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.