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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.

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.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Teaware Collection

This is my first post, so please bear with me here. I only started drinking a few months ago, and this blog is dedicated to sharing my experiences, and gathering insight from my journey towards tea nirvana. I guess it would've been appropriate to start with a tea review; however, I think it's important to introduce the equipment that makes the tea drinking experience enjoyable. Because I am so far from home, I could only bear to bring a small portion of my tea ware collection.

1. The Yixing Teapot
I inherited this tea from my grandmother in Taiwan, who used to drink more day "back in the day." Keeping with the teapot's heritage, I usually use this with Taiwan Oolongs. It's a bit small, about 75 - 100ml. I don't know exactly because I can't measure its volume with the resources I have. It has a nice coating of patina that gives the teapot a lot of character.

2. Lin's Ceramic Studio Purion Teapot

I picked up this piece from Yingge, Taipei which is a mecca for various ceramic goods. But what exactly is Purion? Well, the pamphlet that came with the teapot explained it as "a mixture of natural mineral ore and pottery clay." The pamphlet recommends that the teapot is better for heavy oolongs that have been charcoal fired. Appropriately, I use this teapot specifically for Wuyi Yencha. This little fella here is roughly 125 ml.

3. Faircup and Teacups:
I feel that it's necessary to feature the kind of faircup and teacup I use, because I feel that these secondary tools of the tea-drinking process can heighten the experience. I usually use a glass faircup at home so I can expect the tea liquor more carefully, but this particular one just happened to be smaller, which makes it more convenient The teacups are composed of yixing clay on the outside with a glazed porcelain lining

4. My Tea Collection:
Why, all these teapots and faircups and teacups would be useless without actual tea leaves, right? Well this is only the small subset of tea that I decided to bring to college with me. There are Taiwanese oolongs, Wuyi Yencha, White teas, and green teas. Over the course of the next few months I'll be reviewing all these teas, hopefully providing knowledge to reviews while receiving it through feedback. I look forward to being an active participant of the tea community, and I hope that readers will provide valuable feedback so I can continuously improve