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.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Gold Flecked Green (Organic)

Tea: Gold Flecked Green (Organic)
Vendor: L'amyx
Price: $11.95/ 1.5 oz
Source: Anhui, China
Vendor Description: This fine tea from Anhui province has a floral fragrance and a multi-faceted finish, almost like an oolong.

Leaf: This is a very clean leaf. It is rolled and coiled into little balls, like many oolongs, but not like a jasmine pearl. The leaf has a very dry and almost spicy aroma to it.

1st Infusion: The tea infuses with a golden brown color to it. The liquor is very transparent. It has a lightly floral aroma. The tea itself has a very sharp bitterness to it, and an almost metallic flavor. The flavor is reminiscent of a dragonwell, but much more mild and subdued. There is a medium sense of astringency as well.

2nd Infusion: This infusion has a sharper aroma to it, and a less bitter flavor. The flavor is still somewhat bitter though, and it has a bit of a nutty taste.

Rating: 3/10

Conclusion: This tea was rather unimpressive. It has all of the traditional makings of a Chinese green tea, but weakly seems to do so in many ways. The only truly impressive aspect about this tea was the used leaf. It is very vibrant in color and has some beautifully preserved leaf forms to it. The general flavor of this tea though was somewhat offputting, and continues a rather unimpressive string of teas from Lamyx.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

White Crane Tea Co.

The White Crane Tea Co. is a rather small tea vendor in Japantown, San Francisco. The store itself is tucked away in a corner of the center so if you don't know that it is there it may be quite easy to overlook. Once you have managed to find the store itself you'll be shocked at the actual size of it. The whole of the store is probably no larger than 5' x 10'. The proprietor though is a very pleasant individual and will be happy to help you decide on any particular tea. Their selection is surprisingly vast considering the size of the store, but yet small by comparison to many other tea vendors. They are very much specialized in Japanese green tea. Their inventory is surprisingly evenly distributed between gyokuro, sencha, and matcha. One individual I heard remarked and seemed surprised that they stored their matcha in a refrigerator. Pricing is not for the faint of heart, most of their teas being on the pricier side of things, the Midori Sencha I picked up being one of the cheapest teas they offered, but not in terms of price per gram(ppg). Other less expensive teas are sold in larger packages. Purchases are very nicely packaged, wrapped carefully, and then decorated and bundled up. To finish it off he decorates the paper with some calligraphy as well, putting thought into what to write for each package. I expect that many of the teas he offers may be quite exceptional, but I think that I will take my time selecting teas to try.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Midori Sencha

Tea: Midori Sencha
Vendor: White Crane Tea Co.
Price: $15.00 / 100g
Source: Kawane, Shizuoka, Japan
Vendor Description: "Midori no Shizuku Green of Jade" The fine simple pleasures of Sencha.

Vendor Producer Description: Takada No En - Kawane Cha, Shizuoka

Takada No En is a superlative Tea Estate founded from Japan's Edo Period. It has been handed down from generation to generation reaching to the current Takada Family, Takada Meguro San. The Estate maintains the Norin Daijin Sho Award for producing the Highest Achievements in growing Fine Tea for the twenty third consecutive Year in a row. The expansive grounds of this high mountain style tea estate, the largest in Kawane, is blessed with the finest temperate climate and purest airs and waters and continues to be a completely Japanese Organic Grower from the past three hundred years to current times. We are especially proud and honored to be able to bring these fine Teas to you and your home.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is very darkly colored leaf. The color is very uniform thoughout and has a matte colored appearance. The shape of the leaf itself though is slightly flat and yet long and slender. The dry leaf has a very clear deep aroma to it, it is a very clean aroma that is sweet and inviting. There is only a small amount of powder in this tea.

1st Infusion: The tea has a very normal yellow color to it. It offers a rich and sweet aroma. When the tea first touches the tongue it has a very crisp feeling to it that is paired with the sweetness like a yutaka midori. The middle of the taste has a quick bite of bitterness along with a definite thickness of flavor. It reminds me of the thickness that is found with a cold brew tea, almost hinting at a gyokuro's thickness. The end ha s alight sense of astringency to finish it off.

2nd Infusion: This infusion has the same yellow color as before, yet slightly murkier. The flavor feels a bit emptier than the first infusion. There is a medium to high sense of astringency and a medium sense of bitterness. The flavor is concentrated in the middle, yet light. The beginning crisp sweetness is gone at this point.

Rating: 6/10

Conclusion: This is a very nicely balanced tea for the first infusion. It is sweet and thick, and then finishes with a light bite and a clean astringent feeling. This however does not carry over well into the second infusion. If these characteristics carried further into the tea it would be a wonderful tea, but even still at it's price it makes for a rather solid tea.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Tea: Hojicha
Vendor: Dragonwater
Price: $14.25 / 4 oz.
Source: Japan
Vendor Description: Japanese green tea made from roasted Bancha leaves. Produces a golden cup with a smooth, nutty taste.

Leaf: This is a very uneven hojicha. The size and shapes of the leaf do not stay very uniform. There is a lot of broken leaf and a fair amount of dust. The aroma is not very similar to most hojicha that I have tried.

1st Infusion: The tea has a very dark brown color, not as red as many of the other hojicha that i have tried. The aroma is very dull and heavily roasted. The flavor is shallow and shorte lived. It is difficult to taste much of the flavor in this as it is very weak.

2nd Infusion: The flavor is best described as being dusty. It is very short lived and very dull and flat.

Rating: 1/10

Conclusion: This is probably the worst hojicha that I have run across yet. The price is not particularly great either. It seems like a more expensive hojicha, but fails to deliver the flavor of one.

Matcha Latte Iced

So having had a matcha latte, the next step in the progression was to try icing it. Using the same recipe as the regular matcha latte, I tried pouring that over a bowlful of ice. The latte pictured is made with the Tao of Tea matcha, Lupicia recipe, and then poured over ice.

Infusion: The taste of the latte was very refreshing. It was cool and clean. The sweetness was a bit more hidden having this beverage cold as opposed to warm, although it does bring out the tea flavor a good deal more. There is a very creamy texture to it and the actual matcha flavor is a bit more subdued. There is no bitterness to it, just a creamy milky tea.

Rating: 4/10

Conclusion: While the hot version of this was a bit better than the traditional matcha infusion made with the Tao of Tea matcha, this version was in it's own right very enjoyable. It is a bit of a stretch from a traditional tea, and is more akin to a starbucks beverage than something a tea purist would look at. But I believe that it has it's place, it is enjoyable for what it is. I will probably be enjoying beverages such as this a fair amount when summer rolls around again.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Matcha Latte

Tea: Matcha Latte

About this Latte: After opening and trying the Liquid Jade matcha from Tao of Tea, I decided to try using it as an ingredient grade matcha for a matcha latte. I tried using the Lupicia recipe for a matcha latte which can be found here.

Latte: The latte itself had a very sweet aroma to it, most likely due to the added sugar. The color was a very light shade of green, which masked the dull color of the matcha used. There is a very sweet and light matcha flavor to this drink and no bitterness at all. The flavor is very milky and smooth with a thick feeling to it. However there is a very noticeable gritty texture to the drink.

Rating: 4/10

Conclusion: The matcha latte was a much better way to drink the matcha used. It masked some of the downsides of the matcha and brought out a very nice enjoyable beverage. However the gritty texture was a bit of a turnoff. If it wern't for the amount of effort required to make this I would consider making these more often.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Liquid Jade

Tea: Liquid Jade
Vendor: Tao of Tea
Price: $17.50 / 3.0 oz
Source: Uji, Japan

Powder: The color of this matcha is much duller than most of the other matchas that I have tried. Given the relatively low price of this matcha I wasn't expecting much more than a cooking grade/ingredient matcha.

Infusion: The made matcha had a darker green color than most of the other matcha that I have had. This went along with the expectation based on the color of the powder itself. The flavor of this matcha was not very much like other matcha that I have had. It was lightly bitter with a medium sense of astringency. It just didn't seem very good. I was more impressed by the minute matcha from Lupicia than this. It reminded me more of a thick powdered sencha than a matcha.

Rating: 1/10

Conclusion: As I expected this was pretty much just an ingredient grade matcha that shouldn't relaly be used to drink as a regular matcha. The price isn't horrible if you are looking for a cooking matcha, and it comes with a nice tin.