Sunday, January 27, 2008

Tea Nerd Anniversary | "Fire Kuan Yin"

Yes ladies and gents, today marks a(n) historic moment in tea– nay– world history. Today is the one year anniversary of the first post here at Tea Nerd! It really has flown by, for me anyway, and it seems to have changed quite a bit in that year as well. I do not claim to be a photographer, but I can't help but notice some improvement in the images I've posted here. Let's not forget the numerous layout changes and the move to my own domain, either.

Most importantly, thanks to all my loyal readers! I would not have the motivation to keep this blog up if it weren't for all your comments and emails. Here's to another great year!

Fire Kuan YinClass: Oolong
Origin: Fujian province, China
Year: ?
Vendor: Red Blossom Tea Company (Product page)
Price: $13.50 (4 oz) / $4.00 (1 oz)

Today's tasting notes are on Red Blossom Tea Company's "Fire Kuan Yin," a roasted Tie Guan Yin. First, thanks to Xine from Adagio, who gave me this tea (and many others) as part of a secret santa event between a few TeaChatters. You chose well, Xine!

I had assumed, because of the word "Fire," that this would be a high-roast TGY, but it is not. The product description even says so, but in case you don't read vendor descriptions anymore, like myself, know that this tea only has a low-medium roast. Regardless, it's pretty good.

The dry leaf is fairly green, indicative of a low or medium-strength roast. The leaf pellets are also very small, which I hear is a good thing. The roast brings out some nice aromas though– mostly toasted grains, but also pear, and a touch of cocoa.

I brewed this in another Christmas present– a new Yixing pot. It's about 3 oz/ 90mL, and is from silkroadtrade on ebay. I have decided to use it for roasted, non-yancha oolongs. The pour is decently fast, around 7 seconds. Anyway, I brewed this tea with 4g of leaf, boiling water, and 30+ second infusions.

The flavor is light, sweet, and grainy (flavor, not texture). It has a nice feel to it– it is smooth, moderately thick, and slightly oily on the lips. This tea also has a decent hui gan (lingering, sweet aftertaste) and a cool throat-feel. There is even a bit of pear aftertaste, though not much.

Overall, I'd have to say this was a good tea, worth buying. Also, as it is roasted, the fact that there is no harvest year given doesn't bother me so much– I know this tea will last a few years, and, if anything, just get better. Thanks again Xine!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Free Tea E-zine: The Leaf

I just wanted to post a link I just found to a free tea e-zine called "The Leaf." I haven't read it all yet, but I thought it was interesting enough to share here. Enjoy!

2007 Organic Natural Wuhe Honey Black Tea

Natural Wuhe Honey Black TeaClass: Black
Origin: Rueisuei, Hualien, Taiwan
Year: Summer 2007
Vendor: Aura Teas (Product page)
Price: $15.90 (60g) / $3.20 (8g)

This is another free sample I received from Aura Teas, one of four (two of which I have already reviewed, here and here.) I should preface this review by saying that I don't drink much black tea at all, and honestly I'm not a huge fan (yes, I do like darjeeling, but I don't *really* consider it a black tea), so my comments should be taken with a grain of salt.

Now that that's out of the way, on to the review. The dry tea looks similar to yancha, actually: dark, long leaves, and loosely twisted. Has a faint fruity aroma, not unlike a Darjeeling or a bai hao oolong. I brewed this in a 100mL gaiwan, with 3.6g of leaf, boiling water, and 60s, 120s, 150s infusions.

The liquor was a reddish color, with a woodsy smell and a honey flavor. One minute was pretty light, so I stepped up the subsequent infusion times. Has an interesting grainy texture, and a touch of fruit. The wet leaves were outstanding for a black tea— full, whole leaves.

On a more general level, it shares many characteristics with bai hao, another tea I am not in love with. So, to be honest, I didn't really like it. But, if you like black teas and/or bai hao (aka Oriental Beauty) oolong, I'd say there's a good chance you would.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Korean Green Tea | 2007 Joongjak Ssanggye

Korean green tea isn't something you see every day, so naturally my interest was piqued when I first read about it. For those of you who don't know (which I'm guessing will be most to all of you), here is a quick introduction to Korean green tea, from someone who knows very little about what he is talking about.

There are three grades of Korean greens: Woojeon/Ujeon, Saejak/Sejak, and Joongjak/Jungjak. Ujeon is the highest grade and the first flush, Sejak is the second highest grade and the second flush, etc. You may notice that even Jungjak tea is very expensive, which is in no small part due to the fact that little is produced. Because of this, Korean green tea is rare even in Korea, at least relative to the popularity of Japanese and Chinese teas in their respective countries.

The best teas are produced on the southern slopes of Jiri mountain, though there are several other tea-producing regions in Korea, notably Boseong, which is a major tourist attraction.

I know very little about tea production methods, but from what I gather, most Korean green tea is produced more like Chinese greens than Japanese greens, except for the rare Jeung-cha which involves steaming, as is done in Japanese green tea production.

There is plenty more to be said about the rich Korean tea tradition, and if you are interested in learning more I recommend reading "The Korean Way of Tea: An Introduction," by Brother Anthony of Taizé and Hong Kyeong-Hee. In addition to plenty of gorgeous photos, this book contains information on many aspects of the Korean tea tradition, including the lovely Korean tea ceremony.

2007 Joongjak SsanggyeClass: Green
Origin: Korea
Year: 2007
Vendor: Shan Shui Teas (Product page)
Price: $20.00 (40g) / $5.75 (10g)

And the tea itself? Well, from my very limited experience, I can say it's pretty good. I definitely need to play around with the parameters a bit, as there is very little information out there on how to brew Korean greens. I have a couple others to review as well, so the progress of my own learnings will be reflected in those future posts.

The dry leaf is a unique and lovely grey-green color, and has a rather muted aroma of sweetness and pastries.

This tea tastes a bit like both Chinese greens and Japanese greens. It has the feel and rich sweetness of a Japanese green, and the mildly lemony and slightly toasty characteristics of a Chinese green. (Note that my Chinese green tea experience is also very limited, but I think I'm right here.) It's a great combo, and is a refreshing change if you're in the habit of drinking other greens.

The wet leaf unfurls to a bright green color, and the leaves are small and whole. Purty!

I think, like the last tea, this one needs to be drunk closer to harvest time. It's quite good, but the flavor isn't as robust as I would like for its price. I'd like to try it again after the next harvest.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

2007 Premium Spring Baozhong

Class: Oolong
Origin: Wenshan, Taiwan
Year: Spring 2007
Vendor: Shan Shui Teas (Product page)
Price: $27 (75g) / $6.25 (15g)

Yes, I'm still around, sorry for the long wait! I hope everyone had a nice holiday season, I know I did. :)

2007 BaozhongAnyway, today I present Shan Shui Teas' 2007 Premium Spring Baozhong. One worry I had was that it has been a while since spring, and sadly I think time has taken a bit of toll on this tea. That said, it was once likely very good, and still isn't bad at all (though I would expect better for the price).

The dry leaf is pretty typical baozhong: long, twisted, and dark green. It smells very fresh and sweet, so it clearly isn't that old, and still has potency.

I brewed this one with pretty standard light oolong parameters: 5g leaf, 120mL zisha pot, and ~30-40s infusions.

The brew itself is on the vegetal side, not as sweet as some others I've had, but still tasty. It also has a persistent floral flavor, and a sweet, cool aftertaste. There is a subtle milky flavor in the first infusion, which seems to be a common trait of baozhongs, as far as I can tell from my limited experience with them. I got about 5 solid infusions before it started to die out, so it has good endurance for a baozhong. The wet leaf was nice and supple, with a good proportion of whole/near-whole leaves.

Overall, I thought this was pretty good. It would have been much better had I tried it earlier, so I have high expectations for future purchases from Shan Shui Teas. That said, I think this is a bit expensive for what it is now.

Anyway, look forward to more reviews soon– it won't be another 3+ weeks before the next one, I promise!