What-Cha - Discover Vietnam Part 1

I’ve been sitting on these samples for a while and finally decided to try them. I bought the Discover VietnamSampler from What-cha and while I am not that interested in the Wild Black or Wild Dark teas, I am not sure if I’ll include my thoughts on those in the second part.

Vietnam Red Buffalo Oolong
Origin: Moc Chau, Son La Province, Vietnam
Elevation: 1000m+

Dry Leaves: This was the tea that was the most interesting, for some reason it reminds me of a dark roast TGY. It has a lot more red and browns then the picture suggests, although the leaves are predominantly black.

Temperature: 194oF
Brewing Time: One Minute (adding thirty seconds each subsequent infusion)
Aroma: Charcoal and Oak
Flavor: Charcoal, Smoke, Floral, Honey, Cinnamon and Malty
Tasting Notes:  I didn’t like this at first, it felt too much like a dark TGY. While I am not a big fan of darker oolongs, but with each sip it grew on me. The initial charcoal taste was a little off-putting, at first I couldn’t taste anything else, but I started to taste a smoky honey taste. It is a little reminiscent of a purple tea; it has a nice smoky edge that gets stronger with each subsequent steeping while the charcoal taste grows weaker. This has a nice staying power; I got seven infusions out of this before I started to notice a considerable loss of flavor.

This was the tea that I was the most excited for, even though I prefer greener oolongs, and while it is not my favorite it is quite nice. It did take me a couple steepings to appreciate this tea, but at $9.60 for 50g it is definitely worth it. I may or may not buy this again, I don’t like having a lot of dark teas, but I could see myself buying this again if I don’t care for the new Indonesian TGY has sourced. 

Vietnam Flowery Oolong
Origin: Moc Chau, Son La Province, Vietnam
Elevation: 1000m

Dry Leaves: The leaves looked fairly typical of floral oolongs although there was quite a bit of stems showing which was nice. In my experience the floral oolongs with stems tend to be of a higher quality than the floral oolongs that are just leaves (think Beautiful Taiwan Tea’s DaYuLing). Although the pellets were really small.

Temperature: 194oF
Brewing Time: One Minute (adding one minute each subsequent infusion)
Aroma: Floral
Flavor: Floral, Honey and Raw Sugar Cane
Tasting Notes: This is definitely a filler tea. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but it is a very non-offensive tea that I could easily see this blended in with a Taiwanese High Mountain Oolong. I’ve been hearing for years that Taiwanese farmers mix their oolongs with cheaper teas of equal quality from Vietnam and Thailand, and never really believed it until now.

While this is a very good flowery oolong, I am not sure if I would buy it again even though it is easily worth the $9.60 (as of writing this), but it has a lot of tough competition in this price range. I know Alistair has sourced some High Mountain Oolongs recently and I am curious how this compares to them. I can easily say that this is my favorite of these three regardless while I like more complex teas, this was quite nice. I said before that this is filler tea and I was considering trying to be more diplomatic about it, but I decided against doing so. While the leaves may have been rolled way too pass as a Taiwanese Oolong, it is the perfect tea to blend with more expensive teas without changing the taste. In fact I used my leftover leaves and mixed equal parts with Beautiful Taiwan Teas DaYuLing and a nonpareil DaYuLing that I got from Teavivre and I honestly could not tell the What-Cha/BTT Flowery DaYuLing & What-Cha/Teavivre Nonparel-Flowery-DaYuLing from the unblended DaYuLings.

Vietnam Wild Mountain Mist Silver Needle White Tea
Origin: Soui Giang, Yen Bai Province, Vietnam
Elevation:  1200m+

Dry Leaves: The leaves are fairly typical of Silver Needle teas, although they were surprisingly crisp most Silver Needles that I have had has been very pliable and soft. Besides that for the most part these leaves are fairly uniform, I did notice the occasional fuzzy leaf, but for the most part the leaves are lightly twisted and have a pleasant pine needle smell.

Temperature: 176oF
Brewing Time: One Minute (adding one minute each subsequent infusion)
Aroma: Pine and Citrus
Flavor: Melon, Smoke and Vanilla
Tasting Notes: Wow. This is quite a strange tea, even though the packaging clearly sells it has a gentle smoke taste, I was not really expecting it; like the Red Buffalo, this taste like a purple tea.

I could see myself buying this again even though for 50g at $16 (at the time of writing) it is a little expensive; I have not encountered any smoky silver needles before. Normally I am not a fan of unscented silver needles, but those smoky notes make this tea really interesting. At first I wanted to say that this was my favorite of the three teas I looked at today, but I don’t often drink white teas and I always feel Oolongs have an unfair advantage over all teas since it has an incredible range of tastes; although the pricing isn’t that unusual, Teavivre has two silver Needles for $17.90 for 50g (at the time of writing this) of a comparable quality.

Overall I was very impressed although, foolishly, I was expecting to fall in love with the Red Buffalo, but I am not too disappointed. Perhaps I was being too optimistic about the Red Buffalo when I have a history of preferring green and floral oolongs over roasted ones. Regardless I am excited to try the three greens next and a little anxious of the Dark and Black tea that was included in this sampler.


Pekoe Sip House - Organic Pekoe Dragonwell Green Tea

(Tea Provided For Review)

Jen at Pekoe Sip House was nice enough to send me a couple samples of their teas and I decided to try their Dragonwell today. Before I get into the tea itself I decided to do a little research on Pekoe Sip House since I never heard about them before and this is my first tea from. Pekoe Sip House is a certified B Corp which is a business that strives to solve societal and environmental problems. According to Pekoe Sip House’s blog there are dedicated to ethical sourcing both their teas and their coffee, being environmentally friendly and supporting local charities. All of which sounds pretty cool. While a lot of tea stores strive to help the various people directly involved in tea production, I have not seen many invested in supporting local charities as well; it’s nice to see a business trying to be a positive presence in their community while ethically souring their products.

Dry Leaves: There is quite a bit of variation in the tea leaves. I was excited to see tea stems mixed in. I know outside of Japan and Taiwan tea stems/stalks are often seen as garbage, I’ve found they add quite a bit of flavor to the brewed tea itself, but I digress. The leaves are darker green than anything else, although there is a little light green and brown mixed in. The leaves had a nice woodsy scent.

First Steeping
Temperature: 175oF
Brewing Time: One Minute
Aroma: Fruity
Flavor: Fruity, Floral and Nutty
Tasting Notes:  I was really taken back by this tea, I was expecting a nuttier tea, but in this first infusion I found a lot of floral and fruity notes while the nutty taste was a little light. It had a really nice body, a little stronger then what I was expecting, especially for brewing it for only one minute. The leaves have a lot left to give.

Second Steeping
Temperature: 180oF
Brewing Time: Two Minutes
Aroma: Peach                     
Flavor: Fruity, Nutty and Floral
Tasting Notes:  It had a nice peach scent this time; I couldn’t really distinguish individual scents last time. It still is fruity, but it is starting to become a little more distinct this time, more towards berries then the lighter fruit flavors (apples, pears, etc). It had a nice nutty taste, a little like a cross between fresh peanut butter and roasted almonds. Still is floral, but considerably weaker.

Third Steeping
Temperature: 180oF
Brewing Time:Three Minutes
Aroma: Lychee and Nutty
Flavor: Peach, Apricot and Nutty
Tasting Notes:  It has started to become overwhelmingly fruity! Rather surprising for a dragonwell, but not unpleasant. The aroma is becoming weaker. The liquor is becoming lighter, but the flavors are becoming more potent.

I rather liked this Dragonwell, I was slightly disappointed by the fruity flavors being more prominent than the nutty ones, but I’ve had plenty of stellar nutty Dragonwells, not a lot good fruity Dragonwells; this definitely falls into the latter category. I wouldn’t recommend this for someone looking for a very traditional nutty Dragonwell. This is a nice introduction to Dragonwells and green teas; for $7.48 (at the time of writing this) is not a bad deal at all. If you are looking for 50g at below $8 you are probably going to have a hard time find a better deal than this.  

I definitely could see myself buying this again. Jen of Pekoe Sip House was gracious enough to give a promo code for 25% off site wide, which expires 1/31/15, "teajoy"


What-Cha's Discover Korea 2013 Green Tea & Bonus Tea Flowers

So I decided to write a little on What-Cha’s Discover Korean Green tea 2013 sampler, even though I am glad I bought each tea individually. Before I get into my thoughts on these teas I have to say how astonished I am at how well this tea holds up very well for greens that are over a year old. I was surprised at how much better these Korean greens were compared to other Korean greens I tried this year. I have something of a sordid love affair with Korean teas, I enjoy the flavors often found in Korean teas, but they never seem worth the price What-Cha’s teas are the exception for me.

Korea Jukro Jungjak 2013 Sparrow's Tongue 'Jakseol' Green Tea
Origin: Jukro Tea Company, Hwagae Valley, Hadong, Korea
Harvest: Jungjak (Third flush)
Temperature: 160oF (increasing five degrees each subsequent infusion)
Brewing Time: One Minute (plus an additional minute for each subsequent infusion)
Aroma: Grassy, Floral and Cooked Spinach
Flavor: Corn, Grassy, Buttery and Ocean Air

Tasting Notes: You can tell it was made with love and handpicked, definitely the star of the three. This tastes like a yasaeng-cha (wild tea). It had a nice mouthfeel, it doesn’t feel that different from the other two teas, but there is certainly something there that I can’t quite put my finger on. It reminds me a little of a Japanese green, but it still is distinctly Korean. This is the most complex of the three and is definitely worth the price. At the time of writing this it was being sold at $20.80 for 50g and is easily worth that price. While it is the tea I have the least to say, it is my favorite of the three. It is deceptively simple, I wasn’t that impressed with my first infusion, but in my second I started to recognize the various flavors in this tea.

Korea Dong Cheon Sejak 2013 Sparrow's Tongue 'Jakseol' Green Tea
Origin: Dong Cheon, Hwagae Valley, Hadong, Korea
Harvest: Sejak (Second flush)
Temperature: 140oF (increasing five degrees each subsequent infusion)
Brewing Time: One Minute (plus an additional minute for each subsequent infusion)
Aroma: Roasted Corn, Grassy and slight wildflower
Flavor: Corn, Grassy, Lightly Roasted and Woodsy

Tasting Notes: This was the first of the three Korean greens I tried and I was kind of surprised that a Sejak is less expensive than a Jungjak. Although it is a very nice tea, the Jungjak was made with more care, but I digress. I liked this tea. It might be the one I would pick the most out of the three. I am not often a fan of roasted and woodsy teas, but I found that this had a very nice roast on it. I got eight infusions out of the leaves before it started to lose flavor. I drank until the thirteenth infusion though, it still had some left in the leaves, but it had become very thin by then. At the time of writing this is sold for $17.60 for 50g and is worth the price.

Korea Dong Cheon Daejak 2013 Sparrow's Tongue 'Jakseol' Green Tea
Origin: Dong Cheon, Hwagae Valley, Hadong, Korea
Harvest: Daejak (Fourth flush)
Temperature: 158oF (increasing five degrees each subsequent infusion)
Brewing Time: One Minute (plus an additional minute for each subsequent infusion)
Aroma: Corn and Grassy
Flavor: Corn and Grassy

Tasting Notes: While it is the simplest of the three, it stays very nice and stays relatively the same in subsequent infusions. I got thirteen infusions out of this and was quite satisfied with it before it started to lose flavor. I stopped at the fifteenth infusion, it might have had more to give, but I had stuff to do and I can’t spend the whole day drinking tea (much to my chagrin). I generally like trying more complex teas whose flavors wax and wane, but this was very nice daily drinker. This is the kind of tea that you’ll never feel an overwhelming urge for, but it is the type of tea that you can drink whenever. I am not saying to avoid this tea, but it is a very subtle tea that is not the type to dazzle you initially, but is the type that you find you really enjoy the more you drink. It sort of reminds me of the person we all know who you overlook and not realize how close you are to. At the time of writing this it cost $9.20 for 50g and it is definitely worth the price, for this very modest price it is a very introduction to Korean greens, it isn’t something that will amaze you, but it will certainly be comfortable to drink.

Whenever I do these posts with multiple teas I always struggle a bit, especially when talking about favorites. I almost want to say each tea is my favorite, but the Daejak is a good everyday type of tea, whereas the Sejak is the sort of tea I’d enjoy serving to others and the Jungjak is the kind of tea I’d like to hoard and never share. I loved all three of these, but the Jungjak and the Daejak stood out the most, the Sejak just didn’t shine as brilliantly as the other two. These are very similar teas and perhaps that is why I am having trouble with them whereas I had no trouble with comparing Beautiful Taiwan Teas Milk Oolong to What-Cha’s. I’ll admit I felt a little stressed when writing this, since these have very similar flavors. I am glad I didn’t drink these back to back or else I might have missed some of the nuances in these teas.


Midweek Matcha - O-Cha's Uji Organic Matcha

Today I tried  Uji OrganicMatcha from O-Cha. I did not expect much from this matcha because O-Cha sells two powdered senchas for roughly the same price, so I was surprised by how good it was. It’s a tiny bit bitter and less complex then higher quality matchas, but this is probably the best matcha I had at this price point. When brewed it makes a lovely deep green, I was surprised at how dark it became, but at the same time I was disappointed I couldn’t get it to foam that much. Next time I’ll have to make it with a different chawan.