Monday, November 29, 2010

Tasting Buddha's Hands, Smelling Buddha's Hands, Feeling Buddha's Hands: 2008 Wuyi Fo Shou (Buddha's Hands) Yancha

Not too long ago one sampled a variety of yancha looking for a purchase. Gingko sent a few samples- this tea was one of the more interesting ones. This tea is completely hand processed with a traditional roast. This tea is "Fo Shou" Wuyi oolong, a variety of oolong that is said to taste like fo shou fruit. Fo shou fruit or Citri sarcodactylis Fructus is a variety of citron native to China. It is frequently incorrectly referred to as "Bergamot" but Citri bergamia Risso is only distantly related to fo shou. Legend has it that this tea plant variety was first produced by grafting Camellia sinensis with that of Citri sarcodactylis.

The name "Fo Shou" literally means "Buddha's Hands" because the shape of the citron can resemble the way images depict the Buddha's hands folded in prayer. Due to its shape the fruit is sometimes offered to Buddha in temples and is thought to be auspicious especially the fruit that looks most like Buddha's folded hands. The fu shou fruit is also used in traditional medicine in Asia where it is dried and sliced into fingers. Interestingly enough this Wuyi oolong not only carries the smells of fu shou fruit but also caries some of its taste and even some of its medicinal properties.

The dry leaves smell like the odour of fu shou fruit- light, airy, long, deep, fresh, starchy citron. Despite the leaves heavy look, they are quite light and fresh smelling. The water boils and, with the company of chrysanthemum flowers, one sits cross-legged on the ground and prepares this tea.

The first infusion emits a sour, malted odour and pours a yellow brown. It tastes light and refreshing with a mild-soapy fruity fo shou and papaya taste. The fruitiness of this tea is distinct right from the start and stretches out on the breath. The aftertaste is sweet with a starchy, sourdough feeling. The mouthfeel is sticky and pasty and is felt inside the lips and on the front of the tongue.

The second infusion is prepared. It reveals tastes with slight roasted notes that are very refreshing. A chalky, slippery papaya-grapefruit-fo shou citrus taste lights up the mouth, it then fades to finish more soapy but with a slight tangy taste. Relatively heavier roasted notes are the last to linger on the breath. The fo shou fruit is said to have flavours that are acidic and sour- this tea definitely shares some of these qualities but in a way that is not at all offensive. The cha qi of this tea feels very neutral, it pulls energy from the extremities and mobilizes it in the stomach. Its energy is stabilizing and harmonious to the midbody. The qi of fo shou is said to have similar actions especially that of harmonizing and strengthening the digestive middle jiao.

The third infusion is prepared and consumed. The initial taste is creamy, soapy and soft. Soon a substantial citrus quality dominates then fades back to creamy and soapy tastes once again. The roasted notes have all but gone. The aftertaste is subtle, creamy and with papaya, fo shou notes. The mouthfeel remains sticky and pasty but not overly thick. This tea is very refreshing although maintaining a very neutral thermal nature.

The fourth infusion has a slight slippery-roasted start, fruit notes have faded slightly and stabilize in the aftertaste. The fruity aftertaste is long. The mouthfeel develops a very soft sandy quality. This tea is refreshing and replenishing. The chaqi is moves throughout the body but is rooted in the digestive center. The movement is felt most in the chest and upper body, its affect is slightly relaxing. Interestingly, the qi of fo shou has some similar actions in the body especially to sooth and relax, to move qi, and to stabilize digestion.

In the fifth infusion more green tastes start to emerge with creamy more melon-citrus tones. The mouthfeel becomes more tight and thin. The aftertaste is lingers and caries this distinct melon-citrus taste for a long while.

The sixth and seventh infusions sees tastes that are still very noticeable but feel more full on the end and in the aftertaste. The initial taste is watery then turns almost woody. The fruity notes have migrated to the aftertaste, although they are still quite noticeable they start to loose weight. The melon-citrus aftertaste is long and enjoyable.

The last few infusions turn extremely watery but still share hints of woody notes as well as different fruity notes to enjoy.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Section 4. Storing Tea

"It must never be exposed to wind, for it easily becomes cold; if put too close to a fire, it soon goes yellow."

from Cha Sin Jeon- A Chronicle of the Spirit of Tea, a copy of Zhang Poyuan Chalu recorded by Cho Ui, translated in Korea Tea Classics

Those who do not have a copy of Korean Tea Classics do please follow along and participate by referencing a different English translation available here from The Leaf.

This tea classic will be covered one section a week which will go on for 24 weeks. Feel free to jump in with your commentary at anytime.


Monday, November 22, 2010

The Tradition of Autumnal/ Winter Green Teas

When the coloured leaves start to fall and the days get noticeably shorter, tea drinkers all to often find themselves reaching for a more dark, full bodied, warm natured tea. In couteries where green tea rules the hillsides and pallets all year round, the seasonal change in tea drinking is more subtle.

These days often we associate green tea with the Spring being that green tea shares energetic similarities with the season and has even come to represent the change of season. The first flushes, the first picks, the pre qing-mings, the ujeons, and the shinchas remind us that spring is finally here. In Japan the first picks of the year, the shinchas, still represent spring but it is often said that green tea is best in the Fall and that Fall is the season for green tea. Japan has a few Autumnal tea traditions that remind the Japanese about the relationship between green tea and Autumn.

Traditionally, the matcha season starts in the fall. Until this time matcha from the previous season was consumed. Although the full leaf precursor to matcha, tencha, is picked and processed in the early spring, it has spent the summer sealed in a container with the teamasters mark on it and buried underground. In the fall the container is retrieved, the seal broken, and the tencha is ground with a stone grinder into this seasons matcha. The ceremony is called Kuchikiri, or opening the mouth. This ceremony is often held in conjunction with the symbolic change in Japanese tea rooms from the smaller furo hearth of the summer season to the larger and warmer ro. This ceremony is called Robiraki and marks a new season of tea in Japan.

Tencha, the precursor to matcha, is not the only Japanese tea that undergoes this tradition of burying during the summer. Some shincha also goes through this procedure. They are called aki shincha (new fall shincha), kuchikiri shincha (opening the mouth shincha), or kuradashi shincha (shincha from the vault). These teas are buried only part way processed and undergo a final drying procedure to bring out their nature after they are unburied in the Fall.

A long time ago, before the age of nitro flushing, vacuum sealing, or foil packs this was the only way to protect the quality of tea leaves through the warm humid Summer which tended to quickly degrade the tea. So nowadays with all the latest packing technology why do they continue to make these autumnal teas in Japan?

Many tea masters claim that Fall tea simply tastes the best. They claim that it has more depth to its flavour and is more round in the mouth. The mellowing through the summer definitely gives these teas more depth as well as curb the excess of sweeter, lighter, qualities. Energetically these teas also change. They loose the strong rising and falling directional nature and become softer and slower in their movement throughout the body. This is the result of the slow changes they absorbed while buried underground. They become slightly warmer in thermal nature due to the heat they have generated throughout the summer and due to the final heat drying stage that occurs after they are unburied. For these reasons autumnal shincha and even matcha is much nicer on the stomach and is much more suitable for consumption during the Fall and Winter seasons.

In Korea, although they don't have a formal ceremony, they do drink green tea differently in the fall. In the South they sometimes roast their green tea in the Fall before consumption to give it more fire and warmth thereby harmonizing it with the seasonal change. Last year one drank a Korean tea that was picked in the spring and was left to ferment throughout the Summer before being finished with a traditional firing over an iron caldron in the Fall before being packaged. These interesting teas are quite rare in Korea.

This year one has been enjoying a seasonal shincha kindly gifted from Chado Tea House. This Autumnal/Winter shincha is apty named Hikozo (secret, jar, warehouse), secretly stored tea. It was first picked early in the Spring then stored in an abandon train tunnel that is used for wine and tea storage until being finished with a final drying in the fall. It is warmer in nature with a deep, rich, woody, meaty taste compared to the cooler, greener, lighter, fresher notes and feeling of spring shincha. It feels about as right as green tea can feel on this cold wintery day.



One wanted to also mention the role 'earth' plays in the energetic change that takes place with autumnal green teas but forgot to add this idea to the main body of the post.

It is important to note that autumnal/winter green tea is traditionally stored in earthenware pots when it is buried or stored. These pots contain the energies of Earth and Fire within them. Long storage in these containers imparts the energy of the storage vessel- the energy of Earth and Fire. Earth energy is stable, harmonious, and, of course, earthy. The energy of fire is warming. This is yet another subtle influence on autumnal green teas. If the tea is buried in the earth or at least stored underground, the Earth energy that surrounds it will also influence its subtle nature.

Double Peace

Saturday, November 20, 2010

2010 Tea Trekker Spring Organic Yin Zhen White Tea

One requested information on this tea and got a handful of info from Mary and Bob at Tea Trekker. It was picked at the end of April/ start of May in a natural, non-pesticide/fertilizer plantation. The garden is 100% owned and picked by the villagers who then sell it to the factory for processing. The name of village or garden is Song Yee near Fuding, Fujian.

The dry leaf is terribly fuzzy with an abundance of white hairs probably- these are very, hairy leaves. The odour is soft, faint, light, woody, airy, sweet with even a slight fruity edge. These leaves tumble into the warmed pot and warm water follows.

The first infusion is extraordinarily light and airy on the tongue- it tastes like one is simply tasting the odour. It displays very slight floral notes and finishes clean, cool, with a pure, light sweetness. The crisp clean nature stands out. The aftertaste contains a light, sugary sweetness that sicks to the roof and back of the throat. There is almost a very light, dry finish as well.

The second infusion pours a bubbly, almost frothy clear liquor. A slick, light, and airy liquid slips over the tongue and down the throat. It ends quite pure and sweet in the mouth. This tea is incredibly clean and pure. There is just the slightest hints of fruit in the taste.

The third infusion is a bit more slick and there is a slight soapiness to this infusion. More fruit notes that lean towards grape become apparent as do slight sweet earthy notes. The aftertaste holds the flavour until it melts away into a fine dry sweetness.

In the fourth infusion, earthy, slight pungent notes meet with very clean sweet notes. As they merge they fill the mouth with a light, cool, sweet taste. The mouthfeel is thin but full, the very slight grape flavour has a soft soapy earthiness to it. The chaqi is indeed cooling- ones hands and feet cool, ones chest feels light and free.

The fifth infusion is full of light fruit flavours a very thin crisp dryness becomes more apparent in the mouth but is not at all astringent. The sixth and seventh infusions contain earthier, grittier, drier tastes which encroach upon what is left of the fruitier notes.

It is taken for a few more infusions but they turn out to be floral, sweet, and mostly flavourless.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Section 3.Discerning the Quality of Tea

"The quality of a tea depends on the care taken in making it, on proper storage, and on correctly brewing it."

from Cha Sin Jeon- A Chronicle of the Spirit of Tea, a copy of Zhang Poyuan Chalu recorded by Cho Ui, translated in Korean Tea Classics

Those who do not have a copy of Korean Tea Classics do please follow along and participate by referencing a different English translation available here from The Leaf.

This tea classic will be covered one section a week which will go on for 24 weeks. Feel free to jump in with your commentary at anytime.


Monday, November 15, 2010

2010 Hao Ren Sheng Yin Zhen White Tea

This silver needle white tea comes from Daniel at The Chinese Tea Shop in Vancouver. It is a very early spring pick from an unspecified region of Fujian. The dry leaves are fresh, floral, and sweet with a slight tangy, earthy grape pungentness to them. The floral scent is almost rose. There is lots for the nose to enjoy.

The boiling water cools and the first infusion is prepared. It is a soft, creamy with slight earth notes that finish floral on the breath. The mouth feel is very soft and thin.

The second infusion is prepared and it is much of the first with more depth. A fruity pear note emerges which is very slight. It arcs from soft and fruity to more of a floral taste that is left in the aftertaste. Even the lips and throat are covered in this soft, misty, mouthfeel that, although thin, has a presence to it. As the aftertaste continues, the very light fruit notes seem to have more stamina than the floral here.

The third infusion is creamy with a very slight pungent, earthy sweetness that eases into light fruity grape notes that ease into your breath. Melon notes can even be pulled out here- the fruit notes are very subtle. The chaqi of this tea is light, airy, and dispersing. One feels a mild calm with a peaceful elevated alertness that brings mental clarity.

The fourth infusion is light, creamy, with a fruity aftertaste that is much stronger than in its initial taste. The flavour has hints of pungent character mixed with measures of floral and fruit. The mouthfeel feels full from the lips to the upper throat.

In this fifth the pungent-earthy notes carry a sweetness to them now. The taste and mouthfeel starts to become more course even the aftertaste is more pungent and earthy with floral tones mixed in. In the sixth infusion the pungent-earthy notes back off a bit leaving more distinct creamy floral notes of orange blossom to be enjoyed.

In the seventh and eighth infusions things start thinning into a fruity water with a mouthfeel that is limited to the front of the mouth. Creamy melon, sweet potato, even squash are some of the notes that glimmer from this light watery soup.

The tea is taken a few more infusions that are either too bitter and gritty or watery and tasteless. No matter, there are still very light earthy-pungent-fruity notes in the mix to dwell on.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Section 2. Drying Tea

"There is a mystery in it all that is hard to put into words. If the heating is done evenly, the colour and scent of the tea will be beautiful. The subtle mystery is endless, the divine taste of tea is altogether wonderful."

from Cha Sin Jeon- A Chronicle of the Spirit of Tea, a copy of Zhang Poyuan Chalu recorded by Cho Ui, translated in Korean Tea Classics

Those who do not have a copy of Korean Tea Classics do please follow along and participate by referencing a different English translation available here from The Leaf.

This tea classic will be covered one section a week which will go on for 24 weeks. Feel free to jump in with your commentary at anytime.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Types of Tea and Their Chaqi: White Tea

Recently a family member asked one to source some white tea for them. The timing was impeccable being that white is the colour of autumn- and according to the theories presented in the Huangdi Neijing (The Yellow Emperor's Inner Cannon), white tea may have some benefit in harmonizing the body to the season of autumn. One pondered these things in recent posts on Drinking Tea To Harmonize With The Seasons but due to ones rather inconsistent experience with white tea throughout the years, could not seem to grasp the deep meaning of why a white tea could be of any benefit in the Fall. Recent readings, tastings, reflections, and mediations on white tea have lead to a deeper understanding of its essence...

White tea is the coolest of all tea. Its colour reminds us of the icy cold- of the snow capped mountains. Its thermal nature is the most cooling of any tea. White teas that contain many buds are even cooler. Yin Zhen (silver needles) is the coolest of all. Composed of only buds the leaf configuration contains an abundance of cool yin energy. The many white hairs located on each bud directs the energy to the lower jiao and to the surface of the body. Generally, the more hair the better quality of tea.

White tea's flavour is tasteless and its colour relatively transparent which promotes the unimpeded purifying flow through our body and mind. Its tastelessness and cool thermal nature drains heat through urination, thereby cooling our body. It is therefore useful for those who have constitutionally hot body types. It has more smell than taste. Its light, floral, fruity aroma invigorates stagnant energy moving it lightly throughout our bodies. It is therefore useful for those who have a feeling of constriction, of stuck energy in their body (especially a feeling of oppression in the chest or constriction in the lower throat). The combination of its cool thermal nature and its light dispersing superficial movement make it ideal to rid the body of a fever. In the fall, when temperatures change and people catch the common cold and become hot and feverish, this tea is the most appropriate.

White is the colour of purity, the colour of the Lungs, the colour of qi. These qualities as well as the above mentioned characteristics help explain its healthful effects. Its pure, simple production results in such qualities. The purity and strength of white tea's qi is more effective than even other hairy bud teas such as high quality Long Jing in anticarcinogenicity studies. The pure nature of white tea also has a very strong antimicrobial effect.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Dao Tea Tasting Event: 2010 Kim Jong Yeol Hwagae Valley Saejak Green Tea

This tea is the last of the teas in this tasting event.
While cooling water the dry leaf is examined. They are thin straggly leaves that have a tangy, fruity, berry, nutty smell to them. A sweet, light floral under blanket adds a nice subtle nature to these juicy dry leaves. They are placed in the pot.
The first infusion is very juicy, light with soft, light fruit notes. Creamy, nutty, light, full of flavour.
The second infusion shows off a clean, light, brisk pine-wood start with a procession of clean bean flavours. There is a pungent-menthol like taste that is deep within the flavour profile. The mouthfeel is slightly drying with deeper light floral back notes. The soft fruity nature holds on the breath. A pungent-menthol-like taste that is deep within the flavour emerges.
The third infusion is a layering of fruity notes in a clean, crisp soup. Fresh pine-menthol notes add depth to this fresh pot of tea. The dry mouthfeel gathers a ball of sputum deep in ones throat. The chaqi is alerting as ones mind races without too much relaxation. This tea is a soft, sly stimulator.

In the fourth infusion dryness starts to infringe on the flavours, drying out the deep layers of the throat. The flavours seem almost watery, flavours of pine, nuts, and soft fruit hide under a more dominant mouthfeel. The drying nature of this tea pulls gently at the tongue and throat.
The fifth infusion is slightly rubbery along with the other flavours. The very slight pine-nut notes are quite enjoyable as this tea turns the mouth and throat dry pushing the saliva into the back of the throat and under the tongue, along with it are lingering tastes.

The sixth infusion shows mainly floral notes with a soft aftertaste that drags these notes to the back of the throat.

In the last two infusions, the tea noticeably flattens out and develops a rubbery, bland taste. Sometimes a slight flash of slightly sweet earthy notes is apparent.

This concludes the Dao Tea online tasting event. Thanks to Pedro at Dao Tea for making this possible by supplying the tea and covering a large chunk of the shipping and all those who participated.

Link to Adam's (The Sip Tip) Tasting Notes

Link to Bret's (Tea Goober) Tasting Notes

Link to Nate's (Subtle Experince) Tasting Notes


Friday, November 5, 2010

Section 1. Picking Tea

"Regarding the season for picking tea, choosing the right time is very important."

from Cha Sin Jeon- A Chronicle of the Spirit of Tea, a copy of Zhang Poyuan Chalu recorded by Cho Ui, translated in Korean Tea Classics

Those who do not have a copy of Korean Tea Classics do please follow along and participate by referencing a different English translation available here from The Leaf.

This tea classic will be covered one section a week which will go on for 24 weeks. Feel free to jump in with your commentary at anytime.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Dao Tea Tasting Event: 2009 Kim Jong Yeol Hwagae Valley Seajak Green Tea

This tea was included in the sample package merely for comparison purposes as Dao Tea only keeps a fresh stock of saejak. Here is a post of this tea when it was a lot more fresh.

Link To Adam's (The Sip Tip) Tasting Notes