Monday, December 21, 2009

Snowball Tea Jar By Shin Hyun Churl

This soft, hazy white, wood fired tea jar sits staunchly like a newly formed snowman. Its shape harmonizes nicely with its colour. Its texture is soft and smooth inside and out.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

2008 Lao Mountain Fair Trade Organic Phongsali 'Lao Mao Cha' ('Puerh Green Tea')

Picked this one up last year during ones journey in the Northern Laos Province of Phongsali. The producer, Lao Mountain, sells two types of tea- a 'Golden Green Tea' and 'Puerh Green Tea'.
One posted about the 'Golden Green Tea' from this company a while back and found it quite interesting. This one promises to be just as entertaining.

The dry leaf smell of faint fruity tones mingle with light,spicy raisin depth. These leaves are rinsed before the first infusion is prepared.

A sour, juicy, vegital tea with backnotes of something spicy is the first result. The mouthfeel fills the sides of the tongue and roof of the mouth.

In the next infusion those spicy tones dance within a slightly juicy, pungent, faintly fruity taste. The flavour evolves into a predominantly dry pungent taste that makes its way to ones breath.

The tea in the third infusion targets the front of the mouth leaving a fuzzy sensation behind. The flavour is much the same as before but slightly more pungent. The aftertaste remains dry. The orangy-yellow of the liquor watches that of the chrysanthemum that blooms behind it.
A sweet caramel tobacco creaminess starts to develop ever so slightly under the pungent notes that get deeper and deeper as the session progresses. The movement from infusion to infusion is quite notable and makes this tea fun to drink.

In later infusions, sour grainy tones start to appear first followed by the core pungent flavours. The almost malty caramel tones that are noticed suggest age.

The interplay between caramel and pungent notes continues from infusion to infusion until, later in the session, it waters out.

The chaqi is covert in nature. It sneaks around almost unnoticed until later in the session where it makes ones mind shine bright and clear.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Carbon Footprint of Tea: How Green is Green Tea?

In Asia drinking tea is often seen as a way to harmonize with nature. Drinking green tea in the spring and chrysanthemum in the fall is a way to harmonize your energies with the energies of nature. Often the tea that is the most popular in a particular region is the tea that grows nearby, or is at least produced in the same country. Drinking local teas that share the energies of that geographical area is not only more healthy for the individual but also more healthy for the environment. Drinking local tea creates less pollution because the tea isn't shipped long distances.

Tea drinking in the west is a different story.

Unlike most foods and beverages that one consumes, tea cannot be grown locally. Because tea can't be grown locally it must be shipped long distances. Shipping long distances displaces more pollutants into the atmosphere through longer transport. Longer shipping also requires extra packaging. As far as tea goes, excessive packaging seems to be the norm. The production of this packaging requires more energy and therefore more pollutants produced. When this packaging is disposed of it goes back to the earth. The shipping of tea pollutes the earth.

When drinking tea one never takes a sip for granted. The tea that touches ones lips, however minute, is at the cost of the earth. And as such, much reverence should be afforded to it.


Friday, December 11, 2009

A Winter Pot By Master Sel Young Jin

Sel Young Jin's works harmonize with winter.

This rustic pot exudes the feeling of early winter/ late fall- winter's first snowfall. Thick white glaze barely covering the rocky earth beneath. A light snowfall, a veil over the land. It hints at more snow to come.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

2009 Handong Green Tea- Picked In The Spring, Oxidized Through the Summer, Roasted In the Fall

This tea was shipped with others from Korea a few months ago. It gives no hints as to what kind of tea it is other than the generic 'Hadong Green Tea' package that is used by the producers in the area.

Tearing open the top of the bag then opening the zip lock reveals a surprise- the smell of roasted nutty chocolate and cherry notes that transform into a more common nutty cereal odour. This doesn't smell like your typical Handong green tea. Perhaps its a yellow tea, or an autumnal green, maybe a roasted green?

The leaves are scooped out and examined- small, faded, dusty brown leaves. The dry leaves look too dark to be a green tea yet too faded, dusty, and light to be a yellow. The leaves are rolled like a green tea, not tightly wound like a yellow. These clues and the predominately toasty cereal scent of the leaves suggests a roasted green tea. A tea not all that common in Korea.

These leaves are guided into the pot and after the water has cooled, it to is added. The tea pours out a turbid yellow-brown.

The first infusion carries a strong taste of hay, nuts, and strong cereal notes that almost drown out all of the sweetness and actual tea tastes. This first infusion is pondy and roasty. The lips numb, the tongue and mouth are sparsely coated. Its body is thin in the mouth.

The second infusion brings more of that hollow roasted cereal which is still felt mainly on the lips, tingling them. The flavour becomes more tart. Hay notes linger just a short while on the breath.

In the third infusion a rubbery mouthfeel and aftertaste develops. More hollow graininess. It doesn't move much from here. The later infusions are more of the same with the taste becoming thinner, lighter, and more grassy. In the end one attempts to over steep this tea, attempting to pull something interesting from it. One is only greeted with thin, bitter, astringent graininess.

The faint qi of this tea is quite mixed up and impure. It leaves one feeling somewhat more energetic but more hazy and lethargic than one should feel from a green tea. The overall presentation of this tea leads one to believe that it was improperly produced. The production did not harmonize with the tea resulting in a product that doesn't flow throughout the body and mind but instead clouds it.

When the wet leaves are examined there are little flecks of ash deposited in the small, still curled up, leaves. This could be evidence of a wood burning roast. Roasting tea using a wood burning method is much more difficult to achieve good results compared to the easily controlled setting of gas roasting.

One has learned from this tea. One hopes the producer learns from this tea too, correcting mistakes and improving production next year.

Note: The comments clear up which type of tea this is.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

2009 Jookro Hwagae Valley Yellow Tea

Jookro is one of the oldest commercial tea companies in Korea and has been producing great wild, hand picked, Hwagae Valley tea since 1962. The Korean name of this tea 'Oo Re Cha' means 'Our Tea' and is a proud statement of confidence and pride for the often overlooked Korean teas which have historically had been influence by its tea superpower neighbours, Japan and China. This tea made using traditional methods, in an area from ansestors of 1000 year old trees, stands in oppostion to those who think that Korean teas are simply, more expensive or inferior Japanese or Chinese tea.
Despite having many small farm and monk-made yellow teas year in and year out, this offering from Jookro is always one of the best. Let's stuff the pot and see what makes this yellow tea so damn good...

The dry leaves, the dry leaves, the dry leaves.

Have you ever smelt better dry leaf smell? Honestly, these purplish-green tinged leaves smell like heaven- nutty and deep chocolate.

When warm water and tea merge it first leaves smooth-juicy, roasted- nutty chocolate tastes. The mouth follows suite with excessive salivation. A tasty undercurrent of sour citrus jazzes things up.

As more water meets leaves the mouthfeel becomes more obvious and starts to cover the mouth in roasted very nutty tones, strong nutty aftertaste, and strong chocolate aroma.

The next infusion brings a soft dry feeling in the mouth, the chocolate flavor is the strongest at this third infusion. One takes time with this infusion, enjoying every sip.

More water, more tea. Nutty tones predominate but a woodiness starts to lie underneath.

In this fifth infusion a spiciness develops. This time the flavour seems more chocolate and less nutty. Although all sessions with this tea are a bit different, they all seem to have one thing in common which is a sort of tug-a-war between nut and chocolate tones. One loves to sit back and let ones tastebuds enjoy the spectacle of this event.

The next few infusions becomes more woody and dry in the mouth. The initial flavours fade under a full dry wood coating. The qi at this point comforts and warms the stomach, a very good, pure, yellow tea feel.
The infusions go on for a while. Light, dry in the mouth- one sips at these flat wood tones and feels cozy and content.