Thursday, May 31, 2007

Anodyne on TeaSpring's Dong Ting Bi Luo Chun

Geraldo has already written of the TeaSpring Bi Luo Chun as he experienced it Filling in the Green Spaces (May 28, 2007). I certainly don't dislike the TeaSpring 2007 Dong Ting Bi Luo Chun, but I haven't found this as enchanting as ones I've had in years past. Perhaps I've just not unlocked the magical brewing parameters as this can be a tricky green to get right. It's certainly a pleasant enough tea--nutty and vegetal and quite a solid and substantial tea experience. It falls into that category I think of as "nourishing." Not as ethereal an experience for me as in past years…

…such as my fond memories of a 2001 Competition Grade Bi Luo Chun from Silk Road Teas:

The dry leaf is delicately and freshly green, with underlying very light meadow floral note and nutty scent. Those same delicate aroma notes tiptoe into the cup. This is not an aggressively aromatic green, but a contemplative one. Subtle, yet still complex. The aroma holds a lovely scent of fresh green, light nutty notes, and a soft floral that isn't heavy but akin to the delicate aroma of a wild flower. The taste is also delicate and subtle—a cleansing green quality with slightly sweeter nutty flavor and that ethereal sweetness that hovers between floral and nectar. In addition to the meadow floral/green, there is a nice fruity and nutty note wafting up in the aroma and also migrating into the taste.

I've had only sporadic excitement from Bi Luo Chun, but this one is a love match. I really like the delicate floral against the balance of cleansing green and now this light fruity note. The dry leaf aroma of this tea is quite amazing, so fresh and delicate. The meadow floral sweet note really lingers into the finish. This tea is deceptive at first experience as there are so many layers of subtle aroma/taste in it. The level of sweetness is like nibbling a bit of clover or honeysuckle. The finish is very delicate but very refined and elegant.

The above Silk Road Tea Competition Grade Bi Luo Chun was vastly different from the more aggressive High Grade Bi Luo Chun (#G-BLC-8) I tried in 2000 from Silk Road Teas:

A fellow tea drinker noted the very nutty/roasted character of this particular High Grade Bi Luo Chun from Silk Road Teas. It's very unlike other Bi Luo Chun teas I’ve had as I've never encountered one this nutty/roasted before. This quality is apparent when you first open the Ziploc bag and sniff the dry leaf—a gorgeous fresh and sweet green/floral aroma, but you surely catch that hint of roasted. While steeping, the roasted notes do very prominently show forth, almost with a popcorn kernel-like scent. Light vegetal. Underlying this is that elusive floral I call orchid for lack of a better term. The roasted aroma makes it into the taste as well, but underlying this is the floral. This is a more aggressive Bi Luo Chun than that oh-so-delicate-and-elusive Imperial Tea Court offering Bi Lo Chun (see comments below).

And further musings on the #G-BLC-8: While steeping today, I had the intense aroma of roasted ham, the outer crusty layer. Indeed, even post steeping, this tea is richly reminiscent of a ham, even down to a slightly salty note. The High Grade Bi Luo Chun was very different today than I encountered it on previous trials. There is nothing delicate about this cup or ethereal; it's rich and full but not at all harsh. Quite tasty, but it is vastly different from the Imperial Tea Court Bi Luo Chun with those delicate and ethereal notes, hints of lemon and what another reviewer referred to as “ocean.” Now there is a sweet aroma wafting out from under the ham. It is sort of floral, but the sweetness is close to a ham's sweetness, too. I have encountered greens that are what I think of as: nectar sweet, floral sweet, root vegetal sweet, nutty sweet, creamed corn sweet. This cup is producing a hint of baked honey ham sweet. The empty cup aroma is deliciously sweet and full.

And, an entirely different Bi Luo Chun experience via Imperial Tea Court as noted above, also in 2000:

I took out a small loan, mortgaged the family homestead, sold a few head of cattle and ordered an ounce from Imperial Tea Court. The tiny packet sat here half a day before I worked up the courage to brew it. The soft downy oh-so-tiny buds (which simply must be appreciated as part of this whole experience) smelled incredibly sweet and fragrant. This is the first time I've had the dry leaf of Bi Luo Chun smell this way. The cup aroma is lightly vegetal, sweet, nutty, and has that elusive nectar type aroma. The taste has many nuances. First a vegetal note pulls forward, but it trails off into more delicate nectar sweetness—almost whisking in and out of your perception like catching a hummingbird or butterfly in your side vision. The aroma in the cup is slowly blooming and coming forward with layers of sweetness. I love the way the taste slyly takes you at first in one direction, and then zips off into an entirely different direction with the sweet surprise at the end. It's a tea I need to appreciate quietly with no distractions. It whispers in your ear and doesn't speak loudly as some other greens do.

And back to the TeaSpring 2007 Bi Luo Chun: It’s not as aggressive as the 2000 High Grade Bi Luo Chun from Silk Road Teas. But neither does it engage me as fully or express the nuances (at least as I’ve brewed it so far) of the 2000 Bi Luo Chun from Imperial Tea Court or the 2001 Competition Grade from Silk Road Teas. Obviously the tea impressions of years past aren't useful in making current tea purchases. They do help me begin to separate out what range of flavors and aromas I might find in a tea. And they so often give me a set of flavors and aromas that send me on that Holy Grail Tea Quest, hoping to repeat an experience of some long past year.


No comments: