Tuesday, March 23, 2010

2009 Tie Luo Han from The Tea Gallery

Class: Oolong
Origin: Wuyi Shan, China
Year: 2009
Vendor: The Tea Gallery (Product page)
Price: $18.00 (25g)

A few weeks ago I wrote about The Tea Gallery's 2006 Tie Luo Han; this is it's younger brother. I would be interested to know if they were both made from the same farm and/or producers; they are similar enough compared to other Tie Luo Han sold by other vendors that I would believe it. (To briefly recap, I wrote that the 2006 is a mineral powerhouse which is very interesting but not terribly approachable or well-suited for casual brewing.)

dry leaf
The dry leaf smells of caramel, bright tropical fruit, and copper. The lid aroma was mostly floral, but a bit of the mineral/copper character can be found here too. It's not quite as powerful as a good dancong, but "dancong-like" isn't far from a good description of this tea's fragrance.

The first few infusions are quite unlike the 2006; they are sweet like caramel, floral, and ethereal. The only thing that links the two so far is the above-average mineral aftertaste which grounds the otherwise flighty flavor nicely. After the first few though, the similarities between this and the 2006 become much more obvious; the earthy mineral flavor comes into focus and the caramel/floral sweetness tapers off, though if brewed with a lighter hand some sweetness remains to cut through the strong minerals. I also played around with the altitude at which I poured from the kettle: pouring a thin stream from high above the leaves seems to brighten the flavor a bit.

This tea has a lovely cha qi. It brings peace without being overly intoxicating or jarring, though it has the potential to lay you out if you don't pace yourself. This is a tea worth sipping slowly, anyway.

If the price doesn't bother you too much, this should be on your short-list of teas to try. It is more approachable than the 2006 (though my experiences with the 2009 make me want to revisit that one soon) but still strongly expresses the same mineral character. This is yet another lovely tea from The Tea Gallery— but really, is anyone all that surprised? :)

Saturday, March 13, 2010


little bridge
[As with my post on mindfulness, this is more a personal reflection than a lesson. Hopefully you can glean something useful from it, but I certainly do not want to imply that I know what is best for you.]

I recently noticed that light is a critical part of my great tea sessions. Of course one needs adequate light in order to brew tea adequately, but for a special tasting I need remarkable light. It has to create a sense that something is different, special, not merely mundane.

Whether it be bright sunlight outside, soft diffuse light through a window on a cloudy/rainy day, or dim incandescent lighting in a quiet room at night, the best light is simply and unpretentiously beautiful. It shouldn't be contrived, melodramatic studio-like lighting; it should be natural, effortless, and not distracting. Finding great light, whether planned or accidental, is more rewarding than my attempts to cobble something together myself.

The light should resonate with me; if my mood doesn't match the quality of the light, things don't quite fall into place. When everything harmonizes, though, and the cha qi of the tea is just right, and I feel as though I am dissolving into the light around me... Perfect!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

2006 Tie Luo Han from The Tea Gallery

Class: Oolong
Origin: Wuyi Shan, China
Year: 2006
Vendor: The Tea Gallery (Product page *be sure to select the 2006 option*)
Price: $23.00 (25g)

This is one of those rare instances when I am in agreement with a description on a vendor's site (though it's debatable who is usually at fault!). This is an interesting tea, as it should be for its high price, but it's not my favorite.

Even the dry leaf smells strongly of rocks (especially when placed in a warmed gaiwan), though the aroma is tempered with caramel and some tropical fruitiness. It certainly has a strong mineral taste, too; so much so that it overwhelms almost all traces of other flavors unless one is paying attention. It's like the crafter of this tea took a normal yancha and cranked the usual mineral character (aroma, taste, aftertaste) all the way up to 10.

Personally, I like a bit more sweetness and a more balanced flavor in my tea, but I wouldn't say that this isn't a fun tea to try; partly because it's a great example of yancha mineral character, but also because it is quite a bit different from the typical Wuyi you'll find on the internetz. (Did I mention it's expensive? Yikes!)