Friday, September 14, 2007

Keemun Hao Ya Special from Rishi Teas

Scent in package: strong, malty, intoxicating.
Brewed in: unbleached filter bags
Steeped: 5-6 min.@ boiling
Cup: Café Mug

This tea is taunting me today – either that, or it’s the clock that’s up to no good. Either way, both cups I’ve made have been over-steeped, the first by 2 minutes, the second by 1 minute. Annoying, to say the least, but another test of the tea’s flexibility, I guess.

The scent of this Keemun seems stronger and “fresher” than the Dragonwater version. The dry leaves are larger, but only by a very slight bit, and have a few more golden tips on them. The brew up very similarly, expanding only a little. The resulting cup is a deep reddish brown, almost like an ultra-clear version of cooked puerh.

Interestingly, the scent of the brew is somewhat “spicy”, and really quite enchanting. And while I was hesitant to actually do the tasting review due to my failure to brew it properly, I was surprised to find that even over-steeped, the tea is quite drinkable and even enjoyable.

That’s not to say that you can’t tell it’s over done, but the only really unsavory thing is the high astringency in the brew, leaving my mouth rather dry not even half way through the cup. But the flavors are all there – sweet, malty, a bit of raisin, and perhaps even a bit of oak. The spiciness isn’t so much a flavor as it is a sensation on the tip of the tongue, but it definitely adds another dimension to the brew.

It’s very complex, completely engaging, and I would imagine that when I finally do pay more attention to my steeping parameters, it will be all the better for it. It’s very good, and I’d highly recommend it, though I think I may have to do a side-by-side comparison of this and the Dragonwater version to decide which company to order from. I don’t think there’s any doubt that the Rishi tea is fresher, and it’s only $1 more per ounce ($7) than the Dragonwater ($6).

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