Thursday, January 10, 2019

Cupping Two Winter Wenshan Baozhong Teas

Hi Tea Friends! Happy New Year! Long time no see!

I've been doing well. These days I stay busy taking care of my home and family, playing ukulele and guitar, cooking at a busy neighborhood vegetarian cafe, and drinking lots of great tea. I mostly drink oolongs and black/reds, but I'll happily drink some green tea or puer in social settings.

My tea blogging goal for 2019 is a minimum 300% increase in posts compared to 2018. That should not be too hard because I only had one post in 2018! Hashtag "setting the bar low" am I right ?!

Today I cupped up a couple of fresh, high quality, Winter Wenshan Baozhong teas (文山包種茶) from my friend's farm in Pinglin, Taiwan! (Check out my previous post for a photo of my daughter looking out at the very tea bushes these teas were picked from!)

-I'll call them Tea #1 and Tea #2.
-Tea #2 is about 25% more expensive than tea #1.
-Both teas were made by @Pinglin54 in November 2018.
-For each tea I used 4 grams of dry leaf in identical ceramic bowls.
-Water at about 200° F.

Ah! I love that sweet Baozhong fragrance!!! 

Tea #1

... and Tea #2
(I realize they both look pretty much exactly the same :)

Let me just start by singing ♪♫♬♪♫♬ I LOVE WINTER BAOZHONG! ♪♫♬♪♫♬

Both of these teas are superb but they did cup up very differently for me today.

Tea #1 had a grassier, thinner liquor. It was refreshing and crisp with a pleasant honeydew melon aroma, and pine-forest flavor notes. The body was good compared with most Baozhong teas, especially most Spring Baozhong, but it lacked mouthfeel and body compared with #1. It did win for throat-feel though. It left a really wonderful, peppery, sparkly aftertaste in the back of my throat that I didn't get much from #2.

Tea #2, as I just mentioned, was tops for mouthfeel! It was very thick and buttery and much more floral than its less expensive sibling. #2 was also more fragrant off the spoon too. I enjoyed its alluring flavor notes of lilac and mock orange.

In my happy place!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Taiwan Travel Gallery 2018

大家好! Last week my family and I returned home after 8 awesome days in Taiwan. This was my sixth time visiting my favorite island. We had fun eating, shopping, swimming, hiking, drinking tea and exploring in Taipei (台北), Yeliu (野柳), Pinglin (坪林), Jiufen (九份), and Guguan (谷關). Here are a few photos from our trip!

Produce shopping in Taipei

Walking the lanes near our apartment

A visit to Taipei 101

Looking down from up high!

A view of the Danshui River from the window of friend's apartment

Awesome pool that we had all to ourselves

Walking the streets of Taipei

Tea with Amin in Pinglin!

The Guanyin in Pinglin

On the trail with our buddy "Golden"

Dez finds a friend

Cora at the Tea Farm

Cool suspension bridge near Pinglin

A stormy and fun day at Yeliu

A pretty cafe in Jiufen

Walking the alleys of Guguan

Cora chillin' with her ocarina

7-11 selfie in Guguan

Lunch Time!

Massive grasshopper on the Shao Lai Trail (捎來步道)

Guguan post office

Dez plays his ocarina in Guguan

Dinner at the hotel

Kiss Fish! Eating the dry skin cells on our feet.

A view of our Hotspring Pool

Mango Jelly, Boba, & Passionfruit Shaved Ice!

Busy Old Street of Jiufen

Ready for some Lishan High Mountain Oolong!

Walking to the elementary school in Guguan

Monday, October 9, 2017

Northwest Tea Festival 2017 and Colombian Black Tea Cupping

On September 30th and October 1st I attended the Northwest Tea Festival at Seattle Center. Both days, I presented a session in the tea tasting booths called Oolongs with Brett. As the name suggests my sessions featured me serving and discussing oolong tea (along with a bit of ukulele strumming). It felt great to get behind a bamboo serving tray once again!

After my tasting sessions I spent my time sampling tea and connecting with friends on the expo floor. I picked up some fantastic Alishan from Floating Leaves and miscellaneous other goodies from some of my favorite stores (like Phoenix Tea, Smacha, and Young Mountain). My tea cupboard is now ready for Autumn!

At one point my old boss Brian Keating wanted to introduce me to a Colombian tea producer called Bitaco. I had never tried Colombian tea so I was excited to give it a shot. After chatting with Brian and the Bitaco representatives, I had faith that Bitaco cares about the people in their community and the lush mountain environment at which their tea is grown. Also, their tea looked and smelled super fresh and the price was great.

I picked up these 3 Colombian black teas:

Tippy 2

Wiry 2

Black Wiry 1

During the past week I enjoyed mugs of each tea, but today I decided to cup all three side by side to see how they really compared. I used 3 grams of leaf in three identical 6 ounce glass mugs. Each tea was steeped 3 minutes with boiling water.  

Wiry 2 (top left) 
Tippy 2 (top right)
 Wiry 1 (bottom middle)

The teas cupped up nicely. Here are my tasting notes:
Wiry 2 had the lightest body, but not by much. It was brisk, sweet and clean tasting. Compared to the others it was mellow, but the delicate notes of fruit, honey, and wood made it the most complex. It's a black tea that drinks more like a dark oolong.

Wiry 1 was the most peppery. It reminded me of a mid-grade Yunnan hongcha. It is a great cup of tea but it slightly lacked complexity when sipped alongside the other two.

Tippy 2 was very nice. It had the most body and mouthfeel. It was malty with a sweet stone-fruit aftertaste. If you like high quality Assam tea this would be one to try.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Red Miso is Done!


After 3 whole years fermenting in my basement I am excited to announce that my homemade Red Miso is finally ready! Yesterday I packaged up the entire batch into 3 quart sized mason jars. That's a lot of Miso. I'll definitely be sharing with local friends and family.

For more information on how I made this Miso please check out my post from last January called Red Miso's Second Birthday

It turned out great! I tasted it side by side with an all natural, no preservative, store bought Red Miso that I had in my fridge. Mine is bolder, smokier, saltier, and less sweet, but still a little sweet, very rich and delicious.

Miso Selfie!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

SHELL - Brett's original Board Game!

Origin Story: One night in 2008, I had this dream. I was in a youth hostel in Vancouver B.C. watching a young Canadian woman with massive dreadlocks putting away dishes in a cramped kitchenette. I watched her for quite a while as the cups and plates kept popping back out at her from the overloaded cupboard.

Out of the blue, a young man with a shaven head and Northern European accent asked me, "Do you want to play The Princess Shell?" As I turned to face the man, he said, "It is the best game in the world."

I was startled and intrigued. "Uh, OK," I replied. At this, the man reached up to pull a large solid-wood game board off of a high bookshelf. With dramatic flair, he blew all the dust off the board before setting it before us on a low coffee table.

"These small tiles are called Secrets," he explained. "They are blown around the board by an ever-present Wind. This one is the Blind Dog, this one is the Liar's Mask, and this one is called Grandfather's Axe...."

Unfortunately, at this point in the dream, my brain decided I'd had enough intrigue and pulled the plug. Even though it was 2:00 AM, I was too excited to fall back to sleep. With the dream fresh in my mind, I went into our office (now our kid's bedroom) and started making notes. I knew I wanted to make The Princess Shell into a real board game, but I had no idea where to start. After I made a few sketches and notes, I forced myself to go back to bed.

Over the last 8 years, I have worked on my game in fits and starts. Thanks to massive amounts of help from my family and friends, it has evolved into a very original and fun board game with clear, easy-to-learn rules. I named my game SHELL (the "Princess" part of the title was abandoned early on) and it is a game of strategy, memory and luck. I love my game and would like it to reach a larger audience. Visit the official SHELL website here.

Please email me (blackdragontea AT gmail DOT com ) if you...
... have any questions about SHELL (or tea or ukuleles :) 
... are in the Seattle area and would like to play SHELL.
... would like to order your very own handmade SHELL board game.
... have connections or advice regarding the board game and/or computer/app industries.

My original SHELL board from 2008 at the start of a new game.

Photo taken after several turns.

Working on a new handmade SHELL board November 2012!

Finished! (November 2012)

Pretty Floral SHELL Board (Sold!)

Beautiful SHELL Board (Sold!)

A cool Green SHELL board

Monday, September 19, 2016

Bitter Melon Tie Guanyin - 苦瓜鐵觀音

Several months ago while drinking tea with my friends Jason and Andrew at Smacha, I received (among other things) a little sample of Bitter Melon Tie Guanyin (苦瓜 鐵觀音) oolong tea.

These days I typically choose either an oolong or a hongcha for my daily brew, and I tend to stick with teas I know. But today I was feeling more adventurous so I decided to give this novelty a try.

I was surprised to find the tea leaves are actually packed into a dried bitter-melon rind shaped like a little bumpy cylinder! The leaves themselves look and smell pleasant. It is a roasted oolong tea.


I used freshly boiled water and gave the "unit" a three second rinse in my gaiwan. It smells quite good, roasty, sweet and mellow.

The first infusion was about 30 seconds and poured pretty light. As you might imagine it took the water a few infusions to get into the center of this "wheel of leaves" and start to push the real flavor out. I continued to do short steeps because I was afraid of the bitterness that actually never came. After the second infusion, with the leaves pushing their way out of the melon rind, the liquor turned a medium-dark amber color. I enjoyed the flavor but it does have a weird vegetable note. The sweet caramel-like oolong flavors are muddied up by a tart cucumber-skin aftertaste. 


After 15 years as a heavy tea drinker I have a pretty good understanding of what my body craves. I drink tea for the satisfied feeling it gives me, the flavor, and the energy (qi) (). Maybe it's because I do not have any sentimental connections to bitter melon or it's potential health benefits that I found that this tea was ultimately not worth my time.