Friday, August 22, 2008

Duan ni Yixing Pot

This is an extra special day because I just acquired a new Duan ni yixing pot for my wuyi oolongs.

The pot is made out of Duan ni clay, "a yellow or green Zisha, literally Satin Mud." The walls are thinner than my other pots, which is a bit of a scare. I don't think this pot can take a fall. I got it from Rishi-Tea, who packaged it very well, very safe. I seasoned it very mildly. I ran a lot of hot tap water through it, shaking the water inside to disturb loose particles. Then I brewed a few steeps of Wuyi Amber in it, leaving the steeps in for longer than I would have, had I been planning on drinking it. Afterwards, I brewed a few pots of some 2005 Shui Xian, which came out thicker, more viscous, and sweeter than when brewed in a glazed porcelain gaiwan.

I think the quality of the clay is very high. When I got it, I performed the "sniff test," which is a simple test to determine quality of Yixing clay. I learned of this test through Jason Fasi, aka BearsBearsBears. It is very simple. You start by rinsing the pot out well to get leftover dust and powder from the manufacture out. Then you pour near boiling water into the pot, then back out again, and take a good whiff of the smell that the clay puts off. There are basically three possibilities. If the clay smells like chemicals, then it has been mixed with paint or synthetics. If it smells like mud, then it's been blended with low-quality clay. Real yixing clay will smell like hot rocks or sand. If it's real, then the hot rock smell will be very pronounced, so much so that it may seem a little too intense.

This pot passed with flying colors. The smell was very strong and was exactly like hot rocks. So even though it's a little thinner than I'd like, the quality of the clay was better than I expected.

Red Blossom Yancha, Rougui

Red Blossom Rougui

I got this Rougui along with the other wuyi oolongs from Red Blossom. I already blogged the Huang Kuan Yin, and the Jin Fo "Golden Buddha." Neither of which I liked very much. I also got a few others I didn't blog: Wuyi Amber, which is very low quality, not very pleasant, but still drinkable. Organic Qi Zhong which is just around as bad as the Amber, not surprising. Good organic teas are few and far between. I also got the Tie Luo Han, "Iron Warrior Monk," which was delicious. I'm holding off on finishing the sample until I can blog it.

The large, twisty leaf puts off a smell that is clean, but bold and roasty. Sadly, the brew comes out a golden amber, denoting a less-oxidized tea, making this closer to a green oolong, which I don't enjoy.

Suprisingly, the aroma is mostly roast, but with some underlying floral. So perhaps a more roasted lighter oolong? And that is exactly what it tastes like. The oxidation seems to be a little more than that of the Jin Fo and the Huang Kuan Yin, but lighter than I like, making the tea floral. In the first steep, the roast masks much of the floral, which is quite nice. In fact, the floral seems to add a nice amount of complexity to the first brew. But this didn't turn out bold, how I like my yancha to be.

As I expected, the roast rinses off and the tea becomes rather boring. It's too bad I find less-oxidized oolong to be boring, because there is a whole lot of it out there. It does have a nice, tranquilizing qi to it, so I'll continue to finish it off and enjoy that aspect.

What's odd about this tea is that it isn't what I would call a green oolong. It is less oxidized, and that shows through the floralness, and the "boring" attribution. But it is also something more, which means it's most likely between the two oxidation levels of what I would call green and dark. The poor side of this is that it has the boring characteristic of a green oolong. But on the other hand, this odd level of oxidation leaves one analyzing cup after cup to see what's really going on.

The evolution of this tea is very intriguing. While it starts with a roasty steep, then followed by two floral steeps, which are then followed by what tastes like a darker oolong, but lacking in roast. An even odder aspect is that the taste can shift somewhat from sip to sip between the two. I'm probably just crazy, but this is how I tasted it.

So who knows about this tea. It's quite odd, which makes it interesting. It has light-oolong characteristics, and dark-oolong characteristics. This makes me think it's at an uncommon level of oxidation, in between the common greener and darker thresholds. For now, I can't say that I like it or that I dislike it. So, while I'm unsure of this tea, I find it quite interesting. If anyone has, or knows of anyones notes on it, I'd love to read them. I'll revisit the sample again, and leave a note on any changes.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Huang Kuan Yin Red Blossom

The leaves are large, green, and smell delicious. Aroma of floral, and graham, not much roast.

The tea is golden amber in color, and floral and honey in aroma. The taste is smooth, creamy, floral and honey. The slightest taste of graham is left from the light roasting.

This tea is rather boring, which is what I find nearly all green oolong to be. The light roast adds a little to the character of the tea, but it wasn't enough. Either more oxidation or more roasting is needed.

Georgian Tea

Yes, Georgia, the country that's all over the headlines. Who knew they grew tea... until now.

The smell of the dry leaf is nice, fruity and dark. 3 minutes, the liquor comes out a deep red-brown. The smell had that fruitiness and dryness that reminds me of an assam or ceylon.

Having just ate sour rasberries, the tea seems very light in taste. There's the fruity flavor, and some soil but different from the pu-erh dirt taste. 5 minutes for another steep, similar in character.

So, it's not amazing, but I really didn't have high hopes. I would say, "surprisingly mediocre," not bad, as I expected to be. It's not a tea I would rush out to buy, but if I was offered it, I would enjoy it with a warm heart. [insert sentimental political statement here]

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Chiran Kanayamidori Itoen

The second of three teas I just ordered from Itoen. I chose this over the others on the Itoen website without much basis. It seemed less steamed, like an asamushi, which would be nice to have around so I don't get overloaded on fukamushi. I was also drawn in by their description, verdant with succulent notes of leafy greens.

The leaf is a good deep-green. It's fairly broken up, which doesn't say anything about the tea by itself, but is a sign that pushes towards the side of a deeper steamed sencha.

176°f - 1.5 minutes. The tea presents itself in a color that is not entirely green. I would definitely say it's green, but more of a yellowish green. The aroma doesn't have much to offer other than leafy greens and an inkling of tang. The taste is delicate, light, and delicious. Its sweet on contact, then opens up with a very very slight floral, dominated by spinach-like greens, and a slight accommodating tang.

This is actually a quite good tea. It's delicate enough to be enjoyed anytime, but provides more for those who wish to pursue it. At $16.50/3oz, it's neither cheap nor expensive, and I say a good deal. Although I'm not usually fond of lighter-steamed senchas, this one accommodates my need for a smooth, luscious, and succulent drink. Some might say it is chumushi (medium-steamed), and I may also say this at a later date, but right now it provides a contrast to the fukamushi Megami, and adds to my cupboards healthy selection of senchas.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Jin Fo Golden Buddha Yancha

"Golden Buddha is a new Wuyi oolong cultivar developed only ten years ago." -Red Blossom

The smell of the dry leaf is already enticing: sweet graham, which passes over into the aroma of the tea. Also noted is an aroma difficult to pin down: a dry to bitter caramel aroma. The taste is new for me, being quite different from all yanchas I've had. At first I notice a delicate, yet dominant sweetness like caramel accompanied in the mouth by more than a share of floral complexity. Followed afterwards by the sweet graham. There's a lingering aftertaste. In fact, I can still taste it after 2 minutes.

The roast must have been a very light one. Most of the yanchas I've had have been medium-fired and carry a heavy roast flavor throughout the first few steeps. This tea must have had a lighter roast because of the floral's ability to come out early, and the relative lack of a heavy roast character.

The florals come out more, and the sweet graham dissipates as the steeps go on. 3rd is well-balanced, but the flavors mesh and mellow out. By the 4th, they've started to dissipate. The tea dies around the 6th.

When I first sipped, I thought I loved this tea very much. But as the session wore on, the floral became more than I like to have in tea. Then, it started dying by the 4th infusion. Not long enough for me I'm afraid.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Megami Sencha Itoen

Today, I'm trying Megami Sencha from Itoen.

I believe it is a deep-steamed fukamushi because in the site's description, they say, "You'll immediately note the jade green intensity that comes from extra steaming." Well, the first steep(176°f - 1m) isn't so intense in color:

A light lime-green. The taste, however, is bold, lucious, and delicious. Flavor mostly of spinach, asparagus (name your vegetable), slightly grassy, carries a wonderful lip-smacking tartness, and definitely some lime.

Now, it's been a long time since I've had a deeply steamed sencha, fukamushi style. With this in mind, Megami is hitting the spot perfectly. One factor that may be influencing my opinion is that I'm using a small gongfu cup(right) instead of the usual(left):

The next steeps are the same lime-green color, but cloudier.

What is really appealing to me from this tea is the tart lime flavor. It's my favorite flavor in a sencha (right next to grass), and is typically found in abundance in karigane (gyokuro stem) tea. I always feel lucky when I get a stem-less tea with this flavor.

The bottom line is, I love this tea. It's full of flavor, slightly creamy, quite vegetal, and well-balanced with a tart lime flavor. My first impression of Itoen was that they're too commercial to have great sencha, but hey, I was wrong. However, their packaging was a simple padded envelope, which didn't protect the tea as much as one would hope. Luckily, 2/3 of the teas I ordered were deep-steamed, and already broken up. Deep-steamed senchas taste best when broken up, but the breaking of the leaf is just an effect of the deep-steaming.

At $16.50/3oz, Megami Sencha is a tea worth your time and money. I have two other Itoen senchas I'm looking forward to trying: Chiran Kanayamidori, and Makinohara. If they turn out as well, then I'll give Itoen the seal of approval.

Friday, August 1, 2008

2003 Dayi Yiwu Sheng Pu-erh

I got this tea in a 2oz sampler from Puerhshop. On inspection, the leaf is quite dark. But on a 2003? Obviously a sign of wet storage. The smell is deep and barky, similar to a semi-aged sheng, but also carries a sharpness.

Aroma in the cup is not strong, but subdued, milky, and sharp. Taste begins with a smoke, followed by a lightly sweet vicosity, some milkiness, and a bit of wood. There is also a sour flavor which probably is responsible for all the sharp notes.

I've actually tried this tea twice before. The first time, I had been drinking a lot of young sheng. Then, I thought it was a lucky find, having been wet-stored to get it more quickly to a stage where one can enjoy it more. The second time I tried it, I had been drinking mostly well-aged sheng. When I tried it the second time, I didn't like it much at all. The sour flavor starkly contrasted with the aged sheng I had been drinking, and left me feeling like this tea had been overly wet-stored.

During todays tasting, I picked up on more flavors of the tea. I hadn't noticed the smoke or the milkiness before. I had noticed the viscosity, but didn't get a good grasp of it at the time. For this tasting, the tea took on a different character. My general thoughts are that it is too much on the side of a wet-stored tea. The sharp, sour flavor only becomes more and more pronounced as the session goes on, and one develops a strong aversion towards it. What also happens as the session goes on is that the tea becomes deep red-brown in color:

Unfortunately, I got sick of the snotty sour flavor and gave up on the tea early. Most probably, a good few years will get rid of a lot of that flavor, and that is probably what will happen with the few chunks left of the sample. It seems like it should be a good tea, but the snotty flavor is just too much. Perhaps a few more years will unlock some potential in it.