maandag 26 maart 2012

Li Shan (Spring)

beautiful product
Today I was finished early with school and I drove  home with a friend of mine so I could enjoy a nice cup of tea now the weather is still beautiful. I didn’t have to think about which tea I was going to drink already because I knew it was going to be the Li Shan I received from George. It’s hard to explain but sometimes you are craving for this 1 particular tea without any reason, you just know it’s going to be the perfect tea for this moment.

Maybe this tea is not a special tea in a way of production proces, plantation height etc… but it is a very special emotional tea for me, sometime that’s even more important. It’s this something that even the most special, expensive tea in the World can’t give you. When I drink this tea I get flashbacks to that one day when we were drinking tea, talking about art and photography but most of all laughing and making fun because we barely could understand eachother.
Lately I’ve been using my new teapot more often but because it’s pretty big (250ml) I just fill it for a +- 150ml. More information about my teapots will be written in a next blog, this blog will go about the tea, not the pots.
This tea is from the Li Shan mountain and is from the Jin (Xuan) variety. Some lower quality Jin’s can have a very astringed taste if they steep too long which I really don’t like, luckily this tea is able to bring lovely longer steeps. It’s slightly more oxidized than the average high mountain oolong though the liquor its brew is very light coloured. (This could also be due the fact I don’t use a lot of leafs, I will test it in a gaiwan soon so I have a more objective view on this). The first steep was very light and floral, it is one of the most aromatic teas I’ve smelled sof ar. It’s very floral, even the dried leafs are very aromatic. In later steeps the leafs will have this smell of ‘nectarine’, mainly the smell it has around the big pit in the middle. The taste is similar to the smell in the first steep, very floral and slightly grassy with some hints of citrus now and then. The second steep is a lot sweeter and has some more of the fruitiness. The 3rd and 4th steep were slightly longer than usually and then it gets this typical taste I consider as being soapy. At first I detested this particulary taste but after some time I started to appreciate it as long it’s not disturbing (oversteeping).
While I’m writing this I’m doing a long brew fora bout 30-50min. Some teas have this totally different taste and aroma if you steep them with slightly colder water for a longer period of time.

so subtile

Just finished the longer brew. It has a much more complex taste. It starts off pretty sweet which evolves into a moer nutty tastes with a very longlasting, bitter(but in a good way) finish.
The leafs of this tea are seperated from the stems. I didn’t know why so I asked Stéphane from teamaster sand according to him it’s competition style tea which is removed from the stem to get a more concentrated flavour. The leafs are the toughest leafs I ever saw/touched. They are really thick and juicy and oxidated around the edges.

I’ve really enjoyed drinking this tea, it has a fascinating taste but the emotions and memories it brings with it are even more amazing than it’s refined taste and superb aroma.

zaterdag 24 maart 2012

Wild concubine

Preparing the setup
Because of a hard week of school with lots of classes, sitting inside a dark grey building while the weather outside was incredible I treated myself with one of the teas I bought from Stéphane (teamasters). Actually I tried it yesterday already just in a cup I covered with a saucer to use as an gaiwan. I was so impressed by the tea that even my mom came to see why I was so excited. She tasted it aswell and liked it so much she even joinde my gong fu cha session today.

Maybe first some more information about this tea. It's a "wild" tea or as Stéphane preferes to call it a "semi-wild" tea. The reason for this name is because it's harvested from an abonded plantation which is overgrown by weeds and other trees. The tea will have to fight to gain his position, it's the story of the survival of the fittest. Eventually he probably will get overgrown by native, more adapted species of plants. Also there is this little insect called the tea jassid who eats from the leafs and leaves a bit of secretion on it. Also this will give a higher oxidation grade. It gives the tea an unique sweet taste. The "plantation" if I can call it that way is in the Feng Huang region which is next to Dong Ding (if I'm correct). The elevation is about 700-800m if my French is correct!

slightly roasted

I really didn't know what to expect from this tea because unlike Oriental Beauty this tea is rolled into little balls and it was also slightly roasted. I kind of was afraid at first for the roasting because I really don't like this burnt flavor I once had in another tea. But this tea was just roasted, not burned and that's a big difference.

When I tried it the day before (about 2-3g for 5min.) I was a little bit afraid that the tea would have this smoky/bitter from roasting but it was the complete opposite than what I expected. When it was dried it has this nice, sweet roasted smell which was very pleasant. But once brewed it was insanely fruity, like I was eating a salsa of grapes with peaches and other sweet, exotic fruits with just a squeeze of lime which gave a lovely sour tintle in my mouth.

Today when I went to make tea my mom joined aswell to try this amazing tea again but now in a yixing pot so I have more control over the tea. When I cleansed the tea with some hot water and smelled the leafs I could smell the roast but after the 1st steep all what was left was intense, sweet fruitiness. The tea has a thick body and is very smooth even at longer steeps. The first 3 steeps were extremely fruity and sweet, it tasted like peaches with grapes with some floral hints. The later steeps had a more astringent, bitter taste from the roasting but it was not disturbing but rather pleasant. The sweetness was still there but the fruitiness was gone which gave it a very special character of sweetness together with the slight bitter touch.
I like to serve this tea in a slightly darker cup which really enhances the rich, orange color of this tea. I also noticed that these unglazed cups give a deeper,intenser taste to more oxidized oolong. Though for the lighter ones it's best to use a glazed porcelain cup.

I was pretty surprised to touch and feel the leafs. I thought because of the competition between all these plants who grown on the abonded plantation the teabush would grown big,thick leafs to capture as much light as possible and to prevent other plants to get sunshine. But the leafs were very tender and small, maybe because there aren't much nutrients in the ground anymore. The tea will rather focus on gaining height instead of making big,strong leafs. Though this doesn't mean it's a bad tea, not at all! It's something very special and I feel strongly connected to nature when I drink this tea. This is how tea is supposed to taste, natural.

Can you find the little insect bites?
All in all this was one of the most special teas I've drank so far. I will keep this one for special occasion when I really want to treat myself. Thank you for the excellent service Stéphane, can't wait to taste and review the other teas I've bought from you.

zaterdag 17 maart 2012

Dong Ding Ming Xiang

The sober setup for today
Today I'm going to review another tea from Taiwan sample and it's a 2011 winter harvest Dong Ding Ming Xiang. I knew today was going to be a grey,cloudy day so I wanted to drink a more oxidized, sweet, full bodied tea. It's an organic grown oolong tea at around 743m in Nantou county. They say that the tea gets it exquisite aroma from the cicadas who leave secretions on the leafs. I don't know if this story is true but I know it's an excellent tea!

The tea looks dark green with some more dark green and black spots. I think they might be slightly roasted but I'm too sure of that because I've never had a real roasted oolong before. (Except for an aged oolong). When I quickly rinsed the tea and took a smell of the leaves they secreted such a nice odor of sweet, flowery parfum and also this hint of sour-sweet sauce!

Nice, dark brew
The first steep which took about 45seconds was very sweet and fruity with hints of peaches and apricot. The second steep was slightly longer (about 55seconds) and was much more floral. It was more in balance I would say than the first steep which was overpowered by sweet fruity flavours. This tea had a really amazing 'body' in the first 2 steeps and was very thick in the mouth.The 3rd steep was much more refreshing and very subtile. It left this light, perfumy odor in my mouth which kept lingering around for a while.
The 4th steep took more than 2 minutes and was more bitter and nutty, not bad but not good either. I can feel it's losing some of it's potential already though the fifth steep was very surprising. Instead of a bitter liquor it turned into a very pure, subtile and refreshing sournesswith some hints of raspberries. The sixth and last steep which took about 30min. was quite simular to the fith one but had a much higher acidity which was a perfect thirstquincher.

The leafs look dark and are medium oxidized. They feel very rough and stiff, probably these are more older leafs but there are some younger ones with buds aswell. All in all this was an excellent tea and it couldn't be more perfect for such a grey day. The more darker aroma, the mellow taste, the full body... you could perfectly compare this to a highlang whisky which are sweet, thick in body and very nice on a slightly colder,cloudy day.

I just love this cup, its imperfectness

vrijdag 16 maart 2012

Zhong Shu Hu

First one of the year
I didn't write much yesterday because it was an amazingly beautiful day. It was the warmest 15 march since 1890 orso so I wanted to capture every last bit of sunshine with my body and soul. Around noon I had tried this lovely sample from tea from Taiwan which I stored in my porcelain pot for a few days. The sun was so intense I started to get sweaty with my longs jeans and black T-shirt. I didn't take any note of the tea because I just wanted to enjoy the moment without any other distractions so I'm just writing from memory.

This Taiwanese Oolong is also from the Alishan region and grown above 1300m of altitude. It's harvested like all the other samples in the winter of 2011. The colour of the brew was much more intense and darker than the previos tea I reviewed.                        
Lovely, sweet Oolong tea
The first sip was just astonishing, I just keep getting surprised by this oolong teas. Every single time I think it can't get any better than this but it does... And to be honest, this was the real first oolong I tried who had such a big taste evolution during the different steeps. One moment it was sweet and fruity while the next steep it was sour and flowery. The first steep was pretty sweet with a hint of nuts.

During the second and 3rd steep it would get less sweet but more refreshing and floral. It was very refreshing during such a warm and hot day. I enjoyed every little sip. Every steep I would pour some tea in this beautiful yixing teacup to let it cool down a little and it would develop such an intense, sweet taste. The 5th steep I poured some colder water in it and let it steep for around 20-30 min and when I poured the tea into my cup and tasted it, it felt like I was drinking peaches. That was the only thing
My new handmade yixing teacup, isn't it pretty?
I could taste: peaches. Isn't that just amazing how a tea can develop so many different flavours? Then the next steep lasted about 40-50min and that one was very light, sour and refreshing. A perfect ending, like the tea knew what I longed for.

Big,strong leaves

So clear but so full of taste

 After my teasession I went back to the town where I study and I had a lovely afternoon and sunset together with a friend and a nice cup of Li Shan tea. I'm so ready for spring!

PS: Sorry, the lay-out got 1 big mess for one reason. Please be patient with me!

donderdag 15 maart 2012

Shi Zuo

Today I'm going to write 2 new blogs each describing a sample from Tea from Taiwan. The first one I will review is the Shi Zuo from the Alishan region. I drank it a couple of days ago but luckily I wrote down everything already in my tealog.

View from the yard
This Shi Zuo tea is as I already said a tea from Alishan and is grown at an altitude of aprox. 1300m. The cultiver of this tea is "Wu Long Wei" and it's harvested in the winter of 2011. It was a beautiful day so I went to sit outside and enjoy the incredible sunny weather for this time of the year. The sky was blue and contained some beautiful white clouds. This together with a nice cup of tea is mankind's best medicine against stress or a bad mood.

Little taste 'bombs'
On Stephane's blog I read about storing tea in a porcelain jar as some sort of wine decanter before you consume the tea. So the day in advance I putted some Shi Zuo tea into a porcelain pot and let it sit there for aobut 1day/1night. I was pretty sceptical about it because what would make the difference? And as soon as I opened the pot next day I already was amased by the exquisite aroma coming out of the pot. Wow, this tea smells so much better than before! I went to sit outside and I examined the tea thoroughly, oolong tea is something so pretty and fascinating. These tiny little balls, a little bit sticky with such an incredible odor.

So now... enough introduction of this tea, lets get to the drinking part! I started with a 40sec first steep and the taste was pretty sweet and vegetal with some hints of ripe mango and citrus. It had a incredible long aftertaste for the first steep. Wow, this tea was pretty disappointed when it came right of the vacuum pack (as many other teas) but now it seems like a total, new different tea with so many nuances! When I first smelled the tea I felt lke I was walking in a oasing with clear, blue water and jungle trees.
The second steep (50s) was much softer and less refreshing but still very nice. In the 3rd steep (1min) the tea  got even more smooth and there were some hints of citrus. I also found this little bug in my tea, maybe it was on the leafs? I guess this is a good sign that they didn't use any pesticides on this tea.
For the 4th steep I used slightly colder water and I steeped it for a longer time of period. I got more citrus flavours together with a more floral tone and even some fruitiness on the aftertaste. The fifth and last steep was fruity but it already started to weak down a little bit.
My little spot
All in all this tea was pretty good, one of the best I had so far but even this tea seemed to be nothing compared to tea I drank today from the same region. I will review that one in a few hours because right now the sun is shining again, the birds are singing even more melodies and the temperature is rising! Life can be good....

Very refreshing light liquid and small, perfumy leafs: perfect for the first sunny day of the year

maandag 12 maart 2012


Welcome all on this new tea blog,

It wouldn't be polite to start this blog without a proper introduction of myself.
My name is Rist Van de Weyer and I'm a young man aged 19 from the Flemish part of Belgium.We don't exactly have a tea culture, we prefer to drink beer and luckily we have lots of great beers. I,ofcourse, love good beer aswell- mainly imperial stouts and lambics. My dad had his cellar packed with ols gueuzes and lambics and that's how my journey in the world of taste started. After beer I started to get interested in whisky's and if there is one thing in the whole world that gives me complete satisfaction it's drinking a nice dram of whisky on a nice evening. Till now, it's the most complex drink I know even great wines cannot match its complexity.

George and me
Recently (summer of 2011) I went to Taiwan and that's where I came in contact with oolong tea for the first time. It was an experience I will never forget. I entered this workshop together with the father of my now ex-girlfriend. Suddenly we came into this room dedicated to tea. There was a glass counter filled with different pots and cups. The owner of  those beautiful pots was George's (ex-girlfriend's father) best friend and he was a real tea expert. Both of them barely spoke English but sometimes you don't need words to understand eachother. He showed me the rituals, how to appreciate the tea etc... After some time his granddaughter, who was around 7 years old, came in and even she possessed the art of tea making already. She assisted her grandfather through the whole ceremony, it was nice to see how this skill gets passed on to the next generation. In the end he made this really old puerh tea (I never heard of it before back then) in a special bowl. It was an overwhelming experience- like drinking an old Islay single malt. It doesn't taste good in a way a strawberry tastes delicious and juicy but its taste is just so complex you have to respect it and admire it.
Isn't it beautiful?

A few days later George called me and I went to see him. He said he had a present for me and gave me this wooden box. I opened it and what I found was a beautiful cup made by his friend, he told me it was "leopard cup" and when I opened it I could understand why he named it like that.
After I received my cup we went to the teafields a few times together and I learned so much from him. If there is 1 person I have to thank for changing my life so drastically it would be him.

A pair of cups
Before I went back to Belgium he gave me another package: cups, sniff cups, a pitcher and a teapot! I couldn't believe my eyes! He told me I had to practise every single day  making tea. I gave him my word I would practise as much as possible so when I will ever meet him again I will  to serve him a perfect cup of tea to show my respect and gratitude. He also gave me a big pack of Li Shan tea. A part of this tea I will age for many more years.

My passion for tea is growing bigger and bigger every single day and hopefully you will be able to feel the energy when you're reading my blog. I'm stil a beginner and I'm no-where compareable to real teaconnoiseurs and teamasters but I'm doing my best to make some beautiful pictures, give objective taste descriptions of  teas -in the degree it's possible to do this objective- and just do my best to write nice, enjoyable blogs.

To end this first blog I want to thank you all and I hope we'll have an amazing journey together.I hope we'll be able to discover  many more things about tea every single day.