“The 2019 Dangerfield was blended with an intention of being a poor man’s Naka.”
Sometimes there is an, ahem, danger with Puerh, in that there is a lot of jargon and knowledge of that jargon is assumed. For example, before receiving this tea and doing a little research, I had no idea what the characteristics of “Naka” Puerh would be and why it would be prized.
Na Ka is a village in the Menghai county of Yunnan China. For a long time tea from this village was highly prized and not allowed to be sold outside of China.
Authentic “Naka” has gotten to be quite expensive, (#white2tea sells a 2005 Naka for around $1 a gram,) and is known among Western Puerh fanciers for its strong body centered cha qi. Young Naka from old trees is also known for a middle bitterness that gives way to a long lasting sweet aftertaste.
This is not Naka, but is a blend of Raw Puerh which is intended to evoke the flavor and physiological effects of an aged Naka Puerh.
The early flavors are clean and on the dry side, a bit earthy. These give way to a medium level middle palate bitterness. The bitterness fades leaving an lingering appetizing sensation of lightness and sweetness on the palate. The cha qi is more of a slow build than a fast head rush, but it is noticeably there and also clean and pleasant. Not a bad trip.
I have not had an actual Naka, but I can tell you this is a good, well priced Puerh that will not disappoint, either if you are looking to expand your tea drinking horizons, or if you are an experienced Puerh drinker trying to shave a little money off your tea cake budget.
At $33 for a 357g cake, this seems almost too good to be true!
But it is a good, solid, clean tasting Pu-Erh that, as they say on the Mud and Leaves site, would make a fine “daily drinker”.
Like the Tianming Bang Dong, the flavors are on the forest floor/umami side of Pu-Erh. There is a small amount of bitterness, but not as strong as the Bang Dong. It has good length of flavor, as well. Cha qi, aka tea energy, is also lighter than the Bang Dong, but decidedly present.
I’m a little sad that I’ve already drunk my way through the sample I’ve enjoyed drinking it, but onwards and upwards!
*I received this tea as part of a sampler I won from Mud and Leaves after entering an instagram based contest.
The first two most likely Chinese teas you will find in America are probably jasmine or the sort of indeterminate Chinese black tea usually served in Chinese restaurants. The next most likely is probably Dragon Well or Gunpowder Greens. After that, you might find the smoked version of Lapsang Souchong. A certain amount of Scotch drinking and/or cigar smoking tea drinkers are quite fond of the in-your-face, drinking a campfire, flavor of Smoked Lapsang. While I used to be among the Scotch fancying Lapsang drinkers, cigars have never appealed. And, I haven’t drunk a Lapsang Souchong tea for a few years.
A smattering of single dose 8g samples of Lapsang from Fujian province teas arrived via the July @white2tea club and presented me with the option to revisit my opinions and prejudices regarding this opinion provoking tea.
As I discussed in a previous post, “Traditional” Lapsang Black teas from the Wuyi region of Fujian province are NOT smoked.
This tea is very similar to the “Lapsang Wild Tea” from Yin Xiang Hua Xia Tea. There are notes of sweet potato and dried fruit with a dry menthol/camphor finish. This is a very well balanced black tea and I could see making it a daily drinker (if I didn’t have so much other tea to drink).
I don’t know if this feels Herb-ey to me. I feel like there is a bitter-sweet orange character along with a bit of sweet potato and a very long finish/aftertaste. More elegant than the “Traditional Lapsang”, this is one of the better black teas I can remember having recently.
Of the Lapsangs, this is my favorite. It has great length of flavor, nice character, and a very clean feel. I would definitely make this a special occasion black tea, if it were available.
Fruit Bomb Lapsang
The last of the “traditional” lapsang is the Fruit Bomb. This one didn’t really grab me. It didn’t have the elegance of the Herby Lapsang or the slightly rustic character of the “Traditional”. Just not a very complex tea. I’d drink it again, but I wouldn’t search it out. (Of course the problem with single dose samples, is you never know if it is your mood, a fluke in preparation that day, or some oddness.)
After the fruit bomb, we switch over to the smoked versions of the tea.
Pine Sap Lapsang
Pine Sap Lapsang, on the other hand, is a smoked Lapsang Tea.
For a Smoked Lapsang, it is fairly balanced, you can tease out the tea elements underlying the campfire scents and flavors. It shows a bit of affinity for Oolong teas with a strong menthol element in the finish. However, it is a tea you will be tasting ALL day. You might brush your teeth once, you might brush your teeth twice, but you are still going to be tasting campfire and pine sap when you go to bed at night. So, if you don’t enjoy smoky flavors, this probably is not a tea for you. A good tea for cold winter nights (and it might make a nice addition to a hot toddy).
It’s funny, this lapsang is actually smokier tasting up front than the Pine Sap Lapsang, but somehow I enjoy it more. Weird.
Anyway, this is pretty much exactly like drinking a campfire. Super-smoky, but with a decent, somewhat sweet, black tea backbone. Interestingly, while it is smokier up front, the smoke flavor recedes more in the aftertaste, isn’t as cling-ey, and it is the core of the sweet tea flavor the sticks in your mind. If I were drinking smoked Lapsang, this is the one I would drink.
While I enjoyed trying all these Lapsangs, the ones that really stuck with me were the “Traditional” and the “Herby” Lapsangs. I am definitely now more curious about black teas from Fujian!
Jinjunmei is a Black Tea from the Wuyi region of Fujian, specifically, a village named Tongmu.
Unlike traditional and smoked Lapsang teas, Jinjunmei is a relatively recent innovation.
“In 2006, another innovation took place in Tongmu. A Fujian official asked Jiang Yuanxun, the biggest manufacturer in Tongmu, to make some tea as a gift using bud tea and without the familiar smoking. The tea was made by Liange Junde, the tea master that worked for Mr Jiang at the time, and the tea Jin Jun Mei was born. In 2007, it went into production and rapidly became the most expensive black tea ever sold in China.”
Jinjunmei is essentially the type of early spring, carefully picked, all bud material that would normally be used for Silver Needle (or Baihao Yinzhen) White Tea. But, instead of being processed into White Tea, it is fully oxidized and then dried.
As I mentioned, Baihao Yinzhen, due to the labor necessary to carefully pick the individual spring tea buds, tends to be the most expensive of Chinese White Teas.
Making a Black Tea from this type of material is a true conspicuous luxury move.
The early flavors/scents are citrus-like. Secondary flavors evoke peach and pear. The aftertaste is subtle yet lengthy, returning to the citrus-like character, with a touch of mint-camphor overtone.
It is a lighter and subtler tea than the unsmoked Wild Lapsang, as you would expect from the material.
It is another great tea to try, whether it ends up being your favorite Black tea will be a matter of personal taste.
The process for making Black Tea probably originated in Wuyi area of Fujian. There are different myths about it.
Allegedly, most tea was processed as green tea up until a raiding party invaded a Wuyi Mountain village during the tea harvest. The villagers fled from the raiders. When they came back they discovered that their tea had turned black. It was ruined! They dried it anyway and found that some people enjoyed it, especially, the English, (who would later go on to found entire tea industries in India and Sri Langka based on imitating this tea).
The difference between Green Tea and Black Tea IS that the leaves are allowed to oxidize before they are finally dried.
There is a type of Black Tea from Fujian that is usually called “Lapsang Souchong” in the West. Most often it is a tea that is dried over pine wood.
However, “traditional” Lapsang Souchong is not smoked, and even the more traditional smoky kinds have a lighter smoke character than you might expect.
This is not a smoked tea!
The early flavors remind me a bit of sweet potato, the middle flavors are stone fruit, and the late flavors and aftertaste are a bit menthol/tarragon.
It is a delicious and complex Black tea which rewards multiple steeps.
The term “Gunpowder” when used in description of a Green Tea isn’t very useful.
The term “Gunpowder” was used as a brand name by a British company, well, more specifically, “Pinhead Gunpowder,” for a green tea they sold.
It is basically robust green tea formed into what is called “pearl” shape (the same shape used for some types of Oolong). It can come from any of a number of regions in China.
When I first tried to get into tea, I mostly tried drinking English Breakfast and similar black teas. None of them, as they say, really floated my boat. Too harsh.
It wasn’t until I discovered a bulk bin labelled Gunpowder Green Tea at a local Grocery Coop in Madison, WI, that I really found something I liked in tea.
I drank that for years, but eventually drifted back to drinking coffee to keep me properly stimulated while working late nights and early mornings as a line cook.
After we moved to CA, and I got out of the restaurant business, I found that coffee was maybe a bit too stimulating, so I started looking around for my old favorite, “Gunpowder Green Tea”.
I found some “Organic Gunpowder Green Tea” in a bulk bin at a local store, took it home, and gave it a try. I couldn’t believe what I was tasting. It tasted literally like someone had poured an ashtray into the tea while it was being made. It was cloudy, it was harsh, it tasted like ashtray. It was, in short, one of the worst tasting beverages I had tried in my entire life! And I like Smoked Lapsang Souchong tea! I spit it out, threw out the remainder of the bag, and went back to experimenting with English Breakfast style teas.
Over the next few years, I tried a few more times to get back to Chinese Green tea in the species of Gunpowder, and every time I tried, I was confronted by that ashtray taste.
I was completely puzzled.
How had I not noticed this flavor before? Had my tastes changed? Had Gunpowder Tea changed in the intervening years?
I started to research and discovered other people had also noticed this flavor and would post puzzled questions on tea boards, like, “I’m new to Green Tea and just tried Gunpowder Green Tea. Is Green Tea supposed to taste like brewing tea from an ashtray?”
With answers like:
“No, it’s not supposed to taste that way, but many lower-grade gunpowder teas do. Some people actually prefer their gunpowder greens this way, so mainstream US distributors continue to sell shops this variety. Even some supposedly finer grades (pinhead gunpowder) is often found with this flavor profile. I think some consumers expect a smoky flavor from a tea with that name, even though historically gunpowder refers to the shape of the rolled leaf rather than the taste.”
So, I guess when I first tried Gunpowder tea, back in Madison, WI, I got lucky and found some that was of a higher grade or selected without the ashtray flavor.
So, my advice to you is to avoid anything sold as Gunpowder Tea. If you want to try Chinese Green Tea, please choose any other tea than Gunpowder.
The Spring raw pu-erh releases from White2Tea have been announced and I have to say Paul has outdone himself in the hilarious descriptions for the teas and how a person should know which tea to order for him or herself. Sort of a personality test for tea drinkers.
I leave it as an exercise to you to guess which teas I might have ordered.
New 2019 Teas, Up Now on white2tea.comAfter over three months of drinking fresh tea in the mountains of Yunnan our first wave of new teas is pressed and ready. There will be more new releases in about a month, but rather than wait for every tea we decided to let the raw Puer fly!
“We have offered the “Silver Strands” 银丝 varietal green tea (a robust one leaf to one bud ratio) since 2005, but decided to also offer its first flush tippy “pure bud” counterpart. Picked in the earliest part of spring (in Late-February) before the spring rains arrive, this pure bud pluck features small hairy silver tips with no leaf.”
Darker green flavors, but with a minty aftertaste.
Expected this to be light, but those light flavors are pretty meaty/umami/mushroom in nature. Very little sweetness. Kept the water on the cool side, respecting the buds.
Aside from a bit of mint, not a lot of length, nor that strong for re-steeps.
A solid light tea, if you like them on the meaty side of green.
“This “Jade Snail” 玉螺 green tea is a tippy one leaf to one bud pick but because it’s such and early spring tea the leaf is typically quite small. The result is a balanced green tea with both robust and sweet attributes.”
Thick body, light flavor.
The early flavors and scents are on the greener side, reminiscent of asparagus, but it’s a savory tea whose lingering grain-ish sweetness expresses itself the finish, rather than the early flavors.
There’s a little mid-tongue bitterness, that I can sense more than actually taste.
Just enough to keep it interesting.
Somehow, there is a lingering after-taste evoking dried fruit.
For a tea that seems simple and lightly flavored at first taste, it is surprisingly complex as the steeps progress.
Not bad resteepability for a green tea and thought provoking length.
“”Bao Hong” tea is from Yi Liang county of Yunnan. It’s leaf is quite small and it carries a high level of aroma. The leaves are always picked when very small and fresh during a two hour window of time in the early morning of mid-February. The aroma is intense and fresh.”
In the method of picking and processing, this is quite similar to Long Jing Dragon Well tea. If you looked at a basket of the dry leaves, I wouldn’t be surprised if you mistook it for a high quality Long Jing Dragon Well tea. That is, until you brewed a cup.
While it looks a bit like Dragon Well tea from Long Jing, the flavor of the tea is very distinct from it.
Green teas tend to fall along light and dark flavor families, lighter green flavors like asparagus and tarragon vs darker, meatier flavors like collard greens and seaweed.
While still super fresh, it is a 2019 first flush tea after all, this is on the darker side of the green tea spectrum, at least for bud heavy, spring teas.
There’s something in the flavors that is super familiar to me, but that I can’t quite place. It’s not an off or bitter flavor, it’s just a bit unusual in a tea for me.
My coworker described the aftertaste as a bit like the soft drink “Sprite”. I haven’t had Sprite for years, but I feel like I remember it was heavier on the lime than the lemon. And I kind of get that, there’s a bit of the sort of dark lime-like flavor which lingers on the palate, lightened by a sparkle of darker spearmint.
If you’re tired of the usual green tea suspects, the Bao Hong Green Tea is an interesting one to try to wrap your mind around.