March 04, 2015

Tea Ave Wenshan Baochong & Oolong Giveaway

The review package from Tea Ave included LiShan, Oriental Beauty, Wenshan Baochong oolongs. I reviewed the LiShan last week and today I present my notes on the Wenshan Baochong, a new-to-me oolong. After the review, I'll also announce the details of a Tea Ave Oolong Giveaway, but don't skip past the tea review!

Wenshan Baochong is an unroasted oolong with twisted, not rolled, leaves. This particular Wenshan Baochong is the Qinxin cultivar from Ping Ling District in New Taipei City, Taiwan.

To start, I followed the gaiwan instructions but filled my tasting set, not my gaiwan, half full of dried leaves which was the entire sample of this oolong. I infused the leaves for 30 seconds at approximately 95 degrees C. (I poured boiling water into a pitcher and cooled it down for 1 minute before pouring it into the gaiwan.) The aroma from rinsing the leaves was heady, very creamy. The liquor from the 30 second infusion was brightly colored. It tasted bright too and further sips revealed spinach and asparagus and lots of Easter lilies.

The second infusion was 40 seconds in length and I think the water was too hot. There was a strong astringent flavor but as the liquor cooled this disappeared.

The third infusion was 50 seconds in length and I got the temperature just right. (I waited 1 minute after the water boiled before pouring it into a pitcher then I waited another minute before pouring the water over the leaves.) The wet leaves smelled like flowers. The liquor was smooth with heady floral notes and a hint of dryness.

For the fourth infusion, I steeped the leaves for 60 seconds. The aroma of the wet leaves reminded me of bok choy! I used a longer steep time of 80 seconds for the fifth infusion. The directions recommend increasing your steeping times by 10-15 seconds for each infusion.

According to the gaiwan instructions, the Wenshan Baochong can be steeped up to 7 times. I started drinking the tea fairly late in the day so only steeped the leaves five times before placing them in a cold infusion bottle overnight. The resulting brew was refreshing and flavorful. I think I prefer the cold brew method for this oolong. It is kinder the floral complexity of this tea.

I liked the predominantly floral notes from this unroasted, lightly oxidized oolong but of the Tea Ave oolongs I have drunk thus far, I prefer the LiShan. I think I'm not that fancy! Here's a description of the Wenshan Baochong from the Tea Ave website:
If oolong tea can be chic, Wenshan Baochung is it: sophisticated, refined, unctuous (save it for your fanciest friends—or for yourself).
And now, the giveaway.

Tea Ave generously sent me two oolong kits, one of which is the prize in this giveaway. The kit includes three samples of oolong (LiShan, Oriental Beauty, and Wenshan Baochong), an aroma cup set, a tote bag, and a $15 gift card for a total value of $100. Enter to win using the Rafflecopter below. There are seven ways to enter and the first two options give you the most points. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

P.S. Read more about Tea Ave and its founders, Heidi and Jeff Chen.

February 27, 2015

Tea Ave oolongs - LiShan Oolong

I am excited to share this oolong review with you. The tea itself was very good. And I like the way in which Tea Ave presents itself and its teas. A bit of background about the company from Heidi Chen:
We are a brand-new online tea store specializing in Taiwanese oolongs. We travel to Taiwan ourselves to compare teas from the best tea farms before deciding where to source them from—which means every tea we offer has our personal stamp of approval. Our teas are always fresh, delicious, and free from artificial flavorings. 
Tea Ave will official launch in 2 days! Check on March 1st for the grand opening.

I received three oolong samples and a surprise (a small tray, an aroma cup, and a tulip cup). I also received a gift card; hello, more oolong. There was an unexpected surprise in my package too the details of which I will share next week, so stay tuned! The oolongs are LiShan, Oriental Beauty, and new-to-me Wenshan Baochong.

The LiShan as I mentioned at the start of the post was very good. I prepared it on two separate occasions, both times in my 130 mL tasting kit. When I rinsed the dried leaves, I poured that liquor into the aroma cup. I used the tulip cup from my tasting kit as a pitcher. On the first day I prepared the LiShan, I loosely followed the instructions on the sample packet. By the way, the level of detail on each packet is unusual and appreciated.

On the second day I prepared the LiShan, I strictly followed the instructions. I consulted My Japanese Green Tea for assistance with cooling my boiling water to the appropriate temperature. I don't have a thermometer nor do I have a variable temperature kettle. And I've never been able "to read the bubbles" in my kettle. Here are my notes from day two.

Infusion 1
I boiled a bit more than 130 mL of water then poured the water into a vessel and let it sit for 1 minute to cool down to 90-95 degrees C. I rinsed 2 teaspoons of dried leaves (approximately 8g (I don't have a scale)) then used the remaining water to steep the leaves for 60 seconds. The steeped leaves smelled like burnt sugar and dampened summer grass. The liquor was creamy, sweet, smooth, and tasted of a mild, white-fleshed fish (maybe seaweed?).

Infusion 2
For the subsequent steeps, I used boiling water as recommended so I poured the water directly from the kettle onto the leaves in the tasting cup. The second steep lasted 60 seconds. The liquor had a bolder color and was drier than the initial infusion. I tasted pine and eucalyptus. The liquor was also chewy, like eating fresh bread. The flavors lingered in my cheeks and there was a bittersweet citrus note at the end. A sweet smell could be detected in the empty tulip cup.

Infusion 3
The packet recommended adding 20 - 30 seconds to each additional infusion so on the third infusion I steeped the leaves for 1 minute and 20 seconds. The liquor was noticeablely in volume and darker colored. I tasted and smelled a soapy, floral note which I associate with the flowers of the Callery pear tree. The liquor was more astringent than dry with a bit of stone fruit flavor. Think of sucking on the pit of a peach or apricot, not the taste from eating the flesh. The chewy texture remained as well as a lingering burnt sugar aroma in the tulip cup. I could drink this tea all day!

Infusion 4
After a 1 minute and 40 second steep, the liquor was still flavorful. It had a thick mouth feel with citrus notes, this time like a sweet red grapefruit thought with a slight bitter flavor in the back of the mouth.

Infusion 5
A 2 minute infusion! I think this was the longest time I have steeped leaves in a tasting cup/gaiwan set-up. The liquor had lost some of its complexity. Mineral flavors began to emerge.

Infusion 6
About two thirds of the original liquid remained in the pour. The color of the liquor was a brown yellow with a wet wood taste. The liquor was dry, no longer astringent, and the sweetness had evaporated from the tulip cup.

Don't forget to visit on March 1 for Tea Ave's grand opening. I recommend the LiShan, and look forward to drinking the Oriental Beauty and Wenshan Baochong

February 19, 2015

Favorite Tea Ware: Jo J of A Gift of Tea

As a tea drinker, and I am sure this is true for you, I adore teaware, from bombillas to matcha whisks. Everyone has their favorites! This series showcases the favorite teaware of folks in the tea blogging community. Today's faves are from Jo J of A Gift of Tea.

This bowl, from China was a gift from my dear friend Darlene. I like the colors and hand-painted design.

A must include on any teaware favorite list is a tea tumbler that goes when I go.

This has now become my daily favorite cup holding 16oz and with an infuser it keeps me tea filled all day.

A Tokoname perfect for Sencha this flat teapot has rhythmic textured patterning and a matte finish, accented in colors of gray and red.

Nicole Aquillano created these cups. One is called bridge, the other home. I enjoy her work and it fits along with my thoughts of tea, my bridge to home.

All photos courtesy of Jo J. Thank you for sharing some of your favorite tea objects with us.

P.S. O-Cha has written a brief history of Tokoname teapots.

February 12, 2015

Tea Review: Palais des Thes Grand Cru Greens

I very much enjoyed the grand crus oolongs released by Palais des Thes last year so I was eager to try the company's new grand crus greens. I received a packet each of Long Jing Premium and Tawaramine Shincha Ichibancha.

Neither packet of tea was vacuumed sealed and I think this negatively impacted the aroma and flavors of the teas. The Long Jing, pictured above, has the classic leaf shape and color, however the aroma of the dry and steeped leaves was underwhelming when prepared in a tasting cup.

The flavor profile of the Long Jing liquor improved when I prepared a pot of the tea using the remaining leaves in the packet. The photo above shows the second 4-minute infusion which had lingering vegetable (maybe bean sprouts) and mineral flavors.

The Tawaramine Shincha is grown by well respected tea farmer Mochizuki Shoji. The tea leaves are beautiful and delicate and their aroma was closer to what I expected - warm sweetness and cream.

On the second infusion, lime zest and seaweed flavors emerged alongside an astringent note. I steeped the entire packet in a glass pot.

Of the two grand crus greens, I preferred the Shincha. I highly recommend making a pot of the Long Jing versus steeping the tea in a tasting cup or gaiwan.The Long Jing Premium is $90 per 3.5oz and the Shincha is $115 per 3.50z.

Thank you to Fraiche PR for providing both teas for review.

February 05, 2015

Tea Review: Buddha Teas

Buddha Teas is California based company started by Englishman John Boyd. The teas are organic and packaged in bleach-free tea bags. The teas are marketed as a wellness drink ("100% natural herbal supplement").

The company generously provided three boxes of tea -- Dragonwell Green Tea, Elderberry Tea, and Oolong Tea. Information about the specific varietal of oolong was not provided. The tea bags do not have the name of the tea they contain printed on them so I had to be conscientious when laying them out. Another drawback was the lack of water temperature information. The company's website recommends boiling water across the board.

I prepared the Dragonwell and oolong and my preference is for the oolong. Neither of these bagged teas has the complexity one would get from their loose leaf versions, but someone new to Dragonwell or roasted oolongs would get a very basic taste for both. I haven't steeped the elderberry but I will soon. Gardenista published a recipe for elderberry syrup; drinking elderberry is a flu prevention strategy.

Our thanks to Buddha Teas.

P.S. Coming up on the blog: a review of Palais des Thes grand crus, an afternoon tea review of The Pierre, and Jo J's favorite teaware.