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Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Little Point and Shoot that Could

2001 Aged TGY Pour

Probably the most received comment I have gotten on my blog has been the fact that people enjoy the photos on the blog. And for that I say thank you.

Shui Jin Gui

I do not know if it is a bit more of a personal boredom factor, or the fact that I like to try and be creative how ever I can. Though I will say I try and breath a life into the tea, and my blog with interesting photos.

Teuk Seon Color

I wish I could say I have a secret to my photography, and honestly I've done this much with just Sony Point and Shoot. But if I would have to give some advice, though most tea blogs with photos do a good job of avoiding this, but I guess anyone taking pictures of tea and teaware, would be to avoid the obvious angles, and search for an angle that people do not expect to see that still captures what you wish to show.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

2010 Essence of Tea Nannou

Essence of Tea Nannou 2010

First off I should note that the fact that I acquired this cake this early is a bit of luck, I was a bit late in placing preorders, and as I have a minor love affair with puerh from Nannou-shan, when I saw the list of cakes available and did not see a Nannou I was worried, so I placed my order but inquired if he pressed any cakes from Nannou.

Essence of tea nannou 2010 cake

He said he did, but he was a little concerned about them as the cake did not taste quite like the maocha that he selected, although he did say that the taste tends to change when pressed, and continues to change for a few months after the pressing. But at the time I inquired about it (probably a month after the preorder email went out) he said he thought the cake had improved from where it was when he first tasted it. So that is the background on this cake, now onto my impressions.

Essence of Tea Nannou 2010 Color

So basically I got the cake and my initial impressions were not so good, so I put it away for a month. After a brief conversation with Nada a few days ago, he thinks this tea is starting to become a bit more of what he expected. My impressions of it are still "brew strong."

When brewed strong it becomes very much like puerh we come to know and love, deeply astringent, with that quality that keeps you wanting and desiring another sip. I used to think Nannou was the mountain I had the best chance of picking out of a line up of unmarked cakes. I honestly do not know about that any more, especially after trying a bunch of different mountains in mini series.

But puerh absolutely amazes me in its ability to pull out tropical fruit flavors underneath its "bad tea" initial impressions. All in all if the cake continues to progess like this in the next month or so, I think I will be rather happy.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tea Trekker Ujeon

TeaTrekker Ujeon Leaf
In someways I wish this sample was not included with my order of the other two Korean Greens offered by Tea Trekker. I wish that because this tea was phenomenal, and now I am going to have to figure out if I should order some.

When I read Matts blog, I could sense there was something special about Korean tea's and he is part of what influenced me to take the leap. And it has been an almost Alice in wonderland sort of thing. As I feel that Korean teas offer something so incredibly different that you can not help but wonder if you are in an alternate reality. Just by looking at the dry leaves I knew this was going to be good.

And yes the infusion was basically a slightly tinted water, as in this shot the cups are full of tea.

TeaTrekker Ujeon First Infusion

If I could describe the taste of this tea, I almost feel I would say walk out into a dense temperate forest right after it rained, and simply breath in and out through your mouth. This might sound a bit cheesy but to me this tea tasted like as much of part of life as breathing fresh air and drinking fresh water.

TeaTrekker Ujeon Spent Leaf

What could we call peace?
The calm from a cup of tea,
seems quite suitable.

--Adam Yusko

Friday, August 20, 2010

Yuuki-cha Gokujo Shincha

Gokujo Leaf
So I have had this tea several times now, and the first time I had it I was actually getting ready for a late night tea session but as I was heating up the kettle I crashed, so I turned off the kettle and left the leaves inside my kyusu over night unused. Surprisingly enough, the tea the next day reminded me quite a bit of Gyokuro. Something I did not get so much in later trials of this tea.

So I will have to note this in the future to not acquire so much Shincha, as in all honesty I do not go through it nearly fast enough.

I will say this much, I have been impressed with the Yuuki-cha teas I have tried so far, but then again I have liked just about every Asamushi (light steamed) sencha/shincha I have had recently. This one comes across with incredibly broth flavors, its like a subtle wave of umami that permeates the entire tea drinking experience. It is full of flavor and passes what I consider my primary test in a tea "Do I keep on wanting to drink infusion after infusion, and have this tea over and over again?"

Gokujo color

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Matcha Smoothies

Yes I am doing something completely outside of character, and almost contradictory to my personal beliefs that tea should be unadulterated if at all possible. But here me out, I am using basically what should be considered Cooking Grade Matcha if it isn't already, and it is an absolutely amazing way to get a kick without brewing an entire session of tea.

I have messed with several recipes, though they all involve matcha and orange juice.

Other things I have found good to add come from the following list:

  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
As any experienced smoothie maker knows (they are a summer weakness of mine), a great thing to do instead of always buying these items fresh (though they are great fresh), is to buy the frozen packs of these fruits often found in grocery stores.

I guess I will file this under, I am so addicted to tea it is making its way into all aspects of my life!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Teuk Seon Korean Green Tea

Teuk Seon Leaf

So I have developed some sort of love affair with Korean tea, and I think it is here to stay. Since my very first package arrived with Korean teas, about a week and a half ago, I do not think I have gone more than one day without having a Korean green tea.

As such I am still amazed at how little of the packages I have seemed to go through, though that seems to be the fact that the teapot is rather small compared to my Japanese Kyusu's and the cups are definitely smaller, though a hair larger than I prefer for Gyokuro.

I will admit I am still playing around with how to brew, occasionally I rinse, usually I do not, as at least with the Organic tea I seem to get a lot of dust particles either way. But I do love the resulting brew with the first infusion a lot cooler, where the cooling bowl is slightly more than just warm to the touch, for a longer infusion. This time I feel like the first infusion was perfect with this tea, the best I have made with it yet. It is incredibly creamy with a nice almond taste to it. It has a fair bit of sweetness in there also.

So my best estimates on this infusion would be water close to 50C with a steep a little over a minute, but probably not more than a minute and a half.

Teuk Seon Color

The second infusion was also good I went a little long on the infusion it probably should have been closer to or less than 30 seconds, but it only came out in a rather bitter almond character with a bit extra astringency. Other than that it was still a delightful brew.

Something about Korean teas just entrance me and draw me into them completely, I do not know what it is but I surely do enjoy it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Korean Way of Tea Book Review

The Korean Way of Tea

by Brother Anthony of Taize and Hong Kyeong-Hee

This book was one of the first books to come out with its intended purpose, and really it remains the only one. Korea as a Tea producing nation often is overlooked in the grand scheme of things quite possibly because their tea production is incredibly minimal compared to the major nations of China, Japan and India. But that being said Korea being located basically right between China and Japan has had its fair share of influence from both nations, and this book shows how Korea's tea culture is a hybrid of both, but still incredibly unique to itself.

This book is an incredibly quick read, and if you are the least bit interested in learning the basics of Korea's tea culture, it will be hard to put down. Not only is it full of amazing information, it also has a wealth of interesting and eye catching photographs.

The only real flaw I have with this book, is the section on the Brief History of Tea in China. The fault is not with the authors' presentation, but rather with the fact that as I have been reading many tea books lately, when ever a book gives a run down of Tea in China they all focus on the same people and their contributions. While I do not doubt the featured figures influence on Chinese tea, I just wish this book hadn't devoted a chapter to Chinese tea, as it is "The Korean Way of Tea." I say that because every book on Chinese tea culture and history will include just as much if not more on those figures.

But as a whole this book is incredibly informative and enjoyable. For days after I read it I would pick it up and sit down and read through a section or two, or just look through the photographs again, simply because I found it that wonderful.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Premium Yun Xaing Tie Guan Yin

Premium Yun Xiang leaf

Occasionally I feel people need to eat their words, and admit that they have been completely wrong an a type of tea. I hope I was not to open about it on this blog, but I know I voiced my opinion often through other means.

But Basically this post is a long time coming, in part due to the generosity of some friends who really opened my eyes to the glory a Green Tie Guan Yin can achieve. This particular offering is from Chinese Cha Dao on Ebay, and these samples were sent to help enlighten me.

The problem comes about when asking the question: "Is it worth it?" Which I hope I have attained a certain level of tea appreciation that when I taste these teas I can appreciate how good they are. That being said while I have had some Phenomenal Green Tie Guan Yins these past few months, I am not sure if I myself personally are willing to spend the money on them, as all these Tie Guan Yins that have made me go wow, also cause the same reaction when I look at the price.

Premium Yun Xiang

So what I will say about this tea, is this one flirts with the bottom of the range of quality that I find not boring, and not "bad". The tea is mellow with lots of good flavors hidden in its gentleness. To many budget TGY even with the carefullest of brewing are either insipid, or incredibly bitter (and not the good way like with some young Puerh).

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Essence of Tea 2010 Bangwai

Essence of Tea Bangwai 2010

So I currently have posts stacked up quite a few days a head of schedule. Starting in August I am going to go from a post every two days to a post every three just because I am unsure how things are going to work out with grad school time wise. I will definitely try to post at least once a week after the posts I have lined up expire.

Bangwai is a village near the Jingmai area, and area I am not too familiar with. But the appearance of the cake and smell of the first infusion are quite promising.

Essence of Tea Bangwai Cake 2010
The color of the first infusion is a golden yellow with a bit of a reddish tinge to it, but the leaves look a nice fresh green.

The aroma is incredibly enticing, with a fresh boiled corn, with banana and other tropical fruits. And wow, this is strong, even with a rather short first infusion. The flavors are amazing though, it seems to have just about anything you can want from a fresh young puerh.

Essence of Tea Bangwai Color 2010

I hate to say this but I am a bit distracted with this, playing with a brand new Electric hot plate after my old one died, and trying to figure out optimal settings. But the great thing about this tea, is while it is strong and always demands your attention when drinking it, it is hard to make it overly bitter, even with slightly distracted brewing. Mind you this is still a very young raw puerh, so do not get too distracted.

That being said, After 8 or so infusions I am not as fond of this tea any more. It was a great ride through those 8 infusions but the 6th 7th and 8th, while they had an incredible mouth and throat feel, they were a bit insipid otherwise. I know a lot of people talking about having a tea last for 20 or so infusions of a tea, but I usually call it quits after my kettle runs very low, but that being said I feel with puerh which people say they get that huge number of infusions, I tend to abuse a bit more than some, often steeping most except the very early infusions for double the others quote.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Yuuki-cha Tenryu Misakubo

Realizing it is August already and that I still have unopened bags of Shincha, I decided to jump on consuming more of them. I got a bit caught up in the excitement of Korean tea and the 2010 Nada cakes arriving and Shincha took somewhat of a back seat.

From Tea

Amazed at how quickly the Korean teawares stains are crackling, I'm deciding to try and push my Deishi Kyusu a bit harder. The cracks in the Deishi kyusu are darkening on the inside, but the outside still has very little sign of darkening cracks. Though it has been speculated by a few of us on Teachat, that Hagi Kyusu's tend to get a special glaze on the inside aimed at preventing most if not all of the seepage of tea into the piece, which would then eventually work its way back out the outside, creating the marks in the cracks on the outside of the glaze.

I am also using a Hagi cup, that I might turn into a water cup, strictly because it is a massive cup, it holds probably somewhere between 12 and 16 ounces comfortably, and anything inside of it takes way to long to cool. But I might end up using it as a great winter cup.

From Tea

Alright so back to the tea. Lovely aroma, but somewhat commonplace for Sencha / Shincha. Asamushi while I love it does tend to get a little old at times. And while this greatly exhibits the vegetal aspects Japanese greens can have and the smooth mellow flavor that is borderline like olive oil in its texture. This teas most alluring aspect is its incredibly cooling aspect, and a rather nice finish.

In taste and aroma it is quite acceptable but rather standard fair for Shincha/ Sencha that is above the grade that it has obvious flaws.

Ikebana Attempt

In a simple cup,
a single flower reflects,
the tea vanishes time,
and hours later
the notion of time
comes flooding back.
--Adam Yusko

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sen no Rikyu

This is part of the August Tea Blog Carnival sponsored by the Association of Tea Bloggers, and this month is being hosted by Jason Walker at the Walker Tea Review.

The focus of this post is supposed to be on a Tea person, and is in essence rather vague, it could be anyone from history or just your local tea vendor.

The fact that I am fascinated with Zen Buddhism, really helped narrow the field, and ultimately lead me to choose Sen no Rikyu. Sen no Rikyu fought for a much simpler tea ceremony, and one that focused on the tea instead of the extremely extravagant teaware that was being collected by the Prominent officials at that time. Directly related to that he emphasized the wabi sabi approach to tea and teaware, which basically boils down to the fact that sometimes things can be perfect due to their imperfections.

If he were alive today, one thing I would love to ask him, would be if Hagi yaki fits into his preferences for teaware?

The truth is from the bit I have read on Sen no Rikyu, it really could be a toss up, while Hagi yaki is one style that showcases Wabi Sabi with such elegance and ease, it can also be incredibly extravagant. It is hard to picture someone rumored to have worn the most basic of clothing preparing matcha in a solid gold chawan or something even half as extravagant.

The hardest part of learning about Sen no Rikyu is separating fact from fiction, as he was such an influential figure in the orgins of the Japanese Tea Ceremony, in fact 3 major schools of the Japanese tea ceremony can trace their lineage back to him.

It seems Sen no Rikyu's influence was also his downfall, having been a tea master for the leading warlord in Japan at the time he had access to resources through his connection to such an influential leader. This allowed Sen no Rikyu to be more highly regarded in certain circles than the warlord he worked for. As the story goes the warlord was angered when he visited a Zen monastery and had to walk under a statue of Sen no Rikyu. As Hideyoshi was known for his temper, it is not that much of a surprise that he ordered Sen no Rikyu to commit ritual suicide, which Sen no Rikyu complied.

Could I somehow meet Sen no Rikyu I would have dozens of questions, such as how he decided the "proper size for a tea room?" Some other questions I have, could possibly be answered now with a bit more research on my part such as whether Sencha and other non-powdered tea were around in Japan at that time and what their role was? With the follow up as to why so much focus was placed on Matcha?

I hope you enjoyed this little story of Sen no Rikyu. I was notified by another member of the Assocation of Tea bloggers that there is a book out there about Sen no Rikyu's life, though sadly it is not yet available in english, and none of my langauge skills in any other language are proficient enough to read an entire novel.

I'll Include a somewhat informal bibliography here:
The Way of Tea, by Aaron Fisher

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