Thursday, July 26, 2007
Vendor: Red Blossom Tea Co.
I received an ounce of this a few weeks back from Peter at Red Blossom as part of the replacement for the tung ting. I had yet to try a bao zhong, so I was excited to get my hands on it, but I had no idea what to expect. I was in for a pleasant surprise.
I've also recently purchased a digital scale, and this was my first time to use it for gong fu. I used 4g for a 150ml gaiwan. In retrospect I should have used at least 5g. Now that I think of it, I believe Bill once told me I should use a ratio of 1g/30ml.
1 - 45s
2 - 75s
3 - 2 1/2 min.
4 - 4 1/2 min.
I took a whiff and said, "Fuck me." It smelled good. It had the aroma of a good tung ting, very floral. After my first sip I was in love. It had the qualities of a good high mountain oolong, but with notes of green tea, and a rather mild astringency that was quite favorable. The flavor wasn't as strong in the subsequent infusions, but I think that is because I did not use enough leaves. I'm still pretty new to oolongs. I'm not sure how this one would compare to other bao zhongs--I can't wait to find out, but I liked it a lot. This is a tea that I want to keep on hand.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Since the folks at Artisitic Nippon seemed to know their stuff, I sent them email asking them to tell me more about yokode kyusu. Toru Yoshikawa was very helpful and wrote back in just a few hours. Because I prefer to get my information from more than one source, and because Yoshikawa-san also stated in his email that his "comments are not Academically proved," be aware that the following information may not be accurate. However, it is all I could find, and it seems legit, so I am going with it.
"Senchado is similar to Chado - the matcha tea ceremony. However one of the differences is that in Senchado metal kettles are not used boil water because it is believed that it affects the taste of the sencha in a negative way. Instead, a terracotta pot called "bofura" is used.
Sencha was introduced in mid 17th century to Japan from China, and this bofura originally came from China too. It has a handle on the side and it is therefore considered to be the fore-runner of the yokode kyusu. In the early Onkoyaki kiln workshop (Gifu-pref) established in 1859, houbin (teapots without a handle) and yokode kyusu were produced. Old banko kyusu were also in the yokode style. Onkoyaki no longer exists, but the area of Onko is in the same vicinity as Tokoname and Banko and therefore we can assume that yokode teapots were produced by these kilns at around the same time."
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Given my love for this tea, I though it would be fun to do a blind taste test, choosing five samples from three different vendors, Rishi, Adagio, and The Republic of Tea (TROT because I could get some for free). I was surprised by the results and by how difficult it was, tasting different teas that were almost identical, trying to catch the nuances that set them apart, and in the end I had to rely more on gut reaction than my uneducated taste buds to rate them. This was a good learning experience, one that left me with more respect for those in the business that have to evaluate dozens, if not hundreds, of samples and pick out the best.
I had my wife measure out two teaspoons of each into small, paper bags, lettering them from A to E, so that I had no way of knowing what I was drinking. At the time I didn't think it mattered to be honest. They were all teas that I had before, and I was sure I could tell the difference just by taste. I was wrong, and so were all of my guesses as to which was which.
A - Rishi's Golden Yunnan (Xishuangbanna)
B - Adagio's Yunnan Jig (Kunming)
C - Rishi's Golden Needle (Xishuangbanna)
D - TROT's Golden Yunnan (They wouldn't say)
E - Adagio's Yunnan Gold (Kunming, I think)
I rated them in order of best to not-so-best, C, E, B, D, A.
C and E were clearly the best, and in a class by themselves, both being made of nothing but buds. They were incredibly smooth, and posses a taste and aroma that reminds me of honey. B, D, and A were very close, malty, no bitterness, low astringency. TROT had the best looking dry leaves, lots of buds.
Of the three vendors, Adagio is the least expensive. The jig sells for $19/lb. and the the Gold is only $46/lb. Rishi sells their Golden Yunnan for $36/lb. and the Golden Needle for $108/lb. TROT sells their Golden Yunnan for $80/lb. They were all great teas, with marginal differences, so based on price alone, go with Adagio. The two from Rishi are Fair Trade Certified and Organic, so those are the ones I pick.
Monday, July 9, 2007
Origin: North East India
Price: $9.99/14 "Brew-Taches" (35g.)
Sunday, July 8, 2007
Saturday, July 7, 2007
Origin: Rishi Blend
Year: ? (I'm guessing 2006)
Vendor: Rishi Tea
Price: 8.99/4oz tin or $32/lb.
Chai was my very first tea, and my favorite for some time, as I progressed from the syrup-y crap served at Starbucks to the much better and more authentic loose leaf versions. I tried every kind of chai I could get my hands own, looking for the perfect blend. Now I don't know if Rishi's Masala Chai is perfect, but it is mighty fine.
Chai is the word for tea through out South Asia, East Africa, and the Middle East, and masala translates to spice. Masala chai is traditionally a blend of strong black tea, like Assam, and spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, peppercorns, star anise, and cloves. It can also be made with tissanes like rooibos or yerba mate.
This is a traditional blend, using cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and black pepper. The tea leaves are a dian hong from Xishuangbanna, harvested from ancient tea trees.
I used these instructions on Traditional Style Chai. It really helps to have a sauce pan with a spout, like the one pictured, or it is easy to make a mess when straining. I bought this one at Target for about $15. I got to use it once before my wife comandeered it for cooking; now she lets me use it every second Tuesday or so. The straining holes on the lid were too big, thus the ghetofied People's brew basket with a chopstick stuck through it.
For just me, I cut the recipe in half, using 2 tbsp of tea, 3/4 cup water, and 1/2 cup milk. I get better results with whole milk, but of course you can use anything, though I have found that it isn't as good with soy milk. Toss it all in a sauce pan, brink to a boil--be careful not to let it over boil, and let simmer for five minutes, sweeten to taste (2 tsp of sugar is enough, in my opinion).
Overall I give it a 4. Quite tasty and creamy, you can actually taste the nuanced spices, something you can't do with powdered or liquid concentrates. The only negative thing I can say about it, is it could use more pepper; however, I am a pepper fiend, so take what I am saying with a grain of salt.
Friday, July 6, 2007
For me the most important thing about my tea is simple: is it Fair Trade Certified. Most of the tea/tea ware that I buy comes from Rishi, not because the quality of their tea is excellent, which it is, and not because their tea wares are some of the fines in the world, which they are, but because they have one of the largest selections of Fair Trade Certified (FTC) teas. I choose to support companies that share my priorities. See also Silver Tips Tea.
Which is how I stumbled upon FTC, not by exploiting foreign labor, but by seeking to explore China through tea. I thought I liked tea, but I had no idea until I saw Rishi's Travelogue on their FTC project in Yunnan, China. I was in love. It was a new experience, knowing the people who grew my tea, seeing their faces on the side of my tin. It drew me in. No more mass-produced blends of English Breakfast or what not. This was personal.
Sounds great, what the hell is it?
In the U.S. all FTC products are certified and monitored by an independent, third-party company, Transfair USA. They are part of an umbrella corporation, Fairtrade Labeling Organization (FLO), which includes Canada, Japan, and 17 European countries. FLO establishes Fair Trade criteria and makes annual visits to producer groups to ensure that the benefits of Fair Trade are reaching the farmers.
The Fair Trade Principles include:
- Fair price: Democratically organized farmer groups receive a guaranteed minimum floor price and an additional premium for certified organic products. Farmer organizations are also eligible for pre-harvest credit.
- Fair labor conditions: Workers on Fair Trade farms enjoy freedom of association, safe working conditions, and living wages. Forced child labor is strictly prohibited.
- Direct trade: With Fair Trade, importers purchase from Fair Trade producer groups as directly as possible, eliminating unnecessary middlemen and empowering farmers to develop the business capacity necessary to compete in the global marketplace.
- Democratic and transparent organizations: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers decide democratically how to invest Fair Trade revenues.
- Community development: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers invest Fair Trade premiums in social and business development projects like scholarship programs, quality improvement trainings, and organic certification.
- Environmental sustainability: Harmful agrochemicals and GMOs are strictly prohibited in favor of environmentally sustainable farming methods that protect farmers’ health and preserve valuable ecosystems for future generations.
Thursday, July 5, 2007
Sunday, July 1, 2007
This morning someone emailed me these pictures. I enjoyed them, so of course I'm going to assume that you will, too.
Update: Okay, these pictures were provided by a French company, Tamayura. And for people who can't get enough of this stuff, go here. (Thanks wehayley).
Whoever sent me these pictures, thank you very much, and I hope its okay that I posted them here. If not, I will remove them right away.
Come back soon for a blog entry that has nothing to do with Japanese potters or even Japan.