Tea For Me Please

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Want to learn more about tea? Come follow my journey with the leaf. Fun and informative posts, tea reviews and more.Nicole Martinhttps://plus.google.com/103097147251455801975noreply@blogger.comBlogger1643125
Updated: 47 min 38 sec ago

Friday Round Up: March 19th - March 26th

Fri, 03/24/2017 - 04:38
Trek to Brooklyn 2017
I was a bit bummed to miss the NYC Coffee and Tea Festival for the first time in many years. Thankfully I was able to live vicariously through +Jo J's blog post.

Meet my tea pet
Regular readers will know about my obsession with tea pets. +Anna Mariani introduced us to her squirrel tea pet and the adorable story that goes along with it.

Notes from the Tea Underground
I've said it before and I'll say it again, +Geoffrey Norman gets to go to the coolest tea events! Portland definitely has one of the most unique tea communities.

What I Like About Japanese Green Tea
+Ricardo Caicedo answers a question that I've often wondered, what made a guy from Colombia become so interested in Japanese green tea?

Cupping an Assam and an Uva
I've been avidly following the adventures of +Georgia SS as she takes an ITEI tea course. Comparing black teas from different regions can be so interesting.

What is Oolong Tea?

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 16:00

Origins
The birthplace of oolong is the Fujian Province of China. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when production first began but it is likely to have been after the Ming Dynasty as this area was known for its compressed teas prior to that time. Oolong is the anglicized version of the Chinese Wulong, meaning black dragon. There are many legends about the origin of that name but it seems to mostly be tied to the dark, twisted appearance of the oolongs produced in the Wuyi Mountain area. Tea plants from Fujian were first brought to Taiwan in the early 1800's.
Varieties
Oolong is one of the largest and most diverse categories of tea. The oxidation levels can range from as low as 8% to as high as 80%.  For that reason, it is a tea of many faces. There are a massive number of varieties so a list of all of them could go on forever. For the sake of simplicity, I'm going to list a select few that oolong beginners should definitely check out.

Chinese

  • Tie Guan Yin
  • Da Hong Pao
  • Mi Lan Xiang

Taiwanese

  • Dong Ding
  • Oriental Beauty
  • Ali Shan

There are also some really tasty oolongs coming from Vietnam, Thailand, and other regions being produced.

Processing
Oolong tea uses larger, more mature leaves than those used for white, yellow, or green tea. It's a bit of a misconception that larger leaves are poorer quality and oolong is proof that this isn't always the case. Tender buds just wouldn't be able to survive the rolling process. For this reason, oolongs are harvested a bit later in the year.
After plucking the leaves are withered in the sun to remove excess moisture. This also makes them more malleable. They are then bruised by carefully tossing them on a bamboo or wicker tray. The leaves are then allowed to oxidize, slowly turning from green to red in color. Heat is then applied at the appropriate stage in order to halt oxidation. This is what stops the tea from fully oxidizing into a black tea. 
Depending on the type of tea, the leaves may then shaped and/or rolled. Anxi and Taiwanese oolongs usually have a distinctive ball shape while Wuyi and Guangdong oolongs have a long, skinny appearance. The leaves will then be heated, often by charcoal roasting, to remove residual moisture and make them more shelf stable. Some types of oolong also have a roasting step that takes place after processing. This is frequently done by tea merchants rather than the producer themselves.
Taste
Due to the wide range of oxidation levels, the taste of oolong can be just as diverse. Lighter oxidized teas will usually have a more grassy quality. Anxi and Taiwanese oolongs are very aromatic and floral but there are lots of nuances within that. Wuyi oolongs are dark and toasty with a strong minerality. Phoenix oolongs mimic everything from fruits to nuts and even specific flower varieties.

How to Brew It
When using a western method, water temperatures are usually around 180 to 212° Fahrenheit. Steep times can vary between 3 and 8 minutes depending on the tea. Oolong can be difficult to measure as the leaf shapes often don't fit in a typical teaspoon. Weighing your leaves will help make sure that you are using the right amount. Most teas will call for 2 to 2.5 grams of leaf per 8oz cup of water.

Gongfu is definitely my preferred way to make oolong tea. Yixing clay or thicker walled teapots can be a great tool because they retain heat, making sure that you extract all of the aromas from your tea. Gaiwans are also a great method because you can use the lid to control the heat. Water temperatures will range from around 195° to 212° Fahrenheit with steep times between 15 seconds and 30 seconds.
What is your favorite oolong tea? Let me know about it in the comments!

Golden Leaf Tea Sun Moon Lake

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 16:00
Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: long, dark, spindly
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: reddish amber

For some reason, certain kinds of tea tug at my heartstrings more than others. Ruby #18 is one of them. Just the idea of a black tea from Taiwan really blew my mind when I first discovered it. Growing up in a Lipton Orange Pekoe family, a "self-drinking" black tea was completely new territory. The history behind this variety is also pretty fascinating. I will definitely have to revisit my old "Meet the Tea" series so that I can tell its story in another future blog post.

The taste was malty, as you might expect from a tea made from var. Assamica, but it was also mellow with a lot of natural sweetness. Notes of cinnamon spice and dark cacao danced around a vanilla note that almost gave the tea a creamy quality. By gradually increasing the infusion time I was able to get an impressive number of infusions from 6g of leaves. I found myself still drinking after most of the flavor had faded because it still had a really nice sweetness.

Feel free to experiment with your brew times and leaf ratios. Ruby #18 can take the heat like few other black teas can. Bitterness is rarely an issue, even when they are pushed fairly hard. If you've never had the opportunity to try "red jade" then I highly recommend that you treat yo' self by picking some up. You won't be disappointed. Their Honey Red Jade is also definitely worth trying.

Sun Moon Lake sample provided for review by Golden Leaf Tea.





What is Green Tea?

Mon, 03/13/2017 - 16:00

Origins
Humans have been cultivating and drinking tea for thousands of years. Green tea was the only type that existed for the majority of that time. Sichuan Province is generally considered to be the birthplace of the smaller leaved var. Sinensis. Tea cultivation and its use as a medicine soon spread to surrounding areas.

Prior to the Ming Dynasty, it was a bit different than the form that we know today. The leaves were pressed into cakes, then ground into a powder, and whisked into a froth. This preparation method was later adapted by Japan to make matcha. The Tang Dynasty brought tea drinking to a whole new level as it became a cultural art form.

Many people don't realize that the first tea exported from China was green tea. Spring picked "Hyson" and "Singlo" were favored by the well to do of England and America. A significant amount of green tea was even dumped into the harbor during the Boston Tea Party. More oxidized tea varieties eventually became more favored by the western world because they were better able to survive the long sea voyage.

Varieties
There are more types of green tea than I could possibly list here. Green tea is produced in many other corners of the globe. China and Japan are the dominant producers, though. This makes sense as they have the longest history of tea growing. These are my favorite kinds:

Chinese



Japanese

  • Bancha
  • Gyokuro
  • Hojicha
  • Matcha
  • Sencha

Let me know in the comments if there is a tea I missed that should be on this list!

Gyokuro
Processing
Green tea is defined as a tea that is not oxidized. The leaves are withered for several hours in order to reduce the moisture content. This process also softens them, making them more malleable. Heat is then applied in some way in order denature the enzymes that cause oxidation. This step is often referred to as the "kill green" for that reason.

Chinese green teas are usually heated in a wok-like pan whereas Japanese green teas are steamed for a short period of time. Some types of green tea, such as Dragonwell and Bi Luo Chun, are shaped during this period. The leaves might also be dried afterward using an oven or commercial dryer.

Taste
Green tea is generally described as having a vegetal taste. They can certainly be more complex than that. I feel like green tea sometimes gets ignored in favor of sexier, more aromatic teas like oolong. Although the taste can be much more delicate a good green tea is well worth the effort. Chinese green teas will often have a floral, nutty character. Japanese green teas, on the other hand, are almost oceanic tasting.
How to Brew It
Green tea is almost always brewed with lower temperature water. When using a western method, water temperatures are usually around 175° Fahrenheit. Steep times can vary between 1 and 3 minutes depending on the tea. Leaf volume might vary a bit but most teas will call for 2 to 2.5 grams of leaf per 8oz cup of water.

Green teas can be brewing using gongfu methods but they do require a bit more care. Your water temperature should be in the 175° to 185° range with infusion times no longer than 30 seconds. I don't recommend using yixing clay or other thick-walled vessels because they retain too much heat. Glass is a great way to go for that reason but keeping the lid off of your brewing vessel in between infusions can help a lot as well.

Grandpa style is my absolute favorite ways to drink green tea. There's nothing better than slowly sipping tea while watching the leaves dance in a tall glass. The key to avoiding bitterness is making sure that you use just barely enough leave to cover the bottom of the cup.

What is your favorite green tea? Let me know about it in the comments!