China Yunnan Golden "Dian Bong" (#2208) Source: TeaGschwendner
Tea received: March 4, 2006
Incidentally, I find I have notes on past Yunnan "Dian Hong" experiences from other vendors, but no "Dian Bong"? Is "Dian Bong" an alternate spelling? A vendor typo? "Dian Bong" is on the website and on the sample packet of tea sent to me via vendor. Lew? I note your translator doth not recognize the term bong and directs me to the more familiar hong? And yes, I am purposely foregoing all bong jokes. :-) Those so inclined may fill them in as they wish.
Leathery (a term which a fellow tea drinker first introduced in his notes on this tea) is definitely a part of the aroma profile of the Golden "Dian Bong" China Yunnan. Especially while steeping, leather and earth dominate. This is an aroma I'd (initially at least) separate from smoky. But neither is this exactly the savory note I talked about in the TeaSource "Golden Downey Tip Yunnan." In this "Dian Bong," the main aromatic (with leaf still in cebei) is very leathery.
Once the leaf is removed, the "Dian Bong" does tone down a bit, the leathery notes mixing with a sweet edge that I associate with maple sap. The cup is quite distinctly earthy. And yes, that note of leather surely does meander into the cup itself. Not much sweetness at all. The earth and leather dominate. Spicy notes do not seem part of this particular Yunnan. I am going to have to definitely taste this one against the TeaSource Yunnan that I called savory to see if maybe leathery is more what I meant by savory. As the tea cools, I could almost imagine the leathery note is shapeshifting toward smoky. That's one thing I find interesting--the way the leathery notes are at one level when steeping with leaf still in the cebei and how they tone down a touch once leaf is removed, and how they change even further as the tea cools, allowing the sweetness (in aroma) to meander forward and blend with the earth/leather.
I've had hints of this leathery note in other Yunnan teas, but not nearly as dominantly as in this tea, at least not in recent memory. And, quite possibly, I've called these notes smoky to myself at times or savory, too. This is a much more rugged golden Yunnan than the Upton's Golden Temple Yunnan (that was packed 2/27/06). That Golden Temple is the one I referred to as soft, and the taste and aroma profile of both teas is very different. Interestingly enough, the vendor describes the "Dian Bong" Yunnan as having a "gently-spiced, balanced and soft cup," but that's not how I personally experience this tea in relation to other golden Yunnan teas. Soft is the last word I'd call this Yunnan.
Neither of these are my own personal Holy Grail Yunnan Gold, I confess, but that means very little except to my personal taste preference. I like leathery notes in a red wine. I find them interesting in this tea, if a bit startling at first. But the overall balance I am looking for in my own personal Holy Grail Yunnan is different from what this one offers. That does not mean that I won't enjoy drinking it. For me, this is an 'alternate' Yunnan style to experience, even while the search continues for that balance that meets with my own personal preferences.
I have also here a slightly cooling cup of Imperial Tea Court's Imperial Gold Yunnan, without the intense leathery note of the "Dian Bong." The Imperial Gold isn't as rugged in profile, but neither is it as soft as the Golden Temple. The aroma of the ITC Yunnan always strikes me as having a fresh quality to it--then it fills in with those milk chocolate notes, hints of floral, either honey or maple sap, depending on which lot or even at what cool-down point I sniff the tea. The cup still tends to say malt/earth to me in this one, and sometimes I get that hint of something cedary as well.
Cup to Cup: Golden "Dian Bong" Yunnan with TeaSource "Golden Downey Tip" Yunnan (#2301 from http://www.teasource.com/)
When they are both steeping, the "Dian Bong" really has that different aroma profile I'll never be able to call anything but leathery now, that's for sure. Today, the TS Yunnan strikes me as a touch less savory than when I first brewed it and shared some comments previously--maybe because in comparison to the leathery tea, the TS Yunnan has a sweeter/cocoa/earth character that seems less rugged compared to the leathery/earth notes of the "Dian Bong." I am sniffing the cups side-by-side here as they brew. I would still not call the TS aroma leathery at all, but it is also less savory than when I first brewed it. Today it has a more toned down (possibly due to less leaf?) earth-cocoa-sweet aroma. And yes, there it is--a mild savory note as it's cooled a bit. Perhaps the savory is merely a different level of what I sometimes experience as maple-sap-being-boiled-into-syrup at the nature center and the way the air carries both this sweet scent (but from a distance far off) with hint smoke from the wood being burned to boil the sap into syrup. Fresh earth also comes into the picture if we walk when the snow has been melting, and that is also in keeping with the Yunnan experience.
This time I catch some malt in the cup itself of the "Dian Bong," against the earth/leather. There is very little sweetness in either of these as to taste, though it's very there in aroma of both at different levels. Again, it seems that the leather note in the "Dian Bong" shapeshifts toward smoky, only after the tea cools to a certain degree. As this tea cools, what I like is the way the sweetness comes up and surrounds the more rugged aromatics. I like these aromatics in juxtaposition to each other. I catch some notes of leather as to flavor, but I keep also wanting to translate something as a touch smoky in addition to that, too. Perhaps they are just the same characteristic, but they certainly do seem to strike me differently while 1) the tea brews with leaf intact, 2) just after leaf is removed and tea is quite hot, and 3) as the tea cools slightly to more dramatically. As it moves along that scale, the leather shapeshifts a touch toward smoky. Indeed, when both cups are totally cooled, they are more alike than when hot.
This more leathery Yunnan is a very different Yunnan experience than the ones that carry more sweetness in a lightly floral sort of way that sometimes reminds me of just a hint of lavender honey. I am thinking of that Golden Bud A, which was the most distinctly freshly honey-floral golden Yunnan I've ever experienced (http://www.pu-erhtea.com/). And none of these gold Yunnans are like the "Woodwose Yunnan" I talked about once upon a time and a long time ago from In Pursuit of Tea, which had the sweet-woody-fruity note going up against the more familiar Yunnan characteristics.
And so...I do want to continue to 'live with' this tea a bit, at least as long as my purchased sample amount holds out. It's a tea that takes some mental adjustment for me, I think, before I fully make up my mind. Incidentally, this tea was one of the Gschwendner's teas labeled "The Edmon's Collection" which are their higher-end teas that may not be available in large amounts or for lengthy amounts of time, and so the list of these teas will change more quickly. These teas are packaged in very snappy pinstripe black and gold bags with resealable gold twisties and have the Edmon's label with some description of the tea on the back with brewing suggestion in grams to liters. Alternately, you can use an enclosed "Teelamass" plastic scoop device that comes with the order. I haven't checked, but it seems like it's comparable to a tsp. amount. The steeping suggestion includes how many of these scoops to use and whether rounded or not, etc. Their price list of teas comes enclosed as a very nice looking book which is 'subject to change' according to the back page, so I am not sure how updated it really is. Based on my purchase of two sample amounts of the Edmon's Yunnan and Keemun, I was also sent a sample, gratis, of a Mokalbari Assam with an enclosed note that indicated this choice was based on my other two choices.