Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday Round Up: January 24th - January 30th

Five Years in Tea: A Retrospective
World of Tea has been posting some excellent blog posts but this one really drew me in. I almost feel like Jordan is a brother in arms after reading this post, I can definitely relate to a lot his retail experiences.

There Is No Money in Tea
I love a good rant and this one from +Geoffrey Norman was awesome. There's been some major drama going on in the online tea world and I appreciated his unusually diplomatic approach.

New Year's Matcha
+Alexis Siemons waxed poetic about Ippodo's special new year matcha. I can't say that I blame her. Their seasonal offerings are always amazing.

Gifts for Tea Lovers (That Aren't Tea) Part 1
The funny thing about tea enthusiasts is that we don't just drink our tea, we buy it in every shape and form that we can find. Marzipan over at TeaLover.Net put together a great collection of everything from soaps to lip balm and spoons.

Yunnan Noir – Embracing the Dark Side
I love love love finding tea blogs to read. I recently came across a brand new one called Tea and That. They're just getting started but Rory is off to a great start!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Eco-Cha Da Yu Ling High Mountain Oolong Tea

Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: deep green, tightly rolled
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gawian
Liquor: pale gold

There are few things that get me as excited as a really nice Taiwanese oolong. Da Yu Ling in particular elicits oohs and aahs whenever I happen across one. They are getting rarer and rarer these days, especially at higher elevations. This tea was grown at approximately 2,200m. Talk about high mountain! I immediately took to Instagram to capture the beautiful leaves, letting everyone know that I wished there was smell-o-vision so that they could experience the aroma of the tea too. The liquor was thick and almost oily with a somewhat creamy after affect. I just had to keep sticking my nose back into the aroma cup after each and every sip. I couldn't get enough of it!! A refreshingly crisp astringency was balanced by natural sweetness. Pine and green apples came to mind in the initial infusions. This gave way to a more floral lean with subtle hints of stone fruit after the third round. I did at least ten consecutive infusions but I lost track of the exact number. Even after it had lost some of its body I found myself still drinking because of the pleasant aftertaste. Once unfurled the leaves were large and mostly intact. I couldn't resist playing with them in between infusions. This tea is a great example of why +Eco-Cha Artisan Teas is one of my go-to's for Taiwanese teas. Although this particular selection is a pricey one, it is actually worth that price tag.

Da Yu Ling High Mountain Oolong Tea sample provided by Eco-Cha.

Monday, January 25, 2016

5 Things You Should Know About Phoenix Oolongs

Phoenix oolongs are one of my favorite kinds of tea but I feel like there isn't nearly as much information out there about them. When I tried my first Huang Zhi Xiang from +Seven Cups Fine Chinese Teas many years ago I knew that there was no going back. They have reputation for being temperamental but patient tea drinkers are rewarded with intoxicating fragrances and seemingly limitless infusions. I'm planning to post some more thorough information in the future but to get you guys started, here's a quick list of five things every tea drinker should know.

1. The Chinese term for Phoenix oolongs is Dan Cong.
Although to an English speaker it looks like it would be pronounced dan-kong, it's actually more like dan-song. The literal translation is single bush or trunk. While some interpret this as meaning that each batch of tea is made from a single plant, we also have to consider the economic feasibility of that kind of exclusivity. Commercially available Dan Cong is more likely to be harvested from clones of the same tree that are planted together.

2. The long, twisty leaves are what is known as a strip style oolong.
When we think of oolong, we usually picture the tightly rolled balls of Tie Guan Yin or Dong Ding but oolong is a broad and diverse category of tea. The shape is produced through a rolling step that breaks down the cell walls of the leaves. Traditionally this was done by hand but is more commonly done by machine now. Medium oxidization and charcoal roasting are the traditional processing methods but there's a lot more experimentation these days.

3. They can only be produced in the Guang Dong Province of China.
Guang Dong is located on the southern coast of China. Phoenix oolongs are named after the mountain region where they are grown, Feng Huang Shan, in Chaozhou. The combination of volcanic soil and large temperature changes throughout the day create a tea that is unique to this region. Tea always seems to taste better when it has to work harder to grow. :)

4. They're the doppelganger of the tea world.
Phoenix oolongs are famous for their exotic fragrances that mimic everything from flowers and fruit to nuts. The most common is probably Mi Lan Xiang, aka honey orchid fragrance, but there are hundreds of different fragrances. Ju Duo Zai is a hard to find favorite of mine that is reminiscent of almonds. Most of these teas are named after what they smell or taste like with the possible exception of the dubiously named Ya Shi Xiang. The literal translation is "duck shit fragrance" but it most assuredly does not taste like that (as far as my experience goes anyway).

5. Short, hot steeps are best.
Dan Cong oolongs can be a bit temperamental when it comes to brewing. Very hot water is required to extract the full flavor but it can also lead to bitterness. Although they can be brewed in a western fashion I very much prefer gongfu methods because it provides more control. After a very short rinse I'll usually use boiling water and 30 second infusions. The leaf volume depends on the tea and your brewing vessel. If the leaves are more broken (like the ones you'll find at the bottom of a bag) they are more likely to be bitter so I'd recommending cutting back a bit.

There's an astonishing lack of information on this type of tea available for tea lovers here in the states. One resource that I often find myself turning to is  A Tea Lover's Travel Diary by Jason C.S. Chen. Writing this post made me realize that I completely spaced on posting a review of that book here. I promise to get right on that!

Is there something that you think should be on this list? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday Round Up: January 17th - January 23rd

Two Thoughts on Hitting Hard & Buying Hard
James from +Tea DB gave us some great food for thought about buying puerh. I couldn't agree with his thoughts more. Don't cheap out!

My Wintertime Tea Concoctions
+sara shacket shared some great tips on dressing up tea for chilly days. I'll definitely be giving some these a try the next time I'm not feeling well.

A Day at Chariteas
I don't think that I could think of a better way to spend a day than five hours at an awesome tea shop. +Geoffrey Norman did exactly that and I loved reading about it. Chariteas will definitely be on my wishlist if I'm ever in Sandy, OR.

Hakuyoucha: White Leaf Tea
On last week's round up I posted a interesting Japanese tea that +Ricardo Caicedo had written about. As promised, he dug deeper and found some great information on the cultivars that are used to produce "white leaf" tea.

A Bit More Shui Xian
I usually expect to read about puerh when I visit +Cwyn N's blog but this week brought an in depth comparison of several shui xian oolongs. This was a much needed reminder that I need to dive into the shui xian that I purchased from +Joseph Wesley Black Tea recently.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Tea Medicine by Aaron Fisher

Many of us in tea community know Aaron Fisher as Wu De, founder of Global Tea Hut. I previously wrote about his book Tea Wisdom last year. This book is a bit different in that it relates more to the spiritual side of tea. Being a Global Tea Hut subscriber (and fangirl), I had a fairly good idea of what to expect. For that reason the Amazon reviewer who left a two star one liner of "very new agey" made me a bit sad. Did they even read the description of the book or its author?

The concept of this book was a bit different in that it puts the reader in the shoes of a theoretical tea apprentice. Each chapter is a different lesson on the philosophy of using tea as a spiritual medicine. Through a series of affirmations, legends, stories and experiences the student is taught about the tradition of tea that is practiced at Tea Sage Hut.

I usually highlight notes as I read on my Kindle. These are some of the quotes that I highlighted from this book.

"In Yunnan, the birthplace of Tea, all the aboriginal tribes believe they are descended from Tea; and at least one tribe I know of, the De'ang, believe that all life on earth is descended from Tea."

"Don't be a Tea snob. The world has enough of those. Share Tea spirit, healing people. When you make Tea medicinally, people leave a session transformed - they shift and heal."

"If the door is alive enough to receive your anger, it is alive enough to receive your apology as well!"

I'll be completely honest, tea is not always a spiritual thing for me. Sometimes it's just a beverage that I enjoy consuming. However just as a bit of mindfulness can improve many aspects of our lives, it can also improve our relationship with tea. I do most of my reading on the crowded subway to work but found myself wishing that I had the time to sit down and quietly drink tea while taking in each chapter. I may just do a re-read so that I can do exactly that.

You can find out more about this book here.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Does All Tea Really Come from the Same Plant?

The answer to this age old question is yes...but it's not exactly that simple. All tea comes from the same species of evergreen plant, Camellia Sinensis. That means that other plants commonly referred to as tea like chamomile, peppermint and rooibos are not actually tea. Shocking, I know! It is the processing of the leaves that determines what type of tea it becomes. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing a green tea plant or a black tea plant. There are many varieties of Camellia but most are used as ornamental shrubbery.
Sorry, I couldn't resist that one!
The two main taxonomic varieties used to make the tea that we drink are Camellia Sinensis var. Sinensis and Camellia Sinensis var. Assamica. I've heard tell of teas being made from var. Japonica but apparently they aren't nearly as tasty. The var. Sinensis is generally a smaller leaved variety that prefers slightly cooler climates. The var. Assamica is larger leaved and is found in warmer climates like Assam and Yunnan Province in China. Left to grow in their natural state the Assamica tends to grow into a larger tree. Camellia Sinensis is believed to have originated in Asia

Within those two varieties there is a lot of genetic diversity. You might hear the words variety or cultivar tossed about but what do they really mean? You can think of variety as a naturally occurring phenotype, or observable trait. Once that variety is cultivated by man it is often then referred to as a cultivar (cultivated variety). +Tony Gebely does a much better job of explaining this than I ever could so if you'd like to know more, check out his blog post Tea Varieties and Cultivars.

Where a plant is grown does not change the cultivar (unless of course it is then selectively bred for a different trait in the new location). Tie Guan Yin is still Tie Guan Yin whether it is grown in Anxi, China or Muzha, Taiwan. Some varieties are better suited for certain climates or for making certain types of tea. They can also be selected for resistance to drought, particular pests or diseases.
Anji Bai Cha - a cultivar known for its pale leaves
Zhi Ye - "Purple" Puerh
I'm a recreational tea nerd so this article is just a brief overview that is meant to inspire further exploration. I find the best way to discover the different cultivars is to look them up each time you try a new one. What better way to learn than to taste your way through them all? One of my favorite things about tea is that it's a never ending rabbit hole. It's impossible to try them all, which means that I'll never get bored.

Additional Resources

Friday, January 15, 2016

Friday Round Up: January 10th - January 16th

Green Tea Soba with Nori Pesto
+Bonnie Eng, tea chef extraordinaire, made me super hungry with this post. I'm a sucker for pesto. Add matcha and I'm hooked!

Blog Anniversary Giveaway
A big congratulations is in order because +Charissa Gascho celebrated her three year blog anniversary this week. Make sure that you enter her giveaway for a chance to win adorable kitty mugs.

Sara's Tea Caddie White Leaf Sencha
+Ricardo Caicedo reviewed a fascinating sencha tea that I have not seen in many places. I couldn't help but think of Anji Bai Cha while I was reading his post. He puts a lot of effort into researching cultivars, making My Japanese Green Tea one of my go tos for information.

Stepstone to the Way of Tea
BeauTeaFully posted a short and sweet intro to Chanoyu this week. I loved learning about Reika's personal journey with tea and studying the Japanese tea ceremony.

Resolutions for 2016 + Teavana's Wellness Teas Review
+Georgia SS is starting off the year on a great foot. I love her resolution to send handwritten letters to friends. It's one that I'm inspired to start myself too!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Jalam Teas Naka Unfermented Puerh

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: varied greens and browns, compressed
Ingredients: puerh tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: gold

I find myself craving puerh more and more lately, mostly because I just don't have as much time to indulge in it as I used to. There's a few regions in Yunnan that I would call favorites. Yiwu is one of them and Naka would be another. It's nice to see a company not making outrageous claims about the age of the trees that their tea comes from. There's nothing wrong with 30 year old trees and I really appreciate +JalamTeas's honesty when it comes to that. This particular tea packed a bit of a punch. It was harvested in Autumn of 2013 so it has had some time to settle down. Although it was a fairly astringent and somewhat drying, I never found it unpleasant. I have a fairly high tolerance for that sort of thing so if you're more sensitive, I'd suggest going for shorter brew times and less leaf (I used 8g). The initial bite of the first few infusions gave way to really nice floral and mineral notes. Peaches and honey even made brief appearances from time to time, especially if I inhaled through my mouth after taking a sip. I made it through at least ten consecutive infusions before throwing in the towel. One of the important marks of a good tea is when it lingers in my palate for a long time after I've finished drinking it. This one was still with me while I took a short walk to visit my mom. That's always a good sign. My friend +Jo J gifted me a beautiful puerh storage bag that she purchased on her trip to Taiwan. I've stowed the rest of this cake in it for aging and will look forward to trying it again in the future.

Naka Unfermented Puerh provided by Jalam Teas.

Monday, January 11, 2016

My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2015

Last week I shared a list of My Top 10 Most Popular Tea Reviews of 2015. I've got to admit that it made me smile to see that the majority of my top posts weren't tea reviews at all. A lot of time and energy goes into everything that I do here. I don't know everything that there is to know about tea but I do my best to share what I can with my readers. It's nice to know that these posts actually do get noticed, especially when it comes to search engine traffic.I always hope that I'm able to steer some wayward tea-searching souls in the right direction.
  1. Why Tea Education is Broken and What We Can Learn from the World of Wine
  2. 8 Things You Should Do Before Starting a Tea Business
  3. 4 Reasons Why Your Green Tea Tastes Bad and How to Fix It
  4. Guinness World Records of Tea
  5. Just Say No to Tea Snobbery
  6. How to Get Started with Tea - Buying Your Tea
  7. How to Get Started with Tea - Tools of the Trade
  8. How to Get Started with Tea - Drink Lots of It
  9. How I Keep My House Smelling Like Tea
  10. How to Get Started with Tea - Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
As always, I'd like to thank each and every one of you for reading. Tea is one of the most consumed beverages around the world but we still have so much to learn and discover about it. I never would have gone this far down the rabbit hole if it weren't for my readers. Your encouragement and support means the world!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Friday Round Up: January 3rd - January 9th

I must apologize for the late round up this week. My work schedule hasn't been super cooperative even with scaling back my posting frequency. Sorry about that folks!

Teaware.House Teaware Review
White2Tea, one of my favorite puerh vendors, recently launched a new teaware sister site. I lived vicariously through +Charissa Gascho's post while waiting for my own goodies to arrive. How could Oolong Owl not pick up a super cute owl tea pet?

China Ching Cha Chinese Teahouse in Georgetown, Washington DC
I think every tea lover has a running mental list of places we'd like to visit. Ching Ching Cha has definitely been on mine for a while. +Georgia SS does a great job of describing her experience there. Now I'm looking forward to the food as much as the tea!

The Six Basic Types of Tea and How to Brew Them
Mel Had Tea put together a great little tutorial post on brewing tea this week. If you're just getting started on your journey with the leaf, this link is an awesome place to get down the basics!

A Poetic Riddle in a Teacup
+Bruce Richardson brings a fresh look to an often repeated tea quote. I love how he relates each line to real life scenarios. The scientific study about the effects of L-theanine was also fun to nerd about.

Book: The Tea Cyclopedia
I didn't think it was possible but Tea Stacks found a book on tea that I have not yet gotten my hands on! I loved reading AJ's thorough and thoughtful review.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Joseph Wesley Black Tea No. 2 - Assam

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: small, dark
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: stainless steel infuser basket and ceramic teacup
Liquor: deep reddish amber

Assam is probably the one region that I drink tea from the least. That's not to say that I don't enjoy Indian teas but the opportunity doesn't present itself nearly as often. My puerh addiction probably has something to do with that these days. My eye was caught while browsing my Facebook timeline when I saw that +Joseph Wesley Black Tea had commissioned kullad's engraved with their logo. How cool is that! Kullads are the clay cups that are traditionally used to serve chai tea at roadside stands by chaiwallas. My fangirling in the comments prompted Mr. Joseph Wesley to offer to send me one in order to see how they would survive shipping. Of course I didn't mind volunteering my services. Much to my surprise he also generously shared some of his Assam tea to go with it.

The aroma of this tea while it was brewing was hard to describe. All I say is that it was exactly what tea is supposed to smell like. Am I making any sense? That aroma carried through as the dominant aspect of the flavor profile. I believe some people call it pekoe but I'm not entirely sure that is an actual taste. Layered behind that were malty notes with hints of chocolate. As the tea cooled a bit of fruitiness also came out. Ripe raspberries came to mind. There was the slightest bit of astringency in the finish that added a refreshing briskness without being bitter or unpleasant. I could have gone a tad longer on the second infusion but it was still very tasty. Milk or sugar would not be my recommendation here unless you're planning on using it to make stove top chai.

No.2 - Assam sample provided by Joseph Wesley Black Tea.

Monday, January 4, 2016

My Top 10 Most Popular Tea Reviews of 2015

I was doing a bit of poking around my Google Analytics and thought it might be interesting to see what the most popular tea reviews are. Since +Tea for Me Please has been around for eight years, I narrowed the results down just to the most visited pages in 2015. During that time the blog was visited by an incredible 32,941 unique visitors from 159 different countries. Much to my chagrin, the top tea review is for Lipton Yellow Label of all things. I guess I shouldn't be all that surprised but I was hope for something a bit more highbrow than that. :)
  1. Lipton Yellow Label Black Tea
  2. David's Teas Organic Detox
  3. Encha Ceremonial-Grade Organic Matcha
  4. Teavana Golden Dragon Yellow Tea
  5. Aiya Tea Matcha To Go Stick-Packs
  6. Mellow Monk Kuma Green 1228 Sencha
  7. Zhen Tea Bai Hao Yin Zhen (Silver Needle)
  8. Assam 1860 Loose Tea
  9. Gorreana Tea Hyyson Green Tea
  10. Cha Do Raku Honey Black Tea
What an interesting assortment of teas! A lot of these are older reviews but they still get a decent amount of search engine traffic. I was really happy to see that some of the most popular posts were actually not tea reviews at all. Look out for a post next week listing the top 10 regular blog posts!

Over the last year or so I've made a concerted effort to include more informational and education content here. Part of that is the evolution of my own journey with tea and part of that is wanting to provide more value for my readers. I've published a grand total of 912 tea reviews during my time here (not to mention the ones that I wrote for prior to starting my own blog). Some days I question the relevance of reviews but then I realize that my own tea purchases are so often guided by the blog posts that I read.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Let me know your feelings about tea reviews in the comments!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Friday Round Up: December 27th - January 2nd

Tea Highlights in 2015 + Free 2016 Year Calendar Printable
The end of the year is always a great time to look back and reflect. +Lu Ann Pannunzio did just that and included a fun printable calendar too.

Top 8 Matcha Recipe Ebook
Fun and innovative recipes are one of my favorite things about +Jee Choe's blog. She's put together a great little ebook of matcha recipes. All you have to do is sign up for her email list.

Tea Interviews: Emilio Del Pozo of The Jade Leaf
Mehmet of Chapedia did a great interview with Emilio of The Jade Leaf. I've been a fan of his pottery so I really enjoyed a chance to get to know him better.

Xin Mu Cha: Nonpariel Taiwan LaLa Shan Oolong Tea, A Tea Review
+Amanda Wilson finally got her camera back which means more awesome tea pictures for all of us to ogle. I recently tried Xin Mu Cha's regular La La Shan oolong and it was a fantastic tea. I can't wait to give the Nonpariel version a try after reading her review.

2015 Autumn Misty Peak Sheng Pu'er - Tea Review
+Charissa Gascho tea reviews are always filled with her quirky humor and the awesome owls that she makes. I loved her tenacity with figuring out the best way to brew this tea. There's a sample of it waiting in my "'to do"' drawer and I can't wait to compare notes.