09 November 2010

2010 Autumn Yong De Cha Hua "Tea Flowers"

I haven't had much opportunity to buy tea lately. I bought perhaps three dozen samples of young sheng pu'er some time back hoping to drink through them, find good aging candidates (at least, by my standards), and buy in bulk.

While I found a few winners, I found myself without money to buy them before they became too expensive to merit bulk purchase. And now, I have three dozen half samples to add to my jar of "shake".

But, I have been regularly drinking through shu pu'er. Having drunk through 90% of my last two bricks of shu cha tou--those little nuggets left over at the bottom of the pu'er compost heap--I ached for variety. And variety I bought:
Shu pu purchase 2010
7452 and 7562, two of my favorite Menghai recipes. Lancang (Simao) 0081 and Tulin (Lincang "border tea") were recommendations of Scott of Yunnan Sourcing. Normally I don't venture far from Menghai, but one risks becoming too boring when consuming only one brand. Drinking only Menghai is the pu'er equivalent of wearing only Giorgio Armani: it's classic, always well made, but after a while your friends think you predictable and maybe a tad snooty.

More on those teas later--much later if my recent posting frequency is any indication.

This post actually treats with a tisane I have come to adore: tea flowers. No, not the little balls of green tea with globe amaranth, notoginseng, and strands of jasmine flowers tied into ornate shapes by the tortured hands and strained eyes of Chinese girls: these reproductive organs of the tea camellia require no more than picking and drying to blossom into a beautiful product.

In my conversations with Scott online, I requested he find me some fresh tea flowers. I drink these pearl colored gems at night because they have insignificant caffeine content--if any--and help me sleep. After running out of some 2006 vintage, I had to dig deeper into some 2003 vintage, and although they still did the job, their taste had morphed into something like "tastes the way dry sycamore leaves smell", and not in the good "earthy pu'er" way.

Scott replied that he had found some 2010 autumn flowers from Yong De county in Lincang prefecture.
2010 Autumn Yong De Cha Hua 2
You can't tell from the photo above, but these flowers are so fresh, they yet hold enough moisture to bend when touched. Their color is another fine indicator: compare to this less fresh, golden brown-yellow bud of a previous post.

They taste most like honey (appropriately for a source of honey!) with a bit of orange zest. Light, crisp, subtle, never going bitter and delightfully free of mouth-drying tannin.
2010 Autumn Yong De Cha Hua 3
And here I sit, drunk on tea flowers, half sleepy, wondering how I'll stay awake until my proper bedtime.

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