Monday, January 29, 2007

2006 First-flush Fukamushi Sencha "Myou-Kou"

Class: Green
Origin: Blend from the Kyoto and Kyushu regions, Japan
Year: 2006
Price: $21.95 (110 grams)
Review: 9/10

Dry Leaves
If you have never tried Fukamushi Sencha, I highly recommend it. "Fukamushi" refers to the deeper (longer) steaming that this type of tea undergoes during processing. (See this page for more details on Japanese green tea processing.) The deeper steaming results in, admittedly, an uglier looking tea, with many small particles and fewer whole leaves.

The taste and color of the infusion, however, is far more positively affected. The taste is much richer and more full-bodied than most Japanese greens, and the color is a striking emerald green. It retains the classic marine notes (I hesitate to say they remind me of seafood, but they do, only not in a fishy way if that makes any sense) and vegetal taste of quality Japanese greens, and depending on steeping conditions, this fukamushi sencha even has a bit of sweetness.
The liquor may have a higher level of particulate than most teas as a result of the deeper steaming, but I actually like having those little bits floating around. It really depends on how fine your strainer is, though. You may only have a few particles with a fine mesh or your tea may be quite cloudy with a looser strainer.

Speaking of strainers, I recommend brewing this in a small pot, one serving at a time. I would NOT recommend a gaiwan for this tea. Though it would be handy to have the control and amount of heat retention a gaiwan offers, the leaves and particles are simply too small to filter with just a lid. I think the ideal brewing device is a Japanese kyuusu, such as the one shown here. One would expect that the Japanese would find the best way to brew their own tea, and they have. Look for my review of this kyuusu, coming soon.
If you are in the market for Japanese green teas, either fukamushi sencha or any other, I highly recommend taking a look at the website. Since they ship directly from Japan and nitrogen flush their teas, they arrive very fresh, unlike most other green teas purchased in the US or over the internet.

Overall, this tea gets a 9/10. The dry leaves are downright ugly, but the taste and color of the infusion are excellent.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

2006 Margaret's Hope White Pearls

I figured Tea Nerd should start off on a good note, so the first review is of the 2006 Margaret's Hope White Pearls.

Class: White
Origin: Margaret's Hope Tea Garden, Darjeeling, India
Year: 2006
Vendor: Thunderbolt Tea
Price: $27.75 (50 grams)
Review: 9/10

Dry Leaves
This was quite an amazing tea, both to look at and to drink. The dry leaves, while not all that aromatic, were exceptionally downy (meaning covered in the fuzz that makes white tea white in color). Not all of the leaves were white, as you can see from the photo to the right, but the majority were. According to the vendor, the leaves were picked with utmost care, so that they were handled by just 5-10 workers.

Especially for what seems to be an experimental batch (as only 10kg were made, according to the vendor), this was a magnificent example of what tea can be. Clearly a white tea, and also clearly from Margaret's Hope. I like my teas to be sweet (without adding sugar or sweetener, of course), and this did not disappoint-- not only was the classic white tea sweetness present, but there was also a beautiful muscatel note-- reminiscent of the "Muscatel Delight" second flushes-- especially in the second and third infusions.

Infused Leaves
Surprisingly potent for a white tea, these little pearls held out for many more infusions than I expected. Personally I would recommend a gaiwan for brewing this tea, as it is easy to control steeping conditions and allows for a larger number of flavorful infusions. This photo shows the leaves after several infusions.

The main drawback was definitely the price. Not only did it cost $27.75 for 50 grams, but the shipping was $23! Don't get me wrong, the shipping was lightning quick, especially coming from a mountain town in India (Thunderbolt Tea offices are located in the town of Darjeeling), but there was no slower/cheaper alternative. If you do buy anything from Thunderbolt Tea, make sure to buy a lot at one time.

Except for the lack of shipping options to the US, I found Thunderbolt Tea to be a very nice vendor. Their website is nice, and their selection, while not as large as Upton Imports, is of high quality. Also, I saw one very nice thing I rarely see on a vendor's site: some teas were actually sold out. You might ask why this would be a good thing, but think about freshness. If a vendor sells most if not all of their entire stock from season to season, you know that what you do manage to buy has not been sitting around in a warehouse for very long.

Overall, this tea gets a 9/10. An incredible tea, but too pricey and rare to become a staple in my tea diet.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The first Tea Nerd post!

Hello internet, and welcome to Tea Nerd!

This is the first post, meaning there is no actual *content* yet, but here is what you can expect in the near (and distant) future:
  • Guides on how to brew different teas,
  • Reviews of teas, tea wares, and tea vendors, with pictures when possible,
  • Information on the science behind tea, and
  • Links to helpful websites related to tea.
To be perfectly honest, I tend to prefer Darjeeling black teas and Japanese greens, so that is likely going to make up the bulk of the reviews on this site. Still, I will try to branch out to cover as many types of tea as possible.

Anyway, I look forward to my first review, and I invite you all to check back periodically for new content!