Monday, December 26, 2011

Six Famous Tea Mountains - 2006 Bang Wei

I purchased this 2006 Bang Wei (邦崴) sheng puer tea cake (生普洱茶餅) back in 2006 for $10. It was pressed by a large operation called Six Famous Tea Mountain (六大茶山). I'm drinking it today for the very first time.

It looks nice and has a pleasant grassy, dried apricot aroma off the dry leaves.

Every pour of this tea has been very saponic. On some infusions the liquor almost looked like jelly with long lasting bubbles. I get excited when puer behaves this way as it often indicates a satisfying, nourishing and delicious tea.

Unfortunately this tea did not deliver for me. I did find a bit of complexity as the tea soup entered my mouth but it was mainly on the tip of my tongue and quickly faded out, leaving behind a flat, boring liquor and bitter aftertaste. Nice flavors such as citrus rind, vanilla and pine were overtaken by harsh flavors like tobacco smoke and an occasional mustiness that reminded me of a wet towel. I'm sure those undesirable flavors did not come from my storage because all of my puer tea is kept on the same bookshelf behind a curtain in my bedroom and none of my other cakes have those flavors.

I can't be too sure what the value of this cake is today and I'll bet there are some folks who would appreciate the tobacco notes but for me, I suppose, I got what I paid for. I've come a long way in my puer tea collecting since 2006 and if I had a time machine I'd go back to 2006 and tell myself to save my ten dollars.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ba Bao Cha Part IV

Today marks my fourth Christmas as a tea blogger. Ever since my first year I've had a little tradition of drinking ba bao cha (八寶茶) (eight treasure tea) every year around this time.

Since I've already written over and over about what ba bao cha is and how I generally feel about it today's post will be short and sweet.

Dried fruit, sugar, chrysanthemums, goji berries, and green tea.

Looks pretty in a glass gaiwan. Smells like prunes!

Syrupy, fruity, amber liquor.

These 6 things + sugar does not equal 8 treasures.

(...maybe I was supposed to count water as the 8th treasure?)


Monday, December 19, 2011

Thing One and Thing Two

These fine fellows were photographed near some old graves and shrines in the Mucha (木柵) area of northern Taiwan. I'm not sure what they are called or what their exact roll may be. Perhaps some of my more Taiwan savvy readers could enlighten us with a comment?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2006 Rougui Oolong Roasting Experiment

Back in 2006 I purchased a few pounds of Rougui oolong (肉桂烏龍) from Josh at J-Tea. This tea was made either in Taiwan, or mainland China under Taiwanese management (Josh was not certain which). The dry leaves are rolled into a ball shape instead of the long, twisted shape of many Rougui teas. I've always really loved this tea's toasty cinnamon notes and pleasant substantial mouth-feel.

In the years since, I have sold, traded, gifted and imbibed about half my stash. The remaining ~17 ounces have been resting in a plastic bag inside of an old competition Wenshan Baozhong tin in a forgotten corner of my tea cabinet.

I opened the bag on the evening of 12-4-2011 to smell it for the first time in years. The smell is nice, a tiny bit musty and sweet. I let the leaf air out for a couple hours and made a plan to roast half of it the following day.

On 12/5/2011 at 9:30 AM I used my electric stove to bake ~8 ounces of this tea in an aluminum pie pan. I let it go for one hour at 200° F. The leaf was about 3/4 inch deep and was not stirred.

Towards the end of the hour a sweet cinnamon granola aroma started to emerge from my stove. After baking I allowed the leaf to cool completely and put it in a new plastic bag to wait until the following morning.

After First Roast

On 12/6/2011 at 7:30 AM I stirred the leaves and baked them again, this time at 215° F. I gently stirred them every 15 minutes for 2 hours. I choose these parameters based loosely on the recommendations of several tea people I emailed for advice.

Finished Roasting - 9:30 AM on 12/6/2011

After the leaves had mostly cooled, ~10 minutes later, I set up a cupping of the unbaked and the baked leaves. I used 5 grams of tea in two identical glass cups with 6 ounces boiling water.

Unbaked on left; baked on Right.

The two teas were quite different but I didn't prefer one over the other. The unbaked tea was unsurprisingly brighter and greener with more cinnamon notes on the tongue. It still tasted roasty to me and had a slightly sour taste that hinted at grapefruit and clove. The baked tea was mellow and toasty. I was happy that it didn't taste burnt or smoky but I felt that it lost some complexity going sip for sip with the unbaked tea. The baked tea was smoother and more warming with muted cinnamon and whole wheat bread crust notes.

Both teas are great and I feel lucky that I didn't ruin the baked tea. Now that I've finished the experiment I do not feel like the tea really needed to be roasted again at this time. Perhaps the careful airtight storage at my house and the original roast back in 2006 made this experiment redundant. I think I will cup these two together again in a few months to see how they're coming along.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bamboo Leaf Tea

Last month I purchased one ounce of Organic Bamboo Leaf Tea from Bamboo Leaf Tea in Florida. This company, which produces the product completely by hand, makes the following statements about the health benefits of drinking Bamboo leaf tea:

1. Bamboo shoots and tea are high in antioxidants as well as other vitamins and minerals that help maintain a healthy lifestyle.
2. Bamboo Leaf Tea quickly rehydrates the body making it a great after workout drink.
3. The tea aids digestion and may help in detoxifying the body. Because of these properties it is widely used in Asia as a tea for weight loss.

I find this interesting even though real tea and some other herbal beverages also have these same benefits. The producers also promote the content of silica and a tiny amount of fiber in each cup. Bamboo leaves do not contain caffeine which makes it a nice late evening sipper for me. For any readers interested in learning more about bamboo's use as a medicine please check out this great link that was recently shared with me by my acupuncturist friend Seth P.

The real reason I purchased these leaves is because I wanted to know what they would taste like. So here is my review:

It looks like dried grass and has a sweet, nutty, grassy aroma.

I've found that it's very hard to oversteep these leaves. A five minute, boiling hot, one quarter full gaiwan will pour a pale moon yellow and have a clean, bright aroma.

"Grassy in a good way" is probably the best way I can describe it. It reminds me a lot of Japanese Bancha green tea. It has light to medium body and brothiness depending on how long you steep it. The subtle nutty notes are more present in the aroma than in the mouth. I enjoy the flavor of Bamboo leaf tea.

It can be steeped twice to good effect but three times is "pushing it too far" in my experience.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Phoenix Tea House

I'm so happy to announce that today, Friday December 2nd, is the opening day of Phoenix Tea! We are located at 902 SW 152nd Street in Burien, Washington. My business partner Cinnabar and I have worked very hard over this last month to create a beautiful and comfortable space that welcomes tea lovers of all levels.

Our tea shop will sell loose leaf tea and teaware, feature a tea tasting table, sell cups of freshly brewed tea to go, and house a small tea museum and library. Our hours, at least for now, will be Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Sundays from Noon to 5:00 PM (although we may be able to accommodate other times by appointment).

I hope to see you soon at our tea shop!