August 17, 2016

In Pursuit of Tea - Tieguanyin, Medium Roast

Was tieguanyin your first oolong? I think it may have been mine but heavily roasted in the traditional manner. In Tea: History, Terroirs, and Varieties, the authors point out that the production of mucha (roasted) tieguanyin in Taiwan is declining noticeably as tea drinkers there express preference for oolongs with "delicate floral aromas". I don't know the origin of that first roasted tieguanyin I drank but the one I am reviewing today is from Fujian. I purchased this oolong as part of a sampler from In Pursuit of Tea.

The sample contained approximately 6 grams of tea. The leaves were rolled and colored various shades of green. The sample was not uniform as it contained a noticeable amount of broken leaves. I rinsed the tea in 195F water. The leaves smelled heavily of charcoal which makes sense since the tea is finished over charcoal. The liquor from the first infusion tasted of charcoal but was quickly followed by sweet, stone fruit flavors. For the second steep I used 185F water. The liquor was golden yellow. Again, charcoal was the prominent note but was followed by roasted or stewed stone fruit with an emerging floral smell. Also, I detected a tartness that I experienced in my cheeks. The third steep also yielded a floral note which I associate with roses or cherry blossoms though the floral aromas most commonly associated with Anxi tieguanyin are lily of the valley, hyacinth, and clover. Maybe I need an apprenticeship in a flower shop!

The liquor changes dramatically at the fifth and sixth steeps. The roasted oolong essence gives way to a greener oolong profile. The floral note is more dominant than the charcoal. Also, there are herbaceous, vegetal notes. The liquor has a buttery texture. I infused the leaves twice more for 45s and 60s. The flavors had faded significantly by the latter.

Such a curious tieguanyin. I experienced two types of oolong in one tea. The tea started off with a dark oolong profile and ended like a less oxidized oolong. Actually, I guess that's why this tea is classified as a medium roast oolong. It's in the middle of the spectrum.

P.S. Interested in other teas from In Pursuit of Tea? Read about my experience with their 2013 loose leaf puer.

August 16, 2016

Tisane Profile: Yerba Mate

Yerba mate en el Jardín Botánico de Buenos Aires via Wikimedia Commons

I have mentioned several times here on the blog and on social media that I am taking coursework with the International Tea Education Institute. One of our first homework assignments was to write a profile of yerba mate. Given that the 2016 Olympic Games are being hosted in Brazil, I thought I'd share the profile with you now.

Have you ever drunk yerba mate? I own a bombilla and have tried the tisane at a friend's house though I cannot recall the flavor or smell of the beverage.

August 10, 2016

Teanami - Zi Cha

It's puer time again. Today's review is of Teanami's Zi Cha or "purple tea". The dry leaves appear mostly black or at least very dark but the fresh leaves are reddish purple in color, the result of a mutation in anthocyanin pigmentation.

This tea has a magical aspect in that after the leaves are infused they become mostly green.

This is my first experience with a purple tea and I enjoyed it. I prepared this tea with two different sets of parameters: (1) 5 grams, 150 mL gaiwan, 200F with steep times of 10s, 20s, 30s, 30s, 30s, 30s, 60s, 5 minutes and (2) 8 grams, 150 mL gaiwan, 200F, 30s. The most interesting cups using the first set of criteria were steeps number 4 (30s at an accidental 195F) and 8 (5 minutes at 212F). The fourth infusion yielded a cloudy liquor with that was astringent and bitter but also woody with notes of tobacco and leather as well as the char on grilled romaine or broccoli. I was reminded of broccoli rabe, too. In addition to these rather robust notes there was a background note of stone fruit sweetness. The flavors declined but I found them again in steep number 8.

The second session had a couple of highly flavorful cups too. The fourth infusion had the tobacco/leather but the burned sweetness came more into focus. It reminded me of a slice of burned French toast but later I recalled the smell of ponderosa pine bark which I smelled in Oregon doing firebreak work. The sixth infusion had all the notes of the previous ones but yielded a dry sweetness like cocoa powder. Curiously, it was not the taste of chocolate I experienced, but rather, the sensation of cocoa powder on one's palate.

I hope I have at least 8 grams more of this tea because I'd like to drink it again. On another note, this tasting made me wonder about the common set of flavors associated with raw puers. What flavors do you associate with raw puerhs?

This Zi Cha was provided by Teanami.

P.S. Did you read my notes on the Teanami Bu Lang Raw 2011?

August 08, 2016

In Pursuit of Tea - Puerh Mao Cha 2013

I would like to thank you loyal reader for your patience as my posting fell off before and after my move. I am playing catch up now and hope you won't mind hearing a lot more from me for a spell. Last week I wrote about a Bu Lang raw puerh from Teanami. Today I am also sharing notes on a raw puerh but this one is from In Pursuit of Tea. The Puerh Mao Cha was one of the teas in a sampler I purchased from the vendor.

This raw puerh is loose leaf (or mao cha) made from Camellia sinensis var. assamica grown in Ba Nuo in the Mengku region of Yunnan Province. Note the level of specificity of growing place that In Pursuit of Tea provided for this tea! There a multitude of colors in this tea -- green, brown, slightly red, and deep browns tending black. The leaves are twisted. I used my entire sample which weighed in at 4.57 grams. I started with 200F water but halfway through the session switched to 195F water due to the bitterness of the liquor.

The dry leaves smelled of baking spice and unfrosted walnuts. The rinsed leaves smelled deeply sweet and woody. The first infusion of 5 seconds yielded a mild liquor. I could sense the flavors but the taste was too mellow. By contrast, the infused leaves offered incredible sweetness like a jam. The liquor was a light golden yellow. I bumped up the steeping time very slightly for the second infusion. The liquor was darker in color and there came the dryness with lingering sweetness I associate with raw puerhs. I doubled the steep time for the third infusion and the liquor was nutty with a smidgen of bitterness. Rotea tasted the tea at this point and said this puerh reminded him of an IPA. The fourth steep was 30 seconds in 200F water and the resulting liquor was bitter, unpleasantly so. Here I dropped down to 195F water. The fifth infusion, also of 30 seconds, was less bitter. I used the same parameters for the sixth infusion and got slight bitterness but with tropical fruit sweetness as well as stone fruit and the type of nutty sweetness I associate with the cashew paste used in vegan savories. For the seventh and eighth steeps I infused the leaves for 60 seconds. Both only yielded weak notes of the afore-mentioned flavors.

Take a moment to consider the leaves from this mao cha. (I am geeking out here.) I expected the leaf shown second from the top but the bottom leaf was surprising. I assumed that all Assamica leaves were large in size. However, the smallest leaf could have been plucked from closer to the bud while the largest might have been picked from further down the stem and also be a more typically large Assamica leaf. What do you think?

The best cup from this Puerh Mao Cha was the sixth infusion. I would like to drink this tea again. And I would like to prepare it with more leaf.

August 03, 2016

Teanami - Bu Lang 2011 Raw

I feel like I am living like the boy in the picture book Fortunately. Do you know the story? Fortunately I special packed my ITEI Tea School textbook, Tea by the Camellia Sinensis Tea House, so I can complete homework assignments. Unfortunately, the movers packed my binder of tasting notes and I can't find it. Fortunately, I record personal tastings in a separate notebook. One of the teas I've tasted on my own is he Bu Lang 2011 Raw from Teanami. It's part of my exploration of new teas, especially of sheng puerhs. I have prepared this tea a couple of times but this review is based primarily on the second session.

Sweet and fruity like cassis liquor is what I noted each time I opened the tin which holds the dry leaves. If you inhale very deeply, you get a whiff of mushroom and dirt. I steeped 5 grams in 200F water in a 150 mL/6 oz gaiwan. The smell of the leaves after rinsing is of jam plus camp smoke, tobacco, and leather

The dark dry leaves transform to green after infusing them. The infused leaves smelled great -- cassis, jam, tobacco, and leather. The liquor from the first infusion was a pale apricot color. The sweet, stone fruit flavor did not emerge until the end of the sip. The front notes are of leather, tobacco, and wood smoke. The second infusion had a similar profile with the addition of hay and possibly truffle at the end of each sip. The liquor was dry. The first two steeps were 30 seconds long. The third infusion was 40 seconds long and yield similar flavors plus a bit more of a dirt note like when you buy vegetables with soil clinging to them. The flavors softened with the fourth infusion which was 50 seconds long. The tea was very drinkable. It was also very dry especially on the roof of my mouth.

I infused the leaves for 60 seconds twice consecutively then for 2 minutes and finally for 5 minutes. The liquor was dry with a slightly astringent finish. I still detected tobacco and leather and the stone fruit had a roasted quality. Towards the end of the session the astringency was followed by a puckering effect in my cheeks. The final infusion yielded an additional note of dried autumn leaves.

For points of comparison, during the first session the fourth infusion was 20 seconds and yield a sweet starchy flavor which reminded me of my brother's sweet potato casserole. This is a very good thing! Also during the first session, the seventh infusion was 30 seconds long and yielded a liquor with faint flavors. What does this all mean? Use significantly longer steep times later in your sheng session to extract more flavors from your leaves. I haven't yet made the bold step of using more than 5 grams of leaves. I have read posts and watched videos that use 1 gram per 15 mL. Should I use 10 grams of leaf the next time?
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