Aged Margaret’s Hope Darjeeling

A few years ago, Mr. Rajiv Lochan of Lochan Tea sent me a few really big bags of samples.  I’ve had some in the intervening years, but never quite finished any of them despite my best attempt, mostly because I don’t drink black tea very often.   Since I’m on the road today, I pulled out the bag labeled Margaret’s Hope Black Tea, and had it grandpa style.  The tea, I must say, has aged very gracefully in the four years that it’s been under my possession.  I’ve always known that blacks often taste fuller with age, at least in the first year or two, but this tea, drunk in this way, was just really, really nice.  Long gone are the aggressive notes that you get with Darjeeling — that bitter bite that comes with the territory of drinking Darjeelings grandpa style is not to be found.  Instead, a very welcoming sweetness pervades the tea, coats the mouth, and slides down the throat.  The sweetness is not too different from the type of taste you get from a good, somewhat (but not very) aged puerh — a 5-7 years tea that’s turning the corner.  You can still taste the typical Darjeeling scent underneath, but this is much better than, say, a young 2nd flush.

This makes me wonder if I should stock up on some Darjeelings and just let them age.  Might not be a bad idea, actually.

Black tea headache

I had some keemun yesterday in a mug. Nothing harmful, I thought, but at the end of that, I could start to feel a little of that same headache creeping in. It was not yet a major concern, nor the rather annoying headache that I’ve had recently after drinking blacks, but nonetheless… it’s there.

It’s a strange thing. I’ve never had a problem like this before, where drinking one type of tea leads to a headache. I deliberately used less leaves than usual and maybe that’s what allowed me to avoid a full on headache, but the mere presence of it is disturbing, to say the least.

Then I drank some of my aged baozhong, which always serve me well in a pinch….and no problems.

What could black tea have that causes this? Pesticide?

Headache…

It’s odd. I had some Yunnan gold today, and a slight headache showed up a little after I drank the stuff.

That is, in and of itself, not too interesting. Afterall, there are lots of things that can cause a headache. What’s odd is that I normally don’t have headaches, and I noticed that last time when I drank a bunch of black teas (i.e. when I was drinking those Keemuns) I was suffering from headaches during the day.

I have no good explanation for it, except that they seem to be correlated — and drinking those teas seem to precede the headache. Too much caffeine too quickly? Too concentrated a dose? Something else?

Caffeine overdose

I’ve had caffeine overdose exactly once in my life. I remember it was early in my college years, and I was staying up writing some paper. I had some rather nasty jasmine pearls, and…. well, long story short, I woke up in the middle of the night and my legs were shaking uncontrollably.

These days when I drink too much tea, I know, because my heart starts feeling like it’s pounding and I feel as though I want to throw up. It’s not a pleasant feeling, and nothing will really get rid of it. It doesn’t usually happen when I brew tea myself, but sometimes when I go out, it happens. I had to go out and get some things done today, and had two cups of tea while out. The first one was fine — a keemun that was fairly tasty, but not too interesting either way. The second, however, was a killer. It was one of those places that put loose leaves into the paper filter bag, and then brew in a paper cup for you to go. Nothing’s wrong with that, except that he must’ve put about 10g of tea (darjeeling) into a cup that’s about 100ml.

Needless to say, after that cup (and I wisely took it out after realizing, 30 seconds in, that it’s too much tea) I was rather buzzed. The uncomfortable feeling showed up, and I spent the next three hours shaking it off.

I hope that guy wasn’t paid to try to kill me.

Aged darjeeling

I have, with me, a 10 years old tin of Darjeeling

I bought this quite some years ago in New York city, some first flush stuff that I never really drank much of. I carried it with me to many places, and after numerous moves (and multiple times considering whether or not to throw it away) it is still there

Having had some fresh first flush recently from Lochan tea, I can say that the muscatel from this aged darjeeling is much more subdued. There’s a different character that shows up early in the cup — some form of sweetness. The tea is still bitter if you overbrew it, but there’s less of a bite and a little more rounded, I think, than fresh stuff. It’s not quite as aromatic, and will certainly taste a little strange to someone expecting the usual. I do wonder though… are these things ageable?

Keemun from Taiwan

I drank the same tea two days in a row, a rarity for me. The reason is because I completely misjudged the amount of tea I should use in such a small pot for blacks, so I ended up with too much tea (and not enough water). So eventually, I just dumped the leaves out into a mug and drank it that way yesterday.

The tea in question is a Keemun I got in Taiwan. No, it’s not a Taiwanese Keemun… just sold in Taiwan.

Keemun, like Lapsang and a few other blacks from China, are generally better grade when the leaves get smaller. I remember, almost two years ago, I tried two Lapsang from the same guy but of slightly different grades. The difference between the two was subtle but very present. The differences in price for higher grades of black usually isn’t that much more than the lower ones, and since I drink this stuff only very occasionally, I figured it’s a good investment.

I like Keemuns because they are sweet. I think brewing them English style is a complete waste of tea and time — Indian blacks are probably better for that purpose. Using a gaiwan might work best. I am using a yixing pot simply as a way to experiment. It doesn’t work terribly well with the small leaves — the pot gets clogged. I should actually find one of my gaiwans and brew the same tea (again!) in it and see what happens.

Rishi Yunnan Gold

It’s annoying when your camera runs out of battery when you’re about to upload pictures and then go to bed.

Anyway, yesterday I drank some more Yunnan Gold, this one from Rishi. I bought this at least 3 years ago, in one of those little overpriced tins from Whole Foods. Impulse purchase, you can say

The leaves here are a bit more broken, no doubt due in part to the fact that I have used the leaves quite a few times and that this is more of a bottom of the pile than a fresh tin. Otherwise, looks rather similar to the Adagio stuff.

The colour of the tea also brewed a little darker

Again, possibly a result of the more broken leaves, and perhaps, just perhaps, a little to do with the fact that it’s been aged a few years. Since black teas do not go through kill green, I’d imagine something is still working to change the tea, somehow. If oolongs can age, surely so can blacks.

The tea’s smooth, round, a little more bitter, but that might just be my brewing, and all in all not a bad cup. Costs too much, but that’s another problem entirely. I know Yunnan Gold seems to be a fan favourite among Western tea drinkers, although I personally prefer the sweeter Keemun. Come to think of it, maybe I should drink some of my stash today…

Adagio Yunnan Gold

I decided to start brewing some of my black teas gongfu style. So far I usually drink this stuff as is in the grandfather way — some leaves in a big mug and continuous refilling with hot water as necessary. But since these things are usually referred to as “gongfu hongcha”, why should I not do it the proper way?

The first up is what I used as wedding favours… Adagio’s Yunnan Gold

Clean, sweet, with a slight undertone of bitterness, full bodied. Not a bad tea, I think, although without comparison given the fact that I’m using a new (for me) pot and all, I don’t want to say too much about it yet.

All look same

Mr. Lochan sent me quite a few samples. I only went through two. Today I thought I’d pick up the third one.

One thing about Darjeelings, at least first flush, high grade darjeelings, is that they all look sort of the same

Which really makes me think… can the average buyer of darjeeling tell them apart, if tasted blind — especially with English brewing methods? This is a good tea, with all the right notes for a darjeeling. However, I can’t quite remember how this might or might not be different from the other ones I’ve had so far. Perhaps they’re from the same estate, so the taste is only minimally different — since there are no names, I can’t tell for sure. Or, maybe because I’m brewing it in an approximation of English style…. the differences aren’t as obvious. I wonder if I should switch to a small pot to make these things.