Sunday, October 18, 2015

Yunnan Sourcing's 2015 "Ying Shan Hong" Purple Black Tea with Snow Chrysanthemums

Yunnan Sourcing's Description
Our "Ying Shan Hong" cake is a blend of Wild Purple Black tea and Snow Chrysanthemums from Spring 2015. The taste is floral and sweet with a thick burgundy red tea soup that soothes the mouth and throat with a layer of tea and flower oils and tannins.
Hello little man.

My thoughts
I received a 100g cake of this tea a couple months back in one of YS's monthly tea plans. I'm still a bit wary around tea blends with herbal/fruity additions (probably from all the crap blends I drank back in my Teavana days), so I didn't know what to expect from this one. I love purple varietal black teas, but I had never even heard of Snow Chrysanthemums before.

So I did some digging. Googling "snow chrysanthemum" turns up a hundred places where you can buy the dried flowers, but none gave a Latin name to go with them. The tea's page in YS says they're a Rhododendron, but the flower structure is definitely something from the Asteraceae family, which doesn't include Rhododendrons. I was finally able to find a Chinese site that labeled them as  Coreopsis tinctoria, and this looks to be correct to me. So the mysteriously labeled Snow Chrysanthemum is not actually a Chrysanthemum or a Rhododendron, but a Tickseed that is actually native to North and Central America, but is well established and naturalized throughout much of China as well.

Dry leaves - The leaves are packed into a round cake, but break apart fairly easily. The aroma is quite floral, but not anything like a green oolong. The flowers give off a very pungent autumnal scent, much like the common Chrysanthemums you see everywhere this time of year. Maybe that's where the common name comes from. The florality mingles quite well with the malty/plum aroma of the purple black tea.

Brewing parameters - 200F, 60s first, +30s after

Tasting notes - Sweet, floral spice, dried plums, autumn leaves

This is seriously like autumn in a cup. The tea liquor is a rich burgundy-orange color almost exactly the shade of the maple tree outside my window right now. The spicy florality blends perfectly with the dried plum taste unique to purple teas. It has an incredibly silky, almost oily, mouthfeel that coats the mouth and throat. I'm not sure if that's the result of the Coreopsis flowers, but it's certainly one of the smoothest teas I've ever had.

Subsequent steeps don't change much, but the leaves and flowers are certainly generous and keep on giving even after 8 steeps. The floral component becomes a bit weaker after about 5 steeps, but the tea leaves keep giving that wonderful dried plum and malt flavor. YS doesn't specify which variety of purple tea these leaves are made from (Ye Sheng is my guess), but they have one of the strongest fruity tastes I've found in a black tea.

This tea is beginning to open my eyes to good herbal blended teas again. I hope to find more as good as this one. You can buy this tea from Yunnan Sourcing here:

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