|"An outrageously-good Dian Hong with a surprisingly funky element to it."|
Norbu Tea is owned by a fellow named George out of Dallas Texas. However, he has apparently travelled extensively in the far east enough to acquire the nickname "Norbu" which translates to "precious jewel" in the Tibetan language -- thus the name of his company.
This particular Yunnan Black Gold offering was harvested in Spring 2009 in the Xishuangbanna Prefecture of the Yunnan province of China. This region produces incredible teas, and this offering is no exception. This tea is also a perfect example of the fact that expensive and/or rare does not necessarily have exclusive correlation with excellence -- plenty of the more affordable teas on the market are among the best I have ever tasted, Lucky for me, and the rest of the world, Dian Hong teas are quite affordable in the grand scheme of things, and rank number one on my palette.
The main place this tea differs from other Dian Hong teas is in the aroma of the dried leaf. Upon first whiff of this particular tea in the bag, I thought I was in for something drastically different that what I was accustomed to with other Yunnan reds. Rather than a straight mimic of the flavor-to-come, this dried leaf was pungent in spicy way - strong hints of mint and tobacco were conjured up. Perhaps even a bit of funk, a la sweaty armpit. But wait! Before that turns you off completely, let me say that it is incredibly intriguing and not at all offputting. And no, I don't revel in the scent of sweaty armpit - like, ever. But something about this was reminiscent of au naturale aroma that had my eyebrows raised immediately.
Once in the cup, everything came back to normal - it produced an amber red clear cup, and the aroma in the cup was much more typical of a Dian Hong tea -- malty, earthy and sweet on the nose. But yet a trace remnant of that unshakable "funk" was behind it. "Funk" in the best way possible. Like, not bad funk but rather awesome funk - like a nasty, grinding, James Brown style funk. A whole juke joint filled to beyond capacity with throbbing bodies on a sultry humid 95-degree night in remote Mississippi. Yes, that funky. As such, it reaches well beyond an A-plus in Professor Sostrom's classroom.
A quick 2:30 brew in sub-boiling water produces an ideal cup for me. The purveyor recommends 5 minutes and no secondary steepings, which I find odd. This, as with nearly every other Dian Hong on the market, seems to excel perfectly with a steep athalf that time, and endures at least 3 steepings. Norbu also recommends this for an iced tea, which I find intriguing, and hopefully I'll have a chance to prepare some as such and provide follow-up commentary on that later.
Bottom line: This tea comes just shy of a perfect-10 simply because the funktastical element to it may push it to this side of "every day drinkable", and it should be reserved for more occasional sipping.
— To purchase Norbu Tea Black Gold Spring Harvest 09, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.
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