May 15, 2018

Tillerman Tea Lishan Gaoshan Oolong

In medieval times I might have been a scribe. I always carry a notebook and keep a separate tea notepad in my kitchen. Many of my tasting notes become the tea reviews you read on the blog.


It's back to back Lishan reviews this week! Check out yesterday's review of the Song Yi Tea Lishan Oolong. (I've also reviewed the Song Yi Tea Roast Lishan Oolong.) Today's tea is Tillerman Tea Lishan Goashan Oolong harvested in Winter 2017. I purposefully drank these teas back to back not to formally compare but I enjoyed the Song Yi Lishan so much that I wanted to drink another Lishan.

Like Song Yi Tea, Tillerman Tea also provides detailed sourcing information for its teas. Here's the provenance information for this winter gaoshan:
  • Grown in Lishan (this is a given)
  • Altitude of 2400 meters
  • Qing Xin cultivar
  • 15% oxidation and unroasted


TILLERMAN TEA LISHAN GOASHAN OOLONG

The big leaves of this tea were emeralad and forest green with visible stems. The leaves were sweet and floral smelling with scents of grain.

I followed the Western-style parameters provided by Tillerman Tea:
  • 8 ounces
  • 3-5 grams or 1 teaspoon (I used 4 grams)
  • 212F
  • 60s
I steeped the leaves three times for 60s, 90s, and 5 minutes. The steam off the first infusion was immediately creamy and grainy while the liquor tasted of flowers, sweet vegtables, and grains. The tail note was buttery. The first cup was super floral with a good body. The second infusion was bright yellow in color with strong floral notes. It also had a nice, dry tail note. The final cup was still floral but was accompanied by a pleasant taste of plant stems.


THE TAKEAWAY

You might be able to tell that I lost track of time between the second and third infusion. Regardless, that long third steep produced a good cup of tea. This Tillerman Lishan is very good. Right now I am drinking a cold-steeped session of this tea. It is full and floral. You can't go wrong preparing this Lishan Goashan Oolong hot or cold. However, the chilled version has a longer aftertaste.

May 14, 2018

Song Yi Tea Lishan Oolong

In medieval times I might have been a scribe. I always carry a notebook and keep a separate tea notepad in my kitchen. Many of my tasting notes become the tea reviews you read on the blog.


My previous reviews of teas from Song Yi Tea are Sun Moon Lake Black Tea and Roast Lishan Oolong. I did not include detailed provenance information. One of the aspects of Song Yi I appreciate is the detailed origin and production information it provides for each tea. Here's the 411 for today's tea, the Lishan Oolong.
  • Grown in Lishan Village, hence the name
  • Gravelly soil type
  • Altitude of 2300 meters
  • Qingxin cultivar
  • 30% oxidation and lightly roasted. 
These characteristics all add up to a green oolong, perfect for spring drinking.

SONG YI TEA LISHAN OOLONG

The dry leaves were rolled big and tight. The tea was forest and emerald green in color. The dry leaves smelled of cream and toasted grains. I followed the recommended steeping parameters of 1g / 15ml in 100C water for 40s/20/30/40/55. I used 3g in 50ml.


The infused leaves smelled fresh and green with creamy and grain notes. The steam was also slightly floral. The pale yellow liquor did not have a scent. The liquor was creamy and floral and full of grain flavor. The floral note was not overwhelming but it did remind me of the fragrance of this year's orchid show at the New York Botanical Garden. When the first cup reached room temperature it showed a lush texture and lots of floral flavors.


The second infusion yielded a much more robust cup flavor-wise. The liquor was drier but more floral. The grain notes were still there overlaid with a juicy fruit flavor in the back of my mouth. The liquor lightened by the fourth infusion but even at the fifth steep, the tea still had the original flavors of dry cereal, spring green, and flowers.

The Takeaway

This oolong was very enjoyable steeped at a high temperature. I would strongly recommend a cold steep, too. The lush, floral experience of the second infusion when the liquor dropped to room temperature was fantastic.

The oolong tea review here was provided by Song Yi Tea.

April 19, 2018

Jun Chiyabari Himalayan Teas - 2017 Summer Himalayan Shiiba

In medieval times I might have been a scribe. I always carry a notebook and keep a separate tea notepad in my kitchen. Many of my tasting notes become the tea reviews you read on the blog. Today's post is second of two reviews of  Jun Chiyabari Himalayan Teas. The first review was of the 2017 Himalayan Orange Autumn Flush. Read on for notes on the 2017 Summer Himalayan Shiiba.


I'd like to start this review by again thanking fellow tea blogger, Tristan Jordan of Tea With Tristan, who kindly arranged for me to sample the 2017 Autumn Himalayan Orange and the 2017 Summer Himalayan Shiiba both grown on the Jun Chiyabari garden in Nepal and sourced by Kora Tea and Crafts.


2017 Summer Himalayan Shiiba 

The origins of this tea are Japanese. The Himalayan Shiiba tea is made from Camellia sinensis trees imported from the moutain village of Shiiba located in the Miyazaki Prefecture of Japan. The dry leaves are variable in size, lightly twisted, varying along the brown color spectrum with charcoal and khaki green leaves as well as silver buds present. The leaves were very dry to touch.

As with the Orange, I prepared the Shiiba in several ways:
  • Professional cup: 2.5 grams / 4 ounces / 200F / 3 minutes
  • Large ceramic teapot as recommended by Jun Chiyabari: 3 grams / 200 ml / 175F+ / 2 minutes, 1m, 2 m
  • Small kyusu: 4 grams / 70 ml / 200F / 20s; (dropped temp. to 190F) 40s; (transferred leaves to a 150ml clay pot) 20s, 30s 

Professional Cup

Steeping the leaves in a professional cup for three minutes yielded a golden liquor tasting green, sweet, and slightly bitter akin to biting into a stone fruit's pit. The tea was thick and layered with honey, fruit, and lingering spice. The second infusion of four minutes was full of deliciously unripe, fruit flavor.

Ceramic Teapot

I infused fresh leaves three times in a ceramic teapot. The first cup was the best of three. The tea was very sweet and floral with a grape must texture. The second cup was enjoyable. It was also sweet but with notes of green. The tea's texture was luscious once it cooled. The third infusion had a dry texture with a significant loss of flavor.

Kyusu (then larger clay teapot)

The dry leaves smelled like a semisweet brownie studded with dried fruits. Shaken in a warm kyusu, the leaves released a muscatel, fruit fuzz, pie scent. The first infusion tasted like a Taiwanese green oolong but with the green notes on the front and the floral and fruit notes on the tail. Even at this early stage, I realized that there was too much leaf in the pot. The Himalayan Shiiba is more voluminous than the Himalayan Orange. The next infusion yielded a bitter liquor which confirmed that the leaf to water ratio was out of proportion. I transferred the leaves to a much larger clay teapot and started with a short infusion. The tea was light in body, slightly fruity, and pale amber in color. There was a paper/linen tail note on the cooled liquid. The next infusion was disappointing.


The Takeaway

Unlike my experience with the Himalayan Orange, the kyusu was not the most successful mode of preparation. That honor goes to the professional cupping set. The Himalayan Shiiba is an excellent tea so do not take my failures in preparation as an indication of the quality of this tea. I am lucky to have enough of this to continue experimenting with gram to ml ratio, water temperature, and teaware.

April 09, 2018

Jun Chiyabari Himalayan Teas - 2017 Himalayan Orange Autumn Flush

In medieval times I might have been a scribe. I always carry a notebook and keep a separate tea notepad in my kitchen. Many of my tasting notes become the tea reviews you read on the blog. If you think that tea coming out of Nepal is only CTC-processsed, think again. "Nestled in the heart of the Himalayas," Nepal is producing quality orthodox, loose leaf teas. I have been fortunate to drink two teas from the Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden sourced by Kora Tea and Crafts. Today's post is a review of the 2017 Himalayan Orange Autumn Flush.


Fellow tea blogger, Tristan Jordan of Tea With Tristan, generously arranged for me to sample the 2017 Autumn Himalayan Orange and the 2017 Summer Himalayan Shiiba both grown on the Jun Chiyabari garden in Nepal and sourced by Kora Tea and Crafts. The stories of Jun Chiyabari and Kora Tea and Crafts are impressive so it's worth briefly sharing them here. Jun Chiyabari was incorporated in 2000 after the reminiscing by two brothers, Lochan and Bachan Gyawali, about their school days in Darjeeling. The brothers purchased 75 hectares in Hile, and the garden officially opened in 2001. The company's first tea was processed by hand using a modified pizza oven which was designed by Lochan and Bachan! The company currently uses Taiwanese tea manufacturing machines. Kora Tea and Crafts was launched in Nepal in 2017. The owner, Aaron Basskin, is pursuing his Master's Degree in Translation and Textual Interpretation of Buddhist Texts. His tea pursuits are funding (and perhaps fueling) his studies. The fit between Buddhist philosophy and tea seems a good one.


2017 HIMALAYAN ORANGE AUTUMN FLUSH

The dry leaves of the Himalayan Orange were small, black or brown in color, with silver buds. The infused leaves were coppery and smelled like green stems and brown sugar.

I steeped this tea in three different vessels:

  • Professional cup: 2.5 grams / 4 ounces / 200F / 3 minutes
  • Large ceramic teapot as recommended by Jun Chiyabari: 3 grams / 200 ml / 175F+ / 2 minutes, 1m, 2 m 
  • Small kyusu: 4 grams / 70 ml / 200F / 30s, 40s; (dropped temp. to 190F) 60s, 1minute 20s, 1m 40s (190F), 2m, 3m, 5m


Professional Cup

Steeped in a professional cup for three minutes, the liquor was dark amber. It also had dark flavors, of wood, dry cocoa, and dark fruit. There was a slight, pleasant bitterness. It was medium-bodied with a lingering, warming spice note, and a drying effect. The second infusion of four minutes yielded a dark chocolate profile underlain by wood smoke on the tongue. The tea did not linger in my cheeks.

Ceramic Teapot

Imagine being surrounded by ripe tropical fruit. That was the taste and scent of the liquor from the first steep. Curiously, the tea was pale and light bodied. I increased the water temperature for the second infusion as recommended. The result was a much darker liquor with a more noticeable body. The tea was still incredibly fruity -- lychee, maybe guava. It also had toasty and sweet wood notes. As the liquor cooled there was pleasant bitterness that clung to my upper palate. The third infusion dropped in body. There was background fruit and sweetness, but the liquor was now dry not lush. It tasted like I was drinking peach-infused rocks.

As the leaves steeped, the air above the teapot was scented with notes reminiscent of Oriental Beauty. The liquor was golden amber.

Kyusu

I own a 70ml kyusu - I adore this small pot. It is pretty to look at with a creamy and crackled finish. Also, its size is perfect for small amounts of tea. Sometimes I find that using large amounts of tea in an appropriately sized larger teapot doesn't showcase the flavors of a tea.

Preparing this tea, especially the first infusion, was like stepping into a greenhouse of flowers (versus wandering through a meadow). I could not identify the specific flowers but it was a pleasant experience. The amber liquor and its steam were floral and fruity. The tea tasted tart on the tongue. It was medium-bodied with the texture of fine fruit-skin hairs. As the liquor cooled, the tea acquired creamy mouthfeel. The second infusion was drily sweet and thick. The liquor almost laid on the tongue. Although the infusions were very good, they were at a slightly uncomfortable drinking temperature. For the remaining seven steeps, I used a lower temperature of 190F.

"Loving this tea," is what I noted after the first sip of the third infusion. Dry, tart fruit paired with lush tropical fruit, especially when I aerated the tea in my mouth, were the forward flavors. On the nose as well as on the mid-tongue and palate were floral and brown sugar notes. There were chocolate and spice notes in the same places. The liquor was chewy and astringent.

The fourth and fifth infusions were spicy. The fourth was dry, astringent, and medium bodied. It was hairy and slightly chewy. I detected dried prunes, cherries, and charred vegetable skin. The fifth infusion tasted of char, wood, and bitter walnut skin. Cocoa and wood were the dominant flavors in the last three infusions. The final steep for me was the seventh but the leaves smelled like they could have yielded another cup or two.


My Favorite Preparation

From the quantity of words I have written for each preparation you might guess that steeping the Himalayan Orange in a kyusu was my favorite way to drink this tea. Each method produced good cups of tea but the particular combination of weight, volume, and steep time extracted the maximum aroma and flavor this tea had to offer.

March 30, 2018

Jamaican Bush Teas, Rooibos, and Other Tisanes

Growing up in Jamaica you could always find an herb or plant in your yard or at the market from which to make a tisane to refresh your body or spirit. Here I talk about the most common tisanes, also known as bush teas, from my childhood as well as the tisanes I drink as an adult living in the U.S.

Image: Momordica charantia, bitter melon fruit splitting open by H. Zell via Wikimedia Commons.

Tisane is a French word by way of Greek and Latin and is also known as a herbal tea. There is no tea, i.e. Camellia sinensis, in a herbal tea or tisane. Instead, a tisane is made from various parts of a wide variety of plants. In Jamaica, "bush tea" was the colloquial phrase for tisane. When I was a child, I never heard the word tisane, and I wager that this was the case even outside Jamaica.

The most popular Jamaican bush tea, at least when I was a child, was made from the plant Momordica charantialocally known as cerasse. You may know the fruit as bitter melon. The leaves of the plant were used to make tea - steep the leaves in boiling water. It was a bitter brew but it did seem to ease many, often gastrointestinal, ailments.

Image: Fleur d’Hibiscus rouge, utilisée pour le Bissap by Olivier Epron via Wikimedia Commons.

Another common Jamaican bush tea was sorrel. I know this remains the case because you can find sorrel on the menu of many Jamaican and Caribbean restaurants in the U.S. There is sorrel and then there is Jamaican sorrel. The garden variety sorrel is Rumex acetosa and is used as a leafy green. The sorrel used to make the drink of the same name is dried hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa). This was my favorite drink as a child. Maybe it was available year round but I only remember drinking it at Christmastime. I've never made the drink but I trust recipes from Global Table Adventure; here's Sasha Martin's Jamaican Sorrel Drink recipe. Ginger is one of the ingredients. Ginger plays a companion or starring role in many bush teas. I distinctly recall a case of food poisoning as an adult for which my mother administered a ginger concoction. Effective. You can imagine that mint is also another go-to bush tea.

According to Jamaicansdotcom, fever grass (aka lemongrass), soursop leaf, and dandelion are common bush teas. These don't ring a bell but I can attest to the deliciousness of the soursop fruit (Annona muricata). The prickly skin of the fruit is off-putting but inside is a delightfully tart pulp. The sweetsop (A. squamosa), its cousin, is equally delectable but with a sweet, creamy fruit. It is known as custard apple.

My mother confirmed cerasse, sorrel, and mint. She added the leaves of orange and lemon trees.

My current days are full of teas of the Camellia sinensis kind but I do enjoy tisanes in the evening -- I am less tolerant of caffeine beyond the afternoon -- or when I am sick. One of my recent favorite recipes is the Chamomile Tea Latte by Oh, How Civilized. In terms of branded teas, I recommend Tahmina Saffron Rooibos, Tadin Tea Chamomile Honey, and Lifestyle Awareness Serene Slumber which is lavender based.

Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) is southern Africa's "bush tea." Rooibos is an Afrikaans word meaning "red bush" referring to the red color of the processed leaves though there is a less processed green rooibos tea. Rooibos is the tea drunk by one of my favorite fictional women, Mma (Precious) Ramotswe of the The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. The Republic of Tea has a line of teas named for the book series. In this Epicurious interview, McCall Smith discusses his tea preference and those of his Batswana characters.

Image: Linden flowers

I haven't developed many tisane recipes of my own. I have steeped foraged linden flowers. I'd like to collect rose hips to make a syrup tisane (or maybe a soda). I have to verify that the source has not been sprayed. The same location has juniper berries. I saw a blackberry-juniper soda on a menu but the restaurant was out of the soda when I went to lunch there this week. Other botanicals of interest include sumac (it's supposed to taste like lemonade!) and pine needles (a resinous cross between rose hips and chrysanthemum). Did you know I like trees? We will have a spot in the community garden again this and I am planning a tisane patch.

Are you a frequent tisane drinker? Do you have any recipes to share with me?
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