White2Tea New aMerykah 2 2014

(Tea provided for review)

So I finally decided to write up my thoughts on White2Teas’s 2014 New Amerykah 2. Of course I had this and a couple other samples since December that I’ve been leisurely sampling a little bit at a time.

Dry Leaves: I had a large sample about 14 grams; it’s a nice mix of browns and greens with plenty of fuzzy silvery leaves. It’s not that tightly compressed, I could easily break it apart without a pick. It doesn’t have much of a smell, but I could get something medicinal when I was breaking off a chunk.

First Steeping
Temperature: 185oF
Brewing Time: Ten Seconds
Aroma: Hay and Meat
Flavor: Hay and Mineral
Tasting Notes: I started out with a quick five second rinse, perhaps I should have had a longer rinse or even a second. I’ve heard of teas tasting or smelling like strange things, but I always imagined those people were exaggerated or did not have clean palate. But I can assure you I could distinguish meat in this! Other than that I was not getting the bitterness promised on the description.

I wonder if I should have used more tea, I only used four grams in my 85ml gaiwan, I thought about using more, but I had a feeling that this was going to be a tea that expands a lot (and it did). I was not disappointed with this so far, but I was hoping for more bitterness. Will this tea ever develop the kuwei that I was promised?

Second Steeping
Temperature: 185oF
Brewing Time: Fifteen Seconds
Aroma: Beef Jerky, Hay and Medicinal        
Flavor: Pleasant Bitterness, Hay and Mineral
Tasting Notes: Oh god yes. It developed a nice bitterness very fast; perhaps I should have rinsed it more? I am always a little apprehensive about rinsing puerh, more often than not I try the rinse even though I know I should skip the boring rising action and go straight to the climax, but I am always worried I am going to miss something out. Regardless it suddenly became bitter and astringent while staying incredibly smooth and creamy. I know many people avoid bitter or astringent teas, but I’ve been craving a nice bitter tea for a while; normally I can be assuage this craving with a Sencha, but I’ve only liked a handful of the Snechas I tried in 2014 which has lead me to try more Shengs.

The liquor is still a golden-peach color which is a little deceptive; this is a lot stronger than it looks.

Third Steeping
Temperature: 190oF
Brewing Time: Twenty Seconds
Aroma: Medicinal
Flavor: Pleasant Bitterness, Hay, Vegetal and Fruity
Tasting Notes: Bitterness is weakening, it still there for the next five or so infusions. There is a new vegetal flavor that is quite nice, with the hay notes it sort of reminds me of a yellow tea. Everything is a lot sharper than the last infusion although nothing is biting except the Fruity/Apricot taste. I was very impressed with this infusion (definitely my favorite of the three infusions here), but the longer you go with this tea the better it gets.

In later infusions I was getting sweet tobacco that transitioned into honey-floral. It becomes very rich and syrupy as you go on. Definitely a tea to enjoy slowly, I am not sure if I would want to do longer rinses or infusions after trying this three times. It certainly benefits from being brewed with higher temperatures (I think 190oF is a nice starting temperature). Although I rather enjoyed experiencing the transition to from a shy thin tea to an insanely thick boisterous tea; towards the end it was starting to feel like a high mountain oolong, it had a nice syrupy mouthfeel that coated the back of my throat. Regardless TwoDog is currently selling a 25g sample for $7 and a 357g cake for $69.50 and I definitely think it is worth checking out. I tend to prefer puerhs that are good now rather than waiting a couple years for it to develop more character, but I feel this is a perfectly drinkable tea today, although I am curious how it will taste in a couple years.


Obubu’s Limited Edition Okinawa Shincha 2014

Origin: Okinawa
Harvest: Spring

I am almost a year late on this, but we can pretend it is a Kuradashi Sencha (an enriched tea that is best a couple months after harvest), except that it is a Shincha and I have never heard of a Kuradahi Shincha. Regardless I’ve been having a lot of Taiwanese oolongs recently and have been craving a proper Japanese green tea. So I’ve decided on trying this Okinawan Shincha that I bought from Obubu.

Dry Leaves: Smells very fresh and grassy. Some of the leaves look machine harvested, but this was a relatively inexpensive tea so it isn’t that big of deal. Leaves are mostly blueish green although there is quite a bit of yellows and lighter greens.

First Steeping
Temperature: 160oF
Brewing Time: One Minute
Aroma: Grassy
Flavor: Grassy and Buttered Vegetables
Tasting Notes: It was very simple, but perfect. I was a little surprised at how murky the water became when I was brewing this in my houhin. Besides that this reminds me a little of a Kabushincha and a little bit of Gyokuro, although it is missing the sweetness of a kabushincha and the depth of a gyokuro. Regardless it was quite interesting despite its simplicity.

It had almost no astringency. I almost want to place this on the sweeter side of the bitter-sweet spectrum of Shinchas, but it lacks sweetness and bitterness which is something I have not encountered often with Japanese greens. It is a very neutral tea.

Second Steeping
Temperature: 165oF
Brewing Time: One and a half Minutes
Aroma: Wet Grass              
Flavor: Grassy, Vegetal and Citrus
Tasting Notes: Still a very neutral tea, although the citrus flavor is making it a little tart. It still is a very mild tea, I might have described this as plain, but it is very subtle and delicious. While I do tend to prefer teas with stronger or more complex flavors, this was quite nice. Definitely not the type to dazzle you, but the kind you can only appreciate with a clean palate and plenty of time.

This was my favorite of the three infusions. It feels like the quintessential Japanese tea, very reserved, but one can easily see the prettiness if one pays attention.

Third Steeping
Temperature: 170oF
Brewing Time: Two Minutes
Aroma: Wet Grass
Flavor: Grassy, Vegetal, Tangy Berry and Citrus
Tasting Notes: It’s starting to remind me a lot of a guricha which is a shame, it is starting to lose some of its charm. Not that it isn’t still enjoyable, but it is becoming a little generic. In later infusions it develops an almond flavor and becomes essentially guricha. Starting to be on the sweeter side.

Overall an interesting Shincha and for 50g at $11 (at the time of writing this) it is not a bad deal. Definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of Senchas, and it is a nice introduction to Japanese teas if you are worried about bitterness. I did find the packaging a little garish, but it was an amusing contrast to a very unassuming tea to have a very bright package. My major criticism of this is that it loses its uniqueness in later infusions. I’ve been drinking an ungodly amount of vibrant and loud teas this year; I have been craving the simpler more refined teas and the first two infusions was both simple and refined, but it started to lose both in later infusions when minor flavors started to appear. Regardless I am quite fond of this tea and it was an interesting experience to see a tea blossom from a meek beauty into something louder.


Eco-Cha's Jin Xuan (April 2014)

(Tea Provided For Review)

Today I decided to look at Eco-Cha’sJin Xuan (April 2014). I know I’ve been looking at a lot of oolongs, recently, but I decided to try this today rather than a green tea or even a nice puerh. The leaves aren’t particularly aromatic like some teas; in fact they are quite subtle. Sometimes I overlook the subtler teas that don’t instantly grab my attention so I decided to try this one.

Jin Xuan Oolong
Origin: Zhu Shan NanTou, Taiwan
Harvest: April 2014
Elevation: 400M

Dry Leaves: There is a very intense floral aroma to the dry leaves and a little bit vegetal. And the dry leaves have a very interesting shape, sort of like tightly twisted crossed with pearls, there is some uniformity to the tea leaves, but you can see a lot of uniquely shaped pearls as well. At first I thought the dry leaves were kind of ugly, since I really like uniformity in tea leaves, although after I studied the leaves for a bit, they started to grow on me. Some of them have a rosebud-esque look and you can see a lighter green one that looks a little like popcorn.

First Steeping
Temperature: Boiling
Brewing Time: One Minute
Aroma: Fruity, Floral and Green bean
Flavor: Bamboo leaves, Woody and Creamy
Tasting Notes: There was not a strong milk taste so far and it had a slightly thin mouthfeel for a Taiwanese oolong, although the milk taste did linger. This steeping was very subtle, I was correct I my suspicion that I’d taste many of these flavors in subsequent steepings.

Second Steeping
Temperature: 190oF
Brewing Time: Two Minute
Aroma: Peach, Milk, Floral, and Green Beans
Flavor: Milk, Bamboo Shoots, Malty and Sugarcane.
Tasting Notes: It became very milky this steeping, and had a thicker mouthfeel this time although not particularly thick for a Jin Xuan. I was surprised to find that this Jin Xuan had malty notes in it, I haven’t had many lighter oolongs that come close to anything resembling malty. It was quite pleasant, this is probably my favorite steeping, I like the progression from Bamboo leaves in the previous steeping to bamboo shoots; it had a lovely green tea feel to it, most of the unflavored Jin Xuans I had this year leaned more towards the floral oolong side rather than vegetal green and I quite enjoyed it

Third Steeping
Temperature: 195oF
Brewing Time: Three Minute
Aroma: Mild Peach and Floral
Flavor: Creamy, Woody, Bamboo Shoots and Honey
Tasting Notes: It became considerably less sweet this time, although I could still taste some sweetness in it. Considerably milkier then the last infusion; I liked the return of the wood taste and it meshed really well with the Milk taste. The bamboo shoot taste was lighter than the previous infusion and it felt less like a green oolong, more like a lightly roasted one. With the exception of the bamboo shoots, this tea lost it vegetal edge.

Overall very nice Jin Xuan, most of the Milk Oolongs I’ve tried tended to be more floral so I was surprised at the vegetal elements in this tea. I forgot to take a picture of the used leaves, but you can definitely tell they were machine harvested (although Eco-Cha has that listed on their website, I always appreciate a store that is honest when they could have not listed that) there was some slight tearing on the leaves, but they were in fairly good shape for being machine harvested. For 38 grams at $8, this is definitely worth the price, this is a nice everyday tea, not as milky as other Jin Xuans, but not as floral. So if you want a Jin Xuan with a light milk taste and a mild floral aroma, this is the tea for you.


Tea Ave Preview

(Tea provided for review along with a tasting cup, an aroma cup and a $15 gift card to Tea Ave’s store when it opens)

I was lucky enough to receive three samples of Tea Ave’s stock. I first heard about Tea Ave from Reddit and it looks like they are finally going to launch their store soon. I decided to review all three samples in one post rather than three like I originally was planning to do. I decided to not space my reviews out like I normally do when I receive teas to review since there are a couple of teas from Tea Ave I’d like to look at after they launch their site.

Tie Kwan Yin Oolong
Origin: Muzha District, Taipei City, Taiwan
Cultivar: Tie Kwan Yin
Elevation: 350-400m

Dry Leaves: I love how much info Tea Ave has on their teas on each individual sample package. Although it might be a little overwhelming to someone new to tea, I was rather interested in what they decided to list. The origin and elevation is pretty standard for Taiwanese oolong. The roasting level, oxidation level and cultivar are pretty rare and I love that they included it; and then three separate brewing recommendations (tea bag, tea pot and cold brewing), although the tea bag recommendation wasn’t really necessary. Unfortunately I lost all my photos of this particular tea, but the leaves were closer to a green oolong then a darker one.   

First Steeping
Temperature: 195oF
Brewing Time: Three Minutes
Aroma: Roasted and Fruity
Flavor: Roast, Fruity and Burnt Wood
Tasting Notes:
This was my least favorite of the three (not surprising). I am not really fond of roasted oolongs; I have trouble distinguishing darker oolongs apart. Most roasted TKY taste nearly the same to me. So I wasn’t surprised to taste mostly the roast and some fruity notes, but I was startled to be able to taste burnt wood. The burnt wood flavor was the best part of this tea for me; it distinguished it enough from others that made it stand out for me. As to would I buy this tea, maybe. I generally prefer aged tea over new roasted teas, but if the price is right I may buy this once Tea Ave launches their site.

Lishan Oolong
Origin: Lishan Mountain Region, Taichung City, Taiwan
Cultivar: Qinxin Oolong
Elevation: 1700m

Dry Leaves: The leaves were the most underwhelming of the three; this had a light floral scent. The leaves had a lot of yellow and green and not a lot of blues.

First Steeping
Temperature: Boiling
Brewing Time: Three Minutes
Aroma: Floral and Fruity
Flavor: Floral and Sugarcane
Tasting Notes: This has a nice thin-ish mouthfeel, not as thick as teas grown at higher elevations, but not what I normally expect for teas grown at 1700m. Regardless it was nice. It is a little vanilla for my taste. I could taste honeysuckle, hyacinth and lilies, other than that I could taste sugarcane. It was very mellow. I imagine it would brew a lot better for longer times.

Depending on the price I might buy this again. I tend to prefer more complex oolongs.

Cape Jasmine Oolong
Origin: Alishan Mountain Region, Nantou, Taiwan
Cultivar: Jin Xuan
Elevation: 1200m

Dry Leaves: The leaves were the most striking of the three samples, mostly green, but with a fair bit of yellow and blues running through it. Otherwise it has a strong Gardenia aroma as well as some minor floral ones more towards orchid than anything else, but it was a little murky.

First Steeping
Temperature: Boiling
Brewing Time: Two Minutes
Aroma: Gardenia and Floral
Flavor: Gardenia, Jasmine and Milk
Tasting Notes: This was my favorite of the three samples I received. Initially I wasn’t getting much besides jasmine, but after a few seconds I began to distinguish the gardenia notes. I wonder if this is scented with gardenia blossoms. The gardenia is very powerful and intoxicating. I didn’t notice the milk taste till I tried this for the second time, although if I read the entirety of the sample I would have known this has a Jin Xuan base. I don’t think this had a very strong Jin Xuan, it’s not that creamy and the milk notes are the weakest, but if this was scented with gardenias it would not be surprising if it overpowered some of the base tea’s characteristics. It was a little buttery, not too much though. I tend to find Taiwanese teas grown below 1000m or those grown above 2000m (especially winter harvests) tend to be rather buttery, but everything inbetween in my experience has thinner mouthfeels.

Overall I preferred the Cape Jasmine over anything else and the tea I’d most likely purchase again. I am a little on the fence about the Lishan, but I’m willing to give it another chance. Besides that I loved the amount of detail on Tea Ave’s packaging, I know a lot of tea companies tend to favor simpler packaging, but they often lack information like origin or recommended brewing times. I am looking forward to trying more of Tea Ave’s teas once they launched. The only thing I thought was really missing from Tea Ave’s packaging is the harvest date, but the teas tasted quite fresh. Hopefully next time I try one of Tea Ave’s teas my camera won’t delete the majority of my pictures.