What-Cha's Australian Sencha and Shincha

What-Cha’s Australian Greens Sencha and Shincha

I decided to group my thoughts on What-Cha’s Australian teas together, mostly because I think that Alistair of What-Cha should sell them in his “Discover X Region” sampler collection, at the same time because they have the same faults. I was originally planning on featuring all four in one post, but the post was just too long, so I decided to break it up into two parts.

Origin: Two Rivers Green Tea, Acheron Valley, Victoria, Australia
Harvest: Second Flush December 2014
Cultivar: Sayamakaori, Yabukita and Okuhikaori
Elevation: 200m



So I recently got my What-Cha package and decided to immediately try one of the new Australian teas. And if you were like me you may have been confused with the description. How could a tea that was harvested in December be considered second flush, until you remember Australia is in the southern hemisphere and the seasons are inverted (Summer is from December to February, Autumn is from March to May, Winter is from June to August and Spring is September to November, roughly). It took me a much longer time than I care to admit to realize this. Anyways What-Cha describes this as:
Two Rivers Green Tea started producing tea in 2001 with the aid and encouragement of Japanese tea experts who were seeking to encourage Japanese style tea production for the domestic Japanese market. The Two Rivers farm was selected as it has the same latitude of southern Japanese tea farms, idea temperatures, rainfall and great quality topsoil. 
I wonder how old the tea plants are that this tea is made from. Regardless it is interesting to note that 25% of the price goes back to the farmer and this sencha is a blend of leaves from the Sayamakaori, Yabukita and Okuhikaori cultivars. While I am not that knowledgeable on Japanese tea cultivars I have never heard of Okuhikaori before, though judging by the first syllable Oku I’m assuming it is a slow growing tea, perhaps a relatively new cultivar. I’ve heard of Okuyutaka, Okumidori and Okumusashi before, perhaps it derives from one of these. I do know that the Yabukita and the Sayamamidori are more established cultivars. Both cultivars are known to be cold resistant and produce very aromatic leaves.   

Dry Leaves: The leaves are a mix of long flattish pieces with smaller twisted leaves. The majority of the leaves are light green with a little bit of forest green and yellow, although there are a bit of blueish green small pieces mixed in as well. I was a little surprised that there was not much of an aroma to these leaves especially since two of the cultivars that make up this sencha blend are known for having a distinct aroma.
Temperature: 165oF (+5 for every subsequent steeping)
Brewing Time: Thirty Seconds (+ Fifteen seconds for every subsequent steeping)
Aroma: Grassy
Flavor: Grassy, Sweet Corn and Citrus
Tasting Notes: This is a rather interesting tea; I cannot help, but compare it to What-Cha’s Nepal Second Flush Sencha. Like the Nepal sencha it lacks the unami taste; while I did not feel the Nepal Sencha was lacking because of the absence of unami (mostly because it felt like the perfect hybrid of a Japanese and Chinese tea) this Australian Sencha feels like it is missing something. I am not saying it is a bad tea, but it feels very similar to eating your favorite dish only to discover the chef forgot to add an important ingredient.


Regardless this is a very thin and light tea, definitely an Asamushi (light steamed) Sencha rather than a Fukamushi (deep steamed) Sencha. Despite its thinness this is a rather nice tea, or perhaps because of it. There is some astringency to this tea, not a whole lot, but still enough to be quite pleasant. I imagine if this was a stronger tea I’d probably have missed the astringency entirely.


I was a little disappointed with this tea, the aroma of the dry leaves and brewed tea was rather weak, but I can overlook that since it was quite pleasant. At the time of writing this What-Cha is selling this for $6.90 for 50g and 25% of the price goes back to the farmer. This is definitely worth checking out, while I would hesitate to describe this tea as being representative of Sencha (Japanese ones at least) it is still rather nice. It is definitely better than most Chinese senchas I’ve had in the past.

Origin: Two Rivers Green Tea, Archeron Valley, Victoria, Australia
Harvest: First Flush, October 2014
Cultivar: Sayamakaori, Yabukita and Okuhikaori
Elevation: 200m

Onto the Shincha!


Dry Leaves:  The leaves are darker than the Sencha and the aroma is still rather weak. Although this time there is a slightly stronger (than the Sencha) vegetal aroma.


Temperature: 165oF (+5 for every subsequent steeping)
Brewing Time: Thirty Seconds (+ Fifteen seconds for every subsequent steeping)
Aroma: Grassy
Flavor: Grassy and Nutty
Tasting Notes:  This is quite a simple tea. It was a little strange to taste nutty flavors in a Shincha, I am use to tasting them in Senchas and later teas, but not a tea that was harvested so early. Regardless this is quite a thin tea, like the Sencha, but once again it is not unpleasant. Unlike the Sencha there is almost no astringency in this.


At the time of writing this What-Cha is selling this Shincha for $7.50 for 50g. As for whether or not I think it is worth checking out that is a little more complicated. While it is quite inexpensive, it is the weakest of What-Cha’s Australian teas. I think it is worth checking out just to see what an Australian grown Japanese inspired tea taste like, but this is not the kind of tea that you’d base an order around. Everything wrong with this tea (thinness, lackluster aroma, lack of astringency, etc) is present in the rest of What-Cha’s Australian teas, but the other three teas have some redeeming characteristic. Nevertheless I do feel What-Cha needs to have an Australian green tea sampler.


While I still have two more of What-Cha’s Australian teas to write about I am a little curious about Australian teas. I must preface this by saying I know very little of growing tea and even less about commercial farming so all that is following is my pure uneducated conjecture so take everything with a grain of salt.


I cannot help, but think the thinness of the tea is a result of how it was harvested or even where it was grown. According to Two River’s website (http://www.tworiversgreentea.com.au/harvesting-and-growing/) their Sencha is picked forty-five days after their Shincha which as far as I am aware is pretty standard in the Japanese tea industry. While the Sencha definitely had a stronger taste then the Shincha I cannot help, but think they are harvesting their Shincha just a tad early. Perhaps it is the blend of different cultivars that leads to the thinness? Or even the age of the plants, Two Rivers was established in 2001 so these plants are undoubtedly not that old perhaps the plants are not old enough. I know that many see plants under a certain age as not suitable for harvesting teas in part to promote growth as well as many see the tea from immature plants as poor. Another possibility is how the tea is processed; perhaps there is nothing wrong with the tea itself and the issue lies in the fact these tea was processed to be an Asamushi Senchas. 

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Tea From Taiwan’s AliShan Black 2014

(Tea provided For Review)

Origin: Alishan, Chia Yu County, Taiwan
Harvest: November 2014
Cultivar: Red Jade #18
Elevation: 1300m

Tea From Taiwan was gracious enough to send me a couple samples after I posted my thoughts on their DaYuLings, and they included a rather large tin of this AliShan black tea, while I am not a fan of black and darker teas I did decided to try this since I have had good experiences with Taiwanese Black teas in the past. But before I go on Tea From Taiwan describes this tea as:

75 grams of black tea in metal canister
This black tea is from Taiwan's Alishan tea district, grown at an altitude of 1300 meters.
This is an exceptionally smooth black tea with a naturally sweet honey flavor. This black tea has a hint of cinnamon without any astringency.
Alishan black tea is grown without pesticides.
Comes in an attractive metal cannister.





Dry Leaves: The dry leaves do not have a pungent aroma, but there is a bit of smoke in them. And the leaves are fairly uniform slightly coiled and twisted in a loose s shape with about a fourth of the leaves having golden tips. While it is hard to see in the photo, I did end up pouring the tin on a platter and it becomes much more apparent than.



First Steeping
Temperature: 200oF
Brewing Time: One Minute
Aroma: Cinnamon and Chocolate
Flavor: Malty and Honey
Tasting Notes: I decided to not follow Tea From Taiwan’s recommended brewing time (three to five minutes) although this was not a conscious decision I was just too lazy go online and look their recommendation up. Regardless this is a very nice tea even when I brewed it for such a short time.





Like the description says this is very smooth and lacks astringency. As I already mentioned before I am not big on drinking black teas, but I do know certain green teas do benefit from a little astringency, I wonder if the same is true for black teas. So far this tea seems perfect the way it is, I cannot imagine adding milk or sugar would improve it.



Second Steeping
Temperature: 205oF
Brewing Time: Two Minutes
Aroma: Cinnamon and Chocolate     
Flavor: Malty, Fruity and Honey
Tasting Notes: The chocolate aroma is starting to weaken which if I am honest I do not mind. I have not drunk “dessert” teas in quite some while, but this felt quite decadent to me, not necessarily rich. Again you must remember I do drink a lot of sharp greens so perhaps this is just my ignorance showing, but I rather enjoyed this so far. While the chocolate aroma is lessening the Cinnamon is becoming more distinct. As for the tastes there are some new fruity notes that I did not notice until I finished my cup.





And there was a touch of smokiness to it, something like that slight smokiness you find in barbeque sauce more so than the smokiness found in immature puerhs.

Third Steeping
Temperature: Boiling
Brewing Time: Three Minutes
Aroma: Cinnamon
Flavor: Malty, Fruity and Honey
Tasting Notes: The chocolate aroma is completely gone by now, but at this point the cinnamon aroma started to weaken. Regardless the individual tastes are pretty much the same in strength as the last steeping.  While I do not have a lot of experience with black teas, let alone Taiwanese Black teas this seems quite different from the others I have tried. It does not necessarily feel like a breakfast tea, like some of the black teas and teas made from Red Jade #18 that I have tried.





Nevertheless I rather enjoyed this tea. At the time of writing this Tea From Taiwan is selling 75g of this tea and a tin for $25.29 (marked down from $29.75) and it seems worth the price. I do not know what kind of value black tea drinkers look for in their teas, but this seems to me quite a steal.




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White2Tea’s 2008 Often

(Tea Provided For Review)


I’m approaching the end of my White2Tea samples, I originally planned on trying this 2008 Often first, but I lost the sample; unbeknownst to me I put it with my Japanese greens. Anyways White2Tea describes this as:
Another unwrapped warehouse find, the Often 250 gram tuo is a solid daily drinker Puer tea for the Puer fanatic on a budget. Slightly strong in early steeps, this tuo behaves like a young Puer that is just beginning to calm down. The tea leaves a strong sweet feeling in the mouth.
250g tightly pressed tuo [nest shaped], heavy on the huangpian [large, yellow leaf] and pressed with a red ribbon. Previously unwrapped in large boxes, we wrapped it in paper with a stamp that says “Often” to remind you to drink Puer everyday.
I’m starting to feel that White2Tea prefers letting the tea speaks for itself, besides being made from huangpian you don’t get much besides it has a sweet aftertaste.

Dry Leaves: The leaves have a couple golden tips and looks like a lot of huangpian I’ve had in the past; it looks to be tightly compressed has a soft earthy aroma with some hay notes. The dry leaves are not particularly fragrant, but I could smell a bit of smoke in this.

First Steeping
Temperature: 175oF
Brewing Time: Thirty Seconds
Aroma: Smoky, Meaty and Peach
Flavor: Vegetal, Smokey and Grassy
Tasting Notes: I started off with three quick five second rinses using boiling water and the leaves still have not started to break apart. There was a bit of smoke taste and aroma, but it was not overwhelming like some cheap shengs and there was a strange meaty aroma (maybe boiled meat). There was no astringency or bitterness so far, but there was a very sweet grassy aftertaste. I do not often (ha!) taste sweet grassy notes in shengs.


So far I am not sure what to think of this, the sweetness put me off a little, the vegetal and smoke notes are very weak so far and perhaps it would have been stronger if I used hotter water. There is a nice thin-ish mouthfeel that was quite pleasant.

Second Steeping
Temperature: 190oF
Brewing Time: Forty-five Seconds
Aroma: Smokey and Peach
Flavor: Vegetal, Grassy, Wet Stone and Honey
Tasting Notes:  I decided to crank up the heat this time I don’t often do this when trying new shengs especially shengs that I was planning on writing on, but I do have quite a lot of my Often sample left over. As a little side note I tend to notice TwoDog like the better Puerh vendors tend to give out a little more, my sample packet says 10g, but it actually had 17g in it; 10g of which was a large chunk, 5g in a smaller chunk and 2g in loose strands.


Anyways wow this sure taste a lot better than the last infusion. While the last was slightly on the anemic side this is much more potent. The strange meaty aroma disappeared as well as the smokey flavor. Instead there was a wet stone taste. Still it has a very sweet aftertaste, this time more so from the honey notes than the grassy (although this is still sweet). I am happy to say there is some light astringency this time, but still no bitterness.

Third Steeping
Temperature: Boiling
Brewing Time: One Minute
Aroma: Peach
Flavor: Bell Pepper, Celery, Grassy Mineral and Honey
Tasting Notes: The smokey aroma is gone; the peach scent is starting to become much stronger and is quite pleasant. The bitterness is starting to become stronger, almost to the point where I would describe it as kuwei. Otherwise the vegetal notes started to become distinct; I’m getting a lot of thin watery bell pepper notes as well as celery in later infusions I get more cucumber notes. The sweetness of the grassy notes is starting to wane, but the honey aftertaste is still strong.



I rather enjoyed Often, while it did star out a little weak I cannot chalk that up to me using too cold of water. I did use the rest of my sample in another session and started with boiling water and still the first infusion was weak (not as weak though) I feel pretty confident in saying this tea benefits from longer rinses. At the time of writing this White2Tea is selling a 250g tuocha for $22.50 and that seems very reasonably priced. Often is definitely a daily drinker and I feel it is worth checking out even though White2Tea currently does not offer a sample, it is very non-offensive tea and probably best to drink soon (and often). It does not have some of those green bean notes that are warning signs for many sheng drinkers, I am a little curious how this will age.




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Tea From Taiwan’s Zhong Shu Hu Ooolong

(Tea Provided For Review)
Origin: Zhang Shu Hu Village, Ali Shan, Chia Yi County, Taiwan
Harvest: November 2014
Cultivar: Cui Yu (Jade TaiCha #13)
Elevation: 1400m


Tea From Taiwan was kind enough to send me a couple samples of the teas I forgot to purchase after my review of their DaYuLing and I randomly decided to try this first. Tea From Taiwan describes this as:
Zhong Shu Hu oolong tea comes from the Zhong Shu Hu area of Ali Mountain (Alishan) - one of the most famous tea producing regions of Taiwan. The climate here is cool and moist with cloud cover and mists every day. These conditions are ideal for tea because the plants grow very slowly and produce tender, flavorful tea leaves and buds.
Zhong Shu Hu oolong tea has a sweet taste and refined aroma. Each brewing brings out new flavours and taste sensations. This tea has a complexity that provides continuous nuances with every cup.
Zhong Shu Hu oolong tea can be re-brewed several times while maintaining an excellent flavour. We recommend the Gong Fu method of preparation to bring out the best of this excellent tea.
I did not read the description until after I tried the tea and I was shocked to find out it is from the AliShan area; the tea reminds me much more of a LiShan tea than an AliShan, perhaps I haven’t had as good AliShan as this before. Many AliShan teas I have had in the past with a few exceptions have paled in comparison to this. I kind of regret not using my aroma cup on this.

Dry Leaves: The leaves are a little irregularly shaped, I’m guessing this is either a hand plucked tea or at the very least a hand rolled tea which is not surprising for a tea of this quality.

First Steeping
Temperature: 190oF
Brewing Time: Thirty Seconds
Aroma: Cinnamon and Roast
Flavor: Cinnamon, Floral and Vegetal
Tasting Notes: I already mentioned that I thought this was a LiShan at first, mostly because of now sweet and light it is, I've been hearing for quite some time that there is a bit of a tea forgery problem for quite some time, but up till now I never really paid much attention to it. I've had a few good AliShan in the past, but for the most part I've had some pretty mediocre teas that supposedly came from there. While this tea is delightfully buttery, it does not have that thick mouthfeel that many GaoShaCha are known for, but at the same time it is not exactly thin.


So far it is outstanding, it has a very strong floral aroma and taste as well as a distinct, yet light roast taste. As you probably already know I tend to prefer the more floral Taiwanese oolongs over the more roasted ones, but this was quite different from either the greener, but floral or roasted oolongs I tried in the past. At first I was just getting the floral and cinnamon notes, but after a couple seconds I was able to tell there is some roasty notes as well, still on the lighter side, but quite pleasant nonetheless.

Second Steeping
Temperature: 195oF
Brewing Time: Forty-five seconds
Aroma: Orchid, Cinnamon and Roast           
Flavor: Cinnamon, Floral, Vegetal and Roasted Nuts
Tasting Notes:  The liquor is becoming a little dark, yet it still taste like a greener oolong, even though it has a roasted nut flavor that I see more in Muzha oolongs. It is a little strange because it has these amazing green oolong flavors as well as some minor roasted oolong flavors. Regardless I am absolutely in love with this tea.



It has a nice mix of floral and vegetal taste. Tea From Taiwan’s description is absolutely spot on. While the cinnamon notes are the strongest of the individual flavors, I can’t help but taste the vegetal and nutty flavors as well. Whoever roasted this tea needs recognition because this is absolutely amazing! This was my favorite of these three infusions mostly because of the strength of the aroma while all the scents are still pleasant in the subsequent infusion I found the roasted scent a little too strong in the next infusion.

Third Steeping
Temperature: 200oF
Brewing Time: One Minute
Aroma: Roast and Floral
Flavor: Floral, Spicy Cinnamon, Spinach and Nutty
Tasting Notes: It was a little strange to see the cinnamon aroma disappear entirely and the roasted aroma become so pungent. The floral aroma is still there, but it feels a little underwhelming (it’s interesting to note that in later infusions the floral aroma becomes the sole scent remaining). As for the liquor it is becoming darker once again; while this tea does have a rather long life I got a little more than fifteen steepings out of the leaves before they felt completely used up, but the liquor tends to get very dark in later infusions. As for the flavors the cinnamon note has a new spicy edge to it which was rather nice and the vegetal taste has become distinctly spinach like.



I loved this tea. It is quite an elusive tea to describe, while it has these wonderful floral elements, it also has some slight roasted ones as well. I already mentioned how I originally thought this was a LiShan, but I have yet to mention that I was shocked to discover this is a fall tea. It has that wonderfully complexity that I associate more with winter oolongs. Regardless Tea From Taiwan at the time of writing this has this tea is on sale for $19.80 for 75 grams and that feels like a very good price for a tea as amazing as this. 




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Tea From Taiwan’s Wu Ling Oolong

(Tea Provided for Review)
Origin: Wu Ling Farm, Li Shan, Taichung County, Taiwan
Harvest: Winter 2014
Cultivar: Chin Shin
Elevation: 1800m



After being impressed with Tea From Taiwan’s Zhong Shu Hu I decided to try this Wu Ling despite the simple name. Tea From Taiwan describes this as:
Wu Ling oolong tea (wu-long tea) is our best tea in our regular collection. Wu Ling is a mountain area in Taichung county and its high altitude (more than 1800 meters) contributes to the ideal growing conditions for wu long tea.
Another reason why Wu Ling wu long tea is of such fine quality is the soil of the Wu Ling area. Wu Ling was a fruit producing region for many years until economic conditions favored imported fruit over home-grown apples and pears. Former orchards in the Wu Ling area were converted into oolong tea plantations, and Wu Ling wu long tea is renowned for its fruity quality.
Wu Ling is located on Mount Li (Li Shan or Pear Mountain) and wu long tea from Mount Li is the most prized wu long tea in Taiwan. It is ideally suited for gong fu style brewing and can be re-brewed up to eight times while still retaining plenty of flavor.
More information about the Li Shan area of Taiwan (including a section on Wu Ling wu long tea) can be found on this website about Wu Ling farm.
It sounds a bit like this is TFT’s house oolong. It’s cool that TFT list’s the farm’s website, although the English language version is currently unavailable. Although it is pretty strange for a vendor that specializes in Taiwanese teas to essentially give away their source especially when there are tons of online stores that specialize in Taiwanese Oolongs, I suspect TFT must get a really good deal on teas from the Wu Ling farm.





Dry Leaves: There is not much of a fragrance to the dry leaves, but the actual leaves have quite a strange shape, while they are tightly rolled they remind me a little of embryos. Perhaps they are hand rolled, but I am not sure.



First Steeping
Temperature: 190oF
Brewing Time: Thirty Seconds
Aroma: Cinnamon and Floral
Flavor: Floral, Fruity and Roasted Vegetal
Tasting Notes: It’s very silky. I do not think I have ever had a tea with this soft mouthfeel. Instantly I am reminded of the Zhong Shu Hu, while this Wu Ling lacks the cinnamon flavors of the Zhong Shu Hu it feels very similar. It does have that light roasted taste, but this time it feels more like roasted vegetables, more on the dark leafy green side, perhaps not as strong as kale yet.





The fruity notes are a little elusive; it took me quite some time to realize there were some fruity notes in there. So far I think I prefer the Zhong Shu Hu to this, although this has a much nicer mouthfeel.



Second Steeping
Temperature: 195oF
Brewing Time: One Minute
Aroma: Cinnamon and Floral
Flavor: Floral, Fruity, Vegetal and Sugar Cane
Tasting Notes: It is not as silky as the last infusion, but instead it is becoming creamy. I am happy to say it is starting to taste less like the Zhong Shu Hu, the roasted notes disappeared entirely and instead the vegetal notes are becoming very green. And there is a new sugar cane flavor that was quite nice, while this tea is certainly on the sweeter side it is not sickly sweet like some oolongs.





The cinnamon aroma is a little strong and overpowers the floral notes which are a little sad since there are some lovely orchid and violet notes in there.  Regardless all the flavors are very clean and refreshing.



Third Steeping
Temperature: 200oF
Brewing Time: Two Minutes
Aroma: Floral
Flavor: Peachy, Floral, Vegetal and Sugar Cane
Tasting Notes: It is becoming incredibly creamy! And it is starting to become a little darker, while the floral and vegetal notes are still present in the subsequent infusions the vegetal notes become more apparent and the sugar cane starts to become caramel-y. In the next infusion there is a rather interesting taste that I struggled to identify, almost like a sweet butter, but not exactly.





Regardless this is a lovely tea, I prefer it over the Zhong Shu Hu mostly for its rich flavors, while it lacks the incredible aroma of the ZSH it more than makes up for it with its incredible mouthfeel. I can see why this is one of Tea From Taiwan’s best teas in their regular collection.  At the time of writing this TFT is selling this for 75g at $29 or $4 for a 7g sample, it’s definitely worth checking out.




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