Long Jing Huang Pao

April 21, 2013

This is a very uncommon tea that has managed to become one of my absolute favorites. The name is not quite representative of what it actually is since the Long Jing conjures up thoughts of the perennial favorite Dragonwell green tea. The Huang Pao might lead one to think of an oolong tea. The name translates to “Emperor’s Robe Dragonwell” and this is a black tea with really very little in common with either of those teas sharing its namesake. It comes only in small 3g packets and the tea is said to have been a lost art for over 300 years. Normally I am leery of tales of teas “lost” for centuries and then only recently rediscovered and recreated, it is usually less than genuine and used to add some mystique and interest to an otherwise unexciting tea. While I can’t vouch for the story of it having been lost to the sands of time and miraculously recreated hundreds of years later, I can say it is wholly unique and unlike any other tea out there.

Long Jing Huang Pao

Long Jing Huang Pao

It is a heavily fermented tea akin to Puer but with some very major differences. It is not fermented in humidity and it is processed very differently in almost every regard. Instead of the earthy and deep flavors of a quality Puer, this tea presents what I can only describe as an over-ripe almost spoiled fruity aroma and taste. That may not sound particularly enjoyable but it is incredibly successful and really comes alive on the palate with astounding complexity. The scent has a familiarity that I could not place for years and it has driven me crazy for a long time. A few months ago I was at the zoo and when I walked into the cave-like enclosure where the bats live I had a Eureeka! moment. The fruit and heat/humidity instantly registered as the exact scent I had been trying to place for so long! Again, not the most sensual thought to associate with a tea and I will admit that freely but neither are the earthy/mushroomy qualities of many highly-prized Puer teas :) It is subtle and not overpowering, more like biting into a super soft peach that is definitely over-ripe and would maybe be on the verge of being discarded in another day or two.

It is absolutely captivating to me and just a magical scent that transports me back 300 years easily with every sip.

Advertisements

Hiatus Over!

April 21, 2013

After almost a year away I am going to try to make a go at continuing to share my journey with tea. I haven’t stopped drinking tea and my passion is still there, it is just that after over 12 years my tastes have refined and I don’t do as much experimentation as I once did. I still dabble and will try something new and different but it has slowed down. Each Spring does bring excitement and subtle variation in old favorites but that doesn’t always translate to exciting writing. I’m going to try to cover exactly what I am drinking, both the high-end and the low-end even if it is something I may have covered in the past. We’ll see how it goes!


Wu Yi Qu Hao – Green Tea 2011

April 10, 2011

I just can’t wait, even though it seems like many 2011 teas are still a short time away, I’ve been snatching up any 2011 greens I can find. Wu Yi Qu Hao has been the hands-down standout so far! What an amazing tea! Opening the pouch hits you with such an intense aroma it is almost impossible to describe. For some reason it brings to mind a waxy or almost plastic smell, but not in a bad way. I later settled on the smell just being a very intense Hawthorn Berry (Haw Flakes!) and very fruity and just incredibly fresh and vibrant. Wow.

Wu Yi Qu Hao

Parallels instantly come to mind of my personal king of teas, Yellow Tea from Hou Shan, and the fact that it comes from the same rocky Wu Yi cliffs as another perennial favorite Shui Xian can’t be ignored. It is a very light, but bold and assertive, mix of fruity, nutty, and vegetal in perfect harmony. For anyone that loves subtle and light greens, this is tops!

If this is any indication of how the 2011 crop is going to be, I’m in for a great ride.


Shincha and Erhus

March 30, 2011

Even with the terrible tragedies in Japan, I can’t help but think of Spring without dreaming of Shincha. It seems that the weather is shaping up for a late season but there are a few places taking orders. I have had a number of inquiries and questions on the safety of this year’s crop, and honestly while I am reasonably certain it will be fine, I have some reservations in definitively saying it is 100% safe. 99% I could do, maybe, but there are a lot of factors and issues at play. I’d love to hear other’s theories and thoughts.

Now for the Erhu bit. I own a number of instruments and play none of them well, but I love music and I do love experimenting and playing terribly. I also love music. I’m entranced by the Sitar and the Erhu both. A Sitar is a tad out of my price range and would require a lifetime devotion to be even bad at, same for the Erhu but it is at least affordable. :) So I finally dove in and purchased a decent beginner/intermediate Erhu. I honestly have no real idea what I’m in for and have not played a bowed instrument before, but I love classical Chinese music and know and recognize more of them than classical Western pieces. At the least I hope to be able to play a few basic melodies and maybe use it to sample for some digital creation, at the very least it will make a lovely piece of art!


Big Things Coming! Huo Shan

March 4, 2010

Big things have been brewing and I have had the great fortune to become friends with a great local woman to Huoshan that loves the remarkable yellow tea from the famous mountain as much, if not more, as myself and has been beyond gracious and hard-working to bring this treasure into the spotlight it deserves. I have obtained a reasonably large sampling of each of the five grades of the tea directly from the source, as well as insight, and amazing photographs. Yellow tea is essentially unknown in the West, and while it is my personal favorite, it has always been a bit of a struggle to obtain and in high quality. I hope to help change this, also to demystify and bring this unique tea to many more people to enjoy as much as I do.

We often overlook the people behind the tea and the effort, passion, and devotion that goes into those small leaves. The story, culture, and history often makes the cup taste even better, and I’ll post a little teaser photo to hold you over until the floodgates open soon!

Huoshan

Huoshan


10 Teas to Start With

October 22, 2009

Now that we have covered some basics of brewing, we need to lay some ground work on determining just what teas to brew. There are thousands of types of tea and even within a specific type of tea there can be hundreds of variations, it can be daunting. Today we’ll try to compile a list of 10 teas that cover a wide enough spectrum that will quickly show you what types and characteristics of tea you, personally, enjoy and which you do not. This will allow you to explore with some confidence from that point without simply relying on luck. So let’s get to it:

1.) Ceylon – Smooth and generally mellow, this tea is probably the closest  to the standard teabag many are familiar with but a nice upgrade in flavor and quality. It is a fairly rich taste with a very slight bit of astringency and bitterness.

2.) Sencha – A Japanese green tea that is very light, bright, and refreshing. This is a true green tea in every sense of the word and miles apart from what is often sold as “green tea” in most stores.

3.) Long Jing – A very popular Chinese green tea with a bright and almost “nutty” flavor. This is a nice contrast to Sencha and showcases a different side of green tea. Also known as Dragonwell.

4.) Shui Xian – This oolong tea is often associated with tea served in Chinese restaurants. It is a nice basic introduction to oolongs and isn’t that radical a departure from many of the flavors of standard teabags, but the medium fermentation and roasting adds complexity. Also known as Shui Hsien, or water sprite.

5.) Tie Guan Yin – A greener oolong with a slightly floral aroma and flavor. The split in oolongs generally runs along the more roasted/fermented/fruity lines such as Shui Xian and the greener/floral ones like this tea. Again comparing this to the Shui Xian should yield a personal affinity towards one or the other, many enjoy both. Also known as Tie Kuan Yin, or Iron Goddess of Mercy.

6.) Silver Needles – White tea is often shrouded in mystery and mystique, but it is really just minimally processed tea leaf that isn’t roasted or fermented, just dried. It is delicate and often has a sweetness. Also known as Bai Hao Yinzhen, or Yin Zhen.

7.) Keemun – A black tea in the Chinese style which is rich, sweet, and full-bodied. This would be a great introduction tea for coffee lovers since it is not as subtle as many of the others. Some keemuns exhibit a smokey flavor which some may find desirable.

8.) Darjeeling – Sometimes referred to as “The Champagne of Teas” this Indian tea exhibits a wonderful array of flavors from sweet to nutty to grape-ish muscatel notes. Within this one category almost anyone can find at least one or two specific teas that matches their preferences. This type alone could be an entire lifelong pursuit, so try a few different ones in this category before making an assessment.

9.) Jasmine Green – I’ve included this option in the list to offer an idea of what flavored tea is really about. Almost all low-end tea and widely available tea is so heavily flavored and imbalanced that many have lost sight of the fact that the tea itself is the star. A delicate jasmine scent added to a quality green tea is a nice balance and gateway between the overpowered offerings in most cafes and the ultimate goal of the unadorned beauty of the leaf itself. Jasmine pearls are often the best choice in this type of tea.

10.) Puer – This is the single-malt Scotch and cigar of tea. It is highly prized and often aged for many years, and has a dedicated following of devotees. If you like earthy, smoky, and oaky flavors in your wines or enjoy the aforementioned Scotch and cigar, this may be a tea for you. If this doesn’t sound like your style you can skip this one altogether or at least try one to say you experienced it. Again, this is a complex group and requires quite a bit of initiative to dig into properly, there are a number of great resources on the web for those interested however. Sometimes spelled puerh or pu-erh.

These 10 teas certainly won’t show you everything tea has to offer, but it will cover a very wide breadth of styles and flavors that will act as a springboard to further exploration and enjoyment. Feel free to ask questions and post comments and most importantly, Have Fun!


Pi Bao Shan – Upton tea

May 20, 2009

This Chinese green tea was part of the newly re-discovered Upton Tea cache I unearthed a while back. Upon opening the sealed bag i was instantly hit with a very strong woody/smoky/oaky scent that is not normally what I prize in a green tea, but I soldiered on. The leaf itself looks a bit brown and slightly wiry and twisted, it looks as if some Bi Lo Chun snails came slightly undone but not completely.

I tossed some into my trusty gaiwan and after about 30-seconds I had to “peek” to see and smell if anything had improved because, truthfully, from the scent and look I was dreading it a bit. It was a horse of a different color! Completely different. It had no smoky/oaky notes and instead had transformed into a buttery cross between Bi Lo Chun and Long Ching (Dragonwell). The leaf had unfurled into nicely green, but ragged and torn, pieces that also were much different than the dry appearance would have suggested. After the completed steep of about 2-3 minutes I was greeted by a tea that seemed an almost perfect mix of Bi Lo Chun and Dragonwell which mirrored the scent. I am impressed at this doppleganger. After sitting a bit overtime in my gaiwan the last sips started to produce a more astringent, strong, vegetal,  and smoky taste that matched more with the initial dry aroma.

I can’t say it is a favorite because I could always have a more refined BLC or Dragonwell instead, and the later qualities that shone through are less enjoyable to me personally. But all-in-all it was surprising and enjoyable so there is also nothing “wrong” with it either.