Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Hanging In My Office At Work

It seems appropriate considering odds are that the tea in my cup comes from one of these "12 Famous Tea Mountains of Xishuangbanna"!

Although the puerh tea featured in the past on this blog doesn't really represent the actual puerh I'm drinking, almost all of the tea featured in this blog has come from this area (a true representation of the cakes I have).

No wonder the label Xishuangbanna covers almost all the puerh tea featured here on MattCha's Blog.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

The "NEW" MattCha's Blog Is A Puerh Blog!!! Ok?

Well my favourite tea is raw puerh cha of course!

It has always been (since well before the start of this blog at least).  All my tea friends and all the tea people I have ever been close to enjoy raw puerh much more than any other kind of tea.  I wonder what your favourite tea is?

When looking back at the posts on this blog the puerh posts are really overshadowed by the heavy Korean tea content.  In reality, I have drank much more puerh tea than Korean but you would probably never know it from reading this blog.  When going back through the blog I realized that I published more on samples and group tastings than my own purchases!  I guess I drink a lot of tea and you can't publish on everything else you would be posting daily and that's no fun at all!

The future of this blog will be puerh focused.  I hope to post more on what I buy, issues of puerh drinkers, and other original insights on puerh tea.  Don't worry, I will still post about Korean tea as well.  Since being out of the epicentre of Korean tea for so long, it seems natural to focus more on what I'm doing now and not as much what is going on thousands of miles away in Korea.

One of the first things I did to mark the shift to a puerh blog was go back to all the old puerh posts and tidy up the labels to reflect the vendor, factory, area, and town/mountain of the puerh.  Then I realized that the new mobile/ tablet version of Blogger doesn't even use these anymore.  You have to go to "view web version" to see them.  Does anyone even use labels anymore?

Anyhow.. So the upcoming posts are going to feature mainly puerh ... yay!


Thursday, April 13, 2017

MattCha's Blog's Many Accomplishments... Horay!

The Old MattCha's Blog was started at a time with very little English knowledge about:

1- Korean tea history and written classics

2- the various types of Korean teas and their production

3- where to purchase Korean teas

4- Korean teawear

English information on Korean tea history and classics was changed dramatically in 2007 with Brother Anthony's book Korean Way of Tea, it was further advanced in 2011 with the publication of Korean Tea Classics, and new and important insights were added in 2012 with the publication in Transactions by Brother Anthony and Steven Owyoung.  The readers of MattCha's Blog held a book club on Korean Tea Classics to celebrate this introduction of knowledge!

Korean green teas and other types of Korean teas are featured throughout this blog and the production is outlined here.

An extensive list of Korean tea vendors is published on MattCha's Blog (I better update this).

Korean teawear is also featured throughout and can be viewed with this label here.

Overall, MattCha's Blog gives a complete picture of Korean tea culture.

However, as is popular in Korea, the blog also features many posts on other teas.  This is especially true of raw puerh from Yunnan, and Japanese matcha.

Many people are very surprised when they ask me what my favorite tea is... (any guesses?)...


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Goals of Old Blog Accomplished!

I remember reading some of the exciting tea blogs coming out in 2006 and 2007 and wondering why nothing was ever mentioned about Korean tea?  I wondered why there were no posts about Korea's delicious teas and there were no beautiful Korean tea wears to be found.  I remember thinking that everything in English (and in Korean too) about the topic of Korean tea did not seem genuine or simply was not true to what was acutually going on outside of the capital city Seoul.  I felt that there was nothing that could accurately represent Korean tea culture.  So as a response to this I created MattCha's Blog.

Deep into the study of Seon (Zen) Buddhism, I remember choosing the colour of the blog to be the same grey colour as the Seon Buddhist clothes.  I wanted the blog to be about the tea, not about me, so the text would be the same green colour as tea leaves.  I remember that I deliberately chose to have the blog to be very simple and technologically modest in look and feel, mirroring the teachings.  The blogs name is an old play on words which reflects the above philosophy with my name (Matt) and a common type of tea (matcha).

The old MattCha's Blog, I feel accomplieshes all of these goals and addresses all of these concerns.  

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

MattCha: Can A Modest Ol' Tea Blog Make A Comeback?

I think so... I mean. I am still am passionate about tea!

Or is blogging a dying art?  Maybe not the best way to communicate to the tea world, maybe not as relevant as the powerful tea blog once was?

I think all of us tea bloggers out there discovered something about blogging, it is actually very time consuming!  I think that's why it is such a nice platform to communicate about tea- it's (relatively speaking) slower than other online methods.  It's a process. It takes time.

So is a good gong fu session...

I think us old school tea bloggers that once had lots of time in our 20s/early 30s to passionately pour our time into teaism, have lost that time to significant others, kids of our own, and demanding careers. There is only a certain amount of time in a day and surely those mentioned above are worthy of it!

It doesn't mean that we are still not passionate about drinking tea, I think we still are.... but we may have less time to really bask in a good tea session.  No matter what's in a day, my tea session is a moment of peace, a pause, some space in my day.  No matter how short it is, or cramped in between patients, or with my daughter tugging at my pant legs, it still brings me back into the moment.

I think others, too will come back to tea blogging as well.  It's like a middle age tea blogging crisis!

I read BearsBears blog a few months back and it kind of sums it up this feeling.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

2013 Yi Ho Yeong Semi Wild Hwagae Valley Balhyocha

This tea is from a special order that took place a few months back. It was orchestrated by Arthur Park of Morning Crane Tea blog. The tea is from a rather famous tea producer, Yi Ho Yeong, who was made famous in the west by being featured in Hong Kyeong Hee and Brother Anthony’s book The Korean Way of Tea. The tea is all semi wild and produced in the most traditional way all by hand and with charcoal heat. To get more background on Yi Ho Yong and the traditional way she produces her teas see these two great posts here and here.

Dry leaves are larger, jungjak grade leaves. The emit an odor of deeper black currents and bold fermented hong cha like odors there is also an distinct malty sweetness in there as well it mingles with the deep current/ raison notes. These leaves are prepared in the Korean tea ceremony and enjoy as following…

The first infusion is full of distinct sweet honey notes which coat the mouth with other subtle tastes of deep plum and spice. The mouthfeel is mainly felt softly in the throat and slightly slippery in the mouth. It is a very full but soft sensation. There is a slight coolness found in the deep throat with this tea as the throat opens nicely and salivates.

The second infusion is more distinct now. The sweet honey notes are more prominent and now share room with deep current notes and even deeper hong cha/ forest tastes. The mouthfeel is now much more full especially in the throat where a full cool menthol like taste swells up nicely. The throat feel is distinct and quite noticeable. The qi of this tea is very harmonious and immediately lightens the mind. The qi travels to the head and makes the thoughts clear and the senses enhanced.

The third infusion levels off quite a bit with the taste elements melding into one. The most distinct being a deep sweet honey Hong cha taste. The mouth and throat feel remain present.

The fourth sees the tastes become more subdue and monotone. The taste becomes simplified here with some simple woody-red tea notes with a slight honey sweetness that reaches long into the aftertaste. The qi imparts waves of relaxation in this simply genuine balhyocha.

The fifth is pushed harder with just off boiling water and longer steeping time. It results in a slightly woody-apricot taste with a soft sweet honey-apricot finish. Overall the profile continues to be somewhat deep but there is always a measure of sweetness to balance these tastes out in the mouth.

This tea is pushed a few more infusions and enjoyed in this way.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Aged Korean Tea: Comparing Shamanic 2011 & 2013 O Juk Hun Hwagae Valley Balhyocha

Pedro of O5tea kindly gifted a 2013 and a 2011 sample of O Juk Hun's balhyocha from a personal stash from his travels in Korea last year.

Since “O Juk Hun" is not a common name in Korean tea circles so one pressed Pedro on a background story. He said that O Juk Hun is a shaman from the Hadong growing region. He ages his balhyocha in onggi, which are spread all over the hills.

This post will give readers a bit of an idea of how balhyocha will age. Previous tastings of aged balhyocha was not that exciting (see here and here).

2013 O Juk Hun Balhyocha:

The very tinny, delicate dry leaves have a very light and distinctly sweet plum and raison odor. The smell is powerfully fruity and almost perfume sweet. These are most definitely ujeon picked leaves.

These leaves are steeped in warm water and deliver very light, almost watery sweet fruity notes. The fruity notes seem to evolve and change from plums notes to more tropical notes. There are some forest notes suggestions in there as well. There is a creamy, almost chalk, mouthfeel which coats the mouth and upper throat. The aftertaste develops an almond milk type of note then minutes later again evolves into fruit. The qi is felt pooling in the abdomen.

The second infusion starts with a slightly creamy, orange-juicy, almost wood like taste with creamy fruit tastes acting as a base. These perfume-like, almost ylang-ylang, fruity tastes stretch out into the aftertaste. The end taste carries a slightly deeper, light juicy-wood taste.

The third starts watery and fruity but develops slightly bland wood-forest undertones. The mouthfeel is soft and slightly sticky and chalky. Slight fruit tastes stick in the mouth. A longer fruity wood taste drags out.

The fourth is again displaying a watery-woody-fruity taste. The mouthfeel holds as the flavors become more monotone but still flavorful. There is a longer aftertaste over the sticky mouthfeel- more fruit than wood in the aftertaste now.

The fifth is much the same but with smoother woodier, still sweet, forest notes becoming more distinct over the fruit notes.

The sixth was steeped longer with water a short time off boil and just pushed more wood dominated tastes out. The qi is mild and makes the chest feel slightly light.

The seventh was a long steeping with woody-sweet, barely-deep fruit tastes. Much the same.

2011 O Juk Hun Balhyocha:

These leaves a bit larger than the 2013 O Juk Hun likely saejak grade leaves. These leaves have a deeper, more purple hue to them as well. The dry leaves smell of deep, rich, heavy raison and carry a slight smell of library books, that which you would expect in a 10 years aged puerh. Examining the dry leaves I would never suspect these were the same teas 3 years removed.

The first infusion is a watery, slightly malty sweet flavor. That carries dusty aged tastes along for the ride. The most prominent taste is a currant/raison taste that sticks to the breathe. The mouthfeel is very watery and thin here.

The second delivers sweet, malty fruit tastes, with deeper tastes of currant/raison filling in the base taste of this tea. There is still an aged- library book like taste faintly dragging along the taste profile. The mouthfeel is very thin and is mainly realized in the front of the mouth.

The third gives off a watery, almost juicy fruity, initial taste. It is somewhat supported by the faint currant/raison tastes. The taste finishes dusky and slightly dry in the mouth. Overall the taste is very watery and fairly monotone. The qi of this tea moves in the abdomen slightly.

The fourth infusion is very bland, almost tasting like a standard watered down black CTC tea. It has some watered down suggestions of malt fruit or currants in the background. The mouthfeel dries out the tongue. There was still a stale note of aged tastes in there as well.

The fifth was much the same under a longer infusion.

Conclusion: These teas seemed like they were produced using different grade leaves. The 2013 pick earlier, ujeon grade, where the 2011 look like saejak or even early jungjak grade. Even with this difference aging of 3 years doesn't seem to give balhyocha any depth, instead as noted before the taste, texture, and qi of the tea seems diminished. This is similar to the conclusions reached in the past.

Thanks again Pedro for this interesting aging experience.