Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Verdant, Sichuan Caravan

Verdant Tea Description:
We love pu’er for its multi-dimensional complexity. One of the most interesting and often overlooked elements of the pu’er experience is the vaguely numbing and tingling sensation that fine pu’er leaves in the aftertaste. Our goal with this blend was to highlight this textural quality of great shu pu’er, while at the same time creating a warming, rich and perfectly integrated taste experience.

We start with the incredible Yanxin’s Reserve ’04 Shu Nuggets. This tea is known for its pastry-like dessert flavors, and its smooth sweet aftertaste. We build on that richness with one of our favorite ingredients to pair with shu pu’er, dried elderberries. The dark sweetness of the elderberries brings out the natural berry qualities of the pu’er itself, and lingers on the sides of the tongue.

Next we draw out the pastry sweetness of the pu’er with a touch of licorice root, which helps highlight and blend the sweet spice of ginger root. Ginger starts to emphasize the tingling texture of this fine pu’er, but on its own, it doesn’t push quite far enough. That is why we added a touch of Sichuan peppercorn to round out this tea and make it whole. Sichuan peppercorn has a uniquely numbing flavor that elevates this blend to a new level. Taken as a whole, no one flavor stands out above the others. They work together smoothly to emphasize everything warm and satisfying that we love about shu pu’er.

My Review:
Looking into the bag leaves me guessing what this is. I pulled up the website and immediately saw pu'er. Well OK. I was pretty sure I saw ginger in the mix and the description confirmed it. In addition there are elderberries - I don't think I have had them before - and licorice root to bring out the sweetness. Sounds interesting.

The dry scent is earthy pu'er and ginger. It also seems a bit smoky but I am not sure if that is cross over from some Russian Caravan I had near by. I used half my sample or roughly 1 1/2 - 2 tsp in 12 oz of water heated to 208 F. The steep was 2 minutes per Verdant's guidelines. The result is a cloudy brew that is orange/caramel/brown. The wet leaf is a little fishy to me. That is what I thought of the previous Master Han's pu'er I reviewed. The wet leaf is also quite spicy of ginger and pepper.

Sipping I get ginger first, then elderberry and licorice root combine to really give this a sweet fruit highlight. Finally it drifts into a tingly warm feeling in part due to the addition of the sichuan peppercorns.

I really can't think of anything to compare this with. It is kind of reminiscent of a fall chai blend but not really. The ginger feels familiar but the elderberry and licorice take it elsewhere. I am still getting a hint of smoke so if it is not supposed to be there on purpose, it is a pleasant accident.

I can't really separate the pu'er out of the mix. Everything else seems very well balanced. I am guessing I am tasting pu'er without it being obvious.

This will definitely make your cheeks tingle. While this is very well blended, and quite complex, spiced teas are really not my thing. Other reviews, I have read, rate this very highly, so I must accept that not every good tea will suit everyone's tastes.

Visit Verdant Tea online.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Teavivre, Organic Nonpareil She Qian Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea

Teavivre Description:
In the early Spring, when the tea buds just appeared their face on the trees, the harvest of She Qian Dragon Well is ready to begin. The tea gardens in Hangzhou are busy making the first flush teas. The fresh leaves of She Qian Dragon Well are all in one bud with one leaf shape, as straight as an upstanding flag. The beautiful shape also brings enjoyment to the brewing.

Why is She Qian Dragon Well better than Ming Qian?

First of all, the She Qian tea is picked earlier than Ming Qian, which is before March 26, 2014.

Secondly, the fresh leaves of She Qian tea are of much higher grade. The leaves are all in one bud with one leaf or two leaves shape.

Lastly, the making skill of She Qian tea is above the level of Ming Qian. Since She Qian tea is picked in early spring when the weather is still cool. The low temperature makes it harder for picking, as well as for making. The output of She Qian Dragon Well is very limited. Consequently, She Qian Dragon Well is much rare.

Sample provided by Teavivre

My Review:
I included a large description from Teavivre because this is possibly the most expensive tea I have ever had on my desk to review. I thought it deserved more background. The sample was packed with a beautiful scarf that when my wife first saw it, she said, "Oh pretty!" She grabbed it and it has been around her neck ever since.

When I opened the sample the aroma was faint like I would expect from delicate dragon well. The leaf is just as pictured yet much tinier than I expected. I am only guessing that is due to the very young age of the bud and leaf. 

I placed about three grams in my press with 8 oz of bottled water (with added minerals) that was heated to 185 F. I steeped for almost 4 minutes. The label said 3-5. At the end of the steep some of the leaf was on the surface while equal amounts were on the bottom or floating somewhere between. I am always fascinated by how the leaf reacts. 

The liquor in the press and in the mug is extremely clear and almost colorless. It has the faintest tint of green. The wet leaf is steamed spinach and cream corn in aroma. Very nice! 

The taste is quite brisk, almost bitter but in a good green tea way. It is kind of sweet and a touch salty. It is altogether definitely dragon well. It is also very crisp. A couple things I am noticing - I get a sensation of inner warmth, and the aftertaste fades very quickly while the warmth remains. I have never experienced this before.

This is a rare tea and is not intended to be an everyday cup. I believe it should be experienced, on the just as rare occasion, when you have the time to be quiet and enjoy the moment. It is a very interesting and beautiful tea of exceptional quality. It is a luxury, like a trip to the spa, when you need to pamper yourself. It should resteep several times as I hope to find out shortly.


Update: I am posting this update on 4/20/14. Today I prepared this tea again. I was not as nervous about drinking it today. I just relaxed and went with my gut. I lowered the water temperature 10 F to 175 F. I also cut the steeping time in half to two minutes.

The liquor is crystal clear and more honey colored than the almost non-existent green tint from the other day. The wet leaf scent is creamed corn and steamed spinach. The taste is simply WOW! Seriously. This is creamed corn with a mild dragonwell bite. The aftertaste now lingers long and pleasant. I am still getting that inner warming glow that a friend identified as good tea energy. This is an amazingly delicious cup. Wow! Just Wow!

Visit Teavivre online.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Persimmon Tree, Sunshine

The Persimmon Tree Description:
Sunshine blooming tea is a delicately hand-crafted blooming green tea that unfolds to reveal an exotic golden flower, with essences of lychee and cantaloupe. This green tea's delightful aroma and fruity essence is great any time of day. To appreciate this tea's blossoming beauty, infuse in large, clear glassware.

Sample provided by The Persimmon Tree

My Review:
I don't normally try to take the pictures for this blog because, frankly, I am not good at it. Even though the light source should have been higher I kind of liked this one so I used it.

My sample tin came packed with 6 pods. They are bigger than many of the flowering teas I have tried. According to The Persimmon Tree, each pod should be placed in enough water for two cups - to me that means 16 oz.

The recommending temperature for this tea is listed at 180 F. With a steep time between 5 and 7 minutes. I used my wife's supposed 4 cup coffee pot which holds 16 oz. Side note - what coffee drinker do you know that uses 4 oz cups? Answer - zero! But that is beside the point.

Once the heated water was added to the pot, the bloom began to bubble and expand. A few of the leaves came loose but not a lot. The marigold inside opened up nicely and made a pretty display. The tea itself is golden in color. I used the picture taken by my wife. She did a good job I think. Maybe too good. The lime deposit around the chrome ring detracts a little from the beauty, but that is the price we pay using our county water.

I have to make an honest statement at this point. I don't drink a lot of blooming teas because generally speaking they just aren't that tasty. I really dislike the flavor of globe amaranth. They are pretty, so mostly they are used for the display.

Another honest statement: Sunshine actually smells pretty. Better yet, I thought the taste was as fresh and different as the scent. The Persimmon Tree says this tastes of lychee and cantaloupe. The melon I get quickly. Lychee, I really don't know what it tastes like. My best attempt to describe the taste of this tea is melon with flowers and the lightest touch of something that reminds me maybe of clove or clover. 

My wife and I drank the first pot straight down and quickly agreed to make another using the same bloom. How often does that happen? Correct answer is never before. 

That my friends is the best recommendation I can give you for this one. We wanted more. The second pot disappeared almost as quickly. I am pretty certain it would have gone a third pot but we did not have time to try it. Best tasting blooming tea I have tried.

You can find Sunshine here.  

About The Persimmon Tree:
(From their website) The Persimmon Tree® offers our customers some of the world's finest organic teas and botanicals. Not only are most of our fresh high quality teas from around the globe hand-blended and organically grown, some of our teas are also fair trade, ensuring fair working conditions, fair wages, and a better life for tea workers from countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

At The Persimmon Tree®, our mission is simple: to enrich people's lives through the pleasure of tea.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Tea Spot, Boulder Breakfast

The Tea Spot Description:
This new American black tea blend combines bold flavor, rich color, & full body with hints of chocolate. This robust breakfast blend is made from our favorite strong black teas from high altitude estates in China, India and Sri Lanka. We have combined these black teas with pu’erh, an aged black tea from Yunnan China, and dark chocolate essence. This tea yields a rich, dark liquor and a warm, well-rounded flavor that takes very well to milk and even better in the form of a tea latte. The high caffeine content and robust flavor makes this the perfect tea to help kick your coffee habit!

My Review:
I looked at the label and noticed the word breakfast. When I opened the sample package I saw what appears to be flower petals. What? I took a whiff and said, "Oh wow!" Chocolate! This must be a breakfast tea dad would serve, because mom wouldn't let me have chocolate first thing in the morning. I decided it was time I looked at the label a little closer. Black tea, pu'erh, and chocolate flavoring. Reading closer the black tea is a blend from China, India, and Sri Lanka. Combined with pu'erh from Yunnan China and chocolate, this is like the breakfast of champions.

I used about 5 g in my press with 10 oz of water heated to 212 F. I let it steep for 3 minutes. The brew started pouring a light orange but turned much darker as I continued. It maintains a clean and clear appearance that surprises me. Chocolate tends to make a mess of the press, the brew, and the cup. This did not.

The chocolate comes through in the sip in an almost minty fashion but it is not overwhelming chocolate. Despite my child like exuberance, this tea takes a more adult approach. It packs half the caffeine of a cup of coffee. While that may be true this is not bitter or astringent. The chocolate melts into the blend of teas. I could only slightly separate out the pu'erh as it has a light earthiness to it. The other teas remain individually hidden to me. Possibly if I had steeped longer but that would also increase the odds of adding bitterness. I really don't mind it the way it is. In fact I rather like it.

A different and tasty morning cup.

Visit The Tea Spot website.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Persimmon Tree, Assam Gold

The Persimmon Tree Description:
This smooth, malty infusion is the perfect alternative to coffee. Assam Gold can be steeped multiple times while retaining its flavor. Golden in color, this import from Northern India is a thick, comfortable black tea brew that warms and energizes after a tough, bitter, cold day.

Sample provided by The Persimmon Tree

My Review:
I opened up the tin and was met with a delicate aroma of malt and grain. Delicate is not an association I normally make with Assam. I removed a scoop of leaf, about 5 g, enough for a 10-12 oz mug of tea. The leaf has a lot of golden buds in it. According to The Persimmon Tree that is not the meaning of the name rather it is supposed to brew a deep golden color. The organic leaf appears to be of orthodox production and even if it is not it is definitely not CTC/dust.

I placed the leaf in my press with 195 F water and steeped for three minutes. The brew was bronze or caramel when poured but appeared more red/orange in the mug. The leaf scent is far more bold than the dry aroma.

The sip is moderately brisk as an Assam should be I think. Truthfully,  I often flinch a little as I take my first sip due to years of trying to like poor quality tea. There is no need to flinch here. It is very pleasant on its own, yet stout enough to stand up to milk and sugar. Only on the rarest of occasions (like frappucinos) will I add milk. I did add Splenda after taking a few sips because I happen to like it in tea, not because it needed it.

This has a good astringent bite without being bitter. I suspect it could become so if steeped too long or with too hot of water. It is slightly malty though maybe not as much as I expected based on the aroma. This is kind of a simple, don't have to think, but good tasting tea. To my way of thinking that makes it a good satisfying morning mug.

You can find Assam Gold here.

About The Persimmon Tree:
(From their website) The Persimmon Tree® offers our customers some of the world's finest organic teas and botanicals. Not only are most of our fresh high quality teas from around the globe hand-blended and organically grown, some of our teas are also fair trade, ensuring fair working conditions, fair wages, and a better life for tea workers from countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

At The Persimmon Tree®, our mission is simple: to enrich people's lives through the pleasure of tea.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Verdant Tea, Yu Lu Yan Cha

Verdant Tea Description:
Fresh young Xinyang Maojian leaves are traditionally oxidized over three days and hand roasted in Laoshan Village as a black tea.  The Spring harvest of this ingenious tea finds the perfect balance of sweet potato, chocolate notes, honey, and silky smooth texture. Closest to a fine Jin Jun Mei in profile, this collaborative tea continues to prove that the world of tea is still young with room for innovation everywhere.

The name Yu Lu Yan Cha Black comes from the ancient names of Henan and Shandong province. Yu is Henan, and Lu is Shandong. To commemorate this landmark cooperative tea producing effort, Yu Lu is added to the tea name. Yan is the first part of Wang Yanxin’s name, honoring her innovation in creating this new tea.

My Review:
I cut open the brown sample bag and poked my nose in... WOW! is all I could think to describe the aroma. It is deep smooth creamy chocolate, with some roasting, and another scent of a particular type tree that my brain won't associate a name with. But just WOW! should suffice.

The dry leaf looks like Dian Hong or a Jin Jun Mei. Beautiful, and my favorite types of straight black tea. I took out about a 5 g scoop and placed it in my press with 10 oz of 202 F water. The steep was 2 1/2 minutes. The brew is a deep caramelly orange. The wet leaf is roasted and brownies in scent.

The sip is different from the dry or steep aroma. It hints at malt and chocolate but only hints. This kind of suggests sweet potato.  It sounds like I am saying this has very little flavor but that is not true at all. I am just having trouble finding the right words. What I can put into words is the roasty taste is very present and it is honey and grain flavored. Underneath and very late in the sip I am getting floral notes that say rose to me senses. I've not read that in any one else's description. The liquor is kind of thick and almost creamy, or silky, as it glides across the tongue.

I have to say I quite like this one.

Visit Verdant Tea online.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Remembering My Roots

My first post on The Everyday Tea Blog was published in 2011. This will be my 486th post. Man, have I experienced some amazing teas from around the world since those humble beginnings. Before launching this blog I had a website dedicated mainly to bagged teas that I had found in local shops and grocery stores. For posterity I incorporated my early thoughts on those teas into this blog.

Before the blog and the website my experience with tea was limited to Bigelow, Twinings, and later Ahmad tea. Most of it was Earl Grey. Much of it was bagged. What loose leaf I could buy I prepared in a tea ball. I had several of them of various sizes and styles. I eventually settled into using a 2" mesh tea ball as it seemed to provide the best room for leaf expansion.

So what prompted me to bring this up today? I ran into a friend and former co-worker. Over the years we had shared a lot of tea together. Knowing me well he almost immediately started bragging how he had just opened a tin of both Twinings Earl Grey and Lady Grey. They were always his favorite teas. That's when it occurred to me that in all my vast collection of teas I did not have a single plain black Earl Grey. If you have been following my blog awhile you may be aware Earl Grey is my number one addiction.

I have Earl Grey teas made with green tea and white. I have Earl Grey with mint, and several with vanilla. I hadn't even noticed the omission. My friend chided me, wanting to know how could I stray so far from our roots? I had no answer. So today I repented. I got in my car and drove 30 miles to the nearest store that carries Ahmad Teas and purchased a 200 g tin of Earl Grey. Arriving back home, I immediately brewed a cup and sat back to remember my roots.

So what favorite tea and old friend from your early days have you neglected lately? Isn't it time you did something about it?