Big News! All six of our loose leaf teas are now being served at Pennie’s Bake Shop & Espresso Bar, 800 New Castle Street, Butler, PA 16001. Delivery of our teas began this week, and I am proud to say that we are having much interest and excitement being shown by coffee shops and retail outlets that want to carry our teas. If you live in the Pittsburgh area, please take a trip out to Pennie’s and try one of our loose tea selections. While you are there, enjoy one of the many delicious baked goods. They also have an espresso bar for the coffee drinkers. Please show your support for a local business owned by great people! Thank you in advance for your support. Hē Chá!
Month: October 2013
Gu Zhang Mao Jian Green Tea from Hunan Xiangfeng Tea Industry Co. Ltd.
On October 7th of 2013, my journey through the world of tea tasting took me to Guzhang county, Hunan Province, China. This sample of Gu Zhang Mao Jian green tea was provided by Hunan Xiangfeng Tea Industry Co. Ltd.
Gu Zhang Mao Jian translates into Sky Between the Branches. Both the Hubei and Hunan provinces of China produce a tea of this name. From my understanding, the specific sample that I am tasting is from the Hunan Province. This is a good quality green tea that is relatively inexpensive when found in the retail market. It is not quite as prestigious as a Bi Luo Chun, but has some similar characteristics to it’s more expensive counterpart.
The sample pack is opened, and it smells quite sweet, so let the journey begin…
The dry leaves of this Gu Zhang Mao Jian tea are a dull to dark green, with a fair amount of silver tips. The leaves have a uniform curled, lightly twisted shape, and a uniform size. There is a moderate amount of fragments, with some fully intact leaves, and no crumbs. The aroma is sweet, like dried fruit, and lightly floral (maybe roses?).
The standard preparation method was used for this sampling. Filtered tap water was heated to 175ºF (80ºC). Fifteen grams of tea were placed in a 32 ounce (950 ml) glass teapot. The leaves were infused for 1 minute and 30 seconds. The tea was then strained into a separate decantor.
The first infusion produced a liquor that was a pale light yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma was sweetly vegetal, lightly nutty. The body was heavier than many similar Chinese green teas, with a medium body and a crisp texture. The taste is sweetly vegetal (close to asparagus) and lightly floral (rose), with a light astringency. The aftertaste is vegetal, nutty, with a linger that has a light salty mineral note as it trails off. Very interesting aftertaste.
The second infusion produced a liquor with a slightly darker shade of pale light yellow. The aroma remains vegetal and very lightly nutty. The body remains medium and crisp. The taste remains sweetly vegetal (asparagus), lightly nutty, with very light floral notes. Aftertaste remains vegetal with a salty mineral taste as it trails off. The third infusion should be able to produce an acceptable flavor, though I expect it to lighten signficantly. I am somewhat surprised with the strength of the second infusion, however, so perhaps the third will surprise me as well.
The third infusion produced a liquor that was lighter in color than both the first and second infusion. The aroma is lighter than previous infusions, but remains vegetal, with a barely noticeable nutty hint. The body has lightened up, and the taste has lightened significantly. The vegetal taste is still strong enough to provide an acceptable flavor, but a fourth infusion seems highly unlikely to produce an acceptable taste. The aftertaste has lightened as well, but remains vegetal with a very light mineral note.
The infused leaves are a uniform fleshy green in color. The pluck appears to be one leaf and a bud. There is a moderate amount of leaf fragments, but mostly fully intact leaves, many still attached to the stem. There are a good amount of buds present. The aroma is fresh wet leaves. The leaves are fairly delicate, suggesting that they are most likely exhausted of flavor.
I can easily understand why this could be a common selection of Chinese green tea. The taste is mild, with a slight astringency, typical vegetal taste, and some nutty notes. Aside from the mineral aftertaste, this green tea simply provides a standard Chinese green tea taste, which is why the price is more reasonable. There is nothing bad or low quality about the taste, but I feel that it is fairly simple and delicate. I have no complaints about this tea, and overall give it a positive review for what it is, a standard Chinese green tea.
Thank you for taking your time to read this review. Please leave a comment and start a discussion.
Dark Roast TieGuanYin from Tealet Teas and Mountain Tea
On October 6th of 2013, my journey through the world of tea tasting took me back to the Wushe Mountains (I think) of Nantou County, Taiwan. This sample of Dark Roast TieGuanYin was purchased from Tealet Teas, who sourced it directly from Mountain Tea in Taiwan. For information on Tealet and Mountain Tea, please visit Tealet’s website here.
If you have followed my blog for even a short time, then you have noticed that I have reviewed several TieGuanYin (Ti Kwan Yin) products. So what is the difference between this TieGuanYin and the other Ti Kwan Yin’s that I have previously reviewed? There are two main differences. First, this TieGuanYin was grown in the mountains of Taiwan, and the other Ti Kwan Yin’s were grown in the Fujian Province of mainland China. Second, this TieGuanYin is dark roasted, and the other Ti Kwan Yins seemed on the lighter side of the roasting. Both of these factors are going to create a completely different taste and feel to this TieGuanYin compared to previously reviewed Ti Kwan Yins.
Although my preferences in oolong tea are beginning to strengthen on the lighter oxidized and greener varieties due to their fruity and floral characteristics, I will always get excited to try a dark roasted and higher oxidized oolong such as this. With that being said, let the journey begin…
The dry tea leaves are dark brown to black in color. The average size is that of a black bean. There is no breakage or crumbs whatsoever. The leaves are rolled in semi-ball shape, with many leaves appearing to be attached to the stem. There are no bare stems. The aroma is roasty, char, and lightly sweet.
The standard preparation method was used for this sampling. Filtered tap water was heated to 200ºF (96ºC). Twelve grams of tea were placed in a 32 ounce (950ml) glass teapot. The tea leaves were infused in the water for two minutes, then strained into a separate decantor.
The first infusion produced a liquor that was bright orange in color, clear and transparent, with some particulates from baking. The aroma is roasty and char, with a light sweetness. The liquor is medium to full bodied with a smooth texture. The most outstanding taste is char, with overpowered but recognizable notes of caramel and cocoa. The aftertaste is roasty and smooth, with a pleasantly lasting taste. On the next sampling, I am going to try to “prime” the tea leaves prior to beginning the first full infusion to see if the balance of tastes can be improved, as I expect the second infusion to.
The second infusion produced a noticeably darker orange liquor color. The aroma remains roasty and char, but has lightened some, exposing more of a sweet character. The liquor remains on the heavier medium body and smooth. The strongest taste is still char, but it has lightened some to allow the sweet tastes of caramel and cocoa to be more evident. The balance of tastes is much better. The aftertaste has sweetened some, but remains strongly char. This second infusion was much better than the first. However, I expect the third infusion to be the best of the three, as I believe the tastes will continue to improve in balance.
The third infusion produced a liquor with a color that is darker than the first infusion but lighter than the second. The char aroma has lightened some, and sweet scents are standing out more. The body remains medium heavy. The taste has an improved balance of char and sweetness, with the caramel notes being more evident. Aftertaste has lightened some, but still has a pleasant, full taste. This third infusion has been the best of the three. In fact, although I do not intend on taking photos on additional infusions, I do intend on infusing these leaves at least two more times.
The wet leaves of the Dark Roast TieGuanYin are pitch black in color, and appear almost like onyx. The aroma is sweet and roasty. The leaves, after five infusions, are fairly delicate and are breaking from the stem before I am able to put enough pressure on them to spread the leaves. I believe these leaves may be able to provide a sixth infusion with an acceptable flavor. The stems appear to be holding two to three leaves. Almost all leaves are fully intact, with no crumbs or small fragments whatsoever.
Even after five infusions, the taste was very high quality. The caramel tastes improved with each infusion. The first infusion was quite strong on the char tastes, and I would recommend a light priming of the leaves prior to the first full infusion. In my mind, TieGuanYin is recognized as a lighter oolong tea, with more gentle characteristics of fruit, flowers, and vegetation. Although this dark roast was very tasteful and enjoyable, I feel as though I was not able to appreciate the better known characteristics of the TieGuanYin. That is more of a statement of personal reflection, not in any way a negative notation on the tea itself. I literally brewed the first pot at 9:30 AM, and finished the last sips at about 5:30 PM. This was a tea that went through five infusions, remained tasteful all day, and could have gone one more round, if not two. I have nothing but good experiences with this tea, and look forward to experiencing it again.
Thank you for taking your time to read this review. Please leave a comment and start a discussion.
Photos of Fresh Picked Ti Kuan Yin Leaves from the Autumn Harvest
My friend, Linda Lin, from the Lin family Farm, was nice enough to take a few photos from their Autumn Harvest this past week, and send them over to me. The Lin Farm is located in Anxi county, Quanzhou, Fujian Province, China. You may find reviews on two of their Ti Kuan Yin oolong teas under the Oolong Tea category at the top of the page. I have reviewed their Aged Ti Kuan Yin, and their Ti Kuan Yin A+ grade. Both were phenomenal. In fact, I purchased 500 grams (just over a pound) of the A+ grade as part of my birthday gift this year since it was so good. I would have ordered more, but my birthday budget only called for 500 grams and a large stretched canvas print of Lipton’s Seat in Sri Lanka, overlooking the tea plantations. I will post a picture of that once my wife lets me open it in a week. Here are the photos.
Blooming Camellia Sinensis Bush
My wife snapped this picture of one of the camellia sinensis (tea) bushes at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh. What’s special about this bush? It is blooming with yellow tea flowers. Tea bushes do not last long in Pittsburgh, whether outside in a yard or inside a conservatory, so go to Phipps and try to locate this bush. It is in the tropical rainforest exhibit.
First 30 Pounds of Tea Packed, Ready for Delivery
Hē Chá Tea is one step closer to being delivered to the first four outlets. Packing has been completed on all bulk tea canisters, and two cases of one ounce sample tins for each type of tea are ready for distribution. Once the small canister labels are printed and applied to the canisters, then the fun begins!
I will be picking up the large logo banner and tabletop inserts this afternoon. In the coming days, videos and tea profiles will be posted for each of our initial six tea offerings, as well as a video regarding the background of Hē Chá Tea. Things are getting very exciting around here, and I hope that you will share in my excitement. Once we know the exact four outlets that our first distribution of teas will be delivered to, I will post all of their information here as well. Keep an eye out for Hē Chá Tea. We will be in and around Pittsburgh very soon!
LiShan Spring Oolong Tea from Tealet Teas and Mountain Tea
On the morning of October 2nd of 2013, my journey through the world of tea tasting took me to LiShan, in Taichung County, Taiwan. This sample of LiShan Spring Oolong tea was purchased from Tealet Teas, who sourced the tea from Mountain Tea of Taiwan. To view Tealet’s grower profile for Mountain Tea, click here.
According to Tealet’s website, LiShan (Pear Mountain) is located in the Jade Mountains range. This mountain range boasts the highest elevations in Taiwan. Due to the high elevations, these tea bushes are often covered in fog and mist. The cold mountain nights dip to near freezing temperatures, and the bushes receive little direct sunlight. These conditions allow the LiShan teas to develop naturally sweet and unique characteristics.
I recently reviewed the Mount Ali Milk Oolong tea that my tea brand, Hē Chá Tea, is offering as our one of our initial products. That tea is from the Ali Mountain region in Chiayi County, Taiwan. LiShan is in Taichung County, which is north of Chiayi. As I opened this sample pack, a familiar fragrance emerged that reminded me of the Mount Ali Milk Oolong. I am interested to see how these two compare in quality, taste, and other characteristics.
Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves of the LiShan Spring Oolong are green to dark green in color. The leaves are rolled into semi-ball shapes averaging the size of corn kernel. There is no breakage or crumbs. Leaves are attached to stems. The aroma is floral, with a slight scent of milk or cream.
The standard preparation method was used to brew this sample. Filtered tap water was heated to 190°F (88°C). Nine grams of tea were placed in a 24 ounce (700 ml) glazed ceramic teapot. The leaves were infused for 2 minutes. The liquor was strained into a separate decantor.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright and light greenish-yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma is sweet (honey and pears), floral (lilac), and very lightly vegetal. The liquor has a medium body, with a silky and mouth filling texture. The taste is floral (lilac), sweet (honey and pears), and has a sweetly vegetal note. The finish and aftertaste are smooth and floral, but after a few seconds, the taste is more similar to that of a fresh pear. Exhale through the nose, and appreciate the aftertaste for over a minute.
The second infusion produced a slightly darker, but still bright and light greenish-yellow colored liquor. The aroma is sweet (honey and pears), and floral (lilac). The liquor maintains the body and texture. The taste is very balanced between floral (lilac) and sweet (honey and pears). The finish and aftertaste are slightly stronger than the first infusion. Again, do yourself a favor, take a sip, swallow slowly, then exhale through your nose. It is exquisite. This second infusion overall was better in every way than the first infusion.
The third infusion produced a liquor that had a similar color to that of the first infusion, with a bright and light greenish-yellow. The aroma is lighter than the second infusion, but remains sweet and floral. The body and texture have lightened some, but are still medium and silky. The taste has lightened, with the floral taste being most prominent, and the sweet tastes having dissipated some, but still recognizable. The finish and aftertaste have lightened, but remain floral. Despite the lighter character, this third infusion is certainly acceptable. An additional infusion or two is expected to also produce acceptable flavor.
The infused leaves were a uniform fresh and slightly dark green. Most of the leaves had a very slight amount of reddish edges, some with no reddish edges, indicating that this oolong is on the lighter side of the oxidation scale. The leaves were mostly fully intact, with the plucking standard being two leaves, and still attached to the stem. No bare stems, and very few leaf fragments were present. Leaves ranged in length from 1.25 inches (32 mm) to 2.75 inches (70 mm). Leaves have some structural durability left, suggesting that an additional infusion or two is possible. The aroma is fresh wet leaves, with a very slight floral scent that is barely noticeable.
As usual, this Taiwanese oolong was exquisite. The lilac, honey, and pear taste was unique from other Taiwanese oolongs that I have had. The lower oxidation gave this LiShan Spring oolong some similar characteristics of a green tea, with the lighter green color and slight vegetal taste. The size of the infused leaves were impressive. All three infusions gave a high quality taste and aroma, with at least one or two more infusions expected to do the same. Another high quality product, another high pleasure review. Thanks Tealet and Mountain Tea!
Yellow Bud Yellow Tea from Tealet Teas and Vivid Huoshan
On October 1st of 2013, my journey through the world of tea tasting took me to the Vivid Tea Garden in Huoshan, Anhui Province, China. This sample of Yellow Bud Yellow Tea was purchased from Tealet Teas, who sourced the tea directly from Vivid Huoshan. To view Tealet’s profile for Vivid Huoshan, please click here.
Although this is not my first yellow tea, it is the first that I have had the opportunity to spend time properly reviewing. Yellow tea is one of the more rare forms of tea, as the “yellowing” process that makes this tea distinct from white and green teas has in large part been lost to the past. There are some in the tea business who market their teas as yellow, but is technically processed as a green tea. However, there are a few authentic yellow teas that can be found. Without seeing the physical processing of the tea leaves, it is difficult to differentiate a true yellow tea from a green imposter. If Elyse at Tealet says this is authentic yellow tea, then I will certainly take her word as fact.
As I open this sample pack, an unusually sweet smell hit me. This is not a green tea, nor a white tea. This is something special. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves of the Yellow Bud Yellow Tea have a yellowish-green to green color. The leaves are fully intact, appearing to be one leaf and bud, with the occasional two and a bud. There is a very low amount of breakage. The aroma of the leaves are unusually sweet, most similar to dry fruit. The length of the leaves range from 0.5 inches (13 mm) to 1.25 inches (32 mm). Some leaves appear that they may have been very lightly twisted, while others appear to may have taken this shape naturally during processing.
The standard preparation method was used for this sample. Filtered tap water was heated to 175ºF (80ºC). Eight grams of tea were placed in a 32 ounce (950 ml) glass teapot. The leaves were infused in the water for 2 minutes.
The first infusion produced a light yellowish-gold liquor, clear and transparent. The aroma of the liquor is delicately sweet and floral, with a slight vegetal scent. The liquor has a light body and a very mellow texture. The taste is delicate, with a nice balance of floral and very light sweet and vegetal notes. There is no bitterness to the taste. The finish and aftertaste are light and floral. This tea leaves the mouth and throat feeling refreshed.
The second infusion produced a slightly darker liquor, but still a light yellowish-golden color. The aroma is slightly more floral, less sweet, and maintains the slight vegetal scent. The liquor maintains a light body. The taste has a stronger floral flavor, with vegetal and very light sweet notes. The aftertaste remains floral and refreshing. This second infusion was arguably more tasteful than the first infusion.
The third infusion produced a liquor more similar in color to the first infusion. The aroma remains floral with a very light vegetal scent. The taste is also very similar to the first infusion. It is slightly lighter than the second infusion, but retained the floral flavor with light vegetal notes. The aftertaste remains floral and light.
The infused leaves have a lively, fresh light green to green color. Fully intact leaves from standalone buds to one and two leaves with bud. Few leaf fragments, mostly fully intact buds and leaves. The aroma is of fresh wet leaves and light flowers. The leaves have a soft feel with moderate durability, suggesting that a fourth infusion may be able to produce an acceptable flavor.
As a yellow tea should be, this Yellow Bud Yellow Tea from Vivid Huoshan displays characteristics of both white and green teas, and yet has characteristics that are unique to yellow teas alone. The flavor is delicate and void of bitterness, like a white tea. It also maintains the fresh vegetal notes of a green tea. The smell of the dry leaves is unusually sweet, unlike a white or green tea. I do not understand why this art of tea is dying off. It is a perfect combination of white and green tea. The skill involved in processing this tea is evident in the infused leaves. As usual, this is a great find by Tealet Teas. I am excited to try future teas from Vivid Huoshan, as it is clear that they put much care in to their teas. Thanks Tealet and Vivid Huoshan!
Thank you for taking your time to read this review. Please leave a comment and start a discussion.