Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Land of Enchantment - Home

It is good to be back home.

I left twelve degree weather and four inches of snow and arrived to seventy degrees and a magnificent sun staring me in the face.

New Mexico is a land full of wonders. It is my home.

The vibrant blue sky welcomes me.
There will be no White Christmas for me.

It is good to be back.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Yellow Stone Phoenix

This is the second tea in my odyssey of Bird Pick samples.

Like all DanCongs, this tea is from the Guangdong province in China.
Usually these teas are named after a specific scent (honey orchid, osmanthus, etc..), but I am not sure what a "Yellow Stone" scent is.

The dry leaf has a powerful fruity aroma, displaying currents, lemon zest and strawberries, the latter being the most powerful. Usually DanCongs remind me of peaches and apricots, but this tea stands out from the rest, just like its name.

In the dry leaf, strawberry is the most powerful scent.
The liquor follows suit;
although in the liquor aroma, the strawberry aroma is intensified even greater.

It is so strong in fact, that I cannot pull out any other dimensions.
This tea is serious about its strawberries.

Again, the rising star in the taste is the ever powerful strawberry, leaping forth as the victor of the most profound taste.
Honey, out of no where, becomes the runner-up. The sweetness of the tea is ever-present but not overwhelming, as I find to be the case in some other DanCongs.
Another difference in this phoenix is that the taste is dominated by fruity aspects and refuses to show any floral qualities.

A balancing astringency comes with each infusion of this tea, and after it has subsided, honey and wheat become the two lingering tastes.

This is a wonderful tea, and as you can see from the infusing leaves, the quality is quite apparent. There are many different oxidation levels and I think that it is the blending of those differences that creates the unique characteristics of this tea.
Even though my descriptions may have made this sound like fairly complex tea, it really is not. The flavors are very up front and honest. I did not have to dig to hard to sense the qualities of this tea.

Once again, thank you to the fine folks at Bird Pick for this experience.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Supreme Gong Fu Black

Bird Pick Tea & Herb contacted me recently and kindly sent samples of some of their unflavored and unscented teas.
The only downside of the teas right off the bat was that there were no specified regions of origin and no year / season of harvest. I do not let details like that deter me from the tea though.

I drink tea for what it is.

This tea is their "GongFu Black."
By look and smell of the dry leaf I am presuming that it is a keemun, or at least from Anhui province.

The dry leaf smells of chocolate, cherry, maple wood and earth.
There are a few scattered golden buds here and there among the multitude of small, wiry, black leaves. I enjoy a black tea with a good amount of buds, as I like the fruity sweetness that they impart into the flavor.

The aroma wafting off of the liquor is very fruity, with the essence of cherry and honey.
Maple floats up as well. This tea is quite sweet.
I can tell that it is rich, and it smells fresh.

As I sip my cup, the full flavor shows;
deep, rich cherry with a mild astringency.

It still presents that special something that keemun teas all have in common. It is distinct, but nothing that I can describe in words.

The finish on all the infusions is distinctly grape. Not Welch's Concord grape, but closer to a wine grape.
Wood and maple are also long lasting flavors.
The tea is very clean and cleanses the palate.

The tea lasts quite a long time and it deserves the title of a GongFu.
I push the tea to 7 infusions. That is impressive for a black tea.

Bird Pick has a good start in my book!
I thank the company for their generosity.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

2006 Haiwan "Purple Leaf"

I cannot recall where I purchased this specific bing, as it was a while ago. Although I did happen upon the same tea being sold at Norbu Tea.

I will not go into the science of the meaning of purple leaves. Look it up on Google if so interested.

This tea is from the Haiwan factory in Xishuangbanna. This tea has many memories for me, as it was my first sheng pu'erh cake that I purchased. Learning how to brew this tea was trial and error for quite a while as I tried to find my bearings.

The dry leaf smells of tobacco, chocolate and some form of foliage. I cannot put my finger on what vegetal smell arises from the leaf.

The aroma of the liquor is exquisite. There are scents of roasted nuts, savory qualities and a sort of "well-seasoned" smell.

In the taste there is watercress up front.
When I let the liquor sit on the palate for a while, a brothy quality shows.
There is a distinct meaty, protein taste. The closest description I can conjure up is a thick slice of smoked bacon.
It is not a bad quality, just intriguing.
I have never tasted bacon in a tea.

When I think of tea, pork usually is not on my list of descriptors.

The endurance of the hog related qualities is unshakable. It lasts for quite some time!
Astringent, smoky notes appear in the latter infusions of this meaty tea.

It is a very warming tea, as I start sweating within the first few cups.

The more I drink the tea, the more I come to appreciate it and enjoy it.

Rummaging through the wet leaves, I spot a few surprises.
The above picture is of two infused tea buds. I have never found buds in a tea before.

Always search your leaves. Sometimes it tells you more about the tea than anything.


Monday, November 29, 2010

2006 CNNP 7581

This brick is the last part of my purchase from Pu'erh Shop.
I seem to be on a trend with 2006 pu'erhs. I have another cake to review after this one and it happens to be 2006 as well.
So far it seems to have been a time for good bricks and cakes to be produced. I haven't tasted an awful one yet.

This is a landmark for me, as it is my first encounter with a CNNP cake. In some cases that can be good or bad, so it seems. There is much information floating around about CNNP cakes that I have been trying to make sense of. I understand the basic concept of the government control, but everything else is a bit ambiguous.

In my basic understanding of the recipe number, in this case being "7581," the first two numbers indicate the year that the recipe was made. In this case, 1975.
The second number denotes the grade of leaf that was used. That being said, the grade only refers to the size of leaf, not the quality. This brick's grade happens to be 8.
The last number is the factory number, under the CNNP regulations. The number 1 on this brick shows that the factory where it was produced was Kunming.

The brick is not as heavily condensed as it looks. It actually pries apart very nicely with just a butter knife. I have not upgraded to a pu'erh pick or knife yet, but that will be fixed sooner or later. Purchases are unpredictable for me, seeing as I am a college student and I always regulate my money pretty carefully.

The dry leaf smells of nuts, leaves, and wood.
Imagine walking through a deciduous forest and taking a deep breath...That is how this tea smells. It is very different from other shu pu'erhs I have cross paths with.
There is no damp, musty dirt aroma from these leaves at all. I presume this was a dry stored tea because of this.

The nose of the liquor was full of surprises and unconventional characteristics.
The same forest smell was there, but now imagine that you are walking through that deciduous forest after a good amount of rainfall.
Damp logs and wet, piled leaves are what come to mind.

The curve ball: sweet cinnamon rolls.
I breathed in the scent again just to assure myself that it was not being imagined.

This trait definitely stands out from other shu pu's.

The taste was, not surprisingly, full of more surprises.
A creamy, velvet liquid flooded my taste buds and proceeded to coat my mouth.
Sweet raisin and sassafras were presented to me.

They were thoroughly enjoyed for the next 7 infusions. Those tastes and textures maintained their consistency throughout the session, only dwindling after the 7th infusion.

A lingering wheat aftertaste left my mind pondering on this tea for quite sometime.

With a full stomach and a very pleasant feeling, I leave you to enjoy a session of your own!


Monday, November 15, 2010

Enjoying My Tea

Today's tea; Gingko's Yunnan Golden Buds.

There will not be a fancy review, but I will spill some thoughts onto this page.

When reviewing tea, I focus on the tea. I focus on all the aspects of the aroma, appearance, color, history, brewing technique, flavors, textures, and anything else that gives a specific tea it's attributes. There is also the process of writing about the tea, and attempting to take decent photos to represent the tea as realistically as possible.

Today, I decided to do something different.
I decided to focus on nothing.

I sat back, relaxed, and sipped the tea.

Sometimes this represents even more aspects of a tea. The feeling of the warm brew as it travels down into your inner core and the warmth that it brings are feelings that are missed when one's mind is too focused.

A few sips into my session, there was knocking on the door of my humble dorm room. I said, in a friendly tone, to come on in.
One of the hall residents sat down. I gave him a cup, which he gladly took, and we talked.

I would have missed out on so much if I would have had a solitary session.
Tea opens one's eyes to so much if it is given the chance.

Enjoy your tea, my friends.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

2006-8830 Menghai Dayi Nannuo

This is another cake in my order from Puerh Shop.
Some may ask, "Why another Nannuo?"

My response, "I want somewhere to begin."
Gaining knowledge from one of the regions that is well known for its puerh is very valuable to me. I believe that I may gain some experience in acquiring a taste for this region. I will move onto other regions too, but I figure that Nannuo is a good starting point on my journey.

This bing is good looking. There is a healthy mix of full leaves and buds and the colors are eye-catching.
The compression on this one is fairly strong. I figured it would be since it is a big factory label cake.

The scents coming off of the cake is very light. It reminds me of the smell of oatmeal; a weak grain sort of aroma. Next, add some rose petals and cocoa. That is the basic aroma of this bing.

The liquor smells basically like the dry leaves except a bit more strongly expressed.

The taste;
very floral, namely rose. It is a bit astringent at first, but it finishes with a wonderful sweet mango note.
The fruitiness is a compliment to the bitter entrance. This cake is well rounded and well mixed, in my opinion.

The following infusions present different personalities of this cake.

The astringency is taken down a notch and leaves the mouth watering mango.

Strawberries decide to emerge from the cup a few infusions later. The entrance is sweet, and the finish is a bit puckering.

To finish the session, a vegetal mushroom flavor leaves the earthiness of this cake with me for a while.

This cake does not have too many dimensions to it, but it is good quality. I will love to see what this cake will be a few years down the road.
Hopefully by that time I shall be well into my journey.


Friday, November 5, 2010

2008 - 0802 American Hao Nannuo "Ban Po Lao Zhai"

I spent a few days becoming acquainted with the new cakes I purchased, hence the small absence in posts.

Like I said in my previous post; these cakes changed my view on shengpu.

I had read on Bearsbearsbears that this was a very decent cake, and on the Half-Dipper I read that cakes made from Nannuo maocha are lighter, which I decided was a good starting point to my introduction to quality sheng puerh cakes.They both had wonderful suggestions.

This is a cake that was sourced and produced by Puerh Shop.

I wont go into depth about the tea's production information; read it on the label.

The American flag is a great touch. I feel like this was somewhat produced to fit the American specialty market, and they did a wonderful job.

The cake is very pretty! There are many full leaves and buds. The compression on the cake was enough to hold it together, but not enough to make me take a knife to it. I was able to pull out full leaves very easily with just my hands.

Right when the wrapper is opened, an army of aromas invaded my olfactory.
The most striking feature was the prominent sweetness and the floral attributes.
Along with that, there were distinct notes of honey, cherry and a woody earthiness.
For someone not so well versed in the ways of puerh, this is very inviting!
Usually I do not get this excited to drink a tea, but this was so different and I had the urge to dive right into it.

I tend to like to brew shengs with a little less than the recommended amount of leaves because I do not want to pull out too much of the bitterness that sometimes comes with shengpu.

The taste really presented a vast amount of flavors for me to keep track of. It is difficult to narrow it down so will list them all:
mellow sweetness, melons, floral notes and cocoa.
The texture was rich and creamy, but surprisingly light in body. A mild astringency followed that rounded out all the notes and pulled them together in harmony.
In some ways this tea reminds me of brie cheese; mellow, creamy, smooth, easygoing and a bit earthy.

With all puerh, there is a definite earthy quality that can be presented in different tastes. With this cake it was shown through deep wood flavors.
Another thing I notice is that the light bitterness plays an important roll to the flavor profile of this tea. Without the bitterness, the brew would be lacking in depth and complexity.

Some leafy greens emerge in the middle infusions but bring along sweet cherry notes with it. It is incredible how flavors can change throughout a session.

The tea lost complexity around the 7th infusion, but I pushed it to its limit none the less. I wanted to extract as much as I could out of this special tea.

This cake still has a youthful vigor to it, but it has matured to a wonderfully enjoyable stage. I would recommend this cake to anyone trying to get into the flavors of shengpu.

Wonderful session to say the least!


Monday, November 1, 2010

Pu'erh Journey

I never really quite understood the pu'erh hype, especially shengpu.

Now, don't get me wrong; I had enjoyed my fair share of shu and sheng pu'erh tea, but I had never seen the reason people are so fascinated by it.

Sure there is a sense of secrecy, mystery, and variety behind pu'erh, but in my mind it really did not amount to that much. There are hundreds and thousands of aficionados of pu'erh that employ a vast knowledge of everything under the umbrella of pu'erh. Some connoisseurs seem to have the entire list of factories and recipes memorized and could detect any of their flavor profiles in one sip. It fascinated me how little I really knew (and still don't know).
I was content enjoying my traditional oolongs and greens, as well as the occasional white and black teas. I concentrated my knowledge and flavors around those types, and kept a small bit of pu'erh on hand when I felt like indulging in a different dimension.

I decided to splurge and order a few cakes from Puershop...
That was money well spent.

The appreciation that I now have for pu'erh has risen to a whole new level.

I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with the fine Readers of this humble blog.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Dunn Hall Tea Time

I live in Dunn Hall. I am surrounded by the best, most diverse group of guys I have ever met.
In Dunn Hall there are a variety of traditions, some of which I shall not disclose. One of them, however, is very fitting to the context of this blog.

Dunn Hall Tea Time has been an almost weekly event for about a year.
One of the students organized and hosted this tea time. We became acquainted (naturally, as I tend to happen upon anything relating to tea) and I jumped on the opportunity to be involved.
There were about 12 people that attended.

I brought and served an interpretation of an eight treasures tisane blend, and a 2009 autumnal flush darjeeling.

The man hosting the event brought a chocolate mint black tea, and a few Chinese greens and oolongs.
All were well received.

It was an enjoyable time of intellectual conversation, musical talent and appreciation, opposing opinions and good old fashioned brotherhood.

I feel like I am doing my part in spreading the love of tea to my eclectic generation.


P.S. I am sorry about the photo quality. These pictures were taken with my phone. I have been trying to set up mobile blogging (android OS has an app for that) but I have to do some troubleshooting before I have it running smoothly.

Monday, October 18, 2010

2006 Taiwan WuYi

This is another sample I received from Gingko, of Life In Teacup.

I did not find any information about this tea on Her blog or in the store description other than it was picked in the spring of 2006 in Nantuo, Taiwan, and it is a traditional heavy roast tea.

I could guess that the reason that it is referred to as a WuYi tea is because that the cultivar is specific to the WuYi region in China. Gingko may be able to fill us in if I have stated an untruth.

To the tea...(no pun intended).

The dry leaf had a very scattered aroma.
I sensed dried apricots, roasted banana and a woody tree bark sort of smell. This in itself was intriguing. Roasted banana is definitely a new one for me.

The liquor was . . . completely different.

Caramel was the dominant aroma and in the midst of that sugar sweetness, I could pick out the distinct smell of cinnamon raisin bread fresh out of the toaster.
That is one of the first times a tea has changed so suddenly on me.

I did not quite know what to expect as far as taste was concerned . . .

A thick, rich, caramel sweetness engulfed my palate. The syrup was almost sticky sweet.
The goop left hints of toffee, coffee and banana.
To finish it off, the aftertaste closely resembled fig newtons and butter.

The second infusion . . . very different, once again.
Roasted banana became the dominant taste, and of course, the tea was as thick as ever.
I can equate the texture somewhat to chicken broth mixed with a bit of corn starch.

Third infusion;
the sweetness turns more to wood.
The goopy, sloppy texture still remains.
Aftertaste; figs and dates.

a very unique vegetal taste appears.
Leafy; think bean sprouts. The next taste; red potatoes.

This tea is throwing me around like Goliath would a ragdoll.

The fifth infusion;
much more leafy.
The vegetal taste is quite powerful and has an aftertaste similar to matcha.

I can't take much more of this tea. The thickness affects my stomach.

Gingko mentioned on the site that this tea is fairly cheap.
I think that this tea would be money very well spent.
This was a memorable session for me and I am thinking about ordering the tea in a large quantity. It is truly an experience. I have never been so baffled by a tea. The curve-balls of the flavor and the thick texture really impressed me.
Thank you once again Gingko.


Monday, October 11, 2010

New Member of the Collection

This is a tea pot purchased from a local flea market. I did not expect to find a pot like this, somewhere like that.
Hidden in a back corner of a case cluttered with all sorts of other goods, a friend's eye caught a glimpse of this.

I presume it is yixing, perhaps cheaply made, but it only cost me about $4.00.
I figured it was not too much to lose.

The first thing about this pot one may notice is the speckles in the clay. Some are dark spots, others are shiny, and it is a bit of a rougher surface than some of my other yixings.
It is either not a pure yixing pot, or it is supposed to look like such. I am not a yixing expert by any means so please inform me if I am incorrect on the matter.

The pot is balanced nicely; it sits flat with the opening flush against the tea table.

I do not recognize artist marks.
Any clues..?

The opening looks like it was made in a rush with not a whole lot of effort put into it. I did not time the pour yet, but I believe it is about ten or eleven seconds and not too smooth.
Not too great, but I could deal with that. I just have to time my infusions to accommodate.

The pot on a whole looks rustic, but there are a few parts that I can tell have been hand-made or hand-edited, for lack of a better phrase.

The lid does not fit too snug, but it does not dribble when pouring so I do not find any complaints in that.

One of the surprising things about this pot was that it is almost perfectly balanced on water, more so than some of my other pots, which I do know to be true yixing.

For $4.00 I do not think this was a bad deal at all.
Any input or things to say about this pot from what you can see..?
Your contributions would be much appreciated!