Tea Journal: Nine Bend Black Dragon

Tea Journal
As my tea journey continues, I refine my observations of relatively similar teas and find subtle differences that all of a sudden make them seem more special and different from one another.

I'm always puzzled as to the names that Chinese choose for their teas. They seem so far-fetched from what they seem to be. Wilted little leaves with names such as "Golden Monkey", "Snow Dragon" and even "White Peony" often leave me puzzled. One must have a very developed sense of imagination to come up with such names!

I'm still uncertain as to the origin of "Nine Bend Black Dragon", but perhaps it has something to do with its blackness, which is because the leaves are fermented prior to firing them. In any case, the dry leaf is medium-small black shoots with occasional golden or yellow tip. Their scent is of roasted grain, dry grass, with slightly malty undertones. It reminded me of roasted pumpkin or butternut squash!

The infused leaf turns into a tawny & olive green unfurled leaf, with some twigs. The leaf seems to be broken during its process. The scent is true to the dry leaf - roasted pumpkin or grain. There is a slight floral fresh undertone to it.

The liquor is reddish brown and bright. It has a sour, roasted grain scent. It's flavour is sour in the beginning. It dries the tip of the tongue and tastes very similar to hojicha (roasted Japanese green tea). I'm personally not fond of hojicha, but this tea is not bad, and the dry first impression improves in the back of the mouth where it is experienced as sweet!

Pairing suggestions: I can't get over the association of roasted butternut, so to me it has an immediate "fall" association. I would serve this with dinner of sage-roasted roots and vegetables (yams, Jerusalem artichokes, butternut squash, portobello mushroom), brown rice pilaf and spicy vegetable stew or even a curry. I can't really think of it as a dessert tea without going the pumpkin pie route... And I probably would do just that!

Blending notes: I doubt that I would personally use it in any of my tea blends; but because of its pumpkin association, it might work well in pumpkin-spice themed chai, along with a smoother Assam tea, for instance.

Tea Journal: Ying Ming

Tea Journal Page 1
Last week I've began a tea tasting journal, and this is the first page of it!
Now that the Zangvil tea is ready, I have to prepare for the re-launch of my other teas. I'm reformulating them, as the tea master who created the other teas for me has moved on to doing other things. This gives me the opportunity to deepen my understanding and appreciation for teas. And since my next big undertaking is reformulating Roses et Chocolat tea, I figured I'll start with black China teas.

There is a bit of a disagreements between cultures as to the colours of teas. What we call in the West "black" is called "red" by the Chinese, who discovered the tea and invented most of the methods known to us now for harvesting, processing (oxidizing, rolling, fermenting...) and perfuming tea leaves.

We call red tea "black" because we refer to the tea leaves before infusion. The Chinese call it red based on the tawny reddish colour they develop after being steeped. True black teas will take on a black colour after steeping - for example: Pu-erh tea, which is fully fermented, and actually improves with age, like a fine wine. I find this fascinating!

I began my journal with the first page you are seeing here, and have decided to begin with Ying Ming tea. Although tea tasting requires observing the appearance of the dry leaf, infused leaf (how it looks after being wet) and the colour of the liquor (the "tea" beverage itself) - I will focus what I share here with you on the aroma and fragrance of tea. I have to say though, that I'm immensely enjoying the visual aspects of tea tasting, and have also created colour swatches with watercolour to record the various colours of liquor!

Tea Colour Swatches
I was a bit weary yet curious to start with black teas (or red, if you wish), as I don't particularly enjoy them without milk. But I was pleasantly surprised to find interesting and intriguing subtleties to these black teas, and I'm learning a lot!

Ying Ming is fro Yunnan province in China, where it is grown in high altitudes and harvested in the moist and cool months of March and April. Supposedly, these conditions account for the tea's pronounced sweetness. It does have bitter back notes though (see my tasting notes below), so it is acceptable to serve it with a sweetener.

Dry leaf smells complex, tobacco-like, tannin but with sweetness that is subtle - reminiscent of hay and flowers, and hints of blueberry.

Infused leaf smells warm, round, fruity tobacco and berry-like with hints of cacao and earthy sweetness.

Liquor smells warm, brown, sweet, very typical "black tea" smell, but without the flat, tannin notes that I've encountered with poorer quality and bagged teas etc.

The taste is sweet and mellow in the mouth, a little tannin, and bitter and dry aftertaste.
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