Posted by: dan | March 18, 2009

almost gold

whiteassamheader(title with apologies to The Jesus And Mary Chain)

Dan: After my first few cups of white tea, I was smitten. I love this stuff. How could I not? Deep, complex flavours, and a smooth, but strong texture. So I had a look back at Jing’s website to see what else they had on offer, when I noticed a listing for a white Assam. As I’m also a big fan of Assam teas, I decided to buy some and see if it was any good. Jing’s website describes the tea as:

The world’s rarest assam tea and the world’s rarest white tea.

It was also running out of stock, and there are no plans to restock, so I snapped up a 50g pack while I could.

The golden green leaves up close

The golden green leaves up close

The dried leaves have a very strong smell, a kind of potpourri aroma, with woody smells mixing with subtler spicy notes. The tea itself asks to be brewed for 3 mins in 80 degree water. Jing also recommend brewing 1-2 teaspoons, which I adhered to, by adding 2 teaspoons in order to strengthen the taste. I noticed that the leaves do not seem to unfurl very much at all, and float for the entire brewing time. Only at the end of the 3 minutes do a few leaves sink, but mostly they stay adamantly at the top. Even though this is a white tea, it has a golden brown colour, seemingly sitting somewhere between a black and white tea.

I find regular black Assam tea to be quite bold, and requires milk and sugar. As this is a white tea, neither are necessary, and the flavour is a lot lighter, and subtler. Whilst it is still hot, it retains a lot of the characteristics of the dry leaves’ scent. It has the same woody texture, and lighter hints of cinnamon. It’s still a bit strong, which is an oddity for a white tea. Once it starts cooling, the flavours start developing, and lightening. It doesn’t sit so heavily in the mouth, and it becomes incredibly smooth, sliding over the tongue as you swallow. It starts to shift into a rather different tea, one with a proper character and a subtler tone. But…

Surprisingly dark for a white tea

Surprisingly dark for a white tea

I’ve had numerous cups of this tea, and each time, it fails to develop any further. It seems to hit a wall just before it reaches it’s full potential. I know it has further depth, as I did have one cup which was gorgeous. It was a bright saturday morning, and I was busy doing things. As such, the tea cooled, and when I returned to the second half, it was truly amazing. Deep, gorgeous flavours which startled the tastebuds into life. Ever since, I’ve been trying to recreate that cup, but unfortunately, to no avail. I have even tried letting it cool in order to get the sumptuous clarity of the gorgeous, almost bitter, fruity flavour of that morning’s brew. Nothing seems to bring it back, which is a terrible shame. It stubbornly refuses to develop past that point of promise into the glorious cup it could so easily be. Which is a real disappointment, as the taste of the rest of the cup just sits on the cusp of brilliance. With each remaining sip you get a hint of glory, only to have it linger and then fade away under the bland, wooden aftertaste.

But let’s not end on a down note. Not every tea can be brilliant, and rarity does not mean greatness. I mentioned that Jing are ending their run on this tea, which is not the disappointment  I thought it might be. They are replacing it with another white Assam, this time from the Greenwood Estate. I have yet to pluck up the courage to buy it, but I would hope it is better than this. If I do ever conquer my apprehensions and decide to try it, I shall review it in comparison with this, and hope for a better result.

Dan was drinking Jing’s White Assam, available while stocks last at £14.00 for 50g


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