Tuesday, May 29, 2012

World Tea Expo: The First Place In North America To Sample the Latest Korean Green Tea Harvest

Unlike the first picks of Japanese or Chinese green tea which make there way to North American tea a few weeks after being picked, it usually takes a few months before Korean Ujeon tea makes its way to the store shelves and websites. The reason is multifaceted but overall it depends on demand for this tea. Korean tea is quite a new concept in North America, in fact most tea drinkers are probably unaware that Korea even produces tea (smart readers of this blog are, of course, the exception).  Out of those who have tried Korean tea, most would have tried the more accessible and affordable Saejak, Junjak, or Daejak grades, not the early Ujeon flushes. Affordability is a big factor. Have never heard of anyone try an Ujeon grade and not think it was an amazing tea. However, most either still don't feel it is worth the steep prices Ujeon teas carry or they simply can't afford them.

Due to low demand for Ujeon, most English dealers of Korea tea either don't choose to offer Ujeon grade or simply ship the small amount they do order with the other grades of Korean green tea to increase their already minimal profit margins on Ujeon teas. All this results in an Ujeon grade that is picked and packaged months before it reaches the shelves in North America. Over the last few years, The World Tea Expo has been the first place to try the latest Korean harvest in North America.

There has been only a couple of booths offering Korean tea that have popped up at the World Tea Expo over the last few years. These have included tea from famous Korean tea producers Joy Tea, Jukro, Hankook, and O'Sulloc, among others.

This year there are eight Korean booths at the World Tea Expo but only two, O'sulloc and Hankook, are from major green tea producers. The other booths seem to offer other services, herbal teas which are more popular in Korea, or seem a bit vague as to what they are offering (like Sang-Eup Green Tea Village!?!). Linked below is some background info on these two Korean green tea producers for those doing their homework before the festival:


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Experiments with Re-roasting Stale Green Tea

When Mina of Hankook Tea gifted the whole organic line of Hankook tea, she did so with unnecessary apology. She said that she was all sold out of the Organic Gamnong and was going to wait for the fresh 2012 tea to replenish her stock. As a result she sent an old 2010 Organic Gamnong she had sitting around and suggested re-roasting it.

Although re-roasting tea is often done in the country and is a form of peasant tea, a way to use up stale tea, one really doubted the need for such measures. So this 2010 tea was prepared as is and the results were not so good. Later less leaf was used but still the result was not so good with the tea session halted after only four harsh infusions. One did realize something- over all these years never had one sampled Korean green tea that was over a year old. One has gotten into the practice of using up all the green tea from last year before the new year' harvest arrives. However it makes sense that the tea would not be very fresh as Korean green tea degrades rather quickly. Noticeable changes in the tea can be detected even in factory packaging six months after production.

This week has been quite cool, cloudy, and rainy so one spent it trying to perfect a roasting technique to bring this old green tea back to life. Below are the notes on the un-roasted stale Organic "Gamnong". Followed by commentary on how to achieve the best results on re-roasting green tea. Last are the final tasting notes on the re-roasted green tea. The results are interesting. First the un-roasted stale green tea session...

The dry leaves give off forest notes with nice balance of depth and freshness but overall very monotone forest notes come from the very small dry leaves.

The first infusion is prepared and delivers soft grassy, barely roasted flat florals with soft sweet cornmeal-like tastes in a green-yellow soup.  There is a soft bland-bitter taste under these as well that is quite noticeable.  Faint floral notes travel to the nose in the aftertaste with some very light bland notes in the mouth.  The mouthfeel is soft in this first infusion.

The second infusion has somewhat heavier perfumey florals which present first with distinctly bland and bitter notes. The mouthfeel is thin and coated. The aftertaste is of bland plums and grasses.

The third and fourth infusions presents strong bland-bitter unpalatable tastes. Floral tastes linger in the aftertaste over a distinct bland-bitter base. The mouthfeel is thin and sticky and reaches into the upper throat. The qi of this tea feels confused in the body. The qi roughs up the body, it is especially noticed in the stomach where this strange energy feels raw and hollow. This is a sign of improper chaqi. In fact, it even causes slight uncomfortable wrenching in the stomach and even makes one nauseous. Traditional Asian cultures refer to this cha qi as being cold, its energy stagnant. The tea session was ended here.

After roasting green tea for that past week and meditating and reflecting on this, one has come up with some good guidelines for re-roasting green tea.

One used a old cast iron pan on an older gas range. The concept of re-roasting tea is to reactivate the tea's energy thereby bringing it out of its stagnancy as well as engendering the tea with warm thermal energy to counteract the cold thermal nature which it had developed. Cast iron is used because it distributes heat evenly and imparts a penetrating warmth- in the movement of the Five Elements it is said that Metal Controls Wood. Fire from the gas range imparts true warmth and changes the essence of the tea.

It is important to prewarm the cast iron over low heat before adding the dry leaves. The dry leaves should be only roasted for 1-2 minutes and stirred frequently with a metal spatula to ensure that the leaves are evenly roasted. The leaves should be only roasted until an fragrance is released. Fragrance is the yang aspect of tea with taste being the yin aspect. Movement and warmth are also considered yang entities. When the fragrance has been released from the leaves, its emotive essence has been awakened and warm energy has then been imparted into the tea.

It is important that the tea is not over-roasted or its yin aspect, taste, will be overwhelmed. If this happens the tea will loose its subtleties and simply give off a monotone roasted taste with a very simple, weak, but nonetheless, warming qi. A sign that the tea is over-roasted is that the dry leaves turn yellow in the pan. In the Cha Sin Jeon it states that, "if (tea is) put too close to the fire, it soon goes yellow."

The following are the notes for a successful re-roasted tea...

The first infusion is prepared and pours yellow. It has a soft roasted barley-rice taste with slight sweet edge. A smooth, mellow mouthfeel with soft sweet tastes are left on the breath. It covers the mouth in a soft coat especially on the sides and roof of the mouth.

The second infusion is prepared and delivers distinct but soft roasted barley-rice initial tastes with melon sweet edges in the finish. The sweetness stays on the breath for a long time. The comforting qi warms the stomach slightly and mildly calms the mind.

In the third infusion a distinct roasted taste now carries woody notes. The sweet melon flavours have now been pushed more into the late aftertaste and on the breath now. The mouthfeel is somewhat sticky and full. The fourth infusion is much the same this time with more of a grainy mouthfeel.

The fifth infusion becomes chalky in the mouth. The sweet melon tastes are now just faint on the breath. The sixth infusion is watery and thinner versions on this.

In the end the stomach feels warm and comforted, the mind feels at peace. Re-roasting tea is unlikely to make old tea as good as it once was, but it certainly makes it drinkable again.


Friday, May 18, 2012

2011 Hankook "Oryong" Daejak Grade Korean Oolong Tea

This tea was gifted by Pedro a few weeks ago. He is on a quest to find a "very drinkable" yet affordable Korean Balhyocha to offer the public from his soon to be open tea house. He has been experimenting with several other daejak and peasant teas. He had two samples of teas which are both daejak grade from two different producers. This tea is actually a Korean oolong transliterated as "oryong" in Korean. It should not be confused with Hankook's "Chigarok Hwang Cha" or "Hwang Cha" (or the lesser known "Hwang Cha B Grade" available as a teabag or by wholesale only).

Mina Park of Hankook Tea claims that this tea is different from most other Chinese oolong because it is made from short leaf Korean tea plants as opposed to the long leaf variety that is used in China. Wonder if it resembles anything like Kim Jeong Yeol's experiments with daejak oolong?

The dry leaves carry the odour of sweet raisins with a very slight woody edge emit from these reddish edged, large, dark brown dry leaves.- this is oolong- not typical Korean yellow tea (balhyocha). They release a deeper sweet mollases odour once they hit the warmed teapot. A bit warmer water and longer steeps are used with these bigger leaves.

The first infusion delivers very distinct roasted-nutty almost coco flavours presenting over a thin, slightly coarse mouthfeel. Its roasted taste is strong and lingers in the mouth.

The second infusion gives off more woody-varnish taste upfront which finishes in the strong distinctive roasty flavours presented in the first infusion. The aftertaste also carries the sour-varnish taste that had appeared in the initial taste of this second infusion. The qi of this tea has a hardy warmth which warms the abdomin and chest and imparts mild relaxation. It has a very heavy, drying feel in the body, one can feel pressure in the temples.

In the third infusion the nutty coco tastes have dropped off completely leaving a primarily woody base that carries bland-sour wood varnish tastes. The mouthfeel is thin, coarse, and drying here. The heavy qi sensation feels as if a weight has been placed on top of the head.

The fourth and fifth infusions have mellowed considerably and offer woodsy, soft, dry, simple tastes over a dry, thin mouthfeel. In the sixth infusion, mellower chocolate-wood notes now complete the initial taste.

The following few infusions leave watery but distinct fruit tastes which push through this mainly woody tasting tea. In these later infusions the qi is quite relaxing.

Although this is not available to the English speaking public drop Mina Park from Hankook Tea an email if you are interested in trying or selling this tea.  I'm sure she could hook you up.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

2012 Castleton Estate FTGFOP 1CH (SPL) First Flush Darjeeling

One took this nice warm spring afternoon to enjoy the first 2012 tea of the season. This sample was gifted by Pedro, of Dao Tea. He is very busy in anticipation of the opening of his new brick and mortar store this July in Vancouver. This tea came from Lochan Tea although it is not listed on his new look web page.  It is however available from Tea Trekker.

The 2009 first flush from Castleton Estate was quite memorable, lets see if this tea has what its 2009 brother had...

The dry leaves smell of fresh, subtle limey-lemon florals which come from leaves that are a real mix of light greens, hairy whites, medium and dark greens and browns.

The first infusion delivers distinct, fresh, soft grape notes with very subtle soapy Thrills Gum initial taste which has a nice round juicy sweetness about it. Underneath are soft tangy notes which linger in the mouth. The mouthfeel is especially felt on edges of lips and front of tongue. It leaves a very thin, soft powdery-puckery sensation behind. A blue berry aftertaste finds its way to the breath.

The second infusion begins with that very distinct grape taste which is just very slightly muddled and nicely balanced by a indistinct deep taste. These tastes come together like a slightly chalky-vegital taste under a very round and vibrant grape. The aftertaste is a clean grape-blue berry taste. The mouthfeel gets caught between the teeth, gums, cheeks, and mid throat now.

The third infusion is still full of distinct grape tastes. This grape now descends a bit deeper into the base lending itself to a gummier, deeper grape flavour. The mouthfeel continues to expand now covering the full mouth and upper throat. The qi is mild and light with energy circulating on the skin's surface and a very mild warmth on the hairline.

The fourth infusion sees the base taste of deeper vegitals gobbling up that grape taste. Now it leaves just faint hints of grape. The mouthfeel has diminished slightly although it still covers the mouth nicely. The aftertaste is edges of this grape taste.

The later infusions are very long and push out mainly just watery, barely sweet, grapey edges.

Edited with Tea Trekker link May 5/2012


Friday, May 11, 2012

Tea & Colloidal Gold: A Sampling of 2011 Bo Hyang Tea "Gold Green Tea" Certified Organic Boseong Green Tea

When first hearing about this tea a single thought came to mind: Cheesy Gimmick. However after drinking the first pot one's feeling towards this tea quickly changed.

In 2009 Choi Young Ki, the teamaster at Bo Hyang Tea, acquired organic certification from Korean, JAS, and USDA for his 7000 square foot tea garden in the Boseong tea producing area. He managed to go one step further in 2010 when Sungkyunkwan University confirmed that his tea leaves do in fact contain traces of gold. This is because Choi Young Ki sprays the roots of his tea plants with colloidal gold. So why on earth would someone spray their tea fields with gold?

Collodial gold, or red colloidal gold, has a long history in Asia and is perhaps the first synthetic drug. It is gold which when broken into its smallest components looks red in a liquid form. The Daoist Classic, Bao Pu Zi, has a Chapter called Huangbai, or Gold and Silver, where it states that only those who imbibe gold can achieve enlightenment. According to Daoist Alchemy the consumption of Gold and Silver represent the pure forms of Yin and Yang. Gold is Yang and is related to the sun, true Yang energy. It was used as a tonic to improve brain functioning, increase the immune system and sexual functioning. The colour of colloidal gold is red, the colour of the deepest internal level, the dan tain, and the colour of blood. As a result it was thought to calm our hearts and minds, its red colour detoxifying and strengthening our blood. Modern research suggests it may be useful to treat leukemia and other blood disorders.

But do these energetic properties make any noticeable difference in the leaves of this tea? Let's sit down, next to the kettle and find out...

The small ujeon grade dry leaves are fresh, slightly minty, and give off a forest smell. The colour of the leaves is deep green, perhaps an effect of the colloidal gold or just good organic growth?

The first infusion is prepared with warm water and a soft very light creamy forest taste is found in the cup. A subtle sweetness blends with the creamy taste. The mouthfeel is full and powdery coating the mouth and lips.

The second infusion gives off a very soft, light creamy, vegital, Swiss chard-like taste with a very mild sweetness. Ghostly florals underneath can't quite break through this base taste. The aftertaste that is left behind is that greeny-forest-vegital chard taste. The mouthfeel remains thick, powdery, and coating even in the upper throat now. This tea has an overall smoothness to it.

The third infusion is much the same as above with less vegital tastes and more of a smooth continuity. This tea has very little sweetness mainly barely detectable and mixed with the creamier characteristics. The qi is quite relaxing at this point.

Each infusion is getting progressively more creamy and chalky a trend that continues in the fourth infusion. It seems that the mouthfeel is also a touch more expansive with each infusion as well. Now the sensation of this tea reaches the mid-throat. The qi sensation is very tranquil now, a touch warming in the abdomen, chest, and even felt on the brow.

The fifth infusion sees the smooth soft coating mouthfeel overtake the subtle creamy barely green tastes of this tea. Still very nice and full in the mouth and throat.

In the sixth infusion a creaminess starts to reveal a soft dryness in taste and mouthfeel. The taste is almost gone where the mouthfeel feels nice, smooth, and full. It carries what little tastes are left along to enjoy. These tastes are just slight edges of creamy barely sweet forest. The qi feels warm in the body, unusual for green tea which usually imparts a cool thermal nature. Wild and organic green teas can also be somewhat warming but perhaps not as strong as this distinct warmth.

The seventh infusion submits woody notes and dryness. The full mouthfeel now becomes slightly coarse.

Thanks Pedro for supplying samples of this Gold Green Tea that he had recently picked up in Boseong. An interesting tea indeed.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Appreciation & Wear of Kim Kyoung Soo's Grey and White Style: Three Cups

Hot water passes from the serving pot and into the cups to warm them. Its stream contact the bottom of the cup- the water poured from a short distance echos peace. The cups are each filled 1/3 with water and left until they become warm. They are purposefully picked up with the right hand and brought to the dan tian where they symbolically contact the purity of the white hemp cleaning cloth held in the left hand. The hot water is slowly tilted towards the distant edge of the cup and then slowly angled clockwise around the lip of the cup. This clockwise direction indicates a filling of the cup with energy and creating energetic space for the tea which will so arrive here. Obviously, it is also done to warm the full inside surface area of each cup.

The hot water is then poured into the dirty water bowl, the small bead of water is wiped away with the pure white hemp cloth, and the cup makes its way back on to the table. This exact routine is now completed with the other two cups.

When the tea is prepared and poured into the serving pot from the teapot it makes its way into the cup closest and furthest left to the person preparing tea. The sound of the tea hitting the empty, warm cups now sound even more peaceful than just minutes later. The tea is poured from a short distance from each cup creating a sound that resembles a trickling stream. Pouring too fast, this sound and feeling is lost and a hurried feeling is added to the tea room. Pouring too slow, this sound and feeling is also lost and a stagnant over-restrained feeling is added to the tea room.

Half of the first cup is poured, then half of the second cup, the cup above or to the immediate right of the first cup, then the third cup is fully filled, the second cup is then topped up, then the first topped up. A few small bubbles float softly on the surface of the liquid.

The white of the inside of the cup represents the purity or reverence that we show to the tea- it the surface contacting the tea. It is the purity and peace which we all strive for while drinking tea, the peace inside us. In the ChaSinJeon white cups are best for drinking tea so that the full colour of tea can be fully appreciated. The inside of each cup is crackled and stained from the tea oils, each also has small air holes. This is each cup's fingerprint, its impression on us, on our tea experience.

It is glazed with a simple grey fieldspar glaze on the outside representing the modesty we should project outwardly when enjoying tea. Each cup has the pictograph of a moon, a yin symbol. The functions of cups are too hold, a yin function. Reminding us of our inner nature and quietude as we sip from its insides.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

2008 Fangmingyuan Bama

One has a great tea drinking bud that drinks exclusively puerh tea. We meet up for tea every month or so to drink a bunch of puerh. He is a fan of ol'Hobbes of the Half-Dipper (aren't we all) and was ordering some cakes from Taobao that Hobbes had recently reviewed (months ago now). This Bama was one of those cakes from that Taobao order that we ended up splitting.

The dry leaves are of a muted, sour, and slightly pungent wood odour. These leaves are rinsed with boiling water and the first infusion commences...

The first infusion is sour-pungent, deep-gritty-dirty tastes with a sweetness of over ripe fruit. Pumpkin notes can be detected in the watery bouquet. Late sour plum notes can be detected minutes later on the breath. A feeling of warm qi swirling and pooling in the stomach and lower abdomen is noticed.

The second infusion is more deep gritty notes now with a malty-bitter-sweet initial taste. There is a sour, distinctly apricot and plum, fruit taste. These flavours are strong and heavy. The mouth is coated in a thin slightly drying coat with plum and dirty apricot aftertastes hanging on. Qi is strong and moving.

The third infusion is a thick, malty, sweet taste which arrives first before a sour, bitter taste follows not far behind. There is a heavy floral note in there as well that can be compared to patchouli. Qi now induces a sweat.

The fourth infusion comes on with a watery sweetness in a sour-bitter initial taste. It has a goopy-thick, gritty edge with a thick flower-plum finish. The mouthfeel swells in the throat expending slightly and covers the mouth in a thin dry coat.

The fifth infusion has a watery-sweet start but is markedly smoother than previous infusions with creamy, plum finish over slightly sour-bitter base notes.

The sixth, seventh, and eighth infusions have noticeably more fruit edges among the watery, bitter-sweet base. Apricot, mango, and melon come to mind- this fruity taste is now quite long and stretches throughout the taste profile. Qi causes bursts of heat the whole body turns quite warm now. The gritty and dirty elements of this tea are now so subtle in the background providing nice contrast to the distinct fruit tastes.

The tenth infusion is pushed a bit longer and yields more tangy-apricot but slightly more bitter as well. It seems less vibrant now.

This tea is put through longer infusions now, even overnight infusions, revealing a full, distinct, juicy taste with a substantial mouthfeel pinning lingering floral tastes down. The aftertaste is a continuation of the floral and fruit tastes.