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Sunday, December 26, 2010

I'm dreaming of a White Christmas

Yame Gyo white out three

My love affair with White Hagi ware continues, the hohin pictured was a Christmas gift, and now makes Gyokuro a much more affordable proposition in terms of consumption. But I will say I had a wonderful tea session today, sitting cross legged on the kitchen floor in front of a large window looking out upon a snow covered landscape, while drinking from hagi that matched the view perfectly.

Yame Gyo White out too

It actually had me wondering, while I love enjoying tea outside, or at least near a window with a view of the outside, it almost presents a new possibility in terms of setting the mood. I mean how great would it be to have teaware that not only matches the mood but also the seasons.

Although the more I consider this the more I am concerned that there may be problems with certain seasons, at least in terms of color schemes. But as I said in my post about time of year and tea cups, I feel the shape and size is rather important, and now I am wondering about whether seasons and colors out side should play a part also.

Realizing it would be rather expensive to get teaware in just about every single color, I think it would be easier to set the mood by bringing the colors in with other items, much in the manner often talked about on Tea Masters blog, and Chadao (Europe).

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tis the Holidays

The holidays for someone of my age, as a graduate student, tends to mean leaving the place you live year round, and heading to your parents house for a couple of weeks. This for most of my fellow students tends to be much easier, simply bring clothes and perhaps a few books, and you are all set to spend the holidays somewhere else. But I have realized how potentially problematic it is to be a tea addict, and almost borderline obsessive about using the right teaware for the teas being used.

So prior to my drive to my parents house a few days ago I had to make the tough decisions as to what I imagined myself drinking, and what teaware I would need, and worry about how to package those items so they could survive the trip nicely. I am most certainly glad I am no longer flying which makes the packing thing a huge issue as breakage is a major concern.

So those of you that have been following this blog will not be completely surprised in my decision to stick to Japanese teas and hagi products, which while I love them, I decided mostly on bringing them because they all came with wooden artist signed boxes which make transportation much easier as the box would bear most of the burden of stress as opposed to a cloth or bubble wrapped gaiwan which a bit of misplaced weight might very well cause a chip or a more serious failure in the gaiwan.

But that being said it still feels somewhat limiting as I am without quite a few of my teaware tools that I am quite reliant on such as my lins kettle. Not to mention that I am now making tea in what is very well the busiest room of my parents house meaning distractions can happen at just about any time, some good some annoying when I am just trying to spend my time with tea. But I continue to greatly enjoy the Japanese greens and hope to getting into exploring some great gyokuro-s and a few sencha-s that I brought along.

So I'd like to take this time to wish all my readers a happy holiday season, and my posts might be a bit more scarce. (In fact as I read this I notice its been about 10 days since my last post!) But that is what finals do to your sense of time, completely obliterate it.

Happy Holidays!!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Time of year and teacups

Ocha 7132 Asamushi

I have been playing a lot with cup shapes and sizes, and I have started to note a pattern with times of year, broken down by type of tea.

Japanese Teas

I have several different shaped teacups for Japanese tea, in two main categories. These being:

Wan - a cup that is a bit more a kin to a small bowl, or a smaller cup of similar shape to certain Chawans.

Yunomi - the what I like to call more traditional shaped Japanese teacup typically holding 6 to 9 ounces in a tall cylindrical shape. Such as the White cup pictured at the top.

But the general trend works in the fashion that the hotter it is outside the smaller the cup I want, with the largest surface area possible exposed to the air. I have often resorted to using multiple cups for myself in one sencha session in this fashion.

When the temperature outside is neither hot nor cold usually falling in the temperature range of 50-75 degrees outside, I resort to standard shaped wans. These seem to offer a bit of a stepping stone with a larger exposed surface area, but a larger volume also. But the fact that the temperature is in the in between stage they cool off at about the right rate.

Yunomi are my go to winter cups, simply because they in my mind act a bit like a chimney. All the water is stacked right on top of each other, and especially when made thick enough to have less heat loss through the sides of the cup, all the heat from the water on the bottom gets directed up to the water above it, therefore basically heating itself, as the surface area exposed to the outside is minimal but it has a relatively large volume.

Chinese Teas

For the longest time with Chinese teas I always used very small cups, where I might make the slight change of using a 1 oz cup instead of a half ounce in the winter. But now I realized I want my tea to be warm for a longer amount of time, and I can deal with giving it a little while longer to cool. As when using those small cups the last cup was always cold, unless I would drink the last three cups back to back to back in less than a minute, as while the fair cup keeps a significant amount of tea warm for awhile, when the fair cup has half an ounce there is no real heat retention.

So now I am exploring the option of using larger cups for basically a whole steep of Chinese tea at a time, and I have been meeting seriously mixed results. It almost seems like mediocre teas tend to taste best in larger cups, while the better quality teas should be kept to smaller cups.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Go Go Gyokuro

So I did it, I broke open my first gyokuro of the season, and now begins the journey that I feel many seasonal gyokuro drinkers undergo. That is getting the brewing parameters fine tuned, as with many teas that require a higher leaf to water ratio getting things exact can be rather difficult when it is not done regularly. Gyokuro also seems to have an additional difficulty of getting the temperature right, as with that much leaf, I feel gyokuro is extra sensitive to even slight changes in temperature.

Fitting the bill that gyokuro is a winter tea, I opened it up on the first day we had snow here in this part of Western Michigan. As I am writing this we have quite a bit more snow falling, and I am starting to get excited for the holidays. Though after having a few sessions of Gyokuro a few questions have been arising.

I love in the middle of winter holding onto a nice hot cup of tea, and enjoying it thoroughly. But Gyokuro is brewed in such small amounts and at such low temps, that the entire warming effects are lost on me. The only reasons I feel why it is considered more of a winter tea is its robust umami like flavor, and the fact that Gyokuro should be aged for at least half a year, likely more for it to be in its prime.

Either way I am excited that it is gyokuro season, and I hope all of you are enjoying the start of winter and the holiday season.

Friday, December 3, 2010

When is it not a good time for Japanese greens?

Kaoru Organic Matcha

For someone who used to be so adamant in their lack of appeal for Japanese greens I have surely done quite an about face. Although this seems to have many different components. That being either my tastes have radically changed, or the water where I live now even after being filtered is often unsuitable for my previous long time favorite of Wuyi Yancha, although seems to often result in wonderful tasting Sencha. That and the fact that I have moved beyond just having tea, to experiencing tea. This is not saying that wuyi or other teas can not be experienced. But for my own personal enjoyment, I love tactility and use of my hagi cups, and using kyusu's or hohins.

But then again I noticed this even with Wuyi two summers ago, but when I really enjoy a tea, and am acting like I can not possible get enough, it seems I fall out of certain seasonally expected norms, the most regarded are Greener and lighter teas in the summer and Darker, and bolder teas in the winter. Well I must say that basically for the last year, I have had a Japanese green tea on average probably more than twice a week.

Kuradashi Sencha

So I am honestly not sure if there is ever not a good time for Japanese greens, although I am all for drinking the tea you feel like when you feel like it, so as long as my body keeps asking for Japanese greens, I will keep on drinking them.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hibiki-an Kuradashi Sencha

Kuradashi Sencha

This is not quite a tea review, it is just my thoughts on my experience with this particular sencha. Hibiki-an I believe each fall releases their Kuradashi line, which at least this year included Sencha, Gyokuro and Matcha.

What makes these special are the fact that they are aged for quite some time, sadly the Sencha has sold out, so I can not double check the length but I thought it was 18 months. Something that seems almost contradictory to most conventional wisdom on green teas that they are best when fresh as possible. But from this tea and several other things I have noticed lately, sometimes it seems green teas at least Japanese green teas can actually benefit from a slight bit of aging.

Though in terms of this tea it really seems like a hybrid between Sencha and Gyokuro, in which is is aged but not shade grown. The other hybrid being Kabusecha which is slightly shade grown but typically not aged. But this tea through my many sessions with it, has always offered up a lovely nutty and grain like characteristic, that is actually rather mellow.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Amazing Puerh

94 Menghai 8582

I will say that I am not entirely serious about the title of this post, although it is somewhat amazing. Today when I was searching for a tea I wanted to drink I came upon an amazing realization. I have 3 cloth boxes underneath my "tea table" which are separated into the following categories Korean and Japanese, Non-puerh Chinese, and Puerh. Which I think is a nice organization system, although opening the boxes tells an interesting story.

The Japanese and Korean box looks incredibly empty, as most of those teas are green teas which are mostly out of season.

The Non-Puerh Chinese box at least looks less empty, but over half the tea in the box are teas which I am running "aging" experiments on, although I am less enthused about these than when I started them and am considering no longer having them set aside for aging.

The Puerh box is what honestly concerns me the most. I rarely feel in the mood to drink puerh anywhere near as often as I wish to drink teas out of the other boxes, but the puerh box is completely stuffed. This is especially shocking considering I have placed far fewer puerh orders than orders for any other type of tea, and it all goes back to what I call the "puerh mindset." The "mindset" is seemingly the very convincing cartoon devil standing on your shoulder when you are placing a puerh order. It whispers sweet things in your ear such as "a lot of people likes these cakes, so you will to, so why sample first, when the cake is a little of double the price of the sample?" Along with the one that seems to really infect people new to puerh, and I know I was guilty of it: "Buy more than one, so you can see how it ages, and you know it will age into something great, as all aged puerh is great."

The thing is I know it is not just me that has become jaded towards the puerh mindset. I may change my mind about the puerh mindset later in life, should I ever get a spot that I feel would be suitable to store puerh for the long term, but even then certain things will probably still be true. As much as I enjoy puerh from time to time, I consider aged puerh, young puerh, and everything in between much the same way I view Green TGY. That is I can tell when I am drinking a good one or a bad one, but it is not a tea I want to drink often.

After realizing that at the rate at which I am drinking the puerh I currently have on hand it would likely last me at least half way to 2020 likely further, I am actually a bit concerned. So not that I have ever directly believed in new years resolutions but we are getting closer to Jan 1st, that I might think a tea related one might be to have at least one session of young puerh a week, just so I can reduce my supply at a much quicker pace.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chalk Dust and Tap Water

I do not know if it the inherent gritty feeling of seemingly everything in my office, and the fact that no matter how recently someone worked at the board that chalk dust seems to fill my nose, but I've learned delicate teas are to be avoided at just about all costs in an academic office setting.

That being said I thankfully never planed to drink a tea in my office that I felt would require undivided sensory perception. But the more and more I drink tea in the office, the more I realize that Big and Bold flavors and aromas in teas are often best, and as seemingly anything can happen to call your attention away, less expensive teas that you won't mind only doing a few steeps with are by far best.

Though I assume most corporate offices do not have to worry about chalk dust, and depending on the layout you may have large amounts of time which you typically have no interruptions. But somehow in an grad student office many of you are all in a rather small room, typically in many of the same classes, so even when the door is shut, it can be easy to start talking with someone about a problem or topic, and have half an hour pass at the board.

Big and bold I am learning is definitely best, as only when I'm drinking an over roasted oolong that is honestly not that great, do I actually get some of the effects I love the most about tea, that is the wafting aromas of the tea, and it was actually the first tea I made in the office that I felt had a substantial amount of taste, the previous Houjicha and Green TGY always seemed to be be colored hot water with only subtle hints of taste and aroma.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Two years of The Sip Tip

Hou De Rou Gui

Today marks the two year anniversary of starting the Sip Tip, though anyone will have a hard time to find posts from the first few months, as I deleted most of them when I first refocused my blog. Though I am actually rather amazed as I thought some how in two years of enjoying tea I would have settled into a habit by now, though I seemingly continue to find new avenues to explore.

A change I definitely hope stays around is I plan to continue to explore Korean teas, which now seems like as good a time to start as any, as seemingly more and more vendors are now offering Korean Teas on websites that are easier to navigate by English Speakers. (Still working on learning more languages, but still far from bilingual).

I have made my decision to go without yixing teapots from here on until I have a change of heart. This is for many reasons some of which are outlined here. Though part of it has to do with the fact that I like the bit more skill that is required for working with a gaiwan, and it is easier to find gaiwans in the sizes I would rather use.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

To sample or not to sample?

There are many good arguments both for and against sampling, in the tea world. No where does the debate seem more heated than when dealing with Young Puerh, which many people in the puerh forum on teachat used to say " A cake is a sample" which is understandable because with certain big factory productions a 1 ounce sample would in some instances cost nearly as much as half the price of a cake. But the down side to that is if you then buy an entire cake and then hate the tea, well now you have several hundred grams of that tea with no desire to drink it.

In short I will say I am pro sampling in general, and I feel MarshalN gave good reasons in this post. I almost feel like I should have a footnote anytime I say I am pro samples. The following exceptions a centered around familiarity of the type of tea in the samples. I mean if you know very little about the tea you are making, it is like driving to somewhere you have never been before in an area with which you are unfamiliar. Basically you have directions or guidelines on how to get to the end result, but you are so focused on the details such as turn left on Vine street, that you tend to overlook the scenery for blocks leading up to Vine street because you are so focused on doing the directions precisely.

If I could stretch my driving metaphor a bit more, it may be that the person who gave you directions is a bit unfamiliar with exactly where you are coming from so it could be that the directions were slightly inefficient, or that you had a way that is much better for you to get to the end result of good tea. Consider the problems with the other route things such as construction or excessive number of traffic lights, which would translate into tea as something like excessive worry over leaf/water ratio, and water temperature. Though I do know some people that like to worry about those details in excess, which brings up a Tea Brewing Art vs. Science discussion, but in reality everyone has to find their own way, and I personally when it comes to tea I like to feel at ease, and in a sense let the moment judge certain steps.
2009 KSH Balhyocha Color
The teas that are the main inspiration for this post are Dao Tea's Balhyochas. Which if you have been following along with some of the discussion associated with the tasting sponsored by Mattcha's blog. It honestly boils down to while trying the two Balhyochas were an eyeopener as a completely different type of tea than I have ever tried. Honestly it is a tea that is somewhat paradoxical the more and more I think about it, it is not quite a black tea, yet not quite an oolong. The most baffling part about this tea is the best sessions of it I have gotten the first infusion is a light amber color much like a mid to light roasted TGY. While that first infusion was good, the best infusions seem to come later where when given hotter water and longer steeps out comes a nice dark ruby color which is absolutely delicious. Though as with most teas the first infusion or two are often the best in a somewhat undebatable sense. So my first inclination was I have been messing up the first infusion or two of this tea, I should try and get the dark ruby color sooner, but as resistant and resilient as these Balhyochas are, if I should try and get more out in the first infusion it is always slightly too strong in certain senses, and then the whole tea fades to quickly.

2009 KJY Balhyocha

So while I am in favor of sampling many different teas especially when exploring a category, I have a hard time believing that until you are rather familiar with that category of tea it may be a bit of an effort in futility.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Good opinion once lost, is lost forever.

Yes the title of this post is a quote from Pride and prejudice, and honestly I have been pondering its implications slightly regarding tea. Most notably I recently received an order from Hibiki-an, and as Hibiki-an still lists its tea prices in terms of USD compared to most Japanese tea vendors located in Japan, who list their prices in Yen. So as the Yen is rather strong compared to the dollar right now, I decided to give them a try, that and the fact that compared to Ippodo who I was actually planning on ordering from saved me the price of EMS shipping required from Ippodo.

So I was hoping Hibiki's Sencha Superior could be an alternate to Ippodo's Nichi getsu which while it is not great I think it is a great price vs value ratio and when it was 11 dollars for 100 grams was a sencha I was content to drink nearly all the time.

But upon cracking into the Sencha Superior I had possible the worst sencha session I have had in quite some time, though it was something that I did not believe was the teas fault. As my stomach had been feeling slightly funny, and while tea usually settles it this time it did quite the opposite and my stomach was in serious pain after the first infusion, and stayed so throughout the session. Now it could be as I poured the bag out into the container then scooped directly from the container there may have been a large amount of smaller broken leaf bits which added a bit extra astringency causing the discomfort.

It does not change the fact in my mind that the worst session I have ever had with a sencha, happened on my first try with this tea. So now I am worried that I might always view this tea in a negative light, especially since today I had another session and the session was perfectly fine, no stomach problems, or really problems of any sort. It was a perfectly enjoyable session, but I still feel my view of this tea is still tainted. But I honestly feel I did not enjoy it nearly as much as I should have because constantly in the back of my mind is the reminder of the first session with this tea.

So here is to hoping my opinion of this tea improves through many more good sessions.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tea Trekker Sejak

TeaTrekker Sejak
My last package of Korean Greens, and this is some beautiful looking Sejak it honestly looks like a cross between an Asamushi sencha and a twisted Chinese green. The Korean greens I have had have honestly had some of the best smells, and I want to say the Sejaks have been my personal favorites, so incredibly fresh and forest like at the same time.

My first impression of this tea was incredibly positive, maybe not the most complex, but its flavor profile is an incredible wave of Umami. But I hate to say as I brewed up more and more infusions, I am starting to like this tea less and less.

The tea started out rather wonderful but the strong Umami flavors faded into a rather powdery/chalky taste that permeates the whole mouth. I am trying to think of how that could be remedied, and I am thinking upon later tastings would be to keep the temp lower through all infusions. So basically I should not increase the temp as much between infusions.

I say this because I think the powdery flavor is a sort of hidden masked astringency. Astringency tends to be countered in two ways shorter infusions or cooler temps, and while this tea never seemed incredibly potent in terms of flavor it was not a problem with the steep times.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mandarins Tea Room Menghai Green Brick

MTR 80s Menghai Green Brick

I have been doing my best to remain open to every single tea I try, as usually only after I write of an entire category of teas do I find one that makes me stand back and reconsider the entire category. This is a sample I received with my last order from the Mandarins tea room, I think I got a few extra samples due to an inventory mix up with one of the teas I ordered. But I am really glad he included it though I am a bit sad for my bank account, I was just about ready to write off all Cooked Puerhs, and puerhs that include cooked among raw leaves such as this brick from the 80's.

But I do not know if it is the cold wet rainy weather out side that is making me enjoy this thoroughly warming earthy tea so much, but for my current mood it seems absolutely perfect. Its coming across as so incredibly smooth with a good bit of camphor and herbs adding the edge that draws you into the taste sensation completely.

So I am on Electric Hotplate take 3, after having the last electric hotplate I bought die on my after about a month, I was hesitant to buy another but my new one came across highly reviewed, especially among people who use it for tea. So I am back in the habit of using my Lins kettle. So I feel more comfortable digging into the few aged puerh samples I have and a young Puerh sample I got from the Official Teachat Tasting Initiative that I am highly eager to try as to my understanding it is not available for sale, but it is a Nannou from The Mandarins private collection.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Mandarins Tea Room 1st Grade Jin Jun Mai

MTR 1st Grade Jin Jun Mai
This tea came as a sample, included with my last order from The Mandarins Tea Room, which is now joining forces with The Tea Gallery. That partnership honestly has me wishing I was still close enough to NYC to visit somewhat easily.

I honestly am not sure if my nose is just broken, or somehow when brewing this tea granny/grandpa style it just seems to have a rather reduced scent. The dry leaves smelled amazing, and the tea while its aroma is not over whelming is a gentle comforting aroma, of chocolate and freshly baked bread. Its taste is equally reassuring and very comforting. I have a hard time describing this tea in any other fashion than comforting.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Yuuki-cha Kanayamidori


This concludes a tasting of many of Yuuki-cha's Asamushi Sencha's. I thought they were all rather good though one of them was a bit of an odd ball (The Oku Yutaka). Though I will say I just can not go through sencha like some people, though that could be in part due to the start of my interest in Korean Teas. Because before I got into them, I was actually having Sencha about 5-6 times a week, then after those, and when my schedule got busy again, it went down to about once or twice.

I honestly think that my view on asamushi sencha is to start with cooler steeps staring at 150-160 degrees fahrenheit and slightly longer infusions, while raising the temps slightly from then on. I feel it offers a better tasting infusion and extends the longevity of the leaf a bit more (as the steeps are not extended by that much, but the lower temps pull less out initially).

Kanaya Midori Color

My experiments with this tea tend to point to that as with cooler steeps it is more broth like and rather soothing, but when brewed with temps closer to 180 from the get go it gets the bitterness Asamushi can be known to have when brewed to hot.

Anyway like I said at the beginning I think yuuki-cha does a good job sourcing their asamushi's and I hope to try them again.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Nearly a Year Later, tasting 2007 Wuyi Star Da Hong Pao Brick

Nearly a year ago I first tasted this brick, and I honestly have not touched it since. While I have long since decided to give up on my little "aging" tests, as they are just not feasible as currently I see myself moving many times in the next 10 or more years, so the idea of having to move tea over and over again is rather daunting, especially since tea collections can grow rather fast if you are planning on aging stuff for many years.

So I must admit I was not expecting much upon opening up the package, it had let out an amazing smell, though perhaps a touch on the sour side? The brick was much easier to break up this time, but it may just have to do with me working on the opposite side of the brick than I did last time.

The aroma is still spicy with a hint of sourness to it, but the taste is actually not all that bad. While the color is incredibly dark, the taste is full of hints of chocolate and hints of coffee like tastes.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Sadness that is Stale Tea

I am sure we all have had the problem of stale tea, at some time or another. And we all have ways to deal with it, such as some people place a lot of small orders but rather regularly to avoid developing a backlog of tea. Others stick to teas that are less likely to go stale, or at least when they do it is a lot less noticeable.

While I do a little bit of both, most large orders I place, focus primarily on teas that are less likely to become stale. These being Roasted oolongs, Black Teas, and of course Puerh Tea. While I say less likely to become stale, I do not mean you can abuse them with storage, I mean sunlight is still an enemy to tea, and so are strong aroma's.

But I did have the unfortunate happening of having roughly 40 grams of a Korean Green going bad. But due to the large amount of work I've had to do recently, I have been brewing tea a lot more in the lazy fashion. But I do not want to use premium leaf for this, I realized lazy brewed stale tea can sometimes be an improvement over brewing the stale tea in my typical fashion, ( a bit higher leaf to water ratio). While I still view this as a bit of a waste of tea, it certainly is much less of a waste than not drinking the tea at all.

So it seems sometimes a stale tea can have a bit of a second chance, as a tea to be consumed when you are busy doing other things and

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Mandarins Tea Room Yixing Red

MTR Yixing Red
Well, I almost hate to review this tea as I believe I ordered the last of it available through this vendor. But as I feel this blog should also foster discussion about the tea featured in each post, which is in part why I have been shifting away from detailed tasting notes and offering thoughts about the tea instead.

So for this tea I am trying it two ways, as I have been urged by the proprietor, to try these black teas in a Gong fu type fashion, yet also "grandpa" style in a chawan.

But one thing that has become incredibly apparent, is I honestly did not like black teas. I have had several in the past that I have really liked, but I always got the feeling that a Black tea, is a tea that is rather in your face.

MTR Yixing Red Color

But I have started to taste certain teas that are incredibly mellow but still have the same flavor tones.

Such as brewing this Yixing red in a Gong fu type fashion about 4 grams to 60 ml, and shorter steeps starting about 15 seconds and going from there. Is giving infusions that are subtle, but forceful in its ability to draw attention strictly to it.

Though in a Chawan yields an even more laid back drink, but it almost should as it has a lot smaller leaf to water ratio.

MTR Yixing Red Chawan

Thursday, October 7, 2010

2010 Kim Shin Ho Sejak

2010 KSH Sejak
This I believe is the last tea I have yet to try from the tasting organized by Matt over atMattcha's blog. Also many thanks goes out to Pedro of Dao Tea, who provided the teas for this tasting.

This tea seems to be toying with my mind a little bit, while it has a wonderful outward appearance, the dry leaf aroma places me right around Christmas time. I know I have said this several ties but some of these Korean Green teas honestly smell a quite like a pine tree, and even more so this one has a nice layer of lavender right on top of that.

If I could use a quote to describe my first tastes with this tea, I might have to be "Talk softly and carry a big stick" which I believe is attributed to Teddy Roosevelt, but I was never really that into history. What I mean by that quote, is while it has a nice subtle aroma, and pleasing though ever so soft color, when it hits the palate it uses its big stick. Or rather shows you the big stick, as it is never painful or over powering, but from a tea that was so incredibly mellow previously to all of a sudden show so much power it is rather surprising.

That being said the taste was a bit more of a resinous taste, with a good bit of pine and herbs, but it really made me take note. While this tea seems to be providing more of a jump start than I usually get from any tea, call it qi or caffeine, but the rest of the day does not seem like that much of a challenge right now.

2010 KSH Sejak Color

Well the eventual has happened, the surplus of posts I had have finally run out, as was inevitable as every time I added a new one I was dating it less into the future than I did with the previous ones. That being said the every three days thing might start to fall apart though I am really going to try and keep it a reality.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dao Tea 2010 Kim Jong Yeol Sejak

2010 KJY Sejak

Thank you once more, to Matt and Pedro of Dao tea for arranging this set of samples, and I am sure I will thank you at least once more as I still have the 2010 Kim Shin Ho Sejak to sample.

When smelling the dry leaf, I want to make a comparison that will not sound all that nice at all, but it actually really works. To me the dry leaf smells like a softer more rounded version of a little pine tree air freshener some people hang in their cars. Let me explain its slightly pine like, slightly minty, but its much nicer than those air fresheners as it smells completely natural and it toys with your senses instead of being an all out assault.

I may have cut the first infusion a little short, as while the tea has an amazing mouth feel, I feel it is lacking in the taste and aroma component, subtle hints of vegetation, with a hearty umami like quality to it. But right now its stuck in the area between incredibly smooth and mellow, and having a wealth of strong flavors.
2010 KJY Sejak Color
Later infusions offer a little more, but somehow I feel I was expecting too much of this tea, or perhaps it is just that the seasons are just completely off now that its not even 60 degrees Fahrenheit outside at noon today. But I will say I am feeling a good bit of chaqi from this tea.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Mandarins Tea Room 2nd Grade Jin Jun Mai

MTR Jin Jun Mai 2nd Grade

So people familiar with my blog spanning back a year or more, will know I am a major fan of Wuyi Yancha. Well this tea is from Wuyi, but its not an oolong, it is processed as a red tea, which leads to some of the excitement.

The rest of the excitement comes from the fact that it is offered at the Mandarins tea room, which as its owned by someone I would like to call a friend, who has played a rather helpful role in helping me develop into the world of Chinese Tea.

What makes this tea especially interesting, is the fact that it is one of these new styled red teas, which are made mainly of buds.

MTR Jin Jun Mai 2nd Grade Color
Hong cha, or red teas, I often find have two different overarching categories of scents, those that make me go oooo, and those that make me go ewww. This is definitely part of the former, with an intoxicating mix of malt and chocolate. The tea goes on to amaze me even more, the taste is incredibly mild, but the finish is a really nice and rich chocolate malt. But the mouth feel is so incredibly rich and creamy.

MTR Jin Jun Mai 2nd grade Chawan

So I happened to ask the owner after a successful but rather difficult battle with this tea the first time. That being the fact that this consists of so many tiny little buds, which makes it incredibly hard to brew in a gaiwan, and get the pour speed I am used to.

He told me to brew granny/grandpa style in a chawan, something that worked absolutely wonderfully, though of course start with cooler water about the right temp for green tea and increase temp for future infusions never drinking the last 1/3 of the liquid until you are on your last infusion.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Essence of Tea 2010 Manmai

2010 EoT Manmai
I do not have an entire cake of this tea, I got this sample through the Official Teachat Tasting Initiative #5 Young Puerh.

The Dry leaves have a wonderful sweet aroma of dried fruits and leather.

I've actually had a hard time getting through the samples, due to the fact that I go through times of craving young puerh, and when I do not crave it, it often feels rather uninspiring. As I may cause a bit of uproar with this statement, but even the best young puerh teas are somewhat secondary in quality due to the very nature of production and the variety of tea plants growing in Yunnan. I mean think about it, the bitterness in puerh, which often gets praised, would be considered a mortal flaw in Long Jing or just about any other Chinese Green tea.

That being said this tea has a pleasing color, with a nice mellow aroma of straw and wildflowers. But as I was saying the taste has a distinct bitterness which is praise worthy in young puerh, and the flavors lying beneath are strong tropical flavors (which in my theory would probably taste drastically different if the bitterness was not there).

I think I will reiterate here what I said in the Teachat post.... While this tea is a definite cut above the big factory Puerhs, today I can not identify anything of particular note, which screams out and attracts me to this cake.
2010 EoT Manmai color
That being said it while this is not a positive mark for this tea as a drink now tea. If you subscribe to the belief that a very bitter cake with a good bit of underlying complexity makes for a puerh that will age wonderfully. Then this tea would be a great tea to check out in ten or more years.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lazy Tea

What I have been worrying about has happened, my graduate studies are taking up so much time, that I really have to make time for a good session of tea. the biggest problem, is I still want to keep drinking tea as often as I was previously. This has lead to what I am calling "Lazy Tea."

Its rather funny that my "lazy tea" is basically western style brewed tea, though often a Chinese tea brewed in a Japanese glazed Kyusu. Honestly I feel it is what works best for getting work done, while still enjoying tea.

It wasn't until I started doing this, that I realized this would probably be the ideal set up for me, should I ever make tea in an office type setting.

Though I would be interested in hearing what other people have for Office set ups? I honestly would personally like to stay away from a Gaiwan as I feel they can be too easily tipped.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

2009 Kim Jong Yeol Sejak

09 KJY Sejak

This tea is from Dao tea, and was acquired as part of the Sampler arranged by Matt over at Mattchas blog. I am trying to decide if my Korean tea drinking habits will be changing a great deal as we head into fall. As Korean greens are certainly unique in the sense that they have heartier flavors than most Chinese green teas, but they still have the cooling effect green teas are known for.

The dry leaf aromas of this this tea are lavender and several other aromatic aromas.

The first infusion had a nice light and fresh aroma, with a taste of hearty vegetables, but actually comes across as slightly over powering with a mildly bitter and drying finish.

The second infusion was so much better with hints of melon in both aroma and taste. A rather notable occurrence is a lemon like flavor and a citrus rind finish.

The tea remained incredibly drinkable and enjoyable for many more infusions.

09 KJY Sejak Color

Summer reminder
Tea, weather, and shining sun
Soon just memories.

--Adam Yusko

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

2009 Kim Shin Ho Jungjak

09 KSH Jungjak

Granted I still am a bit of a neophyte when it comes to Korean tea's, but I believe it was Matt from Mattcha's blog that said you should not compare Ujeon to Sejak to Jungjak, even though they are all green teas, and often picked from similar areas if not the same plants (still not sure on that). Simply because they are vastly different, and while I have only tried 1 Ujeon, and a few Sejaks and a few Jungjaks, it seems almost like comparing a Long Jing to a Bi Lou Chun to a Tai Ping Hou Kui, as while they are all green teas, they can very well offer vastly different flavors.

This tea made it 5 infusions which is somewhat typical for Japanese and Korean Green teas for me, though I feel I could usually push the Korean greens more infusions ( I often do for premium teas).

09 KSH Jungjak Color

The color is nice and robust, and it certainly offers a flavor profile to match.

Early infusions start out with a wealth of beans on the aroma and tastebuds, mixed with hints of leafy vegetables, finishing off with a nice sweetness.

As the infusions go on the beans fade, and I started to notice what I could only describe as Bok Choi and lettuce.

Quite a nice tea, and though sadly I'm going to have to be putting away the green teas soon as the weather is starting to get a lot cooler.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dao Tea Balhyochas

For reading on Balhyocha and what exactly it is / may be I highly suggest checking out the two part series created by Matt over at Mattcha's Blog, part 1 part 2.

These teas were part of the sampler arranged by Matt and the owner of Dao tea, and it has been rather amazing getting to try all of these, though I still have several more to try.

2009 Kim Jong Yeol Balhyocha.

2009 KJY Balhyocha
This tea was loaded with lots of malt aroma, with a good bit of honey. It honestly has been awhile since I've had a any hong cha, which is really what this reminds me of. As its got that characteristic aroma which I want to describe as a malt and fruits sort of mixed together.

That being said I enjoyed this tea, but somehow I felt like it was highly restrained. so I guess I am going to agree with Brett at the Tea Goober on his view on this tea. Especially in regards to the fact that it seemed to have lost the kick it probably had when fresher.

2009 KJY Balhyocha Color

2009(2010?) Kim Shin Ho Balhyocha
2009 KSH Balhycha
I am unsure of the year, as the packet it came in had the year 2009 on it, but on the letter that came with the samples it lists the year for this one as 2010.

Aroma after rinse: Hints of oak, malt and raspberries.

This tea was full of malt, and raspberries, all throughout, with a nice earthy sweetness in the finish.

2009 KSH Balhyocha Color
This tea was much like the other one, and again it was enjoyable.

I am not sure how I can give a completely unbiased opinion of these two teas. As while they were enjoyable, they seemed to be enjoyable in the sense that they are unlike anything I have regularly. But that being said there is a reason I do not drink much hong cha, simply because the combination of flavors that occur do not really wow me, personally.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Mandarins Tea Room 2006 Yiwu

2006 Mandrin Tea Room Yiwu

I have only tried one Yiwu tea prior to this, and after trying this one, I have decided I am rather fond of Yiwu teas, though I still have no clue what a young one tastes like as the only two I have tried are at least 4 years old.

This tea has been a major lesson in the effects even a few degrees in water temperature can make. This tea was acquired as a sample through a Teachat Tasting Initiative on Young Puerh. It included enough to give me two tries at this tea. The first was with water in my Lins kettle boiled on the stove, and reboiled every 10-15 minutes until the session was over. But Tim insisted when I had postive remarks but not spectacular ones that this tea really needs really hot water, just off boil for each infusion. Something I find no longer feasible with my Lins kettle solely because I am now operating without an Electric hot plate as in the past 2-3 months I have had two of them break on me, and my current set up is more friendly to the option of boiling on the stove.

But for this I took out my old trust electric kettle, reboiling just prior to each infusion. I also amped up a little bit the Leaf to water ratio doing 4.9 grams to 60 ml of water.

2006 Mandrin Tea Room Yiwu color

The first infusion was full of wonderful aromas such as camphor and wood, mixed with a plethora of herbs. It had a slightly bitter but incredibly potent blend of herbs with a nice touch of camphor.

The second infusion was lighter almost borderline floral, and reminded me of an early fall in the woods, with the taste becoming slightly more spicy and the sweetness starts to come out.

Sadly I stopped taking notes after that, as I was fully immersed in the tea.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Hou De 2009 Spring Zhen-Yen Handcrafted Da Hong Pao

Spring 2009 Hou De DHP

This tea is a real treat as its not often you can order Wuyi claiming to be from the Scenic Area of Wuyi-shan and believe it. It says the cultivar is Bei Dou #1 which according to Toki over at the Mandarins Tea Room is a very old cultivar.

This has the best dry leaf smell of any Wuyi I have smelled in quite some time. Raisins, cinnamon and prunes assault my nose in the nicest way possible.

Spring 2009 Hou De DHP Color

The color is rather amazing, its a weird mix of orange, and brown and red, making it not quite the color of a moderately aged puerh, but it is so incredibly dark compared to the Wuyi's I have been having lately.

The aroma is so incredibly sweet, like all sorts of roasted vegetable goodness, (think Cauliflower, parsnip, and the likes roasted in the oven perfectly). I had been forgeting why I liked Wuyi so much in the past, and with this I am remembering quite vividly and fondly as to what a good Yancha can be like. Its got a good sweetness with lots of baking spices and hints of baked apples, and all sorts of wonderful fall goodness.

The wind rushes past,
While countless leaves colors turn.
Wuyi is now King.

--Adam Yusko.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tea Trekker Jungjak

TeaTrekker JungJak

So the real excitement of today was new Korean teaware, from the truly unique and wonderful artist Seong-il. I was so excited I decided to open up a bag of Korean tea, that being the Tea Trekkers Jungjak. I must say these teas are quite a treat. I am writing this review from memory because I really wished to be taken into the tea experience today, especially with my new teaware.

I have been told by Toki at The Mandarins Tea that if you quickly rinse the green tea with near boiling water it will improve the tea experience by better allowing the tea oils to be released. I must say upon pouring off that "rinse" while waiting for the water to cool to proper temp for the first steep, the aroma pouring out of the little teapot from these leaves was absolutely unbelievable. It was rather pine like and incredibly potent. It served to both relax me and make me uneasy, uneasy due to a combination of wanting to drink the tea and an empty stomach.

Seong-il Wood Fired Teapot (2)

So here is the wood fired teapot, that I got today. Cut off in the bottom right corner is a little bit of a lid rest, something that I'm already unsure how I got by without as it is so enjoyable just to have there and add a bit of distinction to the set up.

Teatrekker JungJak color

These are Shino cups and are rather smaller than I thought they would be, but I am starting to become a bit of a Shino fan, or perhaps I am a fan of nearly all teaware!

Somehow I found the aroma of the actual infusion lacking, sure it was incredibly clean and fresh, but no major forthright and robust aroma. But the flavor comes across with a decent bit of pine and if I hadn't been reading so many reviews by Matt, I do not think I would have noticed this, but there is a decent bean type of flavor in there also. In the later infusions it becomes almost minty and quite cooling.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dao Tea 2009 Kim Shin Ho Sejak

09 Kim Shin Ho Sejak
This was receieved as a sample as part of a wonderful tea tasting opportunity hosted by Matt over at Mattcha's Blog. I had been very curious to Try Dao Tea's offerings as they seem to offer the largest selection of Korean teas sold by a Western vendor outside of Hankook (really stretching the definition of Western vendor, but they have an Office/warehouse/distribution center in California). I must say that this tea was a surprise, as I was not sure how well a Green tea could store for over a year, and I must say if this was the 2009 Version I eagerly await the 2010 version which I believe was included in the generous number of samples.

The Dry leaf appearance is small twisted leaves with a good amount of what I believe to be buds, with its aroma fresh and pine like with hints of grass and unidentifiable flowers.

09 Kim Shin ho Sejak Color

Quick rinse with boiling water (don't even bother to fill the pot up all the way just cover the leaves) and immediately pour off. The rinse had wonderful aromas of Pine, corn and an unidentifiable berry (goose berry, red current,...).

The infusions in general have a rather light but incredibly pleasant aroma which just teases the senses. The first infusions taste was rather potent, though in no way over powering or overbearing, though I had a really hard time identifying the taste, I might have to go with a bean like taste (now that Matt has me looking for it in teas, I am noticing it more and more and more). But possibly slight hints of a chocolate and hazelnuts?

The second infusion was significantly lighter on the taste profile, and reminded me of nice fresh leafy vegetables. In the third infusion somehow I was getting a citrus profile.

09 Kim Shin Ho Sejak Spent Leaves

This tea had a powerful Mellowing/ Depressing Qi that struck me after the 3rd infusion, and in general was incredibly cooling and refreshing. I went for 8 infusions with this tea before I had to give up, it probably could have went a bit more, but after 8 infusions I had a stomach about to burst with tea.

Korean Set 2

Admire the teaware,
sniff the venerable leaf,
drink up its goodness.

--Adam Yusko

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Yuuki-cha OkuYutaka

Okuyutaka leaf

So classes start today, and I hope now that I develop a routine. As I am writing this Thursday before I think the fact that I am moved in with no real routine, has been somewhat detrimental to my tea drinking habits. It does not really make much sense but it seems with so much time available to me to have tea, I find myself always putting it off for later. So my tea drinking habits have been pushed further and further into the evening.

The dry leaf has an amazingly pine like aroma, which when infused somehow comes across as incredibly cereal like. Alright I have been known to give some wacky tasting notes in the past, but somehow the aroma of this tea reminds me of the aroma of Lucky Charms. But basically breaking it down, its a sweet aroma with a nice grainy cereal undertone.

The taste is remarkably clean and only slightly vegetal.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

1997 Menghai Shui Lan Yin 7542 Chi Tsi Beeng

97Menghai Shui Lin Yin 7542 leaves

So I ordered a sample of this from Hou de, simply because I am always willing to try and educate myself on Aged Puerh. Its quite stormy here today which is nice as its been awhile without rain.

I've been drinking so many green teas lately, I forgot how beautiful a nice steaming cup of a darkish colored tea could look. And this is quite clear with a nice reddish hue to it. Smelling the cup full of tea really brings me back into what amazing aged puerh can be like, even though this is only about 13 years old its got the nice minty camphor aroma, with a lot of hints of lighter fruits mostly berries.

The taste though is remarkably clean, its got everything I'm looking for but not too much of anything. And surprisingly as aged puerh runs a real risk of producing a cup that is so incredibly earthy that to me it can be off putting.

97 Menghai Shui Lin Yin 7542 Color

Brewing it a little stronger and certain flavors do rise to the front, mostly the slightly minty and earthy camphor, but for the most part the taste comes across as incredibly clean.

I must say that I do not typically order from Hou de, but while their prices are high they typically offer some incredibly solid tea. Though I really do not know why as shipping from Texas to here is rather inexpensive compared to from Asia.

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