December 9, 2010

The Taming Of The Shu

Isn't that a corny title? Well, at least it's appropriate for the issue at hand. 2006 is the year that Menghai won the Gold Award for the V93 tuocha, and this is the same tea from the same year. I had bought these when they first became available (six years ago) and they have been in storage ever since. Still available (here) but at about twice the price they sold for when first released.

Menghai still sets the standard when it comes to cooked puerh, you really can't beat em. Although there are shu's from other company's that are well on their way to challenging Menghai's position. The world is full of average quality, mediocre shu and it can be a bit of a challenge to find the good stuff. But once the goods have been procured, it needs to go into storage for at least several years to mellow. At five years of age this tea has (in my opinion) reached it's potential. Well, maybe another year or two of clean, dry storage would bring further improvements but for the most part it's good to go.

I,m not a subscriber to the "older is better" school of thought when it comes to cooked puerh. Shu definitely needs it's storage time but it can't stand up to the lengthy storage time that a raw puerh needs. In my opinion, shu reaches it's potential within a five to ten year time span and then starts to fade and loose it;s flavor. The handful of shu's Ive had that were older than ten years were not very good, they were bland and boring.

The color of the dry leaf is exactly what I want to see, a nice healthy caramel brown with some red and gold bit's here and there. Not the dull, monochromatic shades of muck you,ll find in lesser teas.

What I really like about the V93 recipe is it's cleanliness in the cup. It's not one of those heavy, sludge like shu's. It's flavors and aroma's are woodsy, rich and nutty with a caramel like sweetness.  What also sets it apart from the others is the crisp and clean aspects it brings to the cup. It brews up a deep amber cup with sparkling clarity.

Easily brews ten to fifteen infusions, which is a bit much even for me. Autumn and Winter is the only time of year I drink cooked puerh, any other season and the flavors are too much for my palate. But in the cold of Winter it's very satisfying.

December 4, 2010

Ding Gu Da Fang

I always feel a little guilty about having all of these teas going un-drunk and wasting away in the tea cabinet. So, Ive been making an honest effort to consume a substantial quantity of these neglected teas before Christmas gets here and I get bombarded with more gifts of tea.

Ding Gu Da Fang is a China green tea that was once a tribute tea during the Qing Dynasty and at one time was included in the list of China's 10 famous teas. Legend has it that a Buddhist monk by the name of Da Fang invented this tea during the Song Dynasty. Ding Gu translates as Valley Peak. Grown in the An Hui province.

First thing many people say about this tea is that it reminiscent of a Long Jing, "Poppycock" it's only similarity as far as I can see is that the dry leaf kinda resembles Long Jing in that it's kinda flat, thin and a yellowish green in color. It has none of the toasty, yeasty flavors that I associate with a Long Jing. The leaf in the above picture looks pretty tattered (bottom of the caddie) but you can see in the top picture that the dry leaf is for the most part whole and beautiful.

Ding Gu Da Fang tastes of chestnuts, smooth and buttery, slightly sweet and vegetal with a medium body. It's not a dainty tea by any means.  Most of the descriptions Ive read about Ding Gu Da Fang tea always refers to it as being rather strong tasting, Ive never thought of it as strong. Ive also never had a Ding Gu Da Fang that was anything more than a really good everyday type of tea, just a rich and tasty cup that wouldn't hurt any ones budget. For my tastes this tea requires extra leaf to get fully saturated flavors, I typically use about 3&1/2 gms. per 6 oz. 185 degree water, with a 2-3 minute infusion time. Ive had a kilo of this tea in the cabinet since last spring and though I drink it almost daily Ive got a long ways to go before it's gone. For anyone interested in trying this tea "Uptons" has just re-stocked it (which is where I had bought this batch) and it's affordable too boot!

The only reason for the above picture is just because I like the cup, but it's not mine. I got it for a friend and it's on it's way to Canada. Oh well......we bonded a little, we laughed, we cried, but now it's time for you to go. The cups as well as the shiboridashi in this post were made by Petr Novak. The shiboridashi has some issues, the glaze is chipping off all around the edge of the lid. But I don't know why, it's never been treated roughly. Perhaps Petr can tell us why the glaze is crumbling?

December 2, 2010

That Red Tin Ti Kuan Yin Oolong

This tea was given to me by a well meaning person a long, long time ago. We have all seen these tins on the shelves of just about every Chinese market. I always appreciate the gift of tea, no matter how humble it may be. I had actually forgotten about this tin of oolong, it's been in the cabinet for a year or more. Today while digging through all the bags, tins, boxes of teas I found this and thought I,d give it a go. I,m probably not any different than most people reading this in that Ive got more tea samples and bits of this and that laying around than I,ll ever get around to trying. I,m making a concerted effort to try to whittle these teas down a bit before buying anything else.

I had to run some errands today and stopped by the Asian market and sure enough, there it was on the shelf. At $5.99 a tin I shouldn't expect much. I see that "Puerh Shop" has this same exact tea on sale for $13.77 Just go's to show that you should be very careful where you spend your money. Not all of Puerh Shop's teas are this over priced, some of his teas are very good and sold at a fair price.

Opening the tins outer and inner lids unleashes a very strong roasted aroma with some very pungent citrus aspects wafting into the room. The teas dry leaf is pretty darned strong smelling. Could be a good sign, could be a sign of overly roasted bland and lifeless tea. So......lets get some leaf into the pot, give it a good rinse and see what we have here.

First things first, the first infusion smells very strongly of the roast and a floral smell that Ive always thought of as "grapefruit flower" a very clean and tart citrus with just a touch of spice is in the mix as well. The aroma is impressive, it smells good. The tea brews up fairly clear with a deep amber color. The flavor isn't bad, actually, it's a lot better than I thought it would be considering it's price. It's body is a little thin and not much in the way of sweetness, but all in all, it's really not a bad tea. Perfectly acceptable as a matter of fact. Of course you can't compare this tea to others selling for a lot more money but it has some of the same flavors and aromas as those higher priced oolongs.

It was a nice gift after all. Now I,m not saying I'd run out and buy a few tins of this stuff but what I have I,ll drink and enjoy it. We all know that you get what you pay for but every once in a while I,m surprised at some of these mass produced teas. Most of them are not very good, or even drinkable for that matter. I don't always have to have some really expensive tea in my cup to be happy, and most days I,m too busy and don't have enough time to really appreciate my tea. So, I save my "good" teas for a time when I can give them the attention they deserve.  But having said that, sooner or latter after drinking these kinds of teas for a while I will get to the point where I,m wanting something sublime. And no matter how hard you look you are never going to find sublime for $5.99 or $13.77 depending on where you shop. Nope, your going to have to fork out the dough.

November 25, 2010

What The Pho!

Happy Thanksgiving

 As there are no family around this year I am at liberty to cook whatever I want for Thanksgiving dinner. I don't like turkey at all, and for that matter most of the traditional dishes that accompany the Thanksgiving feast are not at the top of my list of favorite foods. I do like Yams though. O.K. so.......what to cook? I decided to make Pho ( pronounced fuh ) Pho is Vietnam's national dish. A big steaming bowl of rice noodles, with either chicken or beef, swimming in a broth made from your meat bones of choice, onions, star anise, cinnamon stick, ginger, sugar, salt, fish sauce and black pepper corns. After the broth has simmered for hours the noodles get topped with mung bean sprouts, cilantro, Thai basil, lime, green onions, hoisen sauce and saracha (hot sauce) and a generous quantity of the broth. I love this stuff, so much better than pho-king turkey and the like.

By the way, there is no tea that I know of that can compete with the pungent flavors of this soup, so don't even waste your time or tea. If you have never had Pho before, and you like this kind of stuff, it's very easy to make and quite affordable. And it's fairly healthy, lean meats, rice noodles and spices and herbs. But it's best to wait a few hours before breaking out your tea and tea gear because after eating this soup your tea will be completely tasteless.

October 25, 2010

The Tea Tables of Seol Seok-cheol

Go ahead and get your credit card, your going to need it.

 Just thought I,d post about "Antiques Alive"  for anybody interested. I accidentally stumbled upon this site and found that they offer some very interesting and cool handmade items that are made by Korean master craftsman.  I,m not going to go into any details about the company or any of the artists, all that info is available on their site. But I will say, Seol Seok-cheol's tables are very cool, mines on the way here. They also sell Korean tea. Though they don't say who the maker is they do state that it's handmade from wild tea bushes.

To find the tea and tea wares on Antiques Alive click on "For The Table" section.
The table I chose is one of the more basic designs and made from Paulownia.

Handmade lamps that are made from Mulberry paper.

Handmade Buncheong Porcelain, wouldn't this little jar be great filled with Bahlyocha?

October 8, 2010

2010 Kim Shin Ho Balhyocha

A few weeks ago I had received my Korean tea samples from Pedro (Dao Tea) and of all the teas that were included in the tasting this Balhyocha was the one that really intrigued me, very different from any other tea Ive had before. I just had to have some more of this Balhyocha, or, "Yellow Tea" as Matt has referred to it, for further tastings. Thanks Pedro! A superb handmade tea by Tea Master Kim Shin Ho.

A Japanese Cherry Wood Coaster Set  from the 1950's

As you can see for yourself the dry leaf is chunky and thick. I love chunky and thick, what that tells me is there are many, many infusions to be had. The tea smells of malty roasted grain, honey, raisins and a touch of cocoa. Ive had to experiment a little to get Balhyocha's to brew correctly, or rather, to my liking.  Initially when I first brewed these teas I felt that I wasn't extracting all the flavors this tea had to offer. Water temperature and infusion times needed to be adjusted. Spring water brought to the boil and cooled to 185 degrees, plenty of leaf, quickish infusion times brought out the flavors that I knew this tea possessed but I had missed when first attempting this tea.

Balhyocha is a really unique tea, the malted grain and honey notes are a perfect match with the cocoa aspects. This tea is just slightly sweet. Something Ive noticed with all of these Korean teas is that they trick your other senses into perceiving that they are sweeter than they really are. The tea smells of honey, very much so in fact. But when you taste it, it's not as sweet as you thought it was going to be. Now, I,m not saying that's a negative thing, just making observations.

Using more leaf and quicker infusions brings out the best in this tea. And of course the durability was increased by bumping up the leaf quantity, four to five good pots. This Balhyocha is quite rich, almost (but not quite) buttery in the cup. My first impression of these "Yellow Teas" is that they were good, but not very complex. Ive since changed my mind. Yesterday while drinking this tea I noticed some lilac florals in the later infusions. Such a gorgeous tea! Ive been trying to restrain from drinking this stuff up, trying to make it last a while. But it's just so damned good I bet I devour it all within a week. Pedro, you may be hearing from me again shortly.

September 22, 2010

Puttabong Estate 2nd Flush Darjeeling

Yes, it's that time of year again. When you see the second flush Darjeeling's on the market then you know Autumn is just around the corner. From Uptons, the go-to place for Darjeeling teas. Upton's is from my experience, just about the most professionally operated online tea vendors out there on that inter-web thing. Ive been buying from them for maybe the past 10 years or so and never once have I had any problem. Very prompt service, order's are almost always shipped out the same day and it's not unusual for my order to be delivered within one to two days after ordering. O.K. here go's....Puttabong Estate 2nd flush SFTGFOP1 Cl/Qu. These acronyms are the grading system India uses to get REAL specific about just what pigeon hole these teas fit into. In other words, Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe "Grade" 1 Clonal Queen. A bit much.....isn't it?

At their best Darjeeling has got to be one of the most sublime teas there is. But Darjeeling has not been up to snuff for several years now. Last year Darjeeling suffered a draught and the teas were not on a par with previous years. You could find the occasional gem here and there but all in all it was another year of disappointment.

Ive noticed something different about Darjeeling's in the past few years, there are more and more of them displaying a malty flavor in the cup. I don't remember ever having noticed this before. The malty flavors are something that I would expect from India's native Assamica varietal of tea tree. True Darjeeling is made from China clonal bushes, which leads me to wonder if they are gradually introducing their native tea trees into the gardens. And if so, why? Is there a higher yield? Easier to grow?

Ive had an on again, off again, love affair with Darjeeling teas for years and years. When they are good, they are REALLY good. But more often than not they get an "it's pretty good" ranking from me. This Darjeeling falls into the later category. Puttabong has never been one of my preferred estates but with this years 1st flushes from Puttabong getting such rave reviews I thought maybe they deserve a re-investigation from me. I,m still not that impressed. It's a good quality everyday type of Darjeeling. You know, the kind of Darjeeling you are likely to find in gourmet grocery stores. The dry leafs colors are beautiful, presents the full color spectrum of browns, oranges and some rusty reds with the occasional silver tip.

This tea is fresh, I,ll give it that much. It has some of the stereotypical aspects I want to see in a Darjeeling but it's falls just a little short of being all it could be. A little fruity and floral, too astringent with normal brewing methods. By keeping the steeping time shorter than what I would usually go for some of that astringency can be left behind in the pot. The flavor isn't as fully developed as it should be and the body is a tad thin, it's just kinda flat. For the past several years Darjeeling hasn't been getting the quality they are capable of. Not their fault though, there's nothing they can do about the weather. But I,m not calling it a day as far as this years Darjeeling's are concerned, I plan on trying Arya Estates 2nd flush when they come out. Arya is (in my opinion) just about the best there is when it comes to the second flushes. Especially the "Ruby" grade.

Sorry for that glaringly orange pic up there, don't know what I was thinking when I took that. The tea ware? That's a set made by Hokujo, a Japanese potter. Hokujo's tea wares are the best of the best when it comes to hand made pottery. Very high grade, well processed clay. His skill is baffling, every line, edge has perfect uniformity. I normally use this pot for green teas but every once in a while I,ll brew something like this tea in it. This set is one of my most cherished pieces, my Sencha just wouldn't be the same without it. But as with all things in life, you get what you pay for, his wares are not cheap. I think the pot alone is a little under $200.00 Hokujo rarely uses a glaze on his wares, I guess he wants the focus to be on the clay itself. Why would you want to cover that clay with anything?

Note: after drinking this tea for a few days and experimenting with brewing parameters I realized that cooler water and shorter infusion times bring out some malty flavors as well as the fruit, leaving a lot of the biting astringency behind in the pot. Still.....not a great tea but better than I initially thought.

September 16, 2010

Kim Shin Ho - 2009 - Hwagae Village Sejak

Another tea from Dao Teas is what we have today. Again, thanks to Matt and Pedro for making this Korean tea throw down possible. This Sejak was hand made by tea master Kim Shin Ho using time honored, traditional techniques.

This Sejak is from 2009 and it looks like it doesn't it? The color of the dry leaf is pale and washed out. Actually starting to turn brown in places. The dry leafs aroma reflects it's washed out appearance, a barely detectable smell of what used to be. It's getting on in years, elderly and feeble. Compare the color of Kim Shin Ho's 2009 Sejak to ( this )  see the difference? By comparison the Dong Cheon Sejak is a much healthier, richer shade of green.

There really isn't much to comment on here, the flavor is so thin and washed out. I can taste traces of what used to be in the cup, and I bet it was pretty good in it's day. What a waste that this tea wasn't appreciated when it was fresh. This Sejak gave everthing it had to give in the first infusion, the second infusion turned out so thin and bland it wasn't worth drinking. I wonder if they were to use nitro flush packaging if the teas freshness could be extended? It works great for Japanese greens, why not Korean?

For me this is a good example of the importance of buying teas in season. Some teas can hold up for a while, some can't. So......Kim Shin Ho's 2009 Sejak is pretty uneventful but his Balyhocha was superb, had that last night and it was delicious. Brewed a really nice cup that was rich and creamy. Caramalized, roasted grain flavors that had just the right amount of sweetness. Kim Shin Ho's Balyhocha is a tea I would buy, but the Sejak? Maybe next spring!

September 14, 2010

Kim Jong Yeol - 2010 Hwagae Village Sejak

As I have plenty of free time today I thought I,d continue with tasting some of Dao Teas offerings. This tea, like the Balhyocha in the previous post are made by Kim Jong Yeol, a tea master who reportedly quit his corporate job so that he could dedicate his life to the art of making tea. Now that's a man who likes his tea!

Opening the little foil pack and sniffing, the smell reminds me of sea weed and sencha. A very bright smell as opposed to a tea with a lot of depth. The dusty grey / green of the dry leaf even looks like little strips of kombu.  Some of the leaves are quite thick and chunky, some are more thin and spindly. They all go into the pot along with some 165 degree spring water. An infusion time of a minute and lets see what we have here. Brews a cup of very clear and clean, light yellow soup. In keeping with the dry leafs aroma there is a resemblance to sencha in the cup as well.  Slightly astringent with barely a trace of sweetness. Delicately vegetal with a faint odor of egg white. All of the flavors this tea has to offer are bright, clean and upper palate.

Aesthetically, this celadon tea set made by Xu De Jia  looks more Korean than any other wares I have. The kyusu has developed a small crack on the inside of the pot, sometimes it leaks and sometimes not, this time it didn't. I think it's one of those scenarios where it leaks because I don't use it enough, I don't use it because it leaks. If I were to use it more regularly I,m sure the crack would repair itself.

All in all, I,m not a big fan of this tea. It's nice enough but it pales in comparison to the Dong Cheon Korean teas. This tea is just too light, bright and tart for my tastes. The smell of egg white is also a strike against it in my book. I wonder why some teas have that almost sulfuric smell? Ive noticed that same smell in some China Tie Guan Yins before, Yuck! I,ll say this much for it, the durability is pretty good. Even the fourth infusion had some of the same flavors that were found in the first pot. Usually the initial flavors wane quickly and your left with something else. This tea doesn't really evolve or open up into anything other than what it started out with, a light and delicate cup of tea that though it's enjoyable, just isn't to my liking.

September 7, 2010

2009 Kim Jong Yeol's Balhyocha (Dao Tea)

 Having just received Pedro's ( Dao Teas ) bag of samples in the mail, I was eager to give this Balhyocha a try. Thanks go's to Pedro and Matt ( Mattcha's Blog ) who are sponsoring this event. Between this tea tasting, the book club and his regular posts, Matts got his work cut out for him. Matt and Pedro are having an online tasting of Korean teas of which I am one of the lucky ten people that are participating.

This tea was made in 2009 by Tea Master Kim Jong Yeol, grown in the Hwagae Village, South Korea. Pedro sources all of Dao Teas offerings himself, directly from the Tea Masters. Pedro doesn't have a huge selection but what he has is a fairly nice selection of Korean teas that all of which are handmade using time honored, traditional techniques. Balhyocha is an oxidised ( Yellow Tea ) This should be interesting, Ive only had three Korean teas previously and all of those were green teas.

First things first, the dry leaf is a very deep, dark, roasted brown color, with the some of the leaves edges turning a rich burnt sienna color. An intense aroma of malted grain and chocolate, with the slightest touch of fruity raisin. The leaves are quite long, chunky and thick. What that tells me is that there is a lot of flavor packed in those leaves that typically results in many, many infusions. Leaves with these characteristics usually require at least one infusion just to get them to open up a little. So, the first pot is a teaser for what's to come in later infusions.

The recommended brewing method suggests using 175 degree water. O.K. I,ll give it a shot, I would have thought hotter water would be needed to pull the flavors out of these stout leaves. The aroma wafting from the pot is very nice, malted grain (cereal) chocolaty, a tad fruity. The tea brews a yellow cup with a touch of amber, judging by the color of the dry leaf I was expecting something a little more reddish, brown.

Very nice! The flavor leans very much toward cereal and chocolate, reflects it's aromas very well. No astringency at all, very slightly sweet. In some ways the Balhyocha's aroma is reminiscent of a China Congo, but then again it's in a category of it's own.'s a nice tea but it just isn't delivering what I would consider fully saturated flavors, just a little tame. Resorting to using hotter water and longer infusion times in an attempt to get a little more flavor out of the leaf turned out to be of no avail, the teas already fading.

Intuition is telling me I didn't coax from these leaves everything they had to offer, could this have been caused by the tea being a year old? Improper brewing? I,m gonna have to buy a bag of this so I can get a better grasp of Balhyocha's flavors and brewing requirements.

It's a great day for tea tasting, first hint of Autumn in the air, pouring rain the entire day. I,m beginning to see how Korean teas are made in such a way as to coax the best attributes of each plucking, 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc. The tea makers probably varying the various stages of tea production to maximize each pluckings potential. The Balyhocha's leaf is much larger than Ujeon, Sejak or Jungjak so it makes sense that the leaf would need partial oxidation as there would be little of the fresh green tea characteristics remaining in the leaf at this stage of it's growth.

Thanks again Matt and Pedro! I,m looking forward to trying the other samples.

August 30, 2010

2010 Dong Cheon Hwagae Valley Ujeon

Saving the "best" for last and letting Petr's Shiboridashi have the honors we have Dong Cheons Ujeon. Courtesy of Tea Trekker, A big "Thank You" go's to Bob & Mary Lou Heiss for their generosity. Having had both the Jungjak and the Sejak and realizing how different those two teas were I didn't know what to expect from the Ujeon. This Ujeon was made from the second spring pluck (mid April) the Sejak from the third spring pluck, the Jungjak from the fourth. All three teas are made from the exact same semi wild organic tea bush's grown in the Hwagae valley. So..... the waters been boiled, tea tables set,  let the session begin.

The Ujeon is the most expensive of the three Korean teas currently offered by Tea Trekker. At $60.00 for a canister containing ten 3.3 gm. packets.  It's evidently "worthy" of special packaging. Is this tea worth such a lofty price? In my opinion, it's worth every penny. But having said that, this is a tea I would buy rarely and only for special occasions. Sometimes you've just gotta set limits.

 The Ujeon is a much finer, smaller leaf than the Sejak or the Jungjak, which is to be expected. The dry leaf has a rich but delicate silvery, green color. Very fresh, slightly sweet vegetal aroma with traces of cherry blossoms and the tenderest, young, pine. The teas aroma has such depth, clarity and balance. It really does remind me of fresh spring meadows. This tea is special! Lighter and cleaner than the Sejak or Jungjak, almost feminine in it's nature. A little more crisp and savory than the other two teas. In both the Sejak and the Jungjak the cereal or malted grain flavors and aromas are much more prevelant, the Ujeon contains these aspects as well but very subtle. The Ujeons berry flavors are more delicate and understated compared to either the Sejak or the Jungjak. The aftertaste is quite persistent, lasting long after the teas been drunk.

Just look at those leaves! Gorgeous, aren't they? Tender young shoots loaded with juicy spring time goodness. This tea requires water that's a little cooler than would normally be used for green tea, around 160 degrees or so. I noticed in the later infusions that the Ujeon maintained it's aroma through out the session, in fact, even when the session was over the leaves were still quite fragrant. Usually a teas aroma fades more rapidly than this.

Although these teas are pricey  I think it important to fight the impulse to skimp on the quantity of leaf used. Actually, this applies to all teas. You need enough leaf to attain fully saturated flavors and aromas. Don't fork out that much money and then cheat yourself out of tasting the teas potential.

Again, such sparkling, crystaline, clarity. That shimmering, golden, silvery soup speaks volumes about the teas quality. That cup is brimming with some of the juiciest, most delicious tea Ive ever had. It's fascinating to know that all three of Dong Cheons teas are made from the exact same bush's. They are so different from each other yet they also share some aspects in aromas and flavors. I can honestly say that I don't consider the more expensive "best" ones to be better than the lesser expensive. Like three brothers you can see the similarities of all three, but all three have their own identity and character.

I,m glad I had the opportunity to try these Korean green teas, they are all superb examples of the tea makers art. Also a "Thank You" to Matt for providing us with a wealth of first hand knowledge and much experience with these teas. If this post has tweaked your interest then be sure to visit Matt, Mattchas Blog can keep you busy for hours.

August 28, 2010

2010 Dong Cheon Korean Teas, Sejak & Jungjak

At last! Finally some Korean green teas. As most of you reading this know, Korean teas have been difficult, if not impossible to find here in the U.S.A. But things are changing, there are now a few online sources for these teas, one of them being  which is where these teas came from. I can't recommend Tea Trekker enough, Bob and Mary Lou Heiss know their teas. In all my years of tea drinking I had never had a Korean tea before. Also in all my years of tea drinking I thought I,d had just about every conceivable flavor profile green tea has to offer. Boy was I wrong, these teas are in a class of their own. They deserve more recognition, they are indeed superb. I,m not really going to do an in depth description of these teas flavors and aromas because the ultimate review can be found on Mattchas Blog. If your reading this then chances are good you are already know Matt. So, go give Matt a visit, he can summarize these teas much better than I.

All three teas, Ujeon, Sejak and the Jungjak are made from semi wild, organic tea bushes growing in the Hwagae valley. All three are also made using the Jeong Cha method, which means the kill green stage is accomplished by briefly plunging the leaves into near boiling water, then the shaping and drying is done in one step in a metal cauldron. The more common method of processing tea is to caldlron dry the leaf, out of the cauldron for shaping and resting, then back into the cauldron, back out etc. It requires several times of doing this before the tea is finished. Lastly, all three teas are made from the same semi wild bush's but what makes them so markedly different is the harvest time. In order of harvest is Ujeon, Sejak and Jungjak.

The first one up to bat is the "Sejak" which comes from the third spring pluck. Cutting open the bag unleashes a pungent aroma, very vegetal with some rich fruit aromas in the background, also a slight hint of malted grain buried deep within. Something that reminds me of toasted Nori is also in the dry leafs aroma. O.K. so lets get the kettle on to boil and see what we have here.


Careful brewing is required here, 170 degree water and attention paid to infusion times and you will be rewarded with a superb cup. Absolutely delicious! I see what Matt meant when he described this tea as being "slippery" reminds me of some kind of tree sap. The flavors permeate into your entire mouth and stays a while, it doesn't just wash over it. The Nori aroma I mentioned earlier shows up in the cup as well. Man.... this stuff is good. The soup has a really nice thickish body.I have found these teas to be much more durable than either Chinese or Japanese green teas. These teas are very complex and additional steepings bring out buried flavors and aromas. It's not one of those teas that just gets weaker and thinner as the sessions continue. I could go on and on trying to tell you what this tea tastes like but like I said.......go see Matt.


Jungjak is made from the fourth pluck harvest. It's interesting to know that Jungjak is made from the exact same tea bushes as the Sejak.....yet the aromas and flavors are so different. The Jungjak has a deep caramelized toasty malted grain aroma in both the dry and infused leaf. That vegetal, toasted Nori aroma is present in the Jungjak as well but it's way, way back in the background. It smells as though it should taste sweet, but it doesn't. Very rich and mouth watering flavors and aromas of roasted nuts, cocoa, nori and malt. Ive noticed in both the Sejak and the Jungjak the slightest touch of saline in the aftertaste, I wonder if they are feeding these plants sea weed as fertilizer?

Again, you can tell by the dry leafs appearance that this is a very well made tea, the producers cared about the quality first and foremost. Mind you......this care and attention costs. These teas are quite expensive and I could see myself buying them as an occasional treat but way too costly to drink regularly. Just look at that vibrant green color in the pot.

Brews a cup of the most intense yellowy green color. And like the Sejak, the Jungjak has a thickish body. Though the Jungjak is less expensive than the Sejak the price difference doesn't reflect a difference in quality. In my opinion they are equally good, just different styles and flavor profiles. In some ways the Sejak and the Jungjak share some of the same flavors and aromas but it's as if the flavors have been shuffled and the order of dominance has been re-arranged.

July 21, 2010

Tea Trekker Greens Pt. 2 "Lu'An Gua Pian"

I touched upon the topic of the seasons dictating my choice in teas in the previous post. To continue with this issue, I pretty much only drink green teas during the Spring and Summer months. Yancha or Dan Congs are also on the menu from time to time. Listening to that little voice in my head,  I comply and save the Puerhs and Taiwan Oolongs for Autumn and Winter. For me that's when the time is right for such robust and intense teas. So.......there isn't going to be much talk of sheng on Tea Goober for a while, unless I run across something worth mentioning, the "Boys Club" (sheng posts) will be on hold.

" Lu'An Gua Pian "

China produces thousands of different kinds of green teas but there are really only a handful that I,m interested in. Without doubt one of my favorite China green teas. Lu'An Gua Pian is grown on Lu'An mountain in the Anhui Province. From what Ive read it is by far one of the most difficult China greens to produce. One of the reasons for the difficulty is the picking standard, only the first true leaf below the bud set is used to make Lu'An tea. Then the leaf is de-veined, can you imagine having to remove the vein from each and every leaf? Multiple basket firings finish the tea. This particular batch is from 2009, getting to be quite elderly but still delicious.Tea Trekker has become my "go-to" guys for China green teas.

Lu'An tea leaves are always  big, thick and chunky. Colors ranging from a light olive to the deepest of greens. There is a lot of depth in the dry leafs aroma yet it subtly hints at the flavors to come. Even with it's age I can still smell the sweet and earthy characteristics that I remember from it's youth. Lu'An Gua Pian always brews a cup that's full, round and rich. Brews a cup that's deep golden yellow in color with the slightest of green undertone. Ive found Lu'An tea always good for several infusions. If  you have tried China greens and thought them to be not your cup, Lu'An might be the tea that changes your mind. It's very different from any other China green tea. Lu'An has no astringency what so ever and never turns bitter from over steeping. You can see the depth of color in the cup, it's not a light and wimpy tea at all. Almost Oolong like in it's viscosity but most definitely a green tea flavor profile.

Next in line is some Lu'Shan Clouds & Mist and Purple Bamboo. Good stuff !

Something unrelated !
Another of Tysons morning rituals, he will whine and whine until Ive made the bed. He literally wants the bed made so that he can then re-make it just the way he wants it. He's such a turd sometimes. Now that he has all the pillows just the way he likes em, (everything wadded up in a pile) he wants me to go away and leave him alone so he can take a nap.  Nighty nite Tyson.

July 13, 2010

Tea Trekker Greens

With the unrelenting summer heat beating down, my taste in teas change. Heartier teas like Puerh and most Oolongs are not at the top of my list, they get relegated to the Autumn and Winter months. They are just too heavy, too much for me. I want something clean and refreshing, yet something rich and satisfying at the same time. Ive some China Greens that fit the bill very nicely. Both from Tea Trekker. And both of them superb examples of high quality, handmade greens that are sold at a fair price. Fair market value is my criteria when lurking for new vendors. If I find anything being sold at inflated prices on a vendors site I tend to not buy anything at all from them. Tea Trekker is an online vendor that I,ll return to again and again. Superlatives without the grief of an empty wallet.
Gan Lu

First up is an excellent China green. A 2010 Pre-Qing Ming Gan Lu, or "Sweet Dew" Gan Lu is a tea with a lot of character and a very long history. An early Spring tea that was an Imperial favorite during the Tang Dynasty (960-1279) Grown on Mengding Mountain in the Sichuan Province. Opening the bag fills the room with rich vegetal sweetness. Just the smell of the dry leaf alone makes my mouth water. Comprised primarily of a bud only picking that is covered in silvery, fuzzy down. Soft and velvety to the touch. Vegetal without the raw spinachy tastes of other greens. I love those veggie teas but that veggieness has to be balanced with other flavors and aromas. This tea is buttery smooth with no bitterness or astringency. Even the most negligent of brewers will have no problem with this tea, never becomes bitter when over steeped or when using hotter than necessary water. Durability is good, 2-3 infusions. Brews up a sparkling clean cup of golden, silvery tea. Absolutely delicious.
Long Ding

Next up is an equally excellent 2010 Pre-Qing Ming Long Ding from Zhejiang Province. Long Ding is a early season, pan fired tea that's made from a bud only picking standard. This being a "Larks Tongue" style of tea it's best appreciated brewed in a glass pot or cup. The leaves are juicy, plump and intensely green. Long Ding is one of those teas that infuse vertically, the leaves tend to stand on end while brewing. The dry leafs aroma is intensely pungent, reminds me of walking through a pine forest in the Autumn. The teas flavor is slightly vegetal, very crisp with a touch of pine. I suspect that the soil this tea is grown in is very rich in minerals, rocky and flinty soils show up as cleanliness in the cup, at least that's my theory. Delicately sweet and clear as a bell. Very crisp, bright and refreshing, yet at the same time fairly rich. Brewing parameters do need to be adhered to in order to not over steep this tea. It will become bitter if left too long in the pot. What a gorgeous tea! Durability is very good, 3-4 infusions.

Next up, Lu'An Gua Pian and 2010 Pre-Qing Ming Man Tang Xiang.

July 6, 2010

2009 Yunnan Sourcing Ban Zhang - Revisited

Jeez! Has it been a year since these teas were all the talk? Ummm.......just about! After having a hearty breakfast this morning I was contemplating what tea to wash it all down with and decided to dig into this one, Ban Zhang "Chun Qing" which translates as "Precious Feeling" or something equally silly. I remember loving this tea upon the very first sip, rich beany flavors and aromas sit side by side with nutty notes. Now that the teas had a year to settle in and find it's groove let's see what we have here. This Ban Zhang is one in a series of cakes released by Scott last year. There are also cakes from Yiwu, Bulang, You Le and a Wu Liang mountains in the 2009 line up.

The cakes surface leaf is definitely a shade darker than it was last September. The smell is just a tad woodsier than it once was. The compression has relaxed just a wee bit and it's very easy to separate into a nice pile of unbroken leaf. Keeping the leaves whole makes all the difference in the world, it allows for proper extraction without unnecessary bitterness. Which, speaking of bitterness, I remember when this tea was initially reviewed most people thought this tea lacking in bitterness. Considering that this is a Ban Zhang tea and one of Ban Zhangs traits is that infamous bitterness, a lot of people were left scratching their heads wondering where it was. Well, it's there now. Not obnoxious by any means but there is no denying it now.

 The first Yixing I ever bought. I think Ive had it for about ten years or so. Ten years of sheng poured over the pot has given the pot a beautiful glow. Single hole spout that pours in a good, solid stream with no drips.
If I were one of those people that names their tea pots I,d name this one Tug Boat. There is something about the pots shape that reminds me of those chubby little boats, small but what a brute. A couple of weeks ago I had added this pot to my garage sale, what was I thinking? I love this little pot, it can brew a pot of sheng like no other I own. It takes years of training to get a pot to sit up straight and behave properly.'s not for sale.
 The teas color has changed as well. Still clear as a bell with a touch of amber starting to show. Just a little more viscosity than when these cakes were straight from the press. I think Austin TX (where I live) has a perfect environment for aging sheng. Average humidity level inside the house is around 55 % with the air conditioner running. The teas flavor has deepened, woodsy and faint tobacco flavors. Long beans and nuts are still there in spades. Very slightly sweet that becomes more dominant in later infusions. Solid but tolerable bitterness. Just a much more solid tea than it was a year ago. But...having said that, I don't see this tea as having the required traits necessary to age well. Now, I could be wrong, it's happened before and I guess theoretically it could happen again. I see this sheng as dropping out for about twenty years or so and then maybe emerging as something tasty. I havn't the time for all that, I,m gonna enjoy it now. Ive come to the conclusion that nothing washes down a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs, toast and marmalade like young sheng. Aged sheng doesn't do it, youngish, slightly bitter, slightly sweet sheng washes it down the gullet and caps off the meal to perfection. Now it's time to pay the piper and go clean up the mess I made in the kitchen.