2017 World Tea Expo Haul – Oolong Owl Hooty Tea Travels


| Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Trends & Thoughts |

HAUL TIME! I packed ultra light this year, so I had most of a carry-on left for tea. I even left my camera behind, which gave me more personal bag carry room. I still had things shipped home because I bought something sharp, but I ended up using a medium flat rate to lighten the damage. Thankfully, my flat rate box arrived in 2 days as I was going crazy trying to not open what I took home in my suitcase.

This is the full spread, mixed with samples and stuff I bought:

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There is over 200 tea bags in here, mostly due to the Sri Lankan Tea board collection, on top of loose leaf vendors who give samples in tea bag form (which I don’t blame them, it makes for easy portion control). Total damage = 69 unique teas, 2402 grams/5.3lbs!  

Before my full haul arrived, I tried to not open anything so I could get a good photo… but I did open the Fu Brick.  It was calling to me and I was tired. I needed the fu energy to get me to write all these World Tea Expo articles.

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At first, no golden flowers.

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But once I started picking away, GOLD MINE!

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So delicious, the flavor is like caramelized honey with feel of the force of a zillion bees attacking your scalp. BEST PURCHASE EVER. I REGRET NOTHING!

My other favorite item is The Tea Spot Mountain Tea tumbler. It was a godsend for my flight home. Post World Tea Expo you get really thirsty after being used to drinking so much tea, plus it was bloody 108f/42C outside. I started a cold brew before I left the airport and it made me happy. I will nerd out and review this tea tumbler once I abuse it some more.

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I love this Tea Source #nofilter gaiwan shirt! I will wear this until it falls apart, tea stains will not stop me! Alas, I do not see this shirt on their site. I do not know if this was World Tea Expo exclusive, of it hasn’t made their website yet.

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Here are some samples from Changsha Wufeng, a piece of moldy fu (yay!) and a wild cake.

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Old Taiwan Tea’s 1970 oolong. This was the most expensive thing I purchased at the World Tea Expo clocking in at $1 a gram, which still is a good price.

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Organic Boseong Woonhae Tea Plantation I got the Magnolia flower tea, and samples of black tea with yuzu.

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This is why I had to mail stuff home – a folding puer knife would not pass in my carry on only luggage. I tried it once already and it does good work for splitting cakes in half and likely could be great for bricks. It did not do well for breaking single servings.

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Khoisan Tea was kind enough to give me some of their matcha. I got regular matcha (not pictured), but also red rooibos matcha. The sample bags contain green rooibos matcha! I am very excited to play with it!

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This massive package was thanks to the Sri Lanka Tea Board. I didn’t notice until I got home that wowza 175 tea bags! I love the packaging, the name and rainbow is very cool. This type of tea isn’t my thing, but the great packaging and selection looks like a good comparison tasting opportunity.

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I got backups on my Boreal Wildcraft The Wall mugs, but also got some of their tea to try. I was enticed by whatever wild Canadian Chaga is. Hmmm… apparently it is a wild mushroom with an earthy sweet taste grown in cold climates in Canada. I should of come across it when I lived in Northern British Columbia… and probably thought it was some mushroom growing on a birch tree.

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Summus Tea was generous in giving me the new crop of their teas. I got some more Oriental Beauty and one of their new tins. I selected the Hummingbird one as my backyard has been invaded by them and their peeping zipping around. Turned out that the Hummingbird tin is Golden Black tea.

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I purchased the Wormwood and Pumpkin herbal tea at Korean Traditional Tea – Jade: Lee. Thanks to tea friend Nishnek for being able to tell me which one is the pumpkin tea.

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I got samples from Old Villiage Puer, bagged puer as this is how they are hitting the US market. I wonder what year was the majestic vintage?

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Cusa tea gave me a sampler pack of their instant teas. I am looking forward to experimenting with that rich oolong.

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I didn’t photo their booth on day 2, but I got samples from Matcha Ninja. Matcha Ninja does cold brew matcha. I had to ask the question, “I can cold brew any ol’ matcha. What makes yours special?” Apparently this matcha is more water soluble. The material is tencha, de-veined, and ground finer than regular matcha. I am a matcha snoot, so we will see how this stacks up!

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I got these weird tea bags from Premier’s which look like folded foil with holes punched in it. After I took the haul photo, I gave one a whirl – it was a little metallic, but high fun factor!

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Also in the giant mound of stuff is Tea Spot and Zojirushi tote bags, pile of Alishan and Baozhong from Cameron Tea, goodies from Adagio Teas, stitckers, Fresh Cup & Tea Time magazine, and my Owlbear Ultrapro dice bag (not from World Tea Expo.)

Stay tuned for my overall thoughts and observations of the World Tea Expo 2017!

2017 World Tea Expo Day 3 – Oolong Owl Hooty Tea Travels


| Day 1 | Day 2 | Haul | Trends & Thoughts |

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This was a shorter day today, due to me having to leave a few hours early to make the post office and my flight home. Today’s goals were to get to the remaining places on my list and vulture circling to lighten my wallet. The Expo today had a smaller turnout and many vendors were late or not ready, causing me circle around and around for the first hour.

Zealong Tea uses the Taiwanese Qing Xin cultivar, but grown in New Zealand. Of most interest was their unflavored teas and modern display. Many of the teas tasted a flavor profile I was used to with all the Taiwanese teas I drink, however their black tea stood out as unique in flavor.

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The black had a beautiful red colour and was honey silky smooth.

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Golden Tea Leaf had a few new teas. I was excited to see a Sun Moon Lake (assam cultivar) and an Alishan oolong.

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Their Alishan was quite good (not pictured, above is the Dong Ding). There is just something about the 2017 Spring Alishan that is just magic. I was VERY skeptical of Golden Tea Leaf’s Ginseng Oolong as I hate ginseng oolongs with a passion. However, upon review of the leaf, it wasn’t those fuzzy green lumps that ginseng oolong tends to look like. The flavor was floral and sweet, with a bit medicinal notes. This oolong is just a blend of real ginseng with no licorice gross flavoring. Very good!

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I found the Korean tea hub and tasted a number of Korean Sejak greens. Organic Boseong Woonhae Tea Plantation turned out to be my favorite Korean vendor of the day. They had good collection of teas, with wild herbals picked from their tea farm. I love magnolia oolong, but those tend to be just scented. I have never seen magnolia flowers on their own and these are huge!

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Another interesting find was their yuzu tea orange. The yuzu is also wild picked, so theirs was on the smaller side that the other Korean tea sellers. The insides was filled with their aged black tea.

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I wish I purchased more of their teas, but I was just about cleaned out of cash and I had more places to go to.

I vultured circled back to Day 1’s cause of utter tea drunk craziness – Xixianxinqu Jinye Fucha Tea. I needed the Fu brick and this guy is the hook up.

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That tea was so good and I need to share it with the world! He had a split brick on display today – LOOK AT THE GOLDEN FLOWERS WOW!

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I did a visit to The Tea Spot to check out their new products. I am in love with The Tea Spot’s new Mountain Tea Tumbler. The design looks very promising with the double wall steel and large basket infuser.

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By the end of the show I ran into Seattle tea friends and one was sporting a lovely Owlbear dice bag from Ultra Pro that she got at the Magic the Gathering Grandprix,which was going on next door. I charged into the Magic showroom, despite the security insisting I was lost. It was free to go in unless I was playing! I have been out of the MTG scene since 2002, but I was a competitive tournament player back then. Apparently, there are celebs and artists there. Throughout the show floor was a lot of tables and people playing, with the middle having numerous booths selling cards, mats, sleeves, art, and various swag. Walking around, I got a lot of looks as I obviously did not belong there, but I got my Owlbear.

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Afterward, I did a quick sweep of the floor, despite it being quiet, it was busy as last day = OMG there is press badge owl gal! Sample dump! I had to leave before I physically could not take stuff home – I was already shipping tea home.

I didn’t take any photos on my way home as I was packed to the brim with stuff. No Day 3 haul photo as I majority of the things I got on Day 3 were creatively packed into my bags, or into my flat rate box to be mailed home. I am glad I packed light this year, majority of my liquids I used in Vegas, as I needed all the room for tea. I had a fu brick and a puer cake in my purse going through airport security.

When I was waiting at Sea-Tac for my ride home I was greeted by this owl. Hoot!

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Stay tuned for the final World Tea Expo Haul post! Thanks World Tea Expo for letting this crazy owl in the door for the fourth year in a row!

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2017 World Tea Expo Day 2 – Oolong Owl Hooty Tea Travels


| Day 1 | Day 3 | Haul | Trends & Thoughts |

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I started Day 2 of the World Tea Expo with some Rhubarb Oolong from the Tea Source. I actually quite like this flavored oolong as it does taste like rhubarb.

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I forgot to post this for day 1, so here it is today – while I waited for the expo to start I saw this tea bag which gave me a chuckle.

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First booth to flag me down was Cusa Tea.

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I will admit, I am scared by instant tea these days after a few bad encounters, especially at World Tea Expo. I was thirsty, so I gave their oolong a try… and dannng it was a nice, meaty, dark oolong as they used a more oxidized tea! Cusa Tea actually uses a different process than most, as they cold brew it first. The owner was very level-headed saying their product is a tea option for the busy, rather than replacing loose leaf.

I don’t recall who had this display, but this isn’t the first time I’ve seen tea presented in these…vessels. I dunno, I would rethink these vessels.

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Bohyang Tea Co was the start of all the Korean tea booths I found. This company has been around for a long time (1930s?) and just entering the US market. They are most known for their award winning expensive fermented “Gold Tea” that I hope I can get my hands on one day.

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Those strands in the background are fermented Korean teas, pressed into coins. They remind me of one of those candy necklaces… which I rather wear and have tea than candy! Bohyang Tea also has a line of delicious tea jams that I want to put inside a macaron.

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Next up was Old Taiwan Tea. I was informed “Old” in their name was very literal, as they had 1960s oolong. HAD 1960s oolong as it was so good and someone bought the entire lot before I got there! I ran into Zen Tea Traders (who I see at every festival and event) who said Old Taiwan Tea has an excellent Sun Moon Lake and aged tea. He was right – the Sun Moon Lake was outstanding. I was lucky to try the 1970’s oolong, which brewed up pitch black and tasted hella smooth.

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I was saving my cash for Day 1’s fu brick of mind altering powers, so I purchased a tin of 1970s oolong. I was kind enough to leave a single tin for someone else! (that and I honestly could not afford to buy 2!)

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I regret not getting any Prana Chai last year at the World Tea Expo. The giant honey sticky mound of tea is just so intriguing. It also moves slowly if you poke it with the scoop. I could photo this mound all day. It is also great tasting, sweetened chai.

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Millennia Tea sells FRESH tea. No, I am not talking 2017 spring picked and processed, I am talking raw tea leaves that was flash frozen within hours of picking, shipped in dry iced, and then into your tea pot. Here is frozen fresh tea:

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You will certainly never come across tea this fresh other than being at the tea farm. The mission for Millennia Tea was to get a tea with a lot of EGCG levels, more than what matcha can do – to do that they needed recently picked tea.

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They had three different teas, all three had excellent fresh, sweet, and vegetal profiles.

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What interested me the most is that I have had fresh tea before… well it was fresh, then shipped to me. By the time I got it, it was brown, super astringent, and too much caffeine. Millennia Tea was excellent tasting, but what excites me the most is all the experimentation we could do to fresh leaf! I would love to get my hands on this tea and play with it!

At the Korean Traditional Tea – Jade: Lee booth I had yet another wild Korean tea – Wormwood tea. I had to try it as it sounded very weird, but was pleasantly surprised how smooth and sweet it was. He also carried other delicious teas and herbals.

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I visited Cameron Tea Taiwan, looking for their unique black oriental beauty.

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I learned this spring’s Alishan and Baozhong are excellent, and upon tasting I was also pleased. Sadly, the black teas are not ready yet due to the late season. Cameron Tea Taiwan is a cool place to source competition Taiwanese teas from!

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Boreal Wildcraft‘s The Wall mug has been my favorite tea cup since I got it last year at the 2016 World Tea Expo. Read my review!

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I use my The Wall mug just about every day. I was excited to see them with more of their mugs, but also they are carrying some awesome sounding Canadian teas with Canadian grown herbs. Their mint tea looked crazy good with giant leaves!

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I finally got around to visiting Mei Mei Fine Teas, after turning them yesterday due to utter tea drunk.

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I sat and had a full session of a 2016 Bing Dao hand rolled sheng ball that was fruity and sweet. It also gave me young sheng gut rot as I could feel my guts twisting and intestines fluttering. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time for lunch. Cwyn gave me mints, which actually helped in taming the gut rot.

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Next up was the Tea Bloggers Roundtable panel. Teal “puer pick’ Owl and I were on the panel. The Tea Owl was distracted with photos and playing with the mic.

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This year’s panel Five O’Clock Tea, Dharlene Marie Fahl, Oolong Owl (hoot), Adventures in Tealand, The Tea & Hat Lady, and World Tea Podcast.

As you can see, we had quite a diverse cast this year in terms of region and tea focus, which I think made for a really good discussion as we all had different answers to questions. The theme was “Keeping Motivated in the Leaf”, so there was questions motivation to continue with our work. There was prepared questions I answered ahead of time, but not all of them were asked. Then there was audience questions. The session should be posted sometime, I will link when I have it.

My TLDR for tea blogging motivation and inspiration:

  1. Start blogging because you like to write and like tea. Doing something you enjoy makes it easy to do.
  2. Don’t accept more than what you can handle.
  3. Keep a schedule and try to be organized.
  4. Get into the tea community, online and offline. As a group we all help, learn, and inspire each other.
  5. Drink a lot of oolong and puer and get tea drunk. The ideas will come.

After the Tea bloggers Round Table, I made my way to another World Tea Expo favorite of mine – Summus Tea. Summus Tea has excellent Taiwanese teas, and I am quite a fan of their Oriental Beauty and luxury packaging. This year they had new tea tins that magically vacuumed themselves closed.

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And a pressure steeper tea machine for cafe settings. It makes tea fast!

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I was on a quest this year to obtain more of a mysterious Wild Oolong I bought last year, who I forgot who sold it. I found it this year at Zu Chang Tea Company.

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I sampled the best Gaba Oolong I’ve had so far – it was sweet and fruity. It lacked that funny sourdough taste I find in other Gaba oolongs. Alas, I wish I bought it, but I was saving my cash for Day 3.

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The World Tea Expo 2017 Awards were held after the show floor closed. I did not take photos as I was live-steaming the award on Instagram and drinking Owl’s Brew tea-cocktails.

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Day 2 Haul:

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This was the doozy. I had to get a second tote bag to carry it all, which seems to happen every year. I bought backups of The Wall mug, that 1970’s oolong, Korean Wormwood & Pumpkin tea, got a bunch of Alishan and Baozhong from Cameron Tea Taiwan, crap ton of tea bags from Sri Lanka Tea Board, goodies from Summus Tea, and a puer knife.


2017 World Tea Expo Day 1 – Oolong Owl Hooty Tea Travels

Welcome to Oolong Owl’s coverage of the 2017 World Tea Expo!


Day 2 | Day 3 | HaulTrends & Thoughts |

Day 1 was a short day of 3 to 6pm, which made it more of a networking day as there wasn’t much time to see much of the show floor.

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I flew in that morning, and arrived to the convention center early, wandering around looking for people I knew. This year was kind of sad as many tea bloggers and people I know were not in attendance. Upon opening of the day, they had dragons open the show.

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First stop, I needed puer as it was 3pm and I have had no tea all day. I hit up a booth called Old Village Puer, who had some really clean puer and were located by the entrance.

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They were entering the US puer market with ideas to make puer easier to drink, thus tea bags and espresso pods. What fun information I got out of them was they were Singapore storage, which they were saying made for excellent puer due to the hot consistent weather. Despite being in a bag, everything tasted right and very clean. The espresso pod puer was good bitter sheng. I was honestly bracing for the worst, as pod tea is generally pretty bad, but was surprised I got a nice potent tea. This was also my first tea of the day.

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At this first puer booth I ran into fellow tea blogger Cwyn Death by Tea. No one is surprised at first puer stop near at the entrance us puer people run into each other, all twitching around looking for good tea.

Next to the puer tea bags was another pu stop – Menghai langhe tea co. Another seller trying to break into US market, but their approach was with hand rolled balls. The flavor was excellent as well, and their balls were very beautiful especially with all the gold buds. They had that classic menghai flavor to it.

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What I love about the timing of World Tea Expo is getting many of the newest, freshest teas. This is for you Kuding fans – kuding green tea by a seller called Kuding Green Tea. I did not know it was kuding until after I saw their name. It was very refreshing.

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At this point is when the 2017 World Tea Expo…. how do I say this… poop-emoji hit the fan? YES AT THE 3RD VENDOR, like maybe 30 minutes in, things went crazy town.

Cwyn waved me over to the Xixianxinqu Jinye Fucha Tea booth, and displayed was a wrapped 2 kilo brick and samples of clear golden tea. I was told it was fu zhuan tea, aka fermented tea with purposefully grown golden mold.  We didn’t have an open example, but was assured it was full of golden flowers.

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I don’t recall how many cups I had. One? Two? It was delicious, honey, and sweet. Immediately I felt like a thousand ants were crawling on me and my head was filled with stuffing. I also would fail a sobriety test as I could not walk straight, began to chatter and laugh too much. I completely lost my usual professional routine of doing the World Tea Expo and stumbled through the show floor in a random manner, cursing fu bricks as I went. I had to piece much of this day by photos I took.

Somehow I made it to a whole seller, Changsha Wufeng, who had beautiful wild tree puer cakes AND moldy fuzhan. Sadly they did not have a tasting going on, but the tea was beautiful. I particularly admired their wild tree puer cake – it was a rainbow of colour.

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On the other side of the World Tea Expo, I arrived at a tea ware seller Lin Heisha (Yingjing) Culture, who had hand made tea ware. This cup stood out to me as with tea in it, it sparkled!

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After that, we were back on the other side of the World Tea Expo at Gourmia, maker of kettles, including some with all the bells and whistles. They had many models on display, as well as protoypes. This kettle is a travel one that folds!

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They had a interesting concept infuser that we begged to hurry up so we can buy it. I can’t show the photo, but I will be paying attention to Gourmia and their new releases.

Fu brick was altering all rational thought that (now that I think about it) it would of been a better plan to go sit down and eat some french fries to come down off this tea drunk. Alas, I take Cwyn to a puer guy I know – Ravi at Royal Tea New York. Royal Tea New York just does whole sale, and they do their own puer pressings but more of the introduction to puer / daily drinker quality of tea. Sadly, their 2017 line wasn’t pressed yet, but is coming. We weren’t let down as dealing with Ravi is awesome – he has that passion for tea that just shines through. He busted put the good stuff, a 2002 Malaysian stored sheng. It was super smooth. At this point I am not sure if the addition to fu brick, or the fu brick was just still having a party, that we were still completely messed up.

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Cwyn and I then found this crazy cold brewer drip thing making iced Japanese green tea. I didn’t catch who, nor did I find it again. We spent too much time plotting alternative tea uses, such as fresh maocha.

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At this point I think we started to realize the fu brick-hole is strong. We should not drink any more tea and we had an hour left of the show room. MeiMei Fine Teas, another puer seller, spotted us and waved us over to come have some sheng. Cwyn and I flat out refused, apologizing to MeiMei with a promise to come back. I Pieced together we were at a kids tea seller, Bossi, who makes fruity rooibos teas in juice boxes. They were very good, even if you do not like rooibos. I quite liked the mango and strawberry, which tasted pretty natural. It took much resistance to drink the whole display jug.

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I then lost Cwyn to the can, and I stumbled into the tea kettle of my dreams that I think I am not allowed to show to the public as it isn’t even released yet. I called it a UNICORN TEA KETTLE as it was a literal rainbow. I considered licking it to make it mine and Brewista had no choice to sell it to me. Accurate depiction:


The fu brick told me I couldn’t take it anymore and I stumbled out of the show floor and sat at the entrance. I ran into many tea friends, including Cwyn, and we hung out.
Fu brick man saw us and came to check in, but I don’t remember what happened, but afterward we began plotting. Cwyn bought a pu knife. We will buy the 2 kilo fu brick, take it into the ladies room, and hack it apart to split. I thought of my more shady was my tea exchanges, such as time I gave James @ Teadb.org some White2Tea at a dumpy Seattle street corner, but chopping a brick of gold mold in a Vegas bathroom seemed close to rock bottom.

I would love to end World Tea Expo day 1 at this point, but after the expo I went to the Lucky Dragon Hotel and ate at the Pearl Ocean.

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It was deliciously fancy dim sum. The next day I had people rag on me for not having tea there, as it was good thanks to Tealet, however I had plenty of tea at the World Tea Expo.

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Day 1 Haul: Some of these I have no idea how I got thanks fu brick. In the pile is a Tea Source gaiwan shirt, Tibetan fermented tea, fresh kuding green, Tea Time & Fresh Cup Magazine, various tea bags, and puer balls.

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In the end, Day 1 2017 World Tea Expo was hands down the best World Tea Expo day I experienced so far… of what I could remember.

Oolong Owl will be at the World Tea Expo 2017!

The Tea Owls and I will be at the World Tea Expo 2017 in Las Vegas June 13th to 15th!wtebrand

World Tea Expo is an industry only event, showing the best and newest happening in tea! This will be my fourth year attending.

Here are my previous World Tea Expo adventures!

World Tea Expo 2016 – Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Haul

World Tea Expo 2015 – Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Haul

World Tea Expo 2014 – Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Haul

These will be the Tea Owl in attendance for the World Tea Expo 2017!introworldteaexpo2017

Unlike the previous years, I will not be doing same day posts. I found last year utterly hectic and crazy trying to do same day posts while staying at a hotel. I ended up eating dinner at 11:30pm each night. The hours of the World Tea Expo has changed to be longer 10-6pm, not including after events, so I won’t have the time to write the posts. I will write the articles when I get back to Seattle!

The other change is my red DSLR will not be there, so I can travel light. If any fellow bloggers or tea vendors are looking for me, I will be wearing an owl article of clothing, or hit me up on social media.

I will be Instgramming | Tweeting |  Snapchatting during the World Tea Expo.


Be sure to follow me on social media to get all the live updates!

Purple Leaf Tea from Justea

Purple tea is starting to pop up everywhere. Purple tea is a curious tea it is Camellia Sinensis Assamica with a purple mutation changing the colour of the leaf to purple. I tried it a couple times (World Tea Expo 2016 and North West Tea Festival Seattle) and had a couple purple leaf puer cakes without thinking about it.

Though apparently there are different purple teas, and this particular Purple Leaf Tea from Justea is grown in Kenya. But what sets the Justea Purple Leaf Tea apart is the unusual colour.

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Dry Leaf and Steeping Instructions

The leaf is an interesting dark colour with a soft fruit scent.

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I followed the steeping instructions on the package, which was western style 1 teaspoon of leaf (worked out to 1 gram of leaf to 60ml vessel size), with low temperature 175F/80c for 3 minutes.

The colour naturally comes up a soft tint of plum.

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Tasting of Justea’s Purple Leaf Tea

Purple tea tastes, despite the low temperature, fairly astringent. There is a sharp dryness that paves a path in my mouth, through my teeth, and down the throat.  Once you get past the dryness, the flavor is softly floral and fruity, thought quite light in flavor. Combine the astringency, it is drinking a steeping of only under ripe plum skin, without the tart. There is a nice aftertaste of plum. As the tea cools, it gets a bit more fruity.

Apparently, adding lemon juice will do things to the color. Lets do it!

Whoa, it turned nuclear pink!

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Sadly, the lemon overpowered the gentle tasting purple leaf tea, so it was now very tart and dry making it closer to unsweetened lemonade.

Will it Gongfu?

I need to know if this Purple Leaf Tea will gongfu. I think purple leaf will look crazy good gongfu, and if I used a silver cup.. OH HOOT! I went 1 gram to 20ml vessel ratio, I didn’t want to go aggressive with the leaf ratio and I used the same lower temperature because I already know this tea is temperamental.

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The silver cup does not disappoint either – it makes the pinky purple glow!

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WOW. This tea is beautiful! Every photo is fantastic!

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Flavor wise, the first infusion was a strong, plum flesh and fresh romaine lettuce flavor, with a light plummy after taste. The infusions after that were very astringent. I got three infusions, and the final was unbearable to drink, it is a heavy astringency that completely dried out my tongue, throat, and I can actively feel each of my teeth.

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Tasting of Justea’s Purple Mint Tea

Along with Justea’s regular Purple Leaf Tea, they also offer some blends such as Purple Jasmine, Purple Mint, and Purple Rain (passion fruit, lemongrass, hibiscus).

Purple Mint looks like this is mostly mint than purple tea. Within each teaspoon, you get 3 or so purple tea leaves.

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The steeping method has a higher temperature, so again a western style ratio of 1 teaspoon, 190F for 3 minutes.

The leaves look beautiful while steeping!

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Purple Mint is predominately peppermint in flavor, with a bit of spearmint. More you sip, more you pick up the purple tea fruity dryness, along with a rosy flavor. The rose mint combination is good here, but I don’t find the purple tea adds much to this as it is a subtle tea that seems to not like being pushed.

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Purple Leaf Tea is really pretty tea and would be a great tea to entertain with or make interesting iced tea with. Justea’s Purple Leaf Tea is on the astringent side and a fussy brewer, so you will need to have a low temperature kettle to keep the tea in check. If I had more I would try cold brewing, but it is pretty subtle in flavor so I am unsure how the results would be. As is, if you are fine with dry tea and like light green teas, Purple Leaf Tea would be of interest. I personally found this Kenyan Purple Leaf tea too fussy to steep, I think I’ll stick to purple leaf puer which is more in line with my tastes.

(tea provided for review)

Will it Gongfu? Instant Puer Tea Bags

Back by popular demand… W I L L   I T   G O N G F U !

The first Will It Gongfu? Oolong Edition was just an April Fools Joke, but many of you requested it to be a regular thing. Likely as you all just want me to drink more gross things. Funny enough, while I was at a tea shop in Vancouver, other patrons were explaining gongfu cha to some new tea people. They said, “Gongfu is masterful brewing… it will make any bad tea taste good.” Well I got some questionable tea to put to the test.

Will It Gongfu – Puer Tea Bags

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The whole point of tea bags is to make fast and easy tea. How do you brew puer tea bags? Puer generally isn’t steeped western style, the long infusion makes for some strange results. My guess these puer tea bags are intended for western style long infusions, maybe get a resteep or 3, and for slamming. I’m not drinking for pleasure of good tea here, I am drinking for puer fix. Most tea bags are made into dust and low amount that it is confusing how to approach to do gongfu chat, but for all these I cracked open the bags and tried to get a close ratio as normal – range of 1 gram to 15 through 20ml.

Spring Tea / LongRun puer tea bag

LongRun Puer I have reviewed in the past. They are a decent Amazon option if you want puer cakes and tuochas off Amazon. I got three LongRun tea products that I got as free samples, but I do not see anywhere online to purchase them.

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With the bag open, this tea actually looks like loose shou puer after a shrinking ray. It isn’t complete dust, and you can make out leaf bits.

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The tea comes up a mahogany brown, though cloudy as to be expected.

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Flavor wise, this isn’t bad. I got smooth creamy woodsy notes, with a mix of dirty carpet. I also have contamination in the first infusion as I can taste the flavor of how my tea bag jar smells like… which is bad. A reminder that tea bags can pick up scents – store your tea bags well! Each infusion got a bit sweeter and once the contamination was gone, it wasn’t bad. I only got four infusions as the flavored just died quick. What makes this taste not bad as it is puer woodsy dirt tasting, not dry, bitter, fishy, nor too strange. This is drinkable in desperation of needing puer. Also, I’ve had much much worse puer in cake and cheap mini tuochas form.

Will it Gongfu? Yes. Better than some mini tuochas.

BeLight Tea

BeLight Tea was all the rage one year at World Tea Expo – a tasty puer blend with the usual “magical tea wellness” properties tags. What sets this tea apart from other weird diet tea is the lack of senna, so this one won’t make you poop. I’ve said it before, I don’t believe in tea health effects – I drink a lot of tea and it has done nothing besides tea drunk sessions.

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The tea brews up a pretty light copper that is fairly clear.

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The flavor is nutty, like my mouth is full of random nuts I ate at a Christmas appetizer nut cracking plate. There is an interesting light caramel sweetness and overall very smooth and easy to drink, but intensely sweet. It tastes like I was trying to make iced tea, added the sugar already, but failed to add the ice so the tea is concentrated. Note, there is no sugar in this tea, likely some herbs that have the effect of sweet. All I want to do is water this tea down and drink it western style.

Will it Gongfu? No, probably better iced.

Slimming Puer

Like the last puer tea bag, this Or Tea? one is also a diet one. However, unlike the last puer tea, I don’t know if this one has intentional laxative side effects. Oh well. I do like their artwork on their tea bags, so cute!

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They also had an oolong I actually kept the bag tab on. Monkey Pinch Oolong!

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Brewing this smelled bad.. like rotten celery. Otherwise the colour looks pretty, and the leaf looks great – like another loose (non dust) shou puer with chrysanthemum leaf.

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The flavor is a no – it tastes like celery gone bad. Hilariously, the silver tea cup makes it worse as it brightens the celery flavor. I can’t taste any puer at all. A longer infusion with more water made the puer stand out more, with an earthy taste with less celery and actually chrysanthemum. I am thinking there is just too much chrysanthemum to make this gongfu right. Western style, this Slimming Puer is much better as it tastes like a floral chrysanthemum tea with a puer earth background.

Will it Gongfu? Unless you love celery and got peanut butter on hand, no.

LongRun Easy Brew Puer

Easy brew? Bah, let’s make brewing not easy.

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It gongfu’d easy, with no leaf left after so no strainer was needed…. duh.

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It started quite similar to my instant Starbucks coffee sticks that I feed to my Dad/ Father-In-Law. The gongfu instant puer like tastes bitter, strong coffee. I can’t get more technical as I don’t like coffee and simply said “ew, coffee” to the Tea Owls. Then the strong fishy puer in the finish came. We have instant fish.

Will It Gongfu? What the hell did I just do to myself?

LongRun Instant Strawberry Puer

There are a couple things wrong with this. Can you figure it out?

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Actually, add another thing wrong as per the best before date.  It is my fault for having this sit in my stash for 2 years.

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The powder. HOLY HOOT!

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What we have is a trend, Unicorn pink puer. With some blue, purple, and sparkles, and we will have a winner. Tea balls? Fancy puer gift packaging? You tea sellers aren’t with it with the Millennials. With water… MAGIC!

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Now it looks like any shou. I could bring it to the next tea party or slip it in with some other teas, and no one would suspect a thing other than WTF Instant puer.

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The flavor is SUPER SWEET, the sweetest of them all. It is tooth rotting sweet, with a mix of fake strawberry candy flavor, with a finish of a bit of woody puer and a touch of fish. Fantastic. I diluted it to what should be how I am supposed to drink it, and it is simply sugary strawberry candy with an earthy background. I could see this tea being at a coffee shop, as it has that red flavor that caffeinated children would love. Add some whipped cream and sparkles, as we got a new hit.

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But we must as the age old question. Will it Gongfu? No, my tea table got sticky. I had to put my tea table out of commission for the day to wash it with soap, oil, and dry it.

(various tea freebies for review | amazon affiliate link)

2016 Winter Charcoal Dong Ding (aka 3 Roast) from Floating Leaves Tea

Floating Leaves Tea is the place for oolong, but if you want their best it is their Dong Dings and roasted teas. I’m no stranger to their Winter Charcoal Dong Ding that is thrice roasted, it is a tea that I’ve tea drunkenly purchased twice (too bad not thrice) despite having some already, and one I’ve enjoyed in shop a few times.

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Shiuwen Tai of Floating Leaves Tea has told us many tales of the Charcoal Master who made this tea, as well many other stories of Dong Ding Mountain. However those stories are not mine to tell. If you are interested in Dong Ding, Shiuwen and Jake Knapp will be shooting a documentary to show us Dong Ding mountain’s people and tea.

Admittedly, this is a tricky review to write – the 3 Roast Dong Ding is so good and resteeps well, that I hope I do some sort of justice to it.

Before I jump into what will be a long review, here is a coupon code:

DongDingOwl for 30% off Floating Leaves Tea’s 2016 Winter Charcoal Dong Ding.

The coupon is up for the month of June 2017.

(fyi, this is not an affiliate deal or any kickbacks to me, and I’m using it myself before any of you buy it out all from under my beak)

Dry Leaf and Steeping Method

The leaf is big wads of rolls, with a deep, almost black, brown colour. The scent is a sweet and roasty.

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I used my usual thick walled gaiwan, pushing for long haul brewing. I used 1 gram to 13ml of vessel ratio, but I feel this tea can take going lighter or just a touch heavier on leaf if you so choose to, good roasted Dong Ding is quite flexible. Boiling water is a must as well, don’t skimp and play cautious as Floating Leaves Tea’s oolongs all boil very well. I did a quick rinse, and started with flash steeps. I am using 2 cups here, a regular one and a silver – the tasting notes are for the regular cup, even though it isn’t in all the photos.

Tasting of Floating Leaves Tea’s Winter Charcoal Dong Ding 3 Roast

Charcoal Dong Ding steeps up a lovely golden butterscotch color with a roasted tomato scent. The hot leaves are very strongly roasted scent, but also nutty and sweet. The Tea Owls have gathered to get a piece of this tea.

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First and Second Infusion: Charcoal Dong Ding sips in mineral sweet, good smooth nutty roast, and a slight figgy flavor. The roast here is very well done as it is not burnt, ashy, or has charcoal brickette qualities. The roast adds a depth of flavor that feels with each sip, it is sinking into through the trachea. If you drink slowly, you will taste an aftertaste of sweet stone fruits and minerals that lifts you. Drinking plenty of Floating Leaves Tea, you’ll notice a strong body, a trend in most of their teas.

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Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Infusion: Charcoal Dong Ding got more rich in flavor, developing a stronger, nutty roast flavor, without any roast harshness. The mineral hits front of sip, but also at the end tickling the tongue. The body is really beating me up – it is so thick, balmy lipped, and I can feel as if I drank a vat of sticky caramel and it is trying slug down the digestive tract ever so slowly.

During these infusions the color shifted more coppery too. So pretty!

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With each of these infusions, the tea still stays super smooth. It is an easy drinker to just chug the day away, but also too dang good for that.

Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Infusion: As the Charcoal Dong Ding goes, the sweeter it gets. The mineral comes out more, tasting like sweet dew on wet stones. The roast is still here, adding a smooth savory background before slipping back letting a fruitiness show up.

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Thirteenth and Fourteenth Infusion: The Charcoal Dong Ding has shifted. The flavor is like a caramel covered apple. It is has a bright, browned sugar taste, with a fruity sweetness. Lots of mineral flavor as well. I found it interesting that the roast went full on caramelized sugar now. There is a slight astringency in the cheeks, it isn’t enough or unpleasant to stop me.

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Fifteenth Infusion: As you can see this tea is in for the long haul. I recall someone telling me, likely Noah, apprentice at Floating Leaves Tea and blogger at Funky Leaves, that this particular Charcoal Dong Ding can be done for 30 infusions. 30. I can see 20 in the horizon, easily, but I don’t think I’ll get 30. I think in optimal conditions you can get 30 infusions, optimal being steeped in a seasoned clay tea pot. My gaiwan can only milk out so much from heat retention, and it isn’t putting anything back into the tea.

However, I did learn a trick from Noah. What you do is take out the leaf out of the vessel, flip the leaves, put the leaves back, and go back to steeping. Flipping the tea works quite well, and gives more infusion power. Here is leaf directly plopped into my cup.. and blurry as I was full of tea.

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Flipped upside down and into the gaiwan.

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With some light separating, I see something I didn’t see prior – the leaves that were on the bottom were opened and steeped out, whereas ones on the top (now on the bottom) were still scrunched up. I figure that open leaf was sitting in liquid thanks to gravity, despite my diligent gaiwan pouring.

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I did a quick infusion, and the flavor is still going and actually stronger than thirteenth or fourteenth infusion. This fifteenth infusion tastes more like ten or eleven.

Sixteenth, Seventeenth, and Eighteenth Infusion: The leaves still smell roasty! The flavor continues to shift into this caramelized sugar quality, but also the roast have evolved to have an interesting umami quality in the background. Yes. Steep Eighteenth is packed with flavor and bright. I could trick a Tea Owl who wasn’t present earlier to think this was any other tea at like the sixth to eighth infusion.

I had to stop here for the evening. I’ve been drinking this for 2.5 hours with over 2 liters of water.  I need to get on with my evening, which needs to be free of my constant trips to the bathroom. I did my best to drain all the liquid off, and I set the gaiwan aside for later. Alas, this is when clay shines as there is less water retention.

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Nineteenth, Twentieth, Twenty-first, and Twenty-second Infusion: Carrying on the next day, I didn’t bother with a rinse and just went on with steeping. Charcoal Dong Ding still has a similar flavor of caramelized sugar mixed with wet stones minerals. The savory element slips more with each steeping.

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Twenth-third Infusion: I did a 40 minute steeping, but this is the end of it. There is no scent left and the tea is a soft mineral. Likely I could of gotten more if I had better heat, yixing clay tea pot, and didn’t have an overnight break. I could easily one more infusion on the stove, but gosh, I got so many infusions already.

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If you love roasted teas and want an complex oolong that can take long hauls with a lot of body, Floating Leaves Tea’s Charcoal Dong Ding 3 Roast is it! What sets this tea from the rest is the heavy body, smoothness, and lack of harsh roast flavor. This is lack bitterness, and only has a slight dryness in the very late infusions. This tea joins my favorite teas from Floating Leaves Tea, the others being Red Peony (hands off, it is mine), and their 1990’s Anxi Tieguanyin (which I need to review next).

Couple of my tea blogging peers have also covered Floating Leaves Tea’s Charcoal Dong Ding 3 roast – Steep Stories and Teadb. Be sure to check them out, get all the perspectives. They also side mention a hooting epic tasting Four Roast Dong Ding at Floating Leaves Tea… sadly there is none this year as the Charcoal Roast Master didn’t make any as the material wasn’t perfect enough.

As a reminder, there is a coupon code – DongDingOwl for 30% off Floating Leaves Tea’s 2016 Winter Dong Ding good for the month of June 2017. Also, be sure to check out the Floating Leaves Tea’ Dong Ding Documentary. I think it is a cool project and the tales of Shiuwen’s travels are always amazing to hear. Floating Leaves Tea also has a blog, mentioning progress of the documentary. You may see a familiar owl or two…


Korean Hwangcha from Teas Unique

I’m always on the hunt for more Korean teas. Teas Unique is a US based seller that has sourced 4 regions of Korean Teas, with a big range of single estate Green (with a range of pluckings), Oxidized, and Powder.

I decided to try Teas Unique’s oxidized tea line. They have two unflavored Hwangchas, from a different region and picking. The similarities are they are both organic, hand picked, and hand processed teas. Korean Boseong Sejak Hwangcha is roasted, from Unrim Village/ Boseong County, and is a second picking. Korean Mt. Jiri Joonjak Hwangcha is pan fried, and from Mt. Jiri/ Hadong County, and a third picking. The latter tea is considered an early summer tea.

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What I also like about Teas Unique is on the package they state plenty of information about their tea.

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Dry Leaf and Steeping Method

The leaf looks practically the same – both dark long twists of leaf with a fruity scent.

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I decided to follow the steeping method on the bag, and I have an excuse to use my Korean tea infuser cups again.

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My ratio was 1 gram to 56ml, so very much a western ratio. I used 200F water and steeped for 2 minutes. The steeping method worked well to give a good amount of flavor without any bitterness.

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Korean Boseong Sejak Hwangcha

Boseong Hwangcha Sejak is rich in taste, the flavor actually reminding me closer to a Dian Hong Chinese black tea, but sweeter. The background is malty and earthy, with the bread and yam notes making this a sweet, calling the essence of yam and marshmallows. The texture is slippery and thick, making this a slow sipper. The finish leaves a sweet malty taste in the mouth. The second infusion is more balanced, with a brighter, sweeter, yam note with a hint of cinnamon spice. I also tried this tea gongfu style in silver for fun – the notes go into over drive with more malt and yam, with final infusions being soft and sweet.

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I enjoy how rich and sweet the Boseong Hwangcha Sejak is, it is like drinking a special treat to be your dessert. It is certainly a familiar, comfort-feel tea for tea drinkers who love roasted oolongs and black teas.

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Korean Mt. Jiri Joonjak Hwangcha

The difference is quite stark between the two teas, with this Mt. Jiri Joonjak Hwangcha being more unique. This one is quite bright, heavy on mineral, nuts, and wood. The flavor is of wet wood, wet stones, and sweet almond. As it cools, I find some sips are a touch marine, others more sweet. Unfortunately, the body is thinner than the Sejak Hwangcha and not as sweet. However, I would describe this body as a watery gel – has this fluidity to it, just holding the flavors together. The second infusion of this tea did not go well – it has a dusty dry texture, making my tongue feel like it got sandpapered lightly, otherwise the flavor is still unique with flavor characteristics of wuyi oolong and marine green tea, yet with plenty of oxidization.

Korean Jeju Island Second Flush Whole Leaf Black Tea with Mandarin Orange

Jeju Island Black Tea with Mandarin Orange is an another organic, single estate tea, however is a blend and machine picked. Teas Unique only has 2 flavored teas, the other is the Green tea version.

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Wow, this tastes just like mandarin orange! If you ever nibbled on those dried mandarin oranges from Trader Joe’s, this tea orange flavor is the same. The base is roasty, malty and sweet. It isn’t as refined as the Sejak Hwangcha, but similar in flavor. The mandarin orange has a hint of tang to it, and as it cools it gets more sweeter and orangy. Iced, Jeju Island Black with Mandarin Orange is really good! I think iced is the best application for this tea as it is gives such a crisp, sweet orange flavor.

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Matchacolate Roasted Green Tea Matcha White Chocolate bar.

Teas Unique also surprised me with some tea chocolate, a Roasted Green Matcha White Chocolate.

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Unwrapped… huh, I thought this was white chocolate?

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Upon further review, this chocolate was blended with Korean houjicha, giving the white chocolate a brown green colour. On its own, it does look like milk chocolate. Here is it next to milk chocolate, the green tea chocolate is more green and ashy.

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The flavor is pretty good. The majority of it is a roasty, with a slightly bitter matcha taste. The white chocolate base is pretty good – I am picky with white chocolate as it sometimes will give me a weird itchy throat, and this one does not. This was a fun tea chocolate to try – they also have a regular matcha chocolate… and a matcha chocolate spread.

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I quite enjoyed trying different Hwangchas from Teas Unique. Teas Unique also have multiple teas from different growing regions, giving you the option to immerse yourself in Korean teas and learn the notes. There is a reason I chase Korean tea, as they are teas that are uncommon and have great flavor. That said, Teas Unique is a great opportunity for those in the US wanting to try Korean tea. They sell in 50 gram+ sizes, as well as 20 gram sampler sets.

All these Teas Unique Hwangchas were good, and I learned that Hwangcha varies even more in flavor. Other Hwangcha I’ve had is less oxidized, giving a softer flavor, whereas these swing higher on the oxidation getting a bit more like black tea. Hwangcha is very weird, as it doesn’t neatly fit into a tea category due to the processing, even within both the Bosesong and Mt Jiri, they vary greatly in taste.

(tea provided for review)


April 2017 White2Tea Club feat Dancong Drinking Experiment

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

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

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White2Tea Club Dancong Experiment

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

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

Day 1

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

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

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

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

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

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Day 2

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

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

april 2017 white2tea dancong two - oolong owl (1)

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

april 2017 white2tea dancong two - oolong owl (2)

april 2017 white2tea dancong two - oolong owl (3)


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

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