Friday, August 7, 2015

Shang Tea: 2012 Aged White Wu Long, Private Stock Tea Club, A Tea Review

It is too hot! The heat of the day is making me sleepy, unsurprising since I only got six hours of broken sleep. Yours truly is trying to get back on a sane sleep schedule to match Ben's new work schedule so we can interact, it is super hard. My whole life I have fought battles with sleep, the constant debate of forcing my body into a schedule so I can interact with the world (and not necessarily feel the best) or sleep whenever I can, which usually means I have a rotating schedule. Meaning I progressively go to sleep later and sleep later each day, it has a crazy monthly rotation that works like clockwork, which I think I read has something to do with me not getting enough sunlight or something.

Today I am looking at a truly unique tea from Shang Tea, their 2012 Aged White Wu Long Tea. It is part of their monthly Tea Club, though which month will get this tea is a surprise. Now, I have had their White Tea Wu Long (and it is nothing short of epic, think of a mixture of the rich almost muscatel notes of Shou Mei with delicate floral and honey notes of an Oriental Beauty, with the signature clean taste I always associate with Shang’s creations) and I have had aged Wu Long (primarily aged Yancha, but a few others as well) but a compressed aged one is a completely new adventure to me. This tea is very aromatic while being gentle with the notes present, and also very sweet. There are notes of muscadines and honey, a touch of spice and honeyed wine, and a delicate finish of dried tomatoes. The dried tomatoes at the end add an interesting level of complexity to the tea.  

I decided to brew this tea in my gaiwan, after giving the leaves a steeping the aroma that wafts out from the damp leaves is really complex, I found myself sniffing it for quite a while, just to make sure I picked up on all the notes! It starts out with green notes of a melon peel and fresh bok choy, it has a crispness to it, the aroma then moves to slightly malty and spicy, with a hint of honey and grapes. See what I mean by complex? The liquid is sweet, blending honey and grapes, with crisp notes of lettuce and a touch of tart green apple and a tiny hint of white wine at the finish.

 First steeping time and wow, just wow, that is an intensely smooth mouthfeel, almost slippery in its smoothness. This might be the most smooth mouthfeel I have encountered in a tea! The taste is fairly light, starting off with gentle notes of minerals and green apples with a tiny hint of spice. Towards the end there is a distinct note of honey that gradually builds until the very sweet honey filled aftertaste.  

The aroma of the second steep is very sweet, with strong notes of honey and grapes, notes of tart and not so tart apples, and just a hint of lettuce crispness and melon rind at the finish. The mouthfeel of this steep is still very smooth, but instead of a slippery quality, the texture is smooth and thick, fully coating the mouth. The taste starts out with a hint of apples and grapes, the apple note quickly leaves and is replaced with rich raw honey, I swear I can almost taste the pollen. Delicate floral notes dance with a touch of spice, and a nice mineral finish. This tea has a warming Qi, in comparison to the more familiar cooling Qi I am used to with White teas, it is the warmth of a spring day rather than the heavy heat of a fireplace, so still suitable for a summer day (convenient since that is when I am sipping this!)

For the third steep, the aroma is richly sweet, strong notes of honey and grapes, with a heavier scent of raisins. There is also a slight note of green and crisp lettuce with a hint of mineral, but those notes are slight, almost like the idea of a smell. The taste gave me a bit of a surprise, where the previous steeps have been primarily sweet, this one starts out with a savory tone to it. Starting out with bok choy and lettuce, this moves to fresh tomato and tomato leaf, and then onto melon rind and mineral notes. The finish is malty with a small explosion of honey that lingers as the aftertaste for quite a while.  

On a whim I decided to also try this tea steeped bowl style, it just came to me as inspiration while I was half asleep, I needed to wake up and try it this method as well. The tea starts out sweet with notes of honey and grapes, the longer it steeps (and the more times I top off my bowl with fresh water) it picks up rich notes of malt and mineral notes, reminding me of rainwater. Honestly I think my favorite thing about this tea is how refreshing it is, it was a particularly hot day while I was sipping this tea bowl style, and I never once wished for anything else to quench my thirst, and it had great staying power, I lost count as to how many times I refilled my bowl.

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