May 25, 2017

Favorite Tea Ware: Ricardo Caicedo of My Japanese Green Tea

As a tea drinker, and I am sure this is true for you, I adore teaware, from the chasen to the yixing teapot. Everyone has their favorites! I designed this series as an opportunity for tea drinkers to showcase the very special tea objcts in their personal collections. Today's selections are brought to you by Ricardo Caicedo of My Japnaese Green Tea. Ricardo believes that one day, words like sencha and matcha will be as common as espresso and cappuccino. He's doing his part in this transformation by writing his blog. You can also find Ricardo on Instagram as @kyusuteas, the name of his online tea store based in Colombia.

Japanese tea coasters

I bought them at Maiko Tea, in Ky┼Źtanabe city, Kyoto prefecture. It wasn't easy to obtain these, because most tea shops online have tea cups and teapots only. They were a great find, and I use them daily.

Tokonameyaki Yuzamashi

A yuzamashi is used for cooling the water to the right temperature. I bought it from the online shop of Sugimoto America, because I had seen it previously in pictures but had never actually owned one. I use it when preparing matcha and sencha.

This tea caddy for matcha is probably one my most special items that I have. It was a gift from Shizuka Maitani of the Green Tea Newbies Youtube channel. We met in Tokyo. She painted the flowers by hand! Since I drink matcha every morning, I also use it daily.

Bankoyaki mini kyusu

It holds just 120 ml (4 oz) of tea. It's very easy to use because of its small size. I don't use very often, only when brewing very expensive green teas. It's my favorite tea pot. I bought if from

Yixing tea pot

Well, I don't know for sure if it's a Yixing tea pot or not. My mother bought it when she visited Japan, which is funny because she bought a Chinese tea pot instead of a Japanese one. She never actually used it, and one day she gave it to me. I mostly drink Japanese tea, but every once in a while I like to try other things, and that's when teaware like this comes in handy.

I can see why these are among Ricardo's favorite tea ware! Each one is beautiful. Thank you for sharing them with us. My favorite from this subset of his collection is the yuzamashi. Not only is it aestheitcally pleasing but I appreciate its practical purpose to cool water for infusing match and sencha. My kettle's lowest temperature setting is 175 so I usually pour water into a pitcher to cool it but a proper yuzamashi is more appealing than a pyrex measuring cup.

All photos and descriptions courtesy of Ricardo Caicedo.

May 19, 2017

Bana Tea Company Sweet Clarity Puerh

Image: Cover of Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See (source)

Have you read the Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See? If you are looking for tea person's perspective on this book, read Nicole Martin's book review. I have. You should, too. Bana Tea Company has prepared a book club tea tasting kit and guide. I'm part of a book club specific to this book. We've only met once and during that session we drank Sweet Clarity Puerh Spring 2016. I did not take any photographs but I think you still should read this tea review.

The dry leaf is oh, so incredibly deeply sweet. I wrote that exactly in my notebook. I used 3 grams and infused it in 195F water. The first steep at 1 minute was sweet and fruity with a lingering tail note of butter and leather with a creamy mouthfeel also experienced on the lips. Smooth.

Infusion number two was 90 seconds long. The liquor was still sweet but the astringent green tea-ness raised its head. The third infusion of 2 minutes was more leather. We walked about food pairings at this point. I offered that this puerh would pair well with an upside down apricot cake (there is such a thing though I have not baked one yet). The puerh had a deep sweetness and apricot jamminess. A sweetness lingered in the back of the throat. We all noted that the tea was feminine, multilayered, complex.

One of the group said the liquor from the fourth infusion (also 2 minutes) smelled like creme brulee. There was also a rocky note; a mineral aspect to the tail note that stuck to my cheeks. The fruity sweetness was still there. This puerh stayed in character but revealed something new in each infusion. We wrapped up our first book club meeting after this infusion but I went on to drink three more cups of this tea. Keep reading.

The fifth infusion was soft and easy to drink. I drank it all before noticing that I hadn't taken any detailed notes. Infusion six smelled "so jammy!" The liquor had a mineral fragrance. The liquor tasted mostly sweet. My lower gums and cheeks were slightly numb during this infusion, pleasantly so. The seventh and final infusion yielded a straw yellow liquor that again was mostly sweet with a faint note of fruit. The last three infusions were made using 200F water. Steep times were 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes, respectively.

I am so thrilled that I have more of Bana's Sweet Clarity!

May 18, 2017

Chai Safari

Back in March when it was still definitely winter, I drank several teas from Chai Safari, specifically Spiced Tulsi Black, Classic Masala Chai, Golden Tips Black, and Handrolled Pearl Green. I'll start with the black teas which I drank separately from the green tea.

My favorite of three black teas was the Golden Tips Black. The dry leaves smelled sweet with notes of chocolate, dates, and tea leaf fuzz. The tea was whole leaf with lots of visible buds. The golden honey liquor also smelled of chocolate with a malt addition and had a light mouthfeel. Both the Classic Masala Chai and the Spiced Tulsi Black required milk to temper their liquors.

The pearled green tea was beautiful and smelled savory of broccoli and cabbage accompanied by a whisper of sweetness. This tea infused per instructions tasted like a Chinese style green tea, savory and nutty but I wanted more depth so I experimented with parameters. The recommended water temperature was 90-95C (195-203F) which to my mind seemed like it would be too hot for a green tea with lots of buds. When I prepared the tea as directed - 1.25t/2.5 grams, 200 mL (6 ounces), 3 minutes - the result wasn't bitter but it wasn't multilayered. (I used the 2.5 gram measure as 1.25t of this tea was more than the given gram weight.) My experiments did not yield good results, though. I used 8 ounces (slightly more than recommended) of 175F water and a 3 minute steep. The liquor was not enjoyable. I tried a gaiwan using 175F and 30 second infusions but the liquor was bitter though the gaiwan lid smelled wonderful, though, of stone fruit and grass. I recommend sticking to the vendor's steeping instructions.

May 17, 2017

Nepal Tea - Shangri La Oolong

While the focus this time of year is on green teas, this week I will be sharing my notes on masala chai, puerh, and oolong. You might recall I reviewed four teas from Nepal Tea in March. Today's tea is also from Nepal Tea; it's the Shangri La Oolong.

I infused the entire 4.48 ounce sample in one session. The other parameters were: clay pot, 195F water, and a starting 30 second infusion with 5 second increases. The dry tea was a mixture of dark brown, forest green, and silver buds. This tea resembled Oriental Beauty. The dry leaves smelled sweet, biscuity, and slightly woody. The rinsed leaves smelled "so good!" Sweet, fruity, baked, and roasted.

The first infusion yielded a lovely amber liquor like a dark apricot juice that tasted sweet and baked with lingering woody and fruity tail notes. The liquor was medium bodied. This oolong tasted like an OB especially when the liquor had cooled off. The second infusion stained the pot lid with a liquid sugar fragrance. The deeper colored liquor was still sweet but a briskness had emerged. The cooled liquor tasted of muscatel.

The third hot infusion had a bright shiny liquor but the body had lessened. The liquor was still sweet with fruity notes, an underlying woodiness and a slight briskness, but an herbal note had emerged. The best cup of this oolong was the first infusion. However, I did not compost my infused leaves after the third infusion. I steeped them overnight and was rewarded with a floral, red fruity, and slightly astringent liquor!

Shangri La Oolong provided by Nepal Tea LLC.

April 21, 2017

Teaful - Taste of Taiwan Chapter 2

Image: First infusion of Teaful's Ruby #18

Attention tea drinkers, 2017 is the year of Taiwanese black teas! At least in my book, and thankfully the second chapter of Teaful's Taste of Taiwan includes two black teas. One was a Ruby 18 and the other was an Assam, originally from India by way of Japan, grown in the Sun Moon Lake region. The other two teas are a milk oolong and a baozhong. I like the oolongs, who doesn't like Taiwanese oolongs?! But I really enjoyed the black teas. My local source for Taiwanese black tea is Te Company where I usually order the Petite Noir. Chapter 1 of Teaful's Taste of Taiwan had a high mountain black tea, a green tea, and two oolongs.

During the first session with each tea, I adhered to the instructions provided on each tea packet which is a vacuumed sealed foil bag. In terms of the amount of tea used, the information presented is use "a teaspoon or 5 grams" for 8 ounces of water. A teaspoon of tea often does not weigh 5 grams as I wrote about in my earlier post this week titled, How Much Tea is in a Teaspoon?. For example, a teaspoon of baozhong is 1 gram and of milk oolong is 2 grams. I used 5 grams of tea in all four cases. For the first infusion I used the lower end of the steep time given and increased subsequent steeps by 30 seconds to reach the maximum steep time given.


This fall 2016 green oolong was grown in Pinglin in Taipei County. The twisted leaves released a sweet and salty tasting liquor with sweet and very floral flavors. A second infusion revealed green and juicy flavors with a slight acidity. The final infusion was more vegetal than floral. The infused leaves had a mineral fragrance.

Milk oolong
Another fall 2016 tea this time from Minjian in Nantou County. The small tightly balled leaves unfurled to reveal shockingly large leaves. The dry leaves smelled like a milk oolong - creamy, grainy, and sweet. The first infusion's liquor was consistent with the smell of the dry leaves. The second infusion was less intense but the buttery mouthfeel lingered on my palate. I could still detect the sweet grain flavor. The tail note was all vegetal.

Ruby #18
Harvested in summer 2016 from Sun Moon Lake, this black tea has dusky black leaves with golden and red tips. The dry leaves smelled warm, sweet, and hoppy. The rinsed leves smelled of roasted yam and camphor. The amber verging on copper liquor of the first infusion had a big taste that was both sweet and bitter and reflected the smell of the roasted yam and camphor of the dry leaves. There was a bananas foster tail note (did I imagine this?) as well as spicy (read: cinnamon) top notes. The liquor was medium bodied. The second infusion was similar enough to the first one that I did not take notes while the third infusion became more camphorous with increased astringency and bitterness. In a subsequent session with this tea I did not experience any bitterness.

Like the Ruby #18, this black tea is a summer 2016 harvest from Sun Moon Lake. Wiry twisted dark colored leaves with reddish highlights smelled sweet, grainy, and spicy. The copper colored first infusion was rich tasting and medium bodied. The liquor was malty, brisk, smooth, sweet, and fruity - a lot of flavor in one tea. I could have added milk but did not. Oh, for this tea, I used 6 ounces of water and not 8 ounces as I did for the previous teas. You could used 8 ounces if you like but I appreciate the rich profile. The second infusion was still malty but brisker and thinner bodied. The third infusion was a well balanced cup of sweetness, malty, brisk bordering on bitter, and savory spices. Surprisingly it had more body than the second infusion and this cup's flavors lingered in my throat, a burned flavor of unknown origin.

Image: Second infusion of Teaful's Assam

The four teas in the this chapter of Teaful's Taste of Taiwan were very good in a second session where I used 2.5 grams of tea to 6 ounces of water (195F for the oolongs and 200F for the blacks). The black teas shone!

Taste of Taiwan Chapter 2 was provided by Teaful.
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