April 2017 White2Tea Club feat Dancong Drinking Experiment

April 2017 White2Tea Club! This month features two oolongs – Milan and Yesheng Dancong, and a couple 2017 Grandpa’s Ripe Balls.

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I was torn on what to do for this review at first. This is a lot of dancong to get through for 2 days, especially if I follow the instructions thoroughly. I am also scared of drinking the recent (March) pressed shou – I personally prefer time on these and my gut will unkindly remind me why after the session is complete. I decided to forgo the 2017 Grandpa’s Ripe Balls for now, I will drink it once it has calmed down. If you are interested reading about the taste progression of fresh shou, I drank an White2Tea club experiment last year of fresh, 3 month, and 7 month mark on shou balls.

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White2Tea Club Dancong Experiment

This month had instructions to drink both dancongs, but in different order on separate days. Both were first teas of the day, and I did the same everything in terms of steeping method – 1 gram to 12 ml of vessel with boiling water, over 10 infusions. I approached these tasting as casual drinking reflecting on finding differences, rather than owl game face. That said, I used my silver cup for fun.

Going in, I was expecting to taste differences. I certainly notice flavor differences within the same tea consumed on different days, with my own teas and teas sampled at tea shops. It is annoying error I come across on daily drinkers – some days they just taste better than others, especially considering the weather and what I am in the mood for.

Day 1

First tea of the day and I’m feeling utterly tired. My dad was visiting a few days ago and he burnt me out on many Costco trips, lots of cooking, and complaining at him spoiling my rabbit with treats. The weather was hot and slightly muggy. I had this session a little later in the day, so somehow I went without tea until 3pm. I wasn’t in the mood for dancong either, I am purely drinking this because I’m behind in White2Tea club (ahhh the life of the tea blogger). What I was in the mood for was a matcha smoothie because it is hot.

Milan Dancong was overall quite savory. It was similar to the previous Milan Dancong I had of campy flavors of wood, sticky sap, and rock.

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Oddly, I got memories of child hood camp – smell of rocky lakes, foliage, sticky trees, and that sticky goop spit bugs foamed up on plant branches. There was a bit of sweetness from the nectar and mineral notes. The final infusions were bittersweet – as if wood was made into bittersweet chocolate. It was a good session, though a bit too savory for what I was in the mood for.

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When I switched to the Yesheng Dancong, I noticed it was sweeter, a big contrast to the Milan Dancong’s savory.

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Yesheng Dancong was an uplifting, syrupy, and brassy tea. As the steeps went on, it developed what I call a “hand soap flavor” as it had that perfumey quality that you smell in that typical white pearly liquid hand soap. I enjoyed the sweet contrast of this tea, but felt it was weaker due to the heavy brass and soap. I don’t know why, but too brassy teas rub me the wrong way.

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Day 2

The next day was a cooler day. We had quite a cool front come in, compared to yesterday being hotter. I started my tea session at noon. I was feeling more energetic today. I was indifferent to what tea I was going to drink today, not being in the mood for anything in particular. Though, I was going in knowing there was another dancong session today.

Yesheng Dancong was slightly different today, reflecting back on my notes from yesterday. I got less brass, more citrus pomelo flavor. I got a slight of the note I called “hand soap” at end of sip, but majority of the flavor was citrus and sap. It felt also uplifting in feeling, which was good for an afternoon tea, so overall I felt happy with this session.

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There was a big difference here for having the Milan Dancong second. It wasn’t as savory as yesterday, less contrast between the teas, and the notes were different. The flavor is creamy, woodsy, amber sap, and a bit like under ripe pineapple. As the steeps went on, it got more sour. This second session felt like a ice cold bucket of water hitting my face, as it jolted me awake. I didn’t enjoy this session, I felt this tea was just having a bad day due to the sourness going on.

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Comments

Well then, there is a lot to figure here. Do first teas of the day fair better? Both days I preferred the first tea more than the second. How much did weather impact the tea session? I overall preferred Day 1 over Day 2, despite the Yesheng was better on Day 2. I felt Day 2 had a lot of citrus and sour going on and similar flavors vs Day 1 interesting contrast. I wonder if the cold weather did something to make the tea more sour? How much did mood play into tea, I was in dire need of caffeine on day one than two which also likely impacted the taste.

This also makes me reflect on my tea reviews. I generally do my tea reviews as my second tea of the day, my first tea of the day usually a matcha or a grandpa or western black tea to wake up. Either way, thanks to White2Tea club for this experiment!

 

White Tea Puer from Shang Tea

I have never come across a tea like Shang Tea’s White Tea Puer. Yes, I’ve seen puer cake and aged white tea pressed into cakes, but what makes this tea different is the processing. They took white tea cultivar (Da Bai/ Da Hao) but they treated it as a puer with withering, rolling, couple days of fermentation before drying. After a year of aging, they steamed the loose material and pressed it into cakes. Once I saw this tea on Shang Tea’s website, I had to try it as it sounded like an adventure! On their website, they only list the full cake. I was hooty enough to ask them if I could purchase a sample, as no way I’d be buying a $165 experimental cake blind, despite being fairly confident Shang Tea having excellent white tea.

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Dry Leaf

The scent is like aged white tea to me – musty, floral, and book like smell. The appearance to me looks closer to a smashed up puer brick, as Shang Tea broke this cake up very well for my sample.

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Interestingly, inside the bag showed a whole lot of the white tea fuzzies.

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Steeping Method

I wanted gongfu style. This tea is not cheap, so I will make it worth every infusion to milk everything out of it. I decided to treat this a meld of how I do sheng puer, along with the water temperature high to push this white puer to the limit. The method I used worked out to more leaf than what I would do for white tea. This tea is quite dense – the processing lost the big airy tea. I used 1 gram of leaf to 15ml of vessel, boiling water. In retrospect, I think I should leaf a bit less, dropping to 1 gram/17ml.

Tasting of Shang Tea’s White Tea Puer

First and Second Infusion: The hot leaf doesn’t smell like white tea or puer. If I was blindfolded, I would guess this is some strange oolong as it is oddly sweet and floral.

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The flavor is soft yet dense, with notes of cotton dishtowel, cream, old honey dew rind, and new paperback books. The sip ends a bit sharp of a bit of a musty dried floral note. The texture is the strength here – it is like drinking silky pudding, as if I blended all those flavor notes, in physical form, into a thick slop… but actually is a thin tea. The body is just really heavy, leaving a thick coating in your mouth. Slight aftertaste of books after each sip, but goes away.

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I am impressed right away with Shang Tea White Puer’s interesting flavor. It reminds me of aged white with the book flavor, but lacks the more honey notes. The “clothy” and melon notes I find in fresher whites as well.

Third and Fourth Infusion: I continued doing flash steeps here. The flavor I was getting felt like I over leafed on the 2nd infusion, so I decided to keep things fast. This tea has this weird effect of the body feeling really heavy, yet the flavor is soft and light. The notes are more melded but perk up with some sweetness finally, tasting more like a under ripe honey dew without any refreshing elements. The sip starts light, but at the end gets sharp and more packed with flavor. Too long of a steep gets some bitterness.

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Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Infusion: This tea keeps changing. It is getting more like aged white tea now with a more honey taste, stronger paperback book taste, but more sharp and clean in flavor, with a hint of dry and bitterness. The intensity of flavor reminds me towards a sheng puer due to the sharpness of it, but the notes are more white tea like. The body is cleaning up that cottony, heavy fluff sensation, going more thin. I didn’t get much in tea energy, but did feel a bit of a jaw lift sensation to my body.

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Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Infusion: Sadly, White Tea Puer crashed quickly. I did around a 1 minute infusion for infusion eight, 3 minute for nine, and 15 minute for ten. These infusions felt like someone swooped in and swapped the leaf for young sheng. The flavor is lightly like cotton and honey, but it is sharp, bitter and cooked vegetal like a young sheng that got over steeped at too high of temperature. The final infusion was very bitter and smelled like I fully killed the leaf.

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At this point I finally took a closer look at the leaves. Does this look like white tea to you? This really looks like sheng to me! I checked and none of the Tea Owls did a sneaky swap. They were busy lounging and battling with Pocky sticks.

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About 10 minutes later I felt something I never felt with a white tea but only in young sheng…. THE SHENGRIES! Oh man, I got so hungry after drinking this tea, and I shouldn’t be hungry as I had a decent sized protein heavy lunch and dinner isn’t for 2.5 hours.

Comments

Shang Tea’s White Tea Puer is an interesting experiment and flashes tea nerding warnings all over it. I do love white tea these days and drinking this was tasting the tea makers having fun. As it is right now, the flavor is nice and quite a bit of a trip or educational drink to compare white and sheng. I feel this is a tea for something who wants an adventure or a taste of experimental tea. You are not going to get this taste in a white, moonlight white, nor a sheng.

What this White Tea Puer has that is absolutely gold is aging potential. How will this age? No one knows, there is nothing like this out there. It certainly has elements of sheng, especially on flavor packing and the progression, but tastes like a white. I can see having a lot of fun with storage on this cake – I bet a more typical sheng storage would have some interesting effects vs white tea cake standard airtight storage. The tea nerd potential is huge! Too bad they didn’t press it into smaller cakes or sell the maocha/unpressed material – I’d love to have a small amount (more than my 1oz sample) to crock up and play with some accelerated aging, with less $$$ risk (as is, this tea is 312 gram cake for $165). Otherwise, pick this tea up to have something no one else has.

SAKU Tea Superfood Latte Blends

SAKU Tea is a tea bar located in Bellingham, WA that I keep meaning to visit. Their tea bar has a large tea menu, as well as some unique tea lattes. They also host events and workshops. What the Tea Owls and I are tasting today is their Superfood Latte Blends line – Maca Cocoa Jade, Vanilla Maple Jade, Ruby Cocoa, Ruby Ginger, Golden Orange, and Golden Chai. These latte blend bases are made with either matcha, beet, or turmeric, and they are all organic.

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SAKU tea started a Kickstarter to ramp up production and volume of their Superfood latte teas. For the Kickstarter, you can purchases these latte mixes!

To make the SAKU tea Superfood Latte, measure 1 teaspoon (around 4 grams) of mix with a bit of hot water, making a paste. Then you add your milk and sweetener of choice. I found the SAKU tea Superfood Latte blends all mixed well and were easy to make. Best results were with using a hand held milk frother for a nice milk foam, but stirring with a spoon did the job fine. I got interesting swirls with my lattes, if you had skills you can easily do colourful latte art.

I went to my go to – Vanilla Soy and light Agave syrup – however I found only the “Golden” latte mixes needed sweetener, the rest did fine without. Your mileage may vary, since I’m generally a no-sugar tea drinker, and my milk is vanilla flavored, thus a little sweet already.

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Tasting of SAKU Tea Superfood Latte Blends

Maca Cocoa Jade is made with organic matcha, maca, and cacao.

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That colour… well, it is good to know they don’t add colourings as that is natural as it can get.

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The flavor is quite good – it is refreshing grassy matcha, with a smooth taste of chocolate with a hint of caramel. Majority of the flavor here is the cocoa. No bitterness at all, I even didn’t add the sweetener, though my milk tends to be on the sweet side. I read maca root has a bit of a caramel taste.


Vanilla Maple Jade has Organic maple syrup crystals, matcha, and vanilla.

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Wow, this one is pretty before I stirred it!

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This one is more true to matcha in flavor. The matcha grassy, refreshing and the main flavor. There is a soft burnt caramel and maple flavor in the back, along with plenty of creamy flavor. I like this one, the sweetness and flavor is just right, and I can enjoy the matcha. I like how this matcha latte has great flavor and a different to what is out there from other sellers.


Ruby Cocoa has organic beetroot, cacao, dandelion root, cardamon, and cinnamon.

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This one whisks up a cute dusty rose.

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The flavor of Ruby Cocoa is chocolaty, but also with notes of beets. Beets add a slight vegetal flavor, but plenty of sweetness. There is a hint of spice at first, slightly peppery cinnamon, but not enough to be chai like. I did found the spices settled to the bottom, so it got more cinnamon and cardamon at the bottom of the cup. This lattle mix has a bit of texture to it, kind of gritty and squishy, adding a bit of thickness to the latte.


Ruby Ginger contains organic beetroot, coconut milk, cinnamon, ginger, and ashwagadha.

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Ruby Ginger prepares up just like the Ruby Cocoa with a pink colour. I happen to be a fan of beets and ginger, it is a favorite flavor combo of mine for the times I’ve gone to juice bars. This one sips very strongly beet in flavor, with a nice sweet ginger burn as an aftertaste.

It seems both beet lattes have a texture to them, as Ruby Ginger has that smushy soft feel – likely particles of beet. I found if I ensured it was mixed very well and prepared very hot, the smushy texture goes away.


Golden Orange contains organic turmeric, orange peel/oil, cardamon, and black pepper.

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My first of the turmeric blends! Wow, that is yellow.

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I opened and tried this before I looked at the ingredients and was surprised as I was expecting just an orange flavor. Golden Orange is actually orange spice with a bite to it. The orange is natural tasting, and I can taste a sharp jab of cardamon, with a spicy feel of pepper. As much as I like Orange spice flavored things, I do not like cardamon, so this was my least favorite of the batch, but I did enjoy the heat and uniqueness of the flavor. This is certainly a flavor combination I haven’t had before.


Golden Chai is made with organic turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, cardamon, cloves, and black pepper.

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This is a pretty good chai. The spice level is a moderate-high level, though you can adjust milk and mix to increase or decrease the intensity. The spices are sharp and natural – I can clearly pick out the clove, cinnamon, ginger, cardamon, and black pepper. Without sweetener, Golden Chai is on a heavy savory spice kick, I feel like I should rub it on some meat or put it into cookies. With agave, it is very delicious, making for a yummy chai.

Comments

The Oolong Owl favorite picks is the Vanilla Maple Jade and Golden Chai. Both are very delicious – Vanilla Maple Jade has a great balance of sweet flavor and matcha, whereas the Golden Chai has a well done spice mix for a great kick. Maca Cocoa Jade is also tasty. If I wasn’t personally buried in a giant amount of matcha already, I would go in on these.

Overall, all the SAKU tea blends are natural and fresh tasting – they have done a great job bringing something new to the tea world. I found all the SAKU Tea Superfood Latte Blends have the “kick” level of spice if made as directed, but you can adjust the level by playing with the ratios. The Ruby beet latte mixes were the weaker of the bunch due to the squishy thickness and gritty texture, especially made cold, but if you were to blend these with ice or ensure you mixed well with hot milk, you will not notice them.

If you love tea lattes and prefer organics, you will certainly enjoy these teas.

(tea mix provided for review)

Tora Organic Japanese Ceremonial Matcha

A new matcha today! Let’s check out Tora Organic Japanese Ceremonial Matcha, it has a tiger on the package!

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Dry Powder and Preparation Method

Tora Organic Japanese Ceremonial Matcha has a very appealing looking matcha powder – it has a bright green color, fluffy texture, and sweet grass scent.

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I sifted 2 grams of matcha, then whisked it in a warmed bowl with 160F water. I then topped it off with more water to taste. Tora Organic Japanese Ceremonial Matcha has a pretty nice appearance with good foam, though the foam doesn’t last for the full session of drinking.

Interestingly, I found I used a lot more water than usual with this matcha, close to a cup (similar to their directions on the back of the package), to tone down the sharp and bitter notes.

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Tasting of Tora Organic Japanese Ceremonial Matcha

The profile of Tora Organic Japanese Ceremonial Matcha is on the savory side with strong notes of vegetal and sharp seeds. I get flavors of cream, broccoli florets, spinach leaf, raw sesame seeds, all quite potent. The texture is creamy sipping in, but contrasts a bit dry at the end of sip from the sharp flavors. Aftertaste wise, I get a fresh squeaky clean feeling and lingering vegetal taste in my mouth, as if I brushed with matcha. The sweetness level is on the lower side, as this matcha is more dominant vegetal. As Tora Organic Japanese Ceremonial Matcha cools, the more creamy elements and sweetness come out more.

Comments

Tora Organic Japanese Ceremonial Matcha is priced competitively, at this time $6.99 for 20 grams. If you think in 30 gram matcha units only, about $10.50 for 30 grams. I got quite a bit of mileage out of a serving as it it a potent matcha. I found it is heavy vegetal if you like that strong taste, and does well cold – I can see it doing very well iced or as a latte. If you are on a budget and want only organic matcha, this is the best for price point. I did find this matcha on the bitter side and a bit of a dry texture – you may or may not like it depending on your personal taste of matcha. You can certainly jump to the $15-$20 price point and find something less bitter and more smooth, especially if you are okay without organic.

(tea provided for review)

Varietal Comparison – Sun Moon Lake from Cameron Tea

I am lucky enough to have a bunch of samples from Cameron Tea, who has multiple grades and varietals of the same tea. Today is a comparison of Sun Moon Lake, both competition grade, but different varietals – Ruby (TTES No. 18) and Assam (Assamica varietal from India Jaipur). Dang, I just realized they also have a Sun Moon Lake Formosa varietal as well – next time!

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Dry Leaf and Steeping Method

For all photos, the Ruby is on the left, Assam on the right. Leaf wise, the two teas look pretty darn close. The Assam seems lighter as there is more leaf there, but I can’t tell between the two visually.

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I followed the same steeping instructions and times for both – I used 1 gram of leaf to 15ml of vessel, boiling water.

Comparison Tasting of Cameron Tea’s Sun Moon Lake Ruby 18 and Assam Varietal

Scent wise, the Ruby is WOW super fruity smelling! The scent is very potent, sweet and fruity, and what I wish fruit snacks tasted like, now that I’m an adult and don’t want that fake red flavor. The Assam smells different as it has malty like, fruity and sweet scent.

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First, Second, Third, and Fourth Infusion: First off, I can really taste that competition style. It always has that quality of bright, sharp, in your face, yet delicate in notes.

Ruby – This is sweet, very fruity and slightly woodsy. There is a mouth watering sweet finish that makes you drool, and drool for a long time as the aftertaste lasts awhile. The notes are like mystery super sweet ripe red berries, cedar wood, and this crystalline clean sharp mineral essence. The texture is slippery, but the flavor is delicate yet sharp. Like very perky miniature owls armed with toothpicks, quick to stab you if you point at them. This tea has a very strong scent, it is penetratingly fruity and sweet, giving you a double whammy.

Assam – Very different than the ruby! The feel is heavy and full of bass, hitting my body like a gut punch. The body is also slick and snuggly. The flavor is also sharp, but the notes are mellow in essence – like sweet orange (without the refreshing zest or tart), kabocha squash, dark wood, and slightly floral. The finish is dark, almost brisk and malty. This tea is like waiting at a red light and a pair of Tea Owls cruise up in their lowered car, and their music bass is making your own car rattle.

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Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Infusion:

Ruby – To stress how much smell is important to this tea, this is a tea that as you bring to your face and before you sip, you can smell it – it wafts in and makes your eyes spiral. This has gotten sweeter and more melded into a mess of currant, wood, and tart dryness. I admit, I like the smell more than the taste here. I would just huff this tea all day and be happy.

Assam – This is where this tea started to shine. The flavor also melded, getting more sweet squash, little bready, fruity and sweet. Oddly, this one is more fruity in this state. Very interesting flavor here as it isn’t as dry as the ruby, but goes an interesting direction of comfort food of the high level, like high end cuisine cooking frozen chicken fingers into magical.

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Eighth Infusion: I did a 15 min steeping, as both were getting a bit weak and astringent.

Ruby – This one is light on fruity, but bitter from the long haul infusion. It is sharp, splintery wood and berrylike, reminding me of the smell of these weird wild blackberries I’ve been picking on the side of the road here in Seattle. This tea is done as it is just not drinkable due to the heavy bitter.

Assam – this tea held up. It isn’t bitter, but it is quite dry. The flavor is  quite fruity, but more on the citrus side. It finally lost that mellow squashy flavor, going more refreshing. This tea finished much better, and took the beating of owl tea steeping.

Hopefully the camera picked it up, but you can see a slight more warmness to the Ruby, whereas the Assam has a bit more green/cool tone to it. Otherwise, I really can’t tell the difference.

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Comments

Drinking these teas from Cameron Tea made for an interesting comparison and ties together the time I had black Taiwanese teas labelled Ruby 18/Sun Moon Lake, but tasted very different. Varietal is one of those things not many tea sellers list, and personally something I am still exploring to taste. You definitely can taste the difference despite the same processing! An important lesson here is you can buy a tea you think you know, but if you end up with a different varietal you will be in for a surprise!

I found the Ruby varietal the flavor I associate with Sun Moon Lake. Likely it is the one I’ve tasted the most commonly, but I have also come across more bready, malty Taiwanese blacks. I personally prefer the Ruby as the scent is just nuts and the flavor sweet, but both are great and mood/season heavy. Ruby feels like spring/summer with all the ripe berries out and pigging on, whereas the Assam is autumn pumpkin comfort. They were certainly teas you don’t steep forever, both didn’t last long and right away you got great flavor and in the Ruby’s case – crash and burn in the end. Either way, these are excellent Sun Moon Lakes – both were just wow eye opening on how fragrant, flavor note complex, and bright. I personally would drink this again more for comparison than anything, as education from them is high, but they would be great for an all out tea party or special occasion.

For the quality – this is competition tea. Both were just packed with flavor and excellent drinkers. Cameron Tea has some fantastic teas that I got some weird quirk of hording samples of. They are mostly wholesale, but they do have some on sale on their website.

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I keep mentioning competition style tea. You know what would be cool? Comparing it to non competition style tea. I can make that happen sometime in the future.

(tea provided for review)

Premium Ceremonial Matcha from Japanese Green Tea In

I am always on the quest for the most tastiest of matchas. Today’s matcha certainly stands out in the crowd! Japanese Green Tea In’s Premium Ceremonial Matcha is sourced from Farm Master Mr. Arahata at his Arahataen Green Tea Farm. Interestingly, the soil is fertilized with local sugar cane and the leaf is hand picked.

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Japanese Green Tea In’s Premium Ceremonial Matcha comes in a sealed pull tab tin, with silver flecks on the label.

Dry Powder and Preparation Method

The matcha powder has an appealing fresh sweet scent with an vivid grass green colour.

The performance of Japanese Green Tea In’s Premium Ceremonial Matcha is excellent. The powder, despite looking a little clumpy directly in the tin, was light and fluffy. The matcha powder fell through the sifter with ease.

I used 2 grams of matcha and started whisking in 1/4cup of 175F water, and it foamed up well with tight, bright green foam. I topped off with a bit more water to get to the flavor strength I like.

This is an attractive matcha with the thick foam and vibrant basil green tone. Interestingly, I made a better looking matcha than the photos shown on Japanese Green Tea In’s site! Too often I get matcha that doesn’t look as good as the promotion photos, that I have no clue how they pulled that off other than stock photos and extreme photoshop. This matcha is the real deal.

Tasting of Japanese Green Tea In’s Premium Ceremonial Matcha

Japanese Green Tea In’s Premium Ceremonial Matcha sips in very savory and umami. It seems every time I come across a super savory matcha I say it is the most savory of all time – here I am again, Premium Ceremonal Matcha is SUPER SAVORY. You don’t know what umami is until you try this matcha. It is savory, like soy sauce on rice without the salt. It hits heavy – the texture is buttery and thick, and with the combine super umami, it is like eating a satisfyingly addictive and dense food like fried chicken – I can eat this matcha for dinner. The finish perks up lightly of refreshing sweet grass and heavy cream. As the matcha cools, it gets more sweet and fresh, reminding me of fresh corn husks. I found little or none bitterness or astringency, or any marine notes.

Premium Ceremonial Matcha hits hard too, like an amp turned to 11. I didn’t have tea yet today, as I knew matcha was happening, but Performance of Japanese Green Tea In’s Matcha got my eyes open and my wings flapping immediately that I spilled the matcha bowl. You certainly want a meal in before drinking matcha, plus drink it before 3pm, the caffeine hit is strong. Repeated sessions with Japanese Green Tea In’s Matcha had similar results – there is extra POW in this tea!

Comments

Japanese Green Tea In’s Premium Ceremonial Matcha is a high quality matcha. It makes a beautiful and impressive foamy cup of matcha. The flavor is fresh, heavy umami, and finishes like sweet grass, without little dry or bitterness.  I quite enjoyed the buttery texture and the strong savory flavor. The sweetness I experienced in the matcha was quite different as it was delicate and naturally grassy. Overall, there is amazing synergy of umami, thick texture, and sweetness that is very comforting and satisfying in this matcha.

At this time, Japanese Green Tea In’s Premium Ceremonial Matcha is $47.99 on sale ($59.99 normally) for 30 grams of luxury matcha. If you want a matcha that is a step above the rest, this is it. I place Japanese Green Tea In’s Premium Ceremonial Matcha at one of the best matchas around.

Hilariously… I nicknamed this tea “Fried Chicken Matcha”, but I say it as endearingly as possible. It is missing the crunch, salt, and grease, but otherwise it hits the same of comfort food of buttery batter and savory. Each time I drank this matcha, I wanted a second round, but it would certainly overload my caffeine for the day.

(tea provided for review)

2015 That’s No Moon Shou Puer from Crimson Lotus Tea

I purchased 2015 That’s No Moon Shou Puer from Crimson Lotus Tea at release. I live close to Crimson Lotus Tea and tried this shou a few months back with them and enjoyed it. I’m not strong with the force (yet), so my wing waving and “You will sell this to me now,” did not work, thus I had to wait until Crimson Lotus finally listed it for sale on their online shop. I did not give this cake much rest as it literally went from Crimson Lotus Tea’s storage, to my car, to my tea table.

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This time I have backup, a new Tea Owl Sith by the name of “Darth Hoot”, who is strong with the dark side of the force, trained in the arts of puer light saber and dark tea alchemy.

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I question how good a light saber would be at breaking pieces off a cake, but at least it would cauterize the dust away.

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Dry Leaf

That’s No Moon contains 2015 Simao material. The cake is quite bud heavy and you can see lots of ripples of gold. That’s No Moon was created to replace Crimson Lotus Tea’s sold out 2008 Bulang Imperial Grade. Heh.. yes Imperial grade, you rebel scum.

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Thats no moon Crimson Lotus Tea - Oolong Owl (4)

Steeping Method

I went leaf heavy at 1 gram of tea per 13ml of vessel, steeping with a gaiwan and boiling water.Thats no moon Crimson Lotus Tea - Oolong Owl (6)

Tasting of Crimson Lotus Tea’s 2015 That’s No Moon Shou Puer

The hot leaf smells like summer pavement during a rainfall. Crimson Lotus Tea likes to call this scent “petrichor”. Kamino?

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First and Second Infusion: The flavor is heavy, dark, and strong. It is sharply earthly, almond skins, and earth, with a sweet finish at the end. That’s No Moon gives an aftertaste of harsh earth that eventually disappears for sweetness. The texture is weighty and thick, giving a good silky feeling in the mouth. I do not pick up any weird shou puer funk.

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Third and Fourth Infusion: Flavor has shifted some, I am getting the way it smells as how it tastes – That’s No Moon has that petrichor taste. It’s a little humid, rocky, hot pavement, nuts, and lots of earth. The flavor is deep and strong, but also sweet and sugary. Crimson Lotus Tea says this tea was stored in Seattle, WA since Spring 2016, but Darth Hoot thinks it was stored on Mustafar due to the strong, hot, earth crust notes, but not arid thanks to a mystical force relic boveda pack.

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Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Infusion: The flavor is shifting more, losing much of its powerful intensity. The flavor is lighter in earth, but full of petrichor with some amber sweetness. The finish is sweet and mineral-like, reminiscent of a kyber crystal. As much as I love a heavy strong force push shou, these infusions are the best as it is balanced, not “restored balance to the force” as the flavor is still quite heavy with the sith.

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Eight, Ninth, and Tenth Infusion: I did 10, 15, and 30 minute infusions here. That’s No Moon got weak and peaceful, I think chunks of Alderaan got in here. The flavor is quite light, tasting lightly of earth, cream, and more sweet.

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Thats no moon Crimson Lotus Tea - Oolong Owl (12)

Other Ratio: I gram to 10ml of vessel – the utter selfishness of questing for power and knowledge brought me to leaf this tea harder. More leaf made That’s No Moon more oomph slipping into that super dark mode. It is strong, yet not over steeped, bitter, or funky. The notes are heavy petrichor, earth, bittersweet cocoa, and dark raisin sweet. The intensity here reminds me of chocolate covered raisins. If you love those pitch black heavy teas, you should leaf That’s No Moon hard. 1g/10ml is the sweet spot that I will personally steep at again.

Comparison: The horder of Sith tea artifacts I am, I have the Crimson Lotus 2008 Bulang Imperial in both sample and unopened brick form. I reviewed this tea back in 2015, but also at high altitude. As I said earlier, That’s No Moon is supposed to clone the 2008 Bulang, but let’s put it to the test side by side.

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In the earlier steepings, 2008 Bulang Imperial is much more settled. It is more smooth, mellow, creamy and put together. It is more caramel like in taste and super smooth. However, next to That’s No Moon, it is not as sweet. That’s No Moon in comparison is unpolished – more abrasive petrichor and dirt, but much sweeter. Later infusions, the 2008 Bulang catches up on sweetness, and I got a couple more infusions than That’s No Moon. That’s No Moon is just the young apprentice, whereas 2008 Bulang is the Master.

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Overall, I think the 2008 Bulang is the better tea, but this was an unfair comparison as obviously the 2008 Bulang Imperial has a lot more age on it, since That’s No Moon is a 2015 and Simao material. That’s No Moon might gain more knowledge – it could be like Darth Nihilus and suck entire shou-midor life force to gain plenty of power, catching up to the mighty 2008 Imperial in a few years.

Comments

Crimson Lotus Tea’s 2015 That’s No Moon Shou Puer is a bud heavy, earth, dark heavy tea with a good amount of sweetness to have you drinking it until the end. This one certainly shines in both ways of being dark and heavy early on, but later infusions are light and sweet.  It isn’t as creamy as Crimson Lotus Tea’s  2008 Bulang Imperial Grade, but has the same concept of a dark shou going sweet. I didn’t get too many infusions, but I think it in a few years it’ll settle in – That’s No Moon would likely be stronger than the Master. This shou is very friendly in terms of not being dry or bitter, but it does have that “dirt earth” element that falls into personal taste.

I had to restrain myself from buying two cakes. There was two Death Stars, and as per Darth Bane’s Rule of Two, only two Sith at a time. That said, it makes sense to purchase two That’s No Moon. However Owl Thrawn said, “Such a large battle station is a poor tactical decision. The funds should go toward strengthening the Imperial Navy.”

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Happy May the Fourth! (ppppssst, Crimson Lotus Tea is having a 1 day May 4th sale on their Planets and That’s No Moon!)

Grand Admiral Thrawn Tea from Adagio Teas – feat. Owlth’raw’nuruodo

Owl Thrawn

Pushing further into so-called “Unknown space” I have come across a curious race of “Tea Owls.” Their political organization is primitive, purporting to be a parliament but lacking most of the expected procedure as the majority of their time and efforts appears focused their titular concoction they call tea. I have observed the Tea Owls who work brewing tea, cleaning tea pots, and operating cameras in a remarkably diligent effort to document every aspect of this cultural obsession.

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At the end of each day these owls drink yet more tea and consume “beef jerky,” a desiccated meat product very similar in taste to dried nerf. Though their race does not generally express martial inclinations, I have observed some among them owls practicing with long metal picks designed for prying pressed tea apart. They accepted me into their presence without question, making no inquiry as to my purpose as they merely assumed I was a new Tea Owl, their numbers apparently frequently augmented by new arrivals. As I have found with so many other races they are unable to properly pronounce my full name of Owlth’raw’nuruodo, I instructed that they refer to me as Owl Thrawn.

Owl Thrawn

Though they bicker frequently, the Tea Owls overall demonstrate a naive openness in their interactions, unsuspicious hospitality that has seen them present me with a gift contained in a box painted with what, I assume, is meant to be my likeness.

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Inside the mysterious container I found, unsurprisingly, tea. It is apparently blended concoction of “Black Tea, Rose Hips, Hibiscus, Apple Pieces, Natural Creme Flavor, Natural Raspberry Flavor, Orange Peels, Blue Cornflowers, Raspberries, Natural Vanilla Flavor, and Natural Bergamot Flavor.” I am unfamiliar with most of these apparently native flora but I recognize the scent as being that of strong, pungent fruit, a mix of  Bilaberries, Belsavis Sweetberry and Corellian Kavasa fruit.

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After giving me but a moment to open the gift the Tea Owls hooted in excitement and guided me through the process of preparing the tea for me. Though obviously made from something other than the Cassius tree as is traditional on Alderaan the process appeared similar, they explained that this black tea was to be steeped with boiling water for 4 minutes.

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Matching the scent of the dried blend I find the flavor to be strongly fruity, with an overwhelming taste of Bilaberry – or as the owls term it, blueberry. The black tea is quite smooth and creamy from vanilla –  a flavor that I identify from its frequent use in the upper levels of Coruscant and whose name the Tea Owls use as well.  I identify the finish as a sharp mix of Sweetberry and the Shig used in Mandalorian tisane; the Tea Owls describe it as a sharp citrus raspberry.

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From observing their art and drinking their tea, I am able to understand their impression of myself. Demonstrating a superficial perspective they seem to have merely gone off my colouring, and from that classifying me as, in their tongue, a blueberry headed Tea Owl with raspberry eyes.

How “creative,” this unsophisticated understanding, combined with their overall primitive organization, makes me conclude they are of little threat or concern to the greater galaxy – though there are certainly many in the more decadent halls of power who would be intrigued by their complex rituals and meticulously curated concoctions. I shall consult with my advisors as to whether these Tea Owls may be of some political end, as their military is minuscule to nonexistent.


Tea: Fandom Blend – Star Wars Grand Admiral Thrawn Tea (Leslie M) from Adagio Teas

Collab: Oolong Owl + Tea Hating Husband

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(tea provided for review | Affiliate links)

Dark Texture Silver Tea Cup from Crimson Lotus Tea

Within 30 minutes of Crimson Lotus Tea notifying social media, I swooped in on their new Dark Texture Silver tea cup. They only had a couple cups locally, so I had it in my hands the next day instead of waiting for shipping from China. This cup is 50ml, lined with silver. I jumped on this cup over the others as I really like the flare shape, as I find it has a natural placement for the fingers.

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I am also on a strange Star Wars kick since January, so the dark colour with the light streaks, combined with silver reflecting glowing tea, makes the Sith in me happy. I also like the more modern look. You can’t tell in photos, just only with feel, that this cup is quite weighty in the bottom. This heavy bottom is an additional bonus as I find it less likely to tip over on my tea table, despite the tall bowl shape and foot.

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Man, silver makes the tea glow!

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I go into a lot more detail with my Silver Tea pot testing, but I am happy to report that the silver tea cup does make a big difference, very quickly.  Over the weekend, all my tea drinking I did with both the silver cup and a non-silver cup.

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The black tea was much sharper, more bright, a bit more clean and sweet in the silver cup. The ceramic cup was more mellow in flavor. I played with four oolongs, all in the roasted/more oxidized variety, and the extra brightness did wonders for them, by brightening tea flavor and taming bitter roast. I did avoid silver’s weakness (citrus/floral teas), but overall had excellent tea with preference to the flavor off the silver tea cup.

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What I can’t answer right now is what makes a bigger difference – silver kettle, tea pot, or cup? I’ll need to play with the silver tea pot again and compare again to get that answer.  I am thinking there is extra influences in play with this specific cup as due to the design of the silver being folded over the edge, as I can feel the cool silver as I drink. The silver cup was way easier to test – just a cup I can work into my session, rather than dedicated brewing or worrying about tea pot pour times.

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That said, I can certainly confirm that if you like the idea of silver with tea, but don’t want to shell out the big $$$$ of a silver tea pot, a silver tea cup is the cheapest way to go. If you run the math, a full set of cups is cheaper than a silver tea pot, likely due to less expensive silver needed and easier crafting. I am just sticking with one cup though, my guests can bring their own fancy cup!

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The Dark Texture Silver tea cup I got from Crimson Lotus Tea is quite nice. The silver is folded over the edge tightly, so there is no weird edges felt while drinking. They got a couple other designs, but the style and size were perfect for me – important when shelling out $50 for a single tea cup. Ouch.. this is the most expensive tea cup I’ve purchased to date and I didn’t even bat an eye as silver is amazing.

Pine Oolong and Honey Red Jade from Golden Tea Leaf

I came across Golden Tea Leaf at the last World Tea Expo. Golden Leaf Tea had some delicious tea, but also award winning tea. Both teas I will be tasting today placed in the North American World Tea Championships, Pine Oolong first place and Honey Red Jade third place.

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Pine Oolong

Pine Oolong is a blend of two Taiwanese High Mountain teas. Which high mountain teas? They don’t say, so I guess a trade secret? I was only given sachets that contained 3 grams of leaf. The tea inside the sachets look great and appear to be whole leaf. With two sachets, I was able to gongfu!  I used 1 gram of leaf to 15ml of vessel size, and steeped in boiling water.

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The leaf smells great – nicely sharp floral magnolia with a good background of fresh vegetal.golden leaf tea pine oolong honey red jade oolong owl (3)

The hot leaf smells like sticky rice and fresh greens. The colour come out a very pale light yellow green. I didn’t photo the rinse, but that was almost clear like water.

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First and Second Infusion: The flavor is soft with notes of buttery, mineral, sweet peas, with a peachy floral finish. Overall flavor is quite crisp and sweet, but also quite buttery with the texture being nicely balmy. The floral is light and not overpowering.

Third, Fourth, and Fifth Infusion: The flavor has shifted to something quite savory here. It is clean and mellow, tasting like steamed white rice, peas and fresh spinach. The aftertaste slips in that peachy floral, layering over the vegetal savory flavor.

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Sixth and Seventh Infusion: The sixth infusion was light on flavor, but had some dryness that was still pleasant to drink. The final infusion I pushed for about 5 minutes and it was too bitter to finish. Good looking leaf!

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Overall, Pine Oolong is an interesting tea and a pretty good daily drinker. It is soft and well balance for buttery, vegetal, and floral, with buttery being the most dominate…maybe there is Lishan in this blend? Pine Oolong would be loved by high mountain drinkers looking for something a little different and fun to drink for a short session.  I can see this tea being great cold steeped. Golden Leaf was accurate in their posting saying Pine Oolong is a good everyday, delicate tea. I did find it easy going and certainly a good daily drinker but yet plenty of interest. Pine Oolong has my interest sparked on the potential of blending other high mountain oolongs to maybe construct the mightiest of oolong.


Honey Red Jade Tea

Honey Red Jade Tea is a “unique fermented black tea from the pristine hills of Taiwan,” but also has been influenced with leaf hoppers.

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So sadly I only have a single sachet of this tea, which is 3 grams. I’d love to gongfu this rather than grandpa or western steep it. Luckily, I can gongfu Honey Red Jade with this 40ml clay pot I have on loan. I admit, this clay pot has not been tested with black teas, so I don’t know what influence it has. This tasting is not very accurate compared to a gaiwan, which is more neutral. Looking at the steeping instructions, they consider Honey Red Jade to be steeped like their oolongs, not like their black teas.

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I leafed a little heavy, 3grams to 40ml, with boiling water. I used flash steeps to start to compensate with the tea pot pour being a bit slow. The hot leaf smells very fruity, reminding me of a mouth watering ruby black.

First and Second Infusion: Great golden colour made from this tea… in a teeny amount thanks to this tiny tea pot. Photo below is one infusion in the cup and the second in the pitcher.

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Honey Red Jade sips in mineral sweet.. really sweet! Likely this is one of the sweetest black teas I’ve had. It tastes like hydrangea leaf, which is naturally sweet in the mouth, but not how sweetness usually hits the tongue (but this isn’t as funky as stevia is).

Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Infusion: The flavor is developing more. It is still quite sweet and mineral, but has a slight earthy background with a citrus zest to it. The overall flavor is quite bright. The body is a bit slippery, but I didn’t focus on it until now as the sweetness is so dominating. With each infusion, I found this tea got more citrus like pomelos, but spoons of sugar on top. This black tea isn’t heavy, malty, overly earthy like a typical black.

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Ninth Infusion: I noticed at this point Honey Red Jade was just not expanding right. I put the leaves in my pitcher and let it steep one last time. I used a lot more water than I’d like, but with an extended run of 20 minutes I got a good infusion.

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The tea was not bitter or dry at all. The flavor was light, but mineral and very sweet.

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Overall, Honey Red Jade is an interesting black on the fruity sweet side. It is certainly for an oolong drinker who prefers something much more oxidized, or a black tea drinker looking for something lighter.  But honestly, this tea is really flipping sweet and took many multiple infusions with boiling water without getting dry or bitter. This is a bombproof tea, and I can see this being the perfect “convert from sugary drinks to tea” tea. I can see this tea being excellent iced and you’d likely not need sugar with it.

Hopefully again I will try more of Golden Tea Leaf. Both the Pine Oolong and Honey Red Jade were quite unique. On their Golden Tea Leaf site, they sell tea bags and loose leaf. Golden Leaf Tea also sells Pine Oolong and Honey Red Jade on Amazon if you are on the lookout for great tea (award winning at that) to burn Amazon gift cards on.

(Tea sample snagged for free at the World Tea Expo, Amazon Affiliate links)