Monday, January 4, 2010

Norbu 2009 First Pluck Alishan

Lately, days have been long and nights have been longer. Life comes and life goes. In the past week, I've welcomed two lives and said goodbye to two lives. Nature always has a way of balancing itself out.

The softest thing in the universe
Overcomes the hardest thing in the universe.
That without substance can enter where there is no room.

Several months ago, Brett at Teacup in Seattle turned me onto Alishan, and ever since then, I have drank what little bit I've had in my collection sparingly. Always a pleasure to drink, I often saved it for nights when I knew I would be in good company. In Taiwan, this is a highly sought after tea, often demanded far beyond the quantity of production. Floral aroma, buttery light roasted oolong has been my go-to on the quiet nights, especially those nights Grace spends with her mother. I recently acquired some of a 2009 First Pluck Alishan from Greg at Norbu Tea, and have been drinking it pretty much nonstop ever since.

Tight rolled leaves unfurl to the length of two sipping cups side by side

As for the tea itself, it is fairly fragrant. A floral aroma with rich green leaves that begin to lift the lid from the teapot as they unfurl. The leaf integrity just won't quit! Big beautiful greens create an almost hypnotic neon yellow soup that anyone familiar with high mountain oolongs can't help but fall in love with.

The fragrance doesn't carry much over into the flavour, but has some presence. Instead, what comes through the most is a slightly sweet, thick buttery cup that fills the mouth and slowly works it's way towards the back of the palate. After a couple of infusions, this tea takes on a slightly sour aftertaste, which is my my favourite part of drinking this. It's not your typical candy sour bite either. The buttery nature of the tea makes it a very unique sour (almost like a sour cheese) that rounds out the tea very nicely. It hangs around in the back of my throat, and the overall experience is warming my whole body. Definitely something worth sharing in the company of friends, this (like most oolongs) is very accessible to people who haven't had a lot of exposure to different teas. It's simple enough to appeal to those who don't drink tea often, yet complex enough to keep those of us who do entertained.

After an hour with this, it finally starts to wind down. This is definitely something worth sharing with friends. The lid to the teapot is pushed up several millimeters now and reminds me of the way my father used to loosen his belt and stretch out after a good hearty meal. It's no wonder this tea is so sought after. The first harvest is, to the best of my knowledge, gone by now, but second flush is still available and I just purchased 100g of that. I'm sure this tea will have slightly varying characteristics in comparison to the second flush due to seasonal and weather changes. I will post my notes on those as soon as I get a chance to try it out.


Anonymous said...

Whose Alishan do you like the best?

Jamus said...

Jim, I've got quite a few more samples to work my way through still. I must confess, aside from what I got from Brett and what I'm presently drinking from Greg, I haven't had enough to say what my favourite is. Demand causes it to go so quickly and doesn't have the shelf-life of pu. I will say I've not had a cup I haven't enjoyed. I will put together a small care package and include some of the second harvest when it arrives. I would imagine it should be at my place before the end of the week.