Here is an article from the Durango Herald on the Pee Pee Boy Pee-Off we held for SnowDown. Enjoy!
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A Walk in the Clouds -White Tea
I’m always excited to sit down and try a beautiful white tea. There is a an element of apprehension with white teas – will I be able to pick up on the different flavors? As I’ve written before, white teas are elusive and play hide-and-seek with their characteristics.
The raw leaf has the beautiful pale green color to the first flush leaves. The scent of the leaf itself has a barely discernible tea element.. This is the same when it is steeped – very delicate, and hard to get what is coming next. The tea liquor itself has a pale yellow.
However on the palate, this is a very different tea. It is surprisingly full-bodied on the mouth. The tannins are sweet, very sweet on the edges of the tongue with a slight toasted rice quality. The mouth feel is soft, like a camomile tea. But throughout there are layers of floral and herbal notes that echo back and forth on the sweet finish. Like the complex polyphony of scents in an English garden.
This is one of the best white teas I have tasted. It has an elegance and a fullness at the same time. It is beautiful and complex and certainly something quite special. A walk in the clouds!
Not even a tea technically, but from an herbaceous vine from southern China. This is a rare delight.
Dark twirled leaves like segments of ancient DNA. The unsteeped leaf is dark green, pungent and quite earthy. Steeped the color is light greenish-yellow.
The nose has a dark creek or seaweed like quality with a dark herbal quality. Primordial swamp notes!
These flavors continues on the palette, but this is when the magic begins. The brackish tones change to sweet sweet tannins. The contrasts between these two strong elements presents quite a tea. Dark and bright together – in art we would say chiaroscuro. There is a certain Manichean dichotomy to this tea, but with a Chinese twist. It ends on soaring sweet notes.
As a teenager in San Francisco, I used to love to go down to the Chinese markets and sample the various foodstuffs and delicacies. But to a western palette, sometimes these Chinese flavor profiles were downright strange juxtapositions of ingredients, textures and tastes. Having lived in France when I was younger, it seemed as if all the rules of European cuisine were inverted in Asia.
This tea feels this way. Prepare for an unusual combination of tastes and your mind will expand to encompass a greater range of human experiences.
Speaking of a greater range of experiences…
The most beautiful “tea”’ I an think of – it consists of tiny rose buds! Like a flower bouquet in the glass.
I cannot type these words without imagining Orson Welles mouthing Rosebud in my ear, or hearing Gertude Stein’s a rose is… well you know the rest, (which by the way, comes from her poem “Sacred Emily”. If you look it up also look up my favorite Stein poem - her piece on Picasso “If I Told Him”).
Steeped this tea is beautiful and sweet, with delicate scent of roses coming up from the pale yellow liquid. On the palette this tea starts out with just a hint of roses, then it blooms in your mouth. Beyond the rose flavor, there is a slight buttered, or ghee-like oily quality with an undertone of celery roots.
This tea is never overpowering like an elderly aunt’s rose perfume. But rather is rich, complex and full of the stuff that makes life so very interesting.
White Dragon Caravan
Leaves small and tight, spice box and dried herb nose. Liquor is burnished gold.
Floral and sage on the nose, elegant and exquisite.
A light attack on the palette, round and full with well integrated tannins. This tea is earthy, floral, woodsy, with a resinous tree-sap like quality.
This tea reminded me of something ancient and wise. As a boy I would wander around my grandparents village in France looking for the evidence of ancient civilizations. Above the village there were these limestone cliffs where I hoped to find roman coins. Instead I found many fossils of seashells and the evidence that this had all once been under a great ocean.
This tea reminds me of that search.
Leaves are larger and not tightly curled, with golden tips among the black. The unsteeped leaf smells of dark chocolate.
Deep dark gold color.
The nose has a chocolaty malted sweetness that reminds me a little of the boiling wort of beer brewing, where a malted sweetness hangs in the air. There is also an element of green tones that reminds me of a hops in beer.
On the palate, the malted and barrel wood notes continue and at times I felt as if I were enjoying a single-malt scotch. There are dark and rich tones, as well as a rounded sweet finish that lingers on and on.
So there you have it – I was reminded of beer brewing, single-malt scotch, traditional Mexican hot chocolate as well as Honduran cigars with a dark Maduro wrapper!
High Mountain Keemun
Dark, tightly wound leaves. Dry leaves have a lightly smoked tannic woodsy quality with a hint of hot chocolate. Beautiful, light Keemun nose on the tea that has smoked chocolate elements. Color is a burnished gold.
On the palette – confirmation of the high-tones that stands in marked contrast to the Golden Monkey’s low, dark notes. This tea has sharp clean tannins and a sweet toasted finish.
I have always loved Keemuns for this light, elegant and sophisticated quality. There is a purity of tone in this tea that is not overly opulent. I detect clean and well-delineated lines. In classical music this would be David Oistrakh playing the violin. In fashion this would be 1950s Christian Dior.
Leaves are large, dark and twisted. The nose of the dried leaf is reminiscent of toasted, dried flowers. This tea immediately reminds me of a old apothecary shop, with a mysterious (apologies to Edward Said) Orientalism.
The steeped tea has a perfumed nose – part pecan and part chocolate. Light and delicate on the palette, easy tannins and a grassy sweet finish.
Associations with this tea are of trees and nuts. California Live Oak trees on rolling hillsides of brown grass. I thought of the lazy days of summer where your mind is allowed to wander. Life feels easy with this tea. It doesn’t challenge you, but is always willing to delight.
Earl Grey Lavender
Leaves curled with a beautiful blue lavender flecks. The dried leaf has a beautiful bergamot orange smell that is bright and joyful.
The tea liquor has a rich golden color. The nose is surprisingly nuanced after the strong smell of the unsteeped leaf. The tone is perfumed with relaxing lavender and citrus bergamot notes. On the palette this tea opens with sweet citrus-floral elements as soon as it contacts the tongue. The mid-palette is round and pleasing, and the tea finishes with a sophisticated and layered flavor profile. This tea stands in marked contrast to supermarket Earl Grey’s that are just tannic black tea mixed with Bergamot flavor. Although, this tea is a quintessentially Victorian-era creation, it has the romanticism of the Raj, and of the far-off opium wars being discussed in tea rooms in hushed, but polite tones.
A broad leaf, dark and smokey. Honey colored when steeped.
On the nose – a toasted quality, rice and nuts, perhaps almond? and a darker floral orchid note.
On the mouth, this is a very light and easy tea with a light roasted, honey quality, smooth tannins and a warm rich finish.
This is a light-toned tea for a good conversation with a friend. True to its name, I kept wondering how this would taste with Baklava.
Leaves are dark and smallish, tightly wound with some golden buds interspersed. Not much of a smell to the leaves themselves.
The steeped color is golden with strong reddish tones. The nose is very reserved and it was hard to pick out individual notes. There was a slight toasted quality that was light on the palette as well. It had good tannins, a reserved mid-palette and a tannic sweetness on the finish.
There was a musty element to this tea that reminded me of old leather, club chairs and books. These masculine tones continued. The tea is strong and reserved, woody, nutty, with some musky animal tones – safari like.
High Mountain Lady Slipper – 1st flush Darjeeling
Leaves green to downy white, with the beautiful first flush of spring. The leaves had a greenish powdery quality when smelled.
Color of the liquor is light, whitish toned.
Super delicate nose, restrained and focused. This tea also has floral, carnation notes with hints of almonds.
On the palette it has a slight cereal or grain element in addition to the floral and nutty tones. The tannins are so very light and lead to a sweet finish.
This is one amazing tea that kept reminding me of the honey-like quality of a classic Sauterne dessert wine. The tea had many of the qualities of botrytized wine, the famous “noble rot” that gives so many levels of flavor. Chateau d’Yquem anyone?
Dark tight leaves with some lighter buds and leaves. Darker color to the steeped liquor. Woodsy, earthy, with a musky, animal quality on the nose. Mid-to-heavier bodied in the mouth with deeper, complex notes, but certainly a confirmation of all those earthy qualities on the nose. Along the spectrum of the flavor profile of tea, this falls distinctly in the masculine camp with leather, dried grass and tobacco notes.
Dark black to purplish leaves that smell distinctly smokey and earthy. The liquor is dark-hued. On the nose this tea is lovely, with some smokiness, but not overdone. The lower notes have the smell of wood cabinetry with some sweet dried leaves. The higher notes are more floral giving one a sense of the complexity of this tea.
Full-bodied and rich on the palette, but not overly heavy. This tea is an aristocratic Lapsang Souchang with each earthy to floral note beautifully defined. The tannins are silky and the finish is well layered with a secondary revisiting of elements of the tea.
I have always been a fan of Lapsang Souchang and it’s deep smokey character for the same reason that I have liked the heavy peat-smoked qualities of the single-malt scotches of Islay such as Laphroaig and Lagavulin. However, this Lapsang is different. Rather than being too heavy to the point of being cloying, this Lapsang is graceful and refined. It still has the classic smokey element, but in a much more reserved and muted style. It is still rich and powerful, but not over-the-top. If you are a Lapsang fan, I highly recommend that you give this one a try.