I need a vacation

Orange You Glad I Broke My Pekoe in Portugal?

I looked out the window today and thought to myself, I need a f**king vacation. Okay, everyone thinks that at one time or another, and I guess my long spat of unemployment last year was “kind of” a vacation. What I mean, though, is an actual break from it all in another place other than my house…in my room…at my computer. The Internet is not a vacation

Over the last couple of years, I have been “seeeecretly” planning my dream vacation. If I ever won the lottery, or came into some mysterious form of capital, or ended up at the beckon call of a pudgy-geek-loving sugarmomma…no one would see me for at least a year. Funny thing is (but not entirely unexpected), all my vacation stops would focus on tea, or more to the point, tea-growing regions.

My first stops would be the growers in the U.S., because – well – it’s A-MURR-ican tea gash-durrrnit! First, Skagit Valley for a jaunt to the Sakuma Bros. farm. It’s close-ish to my stomping grounds, and I tried their white tea and loved it. Second, Charleston, South Carolina, and a stop off at the Bigelow-owned tea plantation there. Then it’s across the pond to Cornwall, Great Britain for a tour of the Tregothnan estate. After that, my next phase was to hit the Rize region of Turkey before trekking to Georgia…but that notion has changed a tad.

Blame Portugal.

I first learned of the Gorreana Estate through my contributions to the review blog – It’s All About the Leaf. It’s my third (or fourth?) home for all things leaf-related. They received several offerings from the Azores-located estate – both bagged and loose. A new growing region?! SOLD! I put in a request for their loose-leaf green and loose orange pekoe. Alas, I was tied with another reviewer for the request. The site administrator – great guy – divvied up the spoils. I got the bagged OP and the loose green – a Hysson. The other got the pekoe. In short, both were wonderful.

Yet my palate and curiosity were not quite sated. I still had it in mind to one day track down the loose-leaf version of their flagship pekoe. By a stroke of luck, fate, or just plain randomness, I didn’t have to wait that long. The reason?

If there’s something unique I haven’t tried yet – be it food or drink – I have a tendency to whine about it. Not just vocally in real life, I also take to social media and let my lament be known. In my Twitter whining (Twhining?), Gorreana caught wind of my desire and offered to send me some. Not just their regular Orange Pekoe, but their Broken Leaf black tea as well. My glee was most apparent.

My thoughts were thus:

Orange Pekoe

First off, I can say that this was one beautiful looking tea – just on the dry presentation. The leaves were long, rolled, and ranging from tippy gold to dark brown. It looked like an autumn flush Darjeeling, only more even. That and it had the most wonderful aroma – both sweet, slightly malty, and earthy. I treated it like a normal OP and brewed 1 tsp. in 8oz. of boiled water, steeped for two-and-a-half minutes.

The liquor brewed to a light crimson color – a tad darker than most spring pekoes, but just right for summer. The aroma was sweet, honey-like, with a vague woodiness on the back-whiff. On taste, there’s not much to say other than, “Wow!” It was creamy on the forefront, sweet and vaguely citrusy in the middle, and it tapered off with earthiness like a Yunnan Dian Hong. A second steep was a bit more astringent than the first, but still well beyond drinkable – maintaining that sweet sensation throughout.

Broken Leaf

Color-wise, the dry leaves looked just like the OP – gold, beige, brown, crimson (?) – but they were…well…broken. The only long pieces in the fray were the stems. I didn’t mind one bit because the aromatic character had also changed. Instead of a likeness to an autumn flush Darjeeling, the cut leaves imparted a Ceylon-ish experience. I whiffed a bit of malt, flowers, and citrus. Very spry and sharp.

Regardless of the smaller cut of the leaves, the liquor brewed much lighter than the regular OP – more amber, less crimson. That and the aroma was all sweetness and citrus. The taste echoed the citrus comparison even further with a hint of grapefruit and mandarin on the forefront, followed by a floral top note reminiscent of lemon verbena. Flavor tapered off eventually with a hint of dryness. Still, it was a very summery cup and made me think “Viva Portugal” more so than the flagship OP.

The result? My imaginary vacation has been detoured. After Tregothnan, I’m heading straight for the Azores. The real problem is whether or not I’d ever leave. I mean, it’s gorgeous, the tea is good, and…well…Turkey is really far. And I’m the sleepy sort. Which reminds me, it’s back to dreaming about my tea vacation again. Don’t wake me unless the house is on fire…or a Lotto girl is at the door.

To buy the Gorreana Estate Orange Pekoe, go HERE.

To buy the Gorreana Estate Broken Leaf, go HERE.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 Steep Stories No Comments

Missing the Forest for the Teas

Photo by Rick Gutleber

Photo by Rick Gutleber

Yet again, I journeyed to Hawaii. Okay, not literally but at least in tea form. I hope to get to those damn islands someday, but when your wallet’s a moth-colony, you have to settle on a cup of tropical tea instead. This marks the third Hawaiian-grown tea I’ve sampled. The first was a black tea that was wonderful, if unusual; the second was an oolong that lent well to a gaiwan/gongfu approach – loudly fruity, too. The existence of a Hawaiian-grown white, however, reached me a bit late.

Independent growers Eva Lee and Chiu Long of the Volcano Village estate grew tea plants at an elevation of 4,000ft., deep within the rainforest at the base of Mt. Kilauea. Both were also behind the big push for forming Hawaii’s first tea farming collective – The Hawaii Tea Society. While they offered four different types of tea, the Forest White was actually one they grew, dried and rolled themselves.

I saw rumblings about the Kilauea Forest White on Steepster. Many were singing its praises, but it wasn’t available for regular purchase. In the following months, I learned that KTeas – an internet-based “virtual tearoom” (as they call themselves) – had acquired some for sale. The titular “K” of that vendor op had a good eye for good tea and apparently scored some. Via Twitter, I “nudge-nudge-wink-wink”-ed about possibly reviewing it in the near-future.

Surprisingly, she remembered that nudge and – in no time at all – the Kilauea Forest White was in my possession. Yet another checkmark notched on my “Tea WANT!” list. (They’re falling like flies, I swear.)

The leaves for this were larger than most white teas I’ve beheld, ranging from light greens to dark purples in spectrum. It didn’t even smell like a white tea on first sniff, yielding an aroma of peppers, spice and charred earth. First impression, for me, would’ve been that this was a green tea – an unorthodox one at that.  However, the leaves did have the mandatory downy fur that embodied most quality whites.

Brewing instructions on the sample bag recommended 3g of leaves (roughly a teaspoon) per serving. I assumed that meant an 8oz cup. Also puzzling was how one could measure out a teaspoon when the leaves were so bloody large. What really confused me further was the brewing temperature they recommended – 208F.

Now, sometimes I’m a bit of a simpleton in the steeping department, but I know for a fact that white teas generally require a lighter steep. Sure, there are some that can take boiling water – Assam, Darjeeling, and Ceylon whites come to mind – but rule o’ thumb is to administer a light touch. That and this stuff was pricy; I didn’t have a lot of it, either. Screw up a brew, and that’s two dollars down the drain. Literally. The KTeas site mirrored the prep with a three-minute steep.

Oh well, I risked it.

Even with the boiling water and lengthier infusion, the liquor only brewed to a pale gold typical of white teas. The aroma echoed another American-borne white I had – the Sakuma Bros. Sun Dried White. It was equal parts sweet, buttery, and grapy. Like a Bai Mu Dan by way of a Bai Hao oolong. As for flavor, the first thing to note was the fruity kick; it channeled tropical fruit and basalt on “tongue”-down. The middle was where it kept some of its white tea trappings – the nuttiness, melony lean, and floral texture – while the finish tapered with pleasant grassiness and a creamy trail-off.

I dared a second infusion at an undetermined steep time. In the interim, I surfed the web for cat pictures that made me giggle…and nearly forgot about the tea. When I came back, the liquor had darkened to amber-gold with a mango-sweet aroma, which was weird. This time ‘round, the flavor started with a creamy texture laced with fruitiness, transitioning to a top note of sour citrus that faintly reminded me of…bergamot? Quite bizarre but awesome.

It lasted one more indeterminate, “faint fruit” infusion before fading. I’ve gotta hand it to the grower, this is one badass leaf. It can take a boiled beating and yield some fabulous results. Even more surprising was the level of caffeine. This is not your usual, fluttery, cup o’ wussy white. I made the mistake of sipping this at midnight and have the jitters to prove it. Tread lightly with this not-so-light white…but do enjoy. I  certainly did.

To purchase the KTeas Kilauea Forest White Tea, go HERE.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Friday, September 9th, 2011 Steep Stories No Comments

I work for tea money.

Calendar

November 2017
M T W T F S S
« Nov    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930