Sunday, December 14, 2014

Grey Areas

Tea is full of grey areas. Every rule has its exception, and tea is full of these exceptions. Today we'll be exploring two teas that are sort of exceptions to the "rules of tea" - a Laotian pu'erh and an aged black tea.

First up - Laos Ban Payasi - from Chawangshop by way of James (TeaDB). This is a pu'erh in every way possible except for one - it's not from Yunnan (or China). This hails from the country of Laos, from a (village?) called Ban Payasi. The Yunnan-Laos border is very close to the Yiwu village of Guafengzhai, which is one of the most sought-after tea growing areas in Yunnan (cakes of 2014 GFZ for for $60-500). In China, pu'erh can only be called pu'erh if the tea material hails from Yunnan. However, in New York I play by my own rules so I'm going to call this pu'erh.

The Ban Payasi is the lowest grade Laotian pu'erh sold at Chawangshop, going for $22/200g. The other two sold are the Ban Komaen Blue and the Ban Komaen Black, going for $38/200g and $48/200g respectively. The Ban Payasi (supposedly) comes from trees that are anywhere between the age of 50y/o to ancient (whatever that means nowadays). Hobbes reviewed the two Ban Komaens if anyone wants to check it out.

Thick. Strong. Sweet. Clean. This is what young sheng is supposed to be like. Upfront it's strong and bitter, and then it develops into a cooling/herbal taste, and finally a sugary sweetness coats the mouth and throat. If Laos is a grey area, then I'm in your area. I give this one...6/7 coconuts. For $22/200g it's a pretty great buy in my opinion, but don't put too much faith into my word as I have little tasting experience with young sheng.

This next tea is an aged black tea - not as controversial as Laos pu'erh - but aged blacks are a kind of grey area, as they're not technically aged oolongs, but they're similar. I personally just lump em' in with aged oolongs. Note that this isn't an aged dark tea (Hei Cha) like Pu'erh, Liu An, Liu Bao, Hunan Heicha, Fu Cha, etc., but this is an aged black/red tea (Hongcha), like Dianhong, Ceylon, Assam, or Darjeeling.

This aged black tea is a 1982 Sun Moon Lake (Taiwan) black tea, purchased from Taiwan Tea Crafts, sent by (you guessed it) James ( was right). This is cheap as hell, going for $4.50/25g. I actually tried this almost a year ago when I first (and last) ordered from TTC. I hated it back then, but I was also a n00b back then. I thought it was similar to shou pu'erh - which was something I hated back then, so I gave the rest of the bag to a friend, who forgot to tell me what he thought. I now drink shou and traditional sheng on a regular basis, so I thought that I might like this.

So I broke this sample out to try again, after tasting over 20 aged oolongs and a variety of aged pu'erh. Dry leaf is VERY broken and does not have a pleasant aroma. Still - dry leaf aroma isn't a 100% accurate way to predict the way an aged oolong (or black in this case) will come out (see Aged Pinglin). A rinse clears it up a bit, the aroma is actually quite buttery and roasty, as well as being earthy. Not the typical aged oolong aroma - one difference. Dark red liquor.

Damn, that's humid tea. Makes sense why I made the comparison to icky shupu when I had this. But to a more refined (read: less of a n00b) palate, this is actually a pretty good tea. Smooth, herbal, leathery, it's pretty good. It also has some of that Sun Moon Lake Assam flavor leftover, with its spicy tones and cooling aftertaste. This is also quite similar to aged pu'erh (and aged Dancong). I enjoyed this tea quite a bit, it's a VERY easy drink, and is priced quite nicely.  I would personally love to drink this Grandpa Style, however the base material is VERY twiggy, and twigs (not fka) and grandpa style (not Gangnam) do not mix. The leaves sink normally while the twigs stay at the top of the brew, leading to a very unpleasant tea session (dodging twigs is not fun drinking). Perhaps some sort of Thermos or french press mug would help.

What I've established from trying these "grey area teas" is that they can be damn delicious and cheap as well.

Now, a question.

Readers: Would you be interested in some exploration of non-Yunnan pu'erhs (Vietnam, Burma, Thailand, Laos)? Possibly as a mini-unit? I can try to acquire some young and aged examples of these, but I'll only do it if there's interest. I'd love to hear your opinions either in the comment section of this post or via email (sidebar)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Origin Tea...again?

Yep, we're tasting some Origin Teas again today. Origin Tea is a now-defunct vendor of premium Taiwanese Oolongs, aged pu'erh, and high-end Yancha. We previously tasted some of his off-the-shelf aged oolongs (1, 2, 3), which we found to be pretty great in general. Today we're tasting two more teas that Origin sold - a CNNP Red Mark from the 1990s and a 30 year old oolong teabag.

First up, the Ba-Zhong Red Mark. This is a traditionally-stored pu'erh from the mid 90's, it cost about $100 on Origin Tea's site, which is a pretty low price for 90s pu'erh. One of the factors behind its low price is the fact that it is missing its original wrapper, which was replaced by a blank wrapper by the vendor.

The dry leaf is typical of a traditionally stored pu'erh, dark with some frost on it. Not much aroma either, but again, that's pretty typical. I rinsed it once, and the first two steeps were AWFUL. I took Jakub and Hobbes' advice to use more leaf than usual, so I used 5g/60ml, which must have been too much. I took out some leaf and it transformed into a good quality traditional pu'erh. Nothing special, but that should be expected at the price. It had that cocoa flavor (which I happen to be in LOVE with...) that seems to be common in some traditonally stored sheng. I kind of regret not picking up a cake, but I kind of regret not picking up a lot of things (tenet 3 guys/gals!!!). Longevity isn't great, but that's okay considering the price ($100!). Overall I think this tea is pretty good, but nothing special.

Other reviews:

Next up - 30 year old oolong TEABAG. Yep, I'm drinking a 30 year old teabag. Apparently meant to be exported to Japan, but got left behind for 30 years. If I was sane I would rip open the bag and brew the tea normally, however I'm not sane. I picked up my mommiest mug possible and threw the teabag in with some boiling water. How long am I going to steep this for? I'm not going to stop steeping this, in fact we're drinking this with the teabag left in. I'm sure that isn't healthy at all, but that's none of my business. It was about 15 minutes until it was cool enough to drink - which actually reminds me of something I saw on TV, Two and a Half Men to be exact (I'm so sorry...). Alan was asserting his manhood, which led to Charlie making a snappy remark to imply that Alan wasn't manly. Alan, while steeping his tea rebuts Charlie and then sips tea - burning his tongue in the process. Charlie then asks if Alan burnt his tongue on Chamomile tea again. Alan, with a half-frustrated/half-defeated look on his face, responds with this:

"It's oolong."

This tea was described to me as being the ultimate old man tea. And it is. Roasty, herbal, earthy, but slightly sweet as well. Minimally sour. As Alan would say, It's (aged) Oolong. Not much to say about it actually, it's pretty standard. Again, I wish I picked some of this up for travel, but oh well.

We'll miss you, Origin Tea. Thank you to James of TeaDB for sending me these samples.

Music: Both of these teas were mellow, but potent as well.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

1963 Toufen

Who's up for some OLD tea? 9 years older than the oldest tea on this blog (other than the monstrosity that was labeled as 1954), this is the Nineteen Sixty Three Toufen Oolong, brought to you by Camellia Sinensis. Toufen is a city located in the Miaoli region in Taiwan, in fact it seems like a good amount of aged oolongs come out of Miaoli. Longtime readers and archive diggers might remember my review of Floating Leaves Tea's aged Miaoli.

The dry leaf is small, curly, and brittle, with the yellowish brown color of dead leaves (which is what tea is anyways.). The dry leaf lost all aroma, which seems to be standard for all very old oolongs, and even some younger aged oolongs (such as the Aged Pinglin from Floating Leaves). A Yixing collector/seller based in NYC was telling me about an 1870s oolong he had, he said it lost all aroma and he also told me about how he had to boil it to get flavor out of it. However, he said it was a good tea overall. He seems to have a lot of very old teas, including some 1940s Long Jing, a few other very old boxes of tea (1800s), and some other ~40yr old oolongs. Aroma isn't a good way to predict the quality of a tea in my opinion, as a bland tea might have a strong aroma, and vice versa. However, I digress. The wet leaf is similarly un-aromatic (is that a word?), but it has a slight aged oolong earthy aroma. The tea, like the liquid that you drink, is dark, thick, and smooth. The mellow, earthy profile of this reminds me of aged Liu Bao more than aged oolong or pu'erh, very deep and smooth, easy drinking. The aftertaste is subtle, but present and long.

A common misconception with aged teas is that they're this incredible, ethereal, transcendent experience. The reality is that they probably won't be a mind-blowing experience unless you drink something special. A lot of the good stuff is gone, gulped down by enthusiasts just like you and me. However, each and every tea can serve as a learning experience, especially the rare ones.

Overall, I enjoyed tasting this tea, although it was weak in flavor it was overall a pleasant drink and a great learning experience. It seems that oolongs peak at around 30-40 years of age, which is a long time. I recommend this tea to anyone who is learning about aged oolongs or anyone who wants to drink really old tea (bragging rights? spiritual reasons?).

EDIT: I forgot to link music! This song is nice and mellow, just like the tea:

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hojo Teas

Hello everyone, this week we have some HOJO TEAS, from Japan. Except these aren't grown in Japan - they're grown in Taiwan and China. Hojo is a bit controverisal regarding their pu'erh storage method (vacuum sealed), but their oolongs seem to be universally acclaimed, especially their Dancong. Thank you so much to Akira Hojo for generously providing these samples to me.

First up I tried the Mi Lan Xiang (honey orchid fragrance) Dancong from 100yr old trees. It's been a minute since I had some good Dancong, and as soon as I smelled the dry leaf I knew I was in for a treat. So sweet, so delicious, honey, floral. I loaded it up into the gaiwan with a smile on my face. 5g/60ml, we don't mess around here at Drinking Teas, only the realest water/leaf ratios for us. So I rinsed it - and then smelled the wet leaf. Whoaaa boy, that's GOOD. You better believe I'm drinking that rinse. This tea is floral, but not in that perfumy fake way.  Smooth, natural (like wild flowers?) floral. Nice honey/fruity sweetness there as well. Incredible aftertaste, some hui gan, very lasting. Good mouthfeel. This tea lasted me about 15 steeps, giving me a good amount of tea. I really loved this tea, definitely lives up to the reputation of Hojo. Considering this is their 2nd cheapest Dancong out of 20 or so, I can't imagine how the others are. I'm seriously considering purchase (as in, give up some of my money) of this dancong, possibly the more roasted version instead.

Second is their 30 year old aged oolong. Right off the bat, the dry leaf smells fan-tas-tic. So sweet and jammy. Wet leaf smells normal, leafier. Steeps to a nice reddish brown. This tea is medium-thin bodied with a roasted aroma. I know this tea was re-roasted, but I believe it was pretty slight. I still get some nice herbal notes with a background of plum. It's pretty weak, although I did use 6-7g in my Yixing. This isn't really a great tea, but this might have to do with the brewing session this time. Sometimes things just don't work out.
Still, considering this is more expensive than that fantastic Dancong, you know what I'll spring for in this case. Again, big thanks to Hojo Teas, I enjoyed tasting these teas a lot.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Misty Peak Teas - young sheng

Misty Peak Teas is a Portland based tea company who sources all of their tea from a single family farm in Yiwu, which I find interesting. Nicole of Tea For Me Please interviewed him a while back, and he explains the background story behind his company, so go check that out if you're interested.

Nicholas of Misty Peak Teas got in touch with me via Instagram and offered to send me a few samples, and I accepted them (yeah yeah I'm thirsty). He sent me two teas - his 2012 Autumn pu'erh and his rolled pu'erh, which seems to be his answer to the mini tuocha.

First up, we have the 2012 Autumn pu'erh. I used 7g of this in a 100ml gaiwan. Dry leaves were pretty big, unbroken, and very loosely compressed. Very consistent leaf size, confirming the single farm status and also showing that the farm has a pretty strict picking standard. It seems that Misty Peak Teas intends for their tea to be more of a drink-now or maybe a dry-stored pu'erh based on the compression level. Dry leaf smells smooth and sweet and this steeps out to a light yellow. I was impressed with the flavor, it was incredibly sweet, no bitterness, and I got notes of milk, flowers, and grains. For me it lasted about 11 steeps, probably could have pushed it more but I decided to stop. Overall this is an excellent young raw pu'erh for drinking now, very smooth mellow and delicious. It's not something I would personally buy at the moment (as I'm trying to buy more aged teas), but people who like sweet young raw pu'erh should give this a try.

Next up - another young sheng from Misty Peak. This is a very good concept - a rolled pu'erh. This seems to have the convenience of a minituo while not sacrificing leaf quality. The leaves in this one are nice and full, and the "tuo" is not very compressed. This is an Autumn 2013 production. I used one "tuo" in a gaiwan, and it was not as good as the 2012. Although they were both around 7g, this was more bitter, and not as sweet. I got some buttery and vegetal notes instead of the creamy bready notes of the 2012. I really recommend just breaking up a cake all at once for consumption (as shown here) instead of using minituos/rolled pu'erhs like this. Although this is probably the best minituo out there, it's really just nicer to have variety. I'd much rather have the 2012 than this, the extra year did it good.

Thank you Nicholas for the tea sessions, it is much appreciated.

QUICK EDIT: Almost forgot my music selection of the week:

AHNNU - Non2

Saturday, October 25, 2014

1994 Oriental Beauty and late 90's Shui Xian

Hey everyone, so I'm going to be reviewing an aged Oriental Beauty oolong from Taiwan Tea Crafts. This one is from 1994 and is also sold by several other places, interestingly. It's expensive ($18/oz), so this better be good. Well, the only reason I have it is because my friend bought it and didn't like it, so it probably isn't that good. I had what I assume is the same tea from a different vendor a while back and it was pretty fruity (winey?).

The dry leaf looks like a normal, low grade oriental beauty and smells like a normal, low-grade oriental beauty. First sign that this isn't twenty years old. Aged oolongs have a pretty distinct aroma, as does Oriental Beauty, and this has the Oriental Beauty smell.
i forgot to take a picture of the wet leaves, but they looked like wet OB leaves

Okay, so the leaves on this one are really broken, they clogged up my pot. This tea tastes like a Yunnan black/red tea. Not a good one either. Some malty/chocolatey notes upfront, fried banana/plantain fruitiness in the finish. Not too much flavor. I regret making this in my Yixing, as it's obviously not aged. In fact, I don't know what the problem is.

Overall, this tea is not worth the money. It isn't really bad, but not worth $18/oz. When teas like the 1972 Baozhong are the same price, why bother? I also tried the 1993 oolong from the same company and didn't like it a while back, same thing with the 1982 black tea (although I might try that one again).

Now for another aged oolong  - this time an aged Yancha, a 1990's Shui Xian from none other than Origin Tea, a vendor that has gotten a lot of coverage by us (me). This time, it's a tea that was actually sold on his site, sold under the Yancha section. One of the main things I like about this tea is it's roasting level - it's HK roasted, which is the highest level of roast for Yancha. Out in Hong Kong they like it strong and dark, they like their oolongs fired to death and their pu'erh stored in those hot, humid caves. These types of oolongs/pu'erhs also tend to be cheaper than the light/medium roast or dry-storage pu'erhs. I also prefer these types of oolongs/pu'erhs, although I do enjoy the other stuff quite a bit as well.
half-assed aesthetic makeover

half-assed aesthetic makeover II

Dry leaf smells very mineral, maybe chalky or old wood, very subtle but pleasant. It's pitch black, probably due to the Hong Kong treatment it received (and some aging, of course). Wet leaf definitely smells sweeter, more like young Yancha. Taste is quite herbal, some stale smoke, some of the Yancha acidic bite/sourness. Each steep tastes less aged and tastes more like a roasted oolong (a quality roasted oolong). In the end, it left the entire room smelling like the dry leaf aka amazing. Would any of you guys/gals buy Yancha cologne/perfume? Use the contact form on the sidebar of this blog to sign up for my fragrance line DISCLAIMER: I know nothing about this type of thing.

the drinkingteas collection

Yancha - Woody, smoky, and mineral. Complex and easy to love.
Aged Baozhong - Old leather, earth, and plums. A masterful blend of aromas to create the ultimate non-conformist's fragrance.
Aged Sheng - A longtime favorite, an enveloping combination of sweet, spicy, and earthy tones.
Gaoshan - Flowery and sweet, this one is spring in a bottle.
Dancong - With fruit and honey, this premium addition is strong and sweet.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Taiwan - the home of the best and worst aged oolongs

 Sorry for the delay - have been a combination of busy, sick, and unmotivated for the past few weeks. Will be returning to normal schedule now.

First off - a couple of announcements regarding this blog.

1. I'm going to be starting to review pu'erh (ugh...another pu'erh blog) soon, as I've essentially exhausted the western market for aged oolongs.
2. I might start doing concise reviews, and reviewing more teas
3. Upcoming reviews - Teamasters oolongs, Aged Shui Xian, Aged Oriental Beauty, Wistaria Tea House 2005 Pu'erh and a Ruby Red

It's finally here...the Gukeng Township 1983 oolong is getting reviewed.

Dry leaf is curly and dark, maybe shaped like a Biluochun. Has a distinct dry-leaf smell of raisins, as does the wet leaf, which is like a wet version of the dry leaf. This tea steeps out to a golden yellow/brown color, which is very light for the age. Oolongs this old usually steep to a dark brown color. I noticed this when trying this the first time as well.

The first time I tried this one it was in my friend's Yixing pot that he uses for all oolongs (90's Zhuni Shuiping, 95ml, standard stuff, nice clay) and it was smooth and buttery. Not sure why, but it's pretty bitter and mild now. Still quite buttery, but definitely not as good. Slight notes of golden raisin? Possibly due to storage in an off-brand ziploc for 3 months.

Overall, this tea is not very good, bland and boring. Definitely not 1983, probably around 10 years old max.

Next one is a mystery, from the same shop, same price. Label says something about 1954, and I immediately call bullshit, as it's $4/oz. The dry leaves smell fine, the plummy smell with quite a bit of mineral aroma. They're small and curly, like the last one. Steeps out to a clear medium brown (think milk chocolate) color.

Mmm...tastes sublime.....................SIKE!!!!!!!! Easily one of the worst teas I've ever had, think liquid earwax. It's incredibly bitter, which is something that shouldn't happen in an aged oolong. Even with flash brews, it was unbearably bad. I can imagine the thought process behind this tea. Imagine 10 tea industry folks sitting at a conference table, talking about how they're going to play a prank on Jake by making a horrible tea. It's that bad. Guess what, you guys won. This is the worst tea ever made. I would rather drink Lipton, or maybe an herbal or flavored tea. Shit, I'd rather drink flavored coffee than this. Yeah, flavored coffee. The worst stuff known to man. Rather drink that and lose all of my coffee cred than have this tea pass through my lips again. It's that bad. I might break my jaw on purpose, getting it wired shut will make sure that I can't drink this tea again. It's that bad. I would recommend burning this tea, but the fumes aren't worthy of entering the atmosphere. I wouldn't soil the trashcan by putting this tea anywhere near it. It's that bad. If I feed the leaves to my dog he'll run away. If I feed the leaves to my cat she would scratch my eyes out (if only she would scratch my tongue out instead, I would never have to taste this tea again). It's that bad. It's THAT BAD.

If the poison doesn't kill me, I'll post again next week. If not, thanks for reading the blog.


P.S. Happy October 17th! Yep, it's 10/17. 1017 Brick Squad day. For the uninformed, 1017 Brick Squad is one of the most important collectives in Trap Music (not the EDM type, but the rap kind). Comprised of veterans and pioneers such as Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka Flame, along with modern innovators such as Young Thug and Chief Keef, 1017 Brick Squad is one of the most well-known names in rap music. Any rap fan should know at least 5 of Flocka or Keef's ad-libs or at least 10 of Gucci Mane's unusual pronunciations of common words. Any modern rap fan should know the producers' signature taglines (Young Chop on the beat, etc.)  Check these out:


~~~and every chief keef song~~~


Thursday, September 25, 2014

1978 or 1967 oolong

Okay, so I ended up getting a new oolong from the same shop that the Gukeng is from (supposedly 1950's) so the Gukeng is delayed until next week or the week after. Good thing this week's tea is interesting enough to have a whole blog post dedicated to :).

This week we are drinking an oolong from 1978 (or 1967) that my friend picked up in Taiwan. It's from the same shop as Mystery Aged Oolong, so it's going to be interesting how they progressed in terms of aged oolong selection (three years have passed!). I believe it was $.50/g, so it's not cheap by any means, but it has quite a bit of age on it so time will tell. My friend said it's 1978, but the bag says 67 on it, along with some Chinese characters (roughly translated as aged oolong by my other friend).

The dry leaves are small, unrolled, and brown/red. They smell sweet and fruity but not plum fruity (a hint of things to come). The wet leaves are also small, but not broken, and have the typical aged oolong wet leaf aroma (sweet/earthy). It steeps out to a nice reddish-brown color and is not very aromatic (you know, the usual).
note that the year of the quarter is the same year as this tea potentially is!

Where this tea really discerns itself from others is the taste. It is quite sour/tart, but not at all like other aged oolongs. Other sour aged oolongs seem to present their sourness in a very harsh/unpleasant (for some, I don't mind it) way. Usually paired with some plummy sweetness. This one is tart, but in a different way. The tartness is definitely smooth and refined, and seems to have some cantaloupe/honeydew flavor along with it, which is very nice. The tartness reminds me of a good African (maybe a Burundian or Kenyan?) wet processed coffee, a balanced fruity tartness. Underneath that nice tartness is some of that nice earthy, leathery flavor that is characteristic of good quality aged oolongs. This was probably never re-roasted, which is a pleasant surprise as I blindly bought this tea without trying it and a good amount of aged oolongs are tainted with heavy re-roastings throughout their lifetime. This tea puts out for a while, giving nice, flavorful, full-bodied steeps for 3+ hours of brewing (probably 14-16 steeps). I'm also noticing a positive body response from this one, I'm feeling focused, but relaxed, although I also just took Allegra and Ibuprofen as well. Of course, this Cha Qi suddenly disappeared when I started playing some DOPE MUSIC.

one of the later steeps, was much darker earlier on.

Overall, this tea is both interesting AND really good, which is something that is rarely accomplished by teas. I'm heavily considering getting more of it when the opportunity arises (probably can get some in like a month). I'm going to get some clarification of the origin of this tea as well, for you guys. I find it quite interesting to compare teas available in the U.S. to ones only available in Taiwan, quality differences and such.

Next week: The Gukeng and the 50's from the SAME SHOP.
Week after: Two Teamasters oolongs - young and old, from the same farm.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Double (tea) Cup

I've been on two binges recently - Sheng Pu'erh and Footwork/Juke music. Maybe it's the contrast of a tea waiting to be brewed for years and a genre of music that is the backbone of the underground Chicago dance scene. Maybe it's the fact that I got tons (almost a kilo) of sheng last week and footworker Cakedog (Ahnnu) released a new (insane) album recently. Imagine me sipping slowly a carefully aged tea that's been sleeping for 30 years, woken up from its slumber to serve me and my tea habits. Imagine me contemplating the origin of this wonderful tea, analyzing every deep, earthy, herbal, and sweet note that has been gifted to this tea by Time itself. Now imagine me doing all of that while chanting along to footwork music (i.e. "FUCK OUTTA HERE", "I DON'T GIVE A FUCK", etc.). You might say that I'm living the good life, which is actually defined as a harmonious balance of Tea Life and TEKLIFE.  

 I'm back on my OOLONG GRIND though, as I tried an aged oolong (Dancong?) from Camellia Sinensis today. Feng Huang Wu Dong (say that quickly 10 times!) from 1980. Wudong is supposedly the "best" (please don't hurt me!) mountain for growing Dancong oolongs.

Dry leaf looks like... pu'erh. Dry leaf smells like... pu'erh. Wet leaf looks like....pu'erh. Wet leaf smells like, you guessed it, chocolate-covered caramels with a coating of crumbled Oreo cookies. Just kidding, the wet leaf smells like pu'erh. The liquor looks like aged/shou pu'erh (deep brown/black), and smells like a pu'erh. Pu'erh, pu'erh, pu'erh. The taste is also like a pu'erh, but with a nice sweetness and spiciness. It's honestly hard to describe it, other than pu'erh. Nice thick body and sweet aftertaste. For me, this calls for some serious research. I turn on some DJ Rashad tunes and hit the Google.

While searching "aged dancong" I got autocorrected to "aged dancing", which rewarded me with this masterpiece. Thanks, Google. Further searching had me find out that aged Dancong can be very similar to pu'erh, as according to MarshalN [1], Imen of TeaHabitat [1] [2] (hopefully I'll be able to review her teas on here), Life in Teacup [1], along with several others. Everyone seems to agree with me - this oolong tastes like a pu'erh. Overall I'm interested by this tea. I'm too intrigued to even assign this a rating, like the 1983 Gukeng. It was honestly pretty good though, but it's hard to rate such a learning experience. But I gotta do it, so I give it a Good-. If you're researching aged oolongs this seems like the most economical way to pick up a Dancong(-style) tea with 30+ years of age, as Tea Habitat sells similar aged teas for about $50/oz and this is closer to $18, however I cannot compare as I have never had Tea Habitat's teas. Fate chose this one to ease me back into aged oolongs from a Sheng bender.

I then reached into my sample box and pulled out Camellia Sinensis' 1989 Hualien. I recall TeaDB liking this one a lot, so I decided to give it a shot. The dry leaves are slightly curled and greyish, pretty normal. They don't have an aroma, which threw me off. Just a slight smokiness, but it's not noticeable unless you REALLY look for it. When I opened the bag there was no aroma either, other than something lemon-limey (like some sort of air freshener scent), so there might be something wrong with the specific sample. The wet leaves were small, pretty, red and... odorless. The liquor was a nice reddish-brown, and was odorless. There was VERY little flavor to be found in this one, just some mineral and bitter (???) notes. My heart was broken, I was really expecting more. However, all signs point to this being a one-off issue, a bad sample (maybe bad bag?). I'll have to e-mail them about this issue. For now the tea is Not Good, as the portion that I have has no redeeming qualities.

Next week preview: Two aged oolongs sourced from friends in Taiwan. One is the fabled 1983 Gukeng. The other....the other is another mystery. I should be Leavin' about now, see you next week.

Rest in peace DJ Rashad, the man responsible for bringing Footwork outside of Chicago. Your death marked a huge loss for the entire electronic music community, but your influence will live on forever.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Straight Outta Anxi

Long story short: Both these teas are Anxi TieGuanYins, one is 20y/o and one is 1985 from the NanYan factory, but was re-roasted. The Nanyan is the better tea. The 20y/o is pretty weak and sour, slightly mineral and herbal, boring, etc. The NanYan has some plumminess and sourness, some more aged taste (earthy leather etc.), and is generally stronger and more rounded. Both are mediocre in the end.

As I said to James about the 20y/o TGY (James sent me these teas, thanks for the opportunity): "It's okay as fuck. It's the definiton of okay. On a one to ten scale, it gets an "okay". This is the strongest neutral feeling I've ever had about a tea". The NanYan got a "better, but not that good. Gets an okay, cool, above average, don't mess up the aging by roasting next time, mystery guy.".

In conclusion, both of these teas are very okay. Some more okay than the others.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Tale of Two Aged Baozhongs

     First up is an aged Baozhong from 1976, from Origin Tea by way of James. The main draw to this tea is the fact that the storage was wetter than most aged oolongs. Wet storage is generally NO BUENO for aged oolongs, so I want to see what happens with this tea.

     The first thing that I noticed is the size of the dry leaf. Baozhong dry leaves are usually 2-3x the size of these, so I was confused. The dry leaf smells normal, fruity, earthy, blah blah blah. The wet leaf smells more metallic than most. The liquor is very dark, almost black, and smells mineral (making this tea a good replacement for breakfast cereal, as you get your essential minerals through the tea instead). The first flavor I notice is sourness, probably due to the humid storage. The sourness almost reminds me of alcohol for some reason. Beneath that sourness there's an intense earthy flavor. There's also some super-dark chocolate going on, which I like. After 2 steeps the sourness goes away and what's left is a solid, strong aged oolong. It goes pretty nicely for ~6 steeps until it dies out.

     Next we have another aged Baozhong - this time from 1982 and from Everlasting Teas. Their website just went through a big update, so I would advise you to check it out because they have some awesome teas.

     Dry leaf is also small, greyish, and smells normal (fruity and earthy). Wet leaf smells fruity and slightly metallic. Liquor is a very dark brown and smells herbal and fruity.

     I drank the rinse. Yep, even in the rinse there's that nice plummy sweet flavor us aged oolong fans have come to crave. Aged oolong connoisseurs like us usually have to make sacrifices though, that plummy flavor is ALWAYS accompanied by some intense sourness, right? Not with this tea. The sourness is still there in the background, but not even close to the intensity of the sourness of the other Aged Baozhong featured in this blog post. There's also some leather that comes through, especially in the later steeps, along with the strawberry jam-esque aftertaste (jam of a lifetime). It also picks up some soft floral-ness (lilac?) in the later steeps. This is a tea that will appeal to all of the aged oolong aficionados out there, as it has the essential flavor profile that fellow aged oolong devotees seek. The price is right as well, priced at $15 US Dollars for a one ounce canister of this tea. That's right, you get a free reusable canister with your tea, which run $2-4 each. This tea gets around ~9-10 steeps, which is good for aged Baozhong. Overall, I really like this tea, especially when made STRONG. It's much different than the other aged Baozhong that Everlasting sells (1972 from the same farm), which is quite interesting as the only difference between the two is the age, everything else surrounding it is the same AFAIK. This one is much sweeter and fruitier while the 1972 has an awesome herbal flavor. Both are great.

Note that this is one of the later steeps - so the liquor is a bit too light colored.

     Next Week: Two Aged Anxi Tie Guan Yins  fight to the death - Who will win? 20 Year Old or 1985 Nanyan? Find out on the next episode of: DRINKING TEAS

Closed captioning brought to you by Everlasting Teas.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Two Origin Tea oolongs from 1986

     First off, I finally got to try some of White2Tea's shengpu - 2002 White Whale and 2003 Keyi Xing. The Whale is a whale of a tea. Very smooth and thick for the price, with some nice aged earthy flavors going on, along with a nice sweetness. Dark brown liquor, chocolate colored almost. I'm definitely "Praying 4 A Brick" of this one, or maybe 5 bricks.
     The Keyi Xing tastes much younger, it definitely comes out during later steeps. It has a really nice, lasting hui gan, one of the strongest that I've ever had. Both of these teas earn my respect because they are delicious and really competitively priced. I also have some Repave, but that's sold out :(.

     Time for some aged oolongs. This time we have a 1986 Meishan oolong and 1986 Chen Xiang oolong, both from Origin Tea by way of James (thanks James!).

     First up, Meishan. Meishan oolong is a pretty uncommon high-mountain oolong, with a similar altitude to Alishan (~1200m). James particularly enjoyed this tea, in fact he tried it in his first aged oolong tasting, and it walked away with the highest ranking of the month. This is from the private stash of the now-defunct Origin Tea (RIP ;_;), which James managed to get into. James has a very good taste in tea, so I trust that this is going to be a good tea. 

     The dry leaves are black, loosely rolled, and smell fruity and earthy, as most good aged oolongs do. The wet leaves smell incredibly fruity. The rinse already tastes quite fruity and delicious, like a better version of FLT's PingLin Oolong. I couldn't resist drinking the rinse, sorry gang. The first steeping is more intense, with some slight earth going on as well. Second and third steeps just get better and better. This is a really good example of what to look for in an aged oolong, strong fruity flavors with some earth in the background and as little sourness as possible. The aftertaste is very plummy, which I find fitting because Meishan translates to Plum Mountain! As the tea goes on the profile becomes earthier and earthier, while maintaining the nice plummy flavor. The aftertaste lasts seemingly forever, with an excellent Hui Gan. This is a solid performer for an aged oolong, just very balanced and good in every way. Too bad it's impossible to get in the west now. Thank you James for sending this and thank you Tony for sourcing this.  
    Now onto the second aged oolong: 1986 Chen Xiang, again from Origin Tea by way of James. Chen Xiang means "Aged Fragrance". I can't tell you anything else about this tea because, well there's nothing to say.

     The leaves are loosely rolled, and black, as they should be, and smell quite earthy with a bit of fruit. The wet leaves aren't too broken, pretty small though, and they smell slightly smoky. The liquor smells earthy, almost exactly like a pu'erh, but less intense. This tea is way less clean than the Meishan, it has more herbal notes to it, with a slight sour note in the finish. There's also a slight bitterness to this one. The aftertaste is very tangy, it's actually burning my throat a bit, but there's also some cooling of the mouth going on in the aftertaste. 

Cha Qi on the Chen Xiang is insane, very relaxing. This is one strong, unrefined, complex tea, and I enjoy it for what it is. I think it could use a bit more age just to round out the edges.  Not sure if it's something that I would buy. Maybe it would be nicer with a bit less leaf. Again, thanks James and Tony.

EDIT: Forgot to mention, I ended up getting some more stuff from the shop that sells mystery aged oolong, mostly Shengpu and one 1978 oolong. Also getting some Shengpu from Wistaria Tea House. Wistaria had an aged oolong, but it was too expensive with a high minimum size.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Floating Leaves Tea - Aged Pinglin Oolong and Aged Muzha TGY


First off, I got some clarification on the origin of the roasted oolong that I tasted in my last post - It's an organic charcoal roasted oolong that my friend bought in the YingGe district, known for its pottery.

Back to scheduled programming, this is the second of the three aged oolongs I picked up during the Floating Leaves sale. This time it comes from PingLin, which is well known for their Baozhong production. However, this is not a Baozhong. I'm not sure how exactly it differs from a Baozhong other than the leaf shape. This is rolled, unlike Baozhong, which is always processed into a long strip shape.


When I first opened the bag this oolong smelled extremely fruity and sweet. But now that I put it into a Gaiwan.... it smells like a hotdog (microwaved) for some reason. The dry leaves are loosely rolled and black (I was so impressed with the dry leaves that I forgot to take a picture, I guess.) However, that smell rinses away and it goes back to the earthy/fruity smell of a good aged oolong, however it's not as present as other teas I've had. The liquor is also less aromatic than other oolongs I've had. It steeps out to a dark orange-brown color. This tea tastes pretty good. It's not too flavorful, however it's plummy and not super-earthy. It's on the sweeter end of aged oolongs that I've tried. It's not sour at all, which seems to be pretty rare. The aftertaste is quite present, it leaves a honey/caramelly sweetness that lingers for a while. It's pretty durable in terms of number of steeps, since it's rolled.

Overall, I'm not sure if I love this tea. If it was a bit more flavorful it would be an absolute winner, but it's still quite pleasant. I would probably buy this again.

I also tried this in a Yixing after I wrote that blurb.. 4g/95ml. Even though I only used 4g it had tons of flavor, more than 6g in a gaiwan. It tasted so much better that I heard my wallet whimper quietly. Definite re-buy, sorry wallet.

Muzha TGY:

Muzha Tieguanyin (TGY) is a Taiwanese version of Tieguanyin (usually a Chinese oolong), which is always processed in the traditional manner. Muzha is located in the Wenshan district, known for their Baozhong, like PingLin. But Muzha is known for their excellent traditionally processed Tieguanyin, a refreshing change from all of the green oolongs coming out of Taiwan and China (not that those can't be great, it's just that they're way too common in my opinion.) Traditionally processed Tieguanyin is more oxidized and roasted than modern greener Tieguanyin, which is more appealing to the palates of a good amount of enthusiasts due to the darker, more intense flavor. However, greener Tieguanyin is more popular. The flavor is very light and inoffensive, and is easier for farmers to process (production of traditional-style Tieguanyin is a very complicated process).


Anyways, the tea in question is an aged Muzha Tieguanyin sold by Floating Leaves Tea, the last of the three aged oolongs I picked up from there. It's the most expensive of the 4 aged oolongs that they sell, retailing for $15 an ounce, most likely due to the price of Muzha Tieguanyin already being pretty high without aging.

The dry leaf is rolled and smells earthy and slightly roasty. The color is a deep black, a product of the roasting and the aging both working together to darken the leaf. I decided to use my little aged oolong pot for this tea, as Floating Leaves advises that a Yixing pot helps smooth the flavor a lot. I used about 5 and a half grams for the ~95ml pot.

The liquor ended up being a very deep brown, and it smelled quite earthy and mineral. The first couple of steeps tasted mildly roasty with a hint of butter. This tea probably wasn't re-roasted, and if so it was very sparingly. It really started to shine around the 3rd or 4th steep, where it got a deep, earthy, mineral flavor. It even had some herbal, wet notes, which I love. This tea has a very thick, oily body, it coats the mouth and throat very nicely. The aftertaste is earthy, and lasting. I'm not sure why, but it reminds me of matured yancha after the first couple of steeps.

Overall, this tea is also very nice, but I'm not sure if it's worth $15 per ounce. I hope to find some cheaper teas with this profile, because it is quite nice, but too expensive for what it brings to the table. Sadly Muzha Tieguanyin is always going to be expensive, so I can't blame the pricepoint on FLT, but on the market in general

Floating Leaves Tea: The first vendor to be approved by this blog for having great aged teas at good prices. I also ordered several other teas from them (Hong Shui, 2012 Muzha TGY, Charcoal Dong Ding, 2014 Baozhong Farmer's Choice, Roasted Hehuanshan) and all that I've tried are excellent as well (haven't gotten to the BZ or TGY). Their prices are a little on the higher side, but the quality is there as well.

Friday, August 15, 2014

good, rare, teas - but I forgot to take pictures.

Yesterday I spent part of my day tasting various teas with two other people (one left early).

I arrived a bit late to the party (sorry!) but they decided to wait for me to get started :). Everything was all set up when I got there, a full gongfu setup was sitting on the table, tea table and everything. I should have brought a gaiwan, my friend bought his Yixing pot, a classic Zhu Ni Shui Ping, a bit less than 100ml (high quality stuff), but he's a traditionalist and uses a Yixing for Pu'erh and a Yixing for oolongs. He also brought a Yixing pitcher made of Duan Ni clay. I should have brought a gaiwan and porcelain pitcher, but it doesn't matter that much, especially since I was already low on time. However, I was able to predict his fear of technology, so I brought a scale with me, drug dealer style.

There were already about 5 teas laid out when I got there, scattered around the table. I slapped two more samples on to the table. We were ready to begin.

The teas:

1954 aged oolong sent to me by Beautiful Taiwan Tea - Pleasant, mellow, slightly roasty. Was a very smooth and pleasant drink, but it didn't have the aged flavor I was looking for. Excellent as a roasted oolong, disappointing as an aged oolong. This was a favorite of my friend, but not a favorite of mine. I think it would have been nicer with longer steeps, but my friend steeped it and insisted on short ones.

1972 Baozhong sent to me by Everlasting Teas. Wow. This is super-flavorful and has a ton of aged taste. I could sense that it was humid-stored early in its lifetime, but that faded. I wasn't supposed to review this until Sammy from Everlasting got his website up, but I've been waiting for weeks. This is a wonderful tea and a great example of a clean, aged taste. Very herbal and not musty at all. I would/probably will buy this as a special occasion tea. I don't think it's going to be easy to find aged teas with that clean of a taste in the future.

1983 Oolong from Gukeng Township - I was originally told that this was a 1980 oolong, but I posted pics of the packaging online and the origin of this tea is now clear. It's a 1983 oolong from a place called Gukeng Township in Yunlin County, apparently known for farming something called "Rabies Coffee". This was bought in Taiwan by a friend of my friend. It's really interesting because it doesn't have an aged taste at all, but it doesn't have a young taste either. It has a golden liquor with a super buttery flavor profile. I've never had a tea this buttery, the body was very thick as well. It was $20 USD ($600TWD) for 130g as well, very good price. Thankfully the label had the address for the shop on it and that friend is going to Taiwan in less than a week :). Going to get more of this I hope. Meanwhile I have a serving of it to myself, which will be featured in a future post.

Roasted Oolong from Taiwan - This isn't a Dong Ding or a TGY, it had a very pleasant profile, easy to drink as well. This was also bought in Taiwan by my friend's friend, who I have on Facebook. I reached out to him to clarify the origins of this tea. I have a couple of servings of this :)

Finally we tasted the Mystery Oolong - The dry leaf smelled exactly like a fresh baguette. Seriously, it didn't have a hint of baguette, it smelled exactly like a baguette.  The liquor smelled of fruit, and it tasted like fruit. Quite sour, in fact. Very confusing flavor profile, it was bought at Sun's Organic Tea in NYC. I have some of this as well.

However, we had to go our seperate ways. I was given two teas from Sun's Organic Teas - some sort of rolled Phoenix oolong (couldn't read what it said other than Phoenix, neither could my friend) and a delicious Oriental Beauty that's cheaper and better than anything I've bought online. I'm not going to see this guy for 3 weeks, but when I do see him he'll be back from Taiwan. Hopefully he brings back some goodies!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Miaoli, Miaoli, give me the formuoli.

Hello everyone, sorry for not posting on Friday but I was busy. I'm making up for it by posting today AND Friday.

Today I came home to see that the mailman left 2 packages on my porch, in plain sight. They do this often now, instead of placing packages in the normal, more concealed spot. Maybe there's someone new to the USPS crew. Those two packages were MINE though. I got a Yixing pot from Origin Tea and some tea from Floating Leaves Tea, which I picked up on sale. Expensive boxes. Today I'll be reviewing a 1980s Miaoli aged oolong from Floating Leaves, one of three aged oolongs I picked up from their sale.

Miaoli is a county in northwestern Taiwan. It doesn't seem to be a huge tea producing region, as this is the first instance of Miaoli oolong I've ever seen. Google told me that Camellia Sinensis sells an aged Miaoli as well, which for some reason they describe it as smelling like burnt wood and carob as if that sounds pleasant, but I can't find any fresh ones (there are a couple of Oriental Beauty teas though). According to Tea From Taiwan, the 3 towns that Miaoli Oolongs are produced in are Chaochiao Town, Shihtan Town, and Dahu Town. However, they don't seem to have any Miaoli teas in stock.

this is the dry leaf, pictured with a U.S. quarter dollar
5g/100ml gaiwan

check out that sick reflection
The dry leaf is dark and broken (just like my heart) with a very uneven leaf size, most likely due to some rough handling that took place sometime(s) in its thirty years or so. It honestly reminds me a lot of an aged Baozhong with the dry scent, it smells very sweet. I guess if oolongs are processed and stored in a similar manner, then they will end up being similar. After rinsing it, it smells like fruit. Nothing else, just fruit. It steeps out to a dark reddish-brown color with a slightly sweet aroma.

The taste is quite nice, flavorwise. Up front it's earthy and mineral, but it develops into a fruity/honey sweetness with a small amount of floral/herbal taste. As it cools down it gets pretty sour, but that seems to be common with aged oolongs. It's not a super flavorful tea, it's quite refreshing surprisingly. As the steeps go on it becomes more savory and earthy with notes of leather, however the fruitiness doesn't go away. I got about 12 steeps out of it, which is way more than I expected.

Overall this is a very good aged oolong that I would purchase again in the future, it has a good balance of earthy aged taste and fruity sweetness, and the price is good for a tea with 30-ish years on it. This is one of the only examples of a Miaoli oolong I could find, and it's probably the best online, as Camellia Sinensis re-roasts their aged Miaoli oolong, which in my opinion kills some of the nice aged taste. I'm optimistic about the other two aged oolongs that I got from Floating Leaves, an aged oolong from PingLin and an aged Muzha Tieguanyin. Can't wait!

Thanks for reading!

EDIT: The homies over at TeaDB tried the Miaoli from Camellia Sinensis and sadly they didn't find it enjoyable :((((((((.

Friday, August 1, 2014

1989 Baozhong from Oollo Tea

First of all, I'd like to thank Jenny from Oollo Tea for generously providing this sample. I first found this site when researching aged Baozhongs. I was intrigued for several reasons:

  1. I've never heard of them before.
  2. Their Baozhong was bought directly from a farmer they trade with - they also stock a fresh Baozhong from the family.
  3. It's very affordable for an oolong with 25 years of age, only $10 for a 25 gram packet.
  4. It was one of the first things that popped up on Google.
They seem to have a good following in Vancouver, the city they're based in. Just see their Twitter page - it's chock-full of local events they participate in, including pop-up stores, collaborations with local bakeries (Oolong Macaroons!), features in local magazines, etc. Their local presence is there but their online presence really isn't. I couldn't find much about them from online tea communities other than a Steepster page with reviews for their Red Jade (it was apparently included in some subscription box once) and almost every blog post about them is from people blogging about Vancouver, and not blogging about tea. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, just an observation.

Enough idiotic buzzwords (my SEO is going to be OFF THE CHARTS!!!!!), let's get to the tea.
Search Engine Optimization

The dry leaves are long, thin, and wiry,  just like a Dancong's dry leaves. There's a good amount of earth in the dry leaf aroma, complimented by some fruit and chocolate. After a quick rinse (this is what I use), the leaf begins to smell fruitier. And what about the liquor? It's a dark orange and it smells amazing. It smells exactly like apple pie filling, warm apples, sugar, and sweet spices.

The fruit translates over to the flavor, apples, spice, and some earth (duh, it's from 1989). It's not bitter or roasty at all, and it has a slight sourness that compliments the
apple notes I get from this tea. I feel that a lot of aged oolongs are ruined by improper storage or excessive roasting/re-roasting, so this one is a standout. The sourness gets more intense as the tea cools down, so drink it while it's hot (I'm sure it won't be hard to gulp this down... this is one of the best things created in 1989, not unlike Seinfeld or the famous Energizer Bunny).

HOWEVER...this tea dies pretty quickly. After the 3rd steep it becomes kind of weak, although this may be because I wasn't steeping long enough or maybe 5g/100ml wasn't enough leaf. Either way it's pleasant and I'd definitely consider buying it. Competition is afoot though, as Floating Leaves listed an Aged Baozhong for $10 an ounce as a base price...that doesn't include their significant discounts at larger quantities.

Overall this is a very good tea, that unfortunately doesn't have much staying power, although that may have been on my part. A good candidate to western steep!

P.S. The packaging was quite nice. Here are some pictures I decided to take in the middle of my savage and uncivilized Opening Of The Packet (note that I don't have a Macintosh computer, it's a knockoff of the Apple Wireless keyboard made for Windows machines's wired as well.)