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.