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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Nada Cha 80's Da Ye loose leaf

This tea is made from very large yellow leaves that are often picked out and not pressed into cakes. But it rather affordable for a large amount of 80's sheng. But In my opinion the 80's Wang zi is by far a superior choice. If you get a whole 300 gram bag, its actually less than 3 of the 90's tuo's that Nada sells. Considering its also older (which does not mean better), this tea seems to be rather bargan priced.

First off the brew color of this tea is quite translucent, and a rather orange color.

Its aroma is not exceptionally powerful, but there is a hint of damp basement to it, with a slight tobacco smell also. Its smooth tasting, but I think the tobacco flavor is what is throwing me a little bit, as it comes out with a slight astringency in the finish. I think this had some wet storage at some point in time, but its from the 80's so its highly likely. But it does have a very nice Hui Gan. which seems to stay for quite some time.

In the second brew I want to say it has a hint of red in it that is really starting to come out. Sadly it still has the tobacco smoke and wet basement smell to it, at least its rather smooth and somewhat interesting even though it is rather one dimensional.

One thing that seems to be comming out a bit later is a rather pronounced mineral taste.

It seems to really flatten out, and loose its power after 7 infusions or so.

This isn't a horrible tea, but it is far from spectacular. I think this has appeal for being something you don't see everywhere, and from the 80's.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

2009 Nadacha Nannuo Qiao Mu

This tea is from Nannuoshan (Nannuo Mountain), similarly to the other 2009 Nada cake I tried recently. But, this cake comes from approximately 200 year old trees, and I have heard nothing but rave reviews for this cake (sadly I only got a sample).

The dry aroma of the leaves is very sweet. While after the rinse the wet leaves smell like lemon grass, with a bit of roughness that I can't quite place.

The color of the first steep was a deep yellow, almost a pale gold. It smells very much of lemon grass, with some floral tones peeking through, but sadly I don't know my flowers smells nearly well enough. Unlike the plantation cake, this one seems to have some strength, a very present powerfull astringency, but it is still very drinkable and no where close to overwhelming. I would say though that it has a very lemon peel like effect to it, which lingers into the finish. The finish is definitely dry and rather long lasting, but a pretty darn good Hui Gan.

The second infusion brewed up the same lovely color, with a very similar aroma. Overall the second infusion was rather similar to the first, but still very nice.

The Third infusion is slightly lighter, and much more floral, as it seems to have lost quite a bit of the lemon harshness.

While this tea is a great tea, and I'm sure it would be great aged, its doing what young sheng does very well and is going straight to my stomach, and as I haven't eaten much yet today, its doing a number. Plus so far through 5 infusions it has seemed quite similar, I will definitely come back to it later though.

Normally I don't come back and add more onto posts, but I came back for brews 6 and on after eating lunch. The power is fading, but in fading its turning into a nice grassy flavor.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Water Tests I

A 1980’s Wang Zi from Nada
The Contestants for this are Filtered tap water from the City of Bethlehem, PA, using a Britta filter with a relatively new filter (1 week old), against Iceland Spring, spring water, which is said to have nearly no Total dissolved solids. This test is being taken on under suggestion of my friend Brandon.
The Parameters the test will run for 4 days, alternating days will be with different water. The water for each will be heated using my Electric kettle, which will be emptied and dried before the different water is added. Roughly the same amount of tea will be used each time.

Day 1: Filtered Water
Quick rinse, and let the leaves steam slightly and open up.
1: Boiling, 15 seconds
The color of the broth is actually a bit more transparent than the 90’s tuo, yet smells much more complex. It still brings the same in the woods after a rain in late fall picture to mind, but I seem to be picking up pictures of certain trees, like somehow I get a lot more dead leaves out of it, I want to say maple because we had quite a few of those around our house in Ohio. There also is a nice spice smell to it, like something is being baked with cinnamon as a main ingredient, but not without a decent bit of butter.
Now I’m surer of the partial wet storage that could still be picked up in the 90’s tuo, as this is earthy, but not musty or swampy. It also got hints of cinnamon, and perhaps other baking spices. But I don’t think I can say smooth, and mean it more than with this, there is definitely a lot there, but there is nothing offensive about this at all. The finish is an extension of the taste, which just carries through and sweetness (Hui Gan) emerges in the back of the mouth, which just lasts and lasts.
2: Boiling, 20 seconds
The broth has gotten slightly darker, and some ripe fruits (apple) are starting to emerge in the autumn scene.
There is something else there when tasting it, but I can’t quite describe it, its fuller and developed.
In the third infusion, it was slightly spicier, and slightly darker.
In later infusions (5-6) it became more fruity, almost like an apple.
Yet a long brew (approx 2 minutes) brought little life back into this tea by the 8th infusion or so, but I must say, this had a nice very calming chaqi to it, which builds slowly, but once you notice it’s there you are already feeling great.
Day 2: Iceland Spring, Spring water.
Quick rinse, and let the leaves steam slightly and open up.
1: Boiling 15 seconds.
Quite interesting, it still has the strong autumn smell, but they are much more pronounced, and the apple almost dominates the cinnamon. But there are other spices I can’t quite place like cloves, and perhaps a cranberry and orange relish type smell.
Still got the great feeling of Fall, and I don’t think a lot has changed with this water in terms of taste. But the aroma is definitely something else. I think I could drink this all day, and possibly every day.

2: Boiling 20 seconds
I’m still getting so much more with this in terms of aroma, lots of things I didn’t pick up on yesterday. Lots of baking spices, and just very pronounced.
This is odd, I thought I picked up a hint of this in the nose, but this infusion tastes more like it had some more wet storage. I should note that since this tea is from the 80’s it probably did have moderately wet storage at one point in time. But it’s far from noticeable with this tea.

Later Infusions:
Tomorrow I am going to have to try and observe signs of wet storage, as I thought there was very little in the filtered water brews, but I am noticing hints of it today.

Day 3 and 4 will be focusing primarily on the presence of chaqi, and the relative strengths.
Day 3: Filtered tap water.
This has a very calming chaqi, which seems to extend throughout the body quite evenly. I wouldn’t say its strong at all, but it is there ever so slightly, just nudging me ever so slightly towards being very calm.

Day 4: Iceland spring, Spring water.
With respect to the chaqi, perhaps a slight bit more energy with the relaxed state, but it almost feels as though its subdued and hidden.

I should note that my friend Brandon, who asked me to run this test in terms of Chaqi, said he had a more pronounced chaqi from the Iceland Spring. I myself think these chaqi’s are slightly different I wouldn’t say one is stronger than the other. The filtered water, with this tea almost put me to sleep, it relaxed me to such a degree. With the Iceland spring I am still relaxed, but I am much more awake.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ming Dynasty tea cup

In what I'm calling a spur of the moment, but well thought out purchase, I acquired a Ming dynasty teacup. Now I say this was thought out as, I had intended and made steps towards purchasing some teacups from the Qing dynasty as that seemed the oldest I could afford. And I still plan on purchasing those cups as the ones I requested were cup shapes that I feel are best for aged oolong, and wuyi oolong. Yet this was spur of the moment as I was linked to an ebay sellers page, who sells antique Ming dynasty everyday porcelain, her father collected while living in Southeast Asia for business.

Now I honestly have no real way to authenticate this cup, as there is no makers mark, or even factory mark. I only have clues which lead me to believe that this is old (though I can not say how old). First if you look closely at the pictures you will notice the cup is not round, or even flat on top. This is very common in antique porcelain from China, especially since they did not have today's factory's which can be exacting to some awfully small faction of a milimeter. This also has an unglazed ring, and several minor defects in the glazing on the outside of the piece. I should note the unglazed ring on the bottom of the cup was darker, but I put it through a thorough cleaning which included sitting in diluted bleach for several hours.

Here are two pictures of it in action with Late 90's Grand Yellow Label, which I hope to pick up a cake of early next month.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Andao Tea Rou Gui

Andao tea is a place I have put off ordering from, though after ordering the tea table from them and liking it very much, I decided to try some of their teas with a teaware purchase of Gong fu tools, and a glass fair cup. Andao's teas are certified USDA organic, which I believe they pay the certification fees for the farms they use. They do this as part of a mission to return Chinese tea back to some of its more traditionalist values, without the focus on mass production or use of chemicals on the plants.


1: Boiling 20 seconds

Hint of baked cinnamon (it is rou gui after all), With a nice peachy aroma to it also, very fruity, sorta like a baked peach dessert. Wow quite a bit of cinnamon on the palate, which extends into the finish, but the finish also picks up the hints of the peaches.

2: Boiling 30 seconds

The aroma is still very fruity, I'll stand by my baked peach dessert assertion. I'm also getting hints of butter in the aroma this infusion also. Lots of cinnamon and butter, and I'm really liking how the finish just lingers, for quite some time too.

3: Boiling 40 seconds

Much more buttery, so I want to go with a peach filled pastry, but I am honestly getting a lot of peach in this tea. The Cinnamon astringency is starting to fade, and the finish only seems to exist on the tongue, as there isn't really any presence of flavors in the throat or even back of the mouth any more, other than a slight buttery note, which is quick to fade.

I have to admit, I was plesantly surprised by Andao, and this tea which seemed to be giving up steam around brews 3 and 4... with long infusions in 5 and 6, its got a great mouthfeel, buttery and creamy, but not alot of flavor, but its quite different than just warm water, so I'm still drinking it.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Nada Cha 2009 Nannuo Old Plantation

This tea comes from an old plantation in on Nannuoshan a mountain in Yunnan. The trees of the plantation are said to be 60-80 years old, and located about 1500 meters in Altitude.

I must say first preheat the gaiwan then add the propper amount of leaves and let it sit with the lid on a bit, and then smell. I thought the dry leaves of this one had a rather insipid aroma compared to the other 2009 Nada pressings. But with a little bit of heat and water vapor it comes alive. Into a grassy, zesty, and fresh aroma.

So a quick rinse, and then lets see what this is like.

After the rinse the aroma has a bit more of a bite, almost bitter aroma to it, somehow it reminds me of very strong orange and lemon zest.

1: Boiling 10 seconds.

The color is pale yellow, and the aroma is bland, considering how the leaves smelled, I was expecting a much stronger aroma form the brew. But its still there like a spring rain on a soccer field, a little hint of perspiration mixed in with the fresh grass, and mud.

Hints of orange, and a light grassy astringency, with perhaps even some banana. But smooth quite smooth. Its got a good sweetness to it, that is the primary part of the finish, just a lingering sweetness.

2: Boiling 15 seconds.

Slightly darker brew in terms of color.
It seems to be getting more hints of strength to it, but still somewhat bland but decently fruity.

Now it has a bit more strength, a strong orange peel like flavor, that lingers in the finish, with a slight astringency. Hint of Hui Gan but not a whole lot.

3: Boiling 30 seconds.

The aroma is still very plain, slightly sweet, but very plain, with hints of banana's and grass.

It seemed to have diminished slightly in strength this brew, Its still there, but it doesn't have the orange peel power to it. Quite a nice taste to it, and I need to taste more young sheng, as I was under the impression they were usually quite powerful, but this is nice and peaceful.

I think I may pick up a cake or two of this One as an aging test, and the other to drink now. Though I hear Nada's other Nannuo tea, was far better, sadly it along with the other 2 (Bulang and Naka) have sold out, and this is the only one remaining.

Edit July 1st 2010

The cake certainly looks slightly darker (blacker and definitely not rusty/reddish). Though it seems to have lost a little bit of its dry leaf aroma, as all I really get is a nice melon like sweetness. It has been roughly a year and while I have very fond memories of this cake, It just shows how little I drink puerh, as this cake is still less than 1/4th consumed.

color of the first infusion is slightly golden, with a clean fresh smell. The aroma is slightly fruity with possible hints of a mint to them. Its amazing as while the tea is rather hot breathing in the fumes just makes my nose feel cold.

The taste is very nice, banana, and pineapple, with a nice sweet finish. I know Nannou-shan puerh is rarely exceptionally bitter, but I am detecting a rather reduced bitterness compared to how I remember it last year.

As much as I still like this, I feel like its lost a large part of what really made me like it to begin with, perhaps I will just need to put the cake away into a more permenant storage and come back to it in many years.

I find it odd with Sheng I tend to like it 10+ years in age, or very young. I have not found many cakes in the 1-9 year old range I really like.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Musings on Yixing I

There is a joy that comes with tea ware and its use, and I have yet to find more joy than using a yixing. Why a yixing?

A simple search will be sure to yield many legends and myths about the legendary Zisha and Zhuni clays. Now I’ll admit when I first learned about yixing the idea that the pot seasons and in theory can make a subpar tea exceptional is alluring. Along with the story about the poor villager who could not afford tea, but had an ancient well seasoned pot, which produced exceptional cups of tea just by adding boiling water. The story was quite unbelievable, but perhaps that’s also a bit of the draw of these pots, it’s a challenge of sorts. I should note, I don’t expect to ever be able to produce a sufficient cup of tea from any of my yixing even if I use them for the rest of my life, yet the idea is still somehow intriguing.

There is also the unique fact that you can tell how much a yixing has been used and cared for before it’s even used. Does it have a nice glossy patina? Does it smell like clay, or does it smell like tea? These all seem to be good signs, though it should be noted a brand new yixing should always be prepped in your favorite fashion before it can start making drinkable tea.

Recently I happened to get a tea table, which opened up a new door, as I could be less careful with the water and to some extent the tea. But this lead me to a cross roads of sorts, which is the point of this essay. I always used to keep my yixings in a bowl or a pan large enough to contain them, and catch any water. This also allowed me to pour the rinse, over the pot to let it help season the outside. Now when pouring water, and placing on the lid, and all the overflowing of the water and tea, the bowl would fill, and I felt the yixing had as much opportunity to soak up as much tea on the outside as it could need.

Yet now a much simpler way seems to be to have the yixing directly on the tea table and not really worry. But this while it can cut down on the formation of a tea line on the edge of the pot somehow feels like its robbing the outside of a great chance to soak up and absorb the influence of tea. It does little to effect the inside where the seasoning actually takes place, which in theory as long as I keep using it, and using it for good tea, this should continue to happen, regardless.

I should note, I have had the chance to taste tea made from a new and only prepped yixing, verses a tea made form a yixing seasoned to near perfection. While there are dozens of factors that come into play as to why a yixing is different than a gaiwan, I can surely tell you, there is no comparison. I can only hope I have many more chances to drink tea from well seasoned pots, and hopefully produce a well seasoned pot or two of my own.

2006 Menghai Dayeh

This is the only tea I have left un-reviewed from my Puerh Shop order at the beginning of the year. It was my original intention, to not touch this until it was at least 10 years old ( 7 more years), but Something came to my attention, I will have no benchmark as to how it has changed. The other two puerhs I have set aside for long term storage are the one of each of the two different Douji minibricks.

Puerh Shop no longer stocks this brick, which is a shame as I can not go back and look up some information. Such as its called Menghai Dayeh, but I do not know if it came from the Menghai Tea factory, and the fact that its spelled Dayeh an alternate version of Daye (big leaf), I am almost sure its not a Menghai Tea Factory production, but the question is I have no clue which of the many factories that have Menghai in their name it came from. My only clue is the little emblem embedded in the cake. So if you recognize that emblem do not hesitate to comment with the factory name.

Yes it is wrapped in ruled paper, as I was rather dissapointed that this brick along with several others arrived with the paper wrapping it in such bad shape (looked almost shredded in parts) That I had to devise a way to wrap them safely for transportation, and this solution seemed elegant, and possibly the least harmful. This actually seemed to be the brick which was the easiest to break apart, and with care I managed to get a decent amount of fuller pieces from the brick.

This tea is has taken on a dark brown appearance, with hints of green and yellow, but as I've only had this tea for roughly 6 months, I have no clue as to how green it was in 2006, or rather if it has changed much at all.

The leaves after the rinse smell green and grassy, with a hint of tobacco.

The soup is transparent and yellow, with a nice sweetness in the aroma, there is no sign of the tobacco I picked up on from the leaves, but it is really nice and grassy and sweet.

I'm honestly shocked by this tea. I have had many nasty puerh teas in the 3-7 year age range, perhaps this is still on the young side and its still got the vibrant pleasantness of youth. It is not over powering, It has a hint of orange that lingers through into the finish, other than that its a slightly bitter, mildly astringent green tea. I think I should run an aging test, with this and another puerh which is so powerful and astringent, your mouth feels raw after a few brews, that is if you can drink it for that long.

The second brew is more of a burnt yellow, the flavor profile is the same as the first infusion, while slightly more fruity.

While digging through the spent leaves, I notice that they are all rather small, and while I thought I got alot of whole leaves out of the brick, I can't find a whole leaf anywhere, but they are still decent sized pieces.

This tea while pleasant, is sort of like a one trick show, its got the hint of orange, then its sorta generic puerh young sheng, with nothing setting it apart. But I must go eat, before this destroys my stomach.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Nada Cha 90's tuo Revisited

I received a yixing as a gift from a friend of mine, who had gotten a new yixing for aged sheng which left this one unused. He has done such a good job of season it, I feel its a shame using it to brew my 90's tuo, but have no fear better aged sheng should be on its way.

This is brewing up a strong dark cup of tea, which tastes like a walk through a forest in late fall, after a rain. To me it also reminds me of old decaying trees eaten away by bugs, and moist with decomposition and fresh rich soil.
Now I know I raved about this tea the first time I talked about it. It still is a great tea for the price, and sadly Nada said he probably won't stock it any more after the ones currently in his possesion run out.

I also decided too include a picture of what I'm currently using for Puerh tea. The clay jug is my fair cup, and I like these bowl type cups for puerh, somehow with these aged tea's they just seem to make them much smoother.

House Cleaning/ New Beginnings

In a search for pure tea, and pure mind, I deleted posts pertaining to non Chinese tea's, along with tea from vendors I consider purely commercial.

From now on I aim to focus on Chinese tea, and preparation and brewing of Chinese tea, along with Chinese tea ware.

I also plan on posting more than just tea reviews, I am going to expand my horizons and work on writing essays, about journey's along the Journey of seeking exceptional tea.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

TeaCuppa Tie Luo Han

This past week in the mail the tea table I ordered arrived. I had been very much looking forward to getting a tea table, as I love how they look, and they basically act as a basin to catch any spills and drips which are sure to happen in the preparation of tea.

Tie Luo Han is also known as Iron warrior monk or Iron Ahart. It is a Wuyi Yancha (rock tea from the wuyi mountain), and is one of the four famous tea bushes of that area.

Prepared in a Zini Yixing pot, over 1/2 full of leaves.

1: Boiling, 20 seconds.

Nose: Mango's, banana's and oranges, along with cloves and possible some cinnamon, very fresh, and vibrant.

Palate: Slight hints of the fruits, but a very heavy spicyness is there with a slight astringency. Almost like a Rou Gui in terms of cinnamon, but it has other spices such as pepper. Slight hints of charcoal from roasting.

Finish: Lingering hints of astringency, and just the fading away of the spices, with a hint of dry toast.

2: Boiling, 20 seconds.

Nose: Still lots of tropical fruits, with hints of roasting comming forth.

Palate: Spices and astringency came in later, but before they came in its reminds me of an unsweetend rasberry iced tea, with perhaps a hint of peach. Also the spices were very much less pronounced this time.

Finish: Peach, and toast, which lasts for quite some time.

3: Boiling, 30 seconds.

Nose: less fruits, and more toasted notes, but still very plesant, maybe a slight peach.

Palate: Really reminds me of a fruit tea, with hints of other spices.

Finish: The fruits seemed to have left nose and arrived in the finish.

A great tea, with hints of roasting, but still rather fruity, not floral or weak, but rather pronounced fruits.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

TeaCuppa Jade Ti Guan Yin

This is the very same Jade Ti Guan Yin that I used for my roasting experiment. I guess it just took my awhile to get around to reviewing it, as I said I was going to about a month ago.

1: boiling, 30 seconds

Nose: Its been quite some time since I've made a green oolong, and this does not disappoint. Raspberries and butter, with perhaps a hint of mint.

Palate: A tartness, like a sour berry, but its rather buttery.

Finish: The sour tartness just sticks with you, and doesn't want to give up, yet has hints of mint.

2: boiling, 20 seconds

Nose: Very buttery, with hints of minerals, and mint.

Palate: hint of orange, but still classic green oolong melted butter like taste.

Finish: some of the tartness from before, with a raw broccoli like aftertaste.

3: boiling, 40 seconds

Nose: Actually starting to fade, but similar to the first two, lots of spring aroma's.

Palate: slightly sour butter, with hints of shortbread.

Finish: Lingering sourness.

This is not horrible, but the sour taste is throwing me off.

Friday, July 3, 2009

TeaCuppa Honey Orchid Dan Cong

If enjoying tea consisted only of enjoying its aroma's and nothing else, then I'm sure Dan Cong's would be considered the most prized of all teas. Dan Cong tea is an oolong from the Guangdong Provence. The name honey orchid implies that this tea is taken from a clone of the famous Mi Lan Xiang tea bush.

Just pouring it from the gaiwan into the fair cup, a honey aroma is filling the room quite nice.

1: boiling 45 seconds
Nose: Lots of honey, and actually not much else on this one. There is a hint of candy, and possibly some fruits.

Palate: A slight sourness like a sour candy, but its got the slight bitterness of honey, and the sourness almost reminds me of over steeped jasmin pedals.

Finish: the sourness presists, just lingering on the front of the tounge. There is a sweetness of honey which comes out a bit later on in the finish, all together quite nice.

Note: As I work further into this infusion the taste is somewhat welcoming, which is odd as it doesn't sound to appetizing.

2: Boiling: 30 seconds.

Nose: Much lighter, but still lots of honey, but also alot more floral. In short its very sweet smelling, but not in an artificial sort of way.

Palate: The sour flavor is much reduced, now its the bitter astringent side taste of honey.

Finish: just a lingering dryness, with the flavor from the taste lingering, but no new tastes.

3: Boiling: 1 minute.

(Very similar to the second steep).

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