maandag 8 juli 2013

Origin tea's Shan Lin Xi Yang Zi Wan A&B

Origin tea offers 2 teas from the same area though processed by a different teamaster and roaster. The A-sample seems to be the lightest, creamiest and most refined while the B-sample hits you in the face with it's brutal fruity flavours.
Lets start with the A, it's always the side with the biggest hits!

When I threw in the dry leafs in my warm gaiwan, an intense scent of sweet&creamy cookies with honey came waving by. After the first rinse, they seemed to have faint hints of butter.

The broth had a nice mouthfeel and an excellent balance between fruity and flowery flavours with a nice creamy texture. It had some more oxidation than the previous DYL or Lishan, which really brings out those fruity aspects.  The taste was rather straight forward but still complex enough to keep me interested. Whilst the aftertaste in the DYL/Lishan was extremely intense, this one seemed to feel a bit more 'dried down' and less perfumy. In later infusions it became lighter with a hint zesty citrus aroma. The last 1-2 cups of the session had brandy like qualities which reminds me of Hojo's deep fermented Dong Ding.

Taste wise; I like this tea more than the DYL/Lishan but if we would leave my personal preferences behind, it is clearly in a different quality range. For it's price, merely 12 euros/75g, it is a great tea and one that would be suitable for every day drinking.

The B-side... that's where the gems are to be found! The dry balls - I should really find a more elegant way of describing these- are small, one of the smallest I've seen so far. It seems that most leafs are seperated from their stems.

Once rinsed, it had a similar smell than the A, only it had a more deep fruitiness with hints of caramel. The brew itself gave a sweet malty fragnance remindng me of fresh bread and pineapple.

This one seemed to be quick picky on its leaf/water ratio. If you use too much, the fruity flavours will start to turn bitter - as the flesh of a peach around the stone, if brewed too light it won't give you that intense, juicy, mouth watering fruitiness reminding me of candy pineapple and mango. The A sample seemed to have more focus on the aftertaste, this one has a more interesting flavour profile but lacks the pungent aftertaste, it gradually builds up but stays subtle.

The leafs are tiny and tender with a visable edge of oxidation. I wonder what the reason would be between the difference of the leaf: is it the orientation of the farm? Soil? Harvest date? Different age of teatree?

The verdict: Both teas are great and they are a great example of how a teamaster/roaster can create a different character with teas from the same area with minor proces changes.
A seems to deliver a more 'gaoshan' palate: refined flowery flavours with a long finish.
B is more robustic and a stronger pronounced flavour profile. Both are great teas, teas I'm glad to have in my teacabinet!

dinsdag 2 juli 2013

Lishan Hua gang from Origintea

This tea from Lishan, grown at an even higher elevation than the previous DYL, didn't manage to blow me away but it did deliver a great session that I enjoyed from the beginning till the end. There seem to be a few stems but not nearly as many as with the DYL, the ball shapes also seem to vary from rather tiny to medium-big.
It seems to have a light to almost medium oxidation with a light roast that really brings out the fruity character.

I like gaoshan teas with a medium oxidation, bringing out those sweet,juicy fruity flavours. This one seems to find a nice balance between sweet fruitiness and flowery notes.

The smell reminds me of sweet biscuits with peach and high citrus notes, when it is dried down in the aroma cup it leaves a wonderful sugary pineapple smell. It starts off tasting slightly bitter like the flesh around the stone of a peach. When swallowed it seems to evaporate into a cooling haze of flowers.

The leafs are small but strong and thick, lasting for many brews - making it an equal opponent of the DYL! While its performance was outstanding and there was no major flaw to be found, it's favoured position in my teacabinet is getting endangered by another tea that has been lurking in the shadows to take it's righteous thrown.
Perhaps it might show itself in the next review?

donderdag 27 juni 2013

Origin's tea winter Da Yu Ling

Tea! At last! After a tough exam period and a lovely trip to Budapest, I'm finaly back home with my beloved tea and where better to start than with teachat's praised winter DYL of origin tea. You can smell it's outstanding price/quality ratio from the moment you open the bag, strong flowery aroma which makes my expectations sky rocket. It seems to be rolled fairly loose, with highly visable stems. Tony from origintea told me to brew with ample leaf and it upgraded my tea experience big time.

Time to unleash this (elegant) beast! I've taken tasting notes from every brew but because of the complexity of this tea it is completely useless for others, I'd rather tell you my impressions I had of this tea. It has all of the classic goashan elements: crisp, sweet floweriness with a deep aftertaste and a slightly buttery mouthfeel. The difference is in the intensity of those particular elements. I'm impressed by this tea's everchanging aftertaste that starts of with vegetal green, evolving into an intense floweriness that lingers on in the throat and ending with a dry, peach flavour that seems to last an eternity.

Every brew seems to bring this tea to a new level as new flavours arises. One of the strangest - please, hold your heart for this one- flavours I've experienced in this one has to be paprika and cookie dough. My facial expression when tasting this had to be exactly the same as yours will be right now... it was only there in that particular cup and brew but it was there for sure! I wouldn't have noticed the juicy paprika feeling if I hadn't been to Budapest, paprika seems to be their staple food.

The leafs are looking thick and dark and were able to produce more than 10 brews - I tend to stop counting after 10. So far I've only had 1 session with this tea but I can tell you already that it has a lot to offer. It is a bargain that doesn't come around often and atleast I am not able to resist
Now it's time to try to squeeze out some more tea out of these leafs!

dinsdag 18 juni 2013

Teamania Thai Oolong was so kind to sent me 3 samples of their Thai oolong. I'm always open-minded when it comes to tasting things, so why not give it a go. Thai oolong seems to have a bad name, mainly because it is sold as Taiwanese oolong. I believe that Thai tea can stand on its own, they just need some time to develop their own 'signature'. All of the tea's below are of the 'Royal Project' which offers new oppertunities to farmers to minimize the opium production, not only in tea but also fruits, coffee etc... All of these products are said to be grown organic.
Correction: My humble apologies, it seems that I've been mistaken. These teaproducers started under the royal project but are completely independent family bussines right now.

From these 3 samples there was 1 I liked, 1 that was ok and one I didn't like at all.

The first one is named 'Oolong Black pearls' and is from Doi Mae Salong, Provinz Chiang Rai, Nordthailand. It says it was made from the jinxuan cultivar and oxidated for 100%. I'll make it short on this one: aggressive, overwhelming with an almost synthetical flowery taste. No, this is not my cup of tea. Luckily the other samples are a lot better than this one.

The next one is from the 4 seasons cultiver and the most 'expensive' from the bunch. It's from the same area and is made in the gao shan style with a light roast. It has a nice thick vegetal body with a longering flowery aftertaste. Later on it becomes a bit more fruity with an apricote aftertaste. Quite nice if it wasn't for the fishy aroma which doesn't smell appealing for me. In any case, it's a big improvement on the first one.
This one is already great bang for your buck.

The jinxuan has to be the pinnacle of the 3 samples I received. The aroma is good and so is the taste, it's very classical: nothing special but not bad either. For the price - if I'm correct- a merely 10 euros/200g, it is great! It would be an ideal tea for every day drinking for someone who doesn't want to spend a lot of money.

The quality of the leaves seems to be excellent. It almost solely consists of young buds with 1 or 2 young leafs. They are all quite small and some of them have some red spots because of irregular oxidation. I also noticed they contain less chlorophyl than most Taiwanese grown teas.

I'm to have received the oppertunity to compare these Thai oolongs against their Taiwanese counterparts. It has given better insights in the cultivars as well as in the production proces.
All of them lack a bit in the finesse and elegance the Taiwanese oolong tea provides but what do you expect for such a price?

vrijdag 7 juni 2013

Short break

Dear readers,

As some of you've probably have noticed, I haven't been that active lately.
I'm right in the middle of my exams now and barely have time for tea, and if I do, I don't want to worry about taking notes or writing reviews.

I'll be finished the 26th of June, so expect many reviews over the course of summer.

Thank you for your patient and see you all in a few weeks ;)



vrijdag 17 mei 2013

EoT's half-handmade rou gui 2011

 Yancha... the tea where so many people are lyrical about. A tea that sounded appealing to me, nevertheless it was unable to convince me... until today. What made this breakthrough happen? It's a very simple answer: using more tea. A few days ago, when I tried it with a smaller amount of tea, it left me unsatisfied and regretting the money I've spend. Again, it confirmed my dislike for yancha. Today it was a totally different story. I was preheating my gaiwan, walking around to find some stuff, not really expecting anything of this tea. I threw the rest of my sample in the flaming hot gaiwan, put the lid on and went to check if our wood stove was still burning. Unprepared of what was going to happen in a few seconds, I removed the lid of my gaiwan... and that was the moment when the yancha intoxicated me with its magic, it's beautiful, sweet and fruity magic. After smelling it for I don't know how many minutes, I gave it a rince and started smelling again. If you would be able to capture this smell in a perfume,you would be a millionaire!

The fragnance of this tea was sweet, thick and fruity. When tasting, the smooth roasting felt like a panel, on which were painted other flavours as peach and longan. Couldn't get enough of it, as it warmed my body on this cold, rainy day with it's rich and full flavours. After 3 steeps, its fragnance became more mild and it's palate less complex but still thirst quinching.

Now, lets just pray I can control my hunger for more yancha because I'm quite sure my wallet cannot handle such cravings every day!

zaterdag 4 mei 2013

EoT's TGY 2011 autumn harvest

According to Hobbes, I seem to be one of those 'fascinating girl-man hybrids' who enjoy a refined cup of Tie Guan Yin. TGY seems to have a lot of characteristics we consider feminine, well now I happen to be a healthy, young man with a healthy appetite for woman... or TGY in this case.

On their website it says this is an organic grown Tie Guan Yin - which seems quite difficult to find nowadays- produced from older treas around Yaoyang village in Xiping, Anxi.

It's dry aroma is already pungent and has a lovely lavender touch to it.

Yesterday I already did a small session with this tea, today I decided to throw in the rest of the sample I bought. The gaiwan packed quickly when the leafs started to expand though no bitterness made way to the brew, no matter how long I steeped it. What I like about this particular tea is its amazing aroma, it's so pure and penetrates deep into your olfactory system, resulting in great satisfaction.
It has a thick, full and buttery mouthfeel gradually changing into a subtile, lingering perfum that starts in the throat and goes way up to your nose. It's flavor profile is quite consistent though is able to keep you interested enough with minimal change. Later on it might become a bit more fruity/soapy and the buttery feeling fades away. On a warm day like this, it cools the body, making it a great refreshment during the heat of the afternoon- yes, to me 23-25°C is scorching heat until my body had a few weeks time to adjust.

The leafs vary a lot in size but all of them are stugg and thick, resulting in many enjoyable brews.

As always I'm pleased with EoT their teas, they might not be for everyday drinking, atleast not for me, but I thoroughly enjoy the few occasions I can drink them. They have what I'm looking for: pure, clean and refined teas. I'm sad this session is finished already, going to try to push them leafs for the very last time.

zaterdag 20 april 2013

EoT 2010 Manmai

Is this upside down?
You know these days when you go to sleep, and when you wake up you feel sick and miserable? Well, sometimes I wake up and I feel a craving for sheng puerh. Sometimes Taiwanese oolong isn't sufficient enough in satisfying me.
After storing my shengpu in a new cabinet, with little bowl of destilled water, the humidity has increased to 65%, which made my tea feel so much more alive.

Don't take the statements I make in this blog for truth, my experience with puerh is ridiculous. It seems it already has changed a little bit, the leaves look slightly darker and is compressed thightly. I haven't seen this cake until a week ago, but the flavour profile which I experienced seems to be a lot different than those reviews written 3 years ago. Ofcourse, tasting notes are not a reliable source because they are so different from person to person.

The smell is sweet, lacquered wood with honey. It has a clean flavour profile without too much change or any overpowering notes, making it a nicely balanced tea. The profile mainly consists of soft wooden notes, sweet malt and subtile notes of ripe fruits, finished of with a powerful bitterness. It's consistent in it's infusions and refuses to give up, I'm always amazed how much endurance some sheng has. After a dozen infusion orso (forgive me dear readers, I do not count my steeps), the bitterness did become quite harsh on the throat. Luckily, it quickly vanishes and makes place for a lovely, fruity sweetness.

Because of the high compression - especially not because of my inexperience with breaking cakes into pieces- the leaves were a tad more broken than wished for. This is a tea I would love to drink every day, or atleast when I'm longing for puerh and strong qi (Sometimes I wonder if no other greens are mixed into the cake). I already regret only buying the 250g bing....that says enough.

vrijdag 12 april 2013

Antwerps Teacentre's Lishan Spring 2013

My first Spring tea of 2013. Mei Lan told me that this tea is quite special, made from a new cultivar which the farmer didn't want to reveal. I'm always up for some mystery! She thinks there might be some Assam in the genetics, and it wouldn't surprise me. While Assam was my first thought as well, right now I wouldn't be surprised if there was cauliflower or spinach mixed in.... this tea is vegetal!

It looks like a typical Taiwanese gaoshan, lovely blue/green colour. The balls - for some reason this always sounds funny to me- are slightly bigger than usual and irregular shaped. They give away a sweet flowery scent, not revealing their big surprise yet.

So far I've had 3 sessions with this tea, all 3 of them have been completely different. The gaiwan is able to tame the vegetal flavours, putting more accents on the long orchid, citrus aftertaste. Brewed with my mumyoi clay teapot, it's a  different story.

Most Taiwanese oolong I've tried so far are fruity or flowery, sometimes with a hint of vegetables. This tea is the other way around: vegetable soup with some flower sprinkled on top.
It starts of with a strong cauliflower and asparagus taste, in later brews evolving into a more meaty, spinach character. It feels big in the mouth and has lots of vegetal sweetness with hints of puffed honey rice. After the 4th brew, it becomes less brutal in the mouth -probably caused due my more intense steeps- developing a finer, more flowery palate. I don't know if my nose is fooling me or not because I could clearly smell a bit of  pepper in the brew. In the last brew, faint flavors of peach appear in the aftertaste... ah, something familiar at last.

The qi was strong- , the flavors were gone, something was wrong I said, "What was going on?" (couldn't help it but put some snoop doggy dog rhymes in here.) Just to make sure: nothing was wrong with the flavors, just had to fit in the lodi dodi rhyme.

Now I can understand, most of you are thinking : "what kind of vegetable soup tea is this?". It sounds a bit strange, perhaps even off-putting. In my experience, it has been one of the most complex teas I've tried so far, changing face every session. This oolong really has its own personality, making it stand out of the so many overflowery Taiwanese gaoshans.

Reading my reviews, it seems teas are always getting better and better with barely any bad review. It's not that I like every tea, just buying better and better quality the more experience I'm gaining. Till now, no quality tea has disappointed me. Because some flavour profiles don't appeal to me, doesn't make it a bad or low quality tea. This tea on the other hand, did satisfy my craving. The leaves are big and thick, resulting in many flavorful brews.

zondag 24 maart 2013

Hojo's Cui luo

My last sample... I'm officialy out of new teas, luckily Spring has arrived and soon I'll be able to enjoy some lovely Spring tea. Till then, I will have to try to be a bit creative in my blog writings. I always tend to stick to the same formula, just like 'House m.d.', if it works than it works!
I've had no experience with Chinese green tea so far, except one little cup long jing at teaworld last year. The translation of this tea should be 'jade snail', the reason why is because the leaves are rolled into a spiral resembling a snake. It's grown in the guanxi province, the typical cultivar in that reason is Ling Yun Bai Hao. It's a quite distinctive leave with lots of creases.

When opening the bag, I felt like a little kid waiting for his candy. To my surprise, it did smell like candy! It had such an intense citrus smell mixed with some hay and flowers, the smell of Spring! The smell when heated up in my teapot was quite the contrary, it turned a lot darker, honey-like sweetness and a slight hint of smoke, probably because of the pan frying. Today I felt brave enough to throw the whole sample into my teapot, I was up for an intense tea session.

I didn't expect this tea to be so complex, most of the time I just memorize the flavour profile during the session. This time I should have taken my notebook and pen because the complexity was overwhelming. The first 2-3 brews were intense, a tad too intense. It vaguely reminded my of young sheng puerh, the bitterness almost surpassed the pleasant part. From the start it was fragnant and aromatic, delivering a beautiful flowery aroma. Because of the high concentration, the meaty unami flavour was dominant and it reminded my mother of pork roast with peaches. The flavor was sweet, vegetal with a flowery bouqet - I should practise on recognizing flower smells, it'll be more accurate than just saying 'flowery'. After a few brews, the flavor started to lose intensity but the aftertaste became stronger with a peachy flavour lingering around in my throat that refused to disappear. Sometimes I was able to detect some spicy pepper notes, especially when it was close to overbrewing.

I've never had a tea with so many young tips and delicate leaves. It was so much fun examining the shapes, textures and colours. As a student of agricultural biotechnology with a specialisation in enviromental science, these things lean close towards my studying subject, especially the effects on fertilizers, climate and pesti/herbicides on plants ( and surrounding areas).

All in all, I loved this tea and I won't hesitate to buy it again. Next to my beloved Taiwanese oolong, I might buy some more Chinese/Japanese green teas. The wonderful thing about tea is that it's an endless journey with so many different tastes to explore. I've always considered whisky to be the most complex beverage on the planet, that idea changed when I started exploring tea.

I don't know where this blog will be heading in the future, perhaps I write nothing for a while or it could be something completely unusual. I will have to give it some thoughts.

zaterdag 16 maart 2013

Hojo's Sencha jubuzan

This tea formed the base of the hojicha I review last week though the characteristics are totally different. My knowledge about Japanese greens, as well their geological location, is limited and my palet still undeveloped but I'm going to give it my best shot writing a kind of decent review. The jubuzan mountain is located between the Wazika and Uji Dawara. It is grown in a pesticide and fertilizer free farm hence the lighter colour that'll become noticeable onces the leafs opened themselves. The initial, dry smell of the leafs just reminds me of hay... it reminds me of my soon to come hayfever.

Hojo's names this tea 'aracha', which means there is no additonal roasting just a drying proces. I just followed the websites guidelines: about 2g of tea for 100ml. My gaiwan felt a bit empty and my sceptism about the quantity rises. The first brew steeped for 90 seconds with a water temperature between 80-90, I refuse to measure the exact temperature, there's enough exact science in my life already. My gaiwan gave birth to a delicious, unami-rich brew that was devored with great pleasure. It was a tad flowery, some seaweed and lots of grassy/hey flavours. The thing I like about Japanese tea is the almost meaty texture, the flavour comes second. For the second brew, I read it barely should take a few seconds. The result was a weak brew, as expected. For the 3rd and final brew I steeped it for about a minute, this time it had more flavor but still it's standing in the shade of the 1st brew. The taste was quite the same but less intense with a more mineral touch. Next time I should listen to my gut and use some more tea, the more I'm dirnking the tea, the stronger my brews are becoming because I start to appreciate the pleasant bitterness.
Barely any chlorophyl

This tea has drawn my attention and convinced me to try some more japanese teas now and then. It'll be a new chapter in my tea story with a lot of failures and moments of joy.
Next week: my first Chinese green tea!

zondag 10 maart 2013

Hojo's medium fermented dong ding

This had to be my favourite sample from my latest Hojo order and it became so. My first experience with this tea was the deep fermented dong ding, it blew my socks off. He knew how much I liked this dong ding so in my next order he gave me something else to try... the same tea but with less fermentation and a slight roast he gave himself. When opening the package I expected a slightly higher roast, it still had a strong flowery odor. Nothing bad ofcourse, just different than my wild imaginations about this tea. The balls are rolled slightly bigger than its higher fermented brother with a greener look.

The first smell of this tea - put in a warm gaiwan- was sweet sweet sweeeet! The slight roasting gave it a sweet, honey puffed rice smell with no hints of flowers to be found. When brewed, and finaly taste, it stuffed a bouquet of flowers into my mouth. It's flowery, extremely flowery and it stays flowery during the whole session. It's a more refined version of it's deeper fermented brother, a bit lighter and floral without the strong oxidation taste. It's still amazing though, much more Spring like. I have to admit that when I took the first sip, it was quiet for a few seconds till I said: wow! Then I ran upstairs with a cup for my mom: ' Try this one, it's like an angel pissing on your tongue!'. Again - as with the deep fermented dong ding- she wasn't that impressed, perhaps more unexperienced taste buds are overwhelmed or cannot comprehend such a Godlike aftertaste. It might lack a bit in overall complexity but why would it change flavours during the session if the flavours it contain are near perfect? While the taste was outstanding, surprising was its endurance, I got 10+ brews out of it and still going, might be due the fact that I used slightly more tea than usual.

Later on, the brew turns a bit more on the 'bourbon side' together with citrus fruits(fresh lime). Beers aged on bourbon casks are a bit sweeter with vanilla notes and slightly oxidized from the aging, this tea shows some similarities. Lately I've been thinking of letting some beer age on oolong, I should talk about it with some beer brewing friends.

I hope that soon I'll be able to buy some new tea from different merchants, it's kind of strange to review 4-5 teas from only 1 person. To make it clear: I'm not sponsored by anyone, just a student who cannot afford buying tea from many different merchant and mainly relies on samples.
Now back to the tea: try it and I will ensure you that you will like it!

zondag 3 maart 2013

Hojo's Cui Feng cha

At the moment my teacabinet solely exists of teasamples, hence why I only drink tea on sundays until I have a new shipment of tea. Because of this new rule I set up for myself, I do appreciate high quality tea much more and it helps me struggle through the week to be finaly reunited with my beloved tea again. Today's tea is one from Hojo's - one of the few samples I sitll have left- and while it was difficult to gather information about this tea, I did found out it is from a lesser known mountain with aprox. the same height as Li Shan. I like these 'steps in the dark', you never know what you're going to get.
I've been reluctant trying this sample, it never felt as the right time to brew and the fact that I only have 1 sample adds to the anxiety, as David Bowie continues singing : 'We can be heroes, just for one day'. While yesterday my taste seemed to be back to normal - had a cold for a few days- today it seemed it be less sensitive again.... though there is no way back now. The smell of the dry leaves were surprisingly refreshing and citrus like, a bit different than most gao shans.
I couldn't resist using my teapot again instead of the gaiwan, accepting the higher ratio of ruining a brew due lack of skill. I'm not going to describe this tea brew by brew but rather the total impression. The cravings for Spring are becoming stronger and stronger, this tea was able to sooth those feelings a little bit. It felt so brittle, I had to be careful handling this tea. It was crisp, citrusy and refreshing, later on it turned more honey-like. During this session, I needed a lot of inner focus to distinguish the subtile details of this tea.
In my next reviews, I'm planning of using the gaiwan again for making reviews, it feels more objective and truthful compared to using a clay teapot. Perhaps later on, I will add an extra note to some teas to compare the differences between gaiwan/teapot.

 I thoroughly enjoy the contrast between the dark green leafs and the red teapot. Every single time I remove the lid, I'm touched by it's simple beauty.
The leafs of this tea are one of the thickest I've witnessed so far, they are tiny and look juicy.

It seems I've only reached the tip of the iceberg with this tea, it has a lot more of potential but I will need to spend a few more tête à tête's with this tea to find it. It's about time I get a student job somewhere to make that happen...

Note from the author: apologies for this below average review, I feel in lack of inspiration and motivation today - my brain seems to have forgotten all English. While some people say it's better to write nothing than something bad, I feel that making a habit of writing something weekly is something that will bare its fruits eventually, consistency is key. Lately I've started training for powerlifting and the motto there goes: It's better to have a bad training than none. While this review has been a struggle to get through and I almost decided to stop halfway, I did persist and learned a great deal. I hope you readers won't be to harsh on me. Thank you for your patience with this blog and still reading it every week, it gives me great joy and motivation to keep writing.

zaterdag 23 februari 2013

Hojo's Uji Hojicha Jubuzan

Hojicha... an exotic name for me with no previous experiences. I had no clue what to expect when opening the package, luckily it turned out to be a pleasant experience. Before I start with my taste notes, it might be interesting to have some background story. Hojo used his Uji Sencha jubuzan as the base of this tea which is sand-roasted afterwards - whatever that might be, any Japanese tea experts reading this and could provide info on this? It's grown organic and the stems aren't removed. The cultivar used is the traditional Zairai cultivar, descent of the firts teabush that was imported in Japan.
When first opening the package, I wasn't to keen on the smell. While I like the taste of nori, I have developed a degoût from smelling or tasting  it in tea. Anyways, I decided to give it a few days of rest so the penetrating seaweed smell would disappear.... and it did a little bit.
A wild foam appeared
While muttering a small prayer I brought the tea into the flaming hot gaiwan. 'Should I risk smelling it?' I was wondering to myself. Eventually I gathered the courage and surprisingly it wasn't too bad. The seaweed was still there but overpowered by a strong roasted sesam seed smell. I'm not sure if I did something wrong when brewing this tea because suddenly the surface was covered with white foam. After 40-60 seconds, I poured the tea into my cups to witness an intriguing colour. That's about the time when I took my first sip aaand.... WHAT IS THIS??? If somebody would blindfold me while tasting this tea, I would have given my compliments to the barista making this excellent, nutty, thick, mouth watering espresso. Yes, you read it: espresso.
The body was so thick and nutty with a deep aftertaste, anybody would have mistaken it for a good cup of coffee. I kind of hoped that later brews would behave the same but too bad they didn't. The 2nd and 3rd brew were lighter with fishy/seaweed notes and some slight fruity citrus components at the end. The tea is not that complex though succeeding in pleasing my taste buds by big, bold and sweet(in 2nd,3rd brew) flavours.

Wall of tea
You can clearly see the many stems as well the small pieces of leafs. I dare to guess that the stems are the cause of the nutty flavours.
It's a tea I probably won't buy again, not because it's a bad tea but it's flavour profile is not that interesting to me. I'm happy that I've tried it and I won't say refuse if somebody offered to share a cup with me.

To end this blog, I want to apologies for the late update. I went on a vacation to Poland, returned sick and I refuse to review teas when my body doesn't feel optimal, every tea has to get the same chance of proving itself.

zondag 10 februari 2013

Teamaster's Winter hung shui from Shan Lin Shi 2011

This tea was right on the spot, it's where all of the hung shui should be. A strong statement but I believe this tea comes close to being a perfect hung shui. As I mentioned in my previous blog, some of them miss depth and body, especially high mountains who still try to maintain that flowery note - at the cost of a richer, fuller body. Now this one, this one doesn't care about flowery notes. It's much more quieter than the Spring version. It looks darker, it has less of a scent, it's rolled a bit tighter... Because it received a slightly higher roast, I was scared for some off-notes but luckily there was nothing to get scared about.

At the first sip, I knew I was going to enjoy this tea a lot more than the Spring version. It's body is full, a play between bitter and sweet notes. It would match perfectly with a chocolate rum dessert or crème brûlée. As always, the 1st brew was the sweetest and  the 3rd one contained some more roasted, malty flavors. It's less aggressive than Spring's version and feels a lot smoother in the mouth, it only can get smoother and smoother over the next couple of years. The aftertaste is there as well though less prominent in taste but it feels deeper. I hope that in the future, more hung shui will lean towards the slightly deeper fermented, slow roasted style with deeper flavors. This is the fun and frustrating part about tea.... the constant search to find that ideal flavour - never to be found because of our constant changing palate.

Because of Chinese New Year, I put a lot of red in my set up to scare off the man eating monster (atleast, that's what they told me!). So to all my readers, I wish you a happy Chinese New Year and that you may all enjoy great tea, and above all, outstanding health.

zondag 3 februari 2013

Teamaster's Spring hung shui from Shan Lin Shi 2011

Hung shui.... my winter love, my comfort during rainy days and razing winds. Harvest in April 2011 at 1500m altitude, this tea had the chance to rest and refine itself. The dry aroma is a bit flowery, sweet and a bit like roasted malts. Colour wise, they look uniform and dark blue. They have only been medium roasted and it seems perfectly done. Damn, it really looks tasty, right? Lets brew!

Warm, roasty aroma's diffuse into the air. After about 30 seconds I pour the first cup. I place a little Mr.Blonde dance: this is exactly what I need. While I believe that roasting takes away a bit of the teas unique character, this one still contains that flowery, perfumy character that's so typical for Shan Lin Shi. It isn't that strong anymore or that refined but it's still there. In the unroasted version, these notes will form the basic compounds of this tea, the floor where the actors play on. In this roasted version it's the other way around; the seaweed and roasted malts form the stage where flowery and fruity notes appear on.

The first brew reminds me of white chocolate, the 2nd of dark chocolate and the 3rd one becomes a bit juicier again. More brews are following but because they take slightly longer, I find the time writing this review. The leaves looks beautiful, so dark! You can see they had an excellent, slow roast. No spots of burning whatsoever. If I have to make any comment on this tea: it's lack of depth. Cannot wait to try the winter version, I think that my taste buds will totally dig that one. I'm quite cursious what will happen if they would give these gao shan oolongs a bit more fermentation, it might give a fuller,fruitier taste when they have received some roasting. Anyways, I'm going to get some more of this delicious drink.