Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Teance "Monkey Picked" Tai Guan Yin Medium Roast

First things first, "monkey picked." Tea vendors will use this phrase to indicate that the particular tea is high quality, and perhaps also as in attempt to add a little exotic appeal to the product. This phrase should instill in you the same warm fuzzies I get from McDonald's "Premium" Coffee. It's a bygone phrase ('cause seriously, have you seen what monkey's do with their hands all day? Do you want them picking you tea?) from a time when supposedly they used trained monkey's to climb to the tops of trees to pick the tea leaves (now China can just use kids).

Yes, a company can add the phrase to a legitimately superior tea, that is quite good and worth your money; buyer beware, that's all I'm saying. If you find yourself thinking, "oooh, monkey picked," your bull-shit detector may need adjusting.

Second, medium roast my ass; this, and to be fair to Teance, every other medium roasted TGY I've tried, tastes lightly roasted at best to me. Maybe there is something I don't understand about roasting.

The aroma is somewhat typical but more complex than usual, sweet, toasted grain, caramel and honey with greener bits that come and go. The aroma of the rinsed leaves reveal a surprising and faint hint of peach.

The first time I brewed the tea, it was indeed peachy, like a dan cong, and I was very pleased, but I have since been unable to replicate it. It has a flavor similar to a gao shan, but not as floral and with a heavier body and thicker mouth feel.

I'm still hunting for roasted TGYs, but they seem to be going out of style.

And on the subject of Chinese mythology, meet Yu Zhi, daughter of Xiwangmu, Queen Mother of the West. The pictures is taken from a Ukiyo e woodcut by Nishikawa Sukenobu. Just the outline so far, color in about a month.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hibiki-an's Houji Karigane

I'll cut to the chase. This tea is good, but it failed to elicit the same excitement and passion for houjicha that Den's Houji Kukicha awoke in me earlier this year.

Nice and toasty, a sweet finish, no astringency to speak of, but somehow lacks the pizazz of Den's. The prices are comparable, but you can only buy Hibiki's in 200 grams, meaning if you choose to try it, you better have plans to drink it for a while. Also, Hibiki's is less flexible. With Den's, I couldn't make a bad cup, but this one has turned on me once or twice.

Still, as I said, this is a good tea, but I'd rather have Den's. It would be interesting to try the two side by side and see if I'm full of shit.

Edit: I realised later that I wrote this assuming who ever reads it knows what kukicha and karigane are, which are essentially the same thing, Japanese twig tea. Kuki (twig) cha (tea). Karigane translates to wild goose or something. From what I have heard, karigane generally refers to kukicha from Uji. If you didn't know this, you might have been wondering why I was comparing kukicha to karigane.

Please read the comments for further disscusion on the true nature of karigane vs kukicha.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Rishi's Jade Cloud

It's been a while since I've talked about one of my earliest tea passions, Fair Trade, but the conversation on TeaChat today has inspired me to get off my ass and finally post this review. (I took these pictures three months ago).

There have been two recent changes with Rishi's line of Green Tea Retail Tins. 1) They've been packaging the tea with an inner bag to increase freshness (pictured), and 2) The tea gardens in Hubei, China where they source the Jade Cloud and a few others is now Fair Trade Certified.

Jade Cloud is harvested in the early spring using organic farming, grown at high elevation in tea gardens situated in natural pine and bamboo forests.

The aroma is nutty, sharp, vegital--asparagus perhaps.

The tea is mellow but has a pleasant and rich mouth feel and a desirable, low-level astringency. Nutty up front followed by a slight sweetness, which becomes more apparent in subsequent infusions, and a vegital finish. It tastes like it smells. As my palate is more accustomed to Japanese green tea, I'd say the overall flavor and strength is comparable to a good asamushi.