Thursday, September 14, 2017

Review: everydayteas 2016 Nan Nuo Shan

I love to share tea and do so weekly with my Office Tea Club. Today's review is for a tea we recently enjoyed, a 2016 Nan Nuo Shan by everydayteas. This tea turned out to be quite popular among the Tea Club members, and I think it's because it's a sheng puerh that suits many different palates. It's balanced yet 'punchy' and vegetal, with a hint of something sweet.

The Company
On their site, everydayteas considers their product 'Quality teas for the daily drinker'. The site is simple, clean and easy to navigate. The look and feel is reflected in the teas they offer. I like that this clear vision that carries through to the tea.

The Tea
The tea is a 2016 raw puerh from Nan Nuo mountain, in the village of Ban Po Xin Zhai. According to everydayteas, the Puer cakes are stored here in the northeast US in a climate controlled room with 70% Humidity and a temperature of 70ºF year round. This ensures the tea won't dry out during our unfortunate northeast winter weather (my skin feels dry just thinking about it).

We were so quick to dive in to this tea that I didn't take notes on the dry leaves (my apologies!). The wet leaves smelled of steamed spinach and wet rocks. The tea itself tastes strongly of deep green vegetables. Tea Club members observed flavors of kale and cooked spinach. There is also a little bit of what I like to call 'leather', a sharp peaty-scotch essence that reminds me of a leather jacket. Not super strong, but definitely there. I think this essence plus a bit of astringency is what gives it that 'punchy' feeling I described earlier.

The Verdict
These leaves have many steeps to share. We only had a limited amount of time during Office Tea Club, and I enjoyed a few more steeps of the tea after our break was over. As I mentioned before, this tea is satisfying, and...punchy. It has the presence of a young sheng you'd expect, and it's well balanced. A good daily drinker. I can definitely see myself steeping this tea throughout the day, or serving it to friends during a long afternoon of relaxed conversation.

Thank you to everydayteas for the sample! You can learn more about this tea here, and I found out that they'll soon have the 2017 Nan Nuo from the same farmer. I have two more teas from them to share with you, reviews will be coming soon.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

5 Things You Might Not Know About Me

Recently Nicole from Tea For Me Please posted a '5 Things You Might Not Know About Me' post, and asked bloggers to jump in and do the same. I noticed Anna The Tea Squirrel posted one as well, and I thought it would be fun to introduce myself on a more personal level. I am always curious to learn the interests of others, so I figured I'd start by sharing mine. You know I love tea, but here are 5 things that you may not know about me, in no particular order...

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Tea Pairing 101: Green Tea and Mochi

Tea, sweets, and art. Add in a dash of fashion, and I'm one happy gal. What do all of these things have in common? I'm excited to present the next Tea Pairing 101 collaboration with Jee and Georgia! In this pairing we combined a few of my favorite things into an afternoon of green tea and mochi magic. Read on below to see how to pair green tea with a variety of flavors.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Review: Minos Living Tea Set

Like most tea fanatics, I also harbor a teaware obsession. Since space is at a premium in our apartment, I can't let my whims run wild but I do have a cherished collection including handmade and vintage pieces. When I was recently asked to review a tea set from Minos, I knew I couldn't refuse. More teaware? Of course.

I was pleasantly surprised when the set arrived. It's a sweet little stainless steel pot with matching cup and saucer, sugar bowl, and creamer. I'm not a stranger to stainless steel pots- I have a large one that we use on the weekend for oversized mugs of tea. This Minos pot is small, about 17 ounces, perfect for tea just for myself.

The teapot has a fairly large infuser basket, which makes it great for office use. It's easy to remove and is wide enough to let large tea leaves expand. The teapot has a nice pour, very smooth and comfortable. My only critique is that the stainless steel is thin, and gets extremely hot to the touch. Minos provides three silicone rings in festive colors to put over the pot handle, which keeps fingers cool. But don't touch the side of the pot, like I did out of curiosity. Ouch! Since the stainless steel is thin, it retains heat but not quite as long as I really need for the office. I often need to step away from my desk for 30 minutes or so, returning to a lukewarm brew. But honestly, it's not fair to expect a teapot to keep tea hot for that long.

The teacup is adorable, and is thicker than the pot so it doesn't burn any fingers. It's a nice size to enjoy a small cup of tea, but I can't use this cup for the early morning. That's when I require my largest mug. As nice as it is to pour little cups of tea, I just want a big mug I can slurp from. However, this is the perfect cup to use for an afternoon tea break. I also like the matching saucer.

The matching creamer is attractive and also pours well. I don't often use milk, but it would be nice to  put on a table to serve guests. The sugar pot (didn't get a good photo of it, sorry!) is also quite nice, the only issue is that it doesn't come with a small matching spoon. It's not easy to find a tiny spoon to fit inside. I'd love to see a little spoon included, maybe with a matching silicone tip on the handle. But, perhaps that is asking too much. Maybe it's more fun to have a spoon that doesn't match? If you don't mind hunting down your own matching spoon, it is a lovely little sugar pot.

Overall, this is a delightful little set that is fun to use. Just be sure to watch your fingers. It would be best for teas that use cooler water temps, to make sure you don't run into any unhappy fingertips.

A big thank you to Minos for this set! You can learn more about this set here and here.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Interview: Tyas Huybrechts of The Tea Crane

Photo courtesy of Tyas Huybrechts

Tyas Huybrechts is not just someone that sells tea. He is a Belgian ex-pat living in Japan, teaching Japanese tea culture, and living the beautiful tea life. He also sells tea at The Tea Crane but, as he says, "I don’t actually consider myself a tea vendor, but rather something closer to a missionary spreading the value that tea can bring to our lives." These are the wise words of Tyas.

I'm excited to bring you our interview below. He explains the beauty of Japanese tea culture quite poetically. Find out what teas he recommends for Japanese tea newbies, the challenges of teaching the Japanese tea ceremony, and many more beautiful facts about his tea adventure.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Tasting a CTC Malaysian Tea from BOH

BOH Cameronian Gold Blend 

Chances are you've had a CTC tea at some point. CTC stands for crush, tear, curl, which is the way the leaves are processed. This method was invented in the 1930s as a quick and consistent way to process lower grade leaves destined to become black tea. It's an easy way to get a product that creates a uniform brew, since consistency is key with large tea producers. You can't have your brand name tea change in flavor from batch to batch. The leaves are cut, crushed, bruised, and rolled to speed up oxidation process. Because of the processing and size, this tea steeps up quickly and quite strong. CTC teas are usually consumed with the addition of milk, which tames the astringency. You'll most often find CTC teas in tea bags from Sri Lanka, Kenya, and parts of India.

CTC can often be found in tea bags and breakfast blends. The small surface area allows the brew to infuse quickly and with a strong flavor. It infuses quickly, and is often used in blends where milk is added (to tame the bitterness and strength). Many tea aficionados turn their noses up at CTC tea. The quality is usually lower than orthodox teas (whole leaf teas), and the flavor is usually fairly flat. As with any teas, if you start with higher quality leaves, even the CTC leaves will have a better flavor, although they still do not have the depth of a whole leaf brew. I've actually had a few CTC teas that were quite enjoyable as a morning blend, and I keep one in particular around for the mornings when I really need a wake-up punch.

The tea I'm reviewing today comes from the Cameron highlands of Malaysia, which is a fertile area perfect for growing tea. The BOH plantation was the first in Malaysia, and remains the largest tea producer in the country. To be honest, I didn't know anything at all about Malaysian grown teas before I was contacted by BOH to review some samples. Doing a bit of research I found an interesting 2013 article from World Tea News, which mentions the BOH plantation:
Over the years, BOH Plantations grew to become the largest highland tea producer in Malaysia. BOH remains the largest tea producer in Malaysia, with nearly 47 percent of the landmass in the country dedicated to tea production. This translates to approximately 1,200 hectares out of a total 2,533 hectares of land.
Today's tea is the Cameronian Gold Blend. A look at the leaves shows the CTC production. The dry leaves smell like dry fall leaves- slightly earthy. There is also a hint of sweetness and a bit of something floral. The aroma is stronger than I would have expected.

The brew smells slightly sweet. The flavor is subtle, without much depth. It has that sweetness and earthiness with a whisper of tobacco. It is reminiscent of a fairly strong tea bag. It's quite smooth which is surprising, since CTC tea infuses super quickly and usually gets astringent. This has no astringency whatsoever. It's not flavorful enough for me, but it would be fine as a breakfast tea, especially if you are partial to adding milk and sugar. I think it would be a suitable iced tea as well, made super strong and perhaps adding in some simple syrup and mint.

Thank you to BOH for the sample. I have a few flavored blends to also try. To learn more about this tea, you can visit the company's website here. Or check out their offerings on Amazon.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tasting: Organic Roasted Bancha by The Tea Crane

Last week's weather of 'sweltering hot and humid' seems to be hanging around. That's summer in NYC. I've been trying to catch up on tea reviews lately, which hasn't been easy since I have such an imposing pile to get through. But drinking hot tea actually cools the body, so I've been drinking hot tea just as much as the iced brews. Today's tasting is a roasted bancha tea from The Tea Crane. A mountain grown organic roasted bancha called 'The Mountains At Rest', to be exact. I love this name! It's poetic and quite visual. I can imagine a happily relaxed mountain, carefully tending to her tea trees surrounded by gently rolling mist.

The Tea Crane's owner Tyas Huybrechts has a wonderful blog that you should follow if you don't already know about it. He's a Belgian ex-pat living in Japan, and has become a certified Japanese tea instructor. His blog is extremely interesting and informative.

The Tea Crane's website describes the tea as:
Bancha employs that more fully-grown tea-leaf which is too mature, and has therefore become too bitter, for use in producing high-quality sencha, and is harvested later; such leaf is first processed just as for sencha – by means of a combination of steaming, rolling and drying – but is then stored until it is required, whereupon it is roasted immediately before packaging and shipping.  

The dry leaves are shades of dark army green and browns. There are some twigs, full, and broken leaves in the mix, which makes sense for a tea of this style. The leaves are quite large, and have an aroma similar to hojicha, but something slightly more vegetal and woody, not just earthy and toasty. I'm thinking of dried beans and old tree branches.

The brew gives off an amazingly strong roasty aroma, it reminds me of coffee. It's earthy but there is a hint of something vegetal. Maybe like those beans I mentioned?

The tea holds on to that roast, and coffee-inspired flavor. It is woodsy, earthy, roasted, with a toasted bread flavor. There is also a slight vegetal something, again I think of beans. I want to just put my feet up and sip it for hours. There is a lingering smoky flavor on my palate. It stuck around for a very long time. Quite impressive! This tea has a nice body and mouthfeel. It's comforting yet complex.

I can't wait to try and cold-brew this tea. I think it'll be incredibly refreshing, similar to the tea I reviewed last week. I would like to pair this tea with something smokey and savory, I'm thinking of a flavorful Chinese BBQ pork bun. Ok, now my tummy is rumbling...

Thank you Tias for the amazing sample! I have a few more to try, so stay tuned. I hope everyone is having a great week.