Saturday, January 21, 2012

Teavivre, Bailin Gongfu Black Tea (Bai Lin Gong Fu) - Fujian

This sample is one of 15 provided by Teavivre, a tea distributor located in China.

I haven’t even tasted this yet and I am loving it. I used half of one of the 4 sample packets. The dry leaf looks small but smells amazing. First, I noticed malt. As I waited for the water to heat, I keep wondering where is that chocolate scent coming from? Oh yeah, it’s the tea. Steeped 2 minutes (increasing on later steeps) with below boiling water per instructions furnished on the sample label. The brew has a slight caramel aroma and is a deep reddish golden color. The wet leaf has a bit of a coffee edge and swollen leaf reveals small broken pieces.

I tried this without sweetener and thought is was a bit beige. So as is my custom, I used sweetener. Now the sip is what I would classify as medium bodied. You don’t have to work at tasting it, but it doesn’t grab you by the throat and kick your teeth in either. Nice. Smooth caramel taste, lightly malt, and creamy. The aftertaste lingers without being offensive. A civilized cup for when you have the time to enjoy it. Three infusions from the leaves.

I don’t normally drink a lot of straight black hot tea. This is my third black from Teavivre. These teas are really winning me over. I honestly didn’t know a black tea could have this much depth. Only problem is my cup keeps going empty! Very nice tea.

Revisit - Had this with sour dough bread today. I was a little concerned the tastes were too similar but it turned out to be a good combination. The wet leaf brought to mind cocoa, or bakers chocolate, heating on the stove. The bread enhanced tasting notes I hadn’t caught before. The main being a cucumber taste. Under that was a sweet fruity something that I couldn’t place but made me think of jelly – kind of went with the whole bread thing I guess. As the cup cooled the malt became more pronounced. The aftertaste pleasantly lingers. There is also a dry mouth feel with this combination. An exceptionally good tea.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Teavivre, Yun Nan Dian Hong Black Tea – Golden Tip

This sample is one of 15 provided by Teavivre, a tea distributor located in China.

Leaf and BrewThe dry leaf is beautiful with orange and gold throughout. The aroma images a barn filled with sweet hay. The wet leaf is a cool chocolate brown and the aroma is still hay but slightly rooibus. So glad Teavivre includes instructions on the package because I would have totally messed this up by overheating and over steeping. 85C for 2 minutes. The liquor is caramel chocolate in my cup.

The Sip
Tasted with and without sweetener. Not a hint of bitterness or astringency. Very smooth. Still getting that sweet hay with a hint of rooibus but the main flavor I am getting from this is malted milk balls. It lingers long and pleasant in the aftertaste. This is such a good example of it that I now realize I have experienced it before buried in lesser teas. This is nice. I only had time for four cups this afternoon it will go further.

Conclusion I have rarely had a black tea that would steep more than twice. This can be steeped many times, so I am impressed. It is familiar enough to serve to those whose experience is limited to the grocery store isle, yet is complex enough to delight the more discerning.

Revisit -
I ran this through five steeps. This time I noticed something new. Well two things. First, I caught what other reviewers have referred to as a sweet potato flavor. Second, by the 4th cup as the creaminess moves in, the malt disappears but only while the cup is really hot. There is a bit of earthiness while hot. The more the cup cools the more the malt returns. I am used to the cup changing with the temperture but this really changes. I love this tea.

Revisit day 2 -
I love pushing a new tea to see how far it will go. Using same leaf as yesterday. I know that grosses some of you out. Sorry. Today, the tea is still smooth, but now add really creamy. It is also lighter and sweeter. I don’t know if that is the nature of the sixth cup and beyond or because the leaf sat over night. Whatever the reason, it is delicious.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Teavivre, Chun Mei Green Tea (Zhen Mei)

This sample is one of 15 provided by Teavivre, a tea distributor located in China.

Pure tea buds and new leaves. The inside of the sample bag is covered in a fine powdery dust. The dry leaf is shiny, grayish looking (very dark green and white mix). This smells of hay and fresh tobacco. I used one spoonful of leaf and steeped at approx 194 F for 30 seconds per instructions.

The wet leaf smells a bit like toast with a non-threatening hint of smoke. The leaf expands into a big loose clump in the bottom of the press reminiscent of a Twinings loose tea. The liquor in the press appears light yellow/green in the low light level of my office. Appears much darker in my cup.

The sip is a balance of light grassiness and smoke. There is also a creaminess to the cup. Sometimes smoke frightens me. Here it really does compliment the green’s flavor. Once again I find I am really liking this offering by Teavivre. As the cup reaches room temperature, I am reminded of the base that Ahmad uses in their Earl Green. I used to love that tea, so it is no wonder this one immediately appeals to me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Teavivre, Dong Ting Bi Luo Chun Green Tea (Pi Lo Chun)

This sample is one of 15 provided by Teavivre, a tea distributor located in China.

The dry leaf is very different on this one. It is kind of black (dark grayish green) and white. A bit fuzzy. For some odd reason it reminded me of old time upholstery stuffing. The dry leaf smells of hay and grain. I brewed a healthy spoonful of leaf at a cool 176 F for 1 short minute. I would definitely have over steeped if Teavivre hadn’t provided clear instructions on the package.

The wet leaf on the first steep is dark green with a bit of tan. It hasn’t completely unfurled but appears to be small leaves and pieces. The smell reminds me of Cheerios. Maybe I should have had breakfast. The liquor is pale greenish and actually darker than I expected with such a short steep.

First sip, ooh I like this. It has enough bite to be interesting without being bitter. Tastes of grain at the front of the sip and spice at the back. There are some very faint floral notes that remind me of a Ti Kuan Yin. The main thing I like about this is the green is not too green. I know a lot of people want their green to be really bright and grassy. I can appreciate a tea like that but I prefer a subtler cup like this one. It has a touch of grassiness without being overwhelmingly so. This is how I want a green to taste. I had three steeps out of it before stopping. I believe it would have gone more.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Teavivre, Ripened Aged Pu-erh Mini Tuocha

This sample is one of 15 provided by Teavivre, a tea distributor located in China.

I steeped this for one minute with boiling water. The toucha remains mostly intact. The brew is dark with a light musty aroma. The wet leaf reminds me of wet musty hay. The first sip is much sweeter than expected. I happily notice the leather notes I got from the rose toucha only much lighter. May be imagination but I pick up just the tiniest hint of smoke. I am also getting that slick slightly tacky lip feel that appealed to me in the China Cha Dao puerhs. No astringency, or fishiness and I don’t find it heavily earthy.

On the second cup, the toucha completely crumbled. Has a bit more leather and as it cools a bit of bitterness moves in with a heavy dose of hay. Third cup I added a couple small leaves of chocolate mint. Not enough to really flavor it but added a cool mouth feel and evened out the bitterness. I loved the rose toucha. This one I like. Definitely better than meh, but not a wow.

I decided to revisit this one a second day with a new mini toucha. Steeped 1m in boiling water.

I have loved every sheng I have tried. They just speak to me. Shu, like this, I am working on. They are just so unlike anything else. Cheap grocery store cooked puerh can be really bad - fishy or moldy smelling, and the bagged stuff can be a bit one dimensional. These are not like that. They are fresh and complex. I am enjoying this much more the second time around. The taste is peaty, mildly saddle leather, followed by fruity and spicy notes. There is also a heavier flavor I can’t quite place, woodsy maybe?

2nd cup, 30 second steep. Very dark. Similar taste profile but a bit too light in flavor.

3rd cup, back to 1 minute. The extra time gave back that fuller flavor of the first cup. Didn’t have time today to go further. It’s no sheng but I like it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Teavivre, Jasmine Dragon Pearls Green Tea

This sample is one of 15 provided by Teavivre, a tea distributor located in China.

This is the one sample I have feared the most. I even turned down one jasmine sample because of my fear of it. Thus far, in my tea journey, I have mostly only tolerated straight jasmines. Teavivre really has their work cut out for them if I am to like this one. Putting on my brave face…

I open the bag and breath in. Hey, this is different. The jasmine doesn’t make me flinch. It is a pleasant, fresh floral and not overwhelming. In addition there is a fruitiness like Concord grape or maybe grape soda that is very appealing. Maybe this won’t be too bad…

Steeped 2 minutes at 80 C. Note to self, remember to only go 1 minute next time. Very light amber liquor. The fruitiness is still in the brew and the wet leaf. Even better, it is in the sip. The best part of this cup is breathing in before you sip. It fills your senses with flowers and grapes until your brain stops processing anything else but the aroma. There is even a hint of rose in here. You catch the green tea at the back of the tongue after the fragrance subsides. I also noticed a creaminess to it.

Wow. This is really good. Is this what jasmine is supposed to taste like? If it is, then I have never really had jasmine before. Seriously, I could drink this everyday. Bring on cup two.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Teavivre, Xin Yang Mao Jian Green Tea

This sample is one of 15 provided by Teavivre, a tea distributor located in China.

The dry pure buds and leaves look so dark and delicate. The aroma is grassy and slightly sour. Steeped per instructions at 2m. Excellent clarity in the liquor. It has the palest of green tints. The wet leaf appears to me to be mostly large pieces of small leaves, stems, and some buds. It looks soft and fresh and oddly very green considering the darkness of the dry leaf. The leaf aroma is heavily vegetable – like broccoli or spinach.

In the sip I notice a bit of bitterness (not a bad thing), vegetable, then a green bite in the aftertaste. Complex. Fresh. Interesting. It reminds me of one of the previous Teavivre greens I’ve tasted. I don’t have my notes in front of me so I am not sure which one. The biggest difference from memory is the slight bitterness in this one, which I liked. It adds character.

To the green tea purist stop reading now…

At this point I added sweetener. This evened out the flavors making this maybe less complex and interesting but more to my tastes. I would not call this tea naturally sweet on its own and I have a Sucralose monkey on my back. I know, I know, I am drinking quality tea. I don’t need this stuff, but I NEED this stuff. This green takes sweetener well. I justify my actions by saying, after I establish the flavor profile, I want to just relax as I sip the rest of the cup without looking for all the nuances. In reality, I know that is just the monkey talking. Me and the monkey like this tea.

Teavivre, Organic Silver Needle White Tea (Bai Hao Yin Zhen)

This sample is one of 15 provided by Teavivre, a tea distributor located in China.

The dry buds are long and silvery white with a bit of green. Very fresh and sweet smelling. Hate to over use the hay word but that’s what I picture when I inhale. Let’s call it alfalfa, because that sounds cooler.

Steeped per the instructions for 1 ½ minutes. Wet leaf smells really good. The brew is very pale almost clear with a greenish tint. What a contrast to the puerh I had yesterday! Hard to believe they both come from the same plant. Well, not literally but you know what I mean.

The first sip is light with cucumber notes or melon as some may interpret it. Sweet with a touch of grass. I am not sure my description is doing this justice. This is a really good cup of relaxation. My stress level has been through the roof lately and this is just the vacation moment I needed. I am sitting back and staring out the window while sipping the cup. Ahhhh. I would hate to imagine any one would slam this down and not take the time to appreciate it. Cups two and three were every bit as pleasurable.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Teavivre, Ripened Rose Pu-erh Mini Tuocha

This sample is one of 15 provided by Teavivre, a tea distributor located in China.

Of all the teas in Teavivre’s web store this is the one I was most curious about. I specifically requested it be included in the samples. I have only had one other rose tea and I did not like it at all, however rose and puerh together just sounds interesting.

The toucha comes wrapped in paper with four in the sample envelope. First brew per the instructions. The toucha bubbled the instant the water hit it and crumpled almost as fast. I don’t know if you are supposed to do a wash with these, so I did not. After two minutes in boiling water, the brew is very dark like burgundy wine. The leaf is almost powdery small with a bit of rose petal. The aroma is pure ripe puerh (you know that “Eeww, do I really want to drink this?” smell. To which you happily reply, “Well, yeah.”). There is only the slightest hint of rose.

The sip is not even close to what I expected. Not at all like the green puerhs I reviewed recently and definitely not nasty like the one canned cooked puerh I bought at the local international food mart. The rose is way in the background and may even reside only in my imagination. The main flavor is leather, makes me think of a horse saddle, with a bit of smoke and spice. As it cools, the smoke and spice subside but the leather remains.

Second steep, only 1 minute this time. This is the darkest cup of tea I have ever made. Dark as dark chocolate. Still that amazing leather taste and a touch of pepper. Third cup back to two minutes. Similar to the second, a little less pronounced. Fourth cup, three minutes, still flavorful but the leather is gone. Just warm and creamy now with the first real earthy notes. Still reasonably dark and flavorful. I may try to push this further later but I am pleased with today’s results. Pretty sure with real short steeps I could get a lot of cups from this but a few really intense cups just seems more appropriate.

I know puerh makes a lot of people nervous but I really like this. Interesting and complex. I kind of wish the rose came through more, but given my past experience maybe it is better this way.

Teavivre, Premium Keemun Hao Ya Black Tea

This sample is one of 15 provided by Teavivre, a tea distributor located in China.

The dry leaf is small pieces of leaf and smells of hay and pipe tobacco. I have never smoked and can’t stand the smell of ash trays but fresh tobacco is a pleasant aroma. Used a healthy spoonful of leaf. Steeped longer than intended, about 3 minutes with below boiling water per label instructions. Wet leaf smells of smoked hay.

First sip, wow, I find this to be smoky. I don’t believe I have experienced this in a loose leaf before so I am a bit taken aback. I can pick out the Keemun taste, as I am used to it, underneath and can really taste it in the aftertaste. It is pleasant but the smoke dominates. It may take me a couple cups to decide what I think of this tea. Cup two and three – strange, this isn’t smoky at all. It’s just a really good cup of tea. I guess if you like the smoke this would be disappointing. Personally, I think if there is a lot of smoke involved then there should be pulled pork.

Update - I had to revisit this one.

Knowing what to expect this time, I sipped and did not find it nearly as off putting as the first tasting. As the cup cooled the smoke diminished and the other notes started to emerge.

The two or three cups you can get after the initial steep are fantastic and easily deserving of a 90+ rating. My feeling is the average first timer may not get past the initial shock to realize there is a really good cup of tea here. I hope I am wrong. More experienced tea reviewers tell me this is not particularly smoky and in fact, it is one of their favorites.

And another update - On my third time trying this tea, I find I am really enjoying this first cup. Weird, I know but sometimes a taste just has to have time to grow on you. Keeping the first steep at 2 minutes helps a lot as well.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Teavivre, Two Dragons and a Pearl Flower Tea

This sample is one of 15 provided by Teavivre, a tea distributor located in China.

Tried a different brewing method today with this blooming tea by bringing the water to a boil, pouring into the pitcher, then added the pod. The old method of pouring water over the pod works better. This way the bloom remained floating on top the water for a very long time. It did eventually sink and fully open but I was beginning to wonder. The bloom is very pretty with a silver needle cradle holding a marigold while an arch of jasmine flowers rises above it to hold a globe amaranth. A few loose needles fell off but overall the display stayed intact. The brew is pale amber with a green tint.

Once again the flowers dominate. I believe the primary flavor here is the marigold. It is not an unpleasant taste but also not one I associate with tea. A bit milky? I think this would be good with honey. Not having any honey, I used sweetener. I like the taste of this better than the True Love flower tea but the display isn’t as spectacular.

Final note – while drinking the first cup, I left the remainder of the pot to steep to see what would happen. The result was a dark reddish brown tea. Amazingly it made little difference to the flavor. No bitterness. No astringency. Mostly marigold flavored brew. I like this one.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Teavivre, Tie Guan Yin “Iron Goddess” Oolong Tea (Ti Kuan Yin)

This sample is one of 15 provided by Teavivre,  a tea distributor located in China.

This is a lightly oxidized full leaf oolong. The dry leaf is rolled into typical nuggets with a faint grassy smell. I used almost a 3g scoop of leaf. First steep for 3 minutes at about 175F. The wet leaf is dark and looks like broccoli leaves and is mildly grassy smelling. The brew was a very pale yellow almost clear. It has a sweet floral aroma. The taste is sweet and floral with a bit of a grassy aftertaste. A bit weak my fault (keep reading).

On the second steep, 2m, the leaves are now open and covering the entire bottom of my press rising up almost to the plunger screen. Slightly darker brew with more pronounced flavor that is a lot closer to what I was expecting. Still a bit green. I am detecting melon(?) in the aftertaste that lingers. Just noticed Teavivre recommends 212F water! Oops! What is the point of brewing instructions if you don’t read them?

Third steep, 2m. Got the temp right this time. Well, hello flavor. Feels a little milky to me now. No bitterness.

Fourth steep, 3m. The TGY flavor is a lot milder. Longer steep would have helped. Still tasty.

Fifth and final steep, 4m. The flavor changed to darker and earthier with almost raw puerh qualities. The aftertaste is a mix of floral, grass, and fruity. It no longer tastes like a TGY but I like where it is going. Wish I had time to try one more steep.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Teavivre, True Love Flower Tea

This sample is one of 15 provided by Teavivre,  a tea distributor located in China.

The most beautiful flowering tea I have seen to date. Silver needle green tea cradling a white bouquet with twin white spires rising up topped with red globes. The flowers look like they were just picked. The picture does not do it justice.

To brew this I poured boiling water through a strainer so as not to damage the pod into an 8 cup clear glass carafe. The bloom began expanding immediately. Not a single leaf or petal came loose in the pot. Once steeped I poured the brew into the cup through the strainer. Clarity is excellent. Color is from pale amber to deep golden depending on steep time. The jasmine flavor is way in the background. One of the other two flowers – the globe amaranth I think – dominates and it is not a flavor I particularly like. Letting this steep longer and letting the cup cool brings out the jasmine a little more.

Visually this rates a 100.

Second pod. After reading other reviewers had used only a 7 oz glass to steep this, I wanted to try it but didn’t have anything that small, so I used my 4 cup French press and added 12 oz of water. That is about a third of what I have used in the past for flowering teas. 1 minute steep in boiling water. The globe amaranths were poking out of the water. The bloom was spanning almost the width of the press. A taller and narrower glass would be better. Using less water brought forth the jasmine scent but the globe amaranth still dominates. I do think less might be more with this tea. The flavor is much more intense. I did two steeps.

I have read many reviews of floral blend teas warning of the dreaded hibiscus flower, well here it is the globe amaranth. If you aren’t a fan you will have an issue.

Curious and admitting globe amaranth is never going to be a taste I crave I decided for the third steep to cut the string holding the bloom together and remove the flowers. The floral scent is still present in the brew but much reduced. I can even taste tea. What was a beautiful center piece is now a more pleasant drinking tea. I know it kind of defeats the purpose.

This tastes far better than it has to for a truly beautiful centerpiece.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Teavivre, Premium grade Dragon Well Green Tea (Long Jing)

This sample is one of 15 provided by Teavivre, a tea distributor located in China.

The dry leaf looks just like the picture. I steeped 2 tsp of leaf for 90 seconds. The brew is light green. I swear the brew smells like beef stew and broccoli. Sniffed the wet leaf after pouring, yep, still beef & broccoli. The leaf is tiny new leaves and buds.

I have no idea if this is a good example of Dragon Well as I have never had it before and have yet to develop an understanding or taste for the grassy greens. Believe it or not puerh was much easier for me to learn to appreciate. Other reviewers tell me this is a fine example.

The first cup I got the water a little too hot. Teavivre does an excellent job of providing steeping instructions that deliver the best sip for the tea, but you have to read them – doh! Tastes very green. It feels slick on the roof of my mouth. Not oily, just slick. This didn’t seem to have a lot of natural sweetness hot, but as the cup cools I get notes of slightly sweet hay in the sip and the aftertaste. I don’t detect any floral notes but again I am just learning this type green tea. Second cup I got the water temp right. The taste is more to my liking. More tealike and less grass. No bitterness. I can see this going well with Chinese take out. Chicken with pea pods, Mmmmmm.

Day two, same leaves, and I am ready to commit that I do like this tea. Those of you who crave the sharp green flavor, stick to the first day’s steeps. The second day this takes on a mild earthiness but still maintains the slightly sweet aftertaste.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Teavivre, White Peony (Bai MuDan)

This sample is one of 15 provided by Teavivre,  a tea distributor located in China.

Online Info:
Teavivre’s website is easy to navigate, full of information, and to me, is frustration free. There is a good range of teas without being overwhelming. Each tea has pictures of leaf and brew. There is a summary tab and a more info tab that includes a map of where the tea is grown. At the time of this writing the prices are fair and there is free shipping with a $30 purchase.

Packaging:Delivery from China took about 2 weeks. Each tea came in a heavy resealable pouch. Nice. The pouch label includes ingredients, origin, production date, shelf life, brewing instructions, plus manufacturer and distributor info. The information is specific to the tea inside – not a, one size fits all, label. Inside the pouch each sample was individually wrapped. I am impressed with the attention to detail. It speaks volumes of the quality and care level at Teavivre.

Leaf And Brew:The dry leaf is a mix of white and green colors and yes I can see the white fuzz. It smells like tobacco, maybe a light cigar wrapper – a really good smell. The wet leaf is more of a sweet dried grass. I followed the instructions and steeped the first cup for 90 seconds – longer on later cups. The brew is a light yellow. More amber in the cup.

The Sip:I did not use sweetener on the first cup. I tasted cucumber. I have never caught that in a tea before and it tastes way better than it sounds. This is followed by the slightest peppery note. At the back of the sip is a mild grassiness that lingers in the aftertaste with a natural touch of sweetness. An interesting mix of flavors. Next cup, because I am a barbarian, I added a bit of sweetener. This brought the sweet grassiness up a notch and dropped the cucumber down a bit but all the flavors were present and were experienced in the same order as before. The third, fourth, and fifth cups the cucumber is gone the drink is more inline with what my preconceived idea of a white tea tastes like, but better. I did not know white tea could steep this many times. It is still going strong.

Day 2. Still loving this. I went another 3 cups today with yesterday’s leaf. Even after 8 cups it could have gone more. The last six months are destroying decades of my ideas about tea. I was perfectly happy buying cardboard boxes of tea. That is changing. Bagged tea = 1 ok steep. Grocery store loose leaf, probably 2 slightly more interesting steeps. A better quality loose I can drink off the same leaves all day, or like this tea for two days and each cup is different. Woo Hoo!

Conclusion / Rating:This is my first loose white. This tea is pleasant and interesting. Each cup is full of different flavors.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

China Cha Dao, Douji 2011 Douji "Hong Da Dou" Raw Puerh Tea Cake

China Cha Dao an eBay Chinese Tea store located in Guang Dong, China.

The fifth and sadly last sample from China Cha Dao. This is the most densely packed of the samples. Pulling enough tea off the cake took some effort. The dry leaf is dark and is the most shredded of all the samples. 2g of leaf and near boiling. 10s wash. 45s steep. The wet leaf is dark olive/brown and grassy as was the dry. The liquor in the cup is between a deep rich gold and a copper color.

The first cup is difficult to describe. It’s not overly earthy, grassy. It’s not fishy, bitter, or syrupy. The best I can do is say it is a comfortingly mellow and it makes the sides of my tongue tingle. The first cup is not as complex as most of the others, but I am ok with that this morning, as it is a warm and happy cup. Cup 2, the leaf was spinachy. The brew is still mellow, no tingle, slightly grassy, more complex, or maybe I am just awake now. 3rd cup very slight fishiness. 4th or 5th cup (lost track) developed a bit of a coppery taste. This is the first tea I have experienced the liquid feeling not syrup but thick.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

China Cha Dao 2011 Yang Pin Hao Jing Mai Raw Puerh Tea

China Cha Dao an eBay Chinese Tea store located in Guang Dong, China.

This is the fourth of five samples given by China Cha Dao. The dry leaf is long, wiry, and twisted. I noticed some are pretzel shaped. I am amused. The leaf is very dark with some lighter touches. It smells fresh and grassy. Used 2g of tea and below boiling water – same as with the other puerhs except the first. 10 second lightly swirling wash that I poured out.

1st drinking steep – 30 seconds. The wet leaf smells of grass, hay, and seaweed. Also catching a bit of earthy dirt. That’s what I picture when I think puerh. I have never noticed smokiness in any of these samples. The first sip is not what I expected at all. It is very light and green. In fact the first cup is too light. I can tell there is real flavor here that just isn’t coming out using my method of brewing.

I decided to increase the steep time on the 2nd cup to 1 minute. The leaf smells strongly of seaweed. The brew in the cup is honey/caramel colored. Sip – ah, there is that musty, rich soil flavor I knew was here. Because I only used 2g it is not overwhelming. The 3rd and 4th cups, also at a minute, are the best yet, very even, mellow, and rich. With the 5th cup a coppery taste and color develops that continues through cups 6 (2min) & 7 (3min). Cup 8 (4 min), the color is very light and clear in the pot. There is still an amazing amount of flavor here. Cup 9 (5min), musty, earthy, sweet. Starting to get weak. Cup 10 (15 min) The copper notes are back but loosing depth. Still good. Time to accept these leaves have given their all. But come on, I got ten, 12oz mugs out of one spoon of leaf!

Friday, January 6, 2012

China Cha Dao 2011 Pure Mengsong Raw Puerh Tea

China Cha Dao an eBay Chinese Tea store located in Guang Dong, China.

This is the third of five samples given by China Cha Dao. This is a green puerh also known as sheng puerh. The dry leaf is beautiful. First impression is this is the longest leaf of any tea I have used to date. It smells fresh and green. The color range of the leaf is from dark green to almost white.

Used my typical western approach. 2g of tea. Water is same temp as I typically use for my greens. Heat the water to just boiling, turn off, wait until the pot grows silent. Seems to work. Did a swirling wash with a few ounces and poured off.

First drinking steep at about 30 seconds. The wet leaf smells of fresh hay – a great smell to a country boy and mushrooms – like springtime morels. Yum. I love green puerhs. Now that the leaf has relaxed, I can see that the length is due to the inclusion of stems. The brew is pale yellow-green and very clear. With the first sip I immediately notice that slightly sweet sticky lip feel that I get with other puerhs. This is followed by a spectacular slightly earthy green tea flavor. A bit creamy. Zero bitterness. I did not notice any fishiness. This is a light and mellow but not boring puerh. Halfway through the first cup I can tell you I love this. I could drink this all day long. Oh wait, with multiple steeps I may be able to drink it for two days! Woot!

I had 4 cups of this today and each was very similar to the last. I gave the third cup to a co-worker- traditionally the best cup. He grumbled, “it tastes like sweet dirt” and poured it out. Guess he is entitled to his opinion, even if he is a stupid head.

Day 2. Today I started with a 2 minute steep using boiling water. Why? I have no idea, I just felt like it. This is the best cup yet of a tea I already loved. Apparently I have a soft spot for sheng puerh. The sip is warm, rich, and earthy, not bitter or fishy. The aroma which is a way better experience than it sounds is of hay and clay. I am at once transported from my office in to a sunny field somewhere far away, experience. Life is hard but tea makes it better. Only had time for 3 cups today for a two day total of seven. All smooth and sweet. The last was a beautiful deep golden color.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tea Education

What is tea? Where does it come from? Which has more caffeine, white tea or green? How is puerh made?

Looking for a way to expand your knowledge of your favorite drink. The tea company Adagio has put together a series of lessons for the beginner, intermediate, and advanced learner. You can study through the lessons at your own pace and in the order you choose. There is a simple multiple choice test with each lesson to test your progress. It is an informative, fun, way to expand your knowledge. Best of all it’s free!

Adagio has done a really good job with these lessons to help educate the tea community They deserve to be acknowledged for the effort. They are not pushing their product. I highly recommend you check this out - Tea Class.

China Cha Dao 2011 Menghai Dayi 7542 Tea Garden Tea Sampler

China Cha Dao an eBay Chinese Tea store located in Guang Dong, China.

This is the second of five samples given by China Cha Dao. This is a raw sheng puerh. The leaf was a little hard to break off from the sample cake. I don’t have the proper tools for the job. Used about 2g of leaf (1 spoonful). Water heated to less than boiling (no fish eyes). 10 second wash swirling the leaf in the water and poured off. Kind of botched the first steep. I poured the wash in my drinking cup, so I was in a bit of a panic finding another cup. My first steep was maybe 45 seconds. The liquor was pale yellow green and quite clear. The aroma in the pot was a bit scary. It had that puerh smell towards the fishy side. Weird but did not have a bad aroma once poured. Must have left with the wash. The wet leaf is made up of small broken pieces. I don’t think I did this chipping it off the cake. First sip is very light and pleasant. Not at all what I expected. The earthy taste is there but subdued. It became a bit more pronounced as the cup cooled. This is very easy to drink but for my taste lacked the character of the Nan Nuo I’ve tried. I won’t record all my steeps this go around but I did 5 today and I imagine it will go that many more. Each cup today was pretty much the same as the last. Smooth and even.

Update – Day 2. Sadly, the leaves did not survive the night well. The broken pieces of leaf deteriorated into even smaller pieces. I thought this tea would go ten cups but I only got two additional cups out of it – for a two day total of 7 – but today’s cups were weak and bland. My mug is 12oz. So I got 84oz out of the 2g of leaf. Really only 60 of it were proper strength. Still that’s impressive.

Monday, January 2, 2012

China Cha Dao, 2010 Douji Pure Series "Nan Nuo" Raw Puerh Tea Brick

China Cha Dao an eBay Chinese Tea store located in Guang Dong, China.

They say:

Tea Type: Raw Puerh Tea Cake
Origin: Yunnan Province, China
Vintage: 20th April 2010 / Batch 1001
Brand: Yunnan Yiwu Shan Mountain Tea Co., LTD
Weight: 75 grams

Product Detail:
Douji’s Pure Tea Tree Series / Single Mountain
Made with Nan Nuo area tea leaves only, without mixing any other area tea.
Aroma – Superb! Strong and Heavy.
Flavor – Fresh, Sweet and Rich Texture
Soup – Soft, Smooth and Thick

My review:

The is my first review of five samples provided by China Cha Dao. Ok, I am going to do my typical American thing while brewing, but I will compromise on the steeping times. I am using a healthy spoonful of leaf in my French Press and a 12oz mug. The dry cake smells slightly grassy. Did a 10 second rinse with boiling water. The wiry looking dry leaf immediately started coming to life. Let it rest a moment then did my first 30s steep with boiling water. The steeped leaf varies from brown to bright green. The smell of the leaf is rich and earthy. The brew itself doesn’t have a detectable scent. The cup is a light amber color. The sip is thick almost syrupy. There is a heavy earthiness that rises quickly and just as quickly passes. I detect no grassiness and no bitterness in the first cup. I have a cheap cooked version (by another seller) of this tea that I have to mask its’ overwhelming flavor with chocolate mint. This is slightly pungent but I did not feel the need to mask or add anything to this tea. I had to try to push this tea and find out how far it would go. I list the rest of my steeps below.

2nd steep. 30s, boiling water. Now I detect the aroma of spinach in the leaf. The brown is gone – all green now. There is a slight film on top the cup. The flavor is more even, pronounced, and complex. Still very smooth with a heavy dose of earthiness. No grass. No bitterness.

3rd steep. 35s, boiling water. Leaf more vegative smelling. Brew gets a little darker each time but still amber. Best cup yet, but I really can’t explain how it is different from the last except to say it is smoother and fuller. Interesting. Oh, and the caffeine is beginning to make me a bit jittery.

4th steep. 40s, boiling water. I noticed the third steep left some grit on the sides of the press. Next time I do a rinse I need to remember to stir the leaf a bit before pouring it off. This cup is close in taste to the third cup. I am digging this. I just realized it has lost the pungent earthiness of the first couple cups and replaced it with mellow. This is probably what I was noticing in the third cup.

5th steep. 40s, boiling water. Think I need to bump up the steeping time. This is light like the first cup. Still a ton of flavor. Back to earthy but not pungent. Or it could just be the smoked pork I had for lunch cleansed the palette of the salsa taste from last night. Man my wife got it oniony – but sure was good.

6th steep. 50s, boiling water. Never have got a hint of bitterness and nothing that I would consider grassy. Increasing the time helped. The clarity in the press is still very good. I only used about 2g of tea, I am on my 6th cup and this stuff shows no signs of giving up. In fact I think this is the earthiest cup yet and this is a good earthy, not fish tanky. I am impressed. This is probably the last steep of the day. Tomorrow I will start again where I left off. I have to know how far this tea will go.

Day 2. 7th steep. 1m, boiling water. Last night I drained all the liquid that I could, spread the leaf out on the bottom of the press, and covered. I worried how it would survive the night without me. After steeping, the leaf still looks good and smells like veggies. The liquor is clear amber. Waiting for the water to cool is killing me. I need my fix. Please, no interventions. I like the monkey on my back. First sip, aaaahhhh, sweet release. Just as I left you, my precious. Actually, it’s a touch weak. I’ll have to up the steep time! I also notice it still feels syrupy.

8th steep. 2m, boiling water. Remember I am using a 12 oz mug. If I were using a 6oz cup this would be the 13th steep. Increased steep time helped. This is similar to yesterday’s last steep but mellower. Just figured out what that syrupiness reminds me of – ever bought potato chips prepared with fat free Olean? Yeah, its that sticky feeling on your lips.

9th steep. 4m, boiling water. Ok its getting weak again, so I should stop while I am still enjoying it. Almost tempted to go the 10th steep just to get to 120 oz out of 2g of tea leaf. More tea and less steeps might have given a more intense experience but I am really pleased with the results as I have done it.

10th and final steep. 7m, boiling water. Queue fireworks and thunderous applause. I’m stopping, I’m stopping. I have 8g of this left and 4 others to try. Pretty sure a brick of this stuff would last me a lifetime. I am impressed. The last cup still had a lot of good flavor in it but I’m quitting. I’m quitting. O sweet leaf, I miss thee already. Oddly, before steeping I noticed the leaf is back to brown and it has taken on the most unusual flowery scent. Good ending.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Harney and Sons Ziyun Pu-erh Maocha

According to Harney & Sons this is a 2008 raw Pu-erh, it comes to us loose and has slender, wiry leaves. Hints of nectar and peach coat the cup, while a mineral quality lingers in the background.

According to me, this is a raw green puerh. The loose leaf is long and slightly twisted. A bit hard to measure with a spoon. I finally just judged how it looked in the bottom of the press. I did not do a wash. Steeped 1 minute with 180F water. The wet leaf smells of celery and hay. Fresh and green. Appears darker and thicker in the cup than other green puerhs I have tried.

This has a bolder flavor than I was expecting. Fresh, green , mushroom, and light earthiness. There is no bitterness and nothing foul tasting (for puerh, lol). It took a moment to adjust to the bolder flavor but once I did I must say I like this. It has the sticky lip feel of other greens I’ve liked. I was told this is a bit minty. I am not really getting that taste the way I prepared it, (cool water short steeps) but it does make the side of the tongue tingle and leaves a cooling effect to my breath. I steeped three 12oz mugs this afternoon. It was still going strong when I stopped. In the future I will attempt a two day marathon with this one to see how many times it can be steeped.  Click on the link to go to Harney and Sons website.