Sunday, April 28, 2013

2013 Goomtee SFTGFOP 1- EX 2 First Flush Darjeeling Tea

 This tea was gifted by Lochan Teas. This tea is available from them or alternatively it is also available from Tea Trekker. Tea Trekker does a great job of vetting only the best first flush teas. Often the first flush teas Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss choose to sell are also some of ones most enjoyable. This is one of the reasons why tea shops in North America have their place. Goomtee Estate makes fine first flush teas consistently year to year, this year is no different...

The dry leaves emit a very light, juicy sweet, full on grapey assault of the senses. These same mix of multicoloured leaves also have a distant floral quality and a pungent foresty feel under the distinctly grape odour.

The first pot is steeped up and a very pure, light, smooth sweetness is found in the initial taste followed by a gradual evolution towards very soft tangerine and grape notes. There are very light but fresh forsest and candy sweet notes in there as well but are much less recognizable then the others. The mouthfeel is as soft and delicate as the taste, just faintly covering the tongue. In the aftertaste a barely recognizable bitterness starts to develop.

The second infusion delivers strong, pure uncomplicated grape tastes at the onset. These grape tastes evolve into deeper grape tastes. The flavour isn't overly complicated and deep, but rather pure and distinct. The mouthfeel is more full in this infusion filling the tongue with a light, airy, sticky quality that reaches into the throat and gets caught in the gums. The qi is also very light and uplifting as it moves freely throughout the body. Only very slight edges of any bitter appear in the aftertaste but are almost unrecognizable.

The third infusion the light, fresh, pure grape notes are still obvious but become just slightly more muddled. The aftertaste develops a light candy sweetness over a slightly muddled grape-foresty, barely bitter taste. The mouthfeel is fullest, now coating the whole mouth and even mid throat in a very light, airy but substantial coating.

The fourth infusion pushes out much the same but much less vibrant now and more brackish, almost rubbery tasting. There is still the dominant taste of grape even this late into the session.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Types of Tea and Their Chaqi: Aged Liuan Tea

Liuan tea has been used as a medicine for hundreds of years. Its qi is drying and has the ability to dispel dampness which accumulates in the body. Its bitter flavour is attributed to this health property as the bitter taste has a draining and often diuretic effect on the body. Conversely the tea also has hydrating properties as well. Aged Liuan tea becomes thermally warmer in nature as it ages. This gives the tea the ability to harmonize the body's energy with the heat of the summer. The result is a hydrated body and mind.

Traditionally it was often administered and drank in the summer in the Southern provinces of China. In this region of China the summers are unbearably hot and humid and aged Liuan was thought to remedy the imbalances created by these climatic influences. The symptoms of Summer Heat which include fever, sweating, heavy sensation of the limbs and head, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, bloating, dehydration- Luian tea was thought to treat these symptoms.

Traditionally Liuan tea is packaged in a bamboo leaf basket imparting the energetics of bamboo into the tea leaves. Traditional infusions of Liuan tea always include a piece of the aged bamboo basket in the pot of tea along with the dry leaves. Bamboo leaves have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years to reduce fever, detoxify, calm the mind, and drain dampness. These are some of the same medicinal properties of thought to be contained in Luian tea. When both bamboo and Luian tea are steeped together they are thought to enhance the medicinal properties of each other thereby creating a infusion that is more than the sum of its individual parts. The result is a delicious tea perfect for the hot humid summer.

Sipping away at some 1980s Liuan today, one hopes to review some of this tea as well as some other Liu An in the coming weeks and months.


Friday, April 19, 2013

A Tasting of Three Korean Powdered Teas: Hankook Tea Gamnong Matcha Powdered Green Tea, Hankook Tea Teuksun Powdered Green Tea, SsangKye Organic Sejak Powdered Tea

Hankook Tea Gamnong Matcha Powdered Green Tea

This is the boldest of Korean powdered teas. Not only does it flaunt the name "matcha" along with "powdered green tea" in its name but it was also produced by the Yang Won Suh of Hankook Tea, the only recognized grand master of Korean traditional foods for matcha (powdered green tea). Yang Won Suh passed away this year so those wanting to try the last of the matcha overseen by this teamaster should get to trying it. The can that one will open today is one of the last with his living blessings.

Hankook offers a good description and the details of its Gamnong Matcha on a blog post here. It states that this hand picked tea is stone ground from first flush, sejak grade, tea leaves (the same tea leaves used for its Gamnong Jaksul Green tea). However the leaves are shaded briefly before picking.

Let's open all the packaging and give this tea a try...

The smell of the deepish green powder is very sweet and honey-nut. It has a slightly hickory note of tamari almonds, and a grainy like odour under there as well.

The tea is whisked to a froth in the Korean powdered tea ceremony. A soft, light, grassy wood-bark initial tastes with a slight sweetness appears for a short time. A bland-wood aftertaste builds in the mouth then turns a bit sweet over the predominantly bland-wood taste. The mouthfeel turns a heavy chalky taste. Fruit tastes fail to materialize in the profile over these stronger notes. The tea leaves the tongue and mouth dry and coarse. The qi of this tea is soft and not so noticeable.

This tea is also available from Good Green Tea.

Hankook Tea Teuksun Powdered Green Tea

This tea is made from shade grown, junjak grade, second flush leaves. It shouldn't be confused with Hankook Tea Jaksul Powdered Green Tea which is a sejak first and second flush available also from Good Green Tea.

The sample package is opened and the dry powder is appreciated. The dull green powder smells of dry, woody, bitter, dusty odours.

When it is whisked up in the Korean powdered tea ceremony it yields a slightly creamy very simple wood initial taste. It turns into a sweet berry taste over top a dry wood base flavour.

The mouthfeel is thin and carries somewhat of a sticky-fine-sandy texture in the front of the mouth. The qi is unpretentious as it brings one up a bit.

Sssangkye Organic Sejak Powdered Tea

This tea is an organically grown ceramic ball milled sejak powdered green tea. Good Green Tea stocks this.

The dry pale lime green coloured powder smells of dry-woody notes with slight piercing, almost pungent-like, deep foresty notes very similar to a Jiri Mountain seajak grade tea.

The tea is whisked up in the Korean powdered tea ceremony. Strong, bitter, stale-wood, deep foresty tastes arrive first then slowly makes its way to sweet-juicy cherries in the mouth. This transition to sweet cherries is slow and uncomplicated. The mouthfeel is dry and coarse. The strong, bitter initial tastes strongly reels in and sharpens the senses.


Edited April 30/2013

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Korean Powdered Tea Vs. Japanese Matcha

One has been told the following about Korean "matcha" by no other than Korean tea masters...

"The Japanese have been making traditional matcha for hundreds of years, they have perfected it, and it tastes the best. If I want matcha I buy only Japanese matcha.
We Koreans have been making traditional green tea for hundreds of years, we have perfected it, and it tastes the best. If I want green tea I buy only Korean green tea."

I have also heard the following:

"If a Korean teamaster is drinking Korean matcha, he is not a Korean tea master."

"If a Korean teamaster believes Korean matcha is better than Japanese matcha, his taste in tea is questionable."

Interestingly, one recalls a story by a fellow tea friend. It involves the teamaster of Woomong Tea. He asked the friend which matcha he preferred, Japanese or Korean. He head of Woomong Tea seemed surprised when he said Japanese. This story shows how some Koreans, simply only drink, and are quite passionate, about Korean tea.

It should be noted that Korean matcha (Korean powdered tea) has some notable differences than Japanese matcha. Japanese matcha is shade grown for a few weeks to months before it is picked. Korean powdered tea is usually shade grown on purpose but rather is naturally shaded such by mountains, bamboo, or ocean fog. If it is deliberately shade grown it is usually done for just a few days or weeks. The other big difference between Japanese matcha and Korean powdered tea is that Japanese matcha is usually fertilized with nitrogen to increase the depth of colour and flavour. Conversely, Korean powdered tea is usually organic.

In the end both of these factors impact the taste of the matcha. Longer shade means a sweeter taste and more caffine as the sun is unable to convert theanine to bitter tannins.  More amino acids and chlorophyll is produced in the shade lending itself to a deeper green colour. Nitrogen fertilizer means faster leaf growth resulting in less sunlight as well. As a result Korean matcha tends to be noticeably more bitter and less rich, smooth, and sweet compared to Japanese matcha. The qi of Korean powdered tea is also very light compared to that of Japanese matcha.

It should also be noted that often Korean powered tea is referred to as "powdered tea" as opposed to "matcha" (Kor: malcha). Many believe that if the tea is not shade grown and properly processed in a manner that removes the leaves stems and veins (heavier parts) then it is not matcha. This is because all true matcha is shade grown and its leaf stems and veins are removed. Most Korean "matcha" is not shade grown nor is it produced in a way that removes the heavier parts of the ground leaf, so is instead referred to as "powdered tea".

A review of three Korean powered teas will follow next post.

Until then...


Monday, April 8, 2013

Marukyu-Koyamaen Makoto No Cha Matcha

This matcha is a special run from Marukyu-Koyamaen. It is specially made and prepared for a famous temple in Kyoto. It was kindly gifted by Greg Demmons. Since one has tried all of Marukyu-Koyamaen 'principal' (regular offering) matcha teas, it was amusing to try something new from this reliable brand. It has been a while since one had opened a new can of matcha. With the spring coming it feels quite natural.

This tea is prepared in the Korean powered tea ceremony...

The dry powder is appreciated and is a vibrant green, creamy, milky, and slightly sweet smell emits from the tea container. There are slight almond-nut notes, savory plum notes also linger underneath. The smell is vibrant.

After this tea is whisked up it is imbibed...

A thick, fresh-pure, grassy-creamy froth fills the mouth. The fresh vibrancy of the initial taste fades into a more creamy-sweet finish on the breath. There is an underlying sweet-almond taste that mixes with the creamy notes of this matcha. That creamy-almond taste makes up the depth of this tea while the vibrant, fresh, grassy-tea tasting initial taste composes the light notes of this nicely balanced ethereal tea. The end result is a very rich, fresh, creamy tea.

Minutes later it is as if sweet milky cream has just been consumed. The qi of this tea is soft, harmonizing and unintentionally pushes one into an alerted state very early in the morning. Peace fills this space.

Thanks again Greg.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Victoria Tea Festival Review: Cloudwalker Tea & Disscussions on Arron Fisher, Tea Cults, and Cha Qi

The post on Greg Demmon's meditative Korean tea ceremony mentioned that there was one exhibitor that consumed most of my time at the Victoria Tea Festival this year. The exhibitor in question was Erick J.P. Smithe of Cloudwalker Teas. We had a slow start both not knowing how to take each other. It wasn't until the discussion came to Arron Fisher (aka Wu Dae), Taiwanese tea groups and a run in with a big fan of this blog did the ice break and we really hit it off. The conversation over the next few hours was interesting, the tea even more so.

It turns out that Erick had lived in Taiwan for 8 years primarily to study Mandarin. It just happen to be that he ran into a spiritual sect of tea drinkers near his residence which was headed by a famous but very eccentric tea spiritualist, Ho Tsai-Ping. This tea sect formally began in 2003. Erick and a few other westerners were a part of this groups early beginnings. One of these Westerners was no other than now tea author Wu De (Arron Fisher). In fact, the tea sect of Ho Tasai-Ping formed the foundation theory for which Arron Fisher has based his tea books and writings.

Together Erick Smithe and Aaron Fisher acted as editors of famous free online publication The Leaf. Org. Erick ended up publishing an article entitled "After Hearing A Monk of Shu Play the Lute". As it turns out, Aaron Fisher later decided to break from the sect to start his very own. It is too bad that Aaron Fisher has abandon The Leaf.Org publication as it was such a deep source of tea knowledge. One can only imagine that he must have put his energy in selling his own books and building up his global tea hut brand. Hopefully we have not seen the end of The Leaf.Org!

Erick has been in Vancouver Canada for the last year and a half or so. He currently has his hands in many different tea related business projects. We discussed these things as well as others over strangely named delicious old puerh teas. The teas that he was selling are all offered on the Cloudwalker Teas website. We talked for a while and ended up sampling the whole selection of his aged puerh. They were all good teas especially compared to the other teas the exhibitors were pushing. And as an hour or so passed we ended up jittery from the strong Qi from the 12, 15, 20, 30, and 40 year old puerh which one had sampled.

All of his puerh teas have strange names (Soul Fire, Ancient Rhythms, The Silent Spring, Astral Rivers, Light of Peace), not at all the factory names where these teas come but rather based on a system of judging the qi of each tea. The extraordinary book Eric translated, Cha-Dao- From Tea to Tao, explains all about this very unconventional naming system. Basically the tea is sampled by the tea sect and then it is given a name and graded according to its Qi. This is done, they say because even if two puerh cakes from the same factory are sampled storage conditions my have completely influenced the qi of the tea. The down side of this system of naming and grading puerh is that it affords all of the power in deciding which teas are graded high and which are graded low to the tea sect. It also prevents others from comparing that same factory, recipe, and harvest year to other cakes that are the same except storage. Either way it is an interesting proposal.

The book, which is available from Clouldwaker Tea, is actually quite remarkable and gives the English speaking world insight to what goes on in the growing tea cult movement in Taiwan and China. Of note is the content on water, teawear and tea preparation. The material is far out, interesting, and one could relate to most of its message. Guess it is controversial enough for the Chinese government to ban the founder, Ho Tasai-Ping from entering China.

Great tea, great conversation- thanks Eric.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

2013 Rohini FTGFOP 1 CL- EX 03 First Flush Darjeeling and An Explanation of Darjeeling Lot Abbreviations

This tea is one of two 2013 first flush samples from Rohini Estate that was gifted by Lochan Teas. This sample contains the abbreviation "EX 03" and the other "DJ 01". The Lochans explain the differences between these teas:

"The main difference between the Rohini DJ 01 and Rohini EX 03 is the age difference. The EX 03 was manufactured and purchased several days before the DJ 01. The industry difference between EX and DJ lots is the sizes. DJ lots are typically 100 kilos or more while EX lots are less than 100 kilos. When a garden wants / is forced to sell part lots of a particular tea in Darjeeling, it marks that particular lot as an EX lot."

On their website they also have a DJ 11 lot for sale.

Let's boil the kettle and see what this tea has in store for us...

Opening the package reveals sweet-pungent-creamy-muted scents. There are layers of savory-sharp-rubbery notes in the bouquet as well. Leaves are stemy, rolled and crushed leaves that are in faded greens- both light and dark.

The first infusion is steeped and very light, watery, barely sweet initial taste arrives first. It has empty floral edges and hints at distant, faint mango and tomato tastes. The mouthfeel is soft and slightly drying in the mouth. It is particularly felt on the tongue and upper throat. The upper throat stimulated just a little. A sensation in the head is felt immediately, the qi is also felt gripping at the stomach. There is a soft rubbery aftertaste lingering in the mouth followed minutes later by a faint nutty taste.

The second infusion is more of a creamy-bland-wood-caramel initial taste. It turns to bitter-astringent- muddled grape notes. The mouthfeel is astringent and dry. A faint rubbery-muted-brackish grape note lingers in the aftertaste among the dry-sticky mouthfeel. One breaks into a sweat from the heavy qi of this tea ones stomach feels raw. Minutes later the aftertaste looses its rubbery taste leaving long, simple, florals in the throat. The strong qi makes the mind swirl.

The third infusion is a light, watery, bland tutti-frutti taste with simple vanilla taste that fades fast into a dry-bland-watery taste. Some faint floral vanilla notes appear and disappear on the breath, a pear flavour develops.


Monday, April 1, 2013

2013 Giddapahar SFTGFOP 1CL SPL EX 1 First Flush Darjeeling Tea

For many European tea lovers there is no better way to celebrate Easter than to sip a nice cup of the vibrantly fresh 2013 Darjeeling 1st Flush harvest. It just happens to be that one had received a handful of 2013 samples from Lochan Teas last week, the first of this years harvest.  This sample from Giddapahar Estate looks interesting, it also has sentimental value as one had visited the Estate in 2009 as the very first batch of first flush tea was just being finished off.

The dry leaves are very light, fresh, soft and contain a persistent key lime sweetness from the vibrant bright mix of green leaves over less flashy green browns.

The first infusion delivers very smooth, soft greeny forest taste which converts into overtones of a pungent sweet-green onion-like taste. It has a watery mouthfeel that swells at the cheeks and sides of the tongue. It stimulates the mid- and deep throat. There is a slight tart coco and more noticeable walnut taste under the flat sweetness of the aftertaste. Minutes later there is a soft sour bready taste in the mouth.

The second infusion gives off sour-sweet-watery, barely grape taste which is quite simple. These tastes are advanced by a mouthfeel which opens the mid-to-deep throat- simple sweet tastes pool here. A slight brackish-sweet almost woody aftertaste develops over light-sweet-green notes in the aftertaste. Qi is very light, airy, just uplifting but not overdone. It feels relaxing in some ways... drinking this pot as the sun sets on this extraordinarily warm night.

The third infusion is light, watery, and muted now in its initial taste. The mouthfeel is softer and more expansive. Most complexities now reside in the aftertaste which is vibrant and long with flowery tastes leading the way with light, sweet bread notes in there as well. The mouthfeel moves from the throat in previous infusions to the tongue and makes it slightly-sticky-gritty.