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.