Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Tea Review Tuesday - A Review of Whispering Pines Tea's 2015 Moonlight Sonata White Tea
When steeping cakes, as with life, remember that there will always be more (tea) there than it seems.
Okay, so my book of teaisms could use some work, but this was in fact the first mis-step I took with Whispering Pines Tea's 2015 Moonlight Sonata. Given that this white tea comes in a cake, much like pu'erh, I neglected to account for the fact that it was so tightly packed. Therefore, the amount of tea I thought I was using for my western-style brewing (a tablespoon and a half) was in fact three tablespoons by the time it unpacked and expanded.
For those who would brew this tea by gong fu, using a gaiwain or a yixing pot, the abundance of leaf is merely a factor with which to work. As you can see from the photos, I did not pack the gaiwan very full, but these leaves expanded quite a bit.
I must now go back and comment on the wrapper. I really enjoy Whispering Pines Tea's 100g cakes, which up until now were just of pu'erh. The artwork for each is gorgeous and striking. The Moonlight Sonata is no exception, with its moonphases, flower petals, and mesmerizing pattern. This, along with the tea, shows the expression of creativity that Brenden of Whispering Pines pours into his craft. The bag in which Whispering Pines' cakes now come packaged will provide a great, breathable place in which to age their cakes. Based on previous teas I have gotten from them, this must be a new idea, and I think it works wonderfully. Then, on top of that, to package the wrapped cake in a plastic bag for transport (seemingly with the intention of keeping out as many impurities as possible that might otherwise find their way to the tea, while it is in transit to you) seems fairly genius to me.
As to the tea itself, I am going to come clean up front. The second ingredient in this cake is snow chrysanthemum flowers. Having had these brewed into a tisane for me many times in the past, I can say with certainty that I am not a fan of their flavor. Yet, my first breath of the dry cake, when I unwrapped it, contains a pleasant meld of the two (white tea and snow chrysanthemum). It smells a bit earthy, and the aromas hint at deep notes of the ingredients - to be released by heated water. Eagerly, I poured water over both the leaves in an infuser mug and the leaves I had placed in the gaiwan. The mug I left for three minutes, and the gaiwan for only twenty seconds. The tea, both in its dried and wet form, appears very pretty.
Given the color of the liquor, when both teas finished steeping, I think I may have overdone both. So I pour the gaiwan-brewed tea into cups, smell mine, and accidentally knock over the cup on the table before me. Cleaning-up the sadly wasted tea, I am reminded that tea is an experience and something to be taken slowly. I return to the aroma of the cup, resplendent with snow chrysanthemum. Hints of white tea peek through the smell. Yet, it is when I take a sip that my senses are awakened. Snow chrysanthemum and white tea seem to fight a twisting battle over my tongue. Or perhaps it is my tongue that is being tricked, as both of the flavors actually meld very well together. In one moment, I taste a bit more snow chrysanthemum. In the next moment, the rich white tea flavors take over my tastebuds. The aftertaste leaves a hint of snow chrysanthemum in the mouth, a ghost of past flavors.
At this point, I move to trying the steeped mug of Moonlight Sonata. The flowers give it an almost-juicy taste. It reminds me a bit of either citrus or stone fruit with dark, earthy notes. The cup goes down smooth, and I wonder to myself why I never cared for snow chrysanthemum in the past. I heat more water and begin to re-steep both the gaiwan leaves and the infuser mug leaves.
Over time, I find that the snow chrysanthemum handles the multiple re-steepings much better than the white tea. Its flavor grows richer, while the flavor of the white tea stays much the same. They remain well-balanced and well-blended, which in turn causes the overall flavors of the tea blend to evolve to a darker-tasting brew, still full of floral and fruit notes. Just breathing-in the aroma from the empty cup fills the nose with floral notes, accented by some earth and wood tones. The smells are like springtime, flowers having just bloomed from both ground and trees.
The re-steeped tea in the infuser mug grows darker much faster, as we went from three minutes (first steep) to five minutes (second steep) to eight minutes (third steep). The white tea does remain a bit more prominent in that cup, though. In general, I feel that I agree with the recommendation from Whispering Pines Tea - gong fu is my preferred brewing method for this tea. The evolution of the aromas and flavors feels much more like an experience when taken one gaiwan at a time.
This limited release white tea sparked my senses, and the fact that it should be ageable intrigued me. With only two ingredients, it created a multi-faceted experience unlike many teas I have consumed recently. On my personal enjoyment scale, I would rate Whispering Pines Tea's 2015 Moonlight Sonata a 96/100, and I highly recommend trying this tea blend.
Photo credit to Built from Ink and Tea.
Whispering Pines Tea's 2015 Moonlight Sonata is available from their website, here.
This review was unsolicited and uncompensated.
Text is copyright 2016, Built from Ink and Tea.