Friday, February 26, 2010

Victoria Tea Festival: Chado Tea House

Came across exhibitors Peter and Fumi from Chado Tea house in Vancouver at the Victoria Tea Festival. Their table featured exclusively Japanese teas. They had them all, even some interesting ones. Their tea is sourced from specific areas of Japan- Fumis really seemed to know her tea.

One received a few samples of some of their more interesting green teas.


Monday, February 22, 2010

2009 DoMatcha Master's Choice (Produced By Marukyu Koyamaen)

This matcha is the highest grade sold by Vancouver matcha company, DoMatcha. It is a unique colaboration between DoMatcha and famous matcha producer Marukyu Koyamaen.

The water is taken off boil, it is time to prepare tea. It is prepared in ceremony- slowly, empty, mindful.

One uses hot water to heat the bowl and whisk. After the water spans the inside of the bowl it is disposed of. One reaches for the simple black and white design on the tea can, twists off the lid, peels back the chopped label, and opens the rice paper bag.

Some vibrant green powder is fished from the bag with a delicate bambo scoop. It looks more vibrant in the white of the tea bowl. After placing down the chesaku (bambo scoop) one takes this time to sniff the delicate smell of the powder before the bag is resealed and the lid put back. The smell is very light, flowery, and sweet. There is very little raw vegital scent here.

Just a touch of room temperature water is added first and the whisk's slow motions create a thick green paste. Then the hot water follows. Very deliberate whisking motions- first slow then faster- then finishing slow once more- bring this thick green paste to frothy life.

One drinks this matcha in three full sips.

The taste is sweet, light, airy. Nice floral notes, the taste of cherry blossoms is in the air outside and is now on the tongue. There is a very subtle plum finish. This tea is quite smooth and carries almost no astringency or bitterness. A very light chalkiness coats the mouth. The light coat is mainly in the front and is a bit lacking in the back.

The chaqi that results is light- mildly focusing and subtey calming the mind. There is no strong edge here just a very mellow ambiance.

This tea is light and sweet enough to be prepaired thick but is lacking a full, complete, long lasting mouthfeel when thick same as it does when it is prepared thin.

In meditation one relaxes with this tea.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Victoria Tea Festival: DoMatcha

One has seen this matcha around town but wrote it off as one of those mass produced, gimmicky, health store stocked varieties. Couldn't be more wrong... except for the 'health store stalked' part. Based out of Vancouver, DoMatcha seems to be a regular fixture at health stores on the island but is almost completely shutout of the tearooms here due to a local matcha company that one will post about soon.

When one approached the Domatcha booth at the 2010 Tea Festival, modesty and kindness prevailed from the calm minded exhibitor. She whisked up some of the Ceremonial Matcha and Master's Choice Matcha (these cheesy matcha names added to the feeling of 'gimmicy tea'). Quite surprisingly, both teas were quite respectable.

It turns out that the famous matcha companies Shohokuen and Marukyu-Koyamaen are responsible for their matcha. DoMatcha even has a rich tea history that included the support of teamaster Kinroku Handa.

Not bad tea at all.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

2010 Victoria Tea Festival Overview

The 2010 Victoria Tea Festival turned out to be better than expected. Couldn't help but expect. One has been to a handful of tea festivals in Asia and didn't expect much from this tea event held in Canada, the only of its kind here.

The stage was set as soon as you entered as the event was held in the beautiful glass panelled historic building, Crystal Gardens .

There were a few interesting speakers each day. Especially informative was Barry Till, the curator of the Art Gallery of Victoria and the second largest collection of Asia Art in Canada.

Out of the exhibitors about half were not even tea exclusive dealers or shop owners. Out of the 'actual' tea exhibitors about 1/3 were worth while spending some time around. There were a few good matcha exhibitors, a few famous local staples, a tea coop making a difference in Assam, a dealer offering some rarer Japanese greens, and even a dealer with tea sourced directly from China and... Korea!

One plans on bringing you the stories of those worthwhile dealers and some reviews of their tea.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Three Indigenous Types of Tea in Hunan Province China: A Tasting of 1990 Kum Cheom Cha

“These three teas are to Hunan what Puerh is to Yunnan”

This phrase came from a Korean tea master while discussing tea from Hunan Province China, of which he was quite found of.

The three teas he is referring to are Chan Yang Cha, Bok Jeun Cha, and Kum Cheom Cha (these are Korean pronunciations not Chinese, if anyone knows the Chinese transliterations please share). These teas are some of the oldest types of tea produced in the Northern slopes of Hunan, an area where tea production has been taking place for over 2000 years.

Chan Yang Cha is perhaps the most interesting of the group mainly because of its production and resulting storage. It stands like an enormous tree, a pillar- from top to bottom- it was almost as tall as the teamaster and the diameter was almost as thick as his waist! This is NOT the shape of the tea tree but the actual formed shape of the tea leaves! To see it in the forest you would be convinced that it is a tree trunk. It is like a trunk of tea leaves-Really strange.

It looks this way because of its production. One is not quite sure of the exact production methods but it seems like sheets of tea leaves are either rolled over and over into a giant cylinder shape or they are stuffed into a hollowed out tree. Then the giant solid tree trunk of tea is wrapped in rice paper for storage.

Bok Jeun Cha is some kind of brick tea and Kum Cheom Cha is a chunk tea similar to a cake. The shapes of these three teas seem to suggest that they are border tea used or traded to the minority people of China.

All three of these teas are made seemingly with the same quality of tea- large paper thin leaves with lots of thick tea branches. The teamaster would always drink this tea in the extreme heat of the summer, he said that these teas have a medicinal value for the treatment and prevention of heat stroke. All three definitely have a thirst quenching, light, replenishing feel to them.

Today as the first cherry blossoms of the year bloom abnormally early, one pulls out the last of a sample of Kum Cheom Cha while water boils.
The large paper-thin dry leaf is a straw brown colour with the slightest tint of red notes there is an abundance of large wood twigs protruding from the sample. The smell is earthy soil with light, sweet hay notes. The earthy smell is much different than shu puerh- this sample is much lighter, dryer, and sweeter. Almost just as much straw smells as dirt smells.

This unique sample is carefully separated into the pot, rinsed with hot water, and the first sample is prepared with just off boiling water.

The first infusion is sweet dirt, the mouthfeel is very thin, a characteristic of all three of these Hunan teas. Very subtle plum notes hide amongst the dirt. The aftertaste is just a touch dry on the tongue but in the back of the throat there remains a soft, sweet dirt taste.
The next infusion is prepared. A bit more of the earthy taste drops off and this infusion tastes more like sweet hay than earthy dirt.

The golden brown liquor of the thrid infusion is much the same. The plum notes are noticed between the initial primarily earthy dirt tastes and the straw finish.

Really this simple, sweet, light, plumy tea doesn't move that much from infusion to infusion. Although simple, it feels complete not lacking or deficient in some aspect or another. Its watery, fresh, profile seems about right. Its chaqi is just as subtle and relaxing as the mouthfeel, flavour, and smell of this tea- all three of these types of tea share these qualities.

Gradually this tea turns more woody in taste later into the session but retains its light, fresh, earthy-hay sweetness. After many pots, one feels rejuvenated on this cloudy spring day.

The wet leaves reveal many thick wood branches mixed with large to mid-sized paper thin leaves. The wet leaves (as well as the earthy notes and redish tint of the dry leaves) suggest some element of shu puerh-like production.


Friday, February 5, 2010

2009 Boseong Green Tea Sample

One hasn't consumed that much green tea as of late. This is normal, keeping with the harmony of the seasons. The cool thermal qi and subtle sweet flavour of green tea harmonizes best with the rising energy of spring. However, with temperatures in January the warmest on record, spring has officially arrived here on Vancouver Island. A sure sign is the spattering of cherry blossoms that line the street just a few blocks away.

So how appropriate that one try this green tea sample sent generously by Chris.

The staples are pulled out of the sealed bag and the dry leaf is scooped into the plain bamboo scoop. The sae jak (maybe even jung jak) sized leaves of deep green smell of salty seaweed, evergreen tree, and figs- not that roasty.

These leaves are placed into a pot when the boiling water has cooled considerably wet embraces dry. Then the liquid is poured into the lovely tea cup that Chris made and sent with the samples.

The first infusion is very light, a little sweet and creamy with slight roasted rice back notes. A nice silky mouthfeel reaches down the throat in the first few sips.

The second infusion the water is a touch warmer, infused for a touch longer. This infusion is more salty, seaweed, and evergreen tree. A sweetness sneaks in briefly under bitter notes. The mouthfeel is most noticeable on the lips and on the tip of the tongue but stretches deep down the throat with grace. It finishes with a dry roasted taste and feel.

The third infusion even warmer water is used for slightly longer. Sweet, dry, lime notes fade into a light wave of dry bitter. The sweetness resumes in the breath. The mouthfeel of this tea is its high point and stays with one for long after the tea is swallowed. The qi on the other hand is not that noticeable. It is gentle on the stomach, rising softly, and bringing a bit of concentration and mental freshness.

The fourth infusion is also a bit hotter than last, a bit longer than last. This infusion has a graininess to it. More evergreen notes are also present especially in the aftertaste. The tastes of this tea are mild, this tea is not an overly flavourful or sweet tea but it feels complete in what it has. The mouthfeel remains stable.

This tea continues to be enjoyed throughout the fifth, sixth, and seventh infusions. Each with hotter water and steeping times that double each other with the resulting infusion. The mouthfeel drops off infusion to infusion from this point. Graininess and wood now dominate with distinct lime notes. But with each infusion even these flavours fade away leaving dry lime with chalky, grainy, bitter notes. To be expected this late in the session.

Thanks again Chris for the experience of sharing this leaf in your cup.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Rusty, Oxidized Tea Jar By Kim Kyoung Soo

This small tea caddy by Kim Kyong Soo is typical of his style. It has a brown, oxidized, rustic look and feel that permeates the mind.

Picking up the small tea jar, removing the lid, and mindfully scooping tea from the inside with a modest bamboo scoop is like embracing the rust in our mind.

Everyone's mind has rust- it is only natural.

Placing the lid back on and placing this jar down, is like acknowledging that what is, not dwelling on it, but putting it aside even if just for the duration of a tea session.

The engraved calligraphy is beautiful and picks up the darkness in the dim tea room. One doesn't know what it says but understands the unspoken essence of this tea jar.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

In a Few Weeks From Now a Much Anticipated Event Will Take Place on Canada's West Coast...

No its not the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, its Victoria's 4th Annual Tea Festival!

In celebration of this event one is going to be featuring a few posts on some of the local tea heavy weights in Victoria throughout the coming weeks.