Yunomi Tea Discoveries Club, February Review (Part 2)

yunomi2As I mentioned in yesterday’s article – I’m back with “Part 2” of the Yunomi Tea Discoveries Club review of February’s shipment!  Today’s article will highlight my experiences with two more Hojicha teas as well as another Japanese Oolong – I’m excited to get started, so let’s not dilly-dally!  Let’s jump right in!

autumnhojichaThe first tea that I’ll be discussing is Autumn Hojicha Roasted Green Tea from Takeo Tea Farm.  The first thing I noticed about this tea is that it starts out delicately.  My first few sips were very softly flavored.  I could taste light notes of sweet, toasty nut flavor, but they were quite subtle.  It wasn’t until the third or fourth sip that the flavors started to become more focused.  Now that I’m about halfway through the cup, the flavors are sweet, roasty-toasty, and nutty … and very well defined!

With those initial first couple of sips, I was starting to think that this tea was much more delicate than the Hojicha I had tasted for yesterday’s article, but now, I’m thinking twice about that.  These two Hojicha are very similar though, but I think that this one might taste a little more ‘roasted.’  Both are spectacular varieties of Hojicha, though, and I’d heartily recommend either, but this is the one I’d point you toward if you were looking for a stronger roasted flavor.

SONY DSCThe next tea that I’m tasting from Yunomi’s Tea Discoveries February package is #03 Black Oolong Tea from Kaneban Higuchi Tea Factory.  I found myself wondering as I brewed this tea in my gaiwan how much different it would be from last night’s experience with the Oolong tea from Takeo.

And there are some distinct differences in the two.  This has more of a sweet potato flavor to it!  I love that I’m tasting sweet potato!  There are hints of smoke to the flavor.  This reminds me more of a black tea than an Oolong.  It doesn’t have the same texture as I experienced with the Oolong from Takeo.

If I were to attempt to describe this tea in one sentence, it might go something like this:  this tea is what I’d imagine the love child of a Japanese black tea and Formosa Oolong tea would taste like.  I’m getting that rich flavor that I remember from the few Japanese black teas that I’ve tried, and I’m tasting notes of peach that I’d taste in a Formosa Oolong.  Along with the softest hint of smoke.

Quite lovely!

premium-houjicha1The final tea in this month’s Tea Discoveries package is Superior Hojicha Roasted Green Tea from NaturaliTea.  When I opened this pouch, the roasty-toasty aroma filled the air.  This tea seems to have more roasty-toasty-ness to it.

And that’s evident in the flavor too.  The flavor here is much stronger, right from the very first sip.  The roasted flavors are intense.  I can almost taste the charred wood notes of the wood that was used to roast this tea.   Most Hojicha – including the previous two teas that I tasted from this month’s Tea Discoveries Club – tend to have a delicate flavor.  This tea is more in your face.  Very roasty.  Very toasty!  Very nutty and sweet.  I’m getting mineral notes and a distinct charcoal-y flavor from it too.

And smoke!  I don’t usually taste smoke from a Hojicha.  I taste the roasty-toasty, nutty flavors, but the smoke?  No, not always.  I might have noticed smoke on an occasion or two, but here, the smoke is evident, particularly in the aftertaste.  Nice!

This is the tea for those who liked Hojicha but wanted a stronger flavor to it.  This tea delivers that!  It’s warm and cozy and comforting, but it’s also offers a bold flavor that is not common in your average Hojicha.

This month’s Tea Discoveries Club just reaffirms to me that YOU should be joining me on these discoveries!  The teas are remarkable and it’s really interesting for me to see how teas – like Hojicha – can differ from producer to producer.  You should never judge your like/dislike of a particular tea type based only on one sampling.  You should give yourself a chance to explore the teas – even those you may not have enjoyed from other tea companies – because you never know what you might be missing.

The Tea Discoveries Club gives you the unique opportunity to really explore Japanese Teas!

Master Han’s 2013 Sheng Pu-er Tea from Verdant Tea

Master-HanTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Pu-erh

Where to Buy:  Verdant Tea

Tea Description:

Beautifully complex, this young pu’er is creamy with citrus notes and a floral finish. Steep small and short infusions up to 10 times and experience this tea transforming on your tastebuds. Starting sweet, this brand new pu’er develops woody and nut characteristics. Enjoy the bright astringency of this tea as it layers over each steeping.

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn more about subscribing to Amoda’s Monthly Tea Tasting Box here.

Taster’s Review:

Yeah, I’m really behind on the February teas from my Amoda Tea Tasting Box!  I’ve already received my box for March, and I haven’t finished sampling the teas from February!  This Pu-er Tea from Verdant Tea – Master Han’s 2013 Sheng – is the last from my February box.

I guess it just goes to show how I tend to procrastinate when it comes to pu-erh teas.  And I really shouldn’t, because I have enjoyed most of the pu-erh teas that I’ve tried in the last couple of years.  After learning the proper way (or at least the proper way for ME) to brew a pu-erh, I’ve come to appreciate a good pu-erh.  And this one from Verdant is a good one!

Then again, I can’t think of a time when I’ve been disappointed by Verdant Tea!

This pu-erh is quite special.  The aroma is not at all what I’d expect from a pu-erh.  Usually, I detect some earthy notes – even from a young Sheng – but, all I smell here is a strong vegetative note that falls somewhere between kelp and steamed spinach.

After a quick rinse, the first infusion was steeped for 1 minute.  Normally, I would go for just 30 – 45 minutes, but, I got distracted and it steeped for a full minute.  This cup was light and refreshing!  Sweet!  It has a creaminess to it that I don’t recall ever experiencing with a pu-erh tea.  There is a distant nutty tone to this, and a crisp, bright citrus note.

My second cup (also infused for 1 minute) has a stronger flavor.  There is a slight floral note to this cup – again, not a flavor I’d usually associate with a pu-erh – and it is somewhat sharp.  This cup is less creamy and delicate than the first was.  I can also taste the woodsy notes start to develop and the distant nutty tone start to emerge.

Subsequent infusions brought those woodsy notes forward, and the warm, sweet nutty flavors were more pronounced.  The citrus notes were still present in the third cup, but by the fourth cup, I couldn’t find them without really focusing on the flavors swirling around on the palate.  The fruit notes seem to have melded with the other notes.  The same is true of the creamy notes that I noticed in the first two cups.

Most of the flavors started to taste more mellow and unified with the third cup and this seemed to continue with the infusions that would follow.  The floral notes were delicate in the third cup, but I really enjoyed their presence.  I liked the slight sharpness and the contrast it brought to the cup.

Despite my misgivings about having a Pu-erh in my Amoda Tea box for February … I really enjoyed this.  I shouldn’t have been so apprehensive – it is, after all, a tea from Verdant Tea!

Lychee Black Tea from King’s Zen Tea


Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Amoda Tea

Tea Description:

The dry leaf smells incredible. Lychee fruit is unique and distinct. Hopefully you’ve tasted lychee before, because it’s flavor is tough to compare. It has a natural sweetness that is present in this tea. Mixed with the smoky Chinese black tea, you get something a little exotic, sultry and sweet. This tea is smooth and light-bodied.

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn how to subscribe to Amoda’s Monthly Tea Tasting Box here.

Taster’s Review:

Lychee teas are often hit or miss with me.  Sometimes the Lychee is just too much – way too fragrant, way too over-scented, and the cup ends up tasting like someone spiked my tea with artificial tasting, nasty chemicals.  Then there is sometimes the opposite side of the spectrum, where the tea is lacking in scent and flavor.

But this Lychee Black Tea from King’s Zen Tea – a tea I received in my Amoda Tasting Box for February – is really fantastic.  The black tea base is nicely pronounced here – it isn’t hidden behind the Lychee flavor.  It tastes rich and smooth, with a hint of smoke and I think that this smoky tone interacts quite well with the sweet, exotic flavor of the lychee fruit.

I have to disagree slightly with the description above, I don’t think I’d categorize this as a “light-bodied” tea.  The lychee taste is light (when compared to a typical Lychee Congou tea) but the tea itself is what I’d categorize as a medium bodied tea … or even a medium to full bodied tea.  It has a nice richness to it, it certainly isn’t as thick or rich as … say, an Assam tea or a Yunnan tea, but, it has an understated yet satisfying richness to it that is a bit more than what I’d call “light.”

The lychee fruit flavor is indeed subdued compared to some of the other lychee scented teas I’ve experienced.  But I think that’s what I’m digging so much about this cup … it doesn’t have that overwhelming lychee taste that almost tastes of chemicals.  This tastes light, sweet, and naturally fruit-y, while still maintaining that rather unique lychee taste.

A very nice cup.  Thank you Amoda, for including it in this month’s box!

Organic Dragon Well from Rishi Tea

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Rishi Tea

Tea Description:

Dragon Well (Long Jing) is the most famous Chinese green tea, named after the Dragon’s Well landmark in the West lake area of the Zhejiang, where the tea originated. Dragon Well is a pan-fired green tea flat fried by hand in large woks one small batch at a time. This artisan processing technique yields a tea with leaves shaped like the blade of a sword. Each spring, during the prime Dragon Well harvest, we select a unique quality that has a balance of fresh green and smooth toasted flavors. Rishi’s Dragon Well is mellow and smooth with a fresh bittersweet finish and roasted chestnut aroma.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This month’s Steepster Select Box was a celebration of the Chinese New Year which marked the beginning of the Year of the Dragon.  To celebrate this occasion, the Steepster Select Box included three Chinese teas:  Two Dragons and a Pearl; a flowering tea from Teavivre; Dragon Well (Long Jing) from Rishi Tea; and Pheonix Yunnan Gold from Tea Valley.  The flowering tea and the Yunnan tea are two teas that were new to me, and I’ve already reviewed them this month, but this Organic Dragon Well from Rishi Tea is one that I’m familiar with as I reviewed it several years ago.

This Dragon Well holds a somewhat special place in my heart as it represents the first Dragon Well tea that I tasted that I enjoyed, having had somewhat of a bad experience with a Dragon Well quite some time ago, I was hesitant to try it again.  Since that time, I’ve realized that I’m actually fond of most Dragon Well teas, and I therefore must assume that it was how I brewed the tea, and not the tea itself that I found distasteful those many years ago.

The tea has a light to medium body and a crispness to it that is quite refreshing.  It is sweet and smooth, with a very pleasing nutty flavor in the background.  While the description on the Rishi website (provided above) describes this nutty flavor as a chestnut taste, I find it also tasting vaguely of roasted almonds, a flavor that is especially pronounced toward the finish.  It tastes very much the way I think a roasted nut butter made of both almonds and chestnuts might taste.

While this Dragon Well has a somewhat grassy taste to it, I find that the grassy flavor can be toned down significantly by lowering the water temperature to just 175°F and steeping for about 2 to 2 1/2 minutes.  With this cup, I taste almost no grassy tones, only a hint of it in the distance.

A delicious Dragon Well, one that I’m very happy to be enjoying again!

Phoenix Yunnan Gold from Tea Valley

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Tea Valley

Tea Description:

Our Phoenix Yunnan Gold is quickly becoming a favorite in our fine selection. The lasting sweetness in every cup will keep you brewing for more. If you enjoy black teas, this is certainly not one you would want to miss out on.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I’ve been busy trying to get my tea stash organized – that’s my only excuse with being so behind on reviewing the teas from February’s Steepster Select box!  Of all the months to be behind … February is not the month is not the month I would have chosen (fewer days to get caught up!)

This is the first of the three teas that I’m reviewing, and it is the only black tea of the three selections.  This month’s theme is “Year of the Dragon” to commemorate the Chinese New Year.  About their choice of this tea, Steepster stated:

The Yunnan Gold varietal uses the robust leaves of classic Yunnan black teas with a healthy portion of young, golden buds.  In Chinese culture, the Phoenix is a complement to the dragon, forming both sides of Yin and Yang respectively, and we think the bold, fruity flavor of this brew is a fitting complement to the other teas in this month’s box.  It’s a tea for coffee lovers, and it comes to us by way of The Tea Valley, a company founded by a China expatriate named Chaozhou, who returned to his birthplace to rediscover tea and its heritage.

Whatever reason they chose to put this tea in the Steepster Select box for this month, I’m good with it … because this tea is fantastic.  It is a richly flavored tea with a delicious spiced overtone.  I find that this tea is best served hot, but not piping hot.  After it’s had a few moments to cool, the aforementioned spice notes seem to really come alive.

In the above description from the minds at Steepster, they mention that this is a tea for coffee lovers, and I understand where they’re coming from with that statement.  It is a very full-flavored tea, quite bold and in that way it is quite similar to coffee.  Fortunately, though, this lacks the bitterness that I have experienced with coffee – instead, I get a lovely honey-esque sweet note that I can’t ever recall tasting with coffee.

This is a remarkable Yunnan – deserving of high praise!