Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Masala Chai

Tea: Masala Chai
Vendor: Wegmans Food Markets
Price: $29.99 / lb.

Leaf: This chai has less of a clovey aroma than some other chai mixes that I have tried. The mix has a very peppery aroma to it. The tea leaf is very small broken.

Infusion Mix: The mix I used for this tea consists of 4 oz water, 4 oz milk, 1 tsp leaf (3g), 1/2 tsp honey.

Infusion Parameters: Boil water and milk, add tea and boil for 4 mins. Add honey

Infusion: This chai has a light and creamy chocolatey brown color to it. The aroma is very noticeably sweet and milky. The tea flavor is very well balanced between the milk / tea / sweetness. The flavor is very milky like a heavily milked black tea. There are hints of spiciness, but only light hinting. More tea may increase this flavor.

Rating: 6/10

Conclusion: This tea was enjoyable, but like most chai it doesn't have a very strong distinctive presence. I don't see this chai standing out more from any other chais. It seems to be a good reference chai.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Honyama Sencha

Tea: Honyama Sencha
Vendor: Wegmans Food Markets / Ito-en
Price: $72.99 / lb.
Source: Shizuoka, Japan
Vendor Description: A delightful hint of maize in the bouquet hints at the gentle firing of the drying process. This tea offers a subtle sweetness. Its flavor signature is generous and soft, with a compelling wildflower aftertaste. From Shizuoka's Abe River region.

Leaf: The leaf for this is a very normal appearing chumushi sencha. It has a dullish green / brown color to it, but not extreme so.

1st Infusion Parameters: 5g, 5 oz, 180F, 2 min

1st Infusion: The first infusion had a lightly yellow green color. The aroma was light and had almost a hint of a genmaicha aroma. The flavor was light, it was very front loaded with no sense of bitterness or astringency. The flavor was very thick with a strong marine flavor to it.

2nd Infusion: This infusion was a dark yellow infusion with a light brown hue to it. The flavor was very crisp this time and had a sharp bitterness to it. The marine / seaweed flavor was still quite present in this tea.

Rating: 2/10

Conclusion: This was a rather unremarkable tea. The price is moderately high considering the flavor of this tea. For it's price there are many other teas which have a nicer flavor to them. While the tea itself has no particular flaws, it is a short lived sencha which quickly moves into a sharp bitter flavor in the second infusion.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Hawaii Exclusives

One of the interesting things about Lupicia is that the Hawaii store has exclusive teas. These are a series of flavored teas with tropical flavorings that are characteristic of Hawaii. These teas are supposed to be exclusive to Hawaii, or so I thought. I believe that there are at least 12 exclusive Hawaii teas.

Yesterday as I was picking some food up at a Nijiya market in San Francisco's J-town, I noticed a stack of gift wrapped Lupicia 3 tin boxes. It turns out that they were 3 packs of the Hawaii exclusive teas. In the pack were Palekaiko, Hoku, and Malama. These are 3 tins of 50g each in a nicely wrapped gift box. The pack ran $30.00 and since I don't have easy access to Hawaii instanly snatched them up. Reviews will be coming soon.

I'm not sure if this is a trend to move the exclusive teas mainland, but the Lupicia store that I talked to didn't know that they were available stateside and wished that they could sell them. So if you're interested in some quite possibly elusive teas and live in the SF bay area or near a Nijiya you may want to check this out.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy New Years from Me and my tea!

Seasons Greeting! Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Shincha Houryoku

Tea: Shincha Houryoku
Vendor: Den's Tea
Source: Shizuoka, Japan

About This Tea: This was a bag of '08 shincha that I had forgotten to open up and try out from back in May.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea was a browner leaf color than normal. It had a very faint yet fresh aroma to it.

1st Infusion Parameters: 5g, 5 oz, 140F, 1 min

1st Infusion: This tea still had the bright and vibrant green hue normally associated with shincha. It is not as luminescent as some were back in the spring, but it was still a beautiful color of green. The flavor was very smooth and well rounded. It was rich and full bodied for a green tea. There was no sense of bitterness or astringency.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 30s, 140F

2nd Infusion: This infusion was darker and murkier than the first. There was a light bitterness to this infusion and the flavor was richer and more intense than the first. It was more lacking of the bright shincha freshness at this point though.

Rating: 6/10

Conclusion: Considering this tea was well past it's optimal freshness time, it was still an enjoyable cup of tea. Even though it was a bit on the older side, it was still quite flavorful, but the flavor was a little more subdued. I look forward to next year's shincha.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Nishio Samidori

Tea: Nishio Samidori - 7501
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $12.50 / 20g
Source: Aichi, Japan
Vendor Description: Matcha from Nishio, Aichi Pref., the 2nd largest Matcha producing area after Uji, Kyoko. A variety called "Samidori" suitable for producing Matcha is used, with a mild flavor to suit everyone's taste.

Powder: This matcha is a rather light shade of green. It was darker than the 7502 (Okabe Aohane) however. There is a nice aroma to this matcha though, it's very enjoyable.

Infusion Parameters: 140F, 3 scoops, 1 ladle of water

Infusion: This matcha foamed rather nicely. The large foam brought out the lighter color of the matcha and gave off a nice hue. The flavor was a very rich matcha flavor. The flavor was quite bold, yet had a slightly gritty texture to it. There was a detectable light bitterness to it though.

Rating: 7/10

Conclusion: This is a rather enjoyable matcha, there wasn't much that was particuarly outstanding about it. It was probably one of the easiest matcha to foam. It is definitely an usucha though.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Oolong 101

Last Tuesday I had a chance to attend a small class on Oolongs by a local vendor, Swan Sisters. The class was appropriately named Oolong 101. The class covered some of the general points of Oolongs, brewing, manufacture / history of specific oolongs, and of course tastings.

There were a few types of oolong covered, Tie Guan Yin, Taiwanese Oolongs, Wuyi Rock, and Dan Cong. For a lot of the attendees the class really was also an instruction on how to use a gaiwan with a tea table. Most of them had never used a gaiwan before, let alone serving pitcher or tea table. I have a feeling that may have been more rewarding of an experience for some of them than the actual tea itself. First starting to use a gaiwan is a very difficult and somewhat painful proposition.

A few important points in brewing oolongs though were brought to light. The class focused on brewing multiple infusions using a gaiwan in a gong fu style. This mean short infusion times and lots of infusions. To prevent swimming through tea all night though we tended to stick to about 2-3 infusions, as is appropriate for beginning. I've always felt that learning to coax more out of your tea and reading your infusion is something that comes with experience and practice.

Swan Sisters plans to have classes like these every second tuesday of the month on different teas/subjects. The cost for the class was $10

Monday, December 15, 2008

First Flush Darjeeling

Tea: First Flush Darjeeling
Vendor: Tao of Tea
Price: $10.00 / Chestlet (~3-4 oz)
Source: Darjeeling, India
Vendor Description: A delicate First Flush Darjeeling packaged in a miniature, wooden tea-chest. To this day, teas from India are packaged in large, foil-lined wooden chests that must be broken or pried open to remove the tea. On this mini-chest, the top is removable and can be re-used for storing tea or other items.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is nicely sized Darjeeling leaves, there was not much of an aroma to the leaves though. The color was a bit on the darker side for Darjeeling black teas, with some light silver and green bits showing through.

1st Infusion Parameters: 5g, 5 oz, 185F, 4 min

1st Infusion: This tea came out iwth a nice floral aroma. It was floral yet thick and sweet. The tea had a rich brown hue to it. The flavor felt a bit muddled, it was rough to find distinct flavors in it, yet I kept finding a hint of a soapiness in the flavor. The flavor was dominated though by a strong bitterness. There was a long lingering aftertaste which piggybacked on the bitterness.

Rating: 1/10

Conclusion:I really was not a fan of this tea. The light character of a Darjeeling was overpowered by bitterness in this case. It wasn't a very enjoyable cup of tea and is not a very characteristic Darjeeling. I did try this tea later with lower temperatures and shorter infusion times, but I could not shake the taste of soapiness with this tea.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sencha "Sakura Saku"

Tea: Sencha "Sakura Saku" - 8005
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Vendor Description: Blend of Uji Sencha which is firmly rubbed.

Leaf: This tea is a well polished dark green sencha leaf. There is a light aroma to it. The shape of the leaf is very expected with a good distribution of large leaf and a light amount of small flecks.

1st Infusion Parameters: 4g, 160F, 1 min

1st Infusion: There was a pale light green color to this infusion, it didn't have much of an aroma to it. The tea is a light clean flavor with a medium grassiness. The flavor was very sweet and almost like a shincha in vibrance.

2nd Infusion Parmeters: 180F, 1 min

2nd Infusion: This infusion was a darker yellow color with a very bitter flavor to it. It felt like the temperature was a massive overshoot.

Rating: 2/10

Conclusion: This sencha would normally have been a very normal and good example of an Uji sencha, but instead it seemed to be very very temperature sensitive. Temperatures which would seem normal for most senchas seemed a bit too extreme for this tea. The flavor of the first infusion was quite good, but nothing to warrant the fickle nature of this tea. I tried this tea later using a second infusion at 150F and the result was a very average tasting sencha.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Kuradashi Gyokuro Super Premium

Tea: Kuradashi Gyokuro Super Premium
Vendor: Hibiki-an
Price: $24.00/ 40g
Source: Uji, Japan

About This Tea: This tea is a Kuradashi tea. Kuradashi teas are teas that have been stored for a period of time to intentionally age the tea. This was stored for 18 months before packaging.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea has a lightly grassy aroma. The leaf is dark in color. The shape is very similar to the o-cha Yame Gyokuro.

1st Infusion Parameters: 5g, 140F, 5oz, 60s

1st Infusion: The first infusion had a pale green color to it. It was quite transparent with just a hint of color. The tea has a very unusual aroma, it's an almost woody aroma to it. There is a rich umami flavor to this infusion and it is much less grassy than most gyokuro. The flavor was lighter than many gyokuro, but it was still very full bodied. The flavor was predominantly a marine/seaweed flavor, which followed through from beginning to end.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 145F, 15s

2nd Infusion: This infusion had a much brighter color to it. There was a light amount of murkiness to it, and a radiant green color which reminded me a bit of shincha. The tea has a light dry aroma to it. The marine/seaweed flavor was dominant in this infusion as well. The tea is very smooth and enjoyable. There is no bitterness and no astringency to it. The flavor in this infusion was very consistent from beginning to end.

3rd Infusion Parameters: 150F, 45s

3rd Infusion: This infusion had a dusty aroma to it. The marine/seaweed flavor was also dominant in this infusion. There was still a good amount of umami flavor in it, but I noticed the empty wamer water flavor showing through.

4th Infusion Parameters: 160F, 90s

4th Infusion: This infusion had a clearer color to it. There was a much lighter flavor, but it felt a bit hollow. The thickness found in the earlier infusions and richness of umami flavor was lightening up and the flavor felt a bit hollow. There were still hints of the marine/seaweed flavor though.

Rating: 10/10

Conclusion: This is a very unusual gyokruo. The flavor was the most consistent throughout the infusions as I have ever seen. Even with the increasing temperature it was smooth with no sense of bitterness or astringency, a characteristic that tends to show up during later infusions. It felt very pure and clean throughout the whole time.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Yame Gyokuro

Tea: Yame Gyokuro
Vendor: O-cha
Price: $27.95 / 100g
Source: Yame, Japan
Vendor Description: Yame Gyokuro "Select" - High quality first-flush gyokuro grown in Yame, Japan. Over 50% of all gyokuro grown in Japan comes from Yame. Gyokuro is shade grown before harvesting, giving it a greener color and sweeter taste. Once you learn to make it properly, you wil be hooked for life! Make sure to read our brewing instructions, as it is brewed differently than sencha.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea has a very noticeable and pleasant gyokuro aroma. The leaf is a dark green color, and has a relatively long and thick appearance to it. The leaf does not appeared as needle like as some senchas. There is a surprising amount of powder to this tea.

1st Infusion Parameters: 10g, 5 oz., 140F, 60s.

1st Infusion: The tea came out witha very murky grassy green color to it. There is a slightly light and tingly aroma to it, which was surprising. Most gyokuro has a thicker aroma. The flavor is rich and distinctively gyokuro like, but not as thick as most. There is a light sense of astringency, and no bitterness. The flavor is very full and enjoyable, but lighter than most gyokuro.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 150F, 30s.

2nd Infusion: This was a darker and murkier infusion than the first one. The flavor was lighter and thinner than the first and it has an almost clean feeling to it.

Rating: 4/10

Conclusion: This tea was rather unusual for a yame gyokuro. It could not hold up well for as many infusions as other yame gyokuro. Tweaking with the parameters would probably extend this out to 4, but not past that. It feels almost like a what a fukamushi is to a sencha, this feels like it is to gyokuro. The cloudiness in the first infusion was very unexpected. Later experimentation with this tea showed that it brews well at lower leaf:water ratios and warmer water. It is wonderful in almost sencha like conditions.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Homadola FBOP

Tea: Homadola Garden FBOP
Vendor: Plucker's Pick
Price: $18.00 / 3.5 oz.
Source: Sri Lanka (aka Ceylon)
Vendor Description: A fresh, sweet tea with a light aroma.This low-grown tea brews to a golden shade with hints of orange. A mild and mellow flavor.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is very uniform in size and color. It is a very normal shade of black with hints of a gray color on the edges. It hints at being similar to a silver striped. The packaging for this tea was quite nice. The tea comes packed in a mylar bag packed in a tin packed in a box.

Infusion Parameters: 1 tsp (2.21g), 5 oz water, 208F, 3 minutes

Infusion: The infusion has a very golden honey color to it. There is a very light aroma to it that is characteristic of a ceylon tea. The flavor is well balanced and smooth. At a ratio of 2.21:5 it is light, but not too light, and not overpowering. It has a medium body to it with no astringency. There is a light bitterness on the front end, but just enough to give the tea a nice body and flavor.

Rating: 9/10

Conclusion: This is a very enjoyable black tea. It is smooth without being to strong. The flavor distinctive and noticeable, but not overpowering. At it's price it is on the upper end for a ceylon tea, but not prohibitively so.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tea: Aromas and Flavors Around the World

Book: Tea: Aromas and Flavors Around the World
Author: Lydia Gautier
Price: $40.00

This book is a rather beautifully illustrated book. It gives a nice overview of many of the different tea producing/consuming regions of the world and a quick look at the differences therein. This kind of information is common to many books about tea though. What makes this book stand apart is a bit of information about the chemistry of tea and tasting. It describes qualities in a tea to look for, the portions of flavor (Head, Heart, Background which I refer to as Early, Mid, Late/Aftertaste). It also goes on to describe affinities between tea and wine and cocoa.

Rating: 6/10

Conclusion: This book is nice for someone being introduced to tea. It doesn't got into great depth on any particular subject, but covers areas which are normally not described in other tea books. The illustrations are nice.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Tea: Kyobancha - 7433
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $6.50 / 100g
Source: Kyoto, Japan
Vendor Description: Typical Bancha tea in Kyoto. The tea leaves are sun-dried and look almost like dead leaves, but their uneven roasting process makes the tea's flavor richly alluring.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea reminds me of a pile of leaves raked up during the autumn. There are some larger twigs in this tea, larger than most karigane/kukicha teas. The stems are over 1cm in length. The leaves are quite large and flat, there is no rolling or curling at all. The leaf is primarily black in color with some leaves which have a greener color to them.

Infusion Parameters: This tea has some unusual brewing parameters to them. Instead of steeping the tea with the water cooling down from boiling, the tea is boiled during the steeping process. 15g, 2L, 3 min.

Infusion: The tea has a very light aroma to it and a rich brown color. There is a light roasted flavor, but not much behind it. There is a very light to mid flavor and that's the majority of the flavor. There is no early flavor or aftertaste. There is also no bitterness or astringency.

Rating: 4/10

Conclusion: As a hot tea this tea is somewhat unimpressive. There isn't a lot of flavor to this tea, but you make quite a bit for not too much leaf. It is quite inexpensive though and makes for a good everyday tea. I'm curious how this tea will turn out as an iced tea.

Monday, December 1, 2008

White Christmas

Tea: White Christmas - 5524
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $7.50 / 50g
Vendor Description: Tea flavored with white chocolate and apricot, conjuring up images of baked Christmas sweets.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea looks like a mixture of a black CTC mixed with a bit of orthodox leaf. The orthodox leaf is fairly uniform in size at about 1cm in length. There are also a a few small silver pellets like in Champagne Rose and white balls resembling konpeito. The leaf has a very strong sweet aroma and reminds me a lot of the cookie tea. There is a bit of fruitiness to the aroma of this tea.

Infusion Parameters: 208F, 5 oz, 3 min, 5g.

Infusion: The tea has a deep dark brown color to it. There is a lovely shimmer from small metallic flecks in it similar to those in Champagne Rose. There is a thick sweet aroma to the tea which reminds me of the Au Chocolat. There is a medium linght sense of astringnecy to this tea. The initial up front flavor is very light and sweet, followed by an emptiness in the middle. There is a light bitterness at the end of the tea, but just enough to accentuate a good body to the tea.

Rating: 6/10

Conclusion: This tea is a rather normal flavored black tea for Lupicia. It seems almost like a combination of a few of their other teas, primarily the Au Chocolat and Champagne Rose with just a hint of Cookie. The flavor is appropriate as a holiday tea if you enjoy any of the three which it seems quite like.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Black Friday

Black Friday, the most notorious shopping day of the year, is almost upon us. While most retailers are having very lackluster sales this year it appears there are a few surprises in store for us yet.

Starting on Black Friday Yogic Chai is going to be having a 40% off sale.
Click here for Yogic Chai. Coupon code to be posted tommorrow.

TeaGschwendner is also having a sale this year, 20% off everything except Zojirushi, capresso, and already discounted items. Coupon code is: BIGSALE

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Genmaicha Satsuki

Tea: Genmaicha Satsuki
Vendor: Den's Tea
Price: $3.75 / 2 oz.
Source: Shizuoka, Japan
Vendor Description: Genmai Satsuki is an interesting and flavorful blend of tea leaves with Genmai. It provides roasted flavor and aroma. Den’s Tea strongly recommends Genmai Satsuki to new green tea drinkers transitioning from coffee or black tea.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea was huge leaf. It is probably the large that I have ever seen for a genmaicha. There was a moderate amount of popped rice. The toasted rice has a few more roasting protrusions than normal. It seems like the rice was roasted a bit longer than most other genmaichas that I have tried. This would result in the increased amount of popped grains and the small protrusions.

Infusion Parameters: 5g, 5oz, 1 min, 185F

1st Infusion: The first infusion had a pale green color. The rice aroma was very prominent. The flavor was very crisp and characteristic of a genmaicha. The flavor was light all around, but was in good balance. If anything the flavor was shifted a bit toward the side of the rice flavor.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 185F, 1 min

2nd Infusion: This infusion had a bolder yellow hue to it. The rice aroma was greatly reduced and the flavor was quite light. There was a bit of a starchiness in the flavor on the mid-end transition of the flavor.

Rating: 5/10

Conclusion: This is a good example of a genmaicha. The flavors are present and appropriate. In both infusions the flavors were a bit weak. In later experimentation with this tea I found that it was a better tea when infused with more leaf / water. The price is good for this particular tea. There is nothing particularly outstanding about this tea though. If you want an example of the flavors in a genmaicha this may be a good one for you to try.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Miyazaki Sakimidori 2008

Tea: Miyazaki Sakimidori 2008 - 6415
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Source: Miyazaki, Japan
Vendor Description: A first flush green tea developed in Miyazaki. Beautiful green water color and a relaxing aroma.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea was very uniform in size and they have a very nice shape. It is glossy and well polished and has a sweet aroma with hints of reminding me of a Yutaka Midori.

Infusion Parameters: 5g, 140F, 5 oz, 1 min

1st Infusion: The tea has a radiant luminescent green color to it. There is a light haziness in it and a thick, sweet, and heavy aroma to it. The flavor is light yet rich and flavorful. It is smooth with a light grassy feeling to it. It feels almost like a very light gyokuro. There are no traces of bitterness or astringency.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 140F, 30s

2nd Infusion: This time the tea has a bit more muddled of an aroma. It is deeper in color yet it still retains a certain luminescence. The flavor is veyr different. It feels much sharper on the front third of the flavor. It is very smooth and has a very very light bitterness to it. This is more like a sencha than the first infusion was. It was a very enjoyable tea.

Rating: 9/10

Conclusion: This was quite an amazing tea, yet the only thing that I didn't really like about it was the change in the flavor between the first and second infusions. The first infusion was reminiscent of a gyokuro and the second was much more characteristically a sencha. While for some teas the change in the flavor betwen infusions is what makes them unique, this seemed to detract a bit from the enjoyment of the tea. Both infusions on their own were fantastic though.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Melon White Fridge Brew

Tea: Melon White - 7017
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $13.00 / 50g
Source: Fujian, China
Vendor Description: White tea from Fujian province is scented with succulent and sweet melon.

About this tea: This was a fridge brew infusion of the Melon White from Lupicia.

Infusion Parameters: 15g, 1L

Infusion: This was one of the first white teas that I have done a fridge brew for. 15g of leaf is quite voluminous, and took up much of my infuser basket for this tea. The tea came out with a very very clear, amber colored infusion. The flavor is again an interesting mix between cantaloupe and white tea. The cantaloupe is a bit more prominent over the white tea flavor and the flavor is much longer lasting and very refreshing. The flavor reminds me even more of fresh cantaloupe now. There is a very light bitterness on the back end of the tea, but it pairs well with the sweetness of the tea to provide a very enjoyable nice round flavor.

Rating: 8/10

Conclusion: This was more enjoyable than the hot brew infusion of the same tea. It has a very nice smooth flavor to it with nothing complicating it. The downside is that it requires a rather large amount of leaf to create this infusion, and again the price of this tea is somewhat prohibitive. Try this one on a hot day though if you pick up this tea. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Melon White

Tea: Melon White - 7017
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $13.00 / 50g
Source: Fujian, China
Vendor Description: White tea from Fujian province is scented with succulent and sweet melon.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is a very interesting white tea. It has the primary appearance of a Bai Mu Dan, but has some silver needle like leaves in it. There are a small handful of yellow blossoms in there and a few of the leaves do not have the silver needle like hairs on them. The appearance of this leaf greatly reminds me of an autumn leaf covered ground. The tea has a very strong and noticeable aroma of cantaloupe.

1st Infusion Parameters: 3g, 185F, 2 minutes

1st Infusion: There is a very unusual aroma to this tea, it has a very strong aroma of cantaloupe, but it is mixed with a warm white tea aroma. The tea itself has a very clear straw yellow hue to it. The front end of the taste is very sweet and reminds me greatly of cantaloupe. There is a much lighter flavor of a white tea on the back end. The two flavors transition into each other quite nicely. The flavor also seemed to change significantly while I was drinking the cup of tea. It was at first very sweet, and then became thicker as I continued drinking the cup.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 185F, 2 minutes

2nd Infusion: Again there was a very warm and sweet aroma to this tea. In this particular infusion though the two aromas were not as distinct from each other, but blended together more into a singular warm tea smell. The hue of the tea darkened into a golden brown color. There were still hints of the uniquely cantaloupe aroma. This infusion still had a good cantaloupe flavor and the balance of the white tea versus the flavoring was still in good balance. There was no detectable bitterness or astringency.

Rating: 7/10

Conclusion: This was a rather tasty white tea, but the price makes this a bit prohibitive. It is rather expensive for a flavored white tea. So far though this is somewhat uniquely the only melon flavored tea that I have run across so far. I did find the tea to be quite pleasant though.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gyokuro Kin Fridge Brew

Tea: Gyokuro Kin - Fridge Brew
Vendor: Den's Tea
Price: $13.50 / 2 oz.
Source: Asahina, Shizuoka
Vendor Description: Gyokuro Kin offers the elegance and beauty of the famed Gyokuro teas. The harmony of slight astringency and natural sweetness turns to full-body in your mouth. Den’s Gyokuro Kin is a cup of affordable luxury.

About this tea: Like the Strawberry & Vanilla this tea was brewed as a fridge brew with cold water. The ratio used was 20g / 1 L.

Infusion: The infusion from this tea had a light and luminescent light green color to it. It has a light yet rich gyokruo flavor. It has the grassiness of a normal gyokuro infusion, but lighter. It was weaker than the shinobi-cha flavor. It was more refreshing than a traditionally brewed gyokuro. This tea presented a well balanced flavor of grassiness and strong gyokuro flavor.

Rating: 4/10

Conclusion: This tea was refreshing and enjoyable, but used a rather large amount of leaf to do so. Being gyokuro it did not produce a significantly better cup of tea than a ice brewed sencha.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Strawberry & Vanilla - Fridge Brew

Tea: Strawberry & Vanilla - 8502
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $6.00 / 50g
Vendor Description: Green tea blended with Matcha and flavored with sour-sweet strawberries and vanilla. It goes well with milk.

About this Infusion: This tea was prepared as a fridge brew. To brew this way I added 20g of leaf to 1L of room temperature water and placed the pitcher in the fridge for 6 hours. After that remove the leaf and the tea is ready to drink.

Infusion: The infusion came out very pleasantly green and filled with a very strong and sweet strawberry and vanilla aroma. The flavor is very creamy with a light tanginess from the flavor. It comes out well balanced between the sweetness of the flavorings, and the strength of the tea itself. There is no astringency to this tea. The color is very murky from the matcha added to the leaf. This is much more enjoyable than the normal hot infusion method. The flavor seems almost bipolar, the early to mid section of the flavor is dominated by the strawberry flavor, and the mid hits with a hint of vanilla. The end is a little bit of bitterness to offset the sweetness of the strawberry and vanilla.

Rating: 7/10

Conclusion: This is a much nicer version of the tea compared to brewing this as a hot tea. The flavors come out more and are well balanced against the tea flavor. I'm not sure that I would pick up this tea just for this purpose, but it is a very nicely flavored tea. I would probably do so if the tea were a bit cheaper.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Holiday Gift Guide - Tea Master

Someone who is well versed in tea is probably the hardest to shop for. A Tea Aficionado is going to have most of their earlier tea equipment.

Another world of tea:
One way to find a gift for a tea aficionado is to buy them some tea equipment for an area of tea that they are not used to. Matcha and Gongfu sets come to mind primarily. Unfortunately these sets get very pricey and can get very specialized. Starter sets are a great way to try it out though. Once delving down some of these paths you can get to some very expensive and wonderful items though. If you know they enjoy some of these you may try to find something that they have been eyeing for a while, but not gotten for themselves.

The unusual teaware:
There are many pieces of teaware that everyone sees and wishes they have. Items that come to mind are the Sorapot and the Molo chawan.

The best tea to get for a tea guru is some wonderful tea. Most tea aficionados would love to give you some recommendations for wonderful tea to try out, so it's easy to try and figure out what they would enjoy. Most tea stores will be more than helpful to help suggest some as well. But at this level do your homework to know what kind of tea they would enjoy and where to get it. Many people develop attachment to specific vendors and tea types, so be selective.

Tea Caddies:
For almost any tea connoisseur you have a number of tea caddies, but because of this most of them are not special ones. There are a few that stand out and have a special feel to them. Special well crafted tea caddies can range in materials from stainless steel to copper to cherry bark and beyond. One of any of those will be a treasured tea container only to store the best teas in.

Fancier general purpose pots:
Most general purpose teapots have a higher end version that is still for general use, but are very special and unique in their own right. Examples are Tetsubin (cast iron teapots) and English Bone China. For people who enjoy flowering teas a nice glass teapot would work well as well.

Tasting Sets:
This is what professionals use to taste teas. They are very uniform so it creates an equal basis for tasting teas from. They're available from a number of vendors, but they're all basically the same item. Adagio. Lupicia. Even if you have one, you may want more for comparison tastings.

A teacup:
This is probably the hardest but one of the best gifts you could get. Teacups are as varied as there are teas in the world. Selecting a teacup takes a great deal of knowledge about the person you're buying for and it shows a certain deal about yourself. Know their favorite colors, favorite teas, favorite pottery styles, and anything you can. For any given tea style there are a plethora of different cups, and so this becomes a very personal gift. It shows a search for something that would suit them and their tastes.

For any of the gifts if anyone would like a few suggestions or questions, please feel free to email me. I'll be happy to answer and help as much as I can.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Holiday Gift Guide - Aspiring Tea Lover

For the aspiring tea lover there are a great many options as they explore the world of teas.

Water kettles:
Standard issue item for any tea connoisseur is a water boiler of some kind. Most common from what I have seen are the Zojirushi style water boilers. These keep the water at a specified temperature, are well insulated, and keep it ready for use at almost all times. These are best for general use and for teas that are very temperature sensitive. Also very common are the electric removable kettles. These are basically traditional tea kettles that have a base for warming with. These are best for teas steeped at boiling temperatures. These are very good for gongfu style brewing. There are many more types of water kettles out there, but these two are the most common and practial for the aspiring tea lover.

Specialized pots:
As you advance in the world of tea, there are a few different kinds of tea brewing devices that are used. These go beyond the ingenuiTEA and other such all purpose devices. For Japanese teas a Kyusu is important. These are used for almost all Japanese teas and quite easy to use. For most Chinese teas a gaiwan is important. For most black teas such as Darjeelings a western style teapot works quite well. Each of these teapots are still somewhat general purpose, but start to get more specialized. There are huge varities of each kind of pot, but easy to find one of.

Tea Gift Sets/Tea:
Any tea lover enjoys receiving tea as a gift. One of my personal preferences would be for the Sugimoto Gift set. These three teas were all exceptional and ranked some of the highest that I reviewed this year. Seasonal teas are also a great gift due to their relation to the holiday season. And also there are other offerings that are only seasonally available. Trying out a new tea is always a welcome experieince, but unless you know what kind of tea your recipient enjoys I would not suggest getting more than a small amount ~50g for them. That way they won't have a large amount of some tea that they may not enjoy sitting around. That's just a pile of guilt waiting to happen.

Tea Tools:
Many aspiring tea lovers start getting the tools to help them brew teas. These include timers, scales, and thermometers. For a timer, any kitchen timer will work well. Scales should measure in grams accurate to .1g or .01g. Anything less accurate won't work well, and anything more accurate is going to be too expensive and have too small of a measurement range. Thermometers should have a good read speed and measure the range of temperature for water. Digital thermometers work well and will read in both C and F. With any of these tools though make sure they don't already have one. There is not much need for multiple of any of them.

Tea Books:
There are quite a few tea books out there on the market, but there are not that many full of information. The best book that I have come across hands down is The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide. This book is absolutely fantastic and filled with great information about tea from all over the world. The second best book that I have come across thus far is Tea. There are a number of amazing illustrations in this book, but not as much wonderful information as The Story of Tea.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Holiday Gift Guide - Beginner Level

To start off my gift guide for tea fans, I've decided to separate it into a few categories, for beginners, aspiring tea lovers, and seasoned tea masters.

Adagio Teas Starter Set $19.00:
The adagio tea starter sets are a great way to start into the world of loose leaf tea. They are relatively inexpensive, come with a variety of teas, an into book, and the ingenuiTEA pot. It's a nicely priced little starter for someone who doesn't have much teaware yet and doesn't have that many teas under their belt.

Lupicia Handy Cooler $18.00:
The Lupicia Handy Cooler is a great way to make iced tea. It's probably the simplest way to make iced tea and quite versatile. Personally they make up an integral part of my teaware selection.

Tea of the month club:
Tea of the month clubs are great ways to get exposure to multiple teas. There are a very large selections of clubs to try from. O-cha and Dragonwater both have quite affordable club memberships. The two are almost polar opposites of each other. O-cha sends one packet on a fixed schedule each month. Each pack is a full 100g. Dragonwater is a club that lets you select 3 samples a month for a flat fee. The samples range from 1/2 oz to 1 oz depending on the teas you select.

Sampler Sets:
Sampler sets are also a great gift for beginning tea drinkers. If they know a range of teas that they seem to enjoy, some sampler sets are available for that particular tea genre. Tao of Tea and Adagio are both great sources for sample sets in each tea genre, green tea, black tea, oolong, etc.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Tea: Gyokuro
Vendor: Harney and Sons
Price: $30.00 / 4 oz.
Vendor Description: Uji’s most famous tea. Japanese aristocrats have sipped this shade-grown tea for centuries. The dark green tea makes for a very special cup.

Leaf: The l
eaf for this tea was for the most part a typical gyokuro leaf. There were a few unusually rolled leaves, where they were rolled instead of into a needle, almost into a small ball. There is a little bit of dust, and smells like a typical gyokuro. The aroma is on the fainter side for a gyokuro.

1st Infusion: The color of this tea is a typical pale green gyokuro with very distinctive green color to it. The flavor is rich in umami, but it is missing the distinctive grassiness of a gyokuro. Instead of a strong dominant grassy flavor it is a light and barely noticeable flavor. As is usual with a gyokuro there is no bitterness or astringency.

2nd Infusion: This infusionw as much darker and murkier than the first infusion. The flavor is stronger and slightly bitter in flavor. This infusion had a much more characteristic gyokuro flavor, paried as well with a light body and a tiny sense of astringency.

Rating: 7/10

Conclusion: This tea is not a prime time gyokuro, but it is not terribly expensive as well. It has a decent gyokuro flavor, there are some weaknesses like the mild grassy flavor, and the tea didn't seem to suggest that it could go for the 6 or more infusions of more premier gyokuros. The flavor was very standard and acceptable. It's a rather respectable sample of what a gyokuro is.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Kukicha Masala

Tea: Kukicha Masala
Vendor: Yogic Chai
Price: $9.00 / 2oz

Leaf: The leaf has a dark brown houjicha mix with the strong spice aroma. The mix has a very rich aroma to it.

Brewing Parameters: 4 ounces of water, 4 ounces of milk, 3g of leaf, 4 min infusion, 1 tsp honey

Infusion: This infusion has a slightly off white milky color to it. There is a very distinctive sweet creaminess to this tea, and you can definitely taste the chai spices. There is not much of a kukicha flavor to it. The normal roasted flavor is lightly detectable in this roasted kukicha mix.

Rating: 6/10

Conclusion: Of the three chai teas that I tried from Yogic chai, this was the only one that was suggested to use milk and sweetener with. It provided a very smooth and creamy and appropriately sweet mix, but there was not as much of a tea falvoring to be found with it. I enjoyed this tea a lot, but would prefer a more dominant and stronger chai flavor.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

White Masala Chai

Tea: White Masala Chai
Vendor: Yogic Chai
Price: $9.00 / 2 oz.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea was a very low density tea as most white teas are. It reminds me of a broken Bai Mu Dan. There is a nice spice aroma with a distinctive clove aroma.

Brewing Parameters: 8 oz. water, 3g leaf, 2 minute infusion

Infusion: The tea has a light yellow brown color to it. There is a definite chai spice aroma to it and not much of any other aroma. The tea is primarily the flavor of the chai spices and not much else. It has a very clean and open feeling, but not much of a tea flavor.

Rating: 3/10

Conclusion: This tea was primarily flavoring from the chai spices with a very subtle white tea flavor. I couldn't taste much aside from the chai spices, but I could somewhat tell that there is a the white tea flavor underneath, but the sublte flavor of a white tea could not show through.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Genmai Chai Masala

Tea: Genmai Chai Masala
Vendor: Yogic Chai
Price: $10.00 / 2 oz.

About this tea: When I first started looking through Yogic Chai's selection of Chai teas I was rather surprised to see this one. It seemed like a very odd combination in an unusual multinational way. Genmaicha is traditionally Japanese and Masala Chai is traditionally Indian. So this felt conceptually like having a piece of naan with some sushi.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea has a very strong clove aroma with a very light genmai aroma to it. It looks very much like I would imagine if I were to mix masala spices with some genmai.

Brewing Parameters: To brew this tea I brought 8 oz of water to a boil and added 3g of leaf to it and let it steep for 6 minutes. This was the recommended method based on the vendor packaging. No milk or sweetener was used for this.

Infusion: The tea had a alight brown color to it. There was a very distinct aroma of cloves mixed with roasted rice. This was a bit confusing. The flavor was short with a light sense of bitterness. The tea combines a light genmai flavor with the strong and prominent flavor of the chai spices. The flavor combines into a very smooth flavor which is distinctively chai. There is a detectable taste of ginger midway through the flavor of the tea and it finishes with a light sense of astringency.

Rating: 5/10

Conclusion: This tea was rather unusual. The tea felt very much like two separate flavors of the chai spices and the genmaicha. There wasn't much harmony between the two flavors, but each flavor on it's own was pretty good. Without sweetener and milk it didnt' feel much like a chai, but it wasn't recommended to add to this tea.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Tea: Keemun
Vendor: L'amyx
Price: $14.95 / 1.5 oz
Vendor Description: Its sleek black leaf with golden tip produces a rich, auburn liquor and floral aroma. Produced in very limited quantities. Considered the Champagne of black teas.

Leaf: The leaf is very uniform looking black leaf and has a very strong black aroma to it.

1st Infusion: The tea has a rich black color to it. The color reminds me of a mixture of caramel and coffee. It has an interesting aroma. It reminds me the most of the Pride of the Port tea from Peet's. There is a very distinctive flavor to this tea, it is strong and almost smoky in it's flavor. There is a fair amount of bitterness in this infusion and it is medium bodied. The flavor itself is very rich and strong.

2nd Infusion: There is a sharp bitterness to this infusion. It has the same deep and complex flavor as the first infusion. It is medium bodied like the first infusion.

Rating: 4/10

Conclusion: This is a good strong cup of black tea. It is rich and traditional for a black tea. I could see this tea being good if mixed with milk and sugar. As a pure black tea it seems a bit strong for my tastes.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Tea: Houjicha
Vendor: O-cha
Price: $8.95 / 100g
Source: Shizuoka, Japan
Vendor Description: Hojicha, or Houjicha - Green tea that has been "baked", imparting a red color and a very unique taste. Since the baking process removes the caffeine, this tea is often served in Japan to patients in hospitals, and to children.
Excellent iced, you will often find this tea served in Japanese restraunts. 100gm.

Leaf: This is a very unusual misx for a hojicha. It looks like a rather lightly roasted tea. There is less twig matter than some other hojichas that I have seen. There is a little bit of dust in there as well, but not too much.

1st Infusion: There is a deep heavy roasted aroma from this tea. The infusion is a light carmel brown color. Based upton the color of the leaf, the infusion was actually a bit darker than I expected it to be. The flavor is very smooth for a hojicha. There is a very strong middle flavor that tapers in a smooth aftertaste. There is a light tinge of bitterness from the roasted flavor.

2nd Infusion: The second infusion has a rounder flavor. It is a much smoother flavor thatn the first infusion. There is no astringency, but a very good flavor.

Rating: 9/10

Conclusion: This tea has a rather good houjicha flavor, but lacks any truly distinctive aspects. I'm somewhat amused as how different the leaf looks in comparison from the image from the website. I'm somewhat indifferent about this tea, but it doesn't seem to have any negative qualities to it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Holiday Gift Guide

Hi Everyone,

So with the holiday season coming up I was considering putting together a little holiday gift guide that I feel from my tastings over the past year would make good gifts for people. I was going to suggest a few beginner gifts and a few more exclusive gifts. (For anyone who knows me, this is not a shopping list of things to buy for me. I probably already have everything I'm going to post.)

But here's the question for my readers. Are there any other classifications of gifts you guys might want to know about? Anyone think they have a good gift idea as well?

Please comment with anything you would like to see, or someone you might want to buy for. I'll start putting together a list shortly.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chiran Sencha Supreme

Tea: Chiran Sencha Supreme
Vendor: O-cha
Price: $17.95 / 100g
Source: Chiran, Kagoshima, Japan
Vendor Description: From the first 2008 harvest, a very special sencha from the very old samurai town of Chiran, located in Kagoshima prefecture at the southern tip of Japan. This wonderful tea is a variety of the "Yutaka Midori" breed green tea plant. Compared with most of the other Chiran samples we tried, this green has a deep steamed characteristic to it, giving it an exceptional green color, in addition an aromatic, unique Chiran green tea taste. We urge you to compare this Chiran sencha against any of the others available on the internet for that nice emerald green color and wonderful taste. Try some today!

Leaf: This tea primarily consists of very small pieces. There are a few longer pieces, but the tea definitely has the appearance of a fukamushi. The leaf is a nice shade of green with a smattering of light green bits. The leaf has a very sweet aroma to it.

1st Infusion: The infusion has a very dark murky green hue to it, with a hint of yellow in the shade of green. The tea has a very grassy and sweet aroma to it. The flavor matches the sweet aroma and finishes with a very light sense of astringency. The tea is very full bodied and flavorful and has a very strong flavor on in the middle-back end of the flavor. The flavor is very reminiscent of a fukamushi on the backend.

2nd Infusion: The second infusion is very dark green and murky in color. There is a light bitterness and it is very flavorful. There is a very strong contrast of the fukamushi flavor with the more characteristic yutakamidori flavor. It feels very thick for a sencha, with a medium sense of astringency. If thinking of this primarily as a fukamushi it has a very good flavor.

Rating: 8/10

Conclusion: When i tried this tea it was primarily in comparison to the Chiran Yutakamidori from Lupicia. The Lupicia version was not quite as strong of a fukamushi. In comparison this tea feels more like a fukamushi more than the yutakamidori flavor of the Lupicia. It represents a nice fukamushi though, but I would prefer the Lupicia over this one.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wegmans Food Markets - Tea Bar

This week I had the chance to go to a Wegmans Food Market again. This particular Wegmans has a tea bar, which I had visited about a year ago. The tea bar is it's own little section of the store, where patrons can sit and enjoy a cup of tea at the bar or one of the few tables, smell different leaves, or pick up some loose leaf teas. It also has a few assorted sweets to go with tea and tea related accessories.

When I first went there last year the teabar was a relatively recent addition, and was still maturing. At the time teas were prepared as a gaiwan service. Each service comes with a tea related sweet as well. The selection of tea paraphenalia consisted of a few higher end tea related items such as a gaiwan set and a tea ocean.

When I visited the tea bar this time the service switched to a more traditional teapot service. I believe they are using some of the for life teapots. Their product selection also seems to have changed somewhat. They have a selection of tea related books, a few locally made tea products, and what surprised me the most was some products from other tea vendors. Notably they had products from Red Blossom, Adagio, and Rishi.

Their tea selection is quite varied, but has a bit of an emphasis on Japanese Green tea. They have about as many Japanese green teas as they do everything else, but considering this is a loose leaf tea selection in a grocery store it is quite impressive. The green teas are also stored in a refrigerator for freshness. They even serve matcha.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cold Water Matcha

After having the Lupicia Okabe matcha the traditional way I decided to try this one with a bit of a twist to it. I tried making it using cold water rather than hot.

Infusion: The flavor of this matcha was very creamy and had just a bit of bitterness to it. The flavor was sweeter than the traditional matcha. Interestingly it had a very strong and intense flavor on the center of my tongue. It was very refreshing and enjoyable.

Rating: 5/10

Conclusion: This was a very untraditional way to prepare matcha, but it was an enjoyable bowl. I'm not sure that this would become my preferred method of making it, but I suppose it would be more enjoyable during the summer when the weather is hot.

Matcha Okabe

Tea: Matcha Okabe - 7502
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Source: Shizuoka, Japan

About this tea: This is(was) one of the three ceremony grade matchas on the Lupicia site. At the time of this writing all three are not present on the website. This may be due to inventory reasons or discontinuation.

Powder: The powder for this matcha has a light yet vibrant green hue to it. It has a light yet sweet aroma as well.

Infusion: The flavor for this matcha is light yet smooth. It is rich as a matcha flavor is with a light bitterness. It is very creamy and rich.

Rating: 7/10

Conclusion: This was a very enjoyable bowl of matcha, yet it has nothing to blow me away with. It is appealling, yet undistinguished.