Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn Wulong Tea from Lin Farm

This is a review that I have been wanting to finish for a few months now. A few months back, I reviewed the Ti Kuan Yin A+ Wulong Tea from the summer harvest at Lin Farm in Anxi county, Fujian Province, China. As I had mentioned in that post, I do not always enjoy the Ti Kuan Yins that I receive in sample sets, thus not many get reviewed on my website. The Lin Farm summer harvest was the best Ti Kuan Yin that I had ever tasted up to that point. When I found out that the Autumn harvest produced the best Ti Kuan Yin from Anxi county, I was quick to let the Lin’s know that I wanted to make an order. I purchased the best grade of leaf, and waited with much excitement for the package to arrive.

The package arrived, and I quickly opened it, as I had an airtight canister prepared for this teas arrival. The freshness of the aroma was unimaginable. The color of the leaves was such a bright, lively green that I had never seen before. Upon brewing this tea for the first time, I had found an instant favorite. Thankfully I bought 500 grams, so I would be set for a few months. Since the day that I received that package, this tea has been the one that I brew for guests and special occasions in my house. In my opinion, this is the best quality tea that I have in my personal collection.

But now, it is time to give this tea the review that it deserves. Let the journey begin…

Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn Dry Leaves
Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn Dry Leaves

The dry leaves either have a bright, lively green color or a dark green color. The leaves are rolled, but not quite semi-ball shape, and have a fairly uniform size. There are absolutely no stems present. The leaves appear unbroken. The aroma is incredibly fresh and floral (orchid), with a light brown sugar scent.

Five grams of dry leaves were placed in an 8.5 ounce (240 ml) kyusu teapot. Purified spring water was heated to 190°F (90°C). The leaves were infused for one minute thirty seconds on the first infusion, one minute on the second, and one minute fifteen seconds on the third.

Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn 1st Infusion
Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a light, clean jade green color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma is delicate and floral (orchid), with slight scents of light brown sugar and apple. The body is delicate medium, with a buttery feel. The taste is dominantly floral (orchid), with very light notes of apple and light honey. The aftertaste is amazingly fresh and flowery, with a very noteworthy persistence. In addition to the common sensual characteristics of this tea, there is a noticeable energy to it, as well. This tea has an immediate relaxing and uplifting effect. The quality of the leaves and the care taken by the growers can be felt as easily as tasted.

Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn 2nd Infusion
Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a slightly deeper shade of jade green color. The aroma and taste remain dominantly fresh and floral. The taste has strengthened some over the first infusion, but the same general notes are present. The second infusion is overall better than the first.

Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn 3rd Infusion
Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn 3rd Infusion

The third infusion is nearly identical to the second infusion in all respects. The color, the strength of the aroma and taste, the body and feel are all nearly identical from the second infusion to the third. Every single sip is phenomenal.

Although I do not have photos of the additional infusions, I did brew these leaves four more times. The aroma and taste of the seventh infusion is still better than most other Ti Kuan Yin products that I have had.

Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn Infused Leaves
Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a perfectly uniform fresh forest green color. All leaves are unbroken, with a small number having slight tears from processing. The size of the leaves is also fairly uniform. After three infusions, these leaves have a wet leathery feel, and it is obvious that they have much flavor left to offer. There are no stems at all. The aroma is fresh, sweet, and floral, almost reminding me of apple blossoms. The appearance and aroma of the infused leaves is as appetizing as the liquor itself.

Honestly, I do not know if I can even put into words the level of enjoyment that I get out of this Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn Harvest Wulong tea from Lin Farm. I will say with 99.9% certainty that if I had to choose one tea from my collection to take with me on a vacation, voyage, or into the afterlife, this tea would be my choice. It looks beautiful, smells beautiful, tastes beautiful, feels beautiful … you get the idea. If you will take one conclusion from this review, it is this: I love this tea.

Thanks and praises to the Lin Family, and many thanks to Linda Lin for reaching out to me last year. I hope your family and their teas gain the recognition that I feel they deserve. Happy Chinese New Year to the Lin’s, and to all who celebrate it! Cheers for the Year of the Wood Horse.

Advertisements

Liu An Gua Pian Green Tea from TeaVivre

It is unfortunate to say that this is the last tea, the Liu An Gua Pian, to be evaluated in the sample package from TeaVivre. So far, I have had nothing but good things to say about their products. Liu An Gua Pian is one of my preferred styles of Chinese green tea, so I wanted to save this sample for last. As always, I recommend that you visit the TeaVivre website here, as they provide a noteworthy amount of information on each of their products.

Liu An Gua Pian is unique from other Chinese green teas in multiple ways. Unlike other Chinese green teas, there are no buds used in the production of Liu An Gua Pian. The second leaf down from the bud is the only leaf used. The leaves are separated from the stems. The main leaf vein is also removed. Liu An Gua Pian leaves are plucked from a variety (cultivar) of the tea bush known as San Hao Xiao Ye Zhong, a local bush found in Anhui Province, China.

The sample packet has been opened, and the fresh forest green color of the leaves has caught my eye. Let the journey begin…

Liu An Gua Pian Dry Leaves
Liu An Gua Pian Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a fresh forest green to dark green color. The leaves are rolled, and vary in length. There are no stems whatsoever. There are few crumbs. Leaves appear to be large fragments, with perhaps a few unbroken. The leaves have a slightly shiny appearance, the result of repeated rounds of pan firing. The aroma has scents of fresh grass, sweet hay, sweet brown sugar and molasses.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in an 8.5 ounce (240 ml) kyusu teapot. Purified water was heated to 175°F (80°C). Leaves were infused for forty seconds on the first infusion, one minute on the second, and one minute and twenty seconds on the third.

Liu An Gua Pian 1st Infusion
Liu An Gua Pian 1st Infusion

The first infusion has a light, pale, jade green color, clear and transparent. The aroma is mostly fresh cut grass, with light scents of roasted nuts and brown sugar. The body is medium, with a fresh and brothy (umami) texture that coats the tongue and throat. The taste has notes of fresh cut grass, vegetables (corn and asparagus), with a sweet umami character. The aftertaste provides a lasting floral essence.

Liu An Gua Pian 2nd Infusion
Liu An Gua Pian 2nd Infusion

The second infusion has a slightly fuller shade of light jade green color. The aroma remains grassy, with a light floral scent blending with roasted nuts and brown sugar. Body remains medium with a brothy texture. Taste remains mostly grassy with vegetable, and a slightly sweet (melon) taste coming through. This second infusion maintains a pleasant umami character, and a lasting floral aftertaste.

Liu An Gua Pian 3rd Infusion
Liu An Gua Pian 3rd Infusion

The third infusion has a slightly lighter jade green color than the second infusion. The aroma has lightened, but is still full, and has a light spice coming through and blending with the grassy, sweet scent. The body has lightened some. The taste remains grassy with vegetable, and the umami character has lightened some, but still exists. The floral aftertaste is still quite strong and lasting.

Liu An Gua Pian Infused Leaves
Liu An Gua Pian Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform fresh forest green color. All large fragments, no fully intact unbroken leaves were found. Some leaves had the main center vein intact, which is inconsistent with the description of the processing technique. No stems were found. The leaves are quite soft and delicate, but based on the taste of the third infusion, I believe one additional infusion is possible. The leaves have a fresh, grassy, and cooked vegetable smell.

The Liu An Gua Pian from TeaVivre is a good quality green tea that is a nice change from other styles of Chinese green teas. The brothy (umami) texture gives this tea a characteristic similar to a Japanese green tea, but maintains most characteristics of the traditional Chinese green tea. This tea has a refreshing and revitalizing effect, and the texture gives it a healthy, hearty feel. This tea would be an excellent bridge for fans of both Chinese and Japanese green teas who are looking to cross borders to find and develop a taste for new styles of tea.

TeaVivre, it’s been a pleasure reviewing these five products, and I look forward to reviewing more of your products in the future. Thanks for the opportunity, and for the five great teas!

Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from TeaVivre

There are some styles of tea out there that cause excitement and curiosity as soon as you open the container. For those of you who have experienced Tai Ping Hou Kui green tea, this is one of those styles of tea. Every aspect of the appearance of this tea is unique, and the aroma is usually very fresh and pleasant.

According to the TeaVivre website (click here), Tai Ping Hou Kui is traditionally grown in Hou Keng, Xinming village, Huangshan City, Anhui Province, China. This style of tea is produced from a specific cultivar called Shidacha (Shiyecha). This type of tea bush produces rather large leaves, which are easily noticeable in Tai Ping Hou Kui due to the unique processing method of this style of tea.

Let the journey begin…

Tai Ping Hou Kui Dry Leaves
Tai Ping Hou Kui Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary in shades of green color, from bright to dark green. The leaves vary in length, but are uniformly flattened. The length varies from one (25 mm) to three and a half inches (90 mm). The bud and two leaf pluck is apparent in several of the leaves. Many leaves appear to be unbroken, while others appear to be large fragments. The leaves are quite large overall, indicative of the Shidacha cultivar. The aroma of the dry leaves is that of fresh cut grass, sweet hay, and a slight toasted nuttiness.

Four grams of dry leaves were placed in an 8.5 ounce (240 ml) kyusu. Purified water was heated to 175°F (80°C). Leaves were infused for one minute, with an additional ten seconds added to subsequent infusions.

Tai Ping Hou Kui 1st Infusion
Tai Ping Hou Kui 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a light and pale shade of green color, clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of orchids, fresh cut wet grass, sweet butter or cream, and a slight nuttiness. The body is medium, with a rounded and mouth filling feel. The taste has notes of water chestnuts, orchids, and a sweetness most similar to citrus fruits. There was a slight bitterness to the otherwise floral and lingering aftertaste. As usual with a good quality tea, the flowery essence in the olfactory glands persisted for minutes after swallowing.

Tai Ping Hou Kui 2nd Infusion
Tai Ping Hou Kui 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a slightly livelier shade of pale green. The taste balanced out some, having stronger orchid notes and lighter water chestnut notes. Other than that, there was little variance from the first infusion.

Tai Ping Hou Kui 3rd Infusion
Tai Ping Hou Kui 3rd Infusion

The third infusion was nearly identical to the second infusion in all aspects. A nice aroma, great flavor, medium body, floral aftertaste. I am truly enjoying the consistency from infusion to infusion. I will continue with two additional infusions.

Tai Ping Hou Kui 5th Infusion
Tai Ping Hou Kui 5th Infusion

The photo above depicts the fifth infusion. As you can see, the color is still quite consistent with the third infusion. The aroma, body, and taste are also surprisingly consistent, with a very slight lightening in character. Overall, the quality of this liquor is amazing for a fifth infusion of a green tea. And this is not even the highest quality of Tai Ping Hou Kui offered from TeaVivre. If I were not running out of time at the office today, I would have tried two additional infusions just to see if it could last. Interesting to note that these are not flash infusions. This fifth infusion steeped in water for two minutes.

Tai Ping Hou Kui Infused Leaves
Tai Ping Hou Kui Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a rather uniform fleshy green color, with a slight variation in the shades of green. The pluck of a bud and two leaves is apparent. Many leaves are unbroken and fully attached to the stem, while others are very large fragments. The leaves are quite large. They are quite delicate at this point, but I still believe another infusion or two is possible. The aroma is very pleasant, with scents of orchids and fresh cut wet grass. There is some taste left in these leaves.

I have been intrigued by Tai Ping Hou Kui since the first time I tried it about a year ago. I can honestly say that the TeaVivre product is the best that I have had to this point. I would love to try the Nonpareil variety that they offer, just to see if the higher price tag can provide such a better experience than this premium variety. This is an excellent style of Chinese green tea, and one that I highly recommend to any green tea enthusiast out there. Just be careful on the brewing technique. Again, I must highlight the consistency that this tea had over five infusions. I cannot remember the last time a Chinese green tea gave me five consistent infusions. Excellent product. Thanks, TeaVivre. You are four for four so far! 🙂

 

 

Da Hong Pao Wuyi Rock Oolong from TeaVivre

I am excited today to be reviewing the Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) Wuyi Rock Oolong tea from TeaVivre. It has been some time since sampling a better quality Da Hong Pao, and the two other reviews on TeaVivre’s products have been quite positive, so I am expecting to enjoy this review. Take a moment to learn more about the Da Hong Pao Wuyi Rock Oolong on TeaVivre’s website by clicking here.

Generally speaking, authentic Da Hong Pao rock wulongs come from tea bushes that all have the same genetic material, and are grown and produced in the Wuyi Mountains in the Fujian Province of southeast China. This style of wulong leans on the heavier side of the oxidation scale. The leaves are also roasted for a longer period than many other styles of wulong.

Upon opening the sample packet, the familiar roasty scent of Da Hong Pao has hit my olfactory glands. Let the journey begin…

TeaVivre Da Hong Pao Rock Oolong Dry Leaves
TeaVivre Da Hong Pao Rock Oolong Dry Leaves

The dry leaves of the Da Hong Pao are a uniform hazy black color, with few lighter brown stems. The leaves are fairly long and twisted. Some leaves are attached to the stem, but most are detached. There appears to be a generous amount of unbroken leaves, but some appear to be large fragments. The leaves feel very dry and crispy, results of the increased roasting period. The aroma consists of roasted chestnuts, leather, wood, caramelized sugar, and a slight earthy, undergrowth scent.

Eight grams of dry leaves were placed in a seventeen ounce (500 ml) cast-iron tetsubin. Purified water was heated to 205°F (96°C). Leaves were infused for three minutes.

TeaVivre Da Hong Pao Rock Oolong 1st Infusion
TeaVivre Da Hong Pao Rock Oolong 1st Infusion

The first infusion had a golden-yellow color with an orange tint. The infusion was clear and transparent. The aroma had a roasty character, with scents of wood, flowers, and caramelized sugar. The body is medium, with a nicely balanced feel. The taste had notes of roasted chestnuts, flowers, and wet stones. There was a slight astringency to the infusion. One unusual and interested effect of this infusion was the mineral feel that remains on the tongue. The aftertaste has a great floral essence to it, but the mineral is more of an effect than a taste.

TeaVivre Da Hong Pao Rock Oolong 2nd Infusion
TeaVivre Da Hong Pao Rock Oolong 2nd Infusion

The second infusion has a lighter shade of golden-yellow, with less of an orange tint. The aroma remains roasty, but the floral scents have become more apparent. The taste has changed some, with the floral, mineral, and wet stones becoming more apparent, while maintaining a lighter note of roasted chestnuts and wood. The sweetness seems to be more fruity than sugary with this infusion. The aftertaste maintains the nice flowery essence.

TeaVivre Da Hong Pao Rock Oolong 3rd Infusion
TeaVivre Da Hong Pao Rock Oolong 3rd Infusion

The third infusion again lightened in color to a light golden-yellow, with no orange tint. The aroma remains largely the same as the second infusion, with a slight lightening of the roasted scent, and the floral and mineral scents remaining prominent. The body has lightened some. The taste again has lightened on the roasted chestnuts, and retains the floral, mineral, and wet stones notes. A slight sweetness remains also.

TeaVivre Da Hong Pao Rock Oolong Infused Leaves
TeaVivre Da Hong Pao Rock Oolong Infused Leaves

The infused leaves display two colors, dark green and a purplish brown. The leaves vary in size. There are many unbroken leaves, and some large fragments. The leaves have a wet and soft leather feel to them. The durability of the leaves suggests that additional infusions can produce an acceptable infusion. The scent of the leaves is very floral and somewhat fruity, with a slight woodsy undergrowth scent, similar to wet stones. I will be infusing these leaves at least one more time.

This Da Hong Pao Wuyi Rock Oolong from TeaVivre had everything that I look for in a rock wulong. The roasty character, strong floral essence, and perfect balance of floral, mineral, and sweet tastes make for a very pleasant review for me. Although I cannot say that this is the very best Wuyi Rock wulong that I have had, I can say that for the price that TeaVivre charges, it gives most of the important features with a more affordable price tag than the other that I speak of, which was quite expensive. This tea lasted four infusions using the steeping method specified above, with each infusion having slightly different and enjoyable characteristics.

Thank you, TeaVivre, for giving me the opportunity to review your Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) Wuyi Rock Oolong Tea.

Jin Jun Mei Black Tea from Lin Farm

Another exciting day, and another package of excellent and authentic Chinese tea from the Lin Family in Anxi County, Fujian Province, China. I have raved about the high quality Ti Kuan Yin that comes from the Lin family farm. In fact, that is the only Ti Kuan Yin that I buy for my personal supply, as I have not cared for most of the other Ti Kuan Yin oolongs that I have tried. The point being, the Lin family farm produces some exceptional quality teas.

In recent weeks, I have read a few articles regarding the blossoming popularity in China of a particular black tea, Jin Jun Mei. Despite the fact that it has only been developed in the past decade, Jin Jun Mei has gained popularity like no other black tea in China’s history. Having this tea name so freshly in my memory, I was excited to see a sample of it listed on the packing slip with my most recent purchase of Ti Kuan Yin from the Lins. It seems that the Lins have a family member in Wuyi County who produces some very good teas, including Jin Jun Mei and Rou Gui black tea. Reading of it’s popularity in China, I am interested to see what all of the excitement is about.

That being said, let the journey begin..

Jin Jun Mei Dry Leaves
Jin Jun Mei Dry Leaves

The dry leaves of this Jin Jun Mei are a uniform dark brown-black color, with an abundance of gold tips. The leaves are fairly short in length, and twisted. They appear to be small leaves or buds, and few stems. The aroma is sweet (malt, molasses), with a touch of spice (cinnamon), and an attractive bakey tone.

This sample was prepared using the standard method. Purified water was heated to 212°F (100°C). Three grams of dry leaves were placed into a professional tasting cup holding about three ounces (100 ml). The leaves were infused for fifteen seconds, with ten seconds added to each additional infusion.

Jin Jun Mei 1st Infusion
Jin Jun Mei 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a beautiful bright amber color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma was sweet (malt), with a slight floral (orchid) scent. This liquor has a full bodied, mouth filling taste. The taste is sweet (malt), floral (orchid) and had a fruity acidity to it (pineapple?). Floral (orchid) notes are felt in the finish. There was a very mild astringency. Very tasteful and sweet, despite the short suggested infusion time. I am beginning to understand it’s appeal.

Jin Jun Mei 2nd Infusion
Jin Jun Mei 2nd Infusion

The second infusion (25 seconds) produced a slightly darker shade of amber than the 1st infusion. The aroma lost no strength or character, remaining sweet and slightly floral. Body remains full, with a mouth filling taste. The taste remains sweet, floral, and slight fruity, with a floral finish. The fruity acidity did dissipate some in this second infusion, leaving the malt taste more dominant. Astringency remains mild, but noticeable. I like the short infusion times, as they produce great tasting teas, and the leaves should be able to produce quite a few infusions.

Jin Jun Mei 3rd Infusion
Jin Jun Mei 3rd Infusion

The third infusion (35 seconds) produced a liquor more similar to the first infusion, slightly lighter shade of amber than the second infusion. Aroma is less strong on the sweet (malt) scent, and more dominant in the floral (orchid) scent. The body remains full, with a mouth filling taste. The taste also lightened on the sweet (malt) note, and is more dominant on the floral (orchid) note, with the fruity acidity (pineapple) still light, but noticeable. The floral (orchid) finish and aftertaste remain. The astringency has dissipated some. I found this third infusion to have the best balance out of the three infusions. It has a perfect blend of sweet and floral scents and tastes. Very high quality third infusion.

Jin Jun Mei Infused Leaves
Jin Jun Mei Infused Leaves

The infused leaves of the Jin Jun Mei have a uniform brown color. The leaves consist of some fragments and a good number of buds. A few stems are present. The leaves still have some structural integrity, indicating that additional infusions can produce an acceptable flavor. The aroma of the infused leaves retain the sweet (malt) and floral (orchid) aromas. These leaves definitely have some taste left to give.

Although I do not have a photo, I did have time to make a fourth infusion. The color remained a nice shade of amber, not much lighter than the third infusion. The aroma lightened on the sweet (malt) scent, but the floral (orchid) scent persisted, and even a fruity scent can be felt. The body lightened some, but is still medium-full. The taste reflected the aroma, lightening on the sweet (malt) note, and maintaining a very pleasant floral (orchid) note, with the fruity note remaining. The aftertaste is still floral and lingering, indicating the quality of the tea.

To get four solid infusions out of a black tea is very impressive. Not only did I get four solid infusions, but I am strongly confident that one, two, or even three more is a reasonable expectation of this tea. The trick with this tea is the infusion time. I admit that my first tasting of this tea had a two minute infusion time, and the results, although not bad, were not nearly as good as the results with the short infusion time. I tried the shorter time, and the difference in aroma and taste were vast. This tea had a very nice balance of tastes, and the layering of tastes from infusion to infusion was very impressive. Assuming this is an authentic Jin Jun Mei from Tongmu village, then I can understand the excitement and popularity of this tea. Thank you, Linda, for your generosity in providing this excellent sample to me. Another impressive produce from the Lin family.

 

Organic Gunpowder Green Tea from Hunan Xiangfeng Tea Industry Co.

On November 27th, a sample of Organic Gunpowder Green Tea (XF13112/03) was evaluated to determine if it could be used as a replacement base tea for a Moroccan Mint blend. In my undying attempts to improve quality and control over sourcing, I requested samples of various gunpowder green teas from China. This particular sample was provided by the Hunan Xiangfeng Tea Industry Co. Ltd.

Let the journey begin…

High Grade Gunpowder Green Tea Dry Leaves
High Grade Gunpowder Green Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a fairly uniform dark green color, with a few leaves have a lighter shade of green. The leaves are rolled and curled into tight and dense semi-ball forms of varying sizes and shapes. The leaves do not have the shiny and glossy look that I have seen in other gunpowder green teas, indicating that this tea was not sprayed with the substance that some people claim contains gluten. The aroma is sweet, like molasses or honey, with just a slight touch of grass. There is no smokiness to the aroma.

In an earlier post, I mentioned a woman from Fujian province that works at my favorite local Chinese restaurant. She had served me some gunpowder green tea, and had given me instructions to let it brew longer than other Chinese green teas. With her advice in mind, I decided to brew this tea at 175°F (80°C) for four minutes. I have to admit that I was quite nervous about it being bitter. Nine grams of dry leaves were used with twenty ounces of purified water.

High Grade Gunpowder Green Tea 1st Infusion
High Grade Gunpowder Green Tea 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright yellow color and slight green tint, clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of sweet hay and light fresh grass. The body is light medium, with a subtle and refreshing feel. The taste has notes of asparagus, fresh grass, and a mild astringency. The aftertaste lingers with floral notes (dandelion). Surprisingly, despite the long brew time, I cannot say that I noticed any bitterness, and I was looking for it. Other tasting notes, there was no smokiness or nutty flavors. The longer brew time also created a slight savory effect on the taste.

High Grade Gunpowder Green Tea 2nd Infusion
High Grade Gunpowder Green Tea 2nd Infusion

I have to admit that I was worried about brewing the second infusion for four minutes again, so I cut the infusion time to two minutes, and I am glad that I did. The second infusion produced a liquor with a lighter shade of yellow-green. The aroma has a less sweet smell, and a stronger fresh grass smell. The body was lighter. The taste has notes of fresh grass, hay, a light dandelion note and lower astringency. There is an almost unnoticeable bitterness, but it feels like another thirty seconds of infusion could have ruined this infusion. Overall lighter than the first infusion, but refreshing and enjoyable.

High Grade Gunpowder Green Tea 3rd Infusion
High Grade Gunpowder Green Tea 3rd Infusion

The third infusion also used two minutes of brewing time. The liquor was similar to the second infusion, perhaps a shade lighter. The aroma has lightened, and remains grassy. The body is light. The taste has lighter notes of grass and hay, and a light dandelion aftertaste. Overall, this was a much lighter infusion. It is acceptable, but I do not intend on testing a fourth infusion.

High Grade Gunpowder Green Tea Infused Leaves
High Grade Gunpowder Green Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform fresh green color. Some of the leaves are much larger than I expected, and also much larger than I have seen in other Chinese green teas. In fact, these large leaves seem like they belong in an oolong tea. Anyway, most of the leaves are fully intact, many still attached to the stem. Some are coarse plucked with two leaves and a bud, some are imperial plucked with one leaf and a bud, and some leaves are those that I mentioned earlier, large with no other leaves attached. The leaves are quite delicate, indicating that the taste may be exhausted. These infused leaves have some very nice specimens, and I am impressed by the level of unbroken leaves.

High Grade Gunpowder Green Tea Infused Large Leaves
High Grade Gunpowder Green Tea Infused Large Leaves

Overall, I really enjoyed this High Grade Gunpowder Green Tea from Hunan Xiangfeng Tea Industry Co. The taste was fresh and uplifting. Again, I am most impressed by the looks and properties of the leaves after infusion. After seeing the leaves post infusion, it is interesting to look back on the look and feel of the dry leaves. I expected the leaves to have more breakage and have been stuck together during the rolling process, but it is evident now that those larger semi-balls were actually just unexpectedly large fully intact leaves.

Having said that, I do not believe that this is a suitable base tea for a traditional Moroccan Mint blend. The lack of smoky character is the main reason I feel this way. My preferred Moroccan Mint teas have a nice mix of smoky and minty flavors, which I believe blend well together. However, with the remaining tea in this sample, I will blend some peppermint in, and do a side by side comparison with the Moroccan Mint tea that is currently being offered by my brand, Hē Chá Tea. I will post the results later this week.

 

Supreme Yunnan Golden Snail Black Tea from Vicony Teas

Today, after about nine months of owning a kilogram of this great black tea, did I finally realize that I never actually did a review on it. The Supreme Yunnan Golden Snail Black Tea was among the first three teas that I had directly imported from China earlier this year. As I began to build an interest in the process of importing tea, I came across Vicony Teas. I remember the first time I opened the PDF catalog from Vicony. I expected a few pages of a basic list. Instead, they had twenty or thirty pages of products, with organic certifications noted, origin information, and even a photo provided for every tea. In the second PDF catalog, they included hyperlinks to webpages with complete information on every tea, from cultivar, to processing technique, to historical information, and photos of the dry leaf, liquor, and wet leaf. To this point, almost a year later, I have yet to find a company that provides the treasure of content on each product that comes even close to Vicony Teas. They have done a phenomenal job in that respect. And did I mention that they have about thirty pages worth of products?!

This golden snail black tea was, and still is, unlike any other black tea that I have come across. As the name suggests, and anyone that I have ever showed the dry leaves to has confirmed, the shape of these leaves truly do resemble a snail. The leaves are rolled into nice spirals, similar to that of a Bi Luo Chun green tea. The dry leaves also have a downy soft feel to them, almost like a white tea. This is a beautifully colored tea, with bright golden tips.

Why have I waited so long to review this tea!? Let the journey begin…

Supreme Yunnan Golden Snail Black Tea Dry Leaves
Supreme Yunnan Golden Snail Black Tea Dry Leaves

As mentioned above, the dry leaves of this Supreme Yunnan Golden Snail black tea are mostly gold in color, with some dark brown to black leaves. The leaves are uniformly rolled into the shape of a snail. There is absolutely no breakage or crumbs, all the leaves are fully intact and rolled. The leaves have a soft, downy-like feel to them, lacking the hard and dry feel of most other black tea. The aroma is reminiscent of sweet hay, with slight notes of dried fruit and malt/caramel. According to Vicony’s information, these leaves are from the Fengqing large leaf cultivar, and are grown/processed in Fengqing, Yunnan Province, China.

The standard preparation method was used for this tasting. Purified water was heated to 205°F (96°C). Fifteen grams of dry tea leaves were placed in a thirty-four ounce (1L) glass teapot. The leaves were infused for 2 minutes, then the liquor strained into a separate decanter.

Supreme Yunnan Golden Snail Black Tea 1st Infusion
Supreme Yunnan Golden Snail Black Tea 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a dark amber color (dark orange-red). The liquor was translucent, but not transparent. The aroma was malty and slightly spicy of pepper. The liquor has a full body, with a very smooth feel. The taste is malty, mellow, and very slightly spicy (pepper). There is very little to no bitterness or astringency whatsoever. The aftertaste is mild, with a light taste of sweet hay. There is no need for milk or sugar in this tea. It is very tasteful, yet mild, as it is.

Supreme Yunnan Golden Snail Black Tea 2nd Infusion
Supreme Yunnan Golden Snail Black Tea 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a very slightly darker shade of amber (dark orange-red). Again the liquor was translucent, not transparent. The aroma remains malty and a little more spicy (pepper) than the first infusion. The liquor retains a full body and smooth feel. The taste remains malty, mellow, and slightly spicy (pepper). Again the presence of bitterness or astringency is almost non-existent. The aftertaste remains light, and tastes of sweet hay. The second infusion was just as tasteful and heavy as the first, and I do not see the third losing much character.

Supreme Yunnan Golden Snail Black Tea 3rd Infusion
Supreme Yunnan Golden Snail Black Tea 3rd Infusion

The third infusion produced a liquor with a color that is slightly lighter than the first infusion, but overall remains a dark amber color. The liquor remains translucent, but not transparent. The aroma has lightened some, but remains malty and slightly spicy. The body remains full, yet lighter, and smooth. The taste has also lightened some, remaining malty, mellow, and slightly spicy. The aftertaste is light, and is taking on a somewhat floral taste. This third infusion is surprisingly tasteful for a black tea, and I have no doubt that a fourth and maybe a fifth infusion could produce an acceptable flavor.

Supreme Yunnan Golden Snail Black Tea Infused Leaves
Supreme Yunnan Golden Snail Black Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves are a uniform copper color. Most leaves display a fine pluck of two leaves and a bud, while some display the “imperial pluck” of one leaf and the bud. The leaves display fine downy like hairs on them. The size of the leaf is larger than that of other Chinese teas, indicating the Fengqing large leaf cultivar. There is an abundance of buds. There is very little breakage or crumbs. The vast majority of the leaves are fully intact and still attached to the stem. The aroma of the leaves is malty and pleasant. The leaves have a surprising level of structural durability, suggesting that additional infusions are possible.

This Supreme Yunnan Golden Snail Black Tea continues to be one of my favorite black teas. Every aspect of this tea is unique, from the look and feel of the dry leaves, to the beautiful color and smooth, mellow taste of the liquor, to the fully intact and larger than normal infused leaves. There is a reason that I am almost completely finished with this kilogram of tea, while some other large purchases are at risk of not being consumed before their shelf life expires. I recommend this black tea again and again, and many of my friends and family are always requesting a pot of this tea when they know I have it around. It is a classic. Do not let the unusual look of the dry leaves turn you off, or else you will be missing out on a great tea experience. Thank you for the excellent tea, and the plethora of information on your website, Vicony. I look forward to making many more orders from you in the future.

Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea from Changsha Nutrahealth

On October 18th of 2013, my journey through the world of tea tasting carried me to the Anhui Province of China. This sample of Keemun Mao Feng tea was provided by Changsha Nutrahealth Biotech Co.

The leaves used in this tea are the same leaves used in the well known and delicious Huang Shan Mao Feng green tea. Generally, these tea bushes are grown in the Huang Shan (Yellow Mountain) region of the Anhui Province. There are some awe inspiring photos of these tea plantations that can be found with a simple Google search of “Huang Shan Tea Farm photo.”

The sample pack has been opened, and a sweet smell of dried fruit and licorice is nicely complimenting the brilliant looking black and gold leaves. Let the journey begin…

Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea Dry Leaves
Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves of this Keemun Mao Feng black tea are either a uniform black or gold in color, with a slight edge to the gold leaves in overall number. The leaves are nicely twisted, with a fairly uniform size and shape. The pluck is very evident, being one leaf and the bud. The aroma is sweet, like dried fruit, there is also another slightly sweet and spicy scent, I am going to classify it as licorice, for lack of a better term. There is minimal breakage and no crumbs.

The standard method of preparation was used for this sample. Purified spring water was heated to 200°F (96°C). Seven and a half grams of dry tea leaves were placed in a 21 ounce (600 ml) cast iron tetsubin teapot. The leaves were infused for two minutes.

Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea 1st Infusion
Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a lively deep amber color, clear and transparent. The aroma is sweet like malt, and slightly woodsy. The body is full, with a smooth texture. The taste is sweet (malt), with a very light and pleasant bitterness. The aftertaste is mild and lightly malty.

Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea 2nd Infusion
Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a lively deep amber color, very slightly lighter than the first infusion. The aroma remains malty and woodsy. The body remains full and smooth, very slightly lighter than the first infusion. The taste remains sweet (malt), with the bitterness lightening slightly. Aftertaste remains mild and malty. This was a very tasteful second infusion, almost at the same level as the first.

Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea 3rd Infusion
Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea 3rd Infusion

The third infusion produced a brighter shade of amber color. The aroma lightened some, but remains malty, with the woodsy quality having diminished. The body remains surprisingly full and smooth. The taste remains malty, although lighter than the second infusion, with the very light bitterness remaining. Aftertaste is lighter. Overall, still a tasteful third infusion for a black tea. I believe a fourth infusion could provide an acceptable flavor.

Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea Infused Leaves
Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea Infused Leaves

The dry leaves are a perfectly uniform lighter brown color. Pluck is one fine leaf and a bud. Plenty of buds are present, as well as plenty of fully intact leaves, some still attached to the stem. There are also some leaf fragments, but even so are larger fragments. The aroma is sweet and malty. The leaves are somewhat durable, suggesting that a fourth infusion may have some taste to offer.

Having sampled many Darjeeling and Ceylon black teas recently, this Keemun Mao Feng was a nice way to return to the realm of Chinese black tea. This is a nicely balanced, full bodied black tea that anyone can enjoy. Although I found no need for additives to enjoy this tea, it would certainly take milk or cream well. All three infusions had a high quality taste and beautiful color. This tea is ideal for beginning the day. It is easy to understand why teas of this style are popular in breakfast blends.

Gu Zhang Mao Jian Green Tea from Hunan Xiangfeng Tea Industry Co. Ltd.

On October 7th of 2013, my journey through the world of tea tasting took me to Guzhang county, Hunan Province, China. This sample of Gu Zhang Mao Jian green tea was provided by Hunan Xiangfeng Tea Industry Co. Ltd.

Gu Zhang Mao Jian translates into Sky Between the Branches. Both the Hubei and Hunan provinces of China produce a tea of this name. From my understanding, the specific sample that I am tasting is from the Hunan Province. This is a good quality green tea that is relatively inexpensive when found in the retail market. It is not quite as prestigious as a Bi Luo Chun, but has some similar characteristics to it’s more expensive counterpart.

The sample pack is opened, and it smells quite sweet, so let the journey begin…

image

The dry leaves of this Gu Zhang Mao Jian tea are a dull to dark green, with a fair amount of silver tips. The leaves have a uniform curled, lightly twisted shape, and a uniform size. There is a moderate amount of fragments, with some fully intact leaves, and no crumbs. The aroma is sweet, like dried fruit, and lightly floral (maybe roses?).

The standard preparation method was used for this sampling. Filtered tap water was heated to 175ºF (80ºC). Fifteen grams of tea were placed in a 32 ounce (950 ml) glass teapot. The leaves were infused for 1 minute and 30 seconds. The tea was then strained into a separate decantor.

image

The first infusion produced a liquor that was a pale light yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma was sweetly vegetal, lightly nutty. The body was heavier than many similar Chinese green teas, with a medium body and a crisp texture. The taste is sweetly vegetal (close to asparagus) and lightly floral (rose), with a light astringency. The aftertaste is vegetal, nutty, with a linger that has a light salty mineral note as it trails off. Very interesting aftertaste.

image

The second infusion produced a liquor with a slightly darker shade of pale light yellow. The aroma remains vegetal and very lightly nutty. The body remains medium and crisp. The taste remains sweetly vegetal (asparagus), lightly nutty, with very light floral notes. Aftertaste remains vegetal with a salty mineral taste as it trails off. The third infusion should be able to produce an acceptable flavor, though I expect it to lighten signficantly. I am somewhat surprised with the strength of the second infusion, however, so perhaps the third will surprise me as well.

image

The third infusion produced a liquor that was lighter in color than both the first and second infusion. The aroma is lighter than previous infusions, but remains vegetal, with a barely noticeable nutty hint. The body has lightened up, and the taste has lightened significantly. The vegetal taste is still strong enough to provide an acceptable flavor, but a fourth infusion seems highly unlikely to produce an acceptable taste. The aftertaste has lightened as well, but remains vegetal with a very light mineral note.

image

The infused leaves are a uniform fleshy green in color. The pluck appears to be one leaf and a bud. There is a moderate amount of leaf fragments, but mostly fully intact leaves, many still attached to the stem. There are a good amount of buds present. The aroma is fresh wet leaves. The leaves are fairly delicate, suggesting that they are most likely exhausted of flavor.

I can easily understand why this could be a common selection of Chinese green tea. The taste is mild, with a slight astringency, typical vegetal taste, and some nutty notes. Aside from the mineral aftertaste, this green tea simply provides a standard Chinese green tea taste, which is why the price is more reasonable. There is nothing bad or low quality about the taste, but I feel that it is fairly simple and delicate. I have no complaints about this tea, and overall give it a positive review for what it is, a standard Chinese green tea.

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