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!