Teaware

Douji Delta and Alpha, More Blind Puer Tea Reviews

Wild Stabs in the Dark

My first guess was that the Delta was a Douji Yiwu. In fact, you can probably just read this review from 2012 Douji Yiwu, and change some slight characteristics and it would describe this tea in a general way. *Post reveal note: However, the sweet dry grass taste of this tea turned out to be a 2008 blend and my guess was way, way off, except that i guessed close on the age.

Dry Puerh Tea
A delta shaped chunk of delta

The first steep of the Delta is a little astringent.

The fragrances are all strong and Yiwu-ish, producing a soft slightly golden (almost seems like 1-3 years age on the tea?) soup. Not much else to say.

Delta spent leaves
Delta spent leaves

Alpha

The Alpha has extremely tight compression. The first three steeps are a wake up call for the tea, which seems to have been pressed with the feather touch of a steamroller.

Green tea puer
A much greener Alpha

After the tea starts to open up, there is a little harshness and a slowly building kuwei [bitterness] and a huigan [sweet aftertaste]. The sweetness in the mouth is the best feature of the tea, which is a bit non-descript and seems like a blend with a Bulang base. As the sessions progresses the soup slowly drifts into a deeper golden color.

Handmade Tea cup
Alpha soup

This tea has profound staying power. A 9 gram chunk in a smallish gaiwan was chugging along for what had to be upwards of 15 steeps, towards the end the steeps were several minutes long and the tea just kept giving. This is a solid tea. If the price is anything ballpark near 7542, I would recommend getting your tough blend needs met right here instead of at Dayi.

Another post reveal note; this tea is the Xiangdou, which is Douji’s entry level brick. It is a solid blend. I couldn’t pick it out directly, but this taste test reaffirms having chosen it for my site last year. It has a nice Mengsong huigan and plenty of bitterness.

Douji Xiangdou
Spent Alpha

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Pouring Tea

Douji Beta and Zeta

Another Round of Blind Taste Tests

Courtesy of China Cha Dao, this round of taste tests are all Douji teas. Same rules as before, I have no idea which tea is which and all of my writing and notes are written before the identities of the teas were released.

Beta

After a rinse and a quick first steep I was expecting a gentle session. There was a gentle fruity feeling in that first quick steep, with a little body and a sweet aftertaste. Then, the second steep was a tide of tobacco and bitter flavors that were under my radar. Never judge a book.

Chinese Gaiwan
Beta Brew

The Beta continues in this same kuwei [pleasant bitter] vein for several steeps, without much deviation. The flavors and feelings are not complex. Just a straight forward bitterness that transitions into huigan [sweet aftertaste]. Not a bad tea. In the later steeps there is a slight harshness that is akin to the acidity of white wine. The huigan is lasting, and there is also a mineral fuzzy feeling on my teeth, like after eating spinach.

Celadon Tea cup
Beta Soup

Again, my cover judging was off about this teas complexity. I was about ready to give up after it was static for several steeps, then the kuwei subsided and some subtle white fruits started showing up and a new dimension materialized. White peaches  in the cup and a surprising amount of interesting aroma in the gongbei [the glass serving pitcher] even after 8 steeps, which is uncommon. Maybe I misjudged the amount early on.

Puerh Leaf Tea
Spent Beta

This is an interesting tea. There is enough going on to keep a session interesting with a range of characteristics. A few odd red flags, like various woody stems of all manner, even with some small chaguo buds [tea seed pod]. Looks like they picked the tea with a thresher. The leaves are not visually pleasing, some are a tallow hue as in the picture above. But, who cares? If there are stems and a tea looks like junk, but the tea itself is pleasant, then who am I to pick fights? Only big complaint is a scratchiness in the throat mid to late session. Otherwise I give it a passing grade.

Zeta

My sample is maocha [loose, unpressed leaves]. The dry leaves are dark in color and smell like autumn tea. Some show various reddish marking even on the dry leaf. The first steep is floral and sweet, similar again to a fall tea with a fall tea feel. Sticky in the throat,  smooth and pleasant.

Dry Zeta
Dry Zeta

The Zeta’s soup is reddish in hue, as opposed to the beta’s golden color. It prances around in black tea territory. It has a strong hongcha [oxidized black tea] element throughout the entire session.

Fall Maocha ?
Red Zeta Soup

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Japanese Green Tea Shincha

2013 Ippodo Shincha

Quality Time with One Tea

My daily tea drinking life is usually defined by slogging through samples in an effort to unearth new puer teas worthy of putting on my website. This sampling is akin to packing a week full of dinner dates with strangers. You meet some new people, most of them are nice folks, and some are jerks. The dating process is grueling and finding a lifelong friend is not an easy task. How many people are any of us truly close with?

We all have that friend who lives 20 minutes away that you only see 5 times a year. You think to yourself, “Bob lives just across town, I can see him anytime!” You both live busy lives. Maybe you catch lunch once in awhile. But, if you don’t meet him, what’s the rush? He’ll be there later. This is how I am with a lot of my puer teas. What’s the hurry? They get better with age anyway!

Japenese Tea Ippodo
Packaging for the new tea

This was not the case with the Ippodo Shincha, which came with a clock attached. It said, “I am only in town for a few weeks. Let’s enjoy our time together and then I will be gone.” This added urgency turned my lax attitude into a Before Sunrise scenario. All I could do was enjoy the time the Shincha and I had together. In situations where two lovers have limited time, feelings get deep quick. (By the way, if you have not watched the trilogy Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight, watch them. In succession. Bring tissues.)

Ippodo Shincha
The Shincha

It took me about two and a half weeks to explore this “medium sized can” of tea, and at the beginning I was out of my element. I have not had any formal training in brewing Japanese greens, so I searched online for recommendations and tried different brewing times, temperatures, and water ratios until I found one that fit my taste. Brewing Japanese green teas takes more finesse than puer tea. In my first several sessions, I tried to follow Ippodo’s enclosed instructions very closely, but I was either too brutish or didn’t apply enough pressure, and the results were a loss of the peripheral flavors of the tea. With puer, you still need to have your gongfu brewing skills down, but you have a little room for error. Japanese green tea responds to missteps in the dance with winces of pain. When you step on toes, your partner alerts you with a spiteful glare.

Green tea pot
Tea in a small pot (I usually brewed with a different pot)

After several days, the dance became fluid and we learned how to move together. Day after day of the same tea gave me a deeper perspective into the subtleties of what the tea could do for me and what I could do for it.

Imagine a tall tree with a thick trunk on top of a hill. This tree is the beany, vegetal flavor that stands tall in the center of the Shincha’s flavor. Up in the branches of the tree, there live little birds and squirrels. These tiny flavors dart in and out of the branches and circle around the trunk of the giant tree. There are sweet fruity birds that can be coaxed out of their nests to play in a backdrop of the tea’s calm clarity. A residual tangy sweetness was left in the mouth after each cup.

Shincha
Green tea soup

The Shincha had three steeps of life in it, with the subsequent steeps being too weak to follow. An opening steep; the light entry. A second steep; where the animals came out to play. And a third steep; the wave goodbye. At least, that is how I brewed it. Everyday with the Shincha offered something a little different, especially while I tweeked my brewing habits. After each session a long sweetness lingered in my mouth, along with the memories of the tea.

The extended time with a single tea helped build a lasting relationship. I look forward to next year’s visit.

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Chinese Teas

The End of Speed Dating

The Best Laid Schemes…

Originally I had lofty ambitions of a full review for each tea from the generous YS sample pack, but the arrival of my Ippodo Japanese Shin-cha derailed my ambitions.

Ippodo Shincha Japanese Green Tea
A lovely spring distraction

Shin-cha is a tea best consumed fresh and only sold for a couple of months every Spring. Ippodo is not able to ship directly to China, so I had to employ some Hong Kong tea smugglers to carry the contraband over on a voyage to the Mainland. The underground tea smuggling community is a cutthroat band of miscreants. Luckily, the delivery arrived intact. Opening the fresh green tea put me on a clock to work it into my daily routine and finish it, which is both good and bad. Gladly it meant a delicious Japanese green tea nearly everyday for the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately for the sample pack, it drained some of my blind taste testing ambition.

Out of the remaining samples, only a couple of teas really stuck out for me, so naturally they will get the bulk of the attention. The rest sort of faded into the mix, which is usually how sampling goes.

Blind Dates of Note: Lambda and Mu

First the Lambda.

Dry Lambda
Dry Lambda

The smell off the leaves involves grape-like tannins.

The first steep is promising. Some body and interesting depth from the beginning.

Lambda Soup
Lambda Soup

Second steep, things get more interesting. This is the first tea (other than Mu below) that I have been really interested to see behind the curtain. If there were 10 layers to the tea, on layer 9 or 10 there is some slight over roasting. That flavor further diminishes  on the third steep, disappearing later on.

Spent Lambda
Spent Lambda

The thickness of this tea is beyond most of the other teas in the group. Cooling in the back on the throat, which lingers for a long time. There is some reasonable depth in this tea. Curious to see what it is. (Note: Later found out this is a Simao blend of 4 teas)

On to Mu.

This tea had a very strong fragrance, which filled up the room. Some of the leaves below on the gaiwan lid, which appear to be a bit oxidized.

Dry Mu
Dry Mu

This tea was overall my favorite of the bunch. It had the most body and complexity of the entire batch. Some Qi [voodoo feel] and a complexity, which were far above anything else in the group.

Mu Brew
Mu Brew
Bad lighting tea leaves
Mu Leaves, bad lighting on this pic

 

Seems my final list, which is something like:

1.Mu

2. Lambda

3. everything else.

Kind of jives with Jakub’s list. I also share his sentiment, that Mu would probably be the tea I would lean towards buying if I were picking from the group. The Lambda is a blend of Simao area tea and the Mu is a Nanpozhai. I am curious to see how the Mu will age!

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