Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What-Cha: China Fujian Anxi 2008 Heavy Roasted Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea in Bitter Melon, A Tea Review

Ben bought me a small present that is on its way, a triple pack of flash diffusers for my camera, woo! I know, you are thinking (like I did about a year ago actually, before the flash on my old camera proved itself weak and sad) 'why not just make one yourself like you did last time?' Well, mainly it is laziness (totally copping to it) the other is the triple pack comes in colors and I am curious, yellow light, blue light, and white light flash diffusers, how will they compare to the handmade one I have stuffed in my desk? Plus, these are made of plastic that clips on, meaning it is less likely to break in my purse or get turned into an impromptu cat toy (so many handmade diffusers were lost that way) and conveniently they were cheaper than a loaf of my fancy gluten free bread, though less nourishing I imagine.

Oolong week continues! If you were like me and plastered to the blogs, Instagrams, and Twitters of those lucky Tea Bloggers at the World Tea Expo this year, you might have heard the collective excitement over aged Oolong in a certain fruit, granted theirs came from a different year and vendor, but when I saw that What-Cha had China Fujian Anxi 2008 Heavy Roasted Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea in Bitter Melon I knew I had to give it a go. That was a couple of months ago, my sample languished in the sample box, waiting for the right time to be tasted...and it was the persistence of this tea popping up everywhere that finally made me break down and try it. It kept showing up on tea groups I am in, on IG, the Lazy Literatus himself covered it...I gave into the siren's call and tried my best to keep my expectations and excitement at bay, nothing ruins a tea quite like it not living up to the self create hype from researching it. First off, what the heck is a bitter melon? Ok I do know what these are, but in the joy of sharing knowledge, allow me to explain what they are. Momodorica charantia, or as I am more familiar with them as, Ku Gua, see I know them from Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is a cooling herb and I drank a particularly nasty brew of cooling herbs with this fruit (and root) in it, specifically to help cool down my lungs and skin. Though fun side fact, cooked melon slices in a soup were given to children to help combat malaria, yay for medicinal stuff! Of course it is also a food, though you have to use it in moderation because it can land you on the toilet for a not so fun adventure.

Now that I have the gourd out of the way, time for the tea! I admit I spent a bit of time just admiring the leaves, very tightly curled and seriously stuffed into that gourd slice, kinda glad I only got the sample this time because I imagine it is a pain to get the tea out of a whole melon! The aroma is all sorts of funky fun, sour pickled plums, loam, old wet coals, dry wood, smoke, and a medicinal pungency. It takes the familiar smoky earthiness of an aged roasted Tie Guan Yin and gives it a serious sourness from the melon, I can say that sniffing this tea is a real wake up to the nose.

Into the gaiwan it goes! I was going to use my roasted Yixing pot, but decided to go gaiwan for mysterious me reasons. The aroma of the ever so slightly unfurled leaves hilariously to me smells like sweet and sour plum sauce, as a kid I kinda had an addiction to that stuff and would get a jar of it and binge on wontons dipped in it while simultaneously binging on Super Mario or Zelda. Under the plum sauce is prunes adding sweetness, loam, and is really weird but not unpleasant at all. The liquid is sweet, roasted plums, stewed prunes, and smoldering coals. Not too potent, mellow and sweet.

The tea starts out pretty mild, very smooth and...wait...I take it back, it is not mild at all! It really does start mild like prunes and plums, and then build in intensity. Adding notes of loam and coals with a strong honey drenched prune note that lingers well into the aftertaste. I don't really notice the bitter melon yet, more the mellow sweetness of a roasted, aged TGY.

The second steep's aroma brings the sweet roasted plums and sour pickled plums (mmm umeboshi) with strong notes of roast and loam. The taste is a great deal more intense this time, starting with strong plums and prunes with a nice burst of loam. At the middle there is a slightly sour, pungent medicinal taste that signals the arrival of the bitter melon's contribution to the tea. Towards the end it goes to honey sweet and it lingers for so very long.

I went on for quite a few more steeps, the taste didn't really change much after the second steep, until around steep seven, then it was just loam and mineral. Even though it does not change much, and it is not too terribly nuanced, it really shines in the Qi department. I found myself getting a bit tea stoned off this brew, I was relaxed, giggly and floaty...and next thing I knew I had spent hours playing Minecraft, oblivious to the passage of time. I have enough of my sample left for one more session, and I am saving that beasty for a day when I need to get lost in a powerful Qi.

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