Friday, May 1, 2015

Matcha Madness!

I was lucky enough to participate in a blind matcha taste test! This taste test pits 12 different matchas against each other and are judged based on color, sweetness, and flavor (scored 1-10). These samples are only labeled with a number, so I have no clue which one is which! The rankings and names are listed below along with a price per oz of the matcha. I was only given the names AFTER I finished testing all of them and submitted my results to a third party.

Numbered matcha samples!

This blind matcha taste test was hosted by Red Leaf Tea - I do not have any affiliation with this brand. I've actually never had their matcha before, so it's definitely fair!

The Process:

To make my matcha, I'll be using traditional tools - a chawan, bamboo whisk, and chashaku. To make a bowl of matcha, I'll be using one chashaku scoop in 4oz of water heated to 175 degrees.
Tools of the trade
Let's get to the results!
Colors of the matcha samples - top row (1-4, l-r), middle row (5-8), bottom row (9-12)

Sample #1: 
100% Pure Organic Matcha - Matcha Organics
Price per oz: $6.24

Color: 4
Flavor: 5
Sweetness: 1
Notes: A brownish green color. Not a bad flavor, but it's really bitter! Definitely not one to drink unless you're using it in a latte or some other use.

Sample #2: 
Pure Green Tea Powder - Tradition
Price per oz: $1.22

Color: 2
Flavor: 3
Sweetness: 3
Notes: This matcha is a dull brown-green and has a mild bitterness. The flavor here is seaweed, which I definitely don't want to taste in my matcha.

Sample #3: 
100% Organic Japanese Matcha - Doctor King
Price per oz: $6.00

Color: 4
Flavor: 3
Sweetness: 4
Notes: Some nice vegetal notes in this matcha, but it's definitely not sweet at all. Very smooth to drink. I had a very hard time getting this to froth and the froth dissipates very quickly.

Sample #4: 
Organic Matcha - ONE ORGANIC
Price per oz: $2.27

Color: 4
Flavor: 2
Sweetness: 3
Notes: Dark brownish-green color. It's a little bitter and tastes like cardboard.. A very powdery aftertaste makes me not want to drink it again.

Sample #5: 
100% Organic Matcha - Enzo
Price per oz: $5.50

Color: 4
Flavor: 1
Sweetness: 5
Notes: No bitterness in this matcha, but not sweet either. Hard to froth and tastes very metallic. I had to dump this one in the sink.

Sample #6: 
Organic Matcha, Culinary Grade - TerraVerve
Price per oz: $8.52

Color: 8
Flavor: 6
Sweetness: 7
Notes: Finally, a good matcha! A nice vibrant green - definitely the best color out of all the samples.  Very clean tasting with nice vegetal notes. Slightly sweet and no bitterness.

Sample #7: 
100% Pure Organic Matcha - Matcha Organics
Price per oz: $1.93

Color: 2
Flavor: 1
Sweetness: 1
Notes: Yikes.. I guess this where you say, "You get what you pay for." This is a very pale matcha and very bitter. It froths up great though, which is the only positive quality. My notes say that it tastes like vomit. Yuck. Dump this one out.

Sample #8: 
Organic Matcha - Matcha DNA
Price per oz: $2.47

Color: 4
Flavor: 5
Sweetness: 5
Notes: Nice vegetal notes. Just a little bitter, but a good sweetness as well.

Sample #9: 
Organic Matcha, Culinary Grade - Kiss Me Organics
Price per oz: $6.25

Color: 6
Flavor: 2
Sweetness: 5
Notes: A nice dark green color. No bitterness and a nice froth, but it tastes metallic and powdery.

Sample #10: 
Organic Matcha - uVernal
Price per oz: $6.25

Color: 5
Flavor: 5
Sweetness: 4
Notes: This is a yellow/brownish-green. Nice nutty and vegetal flavor with a little bitterness.

Sample #11: 
Starter Matcha - Red Leaf Tea
Price per oz: $0.94

Color: 5
Flavor: 5
Sweetness: 3
Notes: Good vegetal notes, but has a mild bitterness. This would be better as a latte or smoothie, but incredibly good for the price.

Sample #12: 
Deluxe Matcha - Red Leaf Tea
Price per oz: $1.56

Color: 7
Flavor: 7
Sweetness: 8
Notes: Great color and absolutely no bitterness. This is the only sample that you can smell the sweet honeysuckle flavor emanating from the brew. Great taste and sweetness!

First Place: Deluxe Matcha - Red Leaf Tea
Second Place: Organic Matcha, Culinary Grade - TerraVerve
Third Place: Organic Matcha - Matcha DNA

Alright! While the first and second place matchas are close, the price is the real story! The Deluxe Matcha from Red Leaf Tea is only $1.56 per oz whereas the Organic Matcha, Culinary Grade from TerraVerve is $8.52 per oz. I definitely enjoyed both of these matchas, but I love a good deal!

Check out detailed graphs of my tastings below!

Until the next cup.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Kyoto Grape Oolong - Naivetea

Today, we have a beautiful grape oolong from Naivetea! First of all, the packaging for the teas I got from Naivetea is amazingly beautiful.

I decided to brew this in my glass teapot to get a nice view of the leaves unfurling...

Enough pictures though! Naivetea continues to amaze me with their infused oolongs. Each one is magical and perfectly flavored, avoiding the "fake" taste that some other teas have. This grape flavor tastes like I'm eating fresh concord grapes with the subtle flavor of a green oolong.

This is definitely a great tea to have!

Steeping instructions:
1tbsp/8oz/195 degrees/50 seconds

Until the next cup.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Menghai 7262 Shou Puerh

Today, I'm having the Menghai 7262 Shou! This is actually my first shou (cue the gasps!) and I'm looking forward to discovering the complexities of it. I received this as a generous sample from a fellow teafolk, so I didn't have to worry about butchering another toucha.
On to the steeping! I used 9 grams in a 100ml gaiwan. This produced a very dark brew and smelled of mushrooms and smokiness.

By the way, this is my cute little gaiwan - I'm a huge fan of dragons, so I got a dragon-themed gaiwan set!
Anyway, the shou has a very smoky flavor that evolves into a mushroom flavor for the first few steeps. The subsequent steeps (after the 15 second steep mark) develop a light sweetness as a nice balance to the smoky flavor of the shou. Overall, this is a terrific shou that I would love to have again!
Steeping Instructions:
9 grams, 100ml, 200 degrees, 5 seconds (first steep)
Until the next cup. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Green Gold - Mandala

Today, I'm having a nice cup of Green Gold from Mandala Tea!
Greens and oolongs are my favorite two types of tea, which is unusual considering my history with tea. I could probably dedicate a whole post to my background with tea and why I started drinking tea! Anyway, I was excited to receive multiple green teas from Mandala in a recent order and wanted to share this one with you.
Green Gold is magical to me - the curled dry leaf transforming in my glass teapot is extraordinary to watch. The smell of the dry leaf reminds me of Clouds and Mist tea, which can be found in many variants. The tea brews into a pale yellow-green (or green gold!) which has a mild vegetal smell to it.
The taste is a smooth, buttery, vegetal ride through the world of green tea. There is so much complexity through the sweet notes of the tea and the underlying vegetal taste, culminating with a palate-refreshing buttery finish. This is definitely a tea for morning, afternoon, and evening!

Steeping Instructions:
1 Tablespoon, 16 ounces, 175 degrees, 1 minute

Until the next cup.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

2010 Da Ye Sheng Puerh - The Tea Kings

Today's tea is the 2010 Da Ye Sheng from The Tea Kings! Now, I'm relatively new to tea, so I'm also relatively new to puerh, leading to an interesting session starting with figuring out how exactly to break apart this extremely compressed toucha! Luckily, I purchased two of these toucha, so I found an opportunity to take the entire thing apart as an experiment (which didn't go so well...).
My feeble attempt at picking apart a toucha
Now, on to steeping! I steeped this with 6g of tea for a 100ml gaiwan. I rinsed the sheng quickly twice, then let the leaves sit for a short break. I started my steeping session with five second steeps and incremented from there accordingly.
Da Ye Sheng

The taste of this puerh is very smoky and wood-like. The further steeps added a slight sweetness to the golden-yellow tea, which balances the smokiness very nicely. I was able to get a nice 12 steeps from the 6g of sheng that I used in this session.
Steeping instructions:
6 grams, 100ml gaiwan, 185 degrees, 5 seconds (first steep)
Until the next cup.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Taiwan Jin Xuan Milk Oolong - Teavivre

Today's tea is a nice Jin Xuan from Teavivre. Now, if you didn't already know, Jin Xuan is also known as "milk oolong" because of it's naturally milky flavor. Now, you can buy flavored Jin Xuan, but I don't recommend it as the artificial milk flavor overpowers the natural flavor of the tea. The natural milky flavor that appears after the tea has been lightly roasted as a part of the oolong process is called Nai Xiang or "milk fragrance."
Now, onto the tea!
The dry leaf of the Jin Xuan smells very sweet and creamy - almost good enough to eat! A first steep for two minutes at 190 degrees yields a nice, light yellow tea with the sweet aroma of honey and milk.
Jin Xuan Milk Oolong
The taste of the tea is magnificent and transformative. The sweet subtle milk flavor takes over your palate and bursts with sweet honey flavors. This tea excites and calms, creating a pleasant feeling of warmth with every sip.
Further steeps of this tea (increasing by 30 seconds) yield the same quality tea with little to no transformation in flavor.
Steeping recommendations:
1 Tablespoon, 16 ounces, 190 degrees, 2 minutes
Until the next cup.