This year I celebrated Christmas for the 26th time in my life. The tea I review today celebrated (sitting in a bag doing nothing) its 21th Christmas. And its last. No way I can keep my hands off this tasty Thailand Lao Chin Shin from 1995 for another year!
1995. 1995! Let that sink in for a minute. This tea made me wonder what I did back in 1995. I asked my mom and she said straight away: ‘Going to school for the first year’, to add right after that: ‘And drink tea with milk and sugar! That’s it.’ I’m sure my life was a bit more than that as a 5-year-old. Practicing my David Beckham-like free-kick on the streets. And playing this dubious game called ‘Oorlogje’ (‘War’) in which you would seek cover in the gardens of neighborhood houses, come out, point your finger at one of your friends like a rifle and say ‘ke-deng-ke-deng-ke-deng’.
The good actors among my friends surrendered or dramatically died. The tough guys ran away like they weren’t just sieved by 50 bullets of my imaginary machine gun. Now that I think about it this game becomes stranger and stranger. Was it just boys being boys, or did the Dutch government prepare us for years of foreign war missions to come introducing these weird kind of children’s games? Ah well. Fact is that I decided my ‘ke-deng-ke-deng’ wouldn’t do anyone good in this world, so before I turned 8 I left the imaginary army for good.
So what does this all have to do with tea? Nothing, really. Nothing but the fact that in that year, 1995, when I was running around being little Rambo, there was a tea plucker on the slopes of a mountain in the Chiang Rai region in northern Thailand, plucking these exact leaves that I have reunited with water now, 21 years (!) later. This Lao Chin Shin is from a company called Tea Side, which specializes in teas from the Golden Triangle. When receiving the package of samples I wasn’t all too sure at first. If it’s not from Taiwan, Japan or China… But I tried a few of the samples so far and they are surprisingly good. Some, like the Myanmar Roanji oolong, are real quality teas.
But the Thai 1995 Chin Shin, the type of oolong often found and grown in Taiwan nowadays, really stood out. This tea is all spiced apple to me. And cherries. Really fruity, but not in the sweet, peachy way. It’s darker, heavier, fuller, more complex. Fruits mixed with chocolate. The chocolate is very present in the aroma and more subtle in taste. It has a pretty thick liquor in your throat and during the tea session more spices come out. Clove, cardamom. It gives off a typical aged oolong taste, but it seems more alive and more fresh than most I had so far. I have written PORT very large in my tea tasting book. Yes, it is quite similar to a port in terms of fruity notes. A port-like dessert wine you would serve at Christmas with chocolate. But this tea offers both the dessert wine and the chocolate in one sip. Note that for Christmas 2017!
Although very powerful, don’t take the whole day off for this tea. It doesn’t have much stamina. Brew 7 is pretty much it. But the previous brews are strong, outspoken, with the tea developing into a more nutty structure while it keeps pumping those cherry and spiced apple notes on your tongue.
Now keep in mind if you session this tea to make it all a bit more special. Every step that you took the last 21 years. Every milestone in your life. This tea was there. Somewhere. Waiting. For you. Getting tastier by the day. For you. Isn’t that what love is?