Green, oolong and red – Second 5-course tea session

Some people do drugs, I do tea. And I get even higher when I do tea with company: when I recommend the teas to my friends and they enjoy it, I feel accomplished. :-) So of course, when Kristen’s mom visits town and when she says that she likes tea, I just have to suggest a tea afternoon at Teance.

The free tasting today is Royal Courtesan, a deep orange Taiwanese oolong that smells roasty but tastes surprisingly more plumy as it cools. Usually teas are best warm, but I find this oolong most pleasant (sweet and complex) when it’s completely at room temperature. I wasn’t impressed by the Royal Courtesan a few months back, and apparently that crop was light yellow in color and didn’t smell roasty at all. Is the new crop so different, or is it because the tea is recently harvested, or is it a different infusion? It definitely leaves a much better impression this time though.

Overall, spring 2012 seems to yield better, more complex leaves across varieties. For green teas, both the new Anji Baicha (Chinese) and the new sencha (Japanese) develop a vigorous, refreshing note that last season didn’t have. The Taiwanese Tung Ting and Baochong oolongs are sweeter, and today’s Four Seasons, another Taiwanese oolong, although still comfortably straightforward as it should be, tastes a lot more floral than last winter’s crop. Even after 5 infusions and the leaves have opened up completely, the taste stays constant, and its 1-minute steeping time is also relaxing enough to have between conversations.

Because my original intention for today’s visit was the Bailin Gongfu, I wanted to build up to it starting with a green tea and then an oolong. Just as I’ve forgotten about the Dafang, Cheryl said it has finally arrived. I have no past season experience with Dafang to compare this spring’s with, but compared with the pre-rain Longjing in May, steeped with the same water and for the same amount of time, the Dafang is a lot simpler, nuttier, and more straightforward. It lacks the vegetal note of the Longjing.

Although the Dafang comes a bit short of my expectation, the Bailin Gongfu blows me away, another example of how this spring reigns superior to last year. Last year, it “smelled like dried blueberries or sweet potato, and tasted like a sweet root”, this year, it’s a garden of flavors that changes almost by the second: I taste lychee one moment then coffee candy another and dried jujube the next, the rich aroma reaches you from three feet away as soon as the hot water soaks the leaves. Kristen agrees with me on the lychee, and Cheryl describes it as “milk chocolate”, which is exactly what you get when you take a sip of Bailin Gongfu right after nibbling of a matcha cookie.

And just like in our last 5-course tea session with Kristen and Tiana, we end the day with Buddha’s Hand. I’ve recommended the Buddha’s Hand so many times I’m like its private spokeperson, and so far it’s a 100% success rate 😉 *knock on wood*. It’s a staple in my tea collection, the vegetal smoothness with a sweet hint of stone fruit is a happy ending for every tea date.

P.S. For bookkeeping’s sake, I should include that we also try a cup of complimentary Mt. Olympus, a Greek herbal tea. It’s like drinking basil. In my book, it shares the same group with Lavender Mint.

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