Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Imperial Chinese Ti Kuan Yin from Ten Tea

Scent: Very vegetal, grassy, “green”
Brewed in: small gaiwan
Steeped: 10s rinse, then 5s, 12s, 15s, 15s, 20s at below boiling.
Cup: small tasting cup

I ordered this along with a pouchong tea when I ordered my silver tea tray from this company. For some reason, I have a “thing” about ordering teaware from a tea company without ordering tea – I feel guilty for not at least sampling their offerings, like it’s an insult or something. I realize these companies don’t know me from the next person in most cases, and probably don’t care as long as I spend money there, but regardless, I try to order tea along with my teaware when I’m buying.

So I have this lovely tea (I couldn’t get a good picture…my camera batteries were going dead) that is comprised of tightly rolled pea-sized balls that are dark and very bright green. I got a ceramic canister with it, which looks lovely on my counter. This was my first time trying Ti Kuan Yin, so I used about 1 teaspoon in my gaiwan…a bit too much probably, but it didn’t turn out badly at all. I rinsed it, but more to “wake up” the tea than anything else…the leaves were intriguing, and I wanted to see them unfurl. The Ten Tea site suggests using Yixing, which I can see is an excellent suggestion, though a glass teapot would reveal the lovely leaves.

The first infusion was very light, with a soft floral scent that was unassuming and sweet. It was creamy and very smooth, with no bitterness and just a hint of astringency. It was very mellow and relaxing – a great way to start a tea session.

The second infusion was a bit darker, with a stronger floral scent, and tasted like artichoke dipped in butter, though not super “buttery”. The third infusion had a definite “melted butter” scent, and reminded me of a dip for lobster – extremely rich and creamy. There was a mild astringency, but no bitterness, and it was thick on the tongue. There was almost no actual “taste”, but rather the aftertaste of butter – that sensation that melted butter and salt leave in your mouth after you swallow. A slight oily/salty sensation, which is quite odd and interesting (in a good way).

The fourth infusion was slightly weaker, though the fragrance was still rich and buttery. The taste was weaker though, with little sensation. It wasn’t as interesting as the third. The fifth was also lighter, and back to a more floral fragrance. There was a touch of sweetness, and the brew was thicker and creamy. I have no doubt that further infusions would have yielded much of the same if steeped longer.
I quite enjoyed this tea – it gave me a feeling of drinking something very sophisticated and rich, not to be wasted as everyday fare, but to be savored and attended to as a thing of beauty. The wet leaves were very curly and fancy, and every bit as sophisticated as the brew.

I enjoyed it so much, I’ve decided to dedicate one of my unused Yixing pots to this tea. I haven’t decided which one yet, though my yellow pot with cranes comes to mind every time I think of this tea. So perhaps that will be a match. I look forward to enjoying this tea again soon, and highly recommend it. You can get a sampler for $3.20, or a canister for $24 at Ten Tea…and I don’t regret the cost one bit, having experienced the tea.

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