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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Uricha, a tea that baffles me

Uricha Wrapped

Again this is a time when my lack of language skills are horribly apparent. I really do not know what Uricha is, but from its description it sounds like a compressed Balhyocha, which is a Korean Yellow/oolong tea. Neat little package as you can see above and below its a little ball but surprisingly dense.

Uricha unwrapped

This just advances my belief that Korea is a great practically untapped resource for high quality, and incredibly unique teas. For instance, have you ever tasted "salted roasted peanuts" before in a tea? Well through the first two infusions of this tea I could think of little else. If the vendor I received this tea from lists it, I will be sure to let everyone know as it is certainly a peculiar tea.

Uricha brew

One thing I will say while it was quite highly compressed, breaking off pieces was not that challenging, and should I have had a tuo pick, it would have been almost childs play. (As close as working with a sizable and quite sharp "needle" can get to childs play.) I just happened to find a slightly looser spot and massaged it with my fingers and leaves started to flake off ever so slowly opening up a larger and larger patch of tea to get more leverage on prying off more leaves.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A visit to Red Blossom

Red Blossom (6)

While in San Fransico, I had the opportunity to visit Red Blossom Tea House, with my mother, who took the photos inside the shop. It was quite the experience as I really have only visited one high quality tea vendors "shop" prior to this, especially one where asking to try something brewed is somewhat common place. As part of my goal was to get back in touch with Wuyi Yancha, I asked to try some Tie Lo Han, which gave a chance for discussions to start. We were helped by Alice, who was wonderful.

Red Blossom (8)

I am not entirely sure what happened next but somehow we sat at the tea table for roughly an hour, as a few others stopped by and left, while several other teas were brewed, in total two Wuyi's and 2 Taiwan oolongs. I feel it was in part luck and in part because I think I demonstrated that I wasn't the typical tourist in China town visiting a teashop that lead to me trying all these different teas.

They seemed to be slightly pushing their High Mountain Formosa oolongs, which while good, were not quite what I was looking for, but I did leave with 6 Ounces of Yancha, and 4 ounces of their aged Tung Ting, along with a new Yixing pot, to hopefully use for yancha, (which seems to be preforming wonderfully so far).

I highly encourage anyone visiting the San Fransico area that is an avid tea drinker to try and stop by Red Blossom Tea. Especially if you like Celedon teaware, I am still mentally drooling over some of their pieces, most of which are not up online yet.

Golden Gate Bridge (13)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A gap in tea experiences

I will be the first to admit I have some major gaps in my tea experiences, for instance, I have never taken the time to get to know High Mountain Oolongs from Taiwan, I have almost completely ignored the Subcontinent of India, and Chinese teas offer so much variety that I could pick out half a dozen of small gaps there. In respect to China I feel it would take a life time of experience to try and make heads or tails of the entire gamut of Chinese teas. Granted I have had a decent number of Indian teas, and I have had a number of oolongs from Taiwan, a few of which might have been High Mountain.

People new to tea, can at times go wild buying a little bit of everything, and while I encourage this, I at times have to remind myself if I have only tried a small number of teas in a certain category, that I should not overly boast, or quickly dismiss that entire group. It could easily be that the vendors tastes in terms of that type of tea differ from what you would normally seek. For instance roasted teas have this happen a lot, everyone seems to have their favorite preference for the amount of roasting they want in a certain style of tea. More so one vendor may label a tea as High/ Heavy roast, that another vendor would label as Medium.

The real question is do we ever reach a certain point of comfort in the teas that we have tried that makes us complacent and unwilling to thoroughly explore any gaps that might remain, or any categories written off after trying a few teas not to our liking? I for one will say that so far this year I have not explored beyond my somewhat large comfort zone. and I seem to be in a bit of a process of revisiting old favorites. Part of me says that I have enough tea on hand that I am not that fond of, do I really need to explore and end up with more tea I will almost have to force myself to drink? The other part though is reminded of certain categories of tea that I decided to order almost on a whim, that caught my attention, and are now some of the ones I turn to most often?

Its an interesting puzzle, do you explore just to explore, or do you drink tea because you love it, and you want to drink the teas you love?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

GTC: 2011 Cho Yun Seok Oojeon

Jukro oojeon Leaves

This is the first contender, and inspiration for this "challange" of sorts. It is the first of hopefully many posts that start with "GTC" standing for Green Tea Challenge, in which I will be discussing a green tea I have either chosen to look into. I am also looking for suggestions in the previous post.

As the tea that inspired this challenge, it should give you some idea of how special this tea is. I recieved this tea along with an order from Dao Tea, and it is one of the teas Pedro (owner of Dao Tea) is looking at adding to his line up of teas, boosting his Korean Tea selection into an incredibly solid state, as these Jukro offerings from the tea master Cho Yun Seok, will hopefully include more than just the oojeon, Daejak, JungJak, and a Uricha .

Jukro Oojeon Color

From the very beginning I knew this tea was going to be special. First of all it is an Oojeon, which the only one I have tried previously was in contention for my favorite tea. The dry leaves had an aroma of dark chocolate and lavender, a theme which stuck around through the first few infusions. Even more amazing is the first infusion honestly reminded me of the best matcha I have ever had, but without the chalky mouth feel, and with so much more to it, with hints of a breath in the middle of a deep pine forest, and lavender.

This is the tea that gave me the absolutely incredible session outlined in the "Sessions that make you..." post.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Mid Day Hong Cha

Starting today I will be away on a trip. I have lined up a few periodic posts while I am away, but I will likely be unable to moderate any comments which might be left until I get back. I am saying this to try an avoid ruffling any feathers, as I know I can be a bit slow moderating them sometimes, but I do not think I have ever gone more than a few days without at least publishing a comment left on the site that I felt contributed to the discussion.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Searching for Amazing Green teas

I am issuing a challenge to myself, to seek out amazing green teas. As it is already well into July I may need to wait almost an entire year to seek out some very high quality and fresh Chinese greens. I would like to solicit some recommendations as to where I can find and order (online) some of the best green teas from the following categories: Gyokuro, Sencha, Matcha, Long Jing, Bi Lo Chun, and a few other Chinese Green Teas.

I will say I am a bit clueless as where to find some very high quality Chinese greens. I do want to try a Japanese Temomicha (hand made tea). I will also be trying some Korean Green teas also, but there are very few places online that those are available and I have already started sourcing some.

In a couple of days I will post my first contender, for the title of the best green tea. I will say that this one is a doozy, and based on some of the great green teas I have tried already, this will be incredibly hard to beat.

Teas I feel should be on the list to try:

Wakamatsu-no-mukashi (ippodo)

Tenka-iichi (ippodo)
Yume no Ukihashi (O-Cha)

Ujibashi San no Ma (O-Cha)
Kaboku (Ippodo)

(Need suggestions for Fukamushi and Chumushi suggestions).

Long Jing: (Some or all of the following)
Lion Xi Hu Long Jing (Teaspring)
Emperor Long Jing (Teaspring)
Shi Feng Long Jing (Jing Tea Shop)
Wang Jia Shan Long Jing (Jing Tea Shop)

Again I am looking for suggestions, so if you have had an absolutely amazing green tea please let me know.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sessions that make you...

Jukro oojeon

There are many different types of tea sessions, there are those when you are in a hurry, need a pick me up, and so on. I want to talk about to very specific types of tea sessions today. Those that make you want to stay, and those that make you want to run away.

I hate to say it but lately I have been having to many of the latter, even more troubling is even the better sessions were still not that good. It seemed that my best sessions now, would have been considered some of the worst prior to grad school. But mind you at that time I was so well practiced at brewing, even when incredibly distracted, my internal instincts were so good, I barely botched a brew. Now being a bit out of practice even when focusing entirely on the tea I seem to only be getting mediocre sessions. As such lately I had been feeling like walking away from tea for awhile. Taking a step back, and no longer pursue it with the emphasis I have been trying to give it for these past few years.

Today I had a session, that honestly reminded me of why I drink tea. Even more than that, it felt like it opened up so many more doors in relation to tea of things I want to look into. Challenges I want to undergo. It even made me consider cutting back on spending in so many other areas of my life so I can spend more on tea. While I have always liked tea, and it has been by my side many times over the past 10 or so years, I actually never had a story that I felt was a true answer to the question "What made you get into tea?"

This session-- ooooh-- this session is that answer alright. It might even be the answer to "What has kept you focused on tea?" It was one of those things that was so enjoyable, all you want to do is to try and recreate it.

In a future post I will tell you what tea this was.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Thoughts on Highfire Tie Guan Yin


I have been trying quite a few different High Fire Tie Guan Yin's lately, and I can honestly say they can be quite surprising and wonderfully varied. Now my definition of Highfired is a bit loose, but in general if the leaves are the same color as you can see on some sort of chocolate bar, then its what I would consider High Fire. That rule is only for more recent teas from the past five years or so, as aged teas that have seen very little roasting can also appear dark once old enough.

It is quite interesting to see the difference between levels of roast on these different teas. I will say I think I am a bigger fan of the wonderfully fruity flavors that the slightly less roasted, teas can develop. Although the very, very heavy roast teas have their place also, as they remind me a bit of coffee, and are wonderfully warming and welcome in the cold winter months. But then again just about all warm drinks, especially ones with a fair bit of roast seem incredibly welcome in the middle of winter.

I wish I knew a little bit more about the production of these teas, as in part I wonder if some are more or less oxidized than others, and how that contributes to the tastes. I have a hunch, but I am not entirely sure that if the leaves are oxidized more prior to roasting, many more wonderful fruit flavors develop such as apples with certain spices, and plums.

All I can say is my little bargain 50 ml yixing has gotten lots of use these past few months and I still have quite a bit of Highfire Tie Guan Yin to work through, not to mention the fact that I will likely order much more.

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