August 15, 2018

Global Tea Hut Swirling Mist 2004 Sheng Puerh

It's simply the best when your various passions meld. Like when an avid reader who loves to drink tea receives a tea magazine and a tea that happens to be one of her favorites types of tea. This happened to me when Global Tea Hut sent me a copy Tea & Tao Magazine and a sample of a 2004 sheng puerh.

Like other issues of Global Tea Hut's Tea & Tao Magazine, the March 2018 issue was packed with information. The focus of the issue was Mengsong and four of its villages: Boatang, Nanben, Bameng, and Da'an. Located in Menghai County, Mengsong is known as "the roof of Xishuangbanna". The puerh from this region is classified as high-altitude tea, so similar to Taiwan oolong and Sri Lankan black tea. The "tea of the month" in March was Swirling Mist 2004 Sheng Puerh, a private-order pressing.

Swirling Mist 2004 Sheng Puerh

I had a couple of sessions with my sample. The magazine provided what I interpreted as vague preparation parameters: 98C steeping "longer, flash, flash, then growing (you can only get one flash)". It did recommend the gongfu over the sidehandle method. I used approximately 7 grams of tea and 100 ml of 212F water. I rinsed the leaves in my gaiwan followed by a 5 second steep. The infused leaves smelled like pineapple, apricot, and mushrooms. The peach-colored liquor was light bodied and tasted like banana leaves and banana porridge (sweetened with condensed milk).

The first infusion was followed by two 10 second steeps. The liquor thickened in each case and was smooth with tobacco and dry tail notes. There was a fruit note as well but I could not name it. I combined three 20 second steeps. The result was again smooth and a tobacco note and dry texture, but there was also a root vegetable aroma.

According to the magazine a session with this tea should last for 20 infusions. Even with subsequent sessions I did not achieve this many infusions. A limiting factor might be the temperature I used. 98 C or 208.4F is recommended but I brewed with 212F. I don't think I was conservative in the amount of leaf I used in each session. Seven grams of leaf to 100 ml of water is slightly higher than the standard 1 gram of leaf to 15 ml of water.

At press time, there was limited availability of cakes priced at $150 plus shipping but the tea is no longer available for purchase. I enjoyed this puerh and wish I could have had longer sessions with it.

The March 2018 issue of Tea & Tao Magazine and the sample of Swirling Mist 2004 Sheng Puerh was provided by Global Tea Hut for review.

August 14, 2018

Jing Tea Phoenix Honey Orchid Oolong

Phoenix oolongs are made from tea plants growing in the Phoenix Mountain range and are known to be very aromatic. Let's see if the Jing Tea Phoenix Honey Orchid Oolong lives up to the reputation.

In 2010, one of my sisters-in-law gave me my first JING Tea: Jing Chai, Japanese Sencha (Kagoshima), and Oriental Beauty (Peipu, Taiwan). I did not review them for the blog but I recall liking them very much. I was so pleased to receive oolongs and puerh teas from Jing Tea related to a social media contest they hosted. The Phoenix Honey Orchid is one of the oolongs.

Phoenix Honey Orchid Oolong

The dry leaves smelled like candied guava and papaya and also slightly of cocoa. The leaves were long, dark, and slightly twisted with burnished highlights. I steeped 4 grams in 250 ml 100 F water for  3 minutes.

The liquor was very fruity, tasting like cups of tropical fruit juice. It reminded me of the quince jam served with tapas when we visited Madrid. In addition, I tasted a cinnamon bark flavor, and perhaps toffee. Despite it's light to medium body, the tea's flavors lingered in my mouth. As the tea cooled, it acquired a thicker texture as well as a burnt sweetness akin to caramelized peach skin.

A four-minute infusion was again fruit forward with a tail note of tobacco and brown paper. The fifth and final infusion of five minutes was very light bodied but complex with an unidentified flavor. I think the toffee had morphed into something else.

This Jing Tea Phoenix Honey Orchid Oolong was a delight to drink. It is decidedly aromatic! I recommend this delicious tea.

August 06, 2018

Espirita Tea Diamond GABA Oolong

What do you do when you have the opportunity to sample tea from a company that only sells wholesale? Read on.

When I accepted Espirita Tea's offer for six teas, I did not know anything about the company. I've since learned a few things about the company.

  • GABA tea is a major focus
  • Wholesale purchases come with free online training plus services such as custom tea blending and menu preparation
  • Teas are fair trade and some are organic certified
Another thing I was unfamiliar with before sampling Espirita Teas is GABA tea. The production of GABA tea was developed in Japan using green tea. However, GABA tea can be processed as oolong or black tea, according to Jane Pettigrew. There is concern in the industry that teas classified as GABA oolongs are not true oolongs. In the Japanese method, leaves are exposed to nitrogen after plucking and before steaming. The presence of nitrogen during this phase increases the concentration of the GABA amino acid. This appears to be the case for oolong and back tea; tea leaves are exposed to nitrogen during the oxidation phase. Consuming this amino acid has been linked to reduced anxiety and stress as well as improvement in mental function.

I'll talk more about the GABA effect at the end of my tasing notes.

Espirita Tea Diamond GABA Oolong

I'm not a "diamond are a girl's best friend" person but I like ruby oolong so I was curious about another gem-named tea. tea made me choose it as the first of six teas to drink. The dry leaves are ball rolled and when infused reveal a medium pluck. I'd peg this oolong as an amber oolong. There were no preparation instructions printed on the tea pouch or on the website. I used 4 grams and 200F water for my steeping session. The dry leaves smelled fruity and toasted. These scents plus a sweet note were present in the infused leaves.

The first three infusion were one minute long. The leaf scents carried over to the liquor of the first cup. The second infusion had all the same notes plus thyme! The third infusion was much the same, and this was a good thing, and decidedly smooth.

The fourth infusion was 90 seconds long and yielded a not-as-thick liquor though it was still toasty, sweet, and fruity. The specific sweet profile was vanilla maple and that of the fruit was baked fruit. The fifth infusion was my last. It was two minutes in length and yielded a weaker cup of tea but one with a dry, herbal sweetness.

According to the Espirita Tea website, there are 150 mg of GABA in each cup of tea. Over the course of my session, I probably hit this mark. Did I get the GABA effect? I'm not sure. I am always in a better mood after drinking tea. I'll have to drink more cups of this GABA oolong to find out if there's something more to it than a typical tea. I can say that I enjoyed how it tasted.

This GABA tea was provided by Espirita Tea Company.

July 10, 2018

Kyo-T Sencha

To prepare for my tea sommelier final exam, I practiced preparing sencha and other Japanese loose leaf teas in a kyusu. This style of infusing sencha is known as senchado. I may have mastered senchado with Kyo-T Sencha which I review below.

Kyo-T Sencha

My sample was a little bit over 4 grams so I used the entire sample. My big kyusu is 250 ml which seems to be the standard volume. The tasting cups in my professional cupping sets are 100 ml which is the typical cup volume for senchado.

The dry leaves I added to my kyusu smelled of mint and evergreens. I poured under-boiling water into two 100 ml cups and let the water cool for a few minutes before gently pouring it into the kyusu. I alternated pouring into each cup tipping the kyusu twice in the "second cup". The first steep was one minute.

Tasting Notes

The liquor tasted sweet and grassy with a lingering creaming mouthfeel. The infused leaves had strong vegetal and umami scents. There was a sweet floral smell, too. The second infusion, 30 seconds, was grassy and slightly astringent. The floral note persisted. The liquor was medium-bodied and the flavors were long-lasting.

Kyo-T teas are grown on Kyoto farm established in 1858. The company offers USDA certified organic teas. I enjoyed this sencha -- it shone prepared in a kyusu. My sample was provided free for review but you can purchase the sencha* on Amazon. As of this post, the sencha and other Kyo-T teas are on sale.

Senchado Instructions

Want to try your hand at senchado? Follow these steps to prepare sencha for two (modified from My Japanese Tea Blog:
  • Heat 200 ml of water to below boiling (205F)
  • Pour the hot water into two cups (note: a typical cup is 100 ml)
  • Add 4 grams of sencha to a 250 ml kyusu 
  • Pour the water from the cups into the kyusu
  • Steep for 1 minute (subsequent infusions can be 30 seconds and 15 seconds)
  • Serve the tea by alternatingly filling each cup with liquor
* This is an affiliate link.

June 28, 2018

How to Make Matcha Lemonade

Never say never, or in this case, don't say you'll only publish one post about iced tea for National Iced Tea Month, as I did last week with my recipe for Cold Brew Iced Tea! Today I am back with another How to Make and the focus is Matcha Lemonade. I first made it for a group of friends to rave reviews. Then I prepared it for myself, and I second their enthusiasm. Read on for the recipe.

What Inspired the Matcha Lemonade Recipe?

This Matcha Lemonade recipe is inspired by two related items. The first is Oh, How Civilized's Iced Matcha recipe. Jee got her recipe from the owner of Chalait. The second instigation is the matcha iced tea I ordered at Chalait. I watched the barista prepare the iced tea and it was just as Jee described in her blog post. I took mental notes but used Jee's post when I made my lemonade version my friends and then for myself.

The Matcha Lemonade Recipe

The ingredients you will need for this recipe are:

  • Matcha 
  • Ice cubes
  • Water
  • Lemonade 

Before preparing this drink, make sure you have ice cubes. I didn't have a full tray of cubes but because I flash chilled the water and had a pre-chilled bottle of lemonade, two cubes per glass were sufficient. In terms of tools, I used four 6-ounce glasses and a Kleen Kanteen insulated wide. Any container that facilitates shaking will do.

To go from ingredients and tools to drink, follow these steps:
  • Add ice cubes to each drinking glass
  • Pour cold lemonade into each glass up to 2/3 cup
  • Fill your shaker with water then add matcha using approximately 1/4 cup water to 1 teaspoon of matcha
  • Close and shake the water and matcha.
  • Pour the shaken matcha into each drinking glass, and serve. It's the drinker's choice to stir before drinking.
I prefer to lightly blend the matcha and lemonade together. The drink is sweet, citrusy, grassy, and refreshing.

If you'd like to intensify the drink you could shake the matcha with lemonade instead of water. If you prefer a light lemonade flavor, you could substitute half of the lemonade for water. I know there is instant citrus-flavored green tea on the market so you could create a Matcha Orange Juice, for example, using this recipe.
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