Friday, April 5, 2013
First up from TeaSpring's 2013 Sichuanese first flushes is their Mengding Gan Lu (蒙顶甘露). Mengding is a mountain in Sichuan famous for tea plantations, while 'gan lu' refers to the tea's sweet, dewy taste.
The leaves are fluffy little curls of wool, all fuzz and white tips with a sweet, fresh aroma of almonds, pears, and green grass.
The liquor is a pale golden green with a slight haze and a delicate, almost slightly roasted aroma.
The first sip is sweet, though not as sweet as I expected, with a mild grassy aroma. There's a nutty, roasty grassy note, and an increasingly sweet aftertaste. There's a very mild amount of astringency here too, and a slightly minty almond aftertaste.
I'm a little disappointed, it's a nice enough tea, but a bit one-dimensional. But for the price and the fact it's a first flush, I expected something more astounding, and well, more dewy.
Mengding Gan Lu at TeaSpring
Thursday, April 4, 2013
It's springtime, so it's time for first flush teas! I snagged some early Chinese first flush teas from TeaSpring, all from Sichuan province (I think Sichuan had an earlier harvest than other Chinese provinces this year).
- 2013 First Flush Xu Fu Long Ya (green tea)
- 2013 First Flush Mengding Gan Lu (green tea)
- 2013 First Flush Mengding Huang Ya (yellow tea)
Friday, March 29, 2013
Mauna Kea Tea is one of the few tea plantations growing in the United States (most American tea is unsurprisingly grown in Hawaii). Last year, I got to try their 2012 First Flush of this same tea, which was fantastic, now we'll see how this year's offering stands up!
The leaves a beautiful long handmade curls, dark forest grey-green with fuzzy white tips, darker than last year. They have a light vegetal aroma with a roasted grass edge.
The liquor is a pale yellow jade with a sweet vanilla cream aroma with a slightly roasted edge, almost like a very light green milk oolong.
The first sip is incredible, sweet, buttery vanilla but with clear, crisp green grass, orchids and lilacs and slightly roasty tall prairie grass. There's a slightly mineral anise note, probably from the volcanic soil, in the aftertaste which adds even more depth.
It's a bit deeper and more oolong-like than last year's first flush, both delicate and complex, and it's an absolutely incredible tea.
2013 First Flush Organic Premium Green at Mauna Kea Tea
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Sometimes things are lost in translation. Calling a tea "hairy crab" sounds like unappealing innuendo, but it refers to the shape of this oolong, with downy leaves curled into vaguely crustacean shapes. This tea comes from Anxi in Fujian, an oolong hotspot. I picked this little baggie up last time I was at Murchie's in Victoria, BC - it's one of my favourite tea shops in that town, as well as a cracking good bakery.
The leaves are large and curled with varying shades of green and tan. There's a little bit of fuzz on these leaves, but they're certainly not "hairy". The aroma of the leaves is mild but sweet and slightly earthy.
The liquor is light gold, while the aroma is a big, gorgeous vanilla-and-orchid kaboom with a roasty edge to it.
The first sip is floral, almost like jasmine, followed by guava and vanilla notes. The taste is juicy, with a slightly roasted aftertaste that gives it depth. And it tastes nothing like crab!
Hairy Crab Oolong at Murchie's
Saturday, March 23, 2013
Springtime is more-or-less here (it's still snowing in Toronto), so while I wait for my first first-flush teas to arrive, I've got another springtime tea to enjoy. Sakura tea, Japanese cherry blossoms preserved in salt and ume plum vinegar. Chinriu Honten produces all sorts of sakura and ume products from Odawara, near Tokyo, and I found them through the Nihon Ichiban site.
The flowers are a bright, cheery pink, encrusted with salt and with a slightly tart aroma from the plum vinegar.
After a quick rinse to get the excess salt off, the liquor is light yellow, while the flower opens up into a pale pink bloom. The aroma is mild, with a light, sweet cherry scent.
The taste is milder than the other sakura tea I've tried, with a gentle sweet-and-salty cherry flavour. There's a little bit of strawberry jam, but also a pleasant plum tang. It's a very subtle and elegant tisane. I kind of want to try using these preserved blossoms in other dishes, maybe with some rice or congee.
Sakura Tea at Chinriu Honten at Nihon Ichiban
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
I've got a huge Etsy addiction, especially when it comes to fancy scented soaps, but this is the first time I've ordered tea from someone's Etsy shop. Harmony Herbals is based on Cortes Island off the coast of British Columbia, and sells several interesting tisanes and chai blends. I picked up a bag of their jasmine yerba mate, since I love both jasmine and caffeine boosts! This also gives me a chance to use my bombilla, though I don't have a gourd to go with it.
The aroma of the leaves is very mild and slightly herbal. The liquor is a tawny green with a lovely jasmine aroma that blends well with grassy tang of yerba mate.
The taste is similar, a clear, honest combination of jasmine and yerba mate. The mate has a juicy, grassy taste to it that is enhanced by the floral jasmine and leaves a slightly sweet aftertaste. These are high-quality organic ingredients (the mate comes from Paraguay), which gives the drink a noticeably fuller and sweeter flavour than cheaper bulk yerba mate does.
Jasmine Yerba at Harmony Herbals (Etsy store)
Sunday, March 17, 2013
I often grocery shop at a wonderful Korean supermarket here in Toronto, and I've noticed they have a large tea selection. Most of the tea is cheap Japanese sencha and genmaicha, but they have a huge selection of Korean tisanes. I've already tried a hydrangea and brown rice tisane, now I've decided to give oksusu cha (옥수수차)- corn tea - a shot!
The roasted corn kernels come in huge teabags, as long as a pen, and are meant for big 2L pots of tea. I'm going to cut this bag open and put the kernels in a big pot with a strainer.
The kernels are chopped and with a slightly more herbal popcorn aroma. The liquor is a light orange with a gentle roasted corn aroma - somewhere between popcorn and sweet corn.
The taste is sweet, like corn niblets, with a nice, juicy, almost fruity flavour. The roasting is quite mild, there's a little bit of toasty popcorn and it helps give some depth to the tea. The aftertaste is very much like grilled corn on the cob.
For such a simple tisane, there's a lot of interesting and delicious flavours here. I bet this will make a lovely iced tea when it warms up outside.
Corn Tea at Dongsuh (in Korean)