woensdag 26 december 2012

Teamaster's Winter Alishan 2012

It's first day after christmas and suddenly the rain stopped and some beams of sunshine appeared. I can barely remember the last day it didn't rain - well I guess that's the fate of being a Belgian.
I wanted to review this tea earlier but because of the rain, I didn't feel brewing such a delicate oolong.

The leaves are tightly rolled and look dark green/blue. Their smell is refined, strong and reminds me a bit of these little bags filled with lavender. The scents turns more into a sweet, honey-like flower scent once put in my warm gaiwan, very promising so far!

The first brew smells like sugarcane mixed with some white flowers. When taking a sip it feels like the tea immediately vaporises in your mouth, coating everything and releasing it aromas for the next couple of minutes. Drinking this tea is almost the same as taking a breath mint, everything feels so pure and clean. I always like to let one of the cups filled with tea cool down because the flavours tend to change drastically. The brew feels thicker,sweeter and creamy! It feels like it's a total different tea though the flowery aspect is still there with a bit of apricot bitter. The second brew turns out to be much more intense in the flower/perfume part of the palate and a little bit less creamy. Later brews become more balanced with a vanilla-like smell - it doesn't smell like vanilla but it has this same kind of thick, sweet smell that's so unique to vanilla. I've been able to get 6 brews out of this one which is outstanding! Maybe I could get out even 1 or 2 more if I let it steep for 1-2 hours.

The leaves are one of the biggest and thickest I've seen so far. Because this is the 'fruity' version of Teamaster's Alishan, the edges are slightly more oxidized which I prefer because less oxidized teas tend to be over pungent. This tea was such a light in the dark after drinking so much hung shui and red teas, it felt like a little angel on my tongue. For me this tea is what I expect from Teamaster's gao shan selection: refined, pure, elegant and perfumy. Outstanding! Wished I bought some more of this one.

Beams of sunshine sometimes come through
PS: The rain has started yet again...

zaterdag 22 december 2012

Wild Lin Qui

Today my mom allowed me to open up my christmas packages already because tomorrow she and my dad will leave for their holiday in Sweden. I was planning on brewing a red tea but doubting which setting I should use. It made me very happy when I opened the packages because in there were some nice fabrics!

The that I brewed today was given to me by Mei Lan a couple of weeks ago. It is named 'Wild LinQui' and is completely handmade. She told me that in the beginning she wasn't that psyched about it but now that it had the time to age for a couple of years it got a lot better.

The shape of the leafs are irregular and so is the colour. Most of them are not fully black, containing lots of red and green parts. It has to be the 'most less oxidized' black tea I've seen so far. In it's dry form it secretes a perfumy smell that reminds me of SML #21. Later when put in the warm gaiwan, it gives a more animal-like smell.(and I mean this in a positive way. Muscus I consider as animal smell). The first brew of this tea was very light, much lighter than expected with no sight of a red colour at all.
The taste of this tea reminded me of young sheng puer. It had the same kind of bitterness, not that much bitterness in the way of contraction in the mouth but more as a none-active, tasty bitterness. Here and there some sweet, a bit vanilla flavours were spotted but they stayed well hidden on the background. I felt that the tea was muted a bit and stayed muted during the session, maybe because of it's age I should have heaten it up for a longer period of time? In the 2nd and 3rd brew, the tastes are developping some more but refuse to stand out.

I wonder if these more primitive tastes are a characteristic of wild tea. There are no signs of big perfumy, fruity flavours that stand out like in garden grown teas, they often taste extremel flowery or fruity. This tea is subtle and carries earthy flavours.
Not sure what I have to think about this tea, I find it's flavour profile promising but lacking some pungency. I'll save the last bits of this sample to brew another time, hopefully it will open next time because it feels I found a beautiful flower but it refuses to open it buds!

zaterdag 15 december 2012

Phoenix Oolong Mi Lan Xiang

This Phoenix Mi Lan Xiang is grown and harvested from 100 year old trees located in the Guangdong province of China on the Phoenix mountain according to Hojo's websites. This tea is his stepping in tea for exploring his wide range of Phoenix dan cong. The leafs look dark with here and there some yellow/greenish spots. The dry smell isn't that distinctive or particular, it smells fine and flowery.

I decided to brew this tea in my small, handthrown Chao Zhou pot that I recently bought. While my experiencing brewing tea with a pot is limited - 90% of the times I use my gaiwan- I still decided to risk the higher chance of ruining the brew because of the sentimental idea of matching the tea with his growing place.
It's also the first time I properly used the handmade teacup I received from George in Taiwan, while it's actually purpose is for drinking matcha - that's my guessing atleast- I thought it would fit well with todays setting. When I added the tea in the burning-hot teapot a herb like aroma filled the air with some chocolately sweetness -never smelled that chocolate again though. Later on I could smell some lychee and sandalwood notes. The smell was complex and kind of absurd, never smelled something like this before. It kind of reminded me of a Scandinavian pine forest with some heath on the side.

The first sip was quite the adventure, would even dare to say this tea was grown in Scandinavia instead of China! The taste is like fresh dill which is used a lot in Scandinavian/Baltic cuisine, could be perfectly matched with some smoked salmon except that I don't like salmon. Also the longan fruit is represent with it's dry, perfumy taste and slight astringency which makes your mouth feel a bit dry after swallowing. At first the flavours were a bit overwhelming which might be due the fact that I rarely brew strong gong fu cha. What surprised me the most about this tea is how persistent it is. I could just keep brewing it forever what I'm still doing right now! The more I brew it the sweeter it becomes.
While it's taste is a bit too 'wild' for me, my tastebuds were shocked and awed by flavor bombardments(though a tad too 1-dimensional) it was still a good experience. For now I think I will stick with my refined, elegant Taiwanese oolongs but maybe when I've become a real man I'll give it another shot!

Tea and Literature

Fine literature needs a fine tea.
This novel from  Kawabata is as
delicate as a baozhong tea.
While I'm not a Japanese tea drinker
I used Japanese cotton and waste bowl by an ex-Japanese monk.
The yellow fabric and white flowers go well with
minimalistic style of writing and eye for detail while
still staying sober.

zaterdag 8 december 2012

Baozhong Lily Flower-the snow edition

Yesterday I came home from my dorm and felt like a little child opening Teamaster's package. When trying his Baozhong I felt like being on a mountain peak covered with snow. On his blog I wrote that this tea was 'crisp and delicate like a snowflake' and that I would love to drink this in the snow. I think the Gods heard my prayer because when I woke up today I saw the sun low at the horizon, the grass covered with icy snow and fog. Happy as a child I ran outside and started my tea session.

This was the first time that I bought a Baozhong so it was a whole new experience with new tastes and textures to discover. The leafs look rather small and fragil with rather high amounts of chlorophyll. On Teamaster's blog it is mentioned that the leafs were harvested on 22 october by hand in Wenshan and because of dry and cold weather condition the yield was low but of a good quality. The smell is a bit grassy and reminds me of dried flowers - which ones I cannot say, flowers are not my expertise.

The brew looks clear and bright. Because of the dry and pure air, the aroma spreads itself even more intense than usual and blends in perfectly with the athmosphere. The first sip is sweet, elegant and flowery. It's almost like you are drinking mountain air. When you breath out the flowery aroma cools your mouth and gradually becomes one with the outside air. It's such a lovely feeling drinking this tea in the crispy, cold air. It's not about taste or complexity anymore but about the experience and texture.

In most blogs (and in most other things in life) I'm a very analytical person but this time I didn't want to describe the flavors and analyze them to the bone. In this blog I want to let the tea speak for itself - or atleas the pictures. It might be not the most complex or sophisticated tea but it sure gave me the most intense tea experience so far. The only thing that kept me away from an almost meditative state was going back inside to boil the water. In the future I might have to invest in a stove because tea outside feels much more real to me and the tea.

young leafs and buds give delicate aromas
Hope you enjoyed this blog and you'll enjoy reading many more.

zondag 2 december 2012

Sun Moon Lake #21

A couple of weeks ago I already reviewed another red SML made by mr.Wang and while that one was quite good, this one just surpasses every red tea I had so far. Number 21 is a very recent cultivar developped in 2008. If I'm correct it's a cross between a Keemin and an Indian Kyang- the result is a complex tea with an unique character. It was challenging describing all the flavors that came out of this tea and how they gradually changed over time.
The dry leaves looked big and beared a dry, refined flowery scent. Once they were put in a warm gaiwan the aromas changed into something so complex that I wasn't able to describe it accurate, the most I can say is an intense mixture of sweet flowers with ripe plums - the taste of this tea was surprisingly different.
The smell of the brew reminded me of wet heylands, red cabbage with apples and honey covered corn while the taste had this concentrated, refined woody bitterness - probably from the Indian cultivar- which delighted my taste papils. There were lots of vegetables in the taste (asparagus, chicory), woody tones and now and then some orange notes dared to show up though quickly beaten down the other, more presenescent flavours. When this tea cooled down a little, more sweet and malty flavours appeared on the stage but still accompagnied by a slight bitterness so it wouldn't turn into bland sweetness. The tea is also very forgiving, it doesn't mind at all if you steep it a bit too long and will do anything to please your tastebuds! In later, longer infusions the tea becomes almost like a young sheng puer, it has the same distinctive taste as well it gains a more fruity and citrus character.
The leafs are big and strong, mostly seperate leafs but here and there also some buds. Yesterday I found a leaf atleast twice as big as the ones showed above. Most of them still have a bit of green in the middle, as a good steak baked saignant or à point.

This tea certainly receives a place in my top 3 so far. It's something special that I will cherish for special occasions. Perhaps these guys underneath are singing about tea?