zaterdag 24 november 2012

Wild Red Tea from Alishan

At first my apologies for not writing for such a long time, it's not that I haven't had time for tea but just no time/energy for writing reviews. The first time I tried this tea at Mei Lan's place I was astonished by it thick and sweet liquor. Today I decided to review this tea and even though I wasn't able to achieve the same level of sweetness- perhaps because my water isn't boiled in a tetsubin- I still enjoyed this tea thoroughly. One of the main reasons why I like these red teas so much is because of the looks. These twirled black leafs have this mysterious attraction on me for some reason and the last thing you would expect is that these burned looking leafs produce such sweet and lovely brews. The only problem I've found with these teas is that they are so sensitive to teaware, water and quantity. If you use a bit too much they might turn a bit bitter and if you use too less they fade quickly.

The dry smell is more floral than one could expect and it feels dry. This profile will change completely once this tea is heated up. My face was smacked with big dark flavors - this would be the stout of the teas with no doubt! There were raisins, malts and brown sugar. The first thing I said after sipping this tea was: dark sugar!
This time the flavors were less big than I remembered but still pleasant. I didn't get the same body thickness as at Mei Lan's place but received some more fruity flavors instead with just a bit of bitterness. The 4th steep was a long one and it turned out a bit more agressive and floral with now and then a hint of green grapes.

The leafs are of average size but they are tough and thick which is I assume one of the typical descriptions of a wild tea plant.
While my passion for these kind of teas is big, I still tend to struggle with the brewing proces. I'm not able to get consistent brews and lack the knowledge of steeping them in specific direction as I'm more capable of with rolled Taiwanese oolongs.
I still have a few red teas left to be reviewed so next posts will probably talk about these and make a nice comparison between different Taiwanese reds!
EDIT: Today (23/02/'13) I tried this tea again in my Mumyoi teapot and it turned out terrific! It was sweet and thick as in my memories at Mei Lan's place.

Wish you all a good weekend and see you next time. Underneath you can find a song of a Belgian band perfectly suited to drink with a cup of red tea.

zondag 11 november 2012

Remembrance Day

In memory of all the people who have died in the line of duty(lots of them not even my age) to protect their family and country no matter what their beliefs were or on which side they fought. They did what they had to do and we should respect all of those who gave their lifes so we could enjoy a better future. To honour these people I left one cup empty with a fallen flower, this to resemble the many friends/children/parents that were lost during this time.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

zaterdag 10 november 2012

Hojo's Anxi Rou Gui

First of all my apologies for this long delayed post. Last week I was on a trip to Berlin to meet up with some friends and after my trip I had to go straight to my college dorm again. After an 11 hour nap (really needed it) I woke up with a typical grey,cloudy autumn morning. Still a bit sleep drunk I slowly walked towards my tea closet and started searching what I was going to drink today. My eye fell on a sample I received from Hojo, a Anxi Rou Gui. Sounded very tasty and it looked quite roasted, exactly what I needed. My mom made me some nice table cloths so I did my best to make a nice cha xi - she brought 2 different plants for me as well.

When I was in Berlin, we went to visit a big flea market and while we were strolling around I saw this stand filled with handmade pottery. Well, my friends lost me there! I spend quite a while observing every pot and in the end I couldn't resist buying one. Don't you think it's pretty? It's a great addition to my cha xi, it is able to give it a total new dimension. For people who are interested, his website is:

Now back to the tea! I barely had any experience with Chinese oolong so I was quite clueless how to prepare this one. About 2 weeks ago I tried an Anxi TGY and I made the mistake of not using enough leafs. I'm used to Taiwanese oolong which has an high expansion rate unlike these Chinese oolongs who seem to be more single leafs - not saying this is for every Chinese oolong, just my experience so far. Again I made the same mistake today by not using enough leafs which resulted in a tasty but short tea session and a remaining of the sample barely enough to brew 2 steeps. This time I will learn from my stupidity!

The dry smell of this tea reminded me of sushi, mainly of the nori. I like nori but to smell it in a tea was quite strange for me because I had some experience with roasted teas that actually tasted like seaweed, which wasn't exactly my cup of tea. So I kept my fingers crossed while I gently slided the tea into my gaiwan. The seaweed smell disappeared completely and more spicy/woody tones appeared, lucky me! After the first brew I noticed how deeply roasted these leafs were.....should have used my new teapot! The colour of the 1st brew was transparant and beautiful like autumn. I like to describe autumn as the 'beautiful death of Spring'. As a human being death is something we do not appreciate at all but in nature death can have something soothing, almost comforting as it brings life to other things.

The first sips weren't special nor interesting. It lacked some body, had some roasted flavors which was about it. Luckely the story doesn't stop here. When this tea cooled down a little bit a new layer of tastes came out of nowhere. This time the brew had lots of caramel, sweet wood and maybe even some cinnamon - as the name suggests. Sometimes a flowery note dared to reveal itself but quickly ran away from all the brutal spicy notes. After 2 brews in my gaiwan I decided to transfer the leafs into my new Chao Zhou teapot. The tea lost a bit of its pungency and became much rounder. In the gaiwan the roast tended to be a bit aggresive towards the upper part of the mouth while now it was a lot smoother. Besides making the tea smoother it also give it a bit more elegance by providing more flowery notes.

It was quite the bummer when the tea session ended after barely 4 steeps. I think this tea had much to offer but because of my ignorance its potential was ruined. It was a nice cup of tea and while I'm fond of slightly roasted teas, the deeply roasted one are not capable of convincing me. Perhaps with some extra years they will get more complex? For now I will just stick to my Taiwanese oolongs. Ofcourse, when the chance presents itself I will not refuse a cup of Chinese oolong!

EDIT: I just did an extra very long steep till the water was cold. This resulted in a sweet, creamy and mocca like brew. Next time I must make sure to use enough leafs!
EDIT2: Because I was so disappointed in myself because I ruined this tea I did another brew but with much longer steeps. This time there are more woody/ctirus notes and cooled down it's just delightful, almost like a good cigar: sweet,woody,creamy and some cacao.

I hope you readers don't mind an extra picture!