Monday, December 31, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
I didn't. When I received this tea, I assumed mao feng was fancy, pu-erh speak. Wikipedia's article wasn't much help, saying only that it was a green tea from Anhui. Further investigation revealed references to keemun mao feng and golden monkey mao feng. A bit confused I turned to Bablecarp for a literal definition, and it turns out mao feng is a grading term meaning downy tip, a step above mao jian.
The dry leaf aroma was nutty at times, melon-ish at others.
After brewing it in a gaiwan first, then a kyusu--both had similar results, fruity, light, though the tea in the gaiwan had a touch of astringency--I decided to finally get around to experimenting with glass brewing. The method is simple enough, take a glass, dumps some leaves into said glass, add water, and from what I understand, this is a fairly traditional way of drinking tea in China.
First let me say this whole using-your-teeth-as-a-filter takes practice. While this method was attractive, I did not much care for the tea. It was lighter, chewy and nondescript, though the dregs had more flavor, fruity and astringent, that made it similar to a decent young sheng that's not too harsh.
The wet leaves are comprised of full leaves and lots of bits.
I welcome some feedback on this style of brewing. I used 3 grams per 8 oz at 160 F. Did I do something wrong?
Then after that, on the 30th, Roy Fong is finally coming out to my store to teach us employees a thing or two about tea, an experience I've been looking forward to.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
(Well I guess you can't see, because I can't get the damn pictures to open in a new window).
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Now that I know the cause of the problem and how to prevent it, I am willing to leave things as they are. The build-up is rather mild at the moment, and unless it gets worse, I see no reason to try anything potentially harmful.
Take a look:
I first noticed it a few months ago, and it has been getting worse. Is this just mineral deposits? If so, how do I get rid of it? I've heard white vinegar, but not only is this my favorite and most used pot, it is the most expensive. I want to be very sure that whatever I do will not harm it. If it isn't mineral deposits, any ideas? Your feedback would be appreciated.(Edit) More information: Yes, the pot is porous. I use spring water to make tea, but I rinse my pots with tap water. Its this teapot right here.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
My notes on the winter oolong met the same fate as the long jing, but I completely botched it anyway, so no loss; I'll just skip it. I simply can not gong fu lightly oxidized oolongs; it never ends well. Yet I keep trying.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
I've only had long jing a few times before, and always from stores that sold it in bulk glass jars, not ideal storage conditions. When it comes to Chinese green tea, its any port in the storm for me. I prefer Japanese green tea by far, but there are times I appreciate the more mellow, soothing qualities of Chinese tea. When I do, I am none too picky about what's in my cup. So not only was it a challenge to try and talk intelligently about this tea and do a proper review, but I drank it last week, and my notes have largely been obliterated by a spilled cup of tea.
I know, that was all kinds of helpful. But at least the fukugata was dusted off and got some love.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The bouquet was complex, layered. The dry leaf aroma was of roasted sugar cane with a fruity presence. After I rinsed the leaves the smell of chocolate was so strong I could taste it, feel it on the sides of my tongue. And after the first infusion a charcoal tang emerged, confirming that this was indeed a high or higher roasted TGY.
Monday, December 10, 2007
The thing I like most about pu erh is that I feel completely neutral about it. I enjoy it well enough, but I have no expectations. I am completely detached from the experience and free to fully enjoy even the humblest cup of pu. Because of this I have better luck with tasting notes, identifying different nuances. Its good practice.
Its a mini tuo cha of some shu pu, and my experience tells me that no one seems to waste quality tea on these things. When I first opened the package there was a stronger aroma that's gone now, but I can't remember it.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Making it for the first time was an experience. The timelessness of tea, the fusion of history and culture, has always been the primary appeal for me, but never before had it been this poignant, preparing tea from a family that has been growing and selling tea for 23 generations and using a chasen that was crafted by another family that has been making them for 35o years. I got kind of tingly.
The Manten tastes very green. I made same for Molly's friend, and she said the same thing. It is flavorful, bold, not quite sweet, but definitely not brassy or astringent. Quite smooth, but I didn't notice that at first, only later, after I drank some lower quality matcha that was rather harsh, then went back to the Manten.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Monday, December 3, 2007
The Chrysanthemum was more successful and enjoyable, crisp and clear. RTD teas rarely taste like they "should," often only an imitation of whatever tea it claims to be, but this tastes and smells exactly like ju hua. My first thought was that they did a better job of making it then I did. It was refreshing and an agreeable change of pace.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Americans have a rather dichotomous relationship with our bodies. We are collectively caught up in the health food craze, tea good, carbs bad, and yet we are a nation of fat people. 127 million Americans are overweight; 60 million are considered obese.1
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Monday, November 26, 2007
Of the three this is the least expensive and has the lowest percentage of khaki buds. It is also the most unlike any other dian hong I've previously tried. It smells more like some puerh. At first I didn't like it because it was different, but I've come to enjoy its uniqueness.
This one has a much higher quantity of those golden, khaki leaves that equal deliciousness. The aroma is more typical.
As the name indicates, the leaves have been rolled into rings. Attractive and interesting yes, but don't worry, I'm not easily drawn in by such frippery. The aroma makes me think of mead in that it makes me think of fermented honey, or what I imagine fermented honey should smell like. In reality fermented honey may smell most foul, for all I know.
Wet leaves, clock wise from top: Gold Rings, Black, Select Black.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
The dry leaves appear standard, uniform in size and shape, varying in color from brown to khaki. Once again after rinsing their is a sweet, sausage-esque aroma.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
I wanted to single out Toru Yoshikawa-san of Artistic Nippon. Again. A few weeks back there was a conversation on the Green Tea Forum in which the owner, Kevin, pointed out that the chasen I had just purchased from Toru-san looked like it was made in China. Within two days I received an email from Toru-san saying that he became aware of the conversation and checked with his supplier.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
For those who don't know, Keemun is grown in Qimen County in Anhui, China, north of Fujian. Production began in 1875, and Keemun has been frequently used in blends. I understand Hao Ya is the highest grade of Keemun. Its the only type I have tried, so I cannot confirm or deny this.
The leaves look good, identical to the only other Keemun I've had. The samples were shipped in plastic bags, so there isn't much of a dry aroma left.
Again I went with my standard brewing parameters, 3 grams/8 oz for 4-5 minutes. It was good, smooth. Smokey and sweet, like smoked sugar, made me think of sugar cane and camp fires, but a brisk sweetness, not like the honey-sweetens of the ying de or dian hong. I only steeped the leaves once. I frequently find that consecutive steeps of black tea are too watery, a shadow of the original cup, so I don't often bother.
Camphor was the first thing I noticed. I have frequently read about camphor and puerh, but I have never noticed it before today. There was a moment of profound satisfaction as I said to myself, "So that's what they're talking about." Bill says that camphor suggests the use of wild arbor leaves. It was also...minty is definitely not the right word, rather it reminded me of something that reminded me of mint. The puerh was very cooling.
In the third and fourth steeping, notes of something green, vegetal emerged.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
First up is the Ying De Gold #9 from Red Circle. The leaves are from a particular varietal that is crossbred from Yunnan big leaf and Feng Huang.
I used my standard brewing method for hong cha, 3 grams/8 oz for 4 minutes.
The dry leaves are attractive, long and wiry with khaki coloring. When placed in a heated pot, there is a sweet, dark grain-ish aroma that makes me think of raisin bran of all things. The taste is reminiscent of a good dian hong, without the maltiness. I get strong notes of warm honey. There is a thin mouth feel, but not as thin as a Keemun or Ceylon.
I also tried the brewing instructions that came with the tea, steeping the tea 15-45 seconds in a gaiwan. The focus of this method seems to be to on multiple infusions, the instructions say up to six. It produced a lighter brew, less intense flavor. I prefer my hong cha stronger than this.
The wet leaves remind me of Wuyi yan cha.
I enjoyed this tea, but to be honest, I think the price is a bit much for 2 oz.
The ying de from Aroma wasn't as pleasing over all. I have had it three times, now, and each time it was different.
The first time it kept shifting, reminding me of a keemun one moment and of an assam the next; at one point I picked up on a little fruit. The second cup tasted a bit like an "orchid" oolong I had once. The cup I just finished was fairly nondescript. Over all it never settled on any characteristics that set it apart from any other black tea.
You can see the wet leaves of the two ying de side-by-side for comparison.
I'd like to say thank you to both vendors for the samples. My curiosity is still piqued, and I'll have to try some other varieties of ying de in the future.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Lest you think...I don't know what you might think, but I wish to make it unequivocally clear that I am here to explore the palatable, historical, cultural and aesthetic side of tea, not to perpetuate the current tea related health craze. If you drink tea for health, I think that is wonderful; we could all benefit from healthier lifestyles, but it is not my thing. I work with tea in a retail setting, and one can only sell so much wulong weight-loss tea before becoming a mite tetchy with the subject.
It turns out this stuff is quite good, standard disclaimers concerning ready to drink teas not withstanding. I brought home three flavors, Jasmine White, Gyokuro, and Darjeeling, all unsweetened and calorie free.
I think that these are the tree best RTD teas I've had. They are well balanced. Some unsweetened teas are too weak, watery, while others become overly astringent and unpleasant. These are flavorful, clean and fresh.
I have yet to try real Gyokuro, so I can not properly compare this one to anything. It is smooth, less astringent then Ito En's Just Green, kind of nutty. The Darjeeling was amazing for what it is. Possibly a blend, definitely a late season flush if not, but unmistakeably Darjeeling.
I am impressed. Never before have I had a bottled tea that had as much natural flavor without tasting over-steeped or relying on sweetener to mask the bitterness.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
A few weeks back, Rishi started offering a line of Sweet Matcha. Since then there has been a recurring, morbid interest in it on TeaChat, so I took it upon myself to trek out to Whole Foods and see what it's all about.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
This is an amazing tea, its preperation and consumption unique and unlike any other. From the moment I begin boiling the water till the last drop, I find myself completely engaged in the task at hand. There is little or no waiting, each step flows effortlessly into the next. I better understand the marriage of cha no yu and Zen, the art and practice of continuously committing oneself to the moment.
Koicha (3-4 scoops/2-3 oz)
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Raku yaki originated towards the end of the 16th century in Kyoto, during the rule of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, by Sasaki Chojiro, a tile maker who enjoyed the patronage of Sen no Rikyu. Chojiro's chawans sought to embody the essence of wabi cha, Rikyu's fusion of the cha no yu with the aesthetic ideals of wabi sabi.
The other two chawan were made in Tokoname. I purchased them from Rishi about a year ago. I have been using them as teacups; they comfortably hold an entire pot of tea, and are considerably more aesthetically harmonious with my my Tokoname yaki then a coffee mug.
The last two things you need. The chashoku is not as important, but they are affordable, about $5, and are kind of cool. A chasen is a small work of art in and of itself, and essential to getting the best out of your matcha. As Kevin's expert eye pointed out, this chasen was made in China, not Japan, which explains the lower price I paid. (Thank you Yoshikawa san for being so honest about it as well). While a Chinese made chasen can be good quality, it is likely that it will not last as long as a Japanese made one will. So when choosing a chasen, let the price be your guide and be concerned if the price is too low.
That covers the equipage, next post we'll finally get to the matcha.
For more information about Raku yaki, take a look at the website. It includes a gallery of chawans created by fifteen generations, from Chojiro to the current head of the family, Kichizaemon.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
I always feel a little awkward merely re-wording information I gathered from other blogs and sites if I don't have anything new or original to add; however, since the following posts this week will cover my first ventures into the world of matcha, I think it is important to at least cover the basics.
Matcha (抹茶) comes from tencha (展茶), tea that is grown in the shade for three weeks prior to harvest. Tencha is then destemmed and deveined and ground into a fine powder, matcha, which is what is used for cha no yu. It is important to remember that not all powdered green tea is matcha.
I am unclear on the brewing instructions for koicha; I've read different things from different sources, so I'll experiment more before posting the instructions later this week.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
I'm still trying to get the hang of gong fu-ing tuo cha. I rinsed twice, 10 s each and steeped for a minute.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
The details of this tea are it was picked from the ancient tea trees of Yunnan, China. The exact origins are unknown, but it was acquired around 2000 and stored in Guangzhou until 2006, when it was purchased by Red Blossom Tea Co.
For more information on puerh storage, Marshal has written some excellent posts, here and here.
This tea was a pleasant change of pace, something different than the "smoked melon" of every other sheng that I've tried. Because of that, at first this tea confused me; it was so much like a shupu in aroma, appearance and taste. Then it was explained to me, patiently, that it was an aged sheng, and that was the point. To which I said, "oh," and then, "ohhhhhh."
The dry leaves are similar in appearance to the shu that I am used to, only larger. I can see some stems.
I flashed rinse, then 15 s, 3o s, 90 s, and 4 min--I like my pu strong if it wont turn on me.
The initial aroma is very earthy. I don't know why I said initial; the aroma was consistently earthy, and a bit of something almost vegital; however, this could be another time when I smell something I can't place, but it reminds me of something else, and so on.
The first infusion the taste is thin, a little crisp, reminding me, of all things, of the gyokuro karigane. I swallowed some too fast, choked on it and coughed, and noticed a clear note of spice, cinnamon, perhaps. Molly says she can taste a bit of caramel. Over all it is delightfully smooth, and I start to brew it longer.
Then a bit of morbid curiosity takes hold. I dump the spent leaves, toss what's left of the pu into the pot (I guess about 10-12 grams), flash rinse, and steep. For 3 minutes.
The resulting brew was strong and rather enjoyable. Very similar to a good coffee. I can taste a bit of chocolate, but more like chocolate after it has been added to coffee. There's also a mildly acidic bite on the end, that I likewise associate with coffee.
I like this tea. It was remarkably gentle, playful and easy. Fun, in a word. There isn't an abundance of complexity, so my instincts tell me that this is probably an average sheng, but I think it is perfect for any one like myself experimenting with puerh. It was enjoyable and educational.