Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Yunnan Sourcing: Comparing Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong Black Teas, A Tea Review

Last night I altered one of my favorite cards for my Mono-Black casual zombie deck, Graf Harvest! I love that my zombies get Menace and I can use it for token generation, creating a hoard is what I do after all. This card is from Eldritch Moon on Innistrad and while altering it I noticed something very odd...the art depicts a skeleton lich (possibly a skeleton warrior or wizard, but spoilers I think it is the same skeleton as Paragon of Open Graves) and as far as I know, liches are not a thing on Innistrad. Sure we get a one-off mention of Liliana studying under them during Origins, but that is it, no mention in the Planeswalker Guides or the artbooks, so it might not have been on Innistrad she studied under said liches, where did he come from? Also, I have decided his name is Gustav, and I want to know his story! Is he just a very powerful Ghoul doing work for his Necromancer master? Some sort of Emrakul weirdness? SO MANY QUESTIONS!!

Ok, enough Vorthos ranting, today I am comparing the two Spring 2016 Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong Black Teas from Yunnan Sourcing. Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong of Wu Yi Fujian Black tea vs Premium AA Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong of Wu Yi Fujian Black tea. The Premium is differentiated from the not premium (let us just call it the regular from now on) by being plucked during a two day period where the buds and leaves are small and tender, and by being processed by the head of the Li family (who has been processing Wuyi tea for four generations.) I broke out the mini gaiwans to test them side by side, regular on the left and premium on the right. From the appearance, the difference is clear, the premium's leaves are larger and longer and the regular has a bit more golden trichomes, the aroma is night and day (as is the taste but I will get to that!) The regular is fruity and chocolatey, very much so the smell of stewed plums and cherries drizzled in chocolate with undertones of starchy bread and a rich malty finish. The aroma of the premium is light with dancing notes of orange blossoms and fresh cherries, for all that the notes are airy in nature, the density of the aroma is pretty potent and this tea is very aromatic and seemed to linger in my nose for a while. One is rich and heavy and the other potent and light, a fun contrast!
From a later steeping, but it really shows the contrast in leaves

Steeping the pair up makes for a happy me, because these teas smell fantastic! The regular smells of cocoa, plums, raisin bread, and malt...it is a rich and heavy dessert (and there is a reason this tea is one of my go-to teas when I feel like crap because it is so good.) The premium blends notes of cherries, raspberries, black pepper, cumin, oranges, and mango peels. There is a lot going on in both of the teas, but they are very different with fruit being the main overlapping note. The tea itself, free from its leaves is very light on the premium, gentle orange blossoms, and very light cherry notes, where the regular has strong notes of peanuts and cocoa.

So when I say these teas are night and day, I do not necessarily mean they are that different in taste, true they are noticeably different, but they are still identifiably Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong. I want to drink the premium in the morning, to liven my senses and wake up my palate, I want to drink the regular in the evening as a rich finish to a long day, it feels heavy and sleepy. The regular has a very thick mouthfeel, with strong notes of malt, molasses, cocoa, myrrh, and a finish of yammy goodness and lingering gentle stewed plums. The premium has notes of orange blossom, gentle nuttiness, plums, cherries, and a slight starchy finish. Its mouthfeel is very crisp and smooth and much lighter than the regular.

Both teas really stick around for a while, with the premium lasting nine steeps and the regular lasting eight. The regular stays pretty consistent with its notes for the entire session, the premium changes things up as it goes, getting sweeter and a bit richer (still maintaining that lively brightness throughout) with touches of cocoa and malt. Towards the end of both tea's lives, they were very similar, granted I was getting very tea drunk at that point and the world was becoming a tasty blur, especially since I had paired these with some music and painting, I was in a happy place...though I admit not necessarily coherent by the finish!
Gustav! Where did you come from?

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