Thursday, February 2, 2017

What-Cha: China Yunnan Matai 'Old Tree' Black Tea, A Tea Review

I love my cats, I really do, but sometimes I wish I lived in a cartoon world where I could dropkick one of them and launch them into the sky, with the only consequence being loud meowing and a comical thud...but I don't live in that world so instead I just have to share my annoyance with you all. Tao is a bag chewer, always has been, I go to great lengths to hide any pieces of plastic but she still finds them! If there are no grocery bags, she goes after the trash bag, if the trash bag is tucked inside the can she goes after bubble wrap, if there is no bubble wrap she will -somehow- get a bag and drag it to where I am and start chewing on it. I know she does this because she wants my attention, but you would think after seven years she would have learned that the only thing she is getting from me is taking the bag away. Though it is better than Espeon's tendencies to crawl onto my head and vigorously groom my hair right after I wash it.

I started writing this post on Wednesday, so even though it is the wee hours of Thursday, I am still counting this as a What-Cha Wednesday, and I am looking at one of their teas which has become a favorite of mine, China Yunnan Matai 'Old Tree' Black Tea. This tea has a bit of a funny story on how it relates to me, a year (or maybe two, I am bad at time) a tea friend from Europe sent me a sample of this tea from the same specialty French vendor that What-Cha lists as their source for this tea, I fell in love with it and wanted more, but for some reason (I want to say they were sold out) I couldn't get more, and was immensely sad because it was yum. So imagine my glee when I saw this tea, I immediately added it to my cart and think maybe 50g was not enough. Yes, I am a dianhong addict, so what? In my addiction, I have noticed that there are different categories of the stuff, ones that taste super chocolaty, ones that are fruity, ones that are odd and don't taste like anything else (looking at you Ai Laoshan) and for the most part it seems totally random which the tea will taste like. It doesn't seem to be based on anything I can figure out, I have had two teas from the same region, made in the same style, from the same season but from different farms...taste completely different. This particular Dianhong goes into what I lovingly classify as the yam pile, strong notes of yam with a bit of malt, peanuts, and cocoa. Definitely strong into the starchy sweet yams with a caramelized sugar quality, making me think of candied yams, yum!

Brewing the leaves gives me a pleasantly complex variety of notes, brisk woodiness with hints of sassafras, super strong sweet yams and brown sugar, molasses, cocoa, and a touch of mineral and prunes at the finish. The liquid is a sweet brown sugar drizzled baked yam, with undertones of cocoa and peanuts...honestly I think I love Dianhong so much because they taste like foods I grew up with, candied yams and boiled peanuts are a classic Southern I practically live off chocolate.

Oomph that first steep is a doozy, it starts with a surprisingly thick mouthfeel, this is one of those teas that feels heavy, that when I am drinking it I just kinda melt into my chair. The dominant note of course, is yam, so much yam. Directly quoting my notebook 'much yam, very yam, yamtastic, DID I MENTION YAMS?' The sweet and starchy quality of the yams blends well with the milder notes of peanuts and cocoa with a surprise woody sassafrass finish.

Hey, guess what? YAMS!! The second steep goes the route of the first steep starting out really thick and heavy (he's not heavy, he's my tea...and I should not be allowed to write when I am tea drunk) you know those videos on cookies shows where they show the slow motion pour of melted brown sugar with sexy music? Well that is the texture of this tea. The notes of cocoa and peanut are still there, but more mellow, with yam, brown sugar, and molasses taking center stage.

Soooo I am tea drunk, this tea has that effect on me. When I first started writing this blog (at is now 5:30) my brain was mush and I could not focus on anything, I have felt really awful lately and it has affected my ability to have cohesive thoughts. I almost thought I was not going to get this out  at all, so I decided to just drink this tea to inspire me while I was writing about it, that was about an hour  and five steeps ago. This tea has yammy longevity, and a delightfully potent Qi...maybe. Sometimes I am not really sure if Qi exists, maybe the buzz/elation/inspiration/mellowness/insert your own effect here is not from any intrinsic energy the tea posseses but a reaction to extreme sensory input, which I am aware I process somewhat differently due to being autistic. I find the stronger the tea's taste or distinct the tea's texture the stronger my 'Qi' reaction is, if the tea is watery and boring in its taste I get no reaction from it. It is a puzzle I find myself mulling over...regardless if it is something vaguely metaphysical or just my brain getting a 'high' off the intense stimuli, I love this tea and am glad I was able to tell its story. Now, back to Minecraft and onto the next steep!

This tea was purchased by me.


  1. You have my sympathies with the cat issues.

    I was **trying** to have a pre-lunch session today (White2Tea's Old Reliable), and my own personal furry brown Burmese overlord was having none of it.

    It's hard to concentrate on flavour and aroma nuances when an attention seeking yowling fool is trying to clamber up your chest like a late 19th century mountaineer attempting the North face of the Eiger...

    1. Oh my, thank you for that, your comment just made me laugh so hard!!!