Monday, March 13, 2006

Yunnan Sourcing LLC Yunnan and Blending Yunnan Teas

Over the weekend, I experimented briefly with a blend of two golden Yunnan teas I have on hand. The one Yunnan is from Yunnan Sourcing LLC (description below) and has a lighter profile. It's not the thick type Yunnan experience and has a more youthful character, which brings a very honey-maple note into the tea as well as a floral note into the finish. I find that I smell maple but mostly taste honey in this tea. I ended up blending this tea with the TeaSource "Golden Downey Tip" Yunnan which, depending on how I brew it, can have more or less of that savory note. The TeaSource Yunnan provided more of the bass to the blend, adding in the deeper and more rustic flavors--earth/cocoa/savory/maple sap-woodsmoke. The lighter Yunnan Sourcing LLC Yunnan added a further dimension to the blend with the sweeter honeyed presence and the floral. They worked well together. The only negative was that by blending as I did this time (equal parts one to the other), the delicate floral finish of the Yunnan Sourcing LLC was lost under the more savory notes of the TeaSource Yunnan. I'll have to experiment a bit with proportion next time. But overall, we quite liked what these two teas did together in a blend. And I am enjoying drinking them solo, too--they are very different gold Yunnan sipping experiences.

Notes on TeaSource "Golden Downey Tip" Yunnan:

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 it's 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 that sweet scent mixed with smoke from wood being burned to boil the sap into syrup. But the first time I brewed this tea (perhaps more aggressively as in a minute longer and with more leaf), there was a more dominant savory note.

Yunnan Sourcing LLC golden Yunnan:

A fellow tea drinker shared a golden Yunnan from Yunnan Sourcing LLC which, I think, only has a presence on eBay. Bag was labeled by the sender 060119. That's all I know about this one to date. If anyone else has info or has tried this tea, do jump in and post more specifics. I have not ordered from this source myself.

What I notice first as the tea steeps is the very distinct maple sap aroma. This is just way less earthy in aroma and taste. No leather or smoke. It has a fresh and youthful character and only mild earth in the cup. The finish trails off with notes that are very distinctly floral. It reminds me of the Golden Bud A from which was even more distinctly honey-floral than this one, at least as I remember Golden Bud A.

This Yunnan is the total opposite end of the spectrum from golden Yunnan teas that have pronounced earth/smoke/leather/savory notes. It is, again, a softer Yunnan experience with emphasis on floral in the finish, which is a nice change from heavier earth-malt notes. A more refined type Yunnan experience rather than rugged or rustic. It is lighter and less thickly complex than some. This tea initially surprised me given the fresh more youthful profile. But it's nice to have a golden Yunnan now and then that doesn't have such heavy earth or malt notes in the cup so that the fresh floral-honey/maple character can sing through. Again, this is not as deep/complex as the "Woodwose Yunnan" that I was favoring, once-upon-a-time, from In Pursuit of Tea with its darker fruity-woody Yunnan character. This tea has a totally different emphasis and balance. I especially like the aroma. The cup itself has been a bit thin as I've made it a couple times, but more leaf may remedy that to some degree the next time 'round. This tea allows a lot of sweetness to meander into the cup itself, a nice part of this tea's profile. As the tea cools, the floral-honey sweetness really pulls forward in the aroma. The Fragrant Leaf once had a gold Yunnan that was quite up front with the aroma notes of honey as I recall.

While I really like the sweet floral-honey/maple profile of this tea, the other member of the household wasn't as sold on it. It just drinks more lightly than what he prefers in a gold Yunnan, and the aroma/taste profile being so fresh and youthful and floral-honeyed just doesn't make up for that, at least for his tastes. As I noted many moons ago about Golden Bud A, I am intrigued enough by honey-floral emphasis that I can definitely find a place for this in my Yunnan drinking. This is so totally opposite the very leathery "Dian Bong" [sic] Yunnan that I posted on earlier.

I also have a sample of the Yunnan Sourcing LLC's Golden Yunnan which is marked 'old batch,' so I assume this is from a previous lot of this tea (again shared by a fellow tea drinker). I am brewing them up cup to cup and can already smell a difference in the two lots of tea as they steep. Newest lot is sweet/earth/floral/cocoa. Old lot is more leathery in scent and less sweet. That's also where they fall out in aroma once leaf is removed. Old lot is quite leathery, more akin to the TeaGschwendner's "Dian Bong" [sic] Yunnan in aroma profile.

The old lot of the Yunnan Sourcing LLC golden Yunnan is earth/leather with just a hint of sweetness. Their newest lot (or whatever lot was just shared with me) is floral/honey/earth. Very different aroma profiles. And I'll warrant they are going to taste different, too. Old lot is more rugged and rustic with that leathery/earth thing coming more aggressively into the cup. Newest lot that I have is much, much, much softer. Floral/honey sweet/non-aggressive earth, with the floral note meandering quite distinctly into the finish of the tea. These two teas are very, very different Yunnan experiences. One I would buy (newest) and one I would not. Problem being, when one orders, how do you know what type of Yunnan experience you are getting? We need these kinds of tasting notes/clarifications from vendors about what their Yunnans are currently 'doing.' These are entirely different Yunnan teas. Neither of these teas are like the older ("Woodwose") Royal Yunnan from In Pursuit of Tea, btw, that tea that a few of us were favoring for some time.

We've missed going to the local nature center and seeing the sap run for a couple years now. Saturday gave us an unusually balmy day for March in our neck of the woods, as we can just as easily still have snow. So we took advantage of that and went over to the local nature center where the sugar maple trees are just now being tapped. They have a sugaring house at one end of a trail where you can see and, more importantly, smell the sap being boiled down into syrup. As you walk away from the shed, the combined aromas of sweet syrup, woodsmoke, and emerging earth just holler 'tippy Yunnan' as you are leaving the area!

In his poem entitled "Morning," former Poet Laureate Billy Collins admits to "buzzing around the house on espresso." I think I've succumbed to "buzzing around the house on assorted Yunnan samples." Not as poetic perhaps. :-)

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