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 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!

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All content Copyright 2013 JP Badarau; all rights reserved.

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February 25, 2013

Review: Taiwan Tea Crafts … florals or flowers?

Review of pouchongs - TTCI love Taiwan teas, especially the fragrant green oolongs (or pouchongs) and the relatively new rich black teas. So when TaiwanTeaCrafts.com — a tea exporter that, I am sorry to say, I had never before heard of — offered to send samples of some of their rather excellent teas, I wasn’t about to say no!

Some folks enjoy darker, more roast-y oolongs, while others adore their aged oolongs, and you can find several varieties of each at TTC. Me, I like my oolongs as close to green as possible, so that is what they sent to me.

Because they are so green, the teas have to be really fresh to show off their best qualities. As I opened the package of each sample from TTC I took a deep sniff … and let me tell you, these teas were so fresh they could have jumped up and kissed me on the cheek.

To enjoy any tea — but particularly oolongs — it’s important to engage the nose as well as the palate, and to inhale the fragrance at least at these five specific points:

  1. When you first open the airtight package to enjoy the aroma of the dry leaves;
  2. At the moment when the leaves first meet hot water for the “rinse” that opens up the leaves;
  3. Just as you lift the lid of the steeping vessel (teapot, gaiwan) when the tea is ready to pour or sip;
  4. In the cup as you sip, until you become one with the tea;
  5. And finally as a fragrant residue on cup, teapot, aroma cup, or the back of a spoon after the tea has been poured from it.

Jade oolongThe first tea I sampled was the Baguashan Jade Oolong (Ciu Yu), lot #150. This was everything I love in oolongs: an enchanting, enveloping floral aroma echoed in the cup, lasting through six infusions, and the leaves with a beautiful rolled appearance with just enough stem attached. Curiously, the slightly pricier organic Jade Oolong (lot #131) was a far paler version … at least to my taste. If you have to choose one, go for the #150.

Now let me explain what I mean by “floral” versus “flowery” teas. A floral tea exudes the sweet, intense perfume of flowers from the first moment your nose, and then your palate, meet them, and continue to do so. The best floral teas permeate the room/s where you’re preparing and sipping them. This jade oolong #150 did exactly that and then some with a beautiful melange of spring fragrances: lilacs, carnations, apple blossoms all rolled into one.

Just exquisite.

And flowery teas? Well, that will be in my next posting!

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