Monday, March 31, 2008

Snow Dragon

Tea: Snow Dragon
Vendor: Art of Tea
Price: $15.00 / 20z.
Source: Fujian, China
Vendor Description: Only once a year, in the early spring, when the frost begins to melt off the first flush. the tea buds and tips are hand harvested, then carried by basket to be immediately pan dried. Our garden select Snow Dragon is cultivated in Northern Fujian China, and is comparable to a white tea. Each cup offers a clean refreshing flavor with soft, woodsy notes.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea was very uniform and curly. The leaves were all about the same size.

1st Infusion: The infusion had a very reminiscent green tea smell. It reminded me very much of the aroma from a dragonwell. Unlike a dragonwell though this tea had a very strong bitterness to it. The strength of the bitterness slowly built up and then quickly cut off to nothing. The flavor of the tea though was reminiscent of a dragonwell. One very unusual thing about the liquor was the very small black flecks that were floating around on the surface. I'm not quite sure what those were from.

2nd Infusion: This cup had a strong flavor on the front end instead of the gradual buildup of the first infusion. The flavor was quite strong, but it was not full bodied. It was a light bodied, yet strong tea.

Rating: 8/10

Conclusion: This tea had a flavor very similar to dragonwell, and is indicative of the taste of Chinese greens.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Honey & Pear

Tea: Honey & Pear 8500
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $5.50 / 50g
Vendor Description: Flavored with juicy Japanese pear and delicately sweet honey, this tea offers a refreshing fruity taste and faint natural sweetness.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea rather surprised me. I had not read the description when I first saw this tea and was surprised when I saw that it was a roasted tea. The leaf was smaller than it would be for a pure roasted tea, i'm guessing a somewhat lower grade was used to than would be used for pure hojicha.

1st Infusion: The tea had a surprisingly dark color to it. It was dark even by a hojicha standard. This unsurprisingly paired with a heavy roasted aroma. I could detect a definite sweetness to the tea, but it was masked by the hojicha flavor. Behind this hojicha flavor is a light pear flavor. It is hard to pick out from the hojicha flavor, but it is there. I couldn't really find any particular honey flavor in this tea though.

Rating: 2/10

Conclusion: This tea was little more than a low grade hojicha. It was supposed to be a flavored tea, but I couldn't find the flavoring. If you like hojicha you're better off getting just hojicha.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Honyama Inaguchi

Tea: Honyama Inaguchi 7464
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $7.00 / 50g
Source: Shizuoka, Japan
Vendor Description: This tea was grown from the seed of Yabukita tea in Honyama located in the upper stream area of Shizuoka City. Honyama has a long history as a good tea-producing area in Shizuoka.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea has a deep rich green leaf, although it is not the same darkness as some other teas, it is a very rich green color, but not so by being darker. It has a rather unique richness to the color.

1st Infusion: The first infusion has a very bright pale green color. The color has an almost luminescent quality to it. To match this light color though is a very light flavor, it carries a light grassy flavor paired with a nice sweetness. It leaves with a little bit of astringency and a nice subtle clean flavor on the tongue.

2nd Infusion: The second infusion was where this tea started to show it's characteristics more. This infusion was a darker green color and a stronger grassy flavor. It had the characteristic sencha bitterness, although it was only a medium bitterness and left with a light astringency.

Rating: 8/10

Conclusion: This tea is in a word, light. The flavor was delicate and sweet, and lacked body. If you are looking for a light tea, this is a good choice, but if you are looking for something with more substance go elsewhere.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Tea: Ramune 8514
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Vendor Description: Green tea with Japanese lemon soda "Ramune" flavor. "Konpeito" (stellar-shaped sugar candy) is blended to give a nostalgic feeling. Try first as iced tea.

Ramune, that very interesting flavored soda from Japan. Unique in it's method of sealing, giving it a nickname of being "that marble drink". I would have to say that when I saw this tea I was very intrigued. What made me even more intrigued was the presence of the "Konpeito", small sugar star crystals that make for a very interesting form of candy.

Leaf: When I first opened the package I was greeted with a very sweet pear like aroma. The leaf had a very dry matte appearance to it, with a slight yellowish green hue to it. This was a bit distant from the very green appearance of the regular senchas I had been drinking recently. The small candies interspersed throughout the tea gave a nice color appearance, but made me leery of a green tea with sugar in the mix.

1st Infusion: This tea is most obviously sweet. The sweetness quickly rises up in the flavor from the beginning and gets progressively stronger. The sweetness has a fruity flavor to it, but it fails to remind me of the taste of ramune. The sugar helps to give the tea some body, but is not a very full bodied tea. The sweetness is paired well with the flavor of the tea, but it makes it a bit difficult to discern the actual taste of the tea.

2nd Infusion: I didn't have much expectation for this infusion as I imagined most of the sugar would have been washed out with the first infusion. The flavor itself was slightly less fruity and as expected the sweetness was gone.

Rating: 3/10

Conclusion: This tea was really only good for one infusion, and at that the first infusion wasn't that good. It failed to live up to its name. The tea flavor came out of the leaves very quickly preventing even regular tea flavored infusions to follow.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Kakegawa Yamakai

Tea: Kakegawa Yamakai - 7461
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $7.00 / 50g
Source: Shizuoka, Japan
Vendor Description: This tea's clean and refreshing herbal aroma similar to a mint is very attractive. Full-bodied tea with a little stronger astringency, but with a sweet aftertaste.

I had been somewhat hesitant about trying out this tea given the description given. I really wondered if I would enjoy a tea that describes itself as having an herbal aroma similar to mint.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea looked very normal, there was a bit more variation in color than in some of the other senchas offered by Lupicia, but nothing truly out of the ordinary.

1st Infustion: The aroma for this tea was actually quite strong, I didn't really see how they could be reminded of it as being mint, but it to me was a very strong very deep and heavy sencha aroma. This seemed like this tea would be a very bold solid sencha. When first sipping this tea there is an unusual flavor to it that I could not place. It wasn't a negative taste, but a bit unusual. I'm not sure what to make of it. The flavor was very short lived as was the whole flavor of the tea. After the unusual flavor was a strong bitter sencha tang and left with no sense of astringency. The tea had a bit of a medium body to it, nothing too light nor heavy.

2nd Infusion: This infusion had a medium sense of astringency and a high sense of bitterness. It was a quite full bodied tea this time packed with bold flavor. The flavor was very deep and bold, making this a very solid sencha. I enjoyed the depth of the flavor with this infusion

Rating: 9/10

Conclusion: I really enjoyed this sencha. It was strong and bold with just the right amount of astringency and bitterness. It knew what it was doing and did it. The only thing I didn't really appreciate about this tea was the odd flavor in the beginning of the flavor and the shortness of the flavor. A bit longer flavor profile would have been nicer.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Yunnan Gold

Tea: Yunnan Gold
Vendor: Teance
Price: $15.50/ 2 oz.
Source: Yunan, China
Vendor Description: Fermented golden tea buds harvested from ancient trees grown in Yunnan, China, create this unique and highly prized tea. Picked by local indigenous peoples where tea first originated thousands of years ago, Yunnan tea processing was considered a protected State secret until the 20th century. This tea stimulates the palate with its peppery, brisk, and full bodied taste.

When I first picked this up I did not have much of a notion of what Yunan Gold was. I had heard quite a few people though talk about how much they enjoyed this tea though so I figured it was worth a try.

The dry leaves for yunan gold are very different than most of the other teas that I have tried recently, they are very full leaves which have been twisted into an assortment of twists and turns. Because of this it is a low density tea, like a bai mu dan. The edges of the leaves are a golden color like the name suggests, but the rest of the leaf is a darker black color giving this tea a very interesting appearance. The contrast of the gold and black in twisted shapes makes this a very visually appealing tea.

This tea is very bold and full bodied, it has a definite strength to it. When you first taste it you notice the strength of the black tea along with the smoothness of a black tea. The taste fills out your mouth when you take your first sip and gives you a strong long lasting flavor. There is a light astringency and no bitterness to it, although that is somewhat expected of a black tea.

The second infusion of this tea posessed the same strong dark color and power of the first infusion. The taste did not even waver one bit. And at this point the leaves had barely even begun to unravel. I made successive infusions for a third, fourth and fifth infusion and there was no sign of the flavor letting up. Each cup posessed the same strength and boldness. This tea can go for quite a while and continue to perform amazingly.

I also tried this as an iced tea, and it had a very refreshing sweetness to it and I can see myself making quite a few pitchers of it as the weather starts to warm up.

Rating: 10/10

Conclusion: This tea is very solid and bold and produces cup after cup with no sign of letting up easily. This makes this tea a very good value for the price. The rumors I had heard about this being an excellent tea proved to be true and it produces a great value as well.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tangerine Sencha

Tea: Tangerine Sencha
Vendor: Imperial Tea Court
Price: $8.75 / 4 oz.
Vendor Description: An instant hit with tea drinkers when first introduced, our naturally scented Tangerine Sencha has become one of the most popular selections in our San Francisco teahouse. Embraced by adults and children alike, Tangerine Sencha makes a perfect introduction to green tea and tastes great iced, too.

The tangerine sencha has a very nice aroma to the leaf. There are a few bits of orange peel added to the mix which increase the orange scent and add a bit of color, but compared to the picture on the imperial tea website, not nearly as much.

The liquor has a very yellow/orange color to it, a stark contrast to the deep murky greens of some other senchas that I have had recently. It also carries over the orange scent from the leaf to the liquor. There is a very strong citrus aftertaste to this tea, but the citrus flavor is proceeded by a moderately strong bitterness. The tea leaves with a moderately light astringent feeling. All in all this feels like a good flavor pairing.

Rating: 6/10

Conclusion: The flavor of this tea is nothing spectacular, but relatively on par with being a flavored sencha. The price is rather low which makes this tea a bit more attractive. All in all I believe that it could use a bit more orange flavoring added to make a bolder tea.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Tea: Happiness - 8508
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $6.50 / 50g
Vendor Description: Blend of green tea and green rooibos flavored with fresh fruits and flower petals. Refreshing and graceful. "Happiness" is a perfect tea for celebratory occasions with its elegant flower petals.

This tea has probably the most ambiguous name of all teas. When I first opened the sample pack for this tea, I didn't know what to expect. This tea brings a new meaning to the label of being a blend. It is a combination of green tea with green rooibos. Not only that, but to add to this mix there are a number of different flower petals. When I first poured the pouch out I really didn't know what was in there, there was so many constituents.

The blend of rooibos, tea, and flowers gave off a rather strong floral scent. At first I thought that the mixture had the scent of a pear. The aroma was a bit muddled amidst all of the different scents though.

The liquor gave off a strong floral aroma as well, very similar to the dry leaf. This was one of my first times brewing loose rooibos so I had a bit of a difficult time pouring it from my gaiwan. The green rooibos and the green tea did not mix particularly well. The two tastes are easily distinguished from one to another, although it is easy to tell them apart, they don't clash with one another. The rooibos has a very quick and strong flavor on the front end, while the green tea develops over time and tapers off. The tea doesn't really reach its peak until after the rooibos flavor tapers off. Combined the two flavors gave off a very fresh green flavor. The two flavors ended with a high sense of astringency that you find after the long tapering flavor of the tea portion of the flavor.

Rating: 6/10

Conclusion: This tea/tisane is very unusual. I haven't tried anything like it before, but I can't say that its uniqueness is that much of a good thing though. It's a tasty tea, although I don't know if it is something I would want to keep around. If you like rooibos and flavored teas this might be good for you.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Kaga Bocha

Tea: Kaga Bocha
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Source: Ishikawa, Japan
Price: $11.00 / 100g
Vendor Description:Special to the Kaga area of Hokuriku region, a kind of Hojicha mainly made from tea leaf stems. Unique sweet aroma produced from quick strong-fire-roasting. Honey bees are attracted to the roasting.

Kaga Bocha is a roasted kukicha from Lupicia. It only comes in 100g packages from Lupicia surprisingly, it is also quite bulky. The 100g package was many times the size of the normal 50g sencha packages. This is because the twigs are much less dense than standard sencha tea leaf. There is an amount of leaf mixed with the tea as well which gives it an interesting combination of flavor. Lupicia's description refers to it as a Hojicha made from stems, but stem tea is known as kukicha, so I don't know if it is more appropriate to refer to this as a roasted kukicha or a hojicha made from stems.

One thing that I did find very interesting about the dry leaf for this one is that the stems are all very uniformly cut. They are all around 1cm in length.

The steeped tea has a very strong roasted aroma to it. The flavor is very smooth and reminds me of a hojicha. The flavor is very long and smooth. The roasting flavor is very similar between this and a hojicha. The main portion of the flavor is fleeting, but the aftertaste is what gives this tea a long flavor, it lingers in the mouth bringing out the roasted flavor.

Rating: 5/10

Conclusion: While there is nothing wrong with this tea, it seems a bit overpriced for a Kukicha. This is more expensive than say the Nara Tsukigase, which in my opinion is a much better tea. Although if you are a fan of roasted tea this is probably more your taste, but for me, I'd rather have a sencha.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Tsugaru Green

Tea: Tsugaru Green - 8225
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $5.50 / 50g
Vendor Description: Japanese apple tea produced using Bancha as a base tea and flavored using fresh juicy "San-tsugaru" apples from Aomori Pref.

At first I tried this tea without having read the description for it, and was a bit confused to this tea. This is one of the few cases where the Lupicia description was actually quite useful. What had confused me was the nature of the leaves that they had used, they did not seem typical for most of Lupicia's green teas, but hearing that they used Bancha leaves makes it make sense.

The leaves appeared odd at first, the blend of them was a bit unusual. I wasn't expecting them to be Bancha leaves. They did have a very sweet apple aroma to them. It makes me wonder how this tea would be if finer sencha style leaves were used.

The first infusion had an amazing sweet apple smell to it due to the apple flavoring. The flavor was equally as sweet, with the actual taste of the tea reminding me of taking a bite out of a peeled fuji apple. The flavor blended well with the tea flavor, I thought that the flavor blended well and had a sense of being like a tea brewed with a light apple juice. There was no bitterness to it and only a light sense of astringency at the end.

The second infusion surprisingly still had an apple taste to it, the taste wasn't as strong, but it was still there, but it tasted more like a tart granny smith apple this time. I guess most of the sugars came out in the first infusion. There was also a medium sense of astringency in this one and no bitterness

Rating: 5/10

Conclusion: For the price this tea is a bit expensive. The flavor is quite good, but I think it would have been better if paired with a sencha leaf.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Sencha Premium

Tea: Sencha Premium
Vendor: Hibiki-an
Price: $24.00 / 100g
Source: Uji, Japan
Vendor Description: Sencha contains more of the beneficial nutrient catechin than other green teas, because it is grown in full sunlight, thus it becomes yellowish green in colour. Sencha tastes gently astringent and smells wonderfully fresh.

Sencha Premium is one of the high-quality green teas available, being carefully selected from Uji Sencha.

Our Sencha Premium's tea leaves are sprouts that are small and soft and not fully-grown. They are difficult to find even in Ichibancha (the first pick of the year). Although generally the best time to gather tea leaves is when the tea tree has five sprouts, our Sencha Premium's tea leaves are gathered when the tea tree has only three sprouts. It is said that because the sprouts are younger, Sencha Premium's aroma and taste is much more mellow and refreshing.

Even in Uji, the Ujitawara region where Hibiki-an is located is known as a central area of rare highest grade Sencha production. The features of this tea are the mellow flavor and ideal astringent aroma. They are the typical features of tea leaves produced in the Uji region.

I was rather eager to try out this tea. I had heard about the quality from Hibiki-an for a while and wanted to try tea direct from the farm. I had been wondering if they ended up going with this business model to remove the need to compete against other farmers or if it simply was to bring their product to market in a more cost effective manner. Regardless they have made a name for themselves as selling tea directly from the farm to the consumer worldwide.

The leaves had a bit more of a yellowish color than I would have expected. To some degree though I wonder if this is due to the origin of the sample. This was another sample that I had received from Chip at teachat. I will probably order a bit more of this tea once the shincha flush comes out in order to see if this is or is not the case.

The first infusion of the tea had a very light sweet flavor. The flavor was very light, but lacked a sense of bitterness to it. It did however have a medium sense of astringency. I found it a bit odd to find this level of astringency in a sencha with no sense of bitterness. It was rather enjoyable.

The second infusion proved to be more interesting though. It was much murkier, suggesting that the first infusion had only awoken the leaves and that the true flavor would be released in the second infusion. The color itself was a dark green compared to the clear light green of the first infusion. This one was much more bitter than the first infusion, the characteristic bitterness was fully present here, along with a high level of astringency. The strength of the tea also switched from being a light bodied tea to a medium bodied.

Rating: 6/10

Conclusion: I was a bit disappointed since I had been expecting more from what I had heard about Hibiki-an, but I'm willing to chalk this one up to an older sample on the very tail end of the tea cycle. Even still this was a still a good solid sencha, but I don't know if it was really deserving of a name of Premium. I'm very curious to see how this turns out in this coming season.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Silver Needles (Organic)

Tea: Silver Needles (Organic)
Vendor: Dragonwater Tea
Price: $29.95 / 4 oz.
Vendor Description:Silver Needles (Organic) Tea. Handmade, organic Chinese white tea consisting of the most tender, down covered buds. This lot contains a fresh, sweet fragrance and true Yinzhen characteristics, highest grade available. Limited supply available.

This was the second time that I have tried silver needles, and I was very curious to see what the difference would be for the same tea from different vendors. Unlike many teas which try to make themselves more unique in their name, Silver Needles are referred to as their own tea. For instance a Darjeeling might be further specified as a Castleton Darjeeling, but as far as I can tell there are no classifications or further specifications on most Silver Needle teas. They are Silver Needle and that's it.

Looking at the needles themselves they look as though they have been handled much more than the ones from Seven Cups. Also a lot of the fine hairs had come off of the leaves forming small balls of fuzz in the package. There were many broken needles and the coloring was not quite as consistent as the Seven Cups tea.

The flavor of the tea was a lot weaker than that of the Seven Cups silver needle, it tasted more like a Bai Mu Dan than the other silver needle did. The flavor felt like it was more generalized than specified. It did taste like a white tea, but like a Bai Mu Dan it was not as refined and blended more towards a green tea in flavor. The flavor was sweet and mellow as a white tea should be. It had no sense of bitterness and left with a medium sense of astringency.

I tried a second infusion with this tea, and the second infusion was very similar to the first, but with a higher sense of astringency and a lighter flavor.

Rating: 3/10

Conclusion: In comparison to the seven cups silver needle this wasn't very good. The appearance of the tea was not as pleasant and the flavor was not as refined. Unfortunately when getting a tea such as a silver needle there is no rating system to know how good / bad one is. Especially considering the price between the two vendors was quite close it is probably better to go with the Seven Cups.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Tea: Sencha
Vendor: Dragonwater Tea
Price: $8.50 / 4 oz.
Source: Japan
Vendor Description: Sencha Tea. Fine grade Japanese green tea yielding a smooth, aromatic cup.

I felt obligated to try out this tea from Dragonwater having tried the Sencha Extra Fine. I wasn't exactly expecting much from this tea using price as a general guideline. At less than half of the price of the Sencha Extra Fine it seemed like this wouldn't be that spectacular of a tea.

The tea leaves had a disappointing yellowish hue to them. The color of the leaves made the tea look old and not that appealing. Having been trying a lot of more vibrant greens and bolder colors, to switch to something looking like this for a sencha was a bit disappointing.

The first infusion had an unappealing openness to the flavor. If I had to put the flavor into a word it would be empty. While the tea had the normal sencha flavor, it lacked body and a voice. It was almost like the sencha flavor was there for the sake of being there, not for the sake of a delicious cup of tea. There was no bitterness associated with it, but where normally a sencha would have a bitterness there was nothing. The flavor was light and smooth, like a Chinese green would be, but without the strength and nuance. There was a very light sense of astringency paired with this, but nothing that you would really notice.

I tried a second infusion and this was a bit stranger. The tea liquor had become golden yellow in color, with no hint of being green. The flavor was stronger, but this time it felt more of just being bitter. The sencha flavor was weaker, and replaced with more bitterness.

Rating: 1/10

Conclusion: This is a case where I believe very much that you should not try to save money on buying lower end tea. This is more appropriate of a name being flavored water instead of tea. The flavor was lacking and disappointing. The appearance was plain. This tea could barely hold it's first infusion, let alone produce a decent second.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Daily Sencha

Tea: Shizuoka Green Tea Daily Sencha
Vendor: O-cha
Price: $ 10.95 / 100g
Source: Shizuoka, Japan
Vendor Description:Daily Sencha - This 2007 second harvest green tea is an above average quality sencha, far and away better than what you will find in your local grocery or health food store. If you are new to green tea, this would be a good starter tea. Fresh from Japan.
Additional Vendor Information:
Shipping Weight 110.00 grams
Growing Region > 50% Shizuoka
Grown Under Full Sun
Color Yellow-Green
Aroma Mild
Taste Medium
Astringency Medium
Consistency Clear
Grams per Pkg 100
# of first infusions per Pkg 22
Organic No

This was another o-cha tea that I got to try thanks to Chip over at Teachat. After having tried the Yutaka Midori, I wasn't expecting too much from this particular tea. The dry leaf was a bit less impressive, considering the presence of more particles in the tea, although that's not surprising or unexpected. There was a bit more variation in the tea leaf size varying from the dust to a few long leaves. Again, this was not unusual or unexpected.

The liquor had a very unusual color to it, it was murky with a high opacity although the color was a very light shade of green. Normally when I had seen this level of opacity the liquor itself was a very dark green color. But to see a light green such as this with this opacity was surprising.

The first infusion was rather surprising, the initial taste had a very sweet start. The first sip reminded me of the latter half of the taste of the Lupicia Ariake Yutakamidori. It was a sweetness that wasn't a sugary sweetness, nor the gyokuro sweetness, this was very much like the yutakamidori in that it reminded me of sweet potato. Behind this sweetness there was a trademark sencha bitterness tailing into the equally trademarked astringency. Both the bitterness and astringency were a roughly medium level.

The second infusion bestowed a deeper green color to the tea, with the same opacity as before. Interestingly this was less astringent than the first infusion, although the tea in general felt a bit weaker. If I had more of this tea I would have liked to play around with brewing variables more as I have a feeling that there is much to be unlocked with this tea.

Rating: 10/10

Conclusion: This is a very good tea. At the price it is an even better tea, it is right around what I would consider a good price for a daily tea, and it has no true faults to it. I enjoy the sweetness in the first part of the flavor profile, and find it even better when it is not replacing the bitterness or the astringency. It retains its fresh flavor and balances it all well.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Yutaka Midori

Tea: Kagoshima Sencha Yutaka Midori
Vendor: O-cha
Price: $24.95 / 100g
Source: Kagoshima, Japan
Vendor Description: From the first 2007 harvest, a very special sencha from Kagoshima prefecture located at the southern tip of Japan. An exceptionally "green" green tea, we are pleased to be able to offer a green tea of quality to our customers. We urge you to compare this sencha against any of the others available on the internet for that nice emerald green color and wonderful taste. Try some today!

Extra Vendor Information:
Shipping Weight 110.00 grams
Growing Region > 50% Kagoshima
Grown Under Full Sun
Color Deep Green
Aroma Mild
Taste Grassy
Astringency Medium
Consistency Clear
Grams per Pkg 100
# of first infusions per Pkg 22
Organic No

This is a tea that I got to try thanks to Chip from tea chat. I had been hearing people rant and rave about o-cha's tea for some time now, but had yet to try some out. I had heard that the quality was top notch, but the package size, price, and shipping price had deterred me somewhat. I was planning on ordering some when the shincha flush came out, but the opportunity to try it out presented itself first.

The leaf looked just as I imagined it would, a nice dark green color, without too many tiny particles, and a nice even leaf size.

The first infusion had a very light and delicate aroma to it. It was surprisingly refreshing considering many senchas do not have a very strong aroma to them, and the light aromas are normally such that you're struggling to find it rather than appreciate it. This one was just light and very refreshing. The flavor was very light and sweet on the onset, but led up to a very clean bitterness. The bitterness was actually quite perfect, it had just the right amount of tang to the flavor, and left the mouth with a clean feeling. The clean feeling was paired with a medium sense of astringency and a slight grassy aftertaste. There was a rather medium sense of body to the tea which was washed away by the bitterness.

I tried a second infusion which had a higher sense of astringency, but aside from that tasted much the same. Successive infusions had the same result, simply a very similar taste and an increase in the astringency.

Rating: 8/10

Conclusion: While I was not terribly impressed by this tea, it performed exactly as described, and is a very good representation of a good sencha. It is a solid performer which hits its key points with precision. The astringency is a bit high for my personal taste, but if you like an astringent sencha this is a good bet. I would however have liked to see something a bit more impressive considering the price.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Shimazuke Yamanami

Tea: Shimazuke Yamanami 7404
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $5.00 /50g
Source: Miyazaki, Japan
Vendor Description:
"Yamanami", a tea characteristic to Miyazaki Pref. contains much tannin producing strong astringency. Produced in Shimazu family tea garden said to be the largest privately-owned tea garden in Japan.

Judging from the sound of the description, you would think that this would be a strong powerful sencha. It didn't really turn out to be so though.

The leaves and the aroma for this tea were quite average. It smelled as though a sencha should smell, and not too strong and not too weak. The liquor had a bit of a yellow tinge to it, but held a green color typical of Lupicia teas.

The flavor of the tea was incredibly unremarkable. It had a medium sense of astringency and a medium sense of bitterness. It seemed medium boded, and as you can tell so far, it was incredibly average. It had a very simple taste for a green, and yet it had a certain strength.

Rating: 4/10

Conclusion: This wasn't a very remarkable tea at all, it was a bit under par for Lupicia, but on it's own is a very average, yet solid tea. I really don't know what else to say about it, it was simple average and a bit uninteresting.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Tea: Sakuranbo
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $7.50 / 50g w/ tin
Vendor Description: Black tea with fresh Japanese cherry flavor. Its sour-sweet aroma is taste-catching and its cute topping with the image of red ripened cherries is also eye-catching.

Sakurambo is a very unusual tea. The tea itself has a very different aroma than the actual taste. The leaves have an aroma that is very sweet, but at the same time it has an almost bitter scent to it. There is also a combination of a pine scent in there, which probably contributes to the bitter scent, like the strong smell from a handful of pine needles.

The tea itself is a harsh mixture of flavors. It tires to be sweet with the cherry flavoring, but the pineish flavor attempts to give it a tartness, but instead of mixing well they are almost in contrast to each other. I tried adding milk to this since it was a black tea, and it seems that for my tastes milk helps some of the teas. It didn't really do much in this case. It still had the strong pine aroma to it and the flavors were almost overpowering to the tea.

I tried a second infusion with this, and this time I tried a much faster infusion. It wasn't so overpowering and the berry flavor started to show through more against the pine flavor. It gave it a certain sweetness and smoothness with no astringency or bitterness. I believe that a weaker infusion is the way to go with this tea, the flavor is complex and long lived.

The tea does have an issue with the actual flavor of the tea, it is dominated by the two primary flavorings and masks the true flavor of the tea. A flavored tea should have its flavors in harmony with the flavor of the tea, not masking it and using the tea as a base for color.

Rating: 3/10

Conclusion: Although it would appear that this is one of Lupicia's more popular teas, I didn't really find it that appealing. I think the flavors would be well to be less pervasive and to be paired with a green tea. It would also be good to have them more in harmony with the base tea.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Book Review: The Way to Tea

Today's book review is for The Way to Tea by Jennifer Leigh Sauer. This book is about the tea shops in the San Francisco Bay Area. The book is quite short, and does not go particularly into any depth for any of the tea shops, but is amazingly illustrated. I have been to a number of the locations listed in this book, but most of them were new to me or I have not had a chance to go to. The book is divided into separate portions which aren't very well defined, or at least I couldn't figure out what put some into one section and more into another. There are both Chinese, Japanese and English style tea stores listed, and gives a brief description of each one. I found the illustrations of Samovar Tea Lounge in SF most appealing and beautiful, but the most stunning thing about this book in general is how amazing the photographs are. If you are taking a TEAcation into SF, this is a good book to read, and if you like beautiful tea related photos it is amazing as well.

Rating: 7/10

Conclusion: This is a very terse book without much in depth description of the stores, but at the same time what is there to describe? The illustrations are fantastic. Good Tea Table book.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Teabag - Yame Sencha

Tea: Yame Sencha
Vendor: Bassaro
Source: Yame, Japan

This is probably one of the most inventive forms of a teabag that I have seen to date. It's almost dificult to call this a teabag. It arrived individually wrapped and looking rather normal, at least until I opened the bag. The teabag is rectangular with two die cut paper/cardstock rectangles attached one on each side.

The first thing you do when setting this teabag up is tear open the top, which is a perforated seal so the paper material of the teabag tears nicely. Then you pop out each of the sides which form paper hooks with which to hang on the opposite sides of the cup, as seen above. The remaining stock folds nicely to form a square brewing vessel area in the middle of the cup for the tea.

You then brew the tea by pouring your water into the middle of the suspended teabag. This acts much in the same way that using a strainer to brew tea would. The teabag is held at an appropriate level to allow for the tea to further brew after all the water is poured in. Unfortunately there is no easy way to promote water flow in the same way that dipping and pulling a traditional teabag in a cup would. I tried pulling this teabag up, but it doesn't work quite as well as a traditional teabag. Also the use of paper for the teabag material made it more difficult for water to flow. The material used by most other teabags now would provide better water flow.

The tea itself was rather good. The first infusion had a very sweet and smooth flavor to it, a bit reminiscent of a gyokuro, but still retaining sencha qualities. The aftertaste was a bit reminiscent of the Ariake Yutakamidori I had earlier. There was no bitterness or astringency and it had a light grassy taste to it. There were finishing hints of a seaweed flavor.

The second infusion had a stronger sense of seaweed to it and just enough of a sense of astringency to provide a clean feeling when finished. The flavor had hints of being vegetal as well.

Rating: 7/10

Conclusion: While the form of this new teabag was quite inventive, i'm dubious as to the effectiveness it would have in replacing current teabags. Most of the time I use a teabag i'm warming my water in a microwave or something of the sort so it is not convenient to pour water over the top of the teabag. The tea itself was quite good, surprisingly so for a teabag. I found that brewing the tea has a better result than a traditional teabag, but only if you can pour water over it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Gyokuro Hoshino Seichaen

Tea: Gyokuro Hoshino Seichaen
Vendor: Bassaro
Source: Hoshino Seichaen, Yame, Japan

This was another sample from Bassaro that I got to try out. After the previous sample I was very excited to try this one.

The appearance of the leaves for this gyokuro were quite different than the previous ones. While the other gyokuro had a more matte appearance to the leaves, these have a shinier, more polished look to them. The tea also shared the very dark appearance to the leaves.

The first infusion had a very strong grassy vegetal/flavor to it. The color of the infusion was also a lot lighter than the other gyokuro. This one was still cloudy and a deep shade of green, but not as much so. The flavor of the tea was also very bold, but this one was more of a combination of a vegetal/grassy flavor instead of the more vegetal flavor of the other. The taste is bold and full bodied with a flavor that is an experience for the whole mouth, not just isolated to parts of the tongue. There were also a few hints of seaweed in the taste.

The second infusion was a bit sweeter in flavor, with the sweetness in the initial portion of the flavor, which then tapers into the rich gyokuro flavor. This extraction was more interesting and multidimensional than the previous.

The third infusion still had a strong vegetal flavor, but not as much of a rich gyokuro flavor. It was also starting to build a bit of astringency which hadn't been present in the previous two infusions.

The next infusion the vegetal flavor was starting to taper down a bit and the astringency had climbed to a medium level.

The fifth and final infusion was still as delicious as the first one, simply with a different flavor to it, the flavors were a bit weaker, but it allowed to taste some of the more subtle portions of the flavor instead of being masked by more powerful flavors. At this point though it had mustered a high sense of astringency.

Rating: 10/10

Conclusion: This was another remarkable gyokuro which seemed for a while that it would not stop producing wonderful flavors and more and more infusions. It seemed like this one might be a bit more difficult to brew than the other, but still produced a wonderful cup of tea. Both were excellent teas that I would recommend to anyone.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Gyokuro Koga Chagyo

Tea: Gyokuro
Vendor: Bassaro
Source: Koga Chagyo, Yame, Japan
Vendor Notes: Appelation Kurogi Controlee

While i'm not sure what product on their online shop this sample I received from them corresponds to, I will do my best to do this wonderful tea justice.

Firstly the sample came in a small mylar sealed package containing 6g of gyokuro leaf. It is a bit difficult to see in the picture above, but the leaf itself was even gorgeous, it was a beautiful shade of dark green and has a certain allure to it which I cannot begin to describe.

For the purposes of this review I brewed the gyokuro with 30ml (it really was a tiny amount of water) infusions starting at 50C (122F) working my way up in temperature. These were the suggested brewing instructions given with this tea. This is cooler than I am used to starting gyokuro with, normally starting around 150F(65C). I then increased the temperature gradually on subsequent infusions.

The first infusion of this tea (shown below) was very dark and rich in color. Due to the relatively low temperature there was not much of an aroma to the tea at this point. The flavor was rich and vegetal. It was very bold, but at the same time a relatively shortlived flavor. It was an amazing Gyokuro flavor in a concise burst with no aftertaste.

The first infusion on its own was a wonderful experience, but then I was shocked on the second infusion. This infusion was very similar to the first in appearance, dark and cloudy. It also had the same rich gyokuro flavor, and this time it had a slight astringency and a light bitterness to it. It was still rich and vegetal with a concise flood of flavor.

Just when I thought that this tea was amazing, I got to try the third infusion. This one was an emerald green color, having washed out most of the smaller particles out during the first two infusions. This time the flavor switched from being vegetal to a grassier flavor, but still full of flavor with no signs of letting up. The sense of astringency was growing though, this time up to a medium level.

Showing no signs of letting up this tea produced a fourth infusion. This one was a little lighter in flavor, but the flavor was sweeter, showcasing that sense of natural sweetness which Gyokuro is well known for. The astringency did build up even further this time though.

By the fifth infusion the tea had become a lighter flavor, but showed an amazing pairing of sweetness and the grassy/vegetal flavor exhibited earlier on in the tastings. The flavor was starting to show lightening up at this point.

The final infusion, which I almost expected to have given up by now, was still amazing. It was a much lighter green color and didn't have nearly as much power as before, it still possessed a wonderful flavor and at this point transitioned into tasting almost like a wonderful sencha.

Rating: 10/10

Conclusion: This is an amazing sample of gyokuro. It lasted for significantly longer than I expected showing all sides of the flavor of gyokuro. Each infusion showed a brilliant character which if a tea produced only that flavor alone would still be amazing. These all came from one sample of tea though. If I could get some, I would order this to be the most special of special occasion gyokruos.

Thank You - Bassaro

Today I would like to send a big THANK YOU to Bassaro for sending me some amazing samples. They sell primarily gyokuro (although they have a few other Japanese green tea products, matcha, sencha, and powdered sencha). They were also kind enough to send along a few "teabags" to sample. While these are not truly teabags, they do have the same portability as them. Their Gyokuro comes from two farms in Yame, Hoshino Seichaen and Koga Chagyo, and farmers through JA Yame. This company is based out of France though, so for us in the US, we are not fortunate enough to be able to just pick up some tea from these guys very easily.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Tea: Sencha
Vendor: Imperial Tea Court
Price: $7 / 4oz.
Vendor Description:A unique and well-known style of green tea popularized in Japan. Sencha's deep green color and distinctively fresh, grassy flavor come from special steam processing during manufacture.

I was at first a bit leery of trying out a sencha from a primarily Chinese tea vendor. The Imperial Tea court had a very good reputation from what I had read and heard so I figured I would give them a shot. (I actually did pick up some Chinese teas as well, those will come later).

The sencha seemed to have a very front loaded taste, most of the flavor of the tea occurred right off the bat with little depth and aftertaste to the tea. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it is simply different than the most of the longer deeper teas I have been having recently. The flavor was very short lived and brisk with a medium sense of bitterness. I would say that it is a very good starting point of sencha. It is simple inexpensive and a good representation of a sencha.

Rating: 8/10

Conclusion: While this tea is not the deep symphony that some other teas strive to be, it's low price and simple nature make it deserve a good rating. It is a simple sencha and indicative of the style of tea.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Teabag - Chamomile Citrus

Tea: Chamomile Citrus
Vendor: Mighty Leaf Tea
Price: $8.95 /15 teabags
Source: Egypt
Vendor Description: Chamomile Citrus is a refreshing infusion perfected to curl up with and savor by the sip. Made with Soothing Egyptian Chamomile flowers and subtle slices of citrus fruit, this vibrant blend will rejuvenate the spirit. From intoxicating aroma to sweet flavor, this Mighty Leaf signature blend with Chamomile, fruits and herbs reflects our vision of the artisan tea experience.

Chamomile Citrus is available in 100 individually foil wrapped and 15 individually cello wrapped biodegradable Tea Pouches™.

This was the last of the three samples that I had received from Mighty Leaf. Chamomile Citrus is an herbal tisane made from Chamomile. Chamomile tea is one of the most prevalent tisanes out there among rooibos as the most common. This was my first time having Chamomile since I started really noticing what it was that I was drinking.

When I opened the pouch, the first thing that I noticed was a very strong orange scent coming out, which given the name was no big surprise. I was rather surprised though looking at the teabag that there were a lot of different things inside. I'm rather used to seeing rather homogeneous single ingredient teas so this was a bit of a surprise.

The tea had a very short and brisk flavor. This is of course though in comparison to true teas. The short brisk flavor consisted of a strong sweetness which reminded me of a generic citrus flavor. It had hints of orange, but had a much more general feel to it. The aroma was very floral, but not distinctly so. It was relaxing yet generic. There was no sense of bitterness or astringency, not surprising considering that it is not a true tea.

Rating: 8/10

Conclusion: This being my first time really trying chamomile, I'm not really sure what to make of it. The tea was very relaxing and enjoyable, but I don't know how this would compare to other chamomile tisanes. Compared to a true tea though this flavor is very short lived.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Teabag - Green Tea Tropical

Tea: Green Tea Tropical
Vendor: Mighty Leaf Tea
Price: $8.95 / 15 teabags
Source: China
Vendor Description: Green Tea Tropical boasts smooth green tea leaves that harmoniously blend with sweet tropical fruits to create a sensation as uplifting as a breeze off the isle of Papenoo. A healthy and refreshing blend rich in antioxidants, Green Tea Tropical makes ideal an introduction to green tea.

Green Tea Tropical is available in 100 individually foil wrapped and 15 individually cello-wrapped biodegradable Tea Pouches™.

I was excited to try out this tea, as I had seen this in stores before, but hadn't picked it up to try it out yet. I have had a few tropical teas from Lupicia before, and so fare I had enjoyed them all.

When I opened this tea the first thing I noticed was the aroma from the pouch. My initial thought was that it smelled of pineapple soda, which doesn't really smell that much like fresh pineapple, but is it's own flavor. Similar to how watermelon and strawberry candies don't always taste like watermelon and strawberries. They have their own flavor associated with them like the Jolly Rancher flavors. I had also had the thought that the tea was going to be similar to a sencha for no particularly valid reason. (I did not look up the origin until after tasting the tea)

The first infusion of the tea had a very sweet scent to it, but it was an interestingly generic sense of sweetness. It didn't have much of a sense of pineapple or guava as the pouch had indicated, but rather a general sense of sweetness to an aroma. The tea itself was not particularly strong, but had a smooth green tea flavor which suggested that the tea was from China. The front end of the tea had a distinctive sweetness too it, but not overpowering. It was a light fruity flavor, and it also tapered off to allow the green tea flavor to come through almost in a switch.

The second infusion was a little sweeter and fruitier, but lacked any really distinctive qualities to it. The tea itself was a bit weaker, and was on the resteeping borderline.

Rating: 7/10

Conclusion: The tea was good, but lacked a certain boldness of flavor that I was hoping for. Both the tropical portion and the tea portion could stand to be a bit stronger. If you're looking for a light relaxing tea this is not a bad choice.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Teabag - Orange Dulce

Tea: Orange Dulce
Vendor: Mighty Leaf Tea
Price: $8.95 / 15 teabags
Source: China, Sri Lanka
Vendor Description: Orange Dulce is a luscious, rich brew teeming with notes of bergamot, orange, vanilla and jasmine blossoms. Made with Ceylon and China black teas, Orange Dulce brews up a fragrant and full bodied dark tea. Reminiscent of an aged Port, the flavor is sure to please.

Orange Dulce is available in 100 count foil wrapped and 15 individually cello-wrapped biodegradable Tea Pouches™.

When you first open the pouch for this teabag, the first thing that you notice is a very strong sweet smell. It has hints of orange in the aroma, but not exclusively so. It is a bit difficult to pick the smell apart, but together is a very sweet aroma. The teabag itself is a very simple design, it is one rectangular piece of nylon-like material (the biodegradable one) that appears to be hand sewn closed. It is sewn shut in a manner to allow for the material to quite openly form a volume inside of the pouch. Basically it is not folded and sewn flat. The tag string is a continuation of the sewing string so there is no need to have a staple or melt a string to the bag. While it may not provide as much volume as a trapezoidal teabag, it has a very comforting feel to it with the sewn string and handmade appearance.

When brewing the tea there is the same sweet aroma that there is when opening the teabag, with its hints of orange and strong sweetness. The initial taste of the tea though is not nearly as sweet as the aroma, it is a medium bodied smooth black tea. There is no sense of bitterness or astringency to it. In a very delicate way the added flavors fill in the weaker beginning of the flavor of the black tea with subtle sweet flavors, which then taper off to reveal the flavor of the tea itself. This was quite surprising as I was expecting the tea to be overpowered by the flavorings like many other teabags are. The end of the tea leaves with a tiny amount of orange tangy flavor.

The second infusion of the teabag produced a slightly different tea. It was lighter in flavor, and the components of the flavoring were more apparent. It felt light boded, and while there was still no astringency it left me with a clean feeling in my mouth.

Rating: 9/10

Conclusion: While this is an excellent tea, I would have liked to see a bit bolder of a black tea used. The flavors combine well and do not overpower the tea, and the teabag itself provides a certain comfort feeling to the experience. This is quite good, but I don't know if it is something I would want to drink on a daily basis.

Thank You - Mighty Leaf

Today I would like to say a special Thank You for the folks over at Might Leaf Teas who were kind enough to send me a few of their teabags to sample. Mighty Leaf teas are a rather unique form of teabag since the teabags are a mesh material that is sewn closed. The shape is best described as a satchel, but very unique in appearance and feel. The teabags are sewn shut as opposed to the fusing or stapling used in other teabags using the same material. More to come from the actual reviews themselves. But for now suffice it to say, Thank you Mighty Leaf.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Equipment : Tea Cupping Set

In response to Salsero's comment, I thought today I would talk about my cupping set.

Cupping sets consist of 3 different pieces, the lid, bowl, and pitcher. Every cupping set that I have seen has been the same size as I believe there is a standard size for the pitcher.

The pitcher is about 200 mL in volume, I haven't measured for sure, but that's about what I would guess it to be. Looking around at other cupping sets sold online a few mention it is 6 fl oz. Which is about 170 mL. So that sounds about right. The pitcher varies only slightly from cupping set to cupping set, the main difference is in the lip. Some like mine, have a lip like a traditional pitcher where it extends out slightly. Others I have seen have simply a small notch cut into the side of the pitcher.

When using the cupping set you follow a somewhat standard procedure to generate uniformity.
1) Warm the pitcher and cup with warm water that is appropriate to the tea you are going to steep.
2) Place dry tea leaves in the picther.
3) Fill pitcher with water making sure to wet the leaves.
4) Wait for tea to steep.
5) Tip pitcher on its side in the bowl. (As seen below)
6) Wait for tea to drain into bowl.
7) Invert pitcher allowing leaves to fall onto the lid.
8) Invert lid and place upside down on the pitcher. This allows you to smell and view the leaves.
9) Taste Tea
10) Enjoy.

Some of the steps are not completely necessary for the use of a cupping set. For instance pre-warming the pitcher and bowl are not necessary, but if you do it one way you should maintain it for uniformity. Also if you are not interested in displaying the leaves, it is not necessary either.

One of the primary uses of a cupping set is for tasting and comparison of teas. It is common to see cupping sets in photos of tea tastings in China, India, and Japan. It allows for a standard platform to compare multiple most likely very similar teas against one another. I'm not really sure where the set was originally from, but I have seen references (although not very reliable ones) which say it was originally developed in Sri Lanka.

Because of their uniformity cupping sets are relatively inexpensive and have little variation from one to another. My particular cupping set is from Lupicia USA. I have seen them for sale at Dragonwater, serendipitea, and a number of other online tea retailers. And on a side note, they are all white I believe. Mine looks a bit yellow in these pictures due to the poor light while I was taking the photos.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Sakura Sencha

Tea: Sakura Sencha
Vendor: Wegman's Food Markets
Price: $4.87 / 2oz.
Vendor Description: This refined and gentle green tea is a marriage of premium Kagoshima Sencha and dried cherry blossoms ("sakura"); it's like sipping springtime itself. Smooth, light-bodied and mellow liquor with a distinctive fruits-and-flowers taste from the cherry blossoms.

This was another tea that I had gotten from Wegman's Food Markets. When I thought I would get some they told me that the sakura was primarily a visual thing, similar to the pellets in Champagne Rose, but it turns out that they were wrong. Don't get me wrong though, this tea is very visually appealing, the sakura petals give a nice pink contrast to the regular spectrum of green/yellow/brown natural colors of sencha.

When you brew the tea, if you look closely in it you will notice small pieces of the sakura petals floating about, but it is much more noticeable when you look at the actual leaves / petals themselves. There are whole sakura petals strewn about in the leaves. The liquor itself has a very sweet aroma.

When tasting the tea the first thing that you notice is a certain sweetness on the onset. It is not a vegetal sweetness like a gyokuro, nor is it a sugary sweetness. It is somewhat unique in its own right. This then leads up to a typical sencha flavor, and then has a tiny bit of astringency when finished. The taste is very sweet in general, and very unique as well. I don't really know how to describe it, but it is a delicate flavor that is easy to overlook if you are not looking for it.

Rating: 7/10

Conclusion: While the sencha portion of the flavor isn't particularly spectacular, the sakura portion is unique and interesting. Considering the relatively low price of this tea I would say that it is a good tea to have around, although I wouldn't give it a special occasion rating. It's worth a try, not much more than that though.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Chiran Yutakamidori

Tea: Chiran Yutakamidori 7401
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: 7.00 / 50g
Location: Kagoshima, Japan
Vendor Description:Tea which has a slightly sweet smell like a sweet potato with slight astringency. Its light green water color and mellow taste are the characteristic features of this tea.

When I first looked at this package and the description I thought I had picked up two packages of Ariake Yutakamidori. The description from Lupicia is almost identical for the two. The two teas are very different from one another though. The leaves for this one were rather small, containing a lot of smaller particles. This caused a more cloudy liquor and probably different taste.

The liquor had a very strong and full bodied vegetal taste. It had a rather solid sense of bitterness to it in the way a sencha should have it, short lived and strong. It left off with a high sense of astringency and a very clean vegetal aftertaste. The taste of this tea almost resembled Japanese rice crackers.

Rating: 9/10

Conclusion: This is a very solid tea, it is bold and has a good flavor to it. It's not too expensive, but at the same time lacks something truly distinctive.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Silver Needle

Tea: Silver Needle 2007
Vendor: Seven Cups
Price: $17.25 / 50g
Vendor Description: Our certified organic Silver Needle is the highest grade of white tea made entirely of white tea buds picked in spring and rich in nutrition. It has a very fresh floral aroma and slightly sweet taste. While the flavor is mild, it has a depth that will leave you enjoying the many nuances of this fine tea. While green tea is the most popular tea in China many of the world's best-known tea experts consider high grade white tea to be even finer that green tea.

Other Vendor Information:
Location: Fujian Province
Tea Bush: Da Bai Cha (Big White Leaves Tea Bush)
Tea Master: Wu Si Jia
Harvest Time: before April 5th
Picking Standard: 1 bud
Brewing vessel: glass cup, gaiwan, glass or porcelain pot,
Brewing Guidelines: 1st infusion 1 1/2 Tbs per 20 oz 160F for 2 min
Infusions: at least 4 times

This was my first silver needle that I have tried. I was unsure of whether or not there are different grades of silver needle, and I still am unsure. Silver needle is a very interesting form for tea, it only consists of the top bud so it is very labor intensive to pick, and does not change much in size or shape when steeped. Most leaves unfurl, uncurl, or otherwise unfold in some way, silver needles retain their original shape. The few exceptions to this that I know of are certain forms of Bancha, Kukicha, and some yellow teas like the Meng Ding Huang Ya. The Meng Ding Huang Ya is also a bud only tea so it retains its form for the same reason. Bancha is roasted and left as a flat leaf, and Kukicha consists primarily of stems which don't get changed by the processes.

Silver needle steeps into a very clear tea, because of the very intact buds. One interesting thing to notice about the tea are the silver hairs which coat silver needle come off into the tea, they are hard to notice, but you can see them floating around in the tea.

The brewed liquor is a pale light brown color, as white teas interestingly turn more of a brown color with heavier steeping. The interesting part of silver needle is the leaves all dance vertically in the pot, they slide up and down which is quite a sight to see.

The flavor of the tea is very pure. It truly would be described as the essence of white tea. If you have ever had a Bai Mu Dan you have a feeling of what makes white tea different than other forms of tea, and silver needle tastes like purely that difference. It is pure and clean. No bitterness, no astringency. It also has a very pleasant sweetness to it.

Rating: 10/10

Conclusion: This tea is pure and clean, leaving me with a pure taste of white tea. I have yet to see how it compares to other silver needle, but it leaves me very hopeful for other silver needles.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Book Review - A Guide to Tea

The book A Guide To Tea by Adagio Teas is the book that is included with gift set orders, or is alternately available for purchase individually. It is a very short work, intended as an overview to the world of teas rather than an in depth handbook on teas.

Due to the shortness of the book, it primarily aims at some of the myths and common points of tea, such as tea all comes from camellia sinensis, anything not from camellia sinensis is not really "tea", quality, storage, brewing, etc. It is a very good quick overview, but lacks any true body.

This is a good book for anyone wanting to just take a quick glance at tea and not spend a night or two reading a more in depth book. It is beautifully illustrated, and if received by purchasing a gift set from adagio, quite worth it. The prose for the writing though is a bit unusual, I found myself rereading sections more than once, and I also don't think this book warrants an individual purchase. It might be a good book to slip a friend if you think they might be interested in tea.

Rating: 5/10

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Teavent - The World in a Teacup

Today I had the chance to go to The World in a Teacup event held at UC Berkeley's Phoebe Hearst Museum. The event consisted of two main parts, the first being a series of 4 presentations by the 4 speakers, followed by a question and answer panel. The second being a vendor tasting event and viewing of the actual museum exhibit itself.

The first half was the more interesting half of the event. The guest speakers were:
  • Eliot Jordan, director of tea for Peet's Coffee & Tea
  • Winnie Yu, tea buyer and owner of Teance, formerly known as Celadon Fine Teas
  • Gregory Levine, UC Berkeley associate professor of Japanese art, who will talk about Japanese Zen art and Japanese tea ceremonies
  • Erika Rappaport, UC Santa Barbara associate professor of modern Britain and of comparative consumer cultures, talking about her research on the history of tea advertising and tea consumption in Victorian England
The most interesting of the two were Eliot Jordan and Winnie Yu, primarily for their views as tea buyers. No offense to Gregory Levine and Erika Rappaport though who's views were primarily academic in nature and presentations were more historical than anything. Each speaker gave a brief 20 minute presentation on assorted aspects of tea in regards to their particular areas of expertise. For Winnie Yu it was mostly about a general overview of tea in China and the current market. Eliot Jordan spoke about the Indian market and production there. Erika Rappaport spoke about tea in the Victorian era and the switch from Chinese to Indian teas. Gregory Levine gave a brief overview of the meaning of tea in Japan and Chanoyu, needles to say there is a lot to cover there. The talks were quite entertaining, but to short to possess any really meaningful content. This was followed by a question and answer forum section, which in itself was quite interesting as well. Questions ranged from Organic labeling, to caffeine content, and everything else. The speakers did a rather good job of answering the questions in my opinion.

The second portion of the event was the vendor tastings and museum viewing. The museum exhibit was a bit disappointing. It really was a rather small display of tea and tea related items, but it did a good job of showcasing a lot of the equipment that is involved around the preparation of tea nowdays. It did a good job of showing tea items from around the world, from China, Japan, Russia, and Britain and a few other pieces as well. For it's size it was a quite nice display, I was simply hoping for something a bit more grand I guess. The vendor tasting was an interesting show of companies. Peet's Coffee And Tea obviously had their hand in this and was well represented. The art of tea, teance, the tea room, and a few other tea shops showed up as well. I was a bit surprised to not see the Imperial Tea Court represented considering one of their two shops is in Berkeley. There were representatives from the Berkeley potter's union as well showcasing some interesting teapots.

All in all it was an interesting afternoon of learning about tea from different perspectives in the industry and the academic side as well. Both Winnie Yu and Eliot Jordan represented the industry side very well and I would encourage anyone to listen to them speak if provided the chance. As far as the museum exhibit goes, don't go out of your way to look for it, but if you're there it's worth a quick glance. I'm sure though if you're reading this blog you probably know what all of the equipment there looks like anyway.