Friday, December 30, 2011

For the Tea Community

I would like to inform all those who have supported my blog throughout its existence that I will be back at it mid January upon my return to Indiana for school. I have already scheduled times and days that I shall be posting. Keep in touch for further posts in 2012. My new years resolution; get back to doing what I love.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

15 Year Old (?) Dong Ding

As you can see by the pictures below, my tea ware and tea tray have seen much more use lately. I am glad that some stains are accumulating, even with after session rinses. It shows some love and memorable use.

In my pot lately, pu'erh has seen much action (this one specifically). Also, roasted and aged oolongs, as the weather is starting to shift from warm Autumn, to brisk Autumn.
I find that aged and roasted oolongs (yesterday's tea) are perfect for afternoon Autumn weather here in Indiana.

The stains give these tea utensils character beyond what their maker put into them.
Stains make tea ware personal.

I had the privilege to be hosted in Dallas last weekend for a wonderful tea event put on by the owners of the Cultured Cup. If you are ever in Dallas, call them up and schedule a tasting or just a visit. They are some of the most wonderful people I have met in the industry.

Also, I was so fortunate enough to have a tasting session with Greg, the owner of Norbu Tea (a company who has been on my radar for quite some time). We tasted some wonderful aged pu'erhs, a Liu Bao basket tea and an aged Fo Shou.

I was also fortunate enough to be gifted a sample of a 15 year old Dong Ding (or so labeled) from Floating Leaves.

It is wonderful to come back to more periodic gongfu sessions with such outstanding teas.

The dry leaves have the smell of roasted barley, brown sugar, and vanilla. I find that aged oolongs often smell much sweeter than they actually are, as it would be a dessert tea if it really did taste as sweet as it smelled!

Once the water is poured off the leaves for the rinse, I can immediately smell notes of strong coffee off of the damp leaves.

After the first infusion is poured into the faircup, I plunge my nose into it to take in the scents. There is strong hints of coffee, dark chocolate, vanilla and coconut.
This tea is warming for the soul and a great taste for a whetted appetite.

This tea is savory rather than sweet in flavor, as the scents would falsely suggest.
There is much resemblance to wood and roasted nuts. A light charcoal note lingers as the tea is consumed.
As the infusions continue, a light astringency is revealed, which brings up snapshots of its youth. Quite the session.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

To Re-learn That Which is All too Familiar...

Classes were cancelled today due to a small tragedy at our university which occurred last night. A fire started in a part of the school of business (where most of my day is spent), and smoke filled the entire building. Workers will spend all of today and possibly this next week venting the building and cleaning soot.

I decided to take the day and spend it with a dearly missed friend of mine; GongFuCha.

Can you guess what cake this is? I have seen it on a few blogs so far...

I realized something about GongFu today though.
I realized that I have lost the knack to properly prepare one (probably more) of my favorite sheng'pu teas.

GongFu is, for me, a method of preparation and a way to focus completely on the tea set before me. With all my past reviews, I have prepared the tea (for the most part) in a way most would describe as GongFu.

As noted in my previous post, I have been rather busy and the only teas I have been drinking are simple pleasures that I can throw into my two tea tumblers and take to go. This has put a dent in the way which I normally prepare my teas.

Getting to know a tea by GongFu teaches you much about what the tea is and how best to release its full potential. In brewing the aforementioned sheng'pu, I just couldn't get it to taste the way I remember it. I will surely be making a stronger effort to integrate GongFu into my daily happenings.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Life, The Universe, and Everything (Tea related)...


For those of you that read my blog on a regular basis, you may have noticed that I slid under the radar for a while on every type of tea networking site; Blogger, Teatrade, Twitter etc...
I apologize greatly for my absence. I have missed the community.

There are a few reasons why I stopped posting frequently.

1) School is back in session. I have a very full set of classes and a high GPA requirement to meet. This has bogged me down quite a bit.

2) For those of you who do not know, I now own and operate BourgeaTEA. This has been a major focus in my life right now. I bag teas, package and ship teas, sell wholesale, and have meetings and events to attend at the business incubator where the office is located. Among the many plans I have for the company, I plan on starting to bottle one of the most successful products of ours. This is a bit of a conflict of interest for me, as I love the traditional teas and traditional methods of brewing, but I see a large opportunity for the market which I plan to sell to. I have been working diligently on finding investors, writing proposals and business plans, gaining connections to different retailers, and creating relationships with co-packers for the actual phase of bottling the beverage. I plan on going far with the company and making it a prominent part of the specialty tea community throughout North America and perhaps even abroad.

3) I am joined in another venture relating to a different beverage: coffee. I have a wonderful opportunity to help get another business off the ground and potentially run far with it. There are less details available, since this week will be the start-up for this project, but I can keep everyone updated as time goes on.

4) There is one more project which I will be working on with a group of students here on campus (business related). I have put some time and effort into this one, but it is less aligned with my interests, although it does have the potential to grow into what I would like to do, which is investment into student businesses (either equity ownership or interest investment). I want to help foster the spirit of entrepreneurship among students and help people realize their passions, and then give them the ability to run with their ideas.

That's what is happening in the life of Sir William. Once time allows, I will return to regular posting, but for now, my life is moving forward in big ways.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

White Oolong

White Oolong...

This tea does not quite resemble a white tea, or an oolong tea.
Read more about this contradiction at the Norbu Tea website.

The dry leaf is quite extraordinary; the leaves look frosted and outlined in faint white. The leaves are well pearled and have a wonderful waxy sheen to them.

In trying to describe this tea in a way one could understand, I ran into a few instances of writers block, and tasting memory block (if there is such a thing!).

The aroma of the dry leaf can be summed up in a few different scents:
Sweet bread, cream and raw stevia.
There is also a very mildly vegetal hint in the mixture of aromas.

The leaves after the initial rinse had a plain smell that was simply milky sweet.
In several ways, this tea reminded me of a quality baozhong.

As the tea brewed, I took to thinking.
This tea was unlike any other I have experienced thus far. To even say this tea reminds me of a baozhong is a stretch.

The sweet steam rising off the top of the cup carried the smells of raw plant matter and sweet cream. There was a light floral aspect as well, but barely traceable.

Throughout the whole session with this puzzling specimen, I wrung my brain to find the right descriptors.
This is the best I could come up with...

Raw sugar cane
Creamy edamame

That is the extent to which I can describe this tea in my own words.

The tea did not have the greatest endurance, but the flavor profile stayed consistent for each steep.

This was a humbling encounter with a stunning tea.
I could not have had a better session.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lao Tai Di Qing Xin

This tea came along as a sample with my initial order from Greg.

Nantou, Fall, 2010...
I have no complaints. I hold a special place on my palate for Taiwanese teas. I am a sucker, to say the least.

The dry leaf smells of autumn; dry leaves and dry wood. The roast smells like it is at a good level. The tea smells rich.
It is mildly peachy, but reminds me of the way an old book smells when the pages are flipped.

The aroma of the liquor fills the room with hints of woody caramel and cocoa.
It is strongly aromatic, which is surprising for a tea such as this.
So far, it brings to mind similar qualities that would be in a good yancha.
It also smells older than it is. Aged oolong is another favorite of mine.

The taste is not too sweet, but still very fruity: stone fruit and raisin.
A light roast compliments this flavor and balances out the tea nicely.

Almond flavors dominate the latter infusions of this tea, with light hints of vanilla tagging along.

My tea intuition (if there is such a thing) is screaming at me to buy this tea in bulk and age it. I do not even know if it will age well, but this was one of the first thoughts that entered my head.
It may be of value to buy a yixing storage vessel and a bit more of this fine tea.

Wonderful...absolutely wonderful.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Xi Hu Long Jing

Fresh (well, relatively) Long Jing.
I have not had a good Dragonwell in quite some time.
Browsing through the selection at Norbu Tea while shopping for the Shade-Grown TGY, this tea caught my eye.

It is a good summer tea.

The dry leaves look stunning, boldly displaying their green color, while yet maintaining a humble demeanor.
The aromas coming off the leaves are of pine nuts, roasted greens, and fresh cut wood.

I prefer my dragonwells to be a bit on the more roasted side, but this tea has a good balance of both a roast, and a vegetal smell.

I brewed this tea in a manner similar to how Gingko prepares all her green teas; glass cup.
This method is a bit unfamiliar to me, but it turned out to be simple, and effective at producing good results time and time again.

This tea is clean.
Roasted corn and a mild sweetness fill my mouth upon entrance of the liquor.
There is a perfect balance of astringency and sweetness. It is a satisfying drink.

The aftertaste is cooling, fresh and vegetal, and is very crisp in texture.

The leaves are gorgeous brewed as well. The quality is apparent, and I am not in the least bit disappointed.

This tea gave me the opportunity to slow down, relax, and unwind my nerves, which happened to be quite frustrated at the time...
Simple, difficult to mess up, good quality, decent price...
All good signs.
Thank you Greg!


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Shade-Grown Tie Guan Yin

A mention of this tea on Twitter from Greg at Norbu Teas perked my interest right away.
It is unconventional, not highly accessible, and it was the first time I had heard of such a tea.

Growing tea in shade is very common in Japan, and gives the vibrant green color all so familiar to those who drink matcha, gyokuro, or sencha.

So basically take your average, nuclear green (so affectionately named by some bloggers) , Anxi TGY, and make it even more green. At this point, it might be referred to as radioactive green.

But all sarcasm aside, this tea is truly unique.

Some might consider this a grassy tea, but the aroma displays more characteristics than just that.
The dry leaf smells highly floral, fresh, and has a distinct minty evergreen trait to it.

The aroma coming off of the liquor smells much sweeter, and less like vegetation.
Honey scents mix with lemongrass, and collide with the same evergreen characteristic that was evident in the dry leaf.
The higher concentration of amino acids and chlorophyll really do bring out quite different attributes than a standard TGY.

A sweet, rich, evergreen tasting liquid is the final product of the leaves.
It is well rounded, just floral enough, and has very low astringency. This comes as a bit of a surprise to me, seeing as Japanese teas can have quite high levels of astringency, and this tea does, in some ways, bear resemblance to a sencha or bancha. I suppose the difference would be that this TGY was not steamed.

Another interesting quality of this tea is that it is very "wet." It does not dry out the mouth, but rather it induces the production of saliva.

After the fourth and final infusion was finished, a very vegetal aftertaste presented itself, conjuring up tastes most closely resembling spinach. It was a clean finish, however.

This tea is very crisp. It is not smooth and creamy in texture, but has sharp, distinct flavors.

The tea is lacking in endurance, although I did not use quite so much dry leaf as I should have (just a personal preference). It lasts long enough for a pleasing session, though!

I would buy this tea again, and I would recommend it for anyone looking for something a little off the beaten path.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Second Chance for Zealong Pure

As should be noted, the first batch of Zealong Pure that I tasted and wrote about was a 2010 tea. Obviously, this would have adverse effects on a tea which relies on freshness to bring out the true taste.

I took an offer from a representative of the company to try a batch of the 2011 tea.

My expectations of the tea were not better, or worse. I wanted to see this tea through a different lens.

What should be noted first is the appearance of the dry leaf: much brighter green, and a much better texture. The tea was not dried out and crunchy, but waxy and smooth.

The aroma of the dry leaf was actually quite similar to the first batch, except exponentially more pronounced. The tea still carried carried with it the smell of a high mountain spring: clean and crisp. There was also a slight hint of honeydew and lime, which reminded me of an alishan oolong I was sipping on in my office earlier this day.

This is where the notes stop...

When I am confronted with a tea which truly captivates me, I am reluctant to write my observations. It dilutes the experience of the session.

This was not the same tea as I previously tasted a few weeks ago.
This was a brand new and delightful display of a quality tea, and I am happy to have had the opportunity to revisit this tea which I so casually dismissed the first time around.

Do I still think the tea is worth the price though...?
When I finish the rest of this tea, I will let you know. If I miss it, it is worth the price. If I don't miss it, it isn't.

To the Zealong company, you have my utmost respect.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Long time no see...

Yes, I did attend the World Tea Expo again this year. I must say, it was fantastic and more successful than last year's (at least for me).

I have also been traveling the domestic world, as I have new-found flight benefits with Southwest.
So, if any of you would want to meet up for a weekend of tea, do please email me, because it wouldn't be a problem for me to fly out to meet people.

I obtained an almost obscene amount of teas to taste and reflect upon, so do be looking for those notes in the upcoming weeks.
Also, there will be posts about highlights of the Expo, whether that be a company or an event or simply just someone I met.

Sir William of the Leaf will be back in full force starting tomorrow.
Thank you for your outstanding patience, dear readers. It is highly appreciated.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Zealong Dark

The finale of the Zealong trio...

Not much to say prior to tasting, so lets dive in.

The aroma of the dry leaf is comprised of an interesting combination.
Cocoa and nutmeg are the first two scents that leave an impression.
The smell of freshly baked bread is the second aroma.
And to complete the mix (interestingly enough) is teriyaki...Now I am not saying that this tea smells like Chinese food, but what I am attempting to convey is the strikingly savory aspect of this tea. The proper diction for that aroma, in this case, just happened to be teriyaki!

The aroma of the liquor was different, to say the least.
Buttermilk was the standout smell that the liquid released. This was clean, crisp and made the tea very approachable.
The flip-side of the scents of the liquor was the hearty vegetal smell that still accompanied the tea.
I have noticed this vegetal trait in all three of the Zealong teas.

The taste of the liquor was quite heavy for the color.
It is much more vegetal, with hits of toasted pine nuts.
This is one of the first darker oolongs I have encountered that does not have a "sugary" sweetness to it. The tea is savory in all aspects.
One equivalent I can conjure up for the overall experience of this tea, is dark chocolate. I am not talking about the 60% cocoa kind. I am referring to the 72% or higher cocoa content. It is rich and tastes more like I am eating a meal than drinking a tea.

The texture is not smooth, but it is not unpleasant. It pairs nicely with the flavors presented.
This would be a fine tea to drink with a sweet desert, like dark chocolate dipped strawberries.

This tea is quite unique as far as oolongs go. I give the Zealong company props for making this tea standout among other oolongs in its class.
This tea will remain on my palate and in my memory for quite a long time!


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Zealong Aromatic

Moving down the Zealong lineup, I am confronted with our next contender:
Zealong Aromatic

This tea is a lightly roasted, Taiwanese style oolong.

Let us begin...

The dry leaf fills my nose with hints of bananas, sweet butternut squash and a mild roast.
I am assuming this is a 2010 tea, and having such a long resting period, I think, benefited the leaves, at least for my palate.

The aroma of the infusion and the resulting liquor were quite similar, almost indistinguishable.
Roasted plantain with a hint of sage and agave nectar.
The same butternut squash layer I found in the dry leaf was again evident in the infused leaf and the brew itself.

The aspect that most interests me is the banana/plantain resemblance. I have only found that in one other tea that I can remember: Taiwan WuYi.

Having a memory bank of tastes and attributing them to certain teas is a concept that interests me. I have heard that memory itself is most heavily linked to the olfactory system. Or put differently; smells trigger the memory (and recurrence of past events) faster than any other sense of the human body.

The taste is clean and light.
It possesses a cucumber taste that I normally find in Dong Ding oolongs (again my memory bank is flooding with past Dong Ding and Tung Ting tastings).
There is a subtle roasted flavor that cleanses the palate and makes way for a wonderfully delicate vegetal finish.

The roast in this tea does not detract from the overall flavor profile, but does well in adding another dimension to the tea; another layer of interest to take hold of.

This tea is well balanced and well produced, as can be seen by the infused leaf.
I did enjoy this tea better than the Pure, but that is most likely due to the fact that a roasted tea can take age with ease.

Despite my previous post, I would like to say that Zealong teas are by no means bad. I may have just been expecting more than they delivered. I feel as though the 2011 teas will be quite fantastic!


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Zealong Pure

I have seen this tea at the World Tea Expo.
I have seen this tea on many blogs.
I have seen this tea on youtube.
I have seen this tea in the press.
I have seen this tea reviewed; both praised and criticized.

It was time for me to experience this tea for myself and come up with my own conclusions.
Thanks to the Teatrade marketplace (special thanks to Rachel Carter) and the Chicago Tea Garden, I was finally able to pick some up at a reasonable price, and in a nice sample pack.

The dry leaf smells of sweet corn, cabbage, sugar cane and mountain air.
There is some aroma in this tea that reminds one of a creek running through a lush forest. It does smell pure; fresh.

The tea is steeped.
The tea is poured.
The tea is sniffed.

Grass and mild cereal (grain) aromas come to mind. The liquor is clear and almost has the color of a light sencha. Though, the aroma reminds me of an Alishan. Being that the cultivar used to make the tea is Taiwanese in origin, this comes as no surprise. I suspected there to be a strong resemblance to Taiwanese made teas.

As the tea is sipped, there is a refreshing lime quality about it. The texture is mildly brothy and leaves behind a light marine taste.
The tea is grown and processed on an island off the coast of New Zealand, so taking in sea like qualities would not be unheard of.

In the second cup, the tea seems flat; lifeless. It is not bad, there is just no complexity or depth.

The third cup reveals a more balanced taste of lime and floral notes; lavender comes to mind.

The forth cup brings sweet water and ghostly vegetal tastes that drift off just as fast as they presented themselves.

This tea feels hollow.
This tea is, if I do say so, too "pure."

I enjoy a tea that has some roughness to it. This tea is too clean.

I feel that the tea lacks a unique character. It is trying to be something that it is not. It is made as a copy of its predecessors in Taiwan, but is lacking that character.
It is not individual, as it should be. There is promise for New Zealand to produce fine tea, but only if the tea is allowed to take in the character and qualities of the land.
Every tea needs a name, and this one has no basis for identity.
It is shallow.

The one thing that this tea brings with it that stays with me for a long while is the unique Cha qi. It is cooling in nature, and moves one's mind into a state of tranquility and relaxation. Minor perspiration and the sensation of being lightheaded is calming and almost puts me to sleep.

This tea is not by any means bad, it is just overpriced and lacking uniqueness.
One cannot become something which one cannot be.

Matt's review here.


Monday, June 6, 2011

A Learning Experience; American Hao

After work, I usually pick myself back up with a lengthy tea session.

This is always one of the highlights of my day, but today's session threw me a bit of a curve.

I joyfully pried a few chunks of leaf off my American Hao cake, dumped them into my designated shengpu pot and began the therapeutic brewing process.

The rinse water was discarded and the first infusion poured. I was awaiting the wonderful attributes of this tea to envelope my taste buds once again...

But alas, this was not what the tea had in store for me today.
Instead, I was confronted with a sour infusion lacking depth, aroma and complexity.

I quickly discarded the infusion and continued in my normal fashion, thinking that it may have just been the wrong amount of time or the wrong temperature.
The second infusion swirled in my cup, awaiting the first sip.

Again, the same lackluster, uninviting flavor pronounced itself once more.
This, I thought, cannot be right.

I waited and pondered my brewing parameters.
Did I use too much leaf...?
Was the water too hot? Too cool?
Did I not pour the water correctly?
Was my Brita not doing its job properly...?

Nothing made sense. The way I brewed this tea was the way in which I had always brewed it, and it has always turned out beautifully.

I can only suspect that it is the fault of the yixing. I do not know what else it could have possibly been.
I brewed the tea in a porcelain gaiwan and it emitted the wonderful notes that I have always noticed in this tea.

But how could that be? A yixing teapot is supposed to enhance the brew, not present negative qualities...

Perhaps the teapot needs a cleaning, although, I do not have any desire to destroy the lovely patina that is building up. This pot has deep sentimental value and I would not want to destroy what I have worked so hard to make.
I even made a different shengpu the other day and the pot performed just fine.
I am utterly confused, but there has been a lesson taught here today...

Tea is mysterious.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

WenShan BaoZhong

Once again, Lawrence extends his kindness to me.
This Baozhong is from Naive tea, a company which many of you know I hold in high regard.
Superb quality tea and wonderful customer satisfaction; both of which lead to a successful tea business.

On a hot (and extremely humid) summer day, I felt it necessary to break the seal on this tea, because baozhongs usually have the incredible ability to cool ones body.

The dry leaves are not uniform in shape or color, but the incongruity makes up the beautiful bouquet.
The dry leaf smells fresh and creamy.
The light vegetal flavor reminds me distinctly of snow peas.
There was also a light sweetness which brought vanilla to mind.
One curious characteristic was this teas lack of a floral aroma. Baozhongs' aroma usually penetrate a room with floral scents, but this tea seemed to lack that.
I find this a bit relieving, as vanilla and snow peas sound more enticing.

The liquor presented an aroma that was heavily reminiscent of pine. Herbaceous scents followed, and a honey sweetness topped it off.

The color was clean and bright.
A great start to a session, no doubt.

As my taste buds embraced the liquid, I instantly thought "pure." This tea was quite pure, fresh and clean.

The taste reminded me of the crisp crunch of a fresh vegetable, right out of a homegrown garden.
This garden freshness was paired with a beautiful, milky sweetness.
The creamy/milky characteristic is perhaps one of the reasons that I savor baozhong teas. A smooth tea hits the spot every time in my book.

A mint like coolness appears in the throat once the tea is ingested. I can feel it all the way to my stomach it seems (even now, which is about half-hour after this session)!

There is no astringency whatsoever, and the taste is quite good.
Each successive brew brings its fair share of milky sweet, vegetal goodness.
The aftertaste lingers for a long while after the tea is consumed. It is a pleasant reminder that one has enjoyed such a wonderful tea.

This baozhong seems to be more traditional in the sense that it is focused more on olfactory pleasure rather than palate pleasure, but this is not at all negative. I enjoy the variety, quite plainly!

This is a beautiful example of a prime baozhong!
Thank you, Lawrence, for all the generosity you have bestowed on me!


Sunday, May 22, 2011

JingMai Moonlight

Life for me has been a whirlwind of activity, opportunity, events, homework, duties and movement.

I am finally settled down and in my zone to be able to flow through this part of my life with ease, and with that, comes more tea sessions and reviews.
I apologize for my lack of posting up until this point.
I have just had too much on my plate, but now its time to turn that around and make sure there is always something in my cup instead.

Gingko, as always, provides exceptional quality, and I will stand by this statement for any one of her teas, even ones that I have not personally sampled. I trust her opinions and learn from her vast knowledge.
This tea is a special one and just the right treat for an occasion such as this.

The JingMai Moonlight white tea is unlike any white tea I have had the opportunity to taste. This tea changed my perceptions of what a white tea was and what it could present to the palate.

The dry leaf is fruity, very fruity. Pears, peaches, apples, nectarines and strawberries come to mind. This in itself was a surprise upon opening the package.

As the beautiful leaves are unraveling and pouring their bounty into the water, I get wafts of the aroma. In many aspects, this tea highly resembles a Bai Hao; honey sweetness paired with a floral delicacy. Even the copper/amber color and look of the leaves slightly resembles an Oriental Beauty.

Now, the aroma was powerful.
I can remember nights where my mother would make a large pot of apple cider and leave it on the stove for us to sip on throughout the evening.
The aroma was quite similar to what this smelled like.
Apples, cloves, orange zest, cinnamon; the works.

The taste was not quite unlike the taste of the apple cider either!
Diluted apple cider with rock sugar.
There was a candy sweetness that was saturating and salivating. One comment by my roommate after he sampled the brew: "I thought you didn't add sugar to your tea."
Indeed I do not add sugar to my tea, but this certainly tasted as though I did.

The second infusion was rich with savory honey notes and tastes more like a Yunnan Golden Bud tea than a white tea. The liquor is dark in color but not heavy in taste.

This is quite the perplexing, although immensely enjoyable tea.
The infusions that follow become more woody in nature, but never lack an outstanding sweetness.
The leaves have a determined endurance and produce many wonderful infusions for me to enjoy.

Life is good today.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Wuyi ShuiXian

For a rainy day and a stressful week of finals ahead of me, I have a wuyi to warm both body and spirit.
The full title of this beautiful tea, as provided by Gingko, is Hand Processed Wuyi Shui Xian Heavy Roast Grade I.

As the dry leaf should already prove, this tea was definitely made entirely by hand. The lengthy, slender leaves are the work of a skilled artist, carefully created into this masterpiece.

The leaves, right from the start already have an aura of warmth about them and comfort my slight melancholy.

These leaves are peachy-keen to say the least. The smell of the stone fruit can be detected from a distance. Caramel, butterscotch and vanilla aromas become stronger as the leaves inch closer to my nose. There is a mild scent of burnt toast, which reminds us of the laborious art of roasting the leaves to perfection.

The water warms the vessel and leaves, and out comes a fragrant steam;
burnt toast, wood and vanilla.

The liquor smells of roasting nuts and savory sweet caramel, so much so that I consider labeling it as a rare indulgence.

Thank goodness the liquor was not as saccharine as it may have suggested in its previous forms.
This tea has a cherry-like resemblance, with a mild hint of burnt gingerbread (by no means is this negative). It is syrup-y in texture, and bright and clear.

The tea, after a rousing session, leaves a puckering, zesty sourness/numbness on the back of the tongue and the sides of the mouth.

As the tea cools, apricot and vanilla flavors soothe me.

"So much to do, so little time," as the saying goes...
...but there will always be time for tea.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

TongCheng Small Orchid

Another day of spring, another green consumed.
This tea is, again, from the much respected Gingko.

The vessel is a piece by Petr Novak, which I will introduce in a later post.

This tea is a great looking, family made product. The lack of uniformity makes this tea special, and gives it a personal touch.

Smelling the dry leaf brings to mind bamboo shoots, cream and cucumbers. There is no evidence of roasting, which gives this tea a very fresh, clean scent to it.

A submersion in cool water draws out the wonderful gift this tea has to offer.
The liquor is sweet and delectable.
Cucumber, grass and fresh mint come to mind when the first cup is consumed.
The light rain outside the window calms me, and the tea warms me.

This light, delicate tea is very fresh and clean, and truly tastes young. The small shoots used in production can attest to that.

A cooling menthol coats my throat.

I consume several more cups, with each infusion bringing out other subtle notes to capture and relish.

The large amount of leaf I used did not give off any astringency whatsoever.
This tea was well made, and is easy to brew.

Greens are never too much to handle, and never have one stumbling to find descriptors. Each one has its own simple medley of tastes and aromas.

The experience in tasting this fine tea was much improved when sipped out of the handmade cups from Petr. The roughness of one cup and the contrasting glossy smooth surface of the other compliment each other and give a different experience of the tea.

Happy Easter to all; He is risen.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Orchid Fairy Twig

Now that spring weather has come upon the mid-west, it is time to break into the green teas.

This is a sample from none other than the great green tea aficionado, Gingko (read her review here as well).

Flowers, hay, sweet grass and a mixture of light fruity notes are immediately recognized as the package is opened.
The leaves look very natural and have a good color and texture. The quality is apparent. The leaves are examined, appreciated and then put in the warm gaiwan.

As the water is poured over the leaf for the first infusion, the sweet grass note is accentuated in the aroma. Mint and rosemary accompany it.
Even as this sample is a bit old, it is still quite pungent and fresh.

The liquor has a bold mouthfeel. It is heavy, cooling and smooth.
Light mango and grass flavors are tasted, pondered upon, and then dissipated, making way for chestnuts to leave their toasted flavor; a reminder of the intense care and dedication needed to produce such a tea.
The flavor is fitting for the weather, as the sunlight is illuminating the beautiful scene out my window.

Green bean flavors appear in the latter infusions. On the whole, this tea is mellow, smooth and perfectly astringent.
In some respect, this tea reminds me of a green I had last year.

Spring is fresh and clean, and this tea represents those qualities.
The spent leaves, being suspended by the water, are beautiful.

The scene in the cup matches the mood of the season.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Promo Codes

Daily Gourmet is offering a specially priced package from Naivetea.

On top of this, I have 10 promo codes that will take $5 off your purchase.

If you have not tried Naivetea yet, definitely should give them a look!

Email me at if you would like a promo code for this great offer!

The first ten to email will receive the codes.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Tea Foam

This post is quite off topic for what I normally post, but it caught my interest recently.

Foam that collects on the surface of tea, sometimes.

The reason it interests me is because it only happens with some teas, and only some of the time; hot, iced, black, green...etc.

I was brewing a Kenyan CTC tea the other day, and when I poured it, foam collected.
When I brewed a full leaf Assam, there was no foam.
I poured a green tea into two different cups; one had foam, and one did not.

Now, the picture (disclaimer) I did not take. The picture is also of instant (powdered) iced tea. I already know the reason that instant tea foams; the amount of solubles, like sweeteners, as well as the mixing process that introduced oxygen into the mix.

But why does loose leaf tea occasionally collect foam?

Search Google and a variety of answers (sometimes incredibly comical) will appear.
Some of the reasons I found:

-Soap residue from a dishwasher that couldn't perform its function properly.

-The introduction of oxygen into the water, when poured, stirs up tannic acid and causes it to foam.

-The mixing of hot and cold water makes foam.

-The dissolved solids in the water cause the foam.

-Hot water scalds the tea and creates the foam.

-A chemical reaction between sugar and caffeine.

-Extremely fine dust and foreign particles on the leaves float to the surface and collect as foam.

-Microwaved water makes tea foam.

-The foam is denatured proteins that detach from the leaves when hot water is poured onto them.

I do not know if any of these are the correct answer, but it was entertaining reading and looking some of this information up! If anyone else digs up anything, please feel free to share!


Friday, March 25, 2011

Tea Therapy

As you can tell, my posting frequency has been lacking. This is due to a few factors; business endeavors, school, competition practice (for a business program) and the fact of my camera being used for filming purposes.

All of these factors, including the lack of a good tea session at least once every two days, have contributed to an increased amount of stress in my life. I have not been as productive as I should be as I can see through the quality of the work I have been putting out.

I will be stress free come this Monday, but until then today was my last day to bask in the serenity of an uninterrupted session with a beautiful tea.

Compliments of Gingko, a Wuyi Bai Rui Xiang was my accompaniment for the day.
(I will be reviewing all of the teas sent by you, @Gingko, after Monday when my schedule frees up!)

When I review a tea, I spend quality time and devote my focus on that tea. The tea experience must be made from all dimensions of one's perception. As I have not had adequate time for this, I have been brewing lower quality tea on the go (thank goodness for Tea Travelers from Tea's Etc..).

Today I decided to spend a different kind of time with the yancha that was before me.

I drank, and drank, and drank, and drank, and drank, and drank and drank....

I pushed this tea quite hard...I almost feel bad for the poor leaves...
To put it lightly, I was quite happy by the end of this teas existence. I suppose that when one ingests almost intolerable quantities of this magic elixir, it starts to have an impact on hormones (or something related to the endorphins that your body produces).

I do feel quite accomplished (and a bit loopy), and will continue on the day in brighter spirits!


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Greenfield Ceylon

From Vietnam, to India, and now to Sri Lanka...This has been an exciting journey of black tea discovery.
This tea is an organic and Fairtrade certified tea from the selection at Arbor Teas.

The Greenfield estate is in the Uva district, which means that this is a high grown Ceylon tea. I would much rather drink a high grown than a mid or low grown. The characteristics that high grown teas display are enjoyable to my specific palate. The lows and mids can be a bit harsh and overbearing.

The dry leaf has quite the array of scents!
Delicate accents of cherry and grape are noticeable, along with a light malty, wheat type aroma.
After all that, fine floral fumes float to my face.

The aroma is evident right as heated water embraces the dry leaves. The sweet smell of honey and the bold aroma of malt and barley mingle together as they rise from the steaming pot.

I enjoy these smells as I watch the leaves dance amongst themselves and release their potent flavor.

The taste is ever so simple;
Malt, cherry and honey, all pulled together by a mild astringency.

This is a tea to be enjoyed, not pondered upon.

This tea seemed like its purpose was to be a part of a blend. It would provide a wonderful base to a black tea blend, or a flavored blend.
But tasting the traits of a specific estate is a wonderful experience that should be savored.
It is akin to meeting a person for the first time, and there are memorable things about him or her that stand out. When one meets them again, they will remember those traits and characteristics and recognize who that person is.

Tea equates to many aspects of our lives.