Thursday, March 24, 2011

Disaster in Japan

First off, I received an email yesterday from Ilya at Adagio, in which he informed me of a support program they have going on:
Adagio Teas is donating 15% of its Japanese Tea sales to the American Red Cross and for every one of these sales we will post a paper crane to our site to mark all of our collective efforts.
Check it out: Adagio Teas - Japanese Relief

seigan chawanSecondly, I want to encourage you all to continue supporting the Japanese economy by buying Japanese tea products when the new harvest comes out. If Japanese teas aren't... (I'm so sorry for this) your cup of tea (groan), they also make some pretty nifty teapots, tea cups, tea canisters, etc. that you can use for whatever teas you like.

I know some of you may be concerned about radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant incident contaminating your Japanese tea, but fear not! While some crops in areas in the vicinity of the reactor have demonstrated unsafe levels of contamination, the tea-producing regions of Japan are quite far to the south and are extremely unlikely to be adversely affected.

I understand if you don't just take my word for it, though. Fortunately there is some excellent discussion on the issue going on over at TeaChat; I suspect this thread will be updated as more information becomes known.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

High Fired Da Hong Pao, from Aroma Tea Shop

Class: Wuyi Oolong
Origin: Wuyi Mtns, Fujian Province, China
Year: <5 years, most likely
Vendor: Aroma Tea Shop
Price: Can't remember. Helpful, aren't I?

I was walking through San Francisco's Chinatown a couple months ago with a few friends and happened upon Aroma Tea Shop. With some inkling that I had heard good things about this place somewhere at some time, we stopped in for a quick tasting of a few crowd-pleasers the shop had lined up. I guess after all the sweet Tie Guan Yin, cooked puerh, and some sort of green tea, the siren's call of yancha was too difficult to resist.

dry leaf
I picked this high fire Da Hong Pao off the shelf and asked if he could brew us some to sample. He obliged but brewed it a bit weak— weak for me anyway, perhaps not everyone brews yancha to the milkshake consistency (Not literally. Uuggghhhh.) some of us prefer. Still, it seemed like it had potential so I stumbled, slightly tea drunk, out of the store with a satisfyingly full bag of it.

The dry leaf is very dark, with a deep, earthy cocoa aroma. There isn't much of a floral or fruity nose to it. This tea is serious business.

I honestly don't think it's possible to make this tea taste over-brewed. If the neglect I mentioned in my last post was borderline criminal, I should be hanged for the atrocities I committed against these leaves.

You can see in the photo how dark I brewed this— it's almost black— yet there is barely a hint of unpleasant astringency. Instead there is a relatively simple yet rich mocha flavor that turns sweet as it cools, and a slight oily sensation felt on the lips. Coffee-lovers would really get a kick out of this, I think.

I don't remember other Da Hong Pao tasting like this, but I'm not sure whether to chalk it up to mislabeling or just greater variability within the variety than between the various yancha varieties. Regardless, it's pretty delicious. I wish I could tell you which of the two Da Hong Pao offerings on their website (Premium or King) this tea is, but if you want to take a gamble and order one of them, let me know what you find out.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Shan Lin Xi (Light Roast), from the Tea Gallery

Class: Oolong
Origin: Nantou, Taiwan
Year: Winter 2009
Vendor: The Tea Gallery (Product page)
Price: $35.00 (25g each of light and medium roast)

This is the perfect tea for a rainy day. The dry leaf smells sweet and soft, with a bouquet of cool rainy air, apples, flowers, and vanilla. The liquor aroma is strongly vegetal but with enough floral sweetness to keep it balanced, while the flavor is more the opposite; floral and sugary-sweet with a slight veggie backbone.

There is a lingering, subtle, sweet aftertaste. The cha qi feels sedating but is thankfully not too heady, so there is no headache and only a bit of tea-drunkenness.

Brewing this tea is remarkably easy; I would have expected the amount of neglect and abuse I inflicted to be unforgivable (if not borderline criminal), but most of my over-steeps were actually pretty delicious.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Spring come early

There's something about unseasonably spring-like weather that causes me to revert back to my hopelessly romantic teenage self.

shan lin xi dry leaf
I thought I might find some inspiration to write about this gorgeous tea— a 2009 Shan Lin Xi oolong from The Tea Gallery— but it turns out I'd much rather just get tea drunk and listen to old crooners sing love songs. I'll get back to you about the tea. :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

2010 Rou Gui, from Teacuppa

Class: Wuyi yancha, oolong
Origin: Wuyi Mountains, Fujian Province, China
Year: 2010
Vendor: Teacuppa (Product page)
Price: $13.80 (50g) / $24.00 (100g)

It's been a while since I wrote about anything from Teacuppa! Look past their goofy name and you'll find that these folks have many lovely teas available, particularly their Wuyi yancha.

This Rou Gui does not disappoint. The dry leaf has quite a range of brown tones thanks to its lighter firing, making it a pleasant tea to look at. Chocolate, caramel, and cinnamon are all clearly present in the dry leaf aroma. The brew itself tastes of caramel and spice, but more remarkably its texture is smooth (especially for such a young tea) and oily, coating the lips and mouth long after it is reluctantly swallowed.

It isn't too heavily fired, so its aromas and flavors are more rounded-off, and less harsh or edgy than high-roast teas. This can be a good or bad thing depending on what you're looking for— this isn't a terribly complex, floral, or fruity tea— but I think the velvety texture is worth the trade-offs.

One thing about Teacuppa's yancha is they are almost all light-to-medium roast with a smooth, coating mouthfeel— so if you enjoy that style as I do, be confident and sample ferociously.