TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

January 16, 2015

Tea Review: Mei Li Shan, Bingley’s Teas

Filed under: food,green tea,oolong tea,tea,tea review,Tea sites — by teaguide @ 3:27 pm
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Bingley's Teas
Following a miserable allergy season and a bout with a URI, my ability to smell and taste has finally returned! And, so, happily I resume writing tea reviews, starting with this unusual tea courtesy of Bingley’s Tea Limited.

 

Noting my fondness for Taiwan pouchongs, the proprietor of Bingley’s asked if I’d care to sample a tea from her new Temptress Teas line of premium teas, a green tea developed from the Jin Xuan cultivar. I’ve been sipping a good amount of Jin Xuan pouchong from various sources and it has become quite a favourite, as I noted in a previous review, so I was anxious to try it. And I wasn’t disappointed.

 

For those of you who think you don’t like green tea, do try this one. It has none of the grassiness or bitterness that so many complain about in green teas. In fact it is quite smooth and gentle, with the sweet floral taste and aroma that make Jin Xuan pouchong such a pleasant, elegant cup. And if you steep it as a green tea with water at fish-eye temperature (about 180 degrees F) it’s difficult to over-steep, making it easier to fix: I forgot about one steeping and it went almost six (6) minutes before I decanted it. Most green teas turn into a bitter mess if steeped for more than two or three minutes.bingleys-dry-leaf

 

If you’re already a happy green tea drinker, Mei Li Shan is one you may want to add to your repertoire, for the qualities outlined here, plus a lovely nut-like finish.

 

Leaves are long, dark, and wiry. If you measure your tea by volume you’ll need to at least double the quantity you generally use as it is very “airy.” I infused the tea using the Simon’s crumbs method, first in a six-cup English style teapot, then in modified gongfu style (multiple successive infusions blended together into one pitcher), next in a lovely kyusu that my DH brought home for me several years ago from Japan, and finally in a two-cup Chatsford teapot. These last two methods I judged the most successful, perhaps because as the final experiments I got a better feel for the tea.

 

IMNSHO it needs somewhat more leaf than many green teas (beyond the accommodation for the tea’s “airiness”) and a slightly longer steep time. bingleys-wet-leafMostly I kept the water temperature at about fish-eye temperature (bringing the water to a boil, then cooling it for a few moments), and steeped it — except when I forgot about it — for about four minutes. The second steep in the two-cup Chatsford was at a slightly higher string-of-pearls water temperature, as suggested on the Bingley’s site. This intensified the taste qualities, tho’ required a shorter steep time; at just under four minutes it was on the brink of bitterness.

 

As with almost all green teas, the Mei Li Shan is good for multiple steeps: perhaps two if you’re steeping it English style, and about four or five if you’re going gongfu.

 

I was unable to find any information on this tea except that which is provided on the Bingley’s website. If you have any more information, I’d be grateful if you’d share it with me. Whether or not I can learn any more about it, I’m certainly going to continue to enjoy it.

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greentea-in-glasscup

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January 8, 2015

The miseries of missing tea time

Filed under: food,oolong tea,tea,Tea sites — by teaguide @ 12:15 pm
Tags: , ,
clock-swirly-no-time

Another crazy day …

Yesterday was another one of those days … a day when I had so many errands to run, including a visit to the vet with three kitties, that I never got around to having my tea.

On a normal day – that is, a day when I’m working at home, or can finish my errands in short order – I consume between 24 and 72 ounces of tea. And often more.

I generally start the day with a Taiwan pouchong prepared in what I refer to as modified gongfu style: tea steeped successively in a clay pot, with the first three steepings decanted into a 24-ounce teapot. This is repeated at least once. In the afternoon I go through a couple of potsful of tea in my 38-ounce teapot. I might have white or green or black tea, or one potful of each. In summer, the hot tea is often replaced by a couple of quarts of iced tea.

And that doesn’t include any teas I happen to be sampling for review.

cranky-cat

It’s true: without my tea, I get a wee bit cranky.

I’ve been drinking this much tea every day for more years than I care to disclose; let’s just say a long time. So when I miss having my tea, I really feel the loss. Without my tea I tend to get cranky and tired. Sometimes I get a headache.

Tea professionals and other tea fanatics that I know – people who tend to drink a lot of tea – have also reported this kind of response. But there seems to be some dispute about why it happens.

Some claim that we’re addicted to caffeine. That’s certainly possible, and a few of the symptoms of tea deprivation do mimic those of substance withdrawal. I’m not completely convinced, however, because L-theanine, the caffeine-like substance found in tea, does not have quite the same chemical makeup as true caffeine, so it does not necessarily have the same effect on the human body. While caffeine, an alkaloid, is straightforwardly a stimulant, L-theanine, an amino acid, can act as both a stimulant and a calmative: If I drink a cup of tea when I’m under stress it not only calms me down, it also seems to provide the mental clarity I need to cope with the stressful situation itself. And although it may exist, I have not seen any convincing evidence that L-theanine is in fact addictive. (I want to state clearly that I’m neither a scientist nor a physician; these are anecdotal comments based on my own experience. If you want more information about caffeine and L-theanine, I encourage you to research this on your own.)

kitten-sipping-tea

All purrs after I have my tea!

I’m more inclined to hold with another theory: dehydration. In this study, participants displayed some of the same symptoms I experienced when I didn’t have my tea. It’s my observation that when tea drinkers don’t have access to tea, we often don’t drink anything in its place – or at least not in the same quantity that we’re used to with our tea. Considering that the average adult’s body weight is comprised of about two-thirds water, we tend to be sensitive to any shortfall of liquid intake.

Then again, perhaps it’s part addiction, part dehydration, and part habit. Whatever it is, I don’t like it, and from now on I’m going to make the effort to have some portable tea – either a travel mug of hot tea or a bottle of chilled tea – with me whenever I’m on the run.

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December 11, 2014

Scents and scents-ability of tea

oolong tea leaves

Oolong tea leaves

The enjoyment of tea encourages us to engage all of our senses. Look at the shape and colour of the dry leaves, watch them unfurl and swirl in the hot water. Feel the cool smoothness of gyokuro leaves or the nubbly texture of a Buddha’s hand oolong leaf. Listen to the water boiling in the kettle, then as it’s poured from kettle to teapot to cup. Savour each sip, perceiving the range of tastes playing across your palate.

Our sense of smell may be the most important, and most varied, aspect of enjoying tea. Sniff the dry leaf in the sack or tin immediately after opening it to draw in the scent; again when you first pour hot water onto the leaves; and once more when bringing cup to lips. After the teapot is empty, lift the cover and take in the lingering bouquet graciously left by the tea on the interior of the pot.

To further enhance the olfactory appreciation of tea, in the mid-1900s the aroma cup was created in Taiwan. Also called a fragrance or smelling cup, this is a small cylindrical cup (wen xiang bei) paired with a small drinking cup (cha bei). Altho’ these were specifically designed to amplify the aromas of fragrant Taiwan oolongs, you can of course try it with other types of teas.

Three aroma cup sets from my own collection.

Three aroma cup sets from my own collection: Decorative china with flange, celadon porcelain in a bulb shape, and a traditional partially glazed red clay.

Fresh-made tea is first poured into the tall cup and allowed to rest for a few moments, then emptied into the drinking cup. If you’re nimble, you can add some drama to this procedure by inverting the drinking cup over the aroma cup that has been filled with tea, lift the cups together with thumb and middle finger of one hand, and quickly flip them over to transfer the tea into the drinking cup. Otherwise, simply pour the tea from the aroma cup into the drinking cup.

The aroma cup is then raised toward the nose to smell the lingering tea fragrance, which is intensified by the cylindrical shape. Sniff … and ahhhh! Aromas last for about a minute, during which time they subtly change as the cup cools, offering multiple nuances of scent. Alternate smelling and drinking the tea from the two cups to fully enjoy this ritual.

It’s been said that smell is the most evocative of all the senses, that a mere hint of a familiar scent can draw us immediately to another time and place. Certainly this is true of the fragrances of tea. If you don’t already use an aroma cup to enhance your tea enjoyment, I highly recommend that you give it a try.

(Here is one source for aroma cup sets, altho’ there are many other vendors who sell these as sets or individual cups.)

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Contact us by email about reviewing your tea or tea-related product, or to be interviewed.

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All content Copyright 2014 JP Badarau; all rights reserved.

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