Saturday, August 11, 2012

A first time look at Ginseng oolong

I have never really looked into ginseng oolong before because I had just lumped it into the category of flavored teas, which usually I don't purchase to drink. If someone buys a flavored tea for me I will enjoy it as such, but I never quite wanted this blog to feature flavored teas. I have been lacking in posts due to the limited number of samples I have been receiving, although that will change this month! I have gained quite a collection and wish to show them off to you all!

This tea was interesting from the get go. The pearled leaves, oolong from DongDing mountain in Taiwan, are coated in what almost looks like a ginseng paste. They are a dull, hunter green color and carry the smell of ginseng, strawberry, hibiscus and greenery. The scents aren't all that strong and don't lead me right away to assume the tea was flavored with anything!

The taste really was a delightful surprise! It is lightly flavorful and reminiscent of a roasted oolong with a layer of sweet fruit! It is balanced great and has a delicate mouthfeel.

Brown sugar, peaches, toasted nuts and strawberry come to mind as I sip and savor this first encounter. It struck me afterwards that it reminded me of a sweet, flakey pie crust! I didn't know that the ginseng would be so subtle and yet add so much to a tea.

This tea would be wonderful iced and really appeal to a wide audience! I couldn't drink this every day, but every now and again this tea is really a good treat!
Thank you to Teavivre for the sample! Every time I open one of their teas I am really starting to enjoy the quality and wonderful customer service this company offers! Their prices are nothing to overlook either! Definitely recommend this company for some good teas and good deals!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Darjeeling: Phuguri, Golden Tips, Autumnal 2011

It has certainly been a while since I posted! I just got in a new shipment of tea and it inspired me to sit and relax with a good cup!

This tricky little Darjeeling, at first glance, would have you thinking that it is an Assam! The golden tips are unusual for the champagne of teas to possess, although not unlikely for its brother and partner in crime, Assam teas!

This tea shouted cocoa, malt, caramel and wheat, very boldly I may add! It got me thinking, why might it look so familiar to an Assam! Well google had the answer, of course. It looks as if the estate is nestled in between Bhutan and Nepal, and right beneath the Sikkim estate. If you have read up on your geography of southeast Asia, you would know that is shockingly close to Assam! So, that brings me some peace about the similarities!

Now with that out of the way, the infused leaf, shown at the bottom right, has the aromas of bakers chocolate, berry, and the dominant aroma is malt, who's bold attitude never fails to rise above the more reserved scents. The liquor's aroma is more sweet in character, pronouncing caramel and a more tame malty presence.

The flavor is surprisingly subtle... Little woody, little malty, hint of berry, but overall very mature, which could be because of the year's worth of rest that the tea received!

Overall a wonderful tea! Very unlike prior autumnals I have tasted, but I don't ever mind a surprise!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

2011 Autumn Flush Gopaldhara Darjeeling

A hearty thanks to DarjeelingTeaXpress for providing me with numerous samples of one of my very favorite (if not my overall favorite) types of tea. For those of you who read this blog, or have read some of my early posts (ahem...this one, this one, and this one), you know what I am about to say. You know how I will talk up Autumnal Flush Darjeeling teas all day, every day, and to every person.

You know how I will talk about their sweet, pumpkin/squash notes and their autumn inspired aromas and flavors. I could go on, but I think you understand my enduring love for Autumnal Flush Darjeelings.

This one, well, threw me a little unexpected difference compared to some of the others in its fine group I have had the pleasure of drinking.

The aroma of the dry leaf was strikingly different than what I had expected!
I sensed caramel, raspberry and cocoa. The dominant scents were the berry tones which smelled bright, tart, and sweet all at the same time.
I am always up for the unexpected.

I smelled the cup,
and I wrote "tangy grape and wheat."

This is a very accurate description of the aroma of the beautiful liquor. The grape notes are associated with the all-too-common muscatel scent that Darjeeling teas tend to produce. The wheat, now, that I am not sure of the origins, but I am not at all upset! This was a new adventure I was willing to take.

The first flavors distinguished were of bright berry and agave nectar. This tea is not complex, as most Autumnals have in common. A light, tart astringency tugged as the tea was swallowed, and left a wheat-y finish.
It is a bit flat, but as I have stated, this is an attribute I expect from an Autumnal.

The second infusion presents citrus (lemon) and mango notes with a very mild astringency.

Even when brewed not in western fashion, the tea hesitates to become overly astringent. This is a fantastic characteristic for a sometimes unfocused brewer (myself...). Also, it really hits home that this is definitely, without a doubt, in fact, a true, honest, down-to-earth, Autumnal Flush Darjeeling (not that I assumed it wasn't, as I trust the vendor).

All in all, pretty splendid tea, although, it will need a few more brews to grow on me I think. It is just very unlike others I have had, not bad! I can tell it is superb quality tea.

Also, it had said on the package that this tea's grade is "Red Thunder." Anyone (vendor perhaps?) care to explain? I am used to the string of letters (SFTGFOP) as a grading scale, not native american names.

I have more samples of Autumn Flush teas I am dying to open up.


Monday, April 16, 2012

JinXuan "Milk" Oolong Tea

I have encountered several JinXuan teas, more notably code-named "Milk" or "Silk" or "Creamy" oolongs.
There is little promise of authenticity among this style of tea, as they have been overwhelmingly popular on the global market, and so to keep up with demand, ways of physically altering, flavoring, or scenting the teas has become common practice. I have already had one "Milk" oolong on this blog so far, so let us see how this subject fairs in the tumultuous tasting test.

Gratitude to Teavivre for this sample.

There were several of these red packages inside the large package, basically single serve portions of tea.
I would have liked to see them vacuum sealed, but the other option that this could have went through was a nitro-flush, which would have been acceptable as well. I just know that tea does not stay fresh in small quantities, even when sealed.

The leaves look good, and smell good. They smell just creamy enough, but I can still tell that this is an oolong because of the light, floral notes coming off of it.

The liquor is very clear and the only particles I can see are down from the leaves. No foreign morsels floating around and interfering with my enjoyment of this tea.

The smell and taste of the liquor is sufficient, but a bit plain. There are subtle creamy/buttery notes that are expected with JinXuan teas, but also a very simple "oolong" flavor that green oolongs tend to have. This tea is a bit sweeter than most though, but that is most likely just due to the cultivar.

The leaves, as seen below, are healthy enough and look just as honest. I am in no way disappointed by this tea session, other than the simple fact that this was not a prime, top quality JinXuan. It should have had a much more dynamic in flavor. This tea was flat, but at least it was not lifeless.

In my opinion, this would only be a good buy because of the price, not the taste. This is relatively inexpensive and would probably get you better tea for less money than you could potentially spend elsewhere.

 What I find remarkable is that Teavivre sells both a flavored JinXuan and an unflavored JinXuan. It would be interesting to compare the two to see the difference. Perhaps this is an authentic JinXuan, but just sub-par compared to the province's other productions.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

2011 BaXian "Eight Immortals"

Greg of NorbuTea kindly gifted me this sample along with a few teas I purchased.
What I didn't know about this tea was that there was only 4.4kg produced, and Greg had 2kg of it.

Man do I feel privileged!

I must say, this tea was a sight for sore eyes! The leaves are beautiful, both in shape and color. I had been wanting DanCong for a while and this tea definitely sufficed!

The aroma was strong and marvelous!
Very floral with notes of raw honey, melon, and fresh spring water.

This tea smells like it was just harvested and produced! DanCongs have a way with enchanting aromas.

When I put the tea into a warmed clay gaiwan, the aroma of the dry leaves was even stronger, and a nutty almond fragrance appeared.

If I had to stop here with this tea, I would still say it was a successful tea session.
I felt like I had already tasted it.

Fortunately for me and you, I had no restrictions and so I poured the water and watched the leaves swirl.

The resulting liquor was perfectly balanced.

It had the aroma of spring flowers, and a sweet, smooth taste that reminded me of tropical fruits.
Astringency lightly bit the back of my tongue and made me want more...more...more...

I was impressed to say the least!

This tea is stellar.
Its well produced and was obviously cared for at each point in its existence and production.

The leaves make a dancing display like I have never seen.

The flavor is crisp, fresh, and ripe.

I only have a few more precious leaves left and I will brew them with care.


Friday, March 23, 2012

2005 FengQing Golden Buds Pu'erh

There are quite a few pu'erh drinkers who choose not to post about shu pu'erh.
Some people find the taste revolting. Other people may think they all taste the same.

I find that when one is trying to learn about tea, or any subject for that matter, one must always learn all the angles to fully understand it.

With that being said, a shu from Teavivre.

The dry leaf is not too impressive.
It smells like damp soil and leaves, which is not bad, just very plain.
The cake is spotted with gold buds, but they are subdued.

It was a rainy day and shu sounded fantastic.

The liquor has the aroma of garden mulch with a hint of sweetness. There is a bit of a fishy smell to it, literally fishy, not skeptical.
It tastes a tad bit dirty with a hint of date fruit and moist earth.

For the most part, this tea is lackluster as can be. It is plain tasting and does not stand out among shu pu'erh I have sampled in the past.

This is not a good shu,
but it was a good day for shu.

The previous shu I had from Teavivre really impressed me, but this one really has nothing to offer, except of course an educational experience on shu pu'erh!


Monday, March 19, 2012

Premium Keemun Hao Ya

I have quite a few more samples from Teavivre to post on here, so keep on the lookout!

This is a Keemun from Qimen, a province in Anhui. It was processed in June, 2011.
Ignore the word "premium." It really doesn't have a meaning besides that the leaves may have been a better looking batch. Its all about taste!

The dry leaf had a typical Keemun smell.
Plum, raisin, and sweet bread, almost like pan dulce!
An evergreen smell wafted from the leaves as well. This component of the aroma balanced the sweet, fruity smells.

The tea was quite tasty!
A savory/sweet fruit taste dominated the entrance and filled my mouth and nose.
The aftertaste was comprised of light smoke and wood. The two different tastes made for a unique experience.

The tea is definitely not as smooth as it should be (in my opinion). There is a slight bite on the back of the throat when the tea is swallowed.
As I come to the end of the bowl, cinnamon and anise tastes come forward. I would have liked to see those tastes a bit more on the entrance.

All in all, not a bad tea, but not my favorite sample.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Premium Grade Dragonwell

Compliments to Teavivre for this next sample.

Usually I pay no mind to the grade of the tea, especially a Long Jing. I have really no idea what the word premium is supposed to contribute to the tea, but apparently its important. Personally, I think it is a marketing scheme. The taste is all about the leaves, not the fancy words and lovely descriptions. Its about pure, raw taste.

Again, as with all the teas they have sent, there is detailed information about the tea and where it comes from etc..

The dry leaf beautiful.
It smells fantastic! It has a sweet, nutty smell as its base with some grassy/hay notes to round it out. To top it off, it smells sort of how I would imagine the wok would smell when the leaves were put into it.
It is a tea from last year, but the storage has been great. It smells quite fresh and looks just the same!

As you can see above, the leaves look great! They look as though they have been handled by hands. They are uneven in both shape and color, and honestly they are even more vibrant green than the picture shows. This is truly (in my humble opinion) one of the best dragonwell teas I have seen, even if it is not the prettiest. It has a rawness and rugged look that really sets it apart!

The liquor smells like fresh grass and roasted chestnuts. The smell of a good dragonwell is hard to beat in the world of Chinese green tea.

The taste is perfectly balanced.

Sweet corn, chestnuts, fresh grass clippings (actually much more appetizing than they sound).
Everything about this tea has clicked with me.
I literally have no complaints.
When I have money (college really can make someone quite poor) I will most likely be ordering more of this tea, or hopefully a 2012 crop.

Thank you for the experience, Teavivre.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mini Pu'erh Toucha - Ripe

 I was contacted by the wonderful folks at Teavivre about sampling some of their tea offerings. The representative was very nice and their teas looked like pretty quality stuff.
But, the key is in the leaf right?
So onto tasting.

 What I really want you to notice about the bag is all the information. It is almost crowded with it. For a tea enthusiast, having this much information about what is in the package is great. I have almost no questions for the company.
All their teas are labelled like this, so I will have great insight into each one!

These little touchas look good! They are tippy, uniform for the most part, and they don't smell awkward like some cheap pu'erh touchas.

The dry leaf actually doesn't have too much of a smell to it, but I can sense a light earthiness with some mushroom scents coming off it as well.
Not surprising.

The brewed tea is dark, as you can obviously see above.
It looks like the coffee I was tasting last weekend.
The liquor is not dense, though. It is light, flavorful, and well balanced.

It has quite a clean taste, and there is more of a leather quality to it than a mushroom/rotting leaf taste.
The artificial aging process has not negatively impacted the flavor and left some strange taste as with other pu'erh touchas I have sampled in the past.

What really surprised me was the lack of endurance. Granted, I drink my shu'pu strong, but even still most shu'pu will last me a good 10 infusions. I gave up on this one at about 6.
The one quality I really enjoyed was a wonderful pine taste on the last 2 infusions. I guess I could have stretched out the brews and got some more of the pine, but hey, I still have 3 more touchas of this tea that will definitely not go to waste!


Saturday, February 11, 2012

BuLangShan Sheng Pu'erh 2008

Thanks to the folks at Chan Teas for this sample!

I broke up the sample, which was in a few small chunks. The leaves look great! Right when I opened the bag I was ready for a long session.
The dry leaf has some bitter herb notes, as well as cooked vegetables. It has that typical sheng earthiness to it.

I started with lots of leaf, and hot hot water.
First, the rinse. 3 seconds.
Second, the smell. The wet leaf had notes of hay, tobacco, and a soybean-esque trait. I have not had pu'erh in a while so I was ready for this tea to really knock me out.

The liquor was fantastic. It was not as assertive as I had suspected (could be its age). The lingering finish really set this tea apart. The astringency was well received and expected. It brought out some of the great flavors of the cooked veggies and tobacco.

This tea definitely deserves focus. I sipped with a good friend of mine who commented on the tea occasionally. He noted a farm taste, which is a fairly decent description of the tea.

I felt the tea pretty hard, as I was on an empty stomach. It really went to my head quick (as I was told!). Drinking pu'erh either makes me very happy, or very quiet and serene. This tea was a good mix of both feelings.

As the brews went on, there was a punchy citrus quality that really turned this tea on its head. I enjoyed the variety and complexity. I would recommend this tea, even for the feeling. It is an experience to say the least! Thank you again to the guys at Chan Teas!


Thursday, January 26, 2012

DongDing Charcoal Roasted

The wonderful folks at ChanTeas graciously sent me a couple samples of tea! This is one I was quite excited to try.

As all TungTing (DongDing) teas I have had, the leaves are pretty small and tightly compressed. They look great, and smell fantastic.
There is a surprisingly green smell, like fresh grass, coming off the leaves. A woody background is present, as well as the lingering smell of stone fruit!

The charcoal scent really presents itself in the wet leaf as it cools off after the initial rinse. Authentic? I think yes. I am just not sure on the year...(anyone care to fill me in?)

It is very relaxing and warming in its presentation and characteristics. This is exactly what I need at the moment. I need to bring myself back from stress and the hustle and bustle of everyday life for a college student and business owner.

The aroma of the liquor is enticing. It seems sweet, yet balanced.
Stone fruit, vanilla, roast, and a light scent of hazelnut complete the aromatic spectrum of this tea.

As for the flavor,

Lots of peaches.

A fresh, juicy peach.

Absolutely astounding that a tea can be this fruity. I find it wonderfully appealing!

The tea is smooth in texture, and does not have a heavy roasted flavor. A roast, to me, is meant to compliment and enhance the existing flavors. The roast on this tea is a great example of how to execute this properly.
The finish is clean.
Just a ghostly hint of the tea's character.

The sweet, peachy notes of the tea slowly recede as the session goes on.

Fantastic tea.

And now, off to sample some coffee for business!
Perhaps a new alias is on the horizon...Sir William of the Bean...?

We shall see!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ceylon Vithanakanda

It is a bit of a mouth full to say, but from this tea, I can tell they have great productions!
The estate is at about 2400 feet above sea level, and is categorized as a Ceylon low grown tea.

This tea is from the Cultured Cup, and as some of you know, I am well acquainted with both Kyle and Phil, the owners of the shop, located in Dallas, Texas.

The leaves are beautiful. They are wonderfully wiry, with slender, silver tips scattered in great numbers throughout the dry leaf.
The smell has hints of wheat and honey, and a distinct, light malty smell I can only associated with Ceylon teas.

The mouth feel is thick, and flavorful, only exhibiting the best qualities of a Ceylon.
There are notes of honey, sun dried tomato (interesting, but only truly understood once tasted), grains, and a bit of a woody hint.
I am surprised that this is the product of a low-grown region. Not to say that in a negative way, just referring to the fact that usually low-grown teas are a bit more assertive and bold in the way in which they present themselves.

Astringency is not too powerful, but is evident and lets me know I am consuming a black tea. I almost couldn't picture a Ceylon black without astringency, nor would I necessarily want to.
Astringency contributes character and dimension to tea.

During the glass brewed session, I was only accompanied by my accounting project, and the stillness of my dorm in the evening hours.
My recommendation, get your hands on some and get to steeping. This is a tea that you will not want to miss out on.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Yerba Mate Latte

I have been keeping up with industry trends surrounding tea and coffee, especially when it comes to retail locations and cafes. There are some very good resources out there for people wanting to learn more.
Today's blog has come about out of an inspiring article in Fresh Cup magazine, titled "Building your non-coffee menu."

I have thought about doing this for quite sometime, but never had the means or the know-how. I recently bought a (cheap) espresso machine, and have been studying up on coffee for a while now.
It was time to try the Yerba Mate Latte to the best of my abilities.

The mate is put into the built in strainer, which water is then forced through at a high temperature and pressure. This is what gives espresso its bold, although, creamy flavor and texture.

The yerba mate comes out quite dark and quite hot. I didn't know how the leaves would stand up to the temperature. When I brew mate (especially when done in a gourd) I like to brew it at around 150 because there is such a high volume of leaves. If I brew it too hot, there is too much bitterness and bite.
I figured milk would help tone that down though.

Final outcome?

Not bad. It could use some honey, or perhaps 2% instead of whole milk. Or possibly soy, which is my favorite choice in a latte or cappuccino.

It is a mild, grassy flavor that is easy on the stomach. I quite enjoyed the two cups I was able to make!

It may be smart to experiment with other herbs or teas. One that came to mind immediately was rooibos. Perhaps another day!