Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Short Notes From The Weekend

Mom's Yin Zhen (Silver Needle) White Tea

Mom's TeaLast night, I opened and tasted my late mom’s tea. Before she was hospitalized, she asked my father, who was visiting Anhui at the time, to buy her a pound or so worth of this spring tips tea. I’m not sure if it’s Bai Hao Yin Zhen (aka Silver Needle) white tea or something else. Can you tell from the pic? It’s definitely made entirely of spring tips, and the resulting tea is white-yellowish in color. Well, now that she is gone, she can’t enjoy it anymore, so I decided to bring back about 250gr of her leftover stash to Los Angeles. It has been sitting in my tea cabinet for about month...I have been reluctant to open and taste it. I still get emotional about losing her.

This tea was probably bought more than a year ago, so freshness was a question. When I brewed it in my gaiwan, the result was a very fragrant light tea. I think it’s jasmine. It has a sweet finish in the mouth, but my throat felt quite dry after swallowing the tea. It’s just an ok-tasting quality.

I wish I could brew this tea for her.

'01 Rosenblum Carla's Vineyard & '01 Columbia Crest Merlot

01 Rosenblum Carla'sI uncorked two wines, one of which was THE wine that got me crazy about zinfandel in the first place. It was the 2001 Rosenblum Carla’s Vineyard, San Francisco Bay ($21). The grapes came from a very old vineyard planted in sand and gravel, and the vines are nearly 100 years old! It is located in the San Francisco Bay area, purportedly next to a K-Mart or a Wal-Mart. The story goes that the monster-sized department store wanted to buy the vineyard land and turn it into a parking lot, but the vineyard owner knew better than to destroy a valuable state’s culture and history.

When the 2001 came out, it received – to my dismay – rave reviews from the Wine Spectator and Robert Parker. It was even crowned #35 on the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 List, which I despise completely for driving prices up and making perfectly good wines in hands of people who “drink the scores”. I had a hard time getting them…a few years ago I was able to obtain 6 bottles from an unknown vendor in Sacramento. Since then, I haven’t seen one in stores or online. Sold out! After opening this bottle, I am left with only one…oh no!

TN: a helluva of a zin! Inky black in my Riedel zinfandel crystal. It’s probably one of the most complex of all zins I have ever had. A beautiful whiff of blueberries, dark cherries, coffee and chocolate. Thick and oily (glycerin-y) mouthfeel with an explosion of concetrated fruits, leather, chocolate on the palate. Finishes very long. So hedonistic!!! It is a big wine, and I don’t think it plays well with meek food. It needs a strong tasting food like a thick slab of meat BBQ-ed on a charcoal grill and rubbed with thick sauces to match.

4 stars (vg!)

01 Columbia Crest MerlotAnother bottle that I uncorked was the 2001 Columbia Crest Merlot, Grand Estates ($9). This was a great QPR (quality-price ratio) for everyday drinking when I don’t feel like having something too heavy or too delicious (yes, there is such a time). I don’t like to drink “Wow” wines everyday. So once in a while, I need something that’s approachable and easy going. This is it.

It strangely received a 90pts from the Wine Spectator, if I remember correctly. It was overrated, in my opinion. Though I dislike the 100-point scale for rating wines, this should fall somewhere around 85 pts in my book.

TN: Sour cherries and tart berries. Not overly complex. It does the job well of pleasing your palate while, say, paying the bills.
3 stars (g)

2005 Chun Ming Factory Spring Sharp Pu'er & Some Wuyi Oolong

05 Chun Ming Pu'er
I received a package from Guangzhou. Who was this from, I wodered? I didn’t order anything from Guangzhou, as far as I know. As it turned out, it was my order from Teaspring.com that I placed about a week and a half ago. I didn’t know that they are located in Guangzhou! I thought I was buying from a vendor in California. Doesn’t matter! The guy who runs the business, Daniel Ong, was very helpful, courteous, and knowledgeable in answering all my questions. I had a good experience before ordering, and now that the order has arrived, I am convinced that they are a reliable source to get great teas from.

Here is what I got: (1) a tong (seven beengs) of the 2005 Chun Ming Factory Spring Sharp Pu’er, (2) 25gr of Da Hong Pao Wuyi oolong to try, (3) a sample of Bai Ji Guan Wuyi oolong and (4) a sample of the Shui Jin Gui Wuyi oolong. Item # 1 is the new pu’er concept that is made entirely of white spring buds. Funny, the reason I bought this tea was (1) I’ve had the 2003 before and found it to be very enjoyable, (2) I bought the 2003 cake in Guangzhou and wished I had bought more than just 1 beeng, and (3) I’d like to age some of the beengs for a few years to see how they evolve. When I saw the 2005 tea available on teaspring’s website, I was very delighted.

I haven’t tried any of the tea I just received yet. I will post tasting notes when I get the chance. As of this moment, there are other teas to be tasted and written about before I try this ’05 Chun Ming beeng.

I highly recommend this vendor. I wouldn’t hesitate doing business with them again. Daniel Ong was very approachable and responsive to my inquiries (thanks, Daniel).

::: Silent Prose Gourmet Bottled Teas :::
A Clueless Vendor Tries To Bridge Wine and Tea Together

I just read about a “boutique” tea business owner in Lake Tahoe, CA, who put brewed teas in wine bottles. I thought it was a clever idea...maybe a bit cheesy, but clever! Bottled tea, however, does not equate to “fine” tea. So when the owner promotes his products as “fine” and charges a lot of money for them, they better be worth the high price. And he better knows what he's talking about if he wants to "educate" the uninitiated (unfortunately, he doesn't seem to). Enough said, read the article here.

If the link above is broken, click here for the article.

An Expensive Nothing

Ito-En Oolong
My wife and I bought a 4-pack canned Ito En oolong at the Whole Foods Market for $5.50! I’m not going to overanalyze it, but I think I know how to make it:

- Use a tablespoon of the cheapest, overly-roasted oolong (maybe a cheap Wuyi)
- Brew the with a gallon of hot water

Result: a colored water with the ever slight hint of roasted smokiness. No taste (except for the smokiness).

0 star (poor)


buzz said...

Rosenblum makes two of my favorite Zins. Their Rockpile Road is just amazing, and ... now of course I can't think of the other one, though it has a different label than their other wines.

MarshalN said...

I'm sorry about your mother, I'm sure you felt nostalgic and sad when you brewed that tea.

Judging from the looks, it seems to me like some sort of oxidized yinzheng -- i.e. stuff that's been around for a while and not having been kept air tight.

The puerh looks good. I wonder how it tastes?

~ Phyll said...

Buzz: Rockpile Road is another one of their big zin! I love it too. The 01 Carla's was similar with the 03 Rockpile in its sheer hedonistic qualities. The 02 and 03 Carla's, however, are not as good as the 01. The 04 is already in the market, but 04 was not a good year for CA zins. I am curious to find out, though. About the other wine, did you mean Annette's Reserve? I've seen one with a black label instead of the generic Rosenblum's label.

MarshalN: Yes, I felt very nostalgic. The memory is still too fresh. Thank you. I think you got it right about the oxidized Ying Zhen! The tea was sitting in a glass jar with a plastic cap for quite some time already (> 1 year). Not an ideal way to store a white tea. I'm just going to enjoy it myself and not serve it to others since it carries some meaning to me.

Imen said...

I am very sorry for your lost. Unimaginable pain you must had gone through.

quote “All teas start off as green tea, unless you pick it earlier, than it is white,” Pacheco teaches. “You brew it and cook it and it becomes oolong tea. You brew it a little more and it becomes pu-erh tea. If you ferment a pu-reh, it becomes a black tea. When you ferment it, it looses some caffeine. The pu-erh is the strongest tea.”
Pacheco also offers the best way to drink their fine teas:

“I think the best way is over ice. You get more flavor when it’s cold — the flavor comes out.”

MY LORD!!! no wonder he's still selling at farmer's market.

~ Phyll said...

Those are exactly the words that really bugged the hell outta me, Imen. Very irresponsible of him.

Imen said...

His ignorance is an insult to the tea world! He should not even be breathing close to any tea.

MarshalN said...

This is the guy selling shit in wine bottles? Gee...

Kaloingie said...

Heheh...as to that stuff in the can...I was a big fan of the bottled teas when I was in China (yeah, yeah, I know they're low-grade), but the oolong version was always my least favorite. Well, next to the sweetened version of barley tea, which to me tasted like the milk left behind in a bowl of honey nut Cheerios...

~ Phyll said...

Kaloingie, thanks for stopping by. I'm a fan of your writings and musings!

You should get Marshaln to brew you a mean cup of oolong, and then you'll see how one can be hooked on it for a lifetime.

I can supply the wine for you. :)

Anonymous said...

What amazes me about you "tea experts" is that you can't figure out that I may have been misquoted. And you great stars of the world can't figure out the closeness of one word to another. But great luck to all of you hopeful dreamers, lost to wasteful criticism placed anywhere you can in negative banter. Also, the tea is one third the cost in a wine bottle as it would be loose.

Have some tea.

Anonymous said...

That's true! If all of the negative people saw with a positive mind they would have come up with a great idea like tea in a wine bottle!

MarshalN said...

Unless the entire thing was misquoted, in which case, I apologize.

But I'd write a letter to the paper, if I were you, to get them to retract that bit. Otherwise... you just lose credibility when people google you and this comes up.

As for the cost -- if the tea were one third the cost in a wine bottle as it would loose, then pray, tell, how do you make money?

Ian said...

Well, I don't know too much about tea in wine bottles, or bloggie flame wars, but I think it's sad to sully such a sentimental post with irrelevant personal stuff.


I'm sorry to hear of your loss. Why do you think your mother reqested this tea? I'm guessing that she remembered a fragrance or characteristic she was fond of or she thought would bring her health. perhaps from a batch of this tea from the past. I hope it gave her some comfort.

I've been tasting some silver needle from tchingstore.com, and I recommend their stock if you want a reminder of what your mother might have been seeking; a sample that I recently ordered from them was fragrant, fresh, and intense: tingly all over. This tea makes you feel healthy and if I am old and sick, I will want some.

~ Phyll said...

Ian, thank you for your kind words. My mom didn't like stronger tasting teas that I brewed...it was too bitter for her. So she preferred the lighter, more fragrant stuff like this jasmine-scented white tea.

I have tried T Ching's silver needle, too, and found it to be good. There are three green teas that I noted down in my Jan. 4th 2007 post. They are all from T Ching.

Thanks again.

Ian said...

I noticed the comments regarding the Zhen Pin Lu Xue Ya, which I've been struggling to appreciate, and wanted to comment to recommend the Silver Needles which didn't require any struggle at all. I'm glad you've tried it.

I also absolutely adore their Frozen Peak Oolong (Dong Ding).

Anyway, how do you recommend that green teas such as these be stored? How about oolongs? Wouldn't a glass jar with a plastic lid be OK, as long as it's out of the light and airtight?

~ Phyll said...

Ian, yes, you want to keep the oolongs and the greens away from light, moisture and air. The airtight glass jar is great as long as it's not exposed to too much light. Consume the green earlier. The oolong will keep for longer, but I believe T Ching's Dong Ding is the greener type, so better to consume it within a year (from harvest) for optimum freshness.

Have you tried different brewing parameters for the Zhenpin Luxueya?

Ian said...

After a few different combinations, and trying this tea quite a few times, I still find it difficult to appreciate. What I mean is that (especially as compared to the Silver Seedles) it's very sensitive to the brewing parameters. I like it OK (two stars?) when I get it just right, and I think I've got how to do that (based on your recommendation: not too hot water, about 160-165, neither too long nor too short steeping, about 30s). But it's not very forgiving: varying from the ideal brewing parameters results in either weak tea (too short steeping or not enough leaves) or an unpleasant bitterness (too hot water or too long steeping). Perhaps it's just my personal preference.

In comparison, the Silver Needles is very robust to brewing conditions: my favorite way to drink this tea is to put it in a gaiwan with 160-180 degree water and drink it directly from the gaiwan. It smells and tastes great no matter how long it steeps although the flavor develops with more steeping.

The TChing Dong Ding is not as green as others I have had: it's more of a honey character. The Silver Needles and the Dong Ding are my current favorite teas, so I'm not actually too worried about long term storage!