TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

March 17, 2013

That’s wild! Black tea from Taiwan

As I do with Taiwan oolongs, I used a small two-cup pot for this Taiwan black tea.

There once was a time when black tea came from India, green tea came from China or Japan, and oolong tea came from Taiwan. It was very simple. But then the different regions — terroirs — began to experiment with processing different types of teas.

The first time I sampled green, oolong, and white teas from Darjeeling it was a revelation … who knew that at the source for arguably the best black tea on Earth they were busy processing their teas other ways besides fully fermented/oxidized? Well, they were, and it was a great success. So great a success that other growing regions in India, as well as in neighbouring Nepal, followed suit. Now “alternative process” teas from these regions are readily available.

More recently, the source for arguably the best oolongs on Earth — Taiwan — began processing black teas. And the results are amazing.

I rarely say “always” when it comes to tea, but every Taiwan black tea I’ve sampled has been ethereal, elegant, exquisite … always.

blog-tea-leafCase in point: This Yuchi Wild Mountain Black Tea. While everyone knows about Camellia sinensis’ wild Indian cousin Assamicus, and many of us were aware of wild tea plants — actually trees — growing in China, I just recently learned about Shancha, the wild tea plant of Taiwan.

Processed as a black tea, the Yuchi is nutty. Flowery. Smooth. A very easy drinker. The subtle qualities of the leaf will appeal to sophisticated palates, and it’s also a light and lovely cup by which to introduce a newbie to high-quality teas.

The dry leaf is quite large and dark, and I obtained the best results in a small two-cup teapot using water brought to a boil and then cooled down to oolong (“fish eyes”) temperature, then steeped for no more than four minutes. A truly delightful black tea from Taiwan.

~ ~ Special Offer for TeaGuide readers! ~ ~
~ ~ Only 24 hours left to take advantage! ~ ~

Taiwan Tea Crafts very kindly invites you to try their teas by offering a 10% discount. This offer is good until March 18, 2013 and includes their already-discounted teas. Enter the discount code TEAGUIDE at checkout — and you can even use the code multiple times until the expiration date.

So if you’re a lover (or aspiring lover!) of beautiful oolongs — whether green, roasted, oxidized, aged, or scented — the elegant black teas of Taiwan, and lovely tea ware, do stop by before the offer expires!

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All content Copyright 2013 JP Badarau; all rights reserved.

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March 13, 2013

Don’t leave home without your tea!

Filed under: tea,tea accessories,tea gifts,tea review,travel,white tea — by JanisB @ 11:46 am
Tags: ,

~~ Don’t forget! Your 10% discount at Taiwan Tea Crafts ! ~ ~
~~ Exquisite teas and tea ware — Enter discount code TEAGUIDE ~~
~~ Good through March 18, 2013 ~ ~

If you travel much — whether it’s a weekend getaway or a lengthier trip — you know how difficult it can be in some places to get a good cup of tea. It’s when you’re visiting those kinds of places that a tea travel kit can be a life saver.

For many years I rigged up my own tea travel kit; maybe you do the same. A well-stocked kit comprises tea, something to steep it in, a cup to drink it from, and any other accessories you include in your own personal tea ritual (strainer, filter bags, sweetener …), and of course some kind of bag or box to carry it in. Then I discovered that there are much more elegant ways to go about it.

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My compact Taiwan-made tea travel kit.

Some years ago I purchased a small tea travel kit made in Taiwan from a vendor who is no longer selling them, sorry to say. The kit comprises a gaiwan, a water/fairness pitcher, several tiny cups, and a tweezers, all packed into a well-padded round bag. Generally I pack an ounce or two of tea in a small plastic bag that tucks nicely into the gaiwan. I’ve used it several times, mostly when I’ve stayed at a hotel whose idea of tea is a basketful of assorted teabags, and mostly herbals at that.

The nice thing about this travel kit is that it’s very compact and can tuck into a large purse or a small carry-on type of suitcase. That same compactness also limits the amount of tea I can steep up, and sip, at any one time. It’s not a major limitation for tea varieties that lend themselves to multiple steepings, but it is a bit of a nuisance when I want a big cup of hearty black tea.

A few weeks ago I received a somewhat different type of tea travel kit. This one, from Thistledown Cozies, is dubbed The Brick for its, well, brick-like shape. Like all Thistledown products, this kit is made in the USA and is exceptionally well-made: not a stitch out of place, no loose threads, and will no doubt last for many years. The fabric is exceptional too: mine is in pretty pattern #11 (scroll down on their page to see fabric selections).

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The Brick tea travel kit. The portable tea steeping cup is not included, but the tea tins are. You can also see the elastic straps and the pocket under one of the tea tins.

The kit is rather larger than my Taiwan-made kit, tho’ easier to transport on its own thanks to a built-in handle. Thistledown’s take on the necessities for tea is somewhat different: this one focuses on transporting tea and lets you choose the steeping and sipping vessels and other accoutrements.

Four tins are included in this travel kit — fill ’em with teas, or put tea in three tins and your powder/granulated sweetener in the fourth. Elastic straps of varying size hold a travel steeping/drinking cup and other accoutrements that you supply yourself according to your preferences. There are also pockets under the tea tins that let you tuck in paper filters, packets of sweetener, or even teabags.

Two different concepts of a tea travel kit. Choose the one that’s right for your needs. I like the size of the Taiwan kit and that it contains both steeping and drinking vessels. I like the versatility of the Thistledown kit; I was thinking that I could fill the cup with water and cold-infuse my tea. (I never steep tea with hot water in any kind of plastic vessel.) The cold-infusion method works best with white and oolong teas, which are less prone to becoming bitter from lengthy steeps.

Although my Taiwan-made kit is no longer available from the retailer where I bought it, you can find similar kits at many other retailers, both online and walk-in shops. Perhaps your favourite tea vendor sells them. Thistledown distributes via wholesale only; visit their website to locate a retailer who carries them.

Now if only someone could figure out how to include a hot-water kettle!!

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Relative size of the two tea travel kits.

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All content Copyright 2013 JP Badarau; all rights reserved.

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March 1, 2013

Review: Taiwan Tea Crafts … flowers or florals? (AND a special offer!)

A few days ago I posted a review of Taiwan Tea Crafts’ exquisite Jade Oolong … a very floral green oolong, or pouchong.

Their lovely Alishan High Mountain oolong lot #144 is a delightful example of what I refer to as “flowery” oolongs. Let me explain.

As noted in the previous review, floral teas envelope the drinker in the sweet scent of flower perfume from the first whiff to the last lingering finish on the palate. Flowery oolongs, on the other hand, are more like the flowers themselves rather than the perfume and aroma. Well yes, they do exhibit both perfume and aroma, but they go somewhat beyond that.

Have you ever eaten a flower? Edible flowers have a distinct taste of sweet spices that generally intensifies in the finish. So “flowery” means that the aroma and perfume of flowers are there, along with the sweet spiciness of the flowers themselves. Like eating a flower.

And that’s what I love about this very fresh and very enjoyable tea. It’s like having your flowers and drinking them too!

~ ~ Special Offer for TeaGuide readers! ~ ~

Taiwan Tea Crafts very kindly invites you to try their teas by offering a 10% discount. This offer is good until March 18, 2013 and includes their already-discounted teas. Enter the discount code TEAGUIDE at checkout — and you can even use the code multiple times until the expiration date.

So if you’re a lover (or aspiring lover!) of beautiful oolongs — whether green, roasted, oxidized, aged, or scented — the elegant black teas of Taiwan, and lovely tea ware, do stop by before the offer expires!

Follow TeaGuide on Twitter @TeaGuide1

Friend TeaGuide on Facebook

Contact us about reviewing your tea or tea-related product.

All content Copyright 2013 JP Badarau; all rights reserved.

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