Thursday, July 13, 2006

Anodyne on Silk Road Teas Yunnan Gold High Grade

To further muddy the mocha'd Yunnan waters, I just received an order from Silk Road Teas which included more of their Yunnan Gold. I'd tasted this one in March 2006, and while I don't truly know if this July lot is different from that one, I immediately noted a sweet-woody scent in the bag after first opening it. That triggers the "Woodwose" memory, as this is what was unique to the In Pursuit of Tea Royal Yunnan back in 2005. It comes through while steeping, too, a sweet woody note against the earth and maple notes. Post-steeping, yes, it's still there--just a slightly different range of aroma than I find in most Yunnan golds and particularly not in the ones with youthful profile, though they sometimes have their own charms.

There is a hint of maple in this one, too, but it goes up against the sweet-woody (a less dramatic variation of the "Woodwose") and earth notes. This is my first casual drinking of this tea, so I have no full pronouncement. But this is the first time since the 2005 IPOT Yunnan that I've found this particular range of aroma/flavor at this particular level. Counting only on a faulty memory, I'd be tempted to say this isn't as rich/smooth in the cup as the "Woodwose" IPOT 2005 Yunnan, but it's akin to that....they're somehow linked in character profile.

More on this one later on as I compare it, for instance. to the Yunnan Sourcing LLC Black Gold and Gold Tips and whatever other Yunnan is to hand at the moment. I do even have a bit of my SRT March purchase, so a cup-to-cup of those will be interesting to see if the perceived difference really IS a difference.
Yunnan Gold High Grade
Silk Road Teas

Cup to Cup: Tea received 3/13/06 and tea received 7/11/06

I have satisfied my curiosity about these two different orders of SRT High Grade Yunnan Gold by doing a cup-to-cup tasting this morning. Their differences are pronounced enough that I can consistently identify each of the teas without looking at the bottom of the cup which I've marked with their identity. Just sniffing, especially while the teas were hot, was enough of a cue. Tasting is even more apparent with the teas, from hot to a complete cool-down.

Sniffing the dry leaf of the order received July 11 was my first tip that this order was going to be different from what I received in March of this same year (2006). My comments aren't regarding the fact that there is a difference, as that is something I've come to expect from order to order. What has intrigued me about this July order is that it comes much closer in character profile to the 2005 Royal Yunnan that I loved from In Pursuit of Tea, the "Woodwose" Yunnan. For those that remember this tea, we're not entirely there, no, but we're closer in profile than I've personally found in tasting Yunnans since the IPOT Royal Yunnan changed after the first of this year.

The July Yunnan Gold (hereafter YG) carries that slightly different aroma even in the dry leaf. As noted, it has a deeper and sweeter woody scent that carries some fruity overtones; that was what I found in the "Woodwose" IPOT Yunnan in 2005 when I was drinking it more frequently than other Yunnan teas.

While steeping, the July YG follows through on this impression; the aroma is deeper than that of the March YG. The July YG has those woody notes that hint at fruit and a spicier character. Directly after the leaf is removed, the two teas move closer together in their aroma. July YG is still deeper in aroma with fruitier notes, but the March YG seems to want to move in this direction, too.

But something happens as you decant the two teas into their respective cups. The profile that the March YG showed in the small two-cup teapot fades as it goes into the cup itself while the aroma profile of the July YG stays the same (same cups are being used for tasting). In the cup, the July YG carries that sweet-woody/fruity note that I found in the IPOT ("Woodwose") Royal Yunnan back in 2005 but not from January through March 2006 (and I haven't tasted it yet again since then). The sweeter-woodier notes come into the finish. The March YG focuses more on maple-earth with some light cocoa notes. The sweet-woody/fruity character just isn't in this March YG tea. The March YG is a milder (if still aromatic and flavorful) tea in comparison with the July YG, the latter of which carries what I think of as a more "rustic" profile. The sweet-woody/fruity profile is what made me think of the term "Woodwose" in connection to the 2005 IPOT Royal Yunnan, which was, at that time, showing a similar character. I can only operate on a faulty and possibly inflated memory of this beloved tea, but the IPOT Royal Yunnan was, I think, even more complex and deep than this current July YG even though their profile strikes me as quite similar. They both have something about them that I don't find duplicated in other golden Yunnan teas.

At one point in 2005, there was a shift in emphasis with the IPOT Royal Yunnan, too. And this (below) was the mental picture that came to mind, which is also coming to mind as I taste the differences between the March and July 2006 Silk Road Tea Yunnan Golds:

"Think of the old lot as a woodwose. He was visible for a while, but has gone back to the deepest/darkest part of the forest where he will not be seen again for some time. He was gruff in speaking and manner and his garments were stained with earth. Rather than tending bees, he took his honey direct from the tree. And he carried the deep forest secrets back with him from whence he came. The new folks dwelling at the forest's edge are more well-mannered in behavior and speech. They excel at tending flowers in the good earth and sunshine and bee-keeping. But they do not know the deeper secrets of the forest or venture further in."

In reference to the March and July orders of the SRT Yunnan Golds, it is the current July 2006 order that I'd call at least in the ballpark of being "Woodwosian." The March 2006 YG fits more closely the profile of "the new folks dwelling at the forest's edge."

"The Holy Grail!. . . What is it?The phantom of a cup that comes and goes?""Nay, monk, what phantom?" answered Percivale. Tennyson


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your comparison review. Since you didn't mention it, Silk Road Teas has a website: The catalog on the site is from summer '05, but anyone can email them for a more recent one.

anodyne said...

Yunnan Gold High Grade of Silk Road Teas has gone through another change as of August 2006. I previously posted on the lot received in July that was closest to my "Woodwosian" favored lot from In Pursuit of Tea, at least until it changed in January of this year (2006). Since that point, I'd not found a tea that echo'd my favorite IPOT Royal Yunnan (favored primarily during 2005's multiple orders). The July purchase of SRT Yunnan High Grade was closer to that beloved IPOT lot than any I'd had with the deeper characteristics of fruity-woody. Certainly the July SRT Yunnan High Grade was very different from what I had in March from SRT.

For those who continue the search, the lot labeled #CDO Yunnan Gold High Grade that came today (August 15, 2006) is *not* of the "Woodwosian" style that has the deep fruity-woody notes. This is very different from *both* the March and July purchases of Yunnan Gold High Grade.

This tea has that "youthful" profile with maple-honey and floral notes taking center stage. It's a much lighter cup than the July lot I received. Reminds me rather more of the Golden Bud A I once had (though less honey'd than that one) I had via I've come to appreciate the more "youthful" profile of golden Yunnan teas, but this isn't one that remotely assuages that yearning for the 2005 IPOT Royal Yunnan, for those who are familiar with that deeper fruity-woody Yunnan. This is not the "velvet opera cloak" mocha-rich Yunnan experience either. Again, it's youthful. Very fresh tasting and smelling. But not the deep rich "sink into" maple-mocha-spice Yunnan that I continue to long for. Nor is it the more rustic woody-fruity Yunnan that I think of as the "Woodwose" style.

"The Holy Grail!. . . What is it?
The phantom of a cup that comes and goes?"
"Nay, monk, what phantom?" answered Percivale.

As noted, the August 2006 #CDO is an entirely, entirely different Yunnan experience than that of July, last month's order. It is, indeed, the phantom cup that "comes and goes."