A deep and abiding love of Oriental Beauty

A deep and abiding love of Oriental Beauty

Mountain Tea's Jade Oolong.

Look at those deep purples and greens! Even my mean dragon-head tea scoop seemed impressed!
This is a very visually pleasing Jade Oolong. From the moment you open the bag and see the tighly rolled colorful balls with purples and green to the last unfolding of the leaves, which for me took literally hours, this is a tea to linger over and enjoy experimenting with. A very open and friendly tea, it seemed to like all my steep times and a variety of brewing temperatures. This Jade Oolong seems alive and glad to be here! I would keep drinking this tea with my evening meal, if I weren't skipping dinner tonight. And with a tea like this, who needs the masticating muscles worked? I could skip a meal here and there, and teas like these make it all the easier.
I think I might try a number of Jade Oolongs from different companies and see how this one compares, it is a tea that invites that sort of playful competition.
Smooth and delicate with a slight floral finish, it lingers but oh-so gently on the tongue, a real easy-peasy tea to enjoy.

I am too sick to Gongfu! What to do? A Lochan Darjeeling tea saves the day!

Moms aren't supposed to get sick and indeed, my body refused to 'get' what my child had until this morning, when the child is declared well enough to go to school. Then I realized I can hardly swallow and my voice is totally gone.
With a husband out of town, all my friends scattered around the globe and still needing to function to care for the child, multiple birds, various reptiles and a household to run, I gravitated towards the remainder of a sample sent by Rajiv Lochan himself weeks prior. An Arya Ruby Darjeeling. I had tried this, my first Darjeeling, Gongfu style the week prior and liked it well enough but this morning I knew if ever I was going to put a tea into a infuser pot and add a little honey and milk, I might be forgiven today due to my circumstances to use what was left of the Lochan's Darjeeling to do so and I am so glad I did.
My gratitude goes out to Lochan Tea Limited and all those at Lochan who make it possible for me to have a warming, helpful, lovely cup of tea to soothe my throat, put into a large mug and carry with me all morning, and generally feel like I was going to make it through this day fever or no!
If Mr. Lochan had not sent me this and other as-of-yet untried Darjeelings I would have no tea this morning, and I really, really needed teas warming comfort, strength and gentle caffeine to get the day started. Maybe later I will be up for something from Taiwan but for this morning, this was exactly what was required.
Mr. Rajiv Lochan has my deep gratitute!

My first Chai of the year, using Keemun black tea and Everest brand 'Tea Masala' spice blend.

I was going to wait until the weather changed but I couldn't stand it another day. I love the purity of all the teas I drink, but it is time for a lot of blended spices, it is time for Chai!
I was sampling my first Keemun this morning as mentioned in today's earlier post and felt pulled to do something else with it. It's such a perfect black tea to 'play around with'.
So I put the full 9 gram sample into my new, (and until today, unused) Japanese ceramic kettle, and opened up this years bag of Tea Masala. This year I bought a box/bag from Everest on a recommendation. Often I make my own Chai spice blends and I have lots of fresh ingredients but thought I'd give this a try. LOVED it, all I needed to add was a little agave and honey. There is a lot of peppercorn in this blend, very spicy! Not much in it aside from Black Pepper, Dry Ginger (I may add a chunk of fresh next time) Cassia, Cardamom, Nutmeg, Clove and Black Cardamom.

I took the dry 5 grams of Keemun and put it into the kettle with an eyeballed amount of water, enough for a lot of Chai, maybe 4-5 cups, and the slightly used leaves from my initial Gungfu session with the Keemun, added approx a teaspoon, maybe less of the Masala spice blend, and let it cook on the fire til the temperature gauge told me it was 203f. At that point I tasted, was astounded by the pepper, and added some raw organic agave sweetener and a dollop of honey. WONDERFUL, if I do say so myself! Had two bowls and put the rest in the fridge for chilled Chai tonight. Happy to share, do come visit soon!

Keemun Finest. Unsweetened cocoa, leather, warm dried plum and smoke.

Zen Tea has given me my first taste into the world of Keemun tea. This tea is asking for a large pot and to be made with a little creamer. That is not Gongfu! Goodness, have I just found a tea that speaks to me of Western Style brewing parameters? Well, not until I research this intuitive desire a bit more.

It is not light, and it is not sweet. It is not bitter, nor astringent. It is a different sort of tea than any of the others I have tried. Underwhelming actually, but prompting me to think of a little cream, perhaps a drop of sweetener,(What? Me? Never!) leads me to believe there is a new journey here, starting with this Keenum, right now. You have simply got to try this tea if you have not had Keemun before and tell me what you think.

Small dark leaves, the scent of chocolate fills the gaiwan, this tea makes me ache for these long, hot days to end. The Japanese stove-top ceramic kettle I bought from Zen Tea seems to be shining towards me and suggesting that Keemun is how I should first begin to use her, this large, rounded old womanish kettle.
But she is big, and the sample, though ample at almost ten grams, cannot be combined, can it? Ah, so much to learn! I have become a talented novice with the gaiwan and a lover to a singular Jian Shui clay pot in whose loving arms Oriental Beauty, Jian Shui and I create a triad, but this is new territory.
Off to explore and taste new worlds from within the confines of my bungalow.

Tea Ave's Wenshan BaoChong Oolong

Perhaps my expectations were a bit too high. Tea Ave does have the shiniest and most fun gold packaging for their samples! Very classy, and knowing they were at the Emmy party last week, and that some pretty fancy-shmancy people were perhaps drinking this same tea....Well, it was with that sort of expectancy perhaps in which I brewed this mornings sample of Wenshan BaoChong Oolong.
I think the issue, if there is an issue, is perhaps the sample size was only slightly above 3 grams, not really the amount I would use even in my smaller gaiwan which is 120ml as most of my readers are aware.
The leaves are opening well, and make a lovely sight and the scent is of grass, hay and steamed greens. I am not finding anything evolving in the taste as of yet, and am on brew three. Taking a break to let the leaves rest and awaken a bit before I go in for the next three steeps.

Steeps four and five. The vegetal astringency has dissipated somewhat, it is a mild, tea, slightly sweet, a little floral and very verdant. Not one, as the marketing says on Tea Aves website says that I would save for special friends though, not striking enough for that honor. I believe it is possible with more tea I could have written a different review, but with less than four grams to work with, it wasn't as full an exploration as my senses need to create a full, and evolving experience for my palate and for the tea itself to fully express its capabilities so I guess in the case of this particular Wenshan Baochong Oolong I won't know unless I buy some more which I am not certain I need to do. We shall see!

Crimson Lotus Baiying Shan Hidden Song 2015 Puerh

I had a wonderful Sunday morning session with a sample from Crimson Lotus that came with my last order. The fragrances were delicious, startling me with its amazing sweetness in the bag, and fruity during its initial steeps. My favorite scent-time was smelling the lid of the gaiwan after warming the leaves but prior to wetting them. That was insanely perfect! I really enjoyed this Puerh from the first steep and I believe I steeped it almost ten times before it started to lose its hold on me. My daughter is sick with a sore throat and I immediately felt like Puerh was the way to go to give me strength to be there for her and to fight off the more-than-slight sore throat I feel coming on myself. Later in the morning I moved on to my usual Gongfu Fragrant Black for afternoon session and then, because it is still so hot in Southern California made a nice large pot of Oriental Beauty which I then poured over ice, with organic maple syrup, Saigon Cinnamon and almond milk. It's a shame and a damn sin I know to take a perfectly good OB and do that to it but it's worth it. Back to the star of the day though.
Star today was the 'Puerh for sure' and I still have enough left of the sample for one more day. Really look forward to waking up tomorrow morning, even though it's a Monday if I get to start my day a second time with the Hidden Song.

A small initiation into Amber Oolong from Mountain Tea.

Mountain Tea's Amber Oolong is the reason I like Oolongs and then some. I like it better than my Bug-Bitten Honey Aroma Oolong though it is very similar.
I decided since I have not committed my 110ml 'Dragon Egg' Yixing pot to a particular tea yet, to brew up 5 grams in 'the egg' and 5 grams in my 120ml gaiwan. Temperature at 195f.
I cannot tell if they both tasted the same or if the steeps in the Yixing have a slight mineral taste, but I was not unpleased with how it tasted in my Dragon-Egg and until now nothing has tasted good in that pot, to the point I've regretted buying it just a bit! So this is a nice pairing perhaps.
Compared the colors of the rinse and two steeps and it seemed equally pleasing to my eye.
Mountain Tea is new to me and because of their generosity I will have a chance to try this Amber Oolong for many weeks to come. I can imagine this being a tea I depend upon this coming fall.
Their description of it is lovely to read, so I will share that now...

'Why roast tea?  A masterful roast imparts complexity to already quality leaf.  The general rule of thumb is that firing enhances taste rather than adding it.  Amber Oolong is a friendly introduction into the world of roasted oolong.  It is fired using charcoal made from the wood of the Longan tree, translated as “Dragon’s Eye fruit” to English because of its distinct shape and texture.  This choice of wood is comparable to a barbeque enthusiast selecting fruit tree wood—apple, peach, cherry wood—for cuts.  The smoke imparts a mild-mannered sweetness that never overpowers. The dry leaf scent is reminiscent of bananas.  The color of the liquor is pitch perfect amber red in color.  Aroma is spicy and exciting, with a fragment of woodsy toastiness.  Depending on the brewing temperature, expect smells of cloves, nutmeg, and toasted grains.  The flavors are deep in the mouth, surprisingly full-bodied and creamy, with most notes tending toward fruitiness.  If the goal of roasting tea is adding complexity, consider our Amber Oolong a qualified success; expect to be surprised.'

I personally did not get a hint of banana, but of sunflowers! Maybe it was the color that brought sunflowers to mind, the color is indeed a gorgeous rich amber hue. This is a very kind and gentle and easy-to-like tea, and an exceptionally good one for a beginner like myself.
Mountain Tea Amber Oolong brewed identically in a gaiwan and a dragon-egg!

New favorite Oolong. Hands-down. Nonpareil Taiwan DaYuLing High Mountain (and I AM high)Cha Wang Oolong Tea.

I shouldn't begin my post with the words, 'Uh-Oh.' But there it is. Uh-Oh. What am I drinking? I taste something that I bet is expensive. Then I stop being a ninny and focus on what the heck is going on in my mouth after three steeps. This is super delicious tea. The rinse was delicious, and steeps one and two are wonderful, all three were different with just flash steeps. I used the whole seven gram sample and went ahead and used my 'large' gaiwan with 180 ml capacity with water at 195. Worried that might be too hot, but not a bit of astringency showed up. This is crazy good, people. Floral, soft grains, silky, light but full of flavor. Just amazing and the little rolled buds are just barely opening. I am off to look up where I got this and read it's description. As you know it is more fun for me to not read a thing before trying samples aside from what's on the little foil package. So all I know is the name and that it's from Teavivre. I'd bet my hat it is an expensive tea. It simply tastes expensive, which is silly for this newbie to say as I have had pricey teas and thought they tasted like shoe-leather and mice droppings. I know nothing!
More to come...

My first Darjeeling. Lochan Tea Limited's 'Arya Ruby 2nd Flush 2015'

As a newbie and an admitted tea-tourist with hopes of becoming ever more entranced and educated with the tastes of the world's teas, I have my imaginary 'tea-passport' in hand and am ready to adventure in India through the taste of a handful of Indian teas!  I decided that after reading and seeing the BBC report, I should begin to get curious about Indian teas, and of course wanted to make sure I found a good, honest and honorable source. At this writing I have only had the initial pleasures of opening the package, smelling the tea in the bag which was wonderful! A bit of a 'Pow' factor, rich, dense, smoky? And weighing out the generous sample of almost 10 grams. I did my usual Gongfu parameters, 5 grams, in 120ml gaiwan, quick rinse, water temperature at around 195f.
Delicious first and second flash brew, wonderful scents coming off the gaiwan lid and a different yet even more wonderful scent coming from the gaiwan cup itself. Third steep getting a wee astringent, I think perhaps I will remove some leaves for the next few steeps, especially since I am flash-brewing, I bet this astringency can be dealt with in that manner.
And ten minutes later, I was correct! To gongfu brew in a small gaiwan do not use 5 grams, I took about half out, and the next brews were mellow and the astringency and bitterness were gone! As usual, 'It's not the tea, it's me' is a good motto!
I have no idea how this tea is generally consumed and will be checking that out soon. Certainly no milk and sugar for me please, never! Updates to follow as I learn more about steep options.
Time to learn about Darjeelings, and what Arya means! And Ruby!

Taiwan Jade Oolong Tea or Cui Yu? A mystery Oolong to this newbie!

This is a very green Oolong, the leaf color and tea taste closer to green tea than any other oolong I have tasted. It has very refreshing floral fragrance.
I used a little under five grams in my small gaiwan at 185 Fahrenheit and the leaves open up very quickly after the first rinse. There is some confusion as to what exactly I am drinking as a handwritten label says 'Cui Yu Oolong' and the printed package says 'Tai Wan Gao Shan Cha'. So this is assumptive on my part. A Green Oolong from Taiwan. I put on my Sherlock cap and go looking for answers!
Where this sample came from I cannot say, but I will as soon as I find out. I love getting samples from vendors and growers but unless they put their name on the packaging I am, to this point, not very good at cataloging what came from whom. That being said I would estimate 90% of the samples given to me, or items I have bought are labelled with the vendor so I can give credit. 
Take a look, look-takers and email me with your thoughts!

And now I know a lot more than I did and hour ago thanks to tea-friend John Bickel. This then, from TeaDB's article:

Cui Yu (Jade Oolong)

Like Jin Xuan, Cui Yu was developed by TRES in the 1980s. Cui Yu is usually referred to by its cultivar name although it was also named #13 or 2029. While it’s slightly more difficult to find than Four Seasons or Jin Xuan amongst western-facing vendors, No. 13 is extremely popular in Taiwan and Asia and ranks as the third most consumed fragrant oolong. Cui Yu is only grown at lower elevations (Jade Oolong’s stem contains too much water for high-mountain growth) and offers significantly better yields than Chin-hsin. Compared with Jin Xuan, Cui Yu has a more floral and less creamy flavor-profile (both are extremely fragrant).

Jian Shui, "Purify The Heart"

My Jian Shui teapot came today. One quick, gentle boil in a cooking pot to get rid of residue and we began to get acquainted. It was very intuitive and organic the way I played with this pot. This is not the way I have done things with the other Yixings I have bought, I am much more relaxed with this one. Like a parent who has already reared one child, I am not nearly as terrified about breakage or ruining it! The pot seems to love Oriental Beauty, none of my other Yixings did, and it wasn't until last week,(see post on 'Pairings') that I learned that a pot can choose a tea, as I discovered with my little yellow pot 90ml and Big Red Robe Tea.

The Jian Shui is a large pot at 180 ml and I filled it with my favorite Oriental Beauty, I didn't even measure the grams! I just loosely filled the pot after having warmed it up.The way the pot smelled, or rather did not smell after the 'boil and dry' told me somehow that OB would be OK in it, and not get ruined. And then over and over, pouring the water at 195f into the pot and then the tea into the pitcher, and then the pitcher over the pot as the pot sat in the broth. Every steep I sipped a small cup, and they were all good. This was a terrific surprise to me as my Yixing pots that I have 'seasoned' and worked with did not allow me such sipping pleasure as Jian Shui is doing right away. I don't know why this is. Perhaps one of the clay experts I know will educate me. (Perhaps this is a magic teapot.)
What else can I say about this my new companion? The clay feels much smoother than my other Yixing pots, and I appreciate the design which says in Chinese, "Purify The Heart"
Here is what I learned from Yunnan Sourcing...

"The history of Jianshui purple pottery, which is also known as Southern Yunnan red jade, goes back hundreds of years. During the Song dynasty it was celadon; during the Yuan it was blue and white ceramics; during the Ming it was coarse ceramics; during the Qing it was purple pottery. Today, it is considered to be among the four famous types of Chinese pottery and represents the traditional folk art of Yunnan's Jianshui county."

Jian Shui purple pottery takes advantage of rich and unique local deposits of red, yellow, purple, cyan, and white 5-color clay.

It applies multiple hand techniques including filled engraving, broken tablet style, and glazeless polish. No external or internal glaze is applied. Instead, meticulous polishing with local river rocks which are just a bit harder than the pottery giving the pottery its unique character and lovely finish. The pieces are described as having “body like iron, color like copper, reflection like a mirror, and sound like a chime.”  They possess their own antique character that sets them apart from other types of pottery and places them in the class of exceptional pottery.

The unique glazeless polish ensures the all types of Jianshui purple pottery are acid resistant, alkali corrosion resistant, breathable, moisture resistant, and insulated.

Another advantage of Jian Shui pottery is the use of Hong He county’s relatively un-tapped clays which when fired are more than twice as dense (and heavy) as Yixing clays.  These clays are also extremely pure and unadulterated by pollutants.  We can provided scanned copies of the original analysis reports of possible (but not present) contaminants upon request.

and here are a lot of photos!
Filled with Oriental Beauty

See? Magic!

What the inside of an angels mouth would taste like. (Sorry, is that too weird?)

Two days of tasting, and I mean, really tasting, spending hours upon hours with a small handful of teas. Committing myself, even if I taste astringency and bitterness that tells me to give up, to continue being open, and with the tea in that moment. And certainly every sip of every single tea tingles my nervous system to some degree, shoots fragmentary triggers of scent memories, sometimes full aural and visual memories too, some good and some not as good. I let them all in. But now I am tired. I have to go back and have another date with some of these boys who I didn't feel attracted to but still feel a slight interest and pull towards.

But now, alas I need a break. Who would you go to when you need a break? Something crisp and clean, and light as air, and tender. Tender towards you, your tongue, your senses but still alive and vibrant. Right? ( Or as I say to my poor husband ala' Lebowski style, "Am I wrong? Am I wrong? Am I wrong?" until he answers with the proper line in the script, saying to me, " No,Walter, you're not wrong, you're just an asshole." But this isn't a Lebowski blog so I will move on.)

So you can't go wrong with a good well harvested Silver Needle, I have known that much for a long time, and Teavivre's Bai Han Yin Zhen is a match to my need.
Little tiny buds and tips, so pretty and delicate. Sweet and slippery on my tongue, a mildly sensual lingering after-taste. A deep breath from me in perfect unison with the room.

Cannot tell you, dear reader how long this will last, how many steeps, but I will certainly know by days end. I am seeing this tea again and again and I might even make it eggs if it wants me to. I'm in love.

Rough personal storms ahead? Keep your emotional paddle moving with some 2014 Silver Oriental Beauty!

Bunny sees the signs, the darkening skies....
That's not god looking down upon you, silly rabbit, and those are not tears you now sail through but a Silver Oriental Beauty of such divinity it had to be shared and made into a tiny ocean in which to give you a ride in your little tea-leaf boat! Ahoy!

My first exploration with one of Misty Peak Tea's 'One Family' Puerhs, first impressions of Autumn 2015!

Today I start what I hope will be a long multi-day series of sessions with the same 4 grams of tea leaves, over and over and over. Unless I change my mind that is! Ah, the joys of being me! As Moriarty once said to Sherlock and Watson( The PBS Cumberbatch/Freeman version) 'I am soooo changeable!' and I delight in that. I am following no rules. The owner informs me this was fresh picked just a few weeks ago, so it is their Autumn 2015.
So first of all this tea looks different from any other tea I have seen thus far. Big stems, packed in a large package so that it would not break, and could move loosely about. I intend right away to honor the form of this tea and not damage it.
I take my initial picture of the dry leaves and then keep taking pictures. It's a good model, this One Family Puerh!
Misty Peak Tea Puerhs can be found at http://mistypeakteas.com/

This is my Puerh pot I will steep the infusions in. It was my first pot bought from Teavivre, 140ml and used only for Puerhs. I will not be using the matching pitcher as shown as I find it doesn't work as well as my glass Cha Hai. 

Pot warming up, pitcher already to go, almost time!

An hour later. All gone!

First rinse so light I could hardly see any color, first brews at 205 Fahrenheit were mild and easy. The next two brews became a little more astringent and metallic than this newbie is used to, and I had the idea of moving the leaves into my 120ml gaiwan. The next two steeps were far more enjoyable! A super easy to drink Puerh, I must be really coming along in my journey. I will give the tea and my tummy a break and come back to these leaves again soon. So far, so good!

Two hours later....
190 Fahrenheit, and so good. Warm and woody, the earthiness is not overwhelming like many of the Puerhs I have tried, I sense a little zest, maybe lemon zest in the back of my throat. My imagination runs riot. More to come with steep notes ten through ?

Perfection from the first pour. What a way to start a Monday! Knowing the perfect cuppa is going to be easy, even bleary-eyed at 6am!

This is a quick update on the same tea which baffled me in my prior post.

It's wonderful when you figure out a tea, isn't it? I needed a tea I could make in the morning, when still sleepy, with less effort and attention than I usually give anything at my Gongfu table, and this really is such a tea.
Water temperature is low at 172. I thought it was 180 but used the thermometer this morning to double check and 172 it is. I am using, don't hate me, my Keurig's water dispenser for the mornings brew, the Bonavita will be used the rest of the day. But truly, fellow newbies following this blog, for me, many of the teas I like the best are at this temperature. At least initially, first few steeps. I would not do this with Puerhs of course.
And while I know there are some folks who are not novices are somewhat horrified there are other pros I listen to say, 'Whatever is right for YOU is right'. So there you are. Of course, those people are selling teas, and I love them for it and for their admonitions to learn and explore and do it my own way!

So to recap. Want a perfectly wonderful morning brew? Hours and hours of yummy? Teavivre's Yunnan Gongfu Fragrant Black is my choice and now I remember why I bought soooo much of it. 3 grams, 172 water temperature Fahrenheit, I use my 120 ml gaiwan and flash brew. The rinse was delicious, and yes, I drank the rinse. Figured I would just 'test' the rinse but it was terrific. I have now steeped these three grams around 10 seconds four times and will take a break, increase temperature and begin tinkering with this playful, delightful companion tea in an hour, and most likely for the rest of the morning.
Going to be a wonderful day with my Gongfu Fragrant Black!

Yunnan Gongfu Fragrant Black Tea. My first big purchase after a free sample,my 'gateway tea into Puerh'. But wait! I don't like it anymore?! Did I buy the wrong tea or....

Deep breath. Don't look at the receipt and freak out to see what you paid for this, just do the following for a bit.
Repeat and remember this mantra. 'Its not the tea, its me. Its not the tea, its me.'
The tea I loved two weeks ago when I tried it and now can't figure out why? I didn't buy it at a tea-house after a tasting, perhaps being tricked into buying a inferior product, this was a sample that came in the mail, I initially didn't like it, but I worked with that sample, played with it with my curious 'Beginner's Mind' and found a sweet spot, which then turned into a real appreciation so I bought it. 
Two large bags of it in fact. Then I forgot about it, moved on to other things, other teas and when it came in the mail yesterday I could barely remember why I had bought so much of it. 'Must have liked it a lot', I said to myself looking at the two large bags. 'A lot.' I resisted the urge to go look at my initial blog post, might as well keep my Beginner's Mind if it's as clear and empty as it seems to be.
I determined that I must have thought it would be a good basic 'daily drinker' so opened it up this Sunday morning, (after a long night of lots of sweeties, and a 4 hour session of Big Red Robe) and at first rinse and first steep am immediately put-off by its heavy brashness, viscous texture and thick mouth-feel.
Remembering that I heard many Chinese don't even start drinking the infusions until the fourth I steep two more times. Still too heavy, too fruity, too dark, too tangy. Temperate is 195f, gaiwan is 120 ml,  5.5 leaf gram....what is the deal?
I tell myself, BACK AWAY FROM THE TEA! 'Its not the tea, its me'.
Take this opportunity, Buddha-Mom, to practice your Buddhist patience, the one you needed so often when your child was still so needy, and not the autonomous non-irritating creature of delight she is now at twelve.
I know that tea changes, it won't always be me, but I know this time it is or I never would have bought so much of it for my first large black tea purchase, ( I did buy a boatload of Floating Leaves 2014 Oriental Beauty, my first Oolong purchase) I know water temps, steep time, vessel the elixir is sipped out of, many variables can change the taste and experience of a tea from one sitting to the next. Mostly though I think its this sipper, so here's my plan for myself.
Again, back away from the tea, come sit across the room from the tea-table and write about these moments of confusion and frustration. This is all experimental, this is, in fact, fun. Give the tea a chance to mellow out,let your palate clear, let it sit and rest in the cup empty of water, breathing, and come back to it again as a supplicant  in a few hours. Try harder to find the quality of this tea that so moved me to buy quite a bit of it just last week. 


And so that is what I did, all those things mentioned above. I left the tea alone. when I came back I took out a couple wet grams, put it aside, and lowered the water temperature to 180. I know that these were my beginning parameters weeks ago when I started this tea journey, 3-4 grams, 180 degrees, flash brews etc. 
First few steeps after this break were just light and almost flavorless, a little woody which was all fine with me, and then it came OUT. That wonderful "I've got to buy a lot of this tea" sensation just happened, and brews six through nine were lovely. There it is! That slight Puerh taste at the end that made me think this tea would help me get used to the taste of Puerhs. And at the beginning, warm wood, toast, a little honey. It all came out. I put the couple of grams I had taken out right back in and raised the temp up to 190 and it just got better from there for three more steeps.
Once again, I am in total awe of what these leaves can do, the personality, the nuances, and sometimes the bitterness or bad mood of the tea and how that can manifest itself! There is truly nothing like it in the world. The journey continues and this week I am going to be exploring a lot of Puerhs thanks, in part, to this little black tea and its hint to me that I might have a deeper palate than I ever thought possible.
Teavivre's Yunnan Gongfu Fragrant Black Tea

Pairings! A quick update.

The mystery Da Hong Pau.
Wake-up call! I haven't liked a certain tea. I haven't like a certain pot.
Both are new to me. I just put the two together and I loved this tea, and I loved this pot. Pairings! You tea-heads have spoken of this but this is the first time I have seen it in action, and what delicious action it is too!
Now to find out who sent me this tea! If you recognize the handwriting let Buddha-Mom Tea know?

Whispering Sunshine. A Poem? A Tea? Both?

Crimson Lotus 2015 Spring.
Bai Ying Shan
Sheng/Raw Peurh
25 gram sample of a sold out brick. $10! Thank gawds I got a taste!
This is the first Puerh I have really liked and I have only begun the session.
Sadly, the cake is sold out, or I might have been buying my first cake this morning, but there are still samples to be had!

Crimson Lotus took the time to write up a pretty lengthy story on the back of this sample and I can see, and read, why. This is a tea you want to know more about. Here are some high-lights of things I learned.
Bai Ling Shan or 'White Warbler Mountain' is a remote, high altitude tea. The material in this tea is composed entirely from one ancient tree varietal, and the tea leaf picking is done entirely by hand. The owners chose to call this tea 'Whispering Sunshine'  because the tea gardens in Bai Ying Shan are the highest elevation they source tea from. The trees are over a mile high in elevation and they felt they could imagine these teas were close enough to the sun at that altitude to hear it gently whispering to them.

This tea is very light for a Puerh and the main reason, aside from the poetics that I chose to buy it. It is sweet and has a hint of tobacco. This did not put me off. I rinsed once, and sipped three very light infusions. I have now stopped and will let the tea rest a few hours and go back to see what else it has to tell me.
Perhaps it will whisper to me some ot the secrets the sun whispered to it, and I shall therefore be slightly more wise than when I began! One can only hope! One needs all the help one can get!

My first Rooibos, yes, EVER!

When I posted last week that a Canadian based tea and tea wares company, Zen Tea at www.zentealife.com had sent me thirteen samples with my kettle order, one of the tea snobs I had just met, sniffed at me and said, "Rooibos is not tea". She also clearly disapproved of any teas scented with even the most honest of jasmine blossoms. So I know this fine lady represents a lot of people, the purists, and I wondered, "Will I become a purist?" Scoffing at tea bags happened almost instantaneously after I tried gongfu! My gawds, will I become a sniffer of others tastes and a looker-down-upon-er of things like Rooibos?

And the answer is, No. I will not. Just as I am known as an avid, sometimes nutty bird-watcher, pulling over to the side of the road to not miss a kestrel overhead, yet refuse to learn and document the taxonomy of the species, so too shall I drink my teas, my tinctures, my elixirs, my what-nots without worrying over-much about origins. Just be in the moment, be with the tea. Easy-peasy. I am, after all, a newbie. This is the time to explore.

The Rooibos I tried is lovely. It is Vanilla Almond and the package reads thus;
'Fruity with sweet notes, Vanilla flavouring gives the rooibos a wonderful exotic jazz depth. Exceptionally smooth herb with mysterious character and subtle notes of fresh vanilla.'
I could write it up better but that's not half bad. I don't know about 'exotic or 'jazz', for me it's very much....Well,ok, maybe some Coltrane, yeah I can see that, but no exotic locale please, for me this is a home brew. My home. A fire, a blanket, the jazz, and this tea.

I had no idea how to prepare it and of course didn't want help. First thing I did while pondering the tea in its opened package was to eat all the tiny paper thin slivers of the almond right out of the bag. (Yes, I did. You wanna make something of it? I didn't think so.)
I looked at it, weighed it out, over 6 grams, considered putting the whole thing in my 'teavana' infuser which I did not, considered halving it and doing it in my 120 ml gaiwan, but it looked too small separated from the rest of the sample so in the end I did it up gongu style. Medium gaiwan of 180 ml, the whole sample, 205 Fahrenheit, flash brewed every steep. Gorgeous color, the aroma could fill the house! With its warm tender and 'winter is coming' promises I loved every sip of it. As you can see I also didn't know what vessel to drink it out of and went for a rice bowl!

I will never drink alone....

Hail, hail, the gangs all here!

Ring-a-ding-ding! Dong Ding, that is!

The Fragrant Leaf Tea Company's Dong Ding is just so out of this world.
This is my second session with it, the last time was my first time. I know I loved it, but it tastes better now and I am trying to figure out why. Today is a far and away different day than we have had in many months, it's our first overcast, rainy day in god-only-know how long, so that must be part of it. The windows are open, the parrots in the trees have moved on, September Eleventh has come and past, which always leaves me feeling like I can let go of my breath, as if I had been holding it all week long. I am feeling very clean, having started this session right after a shower, there is no scent of the day on me, nothing but clean skin and soap. And the Dong Ding is so insanely floral in my mouth. The smell of the hot leaves gives no indication that the broth will taste like flowers, it is sweet smelling for sure but smells green and vegetal, and the mouth-feel is pure perfume. Not cloying, not too sweet, but perfect. Smooth, light, leaving a silkiness behind.
As I said, this is my first Dong Ding, I haven't tried anyone else's yet but I am certainly going to have a high bar for those when I do for I shan't forget the way I feel right now, not anytime soon. I wonder how many times I can steep this before the magic goes away? I'm at five or six right now while I pause to let the leaves rest, and hopefully refresh themselves while they prepare to dazzle me a little more! One can only hope.

Asparagus, Flowers, Hay, Umami, Mineral, Pepper, Vegetal, Artichoke, Stone-fruits, Grass, Green Beans, Moss, Spinach,The inside of a stale chocolate wafer. These words and so many more...

have been used to describe Huang Shan Mao Feng green tea.

I just finished four steeps of this for the first time, and before I looked up what other tea lovers of this tea have said I made four notes per steep.
Peaches. Astringent. Pepper. Light vegetal broth.
It really ran the gamut!
Just for fun, as I wrote the above blog notes I steeped it one more time, in hotter water than prior brews and it tastes like steamed peas, and that's when I realized there really should not have been a fifth steep. It was a fun, inquisitive tea, that played games with my sense of taste and spurned on some memories of a pasture somewhere I once walked in as a child, and I was sad the session ended so soon. Still, a very nice green tea indeed. A longer life is all I would ask for, but I will take what this tea can offer with gratitude.
Green dreams of strange things that tea can remind you of at often seemingly unrelated moments.

An invitation to try new things from Lochan Tea Limited in India

What an extravaganza of gifts arrived via FedEx from India today! I can't wait to learn about so many of these teas I am not familiar with, and as a person who makes her own homemade Chai using all fresh ingredients my taste-buds are already watering!

With gratitude to Mr. Lochan...