The Yin and Yang of Yancha: A Review

Today I did a side-by-side comparison of one third of White2Tea’s yancha teas, Hoplite and Hot and Heavy. Can I just say how much I love Paul’s etymology for his teas? Man, this guy really has his branding down. I received these teas in the wonderful, never-boring, teaclub quite some time back, and after letting them pile up in my tea cupboard, have finally decided to sit down and fucking try them.

I’ve never been a big fan of yancha, or dark-roasted oolongs at all. I found them to smell and taste like wet paper bags and old car tires. For some reason, I’ve decided to give them another shot, and if I’m going to give it the old college try, I might as well drink something well made. Right?

I dusted off the two brewing vessels I have with equal capacity and got to work. I used my Petr Novak shiboridashi and an old white gaiwan from I forget where. Because of the size and fluffiness of the teas, I used 3g each, which filled a little less than half for both.

The dry leaf on the two teas had a similar scent – Digestives Biscuits and molasses. I was surprised to see that Hot and Heavy had lighter colored leaves than Hoplite. I am hoping that doesn’t affect the smoke and roastedness of the tea. We’ll just have to see what that means in the brew…

I did a quick 10 second steep to start. I’m a wimp and went for the shorter steep in case the tea tried to bite back with some of the flavors that turned me off to that type. I huffed the wet leaves after pouring out the tea into my cha hai and despite being the darker roast, Hot n’ Heavy (H&H)  I smelled tart cherries I was surprised to smell asphalt, nutmeg and coffee grounds in Hoplite which is a lighter roast. Luckily, I did not find any of the asphalt scent present in the steeped leaf.

Hoplite was the lighter of the two teas, which is no surprise there. Hoplite was much more fruity than what the wet leaves told me. I really enjoyed the light smoothness it gave. It combines what I liked about green oolongs before I got sick of them and the toasted elements from a darker oolong. H&H had a long aftertaste and a bit of cotton mouth tannins. There was a nice mineral tail note and the roastiness wasn’t as sharp and abrasive as I was thinking it would be.

These teas feel just too different to be put side by side for a comparison. Hoplite is the yin to Hot and Heavy’s yang. A delicate, floral and sweet brew like Hoplite is the spring to Hot and Heavy’s smoke and mineral autumn. Even the cha hai’s I put the tea in showcased the differences in the teas. A square base cha hai for the harsh corners of H&H and a rounded vessel for Hoppy.

Oh, I used the last bit of the Hoplite to make a cold brew in my beloved Hario bottle. So good!



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