Aged Oolong in Grapefruit

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After a few months of waiting for a few of these beautiful pieces of tea art to be available, I finally got my hands on two each of the aged oolong grapefruits, and two aged puer grapefruits. Thanks again to Rajiv, Vivek, and the rest of the Lochan family from Lochan Teas in Darjeeling, India, for sending these to me. I have never seen anything like this in the U.S., and cannot wait to try it out. Look for a review soon.

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Ceylon OPA#2 Green Tea from Uva Halpewatte Exports

Nothing is more exciting to a tea enthusiast than receiving a package of fresh samples from their favorite estates. Recently, I have received two packages from two estates in the Uva region of Sri Lanka. If any of you have read my blog somewhat consistently, you already realize that Sri Lanka is my favorite black tea producing country. The bright color of the tea liquor, the brisk yet citrusy scents and tastes, and the sweet, fruity smells of the dry tea leaves truly make me happy.

These packages, however, are giving me an opportunity to explore two sides of the Sri Lankan tea industry that I am less familiar with: green teas and artisanal teas. Before receiving these packages, I only had an opportunity to taste one Sri Lankan green tea from the Idulgashinna Estates. I was quite happy with that green tea, and have been looking forward to trying out more green teas from other estates. Well, that opportunity has finally arrived. These two packages include eight different varieties of Sri Lankan green tea!

Today’s review focuses on an OPA#2 that was sent from the Glassngh factory, courtesy of a good man, Eranga, at UHE. A pleasant surprise has struck me as the sample pack is opened, a smoky aroma! Eranga seems to have read my mind, as I have been looking for a smoky and earthy green tea to use as a base for a new Moroccan Mint blend. Well done, Eranga. Let the journey begin…

Ceylon OPA#2 Green Tea Dry Leaves
Ceylon OPA#2 Green Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves of this OPA#2 Green Tea range in color from light to dark green, as well as some light to dark brown leaves. The leaves appear to be lightly rolled. There is much variation in the size and shape of the leaves. There appears to be both fully intact leaves and fragments, as well as some mostly bare stems. The aroma is smoky and earthy.

The standard method of preparation was used for this sample. Purified water was heated to 175°F (80°C). Nine grams of dry leaves were placed in a twenty ounce (570 ml) cast-iron tetsubin. The leaves were infused for one minute and thirty seconds.

Ceylon OPA#2 Green Tea 1st Infusion
Ceylon OPA#2 Green Tea 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a golden-yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma was smoky (burnt wood) and earthy. The liquor has a medium body, with a smooth, light feel. The taste is smoky (burnt wood), earthy (wet stones), mineral, even a light sweetness, and a very mild astringency. The finish and aftertaste are floral and lingering. Has some similarities to a sheng pu’er. This tea has nice layers of taste, and great balance.

Ceylon OPA#2 Green Tea 2nd Infusion
Ceylon OPA#2 Green Tea 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a shade lighter of golden-yellow color. The aroma and taste leveled out slightly, creating an improved balance of all of the tastes. The aftertaste remains floral. Taste and aroma wise, this infusion was just as good of a quality as the first.

Ceylon OPA#2 Green Tea 3rd Infusion
Ceylon OPA#2 Green Tea 3rd Infusion

The third infusion had the exact same shade of golden-yellow as the second infusion. The aroma, body, and taste barely lightened at all. This tea lost very little character between the second and third infusions, leading me to believe that a fourth infusion, and maybe a fifth, will produce an acceptable flavor. Very impressive for a green tea to hold it’s character over three infusions.

Ceylon OPA#2 Green Tea Infused Leaves
Ceylon OPA#2 Green Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves of this tea are mostly a fresh, fleshy green color. There are brown spots on some leaves, and a few of the leaves are completely brown. There are some fully intact leaves, but most are large fragments, and a few bare stems. There is significant variation in the size and shape of the leaves. The leaves have an earthy (wet forest) scent, with a touch of burnt wood. The leaves are not delicate, and actually have an unexpected level of integrity to them, suggesting that additional infusions are certainly possible.

Although the photo is not posted, I did have some time left in the work day, and decided to prepare a fourth infusion. Although it lightened quite a bit, I still found the fourth infusion tasteful enough to appreciate. I am very impressed by the consistency of the liquors from infusion to infusion. For a green tea to maintain such consistency is noteworthy. I really enjoyed the smoky, earthy, and mineral tastes and aromas of this tea. I think this will make a nice base tea for a Moroccan Mint, and it certainly is perfectly tasteful all on it’s own. I look forward to using the remainder of this sample and experimenting with various mint leaves.

As I mentioned before, I noticed some similarities between this tea and a sheng pu’er that is in my collection. Obviously this tea was missing the refined qualities of the pu’er, but the layers of earth, specifically the wet stones taste, and the mineral tastes were very similar, as well as the consistency of the flavor over four infusions. I can honestly say that I could see this tea becoming a staple in my personal collection, as well as a preferred green tea to other tea drinkers who like a more complex and tasteful green tea.

A big thanks to Eranga for acquiring this sample, and those yet to be reviewed, for me. I look forward to progressing through the remainder of the samples from UHE.

Second Tea Tasting Event Success!

Another successful tea tasting. People truly are getting excited over these teas!

The Official Blog for Hē Chá Tea

Our second tea tasting event took place on Sunday, December 1st at the Spring Street Cafe in Zelienople, Pennsylvania, and we are quite pleased with the outcome. Despite the busy holiday weekend, at least twenty guests attended. In addition, the people that got held up traveling, or otherwise could not attend this event, requested that a second event be scheduled at Spring Street Cafe, and so it has! The sign up sheet is filling up quickly already.

The guests were provided with some basic to intermediate levels of information on tea, focusing mostly on the products offered by Hē Chá Tea. Guests had the opportunity to learn about the features of dry tea leaves that should be observed to determine the level of quality, as well as the significant features of the infused tea leaves, as the leaves were passed around the room. Guests were also taught how the color and…

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Hoji Cha Smoky Roast from Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms

Now the samples are flowing in from all over Asia again. As I perused the thirty-plus samples that sit on my table, I chose the Hoji Cha Smoky Roast from Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms. Why? My first tea review was on a hoji cha basic roast, and I truly enjoyed the slightly woodsy and smoky taste of that. While researching that tea as I reviewed it, I found the other varieties of roasts available, and saw the smoky roast. I was immediately interested in trying one. Unfortunately, that desire got brushed to the side as hundreds of samples poured in to my office. Now, some of the prior samples have been finished, and the next round has arrived. All hoji cha varieties from Kyoto Obubu were included, and there is no question as to which option I am choosing first.

I would like to point something out before I get started with the review. As the number of tea tasting events that I host increases, I am finding that the amount of caffeine is a more significant issue with many people than I thought it would be. That being the case, and many of the guests of my tasting events now watching my blog, I feel it is important to touch on the caffeine subject when the opportunity arises. This specific green tea is unusually low in caffeine compared to other teas, even it’s unroasted green tea counterparts. The roasting process that these green tea leaves go through removes much of the caffeine, making this green tea a great option for later times of the day and evening. The smoky and roasty tastes may even make this tea your nighttime and after dinner go to beverage replacing decaf coffee.

The Obubu Tea Farms are located in Wazuka, in the southern part of the Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. This hoji cha comes from the Camellia Sinensis Yabukita cultivar. Now, let the journey begin…

Hoji Cha Smoky Roast Dry Leaves
Hoji Cha Smoky Roast Dry Leaves

The dry leaves of the Hoji Cha Smoky Roast are a uniform dark brown color with a slight dark green tint. The shape and size of the leaves are inconsistent. The leaves are very dry as a result of the roasting process, and break fairly easily. The leaves appear to be lightly rolled and machine cut. There are bare stems present, as usual. The aroma is charred wood, again from the roasting process.

The standard preparation method was used for this sample. Purified water was heated to 175°F (80°C). The five gram sample of tea leaves was placed in a cast-iron tetsubin, which was filled with twelve ounces (350 ml) of the water. The leaves were infused for 1 minute and 0 seconds.

Hoji Cha Smoky Roast 1st Infusion
Hoji Cha Smoky Roast 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a golden-yellow liquor, with a slight brown tint, clear and transparent. The aroma is smoky with charred wood. The body is light-medium, with a subtle feel. The taste is charred wood, and sweet grass, with no astringency. The aftertaste is light and tastes of charred wood.

Hoji Cha Smoky Roast 2nd Infusion
Hoji Cha Smoky Roast 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a nearly identical color (maybe slightly darker), aroma, body, and taste as the first infusion. There was no difference in the quality of the liquor between the first and second infusions.

Hoji Cha Smoky Roast 3rd Infusion
Hoji Cha Smoky Roast 3rd Infusion

The third infusion produced a liquor with slightly brighter color. The aroma remains smoky with charred wood. The taste is slightly lighter, but maintains the charred wood and sweet grass flavors. Very little difference between the second and third infusions. Definitely plenty of flavor left in these leaves.

Hoji Cha Smoky Roast Infused Leaves
Hoji Cha Smoky Roast Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform charred black color. The size and shape of the leaves varies. The leaves do not have the usual fresh wet leaf feel. They have a more rigid, substantial, and charred feel. These leaves are not exhausted of the flavor. The aroma is charred wood.

This reviewed seemed so simple to complete. Yet, as the Japanese tea scholars have repeated many times over the centuries, there is beauty in simplicity. This tea had two dominant flavors, the roasted and charred wood taste, and the sweet grass taste. Yet, the taste remained fairly consistent across the three infusions, with enough taste in the leaves to provide another infusion or two. There was little complexity to this tea, yet it is truly enjoyable, moreso than many of the more “complex” teas available. To me, this tea embodies the very philosophy of the Japanese Tea Ceremony, simplicity and beauty. The aroma and taste are simple, yet beautiful to smell and taste. Hoji cha remains my favorite of the Japanese tea products. Well done, Kyoto Obubu.