Monday, March 31, 2008

2007 Taiwan Wuyi Baozhong

Class: Oolong
Origin: Somewhere in Taiwan
Year: 2007 (presumably)
Vendor: Floating Leaves Tea (Product page)
Price: $19.00 (4oz) / $5.00 (1oz)

First off, I offer my thanks to Tenuki, a fellow TeaChatter, for recommending this tea. The first time I brewed it I wasn't too thrilled, but I have come to enjoy this specimen very much since then.

Firstly, this tea's name needs to be clarified. It is a Taiwanese baozhong tea made from a varietal of tea plant brought from the Wuyi mountains of China. However, it is also slightly oxidized and roasted, so it has solid Wuyi yancha character, despite not being a real Wuyi yancha. This is one of those interesting cases, however, where the imitation (though this tea doesn't really seem to be trying to imitate yancha) is as good as the original.

The dry leaf is beautiful, and markedly different from either baozhong or yancha. It is still a striped leaf shape, but is a luscious dark green color. It smells... different. The aroma is quite similar to baozhong, but with a warm hint of vanilla (I think) that lets you know it isn't your everyday baozhong.

Dry Leaf

As far as parameters go, I used boiling water and 6 grams of leaf in my new ~150mL yixing pot; I started infusions at 30s and worked my way up. This produced a truly unique liquor, one I really enjoy. It's an odd mixture reminiscent of dong ding, yancha, and baozhong, wrapped up into one beautiful synthesis of flavor.

There is the fruit and roasted grain taste of dong ding, the characteristic chocolate and spice of yancha (this reminded me of Rou Gui, in particular), but with the smoothness and sweetness of baozhong. On top of it all, there's a lovely vanilla note that can sometimes be smelled from even a few feet away. This tea also leaves a nice, cool aftertaste, and a thin oil on the lips, which I love.

Wet Leaf and Infusion

This tea is very fun to drink, and it is interesting to follow the development of its flavor. The fruit and grain flavors are especially apparent in the early brews, while the chocolate and spice seem to come out near the end of the session, which is (regrettably) only about 3-4 good infusions long. It does not have the boldness and strength of a true Wuyi yancha, but it has enough of its own unique character that it does not need to lean on the "Wuyi" title. I wholeheartedly recommend giving this tea a try!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tea/Teaware Giveaway Extravaganza!

Yes, this is what you have all been waiting for... a mass "Pay it Forward" giveaway! The three packages of teas and teawares I've set up below are tokens of my thanks to the online tea community, in the hope that they help new tea lovers delve into this beloved interest of mine.

Of course, I would be lying if I said this isn't also a way for me to clear out some old stuff I don't use anymore! That said, I'm not giving away anything I think is total crap. All the teawares are functional, though perhaps a little beaten up and/or not of the highest quality, and all of the teas a) are good, but not my cuppa; b) were good at some point, but slightly stale now; or c) perfectly fine, but I know I won't get around to drinking it soon. These teas and wares will at least give newbies a decent introduction to the world of fine teas.

Without further ado, the packages:

Yellow Package

This package includes:
• 1 Bodum "Shin Cha" 2-cup teapot
• 1 sample of Bai Hao Yin Zhen (aka Silver Needle) from Jing Tea Shop, year forgotten
• ~65g of Premium Wenshan Baozhong from Shan Shui Teas, Spring 2007 (Review here; this is not an excellent tea, and is a bit stale, but is still a good introduction to the genre.)
• ~30g of Kuradashi Gyokuro Super Premium from Hibiki-an, 2007 (This is a very good tea, but I just don't like gyokuro all that much. Note that, while it is a year-old green tea, gyokuro takes some age well.)

Must be relatively new (less than 3 active months) to the world of tea. I would much prefer to give this to someone who has tried gyokuro and knows they like it, so please do not compete for this package if you don't— I do not want to waste that tea.

Green Package

This package includes:
• 1 ~3oz Yixing teapot (the lid, I must admit, is not flush with the rest of the pot and jiggles around. This does not greatly affect its functionality, though.)
• ~15g of Bai Hao (Oriental Beauty) oolong from TeaSpring, year forgotten
• ~15g of Formosa Mingjian Osmanthus Guihua Oolong from Aura Teas, 2007
• ~25g Select Aged NanTou Oolong from Hou De Asian Art, 1990's (Review, here.)
• ~12g Winter Taiwan Shui Xian Hand-Harvested Oolong from Hou De Asian Art, 2007
• ~6g Bai Ji Guan from, 2006
• ~30g Dong Ding "Hong Shui" Hand-Harvested Oolong from Hou De Asian Art, 2006

Must be relatively new to gong fu style brewing. I would prefer to give this to someone who is interested in oolongs or really enjoys them, and is interested in learning to brew them in a Yixing teapot.

Red Package

This package includes:
• 1 ~4-5oz Yixing teapot (this teapot functions beautifully; it has a fast pour and the lid fits well. I would use it myself, but I can't seem to find anything to use it for)
• 1 zisha tea boat
• 2 ~1 oz cups w/ bamboo saucers
• 1 porcelain and mesh gong fu strainer, w/ panda holder
• 1 set of cha dao tools; includes 1 scoop, 1 funnel, 1 pick, 1 scraper, and 1 set of tongs
• Remnants of the Half-Dipper/Dragon Tea House puerh tasting (Review here)

Must be brand new to gong fu style brewing.


***Please read these carefully!***

1. Follow this link to my TeaChat thread.
2. Leave a reply, stating the following: A. The package you would like, and B. A number between 1 and 500 (inclusive). If you are interested in competing for more than one package, please rank them in order of preference, and pick a number between 1 and 500 for each item. DO NOT leave guesses as a comment on this blog post; your guesses will not be entered into the competition.


1. Yellow, 323.
2. Red, 56.
3. Green, 48.

The tentative drawing date will be Sunday, April 13— two weeks from today. I will use an online random number generator to generate one random number for each item, and I will award packages to those with the closest numbers. One package per person, max.

Ranking an package last in your list does not affect the likelihood of you winning that package; it only affects which package you receive, should you have the closest number for more than one package.

Should you win, I will send you a private message on TeaChat detailing what you won. It is then your responsibility to respond with a confirmation and your mailing address within three days. If you do not respond within three days, you forfeit your prize, and it will be given to the person who chose the second closest number. After I have received all three mailing addresses, I will post the results here and on TeaChat.

Please be honest and do not compete for these packages if you do not fit the requirements. I have no way of enforcing them, so you are on your honor.

Good luck!

Friday, March 21, 2008

What happens when you neglect your tea tray?

Alex has posted about faulty tea trays (1 and 2), but what about tea trays that just suffer neglect? Feast your eyes on the (hopefully) most disgusting photos to grace the front page of Tea Nerd:

Nasty tray

And one wipe later...

Nasty tray wipe

If you have a sensitive stomach, it's far too late. Sorry. Anyway, the take home message: clean your tea trays regularly. Also, this is a great example of science (oxidation) in action. You might think I've been drinking shupu lately, but you would be wrong. For the most part, I have only had sencha and green oolongs. Yeah. Please, clean your trays.

[Oh, also, this is not the really cool thing I was planning. That's still in the works...]

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Excuses, excuses | Tale of Two Senchas

Yes, I have been bad. No posts in 3 weeks! There are a number (three, actually; how appropriate and cliché!) of reasons:

1. Spring break.
2. I've been drinking mostly sencha, which I find hard to write about (unlike this guy).
3. Hell, I'm just lazy.

Anyway, in an attempt to appease you, here are two mini-reviews of two (enough with the numbers already!) senchas I've been enjoying lately.

2007 Shizuoka Sencha "Hatsumi"

Class: Green
Origin: Shizuoka prefecture, Japan
Year: 2007
Vendor: (Product page)
Price: $24.95 (100g)

Great stuff. Bold, sweet, round flavor, and light on grassiness and astringency. If you like O-Cha's Yukata Midori, you will like this too. I would say it definitely has a stronger flavor than the Yukata Midori and its color is almost as rich, though it is not quite as sweet and lacks a certain something I can't put my finger on.

2007 Sencha Chiran Yukatamidori

Class: Green
Origin: Kagoshima prefecture, Japan
Year: 2007
Vendor: Lupicia (Product page)
Price: $7.00 (50g)

Though not as good as O-Cha's Hatsumi, I think this is a great performer for its price. Like the Hatsumi and Yukata Midori from O-Cha, this is a mellow sencha. It is not devoid of grassiness, but it is certainly downplayed in favor of the sweet "greenness" that I find so difficult to describe any better. (I should mention that when I say "mellow," I do not mean "light.") This is a full-bodied tea with good flavor, and would be a great daily sencha.

Two Senchas, Hatsumi and Chiran Yukatamidori

If you happen to have a Lupicia store nearby (there are not many, unfortunately), check it out. I visited the one in San Jose, CA, and was quite impressed. Not only did they have a huge selection of teas (mostly Japanese greens), but they also had helpful, friendly workers— a breath of fresh air, per se, for one who has sore memories of hubris-filled Teavana "teaologists."

Well, that's all, folks. Stay tuned though, especially you tea-newbies. I have something very special lined up that you won't want to miss!