zaterdag 29 september 2012

Li Shan 2011 Spring

I woke up with sunshine in my room and the first thing that came to my mind was: LISHAN!!! So I got up, went downstairs and started brewing tea. I've been excited trying this tea for a while now. For me Lishan teas are the standard I compare others too, perhaps because the first oolong I tried was from Li Shan. The initial dry smell of this tea was sweet but it didn't reveal that much yet. The balls were relative big and irregular and had an intense deep green colour. Once I had put the oolong into the preheated vessel I was surprised to smell 'Honey Pops', just incredible how tea can smell so different! For me this tea was already a winner, for me high mountain oolong has to be sweet,pure and elegant. Now, lets go to the brewing part!

I like to make my first brew very short because it makes  the brew  light and sweet. Later during the day I brew my teas a bit stronger but in the morning your taste buds don't need those high concentrations of flavor. There was so much going on with this tea I had to grab a paper to write down some stuff. As I mentioned it was sweet, mellow and the floral is pretty preeminent but in the aftertaste some more fruity flavors started to develop. Probably because of the low oxidation on this tea it lacked a bit of fruitiness that I adore in teas though it doesn't make it a bad tea, not at all! The floral notes with the subtle fruits gives it a very complex character. In the aftertaste you will be able to distinguish some orange peel and lychee. The taste of this tea brings me back to Taiwan where I had my first Gong Fu session with a Li Shan from the same year. It's strange how some tastes are graved so deep into your memory, some say our olfactory memory is the best of all. During my tea session my cousin texted me: I've got some tea from Vietnam for  you!  He went to Vietnam for 3 weeks to explore the country. Never had tea from Vietnam before(or it has to be some fake Taiwanese oolong) so I'm curious how it'll taste. I like to cool some tea down in a cup so I can distinguish the flavors better (also bitter notes will play a bigger role). When cooled down (to about 40-50°C) the tea becomes almost creamy with a superb sweetness. I can say that sweetness is the red line in this tea with other flavors developing around it.

Before I forget to mention, some more information about its growing conditions. As the name said it is grown on Lishan at about 1600m altitude and it's from the luanze (qinxing or Chin-xing, don't know the correct pinying). Again this tea from Mei Lan has done its job in pleasing me (a lot!). Tomorrow I'll review some puerh, don't expect too much from it because puerh flavors are something totally new to me. I've also been thinking about a Beerblog. As tea is natural for Chinese people, beer is natural to me.  (And I'm not talking about pasteurized pilsner here). See you tomorrow!

vrijdag 28 september 2012

Beginning of the weekend

After a full week without tea (because of school) I returned home full of excitement because during the week my mom texted me saying that there is a big package waiting for me. Never was so excited to come home again. And because pictures say more than a thousand of words:

Beautiful wrapper
My first puerh cake. The original idea was to buy a cake with the same age as I but then Mei Lan told me that my birth might have been important for my parents but for me it holds no memory. It would be more interesting to buy a cake now and let it age with you as a tealover, so I did! This tea is a Bulang from Tea of Essence. I first ordered 2 samples (the Bulang and the Bangwei 33). With some help from David and following my gut feeling I went for the Bulang because of it's aging potential. Soon I'll review both of these teas.

Enough writing for today, I'm going back to my Da Yu Ling session.

Feels like Spring!

zondag 16 september 2012

Alishan Taihe 2012

Today was incredible hot for September so I was longing for a refreshing,cooling tea. Today's Cha Xi gives a cooling,relaxing feeling to body and mind together with some Chinese pimpa music. The tea I chose was a sample from Mei Lan of an Alishan tea harvested this year around the middle of May. Taiher is one (or even the highest) plantation on the Alishan mountain range. It is located around 1300-1600m.

This oolong was one of the tightest and dark little balls I've seen so far. The roll was so tight and so consistent. It almost looked like a gunpowder tea! They looked well dried (as I prefer) and I could already see this wouldn't be an over green high altitude tea because there are some brown spots visable on the surface. This tea just looks flawless but lets see how it tastes.

When I gently poured the tea into my preheated gaiwan some lovely sweet aromas gently touched my nostrills. Oh yeah, this is the smell I like. I couldn't smell any bitterness or off notes at all, very promising. The taste of this tea I could describe as 100% floral, no fruity notes at all like you have with Lishan oolong. One particular thing about this tea is that beside these lovely, bittersweet floral notes there is this 'side note' I would describe as 'brown earthy sweetness'. Never smelled this in a tea before but it gives an interesting twist to the profile of this tea. Without this particular note the tea would have been bland floral but now the tea has some more spine to weave different floral notes on. This flavour does disappear during later brews(5th and later) and you get a pure,refreshing tea who cleanses the mouth like no other. I thought it was an Qingxin (luanze) Oolong though the leaves from the tea were too wide. So I was thinking about jinxuan but the flavors were too subtile and refined to be jinxuan. Now I just received info from Mei Lan and it is a Qingxin dayou which is a variental on the Qingxin.

 The leaves look very fresh, young and fragile (in a positive way). The edges are nicely oxidized but not too much, it is still a low oxidated tea after all but it's not over green which for me gives astringent/bitter notes to the tea and is more aggresive towards the stomach. You can clearly distinguish some very young leafs,buds but also some older bigger leafs with a rounder shape.
The conclusion of this tea: refreshing and cooling but lacks a little bit overall complexity. Besides that it is a great drinkable tea with a particular character.

donderdag 13 september 2012

Tea with a friend

Today a friend from school came to my home to taste some tea. Not many of my friends are very interested when I start talking about tea but he started to show some interest so we decided to have some tea together. Ofcourse I was excited that finaly one of my friends started to show interest. The goal for today was letting him taste a  bit of everything. I wanted him to experience the variety of tea as well how complex it can be. Because he arrived in the morning I wanted to start with a red tea, more specific the 'Red Da Yeh' from Stéphane.
At first he was already surprised how sweet and fruity tea could smell. I explained him the oxidation proces and told him about different regions in Taiwan.

 Because I wanted to show him the extreem differences of oolong tea I served him a  very light and floral high mountain tea so he could experience how elegant and subtle it can be. To go into extremes I brewed a traditional roasted Dong Ding after the high mountain tea. He was surprised how different these two teas were eventhough they almost look the same. He told me he liked this tea more because it was more full bodied, heavier and strong. I think for people new to tea it is difficult to appreciate the subtilities to be found in high mountain teas. After this we had some food because these big quantities of tea might be harsh for the stomach. After the meal I served him a Dian Hong and I think this one was his favourite because of the fruity flavors and the thick liquer it produces. In the meanwhile we talked a lot about philosophy, physics ( we were discussing the influence mass has on time) and ofcourse about school. In only 4 days we will have to start studying again.

Because of all the school talk we were getting a little bit stressed again so I brewed some Puerh to relax us a little bit and to my surprise he really liked this kind of tea. Maybe because he also likes the occasional whisky and cigar he is more open to tastes that deviate from the 'normale palate'. Before he left I made him some gyokuro but it couldn't really convince him. We did a little taste experiment with the 'unami'. I told him to put a little bit of MSG on his tongue and he also confirmed that it gives the same mouth feel as the green tea.

  All in all it was an excellent day and I hope he learned something about tea and that I perhaps sparked his interests. It's always fun to share a cup of tea with someone which I did 3x this week. It helps to bring people together and gives you new perspectives.
Soon I'll write some more tea reviews. I've still got a few interesting samples to test. Next time I'll try to put some more effort in writing but right now I just want to enjoy these last couple of spare days I have left.