Notes on Tea

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Updated: 41 min 17 sec ago

Tillerman Tea Wenshan Bao Zhong - Winter 2016, Spring 2017

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 16:01

Wenshan Baozhong is unusual among Taiwanese green oolongs in its twisted presentation. The first part of the tea's name refers to the Wen Shan range where shan translates to mountain. The second half of the tea's name, bao zhong, refers to the origin of the tea's shape. The tea historically was wrapped in paper to achieve the twisted shape. This technique is still used though it is not as widespread.

Another distinctive aspect of this tea is its "generous [floral] fragrances" (Gascoyne et al.). In my reading, I have seen the following flowers associated with baozhong: lilac, lily of the valley, gardenia, and orchid. The two Wenshan baozhongs from Tillerman Tea I drank smelled and tasted of flowers. Despite my botanophilia, I am unable to say which flower(s). The baozhongs specifically were Winter 2016 (Wong One Dashi) and Spring 2017 (Wang Han Yang). Two grams of each tea were steeped in tasting cups filled with 195F water for 3 minutes.




Winter 2016 (Wong One Dashi)

Dry leaf appearance: long, twisted, mix of olive and forest green

Dry leaf fragrance: floral, dry

Infused leaf appearance: longest leaf was 1.5 inches, choppy leaves, forest green

Liquor color: yellow, clear

Liquor taste: Floral yet savory, light broth mouthfeel but medium body; as the liquor cooled, the tea tasted like buttered toast, just as Tillerman Tea said it would




Spring 2017 (Wang Han Yang)

Dry leaf appearance: long, twisted, mix of olive and forest green

Dry leaf fragrance: very floral, creamy, toasted barley [in contrast to the Winter 2016, the bag of Spring 2017 was first opened for this tasting]

Infused leaf appearance: longest leaf was 2 inches, more whole leaves, shinier, forest green

Liquor color: green yellow, clear

Liquor taste: Bright, floral, medium body, coated mouth, vegetal (but not savory); the cooled tea tasted very green, vegetal, and headily floral

The Takeaway

The two teas are of the same style but differ by farm and by season. These two factors could account for the differences in their flavor profiles. I enjoyed drinking both teas but my favorite of the two teas as infused above is the Spring 2017 Wenshan Bao Zhong. This baozhong was featured in Tea Pairing 101: Oolong Tea. Pair it with a plum. But before you go: steep 3-4 grams of the Winter 2016 in 3-4 ounces of 195F for 30-second infusions for a highly floral liquor.

Both Wenshan baozhongs were provided for review by Tillerman Tea.

P.S. Baozhong used to be processed as a dark oolong! Read about baozhong history at TeaDB.

Rishi Tea Flight Tasting

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 13:32

One of my favorite sweetened matchas is made by Rishi Tea. It was long one of my indulgent purchases at Whole Foods. When I lived in Arlington, I preferred to go to the local cafe that served Rishi loose leaf tea. I've also come to know Rishi as the source for La Colombe's tea & tisane collection. And with the event I share below, I now know that they offer artisanal teas. Obviously, there are many dimensions to this 20-year old tea company. Jo was spot on in her assessment of the Rishi Tea tasting we attended in October. The tasting was an opportunity to "rediscover" the brand.



The tasting was held in the library of the International Culinary Center. I'm a huge fan of libraries so the space was immediately comforting. I looked around the room and recognized most of women there. The people at the table (the tasters) were all women. Our host was Keiko Niccolini, Director of Luxury and Brand Alignment, who prepared eleven teas across four flights. Macarons and mochi were the food accompaniments. In addition to preparing the teas, Keiko provided terroir, production, and tasting information about each tea.



The teas in the flights share either origin or cultivar. The teas in the first flight share origin (Shimizu, Shizuoka Prefecture). The teas in the second flight share cultivar (Sae Midori) though the cultivar listed for the matcha on the menu is Okumidori. The third flight shares cultivar (Yabukita). The fourth flight shares origin (Kyoto Prefecture).

Read on for my notes on tea.

1. First Flight
Shincha Machiko
Matcha Okumidori

The Shincha Machiko was sweet and vegetal. The Matcha Okumidori was thick, rich, and gritty. A memorably good matcha. I don't think I have had such a coarsely textured matcha before.



2. Saemidoro Flight
Nishi Family Handpicked Shincha
Nishi Family Gyokuro Kirishima
Matcha Saemidori

The Matcha Saemidori was lighter than the Okumidori and creamy, too. I did not make notes on the Nishi Shincha. I could have been busy eating another macaron or mochi. The Nishi Gyokuro Kirishima was light bodied with a sweet-pea sweetness and a fruity tail note. As it cooled, the liquor was more vegetal in taste. Keiko steeped this gyokuro for 45 seconds in 170F water.



3. Yabukita Flight
Shincha Kobyashi
Nishi Family Shincha Yabukita
Gyokuro Okabe Clear Fragrance - Aobane Farm
Gyokuro Okabe Deep Aoi - Aobane Farm

The Yabukita shinchas were strikingly different from each other. The dry leaves of the Shincha Kobayashi smelled of cream and custard with a sharp note of anise. The liquor was light-bodied, bright, sweet, and vegetal. There was a lingering note of tarragon. There was much discussion at my end of the table about the anise and tarragon flavors! The Nishi Shincha Yabukita was a sharper tea with walnut skin flavor.

The Yabukita gyokuros also exhibited very different profiles. I wanted to eat sushi after drinking the Gyokuro Okabe Clear Fragrance from the Aobane Farm. This was an unfortunate state of affairs for me as I've committed to being a strict vegetarian. This desire was followed by my cheeks vibrating, puckering. I had an intensely dry mouth. On the other hand, the Gyokuro Okabe Deep Aoi was creamy! The liquor left a layer of cream on my tongue. The third sip showed a vegetal flavor. The empty cup smelled like hot sugar.



4. Kyoto Flight
Gyokuro Kyoto
Matcha Hekisui

The gyokuro in the fourth and final flight is Keiko's favorite gyokuro. Her second favorite gyokuro is the Aobane Farm's Gyokuro Okabe Clear Fragrance. The Gyokuro Kyoto was smooth, balanced, sweet on top, and vegetal at the end. The Matcha Hekisui was according to my notes, "wow!" It was meaty and mushroom. It felt like I was drinking a meal. It would pair well with a meal of red meat and/or mushrooms.

My favorites of the teas were the matchas, particularly the Matcha Okumidori, and the Yabukita gyokuros. None of my favorites were in my gift bag, but I have been enjoying the sweet pea, fruity, and slight umami flavors of the Nishi Family Gyokuro Kirishima. Did you know that Japanese green tea had such variety within the same style?