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Recent Tasting Notes
My body and I are not on speaking terms again, the jerk has decided to take a dive into the deep end if the fatigue pool. I feel like I am constantly walking through pudding, and the pudding is not translucent so everything feels foggy, the brain fog is real, yo. It has been this way off and on for a little over a month, instead of my usual ‘once a week I am really fatigued, usually from doing stuff’ it is the other way around, which is really lame! In a perfect world my next visit to the doctor will consist of blood work and I will need some vitamin or something, I will take a vitamin deficiency any day over having to be put on some new medication. My body and meds tend to have a VERY rocky relationship, and a lot of the drugs used to help Fibromyalgia are ones that have given me pretty severe reactions. Or maybe I just need to drink more tea, yeah, I like that solution the best!
It is now the most dangerous part of any Wednesday, going to What-Cha’s website to get the relevant info and linkage for the tea I am going to cover, because I always drift over to the new tea section and there always seems to be something new that I want, it never fails! Today’s tea is Korea Jeong Jae Yeun’s Hwangcha 2014 Balhyocha Tea, ok before I get too far, remember when I reviewed Korea Dong Cheon Daejak 2013 Sparrow’s Tongue ‘Jakseol’ Green Tea and talked about how it was an amazing tea that as soon as I could I ended up buying a bunch more…and how I was worried I would not do the tea justice? Yeah, well, it happened again, I am beginning to think that Korea might make my favorite teas, clearly I am going to need to test them ALL to be sure! It is good that I bought more of this tea (and not just because I have been on a binge since it arrived) because the notes I took for this one are almost illegible, especially the third steep where my words just kinda trail off the page, I consider that a good sign!! Ok, so this tea is the only tea created by hand by tea artist Jeong Jae Yeun, who (after a bit of digging around) is described as the epitome of grandma tea artisans, which is what I want to be when I grow up I think. Apparently her tea is rather popular with Korean monks, which is also pretty awesome! Ok, now to address the elephant in the teapot, what the heck is a Hwangcha and Balhyocha? To put it in the most simplest of terms, they are the same thing a tea that has gone through fermentation (translation only, really it is oxidation) and Hwangcha is not the same as Chinese yellow teas, Tony Gebely wrote a fantastic article on the tea as did Morning Crane Tea and Mattcha, the subject is really dense, one I could devote an entire blog post to! So, onto the leaves, the pretty curly dark leaves, they smell really good! Super creamy and sweet, with strong notes of honey, roasted peanuts, lychee, papaya, distant flowers, a touch of malt, spicebush…man, this tea has everything! It has one of the most complex aromas I have had the pleasure of sticking my nose in. I think I spent the entire time waiting for my kettle to warm up sniffing this tea, it felt like I was going down the rabbit hole and each new sniff revealed something new while not overpowering the previous notes.
Into the gaiwan the leaves go, and my little tea region has been turned into an aromatic fun zone, the notes that are drifting out of my gaiwan have me super excited to try this tea (ok I already was) the aroma of the wet leaves is intensely creamy, it reminds me of a decadent creamy sweet treat. The intense creaminess is accompanied by floral notes, papaya, and a rich cocoa and malt undertone. The liquid is unsurprisingly creamy sweet as well, with notes of papaya and a fruity musk that is not quite identifiable, it is something from a long distant memory. There is a finish of cocoa adding extra richness to an already rich aroma.
I am glad I do most of my tea tasting sitting down, because I would have been knocked off my feet by this one (intense tastes and smells make me go all fainting goat sometimes) the mouthfeel is so thick and creamy, it is both very heavy and bright. The taste hits my tongue in waves, first the intense creaminess combined with cocoa and distant flowers (a hint of rose I think?) this moves on to fruit, hello lychee and papaya! The finish is an explosion of sweet cream and malt, which lingers, oh how it lingers!
Second steep time! The aroma is sweet, nice notes of lychee, cocoa, sweet cream, and a tiny bit of spicebush at the finish. Yes, I did accidentally dip my nose in the tea while sniffing it, what of it? This taste is pretty similar to the first, it did not grow or change much, the mouthfeel is still super creamy and thick. The main difference between this steep and the first was an intense build of malt towards the finish that lingered, giving more of a boost at the finish.
Third steeping, this one is totally illegible in my notebook, so I had to imbibe more, not that I mind of course! The aroma this time is replaced with cocoa and cream, but instead of lychee there is a stronger papaya and spicebush. The taste is still riding that delightful sweet cream train, but it is a bit less of a cream explosion and more of a smooth creaminess. The midtaste is all fruit and cocoa, papaya and lychee being the dominant, but I am pretty sure I also detected a tiny bit of coconut as well, which is fascinating. The finish is malt and cocoa, the cocoa lingers for a while.
This tea does not evoke any strong emotional response, and it does not change a whole bunch between steepings, but it is delicious! I tried it western style as a comparison and it was intense, like the first steep but all the notes went all 90s and became eXtreme. In theory this tea should not be a favorite, since it does not evolve or elicit a strong emotional or nostalgic response, but I cannot help but love it, it just tastes THAT good.
The tea liquor smells of wet grains with subtle hints of honey and chocolate. It reminds me of the mash when brewing beer and it is comforting to me. The taste is warm, smooth and malty with a touch of sweetness. Later steepings bring out a buttery, rich flavor and floral hints.
Flavors: Butter, Chocolate, Grain, Honey, Malt
Though knowing of Darjeeling’s grape-y flavor profile theoretically, I didn’t expect my first sip into this cup to immediately bring up the word ‘grape juice’ in my mind. Further sips reveal a beautiful woody oakiness underneath the tart grape flavor.
I now see never having bothered with Darjeeling (after my first unsuccessful attempt with bagged Darjeeling) was a huge oversight in my tea existence. I can’t wait to get to know this tea better through the five different estate samples from What-Cha.
Flavors: Grapes, Muscatel, Oak wood, Wood
1st infusion (1 min) Aroma is dark roasted chocolate. Tastes metallic and earthy. Slight astringency in the back of the throat.
2nd infusion (2 min) Aroma has hints of chocolate. Tastes earthy and woodsy. More astringent taking over.
3rd infusion (3 min) Aroma is vegetal. More roasted flavor and I can pick up hints of chocolate. Astringency takes over my whole mouth after each sip.
What a weirdly complex tea! I’m not sure if I would get it again, it is very pricey for something I’m not in love with, but I enjoyed the experience!
Flavors: Dark Chocolate, Metallic, Vegetal, Wet Earth, Wood
I once knew a person from Burma – we learned German together. Though I can’t remember her first name, I remember that her last name was Laden (she had a hard time traveling internationally). I keep hoping that the flavor of this tea will remind me more about her, or what she told me about Myanmar – but I haven’t had much luck so far.
This tea is one that defies expectations. I expected the dry tea to be dusty and feathery like a bagged tea, but instead found beautiful, tiny tea pellets that reminded me of miniature gunpowder tea. Then, I assumed the brewed liquor would be a dark brown or black, but was surprised by its rich, ruby red. On my first sip, I thought that I had at least predicted the flavor accurately, since I tasted the satisfying bitterness of a Twinings bagged tea, but the further into the cup I drank, the more I tasted an unexpected, fruity complexity.
All in all, this tea has definitely made me curious about the rest of my recently arrived What-Cha order – mostly consisting of a Burma, Nepal, and Darjeeling “Discovery Collection”.
Happy National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day…wait…that was on the 12th and it is the 13th…crap. I was going to have this big speech about how Fibromyalgia affects lives and how more research needs to be done and people need to be aware of it, but nope, I lost track of what day it is. Bringing me to my personal biggest ‘crutch’ of having this syndrome…Fibrofog. The combination of pain, fatigue, and cognitive impairment makes it feel like your brain is locked in a fog bank, it is what causes me to repeat questions, forget things, trail off mid-sentence, leave my waffles in the toaster only to find them the next day when I go to make waffles, make a to-do list and lose the list, lose something right in front of me…I could go on with this, but I think you get the point. As someone who prides themselves on their mind being sharp, Fibrofog is like adding insult to injury, I can take the pain, but I really can’t take the derp. So there, my Fibro-awareness day a day late!
Ok, time to put the sad, tiny, violin away and stop whinging, tis Wednesday and time for a tea from What-Cha! Today we are looking at Ceylon Amba Hand-Rolled Black Tea, a tea from the Amba Tea Estate in Ceylon, plucked February of 2015 (ooh so recent!) and of the Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe Grade 1 variety. I admit, I do not try a lot of Ceylon teas, mainly because I used to have those generic Ceylon teabags back when I made iced tea…now that is totally unfair because the higher end Ceylon loose leaf teas I have had have been pretty fantastic, so let us see how these curly leaves compare. The aroma is delightfully nutty, blending sweet notes and peanuts, so it reminds me of peanut brittle. There is an underlying note of yams and a touch of dried cherry and apricot. I like the fruity touches at the end, the sweetness pleases me.
Oh man, I cannot type tonight! I keep messing things up and having to redo it, my fingers are all floppy. The brewing leaves smell more like I expect a Ceylon to smell, very bright and brisk with a touch of lemon peel and oak wood sharpness. There are also notes of sweet yams, peanuts, and pepper at the finish. The beautiful amber liquid smells, for lack of a better word, lively! It is one of those teas that smell like a wake up call, like after school and you need tea to wake you up…or was that just me? The aroma blends oak wood and gently roasted peanuts, there is a brittle like sweetness at the finish and a touch of distant citrus.
Tasting time! I was tasting this tea in the afternoon, so I was glad that the aroma of this tea seemed very much something I would want as an afternoon pick-me-up, and very excited to see if it would transfer over in taste. The first thing I noticed was how it was a blend of bright and mellow, the mouthfeel has a smooth and slightly tingly texture, with a slight dryness at the finish. The taste starts out with sweet peanuts and yams, this moves to malt and a touch of citrus, and the finish is peanut brittle sweetness. I am tempted to try this at a later time with cream and sugar, but I so rarely drink my tea like that anymore that I was totally out of cream…err…half & half, and I refuse to use skim milk because ewww. I think this would be an excellent tea to have at Afternoon Tea, complete with a side of scones.
Quite a surprising tea! I didn’t expect anything in particular since I haven’t got an extensive experience of white tea and it has been a rocky journey. The colourful and widespread dry leaves tingled my nose with fruity hints of a backgarden, but I wasn’t fond of their overripe – flirting with moulden – character when steeped. Happily, the infusion smelled of cooked pear (almost a pie!) and yielded a delightfum note of mirabel on the tongue. With an ever so slight bitterness that highlights its sweet beginnings, this tea stimulates the entire mouth and ends in a long and fresh aftertaste. A sweet note of each remains once cooled.
Although quite pleasing, this is the kind of aromas that I would expect from an oolong, whereas I go for white when I need something light and flowery ; I know this sounds narrow-minded, but my point is that I’m not sure when I would drink this crossover tea.
Flavors: Fruit Punch, Peach, Pear
You know, the weather the last couple days has been kinda great. Not too hot, just warm enough to wear loose ‘floaty pants’ (I honestly do not know what else to call the things, not yoga pants, not leggings, too loose…so floaty pants) or a ‘floaty skirt’ (see a theme?) and a short sleeve tunic or t-shirt, while also having my lap blanket to keep my perpetually cold feet warm. The humidity has been thick, meaning lots of storms, and of course that makes me immensely happy. Everything is so lush and green, I love late spring, and truly hope we have a mild summer.
So, it is Wednesday, meaning it is time to visit the ever expanding tea collection from What-Cha! Today I am taking a look at Darjeeling 1st Flush 2014 Kanchan View White Tea, a delightfully fluffy and verdantly green White Tea from Darjeeling, I love trying the atypical teas coming out of Darjeeling, the Yellow Tea I tried a while ago became a favorite, so it makes sense I would want to try the White Tea, even if it is from last year’s harvest (don’t judge, it was on sale and I wanted a sample!) Kanchan View Tea Estate is gorgeous, high in the mountains with a view of the Kanchanjunga, it also has one of the oldest and largest tea factories in the world, which is pretty cool. The aroma of the leaves is nothing short of bright and brisk! Like someone mixed up grapefruit peel, orange blossoms, wildflower honey, and lilies with a green broken vegetation undertone. It is really quite aromatic, and honestly kinda reminds me of my favorite soaps…not that this smells at all soapy, I just have a very tea smelling soap!
Into the teapot it goes, and yes, that is a Yixing teapot, I figured it would be safe to use my first flush Darjeeling seasoned Kyusu style Yixing teapot (it is just touching on all the cultures, what a mish-mash) since it is still pretty young in its life. After brewing the leaves you can definitely tell this is a first flush Darjeeling, it takes the slightly peppery note of nasturtium and fresh scuppernongs that I associate with FF Darjeelings and mixes it with grapefruit peel and lemon verbena. It has a distinctly green note along with the citrus, much like lemon verbena. The liquid is very sweet, blending honey and wildflowers with scuppernongs and a distinctly bright note of grapefruit and lemon verbena.
First steeping time, the taste manages to be very clean and crisp while also being mellow and mild. It starts out with a mild lettuce and nasturtium note. This moves on to an intense sweetness of honey and scuppernongs with orange blossom and grapefruit. The finish is grapefruit and lemon verbena with a slight note of cucumber that lasts as the aftertaste. The mouthefeel is a bit dry, adding that edge of a crisp texture to a crisp taste.
Second steeping has a very intense grapefruit aroma, not just the fruit but the blossom too! You smell that flower once and it will never leave your memory, I know I can never forget it. The taste and mouthfeel are no longer crisp, instead the taste is honey sweet, like gentle orange blossom and wildflower honey with a finish of hay. Fun fact, if you forget about this tea and come back to it once it goes cold the citrus notes really pop, making for a super refreshing cup on a hot afternoon. I think I will come back and try this tea cold steeped once the really crazy heat of summer comes on.
This tea session is dedicated to Martha, I am sad I will not get to visit you and have tea together. You will be missed, sweet lady.
Yawn! What an insane couple of days at work (ok.. seriously…complain much??? This feels like its becoming a common theme). This was a nice relief this morning from the crazy, like a 10 minute oasis from insanity, seriously!Big thanks to Maddie Barone for the swap! The tea is soft in flavor and has a pretty mellow maltiness which isn’t overpowering or too in your face! With milk its tasty but really nothing to special…Enjoyed tasting but probably not something I’d end up ordering.
These buds sure are pretty, golden, curly, fuzzy and soft. They’re in good shape. In a warm gaiwan, they smell heavily of cocoa, and after the first infusion the buds smell like cocoa still but also like honey and flowers.
The first infusion is surprisingly pale for a Chinese red tea. It’s actually a bold, golden yellow color. Granted, that’s only after 15 seconds, but with the same weight in leaves, red teas are usually at least orange or amber after the first infusion Gongfu style. The tea liquor smells great, like subtle hints of chocolate and honey and pastry crust. I’m reminded of greek pastries like baklava or galaktoboureko, maybe with some chocolate thrown in em for good measure. The taste is exceptionally smooth and delightful. It’s sweet and gentle with flavors of honey and cocoa. Sort of has a “cookies and cream” nuance.
In the second infusion, floral flavors emerge to accompany the others. It’s really buttery. The third infusion offers more of the same flavors, but more rich. It continues in this way in later infusions. This tea is pretty mellow and easy to drink. It has a sweet onset and is overall light, then finishes with a lingering taste of cocoa. I think chocolate lovers will love this tea, and those who like their red/black tea on the light and crisp side.
Flavors: Butter, Cocoa, Floral, Honey
These white tea leaves dry in a warm gaiwan smell like a churro. If you don’t know what that is, Google it, and find some in your area, and treat yourself to one ASAP. I am enamored already, and I can’t stop smelling it just to enjoy that scent. The scent of the wet leaves after the first infusion is like fresh cucumbers and champagne with a hint of perfume.
The taste of the first infusion is really delicate and sweet, yet strangely mouth-filling. There’s a bit of a sweet corn taste to it. After the second infusion, the leaves smell quite a bit like lychee fruit to me. The tea tastes like lychee too. It’s really sweet, crisp, and delicate with fruit and floral notes (lychee taste both fruity and floral if you haven’t had the chance to try it before). Another way to describe this tea is that it tastes quite a bit like the aroma of pure frankincense.
The infusion color of this tea is a really pale yellow, really subtle and pretty to look at. I’m really impressed by the intensity of the flavor, and the complexity of it, considering how delicate and easy to drink it is. This one’s definitely going to end up in my next order from What-Cha. I think that in terms of flavor, this tea even rivals my favorite tea, which is another white tea from What-Cha (Kenyan Silver Needle).
Four infusions in, I’m tasting more of a bosc pear or golden apple flavor. After that, the infusions become a bit less sweet and more tangy, though I’m certain I could push many more flavorful infusions out of it. White Peony style teas tend to start getting really fruity again with these short Gongfu infusions after the first 8 or so.
Flavors: Champagne, Lychee, Pastries, Perfume
I’m lacking the energy for a detailed post tonight.
Short version: This tea is smooth, clean, and the flavor is fine. It isn’t bitter or harsh at all. It’s good, certainly priced nicely. It would be a great Wuyi oolong for beginners who are new to Wuyi teas and would like a cheap one to test brewing methods with. It also doesn’t really taste or smell like cinnamon to me. The scent reminds me more of char and cigar tobacco, while the flavor is not far from a cigar either, and neither taste nor smell come off terribly complex to me.
Like a cigar, but healthy. How bout that?
Of Wuyi oolongs I have had, this one gives one of the least pronounced impressions. It’s a typical representation of Wuyi oolongs, great perhaps to someone new to the world of fine loose teas, especially because it is affordable, but to compare this to the finer Wuyi teas I’ve had would be unfair from both ends.
But then, when you sit and analyze a tea, and compare it to others, instead of just enjoying what you have in front of you, well, some would argue that’s missing the purpose of tea, and I’d tend to agree with them.
Though reviewing has its merits, especially for the forgetful, who are otherwise blessed to get the best of their blunders.
Flavors: Char, Tobacco
The dry leaves in a warm gaiwan smell nutty with a hint of cocoa. After the first infusion, the wet leaves smell like flowers and apples, just a touch of cocoa at the end.
The first infusion is really sweet and honey-like. The flavor isn’t really complex. There’s a hint of white grape and maybe orange. It’s subtle and smooth. The second infusion is much more floral tasting than the first, with a hint of the lingering white grape flavor as before. What’s really interesting about this tea is that it doesn’t taste like tea to me… It tastes like water sweetened with honey and infused with fruit. It’s kind of unique in that way. It is very clean and light, quite easy to drink.
I did a few infusions with this, brewing a bit longer each time. Even if I brewed it really long the flavor never became overpowering.. It was always floral, slightly fruity, not bitter at all.
I must admit, this tea has me nonplussed. I’m not sure what to make of it. I have tried a handful of Darjeeling teas now and have never really been wowed, nor have I disliked them. I’m not sure if Darjeeling is for me. There always seems to be a little something missing, as far as complexity goes, and maybe I’m just not that big on grape flavor. I also brew it Gongfu style like a weirdo, though I’ve tried it in the Western fashion, which is the usual method for enjoying Darjeeling, and I didn’t like it as much that way. This tea is good stuff though. It’s light and easy to drink.
What-Cha’s description says it reminds of red wine. I would have to say it reminds me more of a white wine (maybe because I brew it more lightly), something sweet like a Gewurztraminer.
Flavors: Flowers, Honey, Orange, White Grapes
The leaves of this tea have a great mix of gold tips to darker leaves. Lots of pretty gold tips. The dry scent of the leaves in a warm Gongfu teapot reminds me of chocolate and french fries… which is awesome because I love french fries. Seriously, they’re like my second favorite food after sushi. After the first infusion, the leaves are bursting with aroma! There are hints of black cherry, plum vinegar, chocolate, raisins, apricot, and maybe even a bit of wood and flowers. It’s complex and intense.
The taste of the first infusion is incredible. It starts with an apricot taste and ends with a really interesting dark chocolate bitterness. There’s a little bit of plum too. Reminds me of one of those chocolate oranges you have to whack to break apart, but better. The mouthfeel and taste of this tea are exceptionally clean. It has a really wet, juicy feel, and the bitterness that lingers at the end is really enjoyable. It’s a unique kind of bitterness that I haven’t experienced before… kind of tingles and stimulates the tongue. It’s more a sensation than a flavor. It doesn’t really taste bitter.
After the second infusion, there’s more apricot flavor, and a bit of malt flavor creeping in. As I steep to a third and fourth infusion, the fruit tastes back off and more malty flavors arise, reminding me of the red and black tea flavors I’m used to, but as it cools, there are still hints of the apricot and even a bit of fresh ginger.
Overall, this is a really nice tea. It shows its best features on the first infusion, and after that it’s a smooth ride. Still, I’m incredibly eager to find out what this will taste like in my red/black tea seasoned yixing pot. It has a great tendency to smooth out the flavors, cut out the bitterness and make things more robust and sweet. That’ll be a fun one.
I was absolutely amazed by the first infusion, but later infusions didn’t quite live up to the standard it set for itself. If they had, I’d have rated this tea near perfect. Still worthy of quite a high score!
Flavors: Apricot, Cherry, Dark Chocolate, Malt, Plums
This is my 200th review! Rawr!
So, as with all my other milestone reviews, I want to review something rather special. Here goes.
Okay, so… I love the imagery this tea evokes. I love stags. They are beautiful animals and generally just give me an impression of quiet oneness with nature, of freedom and exploration, and tranquility. I am excited about this tea. Straight out of the bag, the twigs smell like cinnamon and spices, even some fruit. It reminds me of the scent of hardened gingerbread that some of the ornaments on the Christmas tree were made out of when I was a kid. And hey, the twigs do in fact look like antlers. So cool!
I’m a little crazy, so I’m going to be gongfu brewing this similar to how I’d brew silver needle white tea, but with longer infusion times like I use with Ya Bao. Why not? I default to gongfu style even with teas that aren’t particularly made for it.
So, into my gaiwan they go, and I’m not even breaking them up. They barely fit in there with the lid on, they’re so long. They’re in there for 1 minute and back out. This is the longest I ever do an initial infusion with Gongfu style and I only do it with Ya Bao, which are very thick, dense buds, and require a lot of soaking to saturate. I figured since these stems are hard and woody i’d do the same with them. The stems smell a bit fruity and floral after the first infusion. I’m not getting lychee so much like the packaging says, but I can see where that’s coming from, since lychee is both fruity and floral. To me this is more of a plum scent mixed with the scent of a good Japanese sake.
Surprisingly, the infusion is a rich medium yellow after just that short amount of time. The brewed tea smells like sweet cinnamon roll dough, pecan pie, a bit of fig or plum and some other fun decadent things.
Oh wow, the taste comes on really sweet. It’s kind of plum like with a hint of floral and a lingering sweetness. It has hints of cinnamon and spice flavors just like the scent. The sweetness really lingers after drinking, as well as a slight cooling sensation on the tongue. The flavor of this tea has some qualities in common with white peony teas I’ve tried before. There’s a bit of autumn leaf taste and scent that both teas share.
I’m really impressed by the quality of this tea’s flavor and aroma. It’s very delicate but very flavorful, has a really definite presence, and is easy to drink like most white teas are. I could drink this tea daily. I’m feeling a bit of an interesting lightheadedness right now, which could be an effect of this tea, or the effect of this being the third tea I’ve reviewed within a few hours.
Second infusion: okay, lychee. I’m gettin’ it now. The wet twigs definitely have that aroma, but still reminds me of plum wine or a really nice sake as well, and the spice notes are ever-present. The second infusion doesn’t seem to have quite as strong of a taste as the first, but is similar and still really nice. It leans towards a more floral nectar kind of taste, not quite as sweet as before. If you roll it on your tongue there’s a hint of metal in the taste as well. As the tea cools, that note is not detectable anymore and the overall flavor is much more like lychee, with a slight aftertaste of spices. There is no bitterness in this tea at all.
I agree with Alistair of What-Cha, this tea is a game-changer. Who knew that such delicious flavor could come from just the stems of tea? I’ve had Japanese kukicha “stem tea” before, and it was nothing like this, nothing to write home about. This, on the other hand, is something I’ll be after to keep in my collection for years to come. I hope for the continued success of the estate that produces this tea! I’d like to take a moment to say, if you haven’t tried many teas from lesser-known growing regions, you really should give them a chance. What-Cha seems to have a real knack for offering many of those, so it’s a great place to start.
My third infusion of the little tea antlers came out a really deep yellow. This time the flavor tastes a little more green, like young white tea, subtle hints of cucumber in the mix. Overall, the taste is waning a bit, but still nice. Four infusions in, the flavor is still really nice and has gotten more generous again. I could see this one going for many, many infusions before running out of delicious flavor.
For timing, I brewed for 1 minute, adding 15 seconds each time. It worked really well with the amount of tea I used. I ignored the recommendation of 176F water for a slightly hotter 185F, which is what I default to for white teas, and this perfomed just great.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Cinnamon, Lychee, Plums, Sake, Spices
Yellow tea is a rare creature. It’s not a common tea type because it doesn’t differ too greatly from green tea in a lot of cases, and it is more labor intensive and expensive to produce. This one is unique among yellow teas I’ve seen in that the leaves have a pretty dark appearance, sort of yellowish olive green.
The dry leaves smell really roasted and toasty. After a rinse, the scent of the tea leaves is very complex. It smells really roasty like houjicha but with a note of yellow mustard. The scent of the brewed tea is a more mild roast taste with creamy notes.
The taste of this tea is quite smooth and unoffensive. I think this may be the first “true” yellow tea I have had because it achieves the effect most articles on yellow tea mention the purpose of yellow tea being… to make a tea with similar flavors to green tea but curbing the grassy notes for a more mellow flavor. This tea tastes like a smooth, sweet, mildly roasted green tea, and by golly there is the faintest hint of mustard or dill even in the taste. Maybe there’s a bit of toasted sesame in the flavor. It’s hard to describe. It has a subtle cooling sensation after the sip, and a lingering sweetness.
The liquor color of this tea is a pale yellow. I’m brewing it in a small thin-walled porcelain gaiwan. On the second infusion, I’m getting more toasty flavors with the subtle tanginess of dill. The packaging describes this tea’s flavor as “hazelnut with mango notes”. I can definitely see hazelnut, but I’m not getting the mango notes. Maybe that’s what registers as dill to me. I left the room and came back in and it definitely smells like hazelnuts in here.
This tea reminds me of a lot of houjicha in its taste and aroma, so if you like that, you would probably enjoy this. The flavor doesn’t change a whole lot from one infusion to the next, just becomes more rich. There’s no bitterness at all. It’s mellow, a comfort tea. The third infusion is more sweet and lacking the tangy dill-like note from before.
Infusion times were 15 seconds starting out, then 10 or so on the second infusion and increasing on each one by 10 or so as needed.
Flavors: Dill, Nutty, Sweet, Toasty
I was immediately drawn to this tea due to the very imaginative description of it as “green sword” tea. Images of the Green Destiny from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon flashed through my mind, along with all the beautiful art and imagery of that movie and its lush, green landscapes, and I felt an instant tingle in my head.
This tea is not from China, however, but from India and was named because the rolled leaves resemble little swords. In fact, I would say they do even more so in person, because what you can’t tell from the photo is that each of those little slightly curved rolled leaves are an inch or two long, really long for green tea leaves. They’re quite beautiful to look at.
The scent of this tea dry is surprisingly fruity, with a tangerine and mango scent, really potent and enjoyable. After a rinse, The leaves have more of a vegetal kind of scent, with the nutty and green bean notes I’m used to in many green teas, and while the fruit aroma is still there, it is not as strong. The scent of the brewed tea is pleasantly nutty, creamy, and green. The taste is surprisingly clean and light, with a slight nutty taste and a bit of a sweet corn taste. There’s a lingering note of mango or orange. It’s mildly sweet, becoming more so as it cools, and it leaves a lingering sweetness in the mouth as well.
I should mention a few things. Firstly, that I’m brewing this tea in the Gongfu style of brewing in a thin walled porcelain gaiwan, secondly that it takes really well to this method, and last that I have gone through many phases in my enjoyment of green tea, from brewing it very strong and robust to brewing it delicate and light, and seem to have settled on a general preference for brewing it light.
The second infusion of this tea offers many of the same creamy, slightly citrusy notes of the first, but I feel the citrus taste comes through more while the vegetal flavors have backed off some.
The first infusions were so light and crisp, I decided to push the third a little longer than normal to see how it might taste if brewed more rich. It has a more similar profile to most Chinese green teas at this point, more vegetal and green bean like overall. The fruit flavors still linger at the end but not as noticably. I diluted it a bit and it came back to a soft flavor with more noticeable hints of orange.
Later infusions unfolded in a more conventional green tea fashion, but the hint of orange flavor never fully receded.
I am really enjoying this green tea. It’s quite different from any others I’ve had, and I enjoy it’s fresh, clean, crisp subtlety and fruity finish. I’m very glad I bought a bag of this. I made a pretty big What-Cha order of teas I haven’t even tried aside from one, so we’ll see how many suit my tastes. So far, this one is fantastic.
Infusion times: 15 seconds, then quick infusions of 10-20 seconds to follow.
Flavors: Creamy, Green Beans, Mango, Nutty, Orange
Vietnam Wild Tiger Monkey Green Tea
Origin: Lung Phin, Ha Giang Province, Vietnam
Dry Leaves: Another wild growing tea, this time it doesn’t remind me so much of Korean greens; they look a little more Chinese-y then the Five Penny, but I can’t think of any particular style that they remind me of. They had a very nutty and smoky scent.
Brewing Time: Two Minutes
Aroma: Smoke, Nutty and Wood
Flavor: Smoke, Nutty, Wood, and Vegetal
Tasting Notes: Again I started out brewing following the suggested times, and then started over with new leaves and cut the brewing time in half. This had a very pleasant wood taste, but it was slightly smokier although the nutty and smoke tastes did linger, but the nutty lingered a little longer.
For $8 for 50g, it isn’t a bad deal I generally like nutty teas, and this is no exception, my only problem with recommending this tea or any of the others is that I don’t know a lot of green tea drinkers who like smoky teas. Although like the other two teas it starts to lose it smoky edge in later infusions.
Vietnam Wild Five Penny Green Tea
Origin: Suoi Giang, Yen Bai Province, Vietnam
Dry Leaves: Again the leaves remind me of Korean teas, although this time they also look a little like curved long Jings. Other than that, they are a lovely shade of grayish-green. There is a slight burning wood smell. I am surprised in the uniformity in the tea leaves since this is a wild grown tea.
Brewing Time: Two Minutes
Aroma: Smoky, Apricot and Muscatel
Flavor: Smoky and Fruity
Tasting Notes: I brewed this again according to the suggested time, immediately afterwards I started over with new leaves and cut the time in half. The original was too smoky for me and the second was much more pleasant. Although even after cutting the time in half the smoky taste still lingered for quite a long time.
At $8 for 50g (at the time of writing this) it is certainly a good deal, as for whether I’d buy it again, maybe. I don’t have a lot of smoky and fruity teas, I am more of a grassy tea guy, but this might be the easiest of the three teas in the post to drink. Not quite a daily drinker, but it is quite nice if you like a little smoke in your greens. I am comfortable saying this is my favorite of the three, because the fruit tastes was a nice contrast to the smoke and the other two felt very similar to me, although this still feels quite similar to the others, perhaps not as much.
[Read the rest at: http://rah-tea.blogspot.com/2015/01/what-cha-discover-vietnam-part-2.html)
Vietnam Fish Hook Green Tea
Origin: Tan Cuong, Thai Nguyen Province, Vietnam
Dry Leaves: They kind of remind me of Korean greens, but they are surprisingly hard. Normally small twisted leaves like these are a little more pliable, but I was surprised by how little it takes for these two snap.
Brewing Time: Two Minutes
Aroma: Grassy and Ash
Flavor: Ash, Vegetal and Grassy
Tasting Notes: This is a very ashy tea; I almost wanted to say smoky, but the other two teas that are in this post are more what I’d describe as smoky then this. It is a little overwhelming, I hated it using the suggested brewing times, I also had this problem in the other two teas in this post. Luckily I had enough leaves to brew again and only steep for half as long, which produced a much better cup. While it was still ashy was nowhere near as overwhelming.
I may or may not buy this tea again, my problem with these three teas is that the suggested brewing times is way too long, but as long as you don’t brew as long as the suggested time or perhaps at such a high temperature. I am not really fond of brewing teas below 160oF, but these might be the only teas that I’d consider brewing at such a low temperature. Going back to whether or not I’d buy this tea again, the price isn’t bad $8.00 for 50g (at the time of writing this), but I’d have to choose between this and the other two teas in this post. The three have a very similar flavor profile, although there is some differences between the three.
I decided to pay a visit to the thrift store today, to my surprise they were having a 50% off sale on EVERYTHING. I was looking for a new teacup because my cat broke yet another one (so glad they like breaking my cheap thrift store finds instead of my expensive stuff) and found a nice new teacup, a Somayaki cup and creamer (which I will use for a Cha Hai, because why not) and an awesome antique table thing that will be completely redone into a tea table. I got it partially because I wanted a tea table I can sit at that is low to the ground, and also because if all goes well Ben and I will be moving in with a tea loving friend this summer and I want to have the most epic tea room.
So, it is Wednesday (though all week I keep thinking it is the wrong day) meaning it is time for What-Cha! I honestly think I am never going to succeed in my goal of trying all of the teas in that shop, because more keep arriving! New fancy ones from Malawi and Australia are the most recent ones that are making me check and double check my budget to see if I can swing another order soon. Usually I try to order once a season, stocking up on my favorite teas to drink that time of year…and a few favorites that I can’t seem to live without! So anyway, enough squeeing over future tea orders, today we are taking a look at Taiwan Amber Oolong! Yes, it is a roasted Oolong, because I have an obsession, this one is from Wushe Garden in Nantou Taiwan, this particular Oolong is roasted over the Longan Fruit tree’s wood, meaning some of that fruity goodness gets imparted into the tea (much like it is with smoking meat over fruit wood) and since this is a Jin Xuan cultivar, expect extra sweetness! So, the aroma, well…it smells really good! I am getting notes of toasted peanuts, sesame seeds, pie crust…and is that marzipan? After sniffing a bit more, yep, that is definitely marzipan!
The curled up leaves are tossed into the roasty-toasty Oolong Yixing for their happy bath, after which I give the leaves a thorough sniffing. So, this tea smells like pie. Specifically it smells like freshly baked peach pie, but with a nutty crust and a caramel drizzle. The liquid is super sweet and toasty, with notes of caramel, toasted nuts, pie crust, and a heaping pile of charcoal roasted peaches!
OMG, HOW!!! This tea taste exactly like peach cobbler with an oat crust and caramelized sugar, that is just uncanny! I kinda had to do a double take because I was sitting at my computer..took a sip…looked down at my cup, took another sip, and was totally blown away. It is sweet and toasted, with the toasted notes of oats and grain, and the sweet notes of fruit. That was an impressive first steep.
Second steep time, and I hope it still smells like pie. Hah, nope, now it smells like peach cobbler! Not a huge difference, except cobbler the way I had it had a crumbly oat crust, giving it more of a grain smell. The taste is still sweet and fruity, like a cobbler, but it has a sharper roasted taste. Along with that strong peach taste, there is also a nice cherry note and spicebush at the finish which lingers for quite a while.
Third steeping, the aroma is pretty mellow, blending peaches and toasted grains for a sweet yet subtle aroma. The taste has also mellowed out a bit, there is still a sweet peach and toasted grain taste, but it is a lot more subtle. Sadly this tea lacked staying power, but it made up for it in a crazy good taste, so I am not too sad, it has become a new staple in my ‘must have around’ collection because sometimes I really want a roasted Oolong but do not have the time for multiple steepings, and I hate having it go to waste, so this is perfect for a quick couple of steepings session.