A deep and abiding love of Oriental Beauty

A deep and abiding love of Oriental Beauty

My amazing Indian tea adventures from Lochan continues!

So many amazing teas come out of India, and now, for the first time I am learning first and drinking second. I actually know what FTGFOP grade means! It means, 'Far too good for ordinary people!'
Right? No? You really want to know? Go do your own research. This is a good place to start if you are, as I am, drinking teas that have lots of information accompanying them. Lochan Tea Limited is an amazing source for Indian teas and just as importantly, for a tea-drinkers ongoing education into the harvesting and welfare of the teas and the people who work so hard to bring them to us.

My favorite so far is a Darjeeling called Giddapahar SFTGFOP 1 Ch Musk. Do I know what all of that means? I do not. I do know it is by far my favorite of all the Darjeelings I have ever tried, and for this newbie, that is what is most important! I know I will never again drink supermarket Darjeelings, that Lochan and Giddapahar will be the words on my lips and in my thoughts when it is time to buy Darjeeling. A few other facts I have gleaned are as follows. I know that Giddapahar is on a mountain and the garden from which this tea comes from is almost 5,000 feet above sea level. I have been told the tea plants that grow there are quite delicate due to lower temperatures here and the amount of mist that covers much of the area year round. The broth itself is full bodied, woody, sweet and floral and has a lovely warm brown coloration. As someone who is primarily a Gongfu Cha drinker adding milk to tea is somewhat of an anathema to me, but this tea is astoundingly decadent with a little almond milk and is terrific as a one minute brewed Gongfu Cha style tea as well.

I have so many more to try! More to come and this weeks tea sharing at my house will be this tea so come on over before it is all gone! Most of it was consumed post-thanksgiving supper and was perfection to all who indulged in it.

The perfect stomach-settler.

Oy, did I overdo it that new Wuyi Yancha or what? Some trains are hard to jump off of once they are in motion, and the White2Tea Clover Patch was such a tea.So good I couldn't even think of stopping. My stomach was in ruins as I had eight steeps on empty, but I righted that fast enough with some fresh sourdough bread and a whole pot of a really good herbal from Zen Tea called 'Evening Lights'. I am super picky about herbal blends, won't tolerate any 'added flavours' and hibiscus makes me want to retch so this was a happy find. My tummy is now settled after the tea and bread and I will most certainly recommend my friends new to teas and following my path to make sure you have something at least half as good as this tea at your disposal! At all times!
Here is the recipe for success found in Evening Lights:
Rose-hips peels, silver lime, licorice( didn't taste this, and glad of it, not a huge fan),strawberry- flowers, marigold-blossoms, peppermint, hawthorn-blossoms, chamomile, rose-blossom-leaves and crisped mint.

White Two Tea, 'Clover Patch Oolong'

I had to re-watch James and Denny's discussion and brewing session on this tea before I felt even slightly prepared to approach it. Initially I was like, "Wait. It's an oolong, for Christs' sake, I am not intimidated by oolongs. But this does come from W2T, so is it a normal oolong? These are intense Puerh dudes over at W2T, right?" So I was very nervous about opening the sample. Did not want to 'Blow It.' And as anyone who knew me in high school knows, I was the seemingly designated, 'Blow-It' girl; the idiot who stumbled blindly forward unaware of the dangers anyone else could see, called attention to my little group while doing very naughty things, the one who lifted the pot-pipe to take the hit while at a red light parked next to a motorcycle cop. I was and perhaps still am a blow-it.
So as I measure out four grams on the scale I am a nervous-purvis. I am tip-toeing around this sweet smelling bunch of leaves like it was an unstable explosive. I know buttkis about Wuyi, Yancha,Rock teas, any of that stuff, and Denny did suggest it was possible to create something 'GROSS', his actual word, if not attending to this sort of tea properly.

So, as I get ready to brew, I am not bored, I can tell you that! I am not complacent. I am fully awake. I am a little on edge, and that's fun. I rinse, rinse and steep and.... And it's NOT gross, at least I haven't blown it yet. Four grams in a 120ml gaiwan, I chose those parameters based on the TeaDB boys using 5 grams in a 60 or 70 ml gaiwan and knowing they are bat-shit crazy, because they all but said so in the video, so I figured these parameters were OK for a first time. Rinsed twice at 180 degrees, and flash-brewed three steeps one right after the other at 200f. VERY tasty and quite different than any oolongs I've had thus far.
More soon as steeps are experimented with!

Teaplomacy. An online course in the basics of Chinese tea culture.

Recently I had the opportunity to watch an online course which can be found here and was offered through Prodygia.
This was a well-produced, easy to understand brief couple of hours absolutely packed with information on the very basics of tea. This was not my first online course on learning skills, history and culture of tea but certainly the most professionally put together with virtually no mistakes or errors in communication style. I sent a link to my father who travels to China often for his business knowing it would be of immeasurable value to him.
For myself, it was a solid overview of teas from white to Puerh and everything between. I picked up some good hints on brewing techniques as well as a couple fun tips on etiquette, even though I am just brewing for myself! Especially appreciated were three separate demonstrations on brewing Long Jing, Tie Guan Yin and Feng Huang Dan Cong!
From information on infusion techniques, water quality and tools, this course covered the basics leaving nothing( that I know of) uncovered.
I've felt like I have a good handle on my techniques, and that I am off to a good start and after watching Teaplomacy I know I am indeed on the right tea-track, although goodness knows I could have saved myself many, many hours of skimming the internet for useful videos had I know this course existed beforehand.
Alas, chances are I will never be a world traveler but if I were heading to China I would be re-watching this course prior to even booking my ticket.

Jing Mai Ancient Tree Black Tea Cake! A perfect Thanksgiving brew.

I received this sample of this cake from Smacha, and had put it into my Puerh drawer as it was in 'cake sample form' and I didn't realize it was not a Puerh (being a newbie-newb) and rather forgot about it until yesterday afternoon while preparing the holiday meal. (Or rather, and more accurately watching my husband prepare the holiday meal.) What was I thinking?! Never, ever get anything from Smacha and not pay it full attention, this is not just a normal tea sample, sheesh! I could have had this weeks and weeks ago!
This is one of the nicest, smoothest black teas I have ever had. Out of the Puerh drawer and into the drawer of special blacks, please! Move over, Darjeelings!
I started with 4.5 grams in a 180 ml gaiwan at 205 degrees. YUM. From there I played around with it in lower temps, higher temps, longer steep times than my usual super-short steeps, and all brews were super easy to drink and all went extremely with toll-house cookies! This is a wonderful black tea, and I thoroughly enjoyed breaking up leaves from the cake, which was easily done with this lightly pressed offering.
I brewed that initial gaiwan session six or seven times, and it still tasted good to me. After supper last night, I brewed another batch using my Smacha Tea Infuser with around 5-6 grams which I eyeballed, having a houseful of people and not being able to take the time to find the scale.
This worked out well even though I wasn't sure about my parameters. I thank the brewer for that! What a help-mate. Newly acquired and already beloved with its white with gold accents, Smacha's auto-brewer was so insanely handy last night after Thanksgiving supper when my husband and I wanted to share a small pot of something really good and special in my grandmother's ancient Noritake China, (used only on Thanksgiving) and the auto-brewer was a beautiful addition to our already prettily set dessert table. The tea itself was the cherry on top of the perfect meal. So today, I am just sitting here feeling grateful for many things, not the least of which is crazy good tea from reliable sources.

From Smacha:
From the Jing Mai Mountains, in a protected park situated above 5,000 feet, this black tea, which is pressed into cakes is made from 500 year-old trees. It exhibits the rare complexity, smoothness, and subtlety only found in tea made from trees of this age.ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
  • ALTITUDE2200m
  • ORIGINJing Mai Mountains, Yunnan, China

My first Vietnamese green tea, Purple Rain from Hatvala

Yum. Amber-hued, silky, no astringency, very vegetal and soft on the tongue.

My first try of a Vietnamese tea and by the quality of these leaves I am looking forward to trying the other varietals Hatvala was so kind to send! The flavor is mild, but full and very distinctive, definitely different than any other greens I have had. I am not a huge green tea drinker and would have to say that I like this one more than others I lean towards on my green tea sessions. Better than Jade Earrings even! Just a delight. Track some down if you can and try for yourself. Last note, and I must be mad but this tea in its later steeps has a puerh edge to it to me. This is a very good note, a slight after-bite that reminds me of the few young shengs I enjoy.
The website tells us the following:

This is an artisan tea that is produced in small quantities in a small factory workshop by Mr Chiu and his family. The tea is produced from wild tea trees in Muong Khuong District of Lai Cao Province from leaves harvested by H’Mong ethnic people who live and work in this small community. The defining feature of the tea leaves is that many have a definite purple hue when young due to the unique composition of the soil. The tea is produced using traditional techniques with minimal technology and relies heavily on Mr Chiu’s skill and experience. Fresh leaves are drum baked in an oven fired by longan wood, rolled and dried several times until the perfect balance is achieved. 

More on my Jian Shui pot, 'Great Virtue Carries Happiness With It'

When asked by the seller to write a short review of my favorite teapot for their website I hastily wrote this. My sanity may be in question but my taste? Divine!

"What can I say about being lucky enough to own this pot? This polished Jian Shui with its adorable, squat yet shapely design brings me more pleasure than my husband. If the house were on fire it's the one inanimate object I would make haste to rescue. If it ever breaks, even just the lid, I will cover the mirrors in the house and sit shiva for it. There is something more than a little wrong with how much I love this Jian Shui pot."
Here is a link to the sales page from whence I found and purchased the little angel...

Tea-Side's 'Red Tea from Old Tea Trees number three' in the ongoing Teas from Thailand series!

Opening the bag which while light feels almost like it is going to burst I am greeted by this wonderful site. the leaves are SOOO ready to come out they practically jump into my lap.
Long thin with a wonderful aroma and various shades of browns and blonds, I grow quickly excited and head for the Bonavita to get the water ready. I have literally just finished my very last three grams of Tea-Sides Red Tea Jin Xuang, which amazingly enough my husband even liked, and hoped that this tea would be a good continuance of my last brewing session with that. And it WAS.
The quality of this tea is so obvious from the moment you look at it. Even as a newbie I can see that. No wonder they don't vacuum pack it, every piece is unbroken, its like opening a bag of hand-crafted pasta!

According to their website the trees these leaves came from are at least 300 years old.
This is definitely a brew to enjoy after supper, and if you are an 'Oriental Beauty' lover, you will surely be pleased with this offering. The color of the leaves after the first rinse and first steep are shown here...
Just look at the color of the leaves after being brewed! They really are as red as shown.
the broth color is a fantastic deep orange.
I brewed in a 4 ounce gaiwan at 200f flash steeps for the rinse and the first brew. Now I am off to go brew it through until it is over and done with, and will play with the parameters. I will also be checking in with my knowledgeable tea group on Facebook, "Beginner's Mind Gongfu Tea" for parameter pointers with this one. It's  large sample but I would hate to ruin even one piece of this extraordinary tea.

Tea and marriage and maybe never the two shall meet?

It's light and lovely and floral and delish, and my husband doesn't like this tea either.
Is it due to his killing of his poor dolorous taste-buds with that roast-beef, prosciutto and sauerkraut sandwich chased down with a bright orange Cactus Cooler he had for lunch? Please let that be it.
I keep trying but failing to see his eyes light up with pleasure at anything I've offered him. He is really trying too, he is. He sat through six steeps of the lovely Dong Ding, (and may I add from my own perspective, 'Yum'). Last night we bombed out with a Sheng Puerh I was assured men who liked Scotch enjoyed, that was labelled by my darling fella as 'Cigar sitting in water' and later steep notes were limited to, 'Cigar and water with some dirt thrown in it?' My dude is such a trooper. He would have sat through as many steeps of that as I prepared but his sad little face had me throwing in the towel after perhaps the 7th steep.
Hell, I didn't even like it last night, and I like it!
Water over-cooked? Energy in room, phase of the moon? Why do I so often like pretty much everything when I am alone, (aside from things with 'flavor added' or some particularly obviously crappy nasty cheap puerhs sent directly from the bottom of a fishy lake in Hell?)
In his defense, he has 'liked', to a small degree, a few things he has said were 'OK'. He wants me to report fairly on this if report on this I must. But seriously, not liking the Floating Leaves Dong Ding Fragrant Spring 2015? I am grateful he is even willing to try and I 'give it up' metaphorically speaking, to him for knowing that saying to himself "Sure, I'll sit down and let her pour me some of that weird-ass tea" is a damn good way to keep my heart where it belongs, tucked neatly into his pocket.

My first White Peony, Bai MuDan.

Took a break from the oolongs, the puerhs and tried something new, Teavivre's White Peony, Bai MuDan. A decent sized sample of nearly ten grams and more than enough to experiment with on another steeping occasion. My water temp was just under 180f, for I am too unused to white teas and fear ruining them with too-hot water. However, steeps one and two were so overly mild that I wonder if it was my palate not being sensitive enough at this time, or perhaps all these flavorful puerhs had caught my attention too much? I still can't say but I did turn the heat up to 185 and the following steeps were more flavorful, the color darkened a little and it began to really wake up and be joyful. I think perhaps I hindered the joy of the leaves awakening by steeping them in a small confined celadon pot, perhaps a tall clear jar will allow for better movement of the leaves, a dance perhaps with the water and ultimately a sweeter brew?
I look forward to find out!

Might I introduce my friend, Puerh Lincang? A mild, friendly happy-to-meet-Cha sort of shou.

Lincang says 'Howdy! Hop on up, let's take a ride!'

(Prepping for the session)
After a few days of oolongs and herbals my body was tensed and ready for a Friday afternoon breakout session of Puerh. I also know myself and know I was going to gulp greedily, not be quite as sauve as I want to be with many of the Puerhs I have so I narrowed it down between some Bulang, a boisterous easy dude of a tea and Hidden Peak's Licang, a sensible, mild, not overly complex but super nice tea to get back in the saddle but not the saddle of a bucking bronco  (ala '401')!
So the Old Tree 2008 Lincang it is, and damn if I am not getting more and more nuanced and sophisticated everyday with the whole Puerh thing. Or not. Either way, I am loving the the choice of this brew.
(First steep after two rinses)
Comes on strong but solid, very dark, lightens up around third steep, and begins to get a little sweet. I find myself by steep three thinking about the fresh, warm braided Challah in my kitchen, (since it is Friday and I am, nominally at least, Jewish) and thinking how awesome it would be to dunk hot Challah in Lincang. And it would be, this puerh is bready, mossy, toasty, yummy.
Not over-the-top yummy, I am not in one of my swoons but it is a good, solid Puerh, especially for a newbie like me. Hey, I am may new to tea but this ain't my first rodeo. I've been to some 'high places' (ala '401') but sometimes a Friday afternoon needs to just be a really GOOD Friday afternoon, but without leaving the ground. After all, I do have a Shabbos meal to make. ( Just kidding, it's deli night, I did say nominal, didn't I?)
(Steep numero five, and I'm feeling good.)
Lastly and in a Jewcy ending a big Shalom! and Mazel Tov! to my manic little tea pet, 'Super Stressed Out Puerh Monkey' who told me its his birthday so got to sit in some soup.
(Perhaps just a wee bit overexcited?)

Tealicious Tea company helps this Buddha-Mom retain her chill attitude and keep moving towards a healthier lifestyle!

Recently I was invited to sit in on a live webinar with industry experts to learn about Indian herbs, medicines, tea combinations, all in the Ayurvedic vein, something I know little about aside from my instinctive appreciation for things like fennel, cinnamon, cloves and other various ingredients that often make me feel quite balanced and warm. Hence my twenty year love affair with creating my own Chai blends at home. During this webinar I learned a little about the three Doshas which are called Vata, Pitta and Kapha. You can learn more about that here on Wikipedia so as a newbie I won't risk misinforming you on this amazing information.
Let it suffice to say what I learned from the webinar rang true with me, and as one of the speakers mentioned 'Kapha' I remembered a lovely little package of various tea samples I had received from Tealicious in which I had indeed seen the words, 'Kapha' as well as 'Vata' and a couple others words that seemed familiar.
So, as a preface, that is how I came to be drinking Tealicious teas the past few nights, Kapha, Vata, Eka-Tala and the enchanting Evening Hour.
All were highly impressive and deliciously helpful experiences, and the nights I drank these pure herbal teas I was more at peace and slept better and felt more comfortable in my own skin that I have been in a while. Being a pretty hard-core Gungfu tea drinker all day long with some very intense- energy Puerhs, there is often some pretty crazy chi flowing in from the brews and mixing with my own rather over-buoyant personality! So it is a perfect fit and a truly good idea that I should find Ayurvedic blends helpful as the days come to an end and balance is rather desperately needed as I turn from a solitary tea-drinking obsessive to a peaceful and mindful mother and wife as the 'troops' come through the front door!
I found Eka-Tala to be warming, relaxing and as delightful as the Kapha. Organically grown it is an herbal mixture of tulsi, hawthorn leaves and flowers, cinnamon pieces, cardamom, fennel and blackberry leaves. I will mention it had the additional property of helping me out with a tummy ache I had given myself an hour prior by consuming too much turkey meatloaf and mashed potatoes. 
(Yes, sadly, I am on the All-american dumby diet. A crock-pot was even involved, don't ask!)
'Vata' suggests balance in the mind and body and a release from those intense feelings by offering me a loving blend of organic licorice, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. This tea was so fragrant and lovely that I felt my muscles giving in to softness just smelling the tea as it brewed. I am told if you have excess stress, feel imbalanced, suffer from insomnia or melancholy than Vata should be a daily tea for you. As many of my friends and Dear Readers know, I am pretty lucky in my life thus far and don't deal with a lot of stress thanks to my almost religious attitude of Abiding in the Now, but melancholy does sometimes set in, and how can it not in this crazy world? Further more, one should feel their feelings, even when they are not easy to sit with, but no one says you cannot have herbs like these to keep things in balance while you are allowing those feelings to be, and honoring their presence!
Drinking these teas these past few nights I now recognize them as essential tools to have in my 'toolbox' of thoughtful, inherently helpful aids in keeping balance in the forefront of my plans for myself. How else to grow spiritually and keep it together physically without attention to such things? I've always enjoyed herbals, but never went beyond single ingredient offerings, peppermint for tummy-ache, chamomile for restlessness and so forth. These Tealcious blends are a whole new path on my journey and one I am grateful to be on, thanks in part to Tealicious!
My evening last was sitting at the kitchen table, smelling these garden roses, looking at an art book and drinking this astounding brew of Kapha!

Look at the gorgeous amber hues of this broth! And this is just the first steeping!

Eco-Cha's Shan LinXi High Mountain Oolong.

It seems I have had very good karma that I should be blessed with another high quality Taiwanese high mountain tea. This is Eco-Cha's Shan LinXi high Mountain Oolong. My head is light, the after-taste is long-lasting and sweet, the fragrance is charming beyond compare and the tastes? Oh my. So pale, so light those first three steeps, one wouldn't expect much taste, but the strong aroma lets you know as you bring it to your lips that there is more there than you are expecting. As the steeps progress and the leaves awaken I watch them open up, come alive, unfold themselves and I am a fan. I am finding this tea to be intensely interesting and it is clearing my head! I could drink this all day. It isn't as floral as it is crisply fruity and it has a sweet bite to it that is a perfect finish. One wonders how many times one can steep this, how many incarnations and voices this pale tea has to show. I am the One who wonders, and luckily for me I am the One who gets to find out.
More soon as I steep this 'til there is no more pleasure to be found. A truly high quality, subtle tea that I would not waste on buffoons, oh no! This one will be for a few special people I have in mind who I am certain will do as I have just done; roll their eyes, make little happy noises and then hug the hell out of me.
You know who you are. Come on, Portland, I have something really nice to share with you.
My other teas from Eco-Cha that I cannot wait to experience!

The Da Hong Pao experiments in taste begin.

So! The Da Hong Pao is pretty good. I have only had DHP once before, from a different vendor, in fact I don't even know who the vendor was, it was a small packet stuck into a large tea-ware order I had made and not from one of my trusted sources like Yunnan Sourcing, or Teavivre, or Verdant etc. I had disliked it pretty darn intensely, but then decided to try it in a new pot I had not been able to pair anything with and boom!the tea became drinkable. that was about four months ago and that's when I learned pairing a tea with a pot really is a thing, not just something people who sell pots might tell a novice who has too much cash on hand and a wild look in her eyes(albeit online so they couldn't see that) and was buying pots left and right. The pot that DHP sample worked with was one of four Yixing pots I bought in the first few months of my new addiction to tea, and man, I didn't know how I felt about that pot. I thought I had perhaps wasted my money, and it was 'so small!'
One of the four pots had quickly been assigned to be a Puerh pot, one had quickly become recognized as a useless non-utilitarian pretty 'art piece' never to be used ( every newbie buys one of those, right?), one had become an Oriental Beauty pot and so forth. I know you are rolling your eyes saying one pot for one kind of oolong? But seriously, this pot is part of my almost literal shrine of obsession with Oriental Beauty teas and nothing else is going in that pot. Moving on, one of the pots was a yixing yellow Xisha 90 ml and there was nothing that worked in it. Then I put in that mediocre DHP and all was well.
SO! Today I started in with my first good quality Da Hong Pao from a source I know and trust, I had brewed it up a few times last week just to test it out in my usual plain white gaiwan, it was OK, nothing to go all 'nom-nom-nom' about like my earlier tea of the morning(see below post on that gorgeous oolong), and so I decided to hang back and try it again today. I brewed 3 grams in a 100ml gaiwan and it was OK. It seemed to get better as the steeps went on, not madly in love with it, but  can see how I could develop a real liking for it. I think.
Then I remembered the yellow Yixing, grabbed that, dumped the wet leaves from the gaiwan and started fresh using 3 grams each vessel, and began steeping in both, same time, same water temp. Hey, I can do this two handed and not burn the living crap out of myself? WIN!
And just like months ago the DHP in the Yixing went Boom! and was better tasting than the gaiwan brew. The color from the brew in the pot is lighter just a bit than the gaiwan brew, perhaps the new thirsty little pot is taking out some of the fullness of the tea, and if so, perhaps that's what this tea needs to be made more attractive to me.
Here is a photo, and now I am off to play with temperatures and grams. I think I will focus on using the little pot, and take out a gram of wet leaves, and drop the temp down to 190f, see how that goes. As usual, Dear Readers, your emails with suggestions, admonitions and so forth are encouraged!As this is an ongoing experiment to experience a real good DHP and do it properly I will be answering emails the same day I promise! No lag time on this one.

A new favorite emerges! Mountain Tea's Black Pearl Oolong.

This was a sample I grabbed this bleary-eyed morning because, well, because it was close at hand. Now I cannot believe I have not tried it sooner. I used four grams in a 120 ml gaiwan, at temps ranging from 200 down to 190f. The first six steeps were absolutely fabulous. As usual, I did not time my steeps but they were pretty standard gungfu times, 30 seconds and perhaps a little longer as the brews began to thin out after the sixth steep. Mountain Tea says one will 'marvel' at the savory mouth-feel, and marvel I most certainly did. They also write that notes include, 'baked apple, apricots with cane sugar in the aftertaste.' Yes, indeedy. So I guess the way this tea is produced creates this balanced, medium-bodied dark oolong with a medium-heavy liquor. Very much appreciated by me first thing in the morning. A perfect level of depth to start my day, yet not so complex I couldn't sit at my tea table for an hour greedily steeping and re-steeping brew after brew and gulping down tiny cups of total-yum. Mountain Tea, whose webpage descriptions are written like friendly terrific learning lessons from someone who really cares says, "The key difference between green, oolong, and black teas are not the ingredients, but production techniques.  Look, specifically, at the process of oxidization.  Green teas are not oxidized at all, black teas are 100% oxidized, and an oolong can run anywhere in between.  Black Pearl is a heavily oxidized oolong tea; showing off the qualities of the best black teas, yet still retaining the multi-layered complexity of an oolong." This is a first rate, (as if I would know, but it is how I feel,) full bodied whole-leaf oolong that goes to the top of my short list of things to buy right away. And in all further sessions I will continue to honor this tea by only using the gaiwan so as to not miss out on any of the pleasures it so kindly offers. I love my Yixing, my Jian Shui, my infusers, but this tea deserves to be seen and I don't want to let those leaves out of my sight. 

Da Hong Pao, the Big Red Robe, here in my home at long last!

I have been wanting to try a good and authentic Da Hong Pao oolong since I first started this tea-journey. This tea is famous for its unique floral fragrance and its Wuyi rock tea taste. What does that mean, 'rock' taste? As of this writing I still do not know. I had one small experimental steeping last week but decided to hold off until I was better prepared lest I waste the leaves I have.
I decided instead of starting my DHP session tonight, I would spend some time with just the dry leaves. I was immediately impressed by the clean flower aroma and strong sweetness.
I have been told Wuyi rock tea is baked extremely slowly, and only arrives in the marketplace in August of every year. I am told to expect the new Wuyi rock tea to still have a little charcoal in the taste. Just out of the bag all I smell is flowers and cookies. Yes, again with the cookies. I am told by another DHP-loving tea-friend that as the tea breathes under the air, the charcoal aroma will dissipate and the tea’s original taste and aroma will come out.
The leaves are a dark brown and crisp feeling in my fingers, the aroma is natural and fresh with unique ripe fruit fragrances a little different from any other oolongs I have smelled prior. 
This is from Wikipedia...
Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) is a prestigious Wuyi oolong tea. It is a premium variety of the Wuyi yan cha (武夷岩茶, Wuyi rock tea) group of oolong. According to legend, the mother of a Ming dynasty emperor was cured of an illness by a certain tea, and that emperor sent great red robes to clothe the four bushes from which that tea originated. Three of these original bushes, growing on a rock on the Wuyi mountains and reportedly dating back to the Song dynasty, still survive today and are highly venerated.
Cuttings taken from the original plants have been used to produce similar grades of tea from genetically identical plants. Taste variations produced by processing, differences in the soil, and location of these later generation plants is used to grade the quality of various Da Hong Pao teas. In recent years, a number of companies have invested in preserving the interest in this tea and other so-called "artisan" teas, which typically are of very high quality and have rich histories as is true with Da Hong Pao. These have an initially high cost of production (and typically are only considered authentic when grown in their place of origin), but, as they have quickly become popular in Western countries, prized selections of the tea are available each year, with quality being consistent due to the increased popularity of tea.
Due to its high quality, Da Hong Pao tea is usually reserved for honored guests in China.

Tomorrow I will begin a series of sessions and write-ups about this, my first Big Red Robe! Check back in for more!

Zen Tea's herbals. Because you can't live on Puerh alone!

So delicious and would you look at that? I am feeling far less aggressive than usual......huh!

My first Mi Lan Xiang Phoenix Dan Cong Oolong.

The long twisted leaves and strong floral aroma are the first things I noticed when opening the bag. Wonderful dry leave scent, like peaches I thought initially!
As this is my first Mi Lan Xiang ( meaning 'Honey Orchid Fragrance)Phoenix Dan Cong Oolong I decided, naturally, to make a production out of it and headed outside with my mini-tray, my vintage gaiwan, a thermos full of piping hot water, and found a place in the sun to experience this nice and slow.
The aromatic complexity is simply nuts. One of those teas I tend to 'huff' for awhile before even thinking of steeping.
The rinse smelled so good I drank it and am so glad I did, what a waste it would have been to dump this! And the first brew was so different from the rinse that it was a pleasure to be getting a second impression with the 'first real steep'! Further infusions with the water temperature dropping down to to around 180 were sweet but lacked the vibrancy of the steeps at a higher Fahrenheit so I brewed some fresh water at 205 and hit the leaves another three times. Very warming sensations, a sweet little buzz in my head, a feeling of abandon took over so much that I even let QuanYin, one of my curious birds wander over for a bit!
Flavors range from peach and apricot to honey with a slight malty note. A real pleasure to drink and my thanks go out to Zen Tea for making this tasting session possible. Bravo and cheers and a deep bow thrown in there for good measure as I sit here on my back porch and feel fully awake, alive and aching with gratitude for all the good things in my life, this hour with this tea being on the top of the list at the moment!

The end of a good session with a remarkable tea.

Again with the Da Jin High Mountain Oolong but a different experience thanks to trying out new kinds of brewing devices!

If you, Dear Reader remember reading my post called 'Smacha Whacha Wow!' (and honestly I don't even remember writing it, I was so tea-drunk)  then you know I really liked Smacha's Da Jin High Mountain Oolong. Maybe too much. I believe my gushing might have taken on new spectral heights in that 'review'. I will not apologize. Enthusiasm is a gift, people, a gift!
Today I had the Da Jin again and once again had a series of wow moments, but in quite a different vein. Oh, I still loved it, its just this session is a low and slow, passionate yet playful science experiment playing with parameters, temperatures and so forth and all with my Smacha auto-brewer instead of a gaiwan. I followed Smacha's written advice and used almost 8 grams of tea as I filled and refilled the 12 ounce pretty white porcelain infuser over and over. I went from 205f to 190, all the way down to 170, and all with different tones coming out of this sweet Oolong.
It is not an overly complex tea, I am learning from complex with my huge stash of shou Puerhs, but it has depth and personality and wonderful floral notes and nuanced sweetness, it has earthiness and nuttiness and all sorts of things you want from a good high mountain Oolong!

"Oh yes," I sigh deeply as my Serious Sunday Yum Needs are met so perfectly this hour with a new Oriental Beauty from Teance of Berkeley, California.

As my growing group of new readers can attest, I am an Oriental Beauty. Damn, I wanted to end the sentence there, but I cannot. I wish it was the case but the sentence really should read, I am an Oriental Beauty lover. This is my favorite tea, it was the first loose-tea I gongfu brewed and it has set the standard for all other teas my newbie palate has been blessed with trying. I have now been gifted by  tea suppliers and tea-creators with many samples and have made purchases based on those samples, including two Oriental Beauty cakes! This tea from Teance, called Taiwan Beauty was not a sample, I actually bought it before trying it, that's how much I trust Teance Tea even though I have never tasted their teas until this mornings session. You see, my facebook group, which is an ongoing source of education, delight and a new sort of bonding with tea-friends all over the world who guide me, was the cause for my trust and purchasing this tea and a few others from Teance without ever having been there( I haven't physically 'been' anywhere since I don't leave my zipcode,  sheer laziness, not phobias, so no worries, Dear Readers!).
So, let's talk about this Beauty, this 'Taiwan Beauty'. Why it is called Taiwan and not Oriental I do not know but will be researching to find out. Maybe just a preference of the tea-shop owner? This is a Summer 2015 harvest from Shinjhu, Taiwan.
I brewed exactly four grams in my 120ml gaiwan and the leaves expanded like a good tieguanyin. Check it out. I may need to move the leaves to a 250ml gaiwan for subsequesnt steeps.
I played around with temperatures, starting at 190f and moving it closer to 200 with steeps 4-6. Just a warm, delightful tea. The wet leaves are heavily floral but the taste is far more mild, with barely any floral notes at all. Warm honey, molasses, butter..... Just a clean and softly sweet brewing session.
And lastly, here is what the website tell us...

Elevation: 1,000 meters
Varietal: Coming Soon!
Oxidation: 80%
Production: Natural Oxidation
Caffeine: Medium
Connoisseur grade and competition entrant. 

A unique style of oolong tea, naturally oxidized by cicadas called leaf hoppers, who nibble on the edges of leaves on the premature tea buds, removing the astringency and leaving a unique sweetness and perfume. Robust, spicy, and honeyed, made by the Hakka tribal people of Taiwan. Hand harvested and crafted by a Hakka tea master from Shinjhu, harvested in July.
This is one of the most unique and beautiful teas in the world, the flavors are somewhat mysterious; results produced from a marriage of terroir, mankind, and insect. The interaction between the leaf hoppers and the leaves protecting its bite wounds, combining with the Hakka tribal culture of hard work, eschewing comfort for the hottest, most humid conditions in order to allow this tea to oxidize naturally, creates this superior, complex tea that can not be replicated anywhere in the world. Buying from origin doesn't just mean soil and weather- it is the people and culture as well.

Amber Oolong steeped in the Smacha auto-infuser.

Bleary-eyed, 6 am. I mentioned, didn't I, that I start early? I will even go so far as to admit, Dear Reader, that I got up even earlier at 4:45am and did the unthinkable; had a decaf vanilla Keurig cup of coffee. Proud of it I am not. But it did the job which was to make my belly warm and send me back to bed for another hour bringing me to this moment, my bleary-eyed first brew of the day, to be made easier with my Smacha 'no-brainer' auto-brewer.This is Monday morning, first time I have used the Smacha since it came this weekend when I was far more lucid and the hour much later. So! I sleepily choose my brew, Amber Oolong, always a great choice, I have loved gongfu-brewing these tightly rolled delightful little balls of yum for weeks. I go to my printed sheet on the fridge that came with the brewer to check out what Smacha says I should use for gramage and what the what? 7-8 grams? I am used to using a 100 ml gaiwan. At this rate I will be out of Amber Oolong in....hell, two months!
OK, don't panic, remember this is making 12 ounces and I can re-steep just as many times as I do in the little gaiwan. Am I wrong? (That is one of my common daily quotes from The Big Lebowski. Walter Sobchak constantly asking that question. Just FYI.)

I heat the water at a higher temperature than I usually do for Oolong, again following the printed instructions that came with the brewer so I am brewing the water to 205f. For me that is Puerh temp, I usually brew Oolongs at 190f tops. But I am following instructions. It's nice to have instructions actually, especially using a new tool at 6am.
First I warm the vessels, then add 7.38 grams of rolled Oolong, (I couldn't get myself to do 8!) and when the vessel is warmed and the tea is waiting I fill it to the brim, cover and wait.
Two minutes they say. I am hovering, as you can imagine, over the infuser and about ten seconds into my two minute wait I wonder, 'What is that gorgeous smell?' I can smell the Amber Oolong brewing! Even with the lid on and the infuser sitting snug on the pitcher, the amount of tea and the temperature, and the way it is steeping is giving my keen nose a hint that I am about to see and taste my Amber Oolong in a wholly new way.
And yes! Look at the color! And, oh god, the first sip is heaven. I wasn't supposed to rinse this, right?
Hope not, we are in a drought here, and this is 12 ounces of liquid and it looks and smells divine. Not too light at all, rich, honey-hued deliciousness.
This tea, and I have had it for 5 months, has never tasted better. Not in the gaiwan, not in the celadon, not in the Jian Shui. In all my experimentation with this tea, which I consider to be a safe, solid-tasting and reliable daily drinker, never has it reached a flavor profile this distinct. Wow, 7.38 grams, huh? I never, ever would have used that much in a gaiwan or one of my little pots. My largest vessel for Oolongs is a 'huge' Jian Shui holding 7 ounces, even then I might have used 6 grams at the most.
Who do I thank for this discovery? It feels like I should be thanking god, but that's really not my style and I doubt she was involved so obviously I thank Jason Chen, and perhaps even more so I thank Andrew Goodman who is helping this newbie discover new ways of hedonistic yet appreciative Teaism that is forming the basis of the rest of my day. I am now off to pee a bunch and then take an early morning walk where I will undoubtedly smile and hail each passer-by in a blindingly happy fashion.
(Buddha-mom big time happy. Peace OUT!)
(The Tea-pet gang wondering where the hell I think I am going as I walk past them with that big white pitcher and mug in my hand headed for my desk to write about this!)

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Hidden Peak's Puerh 401 renders Buddha-Mom (nearly) speechless!

I am speechless. Almost.

I will have to allow the website the do the talking. I can tell you that even I, with my newbie palate could tell right away I was sipping something pretty vibrant and alive. Two steeps and I had to back off, my head felt both light and heavy at the same time. That's when I decided I better get online and find out what I was drinking. Here is what I learned.


  • Vintage: 1996 - 1998
  • Category: Shou
  • Format: Loose leaf
  • Leaf Grade: 3
  • Growing Region: Lincang
  • Blend of two different teas
  • After-matured 3 years
401 is a blend of two shou pu-erhs made for advanced drinkers. This was a small production tea made with small leaf grade raw materials, one from 1996 and one from 1998. After blending there was a three-year after-maturing for optimal harmonization.
A unique aspect of this tea is its Hong Kong/Yunnan flavor profile. Wet storage pushed the ripening in early stages followed by years of much lower humidity. The result is a flavor and aroma profile that presents the interesting palette of wet storage without the physical down side of ingesting “moldy tea”.


Due to the small leaf size this tea infuses quickly - a wonderful opportunity to test your gung fu brewing. It is a very complex and elemental blend with minerals, woods, grasses and waterways taking the palette on a wonderfully rich culinary tour.

Wetleaf:dark brown/black color and very even in the blend • beautiful juice exuding and quite brilliant


medium clarity in beautiful burnt umber tone during initial steepings moving into bright clear broth with gorgeous amber hue


pointed initial impact splaying into diverse avenues of colorful expansion

I have now been steeping the same 5 grams of leaves for almost 24 hours. Not constantly, and I certainly didn't start the day out with 401, but at this point, I could, if I had the mental faculties and tea knowledge say a lot more about this tea than I am. Sadly for my readers, I am too new to tea to know how to talk about something like this.
I can tell you that I think I've infused the leaves maybe 8-10 times and that it rather suddenly, after being left alone for a few hours, got very sweet and gave me some chi energies that might have frightened a less adventurous newbie.
Just a wild ride, but a delicious one from the first steep almost 24 hours ago til this last one.

Music City Tea does it again, goes out of their way to make things better for us!

When I first bought my initial tea things from Jenny at Music City Tea I assumed there were at least a few others like her business, in the States, fast shipping, easy to access with questions, lightening fast email responses. I rather fear I took her for granted! You may say, 'Well, certainly you did not, Buddha-Mom, you wrote all about her and how much you appreciated her and so forth..." but I tell you true that it is only now, six months in to my tea obsession, (since I went full-time, and gave up on half-measures and part-time interests) that I recognize the rarity that is Music City Tea. Everything I have wanted and wanted fast, from tea-towels, to strainers, to gaiwans to my very large tea-table and more I found at Music City Tea.
Find them on their own website here, or on Amazon or Etsy.
I swear I think I ordered this little gaiwan and some tea towels two days ago at most and they are already here! This is a store in which you know the owner strives long days and into the nights to make things better for her customers. You can simply feel it.
Don't know what I am talking about? Well then, go order a little something from Jenny at MCT and you will know I am going on about. Makes me wonder what else Memphis might have to offer though I think I will stay right where I am in sunny Los Angeles!