08 November 2009

Oolong speculations

A very disturbing article about speculation with prices of Taiwan oolong teas can be found at TC Formosa Tea. I hope this will not become a regular activity next years and we will be able to acquire a good quality lishan tea in next years.

25 September 2009

Beta - "You Le Zhi Chun"

This is the second sample of tasting of pu-erh teas made by Yunnan Sourcing. First was one of the most expensive teas made from high altitude Yi Wu mao cha, this tea is made from spring 2009 mao cha harvested in Long Pa village of You Le Mountain. The beeng is on a looser side with nice whole leaves. The fresh scent is less powerful, than the smell of the Yi Wu sample.

You Le Zhi Chun

I liked this tea less then the Alpha. The overall craftsmanship is good, the tea produces clear yellow soup with just a little smokiness, lasts quite long and has some kick. Yet, it’s more crude then the first sample, with much less sweetness, fruitiness or vegetal tones.

The leaves are mostly small, though some large can be found in the mix. The black dots tell us, that pesticides were probably not used this year, and that’s good. Some of them are much darker and shows signs of bad processing with too late kill-green step. Fortunately, these dark leaves are only a few.

You Le Zhi Chun

This is an OK tea compared to the whole selection of pu-erh offered by Yunnan Sourcing, yet from these five samples this is definitely not the tea of my choice.

The samples so far, from best to not so best:
1. Alpha - Yi Wu
2. Beta - You Le

Other reviews can be found on Half-Dipper.

23 September 2009

Alpha - "Yi Wu Gua Feng Zhai"

This is the first of the series of cakes produced by Scott at Yunnan Sourcing LLC. The tea leaves were picked at "Gua Feng Zhai" (The Stockaded Village of Howling Wind) - according to descriptions, one of the remotest and highest regions of Yi Wu. Leaves from the same area were used by Chen Guang He Tang in his 2006 and 2007 Yi Wu beengs.

Yi Wu Gua Feng Zhai

This tea is very fresh. After opening the sample bag I immediately felt the aroma of tea leaves – fruity, slightly grassy. I’m certain this tea will change considerably within next year – it will loose this young feeling and will turn into something different. The tea leaves were quite nice and at least some of them had the wild feeling.

The tea was yellow, clear without any detectable smokiness nor astringency. A very good drink-me-now pu-erh with some kick. For me, it’s more on the drink-now side then the age-me side. And since I have way too much beengs opened for drinking right now, I will not buy a beeng of this. By my opinion, this tea is decent, but lacks the true strength and character to be it exceptional.

Yi Wu Gua Feng Zhai

While this tea was good, it certainly wasn’t the best – at least its cha qi did not make me jump, like one of the other samples. While Hobbes liked this one the most, my favorite will be reviewed later.

16 September 2009

2009 Wen Shan Fo Shou

I had the Fo Shou (Buddha hand) oolong harvested in summer 2009 in Wen Shan area of Taiwan. I got this tea from a local vendor, Longfeng, who delivered me lots of great teas before. This particular oolong is hand harvested and home roasted.

2009 Wen Shan Fo Shou

The leaves are small and even with light fruity smell. I prepared this tea “Czech tea-house style” – it is actually a gong-fu preparation in a yixing teapot, though gaiwan is more often used - mostly because good gaiwan is cheaper than a good yixing teapot. There is one specific though - the water used during preparation is kept hot in a glass pitcher with a tea candle lit under it. Because of this, the water isn’t boiling, so you have to use longer steeping times and more leaves.

This style of tea making has two major benefits – one do not have to care reheating the water and also there is no danger of burning the tea leaves.

2009 Wen Shan Fo Shou

This is a quite good oolong – lasted for 8 good infusions, with clear soup and very fresh and fruity aroma. The roasted taste was nearly undetectable. I liked this one a lot.

09 September 2009

2007 Hai Lang Hao Bulang Wild Arbor

This tea sold by Yunnan Sourcing claims to be wild arbor pu-erh made from first flush 2007 spring mao cha harvested in Bulang mountain range from 70-80 years old tea trees. I got a sample of it together with various other Hai Lang Hao samples, and I decided to give it a try, since Hobbes praised it quite high.

2007 Hai Lang Hao Bulang Wild beeng

From the sample I got I decided to use the whole part – as for most of my stone-pressed beeng samples, I got one half in its pressed form and the second half in separate leaves. The tea liquor smelled quite … it’s hard to describe… Bulangish. It was slightly vegetal with very little smokiness.

What kicked me off my feet was the aftertaste of the first few infusions. Strong, clear, everlasting. I believe it is Bulang where Red Bull got the inspiration. Ok, except the taste.

2007 Hai Lang Hao Bulang Wild beeng

Unfortunately, the tea faded quite soon, after the sixth infusion it turned into sweet water. The character found in the first few infusions was completely missing.

The leaves are tiny, so I suppose they could be spring harvest and some of them even look like wild arbor.It is an OK choice, but I think I will look into the other Hai Lang Hao samples for something longer lasting.

02 September 2009

2005 Chen-Guang-He Tang "MengHai Yieh Sheng"

According to information provided by Guang, the Menghai Yieh Sheng (Wild) is a beeng produced by Chen Guang He Tang in 2005 as a blend of Ban Zhan (not Lao Ban Zhang) and other Menghai wild spring leaves harvested at 2005. This is one of the more expensive young pu-erh, a standard 357g beeng costs $120. It must be an exceptional cake to justify that price – so I decided to try a sample and if it’s really that good obtain a whole beeng.

2005 Chen Guang He Tang Menghai Yieh Sheng

This tea is produced by the same producer in the same year as the 1st Tea Expo beeng I like very much and even shares the wrapper design with it. Of course, the price is 4 times as much.

The leaves point out to quite wet storage being much darker and more brownish than the Tea Expo Memorial beeng. The cake looks stone-molded, the sample could be easily separated into single leaves, so I used the most whole and biggest of them for the first time.

2005 Chen Guang He Tang Menghai Yieh Sheng

The smell of liquor points out to the wet storage, though I found a clear fragrance of peaches under the cellar smell. The taste points out to the Taiwanese storing conditions, too, though the aftertaste is excellent, clear and long lasting. Actually, I liked this tea quite a lot, it was energic and fresh with interesting taste.

If this tea is $50 per beeng, I would easily buy few cakes to store and drink later, but since its $120, sadly I have to live without it.

30 August 2009

Ceramic tea tray by Xu De Jia

I use my wooden tea tray since 2003 and it serves me well since then. Unfortunately, because of its size it’s quite unhandy to use on my work desk, and since last winter I had to work quite a nights, I decided to get a smaller, ceramic tea tray.

Celadon Lotus Petal Tea Tray

This is a celadon tea tray made by Taiwanese artist Xu De Jia I acquired from Guang at HouDeAsianArt. The tea tray is made from bluish "Chin Tzi" celadon in stylized form of Lotus With Eight Petals. The tray is quite heavy and feels massive and the tea stand (isle) found in the center of it is removable.

Celadon Lotus Petal Tea Tray

First, let's describe how celadon works. When purchased, it’s clear and translucent without any visible cracking – yet, these cracks are there, they are just hollow and hard to be seen. If you click the top image (it’s the outside wall of tea tray), you can see, that from closer look the cracks are there.

The bottom picture is taken from the surface of tea stand, where the cracks are already filled with tea and clearly visible. These cracks appeared as soon as on my third use of the tea tray, and to my surprise, they are much darker on the upper sides of tea tray, than on the bottom, though the bottom is filled with tea most of the time I use the tray.

Celadon Lotus Petal Tea Tray

The setup of this tea tray is quite easy – the teapot stands on the isle, so I can feed it with tea broth. All unused tea is collected in the bottom of the tea tray. Fortunately, all my pots under 200 ml fits the isle.

Celadon Lotus Petal Tea Tray

But my favorite function of it is the shui fan, container used to store wasted tea and used tea leaves. After my tea session I usually remove the tea isle and clean the pot dumping all tea leaves into the tray.

Celadon Lotus Petal Tea Tray

I have another, more artistic and slightly less comfortable tea tray by Xu De Jia, but I will write about it later…

24 August 2009

White Jade

I spent the last week in Prague, so I took the opportunity and met with Mr. Prachař, owner of Longfeng tea shop. Even though I had extremely little time - it was the last day of our course and my colleagues were very, very eager to go home, I left them and returned an hour and half later with big bag full of teas and tea samples.

Among the teas that I bought there were some Chinese red teas. I haven’t had them for quite a time, so I decided that it's time to drink red tea!

2009 Bai Lin - White Jade

Bai Lin (白琳), literally White Jade is a less known traditional Chinese red tea. This one is the highest grade produced in city of Hu Lin in Fujian province.

The quality of tea leaves speaks for itself – the leaves are long and covered with dense pale hairs, so they resemble miniature dachshund puppies quietly sitting in the cha he. The smell of tea leaves is intense, sweet, reminds me of caramel.

Dachshund puppies
Photo stolen from www.josephpets.com

The quality of tea leaves forces me to prepare it gong fu style. I use one of my oldest yixing teapots made of high quality zi sha. I decided to go for 4 grams of tea per 150 ml of water. I could use more leaves, but I never liked too strong black teas. I keep the infusion times low and use boiling water (fortunately this tea is really made of tea leaves and not miniature dachshund puppies, so boiling water is OK).

2009 Bai Lin - White Jade  - liquor

Liquor has a crystal clear orange-reddish color and makes a strong sweet scent. I know now why I do not drink so often Chinese red tea – it’s just too sweet for my palate, just like Hungarian wine from the Tokaj region. Never mind, let's drink. The taste of tea is sweet caramel mixed with fine fruity flavor; the aftertaste lingers in mouth and reminds me of high quality dark chocolate. I like this one.

27 April 2009

The Leaf issue 5

I just wanted to let you know, that 5th issue of free internet magazine The Leaf is out.

You can read about yixing, tetsubins, Weng Ming Chuan bamboo tea-tools, Ban Zhang pu-erh and more.

04 April 2009

Limited Karigane Gyokuro Super Premium

It’s quite a time I haven’t written anything. Probably a sort of laziness I developed in most recent times. But it caused not only stopped blogging, but also drove me to some easier ways to prepare tea, than gong fu.

But spring is finally here, as you can see from pictures. Yes, it's real sunlight. And as the nature wakes up this time of year, I finally gathered enough will to continue writing about tea.

2009 Karigane Gyuokuro Super Premium Teapot

Last month or two I tried Japanese green teas - I ordered a tokoname kyusu teapot and few teas from Hibiki-An and O-Cha and experimented with preparation. Actually, it’s really easy – you just boil the water, let it cool down, pour the water into teapot, let it infuse and drink.

All I need now is to perfect my skill, learn the right water temperature, amount of leaves, infusion times.

2009 Karigane Gyuokuro Super Premium Leaves

Today I had Karigane Gyokure Super Premium from Hibiki-An. Karigane is made from leftover stems and veins of gyukuro (shaded) leaves. Because the karigane is by-product, it’s cheaper than equally good gyokuro or sencha. Also, karigane is made only from high grade of Japanese green teas, so you get good value for your money.

As seen on dry leaves, the tea consist mostly of soft, short, light green stems and dark green leaves. The smell of these leaves if fresh and vegetal, yet very subtle.

Subtle is good description for this tea. The liquor is very light green in colour, clear, like spring water, the smell reminds me of citrus fruits. The taste is sweet, again the slightly acidic, refreshing taste predominates. Fortunately for me, the fishy, sea smell sometimes found in Japanese tea is absent in this tea.

2009 Karigane Gyuokuro Super Premium Leaves

This tea isn’t really complex and it’s quite easy to ruin it into potato sweetness, but I still like it. Interesting experiment, I have to compare it with other karigane teas I have sampled.

28 January 2009

Bacon, tea, potatoes, euro

Two months after my last blog – not counting the one from Monday – Slovakia lost it’s currency, Slovak Crowns, the Euro has a new set of coins with Slovak symbols and we all try to be used to think on much, much lower scale. What was 1000 Crowns before now is 33 Euro. But we will live with it, somehow.

Huo Shan Huang Ya

But let’s tea! I got 50 grams of this fine tea from local vendor, LongFeng (Dragon- Phoenix) maybe a year ago, just after the online store was opened. It’s a yellow tea harvested on spring of 2007 from Huo Shan, Anhui area, hand harvested and hand processed by most traditional methods.

The true yellow tea is quite scarce and hard to find, so I welcomed these charming little tea leaves. As seen on pictures (click to enlarge), the leaves are mostly buds and two-leaves-and-a-bud, some of them are quite hairy. On used leaves signs of slight fermentation are clearly visible. Durability is OK, I can squeeze 10 infusions from this tea with ease.

Huo Shan Huang Ya

I was worried about the potency of the tea, since I have it for more than a year now, but, fortunately, the tea was the same as I remembered.

I haven’t had a chance to drink yellow teas before, so I’m still puzzled about the taste and smell of this tea. I liked it from the first moment, but I was doubtful if it should taste like this. Because in pu-erh, for example, you can find tones of fruits, tobacco, camphor. In this tea – it’s bacon and baked potatoes. Really!!

Huo Shan Huang Ya

I love this tea, drinking it on cold winter nights. Unfortunately, I have leaves enough only for one last session – but there are other tea adventures ahead.

26 January 2009

What a coincidence!

Even though I haven’t purchased tea for some time, I still check HouDeAsianArt regularly. And few days ago I noticed a new beeng from Chen-Guang-He Tang in stock.

2005 Chen-Guang-He Tang
Source: HouDeAsianArt.com

I knew that wrapper, I see it somewhere before. But it took me some time to realize, that I have a beeng like this in my possession. Good beeng, by the way. I took a picture of this cake to remind you, how it looks like.

2005 Pu-Erh Tea Fair

First beeng is produced by Chang Tai Tea Factory; the other one is made by Chen-Guang-He Tang, both being made in 2005. Could it be a coincidence?

Update: After MarshalNs comment I made some deeper research on connection between these two beengs. When I wrote this blog I believed, that there is no connection, they are separate products of Chang Tai tea Factory and Chen-Guang-He Tang Tea Factory. Later I learned, that the 1st Pu-Erh Trade beeng (bottom one) was produced under supervision of Mr. Chen Zhi Tong, owner of Chen Guang He Tang (top beeng). Still I did not expected him to use the same wrapper design on two such distinctive beengs.