Friday, July 27, 2012

Matcha Morning

It's a beautiful cool misty morning here in Burien, Washington. I've got the door open at Phoenix Tea and I can smell the sea. My tea of choice today is a high-quality matcha (抹茶) green tea called "御薄茶万代昔" from 上林春松本店 in Japan.

Big 謝謝 to my friend Jason for hooking me up with this delicious treasure.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Phoenix Tea Updates

Most readers of this blog already know about Cinnabar's and my tea shop, Phoenix Tea, in Burien, WA. Cinnabar started the company back in 2010 and I joined her in July 2011. Together we have nearly twenty years of tea selling and tea writing experience. Things are going well for our store and we currently have over 80 great teas in stock. In fact, Cinnabar just recently launched an improved website and we're offering 15% discount on all web orders through the end of July with this code: JulySiteLaunch

It is now our desire to reach out to some restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, spas, and natural health clinics that want to serve their clients the very best loose leaf tea. Would you or someone you know be interested in meeting with me about the possibility of buying our teas at wholesale prices to serve to your clients? If you are local, I'd be happy to visit your shop or host you at mine. Wherever you may be, we offer free samples and will work with you to put together the perfect selection of teas based on your knowledge of your clients tea preferences and your own tastes. We carry many of the usual suspects such as Earl Grey, Genmaicha, Peppermint etc... and we also have many more exotic / high-end offerings for sale. I am always happy to consult with our clients, for free, about building/expanding your tea menu and the best way to prepare our teas at your venue. Please call (206-495-7330) or email ( for more information. Thank you!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

South Seattle Tea Estate - 2012 Harvest Report

As the manager of the South Seattle Tea Estate, I am saddened to inform you that 5-year-old "Leafer," our oldest tea plant, died over the winter. The 3 remaining plants looked scrubby and beaten at the start of spring. For this reason I decided not to make spring 2012 tea.

Summer has been good to our 3 tea plants and they are now, for the most part, looking healthy and producing new leaves.

On July 15, 2012, I decided to make an experimental summer oolong. The harvest took place at 9:00 am. Due to a dearth of tender leaf and bud sets I decided to pluck more mature, lower leaves. In all, I selected 28 leaves for a total of 15 grams. The leaves were arranged in a single layer in a glass baking dish for withering.

After about an hour and a half of withering in the shade the sun broke through the clouds. At this point I moved the dish to the roof of my car for some full-sun withering. The day became quite warm with a nice gentle breeze.

2:00 pm - The leaves were a little bit limp but some bits were too crispy for my liking. Also, some leaves appeared to be getting a "sun burn" so I decided to bring it inside.

3:15 pm - I spent 3 minutes shaking and kneading the leaves.

8:00 pm - I spent another 3 minutes kneading, twisting, shaking and bruising the leaves. I felt like the leaves were getting too dry and brittle so I mounded them up together and covered them with an upside down bowl.

The following morning (today) at 6:30 am - I checked the tea. It had a sweet tobacco-like aroma and a mottled brown and green coloring like camouflage. After ~3 minutes more rolling and kneading. I mounded up and recovered the limp leaves with the same bowl.

9:00 am - I did even more kneading and rolling and then took this photo after which the leaves were then left uncovered.

11:00 am - I baked the leaves for 30 minutes at 250° F in a cast-iron pan. The leaves were mainly in a single layer. I gave them a gentle stir about halfway through baking. The next picture is of my finished tea. It weighed about 5 grams.

I fired up the kettle and placed half of my total harvest into a small gaiwan. My first steep was boiling water for 3 minutes. The color was a lovely golden yellow and the liquor had a sweet smell with notes of raw pumpkin, cooked yam and unlit cigars.

I was trying to make a darker tea, but I was still pleased with the outcome of this experiment. The tea lacked for mouth-feel but it surprised me with complexity. The raw pumpkin aroma stuck with it through 3 infusions but the taste kept changing. It was always brighter and fruitier than I was expecting. I even picked up some guava and nectarine notes as well as a syrupy sweetness.

I'm glad I have enough leaf left over for one more session. I plan to bring it to Phoenix Tea this weekend to share with other tea lovers.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Organic Tea in Mucha

In January of 2010, I spent a lovely afternoon with two friends hiking around the Mucha (木柵) area of Northern Taiwan. During the hike I was delighted to see many small tea farms growing organic tea. I also saw a great mix of native plants, bamboo, herbs, trees and shrubs in the area.

Wild areas near the trail.

Newly transplanted bamboo.

A newly planted grove of tall bamboo.

Strolling among the tea bushes.

Nitrogen fixing cover crop sown between rows.

This plant looked different from the others and had recently endured quite a bit of nibbling. The flower is bigger and fancier too. Perhaps this is more of an ornamental tea plant?

This is a much more traditional looking tea flower in my experience.

Spiders webs are wonderful things to see among healthy tea plants.

Friday, July 6, 2012

2010 Ban Pen Sheng Puer Cake

Today I'm reviewing Essence of Tea's 250 gram 2010 Ban Pen (班盆) sheng puer cake. This cake was one of several fine teas I received during my recent tea trade with Tea Sleuth. More information about Ban Pen can be found on Essence of Tea's blog here.

I steeped the tea with freshly boiled water in a small gaiwan about 1/3 full of loosely compressed dry leaf. After a 3 second rinse, I inhaled an inviting herbaceous aroma. The first couple infusion were about 20 seconds long.

I was very impressed with this lively young tea and its complexities demanded my full attention. The liquor is a bright yellow color with subtle cloudy currents circling about lazily among stationary bubbles. In the mouth it's dry with notes of sweet hay, leather and clove. It had a clean, brisk, invigorating, throat-feel. Its finest moments, for me, were when it presented some delicate wild flower honey and Meyer lemon notes.