woensdag 31 oktober 2012

High Mountain Formosa MF from Hojo

Icy cold, crispy blue sky and lots of sunshine... my favourite kind of weather so I put some more effort in my cha xi than usual (still not that much because of limited items). The tea I'm going to review is a sample I received with my order at Hojo and is called 'High Mountain Formosa MF'. Now on his website I read the article about his High Mountain Formosa which seems to come from Alishan and is bitten by the tea jassid. Only the leafs that were bitten are harvested to give it a special, sweet aroma. Now this tea has 'MF' behind it and I'm still doubting if it means Medium Fired or Medium Fermented. I personally think the tea received a light roast to gain some extra sweetness but it's also deeply oxidized as you will see further in this review. (EDIT: it means Medium Fermented)

This tea looks particulary dark, kind of deep oceaan blue with seaweed. It might not be noticeable on the picture but when you put this one next to a normal, lightl oxidized high mountain oolong it appears to be almost black. Because I opened the vacuüm sealed package a few hours before drinking and kept the tea in a glazed jar the aromas had the chance to develop. It smelled pure and refreshing with some honey like sweetness. I wasn't able to detect a roast at all, perhaps the what I like to call 'Honey pops' smell came from some very light roasting. At the first brew I was surprised to see such an intense orange colour, I didn't expect such a deep oxidized tea! It almost looked and smelled like a fully oxidized oolong, almost like an OB. The first sip was so smooth, honey like sweet and fruity that a smile appeared on my face. It seems the more tea I'm drinking, the better they get. I don't know if it's due the fact that I'm buying better teas, my brewing skills improved or I'm just able to detect more nuances because of an increased tasting palate.
The first few brews (3-4) were full of ripe fruits like pineapple and peach, it's been quite a while since I had such a fruity too. The body is medium and not overly sweet though sweet enough to not make it flat. Once swallowed there are some slight floral notes but they disappear rather quiick. Now and then some unexpected vanilla notes pop-up. Through these first few infusions and even more in the later ones there is this 'mystery flavor'. On his website it's described as a Brandy bitterness. For me it's this plastical feeling in my mouth, don't know how else to describe it. It's this kind of sticky, coating feeling like the smell in a new bought car. It might sound strange, unpleasant or off-putting but there is no other way for me to describe this flavour. I just love this feeling/flavour in my mouth, you can also find it in full bodied, strong red wines or rather sweet, bottle oxidized white wines. Some people might have an idea where I'm talking about but I think 99% don't, too bad I cannot take a picture of a taste. Later on this tea loses its so o' delicious fruitiness but gains a more almond like flavor which makes it similar to a light sherry. This is maybe something you could compare that plastical,nutty flavour to: light sherry, hope this helps to get an idea about the flavour profile of this tea.

The leafs are a mixture of young buds and some larger, rougher ones. Most of them are oxidized for atleast 50% and more which almost makes it taste like a red tea but sweeter and with additional complexity. It's a perfect mixtures between the complexity of high mountain oolongs and the smooth,rich flavour of red teas. It might not be for everyone because of it's unusual taste but it's certainly worth a try. Enough of writing now... I'm going to enjoy the nice weather with some more of this tea. Aaah, perfect day...

zondag 28 oktober 2012

Deep fermented Dong Ding from HOJO

Last friday when I came home, my mother told me there was a package from Japan on the kitchen table. Quickly I ran towards the kitchen and I ripped open the package with great eager. I felt like a little child getting his toys for Saint Nicolas. In the package there were 2 teas - a deep fired Da Yu Ling and a deep fermented Dong Ding. That night I went for the Dong Ding and I was just astonished by its unique flavor profile so today I'm going to review this tea and it pleased me yet again. When it was dry it smelled sweet and fruity. Once preheated some lovely honey pops aroma's came out of my gaiwan - dear God I love this smell! In the beginning this tea is so full bodied because of the deep fermentation (but no roasting!!!) and full of dark fruity flavours. Think about raisins, figs and plums with a dark sugary sweetness. Surprisingly after this full-bodied, sweet fruity notes there is this amazing fruity/flowery aftertaste that just won't disappear.
After about 4 brews the tea becomes less sweet and full bodied. In the mouth it's not as pleasant as before though much more complex with an almost overwhelming aftertaste. It's like you are drinking flower parfum, I thought some other teas I've tried before were perfumy but this is just over-the-top perfume. There is so much flower in the aftertaste it's almost unbearable, it's on this very steep edge between perfect/overwhelming. Very delicate and brewed a little bit too long it's almost undrinkable but if done so correctly it gives a heavenly brew that refuses to keep lingering on in your throat. For my mother -she is my test subject- it was too overwhelming and too complex to enjoy. In even later brews the taste becomes a little bit more sweeter again - almost like white chocolate- with some nuttiness. This tea would be a perfect match with a Yamazaki 12 year old whisky on an Autumn evening, need to put it to the task. Perhaps I should invite some friends and have a tea&whisky night.The characteristics in this brew keep changing but I think the red line in this tea is it deep flavour and lingering aftertaste. I might buy some more of this tea for aging because i'm sure this one will develop into something even more incredible. As my subject of study is biotechnology(soon biology or biophysics) this aging procces is interesting for me - you should have a look at my beer cellar. Talking about beer, please also take a look at my beer blog (link can be found at the top of the page). It's not as active as this blog but I'll do a regular 1-2 week update, thank you very much!

In the bottom of my gaiwan small leafs were mainly found and at the top some bigger and stugger leafs. You can see their deep green colour. The leafs are spear shaped so I guess they are from the qingxing variety (originaly from the Dong Ding area? Correct me if I'm wrong please)
To conclude this tea: With no doubt one of the best - if not the best- oolong I had so far. It has such an unique flavor profile which I really dig. I do like  gao shan oolongs but my preference still goes to deep fermented/roasted oolongs, perhaps it may be due the fact it's getting winter and my body longes for darker and deeper flavours.

zaterdag 20 oktober 2012

Another Bulang 2011

You see any difference?
Another Bulang but now from 2011, that's all I know from this sample! I took out my own cake from EoT to compare both of them. The EoT smell is much more abundant than the other Bulang. The sample smells weak but I do recognize some similarities. I layed down the sample piece on my cake and they almost looked exactly the same. My cake might have slightly more buds and is less compressed but besides that the looks are identical. The only thing that could seperate the two, is the smell. Once put in my preheated gaiwan the only thing I could smell was a bittersweet hay scent. Till then I was kind of disappointed and didn't expect too much.
The first cup was elegant, just slightly bitter with some woody notes..... that was just the first brew. From the second to the aprox.10th brew the tea was medium in body but contained lots of bitterness just like my own Bulang. There was a lot of wood and nuttiness together with some brief moments of sweet mango. After each swallow it felt like a wood fragnance was sprayed in your mouth and refused to go away. As with the preivous Bulang I drank, there is also this erotic/musky/primal scent that sticks in my cup. After 9 steeps I was kind of getting tired of this bitterness because my mouth felt so dry but that's the moment when it happens. It takes about 2 steeps for its full make-over but suddenly the bitterness decreases with atleast 70% and more fruity flavors appear. There is lots of peach and some citrus, where later more lychee flavors start to stick in your mouth. My mom tasted this tea in its bitterphase and she hated it. A bit later I told her to try it again and at her first sip I saw the surprise in her eyes. 'Now this is an insanely sweet and fruity tea, it's so sweet!' she replied.

 This tea is so simular to my own Bulang, maybe because they are so young their bitterness is overwhelming and takes away some complexity that probably will get noticeable in a few years. I should make both teas at the same time one day to really see the difference because memory can be tricky sometimes. I greatly enjoyed this tea - though sometimes the bitterness was overwhelming- because it's so unpredictable and challenging to brew, it requires constant attention. Kind of curious how an old Bulang will taste - guess I'll have to be patient and wait!

vrijdag 19 oktober 2012


My first beer blog is online. It won't be as active as my tea blog but if  you find the time than please give it a chance: http://itsnotjustbeer.blogspot.com
Besides the review you can also read about how my passion of beer has grown over the years and why it is so important for me and Belgium. (click on 'about me & the blog)

Apologies for the poor quality pictures, it's because of the lack of light. Next time I'll try to find a better place to make pictures or find a good excuse to drink during daytime!

Sun Moon Lake Black Tea nr.18 (mr.Wang)

Me at Sun Moon Lake

I promised you all a review of the tea I drank in my last post so here it finaly is. Sunday evening I was hit by a campylobacter infection with a 40°C fever so I was taken to the hospital and stayed there till yesterday. I'm happy to be back in a good condition and to write this review. The tea I'm going to talk about was grown in the Sun Moon Lake area. I've been there once before - too bad my interest in tea still had to be lit that time.
I bought this tea at Mei Lan's and she told me it was grown by Mr. Wang. He works on a fairly small scale and uses a secret proces thaught from generation on generation. When I heard the word 'secret' my curiosity was striken! I like mysteries and secrets, who doesn't? I just love that little bit of romance in things, dreaming about what that mystery factor could be. When I told this to my mom she laughed and responded with: 'Maybe he just pees on it!'. Now hopefully he didn't (and I'm pretty sure!).
The cultivar this tea is made from is 'nr.18'. It is a hybrid between a native Taiwanese tea plant crossed with a Burma big leave cultivar. They also name this nr.18 as Brandy Oolong.

The dry smell of these leafs remind me of dried orange peel with some hints of chocolate on a base of dry aromatic wood. When they were heated up, the orange chocolate became really noticeable. The first brew was quite woody and smelled like a perfume. There were some hints of spices to be found. While making the second brew the scent of honey and parfum filled the air and found their way into my nostrills. Oh, heavenly! Smelling the brew it reminded me of lemoncake and in my mouth some funky (earthy) tastes revealed themselves with citrus notes bouncing around in my mouth. This tea is a little bit like jazz music!

Cooled down I could notice some malt sugar going on and in a later, long steeped brew the flavors suddenly changes into cauliflower! This might sound quite strange but it is rather pleasant actually - perhaps because I'm a big cauliflower lover. For me the only let down was the fairly short aftertaste that I really like in teas. The aftertaste was there but refused to linger for a long time - it seems this tea is fairly sensitive to which water is used because I remember last time when I used another water the tea felt more sweet and had a noticeable after taste. On the otherside, this tea was very well balanced and had lots of complexity.

The tea has a mixture of leaves varying from very tender, young buds to slightly older and rugger ones. All of them are slim and fully oxidized. I don't know when these leaves are harvested but I guess end of spring/beginning of the summer. My conclusion of this tea is that I need more experience with these red teas because I'm still unsure how to brew them correctly and as I don't use a scale it's difficult to estimate the amount I have to put in my gaiwan - with oolong tea I just cover the bottom. I refuse to use thermometers, scales etc... because tea is an escape of all those measurements and is all about feeling.

It's a lovely tea and I would love to drink it again, idealy with some teafriends in the evening with some jazz music! I'm curious to try more teas from Mr.Wang if I have the chance because he also has some different cultivars. My advice to you readers: buy some SML tea, invite some good friends and have a nice evening!

zaterdag 13 oktober 2012

Friday Night

After a busy week with lots of labs and preparation, Friday finaly arrived. Last night - after waiting oh so patiently to try this tea- I decided to brew mr.Wang's black tea from Sun Moon Lake that I bought from Mei Lan. It was a magical tea and I had the most pleasant and relaxing evening. I'm not going to review this tea right now but you can expect a review soon. Here is a preview already:

zondag 7 oktober 2012

On preheating cups

Since the day I've watched my first gong fu session till the day of today I've always heard: preheating your cups is essential! In the beginning I used to do so;I would follow all of the steps and wouldn't dare to skip one. After lots and lots of reading about tea there was this article about a Chinese man who told an eager tea drinker he patiently had to wait for 5 minutes before drinking his cup of tea - at my next tea session I patiently waited 5 minutes as well.What I noticed was that it became easier to distinguish different notes and that the tastes were better detectable, but bitter notes also seemed to appear more on the 'front taste line'. Since that moment I stopped preheating my cups except for my sniffing cups. Perhaps some people prefer to drink their tea extremely hot- for me it greatly reduces my taste experience. Ofcourse I do rinse my cups before use, as well as I preheat my brewing vessel. When tea tasting and taking notes I always put 1 bigger cup aside to let it cool down to about 40°C. It can really give you tea a different character you haven't experienced before. It would be nice to have some opinions on this - perhaps delicate- subject.

maandag 1 oktober 2012

Bulang 2012 from Essence of Tea

I don't have much experience with puerh tea but I'll do my best to describe the flavours I experienced as accurate as possible. Have to say it was quite the challenge to analyze this tea because I'm so unfamiliar with this type of tea. First some info about this tea. It is made from 2 different maochas. One is from the Manmu village and the other one from a few km away. They tried (and succeeded) to blend the two teas to bring balance to the cake. When I take a piece of tea it feels oily and alive with fresh, citrus aromas mixed with some fresh hay. Puerh always reminds me a bit of the cow stables where I used to go to when I was a little kid to buy butter.
The tea seems to contain lots of white,hairy buds which I guess is a good sign for delicate aromas.  The first brews were difficult to manage, it's a beast that doesn't want to be tamed. I used as less tea as possible but still the first brews were insanely powerful. Besides the strenght of this tea the bitterness it contained gave a pleasant feeling in the mouth with some sweet woody tones. When my cup was finished I gave it a smell and the only way I can describe this smell is as 'erotic'.  The aftertaste is long and dry. After about 9 infusions the tea suddenly changes character as it has been tamed. Suddenly extremely mellow and sweet tones appear. The bitter tones gradually fade away till there is only Godlike sweetness left with lots of overripe fruits. Never have I been so surprised by a tea. I could clearly distinguish sweet, red grapes in the palate. I forgot how many infusions I eventually made but I can say for sure it was A LOT! Even my mom didn't believe me when I told her that the bitter tea she tried last week now tasted sweet as candy.

  One of the things I noticed was that by using this thick cup (made by a good friend) the tea appeared to have a thicker body and to be more robustic. This tea doesn't fit in a delicate cup because it's such a stubborn tea. Wouldn't say this was the best tasting tea I ever had ( I still prefer oolong for every day drinking) but it was a wonderful experience. I'm happy to have bought this cake because I know I will have life long pleasure from this one.