April 26, 2016

Tea Review - Cloud Nine Teas Old Arbor Lincang Black

You don't have to blend loose leaf tea with ingredients to mimic chocolate. If you want to drink a tea that tastes like chocolate, because like me you have a sweet tooth that leans to chocolate, try the Lincang Old Arbor Black Tea from Cloud Nine Teas. I prepared this tea using 5g of dry leaf in 200F water in my 150mL gaiwan. (I finally confirmed the volume of my gaiwan.) The notes I present here are from a session on April 11th this year.

I rinsed the leaves for 5s followed by a 10s steep. "This is cocoa!", I wrote. I smelled and tasted cocoa. The liquor was not thick. The leaves are beautiful, both dry and wet. The second steep was 15s and yielded a darker liquor with more complex smell and taste. There were chocolate notes as well as malt, leather, toffee pudding, and ripe bananas. The empty cup smelled of burnt sugar. The third and fourth steeps of 20s and 30s, respectively, were drier and less sweet. The liquor from the next two steeps of 40s and 50s, respectively, had lost some of its flavor and by the seventh steep of one minute the complex notes from earlier steeps had precipitously declined.

My recommendation still stands, if you want to drink a tea that tastes like chocolate, this black tea is a good one to try, though the best of it is in the first three steeps.

Curious about other Cloud Nine Teas? Read my review of Raw Bingdao 'Na Xin' Pu'er.

Tea courtesy of Cloud Nine Teas.

P.S. For more teas that taste like chocolate, check out Alex Zurich's article Pure Teas with Chocolate / Cocoa-like Aromas and Flavors.

April 21, 2016

Favorite Tea Ware - Lisa Chan of Tiny Pinecone

As a tea drinker, and I am sure this is true for you, I adore teaware, from the bombilla to the whisk (aka chasen). Everyone has their favorites! This series showcases the favorite teaware of folks in the tea blogging community as well as people who enjoy drinking tea. Today I am excited to share the favorite tea vessels of Lisa Chan of Tiny Pinecone. Although the tea and sweets shop is now closed, you can read about Lisa's adventures on her blog and on Instagram. She's working for Jhen Tea in Taiwan.

My gaiwan and tea tray. It is so simple, but so efficient! The fastest way to get the best out of tea. My best friend found this one on Amazon, and I have others, but since he gave me this one it is my favorite.

My most favorite cups! They were handmade in Taiwan. It fits right in my hand so comfortably, and I love the interior crackle that is revealing itself over time. It is nice to see the coil and how it was made. Especially fun are its three feet. Countless times I have knocked the cup over, but it saved itself by the curve of its belly. So cute and roly poly.

My matcha bowl is not traditional. It is stoneware but looks like a bent and dented bowl you'd find at a campfire. I love it because I keep my matcha in a repurposed soup can, and this bowl fits right in. I found it in NJ at Mitsuwa, and it turned out to be the perfect size for a bowl of matcha.

When I enjoy infusions like barley tea, or corn tea, I love using my chubby glass Kinto pot. The cups and saucers were handmade for Tiny Pinecone by the Brooklyn artist, Beth Bolgla. All the thought Beth put in to the tea ware makes the user smile...from the tactile quality of the dots, to the fun stamps on the bottom that only show when you take your last sips of tea. When I hold these cups, I hold all my memories of serving the lovely customers that came to visit our pop-up shop.

I fondly recall the dotted Tiny Pinecone cups. I now have a simple, white gaiwan, which I haven't yet used but think it will become a favorite. I'd like to thank Lisa again for participating in this series. Your vessels are beautiful. All photos and stories courtesy of Lisa Chan.

April 19, 2016

Tea Review - Cloud Nine Teas Raw Bingdao Pu'er 'Na Xin'

Bing Dao is a village in the Lincang area of Yunnan Province, China. The name 'Na Xin' refers to the cultivar of tea plant used to prepare this pu'er. The leaves were originally picked in April 2014. Now that the geography and harvesting period have been established, I can share my notes on the tea.  (Cloud Nine Teas uses "pu'er" but for consistency with other posts, I will use puerh.)

I experimented with different weights of tea leaves but my comments below reflect my session with 7g of leaves. I mostly used 200F water. The leaves were steeped a total of 11 times. I rinsed the tea for 15s before the first steep of 5s. The wet leaves smelled of freshly dried apricot. The liquor was tasted of leather and burnt sugar. It was tart, too, and had a chewy texture. The second steep was 10s and yielded the same flavors plus woody notes. The tea was really thick and chewy with a lingering finish. The third steep was 20s. The liquor was tighter, drier, and less sweet. An element of bitterness was present like that of walnut and clove. The fourth steep of 25s was less tight but still dry and bitter though the liquor also retained earlier notes leather, wood, and burnt sugar. By the fifth and sixth steeps each of 30s in 195F water, the liquor was less bitter. The lingering finish was of fennel.

The liquor from the seventh steep which was 2m long in 200F water was slightly bitter, dry, floral and less chewy in texture than earlier infusions. I used the same parameters again and the liquor had notes of walnut, clove, and fennel. The last three steeps were made in 195F water for 2m, 5m, and10m. The liquor was smoother with a dry sweetness and leather notes followed by sugarcane with a bitter finish and finally bittersweetness with a drying mouthfeel.

I don't yet have a strong sense for how best to steep (raw) puerhs, but I'm enjoying the journey.

Tea courtesy of Cloud Nine Teas.

April 14, 2016

Rocking a Mizuba Matcha Punch

Cocktails are not a common items on my beverage list. However, when I received my Nantucket Island rocks glass courtesy of the uncommongreen, it seemed only fitting to use it with a cocktail. Of course, as a frequent tea drinker, I knew I wanted to incorporate tea. I wanted the cocktail to reflect the season - spring - so turned to matcha for its coloring. The matcha I am currently drinking is Mizuba Tea Company's House. My next step was an internet search. Coincidentally, one of the top pages was the recipe collaboration between Mizuba and Mint & Mirth on the Mint & Mirth website. Of the four unique cocktail recipes, I chose the "Matcha Punch (for one)." I had been served a rum punch at an Easter brunch and really enjoyed it!

The first step was to prepare a matcha simple syrup. I made the orange juice version. Once the syrup cooled, I mixed a modified version of the cocktail. I used Gosling's Dark Rum not a spiced rum and I did not add pineapple juice. Despite these changes, the result was deliciously refreshing. I liked the "world's tiniest pinch" of nutmeg but Mr. Tea was not as enthusiastic. The matcha did not impart its classic flavors to cocktail. There was, though, a bit of depth to the cocktail. You can find the matcha syrup and punch recipes on Mint & Mirth.

The simple syrup recipe makes a lot of syrup. I've used it to prepare matcha soda (with lime seltzer) and I may attempt an Old Fashioned using a Scotch whisky. The whisky featured in The Famous Mint Tea recipe. I served that cocktail in a small Duralex glasses. I like the tumbler but it is not the right dimension for a cocktail. The Nantucket Island rocks glass complemented the Matcha Punch. I think rum punches call to mind islands. The glass itself is the right size for my hand. Also, the glass has a nice weight but it is not heavy. It fits securely in my hand. The only thing I would improve is the etching on the glass. The engraving of Nantucket Island and Harbor are not always legible. You can see the Nantucket Island glass on theuncommongreen website here.

April 12, 2016

Tea Review - Yunnan Sourcing Da Wu Ye Dancong

I am really happy that I subscribed to a tea box albeit only for a couple of months. I am really one of my new year's aspirations to discover and explore more tea. I have tried several teas I have never drunk before. I will likely reactivate my subscription later this year. I am a slow tea drinker and for now I have a lot of tea and I worry about waste if the teas go stale.

Today I am sharing my notes on a dancong called Da Wu Ye 'Snowflake' from Yunnan Sourcing. The oolong was part of the February Jade Club. The other teas were Silver Needles White tea of Feng Qing (Autumn 2015) and Light Roast Premium Tie Guan Yin Mini Tuo Cha Anxi Oolong Tea. I was a bit forlorn when I prepared the last mini tuo. Da Wu Ye translates as Big Black Leaf. The tea leaves are uniquely shaped; long, slightly flat, but also with a twist. Most of the leaves are dark but some are green and and some have reddish brown highlights. Click here for a close up photo of the leaves. When steeped, the leaves are mostly green or brown. The specific tasting notes are from the final session with this tea. I used a bit over 8g of leaves in 120mL gaiwain with 195F water. The water temperature varied between 190 and 195F degrees. I felt that 195F was too high of water temperature to properly prepare this tea.

I rinsed the leaves for 5s. (The water used to warm teaware was used to rinse the leaves.) The steep times were 10s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 30s, 45s, 50s, 60s. The liquor and aroma of the first steep was floral and creamy with a steamed green vegetable finish. The wet leaves smelled like summer squash. The second steep yielded freshly cut wet grass and cherry blossom scents. The liquor from the third steep was cloudy. The tea smelled like a heady perfume. The green vegetable taste was still present but sips had a citrus rind finish. The liquor of the fourth steep smelled so creamy. The taste was first of green vegetables but ended with canteloupe. The liquor of the fifth steep was a blend of citrus, tropical fruit, and floral notes.

For the sixth steep, the water temperature was exactly 195F and it extracted a bitter note. I should say that the bitterness was like that of Nocino, an Italian liqueur made from raw, green walnuts . However, citrus, tropical fruit, and floral notes were not overshadowed. I made another discovery with the 60s steep. The citrus I had been tasting might actually be eucalyptus. It had a cooling quality. By this point in the session, much of the floral notes had been extracted. I rarely discard my tea leaves immediately after hot steeping. I cold steep them, and recommend this practice.
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