Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Fukamushi Sencha Supreme Shincha

Tea: Fukamushi Sencha Supreme Shincha
Vendor: O-cha
Price: $22.95 / 100g
Source: Shizuoka, Japan
Vendor Description: Fukamushi Sencha "Supreme" (Current stock is shincha) - A first rate, first flush green tea. Harvested from the first round of 2008 young spring leaves, this green tea comes from Shizuoka Prefecture. If you like an "intense" green tea, this is the tea for you. Very green and very thick. More astringent than most or our green teas, the taste of this fukamushi sencha remains on the palate for an extended time. As this is a very bold green tea, be sure to not brew too hot, for too long, or with too much leaf. As with all of our loose leaf green teas, freshly packaged in nitrogen filled bags.

Leaf Mass: 5.04g

Leaf: The leaf consisted of a lot of smaller pieces with a few larger leaves in it. This was somewhat expected of a fukamushi though, the small pieces tend to be characteristic of this kind of tea. The leaf seemed to have two main colors to it, a very dark rich green and a lighter paler green.

1st Infusion Parameters: 160 F, 6oz, 60s

1st Infusion: The liquor had a light yellow green color to it. It was slightly murky which seemed light for a fukamushi. Although it seemed about right for a first infusion. The flavor was very sweet and thick, it hinted at flavors of grains. There was definitely a strong grassy component to it. There was no astringency or bitterness, and the flavor tailed off into a long thick aftertaste. It had a kind of long flat flavor which brought to mind the thickness of the flavor.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 175F, 10s

2nd Infusion: This infusion had the characteristic fukamushi dark murky green color. The infusion was very surprisingly dark though, moreso than most other fukamushi that I have tried. This infusion had a light bitterness to it, and the thickness to it was gone. The flavor was surprisingly light considering the appearance of it.

3rd Infusion Parameters: 180F, 60s

3rd Infusion: This was another very murky and dark green infusion. The flavor was again very light despite the long infusion time and warmer water. There was a light astringency to it, and it seems as though the flavor had started to let go already.

Rating: 8/10

Conclusion: This tea had a very interesting flavor to it, the most interesting part was the first infusion with it's thick flavor and long aftertaste. I was a bit disappointed at the strength of the second and third infusions. Had I had more of this tea I could have experimented a bit more to try to unlock it's secrets, but alas I only had a small amount.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Felicitea Contest

I got sent an email regarding an interesting contest over at felicitea.com. They're trying to think of a good way to convert a coffee drinker to a tea lover with their "Coffee to Tea Conversion Contest". There are apparently two phases for this contest, the first being a 30-90 second video about tea being better than coffee, and the second is actually trying to convert lovers of the bean.

I'm interested to see what the entries are like. It's an unusual thought because this is asking the tea side to look to the coffee pangs inside themselves, and find something to relate to. Whatever this is would have to cross between the images and stereotypes of coffee and tea. Probably tie in with the pros/cons of tea and coffee.

For more details about the contest, read here.

Thanks to Summer at Felicitea for the heads up about this.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Vendor - Tea Gschwendner

I recently placed my first order to Tea Gschwendner (TG for short, I keep spelling Gschwendner wrong) and thought it appropriate to do a quick review on them.

TG is a tea company based out of Germany, although they do have a worldwide presence. They do have a pair of stores in Illinois, and a partner store in Michigan which sells their teas, but aside from that their presence in the US is internet based. They have locations in many other countries, but mostly in Germany. My experiences with them thus far have been all virtual.

TG carries a very wide variety of teas, ranging from high grade single estate Darjeelings to Herbals to Oolongs to Whites to Greens. They cover a wide variety of teas, but it would seem that the majority of their teas are black teas. Considering the company is from Germany this is not too surprising. Although what is surprising is how good their selection is while being so broad. At first you would think that they would be a jack of all trades company, dabbling in many areas, but not having very specific teas in any particular area. This does not seem to be the case, at least for what I looked at; Darjeelings and Japanese Greens. Their selection of Darjeelings was very impressive, they had a number of different grades of Darjeelings ranging from FOP to SFTGFOP 1. They also had a number of estate specific teas. Their Japanese Green selection also was somewhat varied, encompassing the main classes of Japanese green teas, as well as some lesser seen types and different grades.

They do offer a variety of sizes, 50g, 100g, and 250g. This is nice because it offers a nice price break for larger volumes. They also have a free shipping break at $35.00, which is fairly low and thereby nice for those who don't want to pay for shipping.

For my particular experience, I ordered a few cups and some genmaicha. They shipped the order in a very nicely packaged box, wrapping the fragile items with paper and bubble wrap, and filling the rest of the box with packing peanuts. If you are looking for a low packing material company though, there was a lot of packing to protect my items. My items took up about 1/10 th of the volume of the box if that. They also added the wrong packing list with my order, but that didn't really matter as my order did match what I did order.

Their tea is packaged in a double lined paper bag with a roll over top similar to those found on most bags of coffee. I was a bit disappointed to find that it was not a nitrogen flushed package, especially considering how much emphasis they place on their quality control on their website. Aside from that my interactions with their customer service were quite good, and the tea was good, but would have been helped if stored in nitrogen flush bags I believe.

I look forward to trying out other teas from them in the future.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Cold Brewing - Cold Water Brewing

As the weather grows warmer brewing iced tea is more and more common for me. I find that this particular method of brewing is both easy, convenient and tasty. I have only really used this method with Japanese green teas. I have tried, unsuccessfully, to use this with a few black teas. Gyokuro and Sencha are the ideal teas I use for this.

I normally use the standard amount of leaf for this method, ~1g. tea /1oz. water. If the tea used is a light flavored tea or if you prefer a stronger cup of tea I would suggest increasing the amount of tea upwards of 20%.

For the water for this any chilled water would be fine. I've tried this with anything from ice water to slightly chilled water. I have a preference for iced water, but often use water from a water cooler for convenience. The colder the water you use, you will need to increase infusion times and leaf slightly. Infusion is very temperature dependent so adjust to your preferences as you see fit.

My personal preference is to use ice water (0 C) with 1.2 g leaf / 1 oz. water. The infusion time that I normally use for the first infusion is around 90s, second is about 30s, and 60s for the third. Steep this tea how you would any other tea normally, although it does help to mix the pot slightly with the first infusion.

The first infusion should come out being almost crystal clear with just a light twinge of green in it. The flavor will be very light and crisp and very sweet. The sweetness is a very deep sweetness, but rich and flavorful at the same time. This does of course vary on a per tea basis, but it tends to be fairly consistent throughout the first infusions.

The second infusion will be richer in color as the tea leaves will have absorbed water and expanding by now. This is a very smooth and still sweet green tea flavor. The color will most likely be cloudier and darker green. This will be a flavor more akin to normal sencha infusion, but very smooth and rich.

The third infusion will be weaker as most of the time the tea will be almost done, this will be a light, yet flavorful infusion. It will be somewhat like a weak tea, but still cold and refreshing. The flavor will be very tasty.

As always though, play around with this method and find what suits you. I find this is very easy and convenient to do throughout the day at work.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Japan Genmaicha

Tea: Japan Genmaicha
Vendor: Tea Gschwendner
Price: $4.84 / 50g.
Source: Japan
Vendor Description: A very popular Green tea blend in Japan, made by mixing roasted whole grain rice with fresh Sencha. Milder, and less strong in the cup than pure Sencha, it has a pleasant aroma of toasted rice.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea was about what I would expect from a genmaicha. The leaf was matte in color with color variations throughout the leaf. There was the characteristic aroma of the puffed rice from the mix. The leaf was somewhat unimpressive in its size and shape from rolling. The leaf was more twisted and contorted than regular for sencha, and was not rolled into the fine needles like some senchas are.

1st Infusion: There was a normal light green color and the infusion was fairly transapernt. It had a very characteristic fresh crisp aroma from the puffed rice. It had a very clean fresh tang to it. The flavor was very smooth and sweet, there was no astringency or bitterness. The flavor was very crisp on the front of the tongue, and produced a very good and distinct genmai flavor.

2nd Infusion: This infusion produced a more yellow colored infusion. The flavor was more muddled and not nearly as crisp. The front of the tongue flavor was definitely duller. It had a very rich and full flavor this time, with a very full bodied flavor spreading throughout the mouth smoothly. There was no bitterness and a light sense of astringency.

Rating: 8/10

Conclusion: It was a bit disappointing how much the clean and crisp flavor of the first infusion disappeared with the second. The leaf had a bit of a disappointing appearance to it as well. It is to some degree to be expected of a genmaicha, but not necessarily the way it would have to be. As a genmaicha though, this was a very good contender.

World Tea Championship - Winners

The World Tea Championship winners were announced on the World Tea Expo's webpage recently. Some of the winners were rather surprising, including Rishi taking the win for Japanese style Green.

The winners are listed here.

I will probably be trying some of them out soon, so keep an eye out for a review on them when I have a chance.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

An Interesting offer

So I received an email from Lupicia about a week ago, it was their standard new product announcement, this one was for their new Winter Plucked High Mountain Oolongs. Not that surprising in and of itself, but this one had a rather interesting offer with it. If you purchase $10 in the Taiwanese winter tea (the new teas) you receive a Shin or Inn teapot. A purchase of $25 or more and you can have a Chen Tea Set instead. Something a bit unusual about this offer though is that the teas range in price from $28.00 to $42.00. So you can always get the Chen tea set. I opted to try the Mt. Tayu Taiwan Oolong Winter Tea Super Grade (25g) which is $28.00. This earned me the Chen Tea set.

The Shin and Inn tea pots are $9.00 each, but the Chen Set is $66.00 by itself. This makes the offer particularly interesting. It's essentially getting the set for over half off and some tea as well. The Chen set is basically a small gong fu set, it consists of a small pitcher, bot, two cups, and a base. Everything is made of matching clay.

The pot itself seems ok, the strainer is unfortunately flush with the wall of the pot, i.e. not a golf ball style filter. It has rather large holes, about 7 in total. If you are brewing some large leaf oolongs or something, this is perfect. The lid appears to have a very nice fit.

The base is has a very nice feel to it, the drainage to the bottom bowl consists of 13 holes in the center of the dish. It's just large enough to fit the rest of the set on easily.

The cups are about the right size for normal gong fu tasting cups, and have a very nice feel to them. The cups are light, yet solid, and the lip has a very nice feel to it. The clay is smooth and attractive.

All in all I think this is a rather interesting deal if you are looking for a small gong fu set. This deal is particularly well paired with a small addition in order to get free shipping. I'm not sure if this is available in stores or not.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Shincha Kumpu - Day 3

1st Infusion Parameters: 7.78g, 60z. water, 188F, 60s

1st Infusion: This infusion was a darker shade of yellow/green and not as radiant as some of the other first infusions for this tea. The flavor was thick and strong with a sense of seaweed to it. The flavor's thickness and richness reminded me of a gyokuro. It had a slight bitterness to it and the flavor felt smooth all around.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 160F, 6oz, 30s

2nd Infusion: This was a more appropriate sencha flavor. The flavor was rich smooth, but not thick like the first infusion. It had a very tangy bitterness to it, but no astringency. The flavor felt very short and crisp to the tongue. A very stark contrast to the smooth flavor of the first infusion.

3rd Infusion Parameters: 148F, 45s

3rd Infusion: This infusion had the light and clear color again. The flavor felt like it was concentrated on the back of the mouth and tongue. It had a light sense of astringency, and d a very light feel to it. It felt light, but the tea was very bodied. My mouth felt filled with this light flavor.

4th Infusion Parameters: 145F, 45s

4th Infusion: This had a very light and clear color to it. The flavor was light to match. It was quite apparent that the tea had run its course at this point.

Rating: 9/10

Conclusion: So after 3 very different sessions with this tea, I found myself having enjoyed the tasting, but did not think that this tea was quite as good as it could be. The flavors varied, but was always enjoyable. The common theme throughout all of the tastings though was that the tea had a light flavor to it, you could increase leaf to compensate for it, but doing so lost a bit of the nuance of this tea. If you are looking for a light and crisp shincha though, this is definitely your candidate. This tea was delicate for sure.