2016 Organic Chingjing Hong Shui Red Gaoshan Oolong from Tillerman Tea

One of my current tea obsessions is Hong Shui oolong. There is something about a more oxidized and old style of oolong that just sings to me. Hong Shui also seems to be harder to find and if you do find them they can be expensive. I own a couple Hong Shuis at $25/oz ~ $1 a gram, which is insane to drink all the time.

I was excited to see Tillerman Tea has a new 2016 Winter Hong Shui and priced at $19.50 for 2 oz ($0.35 a gram). It is organic, grown in Chingjing, and of the Qing Xin cultivar. Let’s see if this one is good and I won’t go broke on.

Dry Leaf and Steeping Method

Tillerman Tea’s Hong Shui dry leaf smells floral and honey. The leaf is looking a bit more green in photos than real life as it has more of a bronze rolled appearance.

I went with my usual ratio and style – gongfu with 1gram of leaf to 15 ml of vessel size, steeped in boiling water. The hot leaf smells intensely sweet!

Tasting of Tillerman Tea’s 2016 Organic Chingjing Hong Shui Red Gaoshan Oolong

First and Second Infusion: The Chingjing Hong Shui flavor starts off honey and sweet. It is clean, bright, vibrantly honey, light maple wood, with a creamy slick body. Awesome early infusions!

Third, Fourth, and Fifth Infusion: The flavor shifted to having a stronger wood note, with a bit of pan-browned Korean pear flavor. The Chingjing Hong Shui quickly developed astringency, leaving the tip of my tongue dry. The body is still thick and dense to drink. Each infusion the flavor melds, mellows, and slips, with stronger astringency building.

Sixth Infusion: The flavor slipped fast in the last bracket, so I increased steep time to 10 minutes. The flavor is on the bitter side, like stewed spinach and pears. I finally get a bit of an aftertaste of honey floral. I tried the seventh infusion and the tea was totally bitter.

The spent leaf was interesting to look at and I poked at it for awhile. It seemed to alternate red, green, and green leaves with red edges.

It was an interesting contrast of colours, especially since it started off quite bronze.

Comments

If you are looking for a more budget-friendly Hong Shui, the 2016 Organic Chingjing Hong Shui Red Gaoshan Oolong from Tillerman Teas is great tasting, especially in the early infusions. This particular Hong Shui has a nice organic clean profile, honey notes, and thick body too. If you haven’t tried a Hong Shui, this is certainly a good opportunity to do so without having to quest too hard.

I’m currently shopping for good hong shuis, so I’ve been critical where I want to unload my tea cash. This one misses the mark for me due to the lack of aroma, otherwise I would personally purchase some. The leaf smells great, but it didn’t translate to the cup or aftertaste, so no lingering flavor after you drink it.

(tea provided for review)

2016 Sheng Puer Regional Blind Tasting – Everyday Teas

Everyday Teas approach is carrying quality daily drinker teas. The owner is passionate about puer, so in their line up including a number of raw puer cakes!  Everyday Teas awesomely sent me one of each of their 2016 and 2017 puer cakes. I thought I’d blind taste them at once to remove the bias of which one I would like (likely the Nannuo) as well as tasting perceptions I have of each region. Every person I know who has done a blind puer regional tasting has told me that everyone guesses wrong, which adds some reassurance in the event I fail.

For today’s tasting, we have a Nannuo Shan, Ailao shan, and Bulang Shan, all 2016 teas.

2016 Sheng Puer Regional Blind Tasting Method

I numbered the bottom of each gaiwan saucer. I then cut a ratio of 1 gram/ 15ml out of each cake, placed the teas in order of my key, and got my husband to mixed up the gaiwan sets without me looking. My answer key is = 1. Nannuo shan, 2. Ailao shan, 3. Bulang shan. For the reviews, I am working LEFT to RIGHT. I also ate a ham sandwich and some cookies beforehand to hopefully limit the gut rot.

I tried to not smell the dry leaf to not give it away, but dang that Bulang was pungent AF when I was breaking it. The Nannuo looked quite pretty.

I steeped all teas in boiling water and ended up doing 7 infusions.

2016 Sheng Puer Regional Blind Tasting

Left Gaiwan – The hot leaf is pungent, very strong, and almost smokey.

The Left Gaiwan tea has savory mineral notes leaning salty. As it went on the steeping of pungent. It is bitter (but good bitter), eye-popping, and teeth gritty numbing with a mineral tang aftertaste. The body is nicely thick feeling. The pungency has a bit of pucker to it to the point I am not sure what I am tasting other than bitterness and gut-punching. My cheeks feel dry and numb but I get an interesting floral acid aftertaste.

The final infusions of this were quite nice. It was bitter, but not soul-crushing death like Middle Gaiwan. The lightly fruity aftertaste contrast with the bitter keeps this tea going and interesting.

This tea is an ugly duckling. It starts bitter and likely will make some tea drinkers dump and run. This one teaches there is good and bad bitter if you look deeper into it. The longer you stick with this tea, you notice a break in bitterness in the aftertaste, as well as it resteeps better and the bitterness chills out in later infusions. This one certainly is more bang for your buck in resteeps. I could have gone another 2 or 3 more than the rest.

Middle Gaiwan – The hot leaf is vegetal and pungent mind crushing scented.

Middle Gaiwan sheng tastes really subtle, but all in the texture of slick. Pushed, the flavor is pretty neutral vegetal but chewy. I feel like a cow drinking this, the body has a chew to it from within the cheeks from the astringency. The aftertaste is softly fruity like underripe papaya. I like the heaviness of the vegetal taste. It’s like stewed leaves but lightens to fruit. This tea is kind of like sticky rice steamed and wrapped in leaves, filled with really green fruit.

The final infusions, this one got more bitter than number one. It is bad, strong, crushing bitter and that bitter lingers in the aftertaste. A serious crash and burn here.

This one certainly has a great start and a bigger texture drinker. It has a great contrast early on of notes with the vegetal and fruit and clear notes of flavor than the others. I’ve seen plenty of new to puer drinkers ask for “what puer tastes like something I can identify the flavor of?” and this one would be a good choice, with some side learning of texture. It doesn’t hold up well in later infusions. This one likely would do better at 200F, but you will lose the chewy texture, which I think is one of the strong elements of the tea.

Right Gaiwan – The hot leaf smells like box raisins left in a hot car.

Out of the three puer, this one is the sweetest. It has a perky mineral and light floral taste. Pushed, this tea is smooth, creamy mineral amber and honey. Body is thin and not very exciting as the Middle Gaiwan. Right Gaiwan puer is completely easy going. It is a sheng I’d take to an office if I don’t want to disturb my neighbours with the scent of sheng gut bomb. It’s amber, chill, with low dry and bitterness. Mellow and smooth… and not my tastes at all lately. It’s isn’t particularly exciting, but I would drink this in a tumbler for mindless sheng drinking.

Tried alone with a reset palate, Right Gaiwan does have a good amount of bitterness, but less than the other two. It certainly needing pushing to get a floral and fresh greens aftertaste, but the pay off is great.

I would say this tea is the best starter puer, especially if you are jumping on from jumping greens and green oolongs. It is quite friendly, especially compared to the others, in being less bitter. It is easier to drink from beginning to the end, and likely can take some neglectful gongfu style brewing, maybe even a tumbler or grandpa style.

Owl’s guess

My guess is the Left Gaiwan is Bulang, Middle Gaiwan is Nannuo, and Right Gaiwan is Ailao.

I came to this conclusion for the Left Gaiwan being Bulang since it was the more pungent, bitter, and has an interesting, more complex progression that I associate with Bulang teas.  The Right Gaiwan is more floral and softer, it lacks the harness of a Bulang, so it had to be the Ailao. I think Middle is Nannuo because of the classic sticky rice texture I associate with Nannuo sheng puer.

Out of the 3, I like Left the most, Right the least. Middle Gaiwan I enjoyed the texture the most.

DRUM ROLL

Left Gaiwan = Ailao ShanMiddle Gaiwan = Nannuo ShanRight Gaiwan = Bulang Shan

So I got Nannuo right at least. The sticky texture is the give away for me. I screwed up everything else. Or if you want to think about it pessimistically, I got random chance to be correct.

That is a pretty good 2016 Ailao shan then, dang! Good job Everyday Teas! The 2016 Nannuo Shan has that classic texture, which I enjoyed. The Bulang Shan is an approachable tea that would appeal to newer drinkers.

Comments

I know people stress about regions. They make it a determining factor in buying with the preconception of what their favorite region tastes like and appeal. The brain does powerful things to fill in our conceptions on what something should be like. However, tea is a living product. Tea changes with season, processing, storage, age, and environment.

I encourage you all to take a step back and taste the tea, after all, it is what matters the most. It matters more that you enjoy the taste, feel, and experience. Drinking a haute region, bragging rights you shelled $$$ or being exclusive region X doesn’t matter as that is all preconceived notions, ignoring what you are actually experiencing at the moment. In the end, it doesn’t matter what the others think anyway, you are the one drinking the tea.

Thanks again to Everyday Teas for providing the teas. Stay tuned for when I try their 2017 puer!

(tea provided for review)

2017 Yunnan Sourcing Da Zhong Shan Sheng Puer

In an effort to find an interesting 2017 sheng puer to cake, I went to Yunnan Sourcing and searched through all the $60+ cakes and purchased samples of what sounded good. Buying random Yunnan Sourcing things is always fun!

The 2017 Yunnan Sourcing Da Zhong Shan sheng puer description caught my eye –

Our Da Zhong Shan tea cakes are pressed from wild growing tea leaves harvested in early spring from 50 to 150 year old tea trees growing at 1800 meters altitude!  The high mountain feeling in the tea comes out during brewing, giving the tea an almost oolong-like aroma but with the strength and pungency of a raw pu-erh.  It reminds me somewhat of a Dan Cong and a Pu-erh.

Dancong-like Jinggu puer? Sign me up.

Dry Leaf and Steeping Method

The Da Zhong Shan dry leaf has some pressed fuzzy silver leaves mixed with some golds and olives. It smells zesty, fruity, and milky.

I used 1 gram of leaf to 15ml of vessel size, steeped in boiling water gongfu style. After a rinse, the hot leaf smells pungent and floral.

Tasting of Yunnan Sourcing’s 2017 Da Zhong Shan Sheng Puer

First and Second Infusion: Right off the bat, I love the thickness of the Da Zhong Shan puer. The mouthfeel feels like pudding. It has a sweet pomelo note, leaving a fresh aftertaste that lasts. Just the first cup I can feel the building astringency as each sip gets a touch drier. The whole experience feels like failed childhood breakfast eating drinking whole milk and chasing it with some grapefruit.

Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Infusion: Da Zhong Shan puer got bright. It has this sharp fresh pomelo, sweet grassy, and tulip green taste over a dense creamy body. Each sip reminds me of spring, like dewy tulips. It does remind me of a modern tieguanyin due to the fresh grassy vegetal and fruity taste. Each infusion develops more bitter puer bitter pungency that glues the grassy notes in the mouth longer. astringency is drying on the front teeth, but still very drinkable.

As I do compare it to a green oolong, you would not get it mixed up with an oolong as Da Zhong Shan puer has a strong punchy bitter puer flavor.

Seventh and Eighth Infusion: The bitterness has taken over, no more citrus grassy aromatic tea. Da Zhong Shan puer is sharp, bitter, stewy savory spinach teeth squeaking, with a citrusy tulip greens aftertaste. Oddly more floral came out in the later infusions. The ninth infusion was just too bitter and stewed tasting to drink.

The spent leaf is gorgeous, featuring full, robust, non-broken or chewed leaves with some thick stem.

Comments

Yunnan Sourcing’s 2017 Da Zhong Shan sheng puer is a citrusy grassy tea with an awesome heavy body, but over time develops a bitter puer pungency with a moderate astringency. The aftertaste is fresh and citrus. Citrus notes go away with time, so it would be interesting to see what this tea turns to with a few years on it. Either way, Da Zhong Sheng sheng puer is a good mid-range tea for someone who prefers greener/low oxidized oolongs due to the fresh notes. As is, it is certainly different than other young puer out there due to similar notes of tieguanyin. I could see this tea cold brewing amazingly as is.

However, I personally did not like it mostly due to personal taste. My brain had brain farted a prototype of dancong as being peachy and woodsy, and Da Zhong Shan puer was neither of those things, which made sense. Either way, the quality of 2017 Da Zhong Shan sheng puer is excellent if you enjoy the profile.

October 2017 White2tea Club feat. Tieguanyin

When the October 2017 White2Tea club arrived I was not excited. Inside is 5 tieguanyins and these days I personally dislike nuclear green tieguanyins. Modern tieguanyin is the most commonly found basic oolong these days that tastes super green, vegetal, maybe floral flavor. I find there’s not enough depth, say compared to a high mountain oolong and traditional tieguanyin.

That said, this is the thing of monthly tea clubs – you can’t please everyone. I felt I got great personal value for what I got in November and December 2017, so I’m okay with whatever October throws at me. It did make me procrastinate a bunch of actually drinking it. However, there are expensive teas in this club.

For all teas, I used the entire 8 gram packet, steeped gongfu style with boiling water.

October 2017 White2Tea Club

Modern Tieguanyin Green Packet

I’m only steeping this as a reference to what current tieguanyin is like, as well as a comparison to the other teas. The dry leaf is super green and grassy floral scented. The hot leaf smells like mowed lawn and asparagus, which I find concerning.

I did 2 infusions and it tastes close to what it smells. This tieguanyin is strongly vegetal, asparagus, fresh bales of hay, slightly marine, with a herbal grassy, almost medicinal aftertaste. The body is slightly thick, like unset jello. There is a bad astringency popping up early. This whole experience has my sinuses clenching for a sneeze attack with the notes of fresh hay, which isn’t a great tea experience.

My theory on why tieguanyin (and young puer to some extent) is popular is it is trying to jump on the bandwagon of green tea. Green oolong as it is just as green and vegetal in taste, equally “healthy”.  Interestingly the leaves unfurled fast, even after a rinse it was almost open. 2 infusions and the leaves are close to fully open like I steeped this 8 times already. All that said, this modern tieguanyin is the fast food of oolongs.

Now that I got that out of the way… which was the whole point of me procrastinating about this club box, let’s drink the rest.


Tieguanyin Four

The dry leaf smells like nut butter, but the hot leaf smells like coconut bread and grass.

This is much better than the modern Tieguanyin! It is still green tasting but has a soft roasted chestnut quality to it. the fragrance is quite nice, leaving a buttery gardenia and honey to rise – having me smell tea more than taste. The sip is smooth. I would be happy to drink this again, especially grandpa style I could see being quite good.

I got 4 infusions which got bitter and astringent fast. Great fragrance though, I tasted this tea for 10 minutes after I finished it.


Tieguanyin Three

The dry leaf smells like bread and honey. I screwed up and started pouring water before I remembered to do a dry leaf photo. So here is some damp leaf. The hot leaf smells like a fresh bouquet of flowers.

Ultra fresh tasting! Tieguanyin Three has a flavor of clean blades of grass, butter, and lovely floral bouquet aroma. The aftertaste is heavy floral vomit breath. Reminds me of a flower shop. I like the sticky heavy body on this tea and it reminds me of White2tea’s Farmer Direct Tea if I was made into an oolong and sprayed with perfume.

The second infusion is astringent. My gums feel dried and glued to my lips. The flavor shifted to savory strong grass, getting stewed more and more with each infusion, losing the floral quality to just the aftertaste.


Tieguanyin Two

This is another vegetable smelling oolong, but leaning artichoke. The hot leaf smells like boiled artichoke water.

From the description, this tea sounds like everything I don’t like in a higher end tieguanyin – cannabis notes. However, the body is incredibly thick, like drinking melted butter with artichoke drippings. I like artichokes to eat, but find I enjoy the butter more and the chore of eating them not worth it. It isn’t high on cannabis notes, but I certainly pick up interesting fresh notes of pine and butter. I like how smooth and thick this tea is. The aftertaste is fresh pine.

This one got astringent in 4 infusions and got more thin and vegetal with each infusion, leaving a fresh spring grass aftertaste. I can see many who enjoyed the modern tieguanyin would drink this and promptly be ruined for modern teiguanyins. There is much more to this oolong from the body, it has fresh notes over hay, and resteeps better.


Tieguanyin One

Now, this is what I like to smell in an oolong. Roast. The dry leaf is roasty and nutty smelling. The hot leaf smells like roasted tree sap.

The flavor of tieguanyin one is high on the roast without being ashy or bitter. It is stick of butter heavy, notes of mineral, wood, tree sap. The aftertaste sets in a lovely floral honey stickiness. Incredibly smooth and heavy.

With each steeping, it closer to a rock tea. It got peachy, woody, sticky honey, and powdery dry.

Comments

As much as I dislike nuclear green tieguanyin, it was interesting to taste a range of tieguanyin. I quite liked One and Three. I think the sad is the reality of nuclear tieguanyin and how popular it is. Often oolong is tieguanyin or hairy crab (which is even cheaper). Oolong is such a big category of tea and the midrange of oxidation between black and green, that it is sad it has shifted more and more green. White2tea sells all these club tieguanyin oolongs, except the green one which should just die in a fire (which would make it taste better).

Heres hoping old processing arts of roasting and oxidization of traditional methods aren’t lost over commercial production.

That was a lot of oolong to drink in one day!

Sunday Tea Hoots 36 – Dental Work and Tea Taste

In a rush to use all my dental insurance, as well as having a broken tooth, I got a whole slew of dental work done at the end of 2017. Every week I was going in for a new section of fillings or sealants to be placed. What I found was weird (besides me reacting badly each time to numbing shots) is how dental work affected taste.

Each time I had dental work it bothered me enough that I don’t do any tea review tea drinking or drink good tea for a couple days.  For me, I found the sealant leaves a strange plastic taste in my mouth, though it goes away in a day. The fillings also make a change in taste too that I can’t describe. Part of it likely is adjusting off whatever weird taste in my mouth I am used to (cavities) or getting rid of taste left from the work.

Tea Owl has a cavity-free beak.

Of course, I’m no owl dentist. I googled around, and there is plenty of message boards complaining their new crowns making things taste off as the crown material is reacting to foods. Tooth decay from cavities (or worse) can leave a taste a weird in the mouth too as well as bad breath.

I find it interesting how people taste things differently. I do the best as I can to describe how tea tastes, but it still might not read the same for you as the reader. Before all this dental work, I figured taste difference was mostly perception and experience – being able to pair flavor notes as something you tasted or smelled before. The Supertaster genetic variation and smell ability also add a biological component to being able to taste. Being a tea reviewer works well for me as I eat a lot of weird stuff and my sense of smell is strong, though I am sure I am not a supertaster as I love spicy, bitter greens, and sweets. There is also a whole slew of other things that affect taste like being sick and various conditions. I will now add dental carries to the list of things that makes ones taste to go off.

That said, take care of your teeth tea folks!

Dark Oolong Teas from TeaBento

Continuing on from my review of TeaBento’s Black Teas, here are reviews of their Oolongs! As with their other teas, each tea is paired with an animal. Today we will be reviewing Little Dog Red Oolong and Scared Boar Shuixian. I have even more oolongs to review, but for simplicity I’ll just be reviewing the darker, more oxidized ones I have.

By the way, TeaBento‘s steeping instructions are the complete opposite of what I do. TeaBento leafs a lot lighter and goes lower temperature (195f/90c). I found with the black teas it was worth dropping the temperature. I will not budge for oolongs as they should be boiled, plus they evaluate better boiled.

Little Dog Red Oolong from TeaBento

Little Dog Red Oolong is a Vietnamese oolong that is oxidized around 70%.

Dry Leaf and Steeping Method: Little Dog has a nice roasty scent from the big rolls of oolong.

I used 1 gram to 15ml of vessel size, steeped in boiling water.  The hot leaf smells like fruit and chocolate.

First, Second, Third, and Fourth Infusion: Little Dog tastes sweet, bready, malted milk chocolate cookies, and fruity. It slightly reminds me of TeaBento’s Red Panda, but softer notes. Little Dog has a creamy feel in the mouth and is really easy to drink. It has a comforting vibe due to the cookie and malt notes, but sweet and fruity to keep it interesting. Little Dog doesn’t have much in the aftertaste department though.

Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Infusion: Bit of a flavor transition here. The fifth infusion was the weird steeping as it was quite fruity. It is building on the fruity aroma brightening the fruity taste, while slightly losing the malt note. I love the full flavor this tea is giving off. At the sixth and seventh infusion, each steeping the flavor slips more to mineral and watered down milk chocolate, less fruit, and malt.

Eighth and Ninth Infusion: The final infusion is mineral, super smooth and sweet. Little Dog Red Oolong got slightly astringent, but still very drinkable and fairly indestructible.

Comments: Little Dog Red Oolong dances closer to a black tea, without tasting roasted nor overly sharp and bitey like a black can be. It is smooth, milky, chocolate, and malty with a bit of fruit. Many people would enjoy this especially if you like darker teas. Be great to pair with sweets or as a dessert on its own.

I’d call Little Dog Red Oolong as of my favorites from TeaBento.


Sacred Boar Shuixian from TeaBento

Sacred Boar is a medium baked wuyi yancha Shuixian.

Dry Leaf and Steeping Method: Sacred Boar has a gorgeous fall leaf look. The leaf smells nutty and fruity. I used 1 gram of leaf to 13ml of vessel size, steeped in boiling water.

First, Second, Third, and Fourth Infusion: A very smooth shiuxian. The notes are dark cinnamon bark, malty, nutty shells, and stewed peaches. The aftertaste shifts drastically to a powdery floral mellowness. I barely touched base on how much complexity is in each note – the peaches have a tang, the cinnamon is woodsy, and the body is lubricating in the mouth. The aftertaste of floral lasts a long time after each sip.

Fifth and Sixth Infusion: Crash and burn! I steeped Sacred Boar much longer than steep four as it was running light. The leaves lost all scent. What I get is slight malt and bark notes, with a soft peachy powdery floral aftertaste.

I did a final power steep for sixth and it was woody and minerally. There is a slight bitterness, but still very drinkable. Sacred Soar has a bit of bombproof in it – I can see this working well in a tumbler.

Comments: Sacred Boar is a complex shuixian with really good first infusions. Seems to run on par with other TeaBento teas being more pow at first, rolling like a competition tea for brightness and complexity, but not great re-steeping. Either way, this is one of the best Shuixians I’ve had so far.

Sacred Boar is more flexible than steeping instructions say – I was able to roll boil and max leaf with no issues despite the instructions saying 90c/195F. This shiuxian is perfect for those wanting a darker oolong, closer to a black tea, with max aroma and quality.

2017 Tea Consumption and Stash Data Report

Hello 2018! It is time for the yearly Oolong Owl tea stash report! For some, it is the yearly reference material to show to your significant other that your own tea stash isn’t that bad. For others, a case study of an owl’s hoarding of tea.

If you want to learn more about my spreadsheets – Tea Stash Spreadsheet | Tea Consumption Spreadsheet.

Here is a template of my Tea Stash Spreadsheet! Save a copy and start keeping track of your stash. Do it before your tea stash gets out of control!

2017 was a crazy year as I had a big DIY kitchen remodel that ate up more than a month without a good working kitchen and filtered water. I also had months leading up to it being busy planning, buying, and estimates. November and December were also big dental months for me which cause me to drink less.

Oolong Owl’s 2017 Tea Stash Data

First off, yes I count everything. Every single flavor tea bag and 4 gram sample of teas. 2017 Drum roll….

2017 Oolong Owl Stash

My 2016 for a quick comparison:

2016 stash for comparison

First, let’s talk total numbers. I slightly reduced my stash and never went past that initial 709 teas. January and June I did big stash purges, the first one to get me under 700. My lowest stash count was June, at 581, which I did a big purge to get ready for the World Tea Expo. After WTE I took home 69 teas which got my count back up. I sat mostly in the mid 600 count for the year. My biggest hauls were over the Summer (World Tea Expo again and 2017 puer orders) and December (the arrival of Black Friday orders).

In terms of tea types, there was a shuffle. As predicted, my green tea stash shrunk and my white tea stash doubled. What isn’t reflected in my number is volume as I have been buying my white teas in bigger sizes than my other teas, which has started to become a space problem for loose material.

303 (practically half) of my stash is now puer. Seriously, once you go puer you go down the rabbit hole and it gets worse. Puer seems to cut into my oolong purchases. I bought a lot of puer this year, especially sample sizes. I was on a quest to find awesome 2017 puer… which I still haven’t found one I’d tong yet. However, I still haven’t gotten through all my 2017 teas. I am surprised that I have way more sheng puer than shou and that delta keeps getting bigger. I don’t know why I have that many herbal teas, and now that I am looking at it, I should toss some as a couple of them are from 2014.

Current Tea Stash

Not much as changed appearance wise, though my pumidor is with the rest of the teas. Here is my stash as is January 2nd 2018 and I didn’t get around to cleaning up for the photo.

Yes, I am a clutter bug. There was some shuffling around as I had all my kitchen stuff in this room during the renovation and I still haven’t recovered.

I did like that I set up a permanent tea tasting space next to my tea stash. I find having a dedicated space makes tea drinking more relaxing yet productive. What I found that has been amazing is keeping my clay pots out in the open – it has helped me get into the habit of using them more, which in turn is better for the tea pot.

I have a small separate stash upstairs that I keep a rotating a variety of daily drinker grandpa style oolongs and blacks that I drink every day while working.

Oolong Owl’s 2017 Tea Consumption

Similar to previous years, I tracked how much tea I drank per day by grams used. I found tracking grams the most optimal over cups or serving.

  • Average tea per day = 15.4 grams
  • Average tea per month = 468 grams
  • Most teas drank in a month = 687 grams in January 2017. Like previous years, I seem to freak out and try and drink down my stash after seeing how bad my stash is.
  • Least tea drinking month = 375 grams June & November 2017. I had a number of zero days due to World Tea Expo in June. November was the bulk of my remodeling which also had a couple zero tea drinking days.
  • Total Tea Consumed for 2017 = 5616 grams / 12.4 pounds!

In 2016 I drank 6222 grams. Sadly, in 2017 I drank less tea due to being busier. Drinking 12 pounds of tea is nothing to sneeze at. I think my drinking of La Croix in the evenings has cut into my guilty pleasure hibiscus agave teas. Leaving Southern California didn’t help as that was my cheap source of hibiscus, plus more hot weather for drinking iced teas.

2018 Tea Goals, Predictions, and Observations

The yearly tea purge – What is killing me going into 2017 is all those puer samples. I got way too many single serving samples and they aren’t getting any better sitting around in tiny plastic baggies. I also am due to run through my spreadsheet and toss whatever herbal and fruity stuff that is now too old.

Buying quality or unique teas – I am happy that for the 2017 puer spring haul I bought more expensive tea samples. I find I have plenty daily drinkers and I don’t need anymore as of right now. There was a number of situations of me trying 2017 teas thinking, “I got 2015/2016 puer that is just as good purchased for same or less.” I did buy around 20% less in 2017, and I bought 30% less in 2016. I’m on a roll for making better tea purchasing decisions that I want to continue doing.

2018 Stash – I did acquire tea more than I drank, gifted, and tossed, so I hope to even that out. I figure I will continue to collect more white tea to age. I can see my black tea stash shrinking a bit as well. I haven’t been buying many black teas and I have been in the habit of drinking a grandpa style black tea every morning. I got a large amount of oolong in a strange state of I bought it fresh years ago, it is still unopened, and I might as well leave it unopened for aging. I don’t see my oolong numbers changing drastically as I am not sitting on too many sample sizes.

My stash of flavored teas has changed a lot. I bought around 6 interesting flavored teas this year, but half of them were buying old favorites. The longer I’ve been in the tea world, the more apparent flavored tea doesn’t seem to evolve. Unflavored teas have seasonal shifts, different processing, roasting, storage, and other variables that are of more interest to me. Plus, I have a hard time justifying paying a similar price per gram on a small-batch artisan blended tea as a good puer or oolong. Unless something game-changing in the 2018 tea world (why did no one pick up the 2016s turkey stuffing puer?), flavored teas are going to continue to be phased out of my tea life.

Revisiting teas – I have slowly started re-reviewing, aka “ReHoots“, teas that have been in my stash for awhile. Maybe finding new gems will curb some of my buying, but also it has been fun to see my palate and tastes change, as well as noticing my teas age.

I always enjoy writing my yearly stash article and summing up the tea things I’ve been up to. Let me know if you have been tracking your tea habits and what things you have learned.

2017 Storm Breaker Shou Puer from Crimson Lotus Tea

We dubbed Storm Breaker “Storm Wrecker” at the Northwest Tea Festival. I don’t think it helped that it was one of the last teas I had at the festival on both days, but this tea has a lot of energy for a shou puer! Before the festival, I bought a sample of 2017 Storm Breaker when it was released, but sat on it for a few weeks.

I was told 2017 Storm Breaker has 65% fermentation, so this tea has a lot of room to settle in and age. My innards are clenching at the “2017”, “shou”, and “65%” giving me flashbacks of drinking a young Menghai V93 and the shou gut rotting of my stomach lining.

Official puer wrapper art:

Dry Leaf and Steeping Method

Storm Breaker features nicely golden swirl of leaf with a nose wrinkle scent of wet pile dank.

I used 1 gram of leaf to 13ml of vessel size, steeped in boiling water. I was warned to rinse this tea 2-4 times. I am slightly concerned as I am sure the reasoning is to get all the wet pile notes out since this shou is quite young.

Tasting of Crimson Lotus Tea’s 2017 Storm Breaker Shou Puer

Rinses 1-4: The rinses were quite cloudy and the hot leaf smells like concentrated hot dirt at Home Depot. I sampled the 2nd rinse and it was not bad, but a bit of a pungency as an aftertaste.  The 3rd rinse the chunks of my cake broke up and the colour went dark.  It was not a good steep and still in rinse mode as the flavor was wet piled funk, tart dirt, and a strange soggy raisin flavor.

First and Second Infusion: The hot leaf now smells strongly woody, leaning towards cherry and cedar. The Storm Breaker steeps up a solid ruddy brown with a bit of cloudy. The flavor is richly woodsy with a creamy coated texture. The flavor seems loose like it starts rich then gets washed in the rain, then comes in again with the bright fruity aftertaste. The flavor shifts to dried prunes as an aftertaste, which adds a nice contrasting sweetness.

Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Infusion: Storm Breaker got thicker in texture – it is swampy and pungent in a woodsy and rain, with some west coast petrichor wet, then finishes off with that prune note. The flavor notes are low to moderate, it certainly is loose and watery as this is young shou.  It reminds me of walking home from school in the rain, then arriving at Grandmas house to find a snack of prunes. It is slightly tart in these steepings too.

The body sensation of this tea is different. My cheeks are feeling puffy, I’m starting to drool since the tea is so thick.

Seventh and Eighth Infusion: The flavor is softening up. Storm Breaker is creamy, mineral, rainwater, and slightly woody. There is a clean rain flavor like it’s been raining forever and all the hot pavement and dirt has washed away. It lost the fruity notes, so it is just straight mineral and sweet notes. It is pretty energizing of a tea too, I am regretting having it past 5 pm as I am going to be wired all night. These are the best infusions – it screams Pacific Northwest rain torrents of high rainfalls and clean.

Ninth and Tenth Infusion: These were weird steepings – this tastes like creamy hot rain with a slight touch of wood. The aftertaste is savory umami, almost marine salty, like how the beach smells on an evening in fall. It has that what I can best describe as watery looseness, like rain wash, as the flavor is lost yet there. It is something I taste in younger puer or overly rainy season oolong.

The steeped out leaf is green and mushy. As I squish around the leaves disintegrate. I’m sure I could dupe this with PNW leaf mush from under my boots.

Comments

2017 Storm Breaker is a young shou that gives you a unique tea session. It is certainly a West Coast tea with feels of wood, rain, and petrichor. It starts quite dirty but cleans up with each steep.

Now that I’ve had 3 new shous from Crimson Lotus Teas I got a grasp of which ones I’d buy. 2017 Nannuo Mini Shrooms is a must buy – they are delicious and have unique notes. 2010 Black Gold is outstanding high quality and special.

Storm Breaker is a weird one and I’d call it an investment tea. I’ve had plenty of young shou, especially in the not fully fermented kind, and all they all need aging time. Storm Breaker is interesting to drink now, but it will heavily change in a year, require storage for aging, and get really good in a few more years. The notes will tighten up with age, lose that rainy loose texture and tartness, and maybe develop a more date note. Crimson Lotus could have easily sat on this one for a year or three before selling. I’m sure you will find reviews late 2018 with a different taste profile and many more re-infusions.

A cake of 2017 Storm Breaker Shou Puer is currently $79 for 200 grams, running expensive compared to other shous we tend to see sold for us western market tea drinkers. I had a long rant on my Black Gold review regarding expensive puer, which oddly does not stand with Storm Breaker as this shou has room to age whereas most shous don’t have much change.

If you got the storage and the gamble or like how the tasting sounded, certainly pick up a cake of 2017 Storm Breaker shou puer. If you don’t have the storage, wait and cross fingers that it doesn’t sell out or cost an arm and a leg. If you want a high-end drink now shou that is fantastic – pay the extra $10 and get Crimson Lotus Tea’s 2010 Black Gold.

Hooty Tea Travels – 2017 Los Angeles: Denong Tea and Cheese Tea

Despite living in the Los Angeles area for around 4 years, I didn’t write about local tea things outside the Los Angeles Tea Festival. I recently came back from Los Angeles and made sure to hit a number of tea things. Admittedly, I didn’t do much tea things other than the local tea festival when I lived in LA. Los Angeles is a car cultured sprawl at the mercy of traffic. I sat in around 4 hours of traffic visiting all three of my tea stops, and I wasn’t driving during rush hour.

Denong Tea

I met Denong Tea back at a World Tea Expo and they have been teasing for months about a physical tea shop located in Pasadena. I very much wanted to see Denong Tea, more so to buy a brick of 2012 Nannuo sheng puer.

Denong Tea has a big gorgeous tea space. They have a big shop with plenty of room to browse, with a couple tea tables set up as well as a bar.

All the cabinets are made of rosewood. Inside is all the gorgeous packaged tea and personal teaware collection of the owner.

A very expensive shelf of 1980’s shou puer.

I started with Denong Tea’s 2016 Black tea. This is their only non-puer tea, but it is puer varietal.

The black tea is quite good – it is smooth, chocolatey, and easy to drink. It resteeped very well. It was a very flexible, bombproof tea.

I was in love with this tea pot.

After that, I had Denong Tea’s 2017 Mountain Oasis sheng puer.

I was impressed with the potency, lingering aftertaste, reinfusion power, and texture. It was, however, a tea I wanted to get my claws on and brew it myself. Denong Tea has a lighter hand on brewing than I like to do, but despite their lighter brewing we got well over 10 infusions and it smelled like it had more to go.

I’ll review Denong’s 2017 Mountain Oasis later, but I must note the price of it is currently on special (at cost) and will jump in January 2018 from $30 to $47. I would jump on it now if you like the sound of this tea. I likely won’t have a review posted before the price jump.

The tea did make me shengry – I devoured a plate of Hawaiian food.

Little Fluffy Head Cafe’s Cheese Tea

After a sushi lunch with some old friends, my tea hating husband and I hit up downtown Los Angeles for Little Fluffy Head Cafe.

The Menu

I got a Chedd-cha (Matcha with cheddar cream cheese) and a Dirty Mess (black milk tea topped with creme brulee & Oreos) for the husband. After we got our drinks we booked it as parking was very expensive.

The Chedd-cha was okay. I found the matcha they used was alright culinary grade as it was on the bitter side and not particularly bright green. The cheese of the cheese tea was some sort of whipped cream cheese with some fluffy cream added. There were cheese lumps in the thick foamy cheese. I liked how there was little tang to it, as I found tang + matcha a horrible combination. It sort of tasted like how a matcha cheesecake with lots of whipped cream would taste like.

The Dirty Mess latte was AMAZING! It had that classic boba black milk tea flavor. The creme brulee topping was not creme brulee, more like a custard mixed with heavy whipped cream. There was no burnt sugar on top which makes a creme brulee in my opinion. The custard was very delicious and added a nice eggy sweet to the black tea. My husband enjoyed the topping, but disliked that he could taste the tea in the black milk tea.

If I was going to go to Little Fluffy Head Cafe again, I would get the “creme brulee” over the cheese.  I think the locals knew the score, as everyone besides me was drinking Camouflage, which is matcha mixed with the creme brulee.

Lupicia

The second to last day of my trip was free and I suddenly recalled Lupicia wasn’t too far away. I used to always visit on New Year’s day for killer Mystery Bag sales. I also enjoyed my Lupicia visit to Honolulu for exclusive teas. I am out of Rose Royal and Chocolate Strawberry Puer, and their shipping cost is high, so I was happy I remembered they have a shop close by!

Lupicia in Torrance is small but manages to pack in a big line up to smell, as well as display their pretty holiday packaging. I regret not buying some of the Holiday teas, a couple of them smelled good and were on sale! I got caught up by how amazing Cassis & Blueberry and Apricot Barley smelled and forgot about the other teas.

Los Angeles Haul

I wet a little nuts and bought the 2012 Nannuo brick, a Mountain Oasis, and blind bought 2016 Sweet Clarity. I purely bought Mountain Oasis to try brewing it on my own and being a great deal.

Oh Denong Nannuo, I missed you. I just had 7 grams once and never forgot.

At Lupicia I grabbed a bunch of favorites and 2 fun smelling teas. I am surprised how little I got into trouble.

There is one guilty tea pleasure of mine and it is the hibiscus. I miss the Mexican grocery stores of California and their cheap avocados, ceviche, and giant bags of whole flower hibiscus for $4. This should last me a year.

Mountain Tea Tumbler from The Tea Spot

I got a preview of the Mountain Tea Tumbler while visiting The Tea Spot at the 2017 World Tea Expo. What was really cool is when they handed me this new tumbler, they said they considered my feedback I gave for their Urban Tea Tumbler. Oh hoot hoot hoot, right then I knew this new Mountain Tea Tumbler was going to be good!

Mountain Tea Tumbler Specs

  • 16oz/ ml Capacity
  • Insulated double walled Stainless Steel
  • Larger stainless steel 2-piece infuser
  • Lead, Cadmium, and BPA free
  • 4 colours – Green Tea, Slate Grey, Sunset Red, and Turquoise Lake (as pictured).
  • Handwash only. Do not Microwave.

I puttered around and used the Mountain Tea Tumbler straight since June as my exclusive travel tumbler. I got to know the ins and outs of it. I forgot to write about it as it became a fixture of my tea life.

The Mountain Tea Tumbler is 4 pieces – Bottle, Lid, and 2 piece Infuser/filter.

The lid is popup style with a slot to drink from. I have also unscrewed the lid and drank from the tea bottle portion, though it can run hot that way.

Take note that this tea tumbler has a washer in the lid – always take out the washer and wash it!

The bottle as “Steepware” printed on the side.

Pros of Mountain Tea Tumbler

Large basket infuser – I LOVE THIS INFUSER! The basket is large enough, clocking in at 3″ long and 1.5″ wide diameter, that I can easily fit 8 grams of fat leaf rolled oolong and have it expand fully. I made some excellent tea in the Mountain Tea Tumbler as it had room to release flavor than being crammed in a small infuser.

The little basket handle is great for plucking the infuser out without burning your hands.

Versatile infuser – I am not sure if this was intentional, but you can use the top piece separately.

Steep option 1 – Simply add leaf to the basket, pop on the top of the infuser, then snap it into the tumbler. Remove leaf after it reaches the desired infusion level.

Steep option 2 – Add leaf to the tumbler and snap on the top of the infuser only. The leaf will continue to steep, but the filter will stop you from eating leaf. You don’t need to fill the tumber to the top to infuse.

I love both options. Likely the basket gets the most use for most people as you can steep your tea and remove the leaves. The second option I’ve used quite a bit for grandpa style (and topping up the water during my tea session) or to brew tea to take with me and serve later.

Well insulated and Cool – I’ve kept tea hot in the Mountain Tea Tumbler all day. It can hold hot tea for 5-8 hours, the latter if you preheat it. I’ve also kept iced drinks cold even longer to the point of being problematic as the ice would not melt. Go easy on the ice! The exterior is cool to the touch, with a matte finish for grip.

Durable – My Mountain Tea Tumbler fell down a flight of stairs… twice. I also dropped it on the pavement once, and plenty of times on the carpet. Other than tea staining from use, my tumbler looks new as it has no scuffs, dents, or scratches. I also cheated and gave the infuser a good Mandala Tea Soak before I took these photos.

Leaf proof – See “other considerations” but I found the Mountain Tea Tumbler to be leak proof. It can do backflips in purses and fall down a flight of stairs without making a mess.

Cons of Mountain Tea Tumbler

Wide Tumbler – The circumference is around 9″ making this tea tumbler wider than my others in my collection. It just fits in my car cupholder but is a little girthy for my small wings to hold if I wanted to carry it for awhile (hence the times I dropped it). There is a handle on the lid that seems to be the more appropriate way to carry the tumbler.

There is a small neck in the body of the tumbler that the DIY’er in me is considering making a hand strap with some paracord.

Infuser Basket Handle – Mine popped off a number times early on in testing. Each time I was able to snap it back in place. I did a good job the last time, as it hasn’t snapped off for months. When the handle does fall off, you need a spoon to pop the infuser out as it is low set in the bottle.

Likely the handle or infuser is the first place the Mountain Tea Tumbler would fail and need replacing. Over time I’ve noticed (in similar infuser designs, I have not experienced it yet in this particular tumbler) is the clips start to bend with use. You can bend them back in place if that happens to you, or see about buying a replacement part.

Other Considerations

Lid Replacement – I had an early model which leaked no matter what I did. I contacted The Tea Spot and found out the first run of lids were tooled a bit off, so there were some issues with the early models like mine. They promptly sent me a new lid and since then I have had zero problems and no leaks. I am sure all the current models do not have issues, but I am disclosing what happened here to be completely honest with my experience.

Stainless Steel very hot or cold – Stainless Steel, especially the double-walled insulated kind, keeps tea hot for a long time. Some people don’t like this as steeping temperature does not equal drinking temperature. What makes stainless steel awesome is the heat retention. If you want to drink your tea right away on the go, I’d switch to a glass travel tumbler. The Tea Spot also sells a great glass tea tumbler. I also use tricks like leaving the lid off when I am ready to drink to cool the liquid down. I know people who hack stainless steel tea tumblers by adding ice cubes.

Plastic – Hello again plastic haters. Mountain Tea Tumbler is BPA free as well as lead/cadmium free. This tea tumbler has very little plastic interaction as the only place it touches plastic is on the lid. The tea is not steeping on the plastic unless it is inverted.

Comments

I love The Tea Spot’s Mountain Tea Tumbler. I have benched my DavidsTea stainless steel tumbler as the Mountain Tea Tumbler is nicer to sip from due to the slimmer lip. The Mountain Tea Tumbler also uses a bigger stainless steel filter instead of a plastic one.  The Mountain Tea Tumbler is my favorite stainless steel double wall tea vessel right now and is perfect for when you need tea to stay hot for a long time. I also like that the lid is one piece instead of 2 like other tea tumbler designs as it is faster to use.

The tea tumbler was a lifesaver over the Thanksgiving holidays as I was driving 2-3 hours each way to pick up/drop off family, and I had hot tea at all times. I also love how durable the Mountain Tea Tumbler is, it has become my go-to tumbler for anything going out as I don’t worry about breaking it.

You can get the Mountain Tea Tumbler off The Tea Spot or Amazon!

 

(Mountain Tea Tumbler Provided for review | Affiliate Links)

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