Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Xue Ya Ballad

Tea: Xue Ya Ballad
Vendor: Adagio Teas
Price: $9/ 3 oz.
Source: Keemun, China
Vendor Description: An early spring harvest green - unusual for the Keemun region - this tea features gentle chestnut notes and complex fruit-like, mellow sweetness with a delicate yellow cup color. Once you have heard its lovely notes, you will return to it again and again.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is dark green with some silver hairs to it. Overall the colors of the leaf are rather muted and dull. They are relatively long leaves, with a thin twisting to them. No notable aromas to the dry leaf though.

1st Infusion Parameters: 5g, 5oz, 185F, 45s

1st Infusion: This tea has a yellow green hue to it. It is lightly murky with a sharp and distinctively Chinese green aroma to it. It can best be described as being vegetal in nature. The tea has some early marine flavors which transition into a pan fired sharpness. There is no aftertaste to speak of, but the core of the flavor is rather bold. It feels somewhat complicated, but at the same time a bit muddled.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 30s, 185F

2nd Infusion: This infusion has a bolder, stronger yellow color to it. Overall the color is much more intense. It again is lightly murky. This time around though the tea exhibited a medium sense of astringency, but it lacks the marine hues of the first. There is a strong central flavor to be found here with some strong roasted notes to it. It feels very much like a Long Jing without the creaminess.

Rating: 5/10

Conclusion: Overall a fairly average tea, not too expensive, but not too fabulous either. It would probably make for a good staple Chinese green tea if you're looking for one, but personally I would like to stick to something a bit more fantastic.

Black Dragon Pearls

Tea: Black Dragon Pearls
Vendor: Adagio Teas
Price: $19/5 oz.
Source: Yunnan, China
Vendor Description: Hailing from the Yunnan province, this black tea version of the popular Dragon Pearl is naturally sweet and smooth with a touch of earthiness. Comprised of only the highest quality leaves and buds, expertly rolled into a large pearl-like shape. Subtle cocoa notes whisper gently as each pearl unfurls delivering a superior tea experience not to be missed. We suggest using 2-3 Dragon Pearls per cup for a sublime tea drinking experience.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is rather interesting. It consists of black and yellow balls. They're about the size of gumballs, weighing about 1g each. They are rather compressed looking and much larger than jasmine pearls. They have the golden appearance that some Yunnan teas are known for (Yunnan Gold for example). There is a very faint aroma to the balls, it strangely reminds me of Nestea instant powdered iced tea.

1st Infusion Parameters: 3.13g., 5oz, 208F, 5 min

1st Infusion: The tea has a dark brown, red hue to it. The infused leaf makes it apparent that the balls are just compressed leaf. They are not from a single triplet like most jasmine pearls are, nor are they bound together like presentation teas. The tea has a very subdued aroma to it, not making much of an impression at all. Overall the tea feels subtle, yet very flavorful. It slowly opens up into a very bodied taste. It is very mellow and smooth. There is no bitterness or astringency to it, which is rather surprising for a black tea.

Rating: 8/10

Conclusion: While I wasn't really expecting much from this tea, I was rather surprised. I had expected it to be more novelty in the pearls than a solid flavor, but the flavor proved out over some of the more expensive Yunnan Gold teas that I have had in the past. It is smooth and enjoyable for when you want something that's got some power to it, but doesn't ask for sugar or milk.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Sorry for the lack of posts lately, I've been in the middle of a big move. New reviews up next week! I promise!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tea Top Brew Mug Winner

And the winner of the Tea Top Brew Mug is Loreen T.! Winner will be contacted by email.

Thanks for all the great entries you guys, it was interesting to read all of the different reasons and stories. I might have to put together a few more giveaways for you guys further down the line.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tea Top Brew Mug Deadline

Deadline for the free Tea Top Brew Mug is Tomorrow (I'll cut it off at midnight pst) so get your entries in!

Tea's Flavor Spectrum

Recently thoughts of the difference in flavor between Tamaryokucha and Long Jing got me thinking. The flavor of tea is so wide and varied, how many teas would it take to give someone an overview of the different types and flavor styles of tea? Which ones would you suggest? So far I've come up with these:

Green: Sencha, Longjing
Red: Darjeeling, Assam, Ceylon, Yunnan
Blue(Oolong): Phoenix, Wu Yi, Taiwanese Green
Yellow: Not really needed
White: Silver Needle

So far I have 10, but I don't really know the realm of Pu well enough to say what would be needed to express that area. I'm guessing two though. Which puts my list around 12. I'm a bit hesitant of dedicating a third of that to red teas though.

What do you guys think? What is the essential must try teas to express the flavor spectrum of tea?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Tea Top Brew Mug Giveaway

Mighty Leaf has been kind to donate a Tea Top Brew Mug for a lucky reader! That's right if you win you will be sent a free Tea Top Brew Mug! All you have to do is email me and tell me why you should get a new Tea Top Brew Mug for free! (Winner is chosen at random though. I just want to read some amusing entries.)

Deadline is next Friday! (9/11/09)

Get those entries in!

Tea Top Brew Mug

Product: Tea Top Brew Mug
Vendor: Mighty Leaf
Price: $12.95
Vendor Description: You no longer have to drink over-brewed tea with this easy-to-use "traveling teapot" for enjoying whole leaf tea on the go. Our Tea Top Brew Mug is the first of its kind: a mobile mug crafted especially for tea drinkers.

The double-walled stainless steel mobile mug brews whole leaf Tea Pouches, keeping your tea hot, while staying cool to the touch.

Tea Top Brew mug holds 14 oz. Not dishwasher-safe; hand wash only.

Travel Mug: Today I get to review a new travel mug from Mighty Leaf. This mug is very similar to most travel mugs for hot beverages with one main exception. There is a slit in a dome on the top of the mug. This allows you to pass through the tab from your teabag and pull the teabag up until it is stuck so it is out of the tea. The general idea is that you can pull the teabag out from your water to prevent it from further steeping in the mug, a major problem of some of those loose leaf travel mugs. When the teabag is pulled through it resembles a handkerchief or Kleenex sticking out of a dispenser. It does a good job of keeping out of the water/tea. One thing I did find rather interesting about this product is unlike many travel mugs the top is not threaded on, but rather only has a rubber gasket to keep it in place. I like this much better than any of the threaded type mugs that I have tried in the past.

Usage: I tried this mug with three different types of teabag, a Mighty Leaf teabag, a Lupicia tetrahedral mesh bag, and a Kalahari Red Tea satchel. The Mighty Leaf teabag worked perfectly, as the product was made for it. Mighty Leaf teabags are sewn together with the drawstring itself so there is much less of a chance of it coming off. Also the shape of the teabag lends itself well for this handkerchief style pulling. The Lupicia tetrahedral didn't fair as well. Unfortunately tetrahedral teabags are not attached at one of the corners, but partly through the side of the bag. Because of this you cannot pull a corner through the opening in the mug as easily. Also the thicker nature of the tetrahedral bag does not allow it to get stuck as easily. Lastly since the drawstring is affixed to the bag there is a chance the string can pop off, this happened in my testing. Lastly was the Kalahari Red Tea satchel style teabag, this is the same type of teabag you see in lower end packaged teas and the traditional looking Lipton teabag shape. Again with this teabag the string is not affixed to a corner, but is rather loosely held down by a staple in the teabag. When trying to pull it up through the slot it simply came undone. Much more easily than the tetrahedral bag. Also due to the staple's location it could not be pulled up through the hole at all. At least the tetrahedral came up a little bit. Basically this mug was designed for Mighty Leaf teabags, and performs admirably with them. With other teabags it's not such a great bet.

Thermal: As a double walled stainless mug a big portion of this product is the insulating capacity. For this, I placed some hot water in the mug and charted the temperature over time. The mug was sitting on a table in a 74F room filled to the fill line with plain water. As shown in the chart to the right (click through for a readable version) the temperature dropped about a degree a minute for the first 20 minutes or so, and then cooled a bit slower. After almost 2 hours at 125F the water was still warm, but not hot. The mug handled itself fairly well as expected for a travel mug. By 2 hours after filling I don't really expect to be drinking piping hot tea anymore, I probably would have finished it before then.

Conclusion: This is a rather nice travel mug. It works best with Mighty Leaf teabags, but will work for tetrahedrals as well. I would have liked to see some sort of tie off mechanism on the top of the mug for non-ML teabags to hold the out of the water. A handle on any travel mug would also have been a nice addition. Despite my thoughts for improvement I rather like this mug. If you like to drink ML teabags anywhere but your desk, I would say this is a must have. It's not very expensive for a travel mug and it holds heat fairly well. If you're not a big fan of ML teabags you might want to continue your search, but I haven't seen anything else that comes close to fitting this arena yet.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Know your mushi

A comment left by Steven Knoerr pointed out that not everyone reading this blog may know what the different mushi levels are. (Mushi means steamed in Japanese). So here's a brief explanation of them.

Japanese sencha comes in three main categories when it comes to steaming: Asamushi, Chumushi, and Fukamushi.

Asamushi is light steaming. It is most common with shincha in a way to retain the light fresh characteristics of shincha. The leaves are characterized by larger pieces of leaf being intact than the rest as further steaming breaks down the leaves turning them into smaller more particulate pieces. This is not to say that there won't be smaller pieces in the mix, quite the contrary. The appearance of the different levels are all comparative. Asamushi tends to result in a clearer liquor with a light and clean taste to it. It feels more delicate than a chumushi and in my opinion shows the most depth of character.

Chumushi is medium steaming. This is average steaming, and probably the hardest to identify. It is between asamushi and chumushi and has a few characteristics of either end of the spectrum. Most sencha has been chumushi, but it is a changing tide for fukamushi to take center stage. Chumushi is normally what asamushi and fukamushi are compared against. Asamushi is lighter than a chumushi, but a chumushi is lighter than a fukamushi. The flavor is the most traditional of the three and is more of a baseline.

Fukamushi is deep steaming. This is heavy steaming which makes it quite easy to identify the tea. The extra steaming breaks down the leaves further. The leaf typically appears as very small particles with a few long needles mixed in. If you were to place a typical fukamushi tea in a round bowl or the bottom of your teapot and swirl it around, it will have an almost fluid motion to it. Asamushi and chumushi don't do this, the larger pieces don't flow evenly. Fukamushi is supposed to have been developed in response to deteriorating water quality in Japan. Other sources have stated it was due to a decline in the quality of the tea leaves produced. Fukamushi produces a very murky tea liquor as there is a lot of very fine particulate matter that disperses in the tea during steeping. This is most evident after about 1 minute of steeping or on second infusion depending upon how you are steeping your tea. Typically the tea will become a murky forest green color. I find the flavor for fukamushi to be much more up front, after drinking it for a while you can tell that the up front flavor is masking the rest of the flavor that you would see in an asamushi or a chumushi.

Unfortunately even though there are 3 steaming levels, teas are not produced purely as one or the other, the length of the steaming is determined by the tea makers as the leaves come in, so there is a continuum of levels rather than 3 distinct levels. There are teas which are halfway between a chumushi and a fukamushi or an asamushi, or anywhere in between. Because of the lack of distinct levels it can be hard to tell which is which especially between an asamushi and a chumushi. Fukamushi is rather distinctive.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Blue Moon

Tea: Blue Moon
Vendor: Red Leaf Tea
Price: $ 3.99 / .4oz - $9.99 / 3.2 oz
Vendor Description: The Blue Moon Tea is a very rare tea from Europe that is made primarily of black tea with pieces of safflower, marigolds and blue mallow blossoms. The tea is characterized by a full-bodied flavor with a hint of sweetness from the Marigold. The safflower and the blue mallow blossoms contributed to the color of this fragrant tea.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea consists of smallish black orthodox leaf. It has some bright orange and yellow flowers mixed in with the leaf. The leaf has a somewhat sweet smell mixed in a musty leaf aroma.

1st Infusion Parameters: 3g, 5oz, 208F, 3min

1st Infusion: This tea produced a clear orange hue. There was a light and sweet characteristic black tea aroma to it. There was an almost citric undertone to the flavor. The flavor was light and sharp with a lofty feeling to it. Despite being sharp it was bold all the way through from front to back. The central flavor on the tongue was quite strong and reminded me of that citric undertone again. There is a bit of a tart flavor that lingers on the tongue as an afterthought.

Rating: 4/10

Conclusion: This is another one of those black flavored teas that feel like they're trying to hard. It's a mix of so many different flavors that you cannot really find any singular flavor, just a feeling. It's not one of Red Leaf's really pricey offerings and isn't that bad, but there isn't really anything singularly amazing about it either. Broad, round jumbled flavor, moderate price. Unless you really like those I would suggest looking elsewhere.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Adagio's Roots

Adagio started up their new Roots Campaign, a series of interviews with the farmers of their teas from which 10% of the sales go to the farmer who grew it.

This month's farmer is Lin Chui Feng from Fu Ding, Fu Jian Province, China. he is responsible for the Jasmine #12 tea from Adagio, their Jasmine Pearls. The interview itself is quite interesting and I can't wait to see what the rest of this series holds.

What is probably most interesting about this are two things to me. One is that Adagio must be sourcing their Jasmine #12 from Lin Chui Feng on a regular basis, as opposed to other tea shops which get their teas from whomever they consider the best for that harvest. Secondly I'm a bit surprised that they only source one tea from this provider for this month. I'm wondering if later months they will feature a farmer who sources more than one tea for Adagio. It's a bit interesting to learn about the sourcing for Adagio.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Tea: Takumi
Vendor: Zencha
Price: $31.00 / 100g (shipping included)
Source: Yame, Japan
Vendor Description: This premium sencha is produced from leaves of Gokou, a variety of tea plant. Only first two leaves and buds are carefully picked by hands.
Rich in natural sweet aroma and fresh scent with excellent astringent taste.

Leaf: This tea is very distinctively a fukamushi. There are primiarly small particulate pieces to this tea with a few larger, longer leaves. The larger leaves are all long and narrow. The dry leaf as a whole has a sweet aroma to it.

1st Infusion Parameters: 5g, 185F, 5oz, 45s

1st Infusion: The infusion is lightly murky in color, somewhat expected of a fukamushi. It has a yellow-green hue to it with a light snappy aroma. The aroma feels a bit like there are hints of the sweetness of a yutaka midori in it, but the aroma is very light overall. There is a light marine flavor to the tea. The flavor overall is very delicate and complex. It finishes with a light astringency.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 185F, 15s

2nd Infusion: This infusion has the characteristic dark green murky hue of a fukamushi. It is almost dark enough to be a forest green hue. The aroma is not very strong, but it is thick. The flavor of the tea is sharp and almost stinging in nature. There is a strong and bold central flavor to it with a light aftertaste. The tea finishes with a medium sense of astringency.

Rating: 8/10

Conclusion: This tea was very interesting. It's another example of the somewhat hard to fine Yame sencha. It shows the complexity found in some of the other Yame Senchas, and performs pretty much as expected. The price for this tea is well within range for it's quality. I would love to see this tea as an asamushi though.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Classifying Tea

Recently I have been putting a fair amount of thought into the classification of tea. With the widely varied number of styles, types, origins, grades, etc. of tea, how do you go about classifying it? So far I have come across 3 main types of classification of tea for first tier classification, none of which do a very good job in my opinion.

1. Chinese Method - The Chinese method is the closest to a good system that I have seen. It is the normal classification by the 6 colors: Red(Black) , Green, White, Yellow, Blue (Oolong), and Black (Puer).

2. Oxidation level - This is the classification into 3 categories: Unoxidized, Semi-Oxidized, and Oxidized.

3. Country of Origin - Easily enough, what country the tea comes from. China, Japan, India, etc.

Unfortunately none of these classification systems say much in their own right, and area almost all incorporated into the naming and classification of any tea. With the possibility of Oxidation level which is determined in the Chinese method. So if you were to start a tree of all tea types and subtypes and subsubtypes how would you start it? Would you start with the Country of Origin so you wouldn't have as many colors in each, or would you repeat your countries in different colors?

At first it seems easy enough because you think that aside from the first two tiers it won't change that much. But what about when you think about classifying a Japanese Tamaryokucha vs. a Chinese Long Jing? When you think about it a Tamaryokucha and a Long Jing share much in common, possibly more so than the Tamarokucha and a Sencha. Both the Long Jing and the Tamaryokucha are pan fired, where the Sencha is steamed. But they come from different countries, they're both green teas. But a Sencha and a Tamaryokucha share a country and are both greens.

As countries produce more varied types of teas I start to wonder how we should classify teas now. A Darjeeling Oolong vs. a Taiwanese Oolong vs. a Chinese Oolong. Different teas, different styles, and different flavors. (Although there is a bit of similarity between Taiwanese and certain Chinese Oolongs.)

Something to think about the next time you're looking at a shopping list of teas. Let me know what you guys think.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Early Spring Bai Sha Lu

Tea: Early Spring Bai Sha Lu
Vendor: Jing Tea Shop
Price: $2.99 / 100g
Source: Hai Nan Province, China
Vendor Description: First batch of 2009! This steamed green tea is the most famous green tea of Hai Nan island. The birth place of this tea is named Wu Zhi Shan (five fingers mountain), which has a very good environment for tea plantations.

This top grade Bai Sha Lu is a chopped green tea made with very tender buds and leaves. It has a pale green color that is frosted with its natural "tea sugar" on the surface. The dry leaves give a fresh nutty and sweet fragrance. The bright yellow liquor is thick, smooth, and, pure. A lovely sweetness comforts the mouth after drinking. A good everyday green tea to start the spring.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is a somewhat uniform matte green color. Almost all of the leaves are uniformly sized at about 1cm. The uniformity of the leaves almost resemble koekicha. The aroma is a bit odd, it reminds me of pork & beans.

1st Infusion Parameters: 5g, 5oz, 185F, 45s

1st Infusion: This tea has a lightly murky yellow green color to it. The aroma is sharp with a flavor to match. My first reaction to this tea is that the tea has a sharp bitterness to it. Beyond this there is a light smokiness to it. It is very bodied with a medium astringency.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 185F, Instant pour

2nd Infusion: This is a little hazy yellow hue. There is a bit of a woody aroma to it. The tea is a bit brothy with a smoky and woody flavor to it. It finishes up with a medium sense of astringency.

Rating: 8/10

Conclusion: This tea is a bit of a surprise to me. It has a very bold and strong sense to it, but isn't terribly bad for it. It's not a tea that I would drink alone, but that would pair well with food. And at the price it is very affordable. Not the finest tea that I have run across, but a very good bargain. Thank you to Salsero over at Teachat for this sample.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Tea: Benico - 5538
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $6.50 / 50g
Vendor Description: An invigorating black tea blend with ruby colored acerola, hibiscus and rosehips. Pakced with vitamin C, enjoy this blend iced to combat the fatigue of hot summer weather.

Leaf: The leaf is a rather typical looking black leaf base. It has a sweet, apple cider like aroma. The aroma is very broad.

1st Infusion Parameters: 3g, 5Oz, 208F, 3 min

1st Infusion: The aroma to the tea is very broad and sweet. The tea itself is a clear brown hue. The flavor is very broad and short lived. There is very little to no aftertaste. The center of the tea is a nice solid black tea flavor. The flavor is broad, warm and enveloping. It finishes with a light sense of astringency.

Rating: 6/10

Conclusion: This tea is a pretty nice flavored black tea. The flavor is sweet, but very general. It is almost like sweetening a tea without sweeteners. The price isn't too bad for a flavored black, but isn't particularly inexpensive either.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pineapple Oolong

Tea: Pineapple Oolong - 8510
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $9.00 / 50g.
Vendor Description: Taiwanese oolong tea flavored with sweet pineapple using the famous Taiwanese pineapple cake as its image.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is a yellow green Taiwanese style balled oolong tea. There are small dried pieces of pineapple. The leaf has a very matte color to it, it looks like a rather large amount of stem is still attached on the balls. Most are multi-leaf clusters. The aroma to the tea is sweet and somewhat confused. It is a mix of the sweetness of the fruit with the fresh aroma of the Taiwanese oolong. There is a rather wide variety int he size of the leaf balls.

1st Infusion Parameter: 5g, 5oz, 208F, 45s

1st Infusion: The tea has a bright yellow hue to it. The aroma is predominantly that of a green oolong, it is bold and strong, but not very clear. The flavor of the tea has a snappy pineapple flavor sitting atop the green oolong flavor. The flavor reminds me very much of a dried piece of pineapple, but the tea isn't very sweet. It's for the most part light and short lived. The dried pineapple flavor feels as though it's masking the green oolong flavor slightly. The two flavors seem to go well together, but the pineapple is a bit on top.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 1:30, 208F

2nd Infusion: This infusion has a golden brown color it it. There is less aroma, but what is there feels very wide and broad. The flavor is bolder with a stronger pineapple flavor. It feels like a good pairing of the sweetness of the pineapple and the freshness of the oolong. Strangely this pairing brings to mind hints of beer flavoring. There is a light astringency on the back end of the tea. As the flavor progresses it feels as though it deepens.

Rating: 7/10

Conclusion: Interesting flavor pairing. The two seem to go well together, although the pineapple is edging out above the oolong. Although sweet pineapple tends to be more outstanding of a flavor than a fresh Taiwanese oolong. Although it's pretty good, at it's price it is a bit steep. I think for it's price I would like to stick to something a bit more refined and unflavored.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New Tastes in Green Tea: A Novel Flavor for Familiar Drinks, Dishes, and Desserts

Book: New Tastes in Green Tea: A Novel Flavor for Familiar Drinks, Dishes, and Desserts

This is a rather unique book in the realm of books on tea. It is written from a very Japan oriented point of view. It describes some of the variants and nuances of Japanese green tea, with only brief recognition of the rest. But with this narrowness comes specialty. It describes the Japanese processes of making and brewing Japanese tea better than more general books, which try to define brewing alongside the methods for Chinese green teas as well.

A good portion of this book is recipes. From different matcha latte type drinks to Green Tea Croquettes, it has a varied list of different recipes. Which unlike most other books on the topic of tea, really looks to the now and forward, rather than how tea arrived to where it is today. I feel as though it raises the question of where tea will go in the future, rather than concentrating on it's history only.

In general this book is an interesting short read. It has some beautiful photography from a few tea shops / cafes that I would love to go to in Japan, and some interesting recipes that I'm bound to try. This is probably the most creative and modern tea book that I have read so far.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ba Xian Dan Cong Winter Single Bush

Tea: Ba Xian Dan Cong, Winter Single Bush
Vendor: Jing Tea Shop
Price: $29.00 / 100g

About this tea: This tea was a sample provided to me by Salsero over at Tea Chat. This tea is no longer available from the Jing Tea Shop website so the information pertaining to it is a bit short.

Leaf: This tea is a mix of dark black colored leaf along with some green leaf. This reminds me of the Yulan Dancong from Canton Tea Co. Some of the leaves are light green in color. There is a light floral aroma with a medium intensity to the leaf. Most of the leaf is slightly wider and flatter than most Dan Cong oolongs.

1st Infusion Parameters: 5g, 5 oz, 208F, 45s, 5s rinse

1st Infusion: The tea is a yellow green hue. It has a very vibrant aroma and reminds me of freshness. There is quite a bit of aroma to this tea. The flavor is bold and full bodied. There is a light tinge of sharpness and a light side of the mouth sense of astringency. The tea has a definite green freshness to it.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 45s, 208F

2nd Infusion: This infusion has a browner hue than the first. It is less floral of an aroma. It feels thicker and heavier. The flavor is lighter and snappier, with a light sense of astringency.

Rating: 7/10

Conclusion: The first infusion of this tea had a fantastic sense of aroma. Unfortunately that all but disappeared in the second infusion. I'm still not quite sure what I think of greener Dan Cong oolong teas, and this is definitely one of them. The price is affordable for a good Dan Cong, but there are others that perform better for less.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Lupicia Tastings

For those of you in the SF Bay Area or the LA area, it looks like Lupicia is holding another tasting event next week. Date and time depend on which Lupicia location you're heading to. The list of teas that they're covering are a nice range of the different aspects of Japanese Green Tea. A Fukamushi, Tamaryokucha, Genmaicha, Houjicha, and Matcha. A nice little lineup for a free tasting! Attendance is limited to a limited number of people per session, cap varies per location. It's worth going to if you're in the area.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Tea: Narcissus
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $5.00 / 50g
Vendor Description: Oolong tea with a distinctive aroma and refreshing astringency. As it has a refreshing aftertaste, it even goes well with oily dishes.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is a large black colored oolong tea. It reminds me somewhat of the Glorious Seed (Se Zhong) tea in terms of shape and light rolling. It however is a much darker oolong than Glorious Seed. While Glorious Seed was a green oolong, this is a much darker oolong, with an aroma that reminds me of Wuyi oolongs. (I have a feeling that is what this one is.)

1st Infusion Parameters: 5g, 5oz, 208F, 45s, 5s rinse

1st Infusion: This infusion has a thick and heavy aroma to it. The tea has a hue similar to that of a light cup of coffee. The flavor is thick and rich. Most of the flavor is on the outer sides of my mouth. The central portion of the flavor isn't as strong as the sides. It starts out up front but moves to the sides instead of down the center. There is a very heavy roasted type flavor to this tea.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 1:30, 208F

2nd Infusion: This infusion has the same dark coffee brown hue as the first. The aroma though is much lighter than the first. The flavor is still rich and bodied. It is intense and bold, starting early on in the front and moving into a nice middle flavor. It is much stronger than the first infusion.

3rd Infusion Parameters: 2:00, 208F

3rd Infusion: The hue this time was a bit lighter than the second infusion. There is still a light aroma to the tea. The flavor is significantly lighter than that for the second infusion, but it feels very even from the start to the finish. It finishes with a light sense of astringency.

4th Infusion Parameters: 3:00, 208F

4th Infusion: This infusion has a lighter copper color. The flavor is even lighter than before, although it still has a good degree of body left to the tea. There is no bitterness or astringency though.

Rating: 7/10

Conclusion: This tea is best described as an everyday Wuyi. Although I have no idea if the tea is actually from the Wuyi mountains, it feels like it is. The flavor isn't as refined as some nicer Wuyi oolongs, but it is representative. It's relatively nicely priced and has the strength to continue for a fair number of infusions.

Premium Secha

Tea: Premium Sencha
Vendor: Aiya America

Leaf: This appears to be a chumushi type sencha, something of a rarity it seems nowdays. There is a moderate amount of polishing on the leaves, quite average overall though. The tea has plenty of nice long thin needles. There is a bit of a marine aroma to the leaf, but not too much.

1st Infusion Parameters: 5g, 5oz, 185F, 45s

1st Infusion: There is a clear light green hue to this tea, well in line with it being a chumushi sencha. There is also very little sediment and a sweet sencha aroma. It is a light and refreshing aroma that I don't run across very often. The flavor is light, but there are notes of marine in it. The rest of the flavor wraps around the marine notes in a light softness. The aftertaste is smooth and light.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 185F, 15s

2nd Infusion: This infusion has a deeper yellow green hue to it. It is murkier than the first infusion, but not so much as say a fukamushi. The aroma is bolder with a much sharper presence. There are still strong marine flavors to the tea, but the tea feels overall stronger. It reminds me somewhat of a gyokuro and makes me wonder if this tea is a kabusecha. There is a light aftertaste to this bold flavor.

Rating: 8/10

Conclusion: I very much enjoyed this tea. The first infusion was delicate and pleasant, and the second showed more strength and reminded me of a kabusecha or a gyokuro almost. One thing I wish for with this tea is direct ordering / pricing. The tea itself was a growing rarity in this world of fukamushi.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Steepster is an interesting site I came across a few days ago. It seems almost like a twitter for tea. (That also posts to twitter for you if you like). Whenever you drink a tea you can log that you drank it, a few notes about it, and if you liked it or not. You can also follow other people to see what they are drinking or just look up a tea and find quick notes and thoughts on them from everyone who has drank them. What's nice is that it separates each tea by their vendor, and if a tea is not there, you may add one. The list is growing, but is already quite expansive. Personally I would like to see more sorting / organization beyond the normal Black / Green / Oolong / etc lines and see some way to dig in to say find Wuyi rock oolongs or Japanese Green Teas. Although that brings up some good questions on organization that I've been thinking about, but that's for a later time once I've thought it through a bit more. For now though, Steepster, still in Beta looks to be a promising new frontier on the land of tea cataloging, reviewing and blogging.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Silver Star

Tea: Silver Star
Vendor: Red Leaf Tea
Price: $3.59 / .4oz - $8.99 / 3.2 oz
Vendor Description: The Silver Star is a fragrant tea from Europe that combines the full-bodied flavor of black tea and the rich taste of black currant tea. The tea is packed with the goodness and benefits of strawberry leaves, known to relieve diarrhea and a host of other ailments. The currant also lends a sweet flavor to the Russian Silver.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is a smallish orthodox black leaf. The leaves are smaller than most orthodox leaves. There are some small light white/green pieces of leaf mixed in. It has a smooth and sweet aroma to it, the specific aroma feels very hard to pinpoint as it seems with almost all of Red Leaf Tea's offerings so far.

1st Infusion Parameters: 3g, 5oz, 208F, 3 min

1st Infusion: This tea produced a red-brown hue. It has the same sweet aroma as the dry leaf, and is still rather difficult to pinpoint. The tea itself is rather bold and flavorful. It has no bitterness or astringency and a generally fruity flavor overall.

Rating: 5/10

Conclusion: So far this has been the best of the Red Leaf Tea offerings. According to the vendor description the aroma is from strawberry and black currant leaves added in. They produce a decently subtle yet sweet flavoring to the tea, but it is a bit on the mundane side. This tea isn't terribly outlandishly priced, but is still on the higher end for a flavored black tea. Overall somewhat average.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Silver Needle

Tea: Silver Needle
Vendor: Red Leaf Tea
Price: $4.99 / .2oz - $12.99 / 1.6 oz
Vendor Description: Silver Needle White Tea is quite possibly one of the highest grade teas that you will find, and this, along with its rarity, explains its somewhat high cost. Nevertheless, we are sure that you will find its price more than worth it, as the 100% silver leaf buds offers tangy, fresh flavor with subtle flowery touches and a delicate astringency. This tea displays a cup that is bold in color and very sweet, giving you a delicate yet satisfying drinking experience.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is a rather typical looking Silver Needle style tea. It has a dark green color underneath the hairs coating the leaves. There is a bit of a fruitiness to the aroma to these leaves. The buds are very thin, thinner than most that I have seen.

1st Infusion Parameters: 2.5g / 5 oz / 185F / 1:30

1st Infusion: There is a light haziness to this tea, somewhat expected from the small hairs coming off of the needles. The color of the tea has an odd yellow-red hue to it, the hue shows light shades of red which is rather unique for a Silver Needle. Aside from that the tea looks much like a typical Silver Needle. The aroma is thick, but not in the typical manner for a Silver Needle. Rather it is thick with small hints of creaminess inside of the aroma. The flavor is light with some light fruity hues to it. They seem to be at the tip of the flavor and like the Black Night, hard to pinpoint.

Rating: 3/10

Conclusion: This is a pretty normal Silver Needle. It does have a bit of an oddness to it, I can't get over thinking that some flavoring oils were added to this tea in a light amount. The thing that is probably harshest on this tea though is it's price. Even at the best price point, this tea is more expensive than the phenomenal Silver Needles offered by Jing Tea and Canton Tea Co. This tea just doesn't seem to have anything redeeming it for this price point.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Black Night

Tea: Black Night
Vendor: Red Leaf Tea
Price: $3.99 / .4 oz - $9.99 / 3.2 oz
Vendor Description: Black Night is a robust tea with a very mild hint of sweetness. The Black Night has a strong flavor and aroma and can retain its strong taste for several years because it is more oxidized than the other varieties of tea. The Black Night also contains high levels of anti-oxidant and has higher caffeine content than some tea varieties.

Leaf: The leaf of this tea consists of rather small and odd pieces. They are not round like CTC teas, nor are they particularly leafy like most black teas. It is most akin to a small grade of an orthodox tea. There is a rather fruity aroma to this tea, it is rather difficult to pinpoint, but gives off hints of orange and berries. It has an almost musty aroma to it.

1st Infusion Parameters: 3g, 5oz, 208F, 3 min

1st Infusion: This tea produces a clear dark red hue. The flavor is smooth with a light astringency on it. There is a light flavor which is slightly akin to an Earl Grey flavor, and it has the tanginess of it. Aside from that this seems like a somewhat nondescript tea and feels a bit confused as to what it's flavor is.

Rating: 2/10

Conclusion: This tea is a bit confusing, it feels like it is trying to be a few different flavored teas at the same time, but not to the point of expressing a combined flavor. If likened to a party, it would be like a room where everyone is talking just loud enough that there's some sound, but you can't listen to anyone in particular. Combined with the rather pricey nature on the low weight end to needing 3.2 oz to get a better price, I don't see this tea as being anything particularly stellar. If you like flavors, pick a flavor and get a specified flavor, if you're looking for a purity of taste pick a nice singular tea.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Little Tea Book

While searching through the offerings on Google Books, I came across the full text of The Little Tea Book by Arthur Gray, published in 1903. (Well in the public domain at this point) A short book, around 100 pages, very small pages mind you. This was a very interesting look at the world of tea about a century ago. A large deal of this book is poetry, excerpts, and other quotes from other authors, poets, sources, etc. The rest is somewhat of an interesting read. As would be expected of a book from 1903, there is a good deal of comments on the nature of women and their habit with tea, sexism that is rather comical in today's light. Some of the historical mentions are rather interesting as well, including Chanoyu, Sencha preparation, Gaiwan preparation, and many more. Spellings are also very interesting including "Giy-ôku-ro-châ", which nowdays we refer to as Gyokuro.

All in all this is an interesting insight into the tea world of 100 years ago. And it's a free read. It's short, and it's definitely worth checking out.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Red Blossom Tea

Today I had the chance to stop by Red Blossom Tea in San Francisco. I had known about Red Blossom for quite some time, its notoriety even having a section in the book The Way to Tea. Albeit I was a bit cautious of really checking out a tea store on Grant street in SF, right in the heart of chinatown. I thought to myself how serious of a teashop could it be, sharing a street with all of those shops that sell I heart SF sweatshirts, Golden Gate Bridge shot glasses, and CA license plates with your name on them. Nonetheless though I went to check them out and was pleasantly surprised.

Red Blossom is a very small tea shop. It is a narrow little place, one side lined with all of the cans of tea and the other lined with a myriad of teawares. The decor is quite modern and minimal in it's design, very much feeling like Teance, but more minimalist. Quite the contrast to the rest of Grant with baskets full of red and gold trinkets. As befitting their location and style, they offer Chinese and Taiwanese teas. In the middle of the store they have a pair of tea tables setup with beautiful tea trays and all that they would need to pour up a wonderful cup of tea. While I marvelled at some of the teas (including a Song Zhong Phoenix) the staff was more than eager to help me and answer any questions I had. Also while I was waiting for a few teas to be packaged up the staff also offered me a sample of a few similar teas (for me it was an aged Phoenix). A friend of mine who was with me, and doesn't know much about tea, was more than educated on the differences in teas and all of those interesting tidbits that you learn when first entering the world of tea.

The staff is very helpful and for the most part knowledgeable, amusingly at some points. One staff member looked at the label for Xin Ren Xiang (Almond Fragrance Phoenix) and simply referred to it as Almond to the chuckles of a more fluent staff member. Knowledge yes, Mandarin pronunciation needs a bit of work. Although it's not like I could do any better.

Teas are packaged upon demand in mylar bags and heat sealed. Prior to that they are stored in the traditional large tins. I can't wait to do some reviews of these teas. If you're in SF it's definitely worth stopping in to check them out.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Tea: Hojicha
Vendor: Aiya America

About This Tea: Aiya America is the American branch of Aiya Co. in Japan. They offer a selection of teas in the normal leaf spectrum as well as a variety of grades of matcha for private label. They deal in bulk wholesale transactions, so little is known about their pricing.

Leaf: The leaf for their hojicha seems like a very lightly roasted leaf. It still has shades of green on parts of the leaf and the leaves are all very large. There is quite a bit of rolling with these leaves, not just flattening like is seen with some hojicha. The aroma is light to match the light color.

1st Infusion Parameters: 5g, 5oz, 208F, 1 min

1st Infusion: This tea produces a nice caramel brown hue. There is a light amount of sediment to this tea, but for the most part it is a clear brew. The aroma is thick and musky. The thickness of thea aroma masks the characteristic roasted aroma of a hojicha. The flavor is very light and early, it has a thin consistency to it. The roasting is noticeable on the backend of the falvor. This tea has a very mouth watering feeling to it. There is no bitterness or astringency to this tea and it rolls quite easily down the tongue.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 208F, 2min

2nd Infusion: This infusion had a reddish - brown hue to it, it's almost autumnal. The aroma is very light and clear this time, very roasted. The flavor is much more bodied, but not terribly intense. It is still a front loaded flavor with most of the flavor very early on. There is a light sense of astringency on the backend, but overall this is a very smooth hojicha.

Rating: 7/10

Conclusion: This is an overall very nice lightly roasted hojicha. Unfortunately because Aiya is primarily a wholesale company, it's hard to say anything about the value / cost of this tea. It has a very solid feeling to it though.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Blueberry Tea Shortbread

Snack: Blueberry Tea Shortbread
Vendor: Biscotea
Vendor Description:White Tea from China's Fujian province has long been celebrated for it's cooling properties. High in antioxidants, this tea is mellow, slightly woodsy in character and combines subtly with Organic Blueberry flavor and the richness of BISCOTTEA® Shortbread.

This shortbread again felt rather crunchy for a shortbread. The snack itself is speckled with small dark particles, which I'm assuming to be bits from the blueberries. The sweet flavor of blueberries is very prominent and is a very enjoyable shortbread. It took me a minute to realize the tea component to this particular offering as the Chai was very obvious. The blueberry sits atop the creaminess of white tea. In comparison to a normal shortbread, the sweetness and fruitiness of the blueberries sit atop the normal buttery flavor of a shortbread, which all rests atop the thick creaminess of a white tea.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Chai Tea Shortbread

Snack: Chai Tea Shortbread
Vendor: Biscotea
Vendor Description: Savor the delicate balance of fragrant Organic Chai Spices — cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger and pepper — and the richness of traditional BISCOTTEA® Shortbread.

Biscotea is a brand that offers shortbread with a mix of tea added in. This particular one is chai flavored. It has a nice chai aroma to it with a strong cinnamon constituent. At the same time it still smells very buttery and shortbreadlike. It is a little harder and less flaky than most shortbread that I have tried, making it resemble more of a cookie than a shortbread. When tasting it, there is a definite chai flavor that is unmistakable in the flavor. It is a bit sweeter than most other shortbread, where butter is more prominent than the sweetness. The cinnamon and clove flavor linger on the tongue as moisture in your mouth dry up a little bit, being soaked up in the dryness of the cookie. The dryness pairs very well with tea and they make a good pairing.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Feng Huang Milan Dancong

Tea: Feng Huang Milan Dancong
Vendor: Jing Tea Shop
Price: $4.99 / 100g
Source: Guangdong, China
Vendor Description: Everyday milan tea from the Wudong Mountain, Feng Huang town. The tea only went through its first baking steps which allows the leaves to offers a more flowery then honey profile. The liquor is quite pure, after taste has medium lenght. The tea will be rebaked later in the month so now is a good time to get acquainted with the flowery character of a milan dancong.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is a very large and fluffy black leaf, rather well cared for and unbroken. There is a light aroma to the leaf. It is a very phoenix style characteristic aroma. It is rather faint so it is a bit difficult to narrow it down a bit more than that. The leaves are an assortment of brown hues.

1st Infusion Parameters: 5g, 5oz, 208F, 45s, 5s rinse

1st Infusion: This tea has a lovely sweet and floral aroma. The liquor shows a clear brown hue with shades of red. The aroma feels very broad and general. The flavor matches the aroma well, both in breadth and generality. The flavor of the tea is very bodied. Despite the heavy body it has a nice and light, flavorful feeling to it. The core of the flavor is very thin, but the sides are stronger than the core of the flavor. There is a thickness left on the tongue as an aftertaste. The backend of the flavor is somewhat thick.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 208F, 1:00

2nd Infusion: This infusion was a darker golden brown hue. It is lightly murky with a lighter aroma to it. The flavor still lacks the central portion of the core as the first infusion though. There is a light astringency and bitterness in the flavor. It feels a bit sharp on the tongue, but shows a decent body. The flavor is in general a very smooth, yet crisp flavor overall.

3rd Infusion Parameters: 1:45, 208F

3rd Infusion: This infusion was a more golden brown hue than previous infusions. This one again shows a light aroma, no real change from the previous infusions, just simply a light aroma. The flavor was a sharper bitter flavor again. It finishes with a medium high astringency on the backend. There is a snappy bitterness in the aftertaste.

Rating: 3/10

Conclusion: This tea was interesting. Aside from the Royal Phoenix from Tao of Tea it's the only other Phoenix that I have found in this particular price range. From what I have seen of teas in this range though, it leads me to believe that it's better to just stay above this range if you're looking for a Phoenix oolong. For me one of the most alluring parts of a Phoenix is the ever so disticnt, yet indescribable aroma. That is something that was utterly lacking with this tea. Also the depth of the flavor were not showing that well before the tea turned more bitter and astringent. When going for a Phoenix oolong in my opinion you should, as Emeril would say, kick it up a notch! Thank you to Salsero over at Teachat though for providing me this sample.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Zhejiang Mao Feng

Tea: Zhejiang Mao Feng
Vendor: Narien Teas
Price: $13.00 / 4 oz
Source: Zhejiang, China
Vendor Description: Grown in a traditional tea garden in the southern Zhejiang province of China, Our Mao Feng green tea brews soft golden cup with a clear, sweet flavor and aroma.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is a dark green leaf, it is very strand like, twisted. The hues of the leaf vary from a light almost white green to deep rich greens while maintaining an average of a dark green throughout. The twisting is almost spiral in nature.

1st Infusion Parameters: 5g, 5oz, 185F, 1:00

1st Infusion: This infusion had a bold color to it, a dark yellow hue. There was a bit of murkiness to the tea. The flavor was bold and strong. It had a bit of a sharpness to it. It reminds me of a sweeter version of a bancha to a degree, the sharpness was similar. There was a hint of marine flavor in it along with a light bitterness. Overall the flavor was both rich and flavorful.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 185F, 1:30

2nd Infusion: This infusion was a little lighter on the color. A light to medium yellow hue. The flavor had a medium astringency to it paired with a light marine tinge again. It reminded me of some sencha that I have had mixed with a little bit of gyokuro. A bit unusual coming from a Chinese green tea.

Rating: 3/10

Conclusion: There is nothing terribly spectacular about this tea. It seems like similar in many characteristics to Japanese green tea, but falls short compared to it's brethren. Chinese green teas have their own style and flavor and so do Japanese green teas. This feels too much to me like a Chinese green tea trying to be a Japanese green tea. While it could be an argument of provenance to say that Chinese green tea came first and Japanese was an offshoot or a development of that, as they stand today this Mao Feng feels like it wants to be a Japanese green tea. I say if you want that flavor, go for Japanese.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tasting and Describing Tea

I was reading an post over at Tea Geek Blogs titled Why We Shouldn't Describe Tea. And it basically goes on to point out the complexity of descriptions of flavors, colors, and all the senses involved with drinking tea. He suggests not trying to describe tea and put it into words, but rather to simply enjoy the tea.

I have some rather mixed feelings about this post. On one hand I think that there is a grain of truth to what he says. It is difficult to impossible to describe the flavor of tea. That's why all tea descriptions in my opinion are comparative matters. But does that mean that you shouldn't describe tea? No, you should in fact strive harder to describe it. People have strived for ages to put down in words the indescribable, and this shouldn't be any different.

So my suggestion, drink tea. Drink lots of it. Think about it, enjoy it, compare it to other teas. If writing it down helps you convey what you're tasting, do it. If you don't think you can accurately express it in words, try anyway, you'll only get better by trying.

Teabag - Genmaicha

Tea: Genmaicha
Vendor: Maeda-en
Price: $4.50 / 10 teabags
Vendor Description: Craving a good cup of tea, but not in the mood to deal with the mess? We have just the solution for you!
Maeda-en is proud to offer you deliciousness and convenience all at the same time: crushed Genmai-cha (leaves AND rice!) are packed in mesh pyramid bags for the maximum steeping & easy clean up. It brews the beautiful green liquor, and tastes just like a whole leaf brew!

Teabag: The teabag for this tea has some very small rice in it. I would guess to say that the rice has been crushed like the tea. There is a quite a bit of dust on the teabag as well as inside of the package. There is a moderate amount of stem pieces in the mix. The mix reminds me quite a bit of the mix that was in the sencha teabag.

1st Infusion Parameters: 185F, 3min, 5 oz, 1 teabag (2g)

1st Infusion: The tea comes out lightly murky, through the murkiness there is a lightly radiant yellow-green color. The aroma is very broad and strong and is primarily represented by the toasted rice aroma. It reminds me very much of rice crackers. The flavor of the tea itself has a medium strength with a very soft flavor. It is very much dominated by the rice flavor.

Rating: 5/10

Conclusion: Like the sencha this teabag was an improvement on their previous product's design, although like the sencha I would have liked to see more leaf in the bag. I also didn't really see any reason to crush the tea, larger leaf like that used by most nicer teabag producers would have probably been nicer.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pre Rain Organic Anji Bai Cha

Tea: Pre Rain Organic Anji Bai Cha
Vendor: Jing Tea
Price: £15.00 / 50g
Source: Zhejiang, China
Vendor Description: Deliciously fresh, picked on 3rd April 2009 from the Undulating Retreat garden. The first picking of the year, before the Qing Ming festival.

Vivacious and exuberant flavours combine spring blossom scents with sweet sappiness, lush textures and beautiful floral top notes.

Certified organic by the Soil Association. Fair Trade certified by IMO Switzerland.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is a light green fluffy leaf. It is lightly pressed with a brilliant fresh green hue to it. There is a light and fresh aroma to it. The leaf is a mix of smaller buds mixed with larger leaves and buds.

1st Infusion Parameters: 3g, 50z, 185F, 1 min

1st Infusion: This tea has a clear radiant yellow-green hue. It has a bright and fresh aroma to it. The flavor is very smooth with a mouth watering feel ot it. The aftertaste is a bit empty after an overall somewhat light and delicate flavor. It feels quite a bit like a light sencha.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 2:00, 185F

2nd Infusion: This tea again shows a brilliant fresh aroma, to a yellow hued infusion this time. The aroma is not present in quantity, but rather a light yet fresh brilliance. There is a rich feeling to the flavor of the tea, but this is in contrast to an almost empty flavor all around. It feels like this tea is more about the background flavor than the central prominent flavor.

Rating: 4/10

Conclusion: The best way to describe this tea is light and subtle. The subtle nature of this tea is quite enjoyable, but a bit light. It is well representative of spring, showing some vibrance and freshness. It is also quite expensive though. More leaf compensates for the light flavor, but that exacerbates the relatively steep price for this tea.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Tea: Malama EH-6
Vendor: Lupicia USA

About This Tea: Malama is one of the exclusive teas only available from the Hawaii store of Lupicia. I picked this up as part of of the gift set that was available through retail outlets earlier this year.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is a typical orthodox black leaf mixed in with small CTC pellets. There is a rich cocoa aroma to the leaf and some small pieces of macadamia nut in the mix. There are a few other pieces in the mix that I can't seem to identify.

1st Infusion Parameters: 3g, 5Oz, 208F, 3 min

1st Infusion: This tea has a very strong and sweet cocoa aroma, it reminds me of some cocoa powder. The flavor of the tea is overall quite light, which does not match with the rich dark color of the tea. The flavor even though it is light is quite bold from the beginning to the end. The cocoa shines through the flavor and is a nice bit of an addition. It rounds out the flavor quite nicely. The flavor is overall quite rich and ends with a little bit of astringency.

Rating: 7/10

Conclusion: This tea is quite interesting. The cocoa mixed with the black tea provides a nice round flavor for the tea, but the availability of the tea is a bit offputting. It is nice, and it would be worth picking up if it was available easily, but I don't know if it is unique enough to go searching this one out.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Teabag - Sencha

Tea: Sencha
Vendor: Maeda-En
Price: $4.50 / 10pc
Vendor Description: Craving a good cup of tea, but not in the mood to deal with the mess? We have just the solution for you!
Maeda-en is proud to offer you deliciousness and convenience all at the same time: crushed Sencha leaves are packed in mesh pyramid bags for the maximum steeping & easy clean up. It brews the beautiful green liquor, and tastes just like a whole leaf brew!

About this tea: Recently Maeda-en contacted me and wondered if I would like to give their teabags another go around. It seems that since my last review of their gyokuro teabags they switched from using a satchel type teabag to using a tetrahedral teabag shape.

Teabag: Each of these teabags comes individually wrapped. When opening up the teabag, quite a bit of powder comes out with the teabag. The amount of tea reminds me of a matcha laced genmaicha, but this is just because maeda-en apparently crushes their sencha for packing in the teabag. The teabags are in fact now a tetrahedral shape, and they are filled with small pieces of sencha leaf. The leaf is all very uniform in size and shape, it is smaller than rooibos in size. There is a noticeable light green glint of stem in the mix. The aroma of the teabag is a bit unusual, it is lightly marine in aroma and smells very broad in nature. Unlike some of the more specific teas it has a very overall green aroma to it.

1st Infusion Parameters: 1 teabag (2g), 5oz, 185F, 2min
1st Infusion: This teabag produces a murky darker green colored tea. There is not much of an aroma to it. The flavor is light and clear. The flavor is quite broad with a light central flavor to it. There is no astringency or bitterness, but overall the flavor seems a bit light. The used teabag is not pressing against the sides of the mesh strongly meaning plenty of space in the teabag, but at the same time there is room to have added more leaf in and still not see any size issues.

Rating: 5/10

Conclusion: While this is a significant improvement from the satchel type of teabags before, the tea is not terribly impressive. Granted it probably felt a bit weak due to the ratio I used, one teabag held 2g, wheras for this volume of water I'm normally using 3-5g at a shorter infusion time. The flavor was very broad, which I am getting the feeling that this was intentionally blended as such. All in all it's a somewhat inexepensive solution for individually wrapped teabags, good for taking tea on the go.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Jade Dew Mingjian

Tea: Jade Dew Mingjian - 6286
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $7.50 / 50g
Source: Taiwan
Vendor Description: Fully enjoy the luxurious flavor just like jasmine with the winter-picked Taiwanese oolong tea.

Leaf: The leaf consists typically shaped ball formed oolong tea. The balls are smaller than most that I see, but typically tightly rolled with some stem visitble. The leaf is very matte in color, and it has a very sweet and heavy aroma to it.

1st Infusion Parameters: 5g, 5oz, 208F, 45s

1st Infusion: The tea has a radiant green color. It is green, radiant and quite clear. There is a heavy yet bold and strong aroma to the tea. The flavor is very focused on the front and middle portions of the flavor. It shows a very round flavor overall.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 1:00, 208F
2nd Infusion: This infusion has a much stronger aroma, yet retains the radiant green color of the first. It has a thick and rich aroma to it still. The flavor has moved toward the back end in this infusion instead of the frontal notions from the first. There is a light sense of astringency on the back now.

3rd Infusion Parameters: 2:00, 208F

3rd Infusion: This infusion was much bolder in color. Instead of the radiant green of the first and second infusions it switched toa more yellow green color. The flavor is much bolder than the first two, and shifted back toward the front of the flavor. It feels a bit empty and ends with a light astringency on the back end.

Rating: 7/10
Conclusion: This is a pretty solid Taiwanese oolong. There isn't anything terribly outstanding, detracting, or unusual about it. It's pretty characteristic for the class of oolong. Simple, smooth, green and normal. It is reasonably priced for a solid green oolong. It holds up well for a few infusions and is a very good representation of class.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Iced Tea

With 4th of July just around the corner Iced Tea is becoming all the buzz it seems. It makes perfect sense too, with the mercury rising who wants to make a piping hot cup of oolong and drink it down. I for one don't. In actuality though I tend to keep some black iced tea on hand pretty much all year round. So I thought I would share my formula for iced tea that I use.

20g black tea leaf (pretty much any will do)
2 quarts ice
2 quarts water
apple juice/honey/orange juice or fruit (optional)

I normally bring the 2 quarts of water to a full rolling boil and then toss in the 20g of black leaf. The leaf that I use tends to be a mix of different sources, leftovers from various reviews, tidbits leftover, and sometimes I just add some in the mix to change up the flavor. Normally I use some flavored tea leaf for this. Mixing and matching different flavors produces a nice variety of flavors, and the base teas tend to be the same base. I.e. if you were to get yourself a handful of different flavored teas from Adagio's flavored selection and mix and match to make your batch of tea is an ideal way to keep it changing and still consistent. Once the leaf is added to the boiling water I turn off the heat and put the lid back on the kettle. I let it steep for 5 minutes. While this is happening I get my 5qt iced tea jug (one of those little plastic jugs with the spout on the bottom) Fill it about halfway with the ice and a little bit of water. If I have some juice, fruit or honey, I add that in at this point. It adds for a little bit of sweetness. Normally I use either one orange or apple, or a few ounces of juice. About a tablespoon of honey works well too. After the tea has steeped for 5 minutes, strain the tea into the jug and stir. Alternatively if you don't have ice handy and you don't need it right away, you can also just replace the ice with cool water and stick it into the refrigerator.

A few things to note about the way that I make Iced tea though. I tend to like mine a bit on the stronger side, if you find it is too strong for you, either dilute it more or cut back on the leaf. Your initial tea will have a dark, but clear appearance to it, after cooling the clearness will be replaced by a browner murky hue. This is normal and doesn't really affect the flavor. This also seems to be a factor of the strength I brew mine at. If you go for a lighter brew you won't see this as readily.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Silver Needle

Tea: Silver Neeldle
Vendor: Jing Tea
Price: £6.90/50g
Source: Fujian, China
Vendor Description: Picked at the end of March this year, long, soft and downy, Silver Needle comprises the first spring buds of the Da-Bai tea plant. It comes from Fuding, a serene region with icy waterfalls and crystal clear lakes. The peaceful setting is reflected in the flavour - soft and mellow,with the freshness of honeydew melon and the soothing sweetness of a ripe cantaloupe. It’s an easy-drinking tea that's ideal for drinking on long and lingering afternoons, or well into the night.

Leaf: The leaf for this Silver Needle is a very vibrant green and white mix of hues. More so than most SN the color is really standing out with this tea. It has the distinctive fluffiness of a SN in a quite exemplary form. The bottom end of the buds have small amounts of blackening which I have seen on a few other SN teas before. The aroma is very vibrant and creamy. It has an almost peachish aroma to it.

1st Infusion Parameters: 5g, 50z, 185F, 1:20

1st Infusion: This infusion has a golden yellow hue to it, and the aroma is thick and sweet. It is bold and in charge, and is a perfect example of the creamy aroma of a SN. The flavor is fresh and crisp, not something seen in many SN, but it is still a light hearted tea. The flavor overall is quite well rounded with a slight conservative emptiness to it.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 2:00, 185F

2nd Infusion: This infusion has the same golden color, and the aroma is even more enthusiastic. Everything about this tea simply says vibrance. The flavor is creamy yet light, thick, but not overly so.

Rating: 10/10

Conclusion: This is one of the best SNs that I've tried to date. It is slightly different than some others in that the key to this tea is the vibrance and the freshness of the SN. A few others focus more on the subtle flavor and the creaminess. These aspects are present in this tea, but take second seat to the vibrant fresh flavors.