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of the Lazy Literatus

Heralding the Rose of Wuyi

This is Dan.

Image owned by the Purvises.

Dan’s a pretty solid dude, and a darn good friend. Dan is also married to my matcha dealer.

Again . . . owned by the Purvises

Dan’s a lucky sonuva- . . .

I’m getting off-topic already, aren’t I?

Let’s start over.

I’ve known Dan Purvis for as long as I’ve known his wife, Lauren—my aforementioned “matcha dealer” and purveyor of Mizuba Tea Co. At the time, Dan worked as a coffee roaster, and had a pretty decent side-hustle as a talented graphic designer. In looser terms, he “Portlanded” pretty well. (In the best way, mind you.) Marrying a matcha maven was the obvious, logical extension of that.

All kidding aside, Dan and I hit it off fairly quickly. While his wife and I often got together to talk teashop, when there were “union breaks” from the tea frivolity, we’d converse about all things from faith to whimsy. Over the years, though, I noticed a shift in his focus.

All of our teashop talk seemed to rub off on the lad. In late-2018, he even posed the idea of starting his own tea brand. I sighed a bit and tried to dissuade him from it. Not because I thought he didn’t have the chops for it, rather for what I’d seen it do to people. Kettle burnout was real. All my frankness didn’t steer him clear, though.

In the spring of 2019, he’d formulated a plan, and—apparently—he’d paid attention to some of our tea shop talk. He sourced from folks I mentioned, and formed the beginnings of a decent tea roster. By the spring of this year (2020, at the time of writing), he launched the site and announced the arrival of Herald Tea.

Image owned by Herald Tea.

Now . . . full disclosure: when he first told me the name, I thought he said “Harold”.

He quickly corrected me. The significance of the name was sort of meta. “Herald” is defined as a “messenger bringing good news”. Well, tea is good news to some; it is to me, anyway.

One evening about a week ago, following the heralding news, I got a message from Dan. He basically said, “Pick any tea, and I’ll send it to ya.” I panicked a moment. Chances are I may have tried everything on said roster. My palate is a prostitute. But lo!

Image owned by Herald Tea.

Nestling quietly and unsuspectedly in his oolong section was something I’d never heard of. Based on the name he’d chosen for it, it didn’t take me long to figure out what it was. And, by sheer happenstance, it was a yancha (Wuyi oolong) I’d never tried. What were the odds that he’d carry a tea I’d never heard of? Pretty good, actually, there are a lot of Wuyi oolongs out there.

A few days later, I got the ding! in my e-mail inbox that a package had arrived at my mailbox, and . . . that was the main reason I broke quarantine last week.

Hey, tea is essential, dammit.

The tea in question was Wuyi Rose. The Chinese name for it was Huang Mei Gui (meaning: “yellow rose”) The name of the tea was also the name for the given cultivated variety of tea tree used to produce the oolong. It was not one of the Ming Cong (“famous tea”) Wuyi cultivars, but one of a newer, hybridized batch—like Ba Xian or Meizhan.

Huang Mei Gui was created by crossing two other cultivars, and this was where my attempts at research hit an impasse. Some sources claimed it was a hybrid of Huang Dan and Huang Jin Gui; others cited that both of those were the same cultivar. The only nugget of knowledge I could conclusively discern was that one of the crosses hailed from Anxi county; that being, Huang Jin Gui. Oftentimes, it was used as a substitute cultivar for making Tie Guan Yin, other times it was considered its own type of oolong.

*SIGH*

Point being, after some botanical tinkering, Huang Mei Gui came into the world. A cultivated variety known for having an extremely aromatic profile.

When I first tore into the bag, and pushed my nose into it, the first thing I smelled was . . . sharp flowers. The smell was noticeably similar to some of the more floral-heavy fragrant Dan Cong types. Only this had other things going on, too. The “roasted rock” aroma was also there—present in all yancha—but so was something that reminded me of a cinnamon breakfast cereal. It was definitely the loudest-smelling Wuyi oolong I’ve come across, more than living up to its “Rose” moniker.

The first infusion colored to a light-to-medium amber; a bit of a surprise given the ten-second steep time. That loud Dan Cong-y sharpness took up the forefront, but it smoothed out into a floral middle, and a finish that was lightly spicy-sweet. With further infusions, the sharp forefront dissipated, and was replaced with a sweet-bread note, followed closely (and consistently) by the cinnamon breakfast cereal tone.  For an oolong with burly aromatics, it weakened pretty quickly.

By steep five the liquor was yellow bordering on bronze, but the sweetness dialed up the lighter it got. I chock the lighter-liquored infusions to my more conservative brew times. Pretty sure this could handle a western style steep just fine. Over all, I managed eight or nine gongfoolish cups out of it; probably could’ve gone more if I’d gone longer. But I was tapped out.

How tapped out? Well . . .

By steep number I-dunno-what the cha qi finally hit. Unlike other styles of oolong, yanchas interact with me in a weird way. Where Taiwanese oolongs make me happy and chill, or where Dan Congs make me zen as F, oolongs from Wuyi rev me up.

I spent the next hour, sipping, organizing my room, and Marie Kondo-ing my tea collection.

A task I’d put off for years.

I suppose I’ll finish this off by saying, I’m glad Dan didn’t listen to me, and proceeded with his tea venture. If only to “herald” in another tea story to add to the annals of the greater community. With the package he sent, he even included a personalized note on customized stationary, showing gratitude.

Thank you

Which, for the most part, is what tea is all about.

To buy this tea, go HERE.

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2 Comments

  1. A Herald of tea. I wish him all the best for this adventure.

  2. JCC

    Very intriguing!

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