like notes, little body, not sweet. Not astringent.
A sample ordered a year ago, finally got around to trying it. I mightn’t have bothered. This is a ripe pu-erh. I like some raw pu-erhs, but have never liked a ripe one. Ripe pu-erh processing amounts to composting tea leaves in a heap, and the taste is what would expect of composted tea leaves. Chacun à son goût, as my mom used to say (who actually spoke French, rather than having to fake it, as I do), and there is a ripe pu-erh cult that adores the stuff and pays larcenous prices for it, but I am not a member.
Upton ZG02. 2.2 grams steeped for 3 minutes at 180℉. Tea comes as leaf segments of about 1/2-1 inch, each rolled into a tiny tube. Dry tea has vegetal, spicy, fruity scents, with a trace of mustiness. Brewed tea scent is sweet, spicy, floral. Taste: brackish, woody. Trace of tobacco? No body, faintly sweet finish. Not astringent.
An average, undistinguished green tea. Hyson is a well-known variety. I received this tea as a free sample with my last Upton order. ‘Season’s Pick’ is an Upton marketing segment. Upton sells a limited stock of inexpensive teas in kilograms to institutional customers, and also makes those teas available in 200 g quantities (still quite a lot of tea) to individual customers at a price of about 5 cents per cup. A bargain, if you like the tea.
Upton TC30. 2.2 grams steeped for 3 minutes at 212℉. Impression: fannings-size dark bits, see photo. Dry tea has typical spicy black tea scent. Brewed tea scent is slightly sweet and musty. Taste: Flatter, less bright, more murky, brackish and harsher than some other black teas. Moderately astringent.
Kandy is an important and famous Ceylon tea-growing region. This tea strongly reminds me of black tea blends that are often called ‘Scottish Breakfast Tea’, in that the taste is somewhat harsher, less round and open than ‘English Breakfast Tea’ blends.