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enjoying tea zhejiang silver needle

April 2, 2010 is a leading online tea retailer with an abundance of specialty tea in all categories. From everyday green tea to luxury tea like Monkey Picked Ti Guan Yin, has all the bases covered. And they have some amazing teaware like Yixing teapots and Gongfu sets! I love the fact that they have embraced a variety of tea cultures, from the traditional British tea ceremony to the ancient Chinese Gongfu style.

The dry leaf is beautiful. Large, uniform, downy full leaves with silvery fuzz. The aroma is light and quite unpronounced, but typical of Silver Needle.

The tea liquor is very light. It displays a clear, pale brownish/yellow  color. The aroma is delicate and slightly floral with a touch of herbaceousness. There is a wheaty, hay-like fragrance that is fairly prominent, as well as a very light “tea” smell. Like the aroma of a black tea, but very, very faint. It’s very pleasant.

Flavor-wise, the tastes are subtle and slightly sweet with a nice finish. The tea is light-bodied and has a peach-like characteristic along with some vegetal flavors. I taste a little bit of butter, a little yeast, a bit of fresh baked bread. I felt like I really had to concentrate to focus on the flavor profiles of this tea, but in a meditative way.

The complexity of white teas is often overlooked because of their subtlety, but if attention is paid, there are amazing things to be found in a cup of white tea. The aromas and flavors are light, but there are many layers if you allow yourself to discover them. The Zhejiang Silver Needle is proof of this.


iN-TEA formosa oolong

April 1, 2010

iN-TEA is a great tea lounge and online tea retailer based in Littleton, CO and owned by Carole Alvarez. Carole knows her tea, and she sent me some amazing Oolongs to try out. I’ve already tasted iN-TEA‘s Milk Oolong and their Wen Shan Bao Zhong, and was very impressed with both of them (in fact, they are two of my favorite teas right now). So, I can hardly wait to venture into another Oolong.

Formosa Oolong are Oolong-style teas from Taiwan. The dry leaf of this tea is a mix of coppery brown, red and dark green and rolled into a long twisty shape (unlike the balled leaf shape of Ti Kuan Yin). The leaf smells sweet and earthy with a woodsy undertone and a subtle fruity note.

The tea liquor is a dark, bronzy color, and aromas of peach, apricot and grape intertwine with a malty, nutty fragrance and a light floral note.

On the palate, there is stone-fruit, citrus and a spicy characteristic. It is a rich cuppa with a little pleasant astringency on the finish, but no bitterness at all. It is very smooth. There is a slight sweetness to the liquor and a roasty quality to the finish, which harmonizes with a deep honey flavor.

This Formosa Oolong is oxidized a little more toward the black tea end of the spectrum (more than, say, TKY). It has both the complex fruity, nutty and  floral character of some Oolongs and some of the body and richness of a black tea. It’s a nice middle ground. And a gorgeous tea.

white august tea rogue wave

April 1, 2010

White August Tea is an online tea company with some very unique blends. A few weeks ago, I reviewed their black tea blend Constellation. I found it to be a very interesting and well composed blend, with Assam as its star and the flavorings an accent. It was rich and caramel-like with good body and subtle sweetness. Rogue Wave is a blend of Sencha, ginger and toasted coconut. An interesting and unique-sounding blend to say the least.

The dry leaf’s appearance is of green tea with bright green and red specks scattered throughout. It’s very pleasing to the eye. The leaf smells sweet and nutty, with a hint of spice. It seems a strange fragrance for a green tea, and in fact, I can’t smell the green tea at all! Hopefully the flavor of the Sencha will come out in the brewed tea, and blend well with the flavorings. The website touts this tea as a “one of a kind experience”. I bet it will be.

The tea liquor is a bright, bright yellow and smells of warm spices, vanilla, lemon and coconut. There is a citrusy component and the fragrance of freshly baked gingerbread cookies. And candied ginger. I can’t detect the green tea on the nose at all, but it smells very pleasant and sweet. Pleasant in a “I can’t wait to take a sip” kinda way. This is an amazing smelling tea.

The body and mouth-feel is Sencha-like, there is no mistaking that. There is a lemony flavor, which gives way to a prominent ginger flavor profile. There is no sweetness, but the tropical, coconut-ty flavor is more than enough to satisfy. This is not a fruit-forward tea, it is spice-forward. I love how the toasted coconut, the spicy kick of the ginger and the comforting essence of green tea mingle together so well, and so unexpectedly. Also, Rogue Wave would make a great, interesting iced tea, with or without sweetener.

I love my green teas straight up, with all the vegetal and oceanic flavor profiles. But this is good. It’s a guilty pleasure tea. Like, maybe you eat granola every day, but every once and a while you just want (need) a bowl of Cap’n Crunch. This is a tea for beginners who haven’t quite developed a taste for green tea, AND for unpretentious tea aficionados who are suddenly in the mood for something fun and extreme and maybe a little weird.

And (again) it smells AMAZING!

safa himalaya jade oolong

March 28, 2010

Safa Himalaya is a company based in Vancouver, BC and is owned by Mark Jackson and Susan Bergin. They have a passion for sourcing high quality tea from “the top of the world”, the Himalayas. This area of the world is a relatively small producer of tea, so these teas are rare and unique. I am excited to try the Jade Oolong from their fine collection.

The dry leaf is sweet smelling and fresh. With a hint of floral character and a touch of spice, this tea’s fragrance is warm and inviting.

The infusion is a light yellow and quite aromatic, yet delicately so. There is a bit of lilac, ripe fruit and crisp mountain air. The flavor, while not strong, is complex and echoing. There are characteristics of orchids and juicy grapes, and a lingering sweetness in the finish that is topped off by a little, pleasant bite of astringency. Surprisingly, I find a strong presence of stone fruit aromas and flavors in this tea, like fresh peach and apricot, and even a tropical fruit note in the background.

This really reminds me of a kind of white tea/Oolong hybrid, in its flavor profile and in the appearance of the dry leaf. It has been processed in the Oolong style, and classified as such, but call me crazy, I am tasting Pai Mu Tan, Silver Needle and lightly oxidized Oolong, along with this tea’s own unique flavor.  I was expecting certain flavors that I didn’t get from this tea, and I found flavors I never expected to be there.

I love it when a tea surprises me.

adagio tasting set and golden monkey black tea

March 24, 2010

The tasting set from Adagio has been on my wish-list for a long time and I finally got my hands on one! Actually, I received one about a week ago and it was broken, and with friendly and prompt customer service, they replaced it right away. It landed at my door today along with samples of Golden Monkey Black Tea, Pai Mu Tan white tea and Ti Kuan Yin Goddess Oolong.

The tasting set is very cute, and I couldn’t wait to try it out. Although I will probably tend to use this set most often for Oolong tea, I am in a black tea mood and opt for the Golden Monkey. The dry leaf has a nice appearance, with very uniform black and golden leaves. It smells earthy and sweet.

I cover the bottom of the infusing cup with tea leaves, pour in the hot water, put the lid on and wait. With a swift tip of the lidded vessel I poured the tea into the tasting bowl. The tea liquor is bright amber and has aromas of honey, dried fruits and cocoa. I detect a bit of a muscatel fragrance, much like the scent of the skin of a grape.

The flavor reminds me a little of Darjeeling, but not so much as to be confused. This is most definitely a Chinese black tea. It is a robust tea with great body and a good finish. A slight floral characteristic is surprising and pleasant. The flavor profile of this tea is all over the place: chocolate-y, stone-fruit, honey, pepper, spice, and a hint of sweetness. There are layers and layers to discover in this great black tea.

I love the tasting set, it is attractive and functional. I steeped the Golden Monkey several times, and I have come to the conclusion that this is the best way to enjoy tea, with several small, short infusions. I can really note the subtleties of the subsequent infusions and I get to slow down and really appreciate the tea as an artisanal product. This is a much more holistic approach to enjoying tea, and I can definitely get used to that.

obubu tea houjicha and sencha of the wind

March 23, 2010

Obubu Tea is a tea company dedicated to authentic Japanese green teas. Their tea comes from the Kyoto Obubu Tea Plantations in Japan, and their mission is to provide top quality leaf to people who appreciate it, as well as educating tea lovers on tea and tea-culture. Their website is full of great information on Japanese green tea and the farmers who produce it. I received two samples of Obubu’s teas, their Houjicha and their Sencha of the Wind.

Houjicha is a roasted green tea which is roasted in an oven to impart a smoky flavor. This process also decaffeinates the tea, so its a good choice for those sensitive to caffeine. The leaves in the sample of Obubu’s Houjicha that I received were quite small and uneven, but I believe that they were crushed during mailing, as Obubu’s website pictures portray very nice, large, consistent leaves. So, the plastic sample bags are convenient, but they do not protect the tea. That’s okay, because it will steep just fine.

The dry leaf smells earthy, woody and oceanic; a little like dried seaweed. The cup color is deep red/brown and smells rich and substantial. The aromas and flavors are intertwined. There is a nutty aspect, a roasty aroma and flavor, a touch of smoke, and a vegetal backbone. This Houjicha is brothy and meditative, with flavors far from subtle, but still familiar and comforting.

Next is Obubu’s Sencha of the Wind. This Sencha is cultivated in springtime and harvested in May. The dry leaf smells very typical of Sencha, sweet and vegetal. The liquor is bright yellow/green and aromatically soothing with notes of sweet grass. The flavor profile is delicate yet delicious, with buttery vegetal characteristics and a great finish.

Overall, both of these teas really impressed me. I also think their website is a terrific resource and I really enjoyed the video of how to brew and pour Houjicha, it was great! Thanks Obubu for introducing me to a couple of great green teas!

iN-TEA wen shan bao zhong

March 11, 2010

iN-TEA is the premier tea lounge and retail shop in Littleton, Colorado. They have some fabulous teas including the Milk Reserve Oolong that I tried recently, which has proven to be one of my absolute favorite teas. This is my first time trying Wen Shan Bao Zhong, and I am thoroughly excited to do so.

Dry, the leaf consists of long, loosely rolled leaves. The fragrance is inviting, a mix of floral and vegetal notes and a slight earthy, nutty tone. The infusion is light yellow and smells of freshly picked flowers and ocean breeze.

I know it sounds crazy and I might be going out on a limb here, but the initial taste was slighly cinnamon-y. With the tiniest hint of warming spices (reminiscent of pumpkin pie spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice), the first sip surprised me. It’s also highly floral with a long, sweet, pleasant finish. I am picking up on a strong orchid-like characteristic, as is so common in many oolongs, as well as lilac and a subtle milky note.

Really, really beautiful.

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