Saturday, August 25, 2012

Good Young Co. Ltd, Strawberry Black Tea

This one came in the mail as a surprise from a tea drinking friend. I have never encountered this brand in the local stores. This comes in tea bag form. I feel like I am going back to my roots today. The tag says tradition but a google search reveals the company's name is Good Young Co. Ltd. Dry it looks kind of flat. It smells lightly of strawberry.

I boiled up a mug of water and poured over the tea, steeping for 3 minutes. I wish I had a clear glass mug for reviews to get a better idea of the brew color. This is moderately dark with an orange tint. Smells a bit like strawberry Quik. When I removed the bag it had really swollen nicely. Salada is another company with bags that make me wonder if there is enough tea in it but always swells big and produces a good solid cup.

This is my first ever strawberry tea. Seriously. I thought, I really don’t drink fruit teas, then I realized I like a lot of them – gojiberry, pomegranate, dragon fruit, peach, apricot, lemon, lime, orange, and especially bergamot. So why not strawberry?

I took my first sip and was pleasantly entertained. Immediately you taste strawberry but it is done in moderation. Yes, it does taste a lot like Nestle’s Strawberry Quik and yet it leans to a more natural flavor. The tea base is standard bag tea black. It isn’t bad. It gets the job done with just a touch of bite and astringency, but that is the way I like it. The best part is I can taste the base right along with the strawberry. That is of major importance to me.

Oh wait, this is interesting. As the cup is cooling I am starting to catch roasted notes in the lingering aftertaste. I hope it isn’t my imagination. It reminds me of a mild Yamamotoyama oolong. Hot dog! That is one of my favorite bagged teas. So kudos for the extra touch.

My friend says this is a really cheap tea so it gets extra points. This is a nice tea with some nice surprises. I could drink this one often. I am glad I got to try it.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Teavivre, Organic Hangzhou Tian Mu Qing Ding Green Tea

What a name. This is another sample provided by Teavivre. I opened the very stuffed sample bag and removed one hefty scoop. The remaining leaf, seems to leave the bag looking almost as full as before I got in to it. I believe if I had poured it all out, I would have a hard time putting it back. The leaf is dark green slightly rolled but straight. It is kind of flattened. It looks like dried grass. It smells nice and sweet.

I brewed for almost two minutes in heavily steaming water. This produced the lightest of yellow green liquids. The aroma of artichoke fills the air.

The sip is sweet and slightly salty. It reminds me of mild dragonwell without the butteriness. It does seem milky. I am getting a bit of numbing on the lips. Mid sip it takes on mineral notes. The aftertaste is fresh, not grassy, with a very slight tartness. Tart may be the wrong word but I can’t quite put a label on it.

On the first cup I added the tea to the water. All the leaf clung to the surface. The second time I steeped, I added a bit more leaf and poured the water over the tea. Now the leaf dances in the water. That is what I was after. There was not an artichoke aroma, until I poured the brew. The leaf is fully open, and reveals small pale green leaves. The taste at first seemed to be pretty much the same as the first cup. As it cooled a bit it came alive and produced a much more flavorful drink.

The third cup was the best yet. The flavor turned sort of cucumber. Not quite like a white tea. In whites, I think of the cucumber as leaning towards watermelon. This did not have the melon notes. Maybe this would go another cup but I don’t have time to find out today.

Chinese green tea fans, this is another great one!

Visit the Teavivre web site

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Epi Tea – The New Kid In Town

I am taking a break from reviewing today to make a public announcement. Today August 23, 2012 marks the official opening of Epi Tea’s web store.

Epi Tea is currently available to tea drinkers in the US and Canada. The hope to go global in the near future.

They are currently offering four different blends packed in tins each containing 25 biodegradable pyramid sachets. Their blends are Irish Breakfast, Berry Rooibos, Serene Chai, and Lavender Earl Grey.

They are willing to listen to their customers. This was evidenced when during early taste tests, the response caused them to drop one of their offerings.

You can read reviews of Epi Tea blends here - These are from the Steepster online tea community.

I have never reviewed or tasted any of these teas. So why am I announcing the opening and what’s in it for me? To be clear Epi Tea has offered a link back to this site but that is NOT my motivation. Kyle the CEO of Epi Tea is a regular poster on Steepster. He is a 19 year old college man who has impressed me with his enthusiasm, drive, and passion for tea. Epi Tea has the goal of creating a unique American tea culture through a new way of sharing tea. They have a thought out plan to accomplish their mission. I bid them success.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Teavivre, Organic Tian Mu Mao Feng Green Tea

Another sample provided by the fabulous Teavivre company. My first look at the leaf immediately images - wiry, brittle, and grassy. It is dark olive green in the room light. If you look at it under a lamp it kind of glows bright green. Yes, I’m weird that way.

I took a large scoop. The sample packet is very full, so I am guessing this requires a little extra leaf. I used my press with 12oz of heavily steaming water (this calls for 194F) and steeped for 1 minute. The recommended is 1 – 2 minutes. I added the tea to the water. The instant the leaf hit the water I smell spinach. The brew is light yellow/green but nearly clear. Once the liquor is poured I examined the wet leaf. It is various sized chopped pieces of small leaf on tender stems. The scent reminds me of spinach and simmering stew. Yum.

The sip is at first soft and silky smooth, like butter. Very mild. It is a bit sweet. This gives way to a brighter bitterness – the good kind that cleanses the palate and lingers on the breath. This is a light bodied cup. I like Chinese greens. They are like buttery steamed veggies with a nice bite without being overly grassy. This is a fine example of those very characteristics.

At this point I added sweetener. Sorry purists. Although my sweet tooth did not perceive this as all that sweet, it apparently is, as once sweetener is added it is almost too sweet, even for me. Go lightly if you add anything. Despite overdoing it a bit, the sweetener does not take away any flavors. It enhances what is already there. It brought out the light grassiness which develops a green wood/twig kind of flavor. Teavivre says this has a chestnut flavor. Having never eaten chestnuts, I can’t verify but I can see that what I am calling wood/twig could be thought of as nutty.

I have never heard of this tea before. After just one cup, I found myself ready to brew another. I had two more cups from the leaf. The second at 2 minutes was slightly less flavorful but still good. Cup three at 4 minutes was similar. I really like this one.

Visit Teavivre’s web site here

Monday, August 20, 2012

Teavivre, Superfine Jasmine Downy Dragon Pearls Green Tea

I will say again how I used to think I didn’t like Jasmine tea. It always seemed artificial, harsh, or overbearing – because it was. When Teavivre approached me offering their samples, I actually turned down the first jasmine because I was sure I wouldn’t like it. I did accept the Premium Dragon Pearls in spite of the jasmine because they looked cool and different. I am so glad I tried it. I learned from this that I only dislike poor quality jasmine.

Dragon Pearls is at the top of my list, as far as favorite Teavivre teas. It is even at or near the top of my list of favorite flavored teas – right there with Earl Grey. The truth is, it is probably better than any Earl Grey I have tried so far but I refuse to admit it.
When Teavivre offered to send me their Superfine Downy Dragon Pearls Green Tea, I immediately said absolutely. In the back of my mind though, I am wondering, how can you improve on perfection?

I cut open the top of the pouch and I am transported to a place where space and time stand still. What a beautiful, intoxicating scent. It always reminds me of grapes. My brain always connects this with a childhood memory of sipping grape Nehi in my neighbors’ basement while shooting pool or building model cars. Happy times.

The pearls are small, and gray and white in color. It actually looks more like a white tea. I used a spoon of pearls in my press with lightly steaming water. My steep time was a minute and a half. The brew is the palest of yellows - almost clear.

I love sipping this. Every time I lift the cup to my lips I inhale deeply and soak up that fragrance. The sip reinforces it with a wonderful sweet nectar. This gives way to a woodsy sort of leaf taste. The aftertaste is very long lingering leaf and flower. This really is a beautiful tea.

The big question is how does Superfine Downy compare to the Premium Dragon Pearls? Honestly, I can’t give an answer. I think you would need better developed tasting skills than I posses or at least both teas in hand to do a side by side comparison – something I would like to see. From memory, I do not recall the woodsy leaf flavor that I am experiencing. Beyond that I find them both to be stunning teas and worthy of your cupboard.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Teavivre, Organic Superfine Keemun Fragrant Black Tea

The first of my latest round of Teavivre samples. When I look back through time, I am thankful to Bigleow and Twinings for helping me take my first few steps on my tea journey. Teavivre, however, has taught me to spread my wings and soar. I am not saying that because I am reviewing another of their free samples. I mean it. I literally compare most teas I taste with the memory of something I have reviewed from Teavivre. The most notable exception being Earl Grey – but then they don’t carry an Earl Grey.

I also remember, less than a year ago receiving my first Keemun from Teavivre. I was a bit terrified of it. It seemed so smoky. I was sure it was good because I trusted Teavivre knew what they were doing. I kept sipping, and it wasn’t long before I learned to enjoy it. Then I began to understand it really was not all that smoky. How will this superfine Keemun fair? Let's see.

So, I open this bag and smell malt and grain - like wheat. An excellent start. I pour out one scoop of leaf – about 3 grams, and put it in my press. The dry leaf looks like thin twisted threads of dark chocolate with flecks of milk chocolate intermixed. The picture isn't up close enough to reveal the beauty of the leaf.

Next, I heat 12oz of water to just below boiling and pour over the leaf. The steep time was 2 ½ minutes, halfway between the recommended 2-3 minutes. The brew is lighter than expected and orange in color. The wet leaf scent is pretty much that of the dry - malty grain.

The sip is first malt, then wheat, followed by honey. There are flashes of light cocoa notes. It is a bit fruity. Many report sweet potato notes. I get that, but it was not as strong as some other black Chinese teas I've tried. This kind of reminds me of Bailin Gongfu.

This is very, very smooth. You could slam this down with out thinking about it. I choose to sip slowly. There is no bitterness and no bite. You could probably brew this strong and work the tannins into a frenzy but prepared per the instructions this seems light on the stomach. What I am not noticing is smoke. I was fully expecting some but it is not present.

Cup two, at 3 minutes, continues where cup one left off. It is now a little sweeter and that sweetness really lingers in the aftertaste. Cup three is very similar.

This is a very nice tea. The only negative comment I could offer is that oddly, I find myself missing the smoke that frightened me a year ago. That is not the fault of the tea. Rather it is my understanding of what makes a Keemun that is to blame. If you don't enjoy a smoky tea, then this is the Keemun for you. If you like a light smoky tea try the Premium Keemun Hao Ya Black Tea.

Visit Teavivre’s web site

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Everyday Tea Blog Is Now Bona Fide

One of my favorite movies is "Oh Brother Where Art Thou". In this film George Clooney's character escapes from the chain gang to stop the former Mrs from marrying a bon fide suiter. I have no idea what that means but it sounds impressive.

The Everyday Tea Blog has recently been accepted as a member of The Association of Tea Bloggers. I appreciate being accepted by the association and I will do my best to represent it in a responsible manner.

What does the first paragraph have to do with the second? Not a lot, but Google likes George Clooney ;) that, and I now like to think The Everyday Tea Blog has become Bona Fide. You won't find any Dapper Dan here, just some ramblings and reviews about my favorite obsession - tea of course.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Vicony Teas Company, Da Fang Tea

Da Fang Tea is named after its creator - Da Fang - a Buddhist monk who lived in a temple at the top of Lao Zhu Feng Mountain during the late Song Dynasty. It became a Tribute tea during the Qing Dynasty and was, at one time, one of China's Top Ten Tea.

The last of the six samples furnished by Vicony Teas Company for review. Of the previous five, I absolutely loved four of them. The other one the leaf is amazing. I like the taste, but not love it. Still, it is obviously a high quality tea. I continue my Chinese tea education with this one today. I am expecting wonderful things.

The dry leaf is pale green/yellow. This appears to be two leaves and a bud pressed very flat. There is not a lot of aroma coming off the dry leaf.

I took a large scoop of leaf, about 3g, and placed it in my press. 12oz of water was brought to steaming in my kettle and poured over the leaf. I steeped for a little less than two minutes. Recommended time is 1-2 minutes.

The moment the water hit the leaf I began to smell buttered vegetables. I love that smell in Chinese greens. Most of the leaf clung to the surface, while a few danced in the water below. The brew is pale yellow. The wet leaf looks small, young, and delicate.

The first sip, while the cup was hot, was a bit flavorless. As the cup cooled a buttery sweetness emerged. This feels milky as you sip. At one point I detected a very mild bitterness way underneath the flavors that was a nice touch. There is a lingering pleasant aftertaste that I found slightly drying.

The smell of the wet leaf in the second cup was more like the fresh air at the lake. Nice and refreshing. The second cup is even lighter in flavor. This is new. I am getting a sticky lip feel at the front of the sip with this green tea. Normally, I associate that trait with sheng puerh. Interesting.

Ok, this is really messing with my head and fascinating me at the same time. Now that the second cup is cooling it tastes and feels like I am drinking a warm cup of milk. This isn’t a milky oolong. How is it doing that? The sip starts a bit sheng like, then to lightly bitter green, and on to milk late in the sip. A beautifully complex cup.

The third cup at 3 minutes, morphs yet again. The sticky lip feel and the milkiness are gone. This has now developed earthy notes and has become sweeter. A palate cleansing bitterness still pops in and out at random. This is all light and subtle.

The main thing I would point out about this tea is that when Vicony’s description says this tea is mellow. They are not kidding. There is nothing ‘in your face’ about this tea. It is a very quiet, humble, little tea. This is an excellent tea for curling up on the couch with a good book and sipping quietly. A lot of western tea drinkers were raised on big bold Assam type black teas. They often don’t understand or appreciate delicate understated teas. That is a shame. Teas like this one really have a lot to offer if you open yourself up to the experience. I really enjoyed this one. Thank you Vicony Teas Company for sharing this, and the other awesome teas.

Visit Vicony Teas Company web site.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Vicony Teas Company, Jin Jun Mei Waishan

Also known as Golden Junmee, Jin Jun Mei, the newest member of Lapsang Souchong, was created in 2005. Jin Jun Mei is made of only tea buds. Delicately twisted leaves with a high concentration of golden tips distinguishes this tea from other black teas. The quality of the tea really shines through in this absolutely gorgeous black tea.

The fifth of six samples provided by Vicony Teas Company. They are a Chinese wholesaler. Vicony Teas have so far proven to be top notch. Let’s see if that trend continues.

The samples came well protected and double boxed. Inside, each tea was in their own clear plastic bag. The only information on the sample bag was Vicony’s article number. This one is labeled LAM23. This is a new addition to the lapsang family. It is a black tea made entirely of buds.

The dry leaf is very cool looking. It is quite fine. The color ranges from very dark brown (almost black) to the lightest tan. The colors are wrapped around each other and it reminds me of my wife’s crochet thread. It kind of glows under the light. The scent is sort of cocoa but its fruity, almost like a pineapple.

I prefer not to look up the steeping directions when they are not typed on the label. I do this because I assume others won’t look it up either. Most people have a standard method for preparing each type tea. This one is a black so I used a large scoop, lightly boiling water, and a two minute steep. Normally I would go three but this might be a very smoky tea and I am choosing to stay on the cautious side. (I follow the directions later in the review)

After the first steep the leaf still appears fairly tightly twisted. The brew is caramel in the press and darker in my mug. There is a strong aroma of cocoa and malt.

The sip is very malty. It evokes images first of cocoa and hay, then root beer (of course with out the sassafras). You can definitely catch a Yunnan Dian Hong similarity. I expected this to be heavily smoky but that is not the case. There is a very light smoke underneath the tea flavor that enhances the experience with out drawing attention to itself. This has a natural sweetness to it, like honey, though it will stand up to sweeteners being added. There is no bitterness, even with long steeps. Milk is not required to tame it but I think it would stand up to a light splash. The aftertaste is sweet and cooling.

The second mug was steeped for only one minute. Western brewing technique of black tea tends towards leaving the pot until it walks off on its own. Short steeps sound wrong to us, but this tea delivers a very flavorful cup at one minute (as it turns out even 1 minute is considered a long steep). When very hot, it has a nutty taste. As it cools, it becomes malty. The smoke is much more noticeable, but remains well behaved, adding to the sip. The malt, honey, and the smoke combine to give this a bit of a bread taste. A very nice cup.

I steeped the third and final cup at three minutes. There was still plenty of flavor and strength in the cup.

Day 2, I could smell the light smoked honey all day yesterday. I did not spill any on me, and I washed my hands multiple times. I have no explanation. Even late in the evening, sitting at home watching TV, I could smell it. I must have this tea again!

This time I went by the instructions. Same amount of leaf and boiling water. The difference, I only used the recommended 10 second steep time! 10 seconds? Yep, and it is really good this way. You smell the smoke rather than taste it, though it is light. You taste malt and honey. There has been another flavor note present the whole time that I can’t identify. It is sort of sweet potato but not exactly. Finally, this feels thick and silky as you sip.

So what is the difference between long western steeps and short Chinese steeps? Flavor-wise not a lot. The long steeps did feel heavier and caused a mild amount of stomach discomfort. I am guessing that would be the tannins in the tea. The short steeps did not leave me with the same uncomfortable feeling. According to Vicony, you should be able to steep up to 6 cups by slightly increasing the steep time with each successive cup. That is a lot of tea for one spoon of leaf. I steeped four cups before my kidneys begged for mercy. The tea was still going strong.

This is an excellent Chinese black tea with a strong enough flavor that your coffee drinking friends should be able to appreciate it. Your tea drinking friends will appreciate the lack of bitterness with a pleasant lingering sweet malt aftertaste.

Visit Vicony Teas Company web site.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The New Car Syndrome

An interesting phenomenon seems to always occur after buying a car. It doesn’t matter if you are looking at brand new showroom cars or a ten year old ‘gently used’ classics. You drive around looking until something catches your eye and know, that’s the one. You sign the papers and drive it off the lot. On the way home you start passing cars just like it. It’s weird. You never even noticed that model before you bought one. Now they are everywhere.

I am noticing something very similar happening while tea tasting. I regularly read other’s reviews. I find them interesting and inspiring. Yet, often I read descriptions like earthy, woodsy, or nutty and unless I have experienced it myself I will probably glide right by it without giving it much notice. If I do notice, it often leaves me feeling puzzled because I don’t understand. One such description that baffled me for a long time was malt. I just couldn’t figure out what people meant. Then one day I had a tea that tasted so much like malted milk balls it was obvious. After that moment I seemed to run into malt in nearly everything I tasted. In fact, the tea I enjoyed today was very malty and that is what prompted this post.

The latest new description I have encountered is the cooling sensation on my breath that followed a cup of high mountain oolong. It was like breathing ice. A very strong obvious sensation. What surprised me is after experiencing it the first time, I started noticing in a more subtle way in many of the cups I drink. It’s just weird that this happens.

I find the new car syndrome in tea fascinating. How about you – have you experienced this same phenomena? Or maybe you have experienced another nugget of truth in tea tasting you could share. I would love to hear it.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Vicony Teas Company, Bohea Tea Da Chi Gan

Da Chi Gan means "Big Red Sweetess" in Chinese. The Bohea Da Chi Gan is made of tender tealeaves, harvested from the Guadun, Tongmu Guan, the core producing area of Bohea Lapsang. Somewhat different to the orthodox Lapsang Souchong, the Bohea Da Chi Gan wasn't dried using smoldering pine fire so it is sweet and full-bodied with charming aroma but not so smoky. Once you try it, you will get to know why so many famous people in history fell in love with Bohea teas.

This tea is of Wuyi Fujian origin and is listed on Vicony’s website as Art.No: BOH05 My sample was provided by Vicony Teas Company for review.

The leaf as you can tell from the picture is of nice length. It is dark, and twisted. It has the very familiar look of many of the good Chinese black teas I have tried lately. When I sniff the dry leaf it has a hint of chocolate.

After my review I found the brewing instructions online. The company recommends 2 grams of leaf (1 tsp), boiling water, and only a 15 second steep. Up to 10 steeps are possible.

Since I didn’t look up the instructions beforehand I winged it. I used 1 scoop of leaf, 12oz of water brought to a light boil, with a 3m steep in my press.

The wet leaf expanded nicely with the scent of chocolate and malt. The brew is deep golden in the press but looks caramel in my white mug.

The sip is chocolate, malt, and wheat. As the cup cools I detect the lightest hint of smokiness in the cup. My 3 minute steep did not hurt this cup at all. There is no bitterness. No bite. No heavy tannin. It is just good.

This more than reminds me of Teavivre’s Bailin Gongfu black tea. In fact I wish I had some of my Bailin sample left for a side by side comparison. They literally taste the same to me but originate from different locations. That they taste so much alike is a good thing as Bailin Gongfu is one of the highest rated teas on Steepster. This is really an exceptional black tea.

I steeped three cups with the leaf and each was as tasty as the first. I am pretty sure it would have gone a fourth cup. Maybe I could get even more cups following the directions but I am more than happy with the results.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Vicony Teas Company, White Bud Puerh

The White Bud Puerh Tea is composed entirely of pure white buds that were hand harvested from tea plants grown in Yong De county of Lincang Prefecture near China’s border with Myanmar. It was harvested in the Spring of 2010 and was processed at a small facility in this rather remote area of Yunnan.

This is the third of the Vicony Teas Company samples I have received for review. This Yunnan Silver Needle White Tea is a sheng puerh. It is listed as Art. No: BYP12 on Vicony’s website. The leaf on this looks like a normal loose leaf silver needle white tea. Very white and very fresh. It has only the mildest scent.

I used my wooden spoon to measure out a healthy scoop of the leaf. I used 12oz of near boiling water and my press. The first steep was 2 minutes. The leaf danced in the press, hanging from the surface of the water. The brew is very clear with nothing floating in it. The color is a dull green. So far there is not a lot that even hints this is puerh other than the slightly darker brew color. There are no scents I normally associate with sheng or raw puerh. In fact it has little scent. Just a hint of fresh hay.

I lift the cup and sip. Ahhh, there it is. At first you catch notes of melon and cucumber but as subdued glimpses really. This gives way to the wonderful leather taste I usually reserve for shu puerh. Actually, I am not sure I have ever tasted it in a sheng puerh. As the cup cools the melon really comes alive and blends with the leather. The result is pure joy. Now it is developing a natural sweetness. I feel a nice coolness on my breath. This is really seriously good.

Cup two was also steeped for 2 minutes. It differs from the first in some respect. The leather is less pronounced but still obvious. This has become even sweeter and slightly more like white tea in taste. The melon / cucumber notes are more prevalent. The more the cup cools the more it takes on a grainy flavor – something like wheat.

Cup three continues with the grainy taste. The leather has disappeared.

On cup four the grainy taste has turned to pure malt. Each cup has grown darker. This one is golden in the press and caramel in the cup.

This white puerh is not the flavor blast that puerh fans often expect. On the other hand this is one of the most complex puerhs I have ever tried. It has zero bitterness. It is a lighter more delicate cup that white tea fans will greatly appreciate. After only one session with this I am hooked. This should be in your tea cupboard!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Vicony Teas Company, Premium Taiping Houkui Tea

Taiping Houkui Tea joined the celebrity circus in 1915 when it won the gold medal in Panama Pacific Exposition and became the youngest of the Chinese Top 10 Teas since then.

Its leaf measures up to 60 mm; it is the largest sized leaf tea among the famous green teas. It produced infusion with delicate orchid fragrance and a mellow taste which lasts up to four brewing. In a glass, the leaf gracefully sways in the water which is described as the ‘Phoenix dances’.

This is my second tea supplied by Vicony Teas Company. It is listed on their website as Art No: SHK03. This Premium Taping Houkui Tea was produced in the Xinming township, Taiping county at the foot of Huangshan Mountain of Anhui Province. Taping Houkui is also known as Monkey King Tea.

I grabbed this one because the leaf is so interesting. It looks a bit like dried corn husks. The leaf is wide and very long – it measured a lot longer than the description – and yellow/green in color. I have had strips of bacon that weren’t this big. This looks brittle and dry but smells fresh and green.

It was hard to decide how much leaf to use. I finally just grabbed a small handful and put it in my press – the more vertical pieces were projecting above the rim. I added water well below boiling and let it steep for almost two minutes. I did not have the recommended brewing instructions with me, so this was a guess (Turns out I was close, they recommend a bit longer steep time).

The brew is green. The wet leaf has an aroma I imagine is like ocean water. Though admittedly I have never smelled ocean water.

The sip also evokes images of ocean water. It seems oddly salty. I have never experienced that in tea before. At the beginning of the sip the taste has a cave like earthiness. What I mean is this is very mineral tasting and a bit like mushroom. It has a long lingering bitterness in the aftertaste. In between there is a moment when this tastes like raw white potatoes. There is a lot of vastly different things going on with this tea. As the cup cools the flavors do meld together more and you don’t notice the transitions as much. I also noticed the liquor feels thick almost syrupy, especially as it cools.

In some sense this slightly reminds me of Dragonwell but only very remotely as it does have a very mild hint of butteriness to it. This definitely is not naturally sweet to my tastes.

On the second cup I shortened the steep time and this seemed to eliminate the bitterness, otherwise the taste was pretty much like the first cup. I actually found myself missing the bitterness as I liked that element in the taste. On the third cup I went back to a two minute steep. This was probably the most balanced cup, though the first remains the most interesting. This tea had an added benefit of leaving my lungs feeling more open and had a cooling affect on my breath.

My review was not matching what I was read by others in their experience with taiping houkui tea. They experience more of an orchid flavor with a sweet aftertaste. With knowledge in hand I tried this tea a second day using a longer initial steep of three minutes. This did not seem salty to me this time, however the rest of my previous tasting experience still seems accurate. I believe what I am describing as cave, mineral, and mushroom, is what others describe as floral and orchid.

Next I paired this with a ham and turkey sandwich on wheat with a side of grapes. This tea worked perfectly with that combination. In fact it developed a bit of smoked flavor that I would not have noticed otherwise. An excellent combination.

Camellia Sinensis never ceases to amaze me. How can that many different flavors and that vast an array of different leaf appearances come from one plant? This one is so different in an odd, but even more oddly, likeable way. I think most tea drinkers in the western culture would pass right over this one with out giving it a fair chance. My initial reaction is this is not likely to become a favorite of mine but I can’t wait to try another cup with different parameters to see what happens. Thanks to Vicony Teas for the opportunity to experience something interesting and different.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Vicony Teas Company, Superfine White Peony Tea

White Peony Tea undergoes very little processing. Made from just the unopened silvery buds and the small, top one or two leaves it is picked in spring and gently withered to yield a refreshing, easy-drinking tea, full of soft fruit flavors and melon notes with a lingering sweet aftertaste.

This sample was provided by Vicony Teas Company. In exchange they asked for an honest review. Something I always attempt to do no matter how I acquire the leaf.

This is listed on Vicony’s website as Art.No: WPT01
White Peony tea is also known as Pai Mu Tan Tea
This one originates from Taimu mountain, Fuding, Fujian
The shelf life is listed as no limit if stored well. Like puerh it gets better with age.

As best as I understand it, Vicony is a wholesaler, supplying teas around the world to tea retailers. You can’t go buy an ounce of Vicony tea but you may well have sipped tea they were responsible for shipping to your local tea shop or online vendor.

The tea leaf of this white peony is truly gorgeous. This is the whitest looking dry leaf I have personally ever seen. It is long, and though it is delicate, it doesn’t feel that way. It feels solid. This is listed as superfine which is the best quality leaf. While not necessarily indicating better flavor, it is an indicator of the appearance of the leaf. This fits the description.

White tea is a bit difficult to measure without a scale. I used a very hefty scoop of leaf in my press. I used less than boiling water and a one minute steep.

The liquor is so pale in golden color as to be nearly clear. If you are used to tea bag teas this will really throw you because you won’t believe it has steeped long enough – but it has. The wet leaf still shows a lot of extremely white leaf. This is not your typical grocery store white tea. It smells like fresh hay with fruity overtones.

The sip is a thing of beauty. Immediately, I am tasting cucumber. If you drink loose leaf white teas and have caught this before you understand it to be a wonderful thing. If you have yet to experience cucumber it may sound odd or even off putting. Trust me, this is the good stuff. There are some nice fruity notes. Melon comes to mind when sipping this tea. This has a long lasting sweet aftertaste. I know the decription of the tea listed at the top of this review says the same thing. Trust me again, these flavors are truly what you experience when sipping this. I love white tea. Its delicate flavors softly ask you to slow down and pay attention. This is a very good example of this type tea. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Pure Puerh Tea, Osmanthus Puerh

I could not find this tea on their web site. I do not know if it is out of stock or discontinued. I will post the following review anyway as an example of this type tea.

This came in a clear plastic bag as a sample gift from a friend. I took the sample to work and left it. My intentions were to look up steeping directions at home before brewing at work but I couldn’t remember the name of the tea. I also couldn’t remember if this was a green or ripe puerh. I am going to wing it. Hold on, this could be a bumpy ride.

The leaf is interesting in appearance. It looks like CTC Dian Hong from a distance. Up close you realize that what appears orange tea leaf is yellow osmanthus flower petal bits against the black puerh leaf.

I used half the sample or about 2g of leaf and near boiling water in my press for a two minute steep. I was on the phone and not really paying attention. When the timer went off, I noticed how dark the brew had turned. Definitely a ripe puerh.

Ripe is also known as shu, while raw is called sheng. The way I remember that is, sheng tastes like green, while shu smells like poo. Yep, you read correctly. This is definitely shu. What got in to me to convince me to taste shu the first time? Adventure! Honestly if it is good puerh it tastes nothing like it smells. Most of the time if you pour a little boiling water (an ounce or so) on the leaf and quickly rinse and pour off, the next cup will not have that strong odor.

This tastes really good. The immediate reference in my mind is the combination of the smell of saddle leather and horse. This one in addition, has a nice peppery / ginger bite with strong floral notes underneath. It lingers sweet and floral on your breath long after the sip is done. The liquor feels thick crossing the lips.

This is my first Pure Puerh tea. Based on this tasting – if the prices including shipping are reasonable, I would not hesitate to try other teas by this company. This is a good one.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Two leaves and a bud, Tamayokucha

There's a reason this is our best selling green tea - it has a sweet, light flavor you want in a cuppa' green tea, without being bitter. How do we do it? These whole tea leaves are gently steamed as they dry. Tamayokucha has a beautiful green hue you'll enjoy seeing in your cup as much as savoring on your tongue.

This biodegradable tea sachet was a gift from two leaves and a bud  (Recently this company changed their name to two leaves). I heated up the water to a light boil in the kettle and poured it over this sachet resting in my mug. I steeped for 3 minutes per the directions on the biodegradable envelope.

The dry leaf in the sachet looks dark and small. It really doesn’t look like there is very much tea in this. After the steep the sachet is extremely plump with wet green leaf – Now that is pretty amazing.

The taste is basic green tea. It is light and sweet with no bitterness, just like they say. This is gently steamed but I thought I was detecting a very mild roastiness. It has a pleasant lingering green aftertaste. There is certainly nothing wrong with this tea. If you are looking for a straight basic green tea with the convenience of a very forgiving sachet this is a good one.

Visit the Tamayokucha webpage.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Upton Tea Imports, Baker Street

A bit of Lapsang Souchong is blended with Keemun and Darjeeling, yielding a mildly smoky tea. Perfect for an afternoon uplift. Another special (whole-leaf) blend from our London source of fine teas.
Origin: England

This is my first Upton tea. I received this as a gift sample from a friend. I opened the small plastic bag and sniffed. It smells quite smoky in the packet. Next, I took out a spoonful to examine. The leaf pieces are small and mostly dark with some orange leaf in the mix.

I steeped this for 3 minutes in my press using boiling water. The wet leaf plumped nicely into healthy Ahmad sized pieces. For those who don’t compare the leaf to their favorite inexpensive grocery store tea, this means the leaf is slightly larger than Twinings leaf. Oops. I’m still doing it. The wet leaf smells of smoke and burnt cocoa with a touch of sweetness. It smells promising.

I did not have the product description before writing down the following tasting notes. I am pretty happy to see I got this one correct. The sip tastes far less smoky than it smells. Even better, you can taste the tea underneath the smoke. This tastes like a Keemun but there is a wine like flavor mixed in there with it that reminds me of Darjeeling. This is really nice and balanced. It has good depth and complexity. This is an interesting cup.

Now looking at the description, I don’t get the whole leaf comment as this is small cut pieces. Regardless, the flavor is top notch.

A year ago I wouldn’t have given this tea the time of day because of my fear of the smoke. That is a shame. Fear robs you from all kinds of enjoyment in life. Let your guard down. Live! You might be surprised what wonderful experiences are waiting for you.