September 13, 2018

My Day in Tea + Song Yi Tea Shanlinshi Oolong Review

I take notes of teas I drink to review on the blog but not of my daily tea consumption. Last year Lu Ann Pannunzio of The Cup of Life shared the teas she drank in a single day. I liked the idea and have finally replicated it here. 

Tea #1 - T2 Tea Grand Yunnan

I always start my day with a cup of black tea or a breakfast blend. On Monday, August 20th, I steeped the last two teaspoons of T2 Tea Grand Yunnan. This tippy tea is very fluffy so my teaspoon measure was on the heaping side. I steeped the tea with boiling water for up to 5 minutes. I used no more than 8 ounces of water, and I served the tea in a traditional cup and saucer. Grand Yunnan is an excellent tea. It is smooth, sweet and slightly smoky with bittersweet chocolate notes.

Tea #2 - Starbucks Green Tea Latte

I did not take the image above. I downloaded it from the Starbucks website (link). I enjoy drinking Starbucks green tea lattes. There -- it's in print. The iced version is better than the hot latte. I order my matcha lattes with extra matcha. (To whomever shared this tip, thanks again). The extra matcha is free, by the way. Last Monday, I ordered an iced green tea latte with extra matcha from a Starbucks on the Upper West Side. It was my second cup of tea of the day. Not all the matcha powder was suspended and normally that's not desirable but I saved those clumps and made a matcha latte at home the following day.

Tea #3 - Song Yi Tea Shanlinshi Oolong Tea

My third and final tea of the day was the Song Yi Tea Shanlinshi Oolong. It was my first session with the Taiwanese high mountain oolong, and it was very good, especially the third infusion which was supremely floral, buttery, and luscious.

I followed the Song Yi Tea parameters which were:

  • Leaf weight = 4 grams (Song Yi recommends 1g leaf: 15 cc/ml water)
  • Water volume = 100 ml
  • Water temperature = 212F
  • Infusion times = 40s, 20s, 30s, 40s, 55s

The dry leaves were sage, forest and blue-green, and smelled creamy and floral. The rinsed leaves were sweet smelling with roasted and zucchini flower notes. The aroma of the first infusion bowled me over. The tea was incredibly heady. It was very floral on the tongue and was underlain by buttery and vegetal notes, with a fruity finish. The second infusion was much stronger. The liquor was very vegetal but also bittersweet like cherry liqueur.

While the second infusion was dominated by a vegetal note, the third cup was floral with a capital F. The tea tasted of flowers and greenness. It was medium to full bodied with a noticeably buttery texture and smell. It actually smelled like popcorn. This was an outstanding infusion. The fourth cup was still buttery and floral and the liquor had thickened to being almost savory.

The fifth and final infusion was substantially thinner on the pour and this quality was reflected in the taste. This last cup had ghost flavors and texture.

Song Yi Tea Shanlinshi is a delicious oolong. Prepare it as I've done here or drop the temperature for my infusions. I would recommend following the Song Yi parameters to experience the awesomeness of the third cup. I did not purposefully select the Shanlanshi as the final tea of the day, nevertheless it was a perfect choice.

This snapshot actually represents a typical day of tea drinking for me. On average, I drink two different teas each day. Do you keep a record of the teas you drink each day? Share a day in the comments or on your blog. Thanks again to Lu Ann for this inspired idea.

September 05, 2018

Jane Pettigrew World of Tea - Book Review + Giveaway

As luck would have it, this week I received my Tea Sommelier certificate and my children start school. In honor of all of this school news, I am delighted to share my review and a giveaway of Jane Pettigrew's new book, World of Tea.

World of Tea is Pettigrew's 18th book and her longest at 434 pages. You could read it cover to cover. It's worthwhile to do so even if you've been a longtime student of tea. Pettigrew's writing is anything but dry so don't worry that you'll be treated to a dull read about the world of tea. You could approach the book as a lively reference and use the excellent Table of Contents or Index to guide your journey.

The book is divided into seven chapters. The first chapter is an introduction to the basics of tea: origin species and cultivars, terror, harvesting, processing, storage, and preparation. You may have read these elementary aspects of tea in other books before, but Pettigrew makes them seem fresh again. I especially like the graphic representation of how different categories of tea are processed.

The remaining six chapters cover the world. A chapter is dedicated to each continent on which tea is grown: North America, South America (Central America is included here and not with North America), Africa, Europe, Asia, and Oceania. These six chapters are where Pettigrew's expertise really shines. The reader is presented with a staggering amount of detail about teas in each region in each country in each continent. Those details include number of gardens, total area of cultivation, terrain, altitude, main cultivars, types of tea, and more. The chapter on Asia is over 200 pages long. Furthermore, Pettigrew tells the story of how tea arose in each place. So many stories! Did you know that a five-acre experimental tea plot was planted in Washington, DC in the 1850s?

Related: United States of Tea - Mauna Kea Tea, Hawaii

I have found a new gold standard for tea books. It's World of Tea by Jane Pettigrew. Enter the giveaway below to win a copy for your library.

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A copy of World of Tea by Jane Pettigrew was provided for review.

August 21, 2018

In Pursuit of Tea Lapsang Souchong Tongmu Reserve

One of my favorite people to drink tea with is one of my husband's aunts. Our most recent tea time was at Té Company for the Té + In Pursuit of Tea pairings. In the flight we chose, the Lapsang Souchong Tongmu Reserve was our favorite. Keep reading to find out why.

Aunt E treated us both to In Pursuit of Tea Lapsang Souchong Tongmu Reserve to take home. I am slowly working my way through the pouch. It is a special tea both for its taste and for where it is grown. The tea plants are grown in a Fujian village with limited access to outsiders, but fortunately for tea drinkers, In Pursuit of Tea was able to visit the village. Lapsang Souchong can be an acquired taste if it's not processed well. This Lapsang Souchong does not have any of the typical acrid flavor and harsh smoke smell. Here's the process for making this particular Lapsang Souchong sourced by In Pursuit of Tea:
[The leaves are withered] in a smokehouse, spread on bamboo mats above smoldering local Chinese red pine[,] then a repeated sequence of rolling and firing.

Lapsang Souchong Tongmu Reserve

The dry leaves of this twisted leaf black tea smell like thick cut bacon sweetened with maple syrup and dried fruit. I steeped 3 grams in 200F for five infusions. The first cup was gently sweet and coniferous in taste. The second infusion was also sweet and coniferous but more forceful in its aroma. As the liquor cooled, the body of the tea thickened. I tasted chocolate mousse mid-palate. The third infusion was consistent with previous cups with the addition of a creamy texture which I felt on the roof of my mouth. The fourth cup was sweeter than the previous ones. Imagine infusing your tea leaves in maple water. The smoky character of the tea had lightened. The final infusion was very long at 10 minutes. The liquor was still aromatic! The tea was smooth, sweet, and smoky, with a new woody note.

In Pursuit of Tea writes that this Lapsang Souchong has cranberry and lilac flavors. I did not taste these notes specifically, but I highly recommend this tea. You can purchase Lapsang Souchong Tongmu Reserve on the In Pursuit of Tea website. The price is $35.50 for 2 ounces.

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.
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