Saturday, October 27, 2007

Organic Wuyi Qi Lan

I don't know much about Wuyi tea, or oolong tea in general. I am more of a green tea drinker. It's the scenario of needing a darker tea in the morning that leads me down the path to wuyi. Put simply, oolong tea is a halfway tea between black and green. It is more oxidized than green, but the oxidation process is stopped before it becomes black tea. Other processes that make oolong what it is could be brought on by a roasting process. Wuyi oolong is tea from the Wuyi Mountains of China.

Wuyi tea's individuality is said to be caused by the rocky soil and microclimate of these mountains. This is of course in addition to the tea varietal that grows there.

Wuyi tea is good in the morning because it carries a bigger kick of caffeine, has a more complex flavor variety, and is shrouded in sweetness. It is also very easy on the stomach, allowing me to drink it before any kind of breakfast, like today. I also have black teas in the morning sometimes, but the reason I like to have wuyi is because of it's complexity of flavor, and the lower amount of caffeine. For me, I seem to drink black tea mostly for the caffeine, while wuyi gives me both the caffeine, and the flavor.

I have only tried 3 different Wuyi teas. One from Adagio, which was a good introduction, another I got in a tasting pack from puerhshop, which was heavily fired, and thus a little intense. The third is Rishi's Organ Wuyi Qi Lan.

Rishi's Qi Lan is my favorite of the three. It is more complex than Adagio's, and less intense then Puerhshop's. On to the tea:

The aroma of the dry leaves is very pleasing. Getting the dry smell from the leaves is hard. What I do is take a small amount of leaves, and place them in the palm of my hand, the moisture from my hand releases the aroma of the leaves. The aroma given off is a deep, roasted-sugar sweetness, along with some roasted raisin-like complexity.

I put enough leaves to cover the whole bottom of the small yixing pot.

The brewing parameters I've been using are roughly 208°f for 3.5 - 4 minutes. But I have been told that wuyis are normally prepared with short steeps. For now, my methods are working wonderfully.

My camera is still having a hard time focusing on the tea. :(


Roasted sugar, sweet, complex. A nice dry wood fragrance, perhaps slightly barky, and accompanied a bit by the raisin-sweetness.

1st Steep
Strong and sweet, and just as the description on the bag says, a dry kick of roasted sugar. The sweetness seems to be coming from a raisin-like presence. The woody flavors, and roasted flavors are a bit intense, sharp.
2nd Steep
The tea becomes better rounded, with a less "complex" feel. Woodsy flavors are more present, and the roasted sugar flavor has blended into the rasin-sweetness. Perhaps the taste also becomes a bit lighter in the second steeping. As tea cools to a warm temperature, it becomes predominantly sweet, but the sweetness seems to be somehow "complex."
3rd Steeo
Third steeping is still very nice. Reaching a state that perhaps can not be any more rounded. Deep sweet flavors of raising and sugar have blended. The tea has become slightly lighter as well. Less woodsy flavor.

And the remnants:

As you can see in these pictures, some of the leaves are green, some brown. All the wuyis I've had have been like this. But I have been told that not all wuyis show this characteristic. This leads me to believe that all the wuyis I've had are a blend of some kind.

This is my favorite Wuyi. Absolutely wonderful. It is very satisfying as a morning tea. A good pick-me-up and an awesome complexion of flavors. It is this tea that may lead me to experiment more with wuyis. I recommend this tea to anyone who hasn't yet had the pleasure of trying a Wuy oolong tea. Rishi's Organic Wuyi Qi Lan is one of the most complex teas I've had the pleasure of drinking.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Adagio's Anteadote

I, like a few other tea-bloggers, recently received a complimentary box of Anteadote iced teas. Adagio carries these organic, unsweetened iced teas on their website. The 5 flavors they currently carry are: Black, Oolong, Green, White, and Jasmine.

They all have Vitamin C added as a preservative instead of the usual junk present in iced teas. The problem is that the vitamin C puts off a little bit of a taste into the tea.


Oolong: This one is the best. Made with Ti Kuan Yin, this tea is pleasantly sweet, carrying the floral notes of a green-oolong. The taste of the vitamin c is either not present, or blends in magnificently.

: Made with a nice Yunnan black tea, this anteadote carries the sweet flavors of a good black tea on a creamy-smooth finish. Vitamin C flavor doesn't interfere.

: I've only tried one jasmine tea before which was extremely over-flavored. This tea is much better, tasting mildly of fruity/floral jasmine.

: Made with White Peony, this tea tastes like white peony, but the "berriness" of the peony has turned a bit earthy. This tea also has a significant aftertaste of vitamin C.

Green: This was the only tea I was truly disappointed with. Through the whole bottle, there was nothing for me to taste but that funky off-flavor of vitamin C which is mildly present in the other teas. I do not recommend this one.

Out of this series, I would recommend the jasmine anteadote to those who enjoy the flavor of jasmine. The black I would recommend to all who think they may like a good-tasting, unsweetened, black iced tea(I'm not a black-tea person myself, but I rather enjoy this one). I recommend the oolong to everyone!
(I recommend passing on the green and the white.)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Sweet Day for Sencha

I recently made my first purchase from a tradition Japanese tea shop called Ippodo. I turned to Ippodo because they have an excellent deal on a matcha kit. I had been interested in matcha for a while before I got around to getting this kit. Unlike most teas, matcha comes as a powder made from ground leaves. The leaves used are shade-grown to help give matcha a sweeter flavor and less bitterness, this is necessary, because with matcha, you mix the ground leaves in water. This means that you are essentially consuming every portion of the tea leaf. You can imagine that consuming the entire leaf would give more health benefits, but it also gives a massive kick of caffeine. I have recently heard it rather accurately described as the espresso of green tea.

We'll wait to go in-depth on the matcha kit and matcha in general for now. If you want to read a few informative posts about matcha, then check out Tea Nerd's Matcha Madness (1 2 3).

Today is a day for Sencha
Along with the matcha kit, I also ordered a 100 gram bag of Sencha Hosen from Ippodo teas. Described as being well-balanced, with "subtle sweetness, elegant fragrance and fresh aftertaste" this tea seemed to be a good choice, and was recommended by a couple of seasoned sencha drinkers.

The dry leaf smells fresh and sweet, with a hint of tang. A deep dark green with a bit of shine.

While the wet leaves are
a bright, healthy green.

Using the testing parameters:
3.5 tsp/300mL
175° for 1.5 minutes

We get a cup that is more yellow than green:

Despite the unfavorable color, the tea permeated the air with a sweet fragrance of honey with a floral note. Perhaps a honeysuckle smell. The sweetness of Hosen is very different from the sweetness of fukamushi. While fukamushi is more of a grassy-vegetal sweet, the hosen is a floral-honey sweet.

I was at first taken aback by it's similarity to my mothers teabags. The taste is plainly sweet, with only a loose and light addition of floralness. I am reminded of sucking on a honey-straw with a light, fresh breeze in the air. At lower temperatures, the sweetness tends to take on a more fruity-honeydew quality. This honeydew sweetness is more enjoyable than the honey-sweetness as it adds a rounded fruitiness, and a floral-fruity aftertaste.
A confusing drink, at times I am reminded of honey-sticks, at times I am reminded of dead grass. I would not recommend this tea to a seasoned sencha drinker, but perhaps to a new convert who still needs to be driven into the tea-world by a sweet tea.
The 2nd steeping creates a more cloudy brew. But not the cloudiness we enjoy from fukamushi, a more yellow cloudiness that for some reason is a lot less appetizing. The smell, however, is back to the floral-honey, while the taste has lessened greatly. Still honey-sweet, but much less so. During this steeping the Hosen tastes primarily like hot water. Mixing up the tea bits from the bottom adds a bit more of the honeydew sweetness. Perhaps my honey-sweet taste buds have simply been overloaded, nonetheless, this second-steeping is not so pleasant.

In summary
, Sencha Hosen lacks complexity, donating a simple floral-honey-sweetness to the cup, which gains favor as it turns to a fruity-honeydew sweetness at a lower temperature in the first infusion. The second infusion becomes slightly cloudy, with less sweetness and even less complexion. I would give this tea as recommendation to those people who are new converts to loose green tea, and those who enjoy a simple, sweet tea. For those who enjoy a grassy, green sencha, this is definately not the tea for you.


4/10 - Good for someone who doesn't drink tea regularly, yet still enjoys something better than a teabag full of fannings.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Flavor of Japan

Much has happened since my last update. As can be seen in the last 2 posts, I have gotten deeply involved with a great tea called Fukamushi Sencha. In fact, I have almost entirely diverted my green tea consumption to Japanese teas, and I'm really loving the change. This change could also lead to a very different tea-blog that concentrates almost entirely on Japanese teas(change in title included).
Of the Japanese teas, my primary drink is Sencha. Sencha is the most commonly drunk Japanese tea. The main thing that makes Sencha different from Chinese teas is that it is steamed to stop the oxidation process. In my opinion, this allows Sencha to retain the more grassy flavors, while Chinese(pan-fried)teas take on a more "foody" taste. Sencha carries with it a perfect blend of sweetness, sharpness, and wonderful aroma.

I hope we have all tried Rishi's Fukamushi by now?

If not, you can have the honors!

Hehe, just kidding.

Time for another tea review!

While I was scanning Rishi's selection, I came across an interesting flavored Japanese tea, called Yuzucha.
The reason I decided to give this flavored tea a try was because it seemed strictly Japanese. Yuzu is a small Japanese citrus fruit that is used in various Japanese dishes(wiki), while "cha" means tea. The main ingredient in this blend is a Sencha(1st flush). -I have a slight problem with this assertion, as the Yuzucha is full of stems. This makes it seem to be more of a Kukicha or Karigane(twig teas)-. Also in this yuzu-flavored blend is a small amount of matcha, but not much. I really wish they would have added more matcha, as I find adding matcha to a whole-leaf tea really adds to the fullness of the tea. (The sencha I'm drinking now is Sencha Hosen from Ippodo teas. It produces a very clear, light liquor, so sometimes I add some matcha when I want a more bold and "powerful" tea.)

Getting to the actual leaf, the dry smell is quite intoxicating.

Out of the bag flows a strong, citrus-sour fragrance. The smell is very natural, and very pleasant. The tartness in the smell is a bit similar to Hibiki-an's Karigane Sencha. A tinge of the singular matcha smell follows the citrus.

The dry leaf is very nice, altogether giving high expectations for the brewed tea.

At 3 tsp/300mL for 1:30m:

Sorry about the blurriness, but I just couldn't get it to work. It's also a bit greener in person.

The smell of the tea is predominantly a sourness from the Yuzu. Yet this yuzu smell is followed by a karigane-tartness which is probably the smell of the stems. The smell is also sweet and floral(senchaness).

Tasting the Yuzucha was a bit of a disappointment. It's really not that bad, but the wonderful citrus aroma of the dry leaf leads to expectations of a strong yuzu-citrus flavor. This was not the case. The first noticeable flavor is that of matcha, a deep, yet airy sweetness(this taste is very light). In the background is the mellow, floral sweetness of the Sencha. A light tartness is mildly noticeable as it hits the back of the tongue and the throat, the tartness seems to be a combination of the more sour yuzu with the more "tart" karigane (this tartness develops in the throat, getting stronger and stronger).
Perhaps caused by the accumulation of the yuzu taste in the back of the mouth/throat, the 2nd steeping of the tea tastes more sour(more yuzu). The 2nd steeping also has a deeper flavor of sweetness, more rounded.

In retrospect, the tea is not strongly flavored, but carries a more natural character. I find that I have more respect for a flavored tea that is more of a tea, and less of a flavor. My opinion of this tea is that it is a lightly sour-tart yuzu-flavored karigane tea with a touch of matcha to add a tinge of thickness. Yuzucha will serve well as a mildly flavored tea that can be treated as a palatable departure from the usual grassy and vegetal flavors of Japanese green teas(note: Japanese greens are much more than just "grassy and vegetal!").

With yours truly being neck-deep in schoolwork this quarter, the blog posts will probably decrease greatly in length. I will still try to get notes in on all the "notable" teas I try. Until next time...
I'll be a brewin'

A much greater focus on Japanese teas is taking hold.