Rou Gui – Wuyi Oolong

November 13, 2011

Rou Gui is one of those teas that didn’t wow me right away and even trying multiple types and years has never won me over… but, on a cold November evening something made me reach for it tonight and I’m so glad I did! I think a lot of my initial disappointment was due to expecting or hunting for a cinnamon flavor that is just never there. Without directly expecting cinnamon and just letting it stand on its own I was able to appreciate the tea itself for what it is, and that is an exceptional Wuyi Oolong.

Maybe it was psychological or maybe it was the brewing (in a very small glass gaiwan with a generous amount of leaf) but I had distinct hints of cinnamon! I guess you find what you are after when you aren’t looking. I’m glad I revisited this tea and I highly recommend trying some for yourself!

Arya Pearls Photo Update – Thunderbolt Tea

January 13, 2010

I apologize for the delay, but a missing camera cable has kept me handcuffed. A few days ago I posted a quick impression of the Arya Pearls sample from Thunderbolt Tea and my complete amazement at the beauty of the leaf and the almost imperceptibly light-yellow colored liquor it produces. I had taken a few photos of the dry leaf that I wanted to share to really give a solid impression of just how full and pretty these leaves are. I’ll have to wait until I order more beyond this small sample for more photos and in-depth notes, but as promised, here are the shots (you can click on the photo’s for the full-sized images):

Arya Pearls in gaiwan

Arya Pearls in gaiwan

Arya Pearls dry leaf

Arya Pearls dry leaf

Yi Hong Jing Pin A – Teaspring

August 19, 2009

Yi Hong Jing Pin is said to have characteristics of Chinese red dates, which was an aroma I picked up from the Rou Gui yesterday, but outside of a basic sweet aroma I was not getting any of this. My initial notes were: Sweet. Fermented. Tobacco. Wood. As the hot water hit the leaves in my gaiwan I was presented with more of a smoky/wood scent coming off of the liquor. The instant flavor profile I was met with was that of Bai Hao (Oriental Beauty) oolong but minus the sometimes present citrus note. Slightly malty and long after a very slight red date flavor is present in the back of the mouth.

While I can’t help but think that if I wanted bai hao oolong I would just brew some instead of going to a black tea to get almost the same result, there is something captivating here and it does make you want to explore it further. I personally do not like the citrus hints in Oriental beauty so this actually has an advantage in my personal tastes in that regard. It’s not super complex or noteworthy so it doesn’t really assert itself into a place in my favorites list but it is pleasant and interesting enough to finish what I have.

Rou Gui Oolong – Teaspring

August 18, 2009

Ahh… finally back to tea. My shipment arrived after the normal struggles with the USPS and their inability to grasp the concept of accepting the signed form *they* provide and the fact that most normal people are not home at 11AM to personally accept packages. I wish I was however. Regardless, I am now the happy owner of some teas in a totally new direction for me… red/black tea. I also snagged some Rou Gui because it is a tea I have heard a lot about but have never tried. So, I started with it.

Rou Gui is often spoken about as having cassia/cinnamon-like qualities which intrigued me, however the nose of the freshly opened packet was more of red dates. I wasn’t getting anything resembling cinnamon at all, in fact I wasn’t getting a whole lot of anything from the dry leaf. In my gaiwan I began to brew the tea and the initial aromas from my notes went like this: Citrus. Chamomile. Nestea Instant Iced Tea w/ Lemon.  The last one might seem strange but it was the perfect explanation of the scent, those pre-sweetened instant tea granules that come in the can have the exact aroma of what I was getting. As it brewed a bit longer the aroma changed abruptly to a green TGY and it lost those former notes completely.

The first sip was purely green oolong. Thin, watery, not very complex, not much of anything. Again, certainly no cinnamon. A bit of a letdown. I moved on to a second brewing to see if anything new might appear but unfortunately nothing did, more of the same. Pretty disappointing. It is a good tea for what it is but nowhere near what I had been expecting or hoping for, and since I’m not a big green oolong fan there was little for me to get excited about. I’ve not given up yet, though, and I will track down a more finely crafted version before giving up on it.

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.

Gaiwans have won

April 24, 2009

I’ve been an on-again-off-again user of various gaiwans and while I really enjoy them I go back to my Bodum Yo-Yo mug/infusers more often than I care to admit. Other times it is a Taiwanese tea tasting set, the three-piece ceramic infuser mug or good ‘ole Yixing. I have finally come to my own conclusion that nothing beats the gaiwan in almost every category. The flavor of almost any tea is (IMHO) enhanced greater by the gaiwan than any other. It pains me to say but even my beloved Yixing which tends to mute some flavors and create a smoother overall experience which isn’t always a good thing (actually I’ve found less times it is a positive than negative).

My Work Gaiwan

I have gone back and forth and make mental notes over and over again amongst them all and I can’t deny the results. Ease of use, flavor, aroma, pour, cleanup, handling, etc. they are just a perfect vessel. I will say that I do prefer glazed china/porcelain for the overall feel and the friction between the lid and cup which glass and some other materials lack. Keep in mind I tend to drink heavily roasted/fired oolongs (no TGY/green/floral oolongs), Chinese greens of all sorts, Japanese greens, yellow teas, and a few black/red/puerh so it may be that it just fits my teas better but overall and over quite a bit of time I can’t deny the clear winner for me. I mostly drink straight from it, with only a few teas requiring pouring off into a separate cup.

I’d be interested to hear of others favorite vessels and findings for their teas of choice.