Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What-Cha: Kenya Silver Needle Purple Varietal White Tea, A Tea Review

Ah snow, glorious glorious snow. It was foretold that we would get 4-8 inches, and maybe we did, but since it was so warm the snow was really just a pile of very pretty slush. Ah well, snow is snow, but I am a little sad my plans for building a snow fort and then having tea in said fort went down the tube. So instead I pierced my nose and caught up on past episodes of Ghost Adventures. Also, my mom is a total jerk for baking an amazing gluten free pumpkin pie, giving me a tiny taste, and not letting me have anymore until tomorrow. That pie is killing me, it belongs in my belly.

So today's tea from What-Cha is a little odd, and by odd I mean purple. Specifically it is Kenya Silver needle Purple Varietal White Tea, so it is a white tea that looks purple, thanks to a funky little pigment called Anthocyanin. Where the leaves of tea are usually green, this varietal is eggplant purple (same pigment that makes said eggplants purple, along with a ton of other purple plants) and in theory give the tea even more antioxidants. As per usual I could care less about the health benefits, what I care about is the taste (and smell too of course) though it being slightly more drought, frost, and pest resistant than its green cousin is really fascinating. One more thing before I get into the sniffing of the leaves, Anthocyanin does not change the smell, but it does give a slight boost in astringency, you can thank this pigment for blood oranges being a hair more bitter than other oranges. Ok, so, how do these leaves (that look more dark grey than purple...hehe, they are Drow!) smell? Kinda funky, actually, like a blend of peony flowers and kettle corn (hello Kenyan Silver Needle) and prunes, a bit of red wine, and and sharp, dried, leaves. It smells peculiar and I kinda like it, but also find myself doing the 'huh' head tilt.

So, I decided to go grandpa-bowl-style for this tea, into my fancy bowl it went for a nice long winded sipping session. The aroma wafting up from my cups was again a bit odd, blending the peony blossom, sweet corn, and delicate notes of Kenyan Silver Needle with slightly tart plums, prunes, bamboo leaves, and tomato leaves. This tea has a lot of things going on, but it is surprisingly delicate and light.

At the beginning the taste is mild, a really smooth mouthtaste, surprisingly no trichome fuzz on the tongue. It starts with a light sweetness of sweet corn and peony blossom along with cooked oats and tomato leaf. As it steeps more, I never notice any bitterness, even after 20 or so minutes sitting in water, the grain quality becomes richer, but not sweeter, like corn and oats with a touch of distant flowers.

Sadly it did not survive very long, it only took one topping up of water before it was rendered mostly tasteless. I also experimented with my gaiwan and got more or less the exact same effect, steep one was nearly identical to the beginning of the bowl method, steep two like the long steep, and steep three was nothing but the ghost of a tea.
I think I would really like this tea if I never met its really hot friend Kenyan Silver Needle, I know that sounds a bit mean, but I feel like the purple varietal really wants to be Kenyan Silver Needle so badly that its own unique features get lost.

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