Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Oriental Beauty (Bai Hao)

Bragger's Tea, Dong Fang Mei Ren, Bai Hao---Oriental Beauty. This is a tea with a rich, and entertaining, back story that I will not be talking about in this blog. The wise bloggers, Teamasters and Marshaln, have posted about Oriental Beauty with in depth writings far better than I could peck out on this blog. I will include links at the bottom of the page for those who are interested.

Oriental Beauty oolong cake.
With that out of the way, lets talk about the star of the blog today: Mountain Tea's(again, I know...) Oriental Beauty Oolong Cake! I was drawn to this tea due to Mountain Tea's unique way of offering the cha. It's pressed into a 'cake' form which is usually, from what I've seen, a popular form to offer Puerh cha due to the ease of storage and aging. That brings up the question, is this oolong made for aging?

Not wanting to wait a few decades, I decided to dive right into this cake with an open pallet. As you can see in the picture to the left, the pressed tea presents itself with beautiful earthy colors. Although the tea has darker leaves this is due to the high oxidation (60%), not the roast(0%). Due to how this tea is made, having bugs nibble on the tea leaves, there aren't any chemicals used in the growing process making it an organic offering. The tea is pressed into 3.8oz cakes and comes wrapped in paper just like puerh beengs. Mountain Tea is charging $22/cake making this tea ~$5.79 an ounce. Not the cheapest but certainly not the most expensive cha I've seen.

Cake packaging with yixing and cup 
I tried this tea in a few different brewing vessels to see which emphasized the notes of the tea. When brewed in a yixing pot, the oriental beauty was slightly muted giving the liquor a flat balanced taste. I preferred my porcelain houhin's brew over the yixing due to porcelain's ability to give more of the high notes and allow each note to "pop" a little more.

First infusion.
Third infusion

On to the tasting notes! As I do with all my tea, I weighed out 5g of dry leaf and added it to my houhin. Using off boiling water I started the infusions. After a quick rinse, the first infusion gives a light honey colored liquid that is inviting to drink. The flavor is in its infancy, possibly hinting at a nectary fruit to develop in later infusions. The flavor Bai Hao cha gives is hard for my mind to describe. Its reminiscent of puerh without the old leather boot and tobacco notes but is nothing like raw puerh. Its very hard to pin point... The second infusion's liquor was very different from the first. It's starting to lend itself towards a roasted tea, yet the roast is 0%. Can high oxidation give such a rich liquor? Must be.  The flavor opens up in this infusion; as most teas tend to do. I'm getting a strong apricot/rock fruit transforming into a nectar-like honey with a touch of spice. It's a little overwhelming to be honest. My tea to water ratio is fine but its teetering on being over brewed. I use a timer so I know this tea was brewed correctly... I'm starting to think that these leaves are in for a long session. The third infusion is similar to the second but is easing up slightly on intensity. I'm not tasting any new flavors, but the flavors are starting to swirl together a little more making it an exciting cup. The next infusion is exactly where I want my tea to be with flavor. The liquor is orange-yellow and the flavor is that of apricot on the sip and a semi sweet honey flavor with a dash of spice that lingers . From the 1st to the 4th infusion the flavor mellowed out dramatically into a very pleasing cup of tea.

Over the next hour or so I kept infusing the leaves with off boiling water, raising the steeping times when appropriate, to get a liquor as pleasing as the last. I lost count after 10 steeps with this tea but I would guesstimate that I had at least 12-15 infusions! These leaves have a wonder Qi and treated me nice as I sat immersed in a film. This tea would be a nice addition to anyone's tea collection or current drinking rotation. If you can get past the bull headed first few infusions, when brewing gong fu, you will be greatly rewarded with a long lasting fruity, nectary, shyly sweet tea that will aid in relaxing the body and mind.

More information about Oriental Beauty tea:



Thursday, May 22, 2014

Spitfire Pottery

Earlier this year I joined a tea forum called Teachat.com. On TeaChat, they have an artisan section filled with potters who make some of the most beautiful pottery I have ever seen. While looking through the pages of art, I stumbled onto Spitfire Pottery which is ran by Bill. I contacted Bill and asked him if he could make a special order for me. He happily obliged. 

I asked for a very small kyusu(about 3-4 fluid ounce) with matching 1oz cups and a tea caddy all in teal. The blues Bill can get in his pottery is simply stunning. Take a look below at his art and my new brewing vessel! If you would like to contact Bill, check out his Etsy shop. https://www.etsy.com/shop/splitfirepottery

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

2013 NATC LiShan Winter Oolong

Hello! Today I'm going to be talking about a new tea I have been excited to get in the mail; Mountaintea.com's 1st Place winner of the 2013 North American Tea Competition(NATC) green oolong category: LiShan Winter Oolong!(Cheers)

Now with this much anticipation of a tea, or anything really, I tend to try not to get too excited so I'm not let down if its all hype. Fortunately for this tea the "hype"(if you call putting a NATC emblem on the sites image hype) was pretty on par with what I read on the NATC's website. The LiShan received a score of 90 putting it into the 'Outstanding: a distinctive tea with brilliant style' category. Well, lets not take their word for it, time to crack open the bag!

First steep after rinse!
After opening the bag and smelling the dry tightly rolled green balls, I wasn't really smelling anything that was blowing my mind. It had a faint floral smell but not really much of a smell at all really. I attributed this to lack of acclimation of the tea. After letting the tea sit for an hour or so the real scent of the tea came out! An orchid floral note mixed with orange blossom dances with fresh green oolong and permeates from the bag begging me to fill a pot and experience its brothy offering.

LiShan is a growing region in Taiwan 2000+ meters above sea level. This high elevation growing is well suited for tea due to its consistent cool temperatures. This tea exhibits all the initial characteristics of a high quality tea and all that was left was to put some in a pot and brew.

Steeping 3 or 4.

After adding 8-10g of Lishan to my vessel I poured off boiling water on the leaves for a quick "wake up". The smell of orchid and orange blossom takes the stage. When tasting the first steep, I get the obvious floral notes but I'm also getting a citrus note. Its either orange or lemon. I may be also getting a slight hint of jasmine in there too. I'm also getting hints of creme and vegatables from time to time. The broth is lightly colored with a smooth mouth feel. Its quite nice. This is one of the only teas, albeit flavored teas, that I have tasted fruit notes. In the later infusions, this tea keeps up well. I was getting a full flavor brew for 5-6 infusions tapering off into a flowery water. Because I don't have tons of expirence with floral teas I can only compare this to the Four Seasons of Spring I posted about a few weeks ago. While the FSoS was good; the LiShan kicks its ass in delicacy. FSoS is a flower bomb while the LiShan is a flower falling slowly to the ground. The Lishan also stands out in complexity compared to the FSoS. The citrus and individual floral notes really make you sit and focus on the cha. It demands you to listen to what it has to offer, relaxing you all the while.

Leaves in a yixing!
Note: When trying the LiShan I brewed it in a porcelain houhin and a yixing pot. I preferred the porcelain houhin's brew over the yixing because I felt the yixing muted some of the more complex notes I was getting out of the houhin.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Coming up!

I just got some new teas in to review so expect to see some new posts in the next week or two. I will be trying a LiShan Oolong, Mountain Oolong, and a Jasmine Tea I picked up from my local Asian market. Ive been getting more and more interested in what is commercially available in Asia and seeking out what the tea "baseline" should be. Ive been keeping an eye out for Sea Dyke, Wuyi Star, Golden Snail, and a few other large Asian companies. So, with that out in the open, keep checking back for reviews of any tea I can get my hands on!