If you follow my Instagram, you might have noticed I have not been in the best condition, healthwise, yes, I did a dumb and pushed myself into a really awful flair up. Stupid Fibromyalgia, and stupid me for not listening to the signs my body was sending me! All is not lost though, I realized that I can take this time of physical recovery to exercise my brain and get back to work on my much neglected tea research. Currently researching the different tea producing regions of Africa!
Today we take another look at TanLong Premium Tea Collection, specifically their Primordial Purple Tea Buds! You are probably looking at this strange little buds in my picture and wondering what on earth they are, well in a nutshell, they the buds from a tea tree, some sources I have read say that this style tea (Ya Bao, Zi Ya Bao) is plucked in the very early spring, more or less late winter, as the trees are starting to produce their new growth. This particular tea comes from an ancient forest and harvested by one of the native ethnic groups of Yunnan (there are several and I am not sure which one or which part of Yunnan these are from) and since this is a purple tea, that means it is high in that much loved pigment, Anthocyanin! It seems I am slowly becoming a connoisseur of purple teas. One thing I do know about this tea (other than it is very pretty) is that it is sun dried making it similar to a white, but comes from the same trees that produce the much loved Puerh and have the capability to be aged...the ever present conundrum of what category to put them in. The aroma of the buds is quite unusual, it blends herbaceous notes of sage and a bit of thyme with sweet honey, rich loam, and a finish of smoke. There is also a mild hint of camphor, but that comes in almost as an afterthought, this very much so is like a smoked white tea, which is fascinating.
Into the gaiwan the buds go, and does anyone else think they look like baby pinecones? Giving the buds their needed steeping brings out a whole bunch of fun new notes! Most noticeable would be plums, slightly sour plums, with accompanying notes of hay, spinach, sage, pepper, camphor, and a finish of spice. Well that got pretty complex when soaked! The liquid has the plum aroma as well, though it is not as strong as the wet leaves, it also has notes of honey and hay, and a delicate finish of wood.
So, funny story, I started writing this blog fairly early-ish in the evening, and made the mistake of walking away from my computer for a bit. Ben snatched it up and by the time he was finished I was super sleepy and had a mushy brain, so I took a nap...a 3am blog, haven't done that in a while! Anyway, with these funky bud teas I find giving them a longer steep really brings out the flavors, so it sat in my gaiwan for a good 2 minutes before pouring off. The taste is still pretty subtle, though far from mild, it is very much so a preview of tastes to come. It starts off sweet and slightly spicy, like honey and nutmeg, this moves on to smoke and plums at the midtaste. The finish is a lingering woodiness bordering on resinous. And speaking of resinous, the mouthfeel is just fun, it almost feels tacky, like I have had resin or sap mixed in with the warm water, that is an entirely new sensation for me with tea.
The aroma of the second steep is very richly plums, no sourness, very ripe and sweet, with an added bonus of hay and smoke, with a nice cleansing burst of camphor at the finish. Breathing in a camphorous note is like breathing in fresh alpine air. The taste is not too shabby (really, I wrote that in my notebook, I would take a picture to show you, but my handwriting is so atrocious I doubt you could read it!) the resinous mouthfeel is gone, replaced by a smooth and slightly fuzzy one. The taste starts off with rich very ripe and sweet plums, and then boom, right in the middle is an explosion of smoke and camphor! That signature Yunnan taste of camphor lingers into the finish where it mingles with woodiness.
This tea is also pretty fantastic steeped bowl style, lingering for a while, and getting quite sweet by the fourth refilling of the bowl. For extra fun, I like to occasionally take one of soggy buds out and chew on them (I do this with the not purple variety as well) it is very woody, but also very enjoyable, one of those 'absorbing the feeling of the land and trees' moments, plus it tastes good. And now, with that done, I am going back to sleep.