Monday, May 11, 2009

Reviews to come

Things I need to review next:

> Hashiri Shincha from Den's (and shincha tokoname kyusu)

> Gyokuro Suimei from Den's

> Pom-a-Berry Rooibos from Sweet Dreams

> Boysenberry Black Tea from Sweet Dreams (Assam-based, I think)

> Fuji the Ultimate, a Fukamushi Shincha from Zencha
> The rest of the matcha from Ippodo

(and more.... as they get here)

People tell me I'm crazy :(..... I'm just a LEETLE fanatic, is all.

Sweet Dream's Belgian Choclate Rooibos

I shouldn't have, but I couldn't resist. They looked so cute (to be honest, its the cute little glass jars and the packaging that got to me), so here it is. Belgian chocolate rooibos, pom-a-berry rooibos, and boysenberry black tea (Assam based, I believe).

This post will just be about the chocolate rooibos. But before that I wanna say, I've never been the biggest fan of rooibos, some thing about the flavour and the smell turns me off. And the fact that there's the lack of caffeine punch.

Typical rooibos leaves. Apparently it contains rooibos, calendula petals, cacao bean pieces and natural chocolate flavour.
It has a very distinct rooibos scent with a pungent chocolatey smell, a bit sweet as well, in the rooibos sort of way.

First Infusion:

Tea: 1.5 tsps
Water: 1 cup
Water Temperature: boiling.
Brew Time: 3.5 minutes
Review. It has a fairly rich chocolate aroma, that's for sure. But can't say much about the taste. Just bland rooibos, I guess, nothing special. It does have a full, rich mouth feel, but I can't tell if that's from the cocao beans or the flavouring. Nyeh.

Water Temperature: boiling.
Brew Time: 5 minutes
Review. EVERYTHING IS GONE! =_= Bland Yucky Gross. EW. Pretty color though, but that's all the good I can say about it.

Overall, I still don't like rooibos, and this tea hasn't turned me around yet. I will try it with milk next time, and just one infusion. After all, I can still store cute little teas in that cute little tea jar, so my money's not that wasted after all! :)

2009 Shincha: Zencha's Sencha the Ultimate, from Yame

Received this last week, and finally perfected it.

Vendor Description
Estimated date of shipment: April 30, 2009
Please note that shipping date might be slightly changed according to the weather conditions.
This is the tea specially produced for exhibition and in limited supply. 
Only first two leaves and buds are carefully picked by hands. 
Rich in natural sweet aroma and fresh scent with excellent astringent taste.

The tea itself has a very sweet aroma, less vegetal than the previous shincha, the Yukata Midori, likely because this is an asamushi rather than fukamushi.

The leaves are also less broken up from the steaming process. Some leaves are quite long and rolled up.

First Infusion:

Tea: 4g
Water: 1 cup
Water Temperature: 70 degrees Celcius
Brew Time: 75 seconds
Review: Beautiful clear green colour. Very creamy and clean tasting, smells sweet, not astringent at all. Sweet aftertaste. Very little residue compared to the fukamushi.

Second Infusion:
Water Temperature: 75 degrees Celcius
Brew Time: 40 seconds
Review: OH THE PRETTY MURKY GREEN! Extremely grassy and vegetal, more body and the after taste is quite sweet, and a slight slight astringent feeling hanging in my throat.

Third Infusion:

Water Temperature: 75 degrees Celcius
Brew Time: 40 seconds
Review: Similar colour to the first infusion, not much punch left, but still yummy, sweet after taste. 

Overall: Excellent tea, but comparatively too expensive. It was $22USD for 50g including shipping. O-cha's Yutaka Midori is much more worth it at $27.20USD for 100g including shipping. I think the fukamushi taste suits my palate more as well (more punch). 

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ippodo matcha!

I placed the order on Ippodo's website last Thursday, it was shipped on Friday, and arrived on Tuesday. Essentially 2 business days from Japan. Even though the shipping cost is a bit expensive, but this makes me amazed at the efficiency of these people. 

The neatly packaged matcha cans/boxes from Ippodo, all wrapped in paper printed with the beginning part of Cha-Jing by ancient Chinese tea expert Lu Yu from the Tang Dynasty. I ordered almost all of their matcha except for the Ummon-no Mukashi and the Seiun (the two most expensive ones).

Kaishi that I ordered from Ippodo as well. SO NICE. Printed with flowers and stuff too! :)

A few of the guides and catalog from Ippodo. Great business skills! And great packaging and fast delivery. They really do have the 4Ps of marketing down.

So I couldn't wait. I needed to test them all. Ended up trying only the 4 lowest grades, 2 chashaku each. I wanted to try more, but my head started going swooooozy over the amount of caffeine, so I stopped.

First I started off with the cheapest one. The Hatsu-Mukashi. SO GROSS, as either koicha or usucha. Maybe I'm just used to my nice pinnacle grade from Teaopia and the contrast is making it feel worse than it actually is, but i really felt very disgusted by it. The flavour is so bitter and sharp and astringent, especially as a koicha, I wanted to throw up. Sadly I read that it was good somewhere, so I ordered 3 boxes of 40g. Guess I will only use it as a food grade in the future. Thank goodness they were only 500yen each.

Next is the Fuku-Mukashi. At 1000yen for 40g box, I think this is actually not too bad of a deal. I wouldn't mind using it as an usucha when I'm really desperate for matcha. Most likely though, it will end up as ice cream topping just like the Hatsu-Mukashi.

Now we have the Kimmo-no-Mukashi, 600yen for 20g, which Ippodo recommends as beginner's matcha. I can see why they recommend it: it frothes well, nice colour, a degree of sweetness, but still enough astringency and enough bitterness to make a statement. Still can't compare to my Teaopia Matcha Pinnacle though. (But that was $35CAD for 30g, so, although not saying price equals quality, but these are totally not on the same level. DUH)

Lastly, the Ikuyo-no-Mukashi, 1200yen for 40g, was not too bad either. I would say it is even more bold and astringent than the Kimmo, with much less sweetness. My terrible attempt at making a koicha out of it made me wanna cry. Expensive matcha cheesecake filler is what I guess this tin will turn out to be.

Although I have yet to try the other matcha, Ippodo's business methods are seriously impressive to me, as a business student. The way they conduct themselves, the professionalism and dedication, the attention to detail, and everything about the way they've handled each transaction scream out how wonderful the minds of these business people are. Very admirable.

2009 Shincha from Zencha

Received two items from Zencha: Fuji the Ultimate and Sencha the Ultimate. They also sent a little packet of sample tea with it, not sure what it is, but it's pretty good.

Fuji the Ultimate:
Vendor Description: Our best "Fukamushi" green tea, taste so rich and flavorful.
Produced with experienced and fine craftsmanship using only hand picked first flush tealeaves. Excellent balance of natural sweet aroma and astringent taste. First flush: A flush is a picking of the leaves. The first flush is the first picking of the season.

Sencha the Ultimate:
Vendor Description: This is the tea specially produced for exhibition and in limited supply. 
Only first two leaves and buds are carefully picked by hands. 
Rich in natural sweet aroma and fresh scent with excellent astringent taste.

Tried them both, both quite good, will post reviews later when I perfect the brewing techniques specific to each tea.

The tea canisters I got from Yuuki-Cha. Very cute, eh?

Sencha the Ultimate, Yukata Midori, and Fuji the Ultimate. Respectively.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Japanese chopsticks

This is pretty random, but I got a few pairs of Japanese chopsticks that are pretty neat looking, so will now share!

Neat, Eh?

The art is really cool :|

2009 SHINCHA! The Famous Yutaka Midori!~

Wow, I was so excited when I got to university residence and discovered this package from o-cha. Couldn't wait to take a picture before I opened it. 

Inside, there is the cutest little package.

The packaging is so nice and pretty, with a sticker that says Shincha on top.

The Big Moment! The bag has been opened!~ The incredible creamy, vegetal, and chestnut-like scent just jumps into your face, and yells "I AM SHINCHA! DRINK ME NOW!" The leaves are broken up but does not seem as broken as a fukamushi-sencha like the Yutaka Midori should be.

The real colour is actually a bit greener than this, but not as green as many pictures I've seen of previous years' Yutaka Midori Shincha. I was actually slightly disappointed, to be honest, but the taste made up for it. Maybe I didnt brew it properly?

First Infusion:
Tea: 0.75 tsp
Water: 1 cup
Water temperature: 75 degrees Celcius
Brew time: 1 minute
Review: SO FRESH! SO CREAMY and YUMMY! A bit on the lighter side for a shincha, but maybe I just need to vary up the techniques a bit?

Second Infusion:
Tea: 0.75 tsp
Water: 1 cup
Water temperature: 75 degrees Celcius
Brew time: 1 minute 20 seconds
Review: Even lighter than first infusion, a bit disappointing. But I'm sure it's just me that havn't gotten the gist of it yet. No worries, I will experiment lots :)

Need to play around with it some more and perfect the brew. As it is, it seems a little difficult to perfect, but the wonderful smell tells me that it's not the shincha's fault, it's my fault. :(

Saturday, May 2, 2009

2009 First Flush Qing Dao Lao Shan Green Tea

A friend of mine brought me back a 2009 first flush Qing Dao Lao Shan on his visit to China recently. To be absolutely honest, I didn't expect too much from this tea, but I was pleasantly surprised.

The bag is very nice too, with different caligraphy writings of "cha" on it.

The leaves are curled, but are still whole. Has a smell similar to sencha, fresh and vegetal, but with a hint of nuts, more to the pistacios variety.

First infusion:
Tea: 1 tsp
Water: 1 cup
Water temperature: boiling. I don't know why, but that was the instructions on the box. Strange though for a chinese green.
Steep time: 30 seconds
Review: Quite suprisingly good. The nutty, creamy, vegetal taste is very obvious. And smells heavenly. Not astringent or yucky like other Chinese greens first infusion.

Second infusion:
Tea: 1 tsp
Water: 1 cup
Water temperature: boiling. 
Steep time: 40 seconds
Review: Still not bad, but strange for a Chinese green, not as good as the first infusion.  Not nearly as fragrant and slightly astringent, may be because I left it in for too long. 

Third infusion:
Tea: 1 tsp
Water: 1 cup
Water temperature: boiling. 
Steep time: 45 seconds
Review: Flavour is lighter, but pretty consistent with the second infusion.

Kinda hard to imagine that I just made Chinese green with boiling water. But since those were the instructions, I had to try it this way. Next time, I shall make it normally =_=

Friday, May 1, 2009

Huang Shan Mao Feng Revisited

I ran out of things to drink as more tea orders are waiting for me at university residence. Moving back tomorrow or Sunday, yay! :)

So in my desperation, I tried the Huang Shan Mao Feng again (after 4 chashaku of matcha), except this time, sencha-style.

I quitupled the amount of tea leaves 5 tsps for 1 cup of water, lowered the temperature some more to around 70 degrees Celcius, and steeped for 30-35 seconds each infusion.

First infusion:
Still bad. Gross, yucky, bad, astringent, and the whole 9 yards. Might just have felt like that because I just had yummy koicha, and in contrast it's even more terrible.

Second infusion:
MUCH better than the last time I made it and posted pictures. The flavour is much more fragrant and leafy, very slightly more astringent, but may be because the water temp is still a bit too high. 

Third infusion:
Light, but still packed more punch than the third infusion of last time. No astringency, but not sweet like sencha. The leaves expanded pretty well by this point. Really, pretty good. Actually, I'd say it's better than even the second infusion last time.

Overall, much more fragrant and flavourful, but not comparable to good sencha or higher grade mao fengs.  Not even close.