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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Nannou, He Kai, and Mengsong

I'm doing a bit of a Tasting of all my young puerh, if for no other reason try and make sense of it. I have most the Zhi Ming du line a long with a few other things thrown in here and there. So the first two parts are going to focus on Single area's. While one post will be dedicated to the 3 Dayi Menghai cakes I have.

I am not going to post detailed notes, or probably posts many pictures if any.

The Essence of Tea (Nadacha) 2009 Nannou Old Plantation

What actually started this out is Hobbes over at the Half dipper posted a review today the 28th on a Nannou cake he had acquired. SoI felt quite the urge to try this cake again, as viewing it you can tell I have spent not nearly enough time with it for its quality. After two sessions averaging 7 infusions each, my stomach is starting to protest slightly.

This is going to be my first post published ahead. As I realized I tend to waver on and off between a lot of free time for tea and writing, and hardly any, I am going to try and mediate that by staggering my posts. I hope to aim for a post every couple of days.

The alluded to Namby Pamby nature of Nannou is apparent in this cake especially in the aroma. But it is oh so intoxicating.

Zhi Ming Du He Kai

The idea for the Groupings of these tea's came from Bears Bears Bears over at Bears blog, who definitely knows much more about puerh than I do, and has an idea of how teas should be grouped/ what they really are.

I am actually quite amazed at how close this is to the Nannou, same light and spring/summery smell, though a hint more grass. The flavor is a bit harsher and seemingly less complex, but still enjoyable.

Probably my favorite thing about Puerh is even the 'subtle' ones are far from subtle. Puerh is the tea that will demand your attention even if you are not paying close attention to it.

Zhi Ming Du Mengsong

This tea is my last today, and while I feel I have a better stomach for young sheng than some, I definitely am not one of those people that can drink it all day.

This tea is much more floral tasting, rather round and soft taste, but Bears really knows what he is doing when he told me to group these three cakes together.

General thoughts....

Each taste was unique, but I definitely do not know nearly enough to pick them out blind. Tim always talks about a Granny face powder for Nannou cakes, and I have been trained to look for that in puerh, as I think I understand what he is referring to.

That being said the Nannou seemed to be a perfect balance of other flavors and the powder. The He Kai while harsher was also riddled with the powder flavor almost exceedingly much. And the Mengsong had basically no sign of it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Making tea as a University Student

Some of you may know that I am finishing up my Undergraduate degree, and about to start Graduate studies at a different university. As I have been making and enjoying tea my entire undergraduate career I feel I have certain tips to share.

Freshman year is probably inevitably the hardest, especially if you did not choose your room mate. Depending on your schools rules a wide variety of heating methods may be forbidden, including electric kettles, hot plates, and other relatively safe items. So you have a few options either hope your dorm has a kitchen and use it frequently, possibly boil large amounts of water and keep it warm in thermos for a session, or resort to brewing a lot of teas western style.

I was lucky to have good roommates all throughout school, and I never had to put up with any sabotaging of any of my belongings. But there are horrid stories out there of people trying to boil milk in an electric kettle for Hot Chocolate (Hint do not do it, it is very bad).

Though quite often in the early years of school I was making tea in paper cups with microwaved water, and loose leaf tea in self fill tea bags.

If you have a chance to move into an apartment or off campus house type setting it is much easier and by this time you probably know your roommates, and they probably already accept your tea "habit" whether they think its odd or slightly endearing they will hopefully put up with it.

Basically tea in school is a complete and utter give and take, and finding what works for you.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Mandarins Tea Room High Fire TGY

First off this tea's dry aroma is incredibly appealing, caramel apples, which came out more and more and more as I followed Toki's instructions of opening the bag and letting it sit exposed to the air for 10 days before consuming.

I am making this tea Chao Zhou style, so I crushed a third of my 60 ml pots worth on the bottom and then filled it mostly full with fuller leaves.

The aroma is great, while the Clarity is Impeccable. The aroma has hints of the Caramel apple along with I dare say a hint of fruitiness like its usually found in red wine. The taste is rather amazing perfectly balanced between astringency and sweetness, with an amazingly sweet aftertaste.

Each sip definitely leaves you wanting more, and strangely the sweetness is incredibly cooling.
It was a rather successful Chou Zhou style session as all 4 infusions were nearly identically, though incredibly delicious.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Its Here Kagoshima Sae Midori Shincha

This Shincha is from O-Cha. It was the first one released by them this year, and I had made a preorder prior of ones I knew I wanted to have, but upon hearing this was to be the first released, I quickly pre-ordered some, and it came out and got to my door rather quickly.

Sae Midori Shincha

I am actually amazed at how vibrant the dry leaf smells. I know its been awhile since I have had Sencha, but I do not think I ever remembered the leaves having this much of an aroma.

From the first sniff I know its the aroma I have been missing since I finished the last of my sencha. All I can say is it is beautiful, and I can see how this is the most welcome thing after a long winter. Its very essence goes to my core and warms from the inside, it is decidedly fresh, but yet somehow soup like. The soup effect is incredibly comforting, while the freshness invigorating. It surely is wonderful.

Sae Midori Shincha Color

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Andao Wuyi Golden Tortoise

Well I have been drinking a decent amount of tea, but sadly I have had little time to write about it. One of my biggest dilemmas has been dealing with my new Yixing. For the sake of informing everyone.

The vendor told me it should be used for green TGY, and nothing roasted. Whereas when talking with Toki he says at this stage of its use, there are no rules. Either way it is a wonderful pot, and after drinking a lot of Wuyi and TGY (yes out of the same pot). I settled down to the fact that the more this pot got used, the better the Wuyi seemed to taste.

So consider this a bit of a test, I am going to make the Wuyi Golden tortoise in my new yixing and see how it behaves today.

Golden tortoise

Looking at the color of the first brew, it brings up a question in my mind, are there any Yancha oolongs that have great clarity on the first infusion, or is it something about the processing that the first infusion tends to be a bit murky. I will have to run through pictures. Clarity is something I have started to really look for in a tea. Its a little thing, doesn't mean much taste wise, but lits just nice to not have a cup that looks murky. Which is probably why I've backed off the deeper steamed Sencha's.

I apologize my nose seems to be broken. As I know from previous times brewing this tea that it does have an aroma though I'm hard pressed to find much of one today. What I do get is a slight hint of buttered pastries, with hints of cinnamon, and possibly some fruits. I really can not get that more specific as like I said my nose is not working today.

The taste though, is quite nice, perhaps a bit strong, but the roast is evident, and the mouth feel is great. The taste is a bit "creme bruele" which has to be the first time I have pulled that out as a descriptor.

On the third infusion my nose started to work a bit more, it had a nice peppery aroma with hints of many other spices. The flavor though seems to have started to fade into a smooth but incredibly drinkable concoction. The only hit of astringency comes though in the finish.

Golden Tortoise Color

This tea has its flaws, but perhaps I have a bit more of an acceptance for Wuyi Yancha flaws than most other tea's. Or perhaps its that I need to as I tend to drink an excessive amount of Yancha that I could not afford amazing stuff all the time.

Which reminds me of a post I was thinking of putting out about Price points in Tea and Teaware, and if I feel they are worth it. Though in short I feel the higher the price per gram of tea, the better it is "likely" to be. The likely qualifier is much needed, as I am sure there are always those people selling tea at inflated prices which does not command such a high price.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Sip Tip House Puerh Blend

I do not remember from who I originally got this idea, it very well might have been Hobbes over at the Half dipper, but puerh has possibly the most waste associated with it. But Keeping in the Zen Buddhist mind, and the fact that all tea is precious, there is no waste. So I have a tin, that into which goes the remainders of samples or excess broken off compressed cakes, bricks, etc.

It has actually been filling at an alarming rate, so I figured it would be time to take a sample from it and brew. Prior to this I tried to mix it up as well as possible, but such an assortment goes into this tin that it probably is a proverbial grab bag in terms of what mountains or years I have in this meager sample.

Well the rinse certainly smelled interesting, and based on the color of the first infusion I think I got a few of the older >10 years old leaves in the mix also. The color is decidedly yellow, with a smell that is perfectly between fresh and aged raw puerh. It is seemingly both yet neither at the same time. I wish I could say I liked the taste as much as anything else. Its got hints of the musty wet stored stuff that had been thrown in, but also a markedly fresh astringency.

What has to be the most disappointing about this mix, is how mellow everything is, the aroma is good but intriguing, and the taste is lacking anything of major note. What is actually rather good about it though is its mouthfeel.

Basically this tea is uninspiring, and as the tin was mostly full, I sealed it and I'll try opening it in 10 years or so and hopefully I will have a good treat.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Mandarins Tea Room 80's 8582 Loose Puerh

While I am far from an expert on tea, and in many regards am still just a beginner. I would say I am where I am today thanks to several people, who have played a major part in "shaping" my enjoyment of tea. In essence it is surprising I am here compared to where I was a year and a half ago. But for my great advances down the rabbit hole of the tea world, I owe several teachat members and "tea thugs" who I converse with often. One of which I have had the chance to meet in person, is "Toki" who happened to open up his own online tea room, so naturally I jumped on a chance to order a few things that really piqued my interest.

This tea is one of them, rumor has it, that it this the same phenomenal tea which Toki gifted me this past Christmas. So here I am going through another tasting, which may read similar, or it could read completely different.

MandarinTR 85 8582

So I'm brewing this in my 60 ml gaiwan, with 3 grams of leaf. The aroma is powerful and full of camphore, but the taste is subtle, I do not think I am brewing it as strong this time.

The second infusion is much darker more of a mahogany. I detect a nice hint of grass in the infusion, this tea is odd in the sense that I want to describe its taste as "clean" but I have to clarify as "clean" for aged puerh, which usually has a slight hint of decomposition and fresh dirt.

Many infusions later, and its starting to lighten up, and I realized that there has been a slight hint of roses in the aroma, among the light lemon flavor.

This tea is a joy to drink, but I think even using a "teaboat" my gaiwan was loosing heat way to fast. Or perhaps I just need to brew it slightly stronger. It was still a great tea, but everything seemed rather subdued.

I have a yixing for aged puerh comming so perhaps I'll season that a bit then give it a try.

MandarinTR 85 8582 Color

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Impossible Questions

From Chinese Ceramics

From Chinese Ceramics

This new baby arrived today, and I feel yixing force you to treat them unlike just about any other type of teaware. While I admit I got this in hopes of using it as an additional Wuyi Yancha teapot. I am confronted with a problem quite unlike any I have yet come against when pairing tea and teapot.

I have had it occure that after going through the steps to ready a pot, I brew up the first batch and it just tastes off, normally in a bad way. But the baffling part of this session is, I prepared the pot as normal. While people sometimes say you do not need to do this, I feel it always helps push the pot along slightly, I even threw in a few pinches of leaves from the 3 wuyi oolongs I have open, during the boiling process.

So the pot was ready. so I put the kettle on to boil, and add tea leaves... the Andao Da Hong Pao -- and well I'm almost done with the session, and even though I remember the bag I took the tea from, and the leaves in the pot look right, I still do not believe I am drinking a yancha. What I had come to think a wuyi Yancha should taste like, is turned almost upside down.

What always seemed to be a tea that felt like fall and winter, a body warming, spicy dark tea, that has all sorts of hearty factors too it, now tastes light and refreshing, a prevalent citrus note. Even the mouth feel which I love on this tea, for its gripping ability, is reduced to a slight sharpness, but overall smooth and enjoyable.

So here are my impossible questions to answer at this point, but I will have to address them in due time:

Is this due to the pot being new, and will it with use come to be reflective of how I always viewed classic wuyi oolongs?

Is this pot ultimately a wrong choice for Wuyi even though it makes great albeit completely different tasting Yancha?

Could this be similar to how my other Yancha pot tasted when I first started using it, and it just changed so subtly over its many many uses that I just do not remember?

*** EDIT***

I spent time working with Toki over at the Mandarins Tea room, as he is possibly the person I can reach that is the most knowledgeable about yixing tea pots.

He had me run an interesting test, which involved taking a neutral gaiwan, my old yixing pot, and this new one, by pouring boiling water into each of them then drinking and comparing the water that was in them. and taking note of the taste.

The my old yancha pot the Zini pot had a deep base note, though still tasted fresh and clean, the gaiwan was just fresh and clean, but this new pot also had a brightness to it.

So after detailing for Toki exactly everything I knew about this pot, and did in its preparation.

He feels that I may have actually been tasting the true nature of the tea, and that perhaps my old pot rounded out and subdued the flavors a bit more.

He said that if I give it a week or so of consistent use I should start to get some great flavors coming out of the tea with this pot.

I think he is really on to something, as I brewed up some aged DHP that is 9 years old or so, and it actually tasted the best it ever has with this yixing.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ippodo Gyokuro Kakurei

From Hagi in Use

It is spring and that says Green tea, to some people. While I am excited about the incoming new harvests, and hopefully Shincha getting in within the next two months, it is time to try and clear out some old stock. Japanese greens I seem to have no problems finishing, as this is my last bag and its close to half finished already.

Chinese greens are sadly a bit different, I have plenty of Everyday Dragonwell, and Bi Lo Chun.

The aroma of this tea is impeccable, and very characteristic of a Japanese green, sweet and slightly grassy/vegetal. The taste is quite good for a gyokuro of its price per gram. Great dose of umami but rounded out nicely with a great sweetness. It does a good job sticking to the tongue and mouth, and it sticks around with a flavor that is rather biting and reminiscent of strong spinach.

Green before the grass,
soon the northern breeze will quit,
promoting the tea.
--Adam Yusko

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