August 22, 2013

Yi Ho Yeong - Brother Anthony,s 2013 Ujeon? Sejak?

I am very lucky to have the opportunity to try this tea. I,m guessing that the making of this tea was a joint effort between Brother Anthony and Yi Ho Yong. I really don,t know anything else about it, and maybe that,s for the better.

In the opening pages of The Korean Way Of Tea by Brother Anthony and Hong Kyeong-Hee  ask the reader to imagine what it would be like to arrive at a home in the early morning hours. The host has brought water from a mountain spring and made tea for you with leaves harvested from her own tea bushes, made with her own two hands. Nothing but the sounds of a bubbling mountain spring and fresh, crisp, spring air. Well, evidently, this tea was made by the very same person they are referring to in the book. I am honored!

Brother Anthony

A few weeks ago I received a package from Arthur and he kindly included this tea along with the others I had ordered. Thank you Arthur! He couldn't remember which he had sent, hence the title of this post. If I had to guess I would say this is Sejak, the dry leaves are a little thicker and chunkier than I would expect from an Ujeon. I have only had Ujeon once before so it,s not as though I really know what I,m talking about here.

The aroma from the dry leaf is pristine, clean and sweet. Notes of pine, grain and florals. Very pungent but not heavy. Why can,t all my green teas smell so gorgeous? I wonder how much this tea costs?

The sweet smell of toasted grain and pine wafts from the pot as I pour out the first infusion. Very rich but delicate and balanced. A tad too yellow for a Ujeon, don,t ya think?

The second infusions color is much more yellow and not quite as clear as the first, it,s also sweeter. What I find interesting about this tea is that it has a very full and rich mouth feel but the flavors are never heavy and dull. When the tea starts to fade in later infusions it,s flavor and aroma stays very clean and pure. As opposed to heavy dull and chalky.

Tiny, tiny little baby leaves, what a pain this must have been to harvest. A labor of love I guess. God Bless Em!

July 25, 2013

2013 Jukro Hwagae Valley Jungjak

In a recent episode of Tea Goober we talked about Jukro,s 2013 Sejak. Now it,s time to try Jukro,s 2013 Jungjak. Sejak grade tea is usually made from the second flush, while Jungjak is made from the third flush. The first flush is called Ujeon, but who can afford that? Not me! If you would be so kind as to click on the link above you will see the difference in the dry leafs appearance. The Jungjak grade is noticeably thicker and chunkier. The dry leafs aroma is heavier with the smell of pine, grain, honey and slightly herbaceous.

Park Jong Il,s tea ware has such personality. It,s hard to put my finger on it but they seem to be kinda whimsical. From this angle it reminds me of a Carp gasping for air. Maybe he is hungry for some good tea.

Park Jong Il,s cup has gone through quite a change in appearance. The interior is speckled with tiny little flecks of discoloration and blisters. I like this pot and cup very much.

The teas flavor reflects the leafs aroma very well. Grain, honey, slightly piney or sappy and herbaceous. Mouth feel is full and round, no sharp corners here. Like Jukro,s 2013 Sejak, it has a noticeable creaminess. And like Jukro,s 2013 Sejak, the cereal or malted grain flavors, which I associate with Korean green tea is barely noticeable.

I,m not gonna go on and on describing the teas flavor as it progresses through consecutive infusions.

The color of the soup is darker than the Sejak grade. Much heavier and richer. I enjoy both Sejak and Jungjak but if I had to choose one or the other, it would be Jungjak. I like big flavors and aromas.

If you are interested this tea can be found at Good Green Tea. It,s not cheap. I guess that goes without saying though. Korean teas never are.

July 17, 2013

2013 Jukro Jiri Mountain Bahlyocha

A couple of months ago Sam of Good Green Tea asked as he was preparing to leave for Korea if there was any particular teas I would like him to bring back with him. This is one of the two teas I requested. Over the past several years I have had quite a few Korean Yellow teas and have liked all of them. All the different producers seem to have their own unique way of making their oxidized teas and the flavors can vary considerably. I had never had Jukro,s Bahlyocha before but knew I was in for a treat, as all their teas are excellent.

Typical packaging for Jukro, Paper outer bag, inside the paper bag is a sealed foil bag, inside the foil bag is a wax paper bag.

Even though summer is in full swing here in Austin I can,t help it, I've got to try this tea. Normally this time of day in Austin (93 degrees) an ice cold Shiner Bock is my beverage of choice.

The appearance of the dry leaf tells me what I,m in for. The dry leafs aroma is heavy with deep, dark chocolate, notes of honey, malted grain and spice.. With the heavier oxidation of the leaf the floral aspects are pushed to the background but are still there for the observant, mostly in the later infusions.

The dry leaf is very thick and chunky. Which tells me there is lots of juicy goodness to be had. Even though I have yet to taste this tea I know without a shadow of a doubt that I,m really, really, going to like it a lot. All the tell, tale sign,s are there.

Here,s a tea that,s right up my alley. Jukro,s Bahlyocha has a very rich and full mouth feel. Malted grain, honey, toasted nut,s, dark chocolate with just the slightest suggestion of spice. Makes my palette very happy. This tea seems to be more durable than other Bahlyocha,s I've had, easily 5-6 infusions. The flavors don,t wash out easily, they go on and on without dropping any of the grain and cocoa aspects.

I remember when I used to be so meticulous with weights and measurements when it came to brewing tea. Over the past couple of years I have become less obsessive about it all. I don,t weigh anything anymore, just a few good pinches of tea goes into the pot. Add water and observe how the leaves are opening up. When fully saturated, that's the signal that everything is good to go. There are times when I don,t get it quite right but no matter the situation it,s always easily correctable. More or less water, or longer or shorter steeping s, makes everything right again. This all has to do with how many infusions you get from any tea.

As of today, Sam hasn't updated his site and this tea isn't offered yet. But I,m sure if you ask nicely he would be more than happy to hook you up with some of this delicious tea.

July 14, 2013

Jukro 2013 Jungjak Balhyocha

Sam,s back from Korea and as promised he brought some very nice teas home with him. Sometime later I,ll write a post for each of these. Very curious about the Jungjak as well as their Balhyocha.

June 26, 2013

2012 Autumnal Darjeeling Oakyti

A few days ago I received a package with a nice little assortment of teas from Arthur of Morning Crane Tea.  This was the tea that demanded my immediate attention. I have been an admirer of teas from both Darjeeling and Nepal for a long time. In my opinion Nepalese teas are quite often superior to their Darjeeling neighbors and are usually far less expensive. But......first things first! Is this a Darjeeling or a Nepalese tea? It has to be one or the other....right? Well, not really. On the tea packet Arthur explains that the area where this tea is from borders both countries. The Mechi River being the dividing line between Nepal and India share very similar tea plants and growing conditions which makes it,s origin pretty much irrelevant.

The photos of this tea that Arthur has on his blog is what first sparked my interest because this tea looks nothing like I've ever seen from either Darjeeling or Nepal before. This teas leaves resemble little sticks, very different than the large, flaky leaves I've encountered in the past. And that,s kind of what they feel like as well, little sticks. When placing the dry leaf into the pot they make a clinking sound. They are very, very dense and compact. Kinda resembles a Yunnan tea, doesn't it? Which leads me to wonder, is this tea China Jat? Which is what the vast majority of Darjeeling teas are made from. Or the Assam varietal that is native to India. Judging from the teas aroma, appearance and flavor I,d have to bet on the later.

This tea "Treasure Gold" is made from plants that for whatever reason, climactic conditions? Produces leaves that are a golden color. This doesn't happen every year, just once in a Blue Moon.

The aroma from the dry leaf is heavy, rich and full .It,s not dissimilar to Korean Hwangcha but definitely in a category of it,s own. Honey, roasted grain and fruit are there for the taking, you don,t have to sit and ponder about these flavors and aromas, they are there in abundance.

The teas flavor matches the aroma to perfection. Sweet honey, roasted grain or cereal, a touch of fruit and the mere suggestion of spice. Full, rich mouth feel. I can still taste this tea flavor even an hour after having drank it. Astringency is very, very minimal and it,s only really noticeable in the later infusions.

This particular tea session I used a Yixing pot with repeated brewing to see how the tea would stand up. I probably won,t try this again with this tea.

I have stated in previous posts that in my opinion some teas do not stand up to repeated steeping very well. This is by no means a strike against it. Some teas reveal nuances of flavor and aroma with repeated brewing and it can be interesting to watch it,s flavor change and evolve. But some teas have nothing further to reveal, with additional steeping it just becomes gradually weaker with it,s flavor unchanged. It,s just the nature of the tea, nothing to do with quality.

So, my criteria for determining whether or not a tea is gong-fu-able is......does it,s flavor change or evolve with repeated brewing. If not, I use a western style approach. Less leaf, more water, longer steeping time. Enjoy it in all it,s glory, get the full impact and call it a day. But.....that,s just me. You guys do whatever you see fit, after all, it,s your tea.

The leaf is exhausted, it,s on it,s fourth steeping and still the leaves, sticks won,t fully open. What a wonderful, strange tea this is. I hope everyone gets a chance to try this tea before it,s gone. This is a tea that anybody would appreciate. Brewing parameters don,t need to be strictly adhered to because this tea is very user friendly.

June 6, 2013

2013 Giddapahar Hand Rolled, First Flush Darjeeling

I know the whole where, when and why of how my infatuation with tea began. It seems so long ago, and..... I guess it was. I,m thinking it was about forty or so years ago was when I first encountered a cup of really good Darjeeling tea. It obviously made quite an impression on me.  That particular Darjeeling I just happened to stumble upon, a fortunate recipient of circumstance. I was visiting a friend in San Francisco and had stopped in at a local coffee shop. She had ordered a pot of Darjeeling and I had a cup from her pot. That first cup marks the beginning of a never ending search for good tea.

A lot has changed since then. What, with the invention of that world wide inter-web thing-a-mo-bob. Anybody reading this is aware of how easy it is to get just about anything you can think of.

I have bought tea from Norbu on just a few previous occasions. He now sources his own teas. Not just buying online and reselling. He has a pretty wide selection with teas in every category. Green, Oolong, Black or Puerh. This tea is entirely hand made, which is rare for Darjeeling.  Norbu was so impressed upon tasting this tea that he bought the entire (albeit tiny,3 kg.) lot.

Now isn't that a pretty site? These leaves are very large, crispy and flaky. The scent of the dry leaf is extremely floral and with just a hint of vegetation. The flavor matches the aroma to perfection. Sweet, floral with just the slightest trace of greenery. There is no astringency at all. The muscatel flavor and aroma we expect from a Darjeeling are there, but being pushed to the background they are barely noticeable.

I don,t brew Darjeeling teas using a Gong fu method. Just one 3-4 minute steeping works out best for me. In my opinion, using a gong fu approach doesn't  work well because the flavors are too hit or miss. All the flavor aspects need to be represented in one fell swoop to be fully appreciated.

Even though the cups are brown you can see the color of the brew. A light golden, amber. The tea smells sweet with florals coming out the ying-yang. You can see in the picture below that there are some stems still attached to the leaves. In my book this is not a bad thing at all. In fact I kinda like teas with some stems still in the mix.

I've had these cups (made by Park Jong Il ) for over a year but never used them before today, they are just a tad too small for my liking. I have never used them for photography purposes before because I reckoned the brown glaze wouldn't allow the teas color to be accurately represented. But there it is.......plain as day.

A cup of good Darjeeling always brings back memories. It,s funny how with just one sip, that distinctive flavor takes me right back to where it all began. I,m right back in San Francisco sitting on a side walk cafe with a cool ocean breeze.

Minus the pony tail and flip flops!

May 30, 2013

2013 Zeda Sejak

As I posted yesterday, I received both the Zeda And Jukro 2013 Sejak teas from Sam of  Good Green Tea in the mail a few days ago. I have never had the pleasure of trying any of Zeda,s teas before so......lets get the party rolling and discover what we have here. As it states on the packet, Grown in the Hwaegae Valley of South Korea, known for producing high quality green tea. Heavenly mellow aroma, sweet note with a touch of vegetation.

Yikes! What a horrible picture.  Zeda packages their products in a less elaborate style than Jukro, but that don,t mean anything really. Whats inside is what counts and what I,m seeing and smelling looks good.

The water has boiled, everything is set, so let,s brew some Sejak and enjoy.

There! That,s more like it, isn,t it? Comparing Zeda to Jukro, the Zeda,s dry leaf seems to be much longer and spindly. The scent is a touch more vegetal but a little lighter, brighter than Jukro,s Sejak.

This is always the exciting moment when your trying new teas. The tea is steeping, the pitcher and cups are pre-heating. Now your just waiting to see what emerges from the pot. Will it live up to my expectations? Or will it be just another pot of tea.

This is a very nice, well made tea. A nutty, vegetal, pine tree scent wafts from the pot and cup. It smells really good. The flavor and aroma I associate with Korean green tea is that of malted grain and honey, but there is only the slightest trace of those characteristics here. This tea isn,t a disappointment by any means. Zeda,s Sejak has a lot of depth and richness. The aftertaste hits full force permeating my nasal passage, which is no small feat as I have horrendous allergies this time of year. I would be really interested in trying Zeda,s Jungjak, which has got to be equally gorgeous.

If you have never had fresh Korean teas ( or any fresh green tea ) it really pays to get good quality spring water, the difference it makes is astonishing. Here is Austin the water is very hard and can kill the flavor and aroma of any tea. Even when I have filtered it, the water still tastes of chalk and minerals.

The spent leaf is a mix of whole and torn leaves. A beautiful healthy green. Zeda,s Sejak has more than lived up to my expectations. It,s gorgeous! The durability is good also, 3-4 infusions before it washes out.

I must get more of this tea. One thing that kinda annoys me about some of these teas is that they are packaged is such tiny quantities. This Sejak comes in a 40 gm. packet. To me, that's really just a little more than a  sample size. I,d be much happier with a 100 gm package. But..........that,s just me being nit-picky.

Go see what Matt has to say about this tea.

May 29, 2013

2013 Jukro Sejak

The long awaited 2013 Korean teas are now available from Sam of  Good Green Tea  Apparently  Matt received the exact same teas on the same day that I received mine. 2013 Jukro Sejak and 2013 Zeda Sejak. I have never had the Zeda brand of teas before and I,m curious to see how different they are. But I,m going to sit on the Zeda and dig right into the Jukro.

The packaging is a little different this year, they have included a booklet that is more or less a menu of Jukro,s offerings. Of course the teas are all in ultra deluxe packaging. On the front page of the booklet it states "Can make deep scent only with honest hands"......... this has me worried. Could I possibly make a deep scent? After all, look at how I have lived my life, all the people I have hurt.......Just kidding, I,m a good guy. This reads like a disclaimer, as if they are saying, if you fail to make a decent cup of tea it,s your own moral character that,s to blame. Despite my degree of honesty I,m gonna dig right in and see if I can conjure up a deep scent.

I can never get an accurate color of the dry leaf with this old, worn out camera. But just the same, here it is. The dry leaf is actually a rich, deep, forest green. The aroma is equally deep and rich with a slightly toasty, vegetal smell with a touch of that clean, crisp pine forest in the background. There is also the slightest suggestion of salinity.

As the tea is poured from the pot that much anticipated smell of toasted grains and that unique deep forest greenery permeates the senses. The smell makes me think of a pine forest on a crisp and cool morning. The flavor is more vegetal and toasty than grain with traces of honey or malt. With Junjak it seems that the pecking order flip-flops with the grain taking dominance, with a fuller mouth feel.

You can see by the teas color that it brews up clean and clear. It has a very light body but the aroma and flavor are rich. A very delicate level of sweetness washes over the taste buds and leaves me wanted more.So.......the infusions march forward until the leaf is exhausted and I am satiated.

Are those not some of the freshest looking leaves? All in all the picking standard is good but a good portion of the leaves have been torn. I don,t know if that affects the flavor all that much anyways. I,m looking forward to Jukro,s 2013 Junjak as well. A later harvest tea which has more body and toasted grain flavors but lacks the clarity of a Sejak, at least thats the way I think of it. Jukro is really consistent, the 2013 tea is identical in all aspects to the 2011 version I have posted on previously.

Thats about all I can think of to say about this tea. Very, very nice. But expensive.

May 24, 2013

Ginko's Mothers Tea

I am always in search of teas that are not your everyday sorta things that you find from any number of online stores. When I saw that Ginko was offering a handmade China green that was made by a Mom (not her Mom) it stirred up all kinds of interest in me. I picture a little Chinese woman living a quiet life, just tending her garden and once a year making her own tea. You know perfectly well a Mom is only going to pick the best leaves and see to it that every step of the drying process is done correctly. If you want anything done right, do it yourself. This Mom knows how to make some good tea.

The dry leaf is small in size but thick and chunky. Moms tea has a really pungent aroma. Almost like a Lu Shan Clouds and Mist tea but with a lot more depth. One kinda odd thing about it is that from the moment you add water to the pot the leaves immediately sink to the bottom. It's the only green tea I've seen do this. They absolutely refuse to float, even when I encourage them they stand their ground and refuse to budge.

Mom's tea is pretty much what you would expect from a Mom, unpretentious and humble but satisfying. Very full mouth feel, rich and herbal with a touch of salinity. The aftertaste is the only time I notice any sweetness. Ginko has a small quantity of this tea and is offering it at a absurdly low price. Limited to 2 packets per customer, I'm already at my limit. A really unique tea that I wish I could get more of.

May 9, 2013

Ginko's Great Buddha

I have the good fortune to be the ( very appreciative)  recipient of some of Ginko's (Life In A Tea Cup) Great Buddha Dragon Well. It has been a very long time since Ive had the pleasure of a cup of pre Qing Ming Dragon Well. Ginko was kind enough to send me a few teas from her current selection. These Pre-Qing Ming teas are not available in large quantity's, they are not going to last long. So,  I,m hoping everyone gets a chance to try these teas before they are sold out.

Pre-Qing Ming teas are the first leaves to emerge after the dormancy of Winter. Before the rain is what I remember it as meaning. Highly valued and sought after by tea lovers. But having said that, they are not to everybody,s liking. For some westerners the flavors are too delicate. I think of them as being teas with pristine clarity and focus.

Cute little tin isn't it? It contents are superlative. So green and vibrant. The aroma from the dry leaf is so fresh and sweet. And there is something that reminds me of pine. You can see in the picture below that the picking standard was very consistent. Practically every leaf and bud set are the same size. The dry leaf is still pliable. Not brittle and crumbly. This pliability is testament to its freshness.

My tea table is just about functionality today. No flowers or dramatic lighting. It is, what it is.  The tea has been brewed with loving care and attention. Freshly heated spring water that has dropped to 175 degrees. With Pre-Qing Ming teas I try to be careful with brewing time. A gentle approach pays off.

There are a lot of people that are of the opinion that you don,t have to be all that careful brewing these Pre-Qing Ming teas. I am not one of them. It's too easy to kill the tea by water that is too hot or too lengthy an infusion time. The end result of either of these scenarios is that what should the slightest bite of astringency can easily wind up being the more dominant aspect in the cup, you don't want that.

The aroma of sugar snap peas and pine as well as some very delicate florals waft from the pot and cup. The first sips are sweet as could be. The pine or maybe I should say sap like flavors contrast with the sugar cane sweetness, a perfect balance. Typically I think of Dragon Well teas to be kinda nutty, yeasty, toasty and slightly vegetal, but this one is different, so clean and delicate.

The color of the brewed tea is actually a tad lighter than the picture below. Crystal clear with an almost silvery sheen. Pretty darned durable too boot. I get 3-4 infusions before it starts to fade. The teas aftertaste is unrelenting. It's sweetness permeates the entire mouth and even the nasal passage. It's early spring and I am usually so congested this time of year due to allergies that I cant smell a thing, but this tea seems to have helped to clear me up a little. I wonder if there is any history of tea being used as a decongestant?

Thank You Ginko!  I cant wait to try the some of your other offerings. As this years teas are making their way to the states I,m keeping a close eye on  Life In A Tea Cup  to see what else you have in store for all of us tea lovers. The proofs in the pudding. Evidently, Ginko has some MOFO connections. Take advantage of it for crying out loud. For more information on this tea pay a visit to Ginko. She,ll hook you up!

May 2, 2013

Kim Song Tae Ddokcha

For years I have been reading Mattcha's blog (All things tea, especially Korean) With all the various types of tea that is made in Korea be it Ujeon, Sejak, Jungjak, Hwangcha. One of the teas that most intrigued me was Ddokcha. Actually back when I first started reading Matt's blog I had never had any type of Korean tea. I think it was 2008 when Matt first started his blog and back then there was no chance in hell that a westerner shopping online was going to run across any Korean teas. Things have changed. Now   it's fairly easy to find some good quality, handmade Korean teas. Reading through Matts blog today it's easy to see that  Matt played a significant role in these teas and tea wares becoming easier to source. Always educational and informative. He has taken on some massive projects with his blog, remember the Book Club?  So.......we all owe Matt a big

Or maybe we should hold him to blame. Haha!

Anyways, on to the Ddokcha. The one I brewed today was made by Kim Song Tae. A gift from
 Morning Crane Tea. A small circular wafer of compressed tea. I had a general idea of how to brew this tea, a fairly large qty. of water and a brewing time of about 2-3 hours. I knew going into this that the brewing time was crucial, too little and the teas bitterness would dominate. I tasted the tea as it brewed to learn what to look for and to see the how the flavor and aroma changed as the tea continued to simmer away in a glass kettle.
The tea has a very pungent aroma of spice's. Sure enough as it continued to brew the Ddokcha developed a rounder, softer, sweeter flavor. The soup had changed from a pale yellow to a deep orange color. I had tasted it at around the 2 hour mark and it was quite bitter and astringent. By hour 3 the tea was pretty good. Even though this was the first time I have tasted Ddokcha I think it is a simple, unpretentious tea. There is not tons of complexity but what is there is pretty straight forward and easy to enjoy.

Next time I'll take some pics and do the whole kit and kaboodle for ya!

April 25, 2013

Jeong Jae Yeun Jiri Mountain Hwang-Cha

This particular Hwang-Cha is something extra special. Why is it special? Because this tea was handmade from wild tea bushes. Also because it is made before Buddha's birthday. (first flush in other words) Which from what I understand is a bit unusual because typically the first and second flush are used for making green tea. Later in the season is when leaves are picked for Hwang-Cha production. So...Jeong Jae Yeun must have real a passion for Hwang-Cha if he is willing to sacrifice the first leaves of spring to make this type of tea.

This tea as well as a couple of others were acquired from Morning Crane Tea. Arthur (Morning Crane Tea) also sent along some samples of Dok-Cha. I have never had Dok-Cha before and I;m a little uncertain as to how to brew it. One cake type Dok-Cha and a disk type Dok-Cha. The cake type requires roasting before brewing but the disk type doesn't. Water to disk-cake ratio? I have no idea. Have to get in touch with  Matt he will know. But I;ll get around to that sometime in the future.

As you can see the dried leaf is very long and chunky. Even with the help of the funnel it's not easy to get these leaves into the pot without breaking them. In my opinion this tea requires a lot of leaf to get fully saturated flavors, 6 gm's for this 8 oz. pot. Sounds like a lot but skimping on the quantity is a mistake. I think a lot of people, including myself, have the tendency to skimp on the leaf qty. in an attempt to make their teas last a bit longer. But not using enough leaf brews a cup of fairly lifeless tea no matter the teas quality.

Very full and rich, sweet flavors of grain, malt and honey. I agree with Matt that there are some fig like fruit flavors. The tea's aroma follows suit matching the flavor. This tea requires opening up. Meaning that the leaf is very tight and compact and consequently the first infusion isn't necessarily representative of what it's capable of. By the second and third infusion it's depth starts to shine.

I will say that the Balhyocha made from later harvest's seem to have more body. Not that this one is lacking in any way.......Just saying! It's durability can go the distance without missing a beat. None of the flavors drop out, they just change positions, an attribute that I relish in any tea.

195 degree water and the first infusion is a bit pale isn't it? I'm not concerned, I've been drinking this tea for several days now and I know that this is just the beginning of whats to come. This is a very nice tea that I'm enjoying very much. I've been getting 5-6 infusions from the leaf. And every one of them is still very full and rich, as opposed to washed out and thin. I do increase the water temperature a bit in the later infusions trying to get every last bit of goodness from the leaf.

Arthur asks, Is this the best Hwangcha made in Korea? I don't know, but in my book it's superb. Arthur says he will be back from Korea in June with freshly made teas, can't wait.