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What is Azusa Tea Club ?

Pon Fon Cha - 4 hours 35 min ago
"Azusa Tea Club" is part of JT & Tea's CommuniTea Service. 

We try to offer this monthly tea meet up with our tea friends and sharing the tea fun and enjoy various tea tastings. 

Please see the past events we have in Azusa Tea Club from the following link:
www.ponfoncha.blogspot.com/search/label/Azusa%20Tea%20Club

(2014.0731)

What about JT & Tea ?

Pon Fon Cha - 4 hours 42 min ago
We will begin to post about the Service and Products that offered by JT & Tea.  Sincerely hope our tea friends will get to know us more and continue to give us your best support, as always. 

What is JT & Tea ? Yes, it is Josephine, Thomas and a solid team that committed to bring the best Taiwan Oolongs to our tea lovers. 

We have kept most of our efforts in the documentary blogs -  
www.PonFonCha.blogspot.com   and  
www.TaiwanTeaTour.blogspot.com.     

 (2014.0730)

Double headers in June Meet-Up (6/21/2014)

Pon Fon Cha - 4 hours 48 min ago
We have been away from our base since March (Traveled to NY, San Diego, Long Beach). This month our meet-up finally returns to Baldwin Park. We decided to have double headers this time... 
Thomas is covering "How Oolongs started in Taiwan" and Jerry talks about "Environmental condition of Taiwan". 







New Vithanakande Black Tea from P.M.David Silva & Sons

SororiTEA Sisters - 9 hours 39 min ago

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  PMD (P.M.David Silva & Sons)

Tea Description: 

Perched over a hill overlooking an untouched rain forest, New Vithanakande Estate produces the islands most cherished low grown tea. The Guild of Fine Food were adored the unique complexity of New Vithankande and awarded it a Gold Great Taste Award in 2012. Nature heavily influences the tea produced at New Vithankande. Parochial winds sweep through the rainforest adjacent to the estate and when they arrive, they infuse the tea with forest fruit flavours.

The tea is leafy and has a glorious black sheen since the soil is abnormally high in nutrients. When infused, New Vithanakande has a complex caramel flavour and has hints of forest fruits; a tea truly blessed by nature.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Mmm … yummy!  This tea is delicious.  Just as the description above suggests, this tea has a complex caramel flavor and hints of fruit.  It’s strange that no matter how many different teas I try with similar characteristics (like caramel notes, for example), that even though I’ve tried so many teas with notes like this … I’m still blown away by just deliciously caramel-y a tea can be without any flavoring other than what nature and it’s oxidation process has instilled into the leaf.

And this has a really rich caramel note to it:  almost creamy!  There are notes of malt to this as well as a pleasant fruity note that is reminiscent of sweet berries without the tartness that accompanies the berry.  This tea is all about the sweet!  I’m also picking up on some notes of raw cacao and a hint of earthiness.

It has a robust quality to it:  it is rich and full-bodied, with a bold character.  It’s one of those teas that would be hefty enough to serve for a breakfast tea (and would probably take the addition of milk and honey well, although I didn’t try it like that, I found it to be amazing served straight up.)  But it has a really luscious flavor to it that it would also make a great tea to serve with dessert!

I have been very impressed with the teas that I’ve tried from PMDavid Silva & Sons – this is a company that I feel very comfortable recommending highly to all my readers!

Eco-Cha Da Yu Ling High Mountain Oolong

Tea For Me Please - 9 hours 39 min ago
Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: deep green, tightly rolled
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: gold

When it comes to "green" rolled oolongs Taiwanese high mountain teas are definitely my favorites. Although this is the 2013 harvest, my sample was vacuum sealed and still seemed very fresh. The taste was wonderfully complex and exactly what I needed after overloading on some very heavy teas earlier in the day. It was incredibly smooth and sweet with interchanging fruity and floral notes. The finish had just a hint of creaminess to it. Its aroma lingered in my palate long after each sip. Later infusions developed a bit more of a vegetal quality but it never crossed the line into unpleasantness. One of the things I love about +Eco-Cha Artisan Teas is that they explain exactly how their tea sourced. Here is what their website says about this tea:

This batch of tea was procured through a friend whom we've known for almost 20 years. He grew up on a tea farm in Lu Gu and is now a professional tea judge and specialty tea merchant. Over the last several years, we have gained particular respect for his discernment of quality tea and unique tenacity in sourcing it. He has been a valuable teacher in this respect, sharing his knowledge and experience - as well as his tea with us.He reserves batches of tea and has them specially processed as per his request from farmers he chooses carefully and with whom he builds working relationships. Without this kind of history of connections in the local industry, it is quite difficult to source this level of exclusive quality. Being a consistent customer with discriminating taste, the farmer contacts him on a given day when weather conditions are favorable for harvesting. He then gives the go-ahead to purchase the day's harvest if it is processed to his specifications. These requirements are mainly in relation to the amount of oxidation that the leaves undergo, and other detailed guidelines that will produce the character of tea that he seeks. The producer and the buyer share their tea making experience and mutually agree on the methods to be employed.It's important for tea drinkers to have an element of trust with their suppliers. Eco-Cha certainly accomplishes that.

Da Yu Ling High Mountain Oolong sample provided by Eco-Cha.
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Tea Sage Hut: Global Tea Hut’s center in Miao Li, Taiwan

T Ching - 13 hours 35 min ago

Baisao was an eighteenth century tea sage whose bright spirit illuminates our tradition in more than name alone. A Zen monk for most of his life, at the age of forty-nine he traded in his robes for what was paradoxically the more Zen-infused life of a roadside peddler of tea. His bowls were steeped in the ancient and priceless spirit of tea, unclouded by money, theory, ritual or even mind itself—a spirit from before the first fingers plucked the first leaves. And those who came by his wayside hut just might have passed by the old man so strangely donning the crane robes of an ancient Taoist hermit, but for the way the spirit twinkled invitingly in his eyes or the softness of his hands as he poured his tea into worn and cracked bowls. And after such a bowl, the passerby left changed somehow, though perhaps not able to grasp the importance of what exactly had shifted their perspective. He called his stall:

“(通聖亭 Tong Shen Ting)The Hut Which Conveys One to Sagehood.”

Out of place and out of time, he was a revitalization of the ancient forest tea sages who haunted the mountains of a long-forgotten China, offering healing draughts and bits of insight to those who crossed their paths.

In honor of Baisao who also embodied the revival of ancient tea wisdom, we also have named our center “Tong Shen Ting”, which we lovingly call “Tea Sage Hut” in English. Like him we feel that it is a place of returning, drifting out of time to other places and lost wisdom. We too are revitalizing ancient ways of experience and sharing tea, and doing so freely in the true spirit of leaves and water shared in presence.

Our center is located in Miao Li, Taiwan—a small town on the Northwest of the island, surrounded by beautiful mountains and incredible spring water. For the last four years we have strived to develop a strong community of tea wayfarers and help share some of our tea wisdom with travelers from around the world. We currently host around 50 to 100 visitors from around the world every year. They come to experience Taiwan, learn about tea and meditation or just rest and find solace in the quiet of our tea center. All room and board, as well as the teachings are free. We have a nice local community as well, who work to serve tea to guests, knowing that in this tradition we don’t focus on learning how to make tea, but rather serve tea. There are weekly classes in both English and Chinese, and we have other activities like yoga, tai chi and social gatherings as well.

We have sought to build harmonious, peaceful tea spaces where people can come to make use of a large collection of tea, teaware and tea wisdom, as well as to learn or practice meditation and self-cultivation. We also seek to expand community, promoting sustainable and ecological tea production, connection to ourselves, our environment and to each other through tea.

Our center has three tea rooms, each with its own unique look and feel. They are designed around the Four Pillars of this tradition, which we shared with you in previous issues. Of course, the Nature pillar has no room as it pervades all the rooms and beyond. There is a “Zen Temple” where we meditate and practice more formal tea ceremonies. Then we have a Daoist/shaman room that we also use as a classroom. This room has a large wood table supported by two enormous sandalwood roots. There is also a large tree in the middle of the room that spans from floor to ceiling, extending out over the table. And lastly, we have a gongfu tea room with a traditional, little table to sit around and prepare gongfu tea. Our center is home to a tremendous amount of tea and rare teaware to use and learn from. We can prepare tea in many different ways, from grinding to boiling, whisking to steeping and in many different pots and cups in order to learn all manner of tea preparation from now and then.

We distribute publications and copies of Wu De’s books at Tea Sage Hut.

We currently have room for a maximum of six to eight people to stay at any given time, and it is rare that there isn’t someone around or something going on. There are meditation sessions every morning and evening, with instructions available if necessary. Otherwise, the atmosphere is rather casual—we spend as much time laughing and playing as we do meditating, learning and studying.  And you are all formally invited to come spend some time laughing and drinking cup after cup, bowl after bowl with us. Every day we put out a cup on one of the altars for all of you—all our brothers and sisters around the world—so that you’ll always know a steaming cup awaits you here. Should you find yourself having a bad day, know that such a cup is truly here waiting. And should you find yourself Eastward bound, know that you have a home here.

 

“Tea Sage Hut: Our Center in Miao Li Taiwan” (June, 2012), by Wu De, GTH.

Editor’s Note:  Global Tea Hut has generously granted permission to T Ching to publish past articles from their publication each week.  These will appear on Thursdays.

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The post Tea Sage Hut: Global Tea Hut’s center in Miao Li, Taiwan appeared first on T Ching.

Product Review: Chai Caramels from Big Picture Farm

SororiTEA Sisters - Thu, 07/31/2014 - 03:59

Product Information:

Where to Buy:  Treatsie

Product Description:  

Big Picture Farm’s goat milk chai caramel won the gold medal in the prestigious 2013 Good Food Awards. The team at Big Picture makes this exquisite caramel with organic chai supplied by their friend Neil Harley of Chai Wallah.

Learn more about Treatsie’s Subscription Box here.

Product Review:

As you may be aware, I previously reviewed another product that I recently purchased from Treatsie.  I bought these caramels at the same time, because … hello, Chai Caramels?  Yeah!  I gotta try ‘em!

I’ve previously tried (and reviewed on my now inactive foodie blog) the goat’s milk caramels from Big Picture Farms, and I really enjoyed those.  Goat’s milk caramels do taste a little different than caramels made with products other than goat’s milk, and it’s a taste that isn’t to everyone’s liking.  I personally like the flavor, because goat’s milk has a certain “tangy” quality to it and I like that contrast to the sugary sweetness of the caramel.

And these caramels are not only made with goat’s milk, but also organic chai tea supplied by Chai Wallah, another product that I’ve previously reviewed!  I was happy to see that Chai Wallah was the supplier of the chai for these confections, because this company makes a very memorable chai.  I’ve tasted a lot of chai in the past, and Chai Wallah makes some of the very best that I’ve tried.

So, I was confident that I’d enjoy these treats from Treatsie!  The caramel is super-fresh, I can feel the freshness as I unwrap the candy:  it feels soft and gooey, and there isn’t even a trace of hardness on the exterior of the candy.  It’s soft and pliable.  When I bite into it, it seems to melt in my mouth (and of course, stick to my teeth a bit – hey, it’s caramel, it’s supposed to do that!)

The first notes I experience are the caramel notes, you know, that “burnt sugar” taste that’s sort of … incredible and delicious?  Then I pick up the tangy notes of the goat’s milk.  Then I start to taste the notes of chai.  The spices hit the palate as I’m chewing on the confection, and they linger in the aftertaste.  Now that I’ve finished the bite of chewy, delicious, caramel-y goodness, I can still taste notes of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamom and pepper.  Mmm!  So good!

Yeah … you gotta try these!  If you’re a fan of chai, you’ll love them.  If you’ve got a sweet t00th, you’ll want more than just the 10-piece pack!  (Trust me on that.)  If you just want to try something that’s a little different than your average caramel … get some of these!

Organic Rooibos Vanilla Chai Blend from The Persimmon Tree

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 16:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Rooibos

Where To Buy:  The Persimmon Tree

Tea Description:

Our Vanilla Rooibos Chai tea features a delightful blend of masala chai spices, red rooibos and a hint of vanilla. Rooibos Vanilla Chai is naturally caffeine free, making it a perfect any-time tea. Much like its caffeinated cousin Masala Chai, this tea tastes delicious with milk and sugar.

Learn more about this blend here.

Taster’s Review:

Well, as I’m writing this, it’s late at night.  I’m a night owl.  My husband works the swing shift (although his shift is about to change!  This may change my sleeping habits.)   Because of his odd hours, I stay up later to be awake when he arrives home so that I can fix him something to eat and maybe watch TV and spend a little time with him before heading to bed.  Another bonus to staying up later - at least in the summer! - is that it’s cooler at night so I get to enjoy some cool temperatures rather than trying to battle the heat.  It’s been a hot summer so far!

Anyway … when its later at night, I like to sip on something that’s caffeine free, so that’s the time that I typically reach for a tisane like this Vanilla Rooibos Chai blend from The Persimmon Tree.  I can still enjoy a spicy-sweet treat in my teacup without having to worry that it’s going to keep me awake when I should be trying to catch some Zzz’s.

This smells awesome.  It’s a medley of aromas:  orange, cloves, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom.  I can even smell the nutty sweetness of the rooibos, but I like that this is more of an understated scent, and the fragrance of the spices are prominent.

This is true of the flavor as well.  Sure I taste the nutty, honeyed sweetness of the rooibos herb, but, it unifies with the spices and the orange to create a very seamless flavor that’s evoking thoughts of a spice cookie.

The spices are zesty.  The ginger adds a real punch of spice along with the cinnamon.  This is a warmer cinnamon, almost like a red-hot type of cinnamon flavor but without the overly cloying candied sweetness.  The cardamom and cloves add a warm backdrop of spice and the vanilla softens the flavors just a little bit, giving the overall cup a lightly sweet, creamy tone.

I like the touch of orange to this – it really brightens the cup and perks up the flavors of the tisane.  Everything comes together in a very pleasing way.  It’s sweet, spicy and tasty.  It’s reminiscent of the cooler days of the holiday season when yummy things are baking in the kitchen, and that’s a very welcome flavor to enjoy on this late evening.

Podcast Episode 9: Interview with Misty Peak Teas

Tea For Me Please - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 16:00
I know, I know! I've been behind on filming new podcast episodes. Isn't it the worst when life gets in the way of tea? Earlier this week I sat down with Nicholas from +Misty Peak Teas. His story is fascinating to say the least. I love his passion and commitment to selling puerh that is made just by one family. I hope that you all enjoy it!

P.S. I've been slacking on my email newsletter too but I promise that there will be one going out tomorrow!

Tea times two

T Ching - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 12:02

Along with Oscar Wilde, I am a firm believer that “Nothing succeeds like excess.” While it is doubtful that he was referring to the imbibing of tea, or cake, for that matter, I like to believe that he was.  So joyfully faced with the task of choosing which stone fruits (peaches, plums, nectarines, and their numerous hybrids) from the colorful tapestry available at markets now, I have concocted what I call “Tea times two” as the perfect vehicle to be gilded with those fruits, syruped and perfumed with tea.

If you’re a fan, like I am, of robust black teas from the Nilgiris in India, or Keemuns from mainland China, you probably have most of what you need on hand to make this teatime treat. Shop for the perishables to add to what you probably already have in your pantry, and you’re on way to achieving this portable, easy-to-make gateau de voyage, perfect to take on a picnic or to a summery outdoor concert (pack the fruits in tea syrup in an airtight container and ladle over the cake once ensconced in your alfresco setting).

Yield:  8-10 servings.

For the Lemony Teacake: 

2-1/4 c. (approximately 8.75 ounces) cake flour

1-1/4 t. baking powder

1 t. baking soda

1/3 t. salt

½ pound (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1-1/4 c. (9 ounces) granulated sugar

3 large eggs (approximately 4.8 ounces)

2-1/2 t. vanilla extract

1 c. (8.75 ounces) sour cream

1 t. grated lemon zest

1 T.  lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.

Using an electric mixer outfitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl occasionally during the mixing process. Add eggs and vanilla and mix to blend. Add dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir in the zest and lemon juice making sure they are well distributed in the batter. Transfer the mixture loaf pan measuring 8” x 5” x 3” which has first been lined on the bottom and sides with parchment paper and then sprayed with pan release spray.

Bake the cake for about 45 minutes on a rack set halfway up from the bottom of the oven until done (test by inserting a wooden skewer into the cake; it should come out clean and dry). When tested done, remove from the oven and let cool on a rack.

Now make the Tea-Syruped Fruits as follows:

2-3 lbs. of stone fruit—peaches, nectarines, plums, hybrids (choose the most fragrant fruits that are yielding to gentle pressure, indicating perfect ripeness),  cut into wide thick wedges—peel the peaches first if you’d like

2 c. brewed tea of your choice (Indian orthodox black tea from the Nilgiri region or a fragrant Keemun from mainland China are my favorites here, brewed using 3 grams of the dry tea leaf per 6 ounces of water; brewed for 3-5 minutes for a nice robust and strong infusion)

1 c. granulated sugar

Prepare the fruit. Bring the tea and sugar to the boil, reduce to a simmer and add the fruit. Cook at the barest simmer until the fruits have softened (but are not disintegrating about 10-15 minutes). Remove from the heat and allow the fruits to cool in the syrup.

Unmold the cake. Slice the cake, placing portions into deep wide bowls. Ladle the fruit and a generous amount of the syrup over each portion of the cake and serve immediately.

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The post Tea times two appeared first on T Ching.

Summer Romance Tea Blend from ArtfulTea

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black & Green Teas

Where to Buy:  ArtfulTea orArtfulTea on Etsy

Tea Description:

Let this magical blend carry you away like a summer of love. Sweet papaya and strawberries intertwine with black and green teas for an intoxicating, exotic flavor. Refreshing hot or iced.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Mmm … this Summer Romance Tea Blend is TASTY!  I often have my misgivings about a tea blend such as this, where two totally different tea types are used – in this case, it’s black tea and green tea – because it’s difficult to determine just the right steeping parameters to use.  Black teas usually do best with boiling water (or at the very least, near boiling) and the green tea leaves may end up scorched if I were to use boiling water to brew them.  So with blends like this, I usually cater to the more delicate tea, and so I brewed this with 180°F water, and then I steeped it a little longer than I normally would a green tea:  3 minutes.

These parameters produced a very flavorful, tasty cup of tea.

Of the two types of tea leaves, the black tea offers the strongest flavor.  I taste a rich flavor from the black tea, although I’m sure that it would be far more robust if I had chosen to steep this at a higher temperature.  The green tea is not quite as discernible, but, I do notice some light, buttery notes from the green tea.  The overall cup is a bit lighter and that has to do not only with the lower steep temperature but the presence of the green tea.  And despite my “misgivings” about black/green tea blends, I do like that these two teas were utilized as the base for this tea because it’s a very unique sort of taste and I like the way the flavor of the base plays with the notes of strawberry and papaya.

The rosehips don’t give off a lot of flavor to the cup, but I do notice a slight bitterness from them which acts more as a slight “brightness” to the sweet fruit notes rather than make the cup taste “bitter.”  The same is true of the sunflower petals.  They add a subtle sharpness to the cup, accentuating the sweet flavors of papaya and strawberry.

This tea blend is aptly named, for it does taste a bit like summer in a teacup.  At the moment, we’re experiencing a rainy summer day.  These are the kinds of days that I look forward to in the summer, because it cools things off for a while.  We had some pretty obnoxiously hot days over the past couple of weeks, and I was ready for the rain to come and bring the heat to a halt.  But the tea that’s in my teacup reminds me of just how lovely summer can be.

2014 Jungpana Nirvana First Flush (FTGFOP1) from Darjeeling Tea Lovers

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 07/29/2014 - 16:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Darjeeling Tea Lovers

Tea Description:

JUNGPANA TEA ESTATE was the ‘show stopper’ last season. Some of the best teas of 2013 were produced in this Vintage Jungpana Tea Estate. We were very eager this season to see what is in store from this estate, and YES yet again this tea has re-defined the First Flush. Undoubtedly this tea is NIRVANA.

When steeped for 4 mins, it gives bright amber liquor and the flavours are very natural. It has a mouthful of flowery notes which only keeps you anxious for what is in store with the second sip. The aftertaste has a faint muscatel note which is a trademark for Darjeeling. Overall a clean crisp flavour with zero astringency.

We actually feel proud to have this tea in our store and THIS IS WHAT A PURE ORGANIC FIRST FLUSH DARJEELING BLACK TEA SHOULD BE. No wonder the teas from this estate make it to the Royal Tea Parties in England.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

On the Darjeeling Tea Lovers website, this tea mentions that it’s a “Special China Black Tea” and I’m not sure exactly what is meant by that.  I was operating under the belief that the Jungpana estate is in India (Darjeeling).  Does the Special China refer to the type of tea plant?

Despite my confusion (it’s easy to confuse me) I found myself falling in love at first sip with this Jungpana Nirvana First Flush from Darjeeling Tea Lovers!

When I’m about to indulge in a first flush Darjeeling, I don’t expect a strong “muscatel” essence from it, it’s been my experience that muscatel is more common with the second flush, not so much the first.  Both flushes are great for different reasons, but if it’s muscatel that a tea drinker is looking for, then they’d be better served to choose a second flush tea.

But, that’s not the case with this Jungpana Nirvana First Flush!  There are some delightful muscatel notes to this tea!  Sweet, grape-y notes with a luscious body to it – I’d describe it as a thick, silky mouthfeel.  There is an almost sugary sweetness to this cup that I’m finding irresistible.  In fact, it’s difficult to actually write this review because I find myself wanting to keep sipping.  I don’t want to put my cup down long enough to write!

It’s sweet and fruity, with hints of earthy/woodsy tones in the distance.  There is a very light astringency to this.  With the first few sips, the astringency was barely noticeable at all, and now that I’m more than halfway through the cup, I am starting to notice the astringency a little more – it develops.

Overall, a really, really good Darjeeling Experience, even if it’s a little different than I would have expected from a Darjeeling.  Different is good!  And be sure to re-steep the leaves!  The second infusion is just as flavorful as the first!

Tea People Makaibari Darjoolong

Tea For Me Please - Tue, 07/29/2014 - 16:00
Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: mottled green and brown
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic steeper mug
Liquor: reddish amber

I've got to hand it to +Tea People, Darjoolong is simply fun to say. This one hails from Makaibari, one of the oldest tea estates in this region. You might remember that I reviewed their Bai Mu Dan last month. Regular readers will know that I have a silly soft spot for Darjeeling oolongs so this one is right up my alley. The liquor was a very pretty reddish amber. I don't think I've seen that exact shade before, even from other Darjeeling oolongs. Its taste was earthy and sweet with notes of fruit and florals. I wouldn't quite call it muscatel but there was a certain grapiness to it. Oddly enough I found the had the same hint of citrus in the finish that I noted in the white tea. You've got to love terroir! Milk and sugar would not be recommended here as the flavors are too mellow for that. I've still got lots of teas in the works from this vendor but so far I'm impressed.

Maikaibari Darjoolong sample provided by Tea People.
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How a new tea garden is discovered

T Ching - Tue, 07/29/2014 - 12:01

People often ask me how a tea grower can start to sell their tea through Tealet. Although we didn’t have a set procedure for vetting growers in place when I first started to connect with our original network of growers, we have realized the importance of digging deep to learn the true story of the garden before promoting their teas. This lesson was reinforced on a journey my brother and I recently took to Asia to visit 14 different tea growing regions.

The vetting process now takes six months, on average, and involves multiple email correspondences, skype meetings, forms to fill, sampling, and cross referencing with our established network in the industry. One of the most exciting new gardens that has been discovered by our good friend Rajiv Lochan, Chabessey, is located just on the border of Nepal and India. The Chabessey garden is currently going through our vetting process as are dozens of other gardens.

I first heard about Chabessey from Rajiv over a month ago and have already received samples and video footage from the garden which was captured by Rajiv. My team has recently taken this footage and made a video. What we have learned is that this very modest family is cultivating and processing tea on a small scale, yet has the potential to build a brand for itself in the specialty tea market. We haven’t heard much from this garden before because their teas have been marketed under a different brand. This is a common story we have heard from Nepal as well as other regions. We look forward to welcoming many more growers to our network to learn their individual stories as well as promote and sell their teas. Be on the lookout for hidden gems similar to Chabessey coming from regions such as Nilgiri, Burma, and Kenya.

What is next for Chabessey? Now that we have a small amount of their second flush 2014 black tea, we will be sharing samples with experienced tasters and interested parties. Although we found the tea to be unique and promising there is room for improvement. We will work with our collaborative group of tasters and tea consultants to bring the knowledge and resources forward for this grower to optimize tea quality. Over time, we foresee putting these experiences together in a manual which can be used by other small-scaled producers to improve their quality.

We will continue to tell the story of Chabessey, and all the other amazing tea gardens we discover, and prepare their teas for introduction to the specialty tea market. If you would like to help in this process please email info@tealet.com to request more information and we will let you know how you can get your hands on some samples so you can taste the tea for yourself. I’m sure the Chabessey family will be happy to receive your feedback as they go on a journey to make world class tea for you.

 

The post How a new tea garden is discovered appeared first on T Ching.

The best $6 I’ve spent

A Tea Addict's Journal - Tue, 07/29/2014 - 08:02

Most of the time when buying unknown teas, the gamble doesn’t pay off – there’s more crap tea out there than good tea, so luck is rarely in your favour. Once in a while, especially if the setting is right, the gambles can turn out right.

In this particular case, I took a gamble with this one

A bag of tea, really, nothing too fancy. You can see the bag is quite old. Few shops package teas this way now. I found this in the back of a cupboard of puerh in a local shop. It’s their only one. I asked how much, and the owner clearly has no idea, and just said “uh, whatever, 50?” That’s about $6 USD

I bought it because it’s got a pretty good chance of being an aged oolong. I can smell that aged taste through the bag. I’ve actually held on to this for a couple years now, and decided to open it yesterday when I was rearranging my tea closet.

Aged oolong, all right. It’s somewhere between 20 and 30 years old. The fact that it’s a private company in Shantou that packaged it means that it couldn’t have been made earlier than maybe the mid 80s. The tea is not heavily rolled like new tieguanyin tend to be, and looks traditionally processed with high firing. It’s wrapped in two sheets of paper. Given that it’s been just sitting around in a cupboard, the tea is actually in pretty good shape.

It’s got a nice, aged taste to it. It’s not the most full bodied or fragrant aged oolong I’ve had – open air storage probably has something to do with it. It’s only minimally sour, and is in very good shape. The only knock is that the tea is somewhat chopped up – probably because of repeated handling over the years. For $6, it’s a steal.

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Iced Tea from Southern Boy Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 07/29/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  52Teas

Learn more about Southern Boy Teas here.

You can also learn more about Southern Boy Teas here.

Taster’s Review:

I love a bowl of Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream!  So rich, creamy and the crisp, cool mint flavor really makes it a perfect summer time treat.  And hey … let’s not forget the chocolate chips.  Mmm!  Chocolate!

So I was looking forward to trying this new flavor from Southern Boy Teas:  Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Iced Tea!

It is a tasty iced tea.  There is a palate-pleasing balance of mint, chocolate and creamy flavors along with a backdrop of black tea notes.

That said, I do have a little issue with it.  My one complaint is that the chocolate notes are just a bit on the “fake” tasting side, but this is something that I found an easy fix for:  just add a little bit of sugar.

But because this tea is already on the sweeter side, if you sweeten your iced tea while it’s still hot (so that the sugar melts!), you might want to use a little less than you usually would, or you might want to hold off altogether and make a simple syrup to sweeten to your taste once it’s chilled.

I found it to be rather tasty without the sweetener but as I said, the chocolate tasted just a little off.  I then made a simple syrup:  I just add a teensy bit of boiling water to about a half teaspoon of water and stir in a coffee cup until the sugar is dissolved, and then add it to my tea.  The simple syrup enhanced the flavors nicely and improved the flavor of the chocolate.

Even without the sweetener, this is still quite tasty.  The chocolate notes don’t taste bad, but, there’s just a little something not quite 100% perfect about it either.  The sweetener does improve this issue with the chocolate, but I am not thrilled with the fact that I need to sweeten my tea to make it taste right.

I liked it, but I’ve liked other teas from SBT more than this one.

First Flush Long Jing Green Tea from Teasenz

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 16:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Teasenz

Tea Description:

A first flush Longjing tea picked in early spring. An exceptional quality rarely seen outside of China.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Nice!  This is an exceptionally fresh-tasting Longjing!  I’m not surprised, of course, because I can’t recall being disappointed by any of the teas that I’ve tried thus far from Teasenz!  This company is one that is committed to offering the very finest (and freshest!) teas.  I like that in a tea company.

And I’m finding myself really appreciating the freshness and flavor of this first flush Long Jing (aka Dragon Well).  It’s sweet and smooth and delicious.  Not a trace of bitterness and a very low astringency level.

This Dragon Well has a light vegetal tone and tastes more of sweet butter with nutty tones than it tastes grassy or vegetative.  I also taste notes of fruit and flower in the distance.

The sip starts out sweet, reminiscent of the nutty flavor you might experience with a browned butter.  The nutty flavor has a light, toasted taste to it.  About mid-sip, I start to pick up on hints of fruit and very delicate whispers of flower in the distance. More sweetness!  The sip ends smooth with a slight dry sensation – a very, very slight dry astringency here.  If I wasn’t focused in on the sip and really concentrating on everything I’m picking up on … this astringency is so low that it would have escaped my notice.

I love how this tea washes the palate with sweetness with every sip.  It’s so enjoyable.  It is more sweet than it is savory or brothy, this isn’t one of those “nourishing” type of teas, this is one to drink for the sheer celebration of a superbly beautiful and satisfyingly sweet green tea.

Another AMAZING tea from Teasenz!

Teavivre Organic Nonpareil She Qian Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea

Tea For Me Please - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 16:00
Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: jade green, flat
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: pale greenish gold

This tea is a bit unusual in that it was harvested on March 23rd. This is very early in the Spring, prior to the Qing Ming harvest period. Production is extremely small at that time. The resulting tea was nothing short of amazing. Not only was it intensely aromatic but it had a very complex flavor profile. It was nutty, sweet and crisp with floral notes, a touch of melon and even a bit of creaminess. It lingered in my mouth for so long even after finishing the last sip. While it's a bit expensive compared to this other offerings, this one is worth every penny. This was a truly enjoyable tea and organic to boot. It's tempting to load up on this tea but green teas do not keep as long as other types. It would be a terrible waste if I couldn't drink it all while it is in its prime.

Organic Nonpareil She Qian Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea sample provided by Teavivre.
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Three Years Medicine: Aged White Tea

T Ching - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 12:00

When I moved to China in 2010, I had already been interested in tea for about seven years. I had served tea to lots of people all over the world in a purely gregarious sense, and also in a professional capacity as the tea sommelier at the now-defunct Jade Leaves teahouse in Austin, Texas. Every so often, people asked me what my favorite kind of tea was. While I do find that most people gravitate towards a particular type of tea, my honest answer was always “I don’t have a favorite, I like all different kinds of tea.” If I was feeling exceptionally honest I would add, “. . . except for white tea. I don’t really like white tea.”

At that time, my experience with white tea was limited to Silver Needle, White Peony -and two white teas that I still know only from Jade Leaves called Spirit Spirals and Snow Spear. At Jade Leaves, we would get our white tea fresh each year, store it in the refrigerator, and throw most of it away the next year when the new batch came in. I found the pale infusion white teas produced to be too subtle and vaguely sweet, with a distant floral fragrance and a nearly-clear green liquor. At that point, my understanding of white tea was that it was produced solely from the tips of the tea plant and the downy white buds at the apex of the tea bush which can be found amongst the leaves in high quality green and black tea.

On our last West China Tea Company sourcing journey, we were served a very curious white tea by our friend Yu Xi Hong at a teahouse in the Minshan Hotel, where he was employed as a “tea doctor.” Wearing his formal black Sun Yat-Sen suit and seated behind an expansive wooden tea table, he produced a small chunk of pressed, dark-colored tea wrapped in soft handmade paper. Breaking off a portion with his tea knife, he explained that this was all that remained of a large disk of pressed white tea – a bing, just like pu-er often comes in – and that this type of tea, called Fuding white tea, was traditionally aged. He served us some and I did indeed find it richer and more full-flavored than the white tea I was used to.

Thus it was that several weeks later, after traveling through Sichuan, Guangxi, and Guangdong provinces, that we arrived in Xiamen and promptly called Yu Xi Hong to put us in touch with his white tea-selling friends from Fuding. Their shop was located deep in the bowels of a windowless and labyrinthine mall of sorts located in the wholesale tea district, nestled among dozens of other tea shops all specializing in a very particular type of tea or, sometimes, teaware.

There, in a gleaming white little cube of a store tastefully furnished with clean blonde wood shelves and a stainless steel cha pan (tea tray), we were served progressively older and older white teas by the beautiful young girl who was working there, Xiao Hong. By the time we made our way down to the 2006 vintage of the pressed White Peony, I was hopelessly and desperately in love with aged white tea.

Rather than being pale, faint, and fleeting, this aged white tea was rich and satisfying. With age, it acquired a deep honey-like sweetness and a complex, pervasive fragrance reminiscent of grapes, dates, figs, wine . . .  beautiful, but mysterious, like a particularly enchanting woman who walks past you and her perfume brushes your cheek like a silk scarf. You don’t turn your head to watch her, but you can feel her move about the room. You long to look, but the thought that she might be looking back at once terrifies and exhilarates you.

Everything about the tea, the server, and the shop exuded a kind of powerful and intoxicating femininity, something I had never experienced before from a tea. Even the pure white porcelain gaiwans had graceful female immortals painted onto the undersides of their lids, so that when you turned the lid upside down to smell the lingering “cold fragrance,” you were presented with the likeness of a beautiful, elegant woman.
Fuding is the origin point of white tea and, like black tea and oolong tea, white tea is an innovation of the Fujianese. From Xiao Hong and the owner of the store, Li Yan Mei, herself both young and very beautiful, we learned a lot of things about white tea that I had somehow remained ignorant of through more than a decade of tea drinking.

As it turns out, white tea does not have to be produced exclusively from the buds of the tea plant; many of the classic white teas, including Shou Mei (“longevity eyebrow”), and White Peony, are made up of both buds and a substantial amount of leaf.

What makes it white tea is a combination of the varietal, which has a profusion of large, downy white buds; and its processing, which is unique in the world of tea for not involving any sort of heat or cooking. The tea is allowed to “wither”, or air-dry, which confers a soft sweetness to the tea. This process takes great skill and discernment on the part of the master because poorly-cured tea can mold and a whole harvest can be lost. Some of these processes are done behind closed doors, each master careful to protect their hard-learned techniques. When done correctly, this delicate natural process creates a complex, refined, and elegant tea with silver buds and bright green and yellow leaves. Its fragrance is spring-like, floral, and sweet with notes of squash.

I also confirmed what we had learned with Yu Xi Hong:  white tea isn’t meant to be consumed fresh, like green tea, but rather it ages like pu er. It is for that reason that it is pressed into cakes – to make it compact and easy to store – growing more complex and valuable as time passes.

In Fuding, they have a saying: One year tea, three years medicine, seven years treasure. When I told Li Yan Mei that we used to throw away our year-old white tea, she literally facepalmed.

Every time I go to China, I learn many new things. One thing that I learn every single time is that there is so much to know about tea that I still don’t know, despite my best efforts over more than a decade of study. These aged, pressed tea cakes completely changed my mind about white tea; it went from being my least favorite kind of tea to one that I crave regularly and drink almost daily. We now carry five different vintages of Fuding white tea cakes; mostly leafy varieties like White Peony and the various Eyebrow whites ranging in price from $20 (a little 100g mini-cake of Longevity Eyebrow) to $180 (a “treasure” aged high grade White Peony cake from 2007). I take special pleasure in sharing these teas that, even after all this time, can still produce in me that excitement and wonder that comes from tasting something new and exotic and mysterious. This is the same joy that the newly-initiated tea lover feels at their first tea tasting, and it is what the elusive, exquisite femininity of these white teas embodies for me.

Find out more about the sale teas here.

The post Three Years Medicine: Aged White Tea appeared first on T Ching.

Earl of Anxi Blend from Verdant Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  Verdant Tea

Tea Description:

Traditional Earl Grey is a classic, great for every season. With the Earl of Anxi, we start not with a black tea, but with our Master Zhang’s Hand-Picked Tieguanyin to give the bergamot a sweet, bright base and reinforce the floral citrus notes. We draw out the citrus sweetness with a uniquely creamy and rich orange peel, and crystallize the florals into a prominent position with jasmine blossoms.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This is really a unique take on Earl Grey – unique but very enjoyable!

What is so remarkable about this blend is how incredibly balanced it is.   This Earl of Anxi has a very balanced fragrance as well as flavor and the result is a very smooth tea.  Unbelievably smooth!

Verdant Tea has found a way to balance all that is unique about Earl Grey to create an uncommonly smooth version of the classic tea.  First, let’s think about the aroma of an Earl Grey tea, because let’s face it, that’s usually the first thing you notice about Earl Grey … that beautiful scent of bergamot!  But the fragrant note of the bergamot is something that is noticeable not just by scent but also distinguishable by taste.  That’s why sometimes bergamot in an Earl Grey can come off as “perfume-y” because one not only smells the heady aroma of the bergamot orange but also tastes it.  Don’t believe me?  Try plugging your nose when you drink Earl Grey and you’ll notice that it tastes different.

The way that the Oolong tea melds with the floral notes of the jasmine and the fruit tones of the orange and goji berry is really remarkable.  It is so creamy and fluid.  Smooth like silk.

To my recollection, I’ve only tried Frankincense in one or two other teas, but based upon my memory of those experiences, I can taste the Frankincense now.  It has a somewhat perfume-ish quality to it, very aromatic and exotic to the nose and to the palate.

The frankincense and saffron offer contrast and balance to the fragrant flavor of the bergamot, as does the jasmine, while the goji berry accentuates the citrus tones.  The oolong offers a creamy taste that is the basis for the smooth flavor and texture of the tea.  It is the conduit for the incredible smoothness of this tea.

A sweet, beautifully balanced, delicately spiced, exotic cup of tea that is so delightful that it is almost impossible to describe.  It is one of those teas that you MUST try to believe.  It’s an amazing tea.

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