Gong Fu Black by Zhi Tea

gong_fu_organicTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Zhi Tea

Tea Description:

Zhi exclusive.

This exquisite black tea from Fujian Province in China has become the favorite at Zhi. If you like the rich complexity of a classic Chinese black tea with all the hallmark smoothness and depth, be prepared to be enchanted. This is a top-grade exclusive tea with a major wow factor.

Thin, twisted leaves present a deep rich red cup with distinct caramelized sugar and chocolate notes and a long creamy finish. Mouthfeel, mouthfeel, mouthfeel.

If you like a great Keemun or a Gold Yunnan then you will love this tea.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

It took me a while to warm up to China black teas. When I began my tea drinking journey I often found these teas to be… lacking. In my mind the black teas from China were a finicky, touchy lot that required absolute precision in the measurement of the tea leaves and the steep time, and even then the resulting infusion was just okay. Now I know it was the quality of the tea I was using that was yielding a poor cup. Once I started drinking higher quality tea my love for black teas from China grew by leaps and bounds. I was introduced to a world of nuances and flavors that I hadn’t experienced in a tea before. I am now a card carrying tea fiend, and China black teas are often found in my teapot. The latest one to find its way into my pot is Gong Fu Black from Zhi.

When it comes to quality organic tea Zhi delivers a wonderful product. Their Gong Fu Black is a delightfully complex tea full of chocolate, baked bread, grain, and nutty notes. There is also a natural sweetness which brings out a lovely fruity flavor. The tea is smooth and full bodied which makes this a wonderful breakfast tea, but I must say that I also really like this in the afternoon. It’s a nice pick-me-up should that mid-afternoon slump hit. Also, this tea re-steeps like a dream which is always a plus in my book.

My favorite way to prepare this tea is using 1 teaspoon of leaves per 8 ounces of 205° F water and letting the leaves steep for 3 minutes, 30 seconds. Over steeping can cause some astringency, but I have let this tea steep for as long as 4 minutes, 45 seconds with great results. A longer steep really brings out the deeper roasted grain notes in the tea. Yum.

It’s fun to look back at my tea journey and see how much I’ve learned. I’ve gone from not liking China black teas to counting many of them among the tastiest teas I’ve tried. Zhi’s Gong Fu Black easily falls into that category. It’s a tea worth checking out.

2005 Changtai Yun Pu Zhi Dian “Top of the Clouds” Sheng Pu-erh from Crimson Lotus Tea

2005-Changtai-Yun-Pu-Zhi-DianTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Pu-erh

Where to Buy:  Crimson Lotus Tea

Tea Description:

This is a very special puerh prepared by the Yunnan Changtai Tea Industry Group. The blenders who work for Changtai are true masters of their craft. The leaves in this puerh are a blend of 15 mountains, Spring picked in 2005. The name for this cake “Yun Pu Zhi Dian” means “Top of the Clouds”. Since Yunnan means “Southern Clouds” this name has a double meaning. It refers to the heavenly experience and also that this puerh contains the best from Yunnan.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I’ve often thought of pu-erh as a cooler weather type of tea because it’s a tea that I prefer to be served hot.  As the tea cools, I find that the flavors begin to mute and become lost.

And yes, I do drink hot tea even in the summer months, in fact, I drink more hot tea than I do iced tea in the summer months, but, I don’t drink as much hot tea in the summer as I do in the cooler months.

2005-Changtai-Yun-Pu-Zhi-Dian2So when I drink a pu-erh, I’m often reminded of the cooler days of autumn and winter, but as I sip this 2005 Changtai Yun Pu Zhi Dian “Top of the Clouds” Sheng Pu-erh from Crimson Lotus Tea, the tea seems to be evoking thoughts of late spring and early summer.

Perhaps it’s the lovely notes of fruit that develop throughout the infusions, starting off with a soft hint of apricot and in later infusions, I notice that the sweet apricot notes are accentuated with a contrasting sour note of tart apple.

Perhaps it’s the lovely background note of flower that seems to bring to mind thoughts of floral aromas filling the air in the spring.  Or maybe it’s the delicate woodsy notes and hints of vegetative earthy tones that remind me of the trees as signs of their springtime foliage begin to grow.

This tea is beautifully smooth and sweet with notes of fruit and honey.  In the earliest infusions, the fruit notes are strongest, but as I continue to steep, the honey develops and the fruit begins to wane somewhat.

Meanwhile, the woodsy notes are developing.  These aren’t musty wood notes, but clean, vibrant woodsy tones.   The tea has a sweetness to it that is balanced with the aforementioned notes of sour apple.

I’ve only just been introduced to this company – Crimson Lotus – but I am quite impressed with this tea.  They specialize in Pu-erh teas.  Those new to Pu-erh will find this a fantastic resource of teas that are good ‘starting out’ Pu-erh (and since they specialize in Pu-erh, they’ll be a great resource of knowledge for you too!)  And for those of you who are more experienced with Pu-erh, I think you’ll find that Crimson Lotus has an amazing selection of intriguing teas.

As for me, I highly recommend this Top of the Clouds Sheng!  It’s delightful!

2014 Zhi Lan Xiang Dan Cong Oolong Tea from Grand Tea

Lan Xiang OolongTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  Grand Tea

Tea Description:

Zhi Lan Xiang Dan Cong Limited Stock Dan Cong is family of stripe-style oolong teas from Guangdong Province. Dancong teas are noted for their ability to naturally imitate the flavors and fragrances of various flowers and fruits, such as orange blossom, orchid, grapefruit, almond, ginger flower, etc. This particular Zhi Lan Xiang Dan Cong oolong has a lovely aroma and a sweetness reminds of honey.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

It’s Oolong time!  Oh, happy day, today I’m drinking this delightful Zhi Lan Xiang Dan Cong Oolong Tea from Grand Tea that was harvested in 2014.  It’s fresh and it is really good.

Really good!

It’s sweet!  And just as the description above suggests, it is very reminiscent of a honey-like sweetness.  I taste notes of fruit – a slightly under-ripe plum that’s both sweet and just a little sour.  There’s a hint of grapefruit, I taste that tangy note from grapefruit as well as just a hint of the bitterness that I’d taste from the citrus fruit.  I am also noticing a woodsy tone that continues to develop as I sip this first cup (infusions 1 and 2 following a 15 second rinse.)

The second cup (infusions 3 and 4) offered stronger fruit notes – I can really taste the grapefruit note this time!  It’s a bright note, complex with notes that are tart and sweet.  I find that the aforementioned plum note is maybe less prominent, allowing for the notes of the grapefruit to shine through.  Lots of sweet honey taste and I taste less of the woodsy tone that I noticed with the last cup.  This cup is all about sweet honey and fruit!

Later infusions produced a more unified taste.  The honey notes became smoother and softer, while the tangy notes of fruit became more subdued, allowing for the sweetness of the fruit and some notes of flower to emerge.

I really enjoyed this tea.  Yes, this Dan Cong Oolong would be welcome in my teacup anytime!

Restful Blend from Zhi Tea

Tisane Information:

Leaf Type:  Herbal Tisane

Where to Buy:  Zhi Tea

Tisane Description:

Our Zhi Signature Organic Restful Blend is pure magic.

A synergy of flavors, bouquets, and a visual delight, as well. We designed this as an evening wind-down drink, but this great as an all-day drink. Naturally zero-caffeine.

Learn more about this tisane here.

Taster’s Review:

This really is a beautiful blend.  The chamomile blossoms are whole and large (no crushed up chamomile powder here!) and together with the lavender, lemon grass, hibiscus petals, and other herbs, it creates a stunning array of flowers and colors that is as pleasing to the nose as it is to the eye!

And, it’s pretty tasty too.  As some of you are probably aware, I’m not particularly fond of hibiscus, but, I’m not finding it to be too overwhelming here.  It is mostly noticeable in the color, and just a little in the texture.  But this tisane is not tart … actually, it’s quite sweet.

This probably has something to do with the stevia, and to be honest, I am usually turned off when tea companies add stevia to their blends, but, with this blend, it works.  It balances out the tart nature of  the hibiscus without making this blend too sweet.

What I like best about this blend, though, is not the chamomile, or the stevia or hibiscus… but the fennel and licorice root!  I love how the distinct licorice notes weave their way throughout the sip.  I also like how there really isn’t one flavor that dominates in this cup.  Each ingredient adds a little something to the overall flavor, giving it a gentle spiced note combined with hints of citrus and floral tones.

This is a very enjoyable way to wind down from a long day!

Aged Bamboo Oolong 1990 from Zhi Tea

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  Zhi Tea

Product Description:

This is a Grade AAA tea from Spring, 1990, stored in a vacuum seal. We have procured this Aged Oolong from Zhu Shan or Bamboo Mountain in Taiwan. It has been refired or roasted eighteen months to retain and enhance its incredible qualities. It was grown at mid/high elevation from a soft stem varietal, in Zhu Shan, Taiwan.

Fantastic rare artisan tea here. Incredibly smooth and complex. Initial strong roasted quality as can be expected with round notes of acorn, baked bread, sweetgrass, and pine.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

The dry leaf aroma is quite unique, unlike any other tea that I can recall.  It does have a roasted smell, reminding me a bit of the smell of burning dry leaves, along with hints of smoke and wood.  It is a very rustic kind of smell, evoking thoughts of a log cabin deep in the forest with smoke billowing out of the chimney.  It is a warm, inviting kind of smell, very masculine.

I steeped this the same way I’d steep just about any other Oolong, using my gaiwan and short steeps, starting with a quick rinse to awaken the tea leaves, and then 45 seconds for the first steep, adding 15 seconds for each subsequent steep.

The first two infusions delivered a very smooth liquor with very little astringency.  The flavor is a roasted kind of flavor … almost charcoal-ish, but not in an off-putting way.  I guess the way I’d explain it as the delicious, deep charred kind of flavor you’d get when you grill food over charcoal.  There are notes of camphor and a sweet caramel-y undertone.  The flavor is so smooth that this cup disappeared rather quickly!

With the third and fourth infusions, I noticed a bit more astringency – mild, but more obvious than with the first cup – and it leaves the palate feeling slightly dry and clean and ready for another sip.  I think that this cup disappeared faster as a result.  There is still that roasted/charred/smoke kind of flavor, as well as a caramel flavor underneath.  I am finding this to taste more of char and smoke, less of wood and of thick caramel, with hints of spice and thinned honey in the background.

The fifth and sixth infusions offer the best flavor yet.  Sweet!  As in SWEET!  Burnt sugar but without the bitterness of the burn … just pure sweet.  Less of the astringency of the second cup, this is smooth like the first, but with less of the charcoal-y charred taste.  The woody flavors seem to have been replaced with hints of earth, and the spice tones have emerged.  I taste freshly baked bread – like the artisan bread baked in a fire-burning, stone oven.  Very rustic and home-y and comforting, what was once an image of a log cabin with billows of smoke from its chimney is now the inside of that cabin, cozy beneath blankets and warm from the fire.

And these leaves appear ready to offer even more infusions!  So, I shall take them up on that offer, and hope that the flavor is as good as that third cup.   Yes!  The sweetness is a bit softer, and the spices … almost cinnamon-y … give this cup a taste that reminds me a bit of cinnamon-raisin toast, maybe even a touch of butter and the edges are not burnt, but almost.  Very toasty and delicious.

A wonderful tea to warm the very heart and soul of this Oolong enthusiast.  If you love Oolong, you must try this one.