A Tea Addict's Journal

Entries from February 2006

Sunday February 5, 2006

February 5, 2006 · Leave a Comment

Today I decided to go with the tieguanyin from Upton again. Last time I felt that I didn’t get a good taste out of it because one of the packs were unsealed, so perhaps the tea got compromised. I used two packs again (at this rate it’ll be gone pretty fast!), and I used my pot this time instead of the gaiwan.

The tea tastes good!! Although it’s not the best tieguanyin I’ve had, it’s really rather good for what it’s worth. The aftertaste is strong, and this time less bitter than last. The signature tieguanyin taste is very present and up front, and it envelopes your mouth after you’ve gulped it down. The tea is “thick” and coats the cup well. I’m really quite liking it. In case you’re wondering, they call it the Floral Tieguanyin, but as far as I can tell, no funny business with flowers in the tea.

Maybe it also helped that I changed the core of my water filter. I use a PUR filter, which so far has served me pretty well. I used to use a Brita, but I’ve found the PUR has water coming out tasting better, with a sweet taste to it. I think it does filter better than your regular Brita. Maybe that has something to do with the tea tasting good, hmmm.

Either way though, I’d heartily recommend it for someone who wants to try a decent tieguanyin. It’s not that cheap, but it’s not bad either (at Tealuxe prices, this is still cheaper than their exotic grade — and this is far better than Tealuxe tieguanyin!).

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Saturday February 4, 2006

February 4, 2006 · Leave a Comment

Today was another nasty day, with heavy rain in the late afternoon. I got home early, and decided to drink some oolong I got from Taiwan during the summer.

Taiwanese oolong is an interesting tea. First of all, they are usually very specific as to where the tea is produced. This one I am drinking today is from Lishan (or Pear Mountain, literally). For the most part, it is a good thing that they identify the tea very specifically by where it was produced. It makes it possible to sort of know beforehand what kind of tea it is.

Taiwanese oolong, in general, is very fragrant, rather vegetal in taste, and brews lightly with a green/yellow liquor. Now, different mountains do have different tastes, and Lishan, for example, tends to be even lighter and more fragrant than your usual Taiwanese oolong. Unfortunately, of course, not every tea labeled from a certain place is going to be exactly from there — there are variations too, since something planted at the foot of the mountain and at the top of the mountain can all be called Lishan tea (or Dong Ding, or whatever). For that, you have to have had some good/bad ones before and have some basis for comparison. That’s not always possible.

Taiwanese oolong sold in the States generally are very stereotypically Taiwanese — fragrant but light. Sometimes though I’ve had some pretty dubious ones that are stronger in taste, although sometimes that’s due to poor storage (or just long term storage) rather than the tea itself being problematic. It is a great tea to introduce someone to finer teas, since it smells really nice, looks really nice, and initially, tastes really nice.

One problem with Taiwanese oolongs in general, however, is that since they are light, the body of the tea is very “thin” and there is scarcely any aftertaste. As soon as you gulp it down, the taste starts disappearing and it goes away pretty quickly. I know some people who don’t drink any Taiwan tea precisely because of this — there’s no follow up to the initial fragrance, which makes the tea a bit of a let down. I can sympathize, but at the same time, it is a great tea to have around for guests and if it is a good one, it can always impress people.

When I first started drinking tea it was difficult to tell the real difference between qingxiang tieguanyin and Taiwan oolong, simply because they look so similar and are both high in fragrance. The main way I use to tell is the body/aftertaste. A good tieguanyin should be very strong in those areas, whereas the Taiwanese tea is not. After a while, I also remembered what kind of taste each particular type of tea is, but once in a while, you have mainland tea farms producing tieguanyin using a somewhat Taiwan style method, which can really mess up your identification. Those are when the experts are needed and I’m not always good about telling them apart. Sigh, lots to learn.

I really should buy a oolong teapot though. Next year when I (hopefully) go to Taiwan to do research, I’ll be drinking it day in, day out (ugh) and I should really put all that tea to good use by dunking it all in a teapot instead of wasting it.

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Friday February 3, 2006

February 3, 2006 · Leave a Comment

I am a bad boy. I drank tea twice today.

It’s rare for me to do so, since I normally drink by myself and drinking two rounds means a significant consumption of caffeine. I usually get pretty buzzed when I do that, and I certainly was buzzed when I headed out for dinner tonight.

I had a white tea — as they’re all called White Peony, the name doens’t tell you much. The tea is not the broken leaves kind, but rather close to the Yinzhen style white tea. The great thing about white tea is that as long as it’s of ok quality, it’s fairly consistent (so long as you drink it fast) and they’re rarely expensive. The bad thing is that they are also rather boring and can get very stale after a while — they always taste the same.

It’s also a rather warm tea, as it is actually processed by a slower method than green tea, which gets dried in a very hot pan. White tea is always a little warming, which is nice.

One more thing — white tea is great when you go to a Chinese restaurant. The reason is this — if you order something like Puerh, you really have no clue how long and, most importantly, WHERE that Puerh has been. The Puerh can be sitting on the kitchen floor with rats running over it, and it’ll still taste ok. The white tea, however, will taste like absolute crap if it’s been maltreated. So they tend to keep it well, and you are assured of a cleaner tea. Something to keep in mind!

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Friday February 3, 2006

February 3, 2006 · Leave a Comment

Today’s a nasty day with rain outside, and I had to get up early to show a video to my class (and I realized that it’s a silly idea to show a video at 9am, won’t do it again).

To reward myself, I came home early to brew some tea. I couldn’t really decide on what to brew, but I thought since I got some new qingxiang tieguanyin, I should finish off my old stash, which is getting close to a year old now and still not done. I got this stuff in San Francisco’s Chinatown (no, not at the Imperial Tea Court). It’s not too bad for the price I paid, which was fairly reasonable. Qingxiang tieguanyin is actually a favourite of mine, but it’s hard to get good ones and it does get boring after a while.

Anyway, here are some pics

The tea itself

My qingxiang tieguanyin pot, and this is definitely my favourite pot 🙂

The finished product

The tea I got from Upton is actually somewhat better, I think, although since it’s fresher, that should really come as no surprise. This one is now a little flat and losing some flavour. Oh well, that’s what happens when you put it away too long and not finish it quickly. With a lighter flavoured tea like this, you really have to consume them fast or the flavour goes away. That’s one great thing about Puerh — no expiration date.

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Wednesday February 1, 2006

February 1, 2006 · Leave a Comment

Well, today was filled with things to do outside the house (first day of classes) so … I didn’t have time to make tea at home. Sigh, the beginning of the semester means that I won’t have nearly as much chance to drink tea at home as I did during reading period/finals/intersession. Oh well.

I ended up buying a cup of tea at Peet’s. It was their Darjeeling Extra Fancy Kalimpong. I don’t know where Kalimpong is, so I presume it’s some tea estate or another. It IS loose leaf, and it IS, as is usually the case when you buy tea from these places, expensive and somewhat mediocre.

A really good Darjeeling, in my personal opinion anyway, should be astringent but brews a golden brown colour, not too dark (and not too much tea leaves) with a little of what we call a “return sweetness” in the end. I like first flush more than second flush, but nowadays they come out with all sorts of weird Darjeelings that imitate green or white teas, which can produce varying results. This Darjeeling is not bad, but then, it’s not great either. I’ve had better than are both more fragrant and more flavourful.

The problem with buying a cup of tea at these places is usually that the amount of tea they put in can vary very considerably. Not only that, if you buy a Puerh from them they will never wash the tea, if you buy a white tea they will almost always brew it with water that’s too hot, and if you buy an oolong/tieguanyin they are very likely to put an insufficient amount of leaves in. It is annoying, and once in a while they even give you the wrong tea (I’ve been given a Chinese green tea before when I asked for a Darjeeling, go figure). Generally the people who work at these places, even at Tealuxe, have very little idea of the kind of tea they are actually selling. I’ve once heard from a guy at Tealuxe saying that their Genmai Cha is Dragonwell based. Well, what kind of Dragonwell? Not to mention that Dragonwell is unlikely to be used in any real Genmai Cha since Genmai Cha is, well, Japanese. Who knows, maybe they really do, but given how terrible their Dragonwell is, I don’t know about that Genmai Cha…

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