Wednesday, April 30, 2014

High Elevation Green Tea (or not...)

Today I'm going to be taking a look at yet again another tea from Mountain Tea. (I swear I don't work for them!) This time I'm looking at their High Elevation Green Tea located in the clearance section. If I am remembering correctly, I think I tagged this onto an order due to the price; A modest $5 for 2.8oz of tea. Not a bad price at all for a tea from Taiwan.

They state on their site that this tea's origin is Nantou, Taiwan, which is where a lot of their other high mountian oolong offerings come from. I suspect they have a farm in Nantou who is making several types of tea for MT. This tea in particular comes from the Qing Xin bush which is notorious for producing teas that yeald buttery flavors, a velvety mouthfeel, and strong floral notes.

Image from Mountain Tea
First off, let me start out by showing what the picture on Mountain Tea is. It depicts a very GREEN natural looking tea. It seems to not have a great deal of processing which is a nice thing to see when looking for tea. The picture below is how the tea looked out of the package. It resembles a loose puerh or possibly a wuyi oolong far more than a fresh green tea the sites picture indicates.

How tea looks out of package

As you can imagine, after opening the package I was pretty confused. Expecting a fresh green tea, the roasted(?) leaves are usually something I do not enjoy. I love the fresh flavor of green oolongs and green teas and I tend to think roasted teas taste like an old leather boot. For instance, puerh teas are very popular among most tea drinkers; while I can appreciate the work put into the tea and even smile after a sip, I don't enjoy the complex earthy flavors roasted/aged teas tend to give; they taste, well, old.

2nd or 3rd infusion
Being a little let down on the purchase, I poured the bag into a container and sat it aside for another time and the time is now! I decided to use my yixing pot for this tea. I'm hoping the pot pairs well with the tea's roast to bring out some subtle notes. I started off by adding 6g of the dried leaf to the pot and pouring in off boiling water for a quick 10 second rinse. I know a lot of people tend to rinse roasted teas to get any debris from the roasting process off of the leaves and to "wake up" the leaves. After the rinse, the first steeping is a deep reddish/violet/brown color. Its very intriguing as Ive never had a tea with a purple hue but upon inspection, it could be the lighting in this room. The taste of this tea was a little shocking at first. I'm getting notes of soy beans or edamame beans on the front with a heavy mineral flavor coming in the back. There is also a little bit of floral dancing around in there too. This mineral flavor becomes more pronounced as you progress in infusions. From what I know about teas, this sounds like a wuyi tea due to the mineral flavor but due to not having experienced a wuyi oolong, I cant comment on the similarities or differences. The body of this cha is very nice. It reminds me of a thin honey in the way it coats your tongue. In the later infusions you get hints of green tea that pop in from time to time in between the soy bean and mineral notes.  

They also boast on MT that this tea is very forgiving in the brewing process. They say that this tea will not become bitter no matter how long you brew it. I did forget that I had water in my pot for a good 5 minutes and normally I would discard the infusion but I decided to try it out. It wasn't bitter but it was stronger than I would like to enjoy my infusions. All in all, I was initially let down on the appearance of this tea but in the end it turned out to be enjoyable to drink. I may be more will to try roasted teas now that I have enjoyed this roasted cha. Maybe ill pick up some wuyi in the future!

***After contacting Mountian Tea about this tea, they seem to think I was sent the wrong bag of tea. This bag would be their Puerh cha... No wonder it was so hard to pick out the tasting notes.***

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Is there honey still for tea?

Heritage Honey Oolong
Hello! Today I'm going to be talking about another tea from Heritage Honey Oolong. This tea is grown in Nantou, Taiwan at an altitude of 1300m above sea level; classifying it as an Ali Shan Oolong. Mountain Tea doesn't have any information about the roast or oxidation of HHO but my guess is that the roast is 0% or very very little while the oxidation is probably around 40% or more. What brought me to this conclusion is all in the cup; the liquor is a deep honey color after a quick rinse which usually indicates a roast or high oxidation. From tasting the broth, I cant taste any noticeable roast flavors. The tightly rolled balls are green so I can only assume the deep rich amber liquor the cha is producing is from oxidation which I would also assume is where the name comes from. (a lot of assumption there, I know)

Ive been enjoying this tea for some time now to offset the expense of some of the high quality teas Ive been purchasing. Mountain Tea is offering this tea at a very low price of $10/5oz. You're not going to find a better deal for a classic, one dimensional, straight forward oolong.  They have notes of peach, citrus, and sugarcane listed on MT's site but sadly I couldn't detect any of those notes. That doesn't mean I haven't enjoyed this tea though. Due to its price, I tend to use this tea as my "all day" tea, meaning, when I want to drink some tea but I don't have the time to focus on the qi or its life. I can drink this tea without much distraction from its flavor and effects.
First  Steeping.

For sake of having steep by steep information, I used 8-10g in my 4oz houhin. Starting off, I did a quick 10-15 second rinse with off boiling water. The smell of earth and tea rise from the vessel to greet me with a welcoming aroma. I may be able to pick out some fruit notes by smelling the leaves but only slightly. The first steep was for 15-20 seconds and produced a yellow tinged liquid. The second steeping is where this tea's name comes from; deep honey(amber) liquor with a 30 second infusion. The flavor I get from this tea is that of a decent oolong without much excitement. I'm not getting any bitterness or astringency, unless you steep way too long, which my pallet is thankful for. I feel a nice warming effect after a few more steeps of the same broth as the first, its nice and calming. I'm enjoying this cha's modest offering more and more at night, sort of like a tea night cap. Its relaxing qi puts me at a great place to get into bed and sleep.
Second steeping.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Go rest high on that mountain

Hello! Today I'm going to be talking about my absolute favorite tea that I have tried, Organic High Mountain Oolong(OHMO) from! OHMO is the first oolong that really made me say "WOW" and turned my love for tea up to 11!  If you have tried lots of teas, then this tea may not be as mind blowing for you as it was for me but I'm sure many of you, if there is anyone there (hello..ello...ello?), have had that "ah-ha" moment when trying a new tea and can appreciate the process.

To start off, I want to talk about how I received this tea. I had ordered my first tea order from Mountain Tea and was waiting for it to come in the mail. Luckily they are in the US so shipping time isn't that bad compared to overseas purchases. Originally I had ordered Milk Oolong and an Oriental Beauty Cake. On the day my package was being delivered, I received an email from Mountain Tea telling me that I should contact them about my order. After work I gave them a call expecting the worst. I spoke with a woman who was friendly and she let me know, embarrassingly, that there was a mix up with my order and another customers order. She continued to express how sorry she was and said that my correct order was already packaged and sent out. As someone who rarely has problems with ordering online, it didn't upset me much due to the customer service I was receiving. I then asked her what I should do with the tea I would be receiving. She told me to keep it and enjoy; And enjoy I did!

This was from the end of my bag. Please excuse the fannings!

The Organic High Mountian Oolong is actually grown in Vietnam by cultivar QingXin making it not as "traditional" as a oolong grown in Taiwan. When opening the package, a complex scent of fresh tea and spice wafted up to my nose, instantly making me excited. When inspecting the tea, the 3-5mm tightly rolled balls are green with hay looking stems. The tea looks fairly clean and without any noticeable debris or dust.(except for the bottom of the bag)

First or second steeping!

When I originally tried this tea it was in my yixing pot which produced great results, but for this session I am using my houhin style gaiwan for ease of use and convenience. I put 8-10g of OHMO in and poured in some freshly brewed water to commence the gong-fu style brewing. After a quick 5-10 second rinse, the smell of spice(possibly cinnamon or nutmeg) and tea is much stronger and is making me salivate. Moving on, The first steep gives a typical light yellow liquor which is typical of an oolong with 20% oxidation and no roast. The taste is very pleasant and takes me to a setting of a fire on a cold winter night. The rich spice flavor is dancing across my pallet morphing into a clean sweet nectar. The next infusion brings a deeper flavor profile out of the leaf which is giving me its full potential. Notes of flowers, honey, and slightly, umami emerge playfully dancing with the spice on my pallet to create a wide eyed grin only an "AH-HA" moment can produce. I continued to enjoy this tea until it was completely exhausted which happened around infusion 7 or 8. I love the qi this gives me and the flavor is by far my favorite of the oolongs I have tried. At the price point of 2oz/$10, 5oz/$20, and 10.5oz/$38, this cha certainly is a bargain for what you get out of it. I plan to make another purchase very, very soon.

Sip slowly,

Tea setup: 4 fl oz houhin, 8-10g of leaf(two teaspoons full), boiling water.
2-Spice--sweet after thought
3-Spice, flowers, honey. slight umami
4-Lighter notes than steeping #3 umami is gone?
5-Even lighter but still enjoyable!
6-8- Still a slight flavor.

I tend to take the leaves to the edge with this tea. I love this tea!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Slow spring walk in a cup

Hello! Today I decided to rip open one of my purchases from I decided on Four Seasons of Spring which is classified as a green oolong; my personal favorite tea style! The teas name, Four Seasons of Spring, comes from its ability to produce four flushes each year that have the same quality of the spring flush. Spring flushes are generally considered to be the best harvest of the year and are usually sought after. This tea was grown in the mountains of Nantou, Taiwan by the cultivator Sijichun.

{image of raw tea}

Four Seasons of Spring is a varietal of the popular TieGuanYin oolong but has lighter notes to share with its brewer. While I usually get a rich vegetal/grassy note from TieGuanYin, Four Seasons of Spring boasts a huge floral presence in the nose and while exhaling when sipping its delicate broth. This is the first tea I have had that is extremely floral-y and honestly at first it was a bit much. It was similar to the floralness of drinking rose water. The best way I can describe the tea is the sensation of smelling a pungent rose; The way the pollen of a rose bursts in your nose is the same sensation I felt while smelling/drinking this tea.

With the oxidation being 10% and the roast at 0%, the brew is very clear; similar to the liquor a white tea would produce slightly turning a pale yellow in later infusions. When I push the tea with a higher temperature(off boiling, previously brews were at the recommended 85-90c) and longer steeping time(1:00-1:30 min, previously 30-45 second steeps with a flash rinse), the broth was yellow with a more traditional TGY profile while keeping the floral note as before. One thing I really liked about the Four Seasons of Spring Oolong is how well it handles bitterness. I could not get it to make a liquor I couldn't drink even after forgetting about it steeping for a good 5 minutes. I think this oolong really shines with 20-30 second steepings gong-fu style, which is my preferred style, but could certainly be good western style for a light floral treat!

{Image of the tea in a cup}

I usually enjoy oolongs that are a little more complex but Four Seasons of Spring oolong has surprised me by how delicate yet resilient it can be. At the price point of 2oz/$6, 5oz/$11, 10.5oz/$19 it is a very affordable tea. To me it is A little too light for everyday use but would be, and has been, a beautiful tea for a mid morning cup in the spring. It makes me long for a walk in nature with the smells of flowers coming to life after a long winter.


Tea setup: 4 fl oz houhin, 8-10g of leaf(two teaspoons full), boiling water.
2-Mild Flower notes
3-BOOM bouquet of roses/flowers
4-Still flowers
5-Pushed the tea with longer steep
6-Tea is too light for me but is still flavoring the water

Thursday, April 17, 2014

History with the Leaf

Hello readers! (err lack thereof)
I decided to start this blog to keep track of the teas I will be trying on my tea journey. At this point in my life, I am very "into" tea and love researching and reading as much as possible about the sweet, sweet leaf. So to kick this blog off with a BANG ill be answering some questions that were circulating around on some of my favorite tea blogs late last year.

1) First, let’s start with how you were introduced & fell in love with the wonderful beverage of tea.
As someone who lives in the "south" in North America, I can comfortably say that I was exposed to tea at a very young age. I would imagine that tea in the south is very different than anything most of you have had slide across your pallet. From what I can remember, my mother would take an amount of Lipton tea bags and place them in a pot (as in a pot you would cook with) on the kitchen stove. She would then bring the water/bag mixture to a boil and turn the heat off, allowing all the "goodness" to then steep for an undisclosed amount of time. The strong dark water was then mixed with regular water and so much sugar that I'm surprised I didn't go into diabetic shock. This was then served cold over ice, "traditionally", in a mason jar.

As for loose leaf tea; I was in college and as one tends to do in college, I experimented with new things. I'm pretty sure my first order was a green tea sampler from Upton Teas. If I remember correctly, it was composed of various gunpowder greens and rolled green teas. I remember trying to like it but wasn't as excited about the warm brew as I had hoped. I had a few tea-less years after that only to return with a vengeance! ALL THE TEA SHALL BE MINE!

2) What was the very first tea blend that you ever tried?
I would assume that it was some sort of "blended" tea. (Lipton, off brand black tea, etc.)

3) When did you start your tea blog & what was your hope for creating it?
Well this is my first post on this blog so today would be my start. My hopes for creating this blog is really for personal use. I want to keep track of what tea I enjoy, or don't enjoy, and who I got it from.

4) List one thing most rewarding about your blog & one thing most discouraging.
Just starting out is rewarding enough for me. I'm not starting this to gain a following or notoriety online/ in the tea community; If you find my semi-competent musings useful, Great! If not, that's OK too! As of right now, nothing is really discouraging me about the blog.

5) What type of tea are you most likely to be caught sipping on?
I'm usually sipping on some sort of oolong. Mostly lightly roasted or green oolong but expect to see what I think about other teas in the spectrum on this blog.

6) Favourite tea latte to indulge in?
As an Ex-Starbucks employee, I cant help but shake my head at this. Tea latte? Seriously? Never would such blasphemy cross my lips.

7) Favourite treat to pair with your tea?
Usually I enjoy tea by itself so I can really appreciate the life it is transferring to me, although i have had a pleasant experience with some seaweed and sea salt popcorn with gyokuro or sencha with lots of umami.

8) If there was one place in the world that you could explore the tea culture at, where would it be & why?
I dream of the day that I will be able to travel around Asia taking in the culture and wandering around aimlessly searching for hidden gems. In all honesty, that is merely a dream but we all have to have an apex to aim for right?

9) Any tea time rituals you have that you’d like to share?
Rituals? Well..I may do a human sacrifice or two before a pot of Jin Xuan but nothing worth noting...
I'm usually sitting at my desk with a Gaiwan catching up on YouTube or a TV show.

10) Time of day you enjoy drinking tea the most: Morning, Noon, Night or Anytime?
I drink tea all day. Through out the day I'm more than likely drinking some form of Milk Oolong grandpa style at work. Due to the lack of hot water available, Its usually cold or room temperature water with 5-10g of leaf being enjoyed for the length of my work day. After I get home, I sit down with the tea choice of the evening and enjoy until it is spent.

11) What’s one thing you wish for tea in the future?
I don't have any wishes for tea other than be what it is. I do not wish for it to become something the populous turns into something fashionable, à la Starbucks.

Well, there you have it! I hope that you have found some sort of enjoyment in reading about how I got into tea.

Until next time,