Sunday, May 31, 2009

Phoenix Oolong

Tea: Supreme Phoenix Oolong
Vendor: Aroma Tea Shop
Price: $16.00 / 2 oz
Source: Guangdong, China
Vendor Description:Our Supreme Phoenix Oolong has an even more astonishing fragrance and aroma compared to the lower grades. This top grade Amber Oolong also originates from the Phoenix Mountains of Guangdong Province of China. Not to be missed for those who love a rich Amber Oolong.

Leaf: This tea has a smaller leaf size than most Phoenix Oolongs that I have tried. There are a fair amount of smaller pieces in the mix and a light sweet characteristic phoenix aroma to it.

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

1st Infusion: This infusion has a rich chocolaty brown hue to it. The aroma is bold and intense. It is less floral than some others I have tried, but still strong and distinctively phoenix. The flavor is very bodied and bold. It feels centered in the front and middle ending with a light aftertaste. The aftertaste is light and clean.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 208F, 45s

2nd Infusion: This infusion has the same rich brown hue to it. The aroma is still bold, it has an almost savory aroma to it. The front of the flavor is very bold and intense. It is very smooth all the way through tapering down to a light bitter aftertaste. It is strong and has quite a bit of intense flavor to it.

3rd Infusion Parameters: 208F, 1:30

3rd Infusion: This time the color was a little lighter brown. It was still crystal clear with a bold and rich aroma to it. The flavor was a lot lighter than before, but it finishes with a clean aftertaste and just a hint of astingency.

4th Infusion Parameters: 208F, 3:00

4th Infusion: This infusion has the same brown hue to it. The aroma is light, and there is not much left to it. The flavor is light and crisp, it is showing signs of letting up. There is a medium astringency on it, but it is still flavorful.

Rating: 8/10

Conclusion: This is a pretty good phoenix oolong for the lower end spectrum. At it's price it's about on par for what it should be. It's not as specialized in flavor as the specific variety bushes, and the flavor shows that. It is about where it should be for it's price. While bold and intense it is broad and unrefined. What it lacks in clairty it tries to make up for in intensity.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Organic Emerald Pearls

Tea: Organic Emerald Pearls
Vendor: Mighty Leaf
Price: $16.95 / 4 oz
Source: Anhui, China
Vendor Description: Organic Emerald Pearls green tea, grown on a farm in the Yellow Mountains of China's Anhui province, has tender, deep green leaves and buds. With a flowery aroma and fresh, sweet green tea flavor, this organic green tea is a unique taste experience.

Leaf: This leaf is a light and fluffy green tea. It's probably one of the fluffiest greens that I have seen. The leaves are all smaller more delicate leaves with a very fresh green aroma to them.

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

1st Infusion: This infusion has a light and fresh aroma to it. It reminds me lightly of a dragonwell in terms of aroma. It is rather characteristically a Chinese green tea though. The color of the tea itself is a yellow brown hue. The flavor is surprisingly sweet and creamy. The combination is quite interesting for this tea. There is no bitterness or astringency to this tea.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 45s, 185F

2nd Infusion: This infusion has a lighter green color to it. The infused leaf reminds me of used sencha leaf. It is surprisingly light green in color though. The flavor is much bolder as a green tea though. It is not as sweet as the first infusion, but has a rich flavor to it.

Rating: 7/10

Conclusion: This tea is interesting. It is probably one of the best organics that I have had, but it had a rather surprising change between the first and second infusions. It would have been better if it was a bit more uniform in flavor. The name of this tea is a bit misleading, the pearls portion of the name remind me of Jasmine Pearls which are typically rolled into balls, this tea was quite the opposite.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mt. Ali Taiwan Oolong - 6290

Tea: Mt. Ali Taiwan Oolong -6290
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $26.50 / 50g
Source: Jiayi, Taiwan
Vendor Description: A flowery flavor diffuses throughout your mouth the moment you taste this winter-picked Taiwanese alpine tea.

About This Tea: This is one of the winter harvest oolongs that was sampled at the Lupicia Tasting event.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea comes in the form of large rather uniformly sized balls. They have a clean and clear, yet strong aroma. The aroma exudes a sense of green freshness and floral notes. The balls have a light glossiness to their green hues.

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

1st Infusion: This tea has a brilliant floral aroma to it. It is very clear and singly refined. The tea itself is clear with an almost radiant light green color to it. The flavor matches the aroma with a sense of freshness and alight clean flavor. Tucked in the folds of the crispness of this tea there are light floral notes.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 208F, 1:30

2nd Infusion: The aroma of this tea intensified with this infusion. The hue shifted a bit toward the yellow side of things. The flavor matched the intensification of the aroma and showed itself as a rich, clear and singular flavor. The aroma feels very well tied to the flavor, both feel crisp and clear.

3rd Infusion Parameters: 2:15, 208F

3rd Infusion: This infusion has an even deeper green hue. It has the same rich and intense taste to it, there is a little bit of an astringency on the back end of this infusion though.

4th Infusion Parameters: 3:00, 208F

4th Infusion: The aroma in this infusion is starting to lighten up. The hue is a lighter clear green color. The flavor is still very singular and refined. The astringency is built up a bit more to a medium astringnecy.

5th Infusion Parameters: 4:00, 208F

5th Infusion: This infusion has a noticeably yellower colro to it. The aroma is a bit hard to detect at this point. The flavor feels a bit on the light side, and it's not as deep of a flavor as it was before.

Rating: 10/10

Conclusion: This tea is quite a fantastic Taiwanese oolong. The flavor is clear and refined, it held up without significant change for 5 solid infusions. It is rather pricey though at around 50c/g. All in all quite a remarkable tea.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Teavent - Taiwan Winter Tea Tasting

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to attend one of Lupicia's tasting events to showcase their new winter Taiwanese Oolongs. This was the first of the 6 times this even is being held in the SF Bay Area. There are a few in the Southern California stores as well.

The teas they sampled were their Tikuanyin, Jade Dew Mingjian, Milky Gold Mingjian, Tung Ting Heavy Roast, Mt. Ali, and a special Shan Lin Xi. The TKY was sampled to show the comparative difference between a Chinese green oolong and the Taiwanese green oolongs. The Shan Lin Xi was a special competition winning oolong that unfortunately is not available for sale, but a special treat for the event.

The tasting consisted of a first and second infusion of the teas with the exception of the Shan Lin Xi, which went well into 5. The event was informative if you don't know much about production of Taiwanese oolongs or some of the more complicated brewing styles in general. Both gaiwans and gongfu brewing were used. The tasting also included the use of aroma cups for a few of the teas, which were new to most of the attendees.

All in all the teas were quite enjoyable, and the event was quite fun. I look forward to the next events that they may hold in the coming months. If you can make it to one of these events I would highly suggest attending. You get to try out some fabulous teas for free.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Earl Grey Grand Classic

Tea: Earl Grey Grand Classic - 5204
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $9.00 / 50g
Vendor Description:Reproduction of tea loved by Earl Grey of England and used to produce Earl Grey tea. Smoky flavor, matching delicate fragrance of Chinese fruit dragon's eye. Graceful distinct character like an English gent.

Leaf: The leaf consists of typical black leaf with some green/brown accents to it. There is a very very bold aroma to it. It is almost an overpowering bergamont aroma. This is somewhat to be expected though of an Earl Grey tea.

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

1st Infusion: The infusion shares the same strong bold bergamont aroma that the leaf has. The tea is a moderate brown color. The flavor is strong, but the bergamont is almost overpowering. There is a snappy sharpness early on in the flavor, but that dissipates as the flavor continues further. It leaves with a definite bergamont aftertaste.

Rating: 6/10

Conclusion: This is probably the best Earl Grey that I have had thus far, but that still doesn't make me a big fan of it. I'm just not a big fan of bergamont. But the flavoring in this tea is large and in charge as opposed to some more mildly flavored Earl Grey teas. It is priced somewhat high for flavored black tea. Great for fans of the type, or Star Trek fans.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Organic yellow Flower

Tea: Organic Yellow Flower
Vendor: Mighty Leaf
Price: $16.95 / 4 oz
Source: Anhui, China
Vendor Description: Organic Yellow Flower green tea, is a handcrafted tea grown in China's Anhui province. Often called yellow bud or yellow flower, its slender green-yellow leaves yield a sweet, floral character and a yellow colored cup. With a clean and smooth taste this chinese tea will refresh and revitalize.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is a very light and fluffy green leaf. It looks a little like a silver needle and a little like a yellow tea. The color is on the lighter side, between a yellow tea and a green. The leaf is mostly buds, but not as small as some silver needle teas. They are slightly more developed buds and a few lower leaves as well. Some of the leaves have the characteristic silver hairs of a silver needle on them. There is a very fresh green aroma to the tea.

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

1st Infusion: This infusion has a pale yellow hue to it. There is a bright and fresh green aroma to it. Surprisingly it reminds me a bit of a sencha. The flavor is creamy and smooth. The feeling is a lot like a silver needle in texture, but doesn't have the flavor of silver needle. Overall the flavor feels more intense than a silver needle, but shares the same smoothness.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 185F, 1:30

2nd Infusion: This infusion has a bold yellow color to it. It reminds me of the flavor of a yellow tea, but feels less refined than the Meng Ding Huang Ya. There is a medium sense of bitterness to it with a light sense of astringency.

Rating: 9/10

Conclusion: This is likely one of the best teas that I have had from Might Leaf so far. It has a vibrant freshness to it and is well priced. It leans to the side of being a yellow tea, but still retains some of the vibrance of green teas. All in all an enjoyable tea.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Jasmin Mandarin Special Grade

Tea: Jasmin Mandarin Super Grade - 8201
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $8.50 / 10 teabags
Source: China
Vendor Description: The highest grade Jasmin tea produced using Chinese green tea as a base. It has a sweet fragrance like a spring wind, which is so refreshing that once tasted you can't forget it.

Teabag: This teabag is a normal Lupicia teabag, trigonal pyramidal w/ nylon style mesh. It contains about 3g of brownish green leaf. There is a very strong and sweet Jasmine aroma to it.

1st Infusion Parameters: 5oz, 185F, 1:30

1st Infusion: The infusion has a pale light brown hue to it. There is a rich strong Jasmine aroma to it. The flavor is sweet and light, it feels very reserved for a flavored tea. There is a medium astringency to finish the overall light flavor. The flavor and is very conservative compared to the aroma.

2nd Infusion Parameter: 3:00, 185F

2nd Infusion: There is a light brown hue to it again. It still smells very nicely of Jasmine. the flavor is smooth with a medium astringency. Everything about this tea feels quite permeated by Jasmine.

Rating: 8/10

Conclusion: This tea was overall fairly nice. The somewhat high amount of astringency is a bit of a downside. The scenting was very pleasant and lasted for more than one infusion which was enjoyable. At almost a dollar a teabag it feels a bit pricey, but for a good Jasmine flavor it's worth it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sencha The Ultimate

Tea: Yame - Sencha The Ultimate
Vendor: Zencha
Price: $22.00 / 50g
Source: Yame, Japan
Vendor Description: This is the tea specially produced for exhibition and in limited supply.
Only first two leaves and buds are carefully picked by hands.
Rich in natural sweet aroma and fresh scent with excellent astringent taste.

Leaf: The leaf has a bold and fresh aroma to it. It is somewhat different than most sencha aromas, but I can't seem to pinpoint how. It has some very gracefully long and thin needles to it, but in general appears to be more of a fukamushi than anything.

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

1st Infusion: This tea has a brilliant green hue to it. It is a very bold and persistent aroma. It reminds me of the aroma from the leaf. There is a pleasant crispness to the aroma. The infusion is lightly murky with a bold flavor. It starts with a very sharp, but momentary flavor. On the back end there is a light marine flavor. There are other aspects to this flavor which I'm having a problem pinpointing. It feels very complex yet undefined. Overall the flavor starts off lightly and then hangs around in the middle to taper off to a long aftertaste.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 185F, 15s

2nd Infusion: This infusion has a bold and rich green hue to it. The flavor is light and crisp with a light bitterness to it. The backend has a light bit of astringency, but it's showing the same complicated nature as the first infusion.

Rating: 7/10

Conclusion: While I was excited to try this tea out in order to see more of the spectrum that a Yame sencha could offer I was disappointed by this offering. The flavor was muddled and not as clear as I would expect from something labeled as the ultimate. Part of this may be from this tea being more akin to a fukamushi bordering on a chumushi. But I don't particularly see this tea as being any better / worse than the Serene Forest from Lupicia. And given that the Serene Forest is around half the price, I would suggest going with that one instead. Currently though Zencha has this in a shincha for preorder and that might have a bit more brightness and clarity that the sampled one did not have.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sakura Houji

Tea: Sakura Hoji - 8810
Vendor: Lupicia USA

About This Tea: The Sakura Hoji is a hojicha blended with salted sakura leaves. This year this tea is not offered on it's own, but rather only with the petit tin set.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is a light brown hojicha with a large mix of the chopped sakura leaf. The sakura aroma is very prominent and pleasant. The tea reminds me of the Persimmion Leaf Hojicha from Lupicia as well.

1st Infusion Parameters: 3g, 5oz, 208F, 2 min

1st Infusion: This te has a bold autumn brown hue to it. There is a warm and sweet aroma to it. There are hints of a bancha edge to it, but it makes for a very round aroma overall. The flavor of the tea is salty. Very salty. VERY salty. There is a little bit of astringency, but aside from that it feels like a brown cup of salt water with a nice sakura aroma on top.

Rating: 2/10

Conclusion: Way to salty. The salt was the dominant portion of the flavor for this tea. This tea was only in the petit tin for quite a good reason this year. It smells wonderful though. But this tea is very difficult to drink due to the extreme saltiness of it. I couldn't really find the hojicha flavor hidden behind the salt. It makes for a nice potpouri though.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sakura Vert

Tea: Sakura Vert - 8811
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $8.50 / 50g
Vendor Description: Slightly salty cherry leaves are blended into green tea, presenting a fresh clean taste. You will feel as if you are surrounded by young cherry leaves swaying in a balmy breeze.

Leaf: This tea consists of some coarse looking green leaf. There is a little bit of dark leaf mixed in, it looks almost like a little bit of black tea leaf was tossed in the mix. As with the Sakura Premium there is a bit of chopped sakura leaf in the mix. With this tea it's a little difficult to discern against the green tea leaf. The green tea leaf itself looks like a somewhat coarse green tea.

1st Infusion Parameters: 3g, 208F, 5oz, 2 min

1st Infusion: This tea produced a very bold golden yellow hue. It has a strong sweet sakura aroma to it with hints of a bancha like aroma. It is lightly salty like the Sakura Premium. There is a little bit of astrinengcy on it, but yet the salt is more noticeable. The tea portion of the flavor is smooth, but a bit subdued. The salt is a little too prominent.

Rating: 3/10

Conclusion: Like the Sakura Premium, this tea smells fantastic. The taste however not so much so. The green part of it is a little unassuming, while the salt from the sakura is a bit too overpowering. I don't really know what is up with the salt with these teas.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sakura Premium

Tea: Sakura Premium - 0301
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $18.00 / 50g (w/ special tin)
Vendor Description: A blend of fine Darjeeling black tea with cherry petals and leaves. Sweet and delicate flavor.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is a colorful Darjeeling mix with quite a wide variety of leaf size. There are a few pink buds in the mix along with some small pieces of sakura leaf. The tea has a very sweet sakura aroma to it.

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

1st Infusion: The tea has a clear golden brown hue to it. There is a very strong and very noticeable sweet sakura aroma to it. The flavor is very crisp with a light saltiness to it. There is a little bit of bitterness possibly from an infusion on the upper end of the infusion range. It is not overpoweringly salty, but it brings a certain crispness to the tea. There is a light astringency on the backend, but overall the sakura flavor balances well with the Darjeeling flavor to produce a very nice tea overall.

Rating: 8/10

Conclusion: This is the premium version of the seasonal sakura offerings from Lupicia. Their offerings are a little unusual because they come out salty. This one thankfully was not overpoweringly salty, but the salt does throw you off a little. It makes it a very crisp flavor, but it is undeniably salty. Overall this is a pretty good tea, but I'm not sure about if the price tag is warranted.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Huang Jin Gui

Tea: Huang Jin Gui - 7005
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $7.00 / 50g
Source: Fujian, China
Vendor Description: Famous oolong tea from Fujian Province. It is very popular with its light refreshing taste. A tea with golden water color and elegant aroma like Osmanthus flowers.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea ranges in color from a light to dark green leaf. It is rolled, but not quite like some tightly rolled Taiwanese oolongs. It's loosely rolled. It has a light dry aroma to it.

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

1st Infusion: This tea has a very flowery aroma to it. It is very crisp and uplifting. The color is a clear pale yellow hue. The flavor is very crisp, pairing well with the aroma. There are floral notes in the aftertaste. There is no bitterness to astringency, simply a smooth light floral flavor.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 208F, 45s

2nd Infusion: This infusion was a darker yellow-green hue. The flowery aroma still remained, but it hinted almost to the sweetness of a dan cong aroma. The flavor was overall stronger with a mouth watering feel to it and left with a light clean aftertaste.
3rd Infusion Parameters: 1:15, 208F

3rd Infusion: This infusion was a yellower hue than before, but retained hints of green. There was effectively no aroma to this infusion. The flavor was bold and up front this time. There was an empty feeling in the central flavor. It then finished off with a light sense of astringency on the back end.

4th Infusion Parameters: 208F, 2:00

4th Infusion: This infusion was a lighter hue than before. There was no astringency this time around, and overall the flavor was very unassuming and conservative.

Rating: 5/10

Conclusion: This was overall a very unassuming and mundane oolong. While there were no significant faults to it there were no major selling points either. It's an average green oolong with a somewhat average price to it. It's a bit high, but within acceptable tolerances. It would be a good tea to introduce someone to a general green oolong.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Winter FengHuang WuDong Old Bush DanCong "Huang Jing" 2007

Tea: Winter FengHuang WuDong Old Bush DanCong "Huang Jing" 2007
Vendor: Hou De Asian Art & Fine Tea
Price: $19.50 / 2 oz
Source: Wu Dong, Feng Huang county, Guang Dong, China
Vendor Description: A truely unique and precious fenghuang dancong! To make this HuangJing dancong, only winter-season hand-harvested leaves from over 50 years old bushes in WuDong plantation area can be used. Also, more mature leaves instead tender ones are used. The very bold and expressive looking dry leaves is electrifying just by looking at them. When I first time to try to brew it, I was puzzled by what and how to deal with those monster leaves!

This dancong gets its name from the noble golden-yellow color on its dry leaves. The kneading of leaves is different from traditional stripe-form rolling: leaves are folded several times and tightly pressed. I asked the producer for the reason, and he hinted that the mature Winter leaves are very thick so difficult to roll into stripe form. Also due to the bold and thickness, the leaves are easier to "receive firing effect" in such loose form.

Aroma is richly creamy, floral, with a hint of hearty fruitiness.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is very large and full leaves. They are very fluffy with a brown hue that has hints of green. There is a little bit of blackness to the leaf as well. There is a light faint aroma to it. Some of the leaves have a gnarled looking texture to it which I thought was a bit unusual.

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

1st Infusion: This tea has a light amber color to it. There is a lot of aroma to the tea. The aroma was soft, it was sweeter than most other DC's that I have had. The tea has a very mouth watering feeling to it. It is full bodied with a touch of astringency. The flavor is smooth and calming.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 208F, 45s

2nd Infusion: The tea had a light clear color again. The aroma was sweet and reminded me of autumn. It was quite bold. This time around the flavor was a bit more intense. It gave me a mouth cleaning feeling with it's touch of astringency. There was still an interesting mouth watering feeling to it.

3rd Infusion Parameters: 208F, 2:45

3rd Infusion: The duration of this infusion was an accidental oversteep. Because of this there was a lot of power and strength to the tea all around. The aroma was bold and very present. The taste matched, there was a medium sense of astringency that developed as well. It was all around very pleasant despite the oversteep.

Rating: 8/10

Conclusion: I wasn't terribly impressed by this tea. At almost $10/oz I somewhat expected more. The astringency I found in the first two infusions was a bit of a surprise, since it normally doesn't show up that much until later. The aroma was unique as well as the presentation of the leaf, but overall I have had teas that have a very similar experience for less.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hashiri Shincha - Round 2

Round 2: Took another shot at the Hashiri Shincha from Sugimoto USA. Turned out a bit better this time, but there might be more room for improvement.

1st Infusion Parameters: 185F, 5oz, 3.5g, 45s

1st Infusion: This infusion was lightly murky with a green shincha radiance to it. It's not as opaque as Round 1, but it still has a certain degree of murkiness to it. The aroma is vibrant and fresh. The flavor is lighter, but bodied. It has a light central flavor, but the flavor is filled with freshness and just a hint of fukamushi power.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 185F, Instant pour

2nd Infusion: This infusion was characteristic dark murky fukamushi green. The flavor was quite rich and more bodied. There was just a little bit of astringency to the flavor.

Conclusion: The second infusion is still coming stronger than I would like. I'm considering dropping the leaf down further and extending the first infusion to keep that around where it is. then an instant pour might work better with the 2nd Infusion. Still it's a lovely tea, but I just have the feeling that this could go further and be more impressive.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hashiri Shincha

Tea: Hashiri Shincha 2009
Vendor: Sugimoto USA
Price: $20.00 / 50g
Source: Japan
Vendor Description: Hashiri means "early season" in Japanese. Our Hashiri Shincha is produced from very young leaves harvested at the end of April (This year's harvest was April 24th). These early-season leaves are very soft and contain a lot of sweetness. This is the taste of spring.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is a very characteristic fukamushi. It appears to be moreso than most other fukamushi that I have run across. Most of the leaf is in the small pieces that is somewhat distinctive of fukamushi. There is a rich vegetal aroma to this dark green mix.

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

1st Infusion: This tea has a rich green color. It is quite dark for a first infusion, but still has a shincha radiance to it. The flavor felt like there were three separate portions to it. There was a very up front assertive fukamushi flavor, followed by a sharp and bold central flavor, and finished with a light tapering marine backend. It felt like there was a very cleansing bitterness to this tea, there was just the right amount of astringency on the backend to pair up with this.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 15s, 185F

2nd Infusion: This infusion was a dark green murky fukamushi color. It was pretty much what I've come to expect from a second infusion fukamushi. It was dark and murky. The flavor was much bolder than before, it was sharper and more bitter than the first infusion. There was a medium astringency. It felt like there was too much power to this infusion that it became a bit harsh. There were hints of marine flavor with this infusion.

Rating: TBD

Conclusion: Since shincha can be very tricky to pin down, I'm going to wait to determine a rating for this tea in this infusion. I'll alter the parameters a bit and do a second review for it. At these parameters the tea was a bit too strong and overpowering. Even still it managed to show some of those shincha qualities that make the spring a wonderful time for green tea. It has the vibrance and freshness of spring in it. Unfortunately like the Temomi this tea was preorder only.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Temomi Shincha 2009

Tea: Temomi Shincha 2009
Vendor: Sugimoto USA (SA)
Price: $15.00 / 10g
Vendor Description: Temomi Shincha is a very special tea for very special occasions. It is made only by hands starting from picking fresh leaves in the tea field to kenading the leaves for the final process. Whole procedure takes approximately 8 hours. On April 19th 2009, 1.8kg (4lb.) of Temomi Shincha was made by 8 Temomi artisans in Shizuoka Japan. By following the enclosed instructions you can experience the same taste and flavor which the ancients enjoyed several hundred years ago. Just like espresso, it is to enjoy a shot of intense and rich green tea.

About This Tea: This tea is a very special offering. It's the first time that this tea is available to the US. It is quite impressively hand crafted in very exclusive small batches. This item was available for preorder only. It is a unique experince in the world of tea and is something that I think any true lover of green tea should enjoy.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea has nothing but beautufl long and graceful needles to it. They are all whole leaves, around an inch in length or so. There is a light marine aroma to it and the leaves are lightly shiny.

1st Infusion Parameters: 10g, 100F, 2.5oz, 2 min

1st Infusion: This tea produces a clear yellow hue. There is a rich thick aroma to it, and it packs a flavor to match. The flavor is bold and rich, with a crisp sharpness from the intensity. It has a very strong power to it and a long lasting aftertaste. The power is almost overwhelming yet not offputing like any other leaf would be.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 130F, 1 min, 2.5 oz

2nd Infusion: This time around it was slightly greener in hue, but the tea was crystal clear. The flavor was crisper. It seems to center around the core of the intense snap of the flavor. The aroma is fresh, light and calming. The flavor is light up front to start, but it escalates into an intense central flavor. The center is intense, but not as much as the first infusion. The edges of the flavor have lightened up a bit.

3rd Infusion Parameters: 130F, 1 min

3rd Infusion: This time the flavor was brighter yellow than before. It has some of the radiance of a shincha, but not quite as much as some of the more traditional senchas. The flavor is exhibiting the same light frontal flavor, and then jumps right back into that strong center again. It feels much cleaner and sharper this time around. There is a tiny bit of bitterness to heighten the sharpness of the flavor and a tinge of astringency on the back end. Still this tea is pushing the thoughts of richness and intensity to me.

4th Infusion Parameters: 160F, 1 min

4th Infusion: This time the flavor was more up front. The initial flavor is very crisp, it reminds me of an asamushi sencha like the Hosen from Ippodo. The color is becoming more and more radiant. The flavor is still very intense, but it is almost like a whole different tea this time around. This infusion surpasses regular sencha first and second infusions still. There is a light and clean well defined central flavor here.

5th Infusion Parameters: 160F, 1:30

5th Infusion: The color is slightly lighter at this point. The flavor is lightening up to match. It is still very crisp and well focused, and it interestingly is exhibiting a more bodied feel to it. It finishes with a light sense of astringency.

6th Infusion Parameters: 185F, 2:00

6th Infusion: At this point the tea has a light yellow hue. The flavor feels to have fully shifted to the front now. There is a little bit of biterness that is not from the intensity, it is a delicate yet bolder flavor that finishes with a light sense of astringency.

Used Leaf: Even the used leaf for this tea is gorgeous. The instructions suggest enjoying them as a salad. What I opted to do was after the 6th infusion I added them to some cold water for a 1L cold water infusion. Even after 6 infusions it provided a very unique iced tea. It had a light yet refreshing flavor that was almost reminiscent of a Long Jing in flavor.

Rating: 10/10

Conclusion: As with the last time I tried Temomi from Sugimoto, it was amazing. It has no real comparison within the regular offerings of any other vendor. The parallel to espresso with this tea works on many levels. It shares the same intensity. Neither are something you should drink in great quantities. It's something to be savored and enjoyed. The thought that this is a special occasion tea cannot be truer, it should be something to hearld the beginning of spring and kept in the moment. Unfortunately if you missed the boat on this one, you missed out. Until next year I guess.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bai Ling Gong Fu

Tea: Bai Ling Gong Fu
Vendor: Canton Tea Co.
Price: £6.99/ 40g
Vendor Description: This soft red tea is made from only tender buds, which are shaped into tight and elegant strips. The leaves have fine orangy-yellow hairs hence its nickname - Ju Hong (clementine red). The ‘Hao Xiang’ (bud's aroma) is fresh and sweet with a hint of creamy caramel and the liquor is golden red with a smooth texture and a long, soft, mellow aftertaste.
Additional Vendor Information:
Origin: Bai Lin, Tai Mu Mountain, Fu Ding County, Fujian Province.
Harvest: Winter 08
Grade : Top Grade
Plantation altitude : 500 - 800 meters above sea level.
Varietal : Fu Ding Da Bai Cha variety.
Certification : Organic. Small production directly from local farmer.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is very light and twisted. It is very delicate and coated with many little golden hairs. The tea has a stunning mix of black and gold coloration. There is a very bold black tea aroma coming from these very gossamer leaves.

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

1st Infusion: This tea produces a very dark, semi opaque infusion. There is a heavy malty aroma coming from it. The flavor is very bold, rich, and full bodied. It is smooth with a sweet leading edge to it. There is a certain lightness and wateriness in it, which was surprising considering the color of the tea.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 45s, 208F

2nd Infusion: This infusion has the same dark color as the first infusion. It is still almost opaque from the dark leaf. There is rich sweet aroma from the tea. The flavor is much richer than before. It feels like a yunnan gold. It starts out with a very strong early flavor and finishes with a rich aftertaste.

3rd Infusion Parameters: 1:30, 208F

3rd Infusion: This infusion was brown hued and very opaque again. This tea has an amazing capacity for color. The flavor of this infusion was more of the rich malty flavor again. It was slightly lighter this time, but still quite rich.

Rating: 8/10

Conclusion: This was one of the best Chinese black teas that I have ever had. It was very smooth and subdued, yet rich and strong. It showed intense color through three infusions without any signs of lightening up. It is on the pricier side for a black tea, but quite pleasant.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Yulan Dancong

Tea: Yulan Dancong
Vendor: Canton Tea Co.
Price: £9.99 / 50g
Vendor Description: The leaves are a golden-green with a wrinkly surface and have a peach-like fragrance. The liquor is full-bodied with a thick texture and has a deliciously sweet, long-lasting aftertaste which means it is a good example of a high quality Yulan. The flavour develops with each brew saves should be infused several times.

Additional Vendor Information:
Origin: Wu Dong Mountain, Chao Zhou, Guang Dong.
Harvest : Winter 2008
Varietal : Single Bush Yu Lan
Altitude : 400m ~ 600m
Certification : Small production direct from the farmer.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is somewhat unusual looking. The leaves are long, dark and twisted like other Dan Congs, but instead of the more traditional grey edges around the leaves the edges of the leaves have some green accents to it. They are very well formed though and well cared for. The leaves are large and intact.

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

1st Infusion: The first infusion produced a clear light yellow green hue. The aroma is very green it reminds me of green oolongs, like a dong ding or most Taiwanese oolongs. The flavor exhibits a very green crispness to it. The flavor overall is quite light. The aroma leads right into the flavor though and shows a harmony that is at times rare to find. It is light boded, but the flavor builds up more towards the backend.

2nd Infusion Parameters: 45s, 208F

2nd Infusion: This infusion produced a deeper golden yellow hue. The aroma is now a cross between the floral loftiness of a Dan Cong and a crisp green oolong. The flavor is more bodied, to the point where it is quite well bodied. There is a light astringency on the backend even though the flavor feels a bit light. The light flavor still feels very much like a Taiwanese green oolong.

3rd Infusion Parameters: 2:00, 208F

3rd Infusion: This time around the color took a yet darker hue almost at an amber yellow color. The aroma was very much still a green oolong, the floral points had faded away. The flavor was very light. The flavor and the color were somewhat out of sync with one another. It was quite light considering the darkness of the hue. Aside from a medium sense of bitterness the flavor was quite light overall.

Rating: 7/10

Conclusion: I still don't really know what to make of this tea. It is very unique to say the least. It feels very green, it shows many characteristics of Taiwanese oolongs, but at the same time shows the traditional Dan Cong flavors and aromas. It is a bit on the pricey side, I think I prefer the Milan Dan Cong to this one.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Chocolate Chai

Tea: Chocolate Chai
Vendor: Adagio
Price: $6.30 / 4 oz
Vendor Description: We've taken one of the world's favorite indulgences, chocolate, and combined it with the exotic flavors and spices of Masala chai to create the ultimate treat. Chocolate flavored Ceylon black tea blended with cardamom, ginger, cloves, cinnamon. Make it extra rich by preparing with hot milk.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea has a very noticeable cocoa aroma. It reminds me more of cocoa powder for hot chocolate than it does a chocolate bar. As is typical with chai this tea is studded with some cloves, ginger, orthodox black tea, and there are a number of small brown bark like chips in the mix.

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

1st Infusion: The infusion is lightly brown, lightly murky. It has a lightly sweet aroma. The tea itself has a light tea flavor and a light chai flavor. It is nicely bodied, and feels like a good chai mix overall. There really is not much of a chocolate flavor to this mix that I can tell though.

Rating: 3/10

Conclusion: After trying the Apple Spiced Chai, this was a bit of a letdown. The chai mix itself wasn't bad, it paired well with the black tea, but this tea fails to live up to it's namesake. There isn't a noticeable chocolate flavor to it. When compared against the Wegman's Chocolate Chai, this tea falls on it's face. It's priced quite reasonably though and makes a solid chai, just don't expect it to be like a cup of chocolate milk crossed with some chai.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Spiced Apple Chai

Tea: Spiced Apple Chai
Vendor: Adagio
Price: $7.00 / 4oz
Vendor Description: The classic combination of apples and spice are supremely enhanced in our Spiced Apple Chai. A lively blend of black tea, Masala spices and bright notes of crisp apple will delight your senses.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea smells sweet like apple cider. There are cloves, dried fruit, and ginger in the mix. the aroma of the dry leaf is just fantastic. I get tempted to just put this tea over a flame just to bring out the aroma so I can smell it. The black tea in the mix looks very characteristic Adagio tea, orthodox black tea.

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

1st Infusion: The color of this tea even reminds me of apple cider. The tea has a warm aroma of cinnamon and cloves mixed with the sweetness of the apple. The infusion is surprisingly cloudy. The flavor is very light, but yet very similar to a traditional chai. There is not much apple flavor in the actual tea itself. There is no bitterness or astringency to this tea. It has an overall lightly sweet feeling.

Rating: 9/10

Conclusion: This is a fantastic chai mix. I also tried it in a more traditional chai milk/honey mix and it came out more akin to a traditional chai. The one thing I would like to see more of with this tea is a stronger apple flavor. The aroma just doesn't pair well with the lack of actual apple flavor in the tea. Aside from that it's a great chai that may very well be finding a regular spot in my tea stash.