Saturday, February 28, 2015

#11 Houjicha Basic Roast green tea (#53)

Roasted green tea

The smell of the dry tea is very light: charming, toasted, vegetal. The roast gives it just a hint of nut. Large stems are visible among the long leaves.

They sent a pretty postcard!

The aroma of the prepared tea is similar to that of the dry, but with an unexpected sweetness. The taste is delicate. The empty cup actually smells of a roasted chestnut.

I'm enjoying multiple infusions. When you try this tea, do follow the 45-second steep recommendation. I followed it the first time, and it came out just right. For the second infusion, I took a leap and tried 2 minutes, but that was too much and the roast flavor overpowered the tea.

I appreciate this basic roast very much on its own, but I know it would be enhanced with the right food. I was surprised to find that the roasting removes the caffeine from the tea, so I will be sure to enjoy it at night again. The nuttiness is still emanating from the empty cups. I can't wait to finish this teapot and try it again!

Thank you, Yunomi!

This sample was provided by Yunomi.

Next, I will depart from camellia sinensis and show you an herbal cold remedy.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Spring Green Bilo Chun tea (#52)

Green tea
In Nature Teas

Ingredients: Green tea.

It's still snowing here in Pittsburgh but I'm ready for spring with this Spring Green Bilo Chun tea from In Nature Teas in London!

The first smell of the dry tea is of seaweed. It's strong out of the bag; this tea smells pure and fresh. As I smell smaller amounts of the dry tea in my palm, the seaweed fades to a summery floral, honeydew smell, a preview of what the tea will taste like.

The tea has a beautiful variation in color and a very healthy covering of fine yellow/white downy hairs. The hairs float out of the bag when I open it! They even cling to the cup I've used in the photo above, and to my teaspoon measure.

I've overheated my water, so I'm waiting for it to cool a bit, while also using the hot water to warm my teapot and cups. The tea has a nice bounce and volume to it as I scoop it in my teaspoon. Its curls are escaping the spoon. I see why "Bilo Chun" means "Green Snail Spring."

I will use 1 teaspoon and small pours, just to make one-time cups with each infusion. I'm steeping for 2 minutes the first time. For fun, I'm setting out a mochi green tea ice cream with it, almost like a matcha experience.

I'm using one cup as a smelling cup. I briefly get seaweed, but it quickly changes to a sweet vegetable smell. The taste of this infusion is very light, with a satisfying tannin on the first steep that dissolves with the finish. I'm thinking, though, that next time I will try rinsing this tea.

After the second infusion at 2 minutes, the smelling cup gives me a fleeting sense of sweet squash. Smelling the liquid itself, I think of a soft white flower.

This second cup is just beautiful. There is a slight tannin but it's developed into a bright taste that almost seems like a white tea or oolong. Most green teas I've tried have had a deep color, and were heavier in flavor. I didn't know a green tea could be like this! The green tea mochi would overpower this tea, so I'm using it as a palate cleanser between infusions.

I'm increasing steep times with each infusion. The flavor is evolving slowly and subtly. The tea continues to pour a beautiful light yellow. I'm very calm working with this tea. My crackling "fireside" candle is burning in the corner, and my tortoiseshell cat is crouched next to me. What is it about tea and cats? I can't wait to make this again and share with my husband. It seems like a crime to put this tea in a teaball, but I know I'll crave it at work!

I've made it a second time with my husband! This time, I used 2 teaspoons instead of 1. The flavor is a bit more saturated, but still with the tastes I noticed the first time I made this tea.

Health benefits are listed on the back. I particularly appreciate the osteoporosis prevention and anti-stress. It doesn't take a scientific study to immediately feel the uplifting effects of this beautiful Spring Green tea from In Nature Teas.

Winter is hanging on by the claws outside, but in here, I'm enjoying spring.

This sample was provided by In Nature Teas.

Coming up this week is a review on a roasted green tea from Yunomi in Japan.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Puerh Tea, Aged 5 Years (#51)

Aged puerh
In Nature Teas

Ingredients: Puerh.

This is a very rich and complex puerh! I was thrilled to try an aged puerh for the first time. You can really sense the quality of the tea in the multiple facets of the flavor. It took some practice steeping to get it the way I liked, and it was so much fun to experiment with.

Beautiful tea and paper!

My very first steep, at 3 minutes, yielded a very deep coffee color. It smells of hay and a bit of raspberry. A deeper sniff brings out cocoa and spices or cloves. I see now that I failed at this first steep; I left it for much too long, and I took "immediate" too seriously in the recommended rinse time. I will rinse it a little longer next time.

Here's my "failed" first steep, with the first and second pour. I overdid that first pour. Too dark! I didn't use a teapot basket, so I couldn't remove all the liquid from the tea leaves immediately. The informational paper says to get the tea to "burgundy transparent--not black!"

The second steep is incredible! Looking back on it, I think I've still leeched out too much flavor beforehand, but at the time I really liked this light cup. The bitterness of my overdone first steep has faded, leaving a smooth flavor, but still with that taste of earth. It's a warm raspberry brown color. My hunting breed dog was really curious about the smell!

I'm loving the third steep the most. It's a more golden color with a comforting taste. The informational paper says it's warming in winter and cooking in summer. For iced, In Nature Teas suggests adding brown sugar or honey. Can't wait to try that!

So, I've learned that these small bricks are very potent! I might even use half a brick another time? Next time, longer rinse and shorter first steep.

The previous experience was an eyeopener, and it's time to try again. I'm drinking it for the second time now, having done a longer rinse. The hay aroma is strong (this was verified by a coworker who grew up on an Ohio farm), but the taste is more relaxed. Amazingly, just like my first impression, this coworker also mentioned raspberry when smelling the dry tea.

It's a very dark liquor, but the taste is surprisingly light in spite of the color. It's snowing outside in late February and the puerh is really helping with emotional and physical warmth! I'm getting more raspberry and cocoa notes under the earth taste. This time, the first steep was 1 minute, and the second was 2. I could probably experiment with more water and more time, too.

I steeped it a second time, and found it to be a bit sweeter.

I adore the third steep! I let the tea sit in my oversized teaball overnight, and it was still fine the next day! The flavor has smoothed itself out and it's nice and comforting. It's also filling, like coffee can be. The wet leaves even look like coffee grounds. And, the fourth steep is going really well with this peanut butter fudge cookie (gluten free of course, I said "no crumpets" didn't I?).

Perfect warmth for a day like this.

The package lists health benefits, such as support for the heart and blood pressure.

I love this puerh. It is comforting and bold at the same time. I look forward to continuing my relationship with it. Drinking this tea is an event unto itself!

Tomorrow I'll post on a second tea from In Nature Teas: the Spring Green Bilo Chun tea.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dong Ding Oolong (#50)

Intro to Oolong 3 Pack Flight, Tea #3

A special tea for my 50th review. I've heard so many good things about Dong Ding that I was thrilled to see it in this trio tea flight from Eco-Cha!

The sweet nuttiness is very strong in the aroma! As I smell into the bag from a distance, I notice the sweetness first. Closer up to the tea, the nutty flavor is strong. It has almost a gummy texture and sound as it tumbles from the bag. The dried fruit flavor smells like a light, dried currant to me. The color is a rich deep green with hints of fall, like evergreens with dried needles strewn around them.

I need to see the red soil of the Dong Ding Mountain area for myself.

The smell of dry fruit is strong from the first pour. The liquor is a cheerful, light orange. The first sip gave me a lot to think about! The cashew comes in right away. I taste a complexity to the flavor that I haven't experienced before. It has a somewhat buttery mouthfeel, but not taste, which really interested me.

The second pour of the first steep is a richer, beautiful color. I took the lid off the teapot and got a toasty nut smell from the leaves. It looks like I let the second half of the first steep sit too long, though, because I've gotten a burnt nut flavor now. I didn't realize how delicate this one is! Next time I'll make sure to drink this with a friend.

The second steep is similar in color, but a bit lighter; probably lighter because I overdid it last time. Now, the flavor has smoothed itself over, allowing the sweetness and nuttiness to combine. Instead of a deep currant flavor, I just barely catch the scent of fruit from the surface of the tea; it was so deliciously fragrant that I literally got my nose too close to it.

Cat interruption. She gave the tea a good sniff.

I'm on the third steep now and I'm slowly enjoying the subtle contrast of these delicious flavors.

This is Dong Ding is amazing. I'm just honored to have been given a glimpse into the fine teas of Taiwan through this oolong flight from Eco-Cha. If you haven't tried tea from them, I highly recommend them! I'm ruined; I can't have anything less now. Thank you, Eco-Cha!

This sample was provided by Eco-Cha.

My next reviews will cover two teas from In Nature Teas! The first will be a five-year aged puerh.

Monday, February 16, 2015

High Mountain Concubine Oolong (#49)

Intro to Oolong 3 Pack Flight, Tea #2

Ingredients: Oolong.

This is the lightly roasted High Mountain Concubine Oolong, the second tea in the Intro to Oolong collection from Eco-Cha in Taiwan!


The rolled leaves are a little denser than the unroasted Jin Xuan Oolong. They also have the smallest touch of brown and more noticeable stems.

The tasting notes indicate winter vegetables, fir forest tones, and almonds and honey flavor. I definitely smell vegetables and fir from the dry tea. As I keep smelling the dry tea, I'm noticing the soft almond and honey undertones more, which provide contrast.

The packaging even includes the season and year, like a wine!

The color of the first pour is lighter than I expected. The honey really comes out in the aroma!

I really like the taste of the first brew, but I can tell the leaves still have a lot of opening up to do. I could do a very quick rinse on this tea next time, only a few seconds. But still, it's already a very pleasant taste.

The second pour of the first brew comes in a bit darker, an effect I love from using a teapot. The taste is enhanced; I sense the tannins and fir, but again, the sweetness is emerging.

The cup has a delightful aroma, which makes me hope to try the Gong Fu steeping method with the smelling cup! Maybe in the future when I'm further along in my tea discovery journey.

The second steep, third pour: the color of the tea hasn't deepened (there is tea in this photo, it's just so light against the white teapot that it doesn't register). I adore how the flavors have settled and blended! It's a sweet vegetable taste now.

Beautiful unfurled tea.

I let the third steep sit for quite some time, maybe even as much as ten minutes. I love it! The second pour of this third steep is incredible, and a bit darker in color, but only marginally, and probably only because I let it steep so long.

As I go on to the fourth and fifth steeps, I'm just relaxing and enjoying the mellow, barely tannic taste. What a beautifully made tea!

This sample was provided by Eco-Cha.

Tomorrow's post will be on the final oolong in the 3-pack flight: the heavily roasted Dong Ding!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Jin Xuan Oolong (#48)

Intro to Oolong 3 Pack Flight, Tea #1

Ingredients: Oolong.

I was incredibly excited to receive three oolong teas from Eco-Cha in Taiwan! This gorgeous Intro to Oolong collection includes an unroasted, a lightly roasted, and a heavily roasted oolong.

This review covers the first in the series: the unroasted Jin Xuan Oolong.

I love the light, floral, lemony scent of the dry tea! It smells like a new summer day. The tasting notes on the card indicate that it is "Buttery and smooth, with notes of summer squash. Lingering creamy, fragrant finish" (see more here).

Eco-Cha includes brewing tips. They suggest using the tea loose in a mug for a single mug brew. I used the single mug brew today, since I've never tried that before.

Eco-Cha suggests leaving the leaves in the mug as you sip. This method works really well! The leaves tend to sink to the bottom of the cup, and there's no removal from the teapot to worry about. There is also a cold brew, which I need to try!

It smells amazing as it steeps: more of the fresh summer scent.

The first sip is revitalizing! It's a light but identifiable taste. The first taste is not grassy at all, which was a delightful surprise. I didn't rinse it before brewing, since the brewing instructions didn't say to. It steeps a light yellow color, continuing to make me think of lemon.

I didn't realize there were stems until it opened up!

As I drink while it continues to steep, I'm tasting more of the tea plant itself: the rich, green flavor of the leaves. I sense a bit of tannins coming out, but they're tempered by the buttery texture. The cup still releases the light summer scent, but a creaminess starts to intertwine. The last sip lingers.

The second steep is mellower on the summer squash taste, but bolder with the taste of the unroasted tea.

It's so delicious that... I'm floating.

This Jin Xuan tea has made me fall in love with oolong. Thank you, Eco-Cha!

This sample was provided by Eco-Cha.

Next I will review the second tea in the series: the lightly roasted High Mountain Concubine Oolong tea.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Lapsang Souchong (#47)

Smoked black tea
Pipers Loose Leaf Tea
Pipers' Lapsang Souchong is a very special tea. While many teas are made from the delicate buds and the first two leaves of camellia sinensis, Lapsang Souchong commits to boldness with the full-flavored third and fourth leaves of the plant. It is then cured in Swedish pine smoke, making an unforgettable taste.

Deep, almost gray color to the dry tea.

The Pipers packaging is just adorable! It comes in a drawstring bag with a small card describing the tea. They even wrote me a note!

A larger amount of tea can be purchased with their signature pot and cork lid. 

The scent of the dry tea permeates from the bag. I can smell it from room to room.

And now, to brew:

First brew, early pour.

First brew, finishing the pour.

The brew is incredible! It is smooth with just a touch of smoke. It smells like sweet campfire, with an almost fruity softness. It echoes a great cigar or Scotch whiskey, but delicate enough to really enjoy it.

If you don't like cigars or Scotch, don't let that description turn you off. I don't usually partake of those either. The smokiness of this tea is polite but with character. The smoke is stronger in the smell than in the taste. The tea is high quality; I only used one teaspoon, as the card says.

Don't add anything into this tea. It's perfect, and cannot be steeped poorly.

Normally my husband just drinks whatever tea I hand to him, but he couldn't stop talking about this one. So, I took notes:

Husband: "Yeah, you can really get the undertones of smoke. I like it. I really like it. Yeah, that's smoky. Reminds me of Scotch, kinda. That's really good."

The judge has spoken.

There's a longevity to this tea. I brewed it three times in my Adagio Teas teapot! The first brew was the strongest (this isn't a tea you need to coax to open up), but I kept going to test the flavor. This is still the same teaspoon of tea.

The second pour:

I love the spiral coming from the spout.

Finishing the second pour:

Beautiful color.

Here is Day 2, steeping for the fourth time. Yes, the same teaspoon of tea!


I'm amazed at how much this tea expanded, but that must be because Lapsang Souchong is pulled from the larger leaves of the plant. That's an oversized teaball in the photo.

The smoke flavor lasted through four steeps, but I would stick to two steeps for the full tea taste on this one.

Something fun to try with this tea: Cheese! Chocolate! Anything you'd pair with other smoked drinks.

In a later steeping I nibbled on cheddar and sour cream chips. Please don't tell the tea police. The cheese flavor was so manly with the smoked scent.

And there's nothing un-manly about tea.

Thanks so much to Pipers! 

Like smoky tea? You can read about a dragon-inspired Game of Thrones tea here

This sample was provided by Pipers Loose Leaf Tea.