Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Tea Review: Coffee Kisses (Bitaco)

Coffee Kisses
Type: Flavored Black
Origin: Colombia, La Cumbre
Product Description: For decades Colombian coffee has been recognized as the finest and smoothest coffee available. The tropical climate, the luminosity of high mountain sunshine, and the caring production process produce exquisite coffee beans. Our supplier-partner families have a very long tradition of creating artisan coffee that is simply exceptional – a perfect coffee to be blended with our Bitaco® Black Tea. This blend perfectly balances the subtly-sweet nature of our Black Tea with Arabica Colombian coffee.

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

The dry leaves have an aroma of rich coffee and cocoa.

The red infusion has an aroma and taste of fresh ground coffee and cocoa (light) with a dry finish.

Though cocoa was not in the blend, it brought to mind a coffeehouse mocha. By the third infusion, the black tea notes had moved to the front while the coffee notes stepped back.

Friday, August 31, 2018

World of Tea Series: Teas of Kenya

Northwest Tea Festival hosts the World of Tea Seriesa series of unique tea tastings and workshops presented by specialists in the industry.

On August 18th, Cinnabar Wright (Phoenix Tea) hosted the Teas of Kenya tasting event.

We had the unique opportunity to taste a broad range of Kenyan teas covering the spectrum of oxidation.  Tea came to Kenya in the early 1900's where the soil and climate were found to be ideal.  Since then, Kenya has grown to become the world's largest producer of black tea.  While most of Kenya's production is commodity tea, ideal for blending and tea bags, there are a fair number of tea farms producing specialty and single-origin tea like those we tasted at this event.

Sindano Fedha (white bud)

Kijani (green)

Jani Dhahabu (oolong)

Mpira Wa Zambarau (purple ball)

Zambarau (purple orthodox)

Mukengeria (black orthodox)

Rundu (black)

Mpira Mweusi (black ball)

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Tea Review: Garden Party (Tealeaves)

Garden Party
Type: Flavored Black
Origin: China, Yunnan
Product Description: Take a break from the hustle and bustle of your day and transport yourself to a place of serenity by making a pot of our Garden Party Tea. This beautiful blend features a full-bodied palate with a floral finish, and its natural sweetness carries the air of the grace you’d find in any garden party, creating a blooming atmosphere wherever you go.

Our Yunnan black tea is combined with a hint of the heady scent of jasmine – a historical specialty of the northern Fujian province since the Ming Dynasty. Here, the base tea is made from fresh leaves plucked during the spring season. After this has been done, it is kept in cool storage until the arrival of jasmine flowers in the summertime, used to scent the most delicate of teas.

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

The dry leaf aroma is sweet, fruity, and floral

The red infusion has a floral aroma with obvious notes of jasmine and another flower I couldn't easily place.  The taste is moderately astringent and floral with a caramel-like finish.

This tea does give a sense of a springtime garden.  I favored the third infusion where the astringency had become milder and a sweetness had developed.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Tea Review: Black Leafy 2 (Bitaco)

Black Leafy 2
Type: Black
Origin: Colombia, La Cumbre
Product Description: Larger twisted leaves that are a touch ragged. The liquor color is slightly darker than Leafy 1 and yields a sweet mellow cup like that of Leafy 1.

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

The dry leaves have a mildly floral aroma with notes of aged wood and oats.

The bright orange-red infusion has a heady aroma of baked fruit with a taste that is lightly astringent and rich with notes of baked fruit, molasses, and brown bread.  

This is a very approachable black tea with the best flavor in the first two infusions.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Tea Review: Stockholm (Nord-T)

Stockholm (Organic HIB Jun Chiyabari)
Type: Black
Origin: Nepal, Dhankuta, Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden
Product Description: This tea will take you on a journey through the archipelago surrounding Stockholm. Red cottages, smiling fishermen and of course freshly baked sweet malt bread. J├Ątte bra!

A strong, woody infusion with hint of sweet malt, mild caramel and cocoa.

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

The dry leaves have an aroma of fire-roasted vegetables, pepper, and aged wood.

The copper red infusion has a floral aroma with notes of malt, freshly baked brown bread, and baked fruit. The taste is sweet with notes of baked fruit, a hint of caramelized sugar, and a floral finish.

The flavor carries well into a second and third steeping with floral notes moving to the front by the second infusion.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Seattle Cherry Blossom Festival 2018

Seattle's 43rd Annual Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival took place April 20th through 22nd at Seattle Center.  The festival is always something to look forward to, filled with music and dance, demonstrations, workshops, vendors, and food.  

Tea Ceremony by Tanko Kai

Narration was provided by Aiko Fuji who introduced Tanko Kai tea instructor Naomi Takemura and shared a brief history of tea and the development of powdered tea, as well as explaining various elements of tea ceremony. 

Japanese tea ceremony is called Chado which means "way of tea" and Chanoyu which means "water for tea".  For usucha (thin/informal tea) each guest will receive their own bowl and may take as many sips as needed to empty the bowl.  For koicha (thick/formal tea) one bowl is shared among the guests so each will take just three sips.  While handling the hishaku (ladle), the host uses movements drawn from archery.  The open hand movement seen after filling the bowl with water indicates tea is in the bowl.

For this demonstration, the host (Teishu) was Atsuko Harmer with first guest (Shokyaku) Kaoru Green and second guest (Kyaku) Megumi Holcolm.  The scroll reads "flowers open all over".  The chawan (tea bowl) is Hagi ware, a style originating from Korean potters with earth tone or white glaze.

Okinawa Kenjin Kai

The afternoon performance featured high-energy drumming, sanshin music and song, traditional dance, and lion dance.

Fujima Ensemble

The days events concluded with a shamisen performance, a dance describing the boats on the Sumida River, and excerpts from Musume Dojoji.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Tea Fest PDX 2018

The 2nd annual Tea Fest PDX took place on July 21st at the World Forestry Center in Portland, Oregon.

The weather was beautiful and everyone was in good spirits.  Before the festival opened, people in the will call line received their commemorative bags with tasting cups and wrist bands and were allowed to queue at the festival entrance which helped shorten the check-in lines. 

The outdoor vendor layout was a huge improvement over last year with good flow and no bottlenecks.  There were also many more vendors both indoor and outdoor with an impressive range of tea and teaware.  The workshop and tea tasting spaces had expanded, most notably with the addition of a British Tea Tent.  The meal options also expanded slightly with a food truck near the festival entrance and I learned that the Cascade Grill at the Oregon Zoo was a reasonably short walk away (and doesn't require zoo admission).

Since I would be attending workshops and tastings the latter half of the day, I spent much of the morning visiting vendors, tasting tea, and enjoying the live music performances.  This year's festival was a veritable Who's Who of the West Coast tea scene, so I also got to catch up with quite a few tea friends.

Phoenix Tea serving Jani Dhahabu, a Kenyan oolong

Fly Awake's The Lunatic, a night-plucked tea from Yunnan

Zuo Wang Tea preparing a 2017 Ripe Puerh

Floating Leaves teaware


Stages of tea processing at the Minto Island Tea Growers booth

Dressed in style for the Dressing the Regency Lady for Tea workshop presented by Nora Azevedo (A Baronets Daughter Designs)

Musical performances throughout the day included taiko, nyckelharpa, acoustic guitar, and erhu.

Morning Cream Tea Time hosted by Marilyn Miller (Delights of the Heart)

One of the welcome new additions to Tea Fest PDX was the British Tea Tent.  There were two Cream Teas during the festival and I attended the morning tea time which was accompanied beautifully with music by Celtic harpist Jini O'Flynn.

Our tea was served by Michele who created the stunning reproduction of an 1885 Victorian gown that she wore for the event.

Guests at the Cream Tea had the options of Chai Rooibos and Earl Grey tea (my choice) served with delicious scones from Newberg Bakery.  

Dong Ding Documentary Clip Premiere + Tasting with Shiuwen Tai (Floating Leaves)

This event was held as part of an ongoing fundraiser for the filming of a documentary about Taiwanese tea, specifically the tea growers and producers of Dong Ding Mountain.  There is more filming to be done, thus the fundraising, but the 8 minute clip we viewed was very engaging.  I'm definitely looking forward to seeing the full documentary!

Following the viewing, attendees had the opportunity to taste multiple infusions of two teas produced by the people in the clip, Mr. Su's Dong Ding Traditional and Charcoal Master Zhan's Dong Ding 3 Roast (which are both fantastic).  During the tasting, Shiuwen explained how to notice throat sensation, the spread of warmth in the throat and downward, to add to our appreciation of the tea.

Visit the Tea Documentary Project page for more information and opportunities to provide support.

Esoteric Teas with Charles & Laurie Dawson (Whatcom Tea Enthusiasts Association)

The Dawson's have a formidable (in the best way) collection of tea and tea knowledge and are generous with both.  If you have the opportunity to sit in on one of their tasting sessions, do it.  

2010 Ten Tael Heicha from Hunan Province
Also known as Huajuan cha or "flower rolling tea", this type of heicha is compressed into 10, 100, or 1000 tael logs.  This 10 tael log weighs approximately 500 grams.

Xinhui citrus-aged Gongting Pu'erh from Yunnan (tea) and Guangdong (citrus)
Gongting or ripe pu'erh is packed into citrus and aged.  The resulting steeped tea has prominent citrus notes.

Cha Gao Pu'erh from Yunnan Province
Liquid is extracted from tea leaves and then solidified in a highly concentrated tea gel, ready to be dissolve into water (~500ml water for a tiny piece like this).  We learned that tea gel resembles a certain illicit substance, so it would be wise to avoid putting it in your carry-on luggage.

Chanoyu - Japanese Tea Ceremony Demonstration with Marjorie Yap (Issoan Tea School)
Marjorie Soya Yap has been studying chado for over thirty years and has been teaching for over twenty years.  

Japanese tea ceremony originated during the time of samurai when warriors studied warrior arts as well as cultural arts to balance yin and yang.

There are hundreds of tea ceremony forms which can vary with guests, time of day, season, and occasion (graduation, first snowfall, flowers in bloom, etc).  A full tea gathering can take four and a half hours and include a nine-course meal, three servings of sake, and two servings of matcha (koicha/thick tea and usucha/thin tea) with a ten minute break, all while sitting on tatami.  There are five forbidden topics within the tea room:  politics, gossip, religion, money, and sons-in law (no bragging, no complaining).  

All elements of the tea room are intended to put you in the mood to receive the tea.  The Shokyaku (first guest) generally has the most experience and will do most of the talking with the other guests passing their questions for the host through the Shokyaku to keep the flow of the tea ceremony uninterrupted.  The quiet of the tea room is filled with the sounds of rainfall, footsteps on tatami, water splashing into the bowl, and the tea being whisked.  The weave of the tatami is 1 centimeter apart and this measure is used for mindful placement of tea implements.  The fukusa (silk tea cloth) used for purification by the host can be folded in about thirty five different ways, exposing different surfaces.  Within traditional tea ceremony schools, women will use a fukusa in a yang color (orange/red) and men will use a fukusa in a yin color (purple).

Tea ceremony consists of three "acts".
Act 1:  Purify tea utensils
Act 2:  Making and drinking tea
Act 3:  Closing

For this demonstration, the scroll reads "Seifu" or "pure breeze" which can also mean the teachings of Buddha among other things.  The bamboo kekkai in front of the furo (brazier) is used to create a separation between the real world (the audience) and the tea room.  

The host (Teishu) for this demonstration was Gabi Blau and the guest (Kyaku) was a member of the audience.  

Thanks and congratulations to everyone who worked so hard to make Tea Fest PDX a success in its second year!  I'm looking forward to 2019!