Saturday, September 27, 2014

Arya Ruby Darjeeling by Golden Tips Tea

Seller Description: "Our second flush Arya Ruby black tea is classic example of Darjeeling summer royalty. The well-made leaves are wiry and offer a delightful appearance with plenty of silver tips. Manufactured to perfection, the tea boasts of an immensely complex character with abundance of muscatel. The fruit-flowery notes flush your mouth with a sweetness that is pleasant and comforting. The aroma scents of rich caramel with a slightly woody character. The nose is sharp and slightly fruity which resonates muscatel richness"
Website: Arya Ruby Darjeeling by Golden Tips Tea
Sample Source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: 2-1/2 teaspoons
Water Temperature: 212º F
Steeping Time: 4 minutes
Additives: 1 tablespoon raw sugar

This is my first cup from a new company - well, new to me! According to their literature, Golden Tips Tea has been in business since 1933, and has a wide variety of organic and ethical trade teas. They sent me a whole slew of teas to sample, but I chose to start with this one for two reasons: I was feeling like a black tea and the name reminded me of a character I like to cheer for!

Now I know the classification of "black" teas has more to do with how the leaves are processed, but despite that I'm still surprised when I open a new package of tea and discover more than the shade I expected. This black tea is far from a single-note appearance. The silver-tipped dry tea is as colorful as fall leaves... and it smells considerably better! Sweetly malty with a warm woodsy element.

Next came the experimentation, dialing in the perfect cup. A three minute steep is a good starting point, but it doesn't let the tea reach its full potential. It's still a tasty cup, but faint enough that it leaves you wanting more. It turns out that increasing the ratio of dry leaves to water and hitting the four minute steeping mark is a much better balance of flavor and astringency. The hints of caramel stay in the background, and the maltiness takes center stage.

Prominent Notes: Maltiness with slight caramel and woodsy notes
Aftertaste: Maltiness
Overall: A light touch

Premium Dragon Well Green Tea (Long Jing) by Teavivre

Seller Description: "XiHu (West Lake) Dragon Well green tea, or Long Jing as it is known in China, is commonly regarded as one of China's top ten teas, and is often served to visiting head's of states.  This premium Long Jing tea is an absolutely fantastic example of this tea.  Mostly handmade it has no hint of bitterness, instead it has a delightfully subtle classic green tea taste and aromatic scent."
Website:  Premium Dragon Well Long Jing by Teavivre
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: Approximately 3 teaspoons
Water Temperature: 185º F
Steeping Time: 1-1/2 minutes
Additives: 2 teaspoons raw sugar

Who says "third times the charm"? With this tea, the second time was certainly the best!

The first time I tried to make this tea I followed the website's instructions, using 8 grams (3 tablespoons) per 17oz. I was more than a little skeptical from the start, as the recommended amount nearly overflowed from my mug's infuser basket. The poor leaves didn't have anywhere to expand, and even with a short steep the liquor was intimidatingly strong and hoppy.

I took what I learned from that steep and applied it to a new cup. Instead of three tablespoons, I scaled it back to one. That meant that the tea leaves actually had room to do their magic, and dance freely around in the infuser basket. The flavor was notably improved, and what was overwhelming is now light and delightful.

It's a wonderful complement to the beauty of the dry tea. The leaves themselves are tight and thin, but with plenty of attitude. Their scent is rich and grassy, and that plays beautifully into the steeped cup. It's sweet and light, with a smooth and sunny vegetive flavor.

Prominent Notes: Slightly floral notes with a consistent vegetal flavor
Aftertaste: Vegetal
Overall: Once you dial in the best cup, it's fabulous!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Premium Tai Piag Hou Kui Green Tea by Teavivre

Seller Description: "Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui grows in Hou Keng on Huangshan Mountain, which is the center producing area of Tai Ping Hou Kui green tea. In China, Tai Ping Hou Kui is famed as one of the most famous ten Chinese teas. Leaves of semi-hand Tai Ping Hou Kui are even in thickness, and have brighter color than Nonpareil Tai Ping Hou Kui. First crafted in 1915, it went on to win gold medal for best tea at the 1915 Panama World Expo. TeaVivre's TaiPing HouKui is an excellent example of this fantastic tea."
Website:  Premium Tai Piag Hou Kui Green Tea by Teavivre
Sample source: Provided

Teaware: 16oz glass infuser mug
Measured dry: 7g
Water Temperature: 175º F
Steeping Time: 2 minutes

Ever since I saw my first image of this tea, I wanted to try it. I love how neat and pretty the leaves are... pressed so thin that when you hold them up to the light you can see such gorgeous patterns!

This is one of the few teas on Teavivre's website that doesn't offer steeping suggestions yet, but they're so fabulously detailed about their teas I can't imagine it will go without long. In the meantime, I looked at several of their other greens and found the ratio of 8 grams per 17oz fairly standard.

Well, these leaves were so light that my entire infuser basket was full before I reached 7! I probably should have taken that as a sign, as even with a 2-minute steep it is pretty intense... and a little hoppy, actually.

Luckily, I had enough of the dry tea to make another batch... and this time I stepped it back to a 3.5g instead. It completely did the trick! I can taste some of the yeastiness of the previous batch, but it is so much more subtle and enjoyable!

Prominent Notes: Vegetive and yeasty/hoppy
Aftertaste: Hops
Overall: Based on this experience, I think Eastern steeping methods might be a better fit for this tea in the future.