Cha Xi Collective

For my birthday I ordered some lovely tea from Stéphane over at Teamasters. Most of what I ordered was one of my favorite tea styles, Hong Shui (“red water”) Oolong. 红水乌龙茶 is a style that has fascinated me ever since I first encountered it in Taiwan some three years ago and it’s not a type of tea that’s found very easily, at least on the Western market. Apparently it’s a challenge to produce. Despite all the effort that several blog posts have made to explain the processing, I still have trouble putting into words what makes this tea so unique. Once you’ve tasted Hong Shui, however, you won’t easily forget it.

Based on my understanding (and I’m certain you can find something there to criticize), Hong Shui is a slow and careful roasting of a flavorful rolled oolong. The roasting lasts a long time compared to other oolongs, interspersed with several resting periods to avoid over-baking the leaf. It requires great skill to produce the stone fruit flavors of Feng Huang and the charcoal dryness of Wuyi-style Yancha in a Dong-Ding-style oolong, often from a High Mountain (> 1000 meters) garden, without losing the sweetness of the underlying leaf.

To quote Stéphane:

High Mountain Hung Shui Oolongs are made with Oolong leaves that have been sufficiently oxidized to receive a slow and deep roast while preserving their mountain characteristics: freshness, lightness and elegance. Like for the best Wuyi Yan Cha, the roast is lightest and skillfully done when the underlying quality of the leaves is the highest! The leaves open up very well and turn green quickly again.

The taste of a Hong Shui is something between a great Da Hong Pao and a great Dong Ding: dry hay with an almond sweetness. Despite the name, the liquor of the Hong Shui that I’ve infused tends to be a light gold with only a hint of red. In fact, if I let the color get to a dark orange, the taste becomes overly strong.

hongshui-pour

I purchased four examples to taste and it was fascinating to compare the differences. My favorite of the bunch was the 2013 Winter San Lin Shi Hong Shui. The brownish-green leaves have a heavenly aroma when warmed. A little bit like roasting butternut squash combined with the sweetness of ripe pear. After a few infusions I noticed the taste of smoked wood. It was something like almonds or cinnamon bark: a delicate sweetness underneath a woody flavor that lingers in the mouth. My second favorite was the 2014 Spring harvest Hong Shui Dong Ding. This more recent harvest had a little more energy than the others, and its taste was also remarkable, though less dramatic.

yonglung-gaiwansThe remaining pair were 2013 Winter Hong Shui from Yong Lung (a village near Dong Ding mountain), both the “regular” and the “strong” style. These were surprisingly light bodied compared to the San Lin Shi. The “strong” version (“fort”, en Français) had a pronounced apricot aroma much like a Feng Huang. In fact, by smell alone I probably would have said “Phoenix” without a second thought. The taste of these teas was definitely in the Hong Shui category, though. A little bit of ash and hay in the flavor, sweet hidden under layers of toasted grain.

yonglung-liquorsOne thing I noticed when making these teas was that, just like Stéphane experienced, it’s definitely possible to brew them without bringing out the energy of the leaves. My first few infusions of the Yong Lung were very bland. The “strong” also had a notable sour taste, but that tea was rolled more tightly and with fewer full leaf sets, which might have added to its potency.

I quickly learned to use fewer leaves than my usual 4g and make sure my water was very hot. This is one of the occasions where the speed and energy when pouring the water into the teapot makes a difference in the results. My first attempts were poured from a thermos that spread the water flow out into a band, but when I used a strong water stream directly from the kettle both the Yong Lung teas tasted much better. Both took on a thicker mouthfeel and a sweet aroma. Clearly I still have a lot to learn!

The most remarkable thing for me (particularly with the San Lin Xi) was the comforting Cha Qi of these teas. That is what draws me to this style like nothing else. The smooth and relaxing feeling that permeates my body when sipping these Hong Shui is reason enough to choose this unique tea style out of my collection, and I hope you get a chance to try it as well.

A comparison of Four Heavenly Hong Shui oolongs #tea For my birthday I ordered some lovely tea from Stéphane over at Teamasters. Most of what I ordered was one of my favorite tea styles, Hong Shui (“red water”) Oolong. 

Chaxi Collective celebrates is 3rd year today!

To congratulate ourselves I have gather some photos, some of which you may have seen and some maybe not. I hope you have found my posts interesting, at the very least you have enjoyed the pictures even if you don’t know the world of tea. 

I would like to highlight a few of my favorite posts in case you missed them but also as reminder of revisiting our past. 

Sip some tea and enjoy these posts

Water - By Ben

Tea in Nature - By Ben

Qi - By Ben

Buying Guide - By Ben

Meng Ding Huang Ya - By Ben

Gongfu - By Payton

Engagement Cha Xi - By Payton

The Size of the Teapot - By Payton

Bao Zhong - By Payton

Names of Tea - By Payton

Be on the lookout for some exciting posts and news on the horizon!

Green tea from Japan differs quite a lot from its Chinese cousin. The different cultivars, harvesting, and processing provides a distinct experience. It can also be challenging to steep. Many folks I’ve encountered have found their first experience with grassy bitter Japanese green tea to be their last. With this post I hope to provide those people and others with inspiration to give this amazing style of tea a second chance.

While the steps below may seem complicated, if you understand some of the principles of how tea steeps, it all makes sense. First of all, Japanese tea tends to be machine-harvested, which results in smaller and more broken leaves. Broken leaves mean that the tea will infuse much more quickly and can become bitter in much less time than a full leaf Chinese green.

Furthermore, unless passed through a fine mesh strainer, it’s likely that many of the leaves will end up in the cup when it’s done. These leaves will continue steeping the tea as it cools and may cause unwanted strength even if the timing is just right.

Finally, Japanese green teas are generally steamed to fix the leaf rather than pan-fired or baked as they are in other countries. This results in a tea liquor that’s much more “vegetal” in the same way that steamed vegetables tend to be “greener” tasting than those same vegetables when fried. If the infusion is too strong, the result can not only taste bitter, but grassy as well.

In essence, Japanese green teas are much more delicate and need a little more care when preparing them. Here’s my suggestions for most styles of Sencha, as well as Kabusecha and Gyokuro (Genmaicha, Hojicha, Kukicha, and Matcha are a different matter).

1. Use a mesh strainer

Because of the small and broken leaves we ideally need to use a mesh strainer. Japanese Kyushu pots usually have these built-in, but such pots can be hard to find on the Western market. Another option is the ceramic “teeth” on the lip of a Shiboridashi pot which are designed to catch the small leaves as the liquor pours over the rim. Lacking these tools, any wire mesh strainer will do the job, even a large kitchen strainer. If you don’t have any strainer on hand, just be aware that the tea will continue steeping in the cup and you may want to reduce the infusion time to compensate.

2. Use fairly cool water

tama_setupSince the broken leaves will steep much faster, we need either a very short infusion time (which can be challenging) or we need to slow down the infusion somehow. More of the compounds in a tea leaf will transfer to the water if the water is hot, so using cooler water will slow down the process to make it more manageable. I usually use about 55-70°C (131-158°F) water for Gyokuro or Sencha. Within that temperature range, a steep of about 1 minute should result in a delicious brew. If your water is hotter, decrease the time. With 80°C water, a 20-30 second infusion should work, but it might taste a little scorched. The amount of leaves in the pot also makes a difference. I tend to use more than I would for a Chinese green; for a 300ml pot, I usually use about 8g of leaf.

3. Use fresh leaves

tama_dryThis step may be out of your control, since many vendors don’t list the age of their tea, but green tea (Japanese or otherwise) should be consumed within 6 months to a year of its harvest date. It should also be stored in a sealed package with no air or light reaching the leaves. Older leaves tend to be dull and flat tasting giving the palette all the tannin but none of the sweetness. For this reason be wary of stores that keep their tea in clear plastic or glass containers (I’m looking at you, grocery stores).

tama_pouredFollowing these steps should result in a deep and rich cup of Japanese tea. The qualities to look for in a good cup are usually a bright energy with seaweed-like saltiness and a satisfying Umami taste on the tongue. The aroma of freshly-cut grass is a good sign, but a “grassy” or bitter taste is not usually desirable. As always, your taste may certainly be different from mine, so experiment to find your preferred brew. Even so, hopefully the above guidelines will give you a head-start.

My guide to Preparing Japanese Tea: Fresh leaf, Mesh Strainer, and Cooler Water Green tea from Japan differs quite a lot from its Chinese cousin. The different cultivars, harvesting, and processing provides a distinct experience.

Not too long ago I had a chance to attend a tea class held by John at Stone Leaf Tea. The topic was Taiwanese tea, since he had just returned from travels on that venerable island. When we were there we tasted a tea that was stunning in both its creation as well as its flavors. I recently prepared a tasting at home to try and capture more information.

The tea is a Tri Roasted Ali Shan Oolong harvested last spring, and quite a treasure it is. Probably my favorite style of oolong in recent years is Hong Shui, and this tea reminded me of it instantly.

tri-roast-dry

The aroma permeates the senses. When I take a sip it feels like standing next to a cauldron of roasting nuts in a field of fragrant flowers. Even minutes after the cup is empty, I want to just sit and inhale the scent left behind.

Although this is undeniably a roasted oolong, I definitely wouldn’t call it a “dark roast”. There’s none of that intense charcoal flavor, nor is the roast similar to the autumn-leaf dryness of Yan Cha. There’s none of the fruitiness that accompanies a Phoenix or the honey of a Bai Hao. I can detect the High Mountain characteristics that I’d expect from a greener Ali Shan, but this has so much more character.

The taste reminds me of buttered pecans. Rich and aromatic in both the leaves and in the mouth, this tea has everything. It’s energy is very balanced, neither too bright nor too mellow. Leaves like these show a real skill in both processing and roasting.

This amazing leaf was roasted by Mr. Huang, the brother of Stone Leaf’s main Taiwan tea supplier Mr. Liao. His pretty unique “Tri-Roast” consists of a careful charcoal roasting (a rare skill these days) followed by an electric roast in bamboo baskets and lastly a small electric oven roast. Each of these steps requires a great deal of labor and talent as each roast must be tweaked and adjusted based on the results of the previous one. As Stone Leaf’s owner John wrote to me:

A big part of the skill with roasting is knowing what the tea will be like months AFTER it is finished. It changes so much in that time period…so to have 3 different methods triples the number of variables that are present to change the results.

My entire day noticeably improved after this tea session, and I can still sense the aroma in my mouth several hours later. And what a session it was! Eight infusions in, the liquor was still a buttery yellow-gold. The leaves were like a soup of collard greens, massive and heavy when they unfurled. Not too many full leaf sets were present, but plenty of full leaves that seem to glow like a cedar tree in winter.

Many thanks to Stone Leaf tea for finding and sharing this piece of craftsmanship. I hope every tea drinker can experience a cup like this at least once.

Something of a love letter to a Tri Roasted Ali Shan #tea: Not too long ago I had a chance to attend a tea class held by John at…

A Tale of Three Tuo Cha 

What started out as a humble tasting of this months Jalam teas Nannuo shan bing (which will happen another time) quickly turned into a fury of gaiwans and leaves during an exploration of an interesting part of my tea collection. 

Tuo Cha: Bowl tea, nest tea, whatever floats your boat. Often, this shape plays second fiddle to the Bing. The most prized leaves from each garden and harvest are likely going to be pressed into a bing. Some of this is due to the size of leaves.  1-4 leaf grade (for puer this only means size and not quality of pick) are used for tuos (100g being the most common size) and 5-9 are used for the larger pressings of bings and zhuan (brick) at 357g standard for bings/250g for zhuan) 

Factories like Xiaguan have historically been more tuo focused compared to Menghai, CNNP and Kunming factories. They have become the standard for comparison for tuos from all places. 

Back in 2011, I tasted three different teas, one from 2007 and two from ‘08. I had just gotten into sheng puer and I loved them all. To this point, my frame of reference for sheng was around a dozen teas, all under 5 years old at the time. I had a few middle-aged sheng and shou but those are hardly comparable, different creatures altogether. Even though my perspective was limited, I knew what I liked.

The first tea I tried back in 2011 was a gift from a friend. The flavor was sweet, lightly fruity and nice dry,woody notes that I liked in most arbor tea I tried before. I enjoyed this tea so much I bought a stack of 5 tuos. The name of the tea is 8911 sheng tuo. If you know your puer recipe codes you would deduce this tea used a recipe creating in 1989 using the smallest leaves and produced by the Kunming factory. My research over the years has proved unfruitful and as far as we know, this tea is not an official product. Today I cracked open a tuo and brewed the first infusion. Nothing. seriously, there was color to the liquid but it was devoid of anything you could call puer. the wet leaves didn’t smell like much either and looked like old shredded cabbage :/ Before you call this a “tuition” tea know that this tea was cheap enough that I am only bummed out that I recommended it and/or gifted it at one point. Not a loss or a hit to my “collection”. 

The second tea was a 2007 “Yin Ya Tuo” meaning silver bud. So this tea is also likely from tiny buds. If the flavor of the first tea was lightly fruity, this tea was a cornucopia of stonefruit (in a nice, natural way not an artisanal, crafted, buzzword, chunks of dried fruit, mall store tea) Not as many woody notes as the first but smooth and sweet, not many young, sharp notes. I shared this tea with some friends when I first got it and may have even gifted a tuo to you (search your tea stash if you don’t remember) Today I pulled this out after my upsetting experience with the 8911. The tea looks fine, no red flag in the dry leaf. The wet aroma now has me worried though. it doesn’t smell… The first infusion appears as a 7 year old tea should but the flavor is again nothingness. Was this the first tea? I’m not sure which is more disappointing. Both equally I guess. No I’m not going to get rid of them or sell them (unless you want one for $5) I want these tests to be an isolated incident and be proven wrong in another 3 years. I’m not holding my breath though. 

This came a few days after water tasting experiment with the 2008 Da Li Tuo from the Xiaguan factory. This tea was quite strong in its woody (oak specifically) when I first tasted it back in 2011. since then the flavors have grown but also smoothed out around the edges (oh boy what are you going to taste like in 5-10 more years?!) At first the strength was overwhelming and was ironically my least favorite of the three. I now attribute this to inexperienced taste buds. I also picked up 5 tuos and have shared it with countless folks over the years to much delight of my tea friends. This tea also was not expensive but clearly has improved in value. 

So here’s where things get interesting. Was this a storage issue for these teas? well, all three were next to each other and many other sheng for the last 3+ years. The 8911 may have been stored strangely before I got it but I think an initial poor storage issue would have been noticeable from the get-go. The Yin Ya and Da Li were from the same vendor and likely stored similarly in whatever warehouse or teashop conditions they have. So next question is whether the leaf size has anything to do with it. While the size of the first to looked similar in terms of broken tiny bits off each tuo, the Dali tuo isn’t exactly much bigger and doesn’t break off with the whole leaf intact either. While I do think that buds don’t age as well as lower leaves, I don’t think this could account for a complete lack of flavor. If anything the small leaves would infuse so quickly you’d need to water it down so much you’d use up all your water on the first brew.

How bout the source material? The 8911 is produced by the Kunming factory* (*maybe), leaves could come from anywhere in Yunnan even a different province or even a different country (Vietnamese knockoff?) The Yin Ya Tuo proudly states it is from the Lincang Valley and I have no reason to doubt it, this region is not coveted enough to warrant fakes like famous Yiwu and Banzhang gardens. So the outlier is the Dali tuo, right? I don’t Believe it is. Dali is on the edge of the Lincang Valley and the source material is likely to have comparable flavor characteristics (they don’t grow any tea in the old or new city so it’s coming from the mountains anyway). so, what’s left? Now this had occurred to me early in the tasting, the last time I tasted the Yin Ya it was dull but not completely lifeless yet, was this puer? 

Marshaln wrote about this topic last year and I believe my question (and theory as to why these tease now suck) has been answered.

The these teas like so many on the flooded puer market were produced poorly. They were over fired and then fixed creating an effect similar to a green tea. Great fresh and terrible a couple years down the road. Now this may not be the exact issue i’m dealing with but I’m sure it’s a factor. But If I got them after they were 3-4 years old wouldn’t they already taste off? Perhaps, I didn’t taste them when they were fresh so I can’t really compare. The best way for me to describe this tea is that during the shaqing (killgreen) process, the leaves are fired at a low temp so as not to fix them like you would an orthodox green like Liu An or Bi Luo Chun. Instead of a lower heat they are increasing the heat and killing the potential for it to aged or they are heating it for too long and they might as well be brewing the life right out of it. 

I’m not sure there is a good way to avoid this problem with younger teas. Reputable sellers might have a new source that has great mao cha but over fire it so that expensive tea could be drek. Older teas might be out of your price range at first but they are also battle tested so you know what you’re getting (especially if a sample is available) I still trust the vendor I got the Yin Ya from as every other tea from them has been great. The 8911 vendor might not be on my tea buying list but they have some nice, cheaper teaware and that’s also where I found my favorite teapet Clyde! 

So be on the lookout for this issue with some of your tea. Luckily I’ve only had such luck with these tuos and maybe another tea I can’t recall. For the most part, teas have progressed well enough under my storage regime and are anxious to recruit new mates! 

Water for Tea

Some of you may see that title and think I’m going to talk about Chanoyu, while that is an excellent topic, It is not the subject for this post. To accompany these pictures I am writing to you about using different water for tea and more importantly for different teas. 

There have been many blog posts about water Here, Here and Here as well as countless others. Water also features prominently in The Ancient Art of Tea

This month’s gift from Global Tea Hut  is medicine stones. They are used to soften and purify water. I have spent the last two days drinking tea and comparing water with the stones and water without for the same tea.

I used two different kettles, one copper and the one you see in many of the pictures, a ceramic kettle made by Petr Novak (his partner made the charcoal stove used to boil) I have gone back and forth between these two kettles for a number of teas and haven’t noticed enough of a difference in the material changing the water to the extent of noticeably changing the tea. For this reason putting the stones in one and not the other should give me results. 

The first tea I tested was a tea I’ve loved for a long time - 2008 Da Li Tuo Cha, a woody, still youngish sheng puer that was harvested in the Lincang valley. I know this tea well enough that if a friend of mine came over and brewed all of my tea (which would take a long time) I would be able to identify this tea quickly, it is that distinct.

Great, the tea has been picked and the kettles are prepped. As the first kettle boiled with the non-stoned water, my first infusion brought back fond memories of Cha Xi by the Three Pagodas in Da Li. The tea tasted I expected, dry, woody, hints of peach or apricot and a sweet finish, my ideal flavor for a younger sheng puer. Five or six infusions and the first kettle was depleted, enough to work with for the next, just boiling kettle of stone-influenced water.  

The stones rumbled lightly in the bottom of the kettle like pebbles in a stream as I took it off the charcoal. The stones gave off a lightly floral scent that I would describe as “soft”. The aroma carried into the flavor only slightly but not in a bad way, the texture of the water is what I really noticed. This tea I had known so well changed dramatically before my tastebuds. The dry and woody texture morphed into an almost milky broth. The water and tea were not as clear as before and the sweetness at the end was barely part of the equation.

I was surprised. Not that the water was affected by the stones but that it made this tea considerably less desirable. Many writings about water tell the importance of the source, be it a mountain spring or RO filtered or glacier extracted. These tests are fun because you get to drink tea! I haven’t had the opportunity to try different spring sources, mainly I am using filtered well water from the tap. I like the way all my teas taste using this water, many of the teas I bought in China aren’t noticeably different with this source so why not continue?

In most Chinese tea shops there is a big water cooler with a brand of springwater (Nongfu was the most common we saw throughout the country) occasionally we happened upon a spring that people were collecting from (memorably from Tiger Spring area in Hangzhou) Each tea has a complex composition unique to it’s surroundings (terroir) and that includes the water in the soil. Each province is famous for one or more teas but often do not import the famous teas from other growing regions. A Bi Luo Chun might be hard to find in Fujian and would taste different using Wuyi water than Dongshan water. There is water that is downright bad for tea, some city water will make the best tea cry. There are also plenty of bottled waters that will let the best teas speak for themselves.

That being said, the stones taught me that this water was not the right water for this puer. The softness that was promised changed the tea to the point it was no longer a familiar brew.  I am sure this will enhance many of my teas, I just need to find the right ones. 

Hong Cha? No, I wanted Black Tea

Black tea. This can be a misleading term. During my recent visit to Tea Drunk in NYC I really enjoyed that they wrote this little gem on their menu:

RED TEA 紅茶: known as black tea by rest of the world for reasons we do not understand

When working at the teahouse, this was one of most frequent ways I found that people got confused. They would ask for a “red tea”, but not really have any idea what…

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Tea in Nature

Tea is a plant first and foremost. Taking the leaf back to the wild is only right. In many famous depictions of tea drinking in China, the scholars are drinking tea outside. Sometimes They are seen on the bank of a river, at the foot of a waterfall or on top of a mountain. 

If the weather is nice enough, there is no reason not to drink tea outside. The fresh air, the birds and the tea itself make for a more complete tea drinking experience. 

If you are lucky enough to have a ceramic stove or even a fire pit where you can boil the water with fire, you will find that first cup even more rewarding. In the old days, this was all you had. No electric kettles or gas powered stoves to speed up the process. You had to earn your tea.

Since I got my ceramic kettle and stove, I have been humbled by fire. some days I have luck with the wind and the water boils in 30 mins. Other times I have struggled and waited much longer just for one cup of tea. As I become more comfortable with how the stove functions, I am keeping the boiling time pretty short (relatively compared to electric or gas…) 

I found when I boiled water by gas or electric means, I was taking for granted a key part of the tea ceremony. All my attention was into picking the tea and often I was just drinking tea to accompany another task (like writing this blog post while drinking Liu An) instead of the tea BEING my task, my focus. With the ceramic kettle and stove. The fire is the task and tea the reward.When you build the fire to boil water, the tea ceremony begins. Then you set up your tea space. The fire is the task and tea the reward. Tending the fire while setting up the Chaxi helps focus my attention on the particular elements I wish to include. 

Being outside, I usually like to incorporate flowers in some way. Wood and stone are also themes to consider. Anything binding to nature will look and feel more complete. Sometimes when I have a really grounded in nature Chaxi I like to add a more “unnatural” element like a porcelain gaiwan or teacup. The contrast makes these beautiful pieces POP out leads the eye.  

Some of you may not have a gaiwain, yixing teapot or a chawan. That;s fine (although I encourage everyone to pick up at least one brewing vessel that makes you feel good) Chances are if you are reading this, you probably have at least a mug or some other vessel to consume liquid out of. I assume you can also boil water somehow. Take the freshly boiled water and bring it outside on your porch, deck, lawn, garden, or buy a thermos if you don’t already own one and go to a park. 

This new way of tea may invigorate and inspire you, if nothing else at least it will help you think about other cool places to drink tea. You might make a daily or weekly “ritual” out of it. After a week or two I wouldn’t be surprised if you find you brain working on the next level. Not necessarily because of the tea but because of the practice. You’ll get better at brewing tea by caring more about the cup in your hand because it is the focus.

Don’t forget to have fun too, invite some friends, bring some snacks. Tea Picnic!  When you’re done you can offer the spent tea leaves to the nearest or favorite tree or blueberry bush!

Last weekend I was in New York City to see a show and one of the things I always do in New York City is visit all my favorite vegan restaurants and cafes. This trip had an additional draw, though, being able to visit Tea Drunk, a gongfu teahouse that brings me right back to Taiwan. In fact, it’s really on-par with my favorite teahouses the world over. Small and cozy with a real expertise in Chinese tea and quite a selection, it was a perfect place to sit, sip, and chat. I even got to meet a few of the other guests, because it’s hard to avoid making friends over tea.

Nicole at Tea DrunkOur host was the imitable Nicole Martin, aka: Tea For Me Please. The owner of Tea Drunk was away in China, sourcing the great teas that appear on their menu, but Nicole was there to guide us through what probably amounted to 20 infusions of a nicely woody 2011 Sheng Da Meng Song (大勐宋), followed by maybe 10 gaiwans of a 2010 Shou Tuo Cha (of uncertain origin) that was even better than I expected. I was very energized by the time I left. The shop certainly lived up to its name!

The Sheng was crisp and comforting. The Shou was not too sweet, and had a blackberry quality to it which I really enjoyed. There are some really great young Puer cakes being produced these days, but a few years can make a big difference.

Photo Jul 12, 4 25 42 PMThe shop is small, but beautiful. It looks from the outside like its space is in part of an old church. A host of teaware adorns one wall, while the other is devoted mostly to a seven person bamboo gong-fu bar that I’ve always dreamed of having for myself. The rest of the space holds about six square tables, each with its own custom-made petrified bamboo tea table that are works of art in themselves. When we sat down, we were able to pick one of the cute tea pets from their collection to share our tea. You’ll notice our friendly tea-loving bulldog in the pictures.

One of the most exciting aspects of Tea Drunk for me is their events. They have started a weekly “Tuesday Tea-Off” where each participant (including the teahouse) brings a tea of the same category for a blind tasting to compare and contrast. If only I lived closer! Nevertheless, it’s inspiring and a great way to involve the tea community.

Normally I would have been sipping with one hand and taking notes with the other, but I was really enjoying the conversation with Nicole and I never got around to writing down my thoughts about these teas. At this point all my memory can tell me is that they were both delightful and that I will definitely be returning to Tea Drunk next time I’m in New York. Their tea is definitely priced for small groups to share, but is undeniably worth the expense. If you are alone, perhaps you can find a friend in the city who’s willing to share a cup or two.

Getting Tea Drunk at Tea Drunk Last weekend I was in New York City to see a show and one of the things I always do in New York City is visit all my favorite vegan restaurants and cafes.

Oolong Mountain Tasting Part 1

In the world of Taiwanese Oolongs, Gao Shan Cha is king. Ali Shan, Da Yu Lin, Shan Lin Xi just to name a few. As I did with my puer mountain tasting, I will be giving a little history as well as general tasting notes and comparison.

Li Shan - Pear Mountain 

Located in the northern part of central Taiwan, This mountain has tea gardens around 2000 meters, second only to Da Yu Lin. The altitude keeps the gardens into clouds often enough to provide shade growing similar to a Gyokuro or Kabusecha in Japan. This increases the Chlorophyll and adjusts the photosynthesis process and therefore changes the flavor compared to a tea in more sunlight.

The leaves are a dark and vibrant green with flavor to match. Most often a Qing Xin cultivar as are many teas from Ali Shan, Dong Ding and Shan Lin Xi, The Terroir of this mountain and the shade from the altitude give this tea a smooth, buttery flavor even more prominent than the richness of Jin Xuan.

This particular Li shan is from a man (master Lin) who works by himself and lets the garden grow wild to an extent.  My friend and fellow teamaster John, the owner of Stoneleaf in Middlebury, VT brought this tea back from Taiwan on his recent trip, you can read about his travels here

I am amazed every time I drink this tea, The expected buttery qualities are there but what’s most remarkable is the salty, oceanic aroma and flavor in the first 3 or so infusions. I am reminded of an ocean breeze or a clear broth for Pho or another eastern soup. This taste is quite rich for a light oolong, I almost count it as a meal.

Not sure which tea I will taste next, stay tuned for updates, this won’t be a 10 teas in ten days like the puer tasting, I am likely to revisit the tasting in between other teas and blogs.