I’m learning to love unflavored teas this year, and this beautiful offering from Tea Vivre really makes my job easy! Without even opening the bag, I’m already impressed with the gaiwan tea ceremony directions and WOW! The heritage on this tea is amazing, down to the day of when and where it was harvested (April 8, 2017). The gongfu style black tea is named after where it was grown, Tanyang Village in Fujian, of South East China.
The adventure continues as I reveal Twisted ropes of gold and brown… I’ve never seen this type of tea before, it’s actually soft with some fuzzies on it. A green-thumbed friend of mine called this style of leaves “pubescent”, meaning they were just barely mature.
Still dry, they offer a light, clear, inviting scent, like fresh sweet peas in the garden. I decided to taste a leaf, (they make coffee bean snacks so it’s not that crazy to do, right??) and we are reminded of the chocolate noodles they sample out of Pikes place market.
The walnut colored brew offers a hint of honey taste though none was added. I never expected this sort of delicate leaf to be so powerful! They say the longer you brew this style, the mellower the flavor will be, which is quite the opposite of most teas I’ve had, and it’s completely true!! Now I’m curious about the actual chemistry of tannins etc… oh the rabbit holes of science we can get caught up in…
It is “zero percent bitter” and easy to drink (Hanley, R.,2017). There is a refreshing aftertaste, maybe a subtle hint of wintergreen. This tea doesn’t have much of an aftertaste but I tended to wait a while between sips because this tea was just so transcendental that I couldn’t help but daydream about it.
If ever you need to impress someone with a tea, this is the one!
Here’s the scoop!
Leaf Type: Black, loose leaf
Where to Buy: TeaVivre
Being the first one among Fujian’s three best Gong Fu Black Teas (Bai Lin Gong Fu, Zheng He Gong Fu, Tan Yang Gong Fu), Tan Yang Gong Fu Black Tea has tight and thin leaves, looks glossy, which could be seen from TeaVivre’s product photo. When looking at this tea, the golden pekoe is particularly eye-catching, strongly connected to its high quality. Under the effect of photosynthesis, fresh buds contain the largest amount of beneficial substances than other parts. Moreover, the traditional making method of black tea has retained the nutrition in the most volume.
Black tea is renowned with it red leaves and red liquid. The liquid of Tan Yang Gong Fu is bright red, and clean, which brings you a feeling of pureness. The flavor will vary based on different amount of teas and time of infusion. If using gai wan to brew in traditional Chinese way (Recommend Brewing Guide), you will sense the sweet and mellow flavor, and feel a quick sweet aftertaste in your throat. The aroma of Tan Yang Gong Fu will float around you for a long time.
Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!
Now on to Part 2 of my ‘review’ of the Midwest Tea Fest! Oh, what goodness lies ahead!
What kind of tea person would I be if I did not take home a massive haul of tea back with me? I packed very light for the trip, but brought a giant suitcase to hold it all in. When it was all packed tightly away, I just made the cut off size for a checked bag. 49.5lbs of nothing but tea, teaware, and toothpaste!
I know how it looks, there is a lot more teaware than there is tea. I waited too long to snag anything, and a lot of the teas being sold were essentially all gone. But! I fell in love with more teaware than I think is healthy for just one person. It was pretty crowded around all of the booths the majority of the time, it was a madhouse! Just watching the folks at the Queen’s Pantry feverishly weigh and pack all the teas that were flying off the ‘shelves’ was almost nauseating. I overheard the people at Shang Tea how they only prepared for 300 people, and there was easily twice as much in attendance.
The few teas you see are mostly samples, the Rishi and Harney were in my goodie bag, and I got samples of Pomegranate white and gunpowder mint from Single Origin. I did purchase Single Origin Tea’s Jun Chiyabari, the last one on their table. There is a small round tin of Bingley’s 10yrs Oven Roasted Aged oolong, and I did pick up some of Shang’s Aged White. (Not at the actual festival though, I took the short walk to Crowne Plaza to their brick and mortar store to pick some up, they were not selling them at the fest.)
I ended up doing something I never do, and that is indulge in any whim I had along the way. I bought three pieces from Pi Ceramics, a sweet goblet cup, a cha hai (sharing pitcher) for gongfu, and a short and stout kuysu! They are great looking pieces and have a good home here with me. I bought another sharing pitcher from Bingley’s, as well as a small glass teapot. The two small white cups are from Shang Tea, as well as the white infused mug, and the Tea Seed Oil. (Fun Fact: Tea Seed Oil has a smoke point of 455F. You could healthily fry with it!)
The two books you see are the darlings of my collection from the fest. The first is Nichole’s own book, Tea Log: Chronicle your journey of Tea which a very useful tool I know I will be filling up very quickly. And the hardcover 30th edition of Tea Lover’s Treasury by James Norwood Pratt was signed by the legend himself. I was overjoyed by the welcoming attitude he and his wife Valerie had towards everyone they talked to.
Leaf Type: Oolong
Where to Buy: The Tao of Tea
From a small tea garden and farmer cooperative in the Dhankuta district of the eastern Himalayan region of Nepal. The co-op actively encourages small farmers to not only grow tea, but to bring bio-diversity into their land.
This leaf represents a new tradition and style of making tea in Nepal. The leaves are hand-rolled instead of large conventional mechanical rollers, then carefully roasted over low heat.
Learn more about this tea here.
I’m revisiting this Nepali Oolong from The Tao of Tea because when I reviewed the tea, it was one of my favorite Oolong teas that I had tried up to that point and I’ve tried a lot of teas since then. Because my experience with the Napali Oolong was so memorable, I wanted to revisit it to find out if I still enjoyed it as much as I remember. I wanted to find out if it still deserves that place in my heart as one of my favorite Oolong teas.
In addition, since the time of writing that original review, I have come to learn the joy of brewing in a gaiwan and what a difference it makes when it comes to steeping an Oolong tea. Armed with that knowledge, I measured out a bamboo scoop of the tea leaves into my gaiwan, administered a 15 second rinse, and then steeped the tea for 1 minute at 180°F. I resteeped the leaves, adding 15 seconds onto the second infusion, and then I combined both infusions into one cup.
My first cup (infusions 1 & 2) is sweet and abundant with buttery flavor and there’s a buttery texture to go along with it. I’m tasting strong fruit notes -a note of peach that’s so delectable! This cup is smooth with very little astringency and no bitterness. The fruit notes provide quite a bit of the sweetness but I’m also tasting a honey note and sweet floral notes. It’s has a buttery taste and texture to it too.
So, very much like what my review suggests, although I think I’m tasting more fruit now than I did in my first infusion back then. I’m also tasting the honey flavors that I didn’t notice or recognize back then.
With my second cup (infusions 3 & 4), I noticed that the strong buttery presence has diminished somewhat. The texture is lighter and the flavor is a little less buttery – still there, certainly, just lighter. The honey notes are still strong and the peach notes are still just as strong (if not a tad bit stronger!) I’m also picking up on some notes of plum now – like a fully ripened, sweet plum that’s been dried to retain it’s sugary sweetness.
As I’ve already mentioned, the texture is lighter with this cup and because of that, I’m picking up on the slightest note of astringency. It’s still quite smooth, but this is a little more astringent than the first cup. Don’t let that sway you though, because the first cup wasn’t astringent at all – and now, just a slightly dry, tangy sensation at the tail.
My third cup was delightfully peachy-plumy-yummy! I don’t get much buttery flavor that I experienced with the previous two cups – but this tea is still worth the extra infusions because the sweet fruit notes are so amazing. A light honey note and a floral note begins to emerge, weaving its way in and out of the sip. This cup is more astringent than the second cup, but it’s still a rather light astringency.
A truly remarkable tea – definitely worth exploring – and re-exploring as I have done today. This tea is currently out of stock at The Tao of Tea but please keep your eyes peeled! I consider this tea a must try for all tea lovers!
Leaf Type: Oolong
Where to Buy: Fong Mong Tea
Developed around 15 years ago, the tea estates on Alishan area produce the newest type of high mountain oolongs. At the elevation of 1000 meters, the mountainsides are covered with fog or clouds which are ideal for growing Oolong. The tea estates are nestled in a beautiful scenic area with a 1000 years old forest nearby.
Due to the unique local climate and selection criteria for the leaves, this tea is a high quality grade Alishan Oolong. The tea liquor has a pale yellow hue matching its faintly fresh aroma. Once tasted, the tea presents itself with a fresh taste followed by a faintly sweet aftertaste.
Learn more about this tea here.
There are very few teas out there that make me happier than a lovely Alishan Oolong like this Taiwan Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea from Fong Mong Tea.
I brewed this tea in my gaiwan. I start with a bamboo scoop of tea in the bowl of the vessel and then I heat the water to 180°F. I add just enough of the hot water to the gaiwan to cover the leaves and I let them steep for 15 seconds to rinse them. Then I strain off the liquid and discard it.
I fill the gaiwan with hot water and let it steep for 45 seconds. I add 15 seconds to each infusion that follows. And because this is an Alishan – I strained the tea into my designated YiXing mug. My first cup was the combination of infusions 1 -5 and my second cup was the combination of infusions 6 – 10.
The first thing I note is that the Alishan High Mountain is a little less creamy than the Alishan Jin Xuan. This tea is more a celebration of floral flavors than the creamy, milky texture and flavor of the Jin Xuan.
This is sweet and delicate with beautiful floral tones – I taste orchid! – and very subtle butter tones. Hints of rice mingle with the buttery notes.
In the background, I pick up notes of fruit. This is a pleasantly sweet cup with some contrasting sharp notes from the floral notes. It’s smooth from start to finish: no bitterness and very little astringency. The mouthfeel is thick and broth-y. The aftertaste is sweet with notes of flower.
My second cup was not quite as thick in texture as the first and I noticed that more of the floral notes as well as some of the fruit notes have emerged while the whispers of vanilla that I experienced in the first cup have diminished. This cup is still very sweet from the fruit notes and I’m picking up on distinct honey-esque notes now.
A beautiful, contemplative tea. Really lovely – put this on your must try list!
Leaf Type: Pu-erh
Where to Buy: White Two Tea
An old arbor Menghai blend. Thick body, lingering kuwei [pleasant bitterness], and plenty of oomph. This tea is a continuation of last year’s New Amerykah. The blend is slightly different, focusing more on sweetness and body than on bitterness.
Learn more about this tea here.
I was a little worried when I read the description to this 2014 New Amerykah 2 Raw Pu-erh from White Two Tea. I’m not a big fan of bitterness – although sometimes I find a savory bitterness to be quite pleasant especially when it contrasts with a stronger sweetness in a tea, so I hoped that might be what I experienced with this tea.
My first infusion wasn’t as sweet as I secretly hoped for but there is a really nice balance between the savory bitter note and the sweetness. It’s not what I’d describe as a sweet tea, this is definitely more a savory tasting tea. But it’s pleasant and actually kind of a nice change up from some of the sweeter teas that I’ve had.
It’s very mellow and not at all earthy as I would generally expect from a pu-erh tea. No briny taste, no fishy taste, not even a slight ‘mushroom-y’ taste. It’s light and slightly herbaceous. It’s a very mild taste, very pleasant to sip – so pleasant in fact, that the tea disappeared rapidly.
My second infusion has a much stronger flavor. There is nothing mild about this cup! But it still isn’t what I’d call earthy. Herbaceous, yes. There is a distinct bitter note, like a bitter grass flavor, or like what I might experience if I were to eat collard greens.
This cup is not nearly as balanced as the first cup was. I almost feel like this could use a couple of drops of balsamic vinegar in it to help balance it out and offer some tangy notes as well as a hint of sweetness. It tastes like it needs ‘salad dressing’, if that makes sense. It’s not unpleasant though. I notice that toward the end of the sip, I get some sweetness and almost like a hint of citrus in the finish and these flavors do help balance out the bitter notes.
Interestingly enough, I found that the third infusion was much more like the first than it was the second. The flavors were stronger in the third cup than the first, but, I found that the strong bitterness had subsided somewhat and become a little smoother and balanced with the sweet notes.
It’s still primarily a savory tea (again, not a tea I’d call sweet) but there is more sweetness now to soften the savory bitter taste. There is a dryness to this cup too, like a mineral-y dry note just after mid-sip that transcends into a slightly dry astringency. I notice some grape-y notes here, reminding me just a little bit of a dry white wine.
Later infusions continued to become smoother and more balanced. I think that my favorite was the fourth infusion, which seemed to me to be the perfect balance between savory and sweet without tasting ‘sweet.’ It was still a distinctly savory tea with its bitter characteristics but there was enough sweetness to soften the bitter bite and keep the taste balanced for the palate.
As I drank the sixth infusion, I felt the flavors were starting to wane somewhat so I decided to stop with this tea. I suspect I could have still gotten at least two more (possibly more) flavorful infusions, but, I was ready to move on anyway.
What I like best about this particular pu-erh is the lack of earthiness. No strong earthy notes in the aroma. Not a strong earthy flavor. I also like that with each new infusion, I discovered something new about this tea. It captured my interest with its smooth, mellow character in the first infusion and it seemed to reinvent itself with each new infusion to keep hold of my interest.
A very different pu-erh – but different in a very good way!