TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

October 14, 2013

Ramblings on reviews: Not just samples

Filed under: exotic tea,food,oolong tea,tea,Tea sites — by teaguide @ 3:25 pm
Tags: ,

Occasionally I get a comment from someone who wants to know if reviewers write  reviews just so we can grab some freebies.

Let’s face it: If it weren’t for vendors who very kindly provide samples of teas, tea ware, and tea-related products, reviewers — myself included — would miss out on a whole lot of great teas and “stuff” that we never would have known about. So I am certainly grateful for these “freebies.”

Other reviewers will have to speak for themselves on this topic. As for me, I do not limit my reviews to samples only. If I happen to purchase an excellent tea, a piece of beautiful tea ware, or some charming tea-themed object, I’ll certainly write a review. After all, why keep it to myself?

Samples, by their limited size, are not generally conducive to sharing with others. And there are many teas and other items that I’d simply like to have more of once the sample is used up. So I do often purchase teas and other items that I have sampled for free.

Recently my dear husband got it in his mind to buy some tea for his dear wife. He told me to choose whichever teas I wanted from whichever vendor I wanted to buy them from. Having recently sampled and reviewed some rather exquisite teas sourced from Taiwan Tea Crafts, I decided to take advantage of his generosity to stock up on some of my favourites from this source, and to choose a few others that looked interesting.

So I visited the Taiwan Tea Crafts website and filled up the cart, and DH placed the order, which arrived about a week later from Taipei. Here’s what the box looked like when I first opened it:

Taiwan Tea Crafts order

Colourful sacks of wonderful teas!

I hope I’ve thoroughly answered this question for anyone who was curious. And now for those of you who have commented that I don’t include enough photos with my reviews and ramblings, here are a few more:

Taiwan Tea Crafts order

An array of colourful sacks of Taiwan tea. TTC very kindly included a few samples with my order, and I look forward to sampling and reviewing all the new-to-me teas.

Taiwan Tea Crafts order

Tools of the trade: kettle, duck-on-lotus clay pot, teapot standing in for fairness pitcher, and small glass cup for sampling and sipping.

Taiwan Tea Crafts order

This morning’s cup is baked Four Seasons oolong (Lot 245): tea sack, made tea in the teapot and teacup, while another steeping continues in the clay pot.

Taiwan Tea Crafts order

Baked Four Seasons oolong leaves after the second infusion.

Taiwan Tea Crafts order

Made tea ready to drink … just need to put the cozy on the pot!

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All content Copyright 2013 JP Badarau; all rights reserved.

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September 27, 2013

Reviews: Three seasons of Four Seasons from Taiwan Tea Crafts

I recently had the fortuitous opportunity to sample and compare Taiwan teas produced from the Si Ji Chun cultivar and Baguashan terroir through three different types of processing … which I perceived as a passage from spring to summer to early autumn.

The first tea was a green style, generally my preferred style of Taiwan oolong.  For a number of years I’ve happily started my day with a potful — or two or three or more — of very lightly oxidized pouchong. Four Seasons is one of the best of the pouchongs, and this particular sample did not disappoint. Plucked this past May, it is everything a spring pouchong should be: fresh, light, and extraordinarily floral in both aroma — like spring itself — and in the cup. Preparing it in the kitchen I happily found myself enveloped in a delightful springtime garden. And of course that freshness that I’ve come to rely on from Taiwan Tea Crafts.

TTC-oolongs2

Taiwan black tea (left) and baked pouchong (right). Accompanied by toast and homemade jam.

Next was a gently baked version of the same pouchong. As I said, I generally prefer the light green style, but this tea simply blew me away as it segued from spring to summer. Baking brings out a sweetness, like spring flowers that mature in the sultry summer sunshine. It is a heady, and heavenly, experience. I may have to change my mind about preferring green oolongs!

And at last the black tea. Although the leaves were plucked a few weeks before the pouchong, the sensation was definitely autumnal. If you’ve never sampled Taiwan black tea, let me tell you that there is no other tea quite like it. And you just might want to start your tasting journey with this one. It combines the sweet summer-flower qualities of the baked pouchong with an element of fruitiness. Orange? Tangerine? Yes, but also a touch of late-summer peach. The taste and aroma work their way through the palate and the nose, and the sensation lingers … and lingers some more. Whatever you call beyond extraordinary, this is it. While I’ve sampled any number of teas that finish long, this was something else again. Superb!

Do click through the links to Taiwan Tea Crafts for more detailed information about each of their teas, terroirs, cultivars, and processes, and their very poetic descriptions of the teas themselves.

This would be a good time to remind tea drinkers that Taiwan teas are reknowned for their exquisite aromas. Take a whiff of the dry leaves when you first open the package. Breathe in the scent when the hot water first hits the leaves. Sniff your cup for a moment just before you sip. If you have an aroma cup, be sure to use it. Or try this method for appreciating the aromas: When your teapot is empty and still warm — especially after the last drops of tea have dried — lift the lid, inhale, and savour the intoxicating aromas.

Taiwan Tea Crafts is currently offering a Moon Festival sale — you have until 11.59pm Sunday, September 29 to receive a minimum 20% discount on top-quality teas, with discounts up to 32% depending on the quantity you purchase. Their beautiful tea wares are also on sale. If you spend $50 on tea (or $75 on tea ware) and use coupon code FREESHIP50 shipping around the globe is free. See their website for details. Don’t miss out.

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All content Copyright 2013 JP Badarau; all rights reserved.

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July 25, 2013

Reviews: Teamania’s Oolong Four Seasons from Thailand

Filed under: exotic tea,food,oolong tea,tea,tea review,Tea sites — by teaguide @ 3:20 pm
Tags: , ,
oolong-four-seasons-teamania

Oolong Four Seasons (photo courtesy of Teamania)

While there is none of the tradition of tea in Thailand that exists in neighbouring Asian countries, more and more excellent Thai teas are finding their way to Western markets. A handful of European tea entrepreneurs have discovered the high quality leaf that growers in Thailand are producing. Entrepreneurs like the folks at Teamania.

Many of the cultivars, and the growers themselves, are originally from China, although the oolong processes used are largely in the Taiwan style. Like this exquisite pouchong-oolong. Light fermentation (or, if you prefer, oxidation) followed by a gentle roast produces this absolutely delightful tea.

Aroma out of the package of this Oolong Four Seasons is richly flower-ful and slightly fruity (dried apricot?), and further evoking that ethereal “iron” quality that presents itself in only a select few teas. Aroma and taste carry through to the cup. Leaves are bright, shiny, and tightly rolled, opening large and earthy when infused.

As usual when sampling oolongs and pouchongs, I prepared the tea in my one-cup ducky-design clay pot. I generally cover the bottom of the pot with leaf; the leaves expand with each infusion until they fill the whole pot, which is the general idea of gongfu style tea preparation: lots of leaf and short successive steeps. After briefly rinsing the tea, I pour the rinse water into the fairness or sharing vessel (usually my two-cup Chatsford teapot) and then into my teacup to warm them before discarding the rinse water.

teamania-four-seasons2Following each infusion I pour the made tea into the two-cup pot, diverting a couple of mouthfuls into my teacup. In this way I can appreciate the evolution of the tea throughout the tasting and still have a pot of tea for uninterrupted drinking. Two infusions at a time are blended together in this manner.

I use fish-eye temperature water and increase the infusion time with each subsequent steep. How long do I let it steep? I couldn’t say exactly; just long enough. The wonderful aroma and taste have so far lasted through four infusions, and there seems to be enough life left in the leaves for at least another two infusions.

Teamania is located in Switzerland and prices are listed in Swiss francs which are currently converting at about US$1.08 to one CHF. One thing I definitely like about Thai teas is that they are very well priced for the quality: this tea is currently listed at about US$21 for 200g or a little over seven ounces.

Highly recommended!

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All content Copyright 2013 JP Badarau; all rights reserved.

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