Sunday, 8 January 2012

Hosen Sencha

It's been a while, thought I should post something.

Hosen Sencha is that something.

It's from Ippodo and as far as I can tell it's a lightly steamed green tea, I can't see a classification on the site but it appears to be asamushi. I enjoyed the first few sessions but that is to be expected with almost any good quality sencha after a prolonged diet of pu'er. About a week in and things become clearer, this is good but not great. This is a little to subtle for my tastes, or to quick to become bitter with some heavy handed brewing. Reminiscent of Jing's everyday mao jian & bai sha lu in that I could happily drink litres of the stuff in a day but it's never going to really grab my attention.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Georgian Old Gentleman

This black tea was grown in Georgia, sold in the UK, sent over to the USA where it was put in a sample tin before being sent back to me in the UK. This is a well traveled tea. Perhaps we should send a cake of sheng around the world leaving it out to air for a few week in each location to ensure the most well rounded pu-erh yet seen.


On hearing I had some Georgian tea on the way I realised I would probably be in difficultly if asked to point to it on a map, near Russia? Before getting around to googling it the world press ensured I was as up to date as possible with all things Georgian. Strange the way these things happen and I hope all is well for Iuri, who makes this tea, and his one blue eye, one brown eye dog who keeps him company.

The blurb from the supplier:

Our Old Gentleman tea is made by Iuri in the tiny village Nasakirali. His tea has all the freshness of a springtime meadow. Old Gentleman tea is very well twisted and even; it is blacker than our Old Lady tea made by Natela, though hers shows more golden tip. In the cup Iuri's Old Gentleman tea is slightly more robust and complex and is a darker brew, while Natela's is lighter and sweeter, as befits a lady.

Note for animal lovers - Iuri has an unusual black and white dog with one brown eye and one blue eye! His tea is just as unusual!

The photo above is from from my last day with this tea. It was meant to be my second last day with the tea but it'd grown on me so much I needed a refill of the gaiwan and another hour or two of drinking.

The leaf is absolutely gorgeous for a black tea, if I didn't know what I was looking at and was holding my nose I would have assumed this to be oolong from the Wuyi mountains or maybe something of a dan congish nature.

On my first venture with this tea I was not at all impressed at what ended up in my cup. The more I drink, the more I come to love it. A few days have passed since the last of the tea has made it's way to the compost bin and I'm feeling the need for more. The profile shared many similarities with ceylon and qimen but included a fruity hint I've not came across in the others. The tea has such good strength and robustness even my father, a hardened espresso drinker, commented that this was such good solid tea it wouldn't even require milk or sugar. This is not a tea for the lotus white tea drinkers of the world but more of an english breakfast for the more adventurous or a nice black for those who have exhausted the usual suspects.

It's not often I'm impressed with UK tea suppliers, a notable exception was a visit to Tea Smith
a few weeks ago, but I'm keen to place an order with Nothing But Tea who supplied this tea. The only concern I have is that there are no harvest dates listed for any of the teas but I'm hoping an email will resolve this issue.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Shincha & Shaving

I've not gotten around to buying any of this years shincha harvest and so was delighted to receive a sample of o-cha shincha from a fellow tea enthusiast, who really knows his Japanese greens.

My Japanese green tea drinking is a rather sporadic affair, months of very little punctuated by a few weeks of intense consumption of the freshest stuff know to man.

This particular Shincha is Fukamushi Supreme from Shizuoka prefecture of Japan. I've had a few sessions with it now and all have been very enjoyable ways to spend my time. The onslaught of freshness and flavour was not quite as intense as I had built it up to be but on reflection I put this down to the fact that that the only decent Japanese green I've been drinking recently has been matcha which is rather hard to compete with on those terms.

The advice that came with this gift was that this was a tea which could really be stretched as far as number of steeps was concerned.
The advice was astoundingly accurate and has led me to push more than I usually would with this kind of tea, Japanese greens from now on will be pushed that little bit further from here on in. At the end of a late night of tea drinking I have been filling the kyusu with boiling water and have been rising to a breakfast accompanied with some beautifully sweet, cool shincha. The photo above is of an overnight steep decanted into a tetsubin to improve even more so an experience I thought I would never come to relish, shaving - discounting the period where I was too young to shave.

I'm on a steep learning curve with this kind of tea but even when I discarded the brewing parameters and started experimenting I never produced anything short of remarkable. The brew is delicate, sweet, complex and evolves charmingly with each steep. I have been drinking this with such gusto that by the start of the second or third steep I'm sure I'm sweating tea.

Not only does tea enhance my shaving experience just by enjoying it whilst I shave, I'm now fairly convinced it helps with the general mechanics of the process. Warming and wetting the face with hot water is a necessity that is helped along by drinking excessive amounts of tea to the point where I have warm tea coming out of my pores as I shave.

The slow and gentle pour required for decanting the shincha, due to the fine particles, is something I will need to work on. If tea like this can be improved with a little work then I think it might time to start applying more of that kung fu limb control to tea pouring.

Thanks for the samples and advice Chip.

The photo above is again courtesy of my mobile phone. In the, fruitless, hunt for my digital camera I completely forgot I have an old SLR lying in a gadget bag in the loft complete with trimmings. Anyone checking in should be on the lookout for some awful photos taken with enthusiasm as opposed to some make do photos taken with regret.

Monday, 25 February 2008

The 4th Form

Over the past few months the forth empty hand form of Wing Chun has began to filter down from Yip Ching to us on the fringes of the Wing Chun world.

I was a little suspicious when I first heard of the emergence of this form as I suspected it may be more for generating interest and/or money more than for the art, on reflection I suppose interest and money could be seen as a great benefit to the art.
The form appears as a combination of the idea' s from all the other forms: open hand, weapon and wooden dummy After a little chatting and reading it seems that Ip Man was rather keen on someone stripping down the essence of all the other forms into one. Ip Ching, his son, has spent a long time trying to accomplish this and it is now apparently 'ready':

The first few minutes are not the most fascinating but the video does pick up around halfway in. If nothing else the form at least looks far cooler and more impressive than the other forms as Wing Chun has never really been too interested in looking good.
I suspect once learned it may provide a more condensed training tool than practicing all the other forms together. I also worry that it may replace more thorough and concentrated training but I suppose a little of everything could also be a good compliment when training is concentrated on one thing in particular.

If any tea people have gotten this far I've been avoiding tea blogging as my digital camera has gone walkies in my, rather prolonged, house move. I think I'll just bite the bullet and keep on keeping on with my mobile in the mean time.

TChing's Margaret’s Hope Muscatel, Lochan's Muscatel Delight & Temi

These are Indian black teas I'm not overly familiar with. The Margret's Hope Muscatel was obtained from TChing as part of the most recent online tasting session. The other teas are both samples I procured from Lochan Tea. Both of the Muscatel teas are from Darjeeling and the Temi is from Sikkim, to the north of Darjeeling, but I'm sufficiently ignorant of Indian blacks to pop them into the same review. The leaf of the Temi looks similar to most first flush Darjeeling's I've had so far. Both of the Muscatel offerings look similar with the defining characteristic that they contain far lager leaves in the mix than I've seen in this kind of tea before, especially in the sample from TChing.

The aroma of the dry leaf is very perfume-like with floral notes in all three though less pronounced in the Temi. The leaf also displayed a little more endurance than I'm used to seeing in Darjeeling.

I initially brewed these teas in either a 100ml gaiwan or a 50/60ml gaiwan always using just off the boil water. I recently purchased a small clay pot off ebay for a pound, not expecting much on arrival. When the pot appeared I was quite impressed with my bargain and began musing over which tea it should be paired with, it is quite a bit larger than I'm used to in yixing pots around 250ml, and a topic over on Teachat convinced me to give the Darjeelingly teas a shot. I think the choice paid off and I'm loving both the pot and the teas coming out of it far, far more than a few days ago.

Interestingly, possibly, is that my wife was very put off by the smell of the leaf and declared she would not like to try the 'stinky tea'. I convinced her to try it; a few brews in and she was very taken by the floral aspect of the tea and it received an approval, albeit with the disclaimer that it was a little to astringent.
This matches my own view although I do find the astringency far more acceptable than my wife, I eat dark chocolate and she only eats milk so I guess this is inevitable. I also found that the Muscatels showed some parallels with the orchard flower oriental beauty from Stéphane Erler at Teamasters, which is definitely a good thing in my book as this has been one of my fav 'in stock' oolongs since it arrived.

The Muscatel teas were very similar overall. If pushed I would opt for the Margaret's Hope as it did appear to be a higher quality tea in most respects although any future choice would be very much price dependent. The Temi was not quite as interesting as the other two but is far more forgiving as far as brewing goes and much less demanding on the palate, more suited to be drank with food or when there isn't much brainspace to pay attention to tea and you would rather just enjoy a quick brew - horses for courses and all.

Apologies for the quality of the photography but my digital camera has decided to play hide and seek at the moment and the burden of capturing images has been shifted to my mobile phone for the mean time.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

1990 raw Fang Zhuan

1990 raw Fang Zhuan (square brick) from the Menghai region

From Teamasters

Featuring : A nice new teapot!

This is the first big chunk of aged pu I have yet owned - I think I'm allowed to say 1990 is aged without being shouted down too much.

This is what Stéphane has to say about it:
"1990 raw Fang Zhuan (square brick) from the Menghai region (not the factory). This brick contains leaves of all grades. It reminded me very much the smell of tree leaves in the fall, when they are still moist and dry on the ground in misty, foggy woods. It has some fresh taste as well and a strong qi. The mix of grades creates a tea that feels very broad and difficult to grasp. That's why I say there is fog in the forest."

I have had maybe ten sessions with this tea since I acquired it and took the pic you see above. I'm still not exactly sure what it's all about which corresponds nicely with Stéphane and his talk of fog in the forest.

It is an enjoyable and warming tea, that much I am sure of.

The 17 odd years of storage have imparted a shu like quality to the brew. It reminds me of the best bits of good quality compost, in a good way, which again may not be too far from the forest floor that Stéphane recalls. . There is almost nothing in the way of bitterness or astringency detectable. I do not have a great deal of experience with pu-erh but I would hazard a guess that this was not stored in the Sahara.

Considering this fang zhuan was bought for less than some 2007 beengs are selling for I am very happy with my purchase and it is infinity more drinkable than any sheng I have from the past few years, especially in these winter months. I suspect this is not a masterclass in 1990's sheng but it certainly is a tea glad I'm bought, I say bought as opposed to invested. Since I own very little pu-erh more than a few years old it also increases my pu-erh street cred to have a sizable chunk of 17 yr old sheng, not bad eh.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Siu Nim Tao Variations

The most familiar version of siu nim tao to myself, and I presume to most students, is the Yip Man version.
It is said that Yip Man often spent around an hour completing the first section. I should really take more time over this.

Next up we have Gu Lao Wing Chun. This clip is not of siu nim tao as Gu Lao does not utilize the traditional Wing Chun forms. Instead it makes use of 40 techniques, or points which are combined in during combat. I have included this video as it appears to demonstrate a set very similar to siu nim tao but which combines areas of all the other forms. There is also a nice example of sticky hands at the end.

The name Gu Lao traces itself back to the village where Leung Jan, of Prodigal Son fame, retired. It claims a fairly direct and exclusive line of teaching right back to the early development of Wing Chun on the Chinese Opera Red Junks.
I personally like the ides of the small combinations and integration of the forms, perhaps they are not so much integrated as the forms I practice have been seperated out from this.

Lastly for this post, a video from the lineage of Mai Gai Wong or Rice Machine Wong. The most notable point in the clip, for me, is the fact that the hands are followed by the eyes and head.

More Siu Nim Tao soon.