Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Imperial Tea Court's Imperial Gold Yunnan and Upton's Yunnan Golden Temple Comparison

Imperial Gold Yunnan
purchase date of this 1/4 pound forgotten

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

While steeping, there is a common thread runs through both these teas, and it is that sweet note of milk chocolate. The Imperial Gold carries the 'snappier' aroma though, with a fresh scent rather related to floral, but also a brisk oaky kind of depth. The Imperial Gold carries this into the cup as well with a hint of malt on the palate.

The Golden Temple has a sweet mocha/chocolate aroma, but the flavor isn't as complex or as 'snappy' (it doesn't 'zing' as I have observed in other notes, comparing the Golden Temple from Upton's to Silk Road Teas Yunnan Gold High Grade).

What I have enjoyed in the Imperial Gold is the way the aromas unfold. I have likened this to is a mocha brown silk scarf (**see below) with golden threads in the pattern being tossed down on a bed. As the silk unfolds and the light catches it, you begin to see more of the color variations. Now that this tea has cooled a bit, the spicy/honey notes emerge that sometimes strike me as being like honey. Other times the sweetness seems more like maple sap being boiled down for syrup, that sweet sap/toasty aroma we've encountered at the local nature center when they are sugaring. The tea has cooled down even more, and the aroma gets deeper and more complex as it cools. The Golden Temple Yunnan sweetens and deepens a bit as it cools, but it does not develop the layers (those golden threads) that the Imperial Gold Yunnan does. The Golden Temple doesn't have as many of those 'golden threads' to catch the light.

The Imperial Gold is very mellow, but in a different way than the Golden Temple. As I noted in my comparison of Golden Temple to Silk Road Teas High Grade Yunnan Gold, the very mellow and 'soft' character of the Golden Temple is the primary focus in the cup itself. It is a very 'soft' Yunnan, and there just isn't the 'zing' of other characteristics that come into play, for example, with the Imperial Gold Yunnan. There is a pungency at the end of the mellow character that slightly lifts the finish of the Golden Temple. But the Imperial Gold is lifted, not just by a level of pungency, but by some flavor notes as well, which are possibly related to the overall complexity of the liquor. The ITC Imperial Gold is the pricier tea, so one would expect it to perform at a more complex level than a less expensive tea. I find it not a bad idea to periodically recheck these points and compare teas that are not in the same price category.

That said, I did decide to order some more of the Golden Temple to acquaint myself a bit further with this one. This is not the Holy Grail Yunnan by any means, but the aroma is nice. The 'soft' quality strikes me as sometimes a positive and other times a negative, the latter when I compare it to other Yunnans and realize what is lost by the softer character. But for those who want to avoid any hint of smoke or savory notes, the Golden Temple does seem to fill that bill.

There is a world of difference in some of these Yunnan Gold teas--from flat out smoky to slightly savory to clean earth to muddy earthy to metallic earthy to freshly floral to maple sap being boiled to make syrup to dark forest honey to light floral (lavender) honey. The floral note ranges from ‘fleshy’ orchid to lightly/sweetly floral. There are those Yunnan golds that are malty, and some a bit cedary. And then there is the one that combines the woody-fruity character with some of the other positive notes. The spice can range from just not there to peppery to even slightly clove-like in taste. The key is finding the one with the characteristics you enjoy, but even further, in the right balance, and that can be the trickier part. **Notes from 8/05 on the Imperial Gold Yunnan: Though I know not everyone has been quite as 'wow'd' by this one for the price, it still remains one that entrances me. The aroma from the cup this morning has so many layers. It's rather like dropping a mocha brown colored silk scarf (with subtle patterns threaded through in gold) on the bed and watching it fold in upon itself, then picking it up again and watching the folds smooth out and reveal the full design. Malt, floral, spice, hint of maple, earth, cedar. Some of those aromatic notes reveal themselves in the cup itself today, some more in the aftertaste, and some are more aromatic than taste.

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