Monday, June 28, 2010

Shan Lin Shi Oolong

This tea is another contender in my formidable lineup of Naivetea samples.
I am on a roll with the Taiwan green oolongs!
I have not been disappointed yet. Good teas, each and every one.

This tea has the biggest pearled leaves out of the bunch.
They are a dark shade of blue-green, with the occasional stem. Good accent marks.

The leaves smell of lavender and lemon verbena. I can sense a creamy sweetness just in the aroma itself.
The aroma did not hit me as strongly as some of the other teas did, but it makes for good variety.

The tea displays a few pronounced notes, but in substance is not all that complex.
Sometimes a simple tea does the job.

The tastes up front consist of mild citrus rind, salt, wildflowers and rose.
Taste is great, but what makes this tea special is the texture.

The texture is creamy, rich, full and in the later infusions, eggy and brothy.
This tea makes itself known by its distinct textural qualities.
Every tea to its own.

It was storming while I was tasting this, and so I am pleased that this tea was more geared for comfort, i.e void of complex tastes and aromas.
It is pretty straightforward. What you see is what you get. I'll drink to that.

As with most leftover gong fu leaves, I mug steeped them after the session.
It still put out flavor and really kept me intrigued.
Thank you Mr. Lai, once again!


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Li Shan Oolong

Another sample from Mr. Lai, of Naivetea.
I was anxious to try this sample because of how much it resembled the Da Yu Ling, mostly in aroma and appearance, which I had a great liking to.

The dry leaves had the aromas of rose and honeydew melon beside a freshwater, mountain spring. It smelled very fresh and delicate.
The leaves had a nice waxy texture and a stunning emerald green sheen.

The first infusion;
lavender up front with a compliment of pear flavor (nothing to do with the name I assure you).
The finish was a vegetal astringency, almost akin to a Chinese green.

lavender and pear receded and made way for a spinach attribute. The texture was mildly brothy, and an astringency followed.
Good combination so far.

Third infusion;
sweet leafy greens on the entrance. The sweetness played nicely with the astringency.
The finish had an almost savory like quality to it.

same as the above.

After I was done brewing the tea in the gaiwan, I put it in a bottle and re steeped it several more times throughout the hour or so.
I sensed no cha qi in the tea. Either that, or it was too light for me to place.
I am not quite good at the whole qi thing yet.
Overall a very decent tea!
In some ways it reminded me of the Anxi Rou Gui from Jing Tea shop, but all the good qualities. In this tea there was depth, contrast and complexity.

Good tea.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mu Zha Tie Guan Yin

This is a sample from Naivetea.
I have four more oolongs from Naive to taste after this.
Gracious Mr. Lai, thank you.

This is a traditional roasted Tie Guan Yin, of the original Tie Guan Yin cultivar.
It is difficult to find a roasted Tie Guan Yin these days. The greener style has taken over the market.

The dry leaf smells of barley, molasses and a deep, rich charcoal roast.

The tea had expected qualities; espresso like in body, light fruit tastes reminding me of a rasin, and a thicker mouth feel.

A few qualities I did not expect; a citrus like finish that gradually changed to charcoal, and a roasted plumb taste in the second infusion.

The cha qi of the tea was fairly light, as the roasting removed most of the caffeine content.
I felt the tea affecting the stomach, making me feel full inside.
The energy also went to the head. Lightheaded sensation.
For the most part though, this tea was calming.

The only negative quality found in this tea is an aftertaste resembling cherry cough syrup, and in the later infusions there was a slight sourness and astringency. *(I now know this to be the "ripe fruit acidity, which is a characteristic of this tea. I apologize for my ignorance.)

I debated whether to use porcelain or yixing for this tea, and in the end I chose porcelain.
This could have contributed to some of the negative qualities found.
The yixing I would have used is suited for roasted oolongs and the resulting brew might have not shown some of the aspects aforementioned.

Age and roasting could do this tea well and would help to mellow out the edge. I enjoy a roasted oolong that has a sweeter finish.
If I do happen upon this tea again, yixing will be my tool of choice.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Naive Tea - Da Yu Ling

At the Expo, I spent a good deal of time at this booth, Naivetea.
This man, Lawrence Lai, was very friendly and informative.
I sampled a few oolongs, and he made a fresh brew of a traditional roast Tie Guan Yin.

All of his teas are from Taiwan, most of them organic, and all of them are of excellent quality.
I also purchased a gaiwan set from him that caught my eye.
It is a porcelain set made by artist Tsun Jen Tuong.

The porcelain is nicely translucent and lightweight. The lid on the gaiwan also does not rest sealed on the cup, a good sign.

The top knob adds a touch of variety that is not overwhelming to such a simple piece of tea ware; traditional, but modern.

The cups are probably the smallest I own, but that is best when appreciating the fine oolongs that are to be prepared with this beautiful vessel.

The saucer is (I believe) lacquered glass and porcelain combination. This is another element that adds some contrast to the stark white body of the cup.

This tea is a sample that Mr. Lai was so gracious enough to give to me.
I appreciate his kindness.

This tea, Da Yu Ling, is a very lightly oxidized, high mountain oolong.
It is grown near the Li Shan region of Taiwan.

The dry leaf has a very potent aroma.
Mostly floral; lavender and rose. A buttery / cream scent is there as well.

The first infusion shows the floral aromas and tastes. The liquor is sweet and smooth, and leaves behind an herbal sage note.

In the second infusion, a mint flavor comes out. There is a very cooling sensation on the tongue and the back of the throat.

The next infusion was consistent with the first two, profile wise.

After the third infusion, I felt the cha qi. This is the first time I have ever really felt a tea affect me.
At first I started to sweat from the brow and the forearms.
There is definitely energy within this tea.
The tea was then felt affecting the lungs; Shallow breathing and a sensation that felt constricting on the inside.

A third sensation followed; shaking.
I became quite jittery and could not even hold my teacup steady.
I have never felt the effects of caffeine until this tea.
This may be because of the elevation that this tea is grown in.
Most of the chemicals in the leaf are exaggerated because of high altitude.

I sat for a very long time trying to realize what just went on in my body.
Cha qi.
I sat and payed close attention to the tea's energy.

The tea's effects lasted for about 15 minutes and it was at that point that a marine taste, not quite unlike a Japanese tea, appeared on my palate.

This tea demanded attention and respect.
Very enjoyable experience.
Cha qi.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Las Vegas

This series of posts is going to be a bit backwards. I attended the class after the World Tea Expo.
But I will post about the Expo in accordance with the samples that I received from each of the vendors.
For the days I was there, I spend nights at the Excalibur. Not the fanciest of places, but there is a sense of "fun" around it.

Before the classes, but after the Expo, I had a reception with many of the STI students and teachers. This was great networking time.
The reception was held at the Queen Victoria Pub inside the Las Vegas Hilton.

Walking to the convention center in the Hilton was quite ornate.

The pavilions where the classes were held were of a moderately baroque decor. Probably one of the nicest class locations that they have had.

The class subject was about the chemistry of tea.
What happens during the stages of processing, how certain practices affect the taste of the tea, what chemicals react during oxidation and other such topics.

Some of the few tastings we did;
Nilgiri Frost against a Nilgiri without frost damage.
This was to illustrate what damage does to the leaf and how it affects the taste.
This was one of my favorite tastings. Nilgiri teas hold a special place on my palate.

We also tested an assam.
We used the same tea, but different grades.
Each individual grade was cupped to find similarities and differences.

Inside the Hilton was also this cafe called Fortuna.
They specialize in coffee and wine.
I was thinking to myself, why has someone not done this with the wonderful leaf?
Fortuna did offer a delicious selection of paninis, though.


Saturday, June 19, 2010


I apologize for the lack of posts!
I have been on vacation for a while (tea related).
I will get back to posting pictures and telling you my activities for the week.

Thank you for your patience.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Upton - Se Chung

Alex inspired my interest in this tea. There are a few reasons I wanted to try it.
First, it is (probably) an Anxi oolong, which I do love.
Second, it is cheap.
Third, he talked it up very nicely.

I trust his opinion.

The tea's aroma hit me right as I opened the bag. It is a powerful scent.
Roses are complimented by a nice mixture of cream and a soft woody note.
I do not know if it is just me, but there is a light musty smell to it. It was not bad, but it was there.

The first infusion;
it smells of lemon and peach.
The taste is quite sweet and smooth. Not surprisingly, peaches and lemon grass are found on the palate.
It finishes with a robust roasted taste.

The second infusion;
floral, buttery and roasted tastes come through.
There is not too much depth in this brew.

the floral notes are almost overpowering. A taste of wheat is shown on the finish.
The infusion is very delicate though, despite the strong rose taste.

the flavors are starting to flatten out.
The texture keeps me interested. It is velvety with a light astringency.
It is a "typical" oolong flavor.

it reminds me of cucumber. The taste is somewhat like a tung ting mid roast.
The floral attribute is still there, but not overbearing.

a straight roast flavor.
This tea, for me, is finished.

This was a very enjoyable tea, but the roast was a bit much for me. I do not think it was bad by any means, just a bit much for a lighter oxidized tea.
I think this tea's endurance could have been a bit better, but for the price, it is excellent.
It is a nice blend of mid quality oolongs.
Some of the leaves are pretty rough and there are some stems but I think they add a level of complexity to a somewhat simple tea.
It is a wonderful everyday oolong and a great introduction into the vast flavors of oolong teas.
I see why you enjoy it, Alex.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Kukicha Hatsukura

This kukicha was received as a sample during one of the STI classes that I attended, in January I believe.
I believe that traditionally, kukicha was specifically only the stems of the tea plant. This kukicha is a mix of both stems and leaves. I do not know if this is a common practice, or if it is just this specific blend by SerendipiTea.

Moving on.

The dry leaves are potent with a nutty, grassy combination in the midst of that aromatic umami aroma that I find so common in Japanese teas. There is a slight resemblance to raw sugar in the scent.

The aroma in the first infusion was identical to that of the dry leaf, except much more potent. It had a creamy texture and a hearty nutty taste.
A mild astringency presented itself on the finish.

The second infusion had a strong vegetal taste and the liquor was a much more opaque, vibrant green. There was not a sweetness as I had anticipated. It was very wheat-grassy in taste.

One more brew.
This time it was a strong citrus (lime) taste, which matched the color perfectly. The liquor was tart and this time the sweet finish was brought out.

I am enjoying using my kyusu.
It functions well, and looks good.
I probably won't be needing another one for a long while. I try to make my tea ware last as long as possible.
I didn't eat the stem filled leaves. I figured I might have a fiber overdose.


Friday, June 4, 2010

New Kyusu + Shincha Kunpu

My Kyusu and Shincha came in today. I ordered them both from Den's.
I loved the fast shipping for only $5.
I also received a small sample of a cold brew mugicha for iced tea. I love samples.

The Kyusu is beautiful. I like the color and design. The blue contrasts wonderfully with the emerald green teas.

It is small, which is what I wanted.
It has an obi-ami type strainer, which I find a useful feature. I do not mind that it is metal, as I do not taste any effect on the tea.
Sasame filters cost too much anyways.

The shincha I ordered was one of the lesser quality shinchas that Den offers. I did not want to spoil myself with an expensive shincha, as I am not that well trained in the tasting of japanese teas. I figured that the shincha kunpu was a good choice.
It is from the Shizuoka prefecture, from the Honyama garden (as stated on the package).
Japanese teas are always good looking. This one is no exception!
The dry leaf smells fresh and sweet. Honeydew is the best way to describe the aroma. There is a distinct umami smell that comes from the leaves as well. For me, it is difficult to describe.

The first infusion smells rich, and lightly vegetal. I also see why some people say that the aroma of shincha is an embodiment of the word "fresh."
The taste is stunning;
sweet grass is shown on the entrance. A light astringency is present once the tea is drunk. The liquor is fresh and has a mild salty nuance.
This is a good first impression.

In the second infusion, the aroma was much more pronounced.
The liquor was darker in color, but lighter in body.
A light sweetness and the same lingering astringency is found.
The aftertaste is of melon.

I made one more brew, and it was equally as good as both of the others.
Next time I brew this tea, I am using more leaf. I felt that I was a little light on the amount.

One other thing that I enjoyed about this tea was the lack of bitterness. I had this feeling that all japanese teas were bitter, but that is just because I had never had one of good quality.

The leaves were eaten afterwords, a lesson learned from a fellow blogger, Michal Tallo.
They were quite good. Next time, I will mix them with some cherry tomatoes and olive oil. I think that will be a nice treat.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Keemun Mao Feng

If Darjeelings are the champagne of teas, then Keemuns are the wine of teas.
Keemun is the only black tea that regularly appears on the Top Ten Teas of China list.
It is grown in the Anhui province, which is a beautiful place.

This specific Keemun was purchased from the Imperial Tea Court two years back. I read somewhere that if stored properly, Keemuns can age quite well.

The dry leaf smells very savory with a fruity, earthiness about it.
I remember when I first smelled a keemun, I thought it was a smoked tea, like a lapsang souchong. As my perceptions changed, I realized that it was not smokey at all. It is a special savory smell that only keemun teas possess (in my view).

The aroma of the first infusion was malty with a honey-sweetness. The aging, I think, mellowed out the powerful woodsy aroma that it first had.

The taste was slightly tannic with hints of soursop. The aftertaste had a distinct resemblance to muscatel, but not in a powerful darjeeling sense. It was light and sweet.

In the second round, the sourness backed off and made way for a nice fruity, mild-citric ensemble. A hint of astringency showed itself in the throat.

On the third infusion, a straight taste of apples. It was an interesting find, as I remember that in previous tastings, apples was never an attribute.

Very well rounded, enjoyable tea.
I have also heard that a dash of salt in a keemun can add to the flavor nicely.
I am too much of a purist for that though.
Good day.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pu'erh Production / Mystery Loose Sheng Cha

Sheng cha production is actually pretty simple, compared to its counterpart.
As always, sheng cha starts off as maocha (see previous post for details on maocha).
The only thing that is changed about the maocha, after blending, is its shape.

"If the producer wants to keep the maocha loose, it is first aged for about 3 months, and then packaged and sold. Whoever purchases it can decide to either drink it then, or age it themselves.

If the producer decides to make a cake, tou, brick or any other shape, the production is as follows;
-The maocha is placed into perforated containers, which are placed over a steamer. This moistens the leaves to make them pliable.
-The now soft maocha is then shaped by placing it into cotton bags, which are shaped and then put under pressure to mold the leaves.
-The shaped cakes are then set to dry and then wrapped."

Again, this is adopted information from the STI manual. I kept is somewhat short for the benefit of you readers.

Onto tea.

This loose sheng cha was graciously given to me by the founder of Tea Source.
He was one of the teachers of the certification course.

The dry leaves smell of red cabbage and marjoram. They have a sufficient amount of down on them and have a clean scent. The particles are pretty broken up due to the transportation of the leaves from California to New Mexico.

The liquor's aroma is a mix of steamed spinach and mint. It also presents a clean / pure smell.
The taste is quite light, as well as its color. Floral notes sing while mint is kept on edge.
It is quite smooth and sweet for a young sheng.

In the second infusion, a mild bitterness comes out, but it still possesses the same basic profile.

The third infusion brings out the chalky mouth feel that most shengs have. The taste is still the same, but a tad subdued.

The tea has a great endurance.
It went for 10 infusions with the same basic tastes before it decided to quit on me. I enjoyed each infusion very much.
The purity of this tea is incredible.

The leaves do look a bit broken up, but that is due to the transportation, as I stated above.
It tells nothing of the quality, which to my tastes is above par.
I enjoyed this tea very much.
It is the closest to a green tea that any sheng has come in terms of attributes.
Maybe it is time for a contact for more of this..?