Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea From TeaVivre

I found myself today yearning for a Chinese green tea. That is a rather broad term for such a diverse category of teas. Unfortunately, I must admit that at the moment my selection of Chinese green teas is rather limited. Fortunately, those few green teas I do have come from a reputable source, TeaVivre.

This particular sample today is one I have been holding on to, and looking forward to the day when I had the time to truly enjoy the experience. Tai Ping Hou Kui green tea, particularly those of good quality, is arguably one of the most interesting teas to visually observe in all stages of the review: dry, steeping in water, and exhausted. I made sure to keep some extra memory on my phone/camera for this review.

TeaVivre sources this Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from the Houkeng Tea Garden, located in the famous Huangshan area of Xinming County, Anhui Province, China. This tea garden sits at an elevation of about 2,600 feet (800 meters) above sea level. The leaves used for this tea are harvested from the Shidacha seedling bush, a large leaf species. This harvest is usually performed in late April. This particular sample is from the 2017 spring harvest.

Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea is in the list of top ten Chinese green teas, and is renowned for, among other things, the uniquely flattened, long leaves. The leaves are seriously as flat and thin as a piece of paper. It’s appearance is unlike any other style of tea I have ever come across, and is immediately identifiable.

Let’s get to the review… Be prepared … There are more photos than usual, and this tea deserves the extra attention.

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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Dry Leaves (shot 1)
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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Dry Leaves (shot 2)

The dry leaves vary in color from pale bright green to pale dark green. The leaves are all unbroken, fully intact leaves still attached to the shoot. There are no fragments or bare stems in the mix. The leaves all measure between 3 and 4 inches long (75 to 100 mm). I expect there to be two to three leaves and a bud attached to the shoot. The leaves have the standard paper thin, flat appearance, as Tai Ping Hou Kui teas should have. The classic checkered pattern is also present on the leaves (see the photo below), a result of the process used to flatten the leaves. The aroma has scents of fresh cut grass, light brown sugar, and a subtle touch of wild flowers.

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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Dry Leaves (Close Shot)

Forgive me for this, but I had to use my clear glass infuser mug to steep these leaves. I really wanted to observe the infusion process. So I used the full contents of the five gram sample packet in the twelve ounce (355 mL) mug, and infused in 175°F (80°C) water for 2:00 minutes.

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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Infusion Process
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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a pale, light yellow-green color. The aroma has scents of fresh grass, sweet corn, wild flowers, peas, and a touch of brown sugar. The body is medium, with a silky, refreshing texture. There is a medium level of astringency, and no bitterness. The taste has notes of fresh grass, sweet corn, wild flowers, peas, and a touch of lemon. The aftertaste starts off grassy, and evolves into an impressive, lasting flowery essence. This flowery essence is truly remarkable.

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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a fairly uniform fresh forest green color. The blend consists entirely of unbroken, whole leaves and buds still attached to the shoots. The pluck varies from two leaves and a rather developed bud to three leaves and a developed bud. The  opened leaves are long and very narrow, and have an incredibly soft, smooth texture. The aroma carries the scents of grass, peas, and wild flowers.

This Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from TeaVivre is, in my opinion, a very good quality specimen of this style of tea considering the price that TeaVivre offers it at, and the fact that this is only their “premium” version (i.e. not their best quality offered). In addition to the enjoyment I got out of observing the leaves in all stages of the review, the aroma and taste quality of the infusion itself was very admirable. I also got four quality infusions out of the leaves, and a fifth that was still worthy of drinking. There is no question in my mind as to why this is in the top ten best styles of green tea from China. This product has all the characteristics of a Chinese green tea that people are looking for, with some specific qualities that cannot be found elsewhere. This is a tea worthy of the time it takes to fully observe and enjoy at all levels.

Thank you to TeaVivre for supplying this sample of Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea! Cheers!

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Ba Xian Dancong Wulong Tea From Chaozhou Tea Grower

Time to get back to that packet of Dancong wulong samples I received a week or so ago. Are you as excited as I am?! I thought so!

Today, I will be experiencing the Ba Xian Dancong Wulong Tea from Chaozhou Tea Grower. More about Chaozhou Tea Grower can be seen in my earlier review of their Man Lou Xiang Dancong Wulong Tea.

The term “Ba Xian” translates into English as “Eight Immortals”. This name refers to the type of tea bush that this tea is grown on. The Ba Xian bushes were originally cultivated in the Zhao An area of Fujian province, but have since been cultivated in areas like the Fenghuang Mountains in Wudong village, Guangdong province, and the better known Wu Yi Mountains in Fujian province. The below map shows the area of Chaozhou, the area in which sits Wudong village.

Let’s get to the review…

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Ba Xian Dancong Wulong Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark brown to black color. The leaves consist of large fragments and some unbroken leaves, as well as a few bare stems. There are no obvious buds in the mix. The leaves are long and rather tightly twisted. They break easily into crumbs. These leaves show a higher level of oxidation, and a higher level of roasting. The aroma has scents of roasted walnuts, molasses, cassia bark, honey, charred camphor, and potpourri. The aroma has a combination of roasty, sweet, and earthy characters, which is quite different than anything else that I have reviewed recently.

The entire 7 gram sample of dry leaves were placed in a porcelain gaiwan, and infused in 200°F water for 5 seconds, and each subsequent infusion added another 5 seconds.

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Ba Xian Dancong Wulong Tea – Liquid

The tea liquid had a rich, gold-orange color. The aroma had scents of camphor, walnuts, honey, cassia, potpourri, and wet stones. As the infusions went on, an interesting and obvious scent of buttered popcorn also came up. The body is full, with a lush, juicy texture. The taste has notes of wet stones, cassia bark, potpourri, camphor, and dark honey. The aftertaste continued the floral and mineral character, and lingered on the back of the tongue. The tea also had a cleansing feeling on the palate.

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Ba Xian Dancong Wulong Tea – Infused Leaves

The wet leaves range in color from dark forest green to dark brown. The mixture consists almost entirely of large leaf fragments. The few unbroken leaves were torn easily during observation. There are a few bare stems in the mix, and no buds. The leaves are long and quite narrow. They are thicker and heartier than the standard Chinese tea bush leaves. The leaves have a higher level of oxidation. The aroma continues the scents of camphor, wet stones, potpourri, cassia bark, and dark honey.

The Ba Xian Dancong Wulong Tea was a pleasant departure from the other styles of teas that I have reviewed recently, not to take anything away from the other teas, of course. This tea had a nice combination of mineral, earthy, floral, roasty characteristics that was quite unique. It had a refreshing, cleansing quality to it, yet a full, lush texture. It was interesting to observe how the aromas and tastes evolved as the number of infusions went on. I had time for about fifteen infusions, and the sweet, floral character came out more, while the roasty, woody elements dissipated over those infusions. During the middle range of the infusions, a potent smell of buttered popcorn came forward, and was quite unexpected. Overall, this was a very interesting and time consuming experience, which I have come to expect from Dancong wulongs.

You can purchase 25 grams of the Ba Xian Dancong Wulong Tea from Chaozhou Tea Grower for USD $16.00 plus USD $18.99 shipping cost to the U.S.

Thank you to Chaozhou Tea Grower for providing this sample for review, and thank you to all of my readers. Cheers!

Man Lou Xiang Dancong Wulong Tea from Chaozhou Tea Grower

Yes! Six samples of high quality Dancong wulongs from Wudang village in China! What package can possibly be more exciting to a tea reviewer to receive?

Dancong wulongs are (most unfortunately) not a style of tea that I get to enjoy often. High quality Dancongs can get quite pricey, and samples can be hard to come by. I was fortunate enough to be contacted by a family who owns a farm in the Fenghuang mountains of Wudong village, outside of Chaozhou in the Guangdong province of China. This family has owned the farm for sixty years, and produces only Dancong style wulongs.

This Man Lou Xiang Dancong is grown at about 3,000 feet (1,000 meters) above sea level on Fenghuang Mountain. This tea was harvested in late April of 2017. The family believes the tea tree to be over 300 years old, and is harvested only one time per year with a two to three leaf pluck. The man who is credited with making this tea is Song Lin. This family has an Instagram account that offers many great photos of the tea masters at work. Search Instagram for “Wudongtea” to find them.

You can purchase 25 grams of this tea for USD $23.00 from the Chaozhou Tea Grower website. There is an additional $18.99 fee to ship to the U.S.

Let’s get to the review… I’ll even bring out the gaiwan for the best experience possible.

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Man Lou Xiang Dancong Wulong Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark yellowish-brown color to them. The leaves are long and wiry, with a fairly tight twist. There are no bare stems, and the leaves appear to be large fragments and some unbroken leaves. There are no buds or tips visible in the mix. The leaves have undergone a fairly heavy roast, and crack easily into small fragments. The aroma has scents of roasted walnuts, cassia bark, raw cocoa, dried raisins or prunes, dry magnolia, and honey. The aroma is incredibly balanced and well rounded.

The 7 grams of dry leaves were quickly rinsed in 200°F water, then infused for 5 seconds in a ceramic gaiwan. As of publishing this review, I am on the eight infusion, and have added 5 seconds to each infusion time.

 

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Man Lou Xiang Dancong Wulong Tea Liquid

The tea liquid has a bright, yellow-gold color. The aroma is incredible, with scents of fresh, roasted walnuts, raisins or prunes, magnolia, and honey. As the number of infusions increases, the roasty character of the aroma decreases, while the floral character increases dramatically, and a nice buttery popcorn scent begins to appear. The liquid has a medium body, and a very clean, refined feel. The taste has notes of roasted walnuts, honey, magnolia, raisins or prunes, and mineral. Again, as the number of infusions increase, the roasty flavors dissipate while the floral flavors really come forward. The aftertaste is powerfully floral, overtakes the entire mouth, and hangs on the tongue for an unbelievable amount of time. This tea really seems to cleanse the mouth and palate. It has a very clean taste, and a refreshing effect. This floral aftertaste remains strong and persistent through the experience, from the first to eighth (and probably beyond!) infusion.

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Man Lou Xiang Dancong Wulong Tea Wet Leaves

The wet leaves have a fairly uniform brownish-forest green color. Some leaves show the reddish edges, proof of the oxidation level of this wulong. The leaves also do not have serrated edges, but instead are smooth and rounded. The leaves consist of large fragments and unbroken leaves. There are no bare stems or tips in the mix. The leaves have a very soft, silky, delicate feel, keeping in mind that they have been through eight infusions. The aroma (observed from the first infusion) carries the roasted walnuts, magnolia, raisins or prunes, and honey scents. As the number of infusions increased, the roasty scents decreased, and the floral and sweeter scents gained potency.

Luckily, I still have two hours to pull a little more happiness out of these leaves before my day is over.

This Man Lou Xiang Dancong Wulong Tea seriously made my day great! I enjoyed the experience so much that I forced everyone in my office or who came into it to smell the liquid. Naturally, they were not as excited as I was, but they know my passion for tea and were not surprised. This experience was high-end, and I am glad I took the extra effort to use the gaiwan to fully bring out the best properties that this tea has offer. I have to say that the most memorable part of the experience was the long lasting aftertaste that seriously seemed to cleanse my entire mouth. It was a refreshing, exciting, and uplifting experience from the beginning to the end (which hasn’t come yet). I am beginning to remember why these teas are so expensive.

Thank you to Chaozhou Tea Grower for providing these samples of their family’s Dancong wulongs! I have five more samples to enjoy, and I look forward to giving each the proper attention due. Thank you for taking your time to read my review of the Man Lou Xiang Dancong Wulong Tea.

Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from TeaVivre

Today’s review will focus on the Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from TeaVivre. TeaVivre does many things well, like offering many varieties and grades of Chinese teas (and some Taiwan oolongs), being generous with offering samples, having competitive pricing, and reasonable shipping times. However, I think the best thing about TeaVivre is how much information on every single tea is provided on the website. Every tea that I have looked at has two full pages of useful and interesting maps. photos, and information, from the history of each tea product itself, to the specific production methods, to the grower, and the history of the region that the tea originated in. I cannot think of another tea retailer, myself included, who provides such in depth information about the products offered. Knowing much about the tea you are about to drink makes the experience that much more interesting, and TeaVivre does a phenomenal job of giving you all the information you could want about each product.

So, rather than repeat all of the great information that TeaVivre already offers on the product page, I will simply highlight a few details. This product is grown and manufactured in Hou Keng, on the famous Huangshan Mountain of Anhui Province, China. This tea is completely handmade. The unique production method of this tea causes the leaves to be flat and thin, with very specific textured markings. There is no mistaking the Tai Ping Hou Kui style of green tea from other styles. The cultivar used is the Shidacha (Shiyecha), a large leaf member of the Camellia Sinensis Sinensis family.

The sample packet has been opened, and the unique look of the Tai Ping Hou Kui leaves is immediately recognized. Let the journey begin…

TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Dry Leaves
TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves range in color from light forest green to dark forest green. There is a reddish stripe visible on some of the leaves, which is characteristic of Tai Ping Hou Kui. The leaves are mostly whole leaves and large fragments. There are some crumbs and medium fragments, but I am assuming that these are the result of having to break some of the larger leaves to fit into the sample packet. The pluck appears to be two leaves and a medium sized bud. The average length is around two inches (51 mm). The leaves are flat, thin, and have the textured imprints typical of Tai Ping Hou Kui. There are no bare stems in the mix. The smell has scents of brown sugar, raw cacao, toasted nuts, dry grass, and dried apricot.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 185°F (85°C). The leaves were infused for 3:00 minutes.

My suggestion for at home preparation is to use three grams of dry leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 175°F (75°C). Steep the leaves for 1:30 to 2:00 minutes. If possible, use a glass teapot or even a tall drinking glass for infusion so that you may watch the leaves open in the water. Expect three to four quality infusions out of the same serving of leaves.

TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infusion
TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a pale, light yellow color, almost like the flesh of an apricot, clear and transparent. There is a mild amount of fine particles in the cup. The aroma carries scents of fresh grass, toasted nuts, light brown sugar, steamed asparagus, butter, and lighter scents of flowers and apricot. The body is medium, with a clean and crisp texture. There is a medium level of astringency. The taste has notes of toasted nuts, fresh grass, steamed asparagus, light butter, light flowers, and apricot undertones. The aftertaste carries the grass and asparagus notes, and evolves into a strong, persistent floral essence that lingers on the breath for minutes. As the aftertaste evolves into the floral character, the tea will have a drying effect on the mouth and tongue.

TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infused Leaves
TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform fresh forest green color. The leaves are mostly large fragments and whole leaves with stems intact. The stems show a two leaf and medium bud pluck, with the leaves enveloping the bud quite securely as a result of the unique production method. The leaves unfold into fairly long and narrow leaves, indicating the Shidacha cultivar. The leaves have a lightly grooved texture (as shown more clearly in the photo below), and are quite fragile. There are some leaves with a few small black specks on them. According to the TeaVivre website, this is a result of the manual drying method (as compared to the mechanized drying method) used by the manufacturer. The smell has scents of fresh grass, flowers, light apricot, and asparagus broth.

TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infused Leaves Texture
TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infused Leaves Texture

The Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from TeaVivre is a very good quality product of this type. The appearance of the leaves is immediately recognizable. The aroma and taste of the liquor are both highly attractive and consistent through three infusions. The slightly brisk, crisp quality of the tea is refreshing and uplifting. Tai Ping Hou Kui is among my preferred Chinese green teas, both for the visual qualities, as well as the taste/smell. This Nonpareil Cha Wang version from TeaVivre provided the full experience that I come to expect from a good quality Tai Ping Hou Kui green tea.

Thanks to TeaVivre for providing this sample of Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea. Visit the TeaVivre site, and check out the wealth of teas and information, by clicking here. Cheers!

Top Grade Autumn 2014 Harvest TieGuanYin Oolong Tea from Xin Yuan Tea Garden

My friend DongQin in Quanzhou City, Anxi County, China was very generous in sending me fresh samples of her family’s TieGuanYin from the recent Autumn harvest at Xin Yuan Tea Garden. For those of you who have been following me for a while, the TieGuanYin from this specific garden is the only TieGuanYin that I keep stocked in my personal supply. I usually purchase a kilogram of the spring harvest and a kilogram of the autumn harvest. The summer harvest is considered the least impressive, and given the cost of shipping such small quantities, I choose to pass on purchasing the summer harvest.

I do have some of the Spring 2014 harvest still available for purchase at The Tea Journeyman Shop. Click here to check it out. It has been stored in airtight steel containers, so the quality is just as good as the day I received it. I am getting low in stock, only about 1 kilogram left, so try it out while you can. Readers of this post will get 15% off any purchase of the Spring 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea. Use coupon code TGY15% at checkout.

For more information on the Xin Yuan Tea Garden, click here to go to the introductory page at The Tea Journeyman Shop.

The sample packet has been opened, and I never get tired of this scent. Let the journey begin…

Xin Yuan Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Dry Leaves
Xin Yuan Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a fresh, bright green to dark forest green color. The leaves are all detached from the stems, and there are no bare stems in the mix. The leaves are mostly whole leaves, and some large fragments. The leaves are hand plucked, and rolled into oblong balls. The leaves appear to be light on the oxidation level, and I am guessing about 20%, give or take 5%. The scent is incredibly fresh and strong, with clear smells of orchid flowers, honeydew melon, unsweetened milk, and light brown sugar. The scent is simply phenomenal.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for 4:00 minutes.

My suggestion for at home preparation is to use three grams of dry leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 195°F (90°C). Steep the leaves for 2:30 minutes for the first infusion, 1:30 for the second, and add 15 seconds to subsequent infusions. Expect four or more quality infusions from the same serving of leaves. Also, another noteworthy quality of this TieGuanYin is that it is quite forgiving in terms of brewing parameters. Don’t worry if you allow the leaves to sit in the water for a couple of minutes longer than suggested, the taste may not be optimal, but it will still be quite pleasant.

Xin Yuan Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Infusion
Xin Yuan Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a very bright, lively yellowish-jade green color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma again is amazing, with scents of butter, orchid flowers, honeydew melon, light peach, and light steamed leafy vegetable. The body is medium, with a buttery, creamy, rich, and smooth texture. The taste has notes of honeydew melon, orchid flowers, butter, light peach, light mineral (wet stone), and very light steamed leafy vegetable. There is a very mild astringency. The aftertaste is quite possibly the best part of an overall phenomenal tea. The notes of honeydew melon and orchid flowers linger on the breath for minutes after the tea is swallowed.

Xin Yuan Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Infused Leaves
Xin Yuan Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform fresh dark forest green color. There is some slight red showing on a few of the leaves’ edges, as well as a few light red spots on other areas of a few of the leaves. I would still guess the oxidation level is about 20%. Many of the leaves a whole, while the remainder are large fragments. The leaves have a hearty, leathery texture, which the TieGuanYin cultivar is known for. The leaves have a fairly uniform length of about two inches (51 mm) and a width of about one inch (25 mm). All leaves are completely detached from the stem, and there are no bare stems or buds in the mix. The smell carries scents of orchid flowers, butter, honeydew melon, and steamed leafy vegetables. The smell is certainly sweeter and more floral as the leaves cool.

Here is a photo of the side by side comparison that I performed on the Spring and Autumn 2014 harvests from Xin Yuan Tea Garden. Spring is on the left, Autumn is on the right.

Spring and Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Comparison
Spring and Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Comparison

It is no secret that I am completely smitten by the TieGuanYin Oolong Teas from Xin Yuan Tea Garden. I have told my tea tasting audiences time and time again when asked if I had to choose only one tea to drink for the rest of my life, that the Autumn harvest TieGuanYin from Xin Yuan would be the easy choice. I do not have many Yixing teapots, two to be exact, but one is used specifically for this product from this tea garden. The Autumn 2014 harvest continued to impress, with the incredible orchid, butter, and honeydew scents and tastes that won my preference in 2013. The appearance of both the dry and wet leaves, and the liquor itself, tells the story of how much care and attention the Lin family puts in to their garden and products. Another harvest, and another superior TieGuanYin Oolong Tea from Xin Yuan Tea Garden!

Thanks again to DongQin Lin from Xin Yuan Tea Garden for providing these fresh and phenomenal samples! Cheers!

Comparing Three Jasmine Green Teas

Today, I am comparing three different jasmine green tea products. Two are Jasmine pearls, and one is Jasmine Huo Qing. I will not necessarily get as detailed on the aromas and tastes, as I do not want to use the description of jasmine hundreds of times in one post. What I will focus on are the differences in appearance, strength of the aroma and taste, and any other factors that may indicate quality.

Two of the products are from a tea supplier with estates and headquarters located in Hefei, Anhui County, China. The other product is from a Taiwan based company.

Let the journey begin…

Jasmine Green Tea Dry Leaf Comparison
Jasmine Green Tea Dry Leaf Comparison
Jasmine Dragon Pearl # 1 Dry Leaves
Jasmine Dragon Pearl # 1 Dry Leaves
Jasmine Pearl # 2 Dry Leaves
Jasmine Pearl # 2 Dry Leaves
Jasmine Huo Qing Dry Leaves
Jasmine Huo Qing Dry Leaves

The dry leaves of the two pearl products are identical. The pearls are finely hand-tied, with plenty of fuzz-covered silver tips. The Huo Qing has an appearance more similar to the pellets of a gunpowder style of green tea. There are some silver tips, but not nearly as many as the two pearl products. The leaves of the Huo Qing are darker green, and there are jasmine petals in the mix. The aroma of the Huo Qing is the strongest of the three products. The appearance of the pearl products is more attractive than the Huo Qing.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) ceramic infusion cup. Purified spring water was heated to 175°F (75°C). The leaves were infused for one minute thirty seconds.

 

Jasmine Green Tea 1st Infusion Comparison
Jasmine Green Tea 1st Infusion Comparison
Jasmine Dragon Pearl # 1 - 1st Infusion
Jasmine Dragon Pearl # 1 – 1st Infusion
Jasmine Pearl # 2 - 1st Infusion
Jasmine Pearl # 2 – 1st Infusion
Jasmine Huo Qing 1st Infusion
Jasmine Huo Qing 1st Infusion

The infusions of the two pearl teas are again identical in color (very light, pale yellow), strength of aroma, body, texture, and strength of taste. The body is light-medium, and the taste is quite fresh, fairly delicate, and not overwhelming on the jasmine strength. The Huo Qing had a darker shade of pale yellow color, with a medium body. The aroma and taste of the Huo Qing are stronger and more robust, both in the natural tea taste and the jasmine taste, than the pearl products. It is easy to determine that the Huo Qing consists of more leaves than the pearl products, which generally have fewer and young leaves, longer stems, and more tips. The more delicate taste of the pearl products reflects this observation.

All three products easily lasted through the three infusions, and could have provided at least two additional infusions with good flavor.

Jasmine Green Tea Infused Leaf Comparison
Jasmine Green Tea Infused Leaf Comparison
Jasmine Dragon Pearl # 1 Infused Leaves
Jasmine Dragon Pearl # 1 Infused Leaves
Jasmine Pearl # 2 Infused Leaves
Jasmine Pearl # 2 Infused Leaves
Jasmine Huo Qing Infused Leaves
Jasmine Huo Qing Infused Leaves

The infused leaves of the two pearl products are identical in color, pluck, size, and aroma. The pluck is two and a bud, with the second leaf being removed, leaving only the fine first leaf and bud on a longer stem. Two separate pluckings were tied together to create each pearl. The Huo Qing consists of a two leaf and small bud pluck, with the second leaf being left on the stem. The stems are not as long as the pearl products. The amount of fuller, more mature leaves in the Huo Qing is substantially more than the pearl products. The Huo Qing has the strongest aroma of jasmine after three infusions.

Upon review of my observations of the two pearl products, and knowing the wholesale price of both, it is quite simple to determine that the Taiwan based company is purchasing the Jasmine Pearl product from a Chinese manufacturer, maybe even the same manufacturer as the Jasmine Dragon Pearl used in this comparison, then reselling it. Both of these pearl products were identical in every single detail. I can honestly say that I would not be able to tell the difference if someone switched the position of the samples on me. The Jasmine Huo Qing was quite different in every way except the obvious jasmine aroma and taste. The liquor was darker, the body was fuller, the aroma and taste were stronger on the natural tea characteristics. The appearance of the dry and infused leaves were much different than the pearl products, as well.

Personally, I would pick the Jasmine Huo Qing due to the stronger tea taste. However, if having to pick a product that I feel would be most acceptable to a casual tea consumer, I would pick the Jasmine Dragon Pearl direct from the Chinese manufacturer in Anhui. The taste is fresh and delicate, without being overpowering. The appearance is also very attractive, with the fresh and fuzzy appearance of the silver tips being tied neatly together. With the significantly lower price, that makes it the easy choice over the comparable Jasmine Pearl product of the Taiwan based company.

Thank you to the two companies that supplied the samples used for this comparison. Cheers!

Fengqing Raw Puer Tuo Cha 2006 from TeaVivre

It seems like it has been a long time since I reviewed a sheng (raw) puer tea. It also seems like it has been a while since I had an opportunity to review a product from TeaVivre. Time to put an end to both of those time periods.

I was very excited to see not just one, but two sheng puers in the most recent package of samples I received from TeaVivre. The subject of this review is the aged 2006 puer tuo cha from Fengqing, Lincang, Yunnan Province, China. The Yunnan Large-Leaf tea trees produce the leaves used to make this puer tea. Generally speaking, larger, more mature leaves should make for a stronger, yet mellow infusion.

TeaVivre has quite a bit of information regarding this tea on their website. Rather than paraphrase, why don’t I just give you the link to read for yourself.

Let the journey begin…

Fengqing 2006 Raw Puer Dry Leaves
Fengqing 2006 Raw Puer Dry Leaves

The dry leaves display a variety of colors, from yellow to silver, faded green to dark green, and light to dark brown shades. Since this tea came in a ten gram sample package, some of the leaves were loose, while others were parts of condensed chunks. The leaves appear to be medium to large fragments. I cannot see any leaves that appear to be whole and unbroken. The aroma is smoky, earthy, and with a hint of wet fur.

Ten grams of dry leaves were placed in a 9.4 ounce (280 ml) Tokoname teapot. Purified spring water was heated to 175°F (75°C). The leaves were rinsed for fifteen seconds, then infused for one minute. The amount of dry leaves may seem high, but this was the suggested weight to water ratio from TeaVivre. Actually, the suggestion is ten grams in eight ounces. The temperature I used and infusion time are much lower than the recommendation of 212°F (100°C) for three to ten minutes.

Fengqing 2006 Raw Puer 1st Infusion
Fengqing 2006 Raw Puer 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a dark yellow-gold color, clear and transparent. The aroma was smoky, earthy, and lightly floral. The body was medium, with a smooth, clean feel. The taste had notes of animal (musk), mineral (wet stone), floral (jasmine), and a very light raisin hint. There is a mineral aftertaste, and a flowery essence left on the breath. I am looking forward to a better balanced second infusion, and would not be surprised if the third is the best tasting of the three.

Fengqing 2006 Raw Puer 2nd Infusion
Fengqing 2006 Raw Puer 2nd Infusion

 

The second infusion produced a liquor with a nearly identical shade of dark yellow-gold color as the first infusion. The aroma remains earthy and floral, with the smokiness having dissipated slightly. The body remains medium. The taste did balance out some, but I still do not think it has reached the optimum balance. The tastes remain floral (jasmine), mineral (wet stone), animal (musk), and light raisin. The aftertaste has become slightly more floral and less mineral. As usual with puer, I love feeling the tea evolve from infusion to infusion. Looking forward to the third and beyond.

Fengqing 2006 Raw Puer 3rd Infusion
Fengqing 2006 Raw Puer 3rd Infusion

The third infusion produced a liquor with again a nearly identical color as the first and second infusions. The aroma remains earthy, floral, lightly smoky, and a woody scent is evolving also. The taste is balancing better in this infusion, and the body feels even smoother and more refined. The floral (jasmine) taste seems to be changing into more of a woody taste, while the animal (musk) and mineral tastes remain strong, with the light raisin taste also persisting. The aftertaste began to give a dry feeling in the mouth. I still think that the taste has not reached it’s optimal balance quite yet. I will say, however, that this third infusion has definitely been my favorite of the first three infusions.

Fengqing 2006 Raw Puer 4th Infusion
Fengqing 2006 Raw Puer 4th Infusion

I continued infusing this tea for six infusions before running out of time. The color, aroma, body, texture, and taste remained quite similar, with only lightening slightly, from the fourth to sixth infusion. I have no doubt that this tea could have gone to ten infusions or more.

Fengqing 2006 Raw Puer Infused Leaves
Fengqing 2006 Raw Puer Infused Leaves

The infused leaves vary in color from light green to forest green, and a few are light brown. The leaves are all medium to large fragments, with no unbroken leaves being pulled from the mix. The aroma reminds me of a wet forest floor, with scents of wood and light flowers. There is a touch of animal musk in the scent, as well.

The Fengqing Raw Puer Tuo Cha 2006 had the earthy, mature tastes that any fan of puer tea expects from an aged sheng puer tea. This is not a tea that you would offer to friends or family who are new to tea drinking, or prefer lighter tastes. It is quite powerful in aroma, taste, and energy. This tea is perfect for a long evening of reading or study. This is truly a tea drinker’s tea.

Thank you, TeaVivre, for giving me the opportunity to try the Fengqing Raw Puer Tuo Cha 2006. Cheers!

 

Yong Xi Huo Qing Green Tea from Anhui Tea Import & Export Co.

Also known as Yong Xi Jade Fire, Yong Xi Huo Qing originated in the Yong Xi town in Anhui Province, China. Although similar in appearance to Gunpowder styles of Chinese green tea, Yong Xi Huo Qing typically uses higher quality leaves than gunpowder teas. Traditionally, the leaves of the Yong Xi Huo Qing are charcoal fired during processing, giving a slightly smokey character to the aroma.

Thank you to Yanfei at Anhui Tea Import and Export Co. for providing this sample of Yong Xi Huo Qing. Yanfei is another young and passionate student of tea. I always enjoy seeing the lovely photos of her tea experiments on Instagram.

The sample packet has been opened, and a fresh, herbacious, and lightly smokey aroma is escaping into the air. Let the journey begin…

Yong Xi Huo Qing Dry Leaves
Yong Xi Huo Qing Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a dark forest green to nearly black color. There is a polished, shiny look to the leaves. The leaves are tightly rolled in to a elliptical semi-ball shape, not quite the round pellets found in gunpowder teas. Leaves appear to be large fragments and whole leaves. Pluck is difficult to determine but based on the size of the semi-balls, I assume a two leaf and bud pluck. The aroma is sweet, slightly herbacious and smokey.

Five grams of dry leaves were placed in a 9.4 ounce (280 ml) Tokoname teapot. Purified spring water was heated to 175°F (75°C). The leaves were infused for one minute on the first infusion, thirty seconds on the second infusion, and one minute on the third infusion.

Yong Xi Huo Qing 1st Infusion
Yong Xi Huo Qing 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a light, pale jade green color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of fresh grass, flowers, and a light smokey hint. The body is light-medium, with a soft, almost creamy texture. The taste is very refreshing, with notes of fresh grass and flowers. A mild astringency provides a nice compliment. The aftertaste is refreshingly grassy, with a pleasant floral bouquet essence persisting on the breathe for an extended period.

Yong Xi Huo Qing 2nd Infusion
Yong Xi Huo Qing 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a slightly darker shade of light, pale jade green color. The aroma remains very refreshing, with scents of fresh grass and flowers. The body remains light-medium. The taste has lost no quality whatsoever. This second infusion smells and tastes as fresh and enjoyable as the first infusion. The flowery essence on the breathe also remains strong and persistent. Excellent second infusion.

Yong Xi Huo Qing 3rd Infusion
Yong Xi Huo Qing 3rd Infusion

The third infusion produced a liquor that was the same light, pale jade green color as the first infusion. The aroma still remains refreshing with scents of fresh grass and flowers. The aroma smells as good as the first infusion. The taste is very slightly lighter, but still a very high quality, refreshing infusion. The notes of fresh grass and flowers are still dominant and enjoyable. I am impressed with the quality of this third infusion.

Yong Xi Huo Qing Infused Leaves
Yong Xi Huo Qing Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a very fresh, bright green to fresh forest green color. There are very few large fragments, as most of the leaves are either unbroken and still attached to the stem, or detached but whole. The pluck is two leaves and a generous bud. These are beautiful leaves and buds. The aroma is very refreshing, with scents of fresh dew-covered grass and flowers. Excellent!

I am very impressed with every aspect of the Yong Xi Huo Qing green tea from Anhui Tea Import and Export Co. Any fan of Gunpowder green tea should experience this tea, as it retains many of the popular characteristics of Gunpowder tea, but also provides the fresh, clean, and more refined character that comes with higher quality leaves. This is truly a green tea that needs no help in smelling and tasting great. This tea provides an uplifting, energizing, and refreshing feeling that is hard to match.

Thank you again to Yanfei at Anhui Tea Import and Export Co. Cheers!

 

Green Tea Comparison: Chunmee 9371, Gunpowder T701, Silver Sprout T370

When blending teas with fruits and herbs, or intending to add flavor, it is imperative to know the subtle differences from one style of tea to another. These subtle differences are the determining factors between having a tea with acceptable flavor and having a tea with exceptional flavor and balance. For this reason, I decided to do a side-by-side-by-side comparison of three popular Chinese green teas used in blending, Chunmee (9371), Gunpowder (T701), and Silver Sprouts (T370).

Going forward in my blending and flavoring experimentation, I expect the results of this comparison to help me identify which of these three tea styles are most appropriate to use in future blends. Thanks to the Anhui Tea Import and Export Company for their generosity in providing these samples of various styles and grades of Chinese green tea.

Chinese Green Tea Comparison Dry Leaves
Chinese Green Tea Comparison Dry Leaves

For this comparison, three grams of each type of dry leaves were placed in a professional tasting infusion cup (150 ml). Purified spring water was heated to 175°F (75°C). The dry leaves were infused for one minute thirty seconds.

Chun Mee 9371 Dry Leaves
Chun Mee 9371 Dry Leaves

The dry leaves of the Chun Mee 9371 had a pale forest green to dark green color. Some sticks were present among the leaves. Leaves were rolled and curled. Most leaves appear to be medium sized fragments, with a few unbroken leaves being possible. The aroma is sweet, with hints of cocoa, dried fruit, and a slight earthiness.

Gunpowder T701 Dry Leaves
Gunpowder T701 Dry Leaves

The dry leaves of the Gunpowder T701 were dark forest green to dark purple-brown in color. All leaves were tightly rolled into small pellets. Based on the size of many of the pellets, there appear to be quite a few unbroken leaves. The presence of stems indicates that some leaves are still attached to the stems. The aroma is sweet, with hints of dried fruit, and slight earthiness.

Silver Sprouts Dry Leaves
Silver Sprouts T370 Dry Leaves

The dry leaves of the Silver Sprouts T370 were dark pale forest green to very dark green in color. These leaves were generally darker than the Chun Mee leaves. The leaves are tightly rolled and curled. A few sticks are present in the mix. Buds are visible, and there appear to be more large fragments or unbroken leaves in this product than in the Chun Mee. The aroma is earthy and slightly smoky, with light dried fruit scents.

Chinese Green Tea Comparison 1st Infusions
Chinese Green Tea Comparison 1st Infusions
Chun Mee 9371 1st Infusion
Chun Mee 9371 1st Infusion

The first infusion of the Chun Mee 9371 produced a liquor with a pale yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma had scents of fresh grass, with light fruit and floral hints also. It had a medium body, with a fairly thick, almost brothy feel. The taste had notes of fresh grass and light flowers. There was a moderate astringency which left a dry feel in the mouth. The aftertaste was floral with a respectable persistence.

Gunpowder T701 1st Infusion
Gunpowder T701 1st Infusion

The first infusion of the Gunpowder T701 produced a liquor with a slightly darker pale yellow color than the Chun Mee, clear and transparent. The aroma had a sweet and earthy scent, with hints of dried fruit and fresh grass. The body was light-medium, with a clean feel. The taste was sweet and vegetal, with notes of fruit and grass. There was a mild astringency. The aftertaste was floral, with a similar persistence to the Chun Mee.

Silver Sprouts 1st Infusion
Silver Sprouts T370 1st Infusion

The first infusion of the Silver Sprouts T370 had a lighter shade of pale yellow color than either the Chun Mee or Gunpowder, clear and transparent, with few particles in the cup. The aroma is fairly complex, with earthy and lightly smoky (char?) scents among hints of cocoa and light fruit. The body was medium, with a moderate brothy feel, though lighter than the Chun Mee. A mild to moderate astringency is present. The taste has notes of fresh grass, wood, and a mild sweetness and earthiness. The aftertaste is floral, and similar to the other two teas.

Second infusions were prepared for each tea. The Gunpowder T701 had the strongest aroma and taste of the three teas, followed by the Chun Mee 9371, then the Silver Sprouts T370. Although delicate and lighter than the other two teas, the Silver Sprouts produced a good tasting second infusion. All three teas easily held their ground for the second infusion. The Gunpowder could have withstood at least one or two additional infusions, while the other two may have taken one additional infusion. Larger leaves and the technique of tightly rolled pellets certainly play a roll in Gunpowder’s ability to withstand more infusions than the other teas.

Chinese Green Tea Comparison Infused Leaves
Chinese Green Tea Comparison Infused Leaves
Chun Mee 9371 Infused Leaves
Chun Mee 9371 Infused Leaves

The infused leaves of the Chun Mee 9371 were a fresh forest green color. The leaves were mostly fragments of various sizes, with an occasional nearly unbroken leaf in the mix. Leaves appear to be from the small leaf Chinese Camellia Sinensis Sinensis. Stems in the mix displayed a two leaf pluck, some having a very tiny bud at the end. The aroma had a slightly earthy scent, as well as fresh grass and a light spiciness.

 

Gunpowder T701 Infused Leaves
Gunpowder T701 Infused Leaves

The majority of infused leaves from the Gunpowder T701 had a fresh forest green color, while the others had a brownish-red color. Many of the leaves (65%) were unbroken and attached to the stem. Stems displayed a standard pluck of two leafs and a small bud. Leaves appear to be from the small leaf Chinese Camellia Sinensis Sinensis. These leaves were the largest and had the highest number of unbroken leaves among the three teas compared. The leaves have an earthy and lightly fruity scent.

Silver Sprouts Infused Leaves
Silver Sprouts Infused Leaves

The infused leaves and buds of the Silver Sprouts T370 had a fresh forest green color. There was a respectable amount of buds in the mix, and about 25% of leaves were unbroken, some attached to stems. The stems displayed the standard two leaves and bud pluck. Leaves appear to be from the small leaf Chinese Camellia Sinensis Sinensis. The leaves had scents of earth, wood, and cocoa.

Although all of these teas had a similar fresh grass characteristic in the aromas and tastes, there were quite a few subtle differences among them. What most surprised me was the smoky character of the Silver Sprouts T370. I expected this characteristic to be more evident in the Gunpowder T701, but that was not the case. I also did not expect the Chun Mee to have such a brothy feel, almost like the umami in Japanese green teas. By the end of this comparison, ideas began to appear as to which ingredients would best blend with each of these teas. I will post some of my ideas as I try the blends in the future.

 

Side-By-Side : Poabs OP Black Tea and Keemum Congou Hao Ya A Black Tea

I find that the best way to enhance one’s ability to differentiate between and learn to identify teas from various regions is to do a side-by-side comparison. Today, I am comparing two black teas from very different regions. Therefore, the teas should have significantly different characteristics.

The first tea is an Orange Pekoe (OP) black tea from Poabs Organic Estates. This estate is located in the Nelliyampathy Hills in Chittur Taluk, Palakkad District, Kerala state of South India. Here is a quote from the Poabs Organic Estates website, “Kerala state, known as “God’s Own Country”, is a tropical paradise famous for its enchanting backwaters, lush green hills, ayurvedic systems, and cultural heritage, and attracts ecotourists from around the world. Through sustainable agriculture, Poabs Organic Estates makes a positive contribution to the ecosystem.” To visit the Poabs Organic Estates website, please click here. In addition to tea, Poabs grows many vegetables and spices, as well as coffee.

The second tea is the famous Keemun Congou Hao Ya grade A black tea from Anhui Tea Imports and Exports. This company owns about 20,000 hectares (nearly 50,000 acres) of tea plantations in and around Qimen county, Anhui Province, China. They produce many styles of tea in addition to this famous black tea that has been used in English Breakfast blends throughout tea’s European history. The Camellia Sinensis Sinensis cultivars are used to produce Keemun black teas.

Let’s see how these vastly different black teas compare. Let the journey begin…

Poabs OP1 (Left) and Anhui Tea Co Keemun Hao Ya A (Left) Dry Leaves
Poabs OP (Left) and Anhui Tea Co Keemun Hao Ya A (Right) Dry Leaves
Poabs OP1 Dry Leaves
Poabs OP Dry Leaves
Anhui Tea Keemun Hao Ya A Dry Leaves
Anhui Tea Keemun Hao Ya A Dry Leaves

The dry leaves of these two teas are quite different. The Poabs OP have a light to dark brown color, while the Keemum is black with some golden tips. The leaves of the Poabs OP are fairly large and rolled, with an occasional twig being visible (see photo). The Keemun leaves are much smaller and finer, twisted, no sticks, and obviously contains some tips. The Poabs OP leaves give scents of light molasses, wood, spices, and baked biscuits. The Keemun leaves give off scents of cocoa, malt, and other characteristics that remind me of dry red wine. The Poabs OP has a more spicy and woody character, while the Keemun is sweeter.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in ceramic professional tasting sets. Purified spring water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for two minutes.

Poabs OP1 (Left) and Anhui Tea Co Keemun Hao Ya A (Left) 1st Infusion
Poabs OP (Left) and Anhui Tea Co Keemun Hao Ya A (Right) 1st Infusion
Poabs OP1 1st Infusion
Poabs OP 1st Infusion
Anhui Tea Keemun Hao Ya A 1st Infusion
Anhui Tea Keemun Hao Ya A 1st Infusion

The first infusion of the Poabs OP produced a liquor with a orange color with a red tint. The Keemun liquor had a darker orange color, almost red. Both were clear and transparent. The aroma of the Poabs OP had floral, citrus, dry wood, and spicy scents. The Keemun had scents of pine wood, burgundy wine, and light floral. The Poabs OP had a brighter aroma, while the Keemun was bold. The Poabs OP had a medium-full body, with a slightly dry feel. The Keemun had a full body, with a dry feel like a burgundy wine. The Poabs OP had notes of spice, dry wood, citrus, and light floral in the taste. There was a moderate astringency. The aftertaste was spicy and floral. The Keemun had bold notes of pine, burgundy wine, and light floral. There was a mild astringency. The aftertaste was winey and lightly floral.

Poabs OP1 (Left) and Anhui Tea Co Keemun Hao Ya A (Left) 1st Infusion
Poabs OP1 (Left) and Anhui Tea Co Keemun Hao Ya A (Right) 1st Infusion
Poabs OP1 Infused Leaves
Poabs OP1 Infused Leaves
Anhui Tea Keemun Hao Ya A Infused Leaves
Anhui Tea Keemun Hao Ya A Infused Leaves

The infused leaves of the Poabs OP have a dark green to brown color. The leaves are fairly large fragments with an occasional twig. This indicates a cultivar that produces a larger leaf, perhaps an Assamica or other hybrid. The aroma has scents of wood, spice, and light sweetness.

The infused leaves of the Keemun have a uniform copper color. The leaves are rather fine fragments with some tips being present. These fragments indicate the smaller leaves produced by the Camellia Sinensis Sinensis cultivar known to be used in Keemum teas. The aroma has scents of toast, pine, and resin.

Poabs OP1 (Left) and Anhui Tea Co Keemun Hao Ya A (Left) 2nd Infusion
Poabs OP (Left) and Anhui Tea Co Keemun Hao Ya A (Right) 2nd Infusion
Poabs OP1 2nd Infusion
Poabs OP 2nd Infusion
Anhui Tea Keemun Hao Ya A 2nd Infusion
Anhui Tea Keemun Hao Ya A 2nd Infusion

Both types of tea leaves were infused a second time. Although the general characteristics remained the same from infusion to infusion, it seemed to me that the Poabs OP retained stronger properties than the Keemun. This could be due to the larger leaf fragments of the Poabs OP. Both teas produced tasteful infusions with fairly strong bodies.

The conclusion: although these two black teas are much different, both have their advantages. The Poabs OP had a bright smell and taste, which I believe would be more palatable to lesser experienced tea drinkers. There is no need to add milk to this Poabs OP. The Keemun had a bold aroma and taste, with a full body, which is why it is so popular among more experienced tea drinkers and those who like to add milk or cream. However, it certainly does not need milk or cream to be highly enjoyable. Basically, a person’s preference between these two teas will come down to how bold and heavy they like their tea. A drinker with a lighter preference will certainly prefer the Poabs OP, and a drinker with a bold preference will prefer the Keemun.

Thank you to Poabs Organic Estates and Anhui Tea Imports and Exports Company for providing the samples used in this comparison. Both are excellent teas, and I truly enjoyed this comparison. Cheers!