Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Oppa Grandpa style!

Most of us tea drinkers don't have the luxury to sit and enjoy a cup of tea whenever we choose. I would say most of us have jobs and responsibilities that, generally, limit the type and style of tea we can have. In the USA the best tea someone can get on the go is either some sort of over sugared - under brewed tea, so a quality cup of oolong is damn near impossible to find. This has lead me to become a pretty crafty tea-head when I'm not at home with my teapots, hot water kettle, etc.

To start out, please understand that this isn't going to make tea like at home. You aren't going to get the same pleasures out of the process of gong fu but for those of us who don't want to succumb to sodas or various other beverages, It still makes a decent substitute.

From teanerd!
My favorite way to brew while away from home is a style called "grandpa style". Ive read a few grandpa style brewing techniques and each work fine from my experience. The first "technique" works if you have hot water available where ever you are. Take a glass that holds 16oz or so, preferably a clear glass, and add a teaspoon(or a pinch or two) of dry leaves. Simply add hot water and wait until its a color of your liking and sip from the glass, using your mouth as a filter for the leaves. Keep in mind that the tea leaves will continue to infuse the water, so drink up! Ive used this for white tea and oolong tea with pretty decent results although you will get asked about what you are drinking a lot outside of tea knowledgeable people.

Starbucks grandpa style!

The second technique is very similar to the first but instead of hot water, you use cold water. I like to stop by Starbucks due to the water they use(reverse osmosis-triple filtered) and get a big cup; after all, Its free(usually)! I simply take a few pinches of tea and swirl it into the water and wait. This is my preferred way to brew at work and on trips due to Starbucks being more prevalent than hairs on white tea! Plus, you can use the straw as a "filter" of sorts by keeping it at the bottom corner. This is not a joke! This technique has saved my tea cravings numerous times and is especially good in the warmer months due to using cold or ice water.

The last technique could really be argued that it falls in the category of grandpa style because the container has a mesh filter. Either way, its different than my other tea ware so I think it fits best in this category of brewing. If you're a tea nerd like myself then you either own or you've seen a travel tea cup like the one to the right. They work very well for all types of tea and are convenient for on the go. The mesh screen is a very fine screen and catches pretty much every speck of tea from the liquor. When I got mine, I think I payed about 30 bucks USD which isn't horrible for a (hot or cold) cup when your away from your pots.

I hope this crash course in grandpa style helps out whomever reads this tiny blog and can make your tealess day a better one!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Liu An Gua Pian from Teavivre

Hello! Today we are going to be taking a look at Liu An Gua Pian from Teavivre! Liu An Gua Pian  is a green tea that comes from the Qiyun Mountain in the Anhui Province of China. The harvest time for this tea was May 3rd of this year(2014), which makes me wonder if this is the Chinese equivalent of Shincha in Japanese tea. This tea looks like it was slightly rolled into a needle shape without the buds or stems; just beautiful vibrant green leaves! After a little bit of research, I learned that Liu An Gua Pian is one of China's top ten tea and is made from large mature leaves that are hand rolled into a slightly plump needle giving it the nickname "Melon Seeds" in China.

This is one of my first ventures into Chinese green tea and I have a feeling Teavivre has spoiled me on quality with this one. The smell is sweet, fresh, slightly vegetal, and I'm not sure if my mind is playing tricks on me but I'm getting a hint of smokiness. Not being able to wait any longer, I grabbed a 100ml gaiwan and put the water on to boil. Today I'm going to use 4 grams of leaf in my gaiwan. After the water is done boiling I let it cool down a bit so I dont cause any scorching of the fresh tea. After a few minutes the water is down to 180 which is about where I like to start with greens(in general). I did a quick 5 second rinse and re-filled my gaiwan for the first steep. 30 seconds later I poured a light yellow liquor into my pitcher and took a smell. It smells so sweet and bright which is somewhat opposite of the green tea normality or at least the sweetness is.

Upon first taste, I certainly get a sweetness Ive only tasted in high quality Japanese greens except I'm not getting an umami flavor with the Liu An Gua Pian. At first I'm getting a vegetal sweetness reminiscent of fresh green beans. Luckily this tea doesn't have an astringency that greens tend to have and I am happy about that.

The next infusion was 60 seconds and produced a slightly stronger brew than before. The color is a little deeper and the smell is certainly more pronounced. I'm picking up a nutty spiciness I wasn't noticing with the first infusion. This infusion is still very smooth and sweet with a nice spicy/nutty/vegetable note as well. I'm enjoying this very much!

The third and forth infusions are still quite nice but are on the downward flavor spiral. The sweetness is about half on the third and even less on the fourth. The nutty/green bean/spiciness is diminished as well but not as dramatic on the third infusion as it is on the fourth. Still, this tea is a GREAT introduction into Chinese greens! It may not be as famous as Longjin or Bi luo chun but it can stand on its own quite well.

I did take this tea into the fifth and sixth infusions to see how far I could go but alas, the wonderful flavors it was producing before have left a plant flavored water behind. I think in the future I will brew this slightly different by either combining infusions 1-4 into a cha hai or brewing in a larger pot for a longer steep. I think this would help balance the flavors into a serveable condition so there wouldn't be a noticeable difference between each infusion/cup. I tend to like this brewing with greens if they don't become astringent with long brewing times.

Overall I really enjoyed this tea from Teavivre! Price wise this is about the middle of the road in price. For 100g(bag) it is $20.90, which comes out to ~$6 an ounce. Not horrible at all! I want to thank Alison at Teavivre for her kindness in supplying me with numorus samples without even knowing I would even review them. Certianly check them out!


Monday, July 21, 2014


Hello all! I have been very busy with life lately and haven't been able to focus on our beloved tea as much. I have not given up on my "project" and should be getting back to posting some reviews on here! I have a few things in cue from some generous companies that should be poping up with in the next week or so.

Coming soon:
-Two quality's of TYG from JKTeaShop in a comparison review
-A whole mess of teas from Teavivre
-A tea from thailand called "Blue Chai"
-I still have a few supermarket teas to talk about as well as a few ive missed from JKTea,Mountain Tea, and a bag of Baozhong from Stephanie at Tea Masters!

So, TONS of reviews are coming!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Superfine Taiwan Qing Xiang Dong Ding Oolong from Teavivre

Good day! I received a package from Teavivre a little while back and wasn't able to sit and focus on the teas until tonight. I have a whole slew of exciting new teas to try and attempt to describe to you how they taste. Being an "Oolong-Head" tea drinker, naturally I chose the dong ding out of the batch. This dong ding seems to be different than what Ive seen sold online because it isn't roasted. From reading Teavivre's product page, qing xiang basically means "unroasted". This is a green oolong with a "superfine" label, which one can only assume is top quality. Even though my pallet has been moving towards the bigger beefier older brothers of the oolong spectrum, (Roasted, Aged Oolongs) I can still enjoy the lighter/brighter flavors from a nice high mountain oolong. Let dive right in!

Due to teavivre's site being so packed with information, I would rather you read what they say about the tea at hand. "Dong Ding Oolong Tea is a kind of Pouchong Tea. It is named after its production place, Dongding Mountain, Nantou. Pouchong Tea refers to the oolong tea that is not heavily roasted. The catechinic acid in the leaves are oxidized for only 8% to 18%. The tea is in dark green color. Tea liquid presents greenish yellow or golden yellow color, very clean and bright. The tea tastes mellow and sweet, has refreshing and floral aroma. Fragrant substances in tea leaves existing in the pattern that tender leaf, spring tea and high mountain tea contains higher amount than old leaf, summer tea and low altitude teas. This is the reason that spring tea and high mountain tea has high aroma." Sounds like a winner to me. On to the steeping!

I decided to brew this in my little 4ml porcelain houhin with 5g of rolled leaf waiting for a warm bath. The leave look to be of good quality and the balls are all rolled about the same size. First things first, a quick rinse. The smell of a quality tea is emanating from the little white vessel. Smells of cinnamon/nutmeg, grass, orchid, and sweetness dance in the air coercing me to give them another bath. First steep was around 30 seconds. The liquor is bright yellow and means business. This tea is very fragrant which really rounds out a nice tea session. As fragrant as the liquor is, the first steeping seems to be a little light in flavor. Still, very enjoyable.

The second and third infusions are where this tea came to life! Typical high mountain "cinnamon/nutmeg" flavor is coming through with a nice grassy/vegital finish. Very smooth and buttery with a touch of sweetness! I know that in tea culture you should finish your cup with three sips but with this cha, it was proving to be a challenge to follow the old tradition. The second infusion was 45seconds and the third at 1 minute.

As I finished the next infusion I could tell from the liquor that the cha was loosing steam. As such a young tea, one can only be happy with the qi that is given. Perhaps I was a little rough with this tea. My water was probably a little hotter that it should have been, times probably went exact but I can say that I feel that I got a good grasp on what this cha is all about. The fourth infusion was pretty light in flavor but by the fifth, the young'un have given up.