01 April 2008

Just4Tea Tie Guan Yin, Pu'er

I brewed both of these teas gongfu. I will brew them according to vendor instructions and update the blog later. Disclosure: I received these teas as part of a "free sample to bloggers" promotion.

Just4tea Tie Guan Yin
Brewed in pre-heated ming-style gaiwan, gongfu style, boiling mineralized water

Just4Tea Tie Guan Yin - setup 2

To my surprise, the Just4tea foil packet contained roasted Tie Guan Yin. At the sight of the pellet-sized brown clods, my initial reticence became relief. I love roasted oolong; most likely I would enjoy this.

The aroma off the dry leaf is stale charcoal, but this is often the case with roasted oolongs good and bad. When wet, the aroma shifted to butterscotch--a nice change from the usual chocolate aromas off roasted Tie Guan Yin. It promised to be interesting.

Just4Tea Tie Guan Yin - dry leaf 2

While it wasn't that interesting, it tasted good. In fact, for an everyday roasted oolong, it's very good. Buttery and easy to drink, with good aftertaste and no sourness. Despite its butterscotch aroma, unsweetened cocoa dominated the palate, melting to a butter aftertaste and finish. Simple, easy, enjoyable. Fruit aromas appeared off the wet leaf and played peek-a-boo in the flavor. Yeasty/bready flavors, the typical denouement of high roasted oolongs, predictably appeared as the tea's flavors quieted at infusion 8 and after. In a subsequent steep in a yixing pot, I used less leaf and reaped wheaty sweetness early on, but not the sweetness signifiying "the tea flavor fading" but a toasty sweetness of appreciable and consistent character, with light cacao.

Just4Tea Tie Guan Yin - brewed

Simplicity, while good in an everyday tea, may rank as its only fault: it leashes this tie guan yin, keeps it among the more prosaic teas. Considering that hand-crafted high roasted Taiwan oolongs come at twice the price, this remains a good deal. Truly a deal in the online world, where high roasted teas are rare, pricey, and often over-roasted or soured if aged.

Just4Tea Tie Guan Yin - spent leaves

Just4tea's Tie Guan Yin would serve well as an introduction to high roasted Tie Guan Yin: it displayed what such tea tastes and smells like when not stale, poorly stored, or overroasted. I wouldn't feel guilty drinking this tea without paying it much attention, but, as with any tea, further brewing and attention might reap a harvest of new flavors.

Tip: use less leaf, decent amount of minerals in the water, quick infusions with slow pours.

Just4tea 2004 Pu'er (mini-tuocha)
Brewed in pre-heated ming-style gaiwan, gongfu style, boiling mineralized water

Just4tea also sent me a sample of their mini-tuocha. As with all reviews a reviewer writes--whether about movies, books, or tea--the best reviews judge the production at hand for what it is, not for what it isn't. Mini-tuo is not high grade. It is not cake pu'er. Therefore, I do not hold mini-tuo to the same standard I would any other "branded" shu pu'er of more substantial size. Moreover, if I am to review this mini-tuo in comparison to other teas, it should be to other mini-tuo I have had. Thus, in my opinion, a mini-tuocha that manages more than 4 infusions and lacks pondy characteristics is a good mini-tuocha, because few meet that standard.

Just4Tea Pu'er Mini-Tuo - closeup

Just4tea's mini-tuo come wrapped in thin cloth paper gauze, like most. They have little to no smell when dry, like most. When moist, the tea emitted a smooth earthy aroma with undertones of pond. Thankfully, the pond hinted at itself rather than permeated the aroma, stopping me from wrinkling my nose. Flavors were cream, bark, and an amount of pond proportional to the pond smell. Unfortunately, the pond lingered in the aftertaste. Subsequent infusions mimicked this; like most mini-tuo, this one's flavors remained static, simply reappearing in weaker form from brew to brew.

It managed 7 infusions "gongfu" style, and to its further credit, as the flavors weakened only the earth remained. Most pondy mini-tuo end with only pondiness. This nice plus maybe found its root in the 4 years of age?

All in all, this mini-tuo ranks among the average mini-tuo. And it's a bit pricey for its quality. I can't say it's a bad purchase--it's acceptable--but the $30 for 8oz. would be better spent buying a Menghai factory shu bing, which weigh in at roughly 16oz. or more.

Tips: give it a long rinse (20s+) to decompress the tuo, then brew each infusion quickly for more numerous and palatable infusions.


Bill said...

What a creative picture. The pig truly looks happy life as if it really enjoying rolling around tea leaves.

Capheind said...

What flavor are you describing as Pondy? I'm sure I've tasted it before in cheaper Puers, just never heard that world used to describe it.

Bearsbearsbears said...

Capheind: "pondy" is that dank flavor, a combination of mud and algae smells that accompany the fishy taste of cheaper pu.