Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What-Cha: Huoshan Huang Ya Yellow Tea, A Tea Review

How about we have one of those 'here is something you probably didn't know about me' intros to today's blog? I sleep walk, sometimes I think I have more adventures at night than I do during the day! It was really bad when I was a kid, I wandered around everywhere, it got to the point where my parent's had to build a special crib/cage thing around my bed to keep me from wandering around or falling out of bed. I also talk in my sleep and have been known to have whole conversations in my sleep with no remembrance of them when I wake up. My most recent adventure was last night, I woke up in my bathtub, no water or anything, I was just sitting in the tub leaning against a wall. So now you know some other random little factoid about me!

I think that today's tea from What-Cha, Huoshan Huang Ya Yellow Tea, might be the first yellow tea to make an appearance on the blog! I have a few yellow teas in my collection, but they do not have review priority since I bought them myself, company supplied samples always take priority (it is just polite!) Before I get into the usual aroma description, we need a brief description of what yellow tea and by extension Huoshan Huang Ya is. Traditionally only produced in China, yellow tea has a lot in common with its close relative green tea, but it has an extra step in its production called 'sealing yellow' basically this means that the damp leaves were allowed to sit and 'yellow' during a slower drying period. Both the leaves and the liquor have a yellowish color to them and in theory this process makes them milder and less grassy tasting than green tea. Now this particular tea, Huoshan Huang Ya, comes from the mountains of Anhui, China, it was once an imperial tribute tea during the Tang Dynasty and was written about in Lu Yu's work on tea. Sadly the methods of this tea were thought lost, but were rediscovered in the 1970s by some distinguished tea masters, the version of this tea we have now is not quite as yellow as it was back in the Tang Dynasty and is sometimes mistaken for a green tea.

Phew, that was a lot of info, and I even abridged it! I certainly recommend looking up yellow tea, there are a lot of really neat articles written on this type of tea. The aroma of the dry leaves is quite sweet, there are notes of lightly roasted sweet corn, gently roasted sesame seeds, bamboo leaves, and a tiny hint of tomato leaves. At the finish of the sniff there is a hint of smoke. It is odd, every yellow tea I have had has had that tiny hint of smoke at the finish, I find that really neat.

Once the tea has been steeped, the wet leaves take on an extra layer of richness. The toasted sesame and roasted sweet corn are stronger, they are accompanied by the aroma of fresh growing things and bamboo leaves. It does have a similarity with green tea, but it is also quite different. The liquid is a mix of sweet corn and bamboo with a tiny hint of smokiness at the finish.
For the first steep, oh wow, that is a sublime tea (I always feel like Morinth from Mass Effect 2 when I use the word sublime now) it starts with a sweet corn and a touch of roasted sesame, there is a mild sweetness and a touch of bamboo. There is a nice tingly mouthfeel at the back of the throat and a peppery aftertaste.
The aroma for round two is very similar to the first steeping, there is a bit more of the bamboo leaves and the roasted corn and sesame aroma has a sweeter note to it. The taste again starts out with sweet corn and sesame seeds, but less roasted and more creamy sweet. This transitions to fresh bamboo leaves and a touch of pepper. There is a hint of smoke at the aftertaste, also the mouthfeel is smooth and not tingly this time.

The third steep's aroma is faint, there are creamy sweet notes of sweet corn still and a hint of bamboo leaves, but mostly that is all that is left. The taste has become quite delicate as well, it starts with sweet corn and a touch of roasted sesame. There is also a hint of bamboo, broken stems, and a hint of kale giving the tea a little bit of a bitter green taste. Oddly this steep had a cooling effect, as I sipped it I felt cool and very relaxed, I also noticed this tea has a decent kick of caffeine making me feel very mentally alert, luckily not at all caffeine buzzed. By steep three I was just on the edge of being tea drunk, it is a wonderful feeling to go along with a really delicious tea!

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