Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Tea Review: Candy Cane Tea (The Dragon's Treasure)

Candy Cane Tea
The Dragon's Treasure
Type: Flavored Black
Origin: Not Provided
Product Description:
Candy canes are a staple of any Christmas diet, and now you can enjoy them in tea form! This limited time holiday tea will satisfy all cravings, but be sure to get it before time runs out.
Temperature: 208° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 3 minutes

The dry leaf blend includes black tea, candy cane pieces, peppermint leaves, and natural candy cane flavor.  

The dark red infusion has a bold aroma of peppermint candy and vanilla.  The taste is boldly peppermint with candy-like notes, moderate astringency, and a long, long finish.

A little goes a long way with natural peppermint leaf and I found the results when steeping 3 grams of tea for 3 minutes to be a little overpowering.  Slightly less leaf or a shorter infusion time will help immensely.   I found that steeping for 2 minutes for the first and subsequent infusions was just right for my tastes; enjoyably bold, much like a candy cane.  This particular blend is seasonal and was no longer available at the time of this review.  Check back with The Dragon's Treasure closer to winter to stock up.

This tea was purchased by me.




Monday, March 15, 2021

Tea Review: White Peony Cake (Serene Tea)

2015 White Peony White Tea Cake
Serene Tea
Type: White
Origin: China, Fujian Province, Fuding
Product Description:
Aged for 5 years now, White Peony is the second grade of white tea and it is a high quality delicacy itself. Unlike aged Shou Mei with big twigs and big leaves, White Peony has more buds and small young leaves, hence its aroma is more herbal and floral-like compare to Shou Mei. This aged white tea can also be steeped through decoction with aged Shou Mei (see brewing instruction below) and bring an astonishing taste note unlike any other aged tea. It also holds a high collecting value since its aroma and taste will evolve with time. 

A popular local saying in Fu Jian is ‘one-year-old white tea is only tea, three-year-old is medicinal herb and seven-year-old is treasure’. Similar to Pu Er, the aromatic compounds of white tea change with time and polyphenols (known for antioxidant properties) increase with time giving this tea a high collecting value because even more changes occur as time goes by enhancing the aroma and nutritional value.
Temperature: 195° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 3-5 minutes

The dry leaves have a sweet aroma with notes of seasoned wood and nut shells.

The golden liquor has a sweet aroma with notes of sweet pea flowers, green vine, and something that reminded me of buttermints.

This tea performs beautifully when prepared gongfu-style (small teapot, larger portion of leaves) and was also flavorful and aromatic when prepared more casually with 3 grams (approximately 1 heaping teaspoon) of leaves at the lower temperature of 195° F.  It's very forgiving for those of us who tend to get distracted and leave our tea steeping.  While the first, third, and subsequent infusions handled longer steeps nicely, I found that the bolder second infusion performed better with a slightly shorter steeping time (3-4 minutes when prepared with 195° F water).

This tea was purchased by me.





Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Tea Review: Chocolate Infusion (Phoenix Tea)

Chocolate Infusion
Phoenix Tea
Type: Herbal
Origin: Venezuela
Product Description: 

This elegant tisane infuses into a wonderful liquor, with deep aromas and complex flavors. Infuse several times to taste the subtle shifts in notes and character. Experience the luxury of chocolate with zero calories and zero fat.  
Temperature: 208° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 2 minutes

The dry cacao husks have a deep, rich chocolate aroma.

The orange-amber infusion has a rich aroma reminiscent of sipping chocolate.  The taste is chocolatey, though not sweet, with a hint of nutshells.

The aroma of the dry cacao husks and the infused liquor is positively decadent and it was honestly difficult setting the package aside once I'd opened it up.   The taste was chocolatey without sweetness due to the lack of sugar so, of course, I had to experiment by adding a sprinkle of sugar.  I can say with confidence that the sugar added nothing to the experience.   Steeping for 2 minutes was just right for my preference and steeping for 3 minutes brought out a mild bitterness.   

This tea was purchased by me.




Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Tea Review: Black Wiry 1 (Bitaco)

Black Wiry 1
Bitaco
Type: Black
Origin: Colombia, La Cumbre
Product Description: Not provided.

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

The dry leaf has mild notes of fragrant wood and nut shells.

The dark red liquor has an aroma of baked fruit and warm berries.  The taste is moderately astringent with malty and brown bread notes and a dry finish.

Though this is an older sample, the flavor and aroma remain impressive.  While the first infusion produced the fullest flavor subsequent infusions are still enjoyable.

This tea was provided as a free sample without guarantee of a review.




Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Tea Review: Kakegawa Polymerized Catechin Tea (Nakamura Kouryokuen Co. Ltd./All Japan Matcha & Organics)

Kakegawa Polymerized Catechin Tea/掛川産 重合(じゅうごう)カテキン茶
Nakamura Kouryokuen Co. Ltd./株式会社 中村香緑園 & All Japan Matcha & Organics
Type: Unspecified/Oolong
Origin: Japan, Shizuokoa Prefecture, Kakegawa
Product Description: 

A tea, tasting like wulong or puerh, full of polymerized catechins and gallic acid without any fermentation is developed by processing leaves with extra high heat steam. Unlike normal green tea which is full of flavor, this tea is lighter and fragrant, so it is probably easier to like for people who usually drink other kinds of teas. No astringent taste for catechin is polymerized. Bancha which contains less caffeine is used.
Temperature: 195° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 3-5 minutes

The dry leaves have an aroma of fragrant wood and spices with a faint hint of ume (pickled plum).

The copper-orange infusion has a mellow and sweet aroma with notes of fruit, wood, baked yams, and a hint of cinnamon.  The taste has notes of nutshells with a hint of fruit and berry in the back and light plum-like notes in the finish.

This tea was provided in 5 gram nylon mesh sachets, intended for use in a 17-33 ounce teapot.  I removed the leaves from the sachet for this review.  This was an intriguing tea that I can't easily categorize.  It has an appearance similar to hojicha and is similar to roasted oolong in taste and aroma when brewed for 3 minutes at 
195° F, yet a 5 minute steeping brought out notes that reminded me of sheng puerh.  The results are pleasant and approachable with no notable astringency, becoming lighter and sweeter with each successive infusion.  

All Japan Matcha & Organics is a cooperative providing wholesale products direct from small Japanese tea farmers, tea makers, and tea shops to businesses in the US.

This tea was provided as a free sample without guarantee of a review.




Monday, January 4, 2021

Tea Review: Obukucha (Ippodo)

Obukucha/Good Fortune Tea (Genmaicha)
Ippodo Tea Co
Type: Green
Origin: Japan
Product Description: 
Obukucha is a genmaicha that combines the light sweetness of high-grade yanagi leaves with the heartiness of roasted rice.
Temperature: 175° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 2 minutes 

The aroma of the dry blend is sharply green with roasted rice notes.

The light green infusion has a savory aroma with notes of roasted rice, nuts, and green vegetables.  The taste is toasty with light rice and green vegetal notes, little-to-no astringency, and a sweet green finish.

The high-grade bancha with a higher ratio of leaf to genmai prevents the genmai from taking over and makes this blend stands out nicely compared to standard genmaicha.  This is a fairly forgiving tea, so you can let it brew a little longer than 2 minutes with good results.  While I doubt many will portion their tea by weight like I did for this review, if you do go that route feel free to use a bit more than you would with regular sencha because genmai weighs almost nothing.

This tea was purchased by me.





Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Tea Review: Uji-tawara Organic Gyokuro (The Tea Crane)

Uji-tawara Organic Gyokuro
The Tea Crane
Type: Green
Origin: Japan, Kyoto Prefecture, Ujitawara
Product Description: 

A well-balanced organic gyokuro from the Uji-tawara region in Kyoto.  Predominantly herbal notes, making it a light and refreshing gyokuro, yet maintaining a good body.  A refreshing gyokuro with distinct herbal notes, balancing well between a not too heavy nor too light character. Organic Gyokuro from Kirishima infuses to a golden-green hue, and is a smooth tea with good mouthfeel, nice amami (sweetness), a slight ocean air taste, and low astringency.

Temperature: 140-175° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: .5-2 minutes

The dry leaves have an aroma of nuts and nut shells.

The pale jade green liquor is clear with an aroma that is savory, butter, nutty, and marine green.  The taste is sweet and savory, nutty, and spring green with a long sweet green finish.

The first infusion of this gyokuro had mild astringency which balanced nicely with the savory and sweet notes.  The second infusion was thicker and sweeter with a deep, rich aroma, and a bright green liquor.  While I most enjoyed the slightly more nuanced results from steeping for 2 minutes at 140° F, a shorter steeping of 45 seconds to 1 minute at 175° F is also very pleasant.

This tea was received as a backer reward for The Tea Crane's flagship tea shop Kickstarter campaign.





Thursday, November 12, 2020

Tea Review: 2015 2nd Flush Thurbo (Leafull Darjeeling House)

2015 2nd Flush Thurbo (Shiny DJ-265)
Leafull Darjeeling House
Type: Black (FTGFOP1)
Origin: India, Darjeeling, Thurbo Tea Estate
Product Description: Not provided.

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

The dry leaf aroma is sweet and tart with notes of muscat grapes, dates, and fragrant wood.

The bright copper-orange liquor has a heady aroma with sweet muscatel and floral notes.  The taste is mildly astringent with floral and tart fruit (muscat grape) notes and with a long finish.

I purchased this tea during a visit to the Leafull Darjeeling shop in Ginza, Tokyo several years ago and am only just digging into it.  Fortunately, the years have been very kind.  The first infusion was a delight with complexity in flavor, a heady aroma you can almost sink into, and a non-drying finish that goes on and on.  A second infusion produced more astringency and a sweeter aroma with less nuance in flavor.  By the third infusion, color, flavor, and aroma had weakened significantly which I suspect is due to age.  While those looking for a more robust experience will enjoy this steeped at 208° F, I was most impressed with the results when steeped at 195° F.

This tea was purchased by me.




Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Tea Review: Cinnamon Rock Tea (Cha Le)

Cinnamon Rock
Cha Le Tea Cafe
Type: Oolong
Origin: China, Fujian Province
Product Description: 

Grown semi-wild in rock cracks high on a mountain in the Fujian Province, this woody oolong tea expresses a cinnamon-like flavour. Tea from the other side of the same mountain, Narcissus Rock Tea, has a floral flavour profile reminiscent of narcissus blossoms.

Temperature: 195-208° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 2-3 minutes

The dry leaves have an aroma of smoke and fire-seared wood with notes of pepper and an underlying sweetness.

The dark red liquor has a smoky aroma with cinnamon and pepper notes and a hint of stone fruit.  The taste is roasty and mildly smoky with a hint of sweetness and a smoky cinnamon finish.

A friend kindly gave me a sample of this rou gui purchased during a visit to Cha Le a couple years ago.  It aged a bit before I had the opportunity to taste it so some of the original nuance is missing, though I'm sure a re-roasting will revive it nicely.  Steeping for 3 minutes at 208° F produced a dark liquor with heavy notes of smoke.  Results were more nuanced with a 2 minute infusion at 195° F and I especially enjoyed the smoother and sweeter third infusion at this temperature.

Unfortunately, Cha Le Tea Cafe closed for business in September 2019.

This tea was received as a gift from a third party.





Monday, November 9, 2020

Tea Review: Organic Mountain-Grown Nara Native Sencha (The Tea Crane)

Organic Mountain-Grown Nara Native Sencha
The Tea Crane
Type: Green
Origin: Japan, Nara Prefecture, Tsukigase
Product Description:

This tea is a high-quality sencha produced on organic farms, and is therefore both safe and unsullied: free of anything known to be unhealthy, and uncontaminated as to flavor. Consequently, it tastes as sencha really should.

Temperature: 175° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 1.5-2 minutes

The dry leaves have a buttery and nutty aroma with light grassy and marine notes.

The clear green liquor has buttery, spring green, and light salty marine notes.  The taste is savory, nutty, and green with a long, sweet green finish.

I found the best results to my preferences by steeping this sencha for 1.5 minutes for the first infusion, 1 minute for the second infusion, and 2 minutes for a third infusion in which the taste had developed a pleasant sweetness. A longer initial steeping time of 2 minutes also produced nice results with moderate astringency and a slightly cloudier liquor.  The finish is delightfully refreshing and goes on a long, long while.  

This tea was received as a backer reward for The Tea Crane's flagship tea shop Kickstarter campaign.