Friday, September 18, 2015

Dachi Tea: No 11 Sun Moon Lake #18, A Tea Review

I have a fun story to tell today, a story about little ol me, specifically very little me. See, my mom has a nickname for me, 'moonshine' short for both 'pumpkin moonshine' and 'moonshine girl' so yeah, nothing to do with mountain booze, all about moons. This name came about when I was still toddling around, when we would visit my grandparents in Augusta (we lived in Aiken, SC, so really close) I would insist on wandering off in the evening to talk to the moon in some random made up language. I was especially drawn to moon viewing and chatting while there because they lived on a hill and I swear the moon was massive and frequently pumpkin orange, a magical looking thing to a tiny child. My obsession with the moon did not end as I grew up, you can still find me outside when everyone is asleep conversing with the moon in my own made up languages. And yes, the Tasha Tudor book by the same name was also a childhood favorite, but I think most her books were. 

Today's tea is one of many names, Red Jade, Sun Moon Lake Tea, #18, Ruby Red, Hong Yu, and I know there has to be something I am missing. Dachi Tea's No 11 Sun Moon Lake #18, a tea with a unique story, see what makes this tea so special is it is a blend of native Taiwanese tea trees and the Assamica cultivar, usually this tea comes from the valley around Sun Moon Lake (name drop!) but this tea was sourced from their grower in Pinglin, adding a unique spin to the familiar tea. This tea is also a tea of many faces, if you look at a dozen vendor's descriptions they all list it as distinct, but they all seem to have similar yet different notes: cloves, mint, cinnamon, eucalyptus...but none ever list the note that makes this tea iconic to me, and I admit it took me tasting it a few times before I facepalmed realizing that note that kept escaping me was one right out of my childhood. Sassafras! I had sassafras trees all over my yard in Georgia, their differently shaped leaves and wonderful smelling bark was a staple, that I would nibble on more often than I probably should have. If I am doing my quick and very scan-heavy research correctly, Safrole is chemically similar to cloves, bay, cinnamon, and a ton of other things, fascinating! Anyway, tangent aside, leaves! The aroma is complex, strong notes of sassafras with an accompaniment of cinnamon, sweet potatoes, peanuts, honey, and a touch of menthol and pepper at the finish. 

Brewing time, and whoa, that is a potent pile of soggy leaves. Strong notes of cinnamon and menthol waft out with the steam, alongside cloves and peanuts, with a finish of sassafras. There is a hint of woodsiness at the finish as well. The liquid is nutty and sweet, peanuts and cloves, and a distinct woody sassafras note at the finish. Definitely smells like I just broke some sassafras sticks under my nose. 

The first steep is yum, it is smooth and rich, and very sweet. Starting out with notes of cinnamon and sassafras, it moves on to yams and honey. The finish is a lingering sweetness of honey, a touch of malt, and a delicate roasted peanut earthiness. The aftertaste of honey lingers for quite a while, making me feel all fancy and contemplative. 

Second steep, the aroma is strong with the sweet potatoes, and I find it amusing that the smell is sweet potato and the taste is yam, such a subtle yet important distinction. Alongside the sweet potato is sassafras and a touch of honey. The taste is ramping up, the sassafras notes and cinnamon notes are joined by cloves and a touch of menthol at the front. The midtaste brings with yams and honey and still really potent sassafras and cloves...kinda makes me want candied yams. The finish is all honey and lingering sweetness, with just a tiny tiny hint of malt. This steep has some oomph to it. 

Third steep, and wow, it is still going strong and also getting stronger, I was not sure that was possible because the aroma is already pretty intense. Strong notes of sweet potato and cloves, sassafras and honey great my nose. The taste is still ramping up, strong notes of malt, sassafras and cloves take the forefront. The midtaste is woody and yam heavy with a note of peanuts. The finish, like before is lingering sweet honey. I went on for a couple more steeps, and yeah, I got very tea drunk from it, this is an intense #18! 

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