It is now the most dangerous part of any Wednesday, going to What-Cha's website to get the relevant info and linkage for the tea I am going to cover, because I always drift over to the new tea section and there always seems to be something new that I want, it never fails! Today's tea is Korea Jeong Jae Yeun's Hwangcha 2014 Balhyocha Tea, ok before I get too far, remember when I reviewed Korea Dong Cheon Daejak 2013 Sparrow's Tongue 'Jakseol' Green Tea and talked about how it was an amazing tea that as soon as I could I ended up buying a bunch more...and how I was worried I would not do the tea justice? Yeah, well, it happened again, I am beginning to think that Korea might make my favorite teas, clearly I am going to need to test them ALL to be sure! It is good that I bought more of this tea (and not just because I have been on a binge since it arrived) because the notes I took for this one are almost illegible, especially the third steep where my words just kinda trail off the page, I consider that a good sign!! Ok, so this tea is the only tea created by hand by tea artist Jeong Jae Yeun, who (after a bit of digging around) is described as the epitome of grandma tea artisans, which is what I want to be when I grow up I think. Apparently her tea is rather popular with Korean monks, which is also pretty awesome! Ok, now to address the elephant in the teapot, what the heck is a Hwangcha and Balhyocha? To put it in the most simplest of terms, they are the same thing a tea that has gone through fermentation (translation only, really it is oxidation) and Hwangcha is not the same as Chinese yellow teas, Tony Gebely wrote a fantastic article on the tea as did Morning Crane Tea and Mattcha, the subject is really dense, one I could devote an entire blog post to! So, onto the leaves, the pretty curly dark leaves, they smell really good! Super creamy and sweet, with strong notes of honey, roasted peanuts, lychee, papaya, distant flowers, a touch of malt, spicebush...man, this tea has everything! It has one of the most complex aromas I have had the pleasure of sticking my nose in. I think I spent the entire time waiting for my kettle to warm up sniffing this tea, it felt like I was going down the rabbit hole and each new sniff revealed something new while not overpowering the previous notes.
Into the gaiwan the leaves go, and my little tea region has been turned into an aromatic fun zone, the notes that are drifting out of my gaiwan have me super excited to try this tea (ok I already was) the aroma of the wet leaves is intensely creamy, it reminds me of a decadent creamy sweet treat. The intense creaminess is accompanied by floral notes, papaya, and a rich cocoa and malt undertone. The liquid is unsurprisingly creamy sweet as well, with notes of papaya and a fruity musk that is not quite identifiable, it is something from a long distant memory. There is a finish of cocoa adding extra richness to an already rich aroma.
I am glad I do most of my tea tasting sitting down, because I would have been knocked off my feet by this one (intense tastes and smells make me go all fainting goat sometimes) the mouthfeel is so thick and creamy, it is both very heavy and bright. The taste hits my tongue in waves, first the intense creaminess combined with cocoa and distant flowers (a hint of rose I think?) this moves on to fruit, hello lychee and papaya! The finish is an explosion of sweet cream and malt, which lingers, oh how it lingers!
Second steep time! The aroma is sweet, nice notes of lychee, cocoa, sweet cream, and a tiny bit of spicebush at the finish. Yes, I did accidentally dip my nose in the tea while sniffing it, what of it? This taste is pretty similar to the first, it did not grow or change much, the mouthfeel is still super creamy and thick. The main difference between this steep and the first was an intense build of malt towards the finish that lingered, giving more of a boost at the finish.
Third steeping, this one is totally illegible in my notebook, so I had to imbibe more, not that I mind of course! The aroma this time is replaced with cocoa and cream, but instead of lychee there is a stronger papaya and spicebush. The taste is still riding that delightful sweet cream train, but it is a bit less of a cream explosion and more of a smooth creaminess. The midtaste is all fruit and cocoa, papaya and lychee being the dominant, but I am pretty sure I also detected a tiny bit of coconut as well, which is fascinating. The finish is malt and cocoa, the cocoa lingers for a while.
This tea does not evoke any strong emotional response, and it does not change a whole bunch between steepings, but it is delicious! I tried it western style as a comparison and it was intense, like the first steep but all the notes went all 90s and became eXtreme. In theory this tea should not be a favorite, since it does not evolve or elicit a strong emotional or nostalgic response, but I cannot help but love it, it just tastes THAT good.