Reviewing Yunnan and Russian black tea, and a gaba version

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John_B
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Sat Oct 03, 2020 3:52 am

Ordinarily I don't mention reviews here but this did cover two novel versions, the first Russian black tea that I've tried, and the second gaba black tea. The first gaba black tea was pretty good, a version of Ruby / Red Jade from Taiwan. That distinctive mintiness / eucalyptus range was subdued but it wasn't sour, as the oolongs tend to be, with this version not sour either.

The Yunnan wild-origin black tea was nice, just a bit tart in relation to my main preference, but then it evolved away from that across infusions. The Krasnodar Russian black tea was really nice, quite complex, shifting a lot in character across transitions, but staying positive throughout, clean and balanced. The gaba black version lacked the complexity of the other two but the range it covered was nice, cherry and floral cherry-blossom range over a base of cured hay or mild wood tone.

The post talks a lot about variations of main themes in styles, and how different people would relate to flavors like tartness and sourness differently (with a lot less sourness present in this gaba than in oolong versions I've tried).

There are pros and cons to doing comparisons, and in the case of unfamiliar tea range it can help place them. On the negative side it can be too much to describe or read about, and description of feel and aftertaste aspects tend to drop out, with more focus on flavor. For black teas there's less trade-off to that.

http://teaintheancientworld.blogspot.co ... k-and.html
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Victoria
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Sat Oct 03, 2020 1:55 pm

Interesting, is the tea also grown in Krasnodar, Russia, or just processed there? I see it is southern Russia, adjacent to Georgia, near the Black Sea so temperatures range from 25°F to 87°F. Sourness is not a quality I look for in tea, especial with oolong it’s a sign that too much humidity is in the leaf. Possibly, with a black tea it might be interesting, hard to know without sampling it.
Ethan Kurland
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Sat Oct 03, 2020 5:14 pm

Victoria wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 1:55 pm
Sourness is not a quality I look for in tea, ....with oolong it’s a sign that too much humidity is in the leaf. Possibly, with a black tea it might be interesting, hard to know without sampling it.
Victoria, I've written recently about disliking sourness but liking tartness. John B. discusses tartness versus sourness in his blogs. It is challenging to differentiate them & to understand how someone might dislike one but like the other.

(I haven't been thinking about how undesired sourness develops but have associated it with foulness, as if something went between leaves being harvested & being steeped.)

John B. thanks for giving us some more interesting posts. By not always reviewing or testing teas the same way, you make the job more difficult for yourself perhaps; however, it lets you keep to your labor of love. I hope we can get together again while I am still "young" enough to tolerate cheap travel & rooms. Would love to see you & taste Krasna... Black tea.. We will see when normal tourists can return to Thailand.

By the way, I am not trying to be nasty in saying this, but I thought Monsoon Tea would not survive this long. Glad to hear Kenneth is hanging in there.
polezaivsani
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Sun Oct 04, 2020 1:31 am

Victoria wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 1:55 pm
Interesting, is the tea also grown in Krasnodar, Russia, or just processed there?
Don't know about that one for sure but suppose so, since they do grow tea over there.
John_B
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Sun Oct 04, 2020 9:22 pm

Victoria wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 1:55 pm
Interesting, is the tea also grown in Krasnodar, Russia, or just processed there? I see it is southern Russia, adjacent to Georgia, near the Black Sea so temperatures range from 25°F to 87°F. Sourness is not a quality I look for in tea, especial with oolong it’s a sign that too much humidity is in the leaf. Possibly, with a black tea it might be interesting, hard to know without sampling it.
That's exactly where I've started related to experiencing sourness in "wild" tea versions, and I've not moved too far past it, but I am more open to it now. I'll go on at length about the exposure, since that's what I do. Sourness is a sign that a tea has been stored too humid, the most common form one would encounter. But it seems clear that some "wild" cultivars are also naturally sour.

I had trouble really appreciating Monsoon's "wild" teas (a Thai producer) because of that. Of course I was also suspicious that it could've just been a processing flaw. I've ran across two other very differently sourced wild versions that were nearly identical, offsetting some of that likelihood. A sample of a wild Xiaguan aged sheng (from 2005 or 6) from a Liquid Proust set had a similar flavor. A sheng cake made from wild Thai trees by a Chinatown shop contact, with processing history from having close family in China, was even more sour, and more odd. I bought a second cake of that tea anyway, in order to keep experiencing it as it ages, and to have one to drink later (it was from from 2012).

The sourness couples with a distinctive flavor range that's just as close to some sort of tisane as to typical tea. Per Kenneth of Monsoon they had their tea plants tested and they are really Assamica, but he guesses that there was some genetic drift over time related to contact with other Camellia Sinensis plant versions.

The Krasnodar tea is from that area in Russia. I don't know much about that area, just a bit about Russian tea history. Of course tea is better known from the Sochi area, which I would expect is in the same region, but I didn't get around to confirming that. Per that vendor the quality of tea from that area is still ramping up to meet expectations related to other types and source area expectations. That kind of thing can come up even in an area with a very long tea history, as is true of Indonesia, although it would've been more true 5 years ago when that process was just getting started there.
John_B
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Sun Oct 04, 2020 9:29 pm

Ethan Kurland wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 5:14 pm

...John B. thanks for giving us some more interesting posts. By not always reviewing or testing teas the same way, you make the job more difficult for yourself perhaps; however, it lets you keep to your labor of love. I hope we can get together again while I am still "young" enough to tolerate cheap travel & rooms. Would love to see you & taste Krasna... Black tea.. We will see when normal tourists can return to Thailand.

By the way, I am not trying to be nasty in saying this, but I thought Monsoon Tea would not survive this long. Glad to hear Kenneth is hanging in there.
Thailand won't be open for tourism as usual until the second half of 2021, I'd expect. The long-stay tourism plans now will let people visit over the remainder of this year but the expense level is a bit high, per the early plan form. There's a two week mandatory government arranged hotel quarantine stay as part of that, which wouldn't be for everyone.

Monsoon was absolutely thriving before the pandemic hit. They opened three locations in Bangkok. The first was just a booth style section in a mall bookstore, which seemed a great approach to keep overhead low and draw traffic. The second was a full sized shop I've still not seen, way out in the On Nut area. The third I've been to a few times, last yesterday for a presentation on forest biodiversity research presented by a Russian researcher based out of China, related in part to wild tea growth.

As you could imagine those Monsoon shops needed the streams of foreign tourists to sustain their business, and without them prospects aren't nearly as bright. The third was in a Japanese tourism area in Bangkok, off Asok, not far from the Terminal 21 mall. I suppose if they can weather the storm and make it though the next 9 months or so things should get back closer to normal.

Their tea pricing isn't something that anyone online comparison shopping would find favorable. And they sell a lot of blends, which may not make as much sense at higher pricing levels. I hope that it works out for them, even though their teas aren't really what I'm most interested in.
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