Holiday Tasting, December 18th, 2011

White Whisper: Tea production in Kenya was started by the British colonial occupiers at the beginning of the 20th Century, and the region quickly grew into a major source of production of CTC (cut-tear-curl) teas for the large low-quality tea bag industry. But in the past couple of years some of the many small farms in Kenya have begun devoting efforts into producing high-quality, whole leaf and orthodox production teas. We carry a number of these fine teas, sourced from our supplier, Royal Tea of Kenya. White Whisper is one of the finest among these new Kenya specialty teas, with an appearance and production style very similar to Chinese Bai Hao Yin Zhen (Silver Needle), but with a little bit more robustness to its flavor and mouth-feel.

  • FAMILY: white tea
  • BREWING INSTRUCTIONS: 3/4 teaspoon per 8 ounce cup, 160°F (71°C), 2-4 minutes
  • PRICE: $20 per ounce, $10 for a half ounce

Winter 2011 Wenshan Baozhong: This aromatic, lightly-oxidized oolong just arrived from Taiwan yesterday, and it is every bit as delicious as we expected it would be. The tea is grown and processed in Pinglin Township in Northern Taiwan, and yields a smooth, buttery liquor for four or more infusions. Taiwan is known for its high quality oolong production, and this particular Wenshan Baozhong is typical of the family of Baozhong teas, which are sometimes called Pouchong due to variances in systems of transliterating Chinese into the English alphabet, rather than using the original Chinese characters.

  • FAMILY: oolong tea
  • BREWING INSTRUCTIONS: 1 heaping teaspoon per 8 ounce cup, 195°F (90°C), 1-5 minutes, depending on method
  • PRICE: $10 per ounce

Tie Guanyin: This traditional-style Tie Guanyin oolong from Anxi province in China is delightfully flavorful through several infusions. Unlike the green, lightly oxidized, more contemporary style of processing Tie Guanyin this oolong is roasted and exhibits a much darker, less floral character. Tie Guanyin is sometimes translated as “Iron Goddess” and the tea is quite well known throughout China and in the West. Its name comes from a legend involving a noble act by a tea farmer, which resulted in some good fortune bestowed upon him by the Boddhisattva of Compassion herself.

  • FAMILY: oolong tea
  • BREWING INSTRUCTIONS: 1 teaspoon per 8 ounce cup, 212°F (100°C), 3-4 minutes, depending on method
  • PRICE: $5 per ounce

Phoenix Puer Cake: We’re partial to puer teas that come in bright red packages with Phoenixes on them, but there’s a lot more to like about this tea than its pretty decoration. A nice, straightforward and enjoyable shu (cooked) puer, this cake can satisfy people who have already become fans of puer teas as well as serve as a good introduction to puer teas for those who are new to the experience of compressed and fermented teas. We also carry this tea’s companion “dragon” puer cake, which has a slightly sweeter and mellower taste.

  • FAMILY: puer (pu’erh)
  • BREWING INSTRUCTIONS: approximately 1-2″ chunk per gaiwan or small Yixing teapot, 100°C (212°F), 1-5 minutes
  • PRICE: $9.99 for a 100 gram cake

Bai Lin Gong Fu: Canton Tea is a London tea company that consistently offers reliably high quality, tasty teas. They specialize in teas from China, which they source directly from the producers. We have worked out an arrangement with Canton Tea to bring their teas to the US market more conveniently. This is Canton Tea’s description of Bai Lin Gong Fu:

One of the earliest (and best) Chinese black teas ever to be produced, this Bai Lin Gong Fu is made from young wild white tea buds, twisted into tight elegant gold-streaked curls. The liquor is reddish-brown and tastes naturally of caramel and cream so needs absolutely nothing added. This is a wonderful example of whole leaf black tea. It it is a glorious breakfast tea and very reasonably priced for a tea of this calibre. An everyday affordable luxury.

  • FAMILY: black
  • BREWING INSTRUCTIONS: 1 teaspoon per 8 ounce cup, 80°C (176°F), 2-3 minutes
  • PRICE: $8.25 for a 50 gram box