Monday, May 22, 2017

Tea Review: Boseong & Mt. Jiri Sejak (Teas Unique)

Following are reviews for Sejak from two unique growing regions in South Korea with a brief comparison at the end.

Boseong Sejak 2nd Flush 
Teas Unique
Type: Green
Origin: South Korea, Boseong
Product Description: This Boseong Sejak green tea is hand harvested during the period between Gookwoo (the first spring rain) and Ipha (the first day of summer). The tender young leaves are then steamed to prevent any oxidation, thereby maintaining the distinctive color and taste of the late spring harvest.

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

The dry leaves have a rich aroma of sun-warmed fresh-cut grass and butter.

The pale jade infusion has a rich aroma of buttery macadamia nuts and fresh-cut green grass.  The taste is smooth, rich, nutty, and green with a sweet, nutty, green finish.

While the first steeping was only mildly astringent, the second steeping more than makes up for that with a brisk astringency that could be easily reduced with a shorter steeping.  The third steeping had mild-to-moderate astringency and produced enough flavor and aroma that I would expect at least two more pleasant infusions.

Mt. Jiri Sejak 2nd Flush
Teas Unique
Type: Green
Origin: South Korea, Mt. Jiri
Product Description: This Mt. Jiri Sejak green tea is hand harvested just before Gookwoo (the first spring rain). The tender young leaves are then hand pan fired in the traditional manner to prevent any oxidation, thereby maintaining the distinctive color and taste of the early spring harvest.

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

The dry leaves have a rich aroma of nuts, oats, wheat, and sweet green grass.

The bright yellow-green infusion has a mild, sweet, nutty, and green aroma with a hint of nori.  The taste is sweet, green, and nutty with mild astringency and a long green finish.

Throughout three infusions, the taste was mild and sweet with mild astringency, developing a hint of sesame by the third infusion.

Both teas were harvested in April 2016.  The Boseong Sejak had a slightly greener liquor, bold and lively flavor and astringency, and the greenness in the aroma reminded me of cut grass piled and warming in the sun.  The Mt. Jiri Sejak had a slightly darker liquor with milder aroma and flavor, no need to adjust steeping temperature or time for astringency, and the greenness in the aroma reminded me of springtime grass before it's been cut.  Both teas were equally enjoyable for distinctly different reasons.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Upcoming Event: Wuyi Oolong Tasting (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, May 20th.  

Hosted by Andrew Goodman (The Happy Tea Man)

The May World of Tea event will be a tasting of at least 5 Wuyi Oolongs, presented by The Happy Tea Man, Andrew Goodman. The teas will include familiar teas and lesser known teas, ranging in cost from $4/oz. to $25/oz., which will provide a broad overview of this wonderful category of teas.
Date: Saturday, May 20, 2017
Time: 10:00 am -12:00 pm
Location: Rainier Arts Center, 3515 South Alaska Street
Seattle, WA 98118
Price: $20
Reservations recommended.  Limited to 12 participants

Friday, April 14, 2017

Christopher Shaw Artist Talk and Roundtable Discussion: Tea Library Part III

On January 14th, I attended an artist talk and roundtable discussion at ArtXchange Gallery for the Tea Library: Part III installation which ran December 1, 2016 through January 21, 2017.  This was a collaboration between Seattle-based sculptor, ceramicist, and engineer Christopher Shaw and New York-based visual and performance artist Red Square (Guitian Li De Osu).

Local tea personalities Glen Bowers (Crimson Lotus Tea), Dawa Lamu (Crimson Lotus Tea), Shiuwen Tai (Floating Leaves Tea), and Cinnabar Wright (Gongfu GirlPhoenix Tea) were in attendance to take part in the roundtable discussion centered on contemporary tea issues.  Teaware by local artisans Richard Brandt and Crimson Lotus Tea were also on display and tea was prepared and served using Smacha auto brewers throughout the event.

Red Square Talk & Q&A [video chat]
This exhibit was Christopher and Red Square's second collaboration in the Tea Library Series.  They met through tea and Red Square described her first impression of Christopher and his art as "quiet, simple, and elegant."  Red Square described his work in Tea Library Part II as "arriving in a tea garden in Seattle".

Red Square explains her work, Neoillusion Teaism, as taking what you have to express the heart's feeling.  Each movement in calligraphy, dance, and tea is an expression of the moment and an expression of the end.  "Dance with your heart around tea, around art."  Red Square describes her dance as letting go with no attachment.  Her calligraphy has no squares or circles and her poems are how she felt in the moment.  Torn paper describes the energy of the moment.

Christopher Shaw Talk & Q&A
Christopher has been working with clay since he was 14 years old.   He began drinking tea in his late teens and later, through visits to Teahouse Kuan Yin, he was introduced to Ali Shan Jin Xuan (Milk Oolong).   When Christopher talks about tea, he's specifically talking about Chinese and Taiwanese gongfu.  He came to teaware through a visit to Seattle Best Tea where he noted the contrast between the smooth stainless insert in the tea table and the organic cups.  He began making teaware because "you make what you use".  His favorite artists are collaborators and he believes that what we do and what we achieve should be for others.

Christopher is a self-described tea modernist.  "Aesthetic is the DNA to culture", therefore aesthetic communication is important.  Tea, chocolate, and coffee are all consumable products providing an aesthetic experience.  He described a tea room that recently opened in Tokyo offering hand-dripped tea similar to Smacha's auto brewer as an evolution of tea culture.  The goal is to create a space where this type of change and evolution can fluorish.

In 2011, Christopher's work was featured in the Infusions Teaware Exhibit at Slab Art Studio where 10 original contemporary Northwest tea sets were paired with tea tables.  Richard Brandt, Shiuwen Tai, and Cinnabar Wright also took part in the exhibit.

Tea Library Part II was a 2013 collaborative installation at Seattle Design Center.  Christopher took the aesthetic experience of tea inside the body and made it explicit, creating large tapestries infused with concentrations of tea which he then texturized with the final product being an aromatic work.

Tea Library Part III focuses on the physical features of tea and clay.  Some teaware in the installation was made from local clay.  Different types of tea were easier to form than others with big leaf Taiwanese oolong being easiest and black tea being the most difficult.

Roundtable Discussion & Q&A (moderated by Lauren Davis (ArtXchange)

Personal Tea Practice?
Cinnabar:  Explore all elements of tea, science, art, technique, and variances in cultures.  How do we marry these traditions to contemporary art?
Shiuwen:  She visited a Dong Ding Mountain farmer who said "When you drink tea, can you tell when it's good or bad?"  This became the focus of her tea journey.  Can she taste better and better tea each day?  She sees herself as a link with the tea creator and emphasizes appreciation of the beauty of the maker.
Christopher:  Tea is a laboratory in tandem with hisstudio.  He plays with aesthetics as an extension of intellectual practice.
Glen:  There are three parts to his tea practice. 1) Artistic Side - In Yunnan, the daily focus is on trying new teas, visiting farmers, bringing the tea back to Kunming and then back to the States.  2) Analytical - How does storing and aging affect the tea.  3) Tea Tastings - Educational.
Lamu:  Tea is not a practice.  It's an essential part of life.

How does tea come to us, globally and personally?  Who is involved?  How do we fit into the global industry?
Glen:  There are 55 natural ethnic minorities among the 2 billion people living in Yunnan and all are tea producers.  Each tea producing mountain is isolated, most don't speak Chinese, and they don't know how others make tea.  Some still use mules to carry tea to market.
Christopher:  As an artist there's an aesthetic genesis where political becomes economic.  Purveyors' sourcing is dissecting and making it more honest.  It's how we're deconstructing mechanisms of supply and modifying them.
Shiuwen:  Go to the region to see how tea is grown.  Otherwise, something is missing.  The Northwest, Seattle, and San Francisco have beautiful tea culture.  Do we sell tea that Americans want to drink?  No.  It's a revolution.  What's the percentage of people focused on tea quality?  Very little, unlike in Taiwan where even auto shops have gongfu tables.  How do we push forward and connect to people?
Cinnabar:  A large part of what we do is educate about tea.  They're not trying to become mass market.  They're too specialized, focusing on individual and hand-crafted teas.  Tea is a conduit between sellers, producers, consumers, and teaware makers.  It's a marriage of tradition with new, radical ideas.

How is tea changing and how do we want it to change?  What new things are happening?
Cinnabar:  Kenya and Nepal are changing with small farms taking tea to the factory.  Taiwan has never been problematic.  The key for artists making teaware is that they have to be tea drinkers or they won't make something that works well.  Collaboration is also important.  Crimson Lotus collaborated with a local artist to make their labels.
Shiuwen:  We're seeing more and more interest in good tea in America.  Others are trying to turn it into a huge commercial thing.  Just put water on tea.
Christopher:  Everyone here contributes to tea culture.
Shiuwen:  She's working on a tea documentary in Taiwan, specifically Dong Ding Mountain tea.  She will interview producers, tea makers, and tea farmers.  Josh Knapp will be the videographer. They're raising funds now and they'll be going no matter how much is raised for two weeks in early July, shooting footage, seeing the land, and seeing the people.
Cinnabar:  Fundraising can be in-person and through direct contribution.
Christopher:  What's the takeaway from the finished work?
Shiuwen:  It's not about tea knowledge.  There are two parts:  1) Interview farmers about what has changed and why. 2) Their life work and what is behind what they do.
Glen:  Puerh has been in China for 1500 years, primarily as an export.  Now it's becoming popular and a point of Yunnan pride.  Commercialization makes people aware that there's a level above Teavana.

How is tea culture practiced or developing in Seattle?
Lamu:  A lot of their online customers are in college and 1/5 are under the age of 20.  They do tea tastings over Skype.  Seattle is big on coffee.  Glen was strictly a coffee drinker before becoming a tea drinker, so the focus is finding people like Glen.
Christopher:  The soil is fertile here for caffeine.  NW Tea Festival is one of the reasons we have a strong tea culture here.
Shiuwen:  The nerdy Portland and Seattle people here are open to wanting to learn more and more.
Glen:  Fascination with complexity is common among nerds.  Tea is incredibly complex.
Shiuwen:  Tea will feed the nerdy part of the Northwest while also introducing philosophy and balance with the simplicity of tea.
Cinnabar:  It appeals to the nerdy.  Those same minds are also looking for something more simple and straightforward.  There are a wide array of tea personalities.  Generally, tea people have healthy interaction which is especially true here in the Northwest where we're able to collaborate.

How did you get interested in tea?
Cinnabar:  Bringing tea together from different origins while connecting through other people, paying attention, and having conversations.

How does differences in teapot clay firing affect the taste of tea?
Christopher:  The residue of oils soak into unglazed teaware over time, creating a rounder body.  Unglazed or glass teapots tend to produce stronger and sweeter tea.
Cinnabar:  Iron rich clays are used for most high-end teapots.
Glen:  Silver has an electrochemical reaction.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Tea Review: Houjicha (Maruyuama/Chado Tea House)

Maruyama/Chado Tea House
Type: Green
Origin: Japan, Shizuoka Prefecture
Product Description: Hojicha tea is known for its mild and toasty aroma; distinguished from others Japanese tea It is fired at high temperature, altering the leaf color from green to reddish-brown appearance, and mild due to losing tannin and caffeine during the high temperature roasting process.

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

The dry leaves have a rich aroma of roasted nut shells, smoky seared wood, and cocoa.

The copper-brown infusion has a rich, smoky, sweet aroma with notes of roasted nuts and caramelized sugar.  The taste is rich with notes of roasted chestnuts and baked squash or roasted yams and a smoky finish.

The flavor was full and rich throughout two steepings.  A third steeping was much milder, yet still enjoyable.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Tea Review: Purple Leaf Tea (JusTea/Tumoi Teas)

Purple Leaf Tea
JusTea/Tumoi Teas
Type: Purple
Origin: Kenya
Product Description: Make room Green, Black and Oolong, because Purple Tea is here! This is an exciting brand new category of tea. The reason it is called Purple Leaf Tea is because purple leaves naturally grow this colour on the tea bush (see picture on left)! This is not a gmo plant, it is completely natural and part of the tea family (Camellia Sinensis Assamica). The reason the leaves are purple is because they contain the super antioxidants: Anthocyanins. These are the same antioxidants that make other plants purple: like our favourite grapes, blueberries, pomegranates, and acai berries. Learn more here.
Purple Leaf Tea is also a colour changing tea… squeeze a couple drops of lemon into your tea cup and watch the purple colour intensify. Be the first to try this beautiful new tea!

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

The dry leaves have an aroma of wheat bran and fragrant wood.

The infusion is purple-green with an aroma that is rich, sweet, and tangy with root vegetable notes.  The taste is nutty, green, and lightly astringent with notes of root vegetables (lotus root). 

The flavor and aroma carried well throughout three infusions.  Adding 2-4 drops of lemon juice changes the color to bright pink and the resulting lemon-flavored tea is pleasant served chilled.

Upcoming Event: Puerh Teas (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, April 15th.  


Join us in April's World of Tea event will be an educational tasting with Crimson Lotus Tea.  They will bring a number of different Puer teas for event attendees to taste, and they will provide information on Puer tea and their experience with tea production in Yunnan.

Date: Saturday, April 15, 2017
Time: 10:00 am -12:00 pm
Location: Rainier Arts Center, 3515 South Alaska Street
Seattle, WA 98118
Price: $25
Reservations recommended.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Tea Review: Organic Sun Drop Pink Tea 2nd Flush (Kanes)

Organic Sun Drop Pink Tea 2nd Flush
Type:  Green
Origin:  Japan, Shizuoka Prefecture
Product Description:  Sundrop is red buds of SUNROUGE. In addition to common positive effects of green teas, this tea is particularly good for eyes due to its high anthocyanin content. Drink it after heavy PC work, adding citrus, or use it for cooking and making special drinks. It can be used in various ways. It looks like magic when citrus is added, providing a bit of entertainments.

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

The dry leaves have an aroma of nuts and fragrant wood.

The purple-green infusion has a sweet and tart aroma with notes of green vine and something that reminds me of moss.  The taste is tangy and earthy.

The taste and aroma were quite different from other green teas from Japan.  The first two steepings were intriguing, though I might use fewer leaves or a lower temperature for mellower results.  Adding lemon juice turns the infusion bright pink color.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Tea Review: Hojicha (My Green Tea)

My Green Tea
Type: Green
Origin: Japan, Shizuoka Prefecture
Product Description: Pan fired roasted caffeine-free stem and leaf tea.  The browned leaves are imbued with a savory fragrance.  A great nighttime tea.

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

The dry leaves have an aroma of roasted nut shells with hints of cocoa and caramelized sugar.

The coppery infusion has an aroma of roasted nuts, fire-seared wood, and fire-roasted vegetables with a taste of roasted nuts.

The finish throughout is sweet and mouthwatering.  The first two steepings were flavorful and the third steeping, while significantly lighter, was also enjoyable.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Tea Review: Silver Yeti (Nepal Tea LLC)

Silver Yeti
Nepal Tea LLC
Type: White
Origin: Nepal, Kanchanjangha Tea Estate
Product Description: Silver Yeti is made only from the finest tea buds (no leaves). It is also one of the least processed teas and yet the most expensive one.

Also known as silver needles and silver tips.

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

The dry leaves have an aroma of fragrant aged wood, oats, and sunflower seeds.

The pale yellow infusion has a sweet floral aroma with notes of sesame and fruit.  The taste is mellow and sweet with sesame notes and a sweet velvety finish.

This tea produces a delightfully complex aroma with floral notes in both taste and aroma moving to the front by the second steeping.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Tea Review: Asairi Hojicha (Chado Tea House/Kimikura)

Asairi Hojicha
Chado Tea House/Kimikura
Type: Green
Origin: Japan, Shizuoka Prefecture
Product Description: Very tasty premium Hojicha roasted tea! Lightly roasted the first flush stem Hojicha tea. The appearance, aroma and taste, all are different from ordinary Classic Hojicha. Slight roasted scent and sweetness explores in your mouth and gently expands and stays awhile. Sweet also feel crispness from stem tea, tasty! If you are fun of Hojicha, Guricha and Genmaicha, we highly recommend try this tea!

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

The dry leaves have an aroma of roasted nut shells, almond butter, and nori.

The golden infusion has a buttery, nutty (macadamia), and lightly green aroma and taste.

Throughout three infusions, the taste was smooth and savory with a long finish.