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.