Big Brass Butikis, Round 1: “Taiwan’s Wild Side”
I have a confession to make: I’m in love with Butiki Teas. They are one of five (maybe six?) companies that have my kind of business model. That being: What’s that? Is it weird? SWEET! I’ll buy ALL of it!
It’s like they took a piece of my brain, examined it, got rid of all the porny parts, and rolled with the rest.
Granted, they do have custom blends and flavored teas, too. But they go side-by-side with their esoteric partners on the beautiful Butiki list o’ wares. Butiki Teas provided me with the first Kenyan Purple Tea I ever tried, as well as the first Purple Pu-erh I gongfu’d the hell out of.
Heck, they even somehow carried a Nilgiri oolong that blew me away. Nilgiri oolongs never blow me away. (Okay, maybe a back-alley old fashioned from the Dunsdale estate, but that doesn’t count. Does it?)
This time, I was treated to two black teas from Yuchih Township, Nantou County, Taiwan. One was an Assam variant; the other was semi-wild-crafted. Oh my…Taiwanese black teas. I am in lust with Taiwanese black teas. Haven’t met one I haven’t liked, yet. And by the smell of these two sample bags, I was in for some sweet, sweet tea-lovin’.
I love Taiwanese black teas for specifically one reason – the Taiwanese don’t f**k around with the leaves too much. Unlike regular Assams that are cut to the size of needles, these were long and twisty. Brown – sure. Rolled – sure. But still very unmistakably only-somewhat-tampered-with leaves. I’m a huge fan of teas that are completely and utterly whole leaf. (Mainly for the fact that they take more abuse.)
The smell was another dimension entirely. Like other Taiwanese blacks I’ve tried, there was a requisite sweetness to the aroma and an almost-cocoa quality. It was like whiffing a chocolate-laden breakfast cereal. Er…in leaf form.
The leaves infused to a medium-red liquor with a rustically sweet aroma, almost like a wild stevia plant – only lighter. It was Taiwanese through-and-through in its aromatic presentation. What surprised me was the taste. While it wasn’t initially sweet on leaf-sniffing, the flavor took on loads of cocoa notes. Almost like a Li Shan black – another Taiwanese tea. I was expecting malt, but didn’t get any. This was a strong, if gentle, beast of a brew.
First reason to love this tea? It was bug-bitten! Like an Oriental Beauty or a Gui Fei. Er…when you’ve reached my level of tea fanboydom, you’ll find that endlessly exciting.
Second, everyone I knew in the tea community was bragging about this stuff. Particularly my Tandem Tea Tasting circle. As luck/coincidence would have it, I had some on-hand but hadn’t dipped into it, yet. Peer pressure got the better of me.
The appearance for this was almost identical to the Assam – long, twisty brown leaves. These differed considerably in aroma, however, imparting a subtle sweetness and a woodsy/malty lean. Still very Taiwanese, but with some characteristics similar a Yunnan Dian Hong. There was also a hint of honey on the back-whiff.
The Wild Taiwanese brewed up a bit lighter than the Assam – by at least a shade or two. A sweet aroma from the dry leaves was still there, but after being…uh…wetted, they gave off a minty quality to the brew as well. Taste-wise, it was malty, sweet (as I’ve said a thousand times) and spry on the malt. Like a Ruby 18 but a little more…buff.
The Winner: Wild Mountain Black. By a mile. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Taiwanese Assam. But the Wild Mountain Black just did everything right…in my mouth. Like meeting a nice, sweet girl with a wild streak…but “old fashioned” at heart.