I think I may be the Leeroy Jenkins of my tandem tea tasting group.
Don’t get the reference? I’ll explain . . .
In 2006, someone decided to record a World of Warcraft raid. The group was meticulously planning an attack, while one player – the titular “Leeroy Jenkins” – was AFK (away from keyboard). When the player returned, he charged headfirst into the attack, without hearing the plan, shouting his own name over his microphone, “Leeeeeroy Jenkins!”
Distraught, the rest of the group had no choice but to join in, and thoroughly had their asses handed to them. Someone who was a party to that fateful raid uploaded the encounter to YouTube, where it quickly went viral. There are those who claim the encounter was staged. However, since then, the name “Leeroy Jenkins” has become synonymous with running into a situation headfirst without thought to consequence or reward.
After last week, I’m thoroughly convinced I’m “that guy” in my li’l online tea group. For those new to this, every once in a while, a few of us tea bloggers get together via Google Hangout. We usually have a theme or a particular tea that acts as the glue for the gathering. And, oftentimes, we take turns either suggesting a tea or sending samples out.
I proudly declared that it was my turn.
At World Tea Expo this last summer, a few of us had the pleasure of sipping a peculiar white tea provided by Chariteas. It was an outfit I was quite familiar with, given that it was an hour out from my home base. The tea in question was dubbed “Grey Dragon”, and hailed from one of the Diwata tea gardens in Java, Indonesia.
So peculiar was this white tea that debate still rages among us as to whether it was a white tea at all. The vendor herself had to contact the garden’s manager to clarify as well. A few people who carried the tea even stuck it in the oolong category.
It was one of five (and counting!) teas I’d run into that were this peculiarity. Many gardens seems to be experimenting with allowing white tea leaves to oxidize for a little while longer, thus enriching their character. I’d encountered no less than three Darjeelings, one Ceylon, and two Nepalese teas that had played with this “technique”.
I was able to convince Chariteas’ owner to send me samples for an upcoming group tasting. To see if a bunch of us could solve the mystery; to “slay the Grey Dragon”, so to speak. I took point on the operation . . . but sort of failed in my duties.
I’m not much of a planner, and passed the coordination duties on to Rachel “I Heart Teas” Carter. I was fine with the far simpler responsibility of sending off the samples to people. Prior to the tandem tasting, there were confirmations that Jo “A Gift of Tea/Scandalous Tea” Johnson, Nicole “AmazonV/The Devotea USA” Schwartz, and Nicole “Tea For Me Please” Martin would be able to make it. Along with a newcomer.
William “Sir Will of the Leaf” Dietz expressed interest in sitting in on the proceedings. I’d wanted to yack with the guy in real-time for years, so I was all for it. He was enthusiastically included in the roster.
The day of the tasting, though . . . I jumped the gun.
In order to take advantage of what little daylight I still had left for photographing, I brewed the tea up early. And proceeded to drink three infusions of it.
The leaves for the Grey Dragon were unlike any white tea . . . –er . . . oolong I’d ever seen. Well, save for this one time when I ran into a weird green/white Ceylon tea. They were small, bud-rolled and dark green in appearance, except for this streak of beige down the fold. No other way to describe it other than having the appearance of a razor-backed needle hair from some sort of sci-fi movie dog. Yes, that odd.
The aroma they gave off was very white tea-ish, alternating between hay, melons, moss and other good-for-you herbs. It actually kind of smelled like a Yunnan or Ceylon white, but not as robust. A bit of a green tea-ish lean was also present on the trail.
Instructions on the sample bag recommended a three-to-five minute steep in 200F water. That seemed a bit high, so I opted for around 185F and a three-minute steep. I used 1 tsp. in a 6oz. Ceylon steeper cup.
The liquor brewed a fluttery but bold oolong-like amber with an aroma of some undiscovered stonefruit/citrus hybrid. Like a grapefruit had extramarital relations with a plum. The aroma started off slightly astringent, in a citrusy sort of way, but then gave way to a pleasant sweetness that filled the mouth. It was both robust yet delicate in its delivery, alternating between a handshake and an arm wrestle.
I dared a second steep at the recommended boiled water. Same steep time of three minutes, though.
While weird to say, it has to be confessed: This worked better with water at a boil. The liquor brewed deep-‘n-dark bronze, and the steam scent emboldened to straight-up stonefruit, something vaguely tropical – with a lemongrass hula skirt. Whatever astringency I detected in the lower temp water was all but gone here, instead giving way to a pleasantly sweet – if robust – tea. Definitely straddling the fence between white and black teas, though.
By the time the tasting started, I was already buzzed and silly. And – dare I say it – a tad inappropriate; even more so than usual. Among the various topics of conversation, a certain tea apparatus was mentioned. I happened to muse that I didn’t make the cut for the private demonstration . . . because I would’ve inquired about having sex with it.
Sir Will dropped the hint that his employer started carrying a type of black tea we all enjoyed . . . and I mused about asking said employer if I could have sex with it.
I have no idea where this was all coming from, but the fact that – by the end of the tasting – I was six steeps in (compared to everyone else’s three) probably had something to do with it.
The general consensus regarding the Grey Dragon was . . . decidedly mixed. Not as to the quality of the tea; we all liked it just fine. A couple of folks felt it was firmly in oolong territory, even without the requisite “kill-green” process. Others thought it was still within the white tea realm, but only by a hair. It was, however, universally agreed that water at a full boil was required to bring out the better characteristics of the tea.
And I was living proof that six infusions of the stuff were plenty.
Following that fateful WOW raid in 2006, the players universally declared Leeroy Jenkins an idiot. Leeroy shrugged off their epithets with a, “At least I have chicken.”
Nobody called me “stupid as hell”, and I still have Grey Dragon. So, maybe I’m better off than good ol’ Leeroy. Maybe the comparison is only partial at best. One thing is certain, though . . .
I’m totally shouting my name before the next session.