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Posts Tagged ‘tea facts’

Yes, I am still searching for the perfect Yixing Teapot. However, after my last post, I feel much more equipped to make an informed purchase. This is due the email I received from Jo, the proprietor of YaYa House of Excellent Teas in New Zealand as well as additional research.

Jo shared some advice from her vast wealth of tea knowledge. Many of my concerns about purchasing Yixing teaware were put to rest. First and foremost, I narrowed my concerns down to the following five questions:

1. What is my purpose for purchasing Yixing Teaware? My initial desire to purchase Yixing Teaware was created out of my love for learning – Yixing Teaware comprises traditional teapots and cups made from Yixing clay. Originating in China, Yixing Teaware dates back to the 15th century and is made from clay produced in the region of the town of Yixing, in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu. As a true lover of tea – how could I not be interested in the origins of my habit? Next the opportunity to partake in a traditional tea brewing technique – Gongfu style brewing. And finally, to behold the beauty – Yixing Teaware is made by artists… craftsman with each pot containing unique characteristics of its own.

2. How many people people will join in my tea drinking experience? I tend to drink tea alone therefore, I don’t need a large pot. My first mistake, according to Jo, was in the selection of a pot that was entirely too large for Gongfu style brewing. There are a few variations of the performance of Gongfu style brewing. Here is one known technique:

  • Boil water.
  • Rinse the teapot with hot water.
  • Fill the teapot with tea leaves up to one third of the height of the pot.
  • Rinse the tea leaves by filling the pot with hot water up to half full and draining the water immediately leaving only tea leaves behind. (This step, and all subsequent steps involving pouring water, should be performed in a large bowl to catch any overflow.)
  • Pour more hot water into the teapot and pour water over the teapot in the large bowl. Bubbles should not be permitted to be formed in the teapot. The infusion should not be steeped for too long: 30 seconds is an appropriate maximum.
  • Pour the first infusion into small serving cups within a minute by continuously moving the teapot around over the cups. Each cup of tea is expected to have the same flavour, aroma and colour. The nature of this procedure almost mandates the use of some form of drip tray to catch further spillage.
  • Pour excess tea from the first infusion, and all tea from further infusions, into a second teapot after steeping. It is possible to draw five or six good infusions from a single pot of tea, but subsequent infusions must be extended somewhat in duration to extract maximum flavour: the second infusion extended by approximately ten seconds to 40 seconds, the third extended to 45, etc.
Even if I were brewing for multiple people traditional Yixing Teaware uses small 2 – 4 ounce teacups. With this in mind, Jo recommended a teapot with the capacity to hold no more than 6 to 8 ounces. In addition, when brewing, the tea leaves are poured directly into the pot. It would take a lot of tea leaves to brew a 12, 24, or 32 ounce pot of tea. Not to mention expensive.

3. What types of tea do I brew most often? Yixing teapots are meant for use with black and oolong teas, as well as aged puerh tea. You can also brew green/white tea, but it is important to let the water cool down to around 85 degrees before pouring the water into the pot. Why does the type of tea matter?  Since the clay is porous, it is best to utilize one pot for a particular tea or tea group, depending on your personal preference and intention. The fine texture and porous finish allows each vessel to absorb the essence of the teas brewed within creating a character and uniqueness to each individual pot.

4. Do I plan to be a collector of Yixing Teaware? No, therefore purchasing one of the expensive teapots I found priced up to $1500.00 is unnecessary. Jo informed me that I should expect to purchase a Yixing Teapot with a price range from $20.00 to $50.00 – depending upon the intricacy of the design.

Armed with this knowledge, I am now ready to purchase Yixing Teaware. I give many thanks to the proprietor of YaYa House of Excellent Teas. Additionally, I am grateful for all of the Internet sites available containing the Yixing information for my research. Feel free to opine to this post with information of your own. With better knowledge we are empowered to make better decisions.

Happy Tea Drinking!

References: 

1. Yixing clay teapot. (2008, July 19). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 04:33, July 22, 2008, fromhttp://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Yixing_clay_teapot&oldid=226635019

2. Yixing tea pots differ greatly from other brewing vessels. Beth Johnston. In Learn About Tea.Com. Retrieved 04:33, July 22, 2008, from http://www.learn-about-tea.com/yixing.html

3. Chinese tea culture. (2008, July 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 04:43, July 22, 2008, fromhttp://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Chinese_tea_culture&oldid=226030124

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Intrigued by my recent experience with Darjeeling Goomtee (2nd Flush), I wanted to know a little more. In my abbreviated research I found:  

“Darjeeling Tea” means tea which has been cultivated, grown, produced, manufactured and processed in the 86 Tea Estates also known as tea gardens in Darjeeling, India.  Only teas coming from these estates can be called Darjeeling Tea.

Tea planting in the Indian district of Darjeeling began in 1841 by Dr. Campbell, a civil surgeon of the Indian Medical Service.  Interestingly, Dr. Campbell, who had been transferred to Darjeeling in 1839, used the seeds of tea plants from China. Thus the actual Darjeeling taste originated from the Chinese black tea plant.  The “Darjeeling taste” simply refers to the soil in which the tea is cultivated. Experimental tea plantation by Dr. Campbell and others occurred during the 1840s. During that same period, the government established tea nurseries. Commercial exploitation began during the 1850s.
 
Traditionally, Darjeeling teas are classified as a type of black tea. However, the modern Darjeeling style employs a hard wither (35-40 % remaining leaf weight after withering), which in turn causes an incomplete oxidation for many of the best teas of this designation. Technically this level of oxidation makes them a form of oolong. The experts say that many Darjeeling teas also appear to be a blend of teas oxidized to levels of green, oolong, and black.

There are several varieties or flavors of darjeeling teas. These varieties are described as follows:

  • 1st Flush is harvested in mid-March following spring rains, and has a gentle, very light color, aroma and mild astringency.
  • In Between is harvested between the two “flush” periods.
  • 2nd Flush is harvested in June and produces an amber, full bodied, muscatel-flavored cup.
  • Monsoon or Rains tea is harvested in the monsoon (or rainy season) between 2nd Flush and Autumnal, is less withered, consequently more oxidized, and usually sold at lower prices. It is rarely exported.
  • Autumnal Flush is harvested in the autumn after the rainy season, and has somewhat less delicate flavour and less spicy tones.

The Darjeeling Goomtee (2nd Flush) tea from Tea Logic, I recently tasted and reviewed is characteristic of the above description. I cannot wait to try some of the other Darjeeling varieties. If there a Darjeeling that you recommend feel free to comment.  Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

References: Darjeeling tea. (2008, June 24). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 03:54, July 4, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Darjeeling_tea&oldid=221497850

Darjeeling tea history. In Darjeeling News. Net. Retreived July 7, 2008, from http://www.darjeelingnews.net/darjeeling_tea.html

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I often have told friends and family alike, that if I had my life to live again, I probably would have become a food critic. Certainly not for my love of cooking – but most definitely for my love of eating. I love the many flavors and textures of food. In essence, I believe this is what spawned my love of tea. The opportunity to try something new – to enjoy the flavors, aromas, and textures afforded by the different varieties of tea. This is now, but not always.

For years, out of custom or some would say habit, I drank black tea. Lipton to be precise.  My grandmother made Lipton Tea, my mother made Lipton tea, and as the story goes, I made Lipton tea. On occasion, when enjoying dinner at a local Chinese Restaurant, I would enjoy a tasty cup of green tea. Otherwise, my tea drinking routine was just that… routine. It is amazing what surprises you will find when you do a “simple” thing like stepping outside of your comfort zone.

I had no knowledge of Rooibos until a co-worker purchased and surprised me with a tin of African Autumn. My research led me to understand that Rooibos, Red Tea, Redbush Tea or any of the other names for which it is known is actually derived from the Aspalathus Linearis plant not the tea bush, Camellia Sinensis. For those of you like me who did not know, Aspalathus Linearis is a broom-like member of the legume family of plants.

Based upon my Internet search, Rooibos is grown only in a small area in the Cederberg region of the Western Cape province in south west South Africa. Generally, the leaves are oxidized.  This process produces the distinctive reddish-brown color of rooibos and enhances the flavour. However, unoxidized also known as  “green” rooibos, is produced. The more demanding production process for green rooibos (similar to the method by which green tea is produced) makes it more expensive than traditional rooibos.

As with tea derived from the tea bush, Camellia Sinensis, Rooibos can be blended with other flavors to produce unique tasting teas. Orange, mango, vanilla, cranberry, and almond to name a few. Unlike many other teas, increased brewing time enhances the flavor. I can think of one particular brewing fiasco – my first Pu-erh experience.

According to my research, Rooibos is commonly served with milk and sugar in Africa, but elsewhere it is usually served without. The flavor of rooibos tea is often described as being sweet (without sugar added) and slightly nutty. Ironically, I have struggled with finding just the right words to describe Rooibos in my tea reviews. Sweet was easy, nutty was that missing “something” I struggled to pinpoint. Preparation of rooibos tea is essentially the same as black, white, and green tea. This is really good to know, as I recall once again my Pu-erh brewing fiasco.

If you would like to read more about Rooibos, I recently found a great article that also provides a little Rooibos history as well. Just follow the link to “Rooibos Tea” written by Chris Cason for Tea Muse. Until we meet again… Happy Tea Drinking!

Reference: Rooibos. (2008, May 14). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:55, May 21, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Rooibos&oldid=212352996

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As always, it is important for me to satisfy my thirst for knowledge. This week, I enjoyed a couple of oolong teas – until this point, I never had the opportunity to brew and taste an Oolong. So, as I am sure you tea connoisseurs already know, I set out to discover, What is Oolong?

According to Wikipedia, Oolong is a traditional Chinese tea somewhere between green and black in oxidation. In Chinese tea culture, semi-oxidized oolong teas are collectively grouped as qīngchá (Chinese: 青茶; literally “blue-green tea”). Oolong has a taste more akin to green tea than to black tea: it lacks the rosy, sweet aroma of black tea but it likewise does not have the stridently grassy vegetal notes that typify green tea. It is commonly brewed to be strong, with the bitterness leaving a sweet aftertaste. Several sub-varieties of oolong, including those produced in the Wuyi Mountains of northern Fujian and in the central mountains of Taiwan, are among the most famous Chinese teas.

Oolong tea leaves are processed in two different ways. Some teas are rolled into long curly leaves, while some are pressed into a ball-like form similar to gunpowder tea. The former method of processing is the older of the two.

The Fanciest Formosa Oolong I drank earlier this week contained long curly leaves and did have a lighter taste. However, the Apple Oolong I enjoyed later this week was pressed into ball-like forms similar to gunpowder tea. I have to say that I noticed a distinct difference in the flavor – there was a distinct smokey taste identified in the Apple Oolong. Whether it was the processing method used or the quality of the Oolong, I cannot be sure. As I am new to drinking Oolong, I cannot opine. For those of you with Oolong experience, how can I tell the difference in Oolong quality?

Happy Tea Drinking!

Reference: Oolong. (2008, May 1). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:35, May 19, 2008, fromhttp://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Oolong&oldid=209490367

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Puerh Error

After chatting with another tea lover today, I discovered that perhaps I was hasty in my Puerh judgment. To truly decipher the flavor, I should have re-used my original tea leaves and brewed the Puerh again. This second brewing would have unfolded additional flavors potentially hidden by the smokiness tasted in the first cup.  Ironically, I am sure that I read similar techniques on the sites of several Puerh aficionados. Obviously, I was not paying enough attention. Thus began my search to uncover the appropriate brewing technique for Puerh…

Initially, I was unable to find conclusive instructions. Some websites/blogs stated the necessity to wash the Puerh prior to brewing, while others stated that Puerhs should be brewed like any other loose tea.

According to Wikipedia, Pu-erh is expected to be served Gongfu style, generally in Yixing tea-ware or in a type of Chinese teacup called a gaiwan. Optimum temperatures are generally regarded to be around 95 degree Celsius for lower quality pu-erhs and 85-89 degree Celsius for good ripened and aged raw pu-erh. Steeping times last from 12-30 seconds in the first few infusions, up to 2-10 minutes in the last infusions. The prolonged steeping techniques used by some western tea makers can produce dark, bitter, and unpleasant brews. Quality aged pu-erh can yield many more infusions, with different flavour nuances when brewed in the traditional Gong-Fu method.

If I rely solely upon the information found in Wikipedia, it appears that I made three definite errors: 1. water temperature – too hot; 2. steeping time – entirely too long; 3. number of infusions – only one.  Gongfu style? Gaiwan teacups? Is it incorrect to brew and NOT use these techniques?

Still full of questions, I decided to continue my research efforts. The next site I visited was PuerhShop.com. Seeking additional clarification, it was here that I located the following Puerh brewing instructions.

How to prepare Pu-erh Tea?

Step 1: Pry 3-5g tea off the cake/brick/tuo with Pu-erh knife and add tea leaves to a Yixing teapot or Gaiwan.

Step 2: Pour boiling water into the teapot, give the tea leaves a rinse for up to 30 seconds. Then draining the water out, leaving only the soaked tea leaves.

Step 3: Fill the teapot with boiling water again, cover the lid. After steeping 20 seconds – 1 minute (according to your desired strength), the tea can be poured into a tea pitcher to be served.

Step 4: repeat step 3 for 5 or 8 times. Gradually increase steeping time for subsequent brewing.

I was beginning to see some similarities in my research findings. My inqusitive nature required that I seek out one more source. Because my Google search started supplying the same results over and over again, I decided to skip convention and seek out the blog of a well known lover of Puerh. Thus, my final stop was on Ancient Tea Horse Road, a blog dedicated to Puerh. The author of this blog is a die-hard Puerh drinker. Visit and watch a great video demonstrating the proper brewing technique for Puerh. Which I might add shows, the Gongfu technique.

Each of the sources above confirmed in glaring clarity my initial mistakes. While the Gongfu technique is preferred, thankfully it is not required. Currently, I do not own the tea-ware necessary to brew Gongfu style – which is now next on my list of tea accessory purchases. Armed with knowledge, I decided to brew the Puerh again.

I am now drinking my second infusion. With correct brewing, I noticed a significant reduction in the smoky taste. In addition, the floral undertones are definitely present. One caveat – the second cup left my mouth feeling very dry. Knowledge is certainly powerful! Time to finish my tea. Until I post again… Happy Tea Drinking! 

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Recently, several of the teas I reviewed contained Matcha in the ingredients. As I am new in my tea journey, I had no clue what the term Matcha meant. I erroneously believed that teas containing matcha might be an inferior tea. To end my personal confusion, I decided that it was time to proactively research Matcha for myself. Considering that I was yet to glean this information from my general reading about tea, it is time.

After consulting Wikipedia, I was pleased to discover that Matcha is a fine, powdered green tea used particularly in Japanese tea ceremony, as well as to dye and flavour foods such as mochi and soba noodles, green tea ice cream and a variety of wagashi (Japanese confectionery).

The preparation of matcha starts several weeks before harvest, when the tea bushes are covered to prevent direct sunlight. This slows down growth, turns the leaves a darker shade of green and causes the production of amino acids that make the resulting tea sweeter.

After harvesting, the leaves are laid out flat to dry causing them to crumble somewhat. This is known as tencha – which is then de-veined, de-stemmed, and stone ground to the fine, bright green, talc-like powder known as matcha. Only ground tenchaqualifies as matcha, and other powdered teas are known as konacha ( lit. “pulverized tea”). The most famous Matcha-producing regions are Uji in Kyoto (tea from this region is called “Ujicha”), Nishio in Aichi (tea from this region is called “Nishiocha”) both on the main island of Honshū; Shizuoka, and Northern Kyushu.

The flavour of matcha is dominated by its amino acids. The highest grades of matcha have more intense sweetness and deeper flavour than the standard or coarser grades of tea harvested later in the year.

Grades of matcha are defined by the following characteristics:

  • Location on the tea bush where the leaves are picked.
  • Treatment prior to processing – either indoor or outdoor as well as the amount of exposure to sunlight, which should be none.
  • Utilization of the proper stone grinding technique.
  • The amount of oxidation – exposure of matcha to oxygen causes deterioration.

Powdered tea, also known as Matcha, was brought to Japan in 1191 by the monk Eisai. Slowly forgotten in China, Matcha continued to be an important item in Japan at Zen monasteries. Additionally, it became highly appreciated by others in the upper echelons of society during the 14th through 16th centuries. Along with this development, tea plantation owners in Uji perfected techniques for producing excellent tea for matcha. The cultural activity called the Japanese tea ceremony centers around the preparation, serving, and drinking of matcha. The 16th century tea master Sen no Rikyu is regarded as the person who perfected this cultural activity. The kind of Japanese tea ceremony that he conceived is called wabi-cha or sōan-cha.

Based upon my research, my next tea purchase will purposely include an order of matcha. I would like to taste the differences in quality and discover the impact matcha has on tea leaves when blended or infused with it. If you have a favorite matcha, let me know.

Until then…Happy Tea Drinking!

Reference: Matcha. (2008, April 6). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:00, April 23, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Matcha&oldid=203747318 

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After spending an inordinate amount of time  on Hou De Fine Asian Art website, I finally decided upon the following three tea samplers.  Each come in a 1 oz sample – I cannot wait to brew and taste.

Take a look at my choices below and tell me what you think:

 

2007 “5th Intern’l Aged Puerh Appreciation” Memorial cake

 

 

 

 

 

2005 MengHai “Meng Song Gu Cha Shan Peacock”

 

 

 

 

2003 Yi-Chan-Hao Yi-Ban Wild Arbor Cake, Uncooked

 

 

 

 

The one thing I struggled with when ordering my tea was the cooked vs. uncooked designation. Yes, I know this lack of tea lingo knowledge screams novice. What can I say, over the years I enjoyed drinking tea, but that was about it. Okay, back to my delimma – cooked vs. uncooked…

The Hou De Fine Asian Art site does a great job of explaining the difference between the two in “laymans” terms. Here is an excerpt from the website:

Cooked? Uncooked?
     Uncooked pu-erh is the original form of pu-erh teas. Following traditional method, new uncooked pu-erh teas are little or no fermented. The taste of those new teas, especially those made of wild arbor-type tea trees, has a strong astringency. People gradually found that by storing them in a dry condition for several more years, the teas become more mellow and lingering in the taste. In fact, the longer you store those uncooked pu-erhs, the better and more mellow the taste. Again, this especially applies to those made of wild arbor-type tea trees.

     It is commonly accepted that the “cooke” method was invented in Kumming Tea Factory around 1972. However, a recent report identified that the cooked method was already started in Jin-Gu Tea Factory as early as 1950.

     Cooked pu-erhs are made of the same raw tea leaves as uncooked ones. However, to speed up the fermentation process and improve the mellowness in taste, the tea factory added a Wuo Duei step – Wuo means “wetted by spreading water”, and Duei means “stored as many layers”. Basically, it is an auto-thermal and enhanced oxidation process that quickly increases the fermentation degree of pu-erh teas. Because of the auto-thermal nature and the heat generated during the step, people call this kind of pu-erh “cooked”.

It is simply amazing the things I have learned about tea! My fascination increases as I continue my tea research.

Happy Tea Drinking!

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