Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rishi Tai Guan Yin, Medium Roasted

This is a TGY from Nantou, Taiwan.

Tossing the leaves into a heated pot smells fuckin' great. Thick, toasted honey. The liquor is a crystal clear green.

I've grown tired of brewing oolong gong fu style, hence the purchase of the Fujigata. I think in the end it is important to brew tea the way you like it, whatever feels comfortable and fits your needs, and not to simply mimic another culture's particular style.

I used 4 grams per 8 oz for 4 minutes.

This is really decent, pleasant. The toasted honey I got in the aroma tastes like amber honeysuckle. Bit of a dry mouth feel, but no noticeable astringency. There's an after taste of white grape.

If you brew it like I did, for multiple infusions I recommend increasing you steep time by a minute and a half, one minute if you prefer your tea lighter.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


My new teapot, the Fujigata from Rishi. The name translates to shaped like (Mt.) Fuji.

I like this pot's rustic feel, thicker clay, and mottled color. It is a 9 oz pot with a very fast pour, 6-10 seconds.

Its been fun.

I think I might be done for a while. Posts will most likely continue sporadically, but I wouldn't expect regular updates for a while.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

O-cha's Organic Matcha Kaoru

Matcha Kaoru is grown in Aichi, a prefecture just west of Shizuoka. Kaoru means fragrant. This one is meant for usucha.

Aroma: 6/10
Sweetness: 7.5/10
Astringency: 0/10
Flavor 7/10.

The aroma is not as fragrant as some of O-cha's other matcha, like the Kiku or Chiyo Mukashi, but it has a pleasant depth, fresh and sweet.

The first words that come to mind when I sip it are sweet, yummy, fresh. It has a warm and thick mouth-feel, quite sweet and smooth. I think this a fantastic usucha. At this point I've now had all of O-cha's matcha save for the organic Kaoru Supreme, and I must say their matcha is consistently fresh and superior with prices more than fair for the quality. Theirs is the best I've had.


If you desire a good head, preheating the chawan is a must. For me it is a simple part of the routine.

I pour boiled water into my yuzamashi, then from the yuzamashi into the chawan and over the chasen, then I refill the yuzamashi and allow the water to cool. This rinses any dust off my utensils and preheats the bowl and chasen. Preheating the chasen helps keep the tines from breaking and will prolong its life.

It is also important to dry the bowl before adding the matcha. I was asked about this earlier today. If you put matcha into a wet bowl, there is a good chance that it will turn into paste, and you wont get a through mix. Yes you can correct this by whisking harder or scraping the chasen along the bottom, but I feel this puts unnecessary wear and tear on what is a rather delicate utensil.

Once I am done rinsing, drying, and have scooped out the desired amount of matcha, the water in the yuzamashi should be at a good temperature.

Remember, I do not claim to be an expert or that my way is the only way. I only add these suggestions on matcha preparation in hopes that someone else might learn from my mistakes, my trial and error.
To give you an idea of the camera I'm working with, and what a difficult time I have trying to get the colors of the matcha to come out, those flowers in the pictures are actually purple.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Matcha Source Matcha Kinrin and Matcha Sifter

As their name indicates, Matcha Source provides matcha and matcha accessories from a variety of other shops. Since they are a reseller, you will pay more for their products, so if you choose to purchase something from them, I recommend taking note of which shop they sourced it from, and buying it direct. For example:

Matcha Kinrin:
M.S. Price: $20 vs Koyamean Price: $12

Matcha Sifter:
M.S. Price: $14 vs Ippodo Price: $8.65

On the other hand, if you were looking to buy a variety of items that came from different shops, I could see that it might be more convenient, and possibly less expensive once shipping charges were taken into account, to simply purchase it all from one place.

The Matcha Kinrin, "Profound," comes from Koyamaen. It is meant for koicha.

Aroma: 6/10
Sweetness: 4/10
Astringency 1-3/10
Flavor 5/10

This was an average matcha, but quite fair for the original price. It has decent flavor; I still find it hard to describe the taste of matcha. It isn't grassy or vegital or like any other green tea. It isn't nuanced or layered either. The kinrin has a pleasant creamy mouth feel. I would consider this one a very suitable daily koicha, provided you buy it from Koyamaen.

The preparation instructions that came with the tea were helpful. Matcha Source suggests using an almond-sized scoop. I thought this was as good a visual as any, so here you go:

Use about that much. If you don't have a chashoku, this comes to .5-.6 grams. Two scoops equals about a teaspoon.

Matcha Sifter

Also known as a matcha burui (sieve). The sifter is removable and comes with a small, bamboo spatula. The container is air tight and will hold up to 50 grams. I have used it twice now, sifting an entire 20-30 gram tin at a time. The matcha will re-clump a bit given time, but not enough to make a difference.

So far I am fond of it. I have had no problems with it, and I prefer having my matcha pre-sifted. Do follow their cleaning instructions. I thought I was smarter than them and made a mess. Matcha and water equals green mud, gooey, hard to clean, mud.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tea Table Update

Today I received the small bamboo tea tray that Republic of Tea sent me to replace my leaky one. It leaks, too, and was in the same poor condition as the first one. I appreciate their customer service and efforts to rectify the situation, but clearly the product is crap. Don't buy one.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

This Week in Tea

In Adagio's TeaMuse for March, Mary explains that the popular idea that you can decaffeinate your tea with a quick 30-45 second rinse is a lot of myth and hype.

Matt in Korea has started a blog recently that I think is excellent, Mattcha's Blog.

And white people like tea. (Thanks Brent).

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Rishi Kukicha

Today's Tea is green and Japanese. I know...who would've thunk it?

I don't often drink Rishi's Japanese teas anymore. It is not my intent to make any overt or disparaging remarks about their quality, but it would certainly appear that their teas are shipped to them by boat. If I have a choice, why buy tea that spent a month or more on a ship, when I can simply buy it fresh from the source (Ippodo, Hibiki-an, O-cha), or at least from a vendor that uses air freight (Den's Tea).

But fuck this kukicha is good. To hell with harvest dates; good is good, and quality is where you find it.

I don't know if this is my favourite kukicha, but I think it is the sweetest that I've tried, and I like my kukicha sweet. Its from shizuoka and made with fukamushi sencha.

The aroma is breathtaking. Thick and sweet. A bit of fruit in the background, apples perhaps.

This tea has a good viscosity, a pleasantly full mouth-feel. Slightly more astringent than water. Very sweet. It has an enjoyable after taste that lingers for several minutes. I can consistently get four solid infusions.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tea Tables

I purchased my first tea table a year ago from Rishi, and I received my second one today. I chose to wait a year before writing a review in order to see how well it stood up to consistent, daily use. Would it leak? Would the bamboo warp over time? Would it stain?

With the arrival of a second table to compare it to, now seemed a perfect time.

I looked several different tables for weeks before choosing this one. I wanted something simple. I decided to pick one that was a little pricier, because I felt that I would most likely get what I paid for.

This thing is amazing, very well built, very solid. The seams are flawless. The surface texture is very smooth. All the edges are nicely rounded.

The corners inside the tray have accumulated tea stains, but that's it.

It is certainly large enough. I use this table when I do tea demos at the stores, and I have gong-fued for 3-4 hours before filling it up.

I have been very happy with it. It is the one item of all my tea ware that I use the most, well worth the $75. is a little large. This was never a problem, but I have a new desk, and between that and my computer, it felt a little crowded. So I found myself in the market for a smaller, inexpensive tea table that I could leave on my desk.

Small Bamboo Tray (Republic of Tea)

I almost bought this one originally, but as I said, you get what you pay for. I felt there was most likely a reason this one was only $20, so I went with the one from Rishi.

When Roy Fong did his tea class in January, he used one of these. Having had a closer look at it, I was very fond of the size, so the second time, after a just a bit of shopping around, I chose this one.

Immediately I could see the difference in quality.

The seams are rough.

There are cracks.

And various scratches on the body.

But the price was right, so I was okay with it and quite happy with my purchase.

I was not okay with this.

Within five minutes it was leaking on my desk. I'll say it a third time, you get what you pay for.

This is a little frustrating, but I think I can fix it with some silicone or water-proof wood glue. And it is a little gratifying to know that I made the right decision the first time by going with the more expensive one. Mostly I am just aggravated with Republic of Tea and their ongoing lack of quality. I did not expect anything stellar, but I did expect it to work.

But what can you do? With tea everyone pays their "tuition" sooner or later. Twenty bucks isn't that much to loose.

Update: Republic of Tea emailed me back today. They have refunded my money and are sending me a replacement. I thought that was very nice of them.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Posts will resume this weekend-ish.

It will be a bit longer now. I am feeling dissatisfied with my tea at the moment, and I don't want to offer a series of half-assed posts. So I am going to take a little break, come back and start from scratch.

No worries, it won't be a Mary break.