The Winter Tea Season

[flickr-photo:id=5263766909,size=""]While we are tightly focused on the seasonality of coffee, we shouldn't neglect of the seasonality of tea. It's not just that there are the famous "flushes" of Assam and Darjeeling teas throughout the year. Each of the great teas of China and Japan has their season, and each year's crop can have dramatic variation from the previous crops. For example, we've been out of Maccha (ceremonial powdered green tea) since the middle of summer thanks to a very wet winter and spring in Uji province in Japan. The quality of maccha available for import suffered enough that Intelligentsia's tea buyer (and Volta hero) Doug Palas could not find a lot of maccha without significant defects-- and thus, we've been out of maccha for months.

With winter, it's time for a rush of new teas from Asia to make it to the US market. New crop shade-grown sencha and maccha will be here in early January. By the end of January, we plan to have up to eight different oolongs on the menu, including new High Mountain oolongs from Taiwan and new Wuyi Mountain oolongs from China.

Already, new teas have made it onto the menu. Lightly Baked Qin Xin oolong is a new (to Volta) lightly oxidized tea. Qin Xin is a tea varietal that tends to grow slowly and as a result it is able to develop a soft, rich body and deep, complex flavors. Our Lightly Baked Qin Xin was hand-picked to insure consistent quality and was gently fired to preserve the delicate flavors of pine needle and wildflower. This new style tea really exemplifies the nuance of this special varietal.

The Dan Cong tea varietal is known for its distinctive aroma types that mimic the fragrances of various flowers. Our particular Dan Cong has an aroma and flavor reminiscent of the magnolia blossom-- even though no magnolia flowers are used as flavoring. The flavor is sweet and fruity with a bright floral aroma that borders on herbaceous.

Two new teas from Nepal have also made it to Gainesville. Himalayan Jade and Himalayan Oolong are the first two teas that we've tried from the region. This unique terrior produces an elegant green tea with notes of pine, fresh cut herbs, lime zest, and gardenia. Its brisk, almost effervescent character, is both assertive and yet graceful. The oolong is very lightly oxidized as is actually brewed like a green tea.