Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wild Oolong

This is a tea sample that Gingko of Life In Teacup generously sent me, among others (reviews pending).

I will not go into detail about the history and intricacies of this tea (click here for more details), but I will say that this is the first wild grown tea I have tasted (besides a pu'erh).

In the dry leaf there are hints of cassia seed, shrub, and a light floral aspect akin to wildflowers sprouting in a field.
There is not much aroma in the dry leaf; I was hard pressed to find even the slightest hint of anything, but my olfactory sense completed the task quite well.

There is such a variety in the leaf shapes and forms. By this, I can definitely tell this was all hand processed. Usually a tea is made to look uniform, but there is something rustic about the lack of similarity.
This tea was made with love and care.

The aroma of the liquor is true to the dry leaf, but a freshness hints at a scent that I normally pick up from Baozhongs.
As the drink is slurped, a surprising array of flavors are exhibited.
On the entrance, the tea is a bit rough tasting; a bit biting, but not in astringency or bitterness. I am referring to the taste of the wild.
Honey and wildflower are found next.
A woodsy, evergreen rounds this tea off as the first few sips are finished.

The tea is very "clean" tasting. There is no hint at industrial processing besides the package that it came in.
This tea offers something special.

As the brew is reaching its final stages, a bit of spinach comes forth. I did not mind it. It was just another aspect to take note of.

The endurance is wonderful; I was able to make 6 solid infusions with the few after mostly resembling sweet water.

I thank Gingko for this opportunity.

- Fox's review


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Science of Ceylon

Another post on the English Tea Blog!
Learn about Ceylon teas and how elevation affects the final outcome of the product!

The Science of Ceylon


Friday, September 24, 2010

Tipu's Instant Black Chai

Tipu's Chai recently contacted me and asked to review a sample of its Instant Black Chai.

I know what some of you are thinking; "Instant?!?"

I thought that too but I decided to give it a go. I seldom pass up an opportunity, especially in offers regarding tea.

This chai blend, as I found out, is not technically "instant" in the way one would think.
The mix is made up of very finely ground tea and spices meant to infuse very quick into milk or water; something almost to the equal of a matcha but in chai form.
Organic and FairTrade certified tea and spices gets me to thinking that this could end up being fairly decent tea.

The aroma of the powder is shockingly strong. Right as my scissors snip open the bag, I can smell black tea, ginger, peppercorn, anise, licorice, cardamom, cinnamon, and clove.
All of the expected scents of a chai.

I had read that this chai is quite potent, but that didn't stop me from loading up my cup with a bit over a teaspoon of the powder (I like strong chai).
There was a strong cup made, a weak cup, as well as an in-between cup so that I could gauge different strengths and how it affected the taste.

The aroma of the steaming milk was dominant of pepper, clove, and black tea. I was glad that the tea stood out among the spices so well.

Definitely a very spicy chai. It is rather brisk in its unsweet, natural state. The cloves leave a biting flavor. By the taste of the tea, one can tell that this was made with authentic spices. It is very well balanced and there are no clues or hints pointing toward unnatural ingredients.

One thing I found interesting about the chai is that I only liked it when it was steaming hot. I did not find it appealing when it cooled off some. I would think that sugar or honey would help that problem, but I did not have access to either commodity at the time. So, this chai is good either very hot, or very cold I would have to say.
If I ever do order some more of this chai, I will be experimenting on a chai latte. This would be a perfect blend for that application.

Tipu's Chai has a good name in my book.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Characteristics as a Result of Stress

An article about some of the science behind tea processing and how environmental and human induced stress affect the outcome of some teas, written by yours truly.

English Tea Blog

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tie Guan Yin - Special Edition

Another Fox sample!
This one was a surprise sample. I hadn't heard about this tea from him on his blog.

The package is pretty ornate, and it is a perfect sample size.

I am not sure if this tea is a Chinese or a Taiwanese Tie Guan Yin, but if anyone has any information regarding that, please let me know!
Source: unknown.
Year: unknown.

Toasted rice, apricot, and brown sugar is emitted right as the leaves are emancipated from their foil prison. The aroma is appealing and comforting. Real TGY.
The leaves are definitely classically roasted; a wonderful sight.

As the liquor is poured, my nose is enveloped in the fragrance of a peach cobbler, baked in a charcoal oven with a smooth brown sugar glaze over the top.
Yes, this tea is that sweet.

The taste of stone fruit is first and foremost.
Toasted bread and a light astringency follows.
For the final course, apple takes the stage.

This tea presents an almost sugary sweetness that I find so common in aged oolongs.
A charcoal flavor came into play around the 5th infusion, which might be because it was a bit over fired, but that does not bother me too much.

Endurance is another of this tea's strong points. It lasted around 9 infusions brewed gong fu.

This tea would be excellent aged.
If I had a tea roaster, some yixing storage containers, and a larger amount of this tea, I would age it myself.


This tea is a 2009, Fujian, Autumn picked tea from Life in Teacup.
It is a mix of traditional Tie Guan Yin cultivar and Mao Xie cultivar.
Read more about this tea here at Gingko's blog!

Friday, September 17, 2010

2003 MengHai Grade 3

Fox really loaded me up with samples. I still have two more for review!
I am not quite sure what Grade 3 denotes with this tea as far as quality, but either way it has no effect on my opinion about it.

The dry leaf smells of mushroom predominantly with a hint of cocoa. There is a slight musty smell that I cannot discern...Not sure if it is from wet storage or just an attribute. It could just be because it happens to be a shou pu.

The aroma of the liquor, not surprisingly, is mushroom.
A hint of rye is present in the mix as well.
Rye is something I have never found in a tea before.

The liquor is surprisingly sweet for a shou; a caramel sweetness.
If anyone has tried mugicha, that is what this tea reminded me of. Mugicha is a Japanese tisane made with barley that slightly resembles the taste of a cassia seed.
It slides down with a smooth, silky texture. Camphor; cooling.

Latter infusions bring about a musty / dampness.
It is also quite sour around the 6th infusion, a quality I see as negative.

This was a decent shou.
Not many people think shou has much to offer, but I find that there is immense variety if one looks close enough.
Comfort on a Friday afternoon.

Fox's review here.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

2009 Mang Fei

This tea was among the samples sent to me by Fox. I thank him for his generosity.

The tea is comprised of 2009 spring maocha and the cakes were pressed and produced by Yunnan Sourcing.

The dry leaf aroma consists of honey, asparagus, and floral notes.
In the appearance of the leaf itself, one can tell this is decent quality. The compression of the cake sample was just enough for it to stay together, but not tight enough for me to take a hammer to it, which I have been tempted to do in the past...

The liquor presents legume, soy, wheat and saline aromas. It was a bit difficult to pull out some of the scents because I was a bit congested, but I managed.

I would have to say that the flavor profile of this tea was quite good. It consisted of a legume type taste up front with a nice astringency, and ended with some rather delicate floral notes. The aftertaste was sensed a long time after the tea was consumed.

A honey-like sweetness was present in the latter infusions, and the last cup reminded me of snow peas.

"Lower water temp for young shengs!!" I read this in my notes and had to laugh a bit. In brewing this tea, there were several tries involved.
In my first attempt, I used water just off the boil. For my personal tastes, cooler water is ideal for brewing very young sheng pu.
I do not like the bitterness presented when the water is overly hot.

The leaves look rather nice when contrasted against a terracotta color.

All in all, a good tea.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

2009 NanJian Qiao Mu Xiao

I received quite a few samples from Fox a while back and only now am getting to them. My apologies.
School is hectic.

This tea is a NanJian produced pu'erh; 2009 Qiao Mu Xiao.
It is comprised of spring plucked leaves, and the cake was purchased by Fox from Yunnan Sourcing.

The dry leaf smells grassy with undertones of tobacco and spice (pepper). There is a healthy mix of buds, stems, and small leaves. This tea is definitely not wild arbor maocha.

The liquor produces an aroma reminiscent of tobacco, honey, pine and some earthy qualities to it.
The taste;
fresh pine, floral aspects, and a wonderful savory quality.
There is a biting astringency that hits once the liquid is consumed. It leaves behind a chalky texture and camphor.

The following infusions showed the real tea. There was an unpleasing bitterness even at 5 second brews. This maocha most likely was plantation, although the producers could have toned the mix down a bit.
After about 7 infusions the tea became fairly good again. I am not sure if it was me that was causing the bitterness, or the tea itself.
I do know that sheng pu is supposed to have some bitterness to it, but not that much.

This tea would do well with age I believe. The coarser, rough tasting leaves would tone down a bit and become more subdued. I still have a lot of the sample left, so I shall keep experimenting with it to see if I can't get some good brews.

Fox's opinion here.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Jade Oolong

This is Arbor Tea's organic Jade oolong.
The tea is a Taiwanese tea, produced in Nantuo. I am not sure about what year, but I am assuming it is from last year's batch.

The dry leaf smells of roasted graham, honey clover, and in the background there is a light, wavering floral aspect. The small pearls are inconsistent as far as size, shape, and color are concerned, but they are not at all a bad looking bunch of leaves.

The teapot is filled, and there is the slightest detection of the aroma of the leaf inside.

The liquor brings forth toasty, sweet, and almost a caramel type scent. On the palate; hay, and sweet calendula.
The texture is nice and brothy, and coats the mouth quite well.
As it cools, a saline aspect is brought out.

The second immersion in water creates a liquid that is very heavy, with a weak aroma, and a flat, dull taste.

I decide to stop the session.
This is not a horrible tea, but it was a bit boring.
Could I drink this as an everyday oolong? Definitely I could.
But could I have another rousing session with it, definitely not. It does not hold my interest.

I have been very pleased with all of the Arbor Tea samples that I have tried thus far, so this was a bit surprising.
You win some, you lose some.