Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Esgreen, 2000 Liu An Dark Tea

Esgreen Description:
Shape: Loose Leaf
Category: Dark Tea
Vintage Year: 2000
Weight: Around 450g(1lb)/Bamboo Basket
The Region of Harvest: Si Hui City, Anhui Province, China
Tea Factory: Cha Yuan Tea Factory

A traditional Liu An dark tea recipe. Very special and different from Guang Xi dark tea. This tea was wrapped tightly into a bamboo basket. The loose leaves of this tea are strong and tight. The tea soup is clean in dark amber color. And the flavor is earthy with a very special mint note. Smooth and sweet. This tea has been stored since 2000. 12 yeas vintage makes it really mild and mellow. Very comfortable in stomach.

Another interest thing about this tea is, if you don't like the typical earthy flavor of dark tea, you could tear off part of the wrapping bamboo leave and brew it together with the tea leaves. The bamboo leave will give you a very fresh yet very special tasting experience.

My Review:
I love it when a tea causes you to ask questions and do research. This sample from Esgreen had me scratching my head. What is it? How do I prepare it? The sample contained a generous chunk of loosely compressed leaf. It looks like puerh, so why is it called dark tea? There were also a couple large strands of bamboo leaf in the sample. Why? Do I use it or is it just for looks?

Here is what I think to be correct. All puerh is dark tea but not all dark tea is puerh. Dark tea refers to the method of post fermenting the tea leaf. Puerh refers to a specific region in China where the tea is grown. This tea originates from the Anhui Province. Once the tea is compressed it is wrapped in bamboo for aging and storage. The bamboo does add a light flavor, if brewed with the leaf.

Ok, on with the tea-

I took half the sample and half the bamboo, and placed it in my press. This calls for a rinse to wake up the leaf. I chose not to do this. Instead I increased the first steep time slightly. I used boiling water and about a 30 second steep. There is a mild earthy nose to the liquor which is medium orange/brown.

The sip is interesting. I wish I had more experience to better describe it to you. The first thoughts I had were mellow and rich. Those two descriptions don’t seem to go together but you have to trust me on this one. When it is hot it has a pleasant earthiness to it and only hints at leather. There is a slight tingle on the sides of the tongue but this is not bitter and does not seem the least astringent. It seems to coat the entire mouth with a sense of slickness though not in an oily way. I am also getting a feeling of grit (slick and grit - two more descriptions that shouldn’t go together). I hate to use the term because there is nothing gritty in the tea. This is a sensation not an actual thing. This may be the bamboo or the lack of a rinse to wake up the leaf. As it cools the earthiness and grit subsides and the leather picks up. I also notice a cooling like menthol or mint would give, without the actual flavor.

Mug two is a lot like the first except there is a bright note like wood. I am not sure what element the bamboo is adding so I am going to remove it for the next cup and see how that changes the profile.

Mug three has a beautiful caramel orange tint. It is clear and almost sparkly. The bright wood flavor is not present. On cup four I will but the bamboo back in to verify that is what it adds to the profile. This is nice mix of earth and leather. It is getting a little sweeter each time. A really good cup.

The bright wood note is back with the fourth mug. I am now convinced this is the flavor the bamboo adds. It is quite a bit milder now and mixes well with the sweet cup.

Esgreen says this will steep up to 10 times. Maybe so, but I am sloshing when I move from 48oz of tea, so this is where I call it quits. This is one of, if not the, most interesting post fermented teas I have yet reviewed. At $19/lb this is an excellent value.

Visit the Esgreen web site.

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