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Tea Review: Chicago Tea Garden, Golden Bi Luo

August 13, 2010

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Chicago Tea Garden is the name of the company opened recently by Tony Gebely, the blogger who writes World of Tea, and his partner Erin Murphy. Through a set of exceptionally wonderful circumstances they have connected and joined forces with David Lee Hoffman, procurer of great Chinese teas, who was profiled in the film All in This Tea. The partnership has led to the introduction of some extraordinarily interesting teas into the tea market, and I have had the opportunity to taste a couple of them, including the Golden Bi Luo.

Looks aren’t everything, especially in the world of tea, but one of the things that struck me when I first got a look at the sample of Golden Bi Luo was that it was one of the most beautiful teas I’ve ever seen in dry leaf form. Some of the half-ball style, lightly oxidized, rolled oolong teas from Taiwan are quite pretty, but these little golden swirls are exceptionally lovely to look at. Its appearance made me quite curious to find out more about it.

The company’s description:

David Lee Hoffman has been traveling China for over 20 years. His work has led to vast improvements in the quality of tea available to the West. David is especially proud of this tea. Golden Bi Luo is a high-grade black tea made in Yunnan Province in the style of Jiangsu Province’s Green Bi Luo Chun. The name means “snail spring” — spring because this tea is harvested in the spring; snail because the two leaves and down-covered tips are carefully rolled into tight spirals that slowly unfurl to release more flavor during steeping. The spirals are formed using three different hand movements in a heated wok. This tea produces a golden, creamy-tasting liquor with sweet notes of vanilla.

The tea also smelled wonderful, and as I expected, it brewed into a wonderful liquor. Black teas from Yunnan province in China are some of the best black teas I’ve ever tasted, and this tea is no exception. It has the nice malty, sweet flavor that is typical of a good quality Yunnan Hong Cha. As stated on the company’s website this tea can stand up admirably to multiple steepings, and I found this to be the case in my tastings of it.

If you’ve never tasted any Yunnan Hong Cha this one would be a very good tea to start with. If you’ve already tasted other Yunnan black teas and enjoyed them, this one will certainly live up to your expectations.

Note: Bi Luo Chun (碧螺春) translates literally to “Green Snail Spring,” a tea named for its color, spiral shape, and the season during which it is picked.

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