Friday, November 6, 2015

A Tandem Tea Tasting of Yellow Teas

Yellow teas have always seemed a bit mysterious to me. They're not green teas, and they're not oolongs. They are a bit difficult to find, and the processing is a bit complicated. I hate to admit it, but it's just not a type of tea I've ever gotten around to tasting before. I was recently invited to an online tandem tea tasting of yellow teas, and I knew I had to participate. My introverted side tried to persuade me against it. But I knew I'd enjoy chatting with tea people, and I successfully ignored her nagging voice.

The tasting was organized by Jo J, and consisted of teas from Seven Cups. I don't have much experience with the company so I was excited to try a few of their teas. Yellow teas are lightly oxidized, which makes them a bit different from green tea. The tea is allowed to oxidize slowly to give the leaves a more yellow appearance. It is difficult to process and harder to find. The processing is supposed to tone down some of that vegetal green tea flavor. A week or so before the tasting I started to feel a little like the shy girl in high school- the whole group is already friendly and I was the 'new girl'. But I was looking forward to seeing some old tea friends face to face, and meet new ones.

I had to join the tasting late, since my husband was away and I had to get the kids to bed. Of course the bedtime routine took longer than usual ('one more book!' 'wait, wait, I have a question for you, mommy!'). Finally I joined the group that consisted of Jo, Nicole Martin, Jen Piccotti, Robert Godden, Geoffrey Norman, Rachel Carter, Darlene Meyers-Perry, and Nicole Schwartz. We were later joined by Linda Gaylard. What an amazing group! By the time I joined, the first tea had been steeped, and they were in the middle of the second.

I quickly started up my kettle and filled my gaiwan with Meng Ding. The scent had cooked vegetable and something...perfume-like and floral.  It was similar to green tea but also had floral oolong notes. The taste was mellow, vegetal, yet...soapy? I was having a cilantro moment- any time I try cilantro it tastes like something I'd wash my hands with. Thankfully Robert Godden mentioned this soapy taste. After a bit of discussion we decided that the soapy flavor could be caused by using too much leaf. It's certainly possible because I quickly filled my gaiwan and probably steeped it a touch too long.

After a few sips of tea my son decided to pay me a visit and announce that he had a bathroom need. well timed, as usual. So I had to leave the discussion for awhile. When I returned we were well into the second yellow tea, Mo Gan Huang Ya. So again I quickly prepared my tea and took a sip. I enjoyed this the more than the Meng Ding. It was much mellower, and I didn't get that soapy taste. It had an interesting soft, almost creamy mouthfeel. It was still slightly vegetal with muted floral notes. I wanted to re-steep this tea a few times, but it was getting quite late and I already have insomnia issues. So I resisted temptation.

In between the tea insights, the chatter drifted towards Star Wars. Ok, this made me feel at ease. These folks all like Star Wars? These are definitely people I can relate to. We chatted about blogging a bit, and then I knew it was time for me to make my exit. It was wonderful to sip with folks that are as enthusiastic about tea as I am.

Thank you to Jo for organizing this tasting! I look forward to attending another.

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