Friday, July 17, 2015

Sanne Tea: Taiwan No.18, A Tea Review

You know what is really gratifying? Blowing a professional chef's mind with my baking creations. I am pretty much in charge of baking stuff in the house, but since I have to eat gluten free, my stuff is always gluten free. Many years ago (what we with gluten problems call the Dark Times) it was nigh impossible to find decent breads and such (it was always weirdly textured or tasted really odd, and cost a small fortune) and baking was practically fancy alchemy left to the pros. Poor Fish had to spend a couple years living gluten free and has grown to hate it, so he understandably felt a great deal of trepidation when he found out my baking would lack the glory that is wheat. So far he has been really impressed by my creations, but what really took the cake was the dumplings in the soup the other night, I made them totally from scratch and they were some of the best I have ever had and he is still raging about it. I seem to have developed mad skills, who knew?
Sanne Tea sent me some more tea to review, yay! I am such a sucker for Taiwanese teas, and totally made a squee when I saw that one of the samples was Taiwan No. 18, you might know this glorious black tea as Sun Moon Lake Tea, Hong Yu, Red Jade, or Ruby Black...a tea of many names and many faces. I say many faces because this is one of the most unique aroma and flavor profiles I have run into in tea, and this is thanks to the strain of tea plant this tea is made from, a hybridization of wild mountain tea plants and Burma Assam tea plants, of course the terroir of region helps as well. The farmer of this particular tea roasted it on a lower temperature, meaning it takes longer to roast and there is a larger element of uncertainty. Well, as expected, I was floored by the aroma, I just love this stuff, blending strong notes of sassafras and menthol (but without the mint, it is weird, you need to sniff this one yourself to truly understand the menthol without mint) with an accompaniment of cocoa, malt, and sweet potatoes. It is very sweet and rich, probably sweeter than other versions of this tea I have sniffed.

Brewing the tea (I really want a special Yixing for this tea, it is so unique, I want to know how the clay would affect it) the leaves are very complex, there is just so much going on! Strong notes of sassafras and menthol with honey, dates, cocoa, malt, sweet potatoes, and even a touch of cinnamon and licorice at the finish. The liquid is very sweet with notes of sassafras, dates, and sweet potato, not so much on the menthol, but the sassafras is wonderful. If you ever get the chance to have a rootbeer with real sassafras in it, go for it!

Ok, I am sitting down, I know how Red Jade affects me, I get tea drunk from the first sip of this stuff! The cup comes to my lips, I sip...and omg that is delicious. There are a pile of exclamation points in my notes. The taste starts out with sweetness, notes of honey and dates as the first burst of flavor, this moves to sassafras and the cooling sensation of the menthol, really it is like the sensation and not the taste, it is very strange but so good. The finish is a blend of malt and cocoa with an aftertaste of dark (but not too dark, like 60%) chocolate that kinda curves up to sweet quite a while later.

Second steeping, the aroma is a sweet blend of honey, cocoa, sweet potatoes and of course the iconic (to me) sassafras notes. The taste is a bit more brisk this steep, with notes of woodiness, sweet potato and malt taking up the forefront, this pretty quickly switches to sassafras and menthol at the middle, the menthol lingering into the aftertaste with an accompaniment of honey and dates at the finish. This was a steep to wake up the mouth, similar to eating a mouthful of ginger without the burn.

Third steeping, like the previous one, notes of honey and cocoa blend with sassafras, though no sweet potato this time, but there was a bit of malt. This steep is a bit more mellow, more similar to the first steep, it lacks the briskness of the second but makes up for it in sweetness. Starting out with honey and dates, with a bit of chocolate, this moves to a burst of sassafras and finally finishing out with I swear it tastes just like candied yams! Another fine example of a tea that is a work of art, the more I drink of Red Jade (or whatever name you know it by) the more I love it and crave it.

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