Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Winding Down and the Strangest Green Tea I've had to date.

The end of the year is upon us.

For a good many, this means parties, resolutions, the typical stuff.  I've been there, done that, bought the t-shirt, and even got stranded on the highway heading home.  It's time that one needs to truly change, rather than just repeating the same socially influenced mantras over and over again.

Since I'm fresh out of quotes from real people, I will have to use a quote from a syntax-challenged creature.

  " Do not try;  Do."
                                - Yoda

Yes, Dear Blog-Reader.  Yoda said something that actually influenced me.  So now, instead of talking or writing about what I'm going to do, I will simply do it.  Boom.  Done.

And tonight, while sitting at the tea table, I definitely did something.  I don't know exactly what, but by golly, I did it!  The Yunnan Mao Feng Lu cha from Norbu is of a different class of green tea.

Starting out, it looks like a green tea.  That's it. Everything after that doesn't really match up.  Let's Continue:

The aroma from the leaves reminds me of the 2009 and 2008 Puttabong Estate First Flush Darjeeling.  Fresh cut green apples, muscat grapes, and the super-trippy "cool mountain air".  I furrow my brow...twice.

I place about 4 grams in the gaiwan, not really knowing what to expect.  The first cup: sweetness, floral notes, and a seriously misplaced First Flush Darjeeling.

Practically every cup after that was the same, sans the fifth cup, which had run out of steam.  I examined the leaves to possibly find the culprit (sorry, no pictures as my camera has been borrowed).

Aha!  Oxidized leaves!  I'm not much for building up suspense, I'd rather just to the point.  I know you readers out there have things to do other than read tea blogs.   That is, unless that's your job.  If it is, I envy you.

So yes, there were many leaves and buds which had begun to oxidize around the edges.  Truth be told, I wasn't too surprised.  I didn't pay too much for this stuff.

That's all.  Poof.  Done.  (Happy New Year!)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The 2000 Kunming Blue Mark

Ah, Earthiness.

I’ve spent a good few years now reading about aged and semi-aged pu.  Judging from the way other’s wrote about it, it seemed like something worth trying.

This aged raw pu-erh, the 2000 Kunming Blue Stamp was gifted to me from Spikey, whose kindness I am very grateful for.  More teas from him will be discussed here as well.

I’ve only heard of this tea once before - in a small forum discussing pu-erh.  Other than that, I don’t know much.  It’s from the Kunming Factory, first of all.  And it’s from the year 2000, or at least it was pressed during that time.

The leaves here are dark, with practically no bud - maybe one or two at the most.  The aroma was light and sweet with no mustiness.  I’m figuring this means that the tea  was stored in a rather dry area, since most teas that are stored around a little bit of moisture seem to acquire a ‘damp’ aroma and flavor after a few years.  Also, the leaves are broken.  No surprise there.

Dark Leaves with a Light, Sweet Aroma

5.1 grams | 180-200(depending on infusion) |1 rinse, 7 seconds | 6s, 5s, 8s, 12s, 20s, 25s, 45s, 1min, 1min 45s

The first three cups were dominated by an ‘aged’ musty flavour but still had a slight bitterness left over from it’s youth.  Herbal, Floral, and Caramel notes ran through various infusions as well, with an actual camphor note appearing at the fourth cup

Cups four through seven were a gradual lessening of earthy “forest floor” aroma and flavor, which isn’t too surprising for me.  Sweetness was not persistent at all.  The fifth and sixth cup carried the most sweetness, which was a caramel and raw brown sugar hybrid with a hint of slightly tart fruit in the background.  The later cups had a damp, dark bitterness, until finally fading out in the 9th cup with plenty of  mineral flavors and water.

The Ninth Cup

Overall, I found this very enjoyable.  The qi was light and glowy, helping me fall asleep rather quickly.  I have a feeling the leaves could have kept going, but I simply didn’t add enough leaf - I realize now that I was given a 12 gram sample for a reason - and that is for two sessions of 6 grams.
The Spent Leaf - Few were in their entirety

If you find this tea anywhere - at least get a sample.  It’s worth it.
See you next time!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Norbu Teas 2010 fall harvest Lao Tai Di Qing Xin Oolong

Winter is here.  That doesn't mean much to me, as the south doesn't get cold like the Dakotas do.  With that seasonal change comes a change in my preference for tea.  The green teas and unroasted Tie Guan Yin fall to the wayside for darker, more robust teas.  In this case, Roasted Formosan Oolong.  It's a new joy of mine, that stuff.
One Heck of a Surprise

I stumbled upon it recently.  I recieved two packages of tea and tea samples, with pu-erhs, greens, oolongs, whites, and even a small packet of sencha from a close friend.  I had no idea what to do, and cue in the little packet of Lao Tai Di Qing Xin Oolong from Norbu.

This fall 2010 harvest didn't impress me at first.  I've had unpleasant experiences with roasted teas in the past, which tended to bias the choices that I make when buying tea or choosing a sample.  Most of these roasted teas were flavorless, bland, bitter, or overwhelmingly smokey.  These Surprising little leaves were delightfully different.
See The Difference? Me Either.

4 grams | 160 degrees | 60s, 40s, 45s, 65s, 90s, 125s, 195s

The infusions were long, I know.  I beleive that a combination of too little leaf and too low of a brewing temperature may have made this happen.  Either that, or the fact that I am not too experienced with brewing roasted oolongs.
The Third Cup

The Key flavors here were a caramel sweetness and floral/buttery notes.  The toasted flavors came and went through each infusion, and seemed to enhance the sweet flavors when the cup was toastier.  This was especially enjoyable.

My favorite infusion was a tie between the second and third infusion.  The toasted flavours mixed perfectly with the  caramel sweetness and floral undertones.  There was even a slight tartness, which in my opinion,  gave better balance to the tea and allowed it's complexity to shine through even more.

That covers the interesting part.  the final 3 cups, or infusions five, six and seven, were merely ghosts of the amazing flavors that were there before.  Next time, I'm using more leaf.

The Leaf.  (Duh)

In closing, try this tea at least once.  The complexity and richness of flavor is tough to beat in a tea at this price range.  Also, the calming effects on this tea was quite substantial.  I figured the caffiene would have gotten me, but I was already prepping for sleep once I put my utensils away.

Thanks for reading, and see you next time.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A package arrives!

I've arrived home from an interesting trip north to see my friends.  It had some stresses, all of them from the trip itself as well as the car, but the actual time spent with friends was simply priceless.

Walking inside, I noted some mail left for me.  A large envelope with tea!  Such joy.  Sp1key sent me these wonderful samples, and I very much look forward to sampling them and writing about them here, dear reader. Now onto the sample.

Boredom is an interesting thing.  As I was wandering my old stomping grounds in Charlotte, NC, I decided to see how my friends at a small japanese grocer were doing.  As luck would have it, I perused through their small selection of teas, seeing the usual.  But Hark!  A new sencha!

I'm willing to try whatever I can.

First off, this stuff is higher quality than what I would usually see in the japanese markets, but it still might fit in as 'everyday sencha' on most online tea shops.
As all fukamushi sencha goes, it has lots of small broken leaf.  The leaves have a decent shine to them, with an aroma of tropical fruit and an underlying toasty note.

For this review, I did things a little different - I changed the temperature of the water for almost every infusion.  I got the idea by imagining that all infusions could brew somewhat identically over time.  It's just an idea, and it didn't really make that much of a difference other than the smoothness of the tea overall seemed to be improved somewhat over other sessions that I'd had with this tea.

water temp - 150 | 4.7 grams |  45s, flash, 3s, 7s, 12s
It has a few "sticks" in it.  uh-oh.

The flavors in the first two cups were similar in their bitterness and intense flavor profiles.  The very light roasted flavors came through which really wasn't a surprise to me. It also had a "bland" taste underneath the initial flavors.  I didn't pay too much for this tea, thank heavens.
The First Infusion

Infusions three and four were much milder with a more noticeable sweetness and overall balance of flavor .  Infusion five was slightly sweet and vegetal, with a minty note that i've seen in at least one other sencha, now that I think about it.
Cup Five was much darker

In conclusion, this stuff isn't really worth your time unless you are absolutely impoverished and can't get anything else.  There are hints of quality at first, but they fade very quickly into mediocrity.  See you next time!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Back to The Blog

Sometime during the summer, I witnessed a change like nothing I had seen before.

I was literally sick from tainted pu-erh, and taking a two week break from serious tea reviewing in general.  Given all of my newly found time to think, I recalled my exalted state during my last semester of college.  Every day, I was drinking 4 cups of  asamushi sencha,  and I felt great.  So I thought “Why not just get back into sencha, like before?”  and poof, a change was made.

I focus mostly on greens and light oolongs these days, with the occasional sheng pu or shu pu coming to my attention.

Yuuki Cha’s Kagoshima Sencha Saemidori is somewhat predictable, but different enough to warrant being written about.  The leaf here is typical: smallish broken bits of leaf from the long steaming, with a mellow greenness in the nose, followed by a hint of that roasted aroma that I see in some sencha.
The Leaf, With a Few Stems

 Water temp: 150 | 4.5 grams | 50s, flash, flash, 6s, 15s, 70s

The First Cup

The first two infusions were very, very intense, given that I have become accustomed to the flavors of the light steamed tea.  The umami present was very powerful, with little else at first.  After swirling the tea around in my mouth,  bitter and sweet flavors slowly crept around midpalate, releasing that endorphin rush that comes with the first few sips of good tea.  As the tea cooled, it took on an unmistakable minty flavor - this isn’t anything new, but I haven’t seen it much in sencha.  By the end of those two cups, I was already feeling warm and slightly dizzy.

The third cup was largely flavorless other than a light toasty flavor along with a gentle creaminess and sweetness that seemed to be hiding, as if I hadn’t brewed it correctly (I learned later on that this would be true).  Cup four had fixed cup three’s flavor issues, but brought along the signals that the leaves were running out of flavor fast.

Cups five and six were the end of this session, having no aroma, just a rich green color and a very smooth ‘green’ sweetness that hung around the tip of the palate.

In my summary in my tea journal, I described this tea as a “...Rich, Luxurious experience…”  despite only  three of the six cups having decent flavor.  Upon brewing it for a second session, I had amended my mistakes and now had an excellent, well rounded flavor throughout each cup.  Also, this tea seems to have mild psychoactive effects, (I’m not kidding) so see how you react to the stuff before doing anything like driving or operating a truck full of nuclear waste.  A rich tea indeed.

The Second Cup