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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Aged Ti Kuan Yin (Blue Foil)

Alright so In my Last order from Chinese Kung fu Tea Arts, I got a digital scale, so I will now try and post the number of grams per size of vessel I am using. In that was also 250g of each of his Aged TGY. I do not quite like the fact that I only learned through talking with him that he has two different types of Aged TGY both from 2001 ( I think) but he only has one post on his site. As the Aged TGY I reviewed before was the Red foil bag, which is not the one he has actively been selling.

Though He does say that he likes the Blue foil bag better. Perhaps it is just this bag but the leaves seem slightly more broken up, but they have a distinct nice sweetness. I am using 1 packet (roughly 8g) in my 100 ml gaiwan.

From the leaves after the rinse came a great peach like aroma, I only hope that carries through for the infusions. The aroma of the broth is subtle in nature, but there is a unique peach, spices and herb like aroma coming from it but not a powerful peach like the smell of the wet leaves. There is a slight hint of a roasting present. The broth is interesting, very satisfying but not potent. I will have to steep it longer ( I did roughly 25 seconds on this one). But there is a roasted note, combined with notes of a wide variety of fruits, oranges and peaches to name a few.

Its mouth feel is not bad though, its almost oily, in the way it coats everything.

2001 Aged TGY Pour

The Second infusion smells Sweeter, while the taste in this 40 second infusion is much more pronounced, and there is something distinctly citrus like in there. But it is far from the sourness that can be associated with aged oolongs.

at the price of around 50 dollars for 500 grams I knew this would be nothing to write home about, but I have 300 grams in storage for years down the road, and the rest I'll be happy to drink occasionally as a casual drinker.

Perhaps it is the smaller leaf to water ratio, but I feel the blue foil pouch does not last as long as the red foil pouch, though it is still satisfying on the 7th infusion or so it is little more than sweet water.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Zhi Ming Du, Lao Banzhang

Disclaimer: I was not going to do this as I expected this cake to be a typical young puerh cake, and warrant the typical comments with highlights of its unique features, but as I am absolutely in love with this cake, and I feel I am giving it too many good comments. I want it to be known that I received this cake on good will of giving this vendor good press, and business. I have had several discussions with the owner and he wanted me to also review it on the site.

The only vendor I know that sells Zhi ming Du cakes is Kung Fu Asian art, but I must admit I have not searched through the large amount offered at Yunnan sourcing.

Zhi Ming Du is a newer company and they are doing a series on several mountains this one being the Lao Banzhang area.

Going off of instinct as the rinse smelled quite potent, I did a flash brew for the first infusion.

This is potent, its highly floral, with hints of smokiness and a slight hint of something minty. While it is not a smell I would like to smell all day as its quite strong, I feel you could smell this for quite some time and still find new notes, its a hodgepodge of all sorts of fresh aromas.

I know this cake carries a hefty price tag, and I must tell you I can see why Lao Banzhang is quite well known if this is what it offers. The taste is a strong bitterness that is extremely nice. I know bitter is not a flavor usually liked, but something about this bitterness with orange and mint, and a cream, is just so satisfying.

The second infusion smells a little less powerful, but full fledged orchids and other florals. Its been quite some time since I've had a young puerh that I did not want to stop drinking, and that I found completely intriguing on so many levels. this infusion of focused on the finish and its like an orange cream lingering finish that just lasts and lasts.

I will say this, this cake requires an attentive brewer to be honest. I tried to push the 3rd infusion a bit, and let it go 10 seconds longer then the 20 I was going to give it, and its so strong that it is borderline unpleasant.

Its strength starts to fail around infusion 8, and I'm giving it a very long 10th infusion to see if it recovers the things I loved about it. With the long infusion it gains back some of its former glory, but its changed quite a bit.

A new experience
comes with the sips of each tea.
So, what will yours be? --Adam Yusko.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Excessive use.

Its only upon reflecting the pieces of teaware that I like the most that I've noticed a common theme. I like teaware that shows it has been used, and how much it has been used. I think that is my attraction to Hagi, and Yixings, and my Ceramic kettle, and idea of a Tetsubin and Celedon pieces. All these things take on character with age and have a way to show how much use they have been through.

This seems odd as in society many people stress how nice it is when something is in mint condition, completely unused, and zero sign of wear and tear. But I always examine my Hagi yaki for sings of use and the progress they are taking through the seven stages. And I've been noticing a lot of Celedon pieces in peoples blogs, and the sings of use that they are under going and I'm getting an itch to get some Cceledon pieces.

So I'm curious, do my readers like the effects of age and use on their treasured pieces? Or do they wish they could have stayed like new forever?

From Seven Stages of Hagi

Sunday, January 24, 2010

American Hao 901

This tea is a blend of Three types of Menghai, and one of Lincang and is also referred to as Peacock Tribute. Of course with the name American Hao is is one of the Puerh Shop Custom pressed cakes, and this being 901 is the first in the run of 2009.

I fear I am loosing my ability to describe smells, as while this is completely different than the other 2009 puerhs I have had I want to describe it in a similar way, a sweet aroma, this time more of a melon like cantaloupe, with Tobacco and banana's. In terms of aging potential this is the closest to my understanding of what I've heard leads to the possibility of it aging well. It is distinctly bitter, in a hops kind of way (think IPA), but it is rather soothing, with a lingering finish that lasts and changes bit by bit.

The second infusion is rather surprising in how it smells somewhat similar to cigarette smoke, but not as harsh. I very much feel that the people I talk about tea with the most, when paying attention can get a really good idea of my tastes, especially after swapping a few samples. The person who sent me this told me that he thought this would be my favorite, and its looking like he may be right, this coats the mouth very well, and has a lingering finish which is quite nice.

This tea progresses nicely, but I would not increase the steep time drastically, as it has quite a bit of staying power, in the sense that the leaves don't give up everything they have that quickly.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

2006 King of Puerh

First off I would like to say last week was rough, but I am now at school, and things are starting to seem a bit more under control. So I'm going to resume my puerh tea reviews with this sample sent from a friend.

Now admittedly I have not experienced a huge wealth of puerh, but the chuck of cake I got was full of long slender twisted leaves, nothing like the smaller and more chopped up bits I typically see in the Menghai blends.

This tea is said to come from Wild arbor leaves in Xishuangbanna.

The leaves after the rinse smell like a potent honey, with a strong tobacco smell in there also. The first infusion smells similar, but there is a strong aroma of what I want to call granny smith apple.

This definitely has a tobacco late flavor to it with perhaps a bit of anise, and the aftertaste in this short infusion seems almost empty, just a hallow shell of what is typically seen there, a slightly sour hint, and a warm sensation from the hot tea.

Second infusion is much stronger in smell, and has a distinctive orange aroma, with a sweetness of candy along with it. Its flavor is stronger, its orange rinds, and banana, with a hint of coconut.

This tea is on the bland side, as in nothing grabs your attention, but it has lots of good and interesting flavors, and seeing as how its 3-4 years old it could just be it having mellowed out in age.

Anxiety stays
clotted in the center self,
'til tea touches lips.
-Adam Yusko

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

American Hao 903

The Source of this cake is said to be from the Menghai area, and just to reiterate my views on custom pressings, I feel that they probably are not the absolute best material from these locations (as the best material is probably taken up by very long term contracts, or big buyers in China). But while it may not be the best material on the mountain it usually isn't bad, and it is probably most likely to be from the specified area.

To resort to fairness, and I may redo my reviews since the Latest of the Menghai Recipe cakes, as I was breaking in a new yixing pot I received for christmas and am still getting used to its size and whats needed for brew strength. So I am brewing this in my 60 ml gaiwan, at the strength I'm used to.

The dry leaves smell sweet and honey like.

The aroma of the first infusion is quite interesting, It is orange rinds and honey with a slightly grain like characteristic. This tea is quite nice as a drink now, it has a bit of a bite that quickly fades into a syrup like coating of the mouth with a sweetness that is fruity.

The second steep I also did for 30 seconds, and it produced a similar but more tropical fruit smelling brew. But the leaves are still opening up and definitely did not give it their all in the first steep even with the rinse, as this one definitely is a bit more bitter.

But in my mind the more bitter the tea is the better the sweet aftertaste. So as long as its a bitter that is not over done or just taste plain bad, I like it when my teas are rather bitter.

It honestly seems as the further it goes into the infusions the more pineapple seems to emerge.

I've been pleased with these American hao offerings, and I'm thinking about ordering some of them myself. Though this one seems to become flat and redundant after the 7th infusion or so, I feel that is typical for young stuff.

Longer days ease tension,
While the cold still bites and burns,
but tea warms my heart.
--Adam yusko

Monday, January 11, 2010

Gyokuro Kanro

This is a Gyokuro offered by Ippodo, I did have the chance to try this before and thought it was excellent, but as I was dealing with samples I was scared to make it as strong as it is recommended.

Gyokuro Kanro

In the prep I added only enough water to barely cover the leaves in the pot, as per brewing instructions.

The aroma is decidedly different like toasted sesame seeds and vegetables, there was also something distinctively oily about the aroma. The taste is wow, it is so incredibly concentrated it is unbelievable. This is the Japanese equivalent of Chouzhou style gong fu. Its so concentrated that it seems oily like a Extra Virgin Olive Oil. And it is one of those teas that is such a taste explosion its hard to do it justice. But I got a fair bit of sesame seeds, the EVOO like stated earlier, and perhaps a slight seaweed flavor.

Gyokuro Kanro color

The Strength unnerving
The taste uber intriguing
Such is Gyokuro.
--Adam Yusko

Friday, January 8, 2010

Zhi Ming Du Jin Zhen "Yun Siang" Ripe Puerh

This is a new brand, that I honestly know little about, the stuff I do know comes from the vendor Chinese Kung Fu Tea Art Store. This particular tea is compared (by the brand managers at least) to the classic Menghai 7572. While I will be unable to attest to whether that is true or not, as I an not a big Shu drinker, and have never had the 7572.

I've been airing this tea out gently for the past two weeks, as the little I do know about shu is that when young it often contains the dreaded Wou Di smell and taste. That being said the dry leaf smells surprisingly like dried cherries, with a bit of a wood like aroma (nothing unsual for all puerh).

The rinse has a bit of what I would characterize as the Wou Di aroma, but I think you'd be hard pressed to find a 2009 production that did not have that aroma.

I must say though, the aroma of the first infusion is nice, lots of dried fruits, and dried tree bark in there. Well I must say, if this is what shu is supposed to be then I migth have to revise my thoughts on it. It is earthy in taste, but very drinkable. This is like a very mild but aged sheng. But its also got hints of chocolate cookie, and banana.

My biggest problem with this Shu, though its a problem for all Shu, is that you are given little in terms of clues in color, as to when it has been brewed long enough, as the waters already black by the time my 60 ml gaiwan is full.

But pushed it a little harder then I normally would this time, as the taste was rather mild in the first steep. More flavor did come through, though it had a bit of the Wou Di taste to it, but other than that it was nice.

The third infusion I really pushed (not intentionally, just forgot about it for 45 seconds or so). It was still surprisingly good.

So My New Stance on Shu:

Shu puerh will never replace a good Aged Sheng, but it is great when you want the basic experience of Aged Sheng without the dent in your bank account.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

American Hao 906

In a tea swap with a friend, where we were swapping young puerh, he included some of the American Hao series from puerh shop. This one really peaked my interest as I feel with these more custom small batch pressings, it is almost the only way you can assure you are getting what they advertise as being in the cake.

Which with this tea is supposed to be Spring Yiwu and Fall Bulang material.

The color is nice, a bit dark in color, but its clear which is aesthetically pleasing to me with puerh tea. While the aroma is great, hints of anise, with bacon fat. And a fair bit of tropical flowers and fruits.

This tea, is a solid drink now, I usually infusion strong as in 10-15 second first infusions as opposed to flash often needed with young sheng. And this tea's liqour is thick and coating, and has a sensation like honey. With a pretty good Sweet aftertaste, thats common in puerh.

This tea is not strong at all, which is somewhat baffling and confusing the little I thought I've heard about bulang and Yiwu material, though it is a great tea to drink now.

To tell you the truth I have been trying to get used to a new pot, and as I let this steep infuse for 30 seconds, and it is now "powerful" I think I've been less leaves then I probably should.

This tea seems incredibly durable, and yet incredibly resilient, I couldn't really brew a sub par brew with this tea, when pushed it is strong but not overpowering.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Chinese Kung Fu Tea Arts Light Roast Tie Guan Yin

I'm hoping this tea turns out to be as good as the last oolong I had from them, the 2001 Aged Tie Guan Yin. The dry leaf smells very fresh, with just a hint of a nutty roasted component, but the leaves look mostly green with just the yellow color you often associate with a lighter roast Tie Guan yin.

If I had to rate this tea off of the smell comming from the leaves after the first infusion, it would be a spectacularly rated tea, while the aroma from the tea broth itself isn't as "wow" it is still good with a fair bit to keep you interested. I smell buttered sweet potatoes, brown sugar, and I believe bamboo. In my mind it is the roasting that brought this tea to life. its buttery but the roasting ads that savory flavor, and probably a hint of sweetness.

If this tea has a fault it is that the taste is somewhat flat, and is far better in the aroma category.

As you can tell from the picture I like my teas on the strong side, and this tea and the aged oolong comes in little packets, and as I only have my small and large gaiwans at my parents house right now, I use one packet for the small gaiwan, so probably 7grams for 60ml.

While I said the taste was a little flat, it does not mean your mouth will not be interested, I'm pondering how to describe this mouth feel which I want to say is either going to be a love it or hate it sort of thing. Its like a light roast attempt at the mouth feel obtained from Wuyi Yancha the what I describe as velvety (soft but coarse), this is coarse but soft would not be the right word to describe the other part of the sensation.

OrboroZuki Yame Fukamushi Sencha

This is the last tea of my first order from Japan Green tea, and I must say I love the packaging these teas come in, with the calligraphy, I think Hand Drawn.

This is a Fukamushi (Deep Steamed) Sencha, that is made from Kabuse (shade grown) leaf material.

Its aroma is warm and inviting, and gives off characteristics of flower blossoms (roses maybe), along with a variety of leafy green vegetables. I do not know if it is Characteristic of Yame, or if it is just the teas they search out, but both sencha-s I have hand from them have been impeccably smooth, and very sweet. This is to my cold body (just got in from sawing the Christmas tree in half), a delicious soup that sooths the spirit and soul, in the after taste if when paying attention you can note the Umami flavor that tells you it has been shade grown.

From the Sencha's I have obtained from them I can tell that they search out smooth easy to drink teas. Which makes these great for comfort beverages, and easy sippers. But at times I feel I like a bit of a bite, and I do not know if any of there teas have that, you know a tea that really lets you know its there, while still being completely enjoyable.

From Hagi in Use

(Second Infusion)

People have noted that I have weird descriptions, well get ready for another one. If you could imagine a bunch of different green vegetables mixed together and juiced, but have it be mild on the flavor, that would probably be what this tea is like. Its mild on the flavor but a mix of many green and leafy vegetables, which all together creates a delicious brew.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Koicha Conundrum

Koicha is a very concentrated serving of Matcha. And I've heard it described as being almost paste like. While mine was not quite "paste" it was very thick and probably close to an Eggnog or Heavy cream in consistency.

But what amazes me is even though you often hear "You need a very good matcha to make good Koicha" or some variation, vendors still give information on how to make it with just about any matcha they send out.

Now some of you may have experienced this yourself, but even with the High grade matcha that I reviewed yesterday from Ippodo, which made very pleasant and delicious Usucha, but as Koicha it was excessively bitter, and there seemed to be hardly any sweetness to it at all.

So I dare say if you are to make Koicha, it might be best to really splurge on the highest quality you can find from a very reputable vendor.

But dare I say I am energized beyond belief, and I need to go find something to focus my energy on!

*Edit: I did some more reading, and I was probably still thin on the amount of matcha, but also when making Koicha it is typically prepared using the Chashaku instead of the chasen, and there should not be froth.

Yame Sencha "Houga"

This is the Houga Yame High Grade Sencha from Green Tea Japan. This is a rather new store, and I've had brief twitter conversations, and emails with the Owners, both who I feel are doing a great job.

From Tea

The dry leaf aroma is quite unique, more powerful then I ever remember a senchas dry leaf -aroma being. Its sweet and fruity, with a slight hint of an aroma I'm calling "sour." But mind you its the sour you smell from rubarb, so it is not a freshness factor.

The infusions aroma is very sweet, with hints of raw root vegetables. The infusion is crystal clear, which surprised me when I learned that this tea was Chumushi (midsteamed). But the little bits in the bottom of the cup are there because I'm using my Hagi Kyusu which has very large filter holes, and no matter how careful I pour it little pieces come through.

From Hagi in Use

This tea is impeccably smooth, and the after taste is a cooling sweetness that just lingers for quite some time. While the flavor is like a mix of juices from tropical fruits, just very watered down to where you have to search for it, and not have it grab your attention.

The second infusion is a bit more cloudy, but the crystal clear first infusion was really surprising. Its aroma is much more potent and it smells surprisingly like water chestnuts. Its flavor again is mellow with a bit more astringency, I think I started the pour a bit to late, but still its refreshing and invigorating, and an absolutely enjoyable cup.

This tea was very enjoyable from beginning to end, I hope the people at the store keep up the great work.

Monday, January 4, 2010

100 Posts

Hagi Family

I was wondering what I was going to do for my 100th post, and now that its actually here, I realized I did not have a tea I considered special enough for a 100th post, I have some good ones on hand, but nothing I consider proper for this post.

So over the past 100 posts I have made some amazing tea friends, helped by the forum Tea Chat run by Adagio. I have completely redefined my focus on teas once, then broadened my horizons to include Japanese teas. So in the next 100 posts look forward to more Japanese teas. Hopefully higher quality Chinese Teas, definitely exploring a wider variety of Wuyi Yancha my favorite type of Chinese Oolong.

Possibly a bit of an exposure into aged oolongs. Alone with retastings of several teas I am currently aging to see how they have changed.

The picture is my current Hagi yaki family, something which has grown at an exponential rate as of late.

Thank you to those who have found me, followed me, and read regularly, and I hope to continue with many more posts.

Jing Tea Shops Premium Shui Jin Gui

Shui Jin Gui
This is the last pot of wuyi I'm having from my order of Jing Tea shops samples placed a few months ago. I'll probably post pictures at a late date but upon reading on tea tools by a certain Mandarin I finally remembered to grab a large chinese brush I was given a few Christmas's ago. It is now my Tea brush, and I'll now use it on my yixing.

The color of the brew as pictured is quite dark. But yes it exhibits everything I love about wuyi, the slight bitting bitterness, the warming feeling and the characteristic sweetness that comes from a heavier or higher temp roast.

While the second infusion brought on the velvety mouth feel that I've only really ever had from a wuyi, but the flavor is some sort of roasted root vegetable can not quite pin which one, with lots of fall spices.

I know I say fall spices a lot especially when refering to Wuyi teas, so to be clear fall spices include things like nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, pepper... basically things that go into spice cookies and give warm savory flavors.

The brew is a color that comes with a lengthy roasting
While the taste is classic, and awakens the inner soul.
Such a wonder tea brings, especially from Wuyi-shan.
- Adam Yusko

Ikuyo-no-mukashi Matcha

This matcha came from Ippodo, and its actually one of the mid grade offerings, where a 40 gram can does not break the bank.

From Hagi in Use

Its aroma is like chocolate with a hint of mint. With hints of a nut like aroma, and something in this reminds me of the sea, so perhaps a slight seaweed like characteristic.

While it coats everything like a cream, delivering a very welcome flavor like you find in very dry wines, but also presents a bakers chocolate like flavor. The best part of this tea has to be its mouth feel though the flavor is good too.

I always thought with matcha that you'd be able to easily taste all the particles of tea floating in the water, but I know from my exploits in the past week or so that that is just not true.

From Hagi in Use

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Menghai 7532 801

Another Puerh review, and there will be a few more coming soon. I don't have much to say on this cake, other than its from Batch 1 in 2008 of the classic recipe 7532.

The liquor smells warm and welcoming, and its surprisingly dark in color. But it has that tobacco like aroma laced with honey and the distinctive orange peel I tend to notice in young puerh. This tea I've had a few times before, and I will have to say that this one has no redeeming factor. Sure its bitter, but it feels like its power was attempted to be subdued. And while it has hints of honey and orange, but then there is just the flavor of bitterness like I'm chewing on a citrus peel.

I may be wrong about this but I think the "power" in Nadacha's Bulang the very strong but still pleasing "Ku" is what may be needed for a cake to age well, and possibly become a classic cake. This tea I feel if it were an alcoholic spirit being "tasted" by a Nose as they are called would get pretty good marks. There is nothing wrong with the aroma at all, in fact its rather spectacular, but the taste just fails most of the time. I feel like this is an unpleasant cake now, and in 10 years is will probably only be merely passable.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Matsu No Midori

Matsu no Midori Sencha

So a box from ippodo arrived today, so you can start to look foward to a few Matcha reviews on my blog, as I have been hitting the japanese greens hard, and do not see an end in the near future. But though this tea I'm reviewing is from ippodo, it did not come in the package, this I got from a friend with which I have been doing some tea swaps.

I am making it in my Humongous Hagi Kyusu, that holds 16 ounces to the lid. Though I hardly see myself using that much, and will probably usually use it for 8 ounce steeps or less.

The leaf appearance and brew color are good, and the taste I feel is very characteristic of sencha, a natural type of sweet, with a delicious quality to it that is like a faint effect of the umami taste.

This tea seems to be remarkable in the sense that is it unremarkable. Now that is not a bad thing, in fact its somewhat of a good thing. This tea to me has no characteristics which grab my attention, which considering its usually the bad things that grab my attention that is very good. But that also means there is nothing about this tea that grabs my attention in a good way.

Matsu no Midori Sencha brewing

That being said I think this tea is a good tea, as sometimes you just want to sit down with a cup of tea, relax, and not have to worry about anything detracting from the experience. And until you hit a certain price point most teas that have Markedly positive things to say about them tend to also have something that sticks out as a negative. So none of either, is a very blissful cup of tea.

From Hagi in Use

Friday, January 1, 2010

Mixing and Blending Teas

Regular readers of my blog may have picked up the sense that I like the purity of a single type of tea, and do not buy into the whole hype of flavoring teas.

But today I blended two teas that I have been unhappy with hoping they would be complementary, but I realized after the first infusion the big mistake I made. These were two Japanese teas, but one was a Bancha, and the other was a low grade Gyokuro. In my mind thinking of the flavors of these two teas it seemed like it should work together in harmony. But there was a problem, their brewing methods are completely different.

The best I could hope for was to brew it like the Bancha with short steeps, but with a lower temperature like Gyo. This seemed to not get the best out of either tea, but did not taste bad. This confirms what I've always wondered when people talk of making tea blends such as at Adagio, or other companies that have unique blends, and they mix greens and whites and blacks and oolongs. I always wondered if they were really getting the best out of each individual tea in the blend, as you have to compromise the brewing parameters to try and avoid any off taste.

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