Saturday, February 28, 2015

Buddha Teas, Marshmallow Tea

Buddha Teas Description:
For most people, the word marshmallow conjures up the thought of a sugary white treat, but few people know about the plant behind it all. Unsurprisingly, marshmallow belongs to the mallow family. Once limited to Africa,marshmallow is now widespread throughout Europe, Asia and North America. These plants thrive in damp environments, such as in swamps, marshes and bogs, as is indicated by their name. Modern day marshmallow is commonly used in landscaping. To the ancient Egyptians, however, its most valuable part was the root, which served as a food source, and was used to create the sugary confectionary that would eventually become the modern marshmallow. Marshmallow tea is made from the leaves, and has a fresh, mildly sweet flavor and pleasant aroma. Drink it on its own or add a bit of sugar or honey for a delightfully sweet herbal brew.

Sample provided by Buddha Teas

My Review:
Today we will be looking at something that has interested me for a long time and I haven't tried before - marshmallow! I have seen it listed as an ingredient in teas. Here it is the only ingredient.

This is listed as organic and kosher. The bag is unbleached. The box is 100% recycled. Inside the box each of the 18 bags are sealed in individual envelopes. The string on each bag is long enough to avoid drowning the tag when pouring water over the bag. The tag is staple free by the way.

I don't notice any particular scent from the dry leaf. Each bag contains 1.5 grams of leaf if my math is correct. I prefer at least 2 g. To compensate, I will use my 6 ounce cup today.

I used filtered water brought to a full boil. The steep time was 5 minutes. When I removed the bag, I noticed how green the marshmallow leaf had turned, along with some white streaks that don't show in the picture. I also noticed the bag was very squishy with a slick texture - it feels like a wet marshmallow.

The liquor is very clear and yellow with just a hint of green. It looks very appealing because it looks like spring.

The taste is not even close to what I expected. This does not taste anything like a big fluffy marshmallow. It is sweet but not overly so. It has an almost minty quality to it. This tastes lightly citrus to me, slightly like lemon. While nothing like Stay Puft marshmallows, it is rather tasty.

I added a little sweetener to it, just to see. I personally don't recommend the sweetener. Now it is over the top sweet. It feels really thick like syrup. Maybe it did before and I didn't notice.

Without sweetener, I found this to be a very enjoyable cup. I wouldn't mind this late in the evening when I'm avoiding caffeine.

You can find Buddha Teas, Marshmallow Tea here.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Golden Tips, Halmari Gold

Golden Tips Description:
Assam is a celebrated tea growing region in the world and there is no doubt over the fact that Assam black teas are the most sought-after in the world. However, even in Assam, there are those rare and special days when ideal climatic conditions backed by intuitive manufacturing excellence garnered by years of experience prepares something as rare as this Halmari Gold Clonal Black Tea....
An absolute luxury, the finest of the finest and clearly one of the best Assam black teas.

Sample provided by Golden Tips Tea

My Review:
The label on today's tea says the leaf grade is GTGFOP1 CL. I believe all those letters stand in part for Golden Tips Flowery Orange Pekoe First Clonal. The one (1) denotes the highest quality. There appears to be an extra G that leaves me puzzled. Often an S is used in place of the first G stating it is the finest but since the 1 already covers it... Ah well, it makes sense to those who know.

This is a second flush Assam. Opening the resealable pouch has me lingering for one more sniff. Just wow. Malt and hay and fruit and wow. I remove a spoon of leaf for exam. If you had put this in front of me and not told me what it was, I would guess Golden Monkey. The leaf is a beautiful mix of nearly black leaf and golden buds. It s lightly twisted and curled.

The leaf was placed in my press with water heated to 200 F. I steeped for four minutes. This is mid range on both the time and temperature per the label directions.

The result is a ruby/orange brew. The wet leaf has turned cinnamon brown and the aroma from the press is malt, honey, and cocoa. Again, I linger to just enjoy the fragrance. I'm kind of giddy to start sipping but I resist and stay in the moment.

You can't help but inhale the malty bouquet as you raise the cup to your lips. The first sip has a lively briskness to it. Then I notice the thick full bodied feel of the tea. This not bitter. I didn't find it particularly drying for an Assam. The taste is similar to the leaf aroma though not as intense.

I am finally learning to appreciate Assam teas. This one seemed especially fragrant to me. I am very sensitive to the tannins in black tea. I can tell, this is not one I could tolerate on an empty stomach. I did not try it, but believe a spot of milk and sweetener would calm it down nicely. That sounds odd to me as this is a very smooth and full tea after the initial hit of briskness.

The malt lingers in the aftertaste.

You can find Golden Tips, Halmari Gold here.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Simple Loose Leaf, Gyokuro Green

Simple Loose Leaf Description:
Gyokuro is matured under full shade for three weeks and has an aroma of orange blossoms.  With savory and earthy tones this tea also has the memories of nori with a faint whisper of french beans and cucumbers.  Gyokuro is an exceptional tea that demands a unique brewing method to reach its full potential.  Using a lower water temperature is key.  Use water between 120 F and 140 F when brewing.  Use 1 to 2 grams of tea per ounce of water and let the tea steep for 5 minutes for the first steeping.  Subsequent steepings require only a minute or two.

Sample provided by Simple Loose Leaf

My Review:
I am not well versed in Japanese green teas. I know all the cool kids are doing it, but I have always heard the beat of a different drum I guess. Well, today I break from my non-comformity and review this offering from Simple Loose Leaf.

This one was included in the monthly tea subscription box I received for review. This box contained 5 sample bags, 2 reusable cloth tea bags, and detailed instruction. It was well packed.

The resealable sample has a fancy but clean label with description and brewing instructions. That is a good thing as I would have done this all wrong.

The dry leaf has a grassy scent with citrus notes. Removing about half the sample, this is grassy green and chopped pieces of leaf.

The instructions say to use 1 to 2 grams per ounce of water. Further research on the internet claims 1 tsp of gyokuro is equivalent to 4 g. I used two tsp.

The next step is to heat the water to between 120 and 140 F. Seriously? I know people who have their water heater set higher. Further research says you can use hotter water but it won't taste as good. So, 125 F, is what I shot for with my kettle. That is a lot harder than it sounds. Water heats really fast to that low of a temperature, so watch closely.

The tea was steeped in my clear glass teapot for 5 minutes. Yep, that seems like a long time but the water is really cool. The leaf pieces danced their slow ballet, separating to the top and bottom of the pot. The liquor is very lightly green tinted sunshine. The wet leaf is now a deep lush forest green. The aroma is grassy and just a touch green bean.

This tea seems a little fussy compared to most of what I brew. Let's see if it is worth the effort...

This is way cooler than I think most people prefer to drink their tea, however it is the perfect temperature for my tastes. I am not noticing any hint of bitterness and only the slightest tongue tingle. My first thought was 'grassy' but after another sip I realize it is far more complex than one simple word. I think Simple Loose Leaf comes pretty close in their description.

This really does have some orange blossom, except I taste it rather than catching it in the aroma. I am also catching the cucumber notes. I love that flavor in a tea, so I notice it as more than a whisper. They also note this as savory and I agree. It has the sensation of salty with out the salt. A fellow Steepster friend said that was the perfect description of umami. So, yeah, this tastes umami :) Others found this to be sweet. To me, there is little sweetness. It's almost like it is seasoned with dill. The aftertaste is drying, on the other hand the grassy, cucumber, and dill lingers long in the aftertaste.

This should steep a few more times. The instructions say to only steep a minute or two after the first cup. I can do that. The second cup is similar to the first. There is less distinctive cucumber and the introduction of a light earthiness.

I am pleasantly impressed. My first experience with Gyokuro was a little fussy but definitely worth the effort.

You can find Simple Loose Leaf, Gyokuro Green here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Inspired By Jane, Donwell Abbey

Inspired By Jane Description:
Donwell Abbey, a black tea flavored with cinnamon and marsala wine.  Contains caffeine.

These beautiful tea tins are inspired by the literary works of Jane Austen. Each blend is named for a manor home of one of the beloved characters, and the flavors were specially chosen to reflect the spirit of that home. Each can features period artwork against a vintage background, and a quote from the associated book.

Sample provided by Inspired By Jane

My Review:
I'll be the first to admit I am not much of a reader. Well, that isn't exactly true. It is just that my reading style is researching and studying. Give me a technical manual and I geek out. The classics aren't really my thing. I make this declaration to point out I have no point of reference between this tea and Jane Austen or her writings. I do know a little about tea, so I can offer opinions about that subject.

First, the tin is quite attractive. I can see it being kept long after the tea has served its purpose. There are currently five different teas (and tins) in this series. Ingredients and steeping instructions are clearly stated on the back. I noted that no scent could be detected before the tin was opened.

I noticed right away that the tin contains 20g of tea in 10 sachets. That works out to 2g of leaf per sachet. Thank you. That is sufficient to steep a real cup of tea. No need to double up here.

Cutting the tape and removing the metal top, I now catch cinnamon and a sweet fragrance wrapped around the black tea. It is kind of cherry like and reminds me of my grandfather's pipe tobacco.

I removed one sachet for exam. The leaf is dark with some golden tips. It is actually a good quality appearing leaf. I don't mean that as a statement of shock, rather as an acknowledgment this is not typical grocery store fare.

I used boiling water and a two minute steep. The brew is reddish orange. The sachet has really swollen and you can easily see the color of the cinnamon through the sachet.

The cinnamon really dominates the aroma. The senses want to read this as a chai but it is not. The sachets are not filled with cardamom or other Masala spices. This contains Marsala wine flavoring. That one letter makes a big difference.

The taste is really good. At first you catch the cinnamon. This is replaced by a sweetness with a touch of peppery spice. It fades into a flavor that inspires thoughts of cherry wood. I have never tasted Marsala wine, but if it tastes anything like this, I would love it.

When Inspired By Jane contacted me to review this tea, I wasn't sure what to expect. I am pleased to say the quality is very good.

You can find  here and here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What-Cha, Nepal Monsoon Flush 2014 Pearl Oolong Tea

What-Cha Description:
An incredibly rare and unusual oolong with a great taste and aroma. Incredibly smooth, absolutely no detectable bitterness or astringency with a great taste of apricots and nectarine. 

Only 6 kilograms were produced in total this this year and we are delighted to have been able to secure 2 kilograms.

Sample provided by What-Cha Tea Redefined

My Review:
Recently I came across an interesting statement. It went something like this: Twenty years ago we counted on our phones for the internet. Today we count on the internet for our phones. I remember those early days of dial up like it was yesterday. Oh wait, I'm living them again today. Yeah, with only a few days left on this billing cycle I have once again exceeded my data limit. When that happens I get throttled to dial up speed. It is impossible to post pictures to the blog at the moment. It is not fun but I will attempt to persevere. With my son's help, and his cell data plan, I may be able to make today's post work.

Today's review is an oolong from Nepal. That is interesting in itself. Making this even more intriguing is the leaf is rolled into pearls. Oooh something new! They are larger than dragon pearls green tea and smaller than the black pearls from Teavivre. The pearls are an interesting mixture of browns, greens, and silvery white. Up close they appear almost leathery and almost furry. The pearls vary in size. I am not sure that can be easily discerned in the picture. The scent is sweet like honey, kind of malty, with touches of hay thrown in for good measure.

The label says to use 4-6 pearls per cup. Since I am using a mug, I chose to use 8 pearls. The water was heated to 185F (85C). I used my press for the 3 1/2 minute steep.

The pearls have only partially unfurled. What has loosened up is turning freshly green. The liquor is a slightly green tinted honey yellow. The aroma is pretty amazing. It really does have a strong apricot and nectarine scent.

To me the taste is much less fruit than expected. There is no hint of bitterness or astringency. It is wonderfully smooth. I always expect oolong to taste either strongly geranium or strongly roasted. This is completely neither. It has more in common with my idea of a white tea.

This starts with hints of stone fruit, followed by a mineral sweetness. It next turns to a peppery spiciness with hints of mushroom before trailing off into a sweet aftertaste.

The second mug was steeped slightly longer. The wet leaf has a neat spicy note that I think is sandalwood, though don't quote me on that one. It is mixed with fruit and vegetal notes.

While the second mug tastes much like the first, I find the stone fruit flavor to be more defined. To me it has hints of cucumber which may be why it reminds me of white tea. I also noticed how this feels when I breathe after sipping. It is strange. Though it is hot and thereby makes me feel warm and comfortable, it also has, not so much a cooling sensation, as more a refreshing quality. It is like a warm breeze on a hot summer day.

I very much enjoyed this different take on oolong. I feel certain it will steep again, but I am stopping here while my son is around to help add pictures so I can post... Well never mind, apparently I can't post until the 24th. The price of living far from civilization.

You can find What-Cha, Nepal Monsoon Flush 2014 Pearl Oolong Tea here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tea Ave, Cape Jasmine Oolong

Tea Ave Description:
Our Cape Jasmine Oolong is prepared using the ancient method, in which the tea absorbs the flower fragrance during the baking progress, producing a scented tea that’s aromatic and flavorful without using any additives or chemicals. It’s good for you and delicious.

An elegant, luxurious tea, Cape Jasmine Oolong has a subtle fragrance of the fog that it was grown in. Cape Jasmine Oolong has a clean, aromatic floral scent, and its flavor slightly sweet with just a hint of spice. Classic vegetal oolong undertones.

Sample provided by Tea Ave

My Review:
Tea Ave is scheduled to open their webstore on March 1st. Several of us in reviewland were contacted to preview some of their teas before the opening. It is my understanding Tea Ave intend to concentrate on oolong teas.

When my sample package arrived, it seemed more like one of those swag bags the rich and famous receive at the Oscars. Actually, it was better because there were two of everything. My oldest son claimed one set. That is what I get for trying to elevate his tea drinking up a notch or three.

Each pack included a nice size and durable looking tote bag. My wife tried to claim it but it really will come in handy for my use, so back off woman! (Did I say that out loud?) Next was a nicely boxed aroma/sipping cup set with an oak tray. I have seen these for sale and they are not cheap. I am still getting the hang of using it. I attempt a short review below. Then there are the three oolong samples. Mine included a roasted Tie Kwan Yin oolong, a Ginger Lily oolong, and the one I am reviewing today - Cape Jasmine oolong.

This is a really amazing treat for those of us who were fortunate enough to receive them. Thank You Tea Ave. It is much appreciated. It won't affect my review, but I am impressed with how you have treated your reviewers.

So. first off, each sample is about 9g. It comes in a resealable aluminum back and clear front pouch. The label has a plethora of information, including 4 ways to brew the teas. The one thing that I do not see is a list of ingredients. The base is listed as Alishan Jin Xuan oolong. The leaves are scented with Jasmine though that is not clear from the label.

Opening the sample releases a light jasmine mixed with a buttery milky scent. The scent is light and really pleasant. The leaf is dark tight balls with a lighter green stem sticking out.

I used the gaiwan with half the sample. The label says to use 8g for a 130ml gaiwan. My gaiwan is only 90ml. Anyway that sounds like a lot of leaf. Normally I would use 3g but I am trying to follow Tea Ave's guidelines. Boiling water was added and the steep was 1 minute.

The gaiwan was used to fill the tall thin aroma cup. The remainder was poured into a small cup not in the picture. The tasting cup was placed over the aroma cup and the whole thing turned upside down. Next the aroma cup is lifted slowly filling the sipping cup. The thin cup is then sniffed.

The aroma is much like that of the dry leaf. The color is pale yellow and quite pretty. The taste is very lightly jasmine. Next is a fresh floral aroma of high mountain oolong.

The taste is similar, except I get flashes of citrus. It is like orange and lemon bouncing off each other. Maybe that is what Tea Ave reports as spice? Anyway, it is very tasty.

For the second cup I repeated the process and added 15 seconds to the steep. The liquor is darker and the gaiwan is very hot. I am not as in love with this cup. For my tastes it is just too much leaf. I am getting a strong geranium taste. Each to his own but I am switching to my usual method for the third cup.

With number three, I put the leaf in my clear glass teapot and added about 10 ounces of boiling water. The steep was about 1m 15s. The liquor pours a pretty golden green. The main aroma is the floral oolong with the jasmine being very faint.

This is much more to my liking. The tea is floral yet not overly so. It is a bit mineral but in a good way. I can taste the spice now, though I can't identify what spice. The aftertaste is lingering and pleasant. It is kind of sweet. There is no hint of bitterness in this cup (there was in the second). A drying sensation is present. The tranquil properties of the tea have just kicked in and I am becoming very mellow.

This  would steep at least another time, maybe many more.

Final analysis - If you love Alishan you will love this. If you like jasmine but often find it too strong for you, then you will love this as the scent and taste are pretty subtle. My advice, unless you are accustomed to steeping with a large amount of leaf, is to ignore the quantity on the label and go with 2-3g of leaf for a 6-10oz cup.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Simple Loose Leaf, Lapsang Souchong

Simple Loose Leaf Description:
Our Lapsang Souchong is a black tea smoked to perfection.  This tea is savory, smoky, slightly cool with a hint of menthol.  Look for a crisp sweet pine flavor as you are brewing this excellent black tea.

Sample provided by Simple Loose Leaf

My Review:
I received this along with four other samples in a monthly tea subscription box sent for review. I believe there is approximately 7g of tea in each pouch. That should be enough for 3 western 6 ounce cups of tea or one gong fu session in each bag. More on this later.

The sample bags are simple yet attractively labelled. They look like old recycled paper sack type material and are aluminum lined.

The leaf has a fairly strong pine smoke aroma. It just smells so much of the campfires I grew up around. I always give a positive nod to memory association.

Pouring a scoop out for review reveals fine cut lightly twisted leaf. It is darker than it appears in my picture, with lighter highlights.

I used half the sample, or about 3.5g in my press along with 10 ounces of water heated to boiling. This is pretty typical of how I normally drink my tea. The steep was 4 minutes. The recommended is between 3 and 5 minutes.

Based on the dry aroma, I expected this to fill the house with a strong smoky fragrance. It did not. Actually, the steeped scent is much milder than the dry.

Some Lapsang Souchong take on a bbq meat or bacon aroma. This one leans that way with a savory taste and yet remains steadfastly in the charred (but not ashy) pine realm.

The brew is a much lighter caramel color than I would have guessed. This one just keeps surprising me.

The sip is at first pine smoke. No surprise there. This mellows into a lighter mineral note. Then I get the cooling menthol sensation that Simple Loose Leaf mentions.

The aftertaste is sweet and smoky. I think the sweetness is what gives this the slight smoked meat leaning.

I am getting only a slight briskness. I am not sure it is really there. I believe the initial hit of smoke conjures the illusion of briskness.

There is no bitterness. The cooling sensation leaves only a slight cheek tingle.

When I first tried smoky teas this would have seemed very heavy to me. Now, I find it to be on the lighter, thinner, side of smoky. The menthol is what sets this apart from the pack.

At the beginning of this review I mentioned the monthly tea box subscription that Simple Loose Leaf manages. Per their website, here is how it works:
Each month you will receive a box of wonderful and unique loose leaf teas. Every month we make sure you have everything you need to get the perfect cup of tea brewing right out of the box! Shortly after receiving your first tea subsciption box we will email your Member ID to you. You can use your ID to get a 50% discount on all extra tea ordered at! 

Each month you receive 4-6 samples to try. You can buy more at 50% off. The cost is between $15 and $13/month depending on which subscription you choose. This Lapsang Souchong is currently listed as $5/oz regular non-subscription price.

You can find Simple Loose Leaf, Lapsang Souchong here.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Golden Tips, Gopaldhara Gold Darjeeling Black Tea

Golden Tips Description:
Among the most sought after invoice's from the years pre-winter harvest, the Gopaldhara Gold is an autumnal beauty. A delicate yet rounded black tea with intricate flowery notes. The tea brings about a subtle and sweet profile with hints of fine muscatel and an slightly earthy roundness. The lingering aftertaste brings in sensations of dark bold chocolate and cocoa. A fantastic leaf tea texture with golden tips spread evenly, this is definitely among our better autumn Darjeeling's.

Sample provided by Golden Tips

My Review:
Today I continue my education with an autumn flush Darjeeling. I usually try to start these reviews with a photograph of the sample packaging. It helps me to see the thought and care that goes into a shipment. Golden Tips does an excellent job. All the samples have been completely sealed and carefully labeled.

Opening the pouch I get an interesting assortment of aromas. It first says tobacco to me, then no, its cocoa. Wait, I'm getting something very sweet. My brain can't focus it. Thoughts of mint, orange, citrus, and candy flash past me.

Removing a spoon of leaf had me feeling warm and fuzzy on this very cold February day. The leaf looks so much like fall. There is a touch of green left, while being mainly various shades of tans and browns. I do see a stem or two in the mix.

Looking over my growing collection of brewing equipment, I chose the Bodum press. I don't have a reason other than it has served me well and clean up is pretty straight forward.

The water was heated to 200F. I couldn't decide between boiling and 195F, so this is my compromise. The steep was 3 1/2 minutes. The recommended is 3-5.

The brew is orange brown and light in the depth of the tint. By that I mean it is opaque rather than a solid impenetrable color. It seems quite clear with no floaters or cloudiness. It is kind of shiny.

The aroma of the wet leaves is pretty noteworthy. It is dominated by a wonderful grapiness. I know Darjeeling is noted for its Muscatel grape aroma but this one is so nice. Along with the grape is a woodsy scent and a hint of chocolate. Yeah, I know.

The sip is clean with no bitterness. Its rather mellow at 3 1/2 minutes. There is only a mild briskness. I think this would take hotter and longer in stride.

This may be the very first Darjeeling I have ever tried where I understand why some people are obsessed with them. Most of the time I can't tell a lot of difference between Darjeeling and Nepalese. This one stands out to  me.

After a little jolt of briskness, I get grape, but it isn't straight up grape. It has a fuller taste like a hit of citrus is backing it up. This is followed by an awareness of the woodsy leaf taste with just a hint of chocolate. As that fades the grape rises up again and remains in the lingering aftertaste.

There is just a touch of dryness but who cares. This is really a pretty amazingly tasty tea.

You can find Golden Tips, Gopaldhara Gold Darjeeling Black Tea here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Jalam Teas, Manmai

Jalam Teas Description:
Manmai fermented (green) Puerh is a return to one of our most coveted regions, Bada Mountain, and a true ‘high mountain tea’. Manmai village is located in the Bada Mountain range and has fantastic conditions for producing superb teas. High humidity levels, mists that filter sun and rain and an almost wild aspect to the geography make this a “zone of perfect tea possibilities”

Sample provided by Jalam Teas

My Review:
Jalam Teas contacted me to see if I would like to review one of their puerh teas for The Everyday Tea Blog. I have a mountain of samples I have not yet reviewed, but I haven't tried anything from Jalam Teas previously, so saying no was not an option. I really didn't know what to expect in the way of a sample size. The package arrived containing a full 100g cake. Excellent!

Included in the package is a large card with a lot of information about the tea, where it came from, and when. This one is a fermented puerh from the spring 2013 harvest on the Bada Mountain range.

The cake is wrapped in paper.  Removing the wrapper reveals this tightly compressed cake of lovely Yunnan leaf that appears to contain a lot of golden tips.

I used a pocket knife to pry off about 8g of leaf for this session. It was easy to embed the knife, yet harder to break off a solid chunk. The leaf has a slight barnyard scent and something else that I can't quite identify. It was sweet and I'm thinking it was caramel.

I used boiling water per the website, "Use fully boiled water, as the large leaf 'Camellia Sinensis Assamica' (Puerh) can handle the heat." I also used my 90ml gaiwan again today. I am still a klutz but getting more confident. I didn't make a mess and did not burn any fingers. I consider this a solid victory.

I don't do a rinse to awaken the tea. I'm stubborn that way. Instead I increase the first steep. My first steep was about 15 seconds. The liquor was orange red tinted as it poured into the cup. It appears almost coffee colored in the cup. The aroma is much like the dry scent.

The tea is very smooth. The rough edge that I often associate with ripe puerh, that is kind of like sandpaper, is pretty much non-existent. There is none of the astringent bite or harsh metallic taste that is found in a young raw puerh. There is no bitterness. Again, the best descriptor is smooth.

The taste is cedar but not scratchy feeling. It also has a flavor like leather. I use that description often as it is a flavor I like. The however here is, this is not the horse tack leather, or dusty old book leather, I often cite. It is not even a less mentioned boot leather. The flavor is a new one and reminds me of oiled belt leather. I am also tasting just a bit of barnyard, but it fits and is not offensive to the senses, even though it may sound that way. 

For cups two and three, I did flash steeps. The water was added to the gaiwan, the lid put in place, and as soon as I got a firm grip, I began to pour into my cup. This produced an equally dark, as the first, cup and a very similar taste.

Cups four, five, and six, are still flash steeps, however I combined them into one cup for drinking. The flavor remains rock solid to the earlier cups. I am now thinking it is becoming more milk like in texture.

Cups seven, eight, and nine, I increased the steep by about 5 seconds on each, then combined them. If anything, the color is even darker. I have no idea how much longer this will steep, but it is showing no sign of letting up. This will be my last for today.

The tea continues to be a pleasure to drink. While the texture continues to become thicker, the flavor remains true to the first cup.

Jalam Teas says this would make a good evening tea as it is light on the stimulant kick. I think they have a higher stimulant kick tolerance than I. To me this would make a much better morning tea. It is easy to drink and easy on the stomach.

For those who might be interested, Jalam Teas has a monthly tea club.  Per the website, "Each month you'll receive a specially designed 100-gram tea cake complete with an intimate story of each and instructions on how best to prepare your monthly dose of green."

You can find Jalam Teas, Manmai puerh here.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Teavivre, Menghai Palace Ripened Pu-erh Cake Tea 2008

Teavivre Description:
Tribute grade pu-erh: abundant golden pekoe covering on the buds, nicely crafted. The taste is smooth and thick, carries strong nut’s fragrance. If you love ripened pu-erh, choose this golden cake.

Sample provided by Teavivre

My Review:
It's shu time! This large leaf ripened pu-erh comes from 90-120 year old trees found on Bulang Mountain in Menghai, Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, China.

This was a sample portion that came in the usual silver bag. Removing the leaf reveals a lot of golden tips throughout the compressed cake. The aroma is a light barnyard and nicely sweet with some dried grassiness.

I used the 90 ml gaiwan today and the entire sample (approx 10g). The water was kettle heated to boiling.

The first steep was about 12 seconds. As I have mentioned before, I seldom rinse the leaf, instead I increase the first steep slightly.

The result is a orange brown cup. The shape of the cup distorts the evenness of the color. The aroma is still somewhat barnyard. The taste is dusty but sweet. It has no rough edge or off tastes. It is actually quite smooth. It is a little earthy and like damp forest woods. Very nice.

I noticed a cooling sensation in my lungs and it seemed to allow for deeper cleaner breathing.

The second cup was steeped at 6 seconds. It is much darker. It is more coffee colored but with a red tint that the camera isn't showing.

This cup is a little more rough edged but not unmanageable. It has more of a cedar briskness. I didn't notice the aroma, so the barnyard must be fading. It just hints at leather.

The third cup I began pouring as soon as I could get the lid on the gaiwan and a proper grip. This is even a deeper burgundy. The aroma is spicy cedar and light mint. This is dry like a red wine. It has a spicy cedar wood flavor. I also catch more of an earthy loam note along with hints of leather. This is the best cup so far.

Cups four, five, and six, were all prepared just like the third with little more steep time than it took to fill and pour. I combined them. The brew seems to be growing even a deeper burgundy in color. It shows no signs of letting up, but this will be my last cup for this review.

Much to my delight, the taste continues in the same vein as the previous cup. This retains the dry cedar briskness, followed by a rich loamy earth. The leather continues to stay out of the limelight but hints at an old book leather.

With this cup I am noticing the faint touch of inner cheek tingle.

Possibly my favorite thing about this pu-erh has been the calmness that fills me as I sip it. I believe I am more mellow than the tea I'm sipping. Yep, feeling pretty groovy. I think I'll turn on my lava lamp (I really do have one), and crank up some Pink Floyd. This isn't magic psychedelic stuff, but it is pretty far out man ;)

You can find Teavivre, Menghai Palace Ripened Pu-erh Cake Tea 2008 here.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

What-Cha, Vietnam Wild 'Five Penny' Green Tea

What-Cha Description:
A wild growing green tea with a vegetal taste combined hints of fruit and smoke.
It has a complex taste as a result of the wild tea trees being shaded by mountain mist and is processed using traditional methods which utilise a wood fired oven.

Sample provided by What-Cha, Tea Redefined

My Review:
It snowed here last night. Little more than a dusting, but it kind of put me in a meh mood today. I am just ready for spring. It took much of the day just to desire a cup of tea. I know, stupid meh mood.

I decided to do away with the random What-Cha grab today. Instead, I sat aside a few white teas for an upcoming white tea face off. Then I rummaged through the remaining samples for something that said spring to me. This one caught my eye.

I do not know what the name 'Five Penny' means, but I understand Vietnam and Green Tea just fine. I have found the other Vietnam teas I've tried to be little known jewels.

Opening the sample bag, I catch a sweet, kind of fruit or slightly berry, grassy scent. It is fresh and crisp.

Pulling out a scoop of leaf, I found my meh mood gone, replaced by my childlike tea wonder. I may have said, "Oh, Cool!" when I first saw this. The leaf is a sort of battleship gray. Yeah, it has some olive hints, but yeah, battleship gray. I also noticed the tips aren't silver or tan like normal. These are white.

The leaf is dense, solid twists and large in size compared to most of what I have been drinking lately. I think my, "Oh Cool!" is justified.

I used my clear glass teapot and 176 F water. The steep was two minutes. The leaf didn't dance. What movement I saw was more like the slow graceful moves of a swan out on a lake.

The liquor poured a light golden green tint. It seems slightly cloudy but that may be my fault. I did nor use a strainer and my teapot won't completely drain without being turned nearly upside down. It's all good. I only had to fish a few leaves out of the mug. If I weren't taking pictures, I would have left them.

The wet leaf is now a large dense mass. It is fresh and green, having lost all of its gray coloring. It has a green living vegetal aroma of steaming vegetables. I should really hang out in the kitchen more and learn to better identify which vegetable, but that's as close as I get for now. Moving the leaf to the plate, I was amazed at just how heavy it feels. Really, it just makes me think jungle foliage.

The sip hits fast with an amazing green tea bite. It is big and powerful for such a  delicate looking brew. It is what I call the good kind of bitter. It doesn't make you flinch or pucker. Instead, it leads me to stop, close my eyes, and settle in to enjoy.

The bite settles down but does not completely fade. As it drops in intensity, I get a front tongue tingle, mixed with sweetness, and taste similar to corn.

At the end of the sip, a mild fruitiness appears mixed with the corn, and a viney plant taste. It does not strike me as grassy.

I have heard others mention the smoke that What-Cha mentions. I almost never catch smoke in green teas. I do not catch it here either. I guess I don't know what I am to expect. It is often easy to catch in black tea. Someday, I may get a glimpse and realize I was tasting it all along.

So are you tired of winter and feeling in a meh mood today? I can tell you this one brought me righ out of it this afternoon.

You can find What-Cha, Vietnam Wild 'Five Penny' Green Tea here.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Teavivre, Rice Ripened Loose Pu-erh Pyramid Tea Bag

Teavivre Description:
This tea bag features its flavor which has slight glutinous rice flavor. It is a good routine beverage incorporated with the essence of “Nuo Xiang” plants grown in Xishuangbanna. The liquid is bright red brown in color and have a typical flavor of Pu-erh.

My Review:
I don't recall how I acquired this one. I think it came from a friend rather than from Teavivre directly. Not that it matters. I just like to be up front about it.

Today's tea is a bagged pu-erh. Actually it is a pyramid bag made of corn fiber.

If you search this blog, you will learn I am not opposed to the use of the lowly tea bag. The old reliable paper ones have their place. This is especially true when I am in a hurry, asleep, or just want a simple tea with my meal.

The average grocery store tea bag will never give you the depth that a quality loose leaf will, and that is why the pyramid bag has risen in the market place. The pyramid bag generally contains a better quality leaf while retaining the convenience factor of the bag.

You can see the Yunnan large leaf through the bag. There is an abundance of golden buds in the mix of one bud and two leaves. The aroma is... different. Reading other reviews this apparently is a very accurate sticky rice scent. Being uninitiated, it comes off as more gym bag to me. Honestly, I am glad to know the aroma is exactly as intended. Even if this red neck doesn't quite get it.

I used a mug and boiling water. The directions call for a 9-12 minute steep. Seriously? I get that Teavivre is attempting to make pu-erh a little more accessible to the western tea drinker with the use of the pyramid and the steep time. I get it, but I don't prepare pu-erh that way anymore.

I went with three minutes which still produced a dark coffee colored brew. I would normally do maybe a 30 second first steep, so as far as I am concerned, I have made a major compromise.

The sticky rice aroma has now filled the house. I am noticing the longer I am inhaling it, the more food like (and therefore appealing) it has become.

Interesting. It's rice, rice, and more rice, all the way to your lips. Then once you taste, it becomes a gentle earthy pu-erh. It is not leather, mushroom, or any of the barnyard flavors and definitely not a more offensive fishy flavor. This is a dusty roots and rich soil flavor. Just a touch of mineral. It is very smooth and easy to sip.

After swallowing the sweet sticky rice aroma comes back and mixes with the earthiness. It is a neatly interesting combination.

I do see where the long steep time recommended by Teavivre would not hurt this cup. A long steep can produce a rough spicy edge that I often don't much like. I do not see that happening here.

I do have one complaint. The string on the pyramid is too short. The tag was sucked under the moment I added water. I had to fish it out. That detracted from the convenience of using the pyramid for me. Next time I'll know better and keep a thumb on the tag when adding water.

These little pyramids will resteep multiple times making them a good value consideration.

You can find Teavivre, Rice Ripened Loose Pu-erh Pyramid Tea Bag here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Golden Tips, Mankota Exotic Assam Black Tea Second Flush

Golden Tips Description:
Mankota produces some excellent second flush black teas every year. This tea in particular boasts of all characters of a premium Assam tea. The tea is robust, bold and extremely malty. The full-body of the tea finishes on a slightly sweet note which makes it an absolute prized possession. Sprinkled with golden tips all over, the dark red liquor shimmers in the cup. 
A fantastic breakfast tea and a must-try if you love Assam tea.

Sample provided by Golden Tips

My Review:
I am having one of 'those' days. To top it off I just got off the phone with our new internet provider and it left me totally frustrated. Yeah, I may have gotten loud with the poor girl on the phone who wasn't to blame. I may have had to apologize for taking it out on her. Golly, I need tea!

Assam, I am only beginning to appreciate. I've mentioned before how years of mediocre to plain bad grocery store bagged Assam kind of scarred me in my early tea drinking days. I have learned good quality leaf makes a world of difference. This one is labelled Exotic Assam. Oooohhh! Here's hoping.

I opened the bag and... just, wow! The aroma is sweet and fruity. It smells of fresh country hay. Combined it has maybe a touch of dry tobacco leaf scent. I love the smell of this stuff.

Forgive me for getting a little cutesy with the leaf. I formed it into a little heart shape because it is just so beautiful and aromatic. The leaf is small twists of dark chocolate browns and pretty golden buds.  Did I mention this is an Assam? Just, wow!

Into the press it goes. Filtered water heated to 200 F was added. The steep was 3 1/2 minutes.

The leaf and the cup have a wonderful fruity, malty, bready warmth about it.

The liquor is bright and clear. It is as much ruby as it is orange. So far I cannot find a single flaw.

After cooling a bit I take my first sip. I think Golden Tips nailed it with their description. I'll go through the motions of furnishing my own point of view in hopes my word choice adds to the picture.

This is so completely different from the Chinese Yunnan teas I normally drink. It is just as far removed from grocery store bagged Assam, The first thing I notice is the brightness of the tannins. It is snap you awake brisk (Woo Hoo!), without crossing into bitter. That quickly fades into nicely malty. The maltiness stays with you long into the aftertaste. It is joined by a sweetness that seems fruity without declaring a particular fruit.

It does leave a moderate dryness that comes with the brisk territory. The however, is that it seemed easy on the stomach. If you add sugar or milk, which I am sure this would take well, then that might not matter to you.

A second cup is definitely in order. The cup is maybe a little lighter in color and texture. Gone is the super brisk beginning. It is replaced by a warm spiciness, followed by mineral. This leads into plum notes. The malt is much lighter but still hanging around for your tasting pleasure.

I can't remember the last time I have had a really bad cup of tea. I do recall the last really good one, and I happen to still be sipping on it.

You can find Golden Tips, Mankota Exotic Assam Black Tea Second Flush here.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Teavivre, Nonpareil Yunnan Dian Hong Ancient Wild Tree Black Tea

Teavivre Description:
Bing made of the leaves from wild Yunnan Large Leaf tea trees, this Nonpareil Yunnan Dianhong Ancient Wild Tree Black Tea carries a full, wild taste with strong fruity fragrance. Have a cup of this wild black tea, and enjoy the mellow liquid.

Sample provided by Teavivre

My Review:
I'm starting off February with a black tea from the Yunnan Provence in China. I love Dian Hong. This one is labeled Nonpareil, meaning without equal. So without further ado, let's open the package.

Oops. I'm already off on a rabbit trail. Sorry. When Teavivre first hit the scene their samples came in big packets with everything listed about the tea, from picking date and location to a best by date. Some people commented this seemed wasteful so Teavivre shrank the package and the label. Now, I find the label nearly impossible to read. Even under bright lights with my bifocals I have trouble. Their full size orders are far more accessible.

Opening the tiny packet I get a pleasing mixture of malt and honey drizzled fruit. Yeah, I know, yum right? The leaf is dark twists with some lighter streaks of tan.

I used my press with water heated to 194 F. The steep was 3 1/2 minutes. The recommended is 3-5.

The liquor is a light orange caramel. The cup aroma is malty to me today. I have prepared this once before. The first time I noted the cup scent as similar to the dry aroma but more baked.

The wet leaf has expanded into a large pile of leathery leaves. They are cinnamon brown over an olive green with touches of red and brown.

The sip is really smooth. There is no hint of bitterness. Now again this cup is different from the first time I had it. The previous session I went the full five minutes on the steep. This time was 3 1/2.

The long steep resulted in what I noted as a spiciness, kind of peppery without the burn. I interpreted the fruit flavor as grape. Maybe it was really plum and I don’t know any better. This was slightly yam flavored but the fruit taste is stronger. There is even the faintest touches of earth and leather. For as light as this seemed on the first sip, there is so much depth here, when you slow down and taste.

Now the shorter steep of today resulted in a pleasingly malty cup with unmistakable notes of peach. Their is no spicy bite. It is slightly yam in flavor. There is a slight dryness. The aftertaste is hard to describe but kind of green and vegetal.

Both sessions resulted in a really good cup of tea. It is hard to decide which is better. The longer steep may win out simply because there seemed to be slightly more depth. Honestly, is was great either way.

The first session I resteeped the leaves for a second cup. Here is the note I scribbled down;  I got to say the cup aroma was so fine. As the cup was sitting to cool I was smelling grape. It sort of drifted between grape, wine, and Darjeeling aromas. I know the taste was light but honestly I got distracted fixing stuff on the computer and ended up drinking this pretty quick and not paying attention. I know I liked it or it wouldn’t have disappeared so fast.

I did not make a second cup with today's leaf.

Not going to lie, this is a little on the pricey side at $18.90/50g but it is an amazingly complex Yunnan Dian Hong.

You can find Teavivre, Nonpareil Yunnan Dian Hong Ancient Wild Tree Black Tea here.