Posts Tagged ‘Darjeeling’
Tea Company: Pure Matcha (website)
Vendor Suggested Preparation: not listed online
The name “Green Matcha” may sound redundant, but Pure Matcha delineates it that way for a reason. Of their three products available, only the Green Matcha is traditional matcha. The other two are matchas made from a Darjeeling/Assam blend and rooibos, respectively. I recently had the pleasure of trying out their wares for the first time. While I could’ve gone for the traditional matcha first, I actually bee-lined for the oddities instead. Both were wonderful. Now, it was time for their flagship product.
Pure Matcha gets their namesake offering from the Nishio region of Aichi Prefecture, Japan. While not the largest city in Japan by any standard, it does have an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for holding the largest simultaneous tea ceremony ever. Nishio is also considered one of the primary growing regions for top-quality, ceremonial-grade matcha – along with Uji. Matcha is also produced in Izu, Shizuoka Prefecture, but I’ve found theirs to be mid-grade at best.
Right off the bat, without using too many superlatives, I have to say the stuff looked gorgeous. Identifying high-quality matcha isn’t that difficult; the brighter – more vibrant – the green color, the better it is. This was the boldest, brightest, darkest green powder I’d yet come across. And the aroma – dear Buddha! – it was incredibly sweet and kelpy. Granted, I’ve read aromatic notes to that effect but never really ran into them myself until now. I even bought a new chashaku (bamboo matcha spoon) for the occasion.
Preparation for this seemed easy enough. I used my usual miso soup bowl, took 2 chashaku spoonfuls-worth of powder (usucha or “thin tea”-style), used a tiny bit of cold water to sift out the clumps, and heated some more water at about 160F. Next, I took my chasen (bamboo whisk) and stirred the heck out of the green concoction.
The result was a radiactive green, bubbly liquor with sweet, seaweed-like nose. This had frothed up wonderfully, another revealing trait for high-quality matcha. The flavor echoed the visual and aromatic excellence with an only-slightly vegetal (but not spinachy) cup that held onto its sweetness like green tea ice cream. The fluffy texture was also welcomed on the foretaste and all the way to the finish. Without exaggeration, probably the best matcha I’ve ever tried.
You can purchase the Green Matcha directly from the Pure Matcha website.
Tea Company: Lochan Tea (website)
Ingredients: Black Tea
Vendor Suggested Preparation: not listed
Indian tea estate names are fun to say and to think about: Goomtee, Moondakotee, Namring, Tumsong. In the case of Thurbo Tea Estate, the name evolved from “tumboo,” the Nepalese word for “tent.” Evidently, British troops set up camp there in the early 19th century. Had they had the opportunity to sample this excellent first flush tea, they would have permanently occupied the plantation!
Historical kidding aside, this is definitely a Darjeeling to linger over. The dry leaves are a light greenish gray with plenty of those blond tips that tip you off to “this is really going to be nice.” The first whiff was almost reminiscent of chocolate–dark and sweet.
With water just under boiling, and 3 1/2 minutes or so, the tea steeps into a beautiful honey color, but don’t let the lightness fool you–this has plenty of flavor. Close your eyes, smell the steam, and you’ll wonder if you accidentally put your nose in a bottle of Welch’s unsweetened grape juice.
Newbie tea drinkers often wonder why they can drink cups of certain varieties of tea and still feel a little thirsty. That’s astringency (I’m so proud of myself when I learn new tea tearms!) and Thurbo Darjeeling has plenty. The champagney-grape flavor puts a puckery wrinkle in your tongue and lips, which makes it that much more desirable to take another sip. And another. And another.
You can find Lochan Teas directly from the Lochan Tea website.
Tea Company: Grace Tea Company (website)
Ingredients: Black Tea
Vendor Suggested Preparation: not listed
This Grace tea is called Winey Keemun and gets its name from sharing an affinity to wine, at least in using similar descriptors such as body and colour. This tea is a blend of teas from 3 continents: China, Formosa and Indian teas, similar to an English Breakfast Tea. Grace reminds us this is a specialty tea as the leaves have been extra slow-fired.
I did a search and came up with some fairly standard wine terms from Dummies.com. So, is it possible to take wine terms and apply them to tea? I picked a few wine terms and placed their tea compliment following the term: Aroma/bouquet, body/liquor, flavour intensity/depth of flavour, softness/mouth feel, and tannins/dryness in the mouth. Tea typically needs much more inspection than wine. Tasters read the actual leaves. Wine lovers read a label. One could say my humour is “tannic” (dry).
Lets look at the leaf first. The leaf is interesting. I think the longer leaves are from Formosa. There are some broader matt-black flat leaves possibly from China that have a good curl and lots of smaller pieces possibly from India’s CTC processing including some golden tips. The scent of the leaves is a bit like a stone fruit, a peach or apricot. What I am expecting I’m not sure. The leaves are telling me the colour will be quick to express but the flavours will develop with time. Grace recommend a 5 minute steep. So, I’ll try the traditional 2.5 grams in a glass tea pot with 5 oz water at 200 degrees F. for the 5 minutes, then lets see what part of this tea is winey.
The colour of the liquor is clear and bright with a medium mahogany brown-red and a malty aroma to the liquor. There is an acid-bitterness taste and citrus notes that are obvious. The flavour intensity is not as deep as an orange pekoe but not as complex as a Darjeeling, so I’d call this a medium intensity tea. There is some natural sweetness coming through the bitterness. The Formosa minty-clean on the breath is unmistakeable. The softness/fullness in the mouth is enjoyable but not as much as other teas, so I’d call this a medium for mouth feel. The tannins are not light but they also do not have the same strong levels as tannins in wine either. The bitterness is peculiar though and left a strong after taste in my mouth. Astringency from tea tannins leaves a dry mouth, not a bitter mouth. I decided to add milk. Sure enough the tea could take the milk, killing the bitterness. This left me wondering if a 4 minute steep would be better.
I returned to try a new shorter steep and the results were much better. Sure enough, the liquor was smelling floral now. There was a slight smokiness coming through on taste from that slow-fired approach and the bitterness gone. There were taste complexities coming through including a bit of fig-flavours coming in now. There is a pleasant lingering taste . Its amazing what a difference 1 minute will make. This tea is not very forgiving, so watch your timing carefully. Winey tea.
As a recommendation, this tea can be taken in the afternoon with a savory or sweet snack or with a heavier meal in the evening. I think it would be great as an after dinner beverage as well as the robustness would be appreciated.
You can purchase the Winey Keemun English Breakfast directly from the Grace Tea Company website.
Tea Company: Canton Tea Co. (website)
Ingredients: Black Tea
Vendor Suggested Preparation: Use 1tsp per cup (200ml); water temperature around 100degC (212degF): and infuse 2-3 mins.
Steeping these leaves in a small, ceramic teapot, I would love to say that the smell conjured up old memories of camping trips and the like…but it did not. It was, however, a delightful aroma that wafted from my teapot to my nose. I steeped the leaves for 2 minutes and 30 seconds, a happy compromise when the website suggested 2-3 minutes. Based on my initial impressions of the tea, if you use the correct amount, then 2 minutes is good for a very light tea, and 3 minutes is good if you like your black tea stronger (as I do). Canton Tea Co’s website says that they stored this tea for an extra year to enhance the smokiness and fruit flavours, and I would certainly agree that this has been successful.
The post-steeped leaves are twisted and curly, reddish brown in colour. When I take my first sip, I notice that the smokiness of the tea has a certain subtlety, and the aroma is not overwhelming, as it can be at times with Lapsang Souchong. The tea has brewed a golden brown colour. The forward taste of this tea is light and smooth, while the smokiness dwells in the aftertaste. The aftertaste also contains almost-fruity notes, following the smokiness. These then meld back into a mellow smoked black tea flavour, which is light, almost like a darjeeling.
I would give this tea an 85/100 on my personal enjoyment scale. It was truly a delectable treat.
You can purchase the Original Lapsang Souchong Black Tea | Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong directly from the Canton Tea Co. website.