|"Imagine if someone took a Silver Needle white tea, dipped it in caramel and honey, then lathered it in fairy-blessed gold dust."|
I compared this batch to a Golden Needle I already had in my possession. Sure enough, these were the goldest of the gold. Far more tippy, pyrite-like pieces were present in the ATR batch. The aroma also differed in a way I never expected. Golden Needles usually gave off a honey-spice smell that was quite inviting. I was NOT prepared for the little extra nuance in this sample - the faint impression of spicy shrimp. Back in my college days, spicy shrimp ramen was a dietary staple, I knew it anywhere. Maybe my olfactory senses are screwed up, but that is what I smelled along with the requisite honey.
To say I was psyched to brew this would be understatement of the year. Most mornings, I'm not keen on surprises, but new cups of tea are an exception. Brewing instructions on the sample bag recommended water heated to about 200F with a steep of four minutes. I tended to treat needles a little lighter so as to not build bitterness. I brought water close to a boil - like with a first flush Darjeeling - and poured it over 1 generous teaspoon of leaves, then steeped it in an 8oz cup for three minutes.
The liquor brewed to the bold and vibrant gold I often expected from these beautiful Yunnans. An odd trait at that; the leaves infuse the water with their EXACT color - no deviation. Steam from the mouthpiece carried with it the aroma of nectarines, honey, maple and malt. Gone was the initial "spicy shrimp" bit I found in the dry batch. I didn't mourn its passing. Taste-wise...well...you know that cute little double fist-shake "thingy" that Wallace - of Wallace & Gromit fame - does when he talks about cheese? I did exactly that on first sip. This was smooth and creamy from start to finish, never letting up for bitterness or astringency. If I had any grip, it was that I brewed it too light; maybe they were right about the four-minute steep. A second infusion also held up pretty well. This was perfection among the perfect.
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