What-Cha's Nepal Monsoon Flush 2014 Pearl Oolong

Before I get to my thoughts on this tea, my camera stopped functioning as I was brewing this tea and I didn't notice. So I have the first two pictures and the last two, I am going to borrow the images from the website.

I've been looking forward to trying What-Cha's Nepal Monsoon Flush 2014 Pearl Oolong Tea since it was added to the site. The dry leaves are rather large even compared to the already large Nepal 2nd Flush 2014 Cannon Ball Green Tea and the smaller Nepal 2nd Flush 2014 Dew Drops Green Tea. Like the Dew Drops and Cannon Ball, this tea has a rather strange shape and is wonderful to watch as it slowly opens up. I am not sure if I would describe this tea as Lovecraftian, but if Cthulhu drank tea I wouldn't have trouble imagining him drinking this particular one.  As this tea opens up it transform from large tea pearl to embryo-like monstrosity insect emerging from a cocoon.

I began with a short ten second rinse with boiling water, then for my first infusion I brewed at 176°F for thirty seconds. Their was a peppery aroma and hints of a very dry wine. It had a very light apricot taste, that seems to be common in many teas from Nepal, as well as cherries.

 For the second infusion I brewed at 185°F for forty five seconds. The aroma changed slightly this time, while pepper and sweet dry wine was still there, the wine scent became more prominent and the pepper scent became murky. This time I tasted a strong muscatel, and sweeter apricot.

In subsequent infusions I added five degrees and ten seconds each time, while the liquor became considerably darker around the five infusion, the aroma disappeared in the third. This tea kept getting sweeter and sweeter as I went on. Because I was so fond of this tea, I almost immediately (okay three hours later) brewed it again. I brewed it at 176°F for four minutes and was meet with slightly different results.

This time the liquor was a beautiful dirty golden color. While it still had an apricot taste, it was riper and generally more enjoyable. It also had a slight tart cherry undertone and a completely new hay taste. The aroma was a little hard to recognized, there was a little murky white wine smell to it, as well as a something similar to wet stone.

I rather enjoyed this tea, I think I prefer longer steeps on this tea while not as complex as either the Cannon Ball or Dew Drops it certainly warrants trying. I still have a large amount of What-cha teas to look at.


Teasource’s Kabusecha

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Kabusecha it is similar a Gyokuro, as it is a green tea that is shaded, the difference is a Kabusecha s shaded for the final fifteen to twenty days before being harvested. So it is somewhere between a Shincha and a Gyokuro.

Teasource’s Kabusecha is very shredded, Kabusecha traditionally is shredded, and slightly curled differentiating the larger leaves from the traditional Shincha dry leaf. Yet the dry leaf is very reminiscent of a gyokuro, perhaps a little more tart smelling. With this tea I brewed two western style infusions and once more to make iced tea.  

For my first infusion I brewed at 160°f for two minutes. The liquor was silky smooth body, with a light green color. It had a mellow vegetal notes and slight grassiness undertone. Interestingly it had both a unami and a sweet edge to it. It had a very sweet grassy aroma that was quite refreshing.

For my second infusion I brewed at 176°f for three minutes. This time the body was still smooth, but had a considerable darker green color. This time the grassy taste was almost completely absent, instead the vegetal taste became more pronounced, while it still was sweet, it was more like caramel then anything else.  The aroma was muted this time.

I used the leaves and flash chilled them to make a really delicious iced tea. I left it in the fridge for a little under eight hours. The tea was the best of the previous two infusions, grassy yet tart, sweet and unami. It was sweeter than an iced sencha, but less grassy. It had a very sweet aftertaste.

When I first saw this tea, I was expecting it to be more lightly steamed then it is (while it is not a moderately steamed Kabusecha, it is not light either). Also for those unfamiliar with shredded tea, some leaf sediments is going to escape even the finest filter, so be prepared for some sticky leaves at the bottom of your cup, while some do not like the texture of drinking leaves, I do not, so this was not a deal breaker for me.  Teasource’s Kabusecha undoubtedly is going to be a staple of my tea stash! I am positively in love with this. 


Two Dragon Wells from Teavivre

I’ve been going through some of my older teas and trying to make room for new ones and discovered two nearly empty canisters of Dragonwell from Teavivre that I remember enjoying. So in the interest of making room for new teas I decided the only logical thing to do is to revisit them.

Normally when I am sampling new teas I have a short gongfu session, since I already tried these before I am going to forgo that and go straight into western brewing. For my first infusion I brewed at 185 for four minutes. Immediately I tasted a buttery vegetal flavor, somewhere between spinach and kale, a very dark leafy flavor. There were slight orchid undertones to it, I imagine if I didn’t brew the tea for so long this orchid taste would not be masked by the vegetal taste as much. The aroma was quite pleasant, a little bit grassy and a little floral.

For my second infusion I brewed at 195 for six minutes. This time the buttery taste was not as strong and mellowed out, and it was still vegetal, but considerably sweeter than the last infusion. The aroma was grassy rather than floral this time. While I could brew the leaves a third time even though every infusion feels like it is sapping everything from the leaves.

I am in love with this long jing since I can just keep rebrewing more and more; this is a very generous tea and certainly can be an everyday type of tea.

For my first infusion I brewed at 185℉ for four minutes. This time the tea was very creamy, a little artichoke, a strong nutty overtone and a pleasant unami aspect. The aroma was very grassy, but not overpowering the nutty scent. I was quite fond of this infusion while not as sweet as the Premium Dragonwell, it felt more balanced.

For my next infusion I brewed at 195℉ for six minutes. This time the flavor was nuttier than anything else, although I could still taste the artichoke in it, but it was not as pronounced. The aroma was even lovelier then the last; this time it smelled more like roasted chestnuts then a general nutty smell.

I have enjoyed both long jings, but I am fonder of the Premium version than the Organic Superfine version, even though the Organic felt more balanced, the Premium had some nice contrasting flavors. It was floral yet grassy, and lingered more so then the Organic. While I do enjoy the Organic Superfine Dragonwell, it felt more like a palate cleanser, especially since it stayed nutty. 


Verdant Tea Club - Yunnan White Jasmine

This was my favorite of the three. The dry leaves have a strong jasmine smell, I wonder if this tea is jasmine flavored rather than jasmine scented.
I started out with a gongfu session on this tea starting at 175 °F for five seconds which was not particularly flavorful so for my second infusion I brewed at 175 °F for thirty seconds and each subsequent infusion I added five degrees and fifteen seconds. While this tea did not last as long as the other two (only twelve infusions), it was rather nice. The jasmine aroma on this was quite pungent, but it does not linger that long. There was a nice vanilla element to the taste as well as lemon.
I also brewed it 175 °F for two and a half minutes which made a much more effervescent tea. This time the jasmine scent was not as strong and there was a distinct vanilla scent to it. The taste was considerably better than any I had during my gongfu session with it. I tasted jasmine, vanilla, pine and blackberry, the later of two were completely absent from previous session. I rather enjoy this tea and prefer not gongfu brewing since I found such complexity in it when I steep it for longer times. I am not sure if I would purchase this tea again, even though it was pretty much perfect, because it is quite similar to an oolong at my local faux-Victorian tea house for considerably cheaper.


Verdant Tea Club - Bai Mu Dan

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The Bai Mu Dan was quite interesting for a white tea, as I said before I am not overly fond of white teas, my comfort zone is greens to greener oolongs. Nevertheless this is a very visually beautiful tea and it brews quite nicely as well. For my gongfu session with this tea I began at 175°F for thirty seconds and in subsequent infusions I added two degrees every other infusion and fifteen seconds. This tea stayed creamy till about the eleventh infusion and there was a surprising peppery note. While this tea has a strong floral aroma it was rather subtle, I couldn’t identify the scent till the end, it was eucalyptus. I always fond Verdant’s notes on their teas to be slightly exaggerated, but I was quite surprised to find it was fairly accurate.
I did brew this at 175°F for two minutes and found that I enjoyed it more (which could be because I don’t have a strong enough palate for white teas). The Bai Mu Dan had a creamier taste because of the longer brew as well as slight lime after taste that I didn’t get before. As for the aroma, it was quite sweeter and more pronounced then before and there was a dry hay scent.
I rather enjoyed this tea, perhaps because some of the leaves look closer to green tea leaves then a white, but I found this to be incredibly balanced and I could not overbrew it.


Verdant Tea Club - Mrs. Li’s 2014 Shi Feng Dragonwell Green Tea

I received my Verdant Tea of the Month club package on Saturday and I was considerably more impressed with this month’s then I was with the last.
The Dragonwell was the weakest of the three teas ironic considering I am not fond of white teas. Regardless I found the dragonwell to be interesting, but somewhere in the middle of the Dragonwell spectrum. Verdant does not have a recommended western brewing instruction on this tea, which piqued my curiosity. Rather than my normal gongfu session for new teas I decided to skip it and go straight to my default western brewing. I steeped the tea for two minutes at 175 °F for two minutes and for the subsequent infusion 185 °F for three minutes. The tea from both infusions had the normal seaweed taste from Dragonwell that has been steeped long, but it was lacking anything else. So I decided to have short gongfu session with it (like I should have done from the start).
I started at 167°F for thirty seconds and every subsequent infusion I added 2-5°F and ten seconds. This time the tea was completely different. I tasted lightly roasted chestnuts, a little buttery, cucumber and something similar to grape leaves. It had a buttery smell that became sweeter and citrusy as I went on. Overall it wasn’t a bad Dragonwell, but it was not as complex as I would have liked.


Glorious What-Cha

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What-cha is one of those weird (in a good way) tea vendors that I discovered through r/tea; even though it isn’t uncommon to see new vendors advertising and asking for advice here What-cha stood out from the start. Not just because /u/what-cha seemed more responsive then other vendors new to the sub and genuinely interested in taking our advice, but more importantly because of the uniqueness of their teas. When What-cha first launched I don’t remember seeing the tea staples that every vendor generally has (Jasmine pearls, Moroccan Mint, Da Hong Pao, etc) instead I remember a limited selection that didn’t seem thrown together, but rather curated. What really sold me on my first purchase was not just the uniqueness of the teas, but the level of information on each one.
The dry leaves on this tea are rather strange, while some are similar to pearls others are considerably larger and heavier, even though I generally like uniformity in my tea these cannon balls are quite special. As you brew they slowly unfurl and start to resemble Lovecraftian monstrosities. But I am getting ahead of myself. I’ve had gongfu sessions with all these teas before and found that they can last surprisingly long for being relatively inexpensive, but from here on I am going to be writing on my experience with What-cha’s teas brewed in my preferred style, western.
Since these teas have some variability between cannonballs the recommended brewing suggestion is four to five per cup, I have used a little more and a little less depending on the size of the cannonballs, this is one of those teas that really benefits from using a scale if you want to consistently brew your tea. While the suggested 167°F works on secondary infusions, for the first I’ve had the most success with brewing it like an oolong so the cannonballs open up. Today I decided to brew at 185°F for three minutes even though brewing at a higher temperature will allow the leaves to unfurl faster (in my gongfu sessions with this tea I would start off with 190-200°F). The liquor has deceptively anemic color for a tea with such a strong citrus scent. The taste is a little complex; it is buttery while vegetal with a hint of lemon blossom. I found it quite savory despite how pale the liquor was. It had a thicker texture then most green teas, almost like a thinner version of a High Mountain oolong. For the second infusion I brewed at 170°F for three minutes. The aroma didn’t change significantly from the first infusion, but the taste developed a tangy edge. The buttery taste nearly disappeared as well as the texture, but instead it became a little more astringent and flowery. The liquor was still anemic, but a little darker. For my third infusion I brewed at 175°F for four minutes. This was my favorite infusion as the tanginess from the second was still present, and a new citrus curd taste developed. The aroma was still predominantly citrusy.
Like the cannonball this is another interesting tea, while not exactly pearls or as large as the cannonball the dry leaves have an interesting shape that I haven’t encountered before. For my first infusion I brewed at 167°F for three minutes and like the cannonball the liquor comes off as anemic, but tasting it is completely different. This is another tea with a strong citrus aroma, a little stronger then then cannonball, but still quite pleasant. As for the taste this is grassy and vegetal, while the cannonball had a little sweetness to it, this one did not and I think it gave it a nice cleaner flavor. For my second infusion I brewed at 175°F for three and a half minutes and for my third I brewed at 185°F for three minutes; I didn’t taste or smell a noticeable difference in these infusions. They were still citrusy and grassy, but the color of the liquor improved. This is another tea that I enjoy, while the leaves do not undergo as significance metamorphosis as the cannonball it is quite nice to watch as it brews.
While the dry leaves on this tea may not be as visually unique as the previous two, it has an amazing texture. I have never felt a tea as soft as this, never before have I found myself fondling tea leaves, and I don’t know if the texture adds anything to the brewed tea, but for some reason I want all tea to feel this nice. Regardless of how soft this tea is I brewed it 176°F for two minutes and found out this tea has a very strong floral aroma, almost like a pouching. As for the taste I’ve found it to have a very smooth peach taste. For my second infusion I brewed at 180°Ffor two and half minutes. It still had a floral scent, but it became sharper. The peach taste started to taste riper and it was a nice improvement over the last infusion. For my final infusion I brewed at 185°F for three minutes; the aroma became quite distinct while the last two infusions smelled like indistinct flowers, this time I was getting lime blossoms. And the peach taste was still there, but it became a little overripe (in a good way like a peach that is not going to last to the end of the day). I love this tea, while it doesn’t change as much as What-cha’s other teas, it is quite nice I can imagine serving this to someone who doesn’t like tea/unflavored teas and still enjoy it.
I don’t really find the dry leaves that interesting, they don’t look to be rolled with the same apparent finesse as the others. Unfortunately with this tea I couldn’t taste a significant difference between infusions. I brewed at 176°F (then 185°F and 190°F) for three minutes (three and half and followed by four minutes). This is a very delicate tea, which straddles the line between a green and a white. It is sweet, but astringent with a slight nectarine taste. While this is probably my least favorite of What-cha’s teas, it isn’t bad, I just enjoy greener teas.
The dry leaves on this tea are absolutely stunning, especially for a non-Japanese Sencha, in fact it looks more like a Sencha then Japanese Senchas, if that makes any sense. I, like many others, have had issues with Senchas produced outside of Japan and was hesitant about buying this, but I took the risk. I quite enjoy this, in fact this is my favorite Sencha I had this year. It tastes like a cross between a Japanese Sencha and a sweeter Chinese green. For my first infusion I brewed 167°F for two minutes. It has a light grassy taste and a medium body and perhaps the most agreeable vegetal taste I have ever encountered. It has a slight umami flavor, but not as strong as traditional Senchas. For my second infusion I brewed at 175°F for two and a half minutes. It still had a grassy taste, but the umami aspect became stronger, yet it still is somewhat sweet. I was not able to identify the aroma this time though, it was rather nice, but it kept evading me. For my third infusion I brewed at 180°F for three minutes. This is the infusion you would like if you wanted a traditional Sencha taste. It had a nice aroma and the unami was considerably stronger than the previous infusions, but there still was a little grassy edge to it.
I’ve also had samples of the Nepal 1st Flush 2014 Silver Oolong and the Azores Encosta De Bruma Premium Green Tea both of which were quite nice and I can see myself ordering again.


Tai Ping Hou Kui Comparison

So I’ve had a relatively poor experience with tea this week and decided that I deserved something special. First I thought maybe a milk oolong, but I was all out … what next? A Four Seasons High Mountain oolong, I only have roughly nine grams of this left so I decided against it. But I did have a large number of samples left over from Teavivre two in particular stood out from the rest, Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea and Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea. So I thought why not compare them to my Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui from Dragon Tea House.
Based on my previous experience with this tea I know it can be brewed for longer than what I consider normal for a green tea and still produce a lovely second infusion and subsequent infusions. So I used thirteen large pieces in a glass teapot for three minutes at 170°F. The dry leaves originally had a buttery aroma, but after my first infusion it became quite rich and thick. It had a sort of vegetal taste, but also some sweetness and a little nutty.
The second infusion I brewed at 175°F for four and a half minutes. The buttery aroma was a little weaker from the first, but had more of a sweet buttery aroma versus the normal salted buttery aroma from the first infusion. The vegetal taste was still there, the nutty undertones became more pronounced and there was a new sickly sweet hay (not necessarily bad) taste to it.
For the third infusion I brewed at 180°F for six minutes. This time the tea had a floral aroma and taste, according to the description this is an orchid taste, and I’ll trust them on that. Besides the orchid aroma, this time it smelled vaguely like freshly cut wet grass. As for the taste, it almost entirely lost the vegetal taste, instead the sweet hay from the last infusion became more pronounced while still being nutty, but having a sharp citrus hint that was quite nice. After brewing the other two teas, I reused the leaves and had a gongfu session and brewed it ten or so more times and I did not see a large loss in taste even in my last infusion. I have to note that with this Tai Ping Hou Kui and the others it is not easy to brew in a medium sized gaiwan. Mine is 70ml and the leaves took up the entirety of the gaiwan.
It is interesting that this is Teavivre’s more expensive Tai Ping Hou Kui, while it lacks the vibrant green leaves of the slightly cheaper version and the leaves are slightly bigger than the other version. Regardless this is still an amazing green tea. I noticed in the previous Tai Ping Hou Kui that the leaves may have some slight variance in terms of leaf size, but the color was fairly uniform; however with this version there was a larger variety of colors to the leaves. Some were lustrous while others were quite dull in comparison.
Regardless for my first infusion I brewed fourteen leaves for three minutes at 170°F. I noticed immediately there were small black dots on nearly every leaf and indent patterns that I am assuming came from the tray they were dried on. There was a very strong peony aroma while not quite as nice as the previous Tai Ping Hou Kui, it was not offensive. The taste was a little hard to describe, the best I can describe it as is fresh cabbage and iceberg lettuce as well as sweet apple undertone.
For my second infusion I brewed at 175°F for four and a half minutes. This time I was getting the buttery aroma, but it was very rich, much more decadent then Teavivre’s cheaper version, while the peony scent began to develop more depth. This time it had a dry vegetal taste that was overpowered by the aroma. It almost felt that this was a scented tea at this time, but it was still refreshing.
For my third and final infusion I brewed at 180°F for six minutes. This was my favorite infusion for this tea, the scent was not as overpowering as the last, it still had the peony aroma, but there was also a grassy contrast to it. While the tea felt very delicate it had a weak cabbage taste, a slight floral taste and a little seaweed/unami aspect to it.
This Tai Ping Hou Kui had the most variance in dry leaves of the three that I tried. I found it interesting that the edges were slightly curved making the dry leaves look like a scope, rather than the traditional flattened leaves. These leaves were smaller than the Teavivre varieties, but had a brighter color that was not uniform throughout the leaves, but nowhere near as dark as Teavivre’s Nonpareil version.
I used seventeen leaves at 170°F for three minutes for my first infusion. The aroma and taste was considerably weaker than the other two versions I tried. The aroma was unmistakably orchid while there was a vegetal taste it was hard to identify because I should have brewed this tea at a higher temperature.
For my second infusion I brewed at 185°F for six minutes, I thought of removing the leaves around the four minute mark, but I am glad that I waited. The orchid aroma was still there, but it more vivacious. While the tea itself was quite effervescent, it reminded me of the liquor of a high mountain oolong. This time there was a cucumber-vegetal and buttery taste.
Next I brewed at 200°F for eight minutes. This infusion was drastically different than the previous two infusions. There was a very perfumed aroma that was quite smooth, not necessarily delicate, but still quite nice. There still was a buttery taste, but it was overpowered by a new pear taste.
While I enjoyed all three teas, the Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui was the best. I liked the Nonpareil version least as it felt the least developed and was lacking the complexity of the other two. While Dragon Tea House’s version was quite nice and refreshing it felt less consistent then Teavivre’s Premium version. I noticed that each time I brewed Tai Ping Hou Kui that it felt like it was leeching everything it could from the leaves, and was always surprised that there still was flavor in the following infusion. I had gongfu sessions with all three before, but the Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui could withstand around twenty infusions, while Dragon Tea House’s could do around fifteen (but it becomes really crazy in later infusions where it switches back and forth between vegetal and fruity) and weirdly enough Teavivre’s Nonpareil struggles being brewed more than ten times. I’d recommend Teavivre’s Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui and Dragon Tea House’s Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui, I’d feel conflicted about recommending the Nonpareil. I was expecting a more vegetal, perhaps asparagus-esque or other dark green taste that was better than the cheaper version, but interestingly enough it is definitely the weaker of the pair.


First Post

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While there are plenty of blogs reviewing tea what’s the harm of making my own. The Point of this blog is to document and review the teas I have had. Normally before I decided whether or not I enjoy a tea (and if I would buy it again) I have to drink it a couple times. I may ramble from time to time, I hope my thoughts and experiences will inform any potential viewers; and while taste is subjective I plan on adding a couple of my older reviews to the blog so any readers can get a very basic understanding of my likes, but I plan on future reviews to be of a higher quality.