Pretty Rice Pattern Gaiwans!

Yes, I have successfully acquired a pair of rice grain pattern gaiwans!

I’ve seen a few of these interesting gaiwans in use at the World Tea Expo. Bana Tea Company was using a gorgeous one at the LA International Tea Festival. None were for sale at either venue, sadly. I wanted a rice pattern gaiwan sooooo bad as see through stuff is cool, plus they seem uncommon.

Challenge #1 – finding a rice pattern gaiwan.

I’ve been searching through google/ebay/aliexpress. Sellers call them different things, often not even mentioning the style and lumping it under “gaiwan”, “cup”, and “teapot”. In the end, I spent an afternoon looking through many pages of gaiwan listings on aliexpress. Going through endless listings is not a efficient search behavior, but hey, thorough.

Challenge #2 – finding a rice pattern gaiwan within set budget.

Once you’ve located a cool looking gaiwan, it’s time to search around ebay/aliexpress as often another seller could have the same one for cheaper. Factor in they translate a rice pattern gaiwan differently, it is quite painful to find the perfect seller, the right price plus a reliable seller.

The Rice Pattern Gaiwans!

I got two, as I couldn’t decide between them. The red flower patterned one I thought was really pretty, but the blue one I figure I’d use more. When in doubt, buy both!

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While unwrapping the blue gaiwan,

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I found a surprise sample! YAY mini tuochas!

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Here are some up close pictures of my rice pattern gaiwans:

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Challenge #3 – test the gaiwans for leaks.

I’ve heard a couple counts on these rice pattern gaiwans having defects and leaking through the little clear glazed windows. Since I bought these gaiwans cheap, I needed to test them out as soon as possible in case I need to contact the seller for a refund or exchange.

I steeped a round of Mandala Tea’s Colored Species oolong which I got from a Traveling Tea Box. I was generous with the leaf, plus with this oolong having huge leaves I couldn’t see any thing special with my gaiwan! pout!

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After having a number of rounds with this oolong I removed the leaves (so much leaf!)

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and put the tea back into the gaiwan. I learned since my blue gaiwan is thicker with smaller “windows”, the tea doesn’t show through that much.

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With that said, I poured the oolong into the other gaiwan, which is thinner and more rice “windows”. VERY COOL, it is like the entire gaiwan is glowing!

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My rice pattern gaiwan is like it has a tea candle inside, but with actual tea and no fire!

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In the end, I love my gaiwans, though the blue one is a bit of a disappointment in wow factor, though the design is pretty. Both gaiwans I got didn’t leak, so yay! If you are looking for a spiffy rice pattern gaiwan to impress your fellow tea drinkers – look for one with lots of rice windows for full effect!

Before you say, “Hey, why not just get a glass gaiwan?” I found these gaiwans easier to handle than 100% glass gaiwans. If you’ve ever used a glass gaiwan, they get really hot to the touch – so I personally only use them for cooler steeped teas, like greens and whites. These rice patterned gaiwans have the feel of the usual porcelain gaiwan, with the perk of being able to see the tea inside.

rice pattern gaiwan oolong owl tea

Bonus: Mini Tuocha head Tea Owl!

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2012 Bulang Gushu Ripe Puerh from Crimson Lotus Tea

It’s Pu’er Time! Today’s tea is the 2012 Bulang Gushu Ripe Puerh from Crimson Lotus Tea. This ancient tree (gushu) pu’er is picked from over 200 year old trees in Spring 2012 in Yunnan, China.

This is my first Crimson Lotus Tea! These guys are based in Seattle, USA. They sell mostly (if not all) pu’er along with some really nice chinese tea ware. The gongfu tea pots – this one for example – are so beautiful that if I had one I’d put it on display instead of using it! Crimson Lotus Tea has a big social presence on Twitter and Reddit, so pretty easy to get a hold of if you have any questions about pu’er.

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2012 bulang gushu ripe pu'er crimson lotus tea oolong Owl

Dry Leaf

I am very impressed with Crimson Lotus Tea sample sizes! 25 grams is perfect to get a good couple rounds – plus the samples I got were nice big cake chunks, often I get pretty broken up pu’er bits for samples.

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The dry leaf of 2012 Bulang Gushu Ripe Puerh is a pretty heavy tea with shades of black with honey brown highlights.

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Steeping Instructions

I did 6 grams of tea for my yixing pot, using boiling water. What was pretty cool was one of the pieces weighed exactly 6 grams! I did two rinses, as instructed, for 3 seconds each. I started with 10 second infusing, adding additional steep time as I went on.

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Tasting of Crimson Lotus Tea’s 2012 Bulang Gushu Ripe Puerh

First Infusion: “Virgin” 10 second steeping. 2012 Bulang Gushu Ripe Puerh has a light dusty grey rose color with a sweet earthy lightly fermented scent. I did two rinses but maybe that wasn’t enough or this tea needs time to ramp up.

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The flavor of 2012 Bulang Gushu Ripe Puerh is light and sweet with a creamy mouth feel. We need another steeping!

Second Infusion: “Let’s begin our journey” Additional 10 second steeping. The liquor as a touch darker - a vibrant red, similar to a ceylon black.

2012 bulang gushu ripe pu'er crimson lotus tea oolong Owl

2012 Bulang Gushu Ripe Puerh’s flavor is stronger but still light. This tea is fresh, with us just starting on our journey. At the end of sip, delicious chocolate and spice notes hit with a slick creamy texture. No dryness, bitterness or fermentation notes.

Third Infusion: “Ramping up!” Additional 10 second steeping. Look at that color gradient! Now an even darker reddish brown. Gorgeous clear broth too!

2012 bulang gushu ripe pu'er crimson lotus tea oolong Owl

The flavor of 2012 Bulang Gushu Ripe Puerh has picked up - rich, brothy and thick in flavor. The tea has a dark chocolate note that just melts in your mouth with a spice tingle that peaks end of sip. I’m also getting a bit of a wild green sweet flavor right at the end that I’m having a hard time identifying.

Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Infusion: “Chocolate Heaven” additional 10 second steepings. Little darker color that I think is the final dark Pu’er color.

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Chocolate flavor is getting stronger, as if the cacao % is climbing with each infusion. 2012 Bulang Gushu Ripe Puerh sips in light and sweet, then has a slick chocolate flavor is rich and thick with a finish of more bright sweetness. The spice note has faded with these steepings. The chocolate flavor here feels rugged, with a burnt cacao flavor aftertaste. With each steeping, the sweet finish intensifies.

With each steeping of 2012 Bulang Gushu Ripe Puerh, I feel like I’m nibbling holes in a dark chocolate house and turn the walls into swiss cheese, but also discovering a candy coated shell house exterior. Uh oh the tea drunk weird stories has begun!

I opened the tea pot and smelled the leaves. Intern Tea Owl agreed there was an almost grassy scent in the steamy 2012 Bulang Gushu Ripe Puerh leaf - Perfect invigorating tea owl facial!

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Eighth and Ninth Infusion: “I’m melting!” Additional 15 second steepings. I’m starting to battle with steep times . 2012 Bulang Gushu Ripe Puerh has a very smooth flavor with plenty of sweet still. Chocolate flavor is mellowing, melting into a smooth, milk chocolate flavor with a drop of agave nectar. Nooo the chocolate house is melting! DROOOL!

Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Infusion: “Chocolate Mystery” Additional 30 second steepings. Man, this tea is smooth! Milk chocolate flavor is starting to lighten, with a brief aftertaste of more chocolate. 2012 Bulang Gushu Ripe Puerh is starting to develop another flavor with a bit of an interesting sweet tang end of sip. The sweet finish kind of reminds me of molasses but not as metallic but more wild tasting, similar to an exotic floral honey. The feel for these infusions is kind of mysterious, trying to figure out the flavors.

Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Infusion: Additional 1 minute steepings. The color of 2012 Bulang Gushu Ripe Puerh has faded, but still a colorful red/orange.

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2012 Bulang Gushu Ripe Puerh is honey sweet throughout the entire sip with a chocolate peak at the end. With each further steeping, less and less chocolate notes. This tea is on its last legs and I’m trying to get my chocolate buffet money’s worth.

Sixteenth Infusion: “The desperate” 10 minute steeping. The flavor is light, but yay I still get chocolate notes! Hmm, I bet I could get another steeping.

Seventeenth Infusion: “Encore 30 minutes”: Just like last infusion, but lighter. I think 2012 Bulang Gushu Ripe Puerh is done – a good run!

Comments

I found Crimson Lotus Tea‘s “Ancient Tree” 2012 Bulang Gushu Ripe Puerh very easy to drink with all the lovely rich chocolate and sweet flavors and with no fermentation funk, dryness or bitterness. I could see someone who is more of a black tea drinker would loooove this pu’er, as well as sweet tooth types (like me!). With that amount of re-infusions you get out the leaf, pu’er is certainly big bang for your buck! Crimson Lotus Tea does to sample sizes so you can test drive the tea before buying a large amount of delicious pu’er.

2012 Bulang Gushu Ripe Puerh feels slightly similar to Mandala Tea’s 2006 Special Dark pu’er for chocolate richness, but 2012 Bulang Gushu Ripe Puerh is lighter in texture, more mellow, smoother and not as intense. The flavor is rich and mega chocolately, with less earthy/mushroomy/woodsy tasted in many ripe pu’er.

I think 2012 Bulang Gushu Ripe Puerh would be great after a heavy dinner, served with or as dessert – the flavor would compliment a nice cake or creamy dessert item, but the tea is also not too heavy and sweet enough to stand alone as the dessert. The color of 2012 Bulang Gushu Ripe Puerh is gorgeous too, excellent to show off to guests! Drinking ripe pu’er after a heavy meal feels great on the tummy too!

Bonus: Enjoyable down to the last drop.

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(tea provided for review)

September Simple Loose Leaf Selection Club – Tea Review

A little late, but it’s time for the September Simple Loose Leaf Selection Tea Club box!

What does drinking tea in September mean to you? I heard from a tea seller once that September is the slowest month for them – is it as everyone is busy with a new school year? The weather is still a little warm for that heavy black tea, but too cool for that pitcher of iced tea? For me, I’m drinking the same amount of tea I always drink – refilling my tea cup all day.

Anyways, this month for  Simple Loose Leaf Selection Tea Club my choices were: Assam FTGFOP, Shou Mei White,  Green Pekoe Tea, Four Seasons Oolong and Herbal Chai. This month seemed quite heavy on the unflavored teas since our flavored tea of the month was a herbal.

If you are new to Simple Loose Leaf,

  • Each month you get to choose from a selection of 5 teas. You may also select the option of sampling all 5 teas, or choose 2 you like. Each tea is 1 to 2 oz, or for the sampler, a 4 oz sampler pack.
  • Within the 5 teas, Simple Loose Leaf aims to have a good variety to choose from, straight teas, blends and a herbal.
  • Simple Loose Leaf also gives you a preview of the teas for the following month and lets you also get a 6 gram sample to try ahead of time.

By the way, a coupon code for you: OWLSELECTION25 for a 25% discount when you sign up for Simple Loose Leaf’s Selection Club!

I went with Green Pekoe and Assam Assam FTGFOP. One would think with a name Oolong Owl that I should of selected the Four Seasons Oolong, but I wanted to explore a bit for September – making September a month for trying new things and meeting new people.

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I also selected a sample from next month’s box: Pu’er Spice Tea… which is an empty package as I drank it all already. Whoops.

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Tasting of September Simple Loose Leaf Selection Club Green Pekoe

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The dry leaf of Green Pekoe has a strong sweet smell – the leaves are quite pretty with silvers of silver tips amoungst the green leaves.

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I steeped my cup of Green Pekoe for 2 minutes – after 2 minutes I had a pale yellow tinted cup of tea with a clear vegetal scent.

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The flavor is light and delicate. Simple Loose Leaf’s Green Pekoe is vegetal – mostly of tender sweet artichoke and baby spinach. The sweetness is like there is a drop of honey in my cup. There is a hint of dryness, 1/10 on the astringency meter, at the end of each sip of tea. Green Pekoe is very easy to drink – a nice light green tea to enjoy in the afternoon. It is a very delicate tea, so it’s best to enjoy on its own, without other foods or with added ingredients. This tea was my favorite for this month!

Tasting of September Simple Loose Leaf Selection Club Assam FTGFOP

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The dry leaf of Simple Loose Leaf’s Assam FTGFOP (Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe) has a lightly fruity floral scent. I followed the instructions on the package and steeped my tea for 3.5 minutes with boiling water.

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My cup of Assam FTGFOP came out a lovely and classic reddish brown hue with a earthy, fruity and sweet scent.

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The flavor of Simple Loose Leaf’s Assam FTGFOP starts off malty and oak wood, with a  little citrusy fruity, like a tart plum or apricot finish. The fruity finish peaks to a dry brisk texture, a 5/10 on the Astringency meter, adding dryness to my entire mouth. I can see this tea being great with milk and sugar – a fantastic breakfast or afternoon tea to get you perked up!

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Next month for the Simple Loose Leaf Selection Tea Club box: Hojicha Green Tea, Yunnan Jig Tea, White Pear, Pu’er Spice Tea and Peppermint Herbal. I’m trying to decide between 3 of those teas – can you guess which ones?

(tea provided for review)

Hwang Cha Gold Oxidized Korean Tea from Hankook Tea

Hwang Cha Gold Oxidized Korean Tea is a partially oxidized and pan fired tea. This particular tea from Hankook Tea is a first flush Sejak and was hand harvested in April 2014.

So is Hwang Cha Gold Oxidized Korean Tea an oolong? Black tea? Taste wise, I would lean towards an oolong – world of tea has a great article on Hwang Cha’s classifications according to how this tea is processed.

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Dry Leaf

The dry leaf of Hwang Cha Gold Oxidized Korean Tea smells sooo good! This tea has a rich brown, almost black colour in delicate curled and twisted shapes. The smell is an amazingly fragrant floral, toasted nuts and red grapes.

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Steeping Instructions

The steeping instructions on the tin state – 160 to 180F for 2 to 3 mins. I went with 175F for 2.5 minutes for my first infusion.

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While the tea steeps, our Barn Tea Owl danced on the Korean infuser mug…

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.. and studied his Korean. Hoot. 부엉부엉

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After my first steeping, Hwang Cha Gold Oxidized Korean Tea came out a dark amber colour that smells even more fragrant than the dry leaf – so roasty fruity sweet!

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Tasting of Hankook Tea’s Hwang Cha GOld Oxidized Korean Tea

Woweee, so tasty! Hwang Cha Gold Oxidized Korean Tea is quite sweet for an unflavored tea. It is very smooth and has a creamy texture. The sweetness is hard to explain, it is fruity similar to a cooked and juiced apple or pear with a hint of tart. Mid sip the flavor shifts to a toasted rich cacao nib flavor, along with more roasty nutty shell notes and a quick wave of smoke. The tea finishes off with more fruity sweetness that lingers a bit after each sip.

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Second Infusion: 3 minute steeping. The second infusion is much sweeter and fruity than the first. The rich chocolate notes slipped away, leaving a more nutty shell mid sip. The texture has thinned as well.

Third Infusion: 5 minute steeping – even sweeter?! This round the flavor level has dropped to mostly sweet, crisp nutty body like chestnut flesh and a light pear finish. By the way, no dry or bitterness in any of my infusion of Hwang Cha Gold Oxidized Korean Tea.

Fourth Infusion: 8 minute steeping. This is the last infusion – the flavor is on the weak side with just a bit of sweet, fruity and mineral notes. Still worth steeping Hwang Cha Gold Oxidized Korean Tea this long though.

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Comments

I actually had a hard time reviewing Hwang Cha Gold Oxidized Korean Tea because I was enjoying it so much and drinking it very fast. This tea is so smooth, rich in flavor yet crisp and fruity. I love how there is quite a bit going on with the chocolate flavor, roasty and smoke. The whole tasting profile of this tea is nothing like I had before – it’s sweeter than other teas, especially oolongs. The rich roasty, nutty, cocoa flavor is similar to a black tea but isn’t as thick and strong as a black – closer to an oolong I think.

In the end, Hankook Tea is a unique experience that’ll keep you sipping to figure out what kind of tea is it.  Hwang Cha Gold Oxidized Korean Tea would be fun to do a tasting with other oolongs and black tea see if you can unravel the tea mystery. Or just drink it with some sweet chewy rice cake snacks.

Or be a nerd like me and sip while rocking out to some awesome kpop – the new TAEMIN video is awesome!

Korean Tea Cups from Hankook Tea

I’ve been questing for Korean Tea cups with infusers for awhile now. Every time I see a character in a Korean Drama drink out of one I’m like “OOooh, pretty – I need one of those!” Annoyingly, these tea cups are a little hard to find and when you do find them, they are not cheap. Paying $30+ for a small tea cup makes me cry.

Anyways, I saw on Hankook Teas‘ site, who sell Korean Teas (and ship from California!), that they have Korean tea cups! Even better is that they aren’t too pricey, some under $20. With that said, I caved and bought a pair.

Interestingly, my pair of tea cups came in 4 boxes.

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One box has the lid and strainer,

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and the second box has the main tea cup.

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The Korean Tea cups I got are different in design and shape – I went for one with a handle with magnolia design and the other cup has no handle with cherry blossom design.

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The Korean tea cups are glazed, but the last centimeter of the strainer is not glazed.

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The cups fit my more petite Tea Owls, which they are pretty happy about!

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The cups are pretty easy to use – the strainer lifts out and filters out the tea leaves. Though on the thick side, the cups are easy to sip from. These tea infuser cups work best with a whole loose leaf tea and were perfect for Korean teas. I found them a little hot to handle, but the cup with the handle was nice on saving your fingers from burning. With the infuser inside these Korean tea cups, you get a delicious 6oz cup of tea.

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Since I have 2 tea cups, the Tea Owls and I can have tea together while we watch Korean dramas like… Coffee Prince.

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Overall, I’m pretty happy with these Korean tea cups. It is like having the correct pairing teaware with your tea – like a matcha in a chawan.

New Tea Quest: Get a Celadon Korean Tea cup. Tea Quest Bonus: travel to Seoul and bring home lots of tea goodies (and kpop Taemin Socks). One day…

Ailaoshan Black Tea from Whispering Pines Tea Co.

Ailaoshan Black Tea is a 2014 harvest from the misty Ailao Mountain Nature Preserve in Yunnan China. This rich black tea is sold by Whispering Pines Tea Co, online tea seller based in Michigan.

I had one of Whispering Pines Tea Co teas back in 2012 before I was tea blogging, Campfire Blend, and it was good. Then this tea seller slipped under my radar. I kept hearing more and more good things about their teas, so I decided to put in a small order to try Whispering Pines out again. They got lots of unique woodsy teas blended with pine needles and cedar leaves. Whispering Pines Tea Co also has some good unflavored teas too.

I love when a tea seller describes where a particular tea comes from. On the Aliaoshan Black page Whispering Pines’ site it states:

“This tea is grown at over 2000 meters above sea level and shrouded in warm mist nearly year-round. It is harvested from tea bushes that have been cultivated on the edge of one of the most diverse subtropical ecosystems in the world — The Ailao Mountains (Ailaoshan) Nature Preserve. This nature preserve is home to at least 550 plant species and 460 animal species, including the black gibbon and bengal tiger.”

Mmmm, this tea got snuggled by apes and tigers and now the exotic golden tipped Oolong Owl Tea Owl. Hoot.

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Dry Leaf

The dry leaf is has a fruity floral scent and looks like long twists and kinks.

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Steeping Instructions

I followed the “fill in the blank” instructions on the package – 3 minute steeping with a water temperature between 200F and 212F (crazy variable kettle restrictions).

After 3 minutes I had a glittering cup of bronzey amber

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Tasting of Ailaoshan Black Tea from Whispering Pines Tea Co

Oooooh! Very rich black with lots of complexity going on!

First sip tastes like a fluffy fleshed baked sweet potato with a dark chocolate chip and dark, moist, fat raisin dotted, thick textured bun for dessert. Mid sip I’m getting a more malty rich and deeper coaco flavor. The entire sip is malty,  bready, light molasses, raisins and light caramel sweet. The tea has a silky texture with a lightly rich body. Very clean tasting and flavorful. I’m getting a slight dry tingle to this tea – adding a bit of dry at the back of my throat – not enough to hit a 1/10 on the astringency meter.

This tea is very easy to drink – if you are the type who likes adding cream and sugar you will not need to do so for Ailaoshan Black Tea.

Second Infusion: I did a 5 minute reinfusion. The flavor is 25% lighter with mostly rich, malty, cocao, than fruity this time. There caramel flavor comes out more and is delicious! I found the dryness is now a 1/10, adding some dry cheekyness but still some wonderful tingle and energy.

Comments

Drinking Whispering Pines Tea Co‘s Ailaoshan Black Tea is like drinking pure comfort food carbs. OMG I love my carbs! The bready, malty, caramel, potato, chocolate and raisin flavor really hits the mark making a nice snuggly, sweet tooth happy black tea that has no additional flavors added. Be sure to check out this tea if you love a flavorful black!

Bonus: The Tea Owl and I love a nice steamy cup of tea – steam tea facial!

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Laoshan Roasted Oolong from Verdant Tea – Tea Review

Laoshan Roasted Oolong is an oolong from the Laoshan Village in the Shandong Province of China. This particular oolong, if you are familiar with Verdant Teas, is from the He family tea farm. The oolong I’m tasting today is actually the 2013 harvest, but the 2014 is available for purchase at this time.

I purchased Laoshan Roasted Oolong awhile back, yet it has been elusive to me. I keep moving it in my tea stash and when I felt like I was ready to try it I couldn’t find it – this happened at least 4 times. Today I was like, “Okay, we are going to try Laoshan Roasted Oolong! I know I left it in this tin .”… and it wasn’t there. 30 minutes later I found it. Soon, I will have all my tea tins labelled and I will hopefully find all my teas!

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Dry Leaf

Laoshan Roasted Oolong’s dry leaf features dark, shiny brown curls of tea with a strong roasty floral fruity scent. The contrast between roasty and fruity is like caramelized fruit with a crust to it.

laoshan roasted oolong - oolong owl

Steeping Instructions

I decided to use my yixing pot for my Laoshan Roasted Oolong tea session, I love this yixing pot! I went with boiling water, 5 grams of tea and did a quick rinse to start.

Tasting of Verdant Teas’ Laoshan Roasted Oolong

First Infusion: 5 second steep time. Beautiful golden peach color! Laoshan Roasted Oolong has a deep roasty smell, like walking by a roasted chestnut street cart.

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The flavor is sweet, very thick, smooth texture with bittersweet chocolate cream flavor.  Laoshan Roasted Oolong has a chocolate malt finish with almost a fruity aftertaste. The chocolate malt flavor reminds me of chocolate horlicks or ovaltine, if you are familiar with those products.

Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Infusion: Additional 5 second infusions. I think the big bad tea owl lured me into the dense woods with the tasty ovaltine drink now I’m in deep into the forest. Laoshan Roasted Oolong is very thick and rich, like a black tea or Pu’er. Flavor notes of woodsy, toasty, barky, sweet malty barley with a dark chocolate finish.

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Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Infusion: Additional 10 second infusions. The thickness is staring to clear a bit with the oolong now a bit more of a caramel sweet. Laoshan Roasted Oolong has s sharp rich bark woodsy flavor and walnut nutty with a soft creamy sweet chocolate finish. I can taste a bit of a coconut sweetness and thick texture as an aftertaste. Laoshan Roasted Oolong here seems to get sweeter with each infusion, however a 3/10 Astringent Meter dryness forming and getting more drier each infusion. The dryness here lightly dries cheeks and tongue.

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Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Infusion: Additional 30 second infusions. The tea is getting less and less rich thick woodsy chocolately and more light fruity sweet. I’m still getting toasty walnuts but also a yam flavor, the kind served at American Thanksgiving with the marshmallows on top. American thanksgiving food is weird. Laoshan Roasted Oolong is still moderately dry.

Twelfth and Thirteenth Infusion: Additional 1 minute infusion. Laoshan Roasted Oolong is light with sweet nut flesh, marshmallows yams and caramel note finish. The flavor isn’t very nutty now nor thick. The dryness is still going, with me having dry squirrel cheeks and teeth.

Fourteenth Infusion: “Last hurrah” 8 minute steeping.  OOOOH MAN, Laoshan Roasted Oolong is really sweet – tastes just like a to roasted marshmallow smore! Vanilla sweet! Roasty thick creamy texture! Best steeping! Why is this awesome steeping the last?!

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Fifteenth Infusion: “Surprise Encore” 30 minute steeping. This infusion is pretty close to infusion 14 but a bit weaker. So much vanilla marshmallow like flavor! Very delicious – I just want this infusion over and over again! Put me in a time machine! Wait, isn’t that the plot line to “Plants vs. Zombies 2?” Tea Owls vs…. coffee zombies?

Comments

To sum Laoshan Roasted Oolong: Good things come to those who wait.

I found Verdant Teas‘ Laoshan Roasted Oolong to be an interesting roasted oolong. I enjoyed the neat notes of nutty yam bark. I love the progression of this tea from thick malt to smore sweet. The finish made the tea worth taking long care to gongfu steep it.

I can see Laoshan Roasted Oolong being a great oolong for a black tea drinker. Laoshan Roasted Oolong is not vegetal like jade oolongs are and in the pretty rich, thick smooth spectrum like some black teas can be. An oolong drinker will enjoy the interesting progression of flavors.

Bonus: Hoot, I’m warming my head on the teapot!

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Mandala Tea “Heart of the Old Tree” 2012 Raw Pu’er – Tea Review

I’ve been meaning to try this pu’er for awhile – Mandala Tea “Heart of the Old Tree” 2012 Raw Pu’er. This tea is a raw/sheng tea from Nan Mei Village, with material picked from 300+ year old trees.

The name of this tea is interesting. Wild Monk, a big favorite of mine also from Mandala Tea, has that exotic feel to it. Old tree? I do like big old trees. Great artwork on the pu’er wrapper, I love the purple tint to the trees.

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The “Old tree” aspect of this tea attracted my moonkin, Boomy. He’s my amigurumi druid Owlbear so he was hoping to see a big old tree to do some ritualistic hip thrust dancing around it.

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Dry Leaf

The leaf is silvery low saturation with touches of creams and olive greens. Light dry tea scent.

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The dry leaf is quite heavy, Teal “Pu’er Pick” Owl actually over picked this time!

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Steeping Instructions

I leafed heavy here because YOLO (Oolong Owl YOLO Pu’er use #2!). With that said, 1 gram of tea per 15ml steeped with 200F water. I did a short rinse and began with 5 second steepings.

Tasting of Mandala Tea Heart of the Old Tree 2012 Raw Pu’er

First Infusion: The colour of Heart of the Old Tree 2012 Raw Pu’er is a light yellow brew with bronze halo inside the cup.

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The pu’er sips in sweet, pure and clean. I’m getting a creamy mouth feel that adds a lovely silkyness to the lips. The flavor is quite gentle with a bit of soft wood notes.

Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Infusion: Boom, the tea ramps up with the second infusion! Up front, Heart of the Old Tree” 2012 Raw Pu’er has a bit of sweetness that reminds me of rice syrup and crisp asian pear. There are some woodsy birch notes with an echo of smoke floating in the background. That asian pear description fits with  Heart of the Old Tree” 2012 Raw Pu’er as there is a bit of gritty 1/10 astringency that settles in the back of the throat, like the core of the pear. With each steeping I’m getting some light floral notes, with the 3rd infusion I pick out the floral notes with an magnolia edge to it.

By the way, Heart of the Old Tree” 2012 Raw Pu’er another side to it that emerged with my 3rd infusion. With each sip I felt like my heart was jammed up, similar to feeling breathless and high from exercising hard. I needed to take a big breath in between sips and then I felt super invigoratingly tea drunk. WOOOOOOO! The tea owl describes it as he needs to do a big hoot. Boomy says he feels like his mana bar is full.  I’ve had this from other teas, but Heart of the Old Tree” 2012 Raw Pu’er packs a punch like getting hit by an old tree in the solar plexus.

Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Infusion: I increased the steep times here to add an additional 10 seconds to each infusion. The flavor has shifted slightly with the silky texture is reduced to a silky lip. The flavor is more crisp, faint caramel sweetness with an apricot floral aftertaste. End of sip Heart of the Old Tree” 2012 Raw Pu’er has an increased amount of dryness that coats the cheeks, 3/10 on the astringency meter.

While I was sipping away, I spotted a big butterfly chilling by my window!

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Tenth, Eleventh Infusion: I’ve increased the steep times again to 15 seconds. The flavor is starting to revert to the first steeping by being soft and woodsy. After all these infusions, I’m still feeling breathless.

Twelfth, Thirteenth, Fourteenth, Fifteenth Infusion: I’m struggling to keep Heart of the Old Tree” 2012 Raw Pu’er going, so I increased the infusion times again. The flavor has aligned, making this my favorite stretch of infusions. There are white wine/green grape notes, birch and some butter flavor. With each steeping the sweetness increases with a more caramel hit and apricot finish.

Color has also lightened to a soft peach…and we dropped the old tree in the cup. Whoops.

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Sixteenth and Seventeenth Infusion: Another infusion time increase, so I’m waiting 5 minutes for a steep to be ready, just to inhale the tea faster than I can steep it. It is really easy to drink with the soft sweet and woodsyness that I could chug it if each sip didn’t make me breathless. To be honest I didn’t think Heart of the Old Tree” 2012 Raw Pu’er would last this long, I thought 11 or 12 infusions tops.

Eighteenth and Nineteenth Infusion: I did a 10 minute and a 30 minute infusion. The flavor is light and mostly caramel fruity sweet, but slips away quickly after each sip. The brew isn’t anymore dry as before.

I love a nice full gaiwan!

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Comments

Described in one word – Breathless.

The whole Heart of the Old Tree” 2012 Raw Pu’er tea experience was like being in an old forest that gas regrow after a dry spelled fire. A lone old tree grows by the rock overseeing and providing wisdom and inspiration to the forest to keep going with the high altitude breathless air. Later on, as you drink the tea the forest restores its equilibrium and sips into the fog.

It’s delicate in flavor but in experience it packs a heavy punch in texture and experience. It sounds weird if you haven’t had this type of bodily reaction to tea before but it is amazing! The dryness isn’t that high and the sweetness is amazing, making for an easy to drink tea. There’s a simplicity to this tea but also everlasting and clean pure.

In the end, an Oolong Owl favorite!

Oolong Owl’s Ru Kiln Travel Gaiwan

I’m starting to think you can never have too many gaiwans. Ever since hearing about the Ru Kiln glaze I wanted some kind of tea ware with it. I’ve seen said glaze before on tea ware, but I didn’t put two to two together that the glaze’s cracks get more obvious with tea drinking use.

Like the yixing pot, I like the idea that my teaware can change over time – though with the Ru Kiln glaze tea ware, the change is more appearance than flavor.

With that said, I’ve been looking awhile for this type of glaze on a piece of tea ware at a decent price. I decided to take the plunge and try Aliexpress for the first time. Aliexpress looks intimidating – they got a very busy looking website, similar to other asian websites, but in the end, it’s like buying off ebay “buy it now” style.

After a few weeks I had my Ru Kiln Travel Gaiwan!

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For the style of this gaiwan – it is called a travel gaiwan – the lid is also a tea cup! The capacity is usually on the smaller side for these gaiwans, perfect for tea for one or if you want to blast through tasting a pu’er or oolong. This one was listed at 120ml, but I think it is closer to around 80 or 90ml.

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The “wall” lets you pour your tea without a lid on the gaiwan and the small holes act as an impromptu tea filter.

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I found the top wall was good at keeping some big leafed teas as bay, though I had some later infusions of leafy raw pu’er fall out the top.

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I did find, without a lid on this gaiwan you’ll be more likely to feel the hot steamy water while pouring. With that said, you have to get used to grasping the gaiwan from the back around the neck of the gaiwan and pour, instead of over the top like normal gaiwans.

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I found this gaiwan pours slow as the hole doesn’t let much out and the tea likes to bunch up against them, slowing the pour. Despite the slow pour, I found this gaiwan a better fit for my small hands in comparison to the other “easy gaiwan” styles which are very wide gaiwans. I think this has to do more with the glaze or thickness of this gaiwan, but I found this gaiwan and cup much hotter to handle than others. The side handles of the gaiwan do get hot and the entire cup gets hot. With extended brewing, I found my tea stayed hot for a long time, which was nice.

I don’t know if I can get a camera to pick it up – but there are tiny cracks already in the glaze, but they are super faint since it’s white on white. After three infusions of black tea, I got a little bit of tinting on the edges of the cup.

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I’ve only been using this gaiwan for pu’er and blacks so far, each round with around 10 or more resteeps. With the 3rd  round of use the cup I got more pronounced cracks, mostly on the edges.

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5th time using the ru kiln travel gaiwan most of the insides has visible tinted cracks, but the outside is still a clean white.

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Overall, I really liked the Travel Gaiwan’s shape and size, even for home use! I haven’t taken it out for traveling, but I can see it doing well, especially since it comes with its own cup – no more looking silly with a pretty travel tumbler/pot and a fat boring restaurant mug.

The ru kiln glaze has provided me with much entertainment, like I get to baby my tea ware similar to a yixing pot. My ru kiln travel gaiwan cost much less than a yixing pot so I feel less stressed out about being as careful handling it.

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I can’t wait to see how this Ru Kiln Travel Gaiwan set looks after lots of use – I’m sure you’ll see me use this cool tea ware in future Oolong Owl reviews and on my Oolong Owl Instagram!

Azores Teas from What-Cha

Today I’ll be sampling two teas today – a green and a black from Gorreana Tea Estate, Sao Miguel Island, The Azores, the oldest tea estate in Europe. Both teas are from What-Cha, online tea seller.

I had a classmate from the Azores who talked quite a bit about life there (and brought food from the portuegese bakery, yum!). I had no idea Azores had tea, but then Hawaii grows some awesome tea so I bet Azores would have great tea too.

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Tasting of What-Cha’s Azores Encosta de Bruma Premium Green Tea

The dry leaf of Azores Encosta de Bruma Premium Green Tea is really fragrant sweet fruity scent. The leaf has a low saturated green color to it with a few olive twists.

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I steeped my tea with 175F filtered water for 2 minutes and ended up with a chamomile yellow tea with a faint fruity scent.

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Azores Encosta de Bruma Premium Green Tea sips in with a moderate flavor intensity, stronger than what I was expecting for a green tea.  Azores Encosta de Bruma Premium Green Tea flavor starts with a smooth texture with lots of nectarine notes and a little straw notes.  At first I felt this green will be more on the robust side than delicate but then finishes off with a light delicate finish. This green isn’t grassy or that vegetal either. After each sip I get a light amount of dryness that hits the back of the throat and a delicious lingering apricot flavor. That apricot flavor is mind blowing! How does this full on taste like apricot? I actually like this more than some peach apricot tea blends!

I could see  Azores Encosta de Bruma Premium Green Tea being an interesting candidate iced or cold brewed but I’m going to squirrel away this one. I was having one of those drool while I drink this tea moment.

Resteep: I did a 3.5 minute reinfusion of the tea leaves. A successful resteep! Azores Encosta de Bruma Premium Green Tea flavor is similar to the first steeping bit is lighter, a bit more acidic and more dry (4/10). Still plenty of nectarine apricot flavor.

Tasting of What-Cha’s Azores Shade Grown Orange Pekoe Ponta Branca Black Tea

Azores Shade Grown Orange Pekoe Ponta Branca Black Tea dry leaf has attractive wiry black leaves with some reddish brown tips.

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I steeped my tea for 2.5 minutes in 200F filtered water. Azores Shade Grown Orange Pekoe Ponta Branca Black Tea steeped to to be a reddish brown cup with a very fragrant creamy floral like scent.

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In contrast to the Azores green tea I had earlier, Azores Shade Grown Orange Pekoe Ponta Branca Black Tea sips in light with a light creamy texture. The flavor blooms with some red wood, vanilla, and fruit salad taste – the kind of fruit salad with the diced peaches, pears and random green grape. The sip progresses to a dry brisk and heavy sweet finish. Azores Shade Grown Orange Pekoe Ponta Branca Black Tea is quite dry, 6/10 on the Astringency meter, and has that classic pekoe black flavor at the end. As the tea cools it has a more woodsy flavor.

Comments

It seemed the two Azores teas are opposites staring either heavy or delicate, but both teas being quite flavorful and fruity.  Both teas are unique with the Azores Encosta de Bruma Premium Green Tea being nicely stone-fruity in flavor and Azores Shade Grown Orange Pekoe Ponta Branca Black Tea being delicate.

I greatly enjoyed Azores Encosta de Bruma Premium Green Tea and I highly recommend it to green tea lovers, or tea blend drinkers wanting to bridge into unflavored teas. As much as I do love tea blends, it is impressive how a tea without any flavor added can taste like what other blends try and taste like! Azores Shade Grown Orange Pekoe Ponta Branca Black tea would be a fine tea to mix up your morning or afternoon tea – I can see adding milk would be good but best on its own to enjoy the delicate nature of this tea.

What-Cha carries 4 other Azores Teas, and you can get the whole set to try them all. Time to get all international and try teas from all over the world!

(tea provided for review)