A deep and abiding love of Oriental Beauty

A deep and abiding love of Oriental Beauty

Hong Cha, baby! With a sample of 'Honey Red Jade'

I go for some pretty long stretches forgetting how much I (sometimes) love red teas, or black teas if you prefer, which I don't. HongCha!
Dug out this sample, the name threw me big time, Honey Red Jade, I don't know what that is, I don't know who sent it to me, so I cant track it down. Opening it I see a brown, tightly rolled oolong with no discernible scent coming from the bag. The entire sample weighs in at over 11 grams, nice! You know what I find myself wishing? That with a little bag clearly this pretty I could see the art. See it flat and unfilled, before its contours are rippled and the image ruined by the vacuum sealing of the tea. Bet a lot of these are gorgeous, this one included.
Brewed up regular oolong style in my now obsessively used new Lin's teapot which is seeing so much varied action that's its a crime perhaps. But since it ain't Yixing I figure it doesn't matter too much as long as the little angel of a pot gets good rinses with scalding water when I switch to other teas. Am I wrong? ( My inner-Lebowski voice says back to me, "No Walter, you aren't wrong, you're just an asshole").
The smell of the dry tea in the heated pot is fabulous, promising and very reminiscent of Oriental Beauty types of teas. The rinse smells yummy, sipping it it, is far too weak so I dump it, just wanted to make sure.....and steeps 1 through 5 are just sweet, floral and classic. Love it. Perfect pre-supper tea, and when I return to it after dinner the magic is gone, so I move onto a slightly larger vessel, a 180 ml gaiwan and use the remaining 6 grams and have a deep and intense session that lasts the remainder of the evening. Which is only, of course, because I get my old ass to bed at 9pm.

A Sunday morning brunch tea that actually goes well with bacon and eggs! Camellia Sinensis' Dong Ding /Mrs. Lin

Camellia-Sinensis offers a wonderful Dong Ding that goes so well with the bacon, eggs, salsa and goat-cheese I just finished that I feel like a genius for pulling it out(at random) from my tea trove.

Cooked with charcoal, this winter harvest Wulong is delicious. Super robust, thick mouth-feel, tastes of grains, wood, flowers and plums. It's spicy but still cooling where my mouth is still slightly burning from the double-roasted tomato salsa on my eggs! A good way to start Sunday, especially now that I can relax knowing my GSW's are getting their much deserved game 7 tomorrow night!

2005 Mengku Zhengshan Daye from Yunnan Sourcing

Today I feeling no small amount of gratitude for James and Denny's continuing videos, which this week steered me right into the purchase of my first large cake at 400 grams. I watch a lot of their videos, but rarely have I been so quickly moved to try out a tea myself. I loved the way they drank and talked about this session more than anything else they have discussed. It was an evolving conversation, and after the 15 minute video which can be found here.
I just went ahead and bought the cake from the Yunnan Sourcing site. Scott has some of these cakes in the states so it arrived within three days of ordering it. Did I wait and let it 'rest'? No, I did not. Put 5.5grams into a 100ml gaiwan( using maybe 90 ml's of water) , rinsed twice (following James' lead on the video) and dug right in. It was a good first session. And the timing for me to try and deeply explore a Puerh that has some strong camphor, and truly 'medicinal' flavors is perfect at this point of my tea journey. I am transported back to the 1980's when I found my first Chinese apothecary/acupuncture shop, and the little packets of medicinal teas Dr Woo made for me, which though bitter and horrible were somehow still delicious! This tea is not, of course, like those medicines the Dr. put together for me, but the smell of the wet leaves certainly brings back that time when those packets of herbal medicines, roots sticks and all, were magical to me.
Back in those days when I was in my twenties, suddenly on my own, no health insurance, working in theatre and needing medical care. Thankfully in Austin Texas there was Dr. Woo and his herbs, which I believe set the tone for the Pu lover I am becoming today.
From YS site:
This was produced by a small tea factory in the Mengku area from Spring 2005 tea leaves from Xiao Hu Sai area of Mengku county in Lincang.  The tea was stone pressed and compression is medium to light.  The leaves are tippy first pluck of spring and their integrity has been well preserved thanks to the stone compression.
The tea has been stored in Guangdong in a relatively dry storage condition and as such the complexity of the tea has been respectfully transformed.  Nice floral, fruit and camphor tones in this thick well aged tea!

           "The age itself is having an influence on the flavor profile" Denny of Tea DB.

Teca Teas! After a series of Teca teas back in February, focusing on whites and one gaba I now move on to the Oolongs!

Where to start on the Oolongs?

I narrow it down to the Alishan High Mountain and the Lishan High Mountain, figuring I will do both and see what the differences are!

Prepping the Alishan session with five grams for a 100ml gaiwan, always go with the smallest plain white gaiwan when trying new teas!

Alishan after first rinse, and the smell is thick, floral and totally enchanting.

Too tea-drunk and happy with this wonderful example of an Alishan to move on to the Lishan, I ended up spending the night with this gorgeous 5 grams of leaves, moved the leaves after six steeps(!) into a grandpa-style glass and enjoyed further steeps until bedtime.

If an Alishan gets any better than this, I haven't had it yet. Prime example of a terrific tea!

Petr Novak's work goes on sale today! Hurry!

If you have not yet joined Petr's Pots and Tea club email list, you might be too late, but there are lots of gorgeous things made by the master on sale on his site right now.
Everything goes fast, and of course are OOAK items, but I am hoping to get my hands on a Shibo set to 'complete' my teaware collection! Forever. Well, maybe not forever, that's a long time but you know, for awhile anyway.

What to make of one of those seriously Icky-Yucky sessions. A brief ramble follows.

I do not write about tea experiences I don't enjoy. I don't tell you I had so-and-so's 2013 offering of such-and-such and how it failed to impress. I am not a critic. And by 'enjoy' I don't necessarily mean to indicate easy and sweet, light on the palate, 'fun' to drink.  In a good session there can be bitterness, astringency, a sense of not feeling comfortable in my own skin, it can be a long road with hours spent tasting a tea evolve from steep to steep. But what, aside from nothing, can one say when a session, which has been explored fully, and more than once, leaves one with nothing more than a bad taste in ones mouth and an overflowing seep-tray as well as a filled-to-the-rim waste water receptacle?

To be 'judgey,' especially at the beginning of my tea explorations, (it has been almost a year) is haughty, stupid and wrong. It can be something I don't like, and don't want to explore further, but knowing the tea came from a good source, knowing lots of info on the tea I find myself at a loss for what to think. To hell with writing about it, I just want to know what to think about it! Knowing it's either a crappy harvest and the seller isn't exactly going to talk about that in their online write-up, what can I say aside from nothing? I've taken to posting a photo on occasion with no caption as a kind of tiny shout-out that I  didn't 'get it' with this tea, always in the hopes that someone will PM me on Instagram and we can commiserate. One of my all time favorite tea-sellers once did tell me before sending me a tea we agreed upon that he was disappointed in the harvest and it wasn't the best example of the tea, and I should be aware of that. Because of that I buy a lot of teas from that seller, because a relationship with that sort of honesty is rare simply because they cannot do it! Some sellers won't sell a tea they are displeased with. Perhaps they liked it when they bought it, got it to their shop and it had changed in a way they weren't satisfied with, and were not ready to put it for sale.
I could of course write the owner/vendor on these occasions, (thankfully pretty rare which is amazing considering how many kinds of tea I try and re-try) and tell them about how much this tea did not 'do it' for me, the flatness of it, the lack of warmth, but why bother?
If it were the vendor who warned me that the sample he was sending me wasn't up to his standards, I would write the vendor in a heartbeat, but I don't have that relationship with any other sellers online, although the sellers I buy from I trust rather implicitly not to sell me or any of us shit, and I know you do too, dear readers since it was you who introduced me to them.

What do you do when a tea is just awful yet you do not have the experience, language or capacity to judge it beyond your own fallible taste-buds?

Wisteria Tea House 2003 Spring "Zipin Hao" Yiwu, a rare treat from a generous friend!

Wow. So, this is what a really good Yiwu tastes like. Now I know. And I won't quickly forget it either. Thanks to a generous sample of this apparently impossible to buy or find tea from an amazing source, I am slowly working on the second day of steeping this marvelous brew. Clarity, bright qi, taste profiles that are far and beyond anything I've had before; there is camphor and grass, sweet fruit and raisins? Brewing it light in a 100ml Lin's pot using 4 grams at just barely under boiling, this tea just changes with each subsequent flash-brewed steep and continues to impress and take me on journeys to both dark, shadowy places I'll never see as well as to well-lit forests resplendent with warm soil, flowers and sunshine that tastes like something infinite when you lick your own skin.
It's beyond talking about really. It's just really, really good. The energy it gave me was quite distinct from other tea-highs, drunks, buzzes and mellows I've experienced. It is possible I just had a truly intense high quality qi for the first time. I can tell you I was up all night, and very happy to be doing so, devouring crossword puzzles and over-grooming the poor dog who grew tired of my attentions long before I was finished making her look fabulous.
I'd tell you to go get some, but you can't. Serious bummer for you.

(No pictures of the brews, sorry. This tea deserved my TOTAL ATTENTION, not stopping to take pics of how it looked! Forgive me! I also didn't want to torture my readers any further with images of something most of them won't ever get their lovely little mitts on!)

Teavivre sample day! Fifteen packets to try. Hooray!

And we are off! First into the gate is Teavivre's Zheng Wei Tie Guan Yin Oolong. I used the whole sample in a large vessel and brewed up the first 8 ounces in one steep using my Smacha Auto-Brewer system, and it is very creamy, tangy, crazy-floral and perfect in my new tall sixteen ounce borosilicate glass. I am enjoying trying teas in this large glass for the first time today, and the glass allows me to see the clarity of the brew in a way I might have missed with a gongfu brew in a small vessel. For a first brew this is very good, and is certainly something I would call full-bodied, more so than many TGY's I've had. Perhaps my 'grammage' unmeasured is the reason why. I assume it is at least 7-8 grams! I could' bear to wait a moment longer to brew some tea as my kitchen was off-limits for nearly two hours with a handyman under my kitchen sink( yes,adorable middle-aged butt-crack in view) and I couldn't get to my kettle.
Teavivre says:
Our Zheng Wei Tie Guan Yin (TGY) was plucked in the day before “寒露 (cold dew)”- one of the traditional Chinese Twenty-four Solar Terms . The dry leaves of this tea appear less tender than spring green tea, while it has a richer and long-lasting flower flavor. Compared to TeaVivre's Tie Guan Yin “Iron Goddess” Oolong Tea, Zheng Wei TGY has pronounced hint of flower scent rather than greenish flavor. It yields bright yellowish broth with prominent milk and flower scent and tastes refreshing, sweet. This economical tea allows for up to 6 infusions or more.
(Tips: The tea harvested during the period three days before and four days after寒露 (cold dew) day is called “正秋茶” (means autumn tea, this term differs from “早秋茶”,the early autumn tea).
Zheng Wei Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea
Producing area:
Anxi, Quanzhou, Fujian
Tea type:
Oolong tea, Tie Guanyin
Harvest Season:
Picking Time:
Oct. 7th, 2015
Dry tea:
curled, bold, sand green
light flowery fragrance
clear, light yellowish
light sweet, smooth and soft
Tree species:
Tie guan yin tea plant
Tea garden:
An Shan high mountain ecological tea garden
Partially fermented tea
Caffeine scale:
about 16-25 mg/ Cup
Store in airtight, opaque packaging; keep refrigerated
Shelf Life:
24 months

Doing it Grandpa-style?

Maybe grandpa doesn't mind having tea leaves stuck to his teeth, but Buddha-Mom finds it rather unpleasant. Who knows where these hands have been?! I don't pay the strictest of attention to where my hands wander. And I am in constant contact with bearded dragons, a snake, a dog, bird shit, my herb garden and my own ass for gawds' sake! I don't want to be fishing in my mouth for that stray tea-leaf or just as bad, spitting that bud out of my mouth like a savage.

 OK, got a big 'un in my mouth right now, maybe I will just chew it and see how that goes. Ok, I am chewing it, chewing it, chewing it. Shit, mastication needs to be seriously employed just to mash this tiny leaf of Bai Hao Yinzhen. Ok, got it down, now I have a mild but bitter flavor in my mouth. This can't be how its done.
Leaves have been sitting in the glass for ten minutes now and maybe 20% have fallen to the bottom, the rest remain stubbornly at the top, barring me from enjoying even lady-like sips of my brew.
Clearly I need to weigh in with this issue with my tea-head friends and cohorts at 'Beginner's Mind Gongfu Tea group on Facebook. God damn, that's bitter. The tea itself, if I can get around the leaves, using my teeth as a strainer, (not fun) is delicious, but the leaf I chewed was certainly not happy about being deconstructed in my mouth in such a fashion!

Thought 1. "THIS is weird." Followed by thought 2. "I LOVE it."

Back in December I tried a sheng from the wonderful Thai sellers, Teaside in which I did not write up because I was unfazed at the time. Today I tried it again. First sip of first steep after initial rinse was "This is weird." But please note it was not my usual "This is WEIRD!!!" proclamation but more of a subtle revealing of something new, not a bad weird just very, very different from anything I remember drinking. Like ever.
Second sip, was "Yeah, and I love it!"
This may be the sheng to bring me out of my Puerh doldrums, though being from Thailand, I guess it isn't really Puerh, but a Puerh-style tea?
In any case, this sheng, called Hong Tai Chang 0801 raw/organic from 2006 is super redolent of raisins!Yum. At least I think its raisins. Its notes are of a slightly sour fruit and it's funky-fabulous. Second steep began to bring out more tangy mineral notes, third steep both fruit and spiciness overtook that metallic edge, and it smoothed out, and sadly burned out more quickly than I would have liked. It was so nice to have a totally new flavor on my palate! And to think just a few short months ago I was like, "Meh" and stuck it in a tin in the bottom drawer of my Puerh storage vault. I am such a dumb-ass.
Ooh! Looks like they still have some, and you can find it here! Make sure and email me directly, as usual to give me your feedback should you be fortunate enough to play around with this frolicsome brew. Enjoy!

Farmer's Choice Bao Zhong from Floating Leaves Tea Spring 2015, so very SWEET!

Wait, WHAT?
This tea is tripping me out right now. I've had it many times before at a high temperature, near boiling, and its been fine, lovely even, but not this zowie-powey heavily-perfumed second and third steep that I am just now backing away from in wonder and total delight.
I thought my temp was about 205f. I used three and a half grams for a 100ml gaiwan. Sipped at first rinse, no flavor. Second steep, maybe five seconds and POW! "Wait, WHAT?!" I ask myself. "Did I misread with my old eyes and put Jasmine tea in the gaiwan instead of the Bao Zhong? Goddamn, no wonder this is called 'Farmer's Choice.' Did that farmer sell his soul to some fabulous flowery-fairy queen to imbibe his tea with this deliciousness that is now freaking me so happily out?"
I have got to email Shiuwen, the lovely and helpful guide and proprietor of floating Leaves Tea to find out more about this tea. I've been brewing it really hot, as Shiuwen suggested, even though I have also read from some drinkers of Bao Zhong to steep at a far lower temperature, and frankly, I can see why if this is the outcome. Seriously, this is creamy, floral out-the-wazoo, and has a long-lasting sweet, yet tart note that lingers in the back of my throat even now as I write this.
Nice to start Sunday morning with a truly surprising session, that doesn't happen all that often anymore, and its just the thing to get me up and moving, out of my chair at the tea-table and into my chair at the computer desk to tell you all about it.
Yes! I just found THIS, so not only is it still available, its on sale! Got to love that Shiuwen for so many reasons, my top one, aside from her smile, is her pricing and oft-held sales!
I have enough tea to not have to buy tea for another year but I am doing just that, going and buying some of this right now before its gone.
Sweeter than last years harvest, she says.
I don't know about last year's harvest since I wasn't even drinking tea 'way back then' but this is the sweetest and most lovely tea I've had thus far.