Monday, March 23, 2015

Nannuoshan: Xue Ya, A Tea Review

Today is the day I fight Ben in the league, against his old UCM army we were evenly matched, but now that he has switched to the Shaltari, I am afraid. I cannot win against that faction, even when I have a perfect army for crushing them, my dice betray me. I know the Shaltari are pretty, but come on dice, stop being dazzled!

It is time for a theme week! I am really on a kick with these lately, they are just too much fun. A couple months ago company Nannuoshan offered samples up for review on steepster, of course I pounced on the offer like a cat with a pile of treats, the samples were sent out in a staggered pattern and yours truly was very close to the bottom, but my samples arrived and all that anticipation gets to be paid off in a Nannuoshan week! Today I am looking at Xue Ya, also called Yangxian Xue Ya and Snow Bud, which is a very delicate white tea. Though, depending on who you ask, this tea could also be considered a green tea, of course researching further seems to present a very even split between calling it a white and green, and my own examination shows that it looks like the world's most fuzzy green. Me thinks I will spend a long time researching this one, in fact the reason I selected this sample is because when I was working on that 30+ page list of teas from all over the world (really need to get back to that and other tea research) this one caused me a bit of trouble. So, how do these delicate little buds smell, well, pretty good actually! The leaves are a blend of crispness, sweetness, and floral notes, with a strong peony presence accompanied by honey, cucumbers, and a bit of melon. The notes are very distinct while retaining a level of subtlety.

Nannuoshan recommends brewing this tea at 195°F (90°C) now if this really is a white, then that is awesome, I am a huge fan of using hot (same temperature I use for a lot of red teas) water rather than cooler, this is why I think a lot of people say white tea has no flavor, because if you crank that temperature it becomes a thing of beauty. If this tea is a green I should be afraid, because that might end poorly for me! The incredibly beautiful wet leaves (so vibrant!) have a complex aroma, with notes of peony, melon, lettuce, sage, and an unexpected nuttiness reminiscent of Long Jing, that sweet toasted sesame aroma with a savory edge to it. The liquid really has a fun surprise to it, it is sweet and light, almost fluffy. The sweet note reminds me a bit of meringue, blended with peony and chestnuts, with just a whiff of savory green spinach at the finish.

The first steep is light in both taste and color, so it is certainly starting like a white tea, with a smooth mouth ending on tingly from the trichomes. The taste starts out with a blend of honey, lettuce, and cucumber. This moves on to a subtle melon and a hint of chestnuts. The finish is sweet peony nectar with a slightly nutty aftertaste.

Onward to steep two! The aroma this time is much greener, with chestnut, sesame seeds, and artichoke with a finish of peony. The taste is also much greener, is the white tea in fact a very strong green that can hold its own against a higher temperature? The tea has a more crisp mouthfeel this time, with starting notes of artichoke and toasted sesame seeds. This moves to a slightly meaty, umami taste of sauteed green beans and a hint of cooked mushrooms. The tea finishes with gentle sweetness of melon and lettuce with a lingering note of peony that stays around for quite a while.

Third steep, and the aroma is still on the green side, in fact I would say all traces of the more typical white tea notes have vanished and I am left with artichoke, green beans, sesame seeds, and a nice finish of meatiness. The taste has also bid a fond farewell to the white tea aspects of this tea, it is all green now, baby! It is a tasty green at that, blending savory notes with rich greenness. Starting with notes of sauteed vegetables and mushrooms then moving on to a crisp artichoke and fresh kale, imparting just a hint of that vegetal bitterness you get from kale. The finish is sesame seeds and a delicate sweet honey note that stays as an aftertaste. Xue Ya is still a mysterious tea, but I can safely say it was a very tasty mystery!

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