Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Jukro Jungjak Hwagae Valley Green Tea

This tea was purchased directly from Korea but is also available for purchase at CoreaColor.  CoreaColor offers this tea in its extensive original, and fittingly festive, packaging for the Korean shelf price- a good deal outside of Korea.  This jungjak grade tea comes from famous tea producer Jukro and, as usual, is a completely hand produced affair.

The dry leaves give off a deep, musty-evergreen, forest note with sweeter grain layers presenting first.

The first infusion is prepared and a sweet and clear roasty-forest note presents first.  This note fades into a sugary sweetness- a sweet, deep foresty taste is left in the mouth.  A slippery mouthfeel with a soft, numbing, cool fullness continues on the lips.

The second infusion displays a roasty nut taste in the mix with deeper soupy-thick forest notes that are somewhat sweet.  Slight floral and raspberry notes spring up in the aftertaste along with grain cerial notes.

The third infusion has more of a rich forest start with dry wood and wheat grains filling out the profile.  These tastes slowly traverse to sweet deep green forest.  Hidden in here are fruity, barely sweet, notes appearing later on the breath.  The mouthfeel is heavier in the mouth now.

The fourth infusion flashes dry wood and deep forest.  The dry wood taste quickly vanishes leaving sweet forest notes that develop into that sweet, light floral berry aftertaste.  The qi is vibrant and clear.  It opens the chest and calms the mind.

In the fifth a sweet clear taste emerges initially with woody-forest and wheaty-grain tastes now becoming a bit dry in the mouth.  A fresher, almost menthol, forest aftertaste is apparent.  The sweetness of this infusion is weaker but still makes an appearance with a very faint fruit taste.  The sixth infusion is much the same with woody-bark notes also sharing the aftertaste.

The seventh infusion flashes dry wood then a light, clear, sweet, forest taste stretches across the profile with the aftertaste remaining relatively sweet, soft, and long.  The eighth infusion is more dry and woody.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Korean Tea Pages New and Old

Before there were any English books on Korean tea, or even mention of Korea in tea books, there were two really great sources of Korean tea information in English. In fact, in 2007, before MattCha's Blog even existed, these two sources were pretty much the only English information of Korean tea info on the internet. This information was in the form of web pages authored by Anthony of Taize and David Mason. Over the years they have significantly updated these sites to include a growing amount of Korean tea information and are still excellent free sources by two knowledgeable and kind pioneers of Korean tea culture in the English speaking world.

A few days ago one stumbled on a 49 page English research paper on Korean tea. It is basically just a combination of English sources and at times is a bit repetitive. Don't know who compiled the info, by the looks of it a German, but it probably took a lot of work. See here for a link to this paper:

Happy reading.


Monday, December 12, 2011

2009? Wild Lapsong Souchong

Zhengshan Xiaozhong (aka Lapsong Souchong) is one of only a handful of teas that can improve with age although most outlets that sell this tea don't age it. The lack of aged lapsong in the market likely indicates the use of artificial smoking or poor production techniques. This sample was gifted by Pedro of Dao tea, he aquired it from the owner and highly recommended I try it. It is from an online store called Wild Qi Tea where the site claims that it is 2/3 years aged.

Lapson Souchong has an abundantly warm thermal nature. Although all hong cha has qi that is warming, lapsong's heat is even more warming. This is because it takes on the essence of fire as it is smoked with pine during its production. One of the reasons why this tea is aged is to remove some of the smokiness and bring its energy into a more harmonious state.

Very sweet smooth grape smelling odours emit from these very small tippy mixed black and gold dry leaves- not the typical zhengshan xiaozhong leaves one remembers. Its been a while. A wood pine chalkiness welcomes then slowly transforms into sweet caramel transferring back to subtle smokey wood in the mouth. The transition between these tastes is slow and smooth, the mouthfeel full, wide, and chalky.

The second infusion starts with a sweet, open-watery taste which is filled with caramel then slowly fills the mouth with pine woody notes as the chalky mouthfeel slowly encroaches on the edges of the mouth. The aftertaste has a strong cooling undertone that is noticed with each in-breath. The chest heats up like an oven and the head feels light, the mind and eyes clear, and then focus ensues.

The third infusion starts with a taste that is less sweet and has a longer blank-empty-watery taste with each resulting infusion. The wood pine note is noticed under the whole profile. The aftertaste here is woody and more dry in the mouth. It has subtle hints of soft, smoky currents and is still quite cooling.

The fourth infusion has an even longer empty dry wood pine taste which slowly encroaches upon this emptiness. Sweet woody-gummy-grape aftertaste comes out in the aftertaste which still carries a coolness- the subtle smoky pine base is present throughout. The qi seems to heat the chest, heart, and imparts coolness to the head and limbs. The stomach and digestive organs are energized and softly vibrate. The fifth infusion is much the same but is considerably weaker.

The sixth and following infusions are reduced to dry wood and soft fruit. It is enjoyed like this for a few more pots.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2011 Kim Jong Yeol (Butea) Jungjak Hwagae Valley Green Tea

This tea is available for purchase from Martin at Tea Mountain. This 15 gram sample was kindly gifted from Pedro of Daotea. This is another tea from the hands of Kim Jong Yeol, this one was produced on the second week of May- a Jungjak grade. Interestingly, this tea was prepared with the usual amount of dry leaves and yielded quite unexciting results. The second time preparing this tea a very liberal amount of dry leaf was used and the results were quite nice. The following notes are from this second attempt at these dry leaves on a cool fall late afternoon...

These soft sugary-sweet smelling, longish, darker green dry leaves are prepared and the first infusion is enjoyed. It pours a pale green with very light sweet foresty taste which presents first and finishes with a very soft sugary sweet bean finish. The mouthfeel is dry and soft and covers the mouth and throat.

The second infusion has that same very light intial taste, this time it seems slightly creamy this lighter presentation moves into a forest base. There is a very soft, faint, forest-creamy, sugary-sweet finish. The mouthfeel is a touch dry and moves the saliva away from the surface of the tongue but at the same time makes the mouth salivate- the effect is subtle.

Infusion number three offers vivid, crisp, soft and creamy-sweet greens. These tastes fade into a very soft frosty sweet sugary orchid aftertaste.

The fourth infusion is even more crisp and fresh but still relatively soft and mild. There is an undercurrent of sugary sweet notes under the whole taste profile. A barely fruity sweetness is detected just under the surface of these sweet notes. A sugary wood taste holds the base of this tea steady. This tea is very pure tasting and when steeped right can be refreshing especially for a jungjak grade.

The fifth infusion is similar to the last infusion but with deeper, dry, woody-forest notes starting to increasingly sneak into the fray. The fullness and depth of this tea is realized here in these later infusions. The aftertaste is of sweet, long, fruity notes.

In the sixth infusion drier wood notes now dominate with very little fresh vibrant green left- instead deeper forest notes reside in each sip. A dry, barely fruity aftertaste lingers before fading away. The tea is drying in the throat. The qi ascends to the head and softly releases as it climbs softly into the mind.

The seventh and eight infusions offer somewhat bitter, dry, gritty wood with flashes of muddled long forest fruit taste that disappears fast as it arrives. The aftertaste is light but is of a deeper forest taste. The mouthfeel is dry and descends deeper into the throat.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fire, Water, & the Art of Charcoal: Part 1- Introduction

There is little to no literature in English on the use of charcoal to heat water for tea, yet it was done this way for hundreds even thousands of years before. It is quite humorous that one English site claims that there once was an Tao of Charcoal- although this is meant to be a joke there is a measure of truth to it. There is a traditional Way of Tea that sees the use of charcoal as an essential component to harmonize the energies of the tea room while imparting the best possible taste to the water. Few people who have tried tea made with water boiled over charcoal heat deny that it creates the best possible water for tea. Current scientific research in Japan suggests that the benifits of infrared heat might have something to do with slight changes in the water's structure under infrared heat (see comments section here).

Fire is thought to be the most yang of the elements. Fire is active, vibrant, hot, and ascends- this is natures law. Water is thought to be the most yin of the elements. Water is passive, nourishing, cool, and descends- this is nature's law. In the traditional movement of the Five Elements, Water is thought to control or balance Fire. When Fire becomes relatively more abundant Water can pacify its energy. Conversely, an overabundance of Fire can pacify Water. When we make tea, the goal is harmony between these Elements.

Wood also plays an intermediate roll between Water and Fire. Wood is nourished by Water. Water's nourishment is necessary for Wood to grow and become strong. In this way it is said that Water is the mother of Wood. Wood generates Fire. Wood acts as fuel which is necessary for Fire to burn and become powerful. In this way it is said that Wood is the mother of Fire. This is the way of nature and the way of the Dao.

Throughout early tea history wood was likely used as the primary source of heat for making tea, old images and poems describe the use of wood when making tea while enjoying the vast beauties of the outdoors. It is important to note here that the heat given off from wood and traditional charcoal are energetically different- traditional charcoal burns as pure infrared where as wood heats with the gases released from the wood itself as well as infrared. As a result burning wood and burning charcoal each impact the boiling water and the resulting tea infusions slightly differently.

Over the years wood was slowly refined into higher and higher quality charcoal. Charcoal had an advantage over wood in that it could burn longer and more controlled. Gradually charcoal was refined to the high quality traditional grade that is used today- reaching its zenith only 300 years ago.

Due to the convenience and consistency of modern heat sources, the use of traditional charcoal in the preparation of tea has declined dramatically. The use of traditional charcoal has always been to create harmony in the tea room and within the teapot. It should be noted that in today's world the use of charcoal is often not appropriate and could create more disharmony in the tea room especially if not used mindfully.

In the following weeks and months this series will focus on how to achieve harmony when using traditional charcoal to boil water for tea. It will cover topics such as: the different cultural traditions of using traditional charcoal to boil water for tea, determining the quality of charcoal, making your own charcoal, methods and theories of starting a charcoal fire, safety issues when using traditional charcoal, and the energetics of traditional charcoal.

So, as the chill of Winter sets in, gather round and feel the penetrating warmth as we discuss in detail the harmony that traditional charcoal brings to the preparation of tea.


Disclaimer: Using any flammable substance such as charcoal comes with some level of risk. MattCha's Blog takes no responsibly for any harm done by readers of this blog. Please use common sense and take reasonable safety precautions when using charcoal. Always make sure there is adequate ventilation if burning charcoal inside.

Double Peace

Thursday, December 1, 2011

2008 Chen Sheng Hao "Nannuo"

This sample has sure made it around the block. It was given to Hobbes and now makes its way to this stained ceramic tea table. This cake is available for purchase from Red Lantern.

The brown hairy dry leaves smell of distant creamy sweetness. As the first infusion is prepared on this cold and wet late fall day ones mind unwinds with this tea. It pours a browny-orange-tinged yellow. As these colours make their way into the mouth and down the throat, dirty, gritty, smooth pear-like tastes come and go before ducking into a fritty, not that sweet, wood taste. The base flavor seems to be this gritty, dirt tasting, wood flavour. The aftertaste leaves a faint sweetness on the lips. It feels chalky and somewhat gritty in the mouth.

The second infusions starts off with a thick malty and goopy taste that still carries a dirty underlying base. This initial taste has very faint spicy-pear like sweetness in its return. The mouthfeel reaches deep into the throat and heavily coats the mouth, tongue, and lips.

The third starts off similar with a malty tastes but this time it carries cool menthol notes that then turn into that gritty bark base note. The finish is of that malty-dirty taste with notes of cherry fruit underneath creating a nice balance.

The fourth infusion starts to smoothly transition the tastes together in a nice broad balancing kind of way. The malty taste has softened considerably and the taste profile feels more rounded as it moves from grittier malted tastes to sweeter higher tastes of cherry even soft florals.

In the fifth and sixth infusions the dirty woodier notes seem like they are starting to slowly overpower the slightly sweet cherry fruit tastes. The mouthfeel is nice at this point and is especially nice in the throat. The chaqi is mild and seems to act more on the mind than body- the mind seems clearer than usual under the influence of this tea.

The seveth infusion turns a new leaf as this tea now seems to be slightly more sweet and cherry. The balance between sweet juicy malty flavours now present in the initial taste. It does carry a some gritty notes but smoothly transitions to barely fruit notes in malted wood.

In the eighth a distinctive fresh, cool, menthol taste mixed with subtle fruit suggestions passes under the woody, gritty base. This flavour profile almost becomes more distinctive in the ninth, tenth infusions.

The infusions that follow contain a nice subtle cool fruity taste that is most noticeable in the aftertaste the woody base continues to hold but is not as distinct or noticeable as the sweeter more motive higher tastes.