Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Winter is coming...

Hey everyone! I have been so busy lately with tons of personal reflection and work that I havent had time to peck out some thoughts on my tea lately. The over the last month the weather has been quite nice for a cup of something to help warm your chilled bones. I have been sipping on lots and lots of dark roasted oolong and a fair share of something new, Sheng(Raw) Puerh. Ive sorta gone nuts over sheng and im not exactly sure why. It doesnt really fit my normal style but why not push into unknown territory?
Get ready, fore the sheng reviews commeth.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tea Cupping - White2Tea Rougui Oolong

Please click the video above for my favorite fall "feeling" song. Its worth it, I promise.
Happy fall everyone! Today I am going to be taking a look at another offering from Paul at White2Tea; Rougui Yancha! Recently I did a review of the imfamous White Whale puerh brick from Paul and along with my order he snuck in a few samples of other tea that he offers to try. Being the "OolongChaser" I was pleased to see a oolong sample of a tea I have never had. 
Dry Leaf!

To get into it, Yancha is the same as Wuyi oolong, confusing I know. Wuyi refers to the mountains where the tea is grown and yancha refers to the overall class/style of oolong. As I understand it, Yancha encompasses DaHongPao, Mingcong, Rougui, Shuixian and Qizhong. Rougui Yancha literally translates to Cinnamon Rock Tea which can throw you off a bit from the title. I was half expecting a scented/flavored tea until I smelled the dry leaf. Wow is this yancha earthy and pungent. To me, the smell lends itself towards the puerh style rather than oolong. If I had to guess, I would say that its due to the storage of this tea which is unfortunately unknown(to me). Like most yancha, the leaves are tightly twisted with some bits and pieces throughout. The roast looks close to medium and is  This looks like a great tea for a chilly fall evening, especially accompanied by the relaxing bluegrass tune above. Lets get to the brewing!
First Infusion!
Today I also received a few professional tea cupping sets in the mail and I couldnt think of a better way to break one in! A tea cupping set is compromised of a mug with either a single knotch or a knotched teeth design(mine being the latter), a lid, and a bowl. When brewing tea with a cupping set there are specific things that need to be followed according to international cupping guidelines. You simply add 3 grams of tea to the cup, pour boiling water(or whatever temperature is reccomended for the tea being used), and let it brew for 3 minutes. After the three minutes are up, hold the lid and the mug up as if you were going to sip from it and place the bowl over the lid/bottom of the mug and turn 45 degrees to allow the liquor to drain from the mug into the bowl. As someone who has large hands and drinks a large amount of tea in one sitting, I really enjoy this brewing method because you get an upfront in-your-face look at what the tea is going to present. Theres no hiding here. The downside is that you miss the subtle changes between each steep. As you can see to the right, I have a beautiful yellow-orange cup of liquor that does have a faint scent of cinnamon. There's nothing fake or odd about it; just a natural earthy smell with a very far hint at cinnamon. I cant get over how much this smells like puerh. If tea had a family tree(I'm sure it does but I havent  come across it yet), this rougui would be the cousin of some puerh for sure.

Wet Leaf and Second Infusion

The flavor is like most high end wuyi that isnt charcoal roasted into a black crisp; Robust, Flavorful, Heavy. The lighter roast allows for more of the true flavor of the leaves to show through. Im getting notes of forest and mineral. With this steep being so strong, its hard to get into the subtle flavors that the tea has to offer. I will be updating in the future with how this tea brews in a gaiwan.**
White2Tea offers this cha at a pricetag of 12.50/50g which makes this a pricy tea.(to me) It is a VERY nice tea and I believe that the pricetag is just, it is out of my "tea fund" range. If you are looking for a heavier, no-nonsence, true wuyi oolong; look no further. White2teas Oolong offerings are just as nice as their Puerh but less talked about. Also, check out Paul's new program he is starting: A monthly subscription that will deliver tea to your door!




Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Music City Tea - Nashville,TN

Jenny of Music City Tea!
A few weeks ago I was in Nashville to visit with some of my girlfriends family and I happened to remember that there was a teashop in the city! Naturally, I had to have a visit! Upon entering the strip mall where Music City Tea is located, I was greeted by "Tea" in huge letters above the storefront. Upon entering the corner shop, I was enveloped by tea related items everywhere. Making my way around floor shelving full of tea pots and gaiwans, I went to the back of the store to say hello to the owner.

One packed island!
Different view of island!
Unfortunately Jenny, the owner, was ill and wasn't able to drink tea or stand due to doctors orders but still entertained guests and genuinely looked happy to be in her store. I sat down with Jenny to talk about her teas and tea ware available. I was told that most, if not all, of her teas come from her family's tea farm in the wuyi region. Being an Oolong fan, I couldn't help but crack a smile. She went on about the care that they take and told me to sit at the main tea table for samples of a few teas of my choosing. With the assistance of some friends(of Jenny's) helping run the store; I choose to sample a dark roasted wuyi, a green tieguanyin, and a flavored tea my girlfriend was interested in.
Different view of island!
Different view of island!
Our samples were prepared "gong fu" style by a child of one of the friends helping run the store. While the tea may not have been prepared to my standards/tastes, I cant help but commend the young girl for being so involved in culture at such a young age. I was able to get the notes I needed from each cup prepared and found that the High Roasted Wuyi Oolong was a tea that fits my current flavor profile. I can say that all the tea I saw looked very nice and was priced very fair.

Lots of pictures of Jennys
family farm
Pictures of tea sets/tables
After our session I wandered the small store looking for some new tea items. Jenny makes it hard not to spend your whole paycheck in her store. Like a traditional Chinese woman, she is a bartering queen. I would pick up an item to ask the price and would consistently be quoted less, sometimes much less than the tag on the item. I was able to pick up a full set of gongfu tea tools, a 100g bag of the dark roasted wuyi, a small container of the tea my girlfriend liked, a pixiu tea pet, two bamboo coasters, and a scent cup for just over 40 dollars. I could have easily (and strongly debated) picked up a tea table, a new yixing pot, or even a few more bags of her family's tea!

With Jenny's warm welcoming presence and the quaint store with teaware on nearly every surface of the shelf's, my visit to Music City Tea was a great experience. This was my first visit to a tea store specifically catering to gong fu style brewing and I was not let down at all. All I can do is advise you to stop at Jenny's store if you are ever around Nashville, Tn. She will take care of you!

*I wasn't able to take pictures of everything in the store. I was too interested in looking and talking with everyone!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

2002 White2tea White Whale

Hello everyone! I'm back again with a tea that has been getting notable review within the tea community as well as the "blogging circuit." As someone who has some bad experiences with puerh early on in my tea resurgence, I tend to ignore most pu' talk but this little brick has caught my attention due to the overwhelming positive reviews from some of my favorite reviewers. Hobbes, Jakub, Nicole Martin of Tea for me Please, as well as most forum reviews have all been quite surprised at the quality/price ratio that Paul of White2Tea has brought to the table with the White Whale brick.

Paul describes the 100g brick as a cha that can easily go head to head with other "famous" teas from the 2002 era. I'm guessing he is referring the the factory cakes that sell for ridiculous prices due to the popularity. At the price point of $23(recently up from the $15 price tag) for a 100g brick, this tea is quite a bargain in the puerh world for being a raw puerh that is already 12 years old and has been dry stored.

When I opened the cleverly stamped whale wrapper I am greeted by a nicely pressed brick of puerh. Being a newbie with puerh, I don't feel comfortable talking about the mix of leaves or the quality of the cake because I don't really have the background for it. All I can say is that it has a nice earthy smell but it doesn't have a pungent smell like many other types of tea. I'm guessing that is due to its compression.

Up Close and Personal!
I decided to just dive into the brick right away. I took my tea cake knife and wedged it in and found that it was quite tough to break pieces off in a clean chunk. I would guess that its my lack of experience is showing here but I was able to get 4g of small chunk/dust(hey, it was my first time with a brick of tea!) to put in my 3oz porcelain pot. Taking off boiling water, I filled the little pot and did a quick rinse. THERE'S THE SMELL. The little pot now fragrant with the most interesting smell I have ever smelled from a puerh. It smells of earth, wood, and other smells I am not familiar with. Its very interesting. The color is as one would expect from an aged pu', dark-orange/red.

3rd infusion!
Most of the flavor notes that I remember from my puerh sampling days were woody, leather, or tobacco notes; basically a smokers old leather shoe. This White Whale tea isn't anything like I remember from my previous experience. It does have a leather note to the flavor but its smooth, sweet(barely), and complex. I actually like this. I like this a lot. I especially like the warming effect I get when I sip this gem of a cha. With fall creeping in, I can see many pots of this brick in my future. I'm getting at least 6-8 wonderful brews out of this tea when pushing it hard. Those of you who enjoy flash brewing will certainly add 4-6 steeps. I enjoy a full bodied cup so I tend to brew heavy and hot. At 23 bucks for 100g, its a no brainer. You dont have to drink puerh everyday to know that this is a good quality tea for a good price. Paul is a great guy with a big heart and huge passion for tea. When you get someone with those qualities as a business owner, the business usually tends to be high up on my list. I highly suggest those of you looking to take a step up into quality teas, specifically puerh, to give white2tea a try!

Monday, September 15, 2014

My First Tea Pet

As a "westerner" who is interested in Asian culture in general, especially tea, I read as much as much as my free time allows on any interesting subject I can find regarding tea or Asian cultural beliefs. . I do this because it is interesting and I love learning about cultures. People are very close minded these days and if I can keep a mind without boundarys, it can only make me a more conscious cultural person. With that little bit out of the way, on to something that is new to me: Tea Pets.

 Jin Chan*
Tea pets are little figurines that accompany you while you are drinking tea. They are generally made from a yixing clay but can be made out of stone, plastic, or various other mediums. The pets are usually made into zodiac animals that symbolize various meanings from Chinese lore. My personal favorites are Lu Yu(which I have only seen online), Pee pee boy/Squirting frog, and Pixiu. Pixiu is commonly shown as a winged lion who is the protector or Feng Shui. Pixiu can also be shown as a turtle, frog, dragon, or the classic winged lion. My tea pet is the frog form of pixiu who symbolizes wealth. Pixiu has a craving for the smell of gold and silver and likes to bring its master the money he finds. Who could say no to that? I acquired my Pixiu frog on my recent trip to Nashville,TN from the quaint little teashop called Music City Tea. (Look for a post in the future about all my goodies I got on my trip)

Tea pets are little mascots that grow with you on your tea journey. You always want to "feed" the pet by discarding your rinse(if you do so) or left over tea over their body's so that they change colors(stain) over time. The more tea you drink, the more your pet will be fed, the more he/she will stain, and the happier he/she will be! My Pixiu does have the ability to change colors a little bit. When cool, he is a deep gold color(the right frog in the photo above) and when hot water, or tea, is poured over his body he turns a bright vibrant gold(frog on left). I don't know a lot about tea pets but I can say that I am quite excited to have a little guy around who brings me coins and like to drink tea! I think we will be great friends.
In action!
Addendum: I'm fairly sure I was told wrong about who my pet is. I'm led to believe that this is  Jin Chan from further research. I do not want to erase the blog/information so please be aware that this is more than likely Jin Chan and not pixiu.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Dark Roast TieGuanYin Oolong from Mountain Tea!

As you can probably deduce from my other posts, I LOVE DARK OOLONG. It's one tea that I thoroughly enjoy every aspect of it. The look, the smell, the ability to age, as well as many other reasons make this a tea I will certainly seek out for a long time. My love for high roasted teas came when I had my first sip of a 2009 high roasted TieGuanYin from JKTeaShop earlier this summer. I was upset when I returned to the site to find that it was removed and replaced with a 2011-2012 version. After trying both replacements to the 2009, I wasn't particularly blown away with the substitute offerings. Thus, a great search!
Borrowed from MT!
As one does when they aren't sure where to start, I returned back to one of my favorite tea vendors: Mountain Tea. MT has been discusses on this blog more than any other company because I really do enjoy their offerings and they have very cheap prices. This particular tea at hand is their Dark Roast TGY. For a measely $15 bucks you can get 5 ounces of this black gold. Seriously, 3 bucks an ounce. Im not going to sit here and blab on and on about this tea but I will say that its better than 3 bucks an ounce.

Now to the good stuff; The smell that comes from the bag is a rich smokey note that makes me salivate. Its a touch strong so I'm not really detecting anything else off the dry tea via scent. Visually it is crispy dark TGY rolled oolong. Its not going to win any beauty contests but it will win your taste buds. The flavor I get after a quick rinse is a heavy charcoal flavor with a delicate TGY back. It had small notes of cinnamon, caramel and possibly chocolate. These three notes are very muted and took a lot to find due to the charcoal fest happening in my mouth. Don't let me discourage you with all this char-talk, I do in fact enjoy the charcoal flavor.

The longevity of this tea is about 5-6 infusions gongfu cha which isn't bad considering the price. The color of the liquor starts out with a mild brown and develops into a deep rich amber/brown color. Its rich, sweet, and comforting. Now for why I'm so excited about this tea; This tea is one that I feel has the characteristics that will let it age extremely well. The only downside(to some) to this tea is the charcoal flavor that is so strong. With some age, the charcoal flavor will theoretically subside and balance into what I feel is an amazing budget dark roast oolong! I will be purchasing a sizable bag to experiment with ageing as soon as I have some Tea-Funds available! Stay thirsty friends!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

White Peony (Bai MuDan) Tea

I recently got a goodie bag from Teavivre with some of their teas they say will cool me down with their "cooling effect". I was pretty intrigued by this "cooling effect" claim so I decided to do a little bit of research. The cooling effect is something that is a part of traditional Chinese medicine; actually there is a lot of effects to Chinese medicine. One can get a warming effect (a rise of the body's internal temperature), a cooling effect (a drop in the body's internal temperature), and a neutral effect (No change to the internal temperature). While I have noticed the effects of the warming energy of tea, I've always attributed this to the temperature of the tea itself. According to Chinese Medicine, its not and that is very interesting to me. Reading further, I learned that some teas are better suited for certain times of the year due to their energy released into the human body. In the spring/summer(warm months), it is best to consume white tea, raw puerh, and various other green tea/oolongs. In the winter(cold months), it is best to consume aged/cooked puerh, roasted oolongs, and generally darker liquor teas. Traditional Chinese Medicine is something that is complicated, to me, but is interesting to see what plants/herbs/tea can "heal" the body with its specific energy.

Borrowing from Teavivre!
Moving on, I picked out a tea that I enjoy when I am really thirsty and want a light refreshing brew; White Tea. I haven't had Bai MuDan before but due to my experience with Silver Needle, I had a general idea of what I would be tasting. I picked out a smaller gaiwan (100ml) and decided to put the full 5g sample in because having 2g left over is sort of a hassle, plus I usually like my tea on the stronger side. The leaf itself is totally different from the silver needle but there are a few needles in the mix of leaves.  The smell of the dry leaves are quite nice. Earthy-Hay-maybe a little dirt. It may sound un-appealing but I know that this is gonna be a good flavorful pot of tea! The color is a light yellow with orange hues. More then likely this is because of the oxidation that occurs in the processing.

Borrowing from teavivre!
Using 180-190 degree water, I did a fast 5sec steep that I dumped out. I wanted to clean the leaves and wake them up for their full potential. Second infusion was about 10 seconds. The color was a nice pale gold color with the un-mistakeable smell of hay. White Tea liquor reminds me of being on our family farm as a child. Earthy flavors power through with a slight hay like sweetness that is comparable to sucking on a real piece of hay. I have no idea why or how white tea gets this flavor profile but it really does make me nostalgic for simpler time when I was running through fields and climbing in barns. The viscosity of the liquor is wonderful and thick! Its almost syrupy. I'm sure this is mostly due to the amount of leaf I used. I get 5-6 good infusions and the color starts fading into 2 maybe 3 OK infusions. I kept the infusion about the same due to how much leaf I was using. Ive always felt that white tea doesn't really have a long infusion life though.

Now back to how I feel internally; I do get this sense of being cool after I drank this tea. It is an odd sensation. Ive noticed that sometimes when I drink high roasted teas before bed, I have trouble cooling down and can even sweat during the night. With this tea, I did feel cool even though the 80 degree/80% humidity here has been hellacious. Its not a miracle tea and its not going to make you cold but you do get a feeling of being cool/comfortable. Its a very subtle feeling that makes me want to pay more attention to what effects the tea has in those little precious leaves.