Monday, June 16, 2014

2013 Ban Yan Wuyi Medium Roasted Qi Lan Rock Tea from

My next cha from JkTeaShop(JKTS) is one of their Wuyi Oolong offerings --- Ban Yan Wuyi Medium Roasted Qi Lan Rock Tea! (What a mouthful) I have been interested in wuyi oolongs for awhile and this is my first "real" wuyi rock tea. I think Ive tasted some low quality "wuyi" at some point but I don't recall enjoying or not enjoying it.

To be completely honest, I know very little about this tea or where it comes from. The extent of my knowledge is that wuyi oolongs are picked at high altitudes and they are grown in between rocks thus giving the tea a mineral/rock like flavor note. Fortunately, JKTS has great descriptions about their teas and here's what they have on their site: "Qi Lan tea variety is introduced and cultivated in Wuyi mountain in early 1990s from Nanping city, which is the border city of Wuyishan city. After over 15 year's cultivation in Wuyi mountain, plus the high Wuyi rock tea making skills, the Wuyi Qi Lan tea has its very unique aroma & taste from its original variety taste.

Wuyi Qi Lan is limited in production yield in Wuyi mountain. Its medium-roasted delivers better orchid aroma & slightly palm leaf aroma, and soft tea liquid. Its lingering aftertaste sweetness is very amazing and the overall mouth feeling is complex and changing as time goes by after sipping the tea.

All of our Wuyi rock tea is baked extremely slowly by charcoal, and only arrive in the market in August of every year. So the new Wuyi rock tea still has a little bit charcoal feeling in taste. As the tea breathe under the air, the charcoal aroma will disappear slowly and the tea's original taste and aroma will come out."

In the Wuyi category of tea, this Ban Yan is my first charcoal roasted cha. If its anything like the TGY I reviewed recently then I'm sure ill love it. On to the tasting notes!

As per usual, I took 5g of dry leaf and added it to my freshly heated gaiwan/houhin. The smell is roasted sweetness mixed with a very light floral scent. The floral smell is so light that I couldnt really pin point it until I read the description again. Next was a quick rinse and an immediate infusion for 30 seconds. The liquor is a medium darkness and still quite transparent. The body is medium thick and the flavor is lighter than expected. Im getting a very light sweet roast flavor that lingers on the pallet for sometime after you sip. Ive always read that Wuyi Oolongs have a mineral or "rock" taste. To be honest, I dont know what that tastes like and cant tell if its there or not. This is hard tea to describe... I know that I do like it. Second infusion was about 45 seconds and produced a similar color as the first infusion. The flavor is nice on this infusion. Im pretty much getting what the first was displaying amplified up a little more. Im really starting to enjoy these roasted teas at night. Its almost like a desert with the smooth roasted sweetness they give. I will say that roasted aged teas have a "better" sweetness but this one isnt bad.

I stopped taking notes after the second infusion because I was working on something and wasnt focusing on the tea. I believe I took the leaves to 5 or 6 infusions before I felt that the liquor was too thin and weak for me. The flavor for this cha didnt change, or at least I couldnt detect any, on the pallet like some complex teas are known for. It was certianly enjoyable and for a 50g bag its 8.80 and for a 100g bag its 16.80. Its pretty affordable for such a nice tea and it is my favorite Wuyi I got in my samples order from JkTeaShop. I think im starting to get the medium to high roasted teas and why they are popular. Its certianly a nice change from my Green Oolongs I tend to drink most of the time.  On to the next cha!

Pictures soon!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

2009 High-roasted Tie Guan Yin from!

From my past notes of tea on this blog you may have noticed that its been pretty much green oolongs and not much else. Green Oolongs are probably my favorite genre of tea, especially in the summer months. I have been getting a little bored with the floral notes of green oolongs so Ive decided to look around for something different in the massive category of Oolong.
Bottom of sample bag--DARK CHA!
My first order from JKTeaShop(JKTS) was a "sample" order of various teas that I was interested in trying. JKTS has the option of ordering a sample, about ~15g, of all their teas that they offer for very cheap.($1.50-$5.00 a sample) This is a great option for people who haven't had a style of tea and cant afford to buy 2-5oz of a tea they don't know if they will like. I ended up getting lots of Wuyi teas as well as various other teas. One tea out of the samples I ordered that really lured me in was the 2009 High Roasted Tie Guan Yin. Ive never liked any of the high roasted teas Ive tried but the smell of the dry leaves of this tea is hypnotic  I'm getting notes of chocolate, caramel, and a possibly a hint of coffee out of the bag! My mouth is watering from just smelling the cha.
As always, I weigh out 5g and toss it into my warmed houhin/gaiwan and the dry leaf notes are amplified! Its reminding me of cake and sweets. It makes me wonder why I was giving the cold shoulder to such an amazing genre of tea. On to the brewing notes!
2nd Steeping
To start off I did a flash rinse. The color of the water was pretty dark so I decided to take the flash steeping route. The first infusion was 10 sec and produced a beautiful dark translucent liquor. The flavor is a little light in this infusion. I'm getting a caramel/brown sugar sweetness but its only slightly there. I'm craving more flavor out of this tea so I take the time of infusion up to 30 sec on the second infusion. In hindsight, this is the starting time I should have used. Flavor is about 50% more than the first infusion and I'm absolutely loving it. I would like the flavor to be a little more but for an unflavored tea, this is a beautifully sweet complex treasure. Very sweet caramel notes are coming through with a hint of something I cant quite place ... is it coffee or cake... After thinking for a bit I decided it was a roasted malt flavor one would taste in the grains used for making a dark beer. Its certainly a fantastic tea for an after dinner sweetness. Next infusion(3rd) was for 45 seconds with freshly boiled water. Absolutely delicious brew. Lots of sweetness and a complex roasty malted caramel chocolate swirl of flavor on your tongue... I regret not buying a bag as big as my room. I'm in love with this tea. The next infusion(4th) brings less sweetness but is still an enjoyable cup as it still has some of the attractive qualities of the 2nd infusion just less flavor. The 5th infusion is getting to the point of being too light for me. Although, I am picking up a new flavor/aroma. In this cup I'm getting a slight sweet cigar smell that is reminiscent of an Acid Blond, one of my favorite cigars! Unfortunately the flavor is so light I cant get overly excited. I decided to take the leaves two more infusions so see what else was hiding. Apparently nothing, the tea has given up like an obese person trying to run a marathon. The two latter infusion brought nothing more than a slightly tinged water.

Delicious Tea!
After thoroughly enjoying a session with this wonder tea I went on to JKTS to order as much as my tea budget would allow. After searching around I wasnt able to find the tea. After an email to JKTS, I found out that the 2009 tea was gone but they have a much better "2011" High Roasted for the same price. Well crap...Despite not being able to get it anymore, I was completely blown away with this tea. I wasn't expecting such a complex sweet offering from something that I wasn't expecting to enjoy. I know now not to judge a tea by its color or roast!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Supermarket Tea: A-Li-Shan from Tradition Tea Co.

Hello all! Recently Ive become interested in the common "standard" of tea for Asia. Do they go for supermarket tea or always buy premium? I guess the same could be applied to American's (westerners) in regards to coffee. Who goes to Starbucks vs. Folgers at home. Thinking over a cup of high mountain oolong, I decided to seek out as many supermarket teas to compare the quality to some of the single farm/mountain artisan teas I've been drinking. I wasn't able to find a lot of information on the company... actually, I wasn't able to find ANY information. I'm sure there is a Chinese site out there but even if I found it, which I didn't, I wouldn't be able to read it.

First up in this experiment is an offering from Tradition Tea Co., A-Li-Shan Oolong!(Yes, that's how they spelled it.) I was shocked to find this tea in my local Asian market because teas from Ali Shan Mountain(s) are fairly sought after by us tea enthusiasts. Teas from this area are generally sweet and floral with creamy notes. I was a little concerned how good the tea would be with a mere $9.99 price tag for 100g (about $2.80 an ounce).

The tea is tightly rolled balls of green oolong in various sizes ranging from dust particles to 7-8mm(estimation) in diameter. Certainly not as "pretty" as my normal green oolongs but the proof is in the taste! Speaking of taste, lets get started with tasting notes!

Today I used my houhin with 5-6g of the cha. To start off I did an extra long wash(20-30 sec) with off boiling to get rid of anything on the leaves as well as debris that may have been trapped in the rolled balls. The smell coming from the leaves after the wash is very inviting. Sweet with a touch of floral. The first infusion was 30 seconds and produced a very light liquor with a muted flavor. I am getting a very light floral note but not much of anything else. The second infusion brought out more from the tea. I steeped for 40 seconds and I am getting floral and fruitiness with a lingering sweetness after the tea goes down. Not bad for such a cheap tea! To me this would be a good tea to try for someone interested in Li Shan teas but isn't ready to shell out for premium. The third infusion(50 seconds) is similar to the second but with about half of the flavor sticking around. The sweetness is still there but I can tell its going to fade; It doesn't linger as much as the last pour. The fourth infusion(1 min 10 seconds) gives an even lighter brew that is similar to the first with a hair more sweetness. I would call these leaves spent after this infusion.

After four infusions the tea gave up but to be honest, I wasn't expecting it to have the Qi of what I normally drink. You also get 3 times the amount of tea you would normally get if you purchased artisan tea, so you cant really fault that. Overall, I thought the Tradition A-Li-Shan was fairly good for the price plus you get a "reusable" tea tin! I would absolutely pick some up if my tea budget is blown or I'm being frugal with my funds.