Monday, February 27, 2006

Upton's Golden Temple Yunnan and Silk Road Teas Yunnan Gold High Grade, Cup to Cup

Cup-to-Cup Comparison of

Yunnan Gold High Grade (B-YG-2) Silk Road Teas/ (large 1/2 pound bag purchased within the last couple of months)

China Yunnan Golden Temple (ZY93) Upton Tea/ (10 gram sample amount packed on 2/20/06)

Brewed in two small cebei pots (one with carp/dragon motif, the other grey with white herons), with a full/rounded tsp of leaf to each, water to boiling, four minutes plus a few extra seconds because, yes, something distracted me.

Upton's Yunnan Golden Temple has a sweet mocha scent with hint of floral, without the more aggressive and sometimes rustic twist one gets in a Yunnan like this that can, for me, be interpreted along the scale of lightly to more moderately smoky to even savory. The tea has a light 'good earth' (clean sun-warmed earth, not metallic or cellar dank). The light sweetness shapeshifts from a touch of maple sap to a hint of lavender honey, more so in aroma than taste. It is quite mellow and softer than the Yunnan Gold High Grade from Silk Road Teas. Smooth, but without the darker depths of the one from SRT. This Golden Temple is in marked contrast to the aforementioned TeaSource Golden Downey Tip Yunnan which strikes me as the most rustic of these three with its distinct savory note. The empty cup of the Golden Temple is very reminiscent of either a dark honey or maple sap now that the tea is gone.

The Silk Road Tea Yunnan Gold High Grade exudes a darker sweet mocha aroma with slightly rustic twist, a bit forest-oaky as I interpret it to myself. This does follow into the taste--the clean 'good earth' and a darker note that adds more complexity and also slightly more pungency to the cup. The latter serves to brighten the cup, even while it takes away some of softness. The softness in the Golden Temple is pleasing, but you do lose some of the depths of flavor/complexity. The empty cup is reminiscent less of honey and reminds me more of maple sap sweetness mixed with the smoky aroma as it is boiled down into syrup.

Depending on one's preferences, the 'soft' character of the Golden Temple might be a plus if you eschew the smoky notes in Yunnan and want a very velvety smooth and less pungent experience. On the other hand, the lack of other characteristics flattens out Golden Temple tea just a touch, even while allowing the velvety character to show rather nicely.

The Golden Temple is a rather genteel Yunnan. Suave. Soothing to listen to. A smooth talker who spends more time indoors than out. Yunnan Gold breezes in from the outdoors, carrying a whiff of old forest and adventures.

Back in 2004, I had also sampled the ZY93 Golden Temple, and wasn't finding it quite as pleasant as I did in the above re-sampling. From old notes:

Golden Temple Yunnan
Sampled 1/26/04

Instead of the sweet mocha-honey aroma of some Yunnan teas, this one initially comes forward more aggressively with earth. Less honeyed in sweetness (aromatically speaking) than the recent sweeter notes of floral-spice-and honey I found in Yunnan Golden Buds ( As the tea cools a bit, the sweeter notes do come forward, but not with the same level of honey-spice I found in the Golden Buds (though this stayed mostly in the aroma with that tea). In the cup, earth is quite "there" as the predominant note. Not much spice to speak of in taste compared to the no-longer-available Imperial Yunnan (which I preferred over this one at this time). Taste is mostly earth/malt without sweeter notes to balance it. This one really says earth to me in the more aggressive way I found it in In Pursuit of Teas Royal Yunnan. [Current note: of course, many moons later, my opinion of IPOT Royal Yunnan soared, though it has since headed earthward again, based on the last lot I sampled.]

The aroma of this tea is pleasant, but there's just not much happening in the cup. In 3/03 I'd written of this tea that I'd like less earth and a touch more spice/sweet. The flavor doesn't zing.

And back to February 27, 2006. I am finding the current ZY93 not as high in earth as I did back in 2004 and 2003. I still don't find much 'spice' in this particular tea, but the balance of earth to mocha sweet is pleasing me more in this current lot. I note that I referred to the lack of 'zing' in this tea back in 2004. The soft character of this tea really does get in the way of the tea's ability to 'zing,' but in the current lot, that balance of earth to sweet and the mellow character is a bit nicer, and I find I mind less the lack of 'zing.'

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