Sunday, January 18, 2009

90's "Jing Zhu" Golden Pearls Dancong

Class: Oolong
Origin: Guangdong Province, China
Year: 1990's
Vendor: Hou De Asian Art (Product page)
Price: $24.50 (2 oz) / $44.10 (4 oz)

Dry leaf
I used this amount of leaf and filled the gaiwan halfway with water, roughly 60 mL. [Sorry for the noisy photo, it was dark.]

For whatever reason, I always seem to forget about dancong. I don't know why, as good dancong can be absolutely amazing, but I never think about it when shopping for tea. Thanks are due to Adrian for this sample— I probably would have passed over this tea, and I'm very glad I didn't. Plus, this is an odd dancong as it is rolled into balls instead of twisted, and I love trying weird teas. It is also aged. Mmmm.

Celadon cups
One of my Christmas presents: two crackle-glaze celadon cups from Dragon Tea House. Thanks Mom!

The opening-of-the-bag experience was, sadly, disappointing. I guess I'm just spoiled by Imen's fantastic dancongs, as now I expect dancong aroma to fill the entire room when released from its mylar prison. However, this tea smells absolutely fantastic after a quick rinse in boiling water. I kid you not, it smelled just like blueberry-lemon muffins. Mmmmmmm.

Dragon gaiwan
My new favorite gaiwan. Thanks to Stacey (GeekGirlUnveiled) for all the photos of hers, and thanks to Adrian for giving me my own. :)

Even the first infusion has solid flavor, which is pretty uncommon for dancong. Different temperatures seem to bring out different flavors, which was pretty fun. Slightly cooler water brings out blueberry-lemon muffin, while boiling water makes it taste more like grapefruit (I guess the extra heat pulls out some sourness, which really isn't bad here). Whatever temperature you use, you will be rewarded by bright, fanciful flavors and a solid aftertaste. The texture is a bit thin and there I found little to no oiliness, but the flavor and aroma make up for these shortcomings.

You have no idea how difficult it is to arrange things like this in a straight line. Who knew?

This is a fantastic tea. It is pretty expensive at $24.50 for 2 oz, but compared to other dancong, that's not such a bad price.

Friday, January 16, 2009

1997 Shui Xian Brick from The Tea Gallery

Class: Oolong
Origin: Wuyi Mountains, Fujian Province, China
Year: 1997
Vendor: The Tea Gallery (Product page)
Price: $52.00 (100g cake)

Gimme a break...

I couldn't resist trying this KitKat-esque tea. It's an aged Shui Xian, so it already had two things going for it, and on top of that, it's a Kit-Kat-shaped brick of oolong! How cool!

Brick chunk
~1/2 of a Kit-Kat is a good amount for brewing in a 100mL vessel.

This is not an easy tea to brew (maybe a bit easier if you are more accustomed to brewing iron cakes or tuo cha), but it is quite good when you get it right. Some parts of this brick are heavily compressed, and it takes quite a while to come undone even in boiling water. I suggest picking this apart with a puerh pick or something; otherwise the outside leaves will be spent by the time the interior ones get a chance to infuse.

Early infusion
It takes quite a while for a solid chunk to open up; this is probably the second or third infusion but it is still pale yellow.

The tea has a nice (though pretty standard) aroma: plum or raspberry or however you want to describe that mature yancha fruitiness, chocolate, and a bit of spice.

Flavor-wise, this is about an 8. Not the best I've had (though ABx likes it a lot, so maybe I just haven't nailed the brewing yet), but far from the worst. It tastes pretty much like how it smells, but also leaves a nice aftertaste and a teensy bit of oiliness. This tea has pretty good endurance for an oolong, but it is not as long-lasting as some other aged oolongs I've had. Lastly, the product page is correct in saying it is a bit sour, but I don't think this is a plus (their description makes it seem more appetizing than it really is). Sourness seems to mask mouthfeel and texture in my experience, so it's not usually a good thing.

Later infusion
Mmm, that's more like it!

This might not have seemed like a favorable review, but I really do like this tea. My lack of exuberance is probably due to my frustration, as I can't seem to make it taste as good as ABx describes it. :D If you can be patient, I'd definitely recommend buying some of this tea.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New Teaware, Teas

It was a good holiday season this year. Among other things, I got a lot of new teas and teawares. Much of the bounty is courtesy of ABx from TeaChat, including this lovely gaiwan (made famous by GeekGirlUnveiled, also from TeaChat) from Serenity Art in Portland.

Dragon gaiwan and cups

Also in that photo are two new celadon cups from Dragon Tea House and a neat little plate from Daiso. There's plenty more en route (I wasn't smart enough to bring a big suitcase home with me), so stay tuned. Between the teaware and the samples ABx sent, I have a lot to write about.

Yes, yes, I'll take some color shots too. :P