Search the Sip Tip

Looking for something on this site? Use this search to find it.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tea always surprises

Seigan Ao SO 8

I am sure nearly all of us tea drinkers have these teas, teas that we always go back to and enjoy. Not only do we enjoy these teas, we keep finding new things about them, that surprise us and let us enjoy them even more. It is often times when I get surprised from a tea I thought I was already rather well acquainted with that I wonder if I should become a bit more scientific in my tea drinking.

By scientific, I mean keep track of temperature, humidity levels, both inside and outside, also including the weather outside that day. Things people talk about most notably is whether or not is it raining that day, when considering how certain tea tastes, and the consensus is most teas taste best on rainy days, especially roasted and aged teas.

Though the idea of keeping a tea notebook, in which those things were kept track of, comes from me witnessing it first hand when I visited the Tea Gallery a few years back. When we did a bit of a tea experiment between two identical Nannou Cakes stored in two different locations one graciously provided from the collection of The Mandarin, while the other I believe was stored in Vancouver. When they started the experiment they took out a notebook and read the temp, and humidity and I believe they even took notes regarding the weather.

While I feel I face too much "rigor" in my mathematical studies, I rather like tea because it gives me a chance to sort of wing it and deal exactly with how I feel in terms of my mood. I mean I do own a scale for measuring tea, and I used to have a thermometer to measure water temp. When I used those while I could get consistent results, I was rarely surprised. I learned that while being somewhat spontaneous with the tea we can learn new things about it that we did not quite expect.

I love it when I get completely surprised by a tea, so I am torn between trying to keep track of why the tea tastes different that day, or just taking it in step and rolling with the surprise to possibly try and recreate it later.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The fallacy of Aged puerh

I am writing this post somewhat disheartened, as I had always found the aged puerh samples from hou De to be wonderfully worth it. At least worth it in the sense that they allow for roughly 2-3 good sessions of aged puerh without going through the expense and risk of buying an entire cake. While I wish them luck with their new family member who looks wonderful. The sample I had today left me amazingly dissapointed in a way aged puerh has never done so before.

Aged puerh has let me down in the past by being overly wet stored, i.e. being incredibly musty and moldy tasting many many infusions into the session, almost so much that it is unpalatable. Most of these being aged puerh offerings I got in my early years of drinking Aged Puerh, where I thought mold and must were the key points of aged puerh. I have since moved on to a bit of a middle ground, where I look for more than a damp musty basement.

It has been said and while I do not proclaim to be any puerh or puerh storage expert, but the aged puerh Hou De usually offers is usually on the drier side in terms of storage. So keeping that in mind for my personal tastes I should look for closer to 20 years or older, rather than 10 years or so. But what I had today begs the question, could puerh go into dormant times, even beyond the 7-10 year old mark, or perhaps is due to the dryer storage could this one still be in a "sick" period. The reason I brought this up is I drank a sample I bought many months ago from a 1998 Sheng cake supposedly fashioned after 8582 (one of my favorite recipes) and I found it incredibly flat after the first few infusions. It did not have the staying power puerh is known for, and while the taste has definitely matured, it seemed so incredibly tame for its age compared to young items, and lacking complexity that it should have acquired through age.

Now I do not know who to blame for that, and while I thought I might have gone slightly light on the leaf the wet leaf basically filled the entire gaiwan which is what I usually aim for with my aged puerh. This though might explain why on a gram by gram base this puerh came with double the number of grams compared to similarly priced offerings form other years.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hong Cha

Douji Yunnan Black Tea

I have been exploring quite a bit of Hong cha recently, and I would say that they are wonderful easy drinkers, but non of them come across as life changing. I am really starting to appreciate Hong cha for its purpose as a filler tea, or a tea to drink while distracted. A wonderful caffeine fix, presented in a much less in your face way than coffee.

Douji Yunnan Black Color

The down side is a lot of these teas come across as "generic tea" as malty with a bit of tannins. While quite better than most stuff found in tea bags, compared to the cornucopia of flavors found in oolongs, or the warm brothy umami flavors of Japanese greens. One thing I will say is even after drinking tea for many years, I still believe when trying a bunch of teas from a category you are not entirely familiar with, you need to get your "tea legs" so to speak.

By tea legs I mean, you need to try quite a few of them before you can adequately taste the differences between similar teas. I know when I first got into Sencha's they all tasted similar, but only after having them over and over again did I start to taste how different they really are. Somehow I feel when tasting a class of items for the first time, whether is is Sencha, Hong Cha, Coffee, etc. I tend to get a big picture of their general taste. It is only because the taste is still somewhat foreign in general, and it is harder to distinguish between what is common to the category, and what makes that tea unique.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Another musing about Puerh

Puerh Breaking Plate

(one of my older stock photo's, I would love for the grass to be that green right now, and the trees to be full of leaves)

So I recently sent a package to someone who is getting into puerh, in part to thank him for a piece of teaware that he sent. It was while sending him a bunch of different puerh samples, that I realized a rather nice part about puerh.

I guess part of this should be taken with a bit of reservation, as I am also at the same time trying to thin out my puerh collection. The fact that most of the puerh I had puerh comes in 350-400 gram cakes, and as I have documented my young puerh drinking habits here in the past, but for a refresher it seems for one to two weeks a year I go on a bender and drink young puerh at least every other day sometimes every day, but hardly touch it the rest of the year. It struck me that I have no problem not sticking to the typical customs that people seem to have when sending samples, which is enough tea to manage to have 2 or 3 sessions with the tea.

In all honesty I am not sure I have ever had 70 sessions of the same tea, and certainly not 70 sessions in a single year. But that would be roughly what is needed to finish off a single cake of puerh in a timely fashion (assuming a 5 grams of tea per session). For those of you that just want a reference we have 52 weeks in a year, so we would have to have over one session or bump up the amount of leaf you use to a little under grams. While depending on your brewing habits and which teas you tend to drink and in what quantities it may be feasible for some of the "puerh" addicts to polish off a few cakes in a year.

Though in my position, I am looking at a box full of puerh most of it looks like something has been nibbling on the edges where I have chipped off enough for a few different brewings. But as my puerh was not disappearing fast enough, especially since I am no longer that interested in puerh. I still think it is a good tea, just the flavor profile does not match what I would prefer. I realized when sending these samples I could be overly generous and still leave myself quite an excess of puerh.

But I will say should I ever by another puerh cake again, stone pressed will certainly be a prerequisite. Breaking up Dayi recipe cakes are by far some of the most annoying things I have ever had to do with tea, right up there with breaking up some Compressed Wuyi Yancha.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February ATB Blog Carnival

This carnival is hosted by Cinnabar over at Gongfugirl and focuses on the question:

What is the most uncomfortable place where you prepared tea (work, traveling, in a place without suitable equipment, etc.) and how were you able to overcome the difficulty?

I have actually written articles about this topic several times in the past year, one of which was about preparing tea in an Academic Grad Student office, in which chalk dust clouds all the fine points of senses. The other one about a less than ideal situation, but incredibly enjoyable although the tea was downright dreadful while in Venice Italy.

But I may say both of those situations make the setting in which I started getting serious about loose leaf teas seem like luxurious set ups. A freshman in a dorm without a kitchen, with no real access to a kitchen, and any sort of heating element strictly banned, but I had loose leaf tea and I wanted to drink tea. Not to mention I had no ceramic cups.

So how did I prepare tea? I shudder to think of it now, but I used tap water, poured into empty and cleaned paper coffee cups, microwaved till warm (we were allowed to have a certain type of pre approved minifridge/ microwave combo). Then threw in a fill it yourself teabag, often with a black tea, but occasionally a oolong.

Even though I enjoyed those cups of tea, I think it may have been the reason why it took two more years for me to think of tea as anything more than a caffeine delivery system. Though clearly as I enjoyed it, it speaks for either the enduring classic taste of the tea leaf.

Bottom Banner