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I embarked on my tea journey when I studied abroad in China in 2008 and traveled around Taiwan that summer. I'm here to share my experiences and offer my own opinion, advice, and comments on tea.

Monday, December 29, 2008

TeaCuppa Bai Ji Guan

So much for updating more often, Christmas was a long process consisting of relatives visiting and small cousins (children and teapots do not mix well). Alas, my tea drinking has gone through a bit of a dry spell. On top of that, I have some disheartening news. Apparently yixing teapots dedicated to Dan Cong should be as thin as possible, contradicting the thick and heavy theory I had embraced beforehand. Thus, my heavy and stout hei ni teapot dedicated to Dan Cong has been wasted. Luckily though, heavily roasted Dan Cong are an exception so it's not a complete waste.

So this week I decided to sample some Bai Ji Guan, a type of Wuyi tea. The name literally translate to White Cockscomb, and it has a very interesting history to the name. But first, what is cockscomb? Well, it's the little red thingy on top of the rooster's head. According to legend, the name was given by a monk in honor of a rooster who died defending his baby from an eagle. The monk was so touched that he buried the rooster there, and from that spot a tea bush grew. It's also a Si Da Ming Cong, or one of the four famous wuyi tea types.

This particular tea lived up to the expectations that I had, from what I knew/read about Bai Ji Guan before. The dry leaf has a semisweet chocolate aroma, with a little fruitiness. It's not too clear from the photo, but the leaves are yellowish, typical of Bai Ji Guan. There is a faint honey-like taste to the tea, with a slight toasted flavor, very reminiscent of the burnt rice you find at the bottom of Bibimbap. As the steepings continue I notice a lingering mellow fruitiness.There is a nice copper color to the tea, which I like very much. Overall, it's a very mild tea, with a nice finish.

I think compared to the other Wuyi I've tasted this one stands out the most for its sweet, toasted taste. I'm a little bummed at how expensive Bai Ji Guan is, which is also attributed to the fact that this tea isn't as big as the other Wuyi types. At Seven Cups the 2007 harvest goes for $38 for 25 grams. I don't know when I'll get the chance to sample that. Luckily the version at TeaCuppa was a much nicer bargain, and although people say that the TeaCuppa version is not that great, the price speaks for itself.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

TeaCuppa Dong Ding

So it's been about two weeks since my last post, and I've been really falling behind. First it was finals, and then I came home; so I haven't been too motivated to post. I was looking forward to shooting some photos of tea outside, but I'm afraid it's a bit too cold for me. So this is going to be a review of a tea I had about a month ago...enjoy!

TeaCuppa Dong Ding

The dry leaf was amazing. There was a clear vegetal aroma, but at the same time there were some slight roasted notes. What struck me most about this tea was its sweetness, which also showed up in the dry leaf. It was a fragrant honey-like sweetness, with a soothing flavor. The tea had a very clean and fresh finish. As I went into the fourth and fifth steeping, I detected a faint sourness/fruitiness that lingered in the aftertaste. Very tasty indeed.

Pondering Thoughts
I've only had one other Dong Ding to compare to, and the first one I had was slightly more roasted. I appreciated the floral sweetness that this tea has, and I think it serves as a nice contrast to other Taiwanese oolongs, like High Mountain Teas, which have more floraliness than anything else. No surprise though, I preferred the roasted Dong Ding I had before, where in addition to the floral sweetness that was a nice caramel flavor too.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

TeaCuppa Dan Cong Magnolia

Oh wow, I've been so behind on everything. I already have tasting notes for like four teas, I just haven't had the time to sit down an actually review them. So this particular tea has a wonderful aroma to it, which I detected immediately from the dry leaf. Along with a distinct floral aroma of magnolia, there were also hints of jasmine or honey suckle. A very delicious bouquet indeed. I used about 7.5 grams for my 130 ml yixing teapot. What struck me most about the leaves were how large they were

Tasting Notes:
Wow, there is a great sweetness to the tea liquor which is very subtle; however, there is also body, with slight astringency. The tea has a wonderful amber gold color, with great clarity. By the fourth steeping I detected a slight woodsy aroma. Despite continued steepings though, the sweetness is still lingering, continuing well into the sixth steeping. The tea was also rounded out with a sort of butteriness which I can't really seem to describe too well.

So, what did I think of this tea? I think I read somewhere, possibly on TeaChat, that this tea was not that great, but I sure liked it. It has that nice floral nature that I appreciate, along with some kick to the actual tea. I've only tried one another Dan Cong, which I bought from a local teashop. Compared to that, my experience with this has been much better. Of course, since Dan Cong is such a hard tea to brew my improving technique is probably the cause of why this particular Dan Cong tastes better. Hopefully I'll be able to update on a quicker basis, but I'm returning home soon which means I'll have tons of other teas to review and blog about

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

TeaCuppa 2005 Shui Xian

Oh boy, I've been busy as of late so I haven't been posting. I have been reviewing teas like crazy so I need to post more so I don't get too far ahead of myself. As I pressed the dry leaves up against my nose, a rich chocolate aroma, with some spiciness, wafts up into my nostrils. I'm already in love with this tea. I used about 7.5 grams in my 120 ml yixing teapot. I can tell from the dry leaf that this is going to be one bold tea.

The tea has a luxurious aroma, and since the tea is only slightly roasted so is not much of a charcoal flavor. The liquor has a dark amber color to it, which reminds me of autumn. There is a heavy fruity flavor, but specifically notes of plum. The fruitiness mellows out by the fourth steeping though, to be replaced with a mild roasted aroma. Despite the mellowed fruitiness though, it still lingers in the background.

This tea is $7.00 for 50 grams, so it makes for a decent everyday tea in my opinion. I'm in love with its potent fruitiness, which makes it a very full-bodied tea. The tea's overwhelming fruitiness may be a turnoff to some tea drinkers though, so just take that in mind.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Shan Shui 2008 Spring Superior Jinxuan

Jinxuan tea is made from a relatively new tea plant varietal, made popular during the 1990s. It is cultivated in the Nantou region of Taiwan. I used about 7.5 grams of leaf for a 120-130 ml gaiwan. The dry leaf was very green, which indicated that there was a very light roast to it.

Tasting Notes:
This particular variety is processed like High Mountain oolong, and it's is similar in color but, has a distinct aroma that blends well with its creamy flavor. The astringency is very nice, and it serves as a wonderful contrast to the creaminess. I could taste the veggie flavors of the tea leaf in the liquor. The tea has a very nice finish, with a kind of butteriness to it. That's the one thing that I like about this tea, is how creamy and smooth it is. There's also a subdued fruity aroma in the tea, that kinda hangs around in the background. It's not as pronounced as the fruitiness one finds in heavily roasted oolong.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Shan Shui 2006 Superior Cuiyu

I'm going to try a different approach to reviewing each tea, and I hope that this week's review will be a little more insightful. Now tea is like wine in many aspects, because even though all tea comes from the same plant, it's all different. Factors like the terroir, weather, harvesting period, etc. can lead to vastly different types of teas. So let's breakdown what Cuiyu is:


So where is Cuiyu harvested? It comes from Taiwan, but more specifically Nantou county, which is the only landlocked county in all of Taiwan. Here is the scenery of Hehuanshan (translates into "Joy Mountain"), one of the highest mountain ranges in Taiwan.

Tasting Notes:
Alright, so here's the actual tea review. I brewed this tea at about 7 grams for a roughly 120 ml gaiwan. I did a 10 second rinse, with steepings of about 15 seconds, adding an additional 10 seconds after the third steeping.So what does Cuiyu actually mean in English. Translated, it means "crisp jade," which is descriptive of the tea's bright front flavor. This characteristic distinguishes it from teas such as Sijichun, Wulong, and Jinxuan, which are processed similarly with about the same level of oxidation. It tastes like a green tea, with a crisp aroma which at the same time is very subtle. There's also a refreshing aftertaste that I enjoy very much.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Winter 2007 Shan Shui TGY/Winter 2007 Shan Shui Shui Xian

I've reviewed both of these teas before; however, the ones I tasted before were harvested in the spring. To save the trouble of repeating the same information I'm just going to sum up the key differences in the tea, and which ones I liked better. I preferred the winter version of these teas better, in that they packed a bigger punch in their flavor profile. If I had to theorize a reason why that is, it probably has to do with the season they were harvested in (well duh). More specifically though, the tea plants grow slower in the winter, so the individual leaves accumulate more flavor, where as the spring leaves grow a bit faster. To me, the spring teas tended to have a more flavorful bouquet of smells, while the winter teas had a better taste to them. This is just my theory though, so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

I hate to post without a photo, and putting up photos of the teas would be ridiculous, since I can't tell the difference in terms of tea liquor which one is which, except that the winter TGY seemed to be darker in color. So I'll leave you with a pretty photo of an orchid I found at DC's Eastern Market a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Shan Shui Spring 2006 Winter Yinya

7.5 grams for a 130 ml gaiwan; 10 second rinse, 15 seconds for first three steepings, adding on 10 seconds for each additional one.

Dry Leaves
According to Brian Wright from Shan Shui Teas, in terms of varietal and processing, Yinya is essentially Baozhong tea. However, the harvest is timed differently to include the buds of the tea plant as well as the leaves. This difference gives Yinya its name, which means "silver needle." The "silver needles" are refering to the buds, which appear a silver white.
(Enlarge the photo to take a closer look.)

Tasting Notes:

So when I first steeped this tea, the first though that came to my head was, "wow this tea is floral." There is a rich bouquet with rich color. There is also a slight sweet aroma that is very intriguing. It smells like honey, but more "plant-like," if that's even possible. The light roast on the tea makes it very mellow, giving it a smooth silky finish.


So I've been on a bit of a "green oolong" run this month, since all the samples I bought from Brian Wright were mostly lightly roasted oolongs. I'm beginning to appreciate greener oolongs more, but unfortunately this one did not hit the sweet spot for me. It's a bit too floral for my taste. Maybe it has something to do with all the green oolongs that I've been trying, and I'm tired of it. Next time I'll be reviewing a sample of winter TGY (highly roasted!) so it'll be interesting to compare that to the spring TGY I reviewed earlier.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Premium Winter 2007 Buluomi

7.5 grams for an approx. 130 ml gaiwan; 10 second rinse followed by 15 seconds for first three steepings, adding on 10 seconds for each additional one.
Dry Leaf Appearance

The leaves had a dark green color. It reminded me of wuyi yancha, but with unroasted leaves. There was a very strong veggie smell that reminded me slightly of high mountain oolong leaves.

Tasting Notes:

This tea had a surprising sweet aftertaste that lingered on my tongue. Judging from the dry leaves I had expected something similar to High Mountain teas, so I was surprised by this. The tea had a very smooth finish, with a slight baked pineapple aroma to it. It was very creamy, a nice contrast to the other oolong types. The tea was very durable, and the sweetness continues even after six to seven steepings. The tea had a golden green color, with amazing clarity.


The wet leaves had a very strong "plant" smell to it. It reminded me of being in a warm and humid jungle. Like the tea, I detected a slight baked pineapple aroma in the wet leaves. The wet leaves were very durable, and had a dark green color. I had originally thought that this tea would not be one of my favorites, but I actually liked this tea a lot. It's a great contrast to high mountain oolongs and it's an interesting variety of oolong. I don't think I've seen this anywhere else other then on Shan Shui Teas.

Side Note:
When sniffing for the aroma of the wet leaves, I put my nose close to the gaiwan, accidentally breathing in some hot steaming leaf into my nose! Although this should have taught me a lesson, that's the only way I can properly take in a tea's aroma

Friday, October 17, 2008

Shan Shui Premium Spring 2008 TGY

7g/120 ml; 10 second rinse, 15 second for the first three steepings, adding 10 seconds for each additional one.

Dry Leaf Appearance:
The tea leaves are roasted to a dark chocolate color, indicating a high level of roasting. The tea leaves were a bit crushed so this particular tea tasting had particularily flavorful steepings towards the beginning of the tasting session.

Tasting Notes:

The tea exhibited very smoky flavors, which only increased with each additional steeping. The wet leaves have a very distinct rich smell, with hints of chocolate. The liquor was very mild and mellow tasting, exuding a flavor that lingers on the tongue. The roasted nature of this tea though, might be overpowering to some people. However, the roasted nature of the tea gives me a complex character. The tea exhibits a gorgeous dark amber color, with extreme clarity.


I am a big fan of this tea, which is both to be expected and surprising at the same time. It's expected because I appreciate the complex nature of roasted teas. On the other hand, however, it's surprising because I'm not a fan of TGY, but this high-roasted one changed my mind. I like to think of this tea as an easy-going tea that sips well, like a nice bourbon. I'm looking forward to trying other high-roasted TGY.

Post note:
The photos came out better this time because I discovered the "macro" function on my camera, which the manual describes should be used when shooting up close. I'm embarrassed that it's taken me this long to figure out this crucial function.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

2007 Hou De Spring Ta Tung "Si Cha" Oolong

Wow, I haven't reviewed a tea in a really long time. I've been busy with schoolwork and just this weekend I traveled to New York City to visit some friends. I actually have tasting notes for different teas already, and I'm just getting around to the first one now. Anyway, to the actual review...

2007 Spring Tai-Tung "Si Cha" Oolong
9 grams/120 ml teapot; 10 second rinse, 15 second for first three steepings, add 10 seconds for each additional steeping
Dry Leaf Appearance:

The leaves had a very dark color to it, and there was a strong roasted aroma that made was very delicious. The tea was roasted very well, and it showed all the characteristics of a tea that was handpicked.

Tasting Notes:

The roasting gives the tea a very pronounced fruity. I detected subtle plum flavors, along with some peachiness. It had a very silk smooth taste, which was very mellow. However, at the same time there was a slight tartness to the tea which I enjoyed. It ook a while for the tea's flavor to fully awaken, and I had to experiment with the parameters before getting it right. For me at least, the flavors seemed to "peak" during the third steeping. All in all, there is a certain richness and orchid floriness.


I wasn't a big fan of this tea, although after reading about in on the website I was really excited and perhaps had inflated expectations. I would say that I enjoyed this tea, but I probably wouldn't try it again on my own. The flavors were good, but it wasn't the kind of "bold" tea that I thought it was, which is what I usually enjoy. Don't let this discourage you from trying it out though, it's more that this particular tea was "incompatible" with my preferences and tastes.

Post Notes:
I'll be posting up a review of a 2008 Summer Wenshan Baihao from Shan Shui teas that I tried out a few days ago. I also have some tasting notes from a Black tea I just tried out from Plucker's Pick (too many teas in my life!). Looking for a yixing for black tea if anyone is willing to help out...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Water Quality

It's my firm belief that a tea tastes just as good (or badly) as the water the tea leaves are brewed with. I recall a particular moment in tea-history when I, having run out of bottled water, used plain old tap water to brew some Da Hong Pao. It was a bad idea as I noticed an "off" aroma wafting from the liquor, and as I took the teacup to my mouth I noticed a reflective film on top of the tea.

It was nasty.

I immediately threw away the brew and leaves, because I was so disgusted with the foul concoction. Luckily a few days after the incident my Brita filter finally arrived so I could go back to brewing tea. This should serve an important lesson in the role water plays.

Alot of other blogs have already chronicaled the advantages or disadvantages of using what kind of water, so I won't bother talking about that. I am, however, more interested in the more minute aspects of water. It's too expensive to buy imported water, so I want to see if I can "recreate" the different variables of water without having to pay the price.

Hard Water vs. Soft Water
Hard Water is usually better for oolong and black teas, whereas greens could benefit from softer water. There are water softeners out there that you can use to soften water. As a predominantly oolong drinker, I'm more interesting in making water harder.

Bamboo Charcoal
Bamboo charcoal provides a cheaper alternative to Brita filters for making water taste better; however, bamboo charcoal has the tendency to make water harder, so be careful when using this with green teas. But the harder water that results from using bamboo charcoal is favorable towards oolongs.

Gypsum Powder

This is gypsum powder, the stuff that you find in baby powder (I think) and in most chem laboratories. This stuff can also make water become harder, but I've only discussed this with some of my science-oriented friends. I don't know how much you would add, or where you can buy safe gypsum that could be consumable. When I return home I'll make sure to run some experiments to verify everything.

Ceramic Pot

In the same way that ceramic teapots affect the flavor of the tea, so can ceramic pots affect the taste of water. When I visited Yingge, Taiwan I came across Lin's Ceramic Studio. I saw some ceramic pots made out of purion, which the sales people said made the water taste better. Being a little skeptical I actually had a taste of the water and I can say it really made a tremendous difference. I would've bought the ceramic pot except that I had no space in my luggage. At home I boil water in a ceramic kettle like this one, and it really makes the tea taste better, especially with oolongs. I feel that the porous nature of the kettle enriches the water with various minerals that make the water taste better as well as harder at the same time.

That's right, a magnet. Now this comes from my mom, who passes her water through a magnetized filter, which somehow makes the water better for you. What does this do with tea? I frankly don't know. Tieguanyin has a magnetized Korean mug that is supposedly good for your health. Will it help tea taste better? Maybe. But when I go home I'll be eager to test this out. If it does make tea taste better then I'll have to apologize to my mom for making fun of her for "magnetizing" water.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hou De 2007 Zhen-Yen Handcrafted "Rou Gui"

Location: Wuyi, Zhen-yen
Roasting: Medium-Roasted

6 g for 120 ml
15 seconds for first three steepings, increasing by 10 seconds for each additional steeping.

Dry Leaf Appearance:
Rich and roasted aroma, almost smoky, and a bit spicy.

Tasting Notes:
The tea exhibited a very amber liquor, yet it was very clear. The first and second steepings had a very fruity flavor, but yet was smooth and mellow. There's a slight almond flavor to the spiciness. In the second steeping there is a slight caramelized flavor, dare I say sweet? What was most pleasing was a slight astringency the danced on the back of my tongue. By the fourth steeping that was a floral aroma to the tea, with a slight tartness that went well with the fruitiness. So did I like this tea? Yes. From what I've gathered from other reviews, this tea seems to be more highly roasted, which is nice because I'm a big fan of roasted teas. I felt that it was a good introduction to the other wuyi teas, because I've only been drinking Da Hong Pao up to this point.

This was a good introduction to the Wuyi family of teas, and I'm looking forward to trying out the others. I think I'm going to order some Shuixian, Tie Lo Han, and Bai Ji Gui.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hou De 90s Aged Mu-Zha "Si Ji" Oolong

I had actually finished the tasting notes for this particular tea a few days ago, but I was preoccupied with finding a new teapot. But here it is, my tasting notes
Dry Leaf Appearance:There was a wonderful roasted flavor
9.2 grams for a approx. 120 ml, roughly 1/3 of the teapot. Five second "wash" followed by 1 0seconds for the first two steepings, adding ten seconds to each additional one.
Tasting Notes:
I'm a little mixed about my feelings about this tea. When I first brewed this tea I steeped at intervals of 15 seconds for the first few steepings, but I found that the flavor was overpoweringly fruity. After fine-tuning the steeping times this did not pose a problem anymore. There aroma and flavor of this tea is distinctly a plum flavor. I'm not kidding when I say I can almost taste plums when drinking this tea. There is a somewhat spiciness that lingers in my mouth. Additionally, the tea is very mellow and smooth, thanks probably to the aging it's gone through. There is a slight woodsy aroma to the tea by the fourth brewing.

The plum flavor from this tea I think is crucial to whether you like it or not. I happen to be a big fan of plums so I'm rather partial to it. On the other hand, however, the flavor was not as complex as I would've liked it, like the different subtleties in High Mountain Oolongs. But maybe that can be attributed to by the fact that I'm still a novice at tasting teas. I love the amber tea liquor though, because it remains me of a warm autumn day. One a unrelated note, I'm surprised by the poor quality of these photos, because I remember when I took these photos and looked them over, they looked half decent. And I don't have a chance to reshoot because I'm currently finishing this tea.

Other Related Business:
I'm always reading on other tea blogs about how particular teas taste fruity, or there's a chocolate aroma to it. Well, to help me get a sense of what they're talking about, I've been tasting various dark chocolates and eating more fruits so I can get a sense of when a tea is "fruity" or "spicy" and so on and so forth. Even if I learn nothing from this, at least I get to eat more chocolate, which is always a win in my book.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ching Ching Teahouse

So today I paid a visit to a local teashop in the DC area, located a little off of Wisconsin and M, called Ching Ching Teahouse. They're apparently been in business for over 10 years when I talked to the man anger, and they come from Hong Kong.
The store from the outside
In addition to being a teahouse they are also a teastore, carrying an impressive array of goods. They carried yixing teapots, testubin, tokoname, gaiwan, teacups, porcelain teapots, and tea tins. Oh yes, and there was tea. It was a modest selections of various green, oolong, black, tisanes, and flavored teas. It's not as impressive as teashops I've seen in Taiwan, but it beats the supermarket shelf of bagged lipton. I ended up buying a few tea bins, a gaiwan, and a yixing teapot.
The staff seemed pretty knowledgeable about their wares, and since they've been around for a while I expected them to. I was most pleased, however, by the actual teahouse. Instead of serving the tea for you, they provide you with a teapot with the leaves inside, and you do the work yourself! They use a gaiwan for their green teas, and yixing teapots for their oolong and pu'ers. I'm not sure what they use for the rest, because I couldn't see.

Gentleman in the background was drinking a pu'er. Even though we didn't talk I felt a silent camaraderie with him as a fellow tea drinker. Well, the kettle was interesting, because it was a black clay kettle that was kept at a constant boil with a little fire going on inside. Even though this keeps the water piping hot, I'm a little worried by how this might affect the actual brewing process for green teas, which might be bitter after such high temperatures. Nevertheless, I was proud to say "yes" when the waitress asked if I knew how to brew tea this way.

I had a Oriental Beauty, and I was too busy looking around this place and having some mooncake to write tasting notes for it. I was very surprised by the tea's "sweet aroma." I will have to buy some Oriental Beauty later.
The mooncake was delicious, albeit small and expensive (five dollars!)

This is a photo of the teawares they have to offer. The prices seemed to range from relatively cheap to pretty expensive. The cheapest thing I saw was a $20 yixing teapot, and the most expensive was a $200 yixing teapot. I was fascinated by their dazzling array of matcha bowls, which almost inspired me to take up drinking matcha. I will do so, but at a later time when I have the space to collect teaware. They also had a nice selection of various English textbooks on tea, and an odd collection of cute chopsticks for some reason. I was in love with this shop, but one thing did make me cringe though, which as the presence of a mesh tea ball for brewing. Gag me with a spoon!

My new friend

So here is the damage done to my wallet. Included is my fixed yixing teapot on the very left, which I repaired using epoxy from Home Depot. I haven't used it yet but it's holding up well. I bought the other teapot on a whim, so I don't know what I'm going to use it with yet (suggestions people!). But nevertheless, I can't use it because I don't have the equipment to season it properly. So for now it's a ornamental piece.

Broken Teapot

The title speaks for itself I think. I was brewing some Muzha Si Ji Oolong from Hou De, when I sneeze and dropped my teapot. It's really unfortunate, because it broke from being dropped from a mere height of five inches. It just happened to land on the handle which is pretty fragile compared to the rest of the teapot. It was pretty tragic because I wasn't done brewing the tea yet, so for the duration of the session I had to actually hold the teapot with my fingers.Rest in Peace: 1950-2008

This particular teapot held some significance for me, because I actually inherited it from my grandmother, which I've mentioned before. It's been used for the past 50 years at least, so I feel like I just broke a precious family heirloom. But there is some good news, however, because this means I get to buy a new teapot. I'm going to a local tea store in Washington DC called Ching Ching Tea, which seems to be highly recommended for tea drinkers in this area. Will update with review of said teahouse and pictures of new teaware

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hou De 2007 Spring Formasa "Fo Shou" Oolong

Today is a bit on an auspicious day, because tonight marks the Mid-Autumn Festival, so I found it appropriate to taste a new tea. I bought this particular tea a while ago, but I was testing different parameters so I haven't completely reviewed it until now.

Location: Zhu Shan, Nan Tou, Taiwan
Fermentation/Roasting: 25%/High-fired roasting

7 grams for a roughly 100 ml yixing teapot
15 seconds for first three steepings, increased 10 seconds for each additional steeping

Dry Leaf appearance:
The appearance of the tea is very dark, and although the tea leaves in this photo are crushed (it was towards the end of the 1 0z I purchased) the leaves seemed tightly bound. There was a rich and roasted aroma. The pellets seemed to be roasted well, because they crushed well when I rubbed it between the fingers.

The first couple of steeps had a very bold and rich aroma, and the high-fire roasting gave it a very fruity flavor that I enjoyed, but was somewhat overpowering at times. During the second steeping I noticed hints of chocolate and spiciness in the tea liquor. By the third and fourth steeping the fruity notes were not as potent, and the tea was becoming mellower and smoother. There was also slight woodsy aroma detected from the 4th steeping. The tea liquor was very clear, with a wonderfully rich color. The color reminds me of autumn for some reason.

All in all, this was a very nice tea; however, some people may not like it because the high-fire roasting adds potent fruitiness to the tea. But I'm a big fan of roasted teas, because the teas have a bold flavor to it. The astringency was very nice, and it lingered on my tongue for a good hour or two. If I were to buy this tea again, I might age it so that time cuts the fruitiness, and the flavor will mellow out.

Post-Note: I took the trouble to actually go outside for these photos, so hopefully they're a clearer guide. Initially I got awkward glances as I took pictures of wet tea leaves outside my dorm. I think I have a reputation for being the resident tea-maniac, but that's compliment for me.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Spring 2008 Ali Shan Oolong

Here it goes, my first tea review. I picked up this tea during my journeying through Taiwan, from my aunt's tea vendor friend. Even though since that time I've drank this tea multiple times, this is the first time that I'm reviewing it. I don't know how this tea was processed or how much (if any) roasting it underwent. The price is also a bit unclear, because as a friend of my aunt, the vendor gave me the "friend" price, which was around $30 for a good four ounces of tea.

Dry Leaves:The dry leaves were greenish with golden hued stems. The tea leaves had a slight vegetal aroma, which from what background information I have on High Mountain Oolongs is a good indicator. The actual tea pellets were tightly kneaded, a good mark of its craftsmanship. The tea was clearly hand harvested, as shown through the "bud-leaves-stem" system as it unfurled.

Parameters: I brewed this tea using my yixing teapot, starting with a 10 second rinse, following with the 1st, 2nd, 3rd steepings for 25 seconds each. From the 4th steeping onward I increased the time by 10 seconds, until the final 8th brew. [added] I don't know exactly how much tea I used, but it covered about 1/3 of my yixing teapot. I'll be sure to give exact measurements as soon as my scale arrives

Tasting Notes:
The tea showed floral notes which peaked during the 2nd and 3rd steeping, which was followed with a slightly tart flavor that I can't really explain. The tea also started with strong fruity notes, which grew weaker by the 5th steeping onward. By the 6th steeping I noticed a slight vegetal aroma from the tea which I didn't notice before. By the 8th steeping the flavor was very faint, so I decided that was as much as the tea could take. Overall, I found that the tea was very tasty, with a mellowness coupled with slight astringency.

This was the second steeping of the tea; and although this poor photo cannot show it, the liquor has a golden color and incredible clarity.

Wet Leaves:
Upon closer inspection of the wet leaves I was able to get a sense of the handicraft that went though the processing of this particular tea. From feeling the leaves, it felt a bit thick and tearing a leaf took a little effort, showing that this truly is a high mountain tea. High Mountain Oolongs grow slower because the tea plantations are at such a high elevation. This lets the tea leaves accumulate more flavor because its growth is slower.

post note: I apologize if these photos are not up to par with the photos on other tea blogs. It's unfortunate that my dorm has poor lighting because my room is in an awkward position. But I feel that posting poor photos is better than no photos, because reading all text can be straining. So hopefully I'll be snapping better photos when I return home.