Lapsang Sou Chong – Wu Yi Star

June 25, 2008

I’ll state right up front that I am not a fan of smoky/oaky flavors in any sort of drink, be it wine, tea, liquor or just about anything. As crazy it may sound I’ve never managed to get though a full cup of Lapsang as the smell alone turns me totally off. I figured I’d take one for the team and since I had received some samples, including this personal enemy of mine, the time was right.

The initial nose from the dry leaf reminds me of chewing tobacco, Copenhagen to be exact. Having never chewed snuff (well except one attempt in high school to be cool which ended in green gills) I make this comparison based on my father who has chewed for my entire life, and mainly Copenhagen. It is to me a smoky, earthy/mossy, and strange sort of sickening tinge of sweet. Brewed, it definitely lessens in intensity but is still all of those things and maybe just in my mind but I also think of bourbin. The taste is very earthy and slightly smoky like a charred oak barrel or maybe a smoky form of a weakly brewed cooked Puerh. The repeated infusions become less smoky and more (slightly) enjoyable as I go, and the third and fourth brewings were some of my favorites.

I can say again that this Wu Yi Star tea in the little nylon sachets is comprised of quality leaf and above average overall, and while not for me I’ve managed to down a number of infusions and today go back to another brewing to finish my post. It’s still never going to be in any top lists of mine though.

Pad See Ew – Recipe

June 20, 2008

Outside my world of tea, I love to cook. While it may be slightly off-topic to my general focus here, I figured I’d share a recipe I came up with the other night that turned out amazing. I tend to cook things like Thai, Cambodian, Chinese, Indian, Italian, and just about anything else that suits me. I’ve never had any formal training but grew up admiring my mother’s wide range of cooking and flavors, my grandfather was also very adventurous and thankfully imposed a “try everything once” rule that I could never thank him enough for. I have an unnatural love for Thai cuisine, but I just always seem to fall short of the amazing dishes I get from local favorites like “Thai Place” and “Sukhothai.” One in particular is Pad See Ew.

Pad See Ew is a fairly common standard which consists of fresh wide flat rice noodles stirfried with a protein (pork, chicken, tofu, beef, etc.) broccoli (chinese or regular) and egg in a sweet/spicy brown sauce. My main failures have always centered around the rice noodles and the exact flavor of the sauce. I’ve used Bahn Pho which work and would be a decent substitute but I think I finally hit a serviceable alternative to fresh: Guobian. Guobian “flakes” are squarish wide dried rice noodles I found at my local Asian Market very inexpensively. So without further ado, here is my take on the dish:


* 1 cup of rice noodles (Goubian), Soaked until pliable but not overly soft
* 2 tsp of soy sauce
* 2 tsp of Dark soy sauce
* 1 tsp of oyster sauce
* 1/2 tsp of fish sauce
* 1 egg, beaten
* 1 tbsp of sugar
* 1 cup of broccoli florets, cooked
* 1/2 package extra firm tofu cubed marinated in 3 tsp low sodium soy sauce
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 3 tbsp of vegetable oil
* 1 tsp of chopped chiles


1. Stir fry broccoli in hot wok with some oil and a bit of low sodium soy sauce, set aside
2. Stir fry tofu until well browned, set aside
3. Add 2 or 3 tbsp oil to wok, stir fry garlic and chiles as well as noodles
4. Add the broccoli and tofu back in and all sauces and sugar, continue to stir fry
5. Add the egg, scramble and cook for one last minute.

Feel free to adjust the sauce to suit your taste as my measurements listed are approximations since I do not use measuring spoons as I cook but they should be very close, if anything they are slightly underestimated. Also, if you have it or can find it, the proper sauce is made from light and dark Thai soy sauce like mushroom soy/si ew kow hed homm and no oyster sauce. Mangia!

Huo Shan Huang Ya – Teaspring

June 16, 2008

I know Teaspring has been getting a lot of play lately from me, and I can assure you I will be moving on to other vendors soon… but honestly they have been filling my needs quite well lately and at prices I can love. I have been hooked on Huo Shan Huang Ya for almost a year straight now, and I figured I would try out their offering. Without a doubt this is the freshest yellow tea I have ever seen! Truly. When I opened the foil bag I was hit with just pure scent that was unreal. Beautiful pale green full leaves, many single leaf and bud and even two leaves and bud make up the 50g packet I ordered.

It brews up to a wonderful clear liquor that is barely green. The scent of it brewing is the giveaway that it is steeped, as the color in my white gaiwan barely changes. While Huo Shan is among my personal favorite top five teas, I actually have no words to properly define it’s flavor. I have to cheat and use Teaspring’s description. They use the analogy of sweet corn, and that is pretty good as I would only be able to use the term “vegetal” if asked and that just doesn’t capture it. I have a pretty solid palate and I guess if I would really sit and concentrate I could do better so I apologize.

If you enjoy vegetal, but not fishy, green teas then this is the pinnacle of that flavor. It is not acidic or too strong, but has a real depth and quality that makes it so hard to define. Super affordable and easily in the top quality I have seen in my experience with yellows.

Dahongpao – Wu Yi Star

June 12, 2008

I received a few samples of Wu Yi Star tea in a recent order and decided to check them out. They are individually foil-wrapped nylon tea sachets with a string and tag and appear to contain pretty good quality leaf. I started with the Dahongpao, and while it isn’t normally a top choice of mine, it was very good. It has that mid-roasted type scent of an oolong that is neither green nor heavily roasted, which initially turned me off as I like my oolongs in more of the older, traditional, style of heavy roasting.

The liquor brewed up to a nice golden brown color and was fairly thin feeling on the tongue. It is full bodied and almost analogous to a cup of coffee in that it has notes of both roasting and some spice. A bit of flower was trying to peak through but just overpowered by the other notes. It is a rare tea and I’m sure many oolong fans would find this a very suitable replacement for the real thing when on the go or even for iced tea. It easily stood up to three brewings and the changes were very subtle. I actually plan on trying this iced and updating this post with the results. I just can’t get into the slightly green or totally green oolongs no matter what, it just isn’t for me, but for those who enjoy a good TGY or similar will probably be surprised with this having come from a teabag.

Wedding Tea – The big haul

June 9, 2008

My heavily anticipated order from Teaspring came today, and I can honestly say it is one of the largest hauls in quite some time. Weighing in at around 1.3kg in just tea, not including packaging, it is a sight to behold (and lucky for you I took a photo):

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(Click thumbnail for fullsize image)

Most of it is going to be used for wedding gifts but there is easily 100g of each and all of the Huo Shan padded in there for us. The breakdown is 600g Shui Xian, 600g Bi Lo Chun, 50g Huo Shan Huang Ya, and a few single-serve packets of Lapsang Sou Chong as well as Dahongpao from Wu Yi Star tea. This bounty came from which has received high praise here before but yet again came through by even sourcing an out of stock tea specially for me with the Bi Lo Chun. I have no ties or affiliation with Teaspring except for being a very satisfied customer.

Japanese Sencha – Upton Tea

June 6, 2008

TJ10 Japanese Sencha is the lower grade offering from Upton as far as Sencha goes. I actually prefer it to their Sencha “Yamato” which is supposedly better. It is still far short of expectations though. I would easily put it in the same class as some cheap Hime Brand Bancha, and the Bancha actually has larger full blades of tea than the heavily broken bits in this. It is very vegetal, nicely green, and not much else. I did make some iced tea with it though because after just two attempts to drink it I just gave up and wanted to use it up. It makes very good green iced tea, actually better than the Bancha does. Who knows. My tasting notes are almost non-existent because it just wasn’t worth my time and I have better things to try still sitting around, so I apologize but I just couldn’t get into it.

I hate to say it but this is most likely the last tea I buy from Upton. I can tolerate lower quality teas, so it isn’t snobbery… just that I can generally buy Upton quality tea from a local Asian market for a buck or two and in some cases be better off. I will admit though that my tastes have seemed to refine again and I now do crave a mid-high quality tea or I’m just not fully satisfied. I just hope I maintain this level for a while because the next step is to the top-shelf stuff which is going to get quite expensive.

Bi Lo Chun – Upton Tea

June 4, 2008

ZG92 Pi Lo Chun from Upton was my attempt to satiate my need for BLC in a current drop of quality BLC produced this year. Sadly it didn’t. It has a faint hint of plastic taste/smell to it which I don’t know the origin of since it is shipped in mylar bags but some BLC can have a scent like that naturally. The actual flavor is slightly weak but does convey the basic notes of BLC, nothing complex or deep for sure. It’s a bit pale and has a fairly strong vegetal taste as well as nose. It falters majorly after even one spirited brewing so two is about it at best.

It doesn’t stack up to other decent quality BLCs but it has made the trip with me to serve as an at work tea so it isn’t anything special but good enough to suffice and get me through my daily penance semi-happily until it runs out.