Friday, June 27, 2008

New Vithanakande "Extra Special"

This is one of two teas that I will review from Portsmouth Tea Company. New Vithanakande is an estate in (Ceylon) Sri Lanka, from the Ratnapura area/district/region, what have you.

The dry leaf aroma is woodsy, sawdust-y, not pine, but oak or mahogany, at first, then it smells more rich, sweeter, like tobacco. Once put in the preheated pot, I can smell stone fruits and honey that blends with the wood.

For a Ceylon, this tea is quite nice. Fans of Indian Tea and British styles will be fond of it, while proponents of Chinese hong cha will find something lacking, I suspect. In my opinion, a "fault" generally inherent to Indian, African and Sri Lankan teas.

There are nuances of something or the other whispering faintly in the background. The tea needs a touch of something, nothing as offensive as sugar, but...something. I tried a lemon. Tasty and soothing.

I didn't see this until after I compiled my tasting notes, but if you look at this post from last year, you'll see that my opinion of New Vithanakande tea hasn't changed much.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ice Tea

Today I experimented further with ice infusions, digging through my tea stash for anything interesting. Making ice tea has been a great way of disposing of less than stellar tea samples or anything I have a bit too much of.

Someone suggested using crushed ice to speed things up. Unfortunately I do not have ready access to crushed ice, but I do have a shovel, a bag of ice, and a bit of pent up angst. Note, if you try this, wrap the bag of ice in a towel to cushion and disperse the impact.

Zhen Qu: Very nice, light, bits of honey and lemon, sweet and refreshing.

Roasted TGY: Roasted Chocolate. This one was all right, but not my favorite.

Milk Oolong: Tasted exactly like it smells, milky sweet and floral.

Kukicha: This one was kind of gross, marine and grassy, not a good grassy--when I was five, I built a home for my Cringer/Battle Cat toy in a bucket filled with water and grass (I know, wtf?) and left him there for a few weeks. I've never forgotten the smell when I went to retrieve him. That kind of grassy.

Tip: Rolled oolong wont unfurl in cold water. For a better infusion try rinsing in boiling water first.
If you think this is starting to sound a bit labor intensive, you're not the only one.

Monday, June 23, 2008

White Tip Oolong

This tea from New Mexico Tea Co. was a gift. I am unfamiliar with the company, but this tea was good, and I totally want these cups.

It's a Formosan oolong from the Tung Ting province. The rinsed leaves smell like baked fruit, cherries or something.

The brew is malty, reminiscent of a dian hong, similar mouth feel as well. When gong fu-ed, there are sweeter notes of molasses. Delightfully smooth and moderately complex. Yields about five to six, maybe seven, infusions depending on taste. Well worth the price.

On a personal note...

Regular readers may have noticed that the blog is limping along. June is almost over and this only the third post this month, by far the slowest since the beginning. I assure you that the blog is not dying, or in (much) danger of an extended hiatus. We are merely experiencing a period of decreased activity.

The biggest reason for this is that I am getting divorced. And while I will say that it has been a remarkably amicable affair, it has left me often feeling distracted and unfocused. My tea consumption in general had decreased dramatically, probably only a cup or two every three days or so. In short, tea just hasn't been on my mind, so there hasn't been much to write about.

However, through this I have learned two things, that I will now share with you.

Tip #1 DO NOT leave spent sencha in a pot for more than a week. That is not an aroma you want lingering.

Tip #2 When rigorously cleaning said pot with boiling water that you then spill on you hand, gently set down the pot first, then feel pain.

Lastly, to my regular readers, thank you. If not for your continuous support and interest in this blog, I'd have given up a while ago.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Teance Roasted Twig Oolong

So far I have been unimpressed with the teas coming in from Teance; they have been average at best, though to be fair, my idea of "average" sets the bar kind of high. Nonetheless I found myself more than a little excited to try their Roasted Twig Oolong.

I love twig tea, karigane or kukicha, roasted or green, this kind of tea is a staple, always gotta have it in stock. Unfortunately this Taiwanese tea lacks the unique magic of its more prolific, Japanese counterparts. What kukicha brings to sencha, this tea fails to deliver.

The leaves/twigs smell wonderful, like warm, toasted honey, only it doesn't taste as good as it smells. It has the same problem I often find in lighter oolong. Like push up bras, enticing yes, but they only build you up for a let down.

Still...its not all bad, pleasant, light with bits of fruit, with honey in the finish, no astringency. I find its good for 2-3 infusions.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Ice-Infused Shincha

A year ago I experimented with cold brewing sencha, and now that another Texas summer is here, I have revisited this quirky, refreshing method, this time using a significantly better tea, Shincha Yutaka Midori.

The idea is simple, add tea leaves and ice cubes to your pot and let the ice melt, giving it at least fifteen to twenty minutes. The colder temperature keeps the tea from turning bitter.

This time I thoroughly preheated the pot first, hoping to speed things up just a bit. When using this method I find its best to leave it outside or out on the porch.

The tea is strong, but not astringent, sweet, flavorful, very vegital. There is nothing grassy about this, but like biting into fresh produce. Cold-brewing reveals characteristics of the tea that you wouldn't find otherwise.