Today it's my pleasure to introduce a very special tea we've recently begun serving at the store. Jeannie purchased this Chinese black tea at the end of 2007--three years ago! Until now it's sat sealed in a faraway corner of Miro's storage. Jeannie recently remembered the tea and upon trying some was pleasantly surprised. Not only had the quality of the tea not degraded during its storage, the astringency had mellowed considerably and the tea was actually much more pleasant to drink than it had been three years ago!
Unfortunately because of the time that's elapsed we know little about this tea other than the fact that it's a high-grade Chinese black--the large bags it was stored in have only generic tea labels and the words "Special Grade" handwritten by our wholesaler. So, in absence of a more accurate name, we're calling it "China Vintage Special." I recently took the opportunity to give this tea a try and was quite pleasantly surprised. I don't drink a lot of black tea but always appreciate a complex tea no matter what genre it belongs to. As you can see above, this tea's leaves are quite long and though there are some golden buds present, it's nowhere near as tippy as our Yunnan Gold Fancy.
When you see this tea in the cup, it's easy to understand why the Chinese call black tea "red" tea; they're going off of the liquor color not the dry leaf color! Indeed, this tea is a deep amber red with a nice surface sheen but great clarity, to be expected from the leaf profile. The word that kept ringing in my head while tasting this tea was "clean;" there certainly is no excessive astringency, nor is there any muddiness or harshness of flavor that can often plague cheap black tea. The flavor is a balanced mix of both high, sweet notes and a lower, maltier, medium-bodied base. Compared with our other Chinese blacks, this tea's certainly unique. The range of flavor and mouth sensation is much wider than that of our bassy Keemun; compared with Yunnan Gold, it's a bit drier, less pungently sweet, and purer. Additionally, there's a definite vibrant energy to this tea's mouthfeel and finish that really reminded me of the experience of drinking fresh Chinese green tea.
Because it's been aged a couple of years, I recommend brewing this tea just a little bit stronger to reawaken its complexity. As shown above, the leaves don't open fully even after a full steeping--a sign that this tea will actually be good for a few tries or maybe even steeped gong fu style. Stop by and try this special tea soon--we've only got a limited quantity and it's already proven popular with our more discriminating black tea drinkers!