Until I was invited to a private tasting, hosted by Jo Johnson, of A Gift of Tea. During this tasting, the participants would sample 3 teas, (one black and 2 yellow teas), and discuss our thoughts. There was a 4th tea we would be able to sample on our own and provide notes to the group. All teas were provided by the highly esteemed Seven Cups, based in Tucson, Arizona.
A Tea Tasting is quite an event. But a long-distance Tea Tasting takes things to a whole new level! Our international group met via Google Hangout and included our host, Jo (New York), Nicole Martin of Tea For Me Please (New Jersey), Geoffrey Norman of Steep Stories of the Lazy Literatus (Oregon), Rachel Carter of iHeartTeas (Illinois), Robert Godden of The Devotea (Adelaide, Australia), Linda Gaylard of The Tea Stylist (Toronto, Canada), Sara Shacket of Tea Happiness (New York), Darlene Meyers-Perry of The Tea Enthusiast's Scrapbook (New Jersey), and Nicole Schwartz of The Devotea USA (Virginia).
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Yellow tea is a highly specialized tea, requiring lots of time to process. It is so specialized and complicated, that there are only 3 regions in China that still hone the skills to craft this unique tea. A lightly oxidized tea, it is said to create a lot of digestive enzymes, making it gentler on the stomach than green tea.
Seven Cups is one of the few American tea retailers who sells true Yellow Teas, and we were fortunate enough to taste two of the three they have available.
The first yellow tea was Meng Ding. The dry leaves are flat and light green. They resemble pine needles but smell like hay. Add hot water and suddenly the scent changes to asparagus and artichoke. Then it was time for my first sip. The green vegetable scents translated into the taste, and I realized this tea had an interesting influence of both green and oolong teas, though leaning more toward the green tea. I liked that the leaves can be steeped several times, and with each steeping, the flavor changes subtly.
The second was Mo Gan Huang Ya. These dry leaves smelled more grassy, with a hint of toasted almond. And then the big surprise: the steeped leaves gave of a lightly vanilla-grass aroma, and the first sip? Lightly creamy with some faintly toasted notes of rice or almonds. A cousin, perhaps, of Milk Oolong, which is one of my favorites. I fell in love with this one instantly.
The teas were lovely (thank you Austin Hodge for providing the teas for this tasting!), and the gathering of friends was fantastic. I got to glimpse a snippet of everyone's homes and lives, and enjoy their senses of humor in real-time. Discussions wandered from bears to electric blankets to chocolates to children's nighttime routines, to local farmer's markets. We got to say hello to Robert's lovely wife, wave goodnight to Rachel's son, enjoy background banter of everyone's "real" lives, and raise our handcrafted snails in their artist's honor (Thank you, Jo).
Want to read more about our Tandem Tea Tasting?