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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Zhi Ming Du He Kai

I was flipping through a list of Puerh samples I have yet to try, and I came across He Kai, which intrigued me simply because I knew nothing about it, Most the other mountains or places I have heard of and red reviews of teas from there. This one is completely new to me.

So as my usual brewing parameters 5 grams in my 60 ml gaiwan. The rinse smells amazing, lots of tropical fruit, and possibly some berry like aromas also.

The aroma of the first infusion is similar, but the real shock, is the flavor is reminiscent of well done toast with butter. As weird as that sounds its strangely inviting. Its slightly acidic, slightly bitter, and buttery.

The second infusion has a much more grain like aroma, possibly because I am really looking for it now. Wow apparently this tea is just starting to wake up, this time its full on orange peels, almost too bitter and acidic.

It really slowly settles down after the second infusion, possibly because I pulled back on steep times, but it seems to be slowly working its way back to the well done buttered toast.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Andao Tea Wuyi White Rooster Crest

Another Wuyi Tea from Andao Tea, I wish I could give some facts about this Cultivar but its Chinese name is Bai Ji Guan, and it is one of the Si Da Ming Cong. Besides that I know little, and I have considered learning Chinese to do some further research but that seems to be pretty far on the back burner.

Its color brews up a deep almost coffee like color, it's aroma is chocolate like with a hint of a citrus fruit (ever so slight). Its taste is like a really good coffee, and slightly biting in a bitter sense but still nice. This reminds me of a really high Cocao content dark chocolate.

Andao Bai Ji Guan

The second infusion lightens up a bit, the second infusion smells fruity and is somewhat lacking in taste, perhaps I shouldn't have gone with a shorter infusion.

The third infusion brews up an ruby red with an amber hue to it. I am actually rather amazed at how fresh this tea is starting to smell after the first infusion was so chocolaty. With the longer infusion the mouthfeel I love about Yancha is back, and so is the lengthy dry finish.

The sips have passed,
how many times through my lips?
Tasting just began.
--Adam Yusko

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Kept 6 months Everyday Shui Xian

A hair over 6 month ago I reviewed this tea the Everyday Shui Xian from Jing tea Shop. And while I said I would not touch it for 4-5 years, I think a 6 months check up is needed to see how it is doing, to see if I am possibly on the right track.

While the dry leaf aroma does not smell nearly as potent, the rise smells a bit on the acrid side. And perhaps my storage method did not do enough to keep moisture out, as it is almost a bit sour smelling. But actually it is quite an interesting aroma, and once you get past the harsh shock of it, its got quite a bit of promise.

While this is far from the best wuyi I have ever had, it is quite an improvement over what was there 6 months ago. A fruit and chocolate profile emerged from the high roast that was there. It actually tastes like a fruit based dessert and coffee all rolled into one tea.

It was certainly interesting, and I feel the tea is much improved. If it will continue to improve is anyones guess.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tancho-no-mukashi Matcha

This is a High grade offering from Ippodo, a traditional teashop in Japan specializing in tea form the Uji region.

Tancho-no-mukashi in Fasi

This might be the first time I have ever detected a floral note in matcha, sweet yes, but this is distinctly floral almost rose like. Drinking this is drinking something which you know is there, you feel its warmth, you taste its sweet and bitter combination with the slightly chalky mouth feel which lingers into the finish. But before you know it half the bowl is gone, then the whole thing, and you are wondering what happened, because you are convinced you did not drink nearly that much. But what you remember of the sip you took was that it was good, subtle and ever so enjoyable, but seemingly non existent.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Andao Tea Wuyi Big Red Robe.

Andao Da Hong Pao

Some of you may know that I did review this tea last August. As I state in the post the tea then was not my favorite, but I did eventually figure out how to brew it, and thankfully I still have not forgotten. This is a brand new bag, but as Andao does not label some teas with production years it is rather hard to know, if what I had in August was the same year or production run as this tea.

Wuyi in my mind is best brewed with a completely attentive mind. Brew this tea with an attentive mind and it will be good to you, great mouth feel, great aroma, only the flavor is slightly lacking. It is rather plain and not that strong. But everything else was great.

Andao Da Hong Pao color

A reunion of sorts,
A reflection off a teapot,
Life comes forth.
--Adam Yusko

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Embrace the Green

From Matcha\

I am not normally one to do a special holiday post, but everyone just seemed a buzz with St. Patrick's day festivities. So I said what can I do teawise that is completely green. Well the greenest brew has to be Matcha by far, and I do have that seafoam green chawan.

So I made myself a Large batch of the Green tea powder, and basked the wonderful weather outside.

But on that note, I've noticed my teaclock seems to be off a bit. I really got into green teas, especially Japanese greens during the cold months of the year, which the only seasonal one was Gyokuro which should typically be aged at least 6 months prior to release. Yet now I am really getting in the mood for Wuyi Yancha now that it is getting warm.

So Two questions open to my readers:

Did you enjoy any special teas for St. Patrick's day?

Do you believe that there is a typical "Tea clock" as in you should only drink certain teas at certain times of the year?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Intensive Studies.


I haven't taken many new tea pictures lately, and I did not feel like recycling even more photo's, so I'm posting some of the nature photo's to liven up this post.

I have always advocated the focused approach to tea, as in focusing on a certain category or type, when first getting into tea or a new type of tea. I feel it helps you perfect brewing procedures for those teas, and lets you get better results quicker because you are seldom confusing your mindset with a different brewing process.

This past week, I have been brewing the same tea almost daily and it has been almost the only tea I have been drinking is a gyokuro from Ippodo. At first it was rather questionable, over powering with umami, but it was just that overpowering. With a weeks worth of repetitive brewing, I have managed to make it much better.

As such I feel my general Gyokuro brewing has improved drastically. I noticed my Wuyi brewing improved at the end of the summer when I was brewing Yancha nearly daily and by the time I basically ran out, I could do it in my sleep and it would be exactly how I liked it.

In essence I think the Chinese had the absolute right idea when they named the pratice Gong fu. In essence I feel every practice of brewing tea should have names equivalent to Gong fu, or skill.

So if you can stand the repetition, it might be a rather interesting practice to dedicate a 100g bag of tea to a week or so worth of brewing. Try to brew it 7 or so times in 10 days, and hopefully you will note how much better you came to understanding that tea, and getting the most out of it.

It is almost spring time, which on campus brings about one of my favorite times of years, with the oldest Magnolia tree I think I have ever seen, so enjoy these pictures, as I will hopefully be seeing something similar for an entire week or two depending on the weather shortly.

Sea of Pink Magnolias
Lehigh Magnolia

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Way of Tea, (a way to a Kensho with tea?)

Kensho - a Zen term for a type of enlightenment.

If had had to describe the effect of this book on me, it would have to have been a form of enlightenment. It might just be I read this book at the proper time, and many different things fell together, but let me use the picture to help elaborate on how this book helped open my eyes to tea.

This book focuses extensively on appreciating tea for tea, and not attaching value to things real or perceived, just let them help make tea for you wonderful. The three Adagio tins in the picture are left over from a series of sampler packs I got over a year ago, simply put I did not like them, upon first taste and I set them aside basically forgetting about them. The Yixing in the picture was one of the two yixings I got on my first purchase, something I always considered as a bad purchase, and I resigned to the fact of placing it on a shelf for a bit of decoration.

But, somehow this book inspired me to try again, well as the yixing is incredibly large for my usual brewing, I looked at the adagio tins, and said, this would make a great teapot for casual brewing Hong cha (red tea). So I got it out and it made an absolutely delicious brew. But my mind was not on the quality of the leaf, nor the fact that the teapot was unable to pour without leaking even rather close to empty. My mind was on taking the tea for what it was.

This brings up a point that Tim over at the Mandarins Tea Blog wrote about the other day involving leaving prejudices about tea or basically everything behind before brewing the tea, and just let the leaf speak for you.

This book will teach you how to enjoy tea for tea, and it might just help you along the way to enlightenment as to the big picture of tea.

This book is not for you if you are not into the spiritual aspect of tea, or feel a scientific approach to tea is the only way to get good results.

I hope you get a chance to pick up this book, it truly a joy to read.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Problems with Tea


If you read this blog, you probably enjoy tea for tea, and for that I am thankful, and feel free to read the rest of this post for a laugh. As this post is 100% serious, but rather laughable when viewed from the perspective of those of us that love tea. So here is a numbered list of the biggest problems with tea that I have found.

  1. Tea is Healthy, I'd much rather have tea be somewhere on the over all level of health as somewhere between coffee and cigarettes, maybe settle for on par with soda (though most bottled teas basically are soda). I mean if tea was as healthy as cigarettes I might have reasons to restrain myself from drinking it as often as I do. But the thing I can not stand is tea being billed as some sort of wonder beverage. It drives me nuts, as the tea loving public that are the backbones of tea forums, and beacons of tea knowledge in the west, often have to answer mundane questions like "Will I get more of compound X if I brew my tea in fashion Y." While I actually have no problem with a person trying to be healthy, it is the fact that many people are saying they don't care about taste, while some of the methods of preparation would produce some nasty concoction I wouldn't want to call tea.
  2. Boston Tea Party, I have no problem with the actual Boston tea party. It is the fact that it had to be tea that was thrown off the ships. While it might have been a waste of tea, and it made tea borderline Taboo in the United States for many many years after that, those actually are not my problems. It is the fact that modern political activists have taken the moniker "Tea Party" as their group thinking that somehow they are fighting a similar war against Taxation that happened in Boston all those years ago. As this is a tea blog, I will have no comment on anything political. But the fact that I can't even have a general google reader news search for "Tea" without coming back with articles mostly on the political organization with maybe 5% of them actually on tea. And Social networking sites such as twitter, have many people flooding the site with the tag #tea instead of tea party.
  3. Tea is Asian! This one is really a joke, but the point behind it is the fact that the languages in Asian countries are completely different than most Western Languages. Do not get me wrong, I feel like getting exposure to languages is great, and that people should be fluent in as many languages as possible. But the fact that the differences between Eastern and Western languages are so great, it is hard to get proper translations of information from websites without being fluent in both languages yourself. Also with the Roman based alphabet being so prevalent across many languages I can begin to sound out most words in most European based languages without fully knowing the language, but I can not look at a Kanji character and be able to guess its pronunciation without already knowing the character which probably means I already know its translation. And not knowing how to pronounce the character makes it virtually impossible to look up a translation to a kanji character.

I hope you enjoyed this post, I felt I should infuse a bit of humor for us tea lovers.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Collection of My Articles on Tea and Teaware

Iron Slip Chawan Ikuyo-no-mukashi

This post is going to be linked on the side bar of the page, for quick access to all written articles I have about tea.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Attempts at aging Oolong tea.

I'll say right away that this post does not contain any tasting notes, but instead it is what I am doing in the way of aging oolong tea. I have close to 1Kg of oolong that I am storing to see what will happen over time, and they are in a sense testing different storage methods.

First is I have a little Chinese jar that I enclosed some wuyi that I felt the roast was just to much on, as it tasted quite like ash. In all honesty I have little hope for this, and I'm probably going to give it a taste sometime in the next 2 months or so. But this I did not aquire to age, this I aquired then thought it could use age.

Next is rather ambitious, and possibly going to be a huge failure. At a Chinese market I picked up 300g of Dong ding, which I got cause it was in expensive. Made some in a gaiwan, and said "Way to green!" So the easiest way to ungreen an oolong in taste is in my mind to age it, maybe not the quickest but the easiest. This is the tea that actually inspired me to write this post, as while I have not tired it since I first got it about 6 months ago, I did today realize that it was rather dry today, so I decided to do some up keep on the tea. So I "roasted it" quotations as when a tea is roasted in its traditional preparation it involves being roasted over wood or charcoal, something which imparts flavor as well as giving the effect of removing moisture. This I simply had it in a clean fry pan, over my electric hot plate on low, for nearly two hours, and of course stirring often. I stopped when picking up tea with my fingers it no longer felt slightly moist. I feel this is a necessary step when aging oolong especially green oolong in a poorly sealed container as otherwise moisture can get in an essentially ruin the tea, by making it excessively sour.

Another tea I have is rather a vain attempt to try and produce something of the quality of the Shui Xian bricks that the Tea Gallery had dating from 1997. I managed to pick up some 2007 DHP bricks, and I've been keeping them, and I can only hope it works out well.

I also am aging some already aged teas to see if they improve, these are sealed in individual foil packets, and it should be interesting to see how they handle being stored in those over time.

So I will try and keep you informed on these teas as I get around to tasting them when I think they are ready. At least two of them I will probably get around to trying in the next month or so, while at least one of them I probably will not write about for another year as I just placed those into storage.

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