Sampling Jaksul Cha, Korean Green Teas from Hankook Tea

I’ve been really wanting to try Korean Green Teas. DESPERATELY! Korean teas, at least here in North America, seem to be harder to find and pricey. Plus, if I do find a korean green tea it be only one – how do I know it’s good? I still need to comb through Los Angeles K-town, but I frequent Korean grocery stores often and they usually carry barley/corn/bean teas, genmaicha and nothing in high quality loose leaf.

To add some premise to my spazing of wanting Korean teas - it started with me trying Korean food and falling in love, as I love spicy and many dishes have that comfort food feel to me. Then I got into Korean music and watching Korean dramas (OMG go watch Doctor Stranger and IRIS now!) My resolution the other year was to learn speak Korean, which I need to practice more. One day I’ll go to South Korea and eat all the food, including live octopi! (my husband wants to try the scary fermented fish).

So, enter me at the World Tea Expo - visiting the Korean tea vendors were at the top of my list! I lurked around the booths a lot, drinking all the samples.. savoring all the samples. I was sad as I got no samples to take home. However, after the WTE, Hankook Tea hooked me up! Hankook Tea sells Korean Teas and ships from the US!

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Hankook Tea has a big selection of Korean Green Teas, Jaksul Cha, of different flushes. I was planning to just try 2 at a time, but hey, let’s go all out!

Today I’ll be tasting GamnongTeuksunDoo Mool and Jungsun. I’m going to keep the order of the teas the same to hopefully avoid confusion. The teas are ordered with the most expensive being first (Gamnong) to the lowest priced tea being last (Jungsun).  All teas are from the Honam Tea Estate in South Korea.

Gamnong Green Tea is an April, hand harvested Sejak (first flush). This tea is one of the more pricey teas available on Hankook Tea. The dry leaf of Gamnong looks like fine wisps of green tea – very delicate and a sign of things to come.

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Teuksun Green Tea is another hand harvested tea, but this time in May. Teuksun contains both Sejak and Joonjak grades of tea (first and second flush).  Teuksun has a mix of wisps and chunky grean tea leaf. Both Gamnong  and Teuksun smell amazing with a sweet mouth watering floral.

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Doo Mool Green Tea is a 100% organic tea, harvested in June and is a second harvest (joonjak). This tea is harvested at the same time as the next tea on our list, Jungsun. Doo Mool smells lighter than the two previous teas, with a more chunky appearance.

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Jungsun Green Tea is harvested in June and is also a Joongjak second flush. Doo Mool and Jungsun both have economical pricing, so are quite popular. Jungsun smells completely different than the other teas with a clean vegetal scent with no sweetness. The leaf here is a more flat chunky appearance.

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Finally, owning all these perfect tea infusers has come in handy!

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Steeping Instructions

I decided to steep all four teas at 160 f for 2.5 mins. Very low steeping temperature! The steeping instructions for all four teas was pretty similar with the exception of the 2nd flush Doo Mool and  Jungsun can go up to 180f. I went by weight rather than teaspoon for dry leaf amounts.

I found our fancy Gamnong first flush had very vibrant steeped green leaves compared to the other teas.

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The colour of all four teas was very similar – a light yellow green. For smells of our tasty Korean teas - Gamnong smells the best with a lovely sweet grassy. Teuksun smells more mellow and lighter, with Doo Mool and Jungsun smelling more vegetal.

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Tasting of Hankook Tea’s Korean Green Teas

Gamnong very sweet, with a delicate and light creamy mouth feel. The flavor is super fresh, clean and crisp with a gentle kiss of grassy notes. I also get hints of floral perfume, maybe mixed with the sweetness. A very delicate tea! I feel Gamnong is the tea you bust out with the fancy tea ware - taste wise it’s delicate sweet and smooth with a higher price tag.

Teuksun is very delicious! Teuksun is also delicate, smooth, and sweet like Gamnong but much more complex. It has a crisp light grass flavor but a really nice interesting sweet tart finish. I love the finish here – it’s tangy sweet and addictive. Out of the four teas here, Teuksun is my favorite for the complex magical flavor. I could see myself ordering more!

Doo Mool is quite mellow and less complex than Gamnong and Teuksun. The flavor is a bit more robust and even throughout the sip. The flavor is just a hint of sweet hay with a savory marine note unami finish. Though a good green tea, this was “back of the pack” for me as it wasn’t complex as the others.  Doo Mool felt like an everyday tea to me. If you love a more savory unami tea you’ll enjoy Doo Mool.

Jungsun is completely different than all the teas! Jungsun is very sweet with corn, barley and hay notes. The corn notes taste just like eating freshly picked and boiled corn! The barely notes sounds weird, but if you’ve had a Korean barely tea you’ll know what I mean (sorry!). I’ve never have had a flavor like this for a green. You’ll love Jungsun if you want a green that’s not grassy and very unique.

Hard to tell since I drank all 4 teas at once, but all had a light dryness, 1/10 astringency meter.

Comments

Korean green teas are delicious! I’m happy Hankook Tea has a big selection of Korean green teas and herbals – and sample sizes! Oh no, I just realized they have tea ware – I’m in trouble now!

If you want to impress guests or have a fun “Let’s compare Green teas of the World” session, I’d go with the Gamnong. If you want more fancy, there is a grade available higher than Sejak, first flush –  Ujeon Gamro, a special grade! I highly recommend Teuksun for it’s great flavor and complexity. If you want something completely different, try Jungsun, especially for its great price.

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How are these teas compared to say a Japanese gyokuro or sencha? The Korean teas I tried were more delicate, less grassy and more on the sweet side than buttery. The exception was Jungsun which tasted very unique!

Bonus: Hankook Tea wins for the cutest pamphlet.

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OMG SOOO CUUUTE CHUBBY BIRD POURING TEA!

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(teas provided for review)

You Are The One, My Little Black Yixing Teapot

You are the one, my black yixing teapot.

I saw you at the shop and knew from the get go, you’ll be my black tea pot. You were the last one at the shop, and I held onto you, determined to take you home. The shop keep scribed my name on the label and you became mine!
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At home, you were taken in with open wings – the Tea Owls were happy to have you on board!

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To start our tea journey, we boiled you, as carefully as possible to start you as a blank slate. I know, little yixing black tea pot, you are awesome right now, but this is to make sure you grow up great.

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The Tea Owl and I selected a nice yunnan gold tipped black for you season in.

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Little black yixing teapot, you pour like a dream!

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Season away!

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Time for our first brewing. I’m okay that you sucked some of the flavor, but man, you are a gorgeous little tea pot.

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After this, I am determined to make you the best little black teapot. I will lovingly brew golden yunnan with you. We’ll see many steeps together, watching you grow through some ugly phases. I hope one day, little black yixing teapot, that you’ll give back with a great cup of tea.

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Timucua Yaupon from Yaupon Asi Tea – Oolong Owl Tea Review

Today I’ll be reviewing Yaupon Asi Tea’s Timucua Yaupon.

So, I saw these guys at the World Tea Expo. I got REALLY EXCITED. I’ve seen Yaupon being sold on Kickstarter, but not in small quantities for me to sample. For this tea owl, a new kind of tea/tisane = Sign me up!

More information on Yaupon and Yaupon Asi:

  • Yaupon is the shoots and leaf off the Yaupon Holly plant.
  • Yaupon was consumed by the First Nations (heh, can you tell I’m Canadian?) before battle.
  • Yaupon has A LOT of caffeine, at par with coffee with 6 to 10mg per gram.
  • This tea is native to the USA, certified organic and kosher.
  • The Yaupon Holly is 100% sustainable.
  • Yaupon Asi Tea’s Timucua Yaupon is wild grown in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, USA.
  • Health Research on Yaupon

Dry Leaf

My Timucua Yaupon has a strong bushy smell – like I’m walking by a freshly trimmed hedge. The leaf is firm, like dried bay leaves.

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Steeping Instructions

I steeped the Yaupon in 200F water for 5 minutes, as per instructions given to me from Yaupon Asi. As a tip, I found it best to not overleaf – so stick to a teaspoon per 8oz cup, otherwise the brew is quite strong.

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Tasting of Yaupon Asi Tea’s Timucua Yaupon

After 5 minutes, I had a cup of Yaupon brew with a bronze green hue.

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Timucua Yaupon sips in light and sweet, developing a stronger flavor as the sip progresses. By end of sip, the flavor has strong lush vegetal grassy notes, creamy and a slight wild herby flavor. The creamy sweet notes remind me quite a bit of guayusa, with the grassy notes similar to mate. Really easy to drink, especially with the Yaupon’s light natural sweetness.

Iced Yaupon: I prepared the yaupon on the strong side with heavier leaf, then poured the steeped tea over ice.

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The tea sips in very fresh.  Timucua Yaupon iced is thicker with a darker grassy, bushy taste.  The finish is a nice creamy sweet, very similar to guayusa. I like the hot version a little more for the lighter flavor, but the sweetness in the iced yaupon is quite nice too.

Comments

If you want a whole buncha caffeine, already love mate and guayusa, you’ll need to try Yaupon Asi Tea’s Timucua Yaupon - you’ll love it! If you are also a grassy green tea drinker, yaupon wouldn’t be a far stretch to enjoy as well, plus you get lots of caffeine and will enjoy a product made in the USA.

I’m curious what kind of blends could be made with Yaupon. I think citrus, peaches and ginger would be fantastic. I have a blend made by Yaupon Asi Tea, but that’ll be another review.

(tea provided for review)

So much bubble wrap! Ebay Tea ware Fun

On occasion, I order tea and tea ware from Ebay. Ebay, especially from sellers based in China, have some killer deals and hard to find tea ware. However, when you get teaware shipped from China, you get some interesting packaging.

Yunnan Sourcing has some legendary use of the bubble wrap, however this one takes the cake:

This package is a tea set I took a risk on, bidding on a new seller. It looks the seller I got it from sold a few things and stopped, so no point of me linking them here. My package arrives with no box on the outside. It’s a huge wad of packing tape with a squishy bubble wrap feel to it. It is so dense in bubble wrap, I’m wondering if there is a box inside.

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I discover this blasted thing is a PITA to get into. I know there is teaware in here so I don’t want to get all crazy stabby with the sisscors. I gently snips the corner and it explodes in bubble wrap.

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Okay, there is no way I’m getting this out without cutting all the tap. Joy, more bubble wrap underneath the packing tape and bubble wrap layer.

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We have a box! With more tape!

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Open the box.. NOOOO more packing tape! The styrofoam box was coated in packing tape. I am confused why they also didn’t completely spray on the tape around the cardboard box to do a thorough job. Maybe it was a good thing.

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Finally, I’ve cracked the styrofoam packing tape. Inside.. more bubble wrap and packing tape!!! Of course!

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My teaware after at least 5 minutes dissembling the box and cleaning all the styrofoam bits.

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Very pretty! Tea Owl approved! I love that ice crack glaze look too.

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The bubble wrap and packing tape mess

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DOH. Seriously. All that freaking packing tape and there are chips on the bottom of 2 tea cups!!!! /RAGE QUIT

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2014 US and Canada Reddit Traveling Tea Box

It’s the Reddit Traveling Tea Box! This one box of tea will be shipping around to other fellow reddit tea lovers in US and Canada!

I’ve been loving these traveling tea boxes so much that I’ve been signing up for more over the last few weeks. The only thing I don’t like about them is they take time out of my regular Oolong Owl tea drinking time and the boxes can get pricey to ship.

For the Reddit Traveling Tea Box I was the first stop! The schedule has 29 people on the list! I had the option of being last on the list, but I prefer being near the top. The box is on the small side right now, but I get first crack at the teas and I can add lots of goodies for others to try. Big thing I noticed thats different than other traveling tea boxes I’ve been in was the Reddit Traveling Tea Box allows gifts and tea tins.

I scrawled “Reddit Traveling Tea Box” on the inside, so I don’t get confused with the other boxes of tea I have (seriously my tea stash is scary). The Tea Owls were happy to start digging out all the teas!

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Oooh, a tea themed gift! Thanks wuzfuz12!

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Grrr, a Tea Owl found a lollipop and refuses to share it.

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Cool finds in this traveling tea box:

I was told before the box shipped that a pu’er company adding some teas to the cause, but I didn’t know who. OMG it’s White 2 Tea! SWEEEEEEEEET. Well, I’m sampling all the ones I don’t have.

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Score – Dryad Tea! I’ve been wanting to try them for awhile!

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Funky Verdant Tea blends Club teas! I saw different ones in the last traveling tea box – I made sure to try a few that I thought sounded good. I found some of these are misses for me (though that might be why they are in a traveling tea box), but they are still very unique and creative teas.

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The Entire box!

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This box I was allowed to have for 72 hours. I drank a few times, but ended up packaging a buncha servings of various teas for me to drink for later. Gotta keep the tea box moving!

Traveling Teabox Campsite rule:  Leave the box more organized and cleaner than when you first got it. I repackaged a few teas to make sure they don’t open or smell up the other teas in the box. Always have backup baggies, tape and boxes just in case you have to replace or repack something.

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Drum roll…. My additions to the Reddit Traveling Tea box!

I added that crazy Azercay tea from Russia, Red Leaf Tea matchas, Simple Loose Leaf teas, some Shan Valley greens, a Fashionista Tea, The Persimmon Tree Thai Chai, Verdant Tea Yaobao blend and a Jalam Tea Pu’er. I also included some Yaupon teas (to be reviewed here soon!)

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Gasp, I love Mandala Tea’s pu’er, and with my squirrely hording tea nature, so it was hard for me to add a sample, but hey, I still have more.

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Whoops, the box is bursting! The Tea Owls started jumping to squish down the box, which didn’t help too much. I ended up repackaging a few things and playing tetris with the tea packages. It all fit, phew!

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I’m really curious how this traveling tea box will look by the end – I can see it being crazy! Thank you tea lovers of reddit for having this tea box!

Caramel Matchaccino from Red Leaf Tea – Oolong Owl Tea Review

Caramel Matchaccino is a matcha latte mix sold by Red Leaf Tea, online seller mostly known for their flavored matchas.

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A little about Matchaccino, this product is a matcha latte mix – it contains cane sugar, matcha, xantham gum, tapioca dextrose and flavoring. The mix, by its self is 58 calories a serving, 0 fat.

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If you love the Starbucks Matcha Green Tea Frappucino, Red Leaf Tea’s Matchaccino is even better – it was way cheaper for one, as its $0.32 a serving verses almost $4 at Starbucks. You also have more control over your drink since you are making it at home, so you can use whatever milk you like. You can also get a higher grade of matcha and the option of many different flavors. With the flavorings, you can choose how strong of a flavor you want.

What flavors can you choose from? Well, a lot. I recommend Coconut, Tiramisu and Brazillian Acai.  If you want something not as crazy you can get plain or the best seller and most loved – the Caramel Matchaccino, which is what I’ll be reviewing today.

How to make an Iced Caramel Matchaccino Latte

So, most days I’m pretty lazy and I usually add a scoop of Matchaccino mix to blender bottle or mason jar full of milk and shake. Todays matcha session is also post workout, so I needed the extra special touch. I’m also taking all the photos off my phone. Why? Errr, I don’t want to get my DSLR sweaty, ewww.

1. Add the milk of your choice to a blender. I’m using Silk Vanilla Soy Milk. I find the vanilla soy milk makes the Matchaccino on the sweeter side as the mix is already sweetened, but this is the milk I have on hand that I can drink.

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2. Drop in a scoop of Matchaccino, about 1 Tablespoon or 15 ml. You get a free scoop when you buy a large package.

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Optional – I added a scoop of protein powder because I just finished lifting weights. If anything, this would make my matcha taste worse. The matchaccino mix is already sweetened, so you don’t need to add any sugar.

Ha, that orange Tea Owl in the background is tired from lifting too. He hit his PR on bench.

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3. Throw in a big handful of ice cubes.

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5. Blend! Again, you can get lazy and not bother blending and just shake or whisk everything together.

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Calorie total – without the protein powder, my Caramel Matchaccino is 158 calories! Your mileage may vary depending on what kind of milk you use or other extras. With protein powder, 278 calories (and 32 grams of protein).  Now for a blurry, thirsty photo:

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Tasting of Red Leaf Tea’s Caramel Matchaccino

The green tea frap I made is very very good – it has a nice thickness to it, with a tasty, smooth green matcha flavor that isn’t too grassy. There is also a gooey caramel flavor that is super yum and keeps me drinking. I totally forget my matcha is loaded in gross protein powder as it tastes like a milkshake. Caramel Matchaccino also has a nice hit of caffeine!

Without blending in ice, the matchaccino has a lightly thick texture close to a melted milkshake – very delicious!

Comments

I actually prefer Red Leaf Tea‘s Matchaccino fraps over the coffee shop ones for the price and control over the calories. The flavor selection is awesome at Red Leaf Tea, so you can go crazy if different matcha combinations! I highly recommend this matcha mix if you love matcha lattes and milkshakes! I personally will always have a bag of Matchaccino on hand.

My only dislike for this product is the packaging. I have the Large package of Matchaccino. When I reach in to scoop some matcha mix, I get it all over my hands! I keep meaning to transfer all the matchaccino mix into a wider tin, which would keep this product fresh longer.

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By the way – my tea hating husband LOVES this Caramel Matchaccino! It tastes like a caramel milkshake to him with the matcha flavor not scaring his tea hating tastes. If he’s having a sleepy morning, I make him a tumbler of Caramel Matchaccino for his drive to work which makes him very happy.

2014 New Amerykah 2 Raw Pu’er from White 2 Tea – Oolong Owl Tea Review

 2014 New Amerykah 2 is a raw/sheng pu’er from White 2 TeaBeijing based online tea seller.

I snagged a sample of this tea from the 2014 USA/Canada Reddit Traveling Tea box. I have some other teas from White 2 Tea in my possession already, but I really wanted to try New Amerykah.  Is it weird that I wanted to try this tea purely because the art on the pu’er wrapper is SO FREAKING COOL. LOOK AT IT. NERDGASM.

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This is the first time I’ve reviewed something out of a traveling tea box, but I figured I might as well jot some notes and take photos while I steep my tea, just in case.

The description on the sample didn’t sound appealing to me – bitter. Uh oh. Whatever, the power of amazing packaging! So for a strong, thick and bitter tea, I’ll need a good Tea Owl assistant. Hmmm.. when did this one grow a mustache?

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Dry Leaf

Lightly sweet earth scented tea with lots of browsn and olive green leaf with the odd silver leaf. So pretty!

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Steeping Instructions

I did 1 gram per 15ml tea to water ratio, in a gong fu style steeping using a gaiwan. I decided to start at 185 f as it’s a new raw pu’er. 185f seems to be my lucky temperature for new raw pu’ers. I started with a rinse and mostly did 10 second steeps until the later infusions.

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Tasting of White 2 Teas’ 2014 New Amerykah Raw Pu’er

First Infusions: 2014 New Amerykah came out a light pale gold cup of tea that has a strong stale hay scent. Sipping… wow that is flavorful! Very strong flavor for me doing a 10 second steep with a lower temperature. It’s sweet – lots of golden straw hay notes with a creamy thick texture.  In the background I’m getting a bit of a gritty finish. A sign of things to come?

Second Infusions:  Oh boy, an even stronger scent. My tea tastes more concentrated. More hay notes with a mineral like, bitter sweet acidic finish. The bitterness, exploding my brain, tastes pretty good because of the contrast between smooth thick texture and the hint of sweet. The bitterness is around a 3 or 4/10.

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Third, Fourth and Fifth Infusions: There is a tobacco scent which comes through intensely from the steeped tea leaves.

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With each infusion 2014 New Amerykah gets stronger in flavor, still keeping the early flavors I mentioned. Oh my! So intense! I’m still doing 10 second steepings by the way.

Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Infusions: So YOLO, I cranked the water temperature to boiling.  Oh hoots that’s strong tea! Thick. Bitter. Intense. As if this tea wasn’t ruggedly handsome already. Bit of floral too that lingers for awhile after each sip. Interestingly the intense bitter tobacco notes have lightened, making room for the sweet floral. The creaminess now is just a soft texture on the lips.  There is also now an astringency begins adding some gritty texture end of sip, a 3/10 on the Astringe-o-meter. Here is a perfect example of how bitter and astringency are not the same as these mid steepings of New Amerykah has both elements.

At first I kept sipping New Amerykah Raw Pu’er for the thick cream contrast now I’m here for the sweet floral aftertaste contrast.

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Tenth and Eleventh Infusions: Whoa a twist! 2014 New Amerykah Raw Pu’er changed here - it’s gotten sweeter and lost a whole bunch of bitterness. Still mineral. Lighter texture too. No more tobacco notes. The tea is still astringently gritty still but really good. Best steepings!

Twelfth, Thirteenth, Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth Infusions: I’ve finally broken from the 10 second steepings, opting for 30 seconds and finishing with 1 minute steepings. The tea is getting sweeter and drier – 5/10 on the Astringency rating. The sweetness is mineral amber with a gritty dry cheek finish. The final steepings get a creamy kinda smokey honey notes. That awesome floral aftertaste that lingers is still present.

Comments

I would say this is the most intense raw pu’er I’ve had. I’ve had medicinal, sweet, floral, vegetal and smokey but this one gets the intense award. For majority of the steepings the tea is sweet bitter, tobacco, thick and super strong flavored – not for the weak of heart.  However, the longer you go with this tea, the better it gets –  2014 New Amerykah 2 tea finishes with a light, sweet but dry steeps.

Totally not for a new pu’er drinker – this one tested me, but it paid off at the end – White 2 Tea‘s pu’er doesn’t disapoint! If you love that rich, full flavored teas like blacks and ripe pu’er – 2014 New Amerykah 2 would be the raw pu’er you need to try.

Bonus: I don’t even know… Owlstash?

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(tea technically provided for review, it came in a traveling tea box)

July Simple Loose Leaf Tea Selection Club – Oolong Owl Tea Review

It’s July! Time for this month’s Simple Loose leaf box!

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

As stated in my previous Simple Loose Leaf Selection club reviews,

  • 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.

For my box, I selected Tropical Sunshine Herbal and Ginseng Oolong. My preview sample for August – Milk Oolong. My other options this month were Yin Gou Mei Green, Kenilworth Ceylon Black, Plum Blossom White.

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Since it’s July,  I’m going to prepare all the teas I got as iced teas. Hey, it’s hot and I blog about drinking hot things, I need an iced tea break!

Tropical Sunshine Herbal

Wonderfully citrus scent of grapefruit and lemongrass. The dry leaf has a party of colours: blue cornflower, red peppercorns, lemongrass retangles, chunks of fruit and red rooibos.

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Steeping Instructions are to brew the herbal for 3 to 5 minutes with boiling water. I used a gravity steeper and infused the tea for 5 minutes. I poured the herbal brew over ice.

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Steeped, the herbal has a light spicy scent of pepper and cinnamon. The taste is refreshing! Sips in citrus, lightly grapefruit and lemongrass tropical, with a warm spice finish that heats up your mouth. I’d say a 4/10 on the spice meter. In the bacjground is the rooibos, adding some woodsy red earth. The contrast of fruity and spice is nice, with the warmth from the spices like being out in the hot sun! The grapefruit flavor adds almost an echo of bubblegum. In a way this herbal is like a tropical citrus chai.

Ginseng Oolong

Confession. Of all the crazy teas I drink, I personally do not like ginseng oolong for its licorice notes. I haven’t tried ginseng oolong iced yet. However looking at this oolong, it doesn’t have that dusty green chunk appearance,  it just looks like a green oolong. Admittedly those dusty green chunks make me flee in terror, with the tea owls hooting in confusion. The dry leaf smells like other four season oolongs – fragrant buttery, sweet and floral.

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Steeped after 4 minutes at 185 f the oolong has a buttery scent that is sweet. This Ginseng Oolong sips in crisp and lightly sweet. Echoing in the back is that ginseng fennel taste that is very refreshing and clean tasting with a savory like finish of butter and vegetal. No floral despite being a four seasons oolong, but chances are the long western style steep plus iced killed the floral. This ginseng oolong I can drink – it’s not over the top licorice and sweet.

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I also got a great second steeping of iced tea, that tasted similar but a bit astringent at the end. This Ginseng Oolong has pretty good leaf quality too – nice, large whole oolong leaves. In the end, a winner!

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Next month the tea selection is Jasmine Special Green, Lady Earl Grey, Blueberry White, Milk Oolong and Honeybush Herbal.

I’ve made my Simple Loose Leaf’s Selection Club selections, have you?

Azerchay Black Tea – Oolong Owl Tea Review

Azerchay is a black tea from the tea gardens of Lenkoran and Astara region in Azerbaijan. If you are unfamiliar with Azerbaijan as I was, it is a country next to the Caspian Sea, near Georgia and Armenia, and sandwiched inbetween Russian and Iran.

How did I acquire this tea? My in-laws recently came back from a river cruise through Russia and brought back some souvenirs. Apparently, I’m easy to shop for – just find some tea or a teapot!

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Dry Leaf

First off, interesting packaging. Inside the box is a glued in bag of tea, making it annoying to reseal.

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However, the dry leaf is very impressive! Nice big twirls of leaf with a soft sweet scent.

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Steeping Instructions

Azerchay Black Tea calls for a steep in boiling water for 7 to 8 minutes. WHAT?!

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That is a really long steeping! My personal favorite western black tea steeping method is 200F for 3 minutes. I hope this tea doesn’t end up pitch black, tasting bitter and thick.

I decided to steep Azerchay Black Tea in a heated mug. While I steeped Azerchay for 7 minutes, lets check out my tea pot from Russia. Very funky shaped. It is glazed on the inside, holding about 150ml.

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After 7 minutes, check this out:

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Whoa, look at that colour! Azerchay came out a lovely reddish brown brew with a strong fragrance of sweet, reminding me of a ceylon black.

Tasting of Azerchay Black Tea

The moment of truth! Azerchay black tea sips in with a medium body, to my surprise with lightly sweet raisins and honey flavor, a bit of mineral copper notes along with a bit of a malty backdrop. The lightness of the black tea is quite nice and the sweet golden raisin taste is delicious.

However, end of sip there is a distinct dryness – 7/10 on the Astringe-o-meter. Azerchay is quite dry, leaving the throat parched after each sip. This dryness lingers for awhile, in my case, over 15 minutes after I finished my cup.

Comments

I had no idea tea grew in Azerbaijan! It is always neat to try teas from uncommon tea regions to compare it to the other teas. I’ve been adding samples of this tea to all the travelling tea boxes I’ve been participating in!

I’m unsure where you tea peeps would be able to find Azerchay (barring a trip to Russia). I looked on Amazon and Ebay with no results. My next suggestion to find this tea would be to check international grocery stores. If you can find it and want a flavorful, dry black tea – be sure to check it out! Personally, Azerchay is too dry for me to enjoy often, but I am happy to of tried it for the experience!

2014 Autumn Song Pu’er from Mandala Tea – Oolong Owl Tea Review

2014 Autumn Song Pu’er is a raw/sheng tea pressed in March 2014. The tea for the cake was from a high elevation tea garden of 6500ft/2000 meters in Da Hu Sai. This pesticide free pu’er is sold by Mandala Tea, online seller in Rochester, MN.

For awhile I have noticed I have a thing for autumn shengs. Must be since I’m a November baby, but also I love fall. Throw the word autumn in the title and I’m in love – Autumn Song being a gorgeous name for a tea! Man, fall needs to come sooner, I’m roasting in this July California weather.

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I admit, I am a Mandala Tea fan girl. I’d wear their metal concert shirt if they had one. About everything I’ve sampled from Mandala Tea has been fantastic, so I am super pumped they got a few new pu’er out – 2014 Autumn Song Pu’er, 2014 Wild Monk sheng and 2013 Temple Stairs ripe. Mandala tea is great – you need to check them out if you haven’t yet for their awesome teas and customer service.

Dry leaf of 2014 Autumn Song Pu’er

Autumn Song Pu’er has a soft sweet dry scent. What I love about this cake, like is the colours of the dry leaf. 2014 Autumn Song Pu’er has a lush brown colour with twists of gold, olive grees, and silver.

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Steeping Instructions

I was planning to use the magical formula of 1 gram of tea for every 15ml of vessel space. I chickened out and used about 7 grams of Autumn Song Pu’er for my 125ml gaiwan. To start, I used 185f water and a short rinse. I ended up using 5 to 10 second steeps for the majority of the session, finishing off by adding an additional minute for the last infusions.

Tasting of 2014 Autumn Song Pu’er from Mandala Tea

First Infusion: I got a light cream yellow colour from my first steeping of Mandala Tea’s 2014 Autumn Song Pu’er. With only 10 seconds of steep time, it sipped in with a light lemon essence that peaks end of sip. Quite refreshing and a touch sweet. Lightly creamy too, like my tea has a touch of lemon curd.

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Second and Third Infusions: The lemon citrus develops a lightly tart spiked end of sip. With a hint of bitterness at the end, similar to bell peppers. I might of steeped it too hard. Each sip is softly silky of a texture. Great perfume left in my mouth after each sip that settles in after a few moments – tree fruits,lemon zest and floral. Really lovely, like catching a trail of perfume in the crisp autumn breeze.

With the third infusion, the colour of Autumn Song Pu’er got a touch darker of a yellow.

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Fourth and Fifth Infusions: I did a step back, only adding 5 seconds to the steep times. Do I have a teenager sip here? This steeping is smooth of a sip with lemon curd, bell pepper flesh, and floral. The floral also pops out as delayed perfume after sip is fantastic! Ooooh I love it. It’s like a battle to get as you have to savor each sip instead of chain drink.

However, end of sip I get a hit is astringency 3/10 adding a light tingle to the tongue and patchy dryness to the cheeks. I feel like a squirrel. Man I like squirrels. Even though a bunch of them broke into my first apartment during college and killed my bonsai plant. Whoops I’m rambling. The pu’er ultra mellows have begun!

Sixth Infusion: I did a longer steep here, adding 15 seconds instead of 10, but apparently it was not a good idea. This was quite dry and a lot more bitter. Retreat! Retreat!

Seventh Infusion: Back to adding 5 seconds to each infusion and it 2014 Autumn Song Pu’er came out much better. Back to our regularly scheduled program! A smooth sip with squirrel cheek finish. Not that lemony anymore – notes of flour vanilla pudding skin (that texture from the astringency) and tons of floral aftertaste that’s kinda rose and stone fruity. 5/10 dryness.

Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Infusions: Ah yeah that’s good. Super Smooth yet gritty of a finish. Bit of a fresh blast at beginning of sip like steamed leaf in a white sauce. So fresh that its a touch sweet. Side of roasted bell pepper. The after taste is heavenly choir floral . Reminds me of that delicious creamy halibut I had on my last cruise. That filet was the size of my face.

At the ninth infusion my gaiwan is full and annoying to pour. Glad I didn’t use my yixing as it wouldn’t pour at all! Best steepings.

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Eleventh, Twelfth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Infusions:  Whoa flavor drop! I began to steep Autumn Song Pu’er more aggressively to keep the flavor going. I upped the temperature to 200F and added a minute for each infusion. Autumn Song Pu’er Sips in creamy light custard sweet with a dry finish. And I chugged this entire steeping down super fast.  At the 14th steeping I milked just about all the flavor and I’m left with just squirrel cheeks. Darn.

Comments

Mandala Tea‘s 2014 Autumn Song Pu’er is an enchanting, lemony fresh, very smooth sheng tea! It is very impressive to have a young raw pu’er with lots of smooth and no smoke. The progression from lemony to fresh to creamy was a fun pu’er experience. Lots of tea drunk fun in this tea – it has an invigorating charge to it, like walking in a crisp autumn morning.

I did find this tea a little finiky to steep – short steeps work best, and after a light steep increase rather than getting ahead of yourself. This one does get fairly dry so this might not be a first time sheng pu’er right now. As always, I’m curious how 2014 Autumn Song Pu’er with some more time behind it.

I’m thinking with the wonderful lemon and fresh notes, Autumn Song Pu’er would be killer to serve during or after a meal with a flakey white fish like tilapia, swai or halibut, or with lightly dressed salads.

Bonus: Aloha Owl sampling some Pu’er.

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