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.