Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tea Review: Rose Hearts Mini-Cakes (Phoenix Tea)

Rose Hearts Mini-Cakes
Phoenix Tea
Type: Heicha
Origin: China, Hunan Province
Product Description: 4 gram heart-shaped cakes of Hunan Hei Cha with rose petals. Dark, smooth and rich flavor. Steep several times.

Temperature: 202° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 3 minutes

The dry cake has a lightly sweet and malty aroma with notes of brown rice syrup, rose, and apricot.

The orange-brown infusion has a lightly sweet aroma of rose and apricot with a hint of rich earth.  The taste is lightly tangy, sweet, and earthy.

The tea became darker in color, tending toward red amber, with bolder flavor and the scent of roses becoming much more prominent after each infusion.  Though I stopped at three infusions, it could easily produce more with good results.

Upcoming Event: Heicha from Hunan, Anhui & Guangxi (World of Tea Series)

Northwest Tea Festival will host a tea and food tasting event as part of the World of Tea Series on Saturday, February 18th.  

Hosted by Cinnabar Wright (Phoenix Tea)

Join us in Columbia City for the next installment in our World of Tea Series. February's event will be an exploration of post-fermented teas from the Hunan, Anhui, and Guangxi provinces of China. These teas are most commonly referred to as “Hei Cha,” a varied category of teas that are related to Puer, but made outside of Yunnan, China. Each region has its own distinctive production style and packing techniques and the teas are quite interesting. The tasting will include at least 6 teas, including Bai Liang, Tian Jian, Liu An, and Liu Bao.
Date: Saturday, February 18, 2017
Time: 10:00 am -12:00 pm
Location: Rainier Arts Center, 3515 South Alaska Street
Seattle, WA 98118
Price: $15
Reservations recommended.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Tea Review: Shangri-La Oolong (Nepal Tea LLC)

Shangri-La Oolong
Nepal Tea LLC
Type: Oolong
Origin: Nepal, Kanchanjangha Tea Estate
Product Description: Shangri-La Oolong tea (generally pronounced “wu-long”) is the mid-point blend between black tea and green tea in terms of oxidation. It is semi-oxidized and hence produces the characteristics of both green and black tea.

Temperature: 195° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 3 minutes

The dry leaves have an aroma of nut shells and muscat grapes.

The infusion is red-orange in color with a peppery, floral and honey aroma.  The taste is floral with a velvety finish.

This oolong is full-bodied throughout multiple infusions with only a minor loss in flavor by the third infusion.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Tea Review: Montana Gold (Encore Chocolates & Teas)

Montana Gold
Encore Chocolates & Teas
Type: Herbal
Origin: Not provided
Product Description: Not provided.

Temperature: 208° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 5 minutes

The dry leaf blend contains rooibos, cinnamon, orange peel, and cloves.

The copper red infusion has a bold aroma of cinnamon, cloves, and a faint note of citrus.  The taste is sweet with bold notes of cinnamon and hints of clove, citrus, and vanilla, with an invigorating cinnamon finish.

The full flavor, which reminded me of Red Hots or Cinnamon Imperials (childhood favorite candies), is at its best in the first infusion, so re-steeping isn't worthwhile.  Though I measured by weight for the purpose of the tea review, the spices make up much of the weight, so I would recommend measuring by the teaspoon for best results. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tea Review: Green Pearls (Nepal Tea LLC)

Green Pearls
Nepal Tea LLC
Type:  Green
Origin:  Nepal, Kanchanjangha Tea Estate
Product Description:  A specially rolled green premium pluck with a medium body and prominent marine flavors of fresh salmon, kelp and seaweed.

Temperature: 175° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 2 minutes

The dry leaves have a sweet and peppery aroma with notes of seasoned wood, nori, and a hint of smoke.

The infusion is pale green infusion with a savory, nutty, and faintly marine green aroma.  The taste is smooth, nutty, and lightly buttery with a touch of astringency and a long refreshing green finish.

As the tea leaves unfurled, more flavor and aroma notes developed.  Though I prefer the savory low astringency results from a two minute steep, a longer steeping time after the first infusion did bring out intriguing new flavors including floral notes, accompanied by moderate astringency.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Tea Review: Hojicha (Sugimoto America)

Sugimoto America
Type: Green
Origin: Japan, Shizuoka Prefecture
Product Description: A high-temperature roasting process turns this tea a rich, toasty brown.  However, the use of green, non-oxidized stems and leaves still places this amongst green teas.  Roasted stems have a natural sweetness and body-warming, roasty aroma, making this is a great evening treat.

Temperature: 175° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 2 minutes

The dry leaves have an aroma of roasted nut shells, smoke, and a hint of cocoa.

The orange infusion has an aroma of smoke, caramelized sugar, and roasted nut shells.  The taste is sweet, smooth, and smoky flavor with long smoky-sweet finish.

This roasted green tea provided three flavorful infusions.  A longer steeping time after the second infusion or more leaves to start will help to bring out fuller flavor over several infusions.  

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year 2017!

May your New Year be filled with love and good health!

My holiday season kicked off with the 2016 Advent Tea Calendar theme of "12 Unique Teas from Japan".  Alongside the daily tea reviews, I included an informative post explaining more about each type of tea.  If you're curious, these posts may be found under Tea Appreciation in the top menu.

New Year's Eve was restful and I enjoyed a traditional meal of toshikoshi soba (year-bridging noodles), using up the last of the matcha soba from Itohkyuemon, with a pot of asairi houjicha from Chado Tea House, a gift from Christmas.

Today, I traveled to Tsubaki Grand Shrine for Hatsumoude, the first shrine visit of the New Year. The shrine grounds were especially beautiful covered with snow and the scent of pine and cedar mingling with the scent of roasted chestnuts was invigorating. Returning home, I closed the first day of the New Year with a bowl of matcha and a seasonal wagashi from Tokara called Golden Pine.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Tea Review: Peppermint Bark (Perennial Tea Room)

Peppermint Bark
Perennial Tea Room
Type: Flavored Black
Origin: Not Provided
Product Description: Black tea with peppermint,real chocolate bits, and tiny pieces of red and white candies. Cute and tasty! Oh my goodness this is such a favorite at the holidays.

Temperature: 208° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 3 minutes

The dry leaves have heady aroma of peppermint and vanilla.

The orange-red infusion has an aroma of peppermint and vanilla.  The taste is sweet with  peppermint, vanilla, and chocolate flavors and a long finish.

While the first infusion produced the most flavor with all the blended ingredients being apparent, a second infusion still produces a nice peppermint flavor.

This is a seasonal tea and may be out of stock.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Tea Appreciation: Batabatacha

Batabatacha (ばたばた茶 or バタバタ茶) is a post-fermented dark tea from Japan and bears the closest similarity to Chinese dark teas like puerh.  Post-fermented or dark teas are called ato-hakkou (後発酵).  "Batabata" refers to the swishing and clattering of the whisk.  Traditionally, it is prepared as a whisked tea or furicha (振り茶) on special occasions such as weddings and death anniversaries and for guests, though it is also enjoyed with meals as an unwhisked tea.

Batabatacha was officially introduced in Japan at Shingon Honsenji Temple around 1427.  The process was Chinese in origin and is believed to have been in use in Japan well before 1472.

Batabatacha is produced in Asahi in Toyama Prefecture and is a specialty of Niigata Prefecture and Toyama Prefecture.  It was also produced in Fukui Prefecture, though production ended there in 1976.

Bancha tea leaves are harvested in early-August and steamed until the color changes from green to yellow-brown and oxidation is stopped.  Next, the leaves are dried for half a day, then stored in a box to ferment in temperatures no greater than 140°F/60 °C for just over 3 weeks.  During this time they will be agitated every few days, loosening the leaves to assist with the fermentation process.  Finally, the leaves are shade-dried for a half day and then sun-dried for 2 to 3 days.

Botebotecha (ぼてぼて茶) - In Shimane Prefecture, shade-dried tea harvested in late-Autumn is boiled and whisked.  Then black beans, red rice, and chopped pickles are added and the tea is ready to eat.

Bukubukucha (ブクブク茶) - In Okinawa, roasted rice and oolong tea are boiled together, poured into a large 30cm bowl and whisked to a high froth, the froth is transferred to the top of cups that have been filled with jasmine or sencha tea, then crushed peanuts are sprinkled on top before serving.

Hikicha (挽き茶) - Sun-dried bancha is ground, prepared with hot water and a pinch of salt, and whisked before serving.  In Nara, hikicha is traditionally served in temples and when entertaining guests.

Okecha (桶茶) - A specialty in northern Aichi Prefecture.  Tea leaves are boiled, poured into a wooden tub called a chaoke (茶桶) along with a pinch of salt, and whisked before serving.

Traditional:  Add tea leaves to boiling water and simmer anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours, pour into a tea bowl, add a pinch of salt, whisk left to right (not up and down as you would with matcha) briskly until frothy, and serve.  The whisking brings out a mellower flavor.

Traditionally, the tea is whisked in a tea bowl slightly smaller than a matcha chawan called a gorohachi chawan (五郎八茶碗) with a batabata chasen (バタバタ茶​筅) which is two long bamboo whisks bundled together.

Alternate:  Add boiling water to the tea leaves and steep for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Tea Review: Batabatacha (Yunomi/Furyu)

Advent Tea Calendar Day 12

Type: Dark
Origin: Japan, Toyama Prefecture, Asahi
Product Description: Batabatacha is a tea that has long been loved by the people in the town of Asahimachi Birudan of Toyama Prefecture. It is a fermented tea quite similar to pu-erh tea.

Early August is the harvesting season for tea leaves used in making batabatacha. Tea leaves are steamed in a pan until the color becomes yellowish-brown. Steaming process stops the function of enzymes. After drying the tea for half-day, it is placed in a wooden box for fermentation. The last step is to take the tea out from the box and fully dry it under the sun.

In this particular region of Toyama Prefecture, batabatacha is served at various events such as a gathering for ancestor's commemoration or when introducing the bride after the wedding ceremony. As a type of 'tea party' held among family, close relatives and friends, the serving of this tea is ceremonial, but casual at the same time. Brewed tea is poured in a tea bowl to be whisked until it creates a foam. People in the town also drink unwhisked batabatacha with their everyday meal.

Temperature: 208° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 5-10 minutes

The dry leaves have an aroma of dry wood and boiled rice.

The infusion is golden peach in color with a dusty, earthy, nut shell-like aroma.  The taste is earthy with notes of nut shells.

Steeping for 5 minutes and for 10 minutes produced similar results.  I also prepared this traditionally by boiling 3 grams of tea leaves in 500 ml water for 10 minutes, then whisking for 2 to 3 minutes.  The resulting froth brought out a pleasantly creamy texture and mellow taste.