Sunday, February 15, 2009

winter tea

hi friends,
thought id just post a quick thing here to hopefully stimulate some new action on the blog. i like this blog and i dont want to see it die.

ive been drinking alot of tea lately from tao of tea.
my favorites right now are their
nepali oolong - its a nice earthy oolong with a flavor unlike other more typical oolongs from asia. maybe its the soil or the mountains or the vibes, who knows....its good.
yuqian dragonwell - if you like a good dragonwell, this one is quite nice. its got some cool peppery tones in there

and im out now, but i really really enjoyed the high mountain green oolong from imperial tea. its an affordable tea with high spirits!

music today = warren burt 'harmonic colour fields' - just intonation and weird tuning systems synth drone and ambient music

music ongoing = my forthcoming album for kranky, 'mutually arising'

what have you been drinking and listening to?

Friday, July 18, 2008

tao of tea

just got back from a trip to the northwest. made another stop at floating leaves tea house in seattle and picked up some excellent baozhong wuyi oolong and some great ali shan oolong. their taiwanese oolongs are superb.

dropped into the tao of tea in portland twice for some good tea (and good food). second time i had "Golden Lily" which is a Jin Xuan native varietal of Central Taiwan. it was okay, kind of a basic oolong without much upper spectrum. good though.

on the first visit, i had one of their Old Growth Teas from 2005. i had the Nannuo Shan Mao Cha from Nannuo Mountain, Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, China. this was a really wonderful green type of puer which i had gongfu style. it had a complex green puer flavor that revealed lots of subtleties through each steeping. i really liked this tea and it made me feel great! my wife mandy had a really nice spiced tulsi tea blend called 'shanti'.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

2007 Winter Awarded Song Po Oolong

San Francisco CA, Jan. 13 2007
Tea: 2007 Winter Awarded Song Po Oolong
Cultivar: Chin shin (green-centered) oolong
Location: Ming Jian, Nan Tou, Taiwan
Purchased: Hou De Asain Art website

Jams: Yoshi Wadalament for the rise and fall of the elephantine crocodile” compact disc.

Let me first thank Alex Cobb for pointing me towards this tasty Oolong. The guy never stears me wrong. So, living in San Francisco, I generally don’t have to buy tea online, but when I do, Hou De, mentioned here in pervious posts, is a fine place to get stuff. Apparently an award winning Oolong (From The Hou De Site: We are very glad to introduce the awarded Song Po oolong from 2007 Winter Tea Competition in Ming Jian, Nan Tou.) that is remarkably reasonably priced. $11.50 for a 2oz bag! Which means It makes for a great everyday Oolong that I can have at work, where more often than not I’m drinking at a more hurried pace then I would while at home.

The first & second infusions of this tea are very buttery and round, with a subtle honey quality, and nice floral overtones in the fragrance. Very pleasant to drink. The third infusion brought out a trace of astringency on the front & sides of the palate that I really enjoy. I have yet to push this one past three infusions, so no idea how it would hold up. You try it out and let me know. Big beautiful leaves opened up by the end. Overall a very worthwhile and inexpensive Oolong that’s easy on the pocketbook and tasty as hell.

Friday, January 4, 2008

2001 Chung-Hwa Yi Wu Raw Puerh

Cincinnati, OH
January 4, 2007
Tea: 2001 Chung-Hwa Yi Wu raw puerh
Manufacturer: Meng La Man-Lo Factory
Infusion parameters: 10g used in 150cc purple clay Yixing pot; 20s rinse, 15s, 20s, 25s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 120s in 195-200°F water.
On the hi-fi: Nijiumu: "Live;" Vikki Jackman: "Of Beauty Reminiscing"

I acquired this tea at the beginning of 2006, and after drinking it once decided to shelve it for a while due to an astringency that seemed to me to be on its way out. I decided to revisit these leaves on a frosty January afternoon and was pleasantly surprised by the results of this brief storage period.

Dry leaves: There is a nice range of colors here, from dark browns to almost-yellows. The dry leaves exude tobacco, earth, camphor and almost mushroom-like aromas. There are thick and leathery big leaves, smallish twigs, and dry, wispy leaf tendrils.

1st infusion: With the tea still so tightly compressed, the flavors here were fairly faint. Even still, the tea brewed up to a nice dark-hued orange with exceptional clarity.

2nd infusion: Strong, pungent, dry citrus and wood notes became increasingly pronounced. I recall now that this tea's pungent qualities dominated my session with it the previous year. Nice, supple mouthfeel. Already I'm noticing a lovely complexity and some refreshing menthol notes that I'll wager will come to the fore in infusions 3-6.

3rd infusion (pictured below): An increased maltiness is present now, and the floral qualities magnified. This is a bold and supple tea which really fills the mouth with a vibrant palette of flavors. There is a nice, cooling aftertaste despite the slightly drying astringency that seems to linger the longest.

4th infusion: The camphor and musk qualities diminished in favor of a nice caramel sweetness. The drying astringency continued to hang around, but wasn't severe enough to be objectionable.

5th infusion: The flavors were much more subtle now, though the tea continued to brew up to a nice dark-brown. Cool menthol notes, caramel and earth dominated.

6-8 infusions. Dry fruit notes abounded, but really in aroma alone. The taste mellowed into a silky, earth sweetness not unlike an exceptional shou puerh.

All in all this is a tea that I'm quite glad to have purchased at a great price (I grabbed a few of these beengs before the price surge in the puerh market last year). Clearly, the maocha used here is top notch; I was very impressed with the quality of the leaves. It definitely still has a lot of room to mature though before it becomes a really exceptional sheng, and although the astringency is something which proves now to be a bit of a detractor, it is a characteristic that, along with the strong, vibrant complexity of this tea, will likely ensure that given proper conditions it will age into something truly special.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

jin xuan oolong

hi tea friends,
i think ill start by introducing myself since i dont really know any of you (well ive met jefre once and emailed with him). my name is greg and i live in burlington, vermont. i make music for a living. i fell in love with tea about 5 years ago. i enjoy all types of tea, but i find that my favorites are usually chinese and japanese green teas. recently ive been exploring some oolong teas which im really enjoying. i also like puerh and white tea on occasion. my late night drink is often an herbal infusion of some sort. (my wife is an amateur community herbalist). ive been really enjoying tulsi (holy basil) tea alot lately. now on to the tea...

i was on tour in october along the west coast with akron/family and megafaun. we made a stop in seattle and i was with my good buddy zach and one of his friends recommended going to floating leaves tea house. zach and i stopped in but didnt have time to sit down and talk and sample tea, so i returned there a few days later with phil from megafaun. one of the owners, shiuwen, sat us down to sample several taiwanese oolong teas which was her specialty. she was very knowledgeable and had all sorts of stories to tell us and opinions about various teas as well. after the sampling, i bought some of the tea that i liked the most. a baozhong (farmer's choice) which is gone now but i remember being a less floral and less high note type of oolong, more down to earth. a very lovely tea. i also got some jin xuan that was lightly roasted in house at floating leaves. i just finished my last cups of this tea today. its a buttery, creamy type of oolong that reveals some other subtle flavors after the first infusion.

-my chawan and gaiwan-

-jin xuan closeup after first infusion-

after the first infusion, the buttery flavor subsides a bit and reveals some floral and grassy overtones. and into the third and fourth infusions, i was getting hints of cinnamon even. all around a nice tea and im sad to see it gone, but i just made an order with red blossom tea so stay tuned....

-jin xuan closeup after 4th or 5th infusion-

-music on the turntable-

-vermont snow vibes-


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Imperial Tea Court, Chinatown, San Francisco

Above: The counter at the Imperial Tea Court.

San Francisco, CA
December 26, 2007

The Imperial Tea Court has been an institution in San Francisco since it first opened its doors in Chinatown in 1993, bringing top grade Chinese tea to the city's residents, as well as some beautiful yixing pots and other tea ware. In the last few years they have opened two additional locations: one in the upscale Ferry Building, and one in Berkeley. But out-of-town visitors and local tea fanatics alike would make sure to visit the Chinatown store, seated right outside the mouth of the Broadway tunnel, with a view down to the Bay Bridge from its corner. I've always had a preference for this location for its simplicity and quiet. It was a great place to sit, drink and contemplate tea.

Above: The yixing clay pot display area.

The reason I refer to the Chinatown store in the past tense is because it closed its doors on December 26, 2007 - another casualty of San Francisco's increasingly un-affordable rental market. I suspect the Chinatown store didn't get as much business as their other locations, as there was rarely more than a table or two filled whenever I've been there. But when they opened for the final time, Jefre Cantu and I made the trip up to Chinatown for a last cup of tea there. The weather was crisp and clear that day, a welcome relief from the gray dampness that had settled over the city for several days prior - and a beautiful day for drinking tea.

They were serving free tea all day, and they immediately brought us two cups of the Superior Green Oolong, a really nice basic oolong that is quite floral and which has a nice bitterness. I ordered the Imperial Green, which to me is one of the most beautiful teas in the world in every sense. It is visually stunning in all of its phases; the smell is warm and grassy; and the taste is completely full bodied and earthy without being too bitter or too sweet to my taste.

Above: Imperial Green.

Jefre had the Dong Ding (or was it Tung Ting - I didn't hear it clearly) Oolong, which I only tried briefly. Not the best oolong we've had there, but very good, mild, and visually quite beautiful. I never tire of watching oolong unfurl over several infusions. I'm still like a kid who feels some trick has been played - that small bunch of tea turned into all that?!

Above: Dong Ding Oolong.

The Tea Court was jammed. Almost every table was full, and it sounded like everyone was reminiscing. Jefre immediately pointed out that the caged birds that reside there were going nuts, chirping like mad whereas they are normally very quiet. There must have been quite a discussion going from cage to cage about all the people having discussions just below them.

My favorite memory from this place is from earlier this year, when I went there on a Saturday afternoon by myself. The owner Roy Fong came in with a suitcase and a couple of cardboard boxes under his arms. He had just returned from China the night before on his annual tea-buying trip, and he had a few teas that he had carried back by hand. I was trying oolongs that day, and Roy pulled out some 2007 spring harvest Wenshan Baozhong for me to try (I linked to the winter harvest as the spring is no longer available). I ended up buying half a pound that day before it even went on sale. There are not many tea shops where that kind of thing happens.

Above: Our two gaiwans for the day.

So this is my requiem to what I think was a wonderful spot for drinking tea. The environment in which we sit, drink, talk, contemplate, and whatever else we do while drinking tea together, has everything to do with the experience; I am grateful for the places that lend themselves to good tea. Thankfully we haven't lost the Imperial Tea Court altogether, but the Chinatown store will be sorely missed.

Monday, December 24, 2007

2007 Winter Mei-Shan, Wood-Roasted "Shui Xian" oolong

Cincinnati, OH
Dec. 24, 2007
Tea: 2007 Winter Mei-Shan, Wood-Roasted "Shui Xian" (Hand harvested Taiwanese oolong)
Vendor: Hou De
On the hi-fi: Timo van Luijk/Kris Vanderstraeten - "Costa del Luna" (La Scie Doree, 2007)

First off, I want to sing the praises of Guang/Hou De, who is easily one of the best, if not THE best, tea vendors that I've ever dealt with. Guang has immaculate taste, offers samples of what would be for me otherwise unavailable (read: $$$) aged puerhs, stocks consistently interesting, unique oolongs, often includes complimentary samples with orders, and, as a rule, ships out packages SUPER fast. If you're a tea enthusiast and you haven't yet checked out this intrepid American vendor - stop sleeping.

This particular Mei-Shan is a high mountain oolong which has been roasted. Guang was kind enough to include an unroasted sample along with my order, which I will likely review in the days to come.

1st/2nd infusions: One of the first things I noticed about this tea was its wonderful cooked sugar/vanilla aroma. I found myself ravenously sniffing my cup after emptying my rinse infusion until my first infusion had fully steeped. Tastewise, the first infusion opened with the warm, woody flavor that I find so delightful in properly roasted oolongs. Notes of dark fruit were present too. This is a tea with bold flavor.

3rd and 4th infusions: The big, smoky, almost lapsang-esque roasted flavor of the first infusions now died off slightly, giving way to a more floral and complex palate. There is a nice, subtle caramel-like sweetness to the liquor. Great brewing durability through the 4th infusion.

5th and 6th infusions: Much more fruity now, with the liquor turning from a deep amber to a lightish yellow. I increased the brewing time drastically for the 6th infusion, as the leaves were really starting to give out.

This is a very tasty roasted Taiwanese oolong. The used leaves were gorgeous: huge, juicy, in-tact leaf systems. As Guang pointed out in his entry at Hou De, this is a really nice winter tea. Its long finish and good brewing durability coupled with a great balance between high mountain floral qualities and the earthy woodiness of roasted oolong make for an engaging, enjoyable cup.