Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $4.00 / 50g
Source: Kochi, Japan
Vendor Description:Produced in a rural area at the upper stream of Shimanto River. Tea leaves are well rubbed with a pleasant smell and enjoyable as a simple natural tasting handmade tea. Produced by Shuhei-san.
Leaf: The leaf for this tea had a very long needle like shape. The color of the leaves was very nice.
1st Infusion: The tea had a very light pale green color to the infusion, with very little aroma to speak of. This was completely different from the flavor though. There was a very strong singular flavor to this tea. It had no aftertaste and very little bitterness. It was a very well defined single flavor. It was a light flavor, but the central part of this flavor was very strong. There was a certain grassiness to the flavor. This cup had me thinking about what it was I was tasting down to the last sip.
2nd Infusion: The leaves were fully expanded at this point, and were much larger than I had expected. They were for the most part intact. The tea had a very weak flavor at this point and there was not much left. It had a light bitterness, but that was about it.
Conclusion: The flavor of this tea was quite good, but the tea could not really stand up for more than one infusion. It is a very interesting tea, but past a few pots I think I would move elsewhere.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $7.00 /50g
Source: Shizuoka, Japan
Vendor Description: The area around Fuji City in Shizuoka is famous for the production of high-quality Shizuoka teas. "Kurasawa" has a distinctive sharpness both in aroma and astringency.
Leaf: The leaf for this tea was rather normal in appearance. There were a small amount of stems in it, varying length needles, and a moderately uniform color.
1st Infusion: The first thing I noticed about this tea was that it had a thick sweet flavor. It was clean and sharp like a sencha should be with a light sense of astringency. There were hints of grassiness and a nice lingering aftertaste. This was a very ideal first infusion and very typical of the teas from Shizuoka that I have tried.
2nd Infusion: This infusion was a bit murkier in color. The flavor was richer now that the leaves have expanded more, and the flavor reminded me a bit of matcha. It had a very sharp clean feeling on the tongue. The tea finished off with a medium sense of astringency and bitterness.
Rating: 9 / 10
Conclusion: All in all this was a very good solid sencha. The only thing that I didn't really like was how much the flavor changed from the first infusion to the second infusion. Ideally the first and second would have been a bit more aligned with one another. But a very good solid tea.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Tea Chai Te
This was a little tearoom that I found after dinner one night and roaming around Portland. This wasn’t by any means an easy to find or very obvious location. If it were not for a sign on the sidewalk I probably wouldn’t have found the store.
The location of the store is actually on the second floor of what looks like a converted house. It almost felt like someone converted an upstairs apartment into a small tea room. The arrangement consisted of a few tables and couches organized in this small space with a wall of small jars. The wall of small jars was numbered for each jar with a small catalog of their teas below it. Each of their teas is numbered and priced as either Premium or Rare tea. The small jars each had a cork stopper so you could smell the tea if you liked. They stored their teas in relatively small cans for weighing out and packaged them in small paper bags similar to coffee bags.
Conclusion: The feel of this tearoom was very cozy and feels like somewhere that you might like to go to spend an evening with some friends and just hang out. It felt a lot like a smaller version of the coffee shop from friends. I’m not sure what to think of this place as a place to find a good loose leaf tea. I’ll soon see how the tea is from them.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
The Tao of Tea – Leaf Room
This is the second half of the Tao of Tea’s original location. The Leaf Room is their brick and mortar store location. The store itself has a very wide variety of teas and teaware. It is a combination of loose teas, prepackaged teas, and teaware. There was also a small tatami mat area as well as what looked to be a counter that could have been used for sampling teas. It had an assortment of items on it so it didn’t look like it was being actively used to serve tea.
The teaware selection was very eclectic at this store, it consisted of teaware from all over the world. It had English style teacups to yixing teapots to Mate Bombillas. Their Japanese teaware selection was small, but more varied than I would have thought. They had a few tetsubin, tokoname kyusus, and matcha bowls. Most surprising was the full arrangement of the accessories for Chanoyu, I haven’t seen many fully rounded tea stores offering natsume.
Their tea selection was rather vast, but at the same time they were out of a lot of their teas. This was a very good sign considering the time of the year, they were out of a lot of the spring harvest teas saying they were waiting on the new 2008 harvest. Pricing for teas was offered as prepackaged in double lidded tins, where the tea is vacuum sealed, or packaged from their stock tins on a per ounce basis. They also had a surprising number of puerh teas, including one which was probably a two foot wide cake.
Loose teas were packaged either in small plastic lined roll down bags similar to those you find in the grocery store for coffee beans, or small plastic lined paper coated Ziploc bags. This seemed to depend on the volume and crushability of the tea in question. Prepackaged teas were vacuum packed and then placed into double lidded tin cans.
Conclusion: Considering that it was a rather small store they had a rather varied selection, yet covered a lot of different bases. The store like the tearoom was rather dark, and the staff could have been a bit friendlier. I’m eager to try the teas I picked up to see what I think of this brand in general.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
The Tao of Tea – Tearoom side
I had the opportunity recently to stop by the Tao of Tea in Portland. The Tao of Tea has been a brand that I have been interested in for some time, but not gotten around to trying. The Tao of Tea’s original location, which I had the chance to visit, consists of two main businesses, the tearoom and the leaf room. The two sides are actually separate locations with different hours. Today I’m writing about the tearoom.
The tearoom was a very interestingly decorated room. The décor was from around the world with different styles of items from an assortment of tea producing countries. Their counters were filled with a wide variety of different tea cups, bowls, mugs, and other serving accoutrements. When you walk in they allow you to pick whatever you like for seating, which is very nice because almost every booth or table is completely unique in its style. The two booths that I saw had rough broken solid stone seatbacks for part of them, and interesting bright red cushions. The décor had accents of black bamboo, Buddha statues, masks (which I believe were either Indian or Thai), pictures of tea fields, production, and all sorts of other tea related items. My favorite item was probably the tea crates that were used to ship tea in. The table I sat at was next to their display case of cups, which was supported by a tea crate marked as being for Lapsang Souchoung of all things. The lighting was rather dark, although I overheard them mention that two of the lights in the tearoom were out.
The menu was very expansive and very interesting. It looked as though they were offering almost their entire offering of teas, although I did not see some of their more special promotional teas, such as the competition grade senchas which were available on their website. It did have a large variety of teas including a large variety of non-teas as well. I opted to try out their Gyokuro. I do have to admit though that judging them based on their Gyokuro might be a bit of a harsh measure, but I feel that it has the most room for showing how good or bad a tearoom could be. They serve their Gyokuro in a very large kyusu style teapot. I mean kyusu style because the handle was on the side, the volume of the pot was larger than any kyusu that I have ever seen, this pot was somewhere around 24 oz. The spout also reminded me of a yixing teapot spout. As I would have guessed though the Gyokuro was brewed much like a sencha, the water for the steeping was around sencha temperature, well above the good Gyokuro brewing temperature, and the flavor was rather weak. I wasn’t really surprised by this after seeing their teapot, I didn’t think they would follow the 80mL to 10g ratio that most Gyokuros use. That would be one massive pile of Gyokuro. The flavor of the tea was much as I would expect having come from originally brewing my Gyokuro in such a manner until I learned better. It’s rather hard to judge the tea though because of the way it was brewed.
They also serve some food snacks there. I didn’t partake of any though since I had just eaten prior to heading over there.
Conclusion: The experience was rather pleasant and relaxing, although their brewing technique could use some improvement. They are also more of a tea restaurant than a tea bar. This seems nice for what it is, but part of the fun of tea is the learning.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $5.50 / 50g
Source: South America
Vendor Description: Non-fermented mate tea from S.America, (drinking vegetables) with leaves and sweetness like Japanese tea. Before pouring allow hot water to stand. Drink as iced tea to replenish vitamins and minerals.
Leaf: The leaf for this tisane is an assortment of small particles that looks like it belongs on a spice rack somewhere.
1st Infusion: The smell of this tisane reminds me of a pet food store or the spice rack at the grocery store. There was a very dark brown color to the liquor which was a very unappealing color. The tisane smelled very woody, and had a taste to match the aroma. It's flavor reminded me of the flavor you get when you gnaw on the end of a pair of disposable chopsticks. The flavor on some level vaguely reminded me of puerh, although with this it was a very short lived flavor.
Conclusion: I did not particularly enjoy this tisane. I have heard of people enjoying it for caffeine content, but even for caffeine I would chose one of the other caffeine options.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $4.00 / 50g
Source: South Africa
Vendor Description: Rooibos is a type of herb originally grown in South Africa. It has very little tannin, resulting in a mild taste of little astringency and it has a fresh crisp smell of dried plants.
Leaf: The leaf for this tisane has a rather normal red rooibos color. I have noticed two primary forms of rooibos, the red and green varieties. This is obviously of the red variety. The leaf emits a very strong rooibos smell, which reminds me somewhat of tanbark.
1st Infusion: The taste for this tisane was very empty. It is not empty in that the flavor is weak, but it feels like there is a certain component of flavor right in the middle of the flavor that should be there, but instead just shows the flavor of the water instead. The flavor for this tea hits you at the very front and then slowly tapers off. It lingers at the back of your mouth for a while. This is a pretty normal tasting rooibos flavor.
Conclusion: This is a very average rooibos. If you are looking for a good indicator of what rooibos tastes like, this is a good choice for you. Personally I have yet to find a rooibos that really peaks my interest, so I was rather unimpressed by this.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $4.00 / 50g
Vendor Description: A Genmaicha with Matcha is blended with black beans "KURO MAME", to promote "healthy (MAME) living". Good aroma of black beans and mellow flavor of Matcha have created a fascinating Genmaicha.
Leaf: This tea was very interesting. It contains a whole assortment of different components. It consists of roasted rice like a Genmaicha, it has matcha mixed with it like the extra-green teas from Den's, and it has some black soybeans tossed in as well. It's an interesting mix of all kinds of different components.
1st Infusion: The liquor smells a lot like a genmaicha, probably due to the roasted rice. The color is very green like a sencha matcha. It tastes like a very green genmaicha. The flavor is short and sweet which is followed by a toasted rice aftertaste. There is no bitterness or astringency to this tea. I can't seem to find anything flavor wise that the black soybeans are contributing.
Conclusion: This tea is great for people who enjoy both sencha matcha blends and genmaicha. It feels like the two are combined. Due to the matcha washing off in the first infusion it doesn't really hold up as the same tea for the second infusion.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $5.00 / 50g
Vendor Description: Ume (Japanese apricot) is used in the same way as a teacake in China. Chinese oolong tea with faint astringency is scented with Ume. The acidity of Ume enhances the aroma and flavor of this tea.
Leaf: The leaf for this tea consisted of very large flat leaf. It reminded me of the leaves for an oolong tea. There was a very strong fruity aroma to the leaves, although I don't know if I would describe it as being a singular fruit.
1st Infusion: There a s definite roasted flavor to this tea. It is a sweet flavored tea, although I do't really know what to make of it. There is no sense of bitterness and no astringency. It almost feels like a roasted tea with some fruity flavors associated with it.
2nd Infusion: This infusion was sweet as well, and it reminds me of something. Although I can't really put my finger on what it is that this tea reminds me of.
Conclusion: This tea is very unusual. I can't figure out what to make of it, and the leaf looks nothing like the image from the website. The flavor was not something that I could really figure out, but it wasn't a very well defined flavor.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $5.00 / 50g
Vendor Description: Produced in one of the most notable tea gardens in Uva, this tea has a sharp astringency and salicylic acid aroma, which are the typical characteristics of Uva tea.
Leaf: The leaf for this tea was tiny. It looked almost more like coffee grounds than tea. This was probably the first tea that I have looked at that I knew was categorized as a BOP. (BOP = Broken Orange Pekoe, one of the lower grades of Indian tea grading scale)
1st Infusion: The color of the tea even reminded me of coffee. The flavor was very slow to start with a tang of bitterness at the onset. It was highly astringent with a lingering sense of bitterness. This was in line with the vendor description of the tea. The taste was rather unique though, I don't know how to describe the flavor, but it was a very powerful tea. It almost seems like the tea might be too strong/concentrated. Even though it feels so strong and concentrated it does not have a very strong body. As I was drinking this tea I could feel the strength of the flavor sliding down my tongue. It was a very unusual flavor all around. I think that the concentration might in no small part be played by the BOP grade of this tea. The smaller pieces would result in more surface area for the same mass of tea, thereby decreasing steep time.
Conclusion: While I have heard this tea referred to a few times, I have not tried it before now. I'm not very impressed by it, although I could see it being a good tea for people switching from drinking coffee. It has a lot of the same characteristics as coffee. The astringency was a rather significant put off for me.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $5.50 / 50g
Vendor Description: Flavored with only Japan-grown white peaches appreciated internationally, and blended with young peach leaves, this tea has a very fruity flavor.
Leaf: The leaf for this tea was black colored and small and twisted. The appearance was very normal for a black tea. It was mixed with small chopped pieces of light brown leaf, which based on the description is probably the peach leaves. The leaves had a very pleasant peach aroma. Although not nearly as strong the Momo Oolong Super Grade was.
1st Infusion: The liquor had a very dark brown color paired with a very sweet aroma that had hints of peaches. The tea had a very smooth flavor with a long lasting aftertaste. The flavor did not build up quickly or end quickly. It was a very constant, very even flavor. Even still the flavor was quite bold and rich. It reminded me a bit of coffee, but did not have quite the strength of coffee. There was no bitterness or astringency.
2nd Infusion: This infusion had the same smooth flavor of the first and a hint of a roasted feeling to it.
Conclusion: If you enjoyed the Momo Oolong Super Grade you might enjoy this tea. It had a similar characteristic, although not nearly as strong. The flavor was very mellow and smooth so it is not a surprising tea.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $9.50 / 50g
Source: Anxi, China
Vendor Description: Anxi District, southern Fujian Province tea is one of the most familiar oolong teas in China. Firm dark-green tea leaves, slightly stronger flavor and a sweet refreshing aroma characterize this tea.
Leaf: Compared to the leaf from Swan Sisters, this leaf was a brighter green in color and did not have nearly as much dust. The leaves were curled into a variety of different shapes and sizes.
1st Infusion: This TGY had a much milder and sweeter aroma than the TGY from Swan Sisters. There was a hint of a roasted nuttiness in the flavor. The flavor was light and smooth, with hints of being minty. The flavor felt roasted like a hojicha and light very light bodied. There was no astringency to this tea.
2nd Infusion: This infusion had a more mellow, roasted flavor than the first. This one started to remind me even more of a hojicha. There was no bitterness or astringency, but the flavor became short lived.
Used Leaf: The used leaf for this tea was quite interesting. The leaf was very large and intact. Even after two infusions some of the leaves were still slightly curled and stiff. They were mainly intact in comparison to the ones from Swan Sisters.
Conclusion: I liked this version of TGY better than the one from Swan Sisters. The leaves were better handled. I have yet to see a TGY really knock my socks off though.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $6.50 / 50g
Vendor Description: This Keemun black tea deserving of China's boast to the world, is produced with traditional skills. Its faintly aromatic "Smoky scent" goes well with any type of meal.
Leaf: The leaf was in small dark colored pieces. It had a very deep tea flavored aroma to it.
1st Infusion: The aroma to the tea was a very sweet aroma. It reminded me of other sweet black teas or an oolong tea. The liquor was dark brown in color, and almost reminded me of coffee, only this was slightly lighter in color. The flavor was strong, but light bodied. It slowly built up to a flavor peak and then dropped off. There was no astringency and no bitterness following the dropoff. The flavor was rather smooth, but not particularly exciting of a tea.
2nd Infusion: This time the flavor was somewhat empty feeling. The tea had the same dark color, but the flavor was actually quite light in it.
Conclusion: There wasn't anything particularly great about this tea. The flavor was generic and the price is a bit on the higher side. It lacked something distinctive though.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Vendor: Dragonwater Tea
Price: $28.00 / 4 0z.
Source: Darjeeling, India
Vendor Description: Puttabong Darjeeling FTGFOP1 Tea. High grade first flush Darjeeling from the revered Puttabong estate in India. FTGFOP1 (Full-leaf, Tippy, Golden, Flowery, Orange, Pekoe, Grade 1).
Leaf: The leaf for this tea looked nothing like the image on the Dragonwater website. The tea on the website was very golden in color, where this looked much darker in color. The leaf was uniform in shape, and evenly distributed color.
1st Infusion: The first infusion had a light characteristic Darjeeling aroma. It was not as strong as the first flush Darjeeling from Lupicia or the Badamtam Darjeeling. There was a growing sense of bitterness though, that build up very evenly from a very mild taste up to a strong sense of bitterness. This finished though with a long lingering flavor. The tea was very full boded which was paired with a medium sense of astringency. This tea has a very good and solid Darjeeling flavor though.
2nd Infusion: The second infusion had a sharper bitterness to it, the bitterness was so sharp though that it was too strong and masked the Darjeeling flavor.
Conclusion: While this is a good Darjeeling tea, it did not stand up well to multiple infusions and was quite pricey. A Darjeeling such as this should easily handle two infusions.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $7.00 / 50g
Source: Saitama, Japan
Vendor Description: Sayama tea processed slowly at a low temperature, which produces pungent aroma. Rich expansive sweetness combining fresh astringency is pleasantly natural.
Leaf: The leaf for this tea was well polished and shiny. The leaf was in very small pieces though, so small that the leaf almost moved in a fluid motion.
1st Infusion: The tea had a very light yet murky green color. The color of the liquid was a radiant bright green. The tea had a very light and sweet flavor. It reminded me a lot of the Yutaka Saemidori. The tea was medium bodied with a bold aroma for a sencha. The aroma was very sweet smelling and very enjoyable. There was a light clean sense of bitterness to it. Also in the tea were hints of taste that reminded me of gyokuro. There were also small hints of a seaweed flavor at the very front end of the flavor.
2nd Infusion: This infusion was much darker and murkier in color than the first infusion. This one was full bodied and had a very bold flavor. It had a medium sense of astringency and a strong flavor.
Conclusion: This tea showed aspects of a number of different teas. There was a hint of gyokuro, a light sweetness, and then a strong rich boldness. I have a feeling that a lot of the versatility for this tea comes from very delicate brewing parameters. I see myself spending a lot of time experimenting with this tea in the future.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Vendor: Swan Sisters
Price: $8.00 / oz.
Harvest Date: 4/07
About This Tea: Swan Sisters is a local company which I believe is only recently just starting. They sell their teas at the local farmer's market and by direct phone ordering I believe. They currently don't have a website to speak of. From what I have gathered they have been going on buying trips to China and bring the tea back and sell it at farmer's market. They bring back the regular big name teas from China, Dragonwell (Long Jing) , Iron Goddess (Tae Guan Yin), Silver Needles(Bai Hao Yinzen), White Peony (Bai Mu Dan), etc. It will be interesting to see how they do in eventually opening an online presence and possibly a brick and mortar presence in this town.
Leaf: The leaf for this tea was very green and interestingly comma shaped. This is not unusual though for an oolong, but there was a large amount of small dust particles in the mix. I found this to be a bit unusual and disappointing.
1st Infusion: The first infusion had a very strong aroma to it. I'm not sure how to describe the actual aroma though, but it was not a sweet aroma, it reminded me of a citrus, but without the sweetness or sharpness of it. The liquor had a very strong flavor at the onset, it matched the aroma quite well and produced a very difficult to describe flavor as well. The flavor builds up gradually on the tongue and then intensifies rather quickly. After intensifying it drops off. There is a definite richness to this flavor, but it is not bold.
2nd Infusion: This infusion had a strong sense of bitterness to it, but the flavor and aroma were very similar to the first infusion.
Used Leaf: The used leaf for this tea was very interesting. I have not had much experience with oolongs, and so I was intrigued by the used leaf, the leaves were much larger than are used for many other teas and expanded quite a bit from the small comma shapes they had originally been. There were lots of small pieces broken off from the edges of the leaves though, this was most likely the source of the dust that I noticed.
Conclusion: The flavor for this tea was interesting, but I'm not sure that I really enjoyed it that much. The small broken pieces of the tea were a bit disappointing. I'm not sure if it is simply this tea or the style of tea that didn't really appeal that much to me.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Vendor: Mighty Leaf
Price: $19.95 / 4 oz.
Source: Darjeeling, India
Vendor Description: This unique Darjeeling Autumn Flush Oolong grown high in the foothills of the Himalayans produces a satisfying cup with a floral aroma and smooth, clean flavor. Partially oxidized or semi-fermented, this tea exhibits the best flavor characteristics of a high quality Darjeeling and a nuanced Oolong. Handmade at the prestigious Okayti estate known worldwide for its consistently superior Darjeeling teas, this Autumn Flush Oolong is sure to please.
Leaf: This tea was a bit more unusual of a look than the previous Darjeeling from Mighty Leaf. The color was very similar, but it also had some very bright white buds in it. It almost looked like someone had added a small amount of silver needle to the tea. The tea also had a lot more green to the color palette.
1st Infusion: There the same heavy aroma from this tea as the other Okayti Darjeeling, but this one also had some hints of an oolong sweetness to it. The first sip of this tea though tasted identical to the other Okayti Darjeeling. It was a full bodied Darjeeling flavor with a slight sense of bitterness to it. There were hints of the flavor and sweetness of an oolong tea, but they were masked by the strength of the Darjeeling flavor. I could find light degrees of sweetness here and there, but nothing really consistently noticeable.
2nd Infusion: At this point the leaf had fully opened up and the leaf was quite interesting to see. There were a variety of different colors to the leaf, really bringing about an autumnal feel. This infusion didn't have the same power to it as the first infusion did. This allowed for the oolong sweetness to shine through a bit more. The flavor held at a very smooth and low taste for most of the flavor, but at the end hit a nice tang. It left with a light sense of astringency. This infusion was a bit more of an oolong tea than the first.
Conclusion: This tea was a very strong and flavorful Darjeeling like the regular Okayti Darjeeling, but the oolong portion of it just wasn't that strong. I was hoping for a stronger marriage of the two styles of tea than trying to find some sweetness behind the boldness of the Darjeeling.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Vendor: Mighty Leaf
Price: $15.95 / 4 oz.
Source: Darjeeling, India
Vendor Description: Okayti Autumn Flush Darjeeling harvested in the autumn after the rainy season brews up a brisk and full-bodied cup. Sourced from prestigious Okayti tea estate nestled in the hills of Darjeeling, India, this Autumn Flush Darjeeling has a similar, but somewhat less delicate aroma and muscatel taste characteristic of Second Flush Darjeelings. With tippy brown and black tea leaves this tea yields a consistently smooth and flavorful liquor.
Leaf: The leaf for this tea was nothing unexpected. The leaf was a variety of colors, ranging from black to almost a silver needle color. This reminded me of pretty much any other Darjeeling in both size and shape. The hues were a bit different than a first flush though. The colors were slightly browner and reminded me of a set of fall colors.
1st Infusion: This tea had a very thick aroma to it, it reminded me of the smell of a kitchen somehow. I'm not sure how it was, but it was similar to the aroma felt very strong and heavy. The flavor is also thick and soft. There was a light sense of astringency and a medium body. The flavor is not as sharp as some of the other first flush darjeelings. It almost feels like there are two different flavors going on here. I could not really discern what each reminds me of, but there were two different peaks of flavor here. The flavor though was very smooth. The flavor profile for this was very complicated and I found myself trying to search through the flavor down to the last sip.
2nd Infusion: The aroma was a bit lighter in this infusion, but there was still a very strong component to it. It was as if some of the aroma had left, but what gave off the strong feeling still remained. This infusion tasted more like a first flush darjeeling, the flavor was concentrated toward the front of the taste and sharper. There was a medium sense of astringency to it, and the taste was very clean feeling now and the flavor was lighter. Yet the flavor was still rich and full bodied.
Conclusion: This was a very excellent tea. The flavor was complex and characteristic. Unfortunately the flavor felt as though it was a bit too complicated and there was too much going on. The price of the tea is also a very good price for a single estate darjeeling.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Gyokuro is the tea that I brew with the most precision. I have found that the factors involved with brewing it vary the flavor so much, and the price on gyokuro tends to be up there to make me not want to eyeball it on the first go.
There are primarily 6 different things that I use to brew gyokuro. From left to right, top to bottom:
2) Tokoname kyusu
3) Glass Gong Fu Serving Pitcher
4) Scale, small dish for weighing, and scoop
5) Normal teacup (this is the teacup you see in all the rest of my pictures, but in this one it didn't come out well)
6) Gong fu tasting cup.
To start when brewing a high quality gyokuro I refresh the water in my water kettle, this way it has not been sitting around and losing oxygen content. Once that comes to a boil I fill two of the glass gong fu serving pitchers with water. At this point the water is much too hot to use. I place the thermometer in the pitcher to keep an eye on the temperature.
At this point I normally weigh out my leaf, typically I use 10g / 60mL of tea. That's what the scale, scoop and dish are for. Once I have that weighed out I start cooling the water from one of the pitchers. To do this I rotate the water between the kyusu, teacup, and gong fu cup, and finally back to the pitcher. This allows all 3 of them to all stay warm and preheated. I continue doing this until the water temperature is about 160F. Once the pitcher is around 160F I return all the water from the pot and cups back to the pitcher and wait for it to cool to around 150F. I have heard a large variety of temperatures to use for gyokuro from 120-160F. Unless specifically recommended for that specific tea I use around 150F. I have been experimenting with this temperature though to some degree. I have been finding that cooler tends to produce a better cup of gyokuro, but not always.
Once the water has cooled sufficiently, I add the leaf to the kyusu and begin to add the water to the kyusu. To measure the water I use the gong fu cup because they are approx. 30mL. So two fills of that cup into the kyusu provides me with 60 mL of water in it. Again this amount of water may vary per tea if specifically instructed so. So far most instructions have varied from 30-60mL of water. I typically wait about 60-90 seconds, again depending on the tea, and experimentation to pour off the first cup. I make sure that when I pour the tea into my teacup to get as much of the tea out as I can, typically once most is out I will shake it a bit to get tea out. After that infusion I will reinfuse the tea with another 30-60 mL of water, but this time the infusion time is almost negligible. For this infusion I raise the temperature of the water by 5-10F by adding water from the other Gong Fu pitcher. The temperature change varies according to the taste of the first infusion. If the first infusion is strong then I won't raise the temperature as much, but on a weaker flavor I will up the temperature more. As soon as I add the water I swirl the pot around to allow the leaves (which tend to clump up after the first infusion) to swim around again. Immediately after that I pour off the second infusion.
Successive infusions are done the same way as the second, varying the temperature raising by 5-10F and immediately pouring the tea.
I don't always brew my gyokuro with this level of precision though. Once you try one you start to learn the flavor of that tea and how it reacts, you can experiment more at that point. The main parameters that I change are the amount of water and the temperature of the water. More water tends to give a slightly weaker infusion, but with some gyokuros the flavor is so strong that it could use a bit of lightening up. Higher water temperature brings out more flavor, but as the temperature rises it becomes more like a sencha in flavor. But at the same time not raising the temperature will give you a weaker tea.
So get out there and experiment to what flavor you enjoy the most.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $ 28.00 / 50g
Source: Fukuoka, Japan
Vendor Description: A top grade first-picked Gyoukro tea from Yame, Fukuoka with a robust flavor and deep sweetness.
About this tea: While I was arranging my teas getting ready for the shincha flush which I am eagerly awaiting, I ran across this tea. I had picked it up earlier in the year, but had forgotten that I had picked it up. Once I found it I knew that I had to open it up and try it for two reasons. The first being that the Yame Gyokuro Vil. Hoshino was a very delicious gyokuro and this one should only be better. The other being that it is a gyokuro shincha, which on the surface seems like there would be nothing odd about that statement. The more I talked to people about this though, it makes people wonder if that is really a misnomer or not. Shincha directly translates into "new tea", but typically is used to refer to the very special portion of the first pick for a sencha. Another point of question is that gyokuro is sometimes aged, sometimes it is not. If it were aged is it still a shincha when it is pulled out of storage? The tea is made from the first picking still, but it is not available until well after the sencha shincha comes around. There are differences in the processing of a shincha though that a regular tea does not undergo, the sorting is not as precise and it is not stored.
Leaf: With that said the leaf for this tea was a bit unusual. The gyokuro needles were not as uniform and long as I had seen with the non-shincha Yame Gyokuro Vil. Hoshino. There were also smaller lighter green tipped pieces, which turned out to be stems. The amount of stems in this tea were more than I am used to seeing in a gyokuro. Most gyokuro that I see is all uniform in color and has the stems removed. There are varieties of gyokuro which have stems intentionally mixed in, but I did not think this was one of them. The stems in this are probably a difference in the processing for a shincha.
1st Infusion: This tea had a beautiful light green hue to it. It was very clear and had an almost neon luminescence to it. Even the first sip fills the mouth with an abundance of rich gyokuro flavor. It is smooth and sweet, with no sense of astringency or bitterness. The flavor rapidly reaches a plateau where it holds for a moment and then tapers off leaving you with a distinctly gyokuro aftertaste. It is quite stunningly good, even if it was almost a year old from harvest.
2nd Infusion: The second infusion lacked the same clear color of the 1st infusion, this one was a bit cloudier. The flavor was stronger than the first, but not as sweet. The strong rich green gyokuro flavor was very full bodied and rich, and more flavorful.
3rd Infusion: This was a lighter flavored infusion, but it was still rich in flavor. There was still no bitterness or astringency.
4th Infusion: This was just as flavorful and delicious as the previous infusions, but it was apparent that the tea was starting to taper off.
Conclusion: Regardless of the age of this gyokuro and it's dubious nature as being a shincha, or if a shincha could exist for a gyokuro, it was all around delicious. I definitely enjoyed this tea and am awaiting to see what the 2008 version holds.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Vendor: Dragonwater Tea
Price: $3.00 / 1/2 oz.
Source: Meleng Estate, Assam, India
Vendor Description: Meleng Assam FTGFOP1 (SP) Tea. High grade Assam from the Meleng estate, FTGFOP1 (SP) (Full-leaf, Tippy, Golden, Flowery, Orange, Pekoe, Grade 1, Special).
Leaf: The leaf for this tea is a very interesting mix of black and gold colored leaves. As is typical with Assam teas the leaf is rather small compared to many other teas and curly. The golden leaves are quite visually appealing.
1st Infusion: The first infusion had a very dark and red color, the shade was almost brown in color. The aroma is very sweet. The flavor matches the aroma nicely, the flavor is as well short and bold. There is a very present richness in the flavor. It reaches an apex rather quickly and then tapers off just as fast. Once the tea is finished you find a very high sense of astringency left in your mouth.
2nd Infusion: The second infusion is lacking the same strength and boldness found in the initial sip of the 1st infusion. Where there was a sense of boldness when first tasting the tea, the second infusion felt emptier on the front end, almost like the initial taste has no tea flavor, and that you can taste the water. After that initial impression though the sweetness and strength still builds up and you experience the strong tea flavor that reached an apex quickly in the first infusion. On the backend though I felt the same emptiness that I found on the front of this infusion as well.
Conclusion: While the flavor was very enjoyable about this tea, it was a bit short and couldn't hold up for multiple infusions well. I enjoyed the taste, but it didn't last long enough. I didn't enjoy this as much as I would in comparison to a Darjeeling.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Vendor: Imperial Tea Court
Price: $11.00 / oz
Source: Fujian, China
Vendor Description: To meet "Imperial" standards, our Yinzhen ("silver needle") White Tea is harvested from the Da Yeh ("big leaf") tea cultivar grown in the Fu-An area of Fujian province. This varietal grows unusually large leaf buds covered with white down. The leaves must be harvested in early spring and carefully sun-dried for several days before being given a sort of brief roasting over hardwood charcoal in order to remove residual moisture and, in effect, seal in the flavor. White tea has been found to be unusually high in anti-oxidants. Imperial Silver Needles White Tea is mild, soothing, and delicious.
Leaf: The leaf had a very nice appearance to it, the needles were very even and uniform. They had a very even coating of hairs and they were almost all nicely intact buds.
1st Infusion: The liquor was very light in color, although it was slightly murky due to the small "hairs" from the needle floating around. The tea has a very rich aroma, and although it is strong it was still a light aroma. The flavor was light yet very robust. The flavor is very strong and powerful, but the strong flavor was quite light, just like the aroma.
2nd Infusion: The leaves were very evenly expanding and showed that almost all of the needles were quite even. There were very few broken pieces, and the small pieces that were broken were all small bits, no half broken needles. The flavor in this infusion was actually much sweeter and had a light delicate feeling to it. It had a very clean feeling and a very clean white flavor.
Conclusion: This was a very nice silver needle. The taste was light and clean, and yet strong. The leaf had a very nice appearance.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Vendor: Dragonwater Tea
Price: $24.60 / 4 oz.
Source: Zhejiang, China
Vendor Description: This entirely handmade, organic, superior-grade green tea is the most famous of China's Fifty Famous Teas.
Dragonwell (Organic) Tea. This entirely handmade, organic, superior-grade green tea is the most famous of China's Fifty Famous Teas. USDA organic.
Produced in the small Chinese village of Lung Ching (Dragon Well) west of the famous West Lake in Zhejiang province, this tea is known for its "four uniques": its green color, mellow taste, aroma, and beautiful shape. It has long been celebrated in both prose and poem, including mention by Lu Yu himself in Cha Jing (Classic of Tea) and famed Tang dynasty poet Su Dongpo.
One of the true congou teas, this one requires great gongfu, or skilled discipline, to harvest and create. Only the most tender buds and leaf are plucked by skilled fingers. They are then pan-fried in woks at carefully controlled temperatures to give the leaf its flat, dark green appearance. No other processing occurs.
Produces a yellowish-green cup with a slightly sweet, fresh flavor and a famous lingering aftertaste.Leaf: The leaf for this tea was very dark in color with a significant amount of broken leaves. The leaves were not evenly pressed down. The quality of the firing job was not as good as that of the Just4Tea Dragonwell. The dark color had more brown hues to it than green which was a bit surprising.
1st Infusion: This dragonwell was quite different than the others that I have tried. The aroma was significantly weaker, and reminded me somewhat of the roasted aroma of a Japanese green tea, like a Hojicha. The tea has a very light and smooth flavor to it, much lighter than the other Dragonwells that I have tried. The light flavor has a very unusual feeling to it as the tea is medium bodied and fills the mouth with this light flavor to a certain degree. Most of the more full bodied teas I have tried as of late have had a heavier flavor to be carried, but this carries a light flavor throughout the mouth. To pair with the light flavor though is no bitterness or astringency. At first I had thought that I might have under steeped this tea, although upon inspection of the used leaves they were almost completely opened. So far though this is the only dragonwell not to give me a headache. The flavor that I seem to associate with dragonwell was only slightly present in this tea.
Conclusion: I'm not really sure who would do well by this tea. It is relatively expensive and there are much better dragonwells out there. I was really unimpressed by this tea.
Monday, April 7, 2008
Vendor: Peet's Coffee and Tea
Price: $11.45 / 4oz
Vendor Description: Our finest blend of high-grown, whole-leaf black teas. The flavor is malty, floral, and complex.
We always use the best quality whole-leaf teas from India and China to make this blend. Normally, teas that are termed “self-drinking” (teas that do not require blending but contain enough quality and complexity to be drunk straight) are not used for blends. With Pride of the Port we set out to produce a cup that emphasizes the characteristics of our favorite origins, and that means using the best “self-drinking” teas we can. The flavor is malty, toasty, and fruity, with sweet honey notes balanced by a firm pungency. “Pride of the Port” was the name of the Maine-built clipper ship captained by the great-great-grandfather of Peet’s tea buyer.
Leaf: The leaf for this tea had really nothing remarkable about it. It was a fairly normal looking blend of black teas and a multitude of colors. It somewhat reminded me of mixing a Darjeeling with a black.
1st Infusion: The first infusion had an aroma similar to a Darjeeling. The flavor though was very mild and smooth. It felt surprisingly even, there were no peaks or changes, it simply came and went. It left with a light sense of astringency and no bitterness. This was probably the most mundane tasting tea I have ever tried. If I were to chart the intensity of the flavor it would be simply a flat line.
Conclusion: If it weren't for the price this tea would actually be fairly decent. It is a very consistent flavor, but for the price it would be better to get something more interesting.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $7.00 / 50g
Source: Darjeeling, India
Vendor Description: Blending only spring-picked Darjeeling, a tea with the fresh aroma of young leaves and a sharp refreshing astringency. Enjoy its gentle spring breeze-like flavor.
Leaf: The leaf was darker than the Badamtam Darjeeling that I tried earlier. There were a fair amount of smaller dust bits in the mix, but the majority of the leaf was regular twisted leaves. The colors of the leaves ranged from a dark almost black color to a light green color. There was not much whole leaf in the mix, most of it was broken leaves or stems.
1st Infusion: This tea had a strong characteristic Darjeeling aroma. The liquor had a rich golden red color. The flavor was full bodied and just filled the mouth with flavor. The flavor was a bit more general and duller than the Badamtam. The flavor slowly built up and then tapered down quite evenly. There was quite a bit of rich flavor and a lingering aftertaste. The tea finished with a medium sense of astringency. This infusion felt like it was more complex than the Badamtam, but it was quite broad and undecided.
2nd Infusion: This infusion was not so full bodied, it had a more medium body and left with a high astringency. There was a medium bitterness which was not present in the first infusion, and at the same time there just simply was not as much flavor.
Conclusion: While this was an excellent Darjeeling, it was not as pure as a single estate for obvious reasons. It was rich and tasty, but a bit too general for my tastes.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Source: Shiga, Japan
Price: $7.00 / 50g
Vendor Description: Shigaraki, famous production district for earthenware, is also famous as a production area of Ohmi tea. Its lingering aroma is truly exquisite.
Leaf: The leaf for this tea had a nice rich dark color to it. The leaves had a matte finish to them.
1st Infusion: The tea has a very nice aroma to it, the aroma is strong and distinctive. It is much stronger than most senchas and a very enjoyable aroma. The tea is light to the taste and hints at sweetness. There is a very clean feeling to this tea, although there is no noticeable bitterness or astringency.
2nd Infusion: Unlike the pale green infusion color of the 1st infusion the second had a bright yellow color to it. The flavor this time around was much stronger, especially at the back of the mouth. For the tip of the tongue there was a slight grassy flavor to be found. There was not much flavor on the front of the tongue. There was now a slight bitterness to the tea and a stronger smooth flavor. The aftertaste lingers for quite a while.
Conclusion: This is an interesting tea, nothing spectacular about it, but unique and tasteful in its own way. It is very light and refreshing. But at the same time the flavor is very complex with big changes between infusions.
Friday, April 4, 2008
Price: $17.50 / 4oz.
Vendor Description: Jasmine tea is made by stacking up alternating layers of premium green tea from Fuzhou area of Fujiang province and Jasmine petals. This scenting process is repeated multiple times. After the scenting process, the tea is then rolled to pearl-shaped balls, which gives the tea its name. It delivers a unique flowery scent with refresh green tea flavor.
Leaf: The color of the pearls was a lot more varied and generally browner than the pearls from Lupicia. The pearls had the same rather strong jasmine aroma to them.
1st Infusion: The leaf unfurls a bit unevenly, it does not have the same uniform appearance of of the Lupicia pearls. The infusion has the same strong aroma, although the aroma is not the same as the leaf. The tea was sweet, with an almost sugary flavor to it. There was a small tinge of bitterness, but it was not like the bitterness of a sencha at all. This bitterness was almost from too much of a tea flavor, but the actual flavor was not quite that strong. There were quite a few flavors going on in this tea that complicated it, but it was not as pure of a flavor as the Lupicia Jasmine Pearls.
2nd Infusion: The aroma now had a more woody almost singed aroma to the leaf now. The liquor was still brown in color. The flavor though was much flatter this time, there was no sweetness in the flavor. It also left a bit of dryness on the tongue alone, which turns into a light astringency. There are trace amounts of jasmine in the aroma though.
3rd infusion: This infusion had a stronger, medium sense of bitterness and a medium sense of astringency. The astringency and bitterness clouded up any flavor that remained. There was still a light aroma. The now unfurled leaves also showed that the pearls were not made of the two leaves and bud that the Lupicia pearls were made of, these included some larger broader leaves further down the stem.
Conclusion: The quality on this tea just wasn't up to par. It didn't provide the same enjoyable purity of a higher grade Jasmine Pearl. I would say if you're going to get a Jasmine Pearl get the Lupicia one over this, the quality is just that much better.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Price: $22.50 / 40z.
Vendor Description: Unfermented and grown in the Loin Peak Mountain in the Hang Zhou area of Zhejiang province. Like other high grade green tea, Dragon Well is made of tender tea shoots or known to be "one-bud-and-two-leaves". It delivers a gentle, dedicate crisp flavor and a lasting floral aftertaste. The tea leaves dance like flowers when it soaked in the glass and create a elegant presentation.
Leaf: The leaf for this dragonwell was much smaller and more uniform than that of the Teavana leaf that I had tried previously. I was hoping that this might be a sign of a difference in the quality of the Teavana tea and this one. As usual the leaves themselves were pressed flat due to the firing process of this tea.
1st Infusion: The aroma of this dragonwell was very similar to that of the Teavana dragonwell that I had tried. It has a rather characteristic flavor, and yet at the same time reminds me of other Chinese greens. Something about this aroma though gives me a headache when trying out dragonwell. The flavor itself was quite light, and at the same time reminds me of most other Chinese greens that I have tried. It's another one of those flavors which no matter of words can describe, but once you have had some Dragonwell you know what flavor is unique to Chinese greens. This particular dragonwell though felt very sweet. Not the same sweetness as a Gyokuro, but a mild sweetness. The sweetness is on the front end of the flavor and it almost pauses before the strength of the dragonwell flavor reaches a peak and then slowly tapers off for a long finish. The dragonwell flavor itself carries a slight bitterness and when you finish you are left with a medium sense of astringency.
2nd Infusion: Nothing much seems to have changed with this infusion. It has a very similar aroma and the flavor is the same.
Conclusion: While I liked this dragonwell a lot better than the one from Teavana, I'm still not a big fan of this tea. I don't know what it is, but something about this tea gives me a headache. I'm also not a big fan of Chinese greens, but that's a bit more of my personal perspective. I feel that a Dragonwell could do better if I found one with a stronger flavor, but this one feels a bit too mild still.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Vendor: Costco / Ito-en
This was a teabag that I was given to compare it for review. Costco is not normally somewhere that I would look for tea, but I figured I would review it anyway.
Teabag: The teabag was packaged individually in mylar packaging. When I opened the teabag there was a small puff of green tea which surprised me. I wasn't expecting this to be a Sencha Matcha bag since the teabag wasn't labeled as that. It was simply labeled as Japanese Green Tea, such an informative title, right? The teabag itself was made of the same material as most teabags are nowadays with a nylon like mesh material. The bag was in the shape of a satchel though, cut as a completely flat pouch, with no ribbing for expansion.
1st Infusion: The tea gave off a very strong sencha scent. As expected from a from a sencha matcha blend the color was very murky and a bright green color. The flavor of the tea was actually very weak. The tea had no bitterness or astrignecy and the flavor was very hard to find. In general it seems like the tea had the right look, just not enough of a flavor to back it.
Conclusion: There just wasn't enough of a flavor here to really enjoy this tea. The appearance of the tea was quite nice, but it was quite lacking in strength.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Vendor: Dragonwater Tea
I got this tea as part of the Dragonwater tea tasting club, but interestingly it is no longer available on their website.
Leaf: The leaf has a color very much like a green silver needle. There were a lot of buds in it, but the tea was rather broken unlike a silver needle. It consists of a mixture of leaf and buds. The leaf shape and size was very uneven.
1st Infusion: This tea has an aroma very similar to a dragonwell, like many other Chinese greens. The flavor of this tea is very strong initially, but then a smooth flavor tails off leaving a long lasting flavor on the tongue. The flavor feels rather standardly like a Chinese green, with nothing much to make it very unique and distinguished.
2nd Infusion: The second infusion had a weaker flavor than the first and lacked a lot of the flavor of the first. This one was slightly astringent.
Conclusion: This tea lacked any very distinguishing characteristics and did not have a very appealing leaf to it. It really only went for one infusion as well, so ended up not being that impressive.