Steep Stories

of the Lazy Literatus

Month: October 2015

A Mellow Yellow Tea Tasting

Most people cultivate a close group of friends – those that share common interests, or that they feel most comfortable being around. One of the unfortunate drawbacks to being a tea blogger is . . . most people within my close-knit group reside in several different locations across the country. Or outside the country. As a result, I only see them once a year at World Tea Expo. The only way we have to combat this is Google Hangout.

Yes, Google Hangout: The tool used by hermits everywhere to pretend at being social. That and for business meetings . . . conducted by hermits. As you can tell, I positively adore Google Hangout. But I am also a self-professed hermit.

Many moons (and Moonlight teas) had passed since my group last had a “Tandem Tea Tasting” event. Jo “A Gift of Tea/Scandalous Tea” Johnson finally chose to rectify this absence by scheduling one. Months in advance.

A Gift of Tea

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What Makes a Moonlight Tea?

What makes a tea a “Moonlight” tea?

It’s a question I’ve asked myself several times over the last six years, and the one answer I’ve always returned to is, “I don’t care as long as it tastes good. “ But perhaps that was foolhardy. I originally assumed that when the name “Moonlight” was applied to a tea – particularly those from China – it was just for the namesake. Yunnan province’s Moonlight is called so because . . . well . . . that is the name. “Yue Guang Bai” translates to “Moonlight White”. Sure, it was also considered a style of white tea, but one that was only regionally specific. Because of this, I also thought that the same was true for Darjeeling.

I can name at least seven Darjeeling teas that have “moon” in their names. Glenburn Moonshine, Arya Moonbeam, Thurbo Moonlight, and – my favorite – Castleton Moonlight, to name just a few. Then a tea luminary I admired, Rajiv Lochan, blew my mind when he gave me this little tidbit of information. Moonlight wasn’t just a name for these Darjeeling teas; it was also a technique!

mind blown

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Moonlight Tea Fight!

Back in May – as all two of you readers may already know – I attended my third World Tea Expo. The Finest Brew’s booth was easily a tea blogger favorite. The company was run by two Sri Lankan borthers, and they possessed some weird things I’d never seen before. They had no problem showing off their weird wares to us.

The Finest Brew booth

Before leaving the Expo, they made it a point to gift me with two unique white teas. Both were made in the same style – that of Yue Guang Bai (Moonlight White), a white tea from Yunnan province, China. The kicker though? Only one of them was from Yunnan. Yiwu Mountain, to be precise.

Yiwu - Tea Urchin

Image credit: Tea Urchin

The other was produced on a small plot of land on the New Vithanande tea estate in southern Sri Lanka (Ceylon).

Image credit: Discovering Tea

Image credit: DiscoveringTea.com

What was even weirder; both teas were produced using the same cultivated variety of tea plant – a so-called “purple leaf” cultivar of assamica. The only differences between the two white teas was their terroir and age. The Yunnan-produced stuff was crafted in 2011, whereas the Sri Lankan batch was harvested in 2014. It was only a matter of time before I subject them both to a side-by-side . . . tea fight.

side by side leaves

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Colombian Grown . . . Tea?

I hate to admit it, but I know very little about Columbia Colombia. Even how to spell it right, apparently. As a good Colombian tea blogger colleague of mine (Ricardo Caicedo) informed me, it’s “Colombia” – with an “O”. Not to be confused with a certain district in the U.S. . . . where the federal government resides.

The only knowledge I had about Colombia stemmed from media sourced stereotypes.

I knew about the coffee.

colubmian coffee guy

And . . . uh . . . other infamous exports.

Pablo Escobar

That’s it.

So, as one can imagine, my very myopic paradigm was completely shifted at this year’s World Tea Expo when I found a certain booth by accident. One put on by an outfit representing a tea grower in Colombia.

tea leaf

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Texans and Tong Mu

Let’s start with a simple introduction for the rookies: Lapsang Souchong is a pinewood (or pine needle)-smoked black tea, originally hailing from Fujian province, China. I’ve waxed manly-melodic about Lapsang Souchong (originally known as Zhen Shan Xiao Zhong) on two different blogs. Several, several times. And I’ve even paid homage to the li’l UNESCO protected village that created the smoky brew – Tong Mu. In more recent years, I also lamented that said village cut back its production of it in favor of a more profitable product; Jin Jun Mei.

That all said – even with the rarity of running into the true single origin smoky stuff – I’ve managed to do just that. On two different occasions. What’s even funnier is that I found the really rare Tong Mu produced stuff from two vendors . . . in the same state.

Texas.

texas

What. Are. The odds?

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Tea Presence from Across the Pond

I think I mentioned a certain British girl I used to work with on this blog before. Okay, make that twice. Alright . . . technically, it was three times, if you count a guest blog for Lochan Tea. Point being, she was one of my favorite highlights of 2014. A person to pal around tea places with. Alas, in December of that year, she moved back to England. We agreed to keep in touch, but – as with most long-distance friendships – I assumed contact would grow scarce.

I was wrong.

While long-winded missives were a scarcity between the both of us, there was just enough contact to keep things current. It started off with messages back and forth, regaling the remains of the week. But then the penpal-ing took an interesting turn.

One morning – while arriving to work in my usual blurry-eyed, pre-caffeinated state – one of the supervisors said to me, “There’s a present for you on the desk.”

Odd, I thought. I didn’t do anything to deserve a gift.

Then my eyes met the gift itself.

Tregothnan

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Bitter Gourd Oolong for a Bitter Day

Everything that could go wrong this morning – did.

The original plan for today was to be up by 6AM, showered and clothed by 6:30AM, and gassed up and ready to go by 7AM. The destination? Northwest Tea Festival in Seattle. It was the first tea festival I ever attended (back in 2012), and I meant to go again. But every single time, something got in the way. In 2013, it was a financial hiccup . . . until the day of. In 2014, I completely spaced the week it was happening. As for 2015?

Sit back a moment.

audience

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