Nepal First Flush Silver Oolong from What-Cha

SilverOolongTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy: What-Cha

Tea Description:

Sourced direct from Greenland Organic Farm, who are very much at the forefront of a burgeoning Nepali tea industry dedicated to producing high quality artisanal teas. Greenland Organic Farm are completely pesticide and chemical free farm dedicated to producing tea in an ethical and fair manner. 

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

When I placed my last What-Cha order, Alistair thoughtfully hand picked out this as an extra sample for me to try. It’s definitely a very interesting looking oolong, visually it reminds me of another very lightly oxidized oolong from Camellia Sinensis I tried not all that long ago; the same kind of pale silver/green tea leaves with a fine fuzz and down on them. They both remind me strongly of moonlight! But I don’t have expectations this will taste all that similar given this is from Nepal, and the other tea I’m reminded of aesthetically was from Darjeeling.

Every review I’ve read of this so far has been for some variation of hot tea; some of those really thorough reviews can be found on Steepster. I like to do my own thing though, and try teas in a way that’s a little different than the obvious approach, and often that leads to my cold brewing or icing tea; and that’s exactly what I did with this tea!

I found the cold brew was so interesting, with a very diverse range of flavours! The immediate and obvious ones to me were floral notes, sweet hay/grass notes, and a fruity flavour that reminded me a little of white grapes/white wine! It had that very slight sourness/acidity that wine has, but softened and contrasted by those other dominant flavours. Once I scratched the surface with the more obvious flavour notes I also noticed notes of citrus, almost a grapefruit-like flavour but also a touch lemony which probably contributed to that little bit of sourness and acidity I initially attributed to the winey/grapey notes.

Also interesting and different, I tasted a note that reminded me strikingly of the green ‘peel’ part of a cucumber? Just in that it was vegetal, crisp, refreshing and juicy in that cucumber sort of way – but with that very slight bitterness that comes with cucumber peel over cucumber ‘pulp’. In this case that bitterness is just present enough that it becomes a very pleasant quality. The overall feel of the tea is this fruity, fresh ‘Spring time’ kind of drink that reminds me of April showers, and helping me Grandma in her flower garden when I was a little kid. The presence of both sweeter fruit notes and more green/vegetal ones creates a very refreshing flavor.

So overall, this actually did end up tasting a little similar to that Camellia Sinensis Darjeeling! Not exactly the same, sure, but comparable anyway. I wonder why that’s so; possibly the terroir shared between both growing regions? Or possibly the way the leaf itself was processed. Either way I find that kind of fascinating and it’s something I’d be interested in learning more about.

Thailand Sticky Rice ‘Khao Hom’ Oolong from What-Cha

StickyRiceOolongTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy: What-Cha

Tea Description:

Has a creamy texture and sticky rice aroma, imparted unto the tea during processing by heating the sticky rice plant’s leaves along with the tea leaves.

Sticky rice scented tea is a specialty of northern Thailand, although traditionally green tea is used, Jin Xuan Oolong produces just as good if not better results.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I’ve been wanting to try a sticky rice scented tea for a while now; and when I made my most recent What-Cha order I noticed this one offered on their site so I ordered a sample size to satisfy that deep curiosity. What I didn’t expect was just how accurate or obvious the flavour of the sticky rice would be.

Even from the moment I cracked open the sample packet, the smell of fresh sticky rice was filling up my kitchen and getting me excited with how potent and dead on it was. In fact, my first few sips were so overwhelmingly close to real life sticky rice it was hard to taste or notice anything else. I ended up doing three very strong Western Style infusions before the flavour of the sticky rice started to deteriorate. 2 1/2 tsp. of leaf for a 16 oz. mug, with 85C water steeped for two minutes initially with an extra 30 seconds tacked on with each infusion after the first.

The mouthfeel of the liquor was very soft and creamy and it managed to find a way to creep into every crevice of my mouth. Even though I only needed small sips to get a good sense of the strong flavour with each infusion I found myself taking big hearty swigs just because I loved the feel and taste of the tea so much. But it wasn’t just the mouthfeel that was creamy; in addition to the super accurate flavour of good sticky rice this tastes rich and creamy with a lovely buttery quality as well! Some of the greener vegetal notes from the oolong base cut through as well, particular in the finish which provided some subtle contrast of flavour. One of my favourites about this tea, as well, is that it had a delicate taste but not a subtle flavour; and ever though it’s not particularly complex or nuanced it’s scary accurate and really tasty if sticky rice is your thing.

I actually can’t believe I haven’t heard more people talking about sticky rice scented teas; I feel like I just gained access to some sort of exclusive club! I like jasmine scented oolongs as much as the next tea drinker, but this is ten times as good as that – it’s only been a few hours since I finished that last infusion and I’m already salivating at the thought of another. My 10g sample will be gone before I know it, and I definitely intended to buy more of this once that happens.

Australia Houjicha Green from What-Cha

GreenHoujichaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy: What-Cha

Tea Description:

Two Rivers Green Tea started producing tea in 2001 with the aid and encouragement of Japanese tea experts who were seeking to encourage Japanese style tea production for the domestic Japanese market. The Two Rivers farm was selected as it has the same latitude of southern Japanese tea farms, idea temperatures, rainfall and great quality topsoil.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Recently I placed a What-Cha order for myself, and one of the things I was looking for was a Houjicha to stock up since it’s one of my favourite kinds of green tea and while I currently have a Genmaicha stocked that I really like there’s a hole in my cupboard where a good Houjicha should be. This one comes from Australia, and personally I’ve never tried an Australian grown tea before though I was aware that they were produced. Australia is one of those regions that isn’t typically thought of as a tea growing region among people who aren’t more learned tea drinkers the same way people don’t realize tea is grown in places like Kenya or Hawaii and I’m very excited to get my first taste of an Australian tea, especially considering how affordable this blend was. It was an easy thing to gamble on.

I do think this was worth the gamble. While it’s not as straightforwardly roasty as I tend to prefer from a good Houjicha there are some very, very nice subtle nuanced flavour notes that more than makes up the different. For starters, there’s an interesting nutty notes that seems to make itself known in each part of the sip in a different way. With that first initial taste it’s light lightly toasted nuts, and then in the body it weaves in and out between the other flavours. In the aftertaste, you’re tasting the shadow of the nut flavour which once was.

There’s also some really nice sweeter notes like caramel and cocoa which gently stretch out across the surface of your tongue, creating this really nice, smooth body flavour. The finish is lightly smokey, and leaves you wanting to go back in for another sip so you can experience the flavour dynamics all over again. Overall it’s a very warming and welcoming cuppa.

I definitely think I’ll clear my purchase of this easily, and will probably go back for more after that. More than that, this only gets me even more excited to try more of what Australia has to offer!

Ceylon Idulgashinna Hand Twisted Blue Nettle Oolong from What-Cha

bluenettleoolongTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  What-Cha

Tea Description:

A delightful tea crafted by workers meticulously hand twisting and tying tea leaves together to form a ‘blue nettle’. The leaves within the ‘blue nettle’ show varying levels of oxidisation and as a result the tea exhibits characteristics typical to white, oolong and black teas!

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This is a very cool tea; and while I don’t know for sure that’s it’s unique to What-Cha I’ve personally never seen another oolong rolled like this. When I opened up my sealed package I was quite surprised too; the ‘nettles’/spears of tea are actually quite large and thick – maybe about the length of my pinky finger? And just slightly thicker across than the widest part of my finger. For my tasting, I used two of the nettles/spears since the suggested measurement was 1-2 pieces and I was using a mug just slightly bigger than 12 ounces.

The first infusion was very soft and delicate, like a very lightly oxidized oolong but with flavour notes traditionally found in white, oolong, and black teas  – exactly like What-Cha describes in the tea description! The notes I observed throughout the cup were apricot, overripe peaches, hay, flowers, malt, and a dewy/rainwater like flavour. The emphasis was on the really supple stonefruit notes though. It also surprised me a little that the nettles stayed almost completely the same shape as they were before steeping – just slightly ‘swollen’ from steeping.

The second infusion was quite similar to the first – though the apricot, hay, and malt notes all got increasingly more prominent and I wasn’t tasting overripe peaches or the same ‘dew’ flavour anymore. The mouthfeel was initially soft, but it left a tingly feeling on my tongue like I’d eaten too much pineapple recently. All subsequent steeps followed the layout of this one up until the flavour started to really suffer. The nettles never really completely unwound, either.

This was a fascinating tea, and I really enjoyed it quite a bit! However, that said, the first infusion actually was my favourite. There was something really perfect about the taste of apricot and fresh rainwater. It’s hard to put it into words.

Korea Yejeon Woojeon Sparrow’s Tongue ‘Jakseol’ Green Tea from What-Cha

YejeonWoojeonTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy: What-Cha

Tea Description:

A Smooth and refined tea with a mouth coating corn taste accompanied by straw notes. Produced from the first and most prestigious ‘woojeon’ picking of the year, which is why the tea commands such a high price. Yejeon produce all their teas by hand from semi wild teas from high mountain bushes in Hwagae Valley, Jerisan.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I may need to catch my breath while saying all these tea names! Phew! This is the final Korean Green that I will be sampling today. No more, I promise. I definitely saved the best for last! I am glad I have stashed away this tea for today, I really needed a nice treat after a nice long workout.

Usually, my workout routine has been more of a “lack thereof” routine. I run to relieve stress, and do some yoga to relax. I felt like this was a routine that was working out pretty well. That is, until I noticed my arms flapping wildly during a particularly windy run in the park. I also noticed how difficult lifting things at work was, or even opening jars of things at home. Something simply had to be done.

I dusted off my membership card to the local rec center and tentatively dipped my toes into the weight room. Being the only woman in a cramped room full of gross, sweaty men was definitely something that flipped my world like a trick coin. Thankfully, I brought headphones. I didn’t have any good music to ‘pump up the jams’ with, so to speak. Except for one Kpop song. Sighing, I popped my headphones in and pressed play.

In that moment, something clicked. A switch was flipped on, connecting my weak muscles and the beat of G Dragon. Yes! Kpop was my savior at the gym! Who knew that fashionably dressed Asian men half my size and weight rapping ultra fast to a frothy beat would drive anyone working out near to me to cower in fear? I felt powerful. I still can’t lift much, but with those headphones in and the beat of EXO, I am unstoppable.

After an attempt at the gym, I always treat myself to some of my reserve tea. It really helps me to get centered and get my normal flow of blood pumping. Today to finish off the last of my Korean tea run, I turn to this hand picked ‘first flush’ green tea. Everything is done by hand, the picking, sorting, firing, and rolling. I can really see and taste the care that went into this tea.

The dry aroma of the lush forest green leaf is fresh and comforting. The leaves are tiny and thin and loosely rolled. I see nary a broken leaf in sight. The softly floral notes mix well with a grounding popped corn smell.

I brewed this tea in my smallest gaiwan with 140F water. The leaves turn a bright flush of hearty green as they release the goods. That lingering floral scent is transferred to the brew, making it light and soothing. I detect a slight vegetal top note to the thick broth. The floral mixes with hay to create a much more complex green than I had imagined, based on the previous gradings of this tea. There is a lingering taste of popcorn to the tail notes. It sticks with me even after finishing the last sip.