Monday, November 19, 2012

2012 Sourenee FTGFOP 1 CH Muscatel Second Flush Darjeeling

With the long summer and early start to Winter here in Victoria, Autumn has seem to come and gone way too fast. Now most leaves are in piles on the ground and the temperature is typical wet and cold- Winter's familiar feel. Today, in an attempt to warm up, a sample of second flush Darjeeling tea is nothing but comforting. This sample from Sourenee Estate was gifted by the Lochan's of Lochan Tea. The 2011 harvest of this tea is also available from Tea Trekker, where their page for this tea offers brief but valuable info on Sourenee's recent organic certification, its history, and its name.

The redish coloured dry leaves are sweet and smell of candy, lilac, and is overly light, airy, and sweet with very faint suggestions of woody-licorice-grape.

The first infusion is prepared and a sweet, candied, soft grape like taste is left in the mouth from this reddish broth. This taste turns slightly into a forest wood and yam taste before turning slightly licorice and sweet with just an edge of grape. The mouthfeel is full and turns the tongue and lips somewhat rubbery. Minutes later a licorice grape taste is left in the throat. There is a unnoticeable menthol taste and feel which is slightly cooling in the mouth especially in the aftertaste. The qi is more leaning to a warm-neutral and is not harsh on the stomach. It brings about a strict but not edgy alertness.

The second starts off with that same candy-like, but now almost more rubbery, and distinctly soapy-floral sweetness which carries a muscatel edge. There is a quick muted suggestion of coco that is quickly and powerfully suppressed by the predominant soapy-grape taste which is reminiscent of Thrills gum, a Canadian classic. There are some woody tones that pop up later with licorice then fade into a rubbery, slightly soapy-grape taste. The mouthfeel is still full but not so stimulating for the tongue and lips.

The third gives off a soft, smooth simple monotone soapy-floral-grape taste that spans the simple profile. It becomes just slightly woody for a few seconds then slightly sour in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel weakens a bit but is still slightly rubbery on the lips and tongue. The fourth infusion is even softer now with bland notes encroaching now.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

2012 "Roasting Sejak" Ssang Kye Semi-wild Jiri Mountian Green Tea

First things first... Yes, there is an obvious mis-translation here. The translation of this tea should actually be "Roasted Sejak" not "Roasting Sejak". The name differentiates it from Ssang Kye's other saejak, their "Jaksul Saejak". This is Ssang Kye's premium saejak offering that is all hand picked in late April and undergoes special, traditional, all hand made processing. The traditional processing that this tea undergoes uses oak firewood and mulberry leaves to heat the iron cauldron rather than the much more economical and easier to control gas heat. This tea is finished off with a sandalwood charcoal roasting.

This tea was purchased in an order from Good Green Tea this summer. Sam still has this tea available. Have been drinking it off and on for a few months now- the onset of cool damp weather has put one off regular green tea consumption. Well, let's see if all this effort produces a superior saejak?

The pale, deep green dry leaves smell of fresh, smooth, almost creamy, minty-forest odours. They are added to the warm pot...

The first infusion is very sweet. Light sprouts and creamy-milky-foresty tastes appear with deeper forest taste lingering underneath The aftertaste is very sweet, light, soft vegital-celery taste. The mouthfeel is light velvet and slippery and is felt mainly at the back of the mouth and into the throat. It is not that present in the front half of the mouth.

The second infusion starts once again very sweet, light, creamy-forest. It ends with creamy floral notes and almost unnoticeable dry wood notes lingering underneath. It develops into a creamy-chalky, candy-like sweetness in the mouth. The mouthfeel is felt slightly cooling in the mid and upper throat. It now fills out the rest of the mouth with nice stimulation. The qi warms the chest and the heart and makes them light along with the head. The limbs feel of a slight coolness so does the back.

The third infusion starts off with a soft, unassuming, minty-forest taste which turns slightly sweet, barely woody, and very creamy-chalky. It flourishes into a chalky full taste in the mouth and leaves a somewhat long aftertaste. A faint, sweet melon taste lingers in the mouth. The high notes drop a bit in this infusion.

The fourth infusion sees a more wood-forest , barely sweet, minty-cool-melon initial taste. A woody finish becomes more pronounced now. Then it transforms to a slightly cereal note before quickly disappearing into faint roasted barley. The barley stretches into some barely noticeable fruit notes that hide under faint roasted cereal suggestions. The longer the aftertaste the more distinct the melon taste becomes. The qi brings one into a relaxed alertness.

The fifth infusion has sweet, dry, woody-forest initial tastes. These tastes turn slightly chalky then slowly stretch into a taste which has sweet edges of melon that hide under dry wood tastes. The dry wood taste is now predominant throughout the profile of this tea even masking some of the aftertaste. The full mouthfeel becomes dry and stimulates the mouth and offers a slight cooling in the throat still.

The sixth is much the same as the fifth but it is more watery now. Loosing the stronger wood tastes of last infusion, it is much smoother throughout the profile. The mouthfeel has softened and the aftertaste is much more creamy. The seventh is pretty much the same as the sixth, a bit more watery.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Passing of a Great Modren Korean Tea Thinker, Yang Won Suh

Last month a great modern Korean tea thinker passed away. His name is Yang Won Suh and he was the founder and CEO of one of Korea's oldest and pioneering tea companies, Hankook Tea. He founded the company over 50 years ago and since then has been one of the major supporters of Korean tea domestically and internationally. In Korea he funded statues of the Korean Saint of tea, Cho-Ui, and provided advice and assistance to may other Korean tea companies. He was instrumental in providing guidance to the largest Korean tea company, O'Sulloc Tea. Internationally, he launched the first Korean tea shop in the USA under his Hankook Tea brand.

He was recognized, formally for his contribution to Korean tea by the Korean Government who named him a Grand Master of Traditional Korean Foods (Myung In) of hwang cha (aka yellow tea or balhyocha) and matcha (korean powdered tea). He is one of only four others who are recognized Myung In for Korean tea.

Yang Won Suh, thanks for your wonderful contribution to Korean tea.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

2012 Ssang Kye "Chun-Go-Hyang" (1000 Day Aged) Yellow Tea... On Another Cold Autumn Day

Remember consuming the 2011 release of this same tea last year at this same time. Autumn harmonizes nicely with Korean balhyocha (Yellow tea) so naturally it feels right during this season. Last year there was an interesting discussion in the comment section on the amount of time Korean producers age their balhyocha before it is released to the public and how this can influence quality of the tea. Currently, this "1000 Day Aged" balhyocha is aged longer than any other commercially available balhyocha. Interestingly, "Chun Go Hyang" consistently delivers a more substantial mouthfeel than most balhyocha and an array of autumnal juicy, fruit flavours. When Jukro used to age their balhyocha for three years (pre-2011) the mouthfeel was also slightly more full. Could it be the aging or something else??? ? Sam of Good Green Tea now carries this unique balhyocha for those who are interested.

Let's boil the water up on this cold Autumn day and enjoy some tea...

The dry leaves contain in them distinct, deep, sweet bread notes with spicy cinnamon and cloves. There is a slight foresty-wood base that also come off from the deep-grey-greenish-toned leaves. These leaves are added to the warm pot, the warmth of the water resting in the cool water bowl warms the hands on this cool fall day.

The first infusion has distinct sweet, bready-plum-apricot subtleties in the initial taste which develop a spicy, tanginess as it proceeds into aftertaste. The mouthfeel paints a full but soft coat over the tongue, mouth, and upper throat. The qi is slightly warming and soothing for the stomach.

The second infusion is juicy, sweet with a deep bread initial taste which fades into distinct sweet fruits of baked apple and spicy persimmon, distant walnut. The mouthfeel really coats the mouth in this soft coating that makes the lips stick to the teeth.

In the third infusion a more juicy-smooth initial taste with bread notes now mingle more with the juicy-spicy-fruity tastes that stretch into the aftertaste. The fruit flavours are more pronounced in this infusion. A papaya aftertaste is left on the breath minutes later.

The fourth infusion is even more juicy now with fruits filling the initial taste then slowly fading to muted spices and interesting bread-wood tastes. These tastes stretch onto the breath.

In the fifth and sixth infusions a smooth, almost creamy, tangy wood initial taste appears. It then fades into a dry wood with fruity-sweet notes slowly popping up. The mouthfeel offers a nice soft gripping sensation in the mid-throat, and is a touch drier in the mouth. There is a faint woody finish left on the breath.

In the seventh infusion smooth, creamy-woody-bread taste has light edges of sweet fruit, maybe persimmon. The aftertaste lingers in the upper throat and mouth and faintly suggests fruits. The eighth infusion is much the same but noticeably more tangy and woody.

The tea is put to an overnight infusion and delivers tangy, deep, woody and prune tastes.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

2012 Kim Jong Yeol (Butea) "Noeul" (Sunset) Hwagae Valley Balhyocha

One did not get the opportunity to try this tea last year and instead sampled the ujeon/early saejak grade Saebyok "Sunrise". On a recent trip to O5tea one picked up a small bag of this "Noeul" (Sunset) balhyocha which was picked between May 10th-May 20th this year, a saejak grade. Pedro's new O5tea is not the only tea company in the West to carry Kim Jong Yeol's balhyocha but it is the only shop that carries all three grades from Kim Jong Yeol's Butea brand.

Let's sit down on the floor boil the water, and enjoy some tea on this rainy, cool autumn day...

Appreciating the dry leaves, a distinct and robust, creamy-milky-chocolate note arrives from the newly opened bag. The odour is a heavy, deep, monotone smell. In the warm pot deeper raisin and fruits are released.

The first infusion delivers light, juicy, coco-like taste over top of faint, indistinct fruit notes. This taste fades slowly into a light coco taste. The mouthfeel is very light moss especially coating the front tongue and teeth.

The second infusion has woody-sweet taste emerging initially then is intercepted by coco notes which stretch into the aftertaste. Minutes later there is a creamy-bread edge to these coco tastes. The mouthfeel slowly covers more ground.

The third infusion is sweet, watery, distinctly chocolate tastes that have a sharp, dry edge to it. There is a long, simple coco aftertaste with slight hints of dry wood. Underneath this lay almost unnoticeable raisin notes that try to push through into the aftertaste but skirt underneath instead letting coco tastes room to waft on the breath.

In the fourth infusion the sweet, water initial taste has less coco and more wood in it- the balance is almost 50/50 here. It develops a muted juicy fruit edge then falls off into faint mango and coco aftertastes. The mouthfeel is a faint moss which is mainly felt in the mouth and tongue but also faintly in the upper throat. Minutes later the after taste is a solitary simple dry wood.

The juicy fruit edge of last infusion cannot be seen in this fifth infusion. There is instead a sweet woody-coco taste. The aftertaste is a continuation of this taste with faint, sweet, fruits attempting to break through underneath. The middle throat opens up to the very faint, mossy mouthfeel that isn't even a touch drying.

The sixth infusion offers a sweet, distinctly woody but mainly chocolate taste which is simple and now spans the profile with some wood underneath. The coco taste continues in the aftertaste with just the slightest tangy fruit taste squeezing in as well. Subtle, peaceful qi sensation offers a soft warm sensation over the body.

The seventh and eighth infusions are still very flavourful and give out sweet-coco-wood followed by a wave of undulating, almost creamy, juicy, subtle mango fruit tastes. The fruit stretch with light wood and almost unnoticeable coco on to the breath.

The leaves are put through a few overnight infusions although they could have still underwent a few more minute long infusions, given the stamina of the leaves at this point. The first overnight infusion puts out distinct roasted coco notes with a honey finish in the mouth. The mouthfeel remains strong. The next overnight infusion reveals full nice date taste with a back flavour of coco.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tea In Vancouver: O5Tea

Last weekend one took a ferry off the island and ended up spending time in Pedro's new brick and mortar tea shop, O5tea, in Vancouver. The shop is located on 4th, an upper scale Kitsilano business area for those unfamiliar with the city. A large window with displays of bamboo wrapped puerh tongs, hand carved matcha stone grinders, and Japanese style electric braziers welcomes you- the front door is wide open. When inside you are invited by the smiles of staff to sit down and try some tea at the long tea bar which stretches the full distance of the long narrow retail space. The space has high ceilings with funky lighting that receives as much attention as the tea. In the far end are pictures of the farms and farmers where the tea is sourced. Hanging on spaced wooden paneled walls opposite the tea bar are clean displays of packaged loose leaf tea and teawear (by David Louveau among others) for sale.

There is an iron tetsubin purchased from Hojo that boils water at lightning pace on a induction heater that smoothly blends into the sleek interior. The bar surface is composed of natural wood which adds a natural touch to the contemporary feel of the teabar. There are stainless steel drains built into the bar which offer contrast. The staff behind the bar, some of Japanese and Korean descent, keep the cups full and the conversation and tea info rolling. It is a charmingly social space where one effortlessly fades in and out of conversation with those to the right and left at the bar. Over the few hours drinking tea, numerous people of different ethnicity, age, tea experience, and walks of life cycle through.

During the few hours spent there one managed to sample some cold infused and bottled 2011 Autumnal Flush Margret's Hope Estate and 2012 Silver Needles, hot 2012 "Noeul" (Sunset) Kim Jong Yeol (Butea) Balhyocha, 1991 Oolong, slow-sugar reduced preparation of Jamaica, as well as some paring-chasers of old factory sake, and aged Mezcal. The comparison to Victoria's Jagasilk is hard to not make from the wood bar to the cold-bottled infusions, the influence is obvious. On the other hand O5tea has a more contemporary edge and a much more engaging space. Pedro, the once owner of Daotea, has done well in creating a special tea space- an experience much enjoyed!

Took home some 2012 "Noeul" Kim Jong Yeol (Butea) Balhyocha, watch for a review of this tea in the weeks to come.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

1995 Yi Yang Fu Zhuan Brick Tea

Over the last few weeks one has consumed Fu Zhuan Cha on an almost daily basis. The decades old bricks which one has consumed over the last five years or so are dwindling. Thankfully Daniel of The Chinese Tea Shop provided a generous sample, this dry stored 1995 Fu Zhuan Brick from Yi Yang factory, and one has been dipping into it off and on. Let's heat up the kettle and see what this old brick is all about...

The dry leaves display visible flecks of "golden flower" mold and smell of very sour but dry wood-bark. The sour notes linger in the nose- an almost fermented sweet odour.

The first infusion is prepared and gives off a flat sweet initial taste which gives way to a malty flavour then to wood and cereal with undercurrents of sweet-corn and flat-caramel. There is a faint sweet caramel and sweet corn-wood aftertaste. The mouthfeel is slightly dry and is felt in the mouth and barely in the upper throat. The taste seems, like most fu tea, to be on one monotone plane with different tastes coming and going with ease.

The second infusion delivers a flat, dry, maple-wood sweet taste in the initial profile. This profile disappears leaving sweet-corn and dry woody-sweet tastes over a distinctly malty base. The aftertaste is simple and malty with faint corn and a slightly caramel disposition. The qi of this tea is very relaxing, ones breath feels much more relaxed- nicely calming.

The third infusion has the same initial taste with slightly stronger dry wood and slightly less flat sweetness. It seems smoother now and transitions less noticeably through the same profile.

In the fourth infusion the tastes become slightly less distinct with more dry-wood taste apparent. Still it is pretty much the same as last infusion with more of a slightly deeper malty-sweet lingering aftertaste which resides in the upper throat. In the fifth infusion the lingering malty-caramel aftertaste becomes even more distinct and has some nice sweet edges to it.

In the sixth and seventh infusions things get more creamy and smooth. The tea develops a velvet-like feel in the mouth with the malty-sweet-caramel taste dwindling over wood notes throughout the profile. The seventh infusion has slight, creamy, vanilla notes in there as well.

In the eighth and ninth infusions woody tastes and malty tastes offer a nice very simple balance. The tastes become uncomplicated here.

In the tenth infusion has a distinct wood broth with a thin pear aftertaste. Fruity qualities are starting to emerge here.

This tea is put to a few more long steepings and it gives up tangy, flat plum fruits, in a watery, subtle smokey broth.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Types of Tea and Their Chaqi: Hunan Fu Brick Tea (Fu Zhuan Cha)

Hunan has three famous hei cha, or black tea, which comes from the province. Perhaps the best known here in the west is fu zhuan cha or fu brick tea (Kor. bok jeun cha). This tea is a favorite and one drinks it heavily during the late summer and in times of seasonal change. This tea is a simple tea, not as flashy nor complex as other hei cha such as puerh, it has the distinctly subtle effect of regulating, harmonizing, centering, and grounding and strongly resonates with the Earth Element. No wonder this tea is loved by many monks in Korea.

Fu brick tea is harvested during the hottest days of Summer, this makes it unique among other types of tea that are usually best harvested in Spring. The harvest time strongly influences the subtle and physical characteristics of fu zhuan cha. Biochemically, tea leaves that are picked in Summer have more fluorine, catechins, and are therefore more bitter and contain larger, dark green leaves. The bitter taste is surprisingly absent from all fu zhuang cha as it is eliminated through fermentation of the leaves. The high fluorine levels however can cause bone weakening especially later in life if this tea is consumed daily (see here and here). The Summer tea leaves used for fu zhuan cha also grow slower and have more of a warmer thermal nature, having absorbed the heat of the hot Summer sun.

What gives fu zhuan cha its regulating, harmonizing, centering, and grounding properties is its special production method. Its production is rather complex and involve twelve steps which include: fresh picking of leaves, panning, pile fermentation, rolling, drying, softening with steam, piling, partitioning, pressing into bricks, fungal fermentation, drying, packing and storing. In the end there are many pro-bacterial flora that proliferate in the finished tea the most commonly recognized is the eurotium cristatum bacteria which produces fu zhuan's famous "golden flower" yellow mold. It is famous because it is most noticeable to the naked eye. However many other bacteria are found in fu brick tea, and not all brick tea contain golden flowers.

Fu zhuan cha has a special affinity for the digestive center, the Earth Element. This is partly because of its slightly warming thermal nature which fortifies digestion in the body but mainly because of its bacterial content. According to the theory of the Five Elements, Yellow is the colour of the Earth Element and the Stomach and Spleen are the organs of the Earth Element. It is no wonder that the quality of a particular brick is often measured by the amount of "yellow flowers" contained in the brick. The Earth Element is also connected to the Late Summer season and the change of season at the equinoxes and solstices. Fu zhuan's strong centering qualities allow us to get through these periods of change with its stabilizing qualities. As a result it is the tea that best harmonizes us with this season.

Its mild, unpretentious taste and smell neither impart too much yang not yin, helping to again stabilize us along the path of the middle way. Fu tea contains a mild sweet taste. The sweet taste is said to be the taste of the Earth Element further harmonizing it with these energies.

Traditionally this tea has been used to aid in digestion by remote Tibetans and Mongolians. Recently it has been found that the bacterial cultures in fu zhuan cha increase protein and carbohydrate metabolism, while preventing the absorption of fat in the body. Years ago Japanese studies have shown fu tea to be the best tea for weight loss which is probably due to this newly discovered effect.


Monday, September 24, 2012

The Five Traditional Types of Korean Tea

Inspired by this chart found in a post by Toki on The Seven Types of Chinese Tea and this article by Brother Anthony of Taize called The Varieties of Tea in Korea published in The Leaf. Both fall a bit short in explaining or categorizing Korean tea types and their production, so thought one would take a shot at it...


(click on picture to enlarge)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

2012 Tian Rui Xiang Lao Ban Zhang

A sample of this fine Lao Ban Zhang cake was gifted by Daniel Liu of The Chinese Tea Shop. He provides excellent background on this tea and on Ban Zhang in general on posts on his vendor blog (see here and here). Especially interesting is his commentary on Lao Ban Zhang, Xing Ban Zhang, and Lao Man Er and the statistics on tea in Lao Ban Zhang. No doubt, old Lao Ban Zhang is the talk of puerh circles. Let's see what this cake has in store...

The dry leaves are a multicoloured mix of medium young fuzzy leaves, mainly buds, which give off a savory-meaty odour with thin tobacco smoke, strong pungent deep forest odours and sweet light fruit smells under all of it.

The first infusion pours a pure vibrant yellow. Sweet, cool, pungent tastes expands in the mouth there is a light, savory base that is barely noticed underneath it all. A long pungent pure tingling occurs on the tongue. Minutes later sweet, slightly creamy, root beer tastes pop up in the mouth.

The second infusion presents with sweet, clear, pure initial tastes which numbs the mouth with a soft tingling mouthfeel before pungent-sweet notes bring on light candy-melon-fruit notes. The mouthfeel reaches the mid-throat and opens it with a soft-creamy-candy-sweet coolness. Saliva pools quietly in the throat.

The third infusion has an initial taste that is pure, sweet, and stretches into a cool, sweet taste. The mouthfeel sticks to the teeth, saliva pools deep in the throat, and a strong vibrant banana-melon, sweet creamy-candy aftertaste is left lingering in the mouth.

The fourth infusion sees a sweet, pure, initial taste that is smothered by a mouthfeel which coats the whole mouth and throat. After this sensation recedes, there are barely savory-pungent notes under more vibrant, distinct sweet creamy fruit notes which open into the throat. The qi is very relaxing and cooling to the extremities. In the core there is a slightly warming sensation. It feels very nice in the body.

The fifth infusion is much the same with more distinct sweet candy-like fruits in the initial taste. A cool sweetness starts to gain momentum in the throat then slowly expands outward. There is a very light pungent taste caught in the mouthfeel which adds separation and depth from the dominating sweet high notes. This depth is clear in this fifth infusion.

The sixth infusion has even more distinct fruits and sweet high note tastes up in the initial flavour. The thick mouthfeel overtakes these light flavours somewhat and leaves a long, fruity-sweet aftertaste behind.

In the seventh and eighth infusions everything becomes slightly softer with the high notes still quite strong but more smooth, less distinctly vibrant here. There are noticeably tangy melon edges now. These high note tastes are most noticed along with distinct returning coolness in the aftertaste where they maintain there overly vibrant quality. The qi strongly brings up the mood, and intensely focuses the mind, and makes the hands and feet feel cool, almost tingling.

In the ninth infusion crisp, sweet high notes begin to be muddled with forest notes in the initial taste. Tangy melon notes from the initial taste stretch into the aftertaste.

The tenth infusion sees a slight, quick flash of savory and bland forest which turns sweet then is washed away with a mouthfeel which later brings sweet-creamy fruits on the breath. The mouthfeel continues in the deep-mid throat and mouth but is becoming slightly less dense now.

In the eleventh and twelfth infusions sweet, but mild banana-like fruits are in the initial taste and distinctly span the profile of this infusion. The flavour has softened considerably now. The mouthfeel softens but continues its strong presence. There is a long-candy-like aftertaste left in the mouth.

In the thirteenth infusion there is more wild foresty depth found but still may high notes to be enjoyed. This tea has stamina because in the fourteenth infusion is finally starts to loose lots of its flavour. There is still a faint spattering of previous flavours, the mouthfeel still full in the throat.

Put to an overnight infusion these leaves give a pungent, cool, vibrant offering of fruity high notes.