Sunday, 17 November 2013

Dong Ding Oolong (Eco-Cha)

This Dong Ding comes from Yong Long village the original Dong Ding Mountain, though the exact terroir is a bit different - red soils - from what most Dong Ding is grown in. This batch of tea was originally meant for an oolong competition around Dong Ding Mountain, but the competition never went through, so the tea is now for sale.

The leaves are dark - darker than other dong dings I've tried - and tightly rolled, with a sweet, floral aroma of orchids with a slightly roasty undertone.

The aroma of the liquor is intensely nutty at first, with roasted bark and chicory, but then there's some oolong buttery vanilla hiding underneath that with some cinnamon spice.

The first sip is bold, with roasted nutty flavours and a fantastic mouthfeel - buttery vanilla but with also some citrus tartness. The floral notes come out a bit later, with some orchid and red grapes, and a suggestion of cinnamon and nutmeg. The aftertaste is a citrus tartness, and there's no astringency.

It's a deeper and darker Dong Ding, and wonderfully interesting, I'm really enjoying it.

Dong Ding Oolong at Eco-Cha

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Tonnes of Taiwanese Tea!

Sorry that my posting has been lackluster, I was off last week trying not to fall off a volcano in Iceland. I've brought back some Icelandic tisanes to review later, but first, I've received a delightful package of teas from Eco-Cha in Taiwan! They have the best translation pun(?) for the Chinese name of their company - 一口茶 (yī kǒu chá) - one mouth tea! Here's what I'll be reviewing.
  • Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Black
  • Jin Xuan Oolong
  • Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong 
  • Dong Ding Oolong

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Kuma Green 1228 (Mellow Monk)

Kuma Green 1228 is Mellow Monk's newest tea, a tamayokucha-style sencha, which would mean a certain level of steaming and shading to this tea. This sencha is largely the product of a single man, Kazuo Watanabe, two-time winner of Japan's Minister's Award for quality. The name of this tea comes from the address of Watanabe's estate in Kumamoto, and Watanabe personally tends to the plants - growing, tending, picking, and preparing the tea leaves.

The leaves are very small and dark, fine little wispy curls. Sticking my nose in the bag has brings a big, billowy vegetal aroma of freshly mown grass, crisp apples, and warm sunshine hitting cool, shaded mountain moss.

The liquor is a hazy pea-green, with an aroma of baked apples, warm sand, and an oh-so-slightly roasted grassy note. The first sip is smooth, with warm grassy flavours giving way to deeper, rounder, more vegetal notes. There's a bit of spinach, cantaloupe, and summery prairie grass on the tongue, with a mildly astringent aftertaste of applemint and maybe even chicory. Complex and refreshing.

Kuma Green 1228 at Mellow Monk

Monday, 28 October 2013

2011 Spring Nan Nuo Mountain "Ban Po Lao Zhai" Old Tree & Small Tree (JK Tea Shop)

Now that it has suddenly turned to winter (Saturday I was hiking in a t-shirt, Sunday I was scraping snow off the car), it's time to break out the darker, heavier teas! This is a double tasting of raw pu'er from JK Tea Shop - both of these teas come from the same farmer in Ban Po Lao Zhai village of Nannuo mountain in Menghai, Yunnan - the leaves were picked at the same time in the spring of 2011, were processed and aged the same by the same people, but the only difference is that one is from a 80 year old tea plant, and the other from a 400 year old plant!

Young Leaves - 80 years old

The young leaves are very long and full, with lots of fuzz and tips. The scent in the bag is like leather, woodsmoke, and green grapes.

The first steeping is a slightly hazy amber with an aroma of the seaside, hops, more leather, salt air, and dried apricots. The taste has a very smooth and buttery mouthfeel, with flavours of woodsmoke, Saaz hops, almost a tang of Keemun black tea, and a twitch of acidity in the aftertaste.

The second steeping the colour of an IPA with a tinge of green. The aroma is sweeter, with the apricots in the front and some woodsmoke underneath, with less seaside. The flavour is also much sweeter and lighter, apricots and nectarines, the barest suggestion of smoke, some raisins and honey in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is less buttery, with an almost minty aftertaste.

Old Leaves - 400 years old

The old leaves a darker and broader than the young, with a few less white and golden tips. The scent in the bag was less woodsmoke, and a more piquant green grape aroma, spicier with almost a touch of cinnamon.

The first steeping is a darker amber with an aroma of cool earth, leather, dried apricots and a hint of the seaside. The taste is less smooth and buttery, and unlike the young leaves, there's almost no smokiness. There are flavours of Keemun, a hint of apricots, red grapes, and a bit of salt breeze with a cooling aftertaste.

The second steeping is an even darker amber with a smooth, rounded aroma - more dried apricots, some floral notes, leather and just the slightest suggestion of woodsmoke. The mouthfeel is smooth but with a touch of astringency, with flavours of cinnamon, apricots, hops, sunny earth, just a touch of sea breeze, and leather, with more seaside in the aftertaste.

The Difference 

There is a noticeable difference between the two teas, the leaves from the older plant make a tea that's deeper and rounder, while the young leaves pop and sparkle instead, with sharper and more distinct flavours instead of the dark complexity of the old leaves. It's amazing how that one variable of the age of the plant affects the taste so much.

2011 Spring Nan Nuo Mountain "Ban Po Lao Zhai" Old Tree & Small Tree at JK Tea Shop

Saturday, 19 October 2013

2013 Spring Handmade Imperial High Mountain Wild-growing Longjing

Next from my Chinese tea shipment from JK Tea Shop is a high-grade longjing with a neat backstory. The leaves come from a tea field on a mountain in Chunan county in Zhejiang that has been abandonned for 30 years. There is no trimming or pruning on the bush, which is over 100 years old, and is is only picked once a year - this year on April 8, 2013.

The leaves a full, fat, and flat, and an olive green colour. The aroma in the bag is rich and full, some roasted notes, some fresh green grass, something dark and vegetal, and maybe an edge of graham crackers and almost even chocolate.

The liquor is a pale, delicate green with an aroma warm summer grass, peaches, jasmine and a sun-filled used book store.

The flavour is delicate, with a grassy taste with notes of sushi rice, peaches and arrowroot, with a juicy aftertaste, with only the slightest edge of astringency and a lightly roasted touch. It's a very light flavour, not as bold or roasted as some other longjings I've tried. The scent was definitely a lot stronger than the taste.

2013 Spring Handmade Imperial High Mountain Wild-growing Longjing at JK Tea Shop

Monday, 14 October 2013

2013 Spring Imperial Huoshan Huangya (JK Tea Shop)

First up from my shipment of Chinese teas from JK Tea Shop is a yellow tea, a 2013 spring picking huoshan huangya from Anhui. It was grown in the Dabie Mountains at an elevation of 1774m, so it's an old-growth high-grown tea. It's also Imperial grade, so it's about as good as you're going to get!

The aroma in the bag is gorgeous, a big juicy vegetal summery scent, with peaches and lilac. The leaves are long green blades, with light down and gentle twists.

The liquor is only the palest green with a delicate, floral aroma with an edge of sunny wheat - if grass had flowers, this is what it would smell like.

The flavour is very light and delicate, a slight floral note with a round juiciness underneath. There's a bit of prairie grass and apricot and a floral aftertaste with the barest suggestion of roastiness. It's an extremely refined and delicate tea, you do need to sit and focus to pick up on the flavours.

2013 Spring Imperial Huoshan Huangya at JK Tea Shop

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Coming Up, Chinese Green, Yellow, and a Pu'er Taste Test!

Just arrived from JK Tea Shop in China, here's an interesting spread of teas that I'll be reviewing over the next few days: