High Mountain Guei Fei Oolong from Easy Tea Hard Choice Co. Ltd.

On September 30th of 2013, my journey through the world of tea tasting took me to Chi-Lai Mountain, in the Lee Tea Estates in Lugu, Taiwan. This sample of High Mountain Guei Fei Oolong was provided by Easy Tea Hard Choice Co. Ltd. To order your own 25 gram sample of this tea, please visit Easy Tea Hard Choice by clicking here.

This high mountain oolong was grown at elevations over 2,000 feet above sea level. Similar to Oriental Beauty (Bai Hao) oolongs, prior to plucking, the famous leaf hopper insects begin eating the edges of the tea leaves. The tea bushes then produce metabolites that deter the insects. These metabolites break down during processing of the leaves, creating a sweet taste. However, this tea appears quite different than Oriental Beauty, being in semi-ball shapes as opposed to long twisted leaves. The aroma of the dry tea leaves are also lighter and overall different than that of Oriental Beauty.

If the oolong teas from Easy Tea Hard Choice are as good as the black teas in my previous reviews, then I am in for a great experience. Easy Tea Hard Choice helped me realize the potential of black tea. I already have a strong preference for oolongs, so I am interested to see how impressive these oolong teas will be.

With that being said, let the journey begin…

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The dry leaves of the High Mountain Guei Fei Oolong are brown to dark brown in color. The leaves are semi-ball rolled and dense, with the average shape of a pea. There is little to no breakage, and no crumbs whatsoever. The leaves appear to be fully intact and still attached to the stem. The aroma is toasty (as in toasted bread), and sweet (most similar to vanilla).

For this sampling, I prepared the tea both using the trial-by-fire and standard preparation methods. I will focus this entry on the standard preparation method, with a brief section dedicated to the trial-by-fire method. For standard preparation, I used filtered tap water heated to 190ºF (88ºC). I used 12 grams of tea leaves for a 32 oz (950 ml) glass tea pot. The leaves were infused for 2 minutes.

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The first infusion produced a liquor with a light brown with orange tint, clear, and transparent. The aroma is mostly toasty, with floral (orchid) scents and a touch of honey. The aroma is nicely balanced. The liquor is not quite full bodied, but heavier than a medium body. The texture is very smooth and clean. The taste is mostly floral (orchid), with a nice balancing taste of wood. The aftertaste is lightly floral and sweet, and lingers on the tongue. The taste of this was much different than expected, and there is no negativity in that statement.

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For the second infusion, I decided to increase the water temperature slightly to 200ºF (93ºC), and adjusted the infusion time to 1 minute and 30 seconds. The result was a liquor with identical color to the first infusion. The aroma is dominantly toasty, with very light floral scents. The taste is also more woody and toasty than floral, but the floral notes are certainly still there. The aftertaste is floral, and lingers.

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For the third infusion, I reduced the water temperature and infusion time to that of the first infusion. The result was a slightly lighter golden-yellow liquor color. The aroma was more floral than toasty. The taste also lost much of the toasty flavor, and the floral notes were more dominant. However, the toasty and woody flavors were strong enough to provide a good balance to the taste. Overall this third infusion was still quite tasteful, and I would expect a fourth infusion to be produce an acceptable. Beyond that, I have doubts.

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The infused leaves are fairly uniform dark green, with reddish edges. There are holes in some of the leaves that are very obviously bite marks from the leaf hoppers. The vast majority of leaves are fully intact, most still attached to the stems. There are a few large stems with no leaves attached, but I think that may have been the result of the multiple brewings, not necessarily packaged with bare stems. The stems held from one to three leaves, and some had a nice bud. The structural durability of most of the leaves was quite delicate, indicating that the leaves were near exhaustion. The aroma of the leaves is woodsy with some floral scents.

This was another high quality product from Easy Tea Hard Choice. Their dedication to artisanal tea farmers in Taiwan has been displayed beautifully in all of the four teas that I have sampled from them thus far. This High Mountain Guei Fei oolong tea produced three infusions that each had their own distinct taste profiles, with a fourth infusion being possible. The color and character of the infused leaves is a testament to the careful watch and production of the Lee Tea Estate, as the edges of the leaves are nearly uniform red, and some leaves displaying the bite marks of the leaf hoppers. Again, another great product from Easy Tea Hard Choice. I am looking forward to the next sample.

Thank you for taking your time to read this review. Please leave a comment and start a discussion.

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Japanese Tea Ceremony Performed by Tea Ceremony Master Yuko Eguchi

On September 29th of 2013, I attended a Japanese Tea Ceremony in Squirrel Hill, Pennsylvania. The performance was organized by Margaret Harris, owner of Margaret’s Fine Imports and head organizer for the Pittsburgh Tea Club Meetup group. If you live in the Pittsburgh area, and are interested in joining the Pittsburgh Tea Club, which I also co-organize, please check out the Meetup page here. To visit Margaret’s website and view the many loose leaf teas, fresh roasted coffees, and other tea related and unrelated products, please click here.

The event started off with an introduction to Japanese Tea Ceremony by Margaret. Margaret then introduced the Tea Ceremony Master Yuko Eguchi (photo below). Master Eguchi provided a detailed introduction to Japanese Tea Ceremony, including the historical background of how it was developed in Japan. To summarize, in the times surrounding the creation and refinement of the Japanese Tea Ceremony, violence was a part of everyday life. The average person could have been targeted for murder for being viewed as an inconvenience to the political class, and other influential entities. Therefore, the Tea Ceremony was created and refined to provide people of all classes with a few moments to reflect on their gratitude for being alive, and having their loved ones alive as well. Four virtues were to be reflected upon in the moments leading up to, and during, the Tea Ceremony. Those four virtues were Harmony, Respect, Purity, and Tranquility. The Ceremony was practiced and viewed as a momentary retreat from the dangerous world. The phrase ichi-go ichi-e was treasured, for it is a short way of expressing that every moment should be appreciated, for it cannot be replicated.

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Master Eguchi then concluded the introduction to Tea Ceremony. Being trained in Geisha dance also, Master Eguchi first performed a brief and fairly conservative Geisha dance. As she explained, many Geisha dances are more energetic, and not a proper lead in for a Tea Ceremony. Once the dance was completed, the Tea Ceremony began. Master Eguchi asked for three volunteers to serve as the “guests” of her Tea Ceremony. I overcame my shyness rather quickly, as I was not going to pass up the opportunity to have a front row seat and get to enjoy a matcha made by a Tea Master. It was quite serene and calming to observe Master Eguchi move with patient precision, slowly arranging, cleaning, and preparing each bowl of matcha using very specific movements and methods. A semi-sweet cookie is provided to each guest, which is eaten shortly before the matcha is served. This cookie is intended to balance the natural bitter taste of the matcha, and balance the taste it did. As I received my matcha bowl and took a sip, I was very surprised by the lack of bitterness on the tongue. The only taste that was noticeable was the sweet and vegetal notes of matcha. Finishing the bowl in the prescribed three and a half sips, I was quite satisfied with the tea. The Ceremony then concluded as peacefully as it started, and left me feeling as though I had just awaken from meditation.

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After a brief Q&A session from the audience, I had the opportunity to speak with Master Eguchi, and take some photos. I have not had an opportunity to upload them from my camera yet, but once I do, I will post those photos here as well. I also had an opportunity to meet and speak with several local tea business owners, and other tea lovers. I had the opportunity to meet the proprietors of Gryphon’s Tea in Lawrenceville. Two excellent people with great knowledge of tea blending and tea business. Be sure to check out their tea shop by clicking here.

The Japanese Tea Ceremony was a very uplifting experience, and reinforced some of the Buddhist philosophies that drift in and out of my mind over time. I appreciate Margaret’s work in getting Master Eguchi to perform such a Ceremony, and I certainly hope to attend more formal ceremonies in the future. I also fully appreciate the time that Master Eguchi and her assistants took from their busy schedules to arrange and perform such an event. Thank you all for your efforts.

Thank you for taking your time to read this review. Please leave a comment and start a discussion.

Mount Ali Milk Oolong from Hē Chá Tea

UPDATE: The Mount Ali Milk Oolong Tea from Hē Chá Tea is now available for purchase at The Tea Journeyman Shop! Click Here to view and purchase this pure, unflavored Jin Xuan oolong tea!

On September 27th of 2013, my journey through the world of tea tasting took me to the Ali Mountains of Chiayi County, Taiwan. I am proud to say that this tea is the first of my new brand of loose leaf teas to be officially reviewed. I personally imported this tea from Taiwan, and it is among the six types of teas that will be offered under my brand name, Hē Chá Tea. Distribution of this tea and the other five types of tea in and around the Pittsburgh area will begin by the end of next week.

Why did I choose this tea, out of the tens of thousands of teas and blends in the world, to include in my initial six products? The answer is simple. This tea, in it’s natural unscented and unflavored state, has an amazing blend of aroma, taste, and texture. It is a perfect way to introduce green and black tea drinkers to the world of oolong teas, since it is floral, slightly sweet, and has a creamy texture. There are many imitation milk oolongs on the market. They are scented and/or flavored to taste and smell like buttered popcorn. This is not an imitation. This is a true, natural milk oolong from the Jinxuan varietal. It does not taste like buttered popcorn. I feel that this product will also appeal to the more experienced tea drinkers, as it has the complexity that we look for in our teas.

I will post more official product descriptions as time goes on, but for now, let the journey begin…

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The dry leaves are a green to dark green color, with brown stems attached. The leaves are semi-ball shape, ranging in size from a small corn kernel to a pea. There is almost zero breakage or crumbs. The aroma can be described as milky (creamy), with brown sugar, molasses, and light floral scents. Oxidation level appears to be on the lower side of the spectrum.

For this sampling,  I used filtered tap water heated to 195ºF (90ºC). Using a 8.5 ounce (240 ml) kyusu teapot and 5 grams of dry tea, the leaves were infused for 1:30 minutes.

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The first infusion produced a liquor that had a bright goldish-yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma is floral (orchid), milky, and a light touch of brown sugar. The liquor is medium bodied, with a creamy texture. The floral taste of orchid is most noticeable, with light notes of milk (cream) and brown sugar. The finish is smooth, with a lasting floral aftertaste. The overall taste is very clean and has an uplifting effect.

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The second infusion produced a slightly darker liquor, but maintained the bright goldish-yellow color. Aroma is floral and lightly sweet. The taste has changed some, having a better balance of orchid, brown sugar, and light cooked vegetable notes. The body remains medium, with a smooth, creamy texture. Finish and aftertaste remain floral.

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The third infusion produced an identical colored liquor as the second infusion, retaining a very bright goldish-yellow. The aroma remains floral and slightly milky. The liquor is medium bodied, with a creamy texture. The taste is mostly floral of orchid, with slight notes of brown sugar, and cream. The cooked vegetable taste is gone. The finish is smooth with a floral aftertaste. The third infusion produced a high quality liquor with plenty of taste and aroma. I would expect a fourth and fifth infusion to be acceptable.

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The infused leaves are a uniform dark green with few reddish-brown edges. Level of oxidation is low. Large stems all holding between two and four fully intact leaves attached.  Very few broken leaves, almost all are fully intact. Leaves have some structural durability, suggesting that additional infusions are possible. Aroma of the leaves is floral and lightly sweet.

The reasons are many for why I love this tea. Bias and shameless plugging aside, this tea is phenomenal. Before trying this unflavored milk oolong,  I had tried several milk oolongs that were obviously flavored. Yes, they did taste good, but it did not taste natural. This one does taste natural, and provides the smooth and creamy texture that gave this style of oolong its name. I am very excited to have this Mount Ali Milk Oolong on my list of products, and it certainly is deserving of a top six pick. Once it is available on the website, I will post an update. I hope you will try my Mount Ali Milk Oolong, and see for yourself what a true jinxuan milk oolong should taste like.

Thank you for taking your time to read this review. Please leave a comment and start a discussion.

Another Course Completed … Back to Normal Reviews … Other Notes

This week was dedicated to cupping and analyzing ten teas that were a part of a World Tea Academy course that I am participating in. Now that those cupping assignments and the final exam have been completed successfully, it is time to get back to my normal reviews. Thanks to Tealet Teas ( http://www.tealet.com ) and Easy Tea Hard Choice ( http://www.eztea-tw.com ), I have no shortage of high quality tea reviews to get myself back in to my review routine. Happily for me, having a strong preference for oolong teas, at least seven of the upcoming eleven reviews will be on oolong teas from Taiwan and Indonesia, and the remaining four reviews on teas from China, Indonesia, and Hawaii. I am also expecting another round of Sri Lankan teas to be coming in the near future.

On another note, expect many non-review related posts in the near future. This weekend, the Phipps Conservatory (http://phipps.conservatory.org) has a program for tea rituals around the world which I hope to attend. On Sunday evening, I am attending a Japanese tea ceremony. I hope to become a student of the tea ceremony master, Yuko Eguchi. In addition to these events, my brand of teas is on track for an October 1st release to our initial outlets. It is going to be a busy couple of weeks for me, but I will post as much as possible.

I am looking forward to keeping you updated, and I hope you will enjoy my posts.

Simple Question Leads to Great Experience

For lunch today, my family and I went to my preferred Chinese restaurant in Cranberry Township. I made my usual beverage order of hot tea. I have been quite certain for some time that they serve Da Hong Pao oolong, or something very similar. I was correct on that assumption. However, confirming my hunch was shortly forgotten, as a much more interesting conversation had been sparked with the waitress. The waitress is from Fujian province, China. We spoke about the Wuyi mountains, and the great Da Hong Pao oolongs produced there, some of which are so expensive and rare that only the wealthy and famous get to experience them. She commenced to tell me the story of how Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) got it’s name. It was a story I had read before, but it sounded much more interesting being spoken.

Her family has a small tea farm in Fujian province, where they produce green tea. Her family sends her fresh green tea. She keeps some of the tea in the back room of the restaurant for her own personal consumption. Her face seemed to brighten as she spoke of her family farm and their tea. Then, she was generous enough to go back and brew a fresh pot for me.

As soon as I opened the lid, I could tell it was a gunpowder green tea. The smoky smell is unmistakable. The leaves were very fresh, and a lively green color. The pluck was two and a small bud, with absolutely no oxidation being evident. Mostly fully intact leaves with little breakage and no particles. 

Despite the longer brewing time that she suggested, and I dare not to put my own general knowledge of green tea above the woman who lived on the tea farm, there was not a touch of bitterness until the bottom 20% of the pot, which by the time I got to it had been sitting there for about 25 minutes. The taste was smoky, yet fresh, unlike any other gunpowder that I have had. This is a green tea that I could drink daily. 

The woman told me that her family’s tea is usually sold at about $70 per kilo, which is pretty expensive compared to other gunpowder green teas that I have seen on the wholesale market. Considering the smell, the flavor, and the obvious hand plucking and processing, I do not think that is an unreasonable price.

This woman said she has not had Silver Needle White Tea (Bai Hao Yin Zhen), so I promised to bring her some on my next visit. I would not mind trading for some of her family’s gunpowder green. I was very impressed. 

Being somewhat shy at times, I am glad that I overcame that characteristic today to ask this woman about the tea. This simple question turned in to a very interesting conversation and an opportunity to try some phenomenal and fresh Chinese green tea. Finally, this woman promised to have a fresh pot of this tea waiting at my table each time I came back, so there is another reason to go on a weekly basis.

 

Black Oolong Tea from Hunan Xiangfeng Tea Industry Co. Ltd.

On September 19 of 2013, my journey through the world of tea tasting brought me back to mainland China. The subject of my review is the Black Oolong Tea, provided by the Hunan Xiangfeng Tea Industry Co. Ltd.

Unfortunately, I have no specific information on this Black Oolong tea. As I opened the sample bag, the first thing I noticed was a woody, roasty, almost bakey scent that is similar to a Tung Ting oolong from Taiwan. However, due to the name variation, one can easily assume that this is not Tung Ting oolong, or the name Tung Ting would have been used, due to it’s popularity, quality, and high selling price. Perhaps after a detailed review of this tea, I will brew up some Tung Ting, which I always have nearby, and compare the details. If the two are similar, then this Black Oolong tea will be a much more affordable option than the authentic Tung Ting oolong for tea consumers to experience this style of highly oxidized semi-ball rolled oolongs. However, experiencing a high quality Tung Ting is absolutely necessary for any tea lover.

Let the journey begin…

The dry leaves of this Black Oolong tea are light to dark brown, with an obviously higher level of oxidation. With the name being black oolong, I am going to estimate the oxidation level at 70% to 80%. The aroma is earthy, woody, and a scent of roasted nuts is apparent. The dry leaves are semi-ball rolled, dense, with the average size being similar to a popcorn kernel. There is very little breakage, and almost no crumbs. The amount of stems is also low when compared to other semi-ball rolled oolongs.

Black Oolong Dry Leaves

For this sampling, I used 9 grams of Black Oolong tea in 21 ounces (620 ml) of purified water heated to 190°F (88°C). The leaves were infused for 2 minutes during the first infusion. The teapot of choice was a handmade American glazed ceramic pot.

Black Oolong 1st Inf

The first infusion produced a lively pale yellow liquor that was perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma is most similar to roasted nuts, with slight earthy and woody scents. The liquor is medium bodied, with a smooth and mouth filling taste of roasted nuts and wood, with a floral finish and aftertaste, most similar to dandelion. Aftertaste lingers, seems to peak in floral strength after 5 to 10 seconds, then lasts for upwards of 30 to 45 seconds. The liquor feels like it is coating the throat.

Black Oolong 2nd Inf

The second infusion produced a slightly brighter, livelier pale yellow liquor, clear and transparent. The aroma maintains the roasted nuts, with woody and earthy scents. The tastes of roasted nut and wood is most prevalent, but tastes of dandelion are becoming stronger. The aftertaste has taken a different, more fruity character, reminiscent of ripe plum. The second infusion, I believe, is better balanced, with a more layered and complex taste than the first infusion.

Black Oolong 3rd Inf

The third infusion has the exact same color as the second infusion. The aroma is still dominated by the scent of roasted nuts, but a floral scent has gained strength. The taste has lightened some, with the strongest notes being roasted nuts, and dandelion. The body has lightened some, and the aftertaste has lightened also. A faint ripe plum finish is still noticeable, though slight. Despite the lighter taste and body, this is still a good tasting pot of tea. I would expect at least one to two additional infusions to be acceptable.

Black Oolong Infused Leaves

The infused leaves of the black oolong are fairly uniform greenish brown in color, with the edges of the leaves having a brown tint. The leaves are similar in shape and size, averaging a length of 1.25 inches (32 mm). Mostly fully intact leaves, with very few fragments. No bare stems, and very little stem generally on the leaves. The leaves have some durability, possibly indicating that another infusion or two may produce acceptable tasting liquors. The smell is woody and earthy, with a roasted hint.

Overall, this is decent tea. It is not on the level of a Tung Ting oolong, but it does have traces of similar characteristics. The aroma and taste is a bit earthy for the novice tea drinker, but can certainly be enjoyed by a veteran.

Today Brought More Exciting News…

Generally speaking, I prefer to enjoy my lunch free of distractions and business talk. However, on days like today, the business related call made me forget all about lunch. Today, I received news that a popular local coffee shop chain has agreed to carry my new line of loose teas. My initial reaction was pure happiness and excitement. My next thought was … “I need to order a lot more tea!” More details will be released soon. In the meantime, Hē Chá!

My Journey Through the World of Tea Business Begins…

You may have noticed that I have been falling behind over the past few weeks in posting tea reviews. I know you are eager to read about my journey, and I apologize for the frustration of not having daily reading material. However, it is for good reason that I have not been spending as much time writing review posts. I have been keeping details hidden while I considered the best way of writing about my journey through the world of starting a tea related business. The time has come for me to publish some details, as I am only two weeks from a dream becoming a reality.

It is official that I am developing a new line of loose teas for a very successful local coffee roaster that has been looking to get into the loose tea market. The brand name is finalized, as well as the logo. The owner of the business wanted to start conservatively, asking that I choose six loose teas to offer. I was immediately overwhelmed simply by the fact that I had to narrow the world of thousands of great teas down to six. On top of that, I had to pick six teas that will most satisfy the U.S. consumer market. Let’s be straightforward, the unfamiliar tea consumer and veteran loose tea drinkers have a rather significant gap between taste preferences. Yet, the more I thought about it, the easier the choices became. Therefore, the six types of tea have been chosen, purchased, and delivered to the warehouse. They are awaiting packaging.  Taste testing with friends, family, and others has returned very favorable results, and I am confident that our first six teas will sell well, allowing me the ability to choose another six teas in the near future.

Labels for the tea tins have been finalized, and I am sending the print order very soon. I expect our products to be in multiple coffee shops in the Pittsburgh area on the first week of October. I would love to share photos of everything, but until the trademarks are secured, I do not want to compromise anything. The Tea Journeyman will also be acknowledged on some of the packaging and marketing materials. Don’t worry, I will have a personal logo developed so you all do not have to look at my real face constantly. This is not an insult to myself, simply an acknowledgement that people get tired of seeing the same face over and over and over again, and I hope that you will see my products over and over and over.

Needless to say, I am incredibly excited, and have been putting many many hours into this project. As more details are finalized, and trademarks secured, I will begin providing more details and photos. I will leave you with one expression … Hē Chá!

 

Red of Four Seasons Black Tea from Easy Tea Hard Choice Co. Ltd.

On September 18th of 2013, my tea tasting journey took me to one final visit to Sun Moon Lake in Yuchi, Taiwan. Hopefully this will not be my last taste of the fantastic black teas that Sun Moon Lake produces, but my first round of samples from Easy Tea Hard Choice has been finished. Thankfully, a new round of high mountain oolongs just got shipped, but I will leave those details for a later date.

This particular sample is the Red of Four Seasons black tea. According to Easy Tea Hard Choice’s website, this black tea is produced from the native leaf tea bush that is native to Taiwan. Produced in somewhat the same fashion as the famous Oriental Beauty (Bai Hao) oolong tea, the tea farmers wait for small cicada, commonly referred to as a leaf hopper, to begin feeding on the tea leaves. As the leaf hoppers feed, the tea bushes produce specific chemical compounds to fight off the cacadas. The transformation of these chemical compounds (secondary metabolites) during processing allows teas produced in this way to have very distinct aromas and tastes of honey and fruit. The difference between Oriental Beauty (Bai Hao) oolong tea and this Red of Four Seasons black tea is simple. Oriental Beauty is oxidized between 70% to 80%, and this Red of Four Seasons is oxidized to 90%. This 10% to 20% difference in oxidation causes significant aroma and flavor variations between the Oriental Beauty and the Red of Four Seasons. Both are phenomenal. 

Let the journey begin…

The dry leaves of this Red of Four Seasons black tea have a very dark brown to black color, indicating the higher level of oxidation. There is a good amount of gold tips. The leaves appear hand plucked, and are tightly twisted. There is some breakage and crumbs, but the majority of the leaves appear to be fully intact, or at least large fragments. The aroma is sweet and slightly woody, with notes of dried fruit, honey, and light wood. The aroma definitely can be compared to an Oriental Beauty oolong. Leaves range in length from 0.5 inches (13 mm) to 1.75 inches (44 mm). Leaves are very dry, and crack easily into fine crumbs.

Red of 4 Seasons Dry Leaves

 

This tasting included 6.5 grams of tea leaves (yes, I finally got a digital scale), and 18 ounces (532 ml) of purified water heated to 200°F (93°C). The tea was infused for 2 minutes in a cast iron Japanese tetsubin.

Red of 4 Seasons 1st Inf

The first infusion produced a golden liquor, very similar in color to light honey with a slight red tint. The aroma is rich and sweet with scents of fruit and honey, with a mild woody note. The taste that is most apparent is tree fruit or stone fruit, and honey. A very light woody taste is present, and a mentholated mouth feel is obvious. The aftertaste is sweet and persistent. The liquor body is medium and smooth. The characteristics are very similar to an Oriental Beauty oolong, but the higher level of oxidation definitely produces a black tea character. This is a great tea, and my love for Taiwanese black teas has been strengthened.

Red of 4 Seasons 2nd Inf

 

I brewed the second infusion for an additional thirty seconds, bringing the total infusion time to two minutes and thirty seconds. The liquor has a golden color, similar to the first infusion, but the red tint is lighter. The aroma is amazing, with strong scents of fruit and honey. The flavor maintains a medium body, with fruit and honey notes being most prevalent. The mentholated mouth feel remains, as well as the persistent and sweet aftertaste. The second infusion produced a great liquor, being just slightly less tasteful than the first infusion. I expect a third infusion to be highly acceptable.

Red of 4 Seasons 3rd Inf

 

The third infusion was brewed for a total of 2 minutes and 45 seconds. The color is nearly identical to the second infusion, being a golden color with slight red tint. The aroma is lighter, but still pleasant, with scents of honey and fruit. The aroma definitely indicates the higher oxidation level of the leaves, smelling much more like a black tea than an oolong. The taste is also lighter, but acceptable. The honey and fruit tastes have lightened noticeably, but are still prevalent. The mentholated mouth feel has dissipated some. The body is lighter, overall, but still smooth. The aftertaste is still fairly persistent, sweet and minty. I had no problem finishing the entire pot of this infusion, but do not expect a fourth infusion to be acceptable.

Red of 4 Seasons Infused

 

The infused leaves are a uniform darker brown color, with very little variance. The aroma is woody, and lightly sweet. The leaves maintain a good amount of durability, possibly indicating that additional infusions could produce an acceptable taste, despite the noticeably lighter character of the third infusion. There is very little breakage in the leaves, with a large majority being fully intact. The leaves are noticeably smaller than other Taiwanese black teas, indicating the small leaf bush variety used for this tea, as compared to large leaf hybrid bushes used for the Red Jade and Red Rhythm black teas. No bare stems present. Average length of the leaf is 1.25 inches (32 mm). 

After tasting all three of the samples of Taiwanese black teas from Easy Tea Hard Choice, I am surprised that there is not a larger market for these teas in the western hemisphere. Perhaps these teas are kept for domestic use, and neighboring countries, and I hope that changes for the sake of the black and oolong tea drinkers in the west. I am incredibly impressed by these black teas, and would love to have a stockpile in my personal collection. Every characteristic of these teas was impressive, from the size, shape, and aroma of the dry leaves, to the aromas and flavors of the teas during all three infusions, to the size and shape of the infused leaves. Great products, and I hope to be able to enjoy them many times over in the future. Do yourself a favor. Go to http://www.eztea-tw.com, and purchase these 25 gram samples. Be warned, you may not want any other black teas from any other country or region after trying these! They are really that good.

Red Jade Black Tea from Easy Tea Hard Choice Co. Ltd.

On September 12th of 2013, my journey through the world of tea tasting had me return to Sun Moon Lake in Yuchi Township, Nantou County, Taiwan. This sample was provided by Easy Tea Hard Choice Co. Ltd.

This particular artisanal black tea was produced by Dong Feng Black Tea in Nantou, Taiwan. The cultivar that produces the leaves for this tea is known as TTES18, and was developed by the Taiwan Tea Experimental Station (TTES). This cultivar is a hybrid between the local Taiwan mountain tea bush and the big leaf varietal from Myanmar.

Let the journey begin…

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The dry leaves of this Red Jade black tea are long and wiry, having been obviously hand twisted. There is very little breakage in this generous sample packet. The dry leaves have a sweet aroma reminiscent of light citrus and light mint, almost similar to the aroma of the grapefruit mint. There is also a note of spice, which I was not able to determine at the time. The color of the leaves are a cloudy black, with areas of dark green and brown, and a few tips of red. These leaves, just like the other Taiwan artisanal black tea (Red Rhythm), are unusually long, giving it an immediately unique character.

For this sampling, I used 24 ounces (710 ml) of water heated to 200ºF (93.3ºC), and about 10 grams of tea leaves. Infusion time for the first infusion was 2 minutes. I added 15 seconds to the second infusion, and 30 seconds to the third infusion.

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This first infusion had scents of light citrus, mint, and a light spiciness. The color was a bright reddish orange, clear and transparent. The taste was a very nice blend of grapefruit mint, and a light spice, with just a slight bitterness that helped balance the flavor. The body was medium. The aftertaste was sweet, and lasted for about 10 to 15 seconds. Although I do not think this Red Jade was as good as the Red Rhythm, this is still an excellent black tea, and I would prefer it to the majority of other black teas that I have had.

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The second infusion produced a darker shade of reddish orange liquor. The smell maintained a pleasant citrusy mint and spice character. The body was very slightly heavier, although still in the medium class. The taste was comparable to the first infusion, perhaps lightening up very slightly all around. The second infusion was just as good of an overall quality as the first cup.

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The third infusion produced a liquor that was very similar to the second infusion, having a nice reddish orange color. The aroma lightened up slightly, but is still very similar to earlier infusions. The body and flavor of the liquor has lightened slightly from the second infusion, but is still a good tasting tea. I enjoyed every last drop of this third infusion.

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The infused leaves had a uniform greenish brown color, with very little variance. The leaves averaged 1.75 inches (45 mm) in length, with the longest leaf at about 2.25 inches (57 mm). Many of the leaves were perfectly intact, with no bare stems whatsoever. Breakage is below 50%. Leaves have a pleasant citrusy and slightly roasty aroma. Leaves have some structural durability, suggesting that one more acceptable infusion may be possible. The long and broad leaves appear to be of very good quality.

Overall I am very  pleased with this Red Jade black tea from Easy Tea Hard Choice. The long wiry dry leaves excited me from the beginning. The aroma was very refreshing and unique. The taste was well balanced and nicely layered, with a sweet aftertaste being left behind. I hope that these Taiwan black teas gain some popularity in the U.S. market, because I am beginning to highly prefer them over other popular black teas. I admire the broad and full leaves, and the obvious hand twisted appearance. This is a very good product, and one that I look forward to enjoying again.

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