Thursday, November 27, 2008

Black Friday

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

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

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

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Genmaicha Satsuki

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

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

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

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

2nd Infusion Parameters: 185F, 1 min

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

Rating: 5/10

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

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Miyazaki Sakimidori 2008

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

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

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

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

2nd Infusion Parameters: 140F, 30s

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

Rating: 9/10

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

Friday, November 21, 2008

Melon White Fridge Brew

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

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

Infusion Parameters: 15g, 1L

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

Rating: 8/10

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

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Melon White

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

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

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

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

2nd Infusion Parameters: 185F, 2 minutes

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

Rating: 7/10

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gyokuro Kin Fridge Brew

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

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

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

Rating: 4/10

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

Monday, November 17, 2008

Strawberry & Vanilla - Fridge Brew

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

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

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

Rating: 7/10

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

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Holiday Gift Guide - Tea Master

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Holiday Gift Guide - Aspiring Tea Lover

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Holiday Gift Guide - Beginner Level

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 10, 2008


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

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

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

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

Rating: 7/10

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

Friday, November 7, 2008

Kukicha Masala

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

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

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

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

Rating: 6/10

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

Thursday, November 6, 2008

White Masala Chai

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

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

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

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

Rating: 3/10

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

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Genmai Chai Masala

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 5/10

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