Sunday, April 27, 2014

2013 Yi Ho Yeong Semi Wild Hwagae Valley Balhyocha

This tea is from a special order that took place a few months back. It was orchestrated by Arthur Park of Morning Crane Tea blog. The tea is from a rather famous tea producer, Yi Ho Yeong, who was made famous in the west by being featured in Hong Kyeong Hee and Brother Anthony’s book The Korean Way of Tea. The tea is all semi wild and produced in the most traditional way all by hand and with charcoal heat. To get more background on Yi Ho Yong and the traditional way she produces her teas see these two great posts here and here.

Dry leaves are larger, jungjak grade leaves. The emit an odor of deeper black currents and bold fermented hong cha like odors there is also an distinct malty sweetness in there as well it mingles with the deep current/ raison notes. These leaves are prepared in the Korean tea ceremony and enjoy as following…

The first infusion is full of distinct sweet honey notes which coat the mouth with other subtle tastes of deep plum and spice. The mouthfeel is mainly felt softly in the throat and slightly slippery in the mouth. It is a very full but soft sensation. There is a slight coolness found in the deep throat with this tea as the throat opens nicely and salivates.

The second infusion is more distinct now. The sweet honey notes are more prominent and now share room with deep current notes and even deeper hong cha/ forest tastes. The mouthfeel is now much more full especially in the throat where a full cool menthol like taste swells up nicely. The throat feel is distinct and quite noticeable. The qi of this tea is very harmonious and immediately lightens the mind. The qi travels to the head and makes the thoughts clear and the senses enhanced.

The third infusion levels off quite a bit with the taste elements melding into one. The most distinct being a deep sweet honey Hong cha taste. The mouth and throat feel remain present.

The fourth sees the tastes become more subdue and monotone. The taste becomes simplified here with some simple woody-red tea notes with a slight honey sweetness that reaches long into the aftertaste. The qi imparts waves of relaxation in this simply genuine balhyocha.

The fifth is pushed harder with just off boiling water and longer steeping time. It results in a slightly woody-apricot taste with a soft sweet honey-apricot finish. Overall the profile continues to be somewhat deep but there is always a measure of sweetness to balance these tastes out in the mouth.

This tea is pushed a few more infusions and enjoyed in this way.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Aged Korean Tea: Comparing Shamanic 2011 & 2013 O Juk Hun Hwagae Valley Balhyocha

Pedro of O5tea kindly gifted a 2013 and a 2011 sample of O Juk Hun's balhyocha from a personal stash from his travels in Korea last year.

Since “O Juk Hun" is not a common name in Korean tea circles so one pressed Pedro on a background story. He said that O Juk Hun is a shaman from the Hadong growing region. He ages his balhyocha in onggi, which are spread all over the hills.

This post will give readers a bit of an idea of how balhyocha will age. Previous tastings of aged balhyocha was not that exciting (see here and here).

2013 O Juk Hun Balhyocha:

The very tinny, delicate dry leaves have a very light and distinctly sweet plum and raison odor. The smell is powerfully fruity and almost perfume sweet. These are most definitely ujeon picked leaves.

These leaves are steeped in warm water and deliver very light, almost watery sweet fruity notes. The fruity notes seem to evolve and change from plums notes to more tropical notes. There are some forest notes suggestions in there as well. There is a creamy, almost chalk, mouthfeel which coats the mouth and upper throat. The aftertaste develops an almond milk type of note then minutes later again evolves into fruit. The qi is felt pooling in the abdomen.

The second infusion starts with a slightly creamy, orange-juicy, almost wood like taste with creamy fruit tastes acting as a base. These perfume-like, almost ylang-ylang, fruity tastes stretch out into the aftertaste. The end taste carries a slightly deeper, light juicy-wood taste.

The third starts watery and fruity but develops slightly bland wood-forest undertones. The mouthfeel is soft and slightly sticky and chalky. Slight fruit tastes stick in the mouth. A longer fruity wood taste drags out.

The fourth is again displaying a watery-woody-fruity taste. The mouthfeel holds as the flavors become more monotone but still flavorful. There is a longer aftertaste over the sticky mouthfeel- more fruit than wood in the aftertaste now.

The fifth is much the same but with smoother woodier, still sweet, forest notes becoming more distinct over the fruit notes.

The sixth was steeped longer with water a short time off boil and just pushed more wood dominated tastes out. The qi is mild and makes the chest feel slightly light.

The seventh was a long steeping with woody-sweet, barely-deep fruit tastes. Much the same.

2011 O Juk Hun Balhyocha:

These leaves a bit larger than the 2013 O Juk Hun likely saejak grade leaves. These leaves have a deeper, more purple hue to them as well. The dry leaves smell of deep, rich, heavy raison and carry a slight smell of library books, that which you would expect in a 10 years aged puerh. Examining the dry leaves I would never suspect these were the same teas 3 years removed.

The first infusion is a watery, slightly malty sweet flavor. That carries dusty aged tastes along for the ride. The most prominent taste is a currant/raison taste that sticks to the breathe. The mouthfeel is very watery and thin here.

The second delivers sweet, malty fruit tastes, with deeper tastes of currant/raison filling in the base taste of this tea. There is still an aged- library book like taste faintly dragging along the taste profile. The mouthfeel is very thin and is mainly realized in the front of the mouth.

The third gives off a watery, almost juicy fruity, initial taste. It is somewhat supported by the faint currant/raison tastes. The taste finishes dusky and slightly dry in the mouth. Overall the taste is very watery and fairly monotone. The qi of this tea moves in the abdomen slightly.

The fourth infusion is very bland, almost tasting like a standard watered down black CTC tea. It has some watered down suggestions of malt fruit or currants in the background. The mouthfeel dries out the tongue. There was still a stale note of aged tastes in there as well.

The fifth was much the same under a longer infusion.

Conclusion: These teas seemed like they were produced using different grade leaves. The 2013 pick earlier, ujeon grade, where the 2011 look like saejak or even early jungjak grade. Even with this difference aging of 3 years doesn't seem to give balhyocha any depth, instead as noted before the taste, texture, and qi of the tea seems diminished. This is similar to the conclusions reached in the past.

Thanks again Pedro for this interesting aging experience.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

2013 Kim Jong Yeol (Butea) Balhyocha "Saebyok" (Sunrise) Hwagae Valley Balhyocha

What is "Sunset" without "Sunrise"?

This is another seasonal favorite from producer Kim Jong Yeol through Pedro's O5tea of Vancouver.

These dry leaves smell of sweet creamy, subtly sweet, and even slightly musty milk chocolate.

The first infusion is light, sweet, has a slight fruity/vegital suggestion which turns into slight notes of coco. It all ends with a long cool aftertaste in the middle throat overlapping the coco base taste. The tongue has a slight tingle to it with this tea, the taste really opens in the throat. The feeling on the tongue is slightly sticky as it coats the mouth but also tingling. There is a certain fresh, brisk, crispness to this tea a balance between fresh and cool and grounding and chocolate. The qi is immediately relaxing.

The second infusion starts with a rich, creamy, sweet, and cool coco nuance which has a slight taste of mango in it. This initial taste gives more room to a creamy rich slightly deeper coco tastes in the end mixed with cool menthol tastes. The mouth, tongue, and throat is coated in a thick mouthfeel which flavours cling to.

The third is much the same, the mouthfeel and throatfeel is more full now. There is a mango fruit edge in very creamy coco tastes. In this infusion a base creamy wood taste is just barely noticeable now.

The fourth is a touch of caramel and wood now with creamy almost papya coco edges over a thick mouthfeel. The cool menthol has weakened a bit now. The mouthfeel remains strong and supports these wonderful flavours.

The fifth is quite woody now with a very nice full mouthfeel. There are some suggestion of sweet fruit but much of the flavour depth has faded now. There are sweet, floral notes that appear now as well, adding to the interesting depth of this balhyocha. A very noticable cooling menthol finish also hold.

This tea is taken for a few more infusions and even enjoyed in an overnight steeping... MMMmmmm.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

2013 Kim Jung Yeol (Butea) "Noeul" (Sunset) Hwagae Valley Balhyocha

The Saskatchewan winter this year has been the coldest in decades even yesterday it was snowing. To help the body harmonize to this unnatural cold one has been consuming tons of balhyocha, Korean yellow tea (Hwang cha). Over then next few weeks I hope to review some of these interesting teas- some seasonal favorites while others are brand new experiences.

This is a balhyocha that one looks forward to every year (here is a review of last year's). This is the second bag of this stuff via my good friend Pedro of O5tea consumed through this bitterly cold winter. Seems to be just the right tea on some of these sunny, frigid days.

The dry leaves fill the room with thick, distinct, creamy, milky, deep-sweet chocolate odors. 

The first infusion is full of this flavor- sweet, creamy, milky chocolate notes. There is a slight cool coco after taste deep in the throat. The flavor is long and lingers on the tongue and deep in the mouth. The mouthfeel is thin but fully coats the mouth, tongue, and deep throat.

The second is much more full in the mouth with its coating slightly sticky in the throat and tongue. There is much the same delicious creamy-chocolately full base taste but now with more wood-peanut notes underneath.

The third has initial tones of banana and slight pear fruit tastes which share space with chocolate. Wood and peanut support these tastes to add a layered nuance to this tea. A slight cool aftertaste is noted in the throat with peanut and wood notes stuck to the tongue. This tea imparts a nice deep relaxing feeling and is quite uplifting even on the coldest of cold days. The digestive system feels supported and warm, like a nice comforting hug.

The fourth has a mild, creamy, woody taste with much of the dense creamy chocolate tastes dropping off now. There is a nice balance of wood and coco now with more of a flat and stable taste profile. Even the cool throat feel has diminished a bit. The mouthfeel is full and thin slightly sticky still.

The fifth is much the same under a longer steeping time. There are more distinct chocolately notes now as the tea is push a little longer here to almost one minute infusions.

The sixth is cloaked in chocolate notes once again.


Saturday, March 15, 2014 2013 Naka

This is the last of Peter's 2013 samples- a sample from Naka.  It looks like this nice cake has since sold out- too bad its a good one.

The dry leaves smell of light floral, fragrant fruity notes sneaks into the nose.

The first infusion is of a light watery taste with notes of honey in the aftertaste. There is a nice long distinct sweet fruit taste that plays out lingering on the aftertaste. Mouthfeel is soft and slightly sticky in the mouth and upper throat.

The second has a frosty fresh forest initial taste then it dips into a deep dense fruity taste in the mouth. There is a nice cool and creamy sweet menthol finish in the mouth. The mouthfeel has a creamy/chalky density that feels right in the mouth. It coats the upper and mid throat.

The third starts with a creamy-sweet barely bitter taste. The strong and deep fruity taste quickly arrives and lingers. There is a long dense fruity taste that sticks deep into the throat. Even minutes later there are deep dense fruit tastes. Distinct honey-floral come out later.

The fourth is a dense deep fruity taste less divided and more packed into the dense taste profile of this tea. Deep fruits linger with menthol which opens floral tastes into the throat. The qi is mild and makes the body feel light.

The fifth is much the same heavy tastes now with a deep fruit taste which dominates the profile. The aftertaste continues its sweet & long taste of creamy, menthol-laced fruits and honey taste.

In the sixth it has more of a watery profile, likely from a shorter infusion. It is still full of creamy, fruity, sweet tastes and full chalky throat feel. The creamy notes come out more under light pressure here.

Wishing to take this tea further, something rather important comes up, and these leaves are left for a few days in the pot. One will be sure to enjoy what is left of the sample.

Thanks again Peter for the opportunity to taste these 2013 cakes.


Saturday, February 22, 2014 2013 Bada

This sample courtesy of Peter at is from the Bada region.

Dry leaves smell of deep foresty-pungent notes and slight hay-grass smells. There is also an light undercurrent of light-sweet-creamy-indistinct fruit sweet notes.

The first infusion has a watery initial taste which swells into a creamy-sweet taste with a clear very mild slight wood base to support the higher notes. This first infusion is very clear with two distinct polarities emerging on the pallet. The mouthfeel is thin and slightly sticky. It manages to reach the mid throat and stick to the tongue. The taste profile stretches into a gummy/woody barely sweet flat floral aftertaste.

The second starts with a woody taste mixed with a slight flat sweet taste. The mouthfeel is full here and opens the throat nicely. There is a dry feeling which is left behind. Flavors of cherry fruit with a thin slightly bitter wood underpin the taste lingering on the breath. It ends in a chalky-dry mouthfeel.

The third infusion starts with a bland dry wood taste. This taste dominates the profile of this tea with very little action under this dominant base taste. There are some slight creamy and barely sweet cherry fruit tastes that swell up quickly then disappear- barely able to penetrate the woody base. The feeling in the mouth is slightly drying in the mouth and mid throat. The qi of this tea rises to the face flushing it slightly. Thanks to the deeper throat feel, minutes later a taste of slight tropical fruits feels stuck in the tongue.

The fourth and fifth infusions start with a bitter/bland wood taste. The strength of the initial wood taste seems to get stronger as the infusions progress. Now it carries a stronger bitter edge. A whiff of sweet cherry tastes barely brake through. The aftertaste is a dry wood slight metallic taste with some barely sweet edges. The mouthfeel becomes more drying as well. A rubbery taste is left in the mouth minutes later. The qi has a soft but uplifting quality to it. It is not so hard on the stomach despite its dry/ bitter edge.

The sixth infusion delivers a watery-woody initial taste that is showing signs of winding down. With less overwhelming woody-bitter tastes much more of the profile is of very soft-faint, barely sweet, plain florals.

The seventh is pushed a bit harder and reveals more dry wood tones but much the same as the sixth. The lighter tastes are pushed away and more woody notes are pushed out. The slight floral-cherry taste skirts under woody notes mainly at the end of the profile. The mouth- and throatfeel have diminished as well. There is not that much left in the throat anymore. A muted floral taste is left in the throat even ten minutes later.

The eight is much the same, it is more bitter, with longer steeping time but also noticeably more floral in its taste. There is a soapy edge to this taste. It is somewhat enjoyable so these leaves are steeped once more. This ninth infusion is more fruity but very light. This tea develops a very slow but evolving profile and the late infusions still have something to be enjoyed.

Hobbes' (The Half-Dipper) Tasting Notes

Jakub's (T) Tasting Notes