Thursday, September 27, 2012

In Nature, White Moon Puerh Tea

In Nature Description:
The White Moon, also known as Yue Bai Guan, is an exceptional blend, as it has very soothing and aromatic properties, while offering an endless amount of health properties. This Fresh Puerh has its roots in the old tradition of the Yun Nan Region where the locals are dedicated to cultivating and finding new blends of its most popular teas, the Puerh.

A delicious treat, White Moon tea is fresh and can be enjoyed hot or cold.

My Review:
I’m glad to be at work today. Well, I am kind of just glad to be. Ok, it’s not that serious. It stormed all night. Usually that knocks me out, but last night I couldn’t sleep. It was very dark and pouring this morning, when I left home. The lightning was awesome. I live on a one lane road about a half mile off the highway. This morning it was like driving through the jungle. Leaves, limbs, puddles. Puddles? Puddles! I haven’t seen one of those in ages. Now they are everywhere. I get to the highway, thinking I got it made, except the road is so black and wet. There is steam hovering just above the pavement. Am I in my lane? Am I going to drive into the ditch? I don’t know. I can’t see… Here comes a car. Now I really can’t see. I hope they can. Then the lightning strobes and it lights the world up like daylight for a moment. Followed by the dark. My eyes aren’t adjusting fast enough. What a ride. Made it safely. I need tea.

This type tea as I understand it, has only been around for about 10 years. It is very unusual in that it does not readily fit into a normal tea classification. It is picked like a white tea, and frankly it looks and smells like white tea. It is allowed to whither, but not in the sunlight. That means it does oxidize somewhere between a green and a black. Then it is post fermented like a puerh. This is not from the province of Puerh, so technically it is a dark tea, which simply means post fermented, and not puerh.

The leaf on this is very cool. Some of it is very silver like fine white tea. Some of it is very dark like black. The scent of the dry leaf is fresh hay. I used my wooden spatula to extract a scoop and a half for this tasting as the leaf is large and fluffy. The water was heated to just boiling. This was hard for me to do because I am thinking white tea which takes much cooler water for a good tasting cup. This is puerh which takes boiling water. The instructions say to do a rinse. I did not. I steeped for two minutes instead of the recommended three – four. I am such a rebel.

The brew is a deep golden color in my press. It looks darker in the cup. The fragrance is like a field of wild flowers. Yeah, I know, it sounds awesome. It is. The taste is very similar to white peony but heavier. White peony is very subdued and delicate. This is like its rock and roll cousin, though it is still delicate compared to a black or typical puerh. As the cup cools, I notice a light smoke flavor. At first I thought it was my imagination, but the cooler the cup got the more it could be tasted. I like it.

The second cup remains white tea flavored. The smoke is not present in this cup as it cools. This is developing a sweetness. There is no hint of astringency.

The third cup has a even deeper more complex flavor. This is the first cup that I really notice any earthy raw puerh traits. Still no hint of astringency.

Cup number four has wonderful creamy feel. The taste has a mild nuttiness. It is no longer white tea but has morphed into warm earthy tones. There is no hint of bitterness or astringency. This is just mellow goodness.

Cup five (all 12oz) continues with a some of the white tea traits returning. Pretty sure this would go another round but I am stopping here.

If you like white tea and are terrified of puerh, then this is your tea. I know you hear that all the time. I am serious. There is nothing scary or unfamiliar about White Moon, and it just happens to be really good.
This wonderful sample was provided by In Nature.
Visit In Nature website.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

sTEAp Shoppe, Antioxidant Berry Burst

sTEAp Shoppe Description:
Young Hyson Green Tea Antioxidant Berry Burst is the perfect way to drink you green tea. Lingonberry, Raspberry and Goji berry with metabolism busting Cinnamon. This is the perfect way to start drinking green tea or for the green tea lover to enhance their experience.

Young Hyson Green Tea, Goji Berry, Raspberry, Cinnamon, Organice Wild Lingonberry

My Review:
sTEAp Shoppe offered 20 of us on Steepster the opportunity to sample their tea and participate in a live virtual tea tasting held on the forum September 23, 2012.
I was confused by this one. I expected it to be my favorite of the samples. I had a preconceived idea of what this would taste like without knowing what was in it. So, I set myself up for failure. To me, while this was quite fruity, it went through my senses as a mishmash of flavors. I couldn’t figure out what I was tasting. Then I read the ingredients on the website and found out I was tasting raspberry and lingonberry. What is this lingonberry? I know no lingonberry. Next, I read the always valuable reviews on Steepster.

Now that I have a better idea of what is in this blend and how others perceived it, I thought I would have another go at it. Steeped per instructions. The brew has a slight purple tint. There is a very light tartness that I now know comes from the lingonberry. I taste a fair bit of cinnamon. The main flavor though, and the one I couldn’t separate out before, is raspberry. That should be obvious but it blends seamlessly with the gojiberry and other ingredients to where my unsophisticated palate couldn’t place what I was tasting. If this were decaf my wife would probably love this. It is not something I would buy but I would never turn down a cup if offered. I think it is tasty, it just doesn’t grab my interest. Thanks sTEAp Shoppe for the sample.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

sTEAp Shoppe, Smokey Mountain sTEAp

sTEAp Shoppe Description:
This is a smoky robust Tea is a blend of Organic Lapsang Souchong, Organic Se Chung Special Oolong, Organic Assam flowery Orange Pekoe. Each tea brings it’s own flavor profile and combined they create a smoky floral tea. With the addition of Chicory you will experience a coffee like tannins, Organic Cocoa Nibs & Organic Vanilla Bean introduce a smooth rich flavor and aroma and the Fenugreek seed helps bring all these unique flavors together as one with it’s milky sweet flavor. This tea has a muted smokey flavor yet rich and creamy with coffee undertones.

Organic Lapsang Souchong, Organic Se Chung Special Oolong, Organic Assam flowery Orange Pekoe,Chicory, Organic Cocoa Nibs, Organic Vanilla Bean, Fenugreek seed. Naturally Caffeinated

My Review:
sTEAp Shoppe offered 20 of us on Steepster the opportunity to sample their tea and participate in a live virtual tea tasting held on the forum September 23, 2012. This was an unexpected bonus tea sample for all of us.

Looking at the dry leaf you can tell it has pieces of vanilla and cocoa nibs. It also has lapsang soushong and oolong for the tea base. Interesting.

In the sip, the smoke is heavy by my standards, but it isn’t overwhelming and it never feels like someone dumped an ashtray in your cup. This is a good kind of smoky. It blends really well with the other flavors. There is a bite in the back of the throat. The smell, the bite, and the aftertaste remind me of rooibos – though this is better and more complex. A few more sips and now this reminds me of the smell of sawdust when you are running a dull circular saw through a fresh piece of pine – kind of woodsy, kind of burnt.

In cup two the smoke does not diminish, rather the oolong just comes out of hiding a little more. It gives it a nice floral note. The throat bite is not so noticeable in this cup. This is maybe even a little better than the first. If not better, at least different. Nice.

I went three cups with this one. It was lighter than the first two. Though the smoke still stands out this is a civilized cup. A pleasant ending to this tea.

One thing I noted is that if you let the cup get cold, the taste of this tea perks up even more.

It is pretty intense. Unless you are a huge smoky tea fan, I am not sure you would want it everyday. That being said, it is different than the normal fare and just happens to be really good.

Monday, September 24, 2012

sTEAp Shoppe, Green Apple Tea

sTEAp Shoppe Description:
Gun Powder Loose Leaf Green Tea combined with the brain boosting power of Ginko Biloba with the alertness only mint can bring makes for a spectacular day at the top of your game. A caffeinated, vibrant brain boosting cup of wonderful tea.

Green tea, Peppermint Leaf, Ginko Biloba Leaf and Stevia Leaf. Naturally Caffeinated

My Review:
sTEAp Shoppe offered 20 of us on Steepster the opportunity to sample their tea and participate in a live virtual tea tasting held on the forum September 23, 2012.

The dry leaf looks pretty fine in my sample. I am suspecting it got a bit crushed in the mail. It smells kind of like ginger (kind of peppery). I used a large spoon for my mug and heated water for green tea and steeped for 3 minutes.

As soon as water hit the leaf I could smell mint. I am not a fan of spearmint in tea, or candy, or even gum. It’s just not my thing. Surprise, this is peppermint! Peppermint I like. The brew is golden green in the press and a bit darker in the mug.

The sip is interesting. The mint is the main flavor, then directly under it is a peppery ginger flavor. There is no ginger listed so this must be the ginko biloba I am tasting. This has a sweetness to it from the stevia leaf. The green tea fills out the flavor, Green tea and mint are in the aftertaste.

If I were to ever want to sip mint tea this is one I would definitely consider. Bonus it leaves your breath feeling minty cool.

Visit sTEAp Shoppe here.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

sTEAp Shoppe, Mind Boost Mint Tea

sTEAp Shoppe Description:
Gun Powder Loose Leaf Green Tea combined with the brain boosting power of Ginko Biloba with the alertness only mint can bring makes for a spectacular day at the top of your game. A caffeinated, vibrant brain boosting cup of wonderful tea.

Green tea, Peppermint Leaf, Ginko Biloba Leaf and Stevia Leaf. Naturally Caffeinated

My Review:
sTEAp Shoppe offered 20 of us on Steepster the opportunity to sample their tea and participate in a live virtual tea tasting held on the forum September 23, 2012.

The dry leaf looks pretty fine in my sample. I am suspecting it got a bit crushed in the mail. It smells kind of like ginger (kind of peppery). I used a large spoon for my mug and heated water for green tea and steeped for 3 minutes.

As soon as water hit the leaf I could smell mint. I am not a fan of spearmint in tea, or candy, or even gum. It’s just not my thing. Surprise, this is peppermint! Peppermint I like. The brew is golden green in the press and a bit darker in the mug.

The sip is interesting. The mint is the main flavor, then directly under it is a peppery ginger flavor. There is no ginger listed so this must be the ginko biloba I am tasting. This has a sweetness to it from the stevia leaf. The green tea fills out the flavor, Green tea and mint are in the aftertaste.

If I were to ever want to sip mint tea this is one I would definitely consider. Bonus it leaves your breath feeling minty cool.

Visit sTEAp Shoppe here.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Esgreen, 2009 Ripe/Shu Zhuan Tea Brick

Esgreen Description:
This tea cake is made for celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of People's Republic of China. Totally 5688 pcs available. A rare 500g large brick. Very collectible

Shape: Zhuan Cha/Tea Brick
Type: Shu Cha Ripe/Cooked
Vintage Year: 2009
Weight: 500g
The Region of Harvest: Yunnan Province, China
Plant Type: Yunnan Big Leaf Bush
Tea Factory: Gu Jia Tea Factory
Brand: Mai Jing

My Review:
I need to start with an explanation. The sample label was mistyped as 2005. This is a 2009 vintage ripe puerh. I only point this out as I think the title of this page at the top of your screen may show the wrong date. If so, sorry, it happens, and I don't see an easy Blogger fix. If it reads correctly, ignore my babbling.

This is the fourth sample I have tried supplied by Esgreen. The generous sample was a solid chunk of brick but it came apart pretty easy. The leaf color reminds me of walnut shell with bits of milk chocolate mixed in. I used about 4g based on my guess that this is a 12g sample. I poured a small amount of boiling water over the leaf and swished for a few seconds then poured it off. I seldom do a rinse but this leaf seems so solid I thought I should soften it first.

After the rinse, I waited maybe 30 seconds for the leaf to awaken, then poured boiling water over it. I steeped for one minute. The brew seemed light caramel with ruby tints until I moved the press and the heavier dark brew in the bottom mixed with the lighter top layer. Now it is all dark ruby tinted. The nose is heavy earthy leather. A bit musty.

The sip is much lighter than I was expecting. It is leather with a lighter wood taste that tingles the sides of the tongue. As it cools the whole inside of my mouth is tingling. It is very sweet and feels gooey. Yep, that’s my technical term for it. The feel is not milk or cream but it has substance – so it’s gooey. The slightly musty earthy aroma mixed with the sweet leather taste is a good combination.

The aftertaste is strong leather that quickly dissolves into sweetness. There is a sense of coolness on the breath. This could just be coincidence, but my lungs feel more open and I can breath more freely.

Cup two at one minute is very similar to the first however, the flavor is a little more intense.

Cup three at two minutes yields a darker cup. In the press it still has a ruby tinted caramel color. In the mug it looks like coffee. It is bright and clear, shiny with no oily film. This is not getting weaker, just more mellow. This is the best cup so far.

Keep in mind, I use a hybrid brewing method. Eastern brewing usually involves a large amount of leaf in a tiny gaiwan of about 100ml (about 4oz) and flash steeps of 10-15 seconds. Using a gaiwan, I would be nine cups into this tasting at this point. Traditional western brewing uses a teapot of multiple cups and 3-4 minute steeps. I am using my press and 12oz water (about 350ml).

At this point I spread out the leaf in the bottom of the press and removed the lid so it could dry and left it till morning.

Cup four on day two is a little lighter in color and feels like melted chocolate on the lips. The taste is mellow leather with a mineral finish and subtle hints of chocolate. Better than yesterday. A good start to the day.

With cup five the leather has disappeared, to be replaced by a light metallic mineral taste,. This is still a flavorful cup.

I am stopping with cup six (that’s 72oz total). I steeped this for four minutes. The brew is lighter in color but still plenty dark. This is mushroom, a hint of leather, and light chocolate.

I thought this one started a bit ordinary. As I continued to brew, it morphed through some interesting changes. A nice shu.

Visit the Esgreen web site.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Esgreen, 2000 Liu An Dark Tea

Esgreen Description:
Shape: Loose Leaf
Category: Dark Tea
Vintage Year: 2000
Weight: Around 450g(1lb)/Bamboo Basket
The Region of Harvest: Si Hui City, Anhui Province, China
Tea Factory: Cha Yuan Tea Factory

A traditional Liu An dark tea recipe. Very special and different from Guang Xi dark tea. This tea was wrapped tightly into a bamboo basket. The loose leaves of this tea are strong and tight. The tea soup is clean in dark amber color. And the flavor is earthy with a very special mint note. Smooth and sweet. This tea has been stored since 2000. 12 yeas vintage makes it really mild and mellow. Very comfortable in stomach.

Another interest thing about this tea is, if you don't like the typical earthy flavor of dark tea, you could tear off part of the wrapping bamboo leave and brew it together with the tea leaves. The bamboo leave will give you a very fresh yet very special tasting experience.

My Review:
I love it when a tea causes you to ask questions and do research. This sample from Esgreen had me scratching my head. What is it? How do I prepare it? The sample contained a generous chunk of loosely compressed leaf. It looks like puerh, so why is it called dark tea? There were also a couple large strands of bamboo leaf in the sample. Why? Do I use it or is it just for looks?

Here is what I think to be correct. All puerh is dark tea but not all dark tea is puerh. Dark tea refers to the method of post fermenting the tea leaf. Puerh refers to a specific region in China where the tea is grown. This tea originates from the Anhui Province. Once the tea is compressed it is wrapped in bamboo for aging and storage. The bamboo does add a light flavor, if brewed with the leaf.

Ok, on with the tea-

I took half the sample and half the bamboo, and placed it in my press. This calls for a rinse to wake up the leaf. I chose not to do this. Instead I increased the first steep time slightly. I used boiling water and about a 30 second steep. There is a mild earthy nose to the liquor which is medium orange/brown.

The sip is interesting. I wish I had more experience to better describe it to you. The first thoughts I had were mellow and rich. Those two descriptions don’t seem to go together but you have to trust me on this one. When it is hot it has a pleasant earthiness to it and only hints at leather. There is a slight tingle on the sides of the tongue but this is not bitter and does not seem the least astringent. It seems to coat the entire mouth with a sense of slickness though not in an oily way. I am also getting a feeling of grit (slick and grit - two more descriptions that shouldn’t go together). I hate to use the term because there is nothing gritty in the tea. This is a sensation not an actual thing. This may be the bamboo or the lack of a rinse to wake up the leaf. As it cools the earthiness and grit subsides and the leather picks up. I also notice a cooling like menthol or mint would give, without the actual flavor.

Mug two is a lot like the first except there is a bright note like wood. I am not sure what element the bamboo is adding so I am going to remove it for the next cup and see how that changes the profile.

Mug three has a beautiful caramel orange tint. It is clear and almost sparkly. The bright wood flavor is not present. On cup four I will but the bamboo back in to verify that is what it adds to the profile. This is nice mix of earth and leather. It is getting a little sweeter each time. A really good cup.

The bright wood note is back with the fourth mug. I am now convinced this is the flavor the bamboo adds. It is quite a bit milder now and mixes well with the sweet cup.

Esgreen says this will steep up to 10 times. Maybe so, but I am sloshing when I move from 48oz of tea, so this is where I call it quits. This is one of, if not the, most interesting post fermented teas I have yet reviewed. At $19/lb this is an excellent value.

Visit the Esgreen web site.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Nuvola Tea, Lishan High Mountain Tea

Nuvola Tea description:
Alishan Oolong Tea is grown at an altitude of 1500 meters above sea level in Taiwan. Nourished by the goodness of natural mineral water from the high mountains, the tea leaves are plump and supple, which yields a fresh floral bouquet and a lusciously smooth texture. It brings the ultimate purifying and revitalizing experience to the mind and spirit.

My Review:
This tea came as a free sample from Nuvola Tea. There is a link on their website for a free sample. When you follow the link the sample has a 5HK price tag. Well this confused many of us who were in a messaging conversation with Nuvola. The fee is for the shipping and works out to about $0.60. Nuvola offered this one to me without the shipping fee for pointing out what was confusing to us. They mentioned the currency converts during checkout. Nuvola’s website is being worked on and hopefully it will allow buyers to see the cost in their own currency without adding to the cart for a conversion. I also hope they explain the mailing cost on the sample. It is not a big deal unless you are confused by it. I thought 5HK meant $5 and that sounded high for a sample.

The sample packet is of sturdy construction and the company logo is high class, professional looking, and very attractive. The postal service however was not so professional. The sample was largely powder when it arrived. Sorry Nuvola. It looks beautiful in the picture :) So making the best of the situation I used the entire 5g sample in my press. Normally I would have used only half. The scent seemed malty to me, though it disappears once brewed.

I checked online for Nuvola’s recommended temperature and time parameters. And brewed accordingly. The liquor was light yellow. The scent brewed is floral oolong, a bit roasted, and a bit vegetal.

The sip on the first cup is very buttery like dragon well. There is a hint of spice, it reminds me of cinnamon. I am also noticing a light bitter note, like dandelion, in the background, late in the sip. This is followed by the long lingering floral oolong aftertaste.

Second cup – I rinsed out the press before starting this morning but I am thinking I did not wash away all the remnants of the Silk Dragon from yesterday. I am tasting some vanilla. I like it of course, but it may be left over. Or maybe not. As the cup cools, the vanilla disappears, and I am getting more of the dandelion mixed with the floral oolong.

The third steep continues where the second left off. There is still plenty of power in this but it is about to storm so this will be the last cup for this tea. Oh, almost forgot, it leaves a heavy cooling affect on the breath.

Thank you Nuvola for the sample I very much enjoyed it.

Visit the Nuvola Tea website

Nuvola was upset with my report of what happened to the sample during transit. They insisted on making it right by sending another sample. I greatly appreciate their concern for my tea experience and for their own reputation. The tea was very tasty, so I already thought highly of Nuvola. Now, they get even higher marks for their customer service. Thank you Nuvola.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Tea Merchant, Silk Dragon

The Tea Merchant Description:
A unique blend that is exotic, balanced and complex it will engage you from the second you open the bag with its intoxicating creamy vanilla aroma to your first sip. Creates a smooth, rich flavor with hints of cream, vanilla and a stimulating citrus finish.

Oolong Tea, Organic Lemon Myrtle, Marigold Petals, Natural Flavors

My Review:
Vanilla filled the air when I cut the top off the bag and opened it. It is almost a scary amount of vanilla. I am not afraid. I removed a scoop of leaf to examine. At first I thought there were golden tips in the leaf. Then I realize there are threads of marigold petals and lemon myrtle in addition to the oolong. The oolong is very dark long and twisted.

I used 12oz of below boiling water, my French press, and a 3 minute steep. The resulting liquor is very clear and yellow green in color. After pouring into my mug I examined the leaf. It is almost unfurled and appears to be whole leaves and some large pieces. The brewed scent is a balanced blending of oolong and vanilla.

The sip on the first cup is vanilla. No surprise there. The aftertaste is a lingering green oolong. There is just a hint of citrus that I catch high up, to where I can’t determine if it is a taste or a smell. This has a creamy feel to it. This is a really nice cup. The more it cools the more the mix of flavors is making sense. Each sip is a blast of vanilla that slowly fades through citrus, into floral oolong that lingers until you take the next sip You can gulp this, but don’t. Slow down and enjoy journey.

The second cup is very different. This starts out plant like. My brain immediately thought, geranium, but since there is marigold in this, maybe that is what I am sensing. This changes quickly into green oolong. Just as quickly it changes to vanilla briefly, and then back into the long lingering floral oolong aftertaste. I would swear this is a different tea, had I not prepared it myself. What a roller coaster ride. Totally different than the first but also a really nice cup.

The third cup starts with the plant/flower notes mixing with the floral oolong. The vanilla is light and mixes with the creaminess. The whole thing ends with the lingering aftertaste. The sweetness of the cup, mixed with the floral oolong flavor, reminds me a bit of watermelon.

This is an interesting cup. If at anytime you don’t quite like what you are tasting (though I don’t know how that is possible) just wait until the temperature changes of for the next cup and it will be something else. This is definitely worth trying.

Visit The Tea Merchant website.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Tea Merchant, Biodynamic Darjeeling

The Tea Merchant Description:
Our select high grown tea is hand picked, artisan processed, and brews a brisk, bright cup much lighter than other black teas. It is grown in high altitude steep slopes of up to 4000 ft. This tea is from the Makaibari estate in the Darjeeling hills at one of the last family-owned tea estates in Darjeeling, India. It is home to the finest high grown Darjeeling teas and the leader of biodynamic and organic permaculture.

A first flush tea, it brews a pink, light amber color, with fresh floral, apple-like character, and a slightly astringent finish. It is a rare treat to experience this 100% Pure Darjeeling tea outside of India.

This is my third sample provided by The Tea Merchant. My experience with Darjeeling is a bit limited. I have a bagged Darjeeling from Mother Parker with Saturday breakfast, and a few years ago, I used to drink loose Ahmad Darjeeling. I view the opportunity to taste this tea today as continuing education.

Removing a scoop of leaf from the bag reveals this is CTC (cut, torn, curled). That is not an indication of quality. It is actually a very typical production method for black tea. The scent reminds me of unscented pipe tobacco leaf.

Steeped for 3 minutes with almost boiling water resulted in a golden amber color brew that appears more orange as I pour. The sip is a bit different than I expected. It actually does have an apple like character. When hot it feels brightly tart (astringent?) on the sides of the tongue. This disappears as the cup cools. The apple flavor becomes more apple wood as it cools. Then the traditional muscatel flavors I was expecting begin to show through. At one point I thought I caught cinnamon hints. This seems a bit drying. A really nice cup with no bitterness. It has me craving breakfast.

Visit The Tea Merchant website.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Esgreen, 2002 Ripe Mini Puerh Mini Bing – Tea Cake

Esgreen Desription:
This mini tea cake was made by high-level material made from broad-leaved wild tea trees. Traditional court recipe.
The vintage  year is 2002, which is over 10 year now.
Please  one piece  tiny tea cake into a Gaiwan or Zi Sha Pot each time.

My Review:
Today has the potential to be the best day ever. Ok, that may be an exaggeration, but I do have high hopes. When I got to work I was directed into my parking space by the mill super acting as a flagman. He was hilarious. I got to my office only to find a Sausage McMuffin on my desk. “Nothing but the best value menu items for my buddies”, I was told. Then another coworker wheeled in two coolers. That means he smoked something awesome last night and we are all eating a most excellent lunch. The boss is gone and so is his number 1. I can get a lot done when they are out of the office! Is this a good day or what? AND I get to drink a 2002 ripe puerh today, courtesy of Esgreen! I know, amazing right? Maybe, I am not exaggerating about the day.

I unwrapped the cute little cake to get a good look. It is really solid and very dark with some golden bud appearance. I placed it in the bottom of my press and added boiling water. I know this is intended to be brewed at around 4oz at a time. I am brewing a hearty 12oz mug. I did not do a wash. I added a tiny amount of water first to see if there was a foul odor. There was not, so I skipped the rinse. Why waste tea?

Esgreen says to use a 20 second steep, adding 10 seconds for each additional cup. With their method this will go six steeps. I steeped for a little over a minute, because that’s how I roll. The brew was a little light on the top and dark at the bottom. I gave it a gentle swirl and it mixed nicely. The color was burgundy, like wine, in the press. It looks darker and more chocolate caramel in the mug. I can smell horse tack! Is this a good day or what?

The sip is extremely mellow. There is the slightest tongue tingle but mostly this is just smooth. The gentle sip flows right into an amazing leather aftertaste. I am only a couple of sips in to the cup and I already notice a nice cooling affect on my breath. This first cup is a nice simple sip with a great aftertaste. I also like the no fuss simplicity of the single serve cakes. Oh, and it was the perfect compliment to a Sausage McMuffin.

On cup two, I had set the timer for one minute but got sidetracked. I have no idea if it was one minute or four. The brew was inky the moment the water hit the leaf. It still has a burgundy tint. This mug is so good. It starts leather, then briefly melts into oak and cinnamon, then drifts back into a horse tack aftertaste. I had this three-fourths gone before I realized what I was doing. I just couldn’t put it down. This is gentle in the sense there are no rough edges, but it is intense with flavor. Did I mention this is good?

Cup three at two minutes looks a little more like black tea when poured but maintains a deep caramel orange red color. The nose is still so amazing. The taste is a lighter version of cup two.

Cup four continues with good flavor of leather and now the wood and spice are a little more pronounced.

The fifth cup was still enjoyable though the leaf has lost its strength. Yes, I could have gotten six their way. You know what? I am perfectly happy with it the way I brewed it.

This is a wonderfully tasty puerh mini that went perfectly with my most awesome day.

Visit the Esgreen website 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Esgreen, Lucky - Blooming Tea

Esgreen Description:
This blooming tea has an original shape of an tiny ball and when put in boiling water a bouquet of tea leaves and flower. The aromas of both flowers and tea leaves are very well preserved and these exceptional teas develop a wonderful flavor and create at the same time a beautiful "table decoration".

My Review:
I have had an envelope of samples provided by Esgreen in my drawer for two or three weeks waiting impatiently for me to open it up. Finally, I got to it today. There appears to be some really nice puerh in my near future. I thought I would start with this lone blooming tea. It has been a while since I have had one.

The pod is nice sized eyeball with a white cornea and a pink iris. Well at least that is what it reminded me of this morning. I put it in my press and poured 12oz of boiling water over it and waited for the display. This one opened oddly. It resembles a pineapple. The flower is surrounded by tea leaf but beneath it is a big bulb. I examined it closer and the bulb is wrapped in string so this is intentional. It looks like a big freakin’ spider. There seemed to be a large amount of leaf coming loose from the pod.

The color of the liquor is light yellow with a green tint. It is very clear. The scent is green tea.

The sip has only a light touch of what I think is globe amaranth. This pleases me as I find it can turn a tea sour tasting. This is not sour. In combination with the tea leaf this takes on a very unusual taste that is a bit like oak or maybe nutty. It reminds me of young sheng with out the bite. That is as close a match as I can come up with. It is mildly sweet, lightly floral, and feels milky. Actually it feels more silky than like milk. This is the first blooming tea I have had that was not jasmine. I don’t miss the jasmine.

After a few cups, I cut the string on the bulb and set the leaf free. There is a lot of leaf in this pod. My press looked like a giant gaiwan. It was stuffed with leaf.

Normally I like the display of blooming teas and tolerate the taste. Here the display was just ok, but I actually enjoyed the taste. It is a pleasant uncomplicated tea with a very light floral taste.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Tea Merchant, French Earl Grey

The Tea Merchant Description:
Organic high grown estate black tea hand blended with fragrant oil of bergamot and a hint of French vanilla. Fresh citrus notes followed by a rich and robust finish complete this remarkable blend

Organic and Biodynamic Black Tea, Organic Cornflowers, Organic Oil of Bergamot, Natural Flavors

My Review:
Oh man. The smell coming out of the bag reminds me of orange slice candy. Brewed the aroma gives off this root beer - grape soda vibe. This is an Earl Grey Crème using French vanilla.

If you love French vanilla this is going to please you. The description on the sample says, this is ‘estate black tea hand blended with fragrant oil of bergamot and a hint of French vanilla.’ Now I think their idea of hint and mine are a bit different. When the cup is hot this tastes highly of French vanilla. It isn’t until the cup cools that the bergamot and black tea can be more easily separated out in the sip. After you figure out the differences you become aware that you were tasting them all along. The aftertaste has a bit of a licorice twang to it that I liked.

The second cup is a little different. The aroma off the cup is black tea. The taste is a much more balanced blend of all the flavors. The aftertaste leaves a lot more black tea on your breath. This is an excellent cup.

Visit The Tea Merchant website.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Tea Merchant, Silver Jade

The Tea Merchant Description:
This is our blend of organic green and white teas with a hint of bergamot. Creates a smooth, mellow, fresh taste with hints of honey and citrus. Revitalizing at any time of the day.

Organic White Teas, Organic Green Teas, Organic Oil of Bergamot

My Review:
When The Tea Merchant offered a free sample give away on Steepster I jumped at the opportunity. They quickly arrived but had to wait their turn.

So I have been anxiously awaiting my turn to review this companies tea. Today, they finally worked their way to the front of the line. I love the way this is packaged. It is a nice touch that makes the experience seem more special. The samples came wrapped in a brown paper and is sealed with a wax seal bearing the company ship emblem. The sample pouches themselves are the same brown wrapping material on the outside continuing the theme. It feels like you are receiving a valuable treasure from long ago.

Silver Jade is a white and green tea blend. When you open the bag that is obvious as there is white downy buds mixed with darker green leaf. It smells and looks fresh. Mostly, I am picking up on the scent of white tea with just the lightest hint of citrus from oil of bergamot. I hesitate to mention bergamot but it is on the label. People have strong preconceived notions about it. Some of us can’t get enough and immediately think Earl Grey! This is not Earl Grey. Some folks frown at the mention of bergamot, because they hate Earl Grey. This is not Earl Grey.

I steeped a large scoop for about 3 minutes in steaming water. The result is a golden green cup. The taste is mostly what I think is white peony. The green I can’t really separate out but it does add heft to the cup. It makes for a bolder cup of white. It reminds me slightly of White Monkey. Late in the sip and far in the distant background is the faint touch of citrus. The more the cup cools the more the citrus is sensed, but it never reaches a point where you would think ‘bergamot’. As with the green tea it seems to be here to make the white seem bolder, so it can shine.

It is slightly milky and sweet with notes of honey. They call this cup a smooth, mellow, fresh taste. I would agree. A nice refreshing take on white tea.

Visit The Tea Merchant website.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Teavivre, Fengqing Ancient Tree Spring Chun Jian Raw Pu-erh Cake Tea 2012

From TeaVivre's website with some minor editing:

TeaVivre carefully chose this Ancient Chun Jian Puerh. The material comes from ancient tea trees over 500 – 1000 years old. These trees are grown naturally without fertilize and insecticide. The workers only did appropriate loose and shave. Leaves were manually picked between March 10 and April 20 of 2012, and then manually sorted, going through the process of steaming, shaping, drying, packaging, inspecting and warehousing. Thus the high quality of this Ancient Chun Jian Puerh could be guaranteed.

This sample was provided by TeaVivre. I have high expectations for this one. TeaVivre always seems to select winners, and it has been a while since I have had a raw puerh. This one is made from the buds and leaves of Yunnan large-leaf ancient trees.

I opened the sample bag and pulled out a large chunk (especially for a sample) of a puerh brick. I managed to separate enough leaf to brew without much difficulty. It did not require a pick or a knife. The dry leaf is on the large side and looks like beef jerky. The scent is that of straw, which is not as bright or sweet as hay. It is a nice fresh smell.

I used a large scoop of leaf in my press with 12oz of boiling water. The leaf danced a bit with most sinking to the bottom. The first steep was just shy of 2 minutes. The color of the liquor was very light for puerh. It was golden yellow and quite clear. The leaf aroma is green and fresh. Absolutely nothing offensive is rising into the air out of the press.

The first cup begins with an instant coating of the lips. It is slick and sticky at the same time. I don’t notice others reporting this coating, but it happens to me often with a raw puerh. The flavor of the first cup is light. It is at first kind of woodsy. Then it is briefly metallic, though not in an offensive way. The aftertaste is light and sweet. Maybe I am imagining it but there seems to already be very light traces of leather developing in this young tea. This will be a good one when it gets some age on it.

I doubt I would ever guess this is a Yunnan if I had not read it. There is none of the sweet potato notes I associate with them. I don’t know if I am tasting chocolate or just thinking so because I do know it is a Yunnan.

Cup two is a bit more hardy. Similar to the first but stronger flavors. This has more bite.

Cup three and four were the best yet. I increased the steep time to between 4 and 5 minutes. This made for a stronger darker cup that had good young flavor.

Now that I have reviewed this one, I intend to store it away for a good long time to let it age. I know this one will improve very nicely.

This puerh comes in a 357g cake (about 12.59 ounces) for $58. That sounds like a lot of money paid all at once, but it works out to about $4.61/ounce. Prepared as I did for this review, using about 2.5 grams,  this tea is about $0.41 per scoop of leaf. I steeped this 4 times from the same leaf and that lowers the cost to about a dime per cup. If I were to drink this with friends or reuse the leaf the next day (as I often do) I could probably get 8 mugs out of this, which would bring the per cup cost down to a nickel. It not only lasts for years but actually improves with age.

Visit the TeaVivre website.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Teavivre, Golden Monkey Black Tea

TeaVivre Description:
Coming from Fujian, the Golden Monkey is made of the fresh buds and leaves of Fuding Pekoe, by lightly sun withering, rolling, fermentation and drying. Golden Monkey has the particular aroma of black tea. You could scent the fruity flavor through every sip of the tea.

The golden hairy tips truly make this tea more attractive. This is one reason why it is called Golden Monkey. Another reason is its monkey-claw-liked shape of the dry tea, which is in golden and black color. When brewed, the Golden Monkey Tea tastes brisk and smooth for the first sip, presenting a distinctive flavor. If you like stronger flavor, you could brew for a longer time. The sweet aftertaste could act faster for thicker liquid. You could only feel it when trying by yourself.

Sample provided by TeaVivre.

My Review:
Ok, if opening this sample doesn’t make you say, “Oooh!” out loud, then just box up your stuff, send it to me, and go back to drinking soda or coffee or whatever else you were drinking before tea. This is so fragrant with caramel, honey, and fruit. So fresh smelling. The leaf is tan buds and darker brown leaves. It is just gorgeous.

I used an extra large scoop, simply because I could. 12oz of heavily steaming almost boiling water and my press. The steep was a little less than two minutes.

As soon as the water hit the leaf, the already wonderful aroma came into full bloom with a scent like wine. It was also malt but not heavily so. Oh My Goodness this smells good. In my press this is deep golden in color. It is more orange as it pours into the mug. The wet leaf looks like chocolate shavings.

The sip is so rich. It is even more fruity wine-like in the sip than in the scent. It is caramel and honey. It is malt and sweet. As the cup cools I notice a wheat component. It is not real yammy like Golden Tips, or heavily chocolate like Bailin Gongfu. Yet it is kind of in that same flavor range. The aftertaste is strong and lasting. It is sweet, wheat, and maybe yeast. It does seem a bit drying, which is as close to a negative comment as I can make.

I had time for three cups. Amazingly, the first cup was the lightest and the third the darkest. The fruit like wine taste fades after cup one but the other flavors intensify. I don’t know how many cups this would go. I may try to continue with the same leaf tomorrow and see.

This is simply perfection in a cup. Maybe it is just my mood today, but by my scale this is as close to a 100 as I have ever tasted in a black tea. Bravo!

Day 2
I saved yesterday’s leaf by removing the top of the press and spreading the leaf out so it could dry. This morning I heated another 12oz of water to almost boiling and poured. The water immediately started turning dark. I knew this was going to be a good day. I steeped for 2 minutes. I have yet to increase my time on this one. The resulting mug was rich and dark. Lighter in flavor than yesterday in a more mellow sort of way. It was still incredibly delicious and this was the fourth steep.

Mug five at 3 minutes is still delivering a mellow malty cup.

Mug six! At 4 minutes is more of the same quality tea. I think the more times I steep this, the more it is developing the sweet potato yam flavor along with the mellow malt.

The leaf is still producing a hearty cup and I am confident it would go at least once more but I am going to have to stop. Golden Monkey exceeds my expectations.

Glorious sample supplied by Teavivre. Visit their website here.