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  • Sourcing Review: Lalashan Summer Oolong Tea

    Here is an interesting and special tea, a Lalashan oolong tea that was bug bitten, I believe. It is a medium oxidised oolong tea, making it feel like something in between a Bai Hao or a Wild oolong tea. I still remember being on the road to Lalashan, and I was stuck on the road for a few hours because of a road block due to a landslide. That made the trip much more difficult, but finding suppliers was always going to make the journey worth it. The looks of this tea is pretty good, but I don’t really have a standard to base it off of. Some buds, nice consistent leaves, good colour, pretty good I’d say. The aroma was decent as well, nice waft of floral notes and earthy notes, with a tinge of honey sweetness at the back. Personally, I like this type of aroma a lot, it reminds me of a good dancong tea. Wet leaf was decent as well, pungent and strong, bright yet soothing to smell. Liquor wise, it is a clean orange-yellow, becoming more yellow when brewed lighter and more orange when brewed stronger. Vibrant but nothing extraordinary. Taste is, how to say this, conflicting. You know when you really love something quite a fair bit but there’s just something that’s missing? This tea is an epitome of that. It’s good and yummy, don’t get me wrong, but if I want to rate it higher, this tea needs a stronger body, a more robust structure to it. It has notes very similar to a Shan Cha or a Dancong, but has its own unique twist to it. Floral, smooth, and bright, the taste is good, but it just lacks a bit of structure. Character & complexity wise, this tea is good. Complex and unique, yet distinct in taste and bringing much more to the table in terms of mouthfeel. Speaking of mouthfeel, this tea is juicy and cooling, really salivating your mouth with each sip. Like a good pu-erh, this tea brings some action with it. Finish & aftertaste next, and it also hits the mark. Minty notes linger in the mouth after drinking the tea, and the taste of the tea stays long in the mouth after each sip. What more can I say, this tea is pretty decent. Just that structure issue though, it kinda bugs me out. Not much effect for this tea, some slight warmth that it brings to the body, but pretty tame otherwise. It also isn’t that steepable, with it lasting maybe 7 steeps before it dies out. Overall, a pretty good tea that hits so many of the boxes I look for when tasting tea, but misses out on just a few. I guess no tea can be perfect after all. Would I stock this? Maybe. I’d have to give it a few more gos before I decide. It definitely isn’t your typical Taiwan oolong, so I’ll treasure the 40+g of tea I have left in my stash. Have you tried Lalashan tea before? Let me know in the comments!

  • Sourcing Review: Mi Tuo Yan Rou Gui

    As some of you may know, I run Sipscollection, an online tea store based in Singapore. Each harvest season, I get multitudes of samples from farmers across China and Taiwan, and I spend time tasting each one of them to find the right ones to put on my store. I thought it might be interesting to give a sneak peek into what drinking teas for a business looks like, so I'll be posting regular reviews of the samples I receive from farmers and merchants alike. Today, I'll be drinking this Zhengyan Rou Gui from a merchant based in Xiamen. This Rou Gui is from Mi Tuo Yan, in the northern part of the scenic area of Wuyishan. As with any Zhengyan tea, the price is high and the expectations are equal to that, so let's dive right in. I had high expectations for this tea, knowing this supplier and the quality of teas they produce, but as you will see from this review, I'm not so keen on this one. Looks wise, this tea is pretty good, bar a bit of tea dust probably from transportation of the tea, the leaves are consistent and are vibrant in colour. The aroma somewhat let me down a bit, with the dry leaf aroma being slightly weak but possessing a unique plum smell. The wet leaf aroma was a prototypical Rou Gui Yancha aroma, with strong roasted notes and that rocky and earthy aroma that yancha, or rock tea, is known for. Liquor wise is pretty good. Nice colour, full of bubbles, and the liquor had a golden patina around the cup. Flavour wise, it had a plum like taste, but it missed the power and strength of a Rou Gui, it lacked the 霸气ness that I associate with many Rou Guis I've drunk in Wuyishan. There are slight sour and roasted notes, otherwise it was pretty unremarkable. Speaking of unremarkable, this tea's character and complexity is as such. Too simple for my liking, other than the unique plum taste, this tea didn't really have much going for it. Not strong enough, not powerful enough, and a bit weak to say the least. It's texture is also average, slightly astringent, slightly drying, at least keeping it interesting throughout the session. Finish & aftertaste however is a talking point for this tea. There is a long, cooling sensation in the mouth that is almost breeze-like. It also had a nice Yan Yun or rock rhyme to it, which is what a lot of yancha drinkers look for. This tea also had a decent effect on the body, a nice buzzing feeling that is stronger than most yanchas I've drunk. Lastly, this tea is also relatively steepable, with slightly better than average longevity, lasting till around steep 9 before calling it quits. Overall, not a yancha I would stock for my store, too simple and not complex enough. Hopefully this supplier's other offerings would peak more of my interest than this tea. Have you had any experiences with yanchas or rou guis in general? Do share below!

  • Sourcing Review: Handmade Huang Mei Gui Yancha Oolong Tea

    Moving on with more yancha! This tea was sourced from deep within Xingcun village in Wuyishan. It is a Huang Mei Gui Yancha. Huang Mei Gui is a varietal that is a cross between Huang Dan and Huang Jin Gui, and it isn't that common compared to the big three that is Shui Xian, Rou Gui, and Da Hong Pao. Furthermore, this tea is handmade, or called 手工茶 in Chinese, so that further raises my expectations. Have you ever wondered what a decent yet "prototypical" yancha tastes like? This tea might fit the bill. It looks pretty good first of all, consistent leaves, great colour, no broken pieces, an A to A* in my books. The aroma is pretty good too. It's the smell of walking into a yancha factory, toasty and roasty, rocky and earthy, I miss those times. One day I'll be back in Wuyishan. Dry leaf aroma is decently strong and wet leaf aroma is pungent and potent. No unique notes per se, just a very typical yancha, but a good one. Liquor wise, it is clean, however no bubbles, which is sad. Nice vibrant reddish-orange that fades to orange-yellow as steeps go by. The taste is once again, very prototypical. A yummy tea don't get me wrong, but it very much feels like I blended multiple varieties of yancha together into one. Slight floral notes emanate from the cup, with your typical rocky notes and dark notes portrayed in this wonderful cup of tea. I really don't know how to describe it, other than a mashup of all the yancha I've drank into one cup. Can you imagine that yourself? All the yancha you've drank into one cup? What would that taste like? Character wise it is standard, complexity wise it is standard. No frills or shills about this tea, nothing extraordinary but not bad either. Maybe that's a downside to this tea. It doesn't wow me like other yanchas I've drank in Wuyishan. For me, I like to look for that "X-factor", and this tea is just not giving me that vibe. Texture is nice, drying yet smooth, slight astringency yet slightly juicy. A best of both worlds of sorts. Finish & aftertaste is good. Juicy up till the last sip, and remaining juicy a few minutes after you've drunk your fill. Minty and breeze-like qualities remind me of more expensive Zhengyan Shui Xians, but it ain't as strong as that. Nothing excites me more about yancha that a strong powerful finish, and a strong powerful aftertaste that lingers in the mouth, but this tea just doesn't get to that level yet. Yan Yun is average, yan yun being rock rhyme, nothing extraordinary. Effect wise, a slight warming effect on the body, pretty comfy and cozy, but not that strong. Definitely better than most teas out there in terms of cha qi. Longevity wise, bang average I would say. You can steep this tea till steep 8 no problem. Maybe longer but I'd rather not drink what's left of a good session and ruin it. I'd rather enjoy the viable steeps, and discard the rest. Overall, a good foray into yancha. Definitely something I'd recommend to someone who's beginning to appreciate yancha, but I'm leaning to a slight no when it comes to putting this on my store. It just doesn't wow me enough. Decent tea nonetheless, and I'll enjoy the rest of the sample that I still have left in my mountain pile of tea. Let me know if you've tried a Huang Mei Gui before! Would love to hear your thoughts!

  • Tea Review: Nonpareil Handmade Anxi Qing Xiang Tieguanyin Oolong Tea

    First up for review on Ethan Does Tea is an Anxi Tieguanyin by Teavivre! I've had great experiences with Teavivre teas before, so I came in with high expectations for this tea. This tea was a sample buy from my previous purchase with them. This tea is an autumn Tieguanyin, which is definitely much less potent and sharp as its floral spring counterparts. Seeing this, I was expecting a cool, calming session, but in fact, it was quite different from what I expected. First of all, let's take a look at the leaves. The leaves were oddly shaped and slightly inconsistent, which is pretty average for what Tieguanyin should look like, but I've definitely seen better handmade Tieguanyins in my travels to Anxi and the villages in the county. The colour is slightly dull but consistent, and stems are not present in the leaf. Moving on to aroma, this tea packed a really big punch. The dry leaf was very pleasant, having floral and green notes emanating from the cup. The aroma was complex and fragrant. The wet leaf on the other hand was pungent and thick, strong and piercing with a very prototypical Tieguanyin aroma coming out. It's a lovely aroma don't get me wrong, but I was not expecting something of this magnitude from an autumn tea. The liquor was clean and vibrant, and had a nice greenish-yellow tinge to it. Here comes the important part, taste. I brewed this tea with 95°C water for 30 seconds in the first steep, using 7g of leaf to 100ml of water. The taste came out pretty good, maybe not amazingly good but pretty good nonetheless. A piercing citrus note came through which made the tea interesting, along with notes of floral and cream that come with a typical Tieguanyin. This tea is probably leaning towards the Tuo Suan (拖酸) style of Tieguanyin teas with its prominent sweet-sour notes, which is a stark difference from the usual Zheng Wei Tieguanyins. Yummy nonetheless, definitely meeting my expectations thus far. This tea had a nice character to boot, a pretty complex tea that really hits home in terms of taste, texture, and finish. It does have a slightly weak body however, tending to a slight watery taste no matter how I brew the tea, so that is a bit of a minus point. It has a drying sensation in the mouth, puckering as I take each sip, which made the tea really interesting and unique to drink. It is pretty much an active tea, making for a bright and compelling session. It also had a cooling, minty mouthfeel that is common with good teas. This tea had a long emanating finish & aftertaste, with a lingering Tieguanyin taste present long after taking a sip of the tea. It really reminds you of the taste even after the session had ended 15 minutes ago. A* for that. Effect wise, this tea didn't have much cha qi. But what was I expecting from a Tieguanyin anyway, it's not like Tieguanyins can match the cha qi of your puerhs. However, the body sensation is still important when it comes to the holistic grading of teas, so I got to mark this tea low on this front. However, this tea when it comes to longevity is pretty good, being drinkable up to steep 7 to 8 before it becomes flavoured water, which is decent for a Tieguanyin. The wet leaves look beautiful, the taste is good, and it has a decent longevity as well. What more can you ask for from a Tieguanyin? Well, there are some pointers that this tea is missing, but it pretty much boils down to being a decently above average tea. Not amazing, but decently above average. Anything amazing is an 80+ in my books, but this tea ranks just short of that. Overall, definitely a tea worth buying, especially for beginners to Tieguanyin or tea in general, as it really provides a good starting point into one's foray into the land of low-oxidised oolongs. If you've tried this tea, or have tried teas from Teavivre, let me know how you felt about them in the comments! I'd love to hear your opinion!

  • How to Brew Chinese Tea?

    You've gotten some exquisite, specialty Chinese & Taiwanese teas and you may be asking, how do I brew them? Well, I'll lay out three different brewing methods for you in this post. Chinese tea is a vast world consisting of many different types of teas that may require slightly different ways and parameters to brew them. Understandably, this would be daunting to someone who is new to all of this, so I'll try my best to explain using these 3 different styles of brewing tea. 1. Gongfu Style - Chinese Tea Gongfu style is the traditional way of brewing Chinese & Taiwanese teas, and also arguably the best way to get the most out of most Chinese teas. Hence why I will be focusing more on Gongfu style in this post. Gongfu style employs a higher leaf-to-water ratio, meaning a higher amount of tea leaves used per unit of water. A typical Gongfu session sees one using 4-8 grams of leaves per 100ml of water, which when compared to other styles, is extremely high. The benefit of this is a more complex brew, bringing out the tea's character and allowing the tea to really shine. As steeping times are shorter due to the higher leaf-to-water ratio, you can brew the tea multiple times, with some teas even lasting upwards of 20 steeps. This really makes Gongfu brewing worth the added time and effort needed to perform it. You need a few things to start brewing the Gongfu way: Gaiwan / Teapot Fairness Cup Teacup Tea Tray Cha Ze + Teaspoon Then, you'll need to follow these few steps: 1. Prepare your tea Prepare the tea that you will be using for your gongfu session. Pour the leaves into the Cha Ze using your teaspoon (amount will be discussed later). The Cha Ze acts as your presentation vessel, where you can show the leaves to the people who are drinking the tea with you - or show them to yourself if you're solo :) It also holds your tea leaves as you perform the next step. 2. Heating your teaware Take boiling water and fill your gaiwan up. A teapot can be used instead of a gaiwan. Pour the hot water into your fairness cup and wait a while, before pouring the water into your cups. This heats all of your teaware up, so that when brewing the real thing, your teaware and your tea stays nice and warm. 3. Rinse your tea Put the tea leaves into your heated gaiwan. Take a good whiff of the dry leaf aroma, before pouring hot water (temperature depending on the tea) into your gaiwan. Wait for around 20 seconds (30 seconds for compressed/ball-rolled teas) before pouring into your fairness cup. This is the rinse, and it's meant to "awaken" the tea leaves before your first steep. You can drink the rinse, but it's typically thrown out into your tea tray or a waste bowl. Then, smell the wet-leaf aroma that comes out of your gaiwan. 4. Brew the first steep You're finally ready to brew your tea. Steep your tea (time & temperature will be discussed later) and pour it out into your fairness cup. A strainer can be placed on top of the fairness cup to ensure no leaf bits make it in. Make sure to cover the gaiwan with its lid while steeping. When the gaiwan is not being used for brewing, leave it uncovered to prevent steam from further steeping your tea leaves. A few jolts of the gaiwan may be required to get all the tea out. Now, pour your brewed tea from your fairness cup into your tea cup(s), and tada! You can now drink your cup of luxurious and exquisite Chinese tea. 5. Repeat Chinese tea should be able to be rebrewed at least 3-5+ times for green teas, 4-6+ times for black teas, 5-8+ times for oolong teas, 4-7+ times for white teas, 3-5+ times for yellow teas, and 7-10+ times for post-fermented teas. Add 15-30s for each subsequent steep (eg. 1st steep - 30s, 2nd steep - 45s, 3rd steep - 1m, etc.) 6. Wash Don't forget to wash your teaware! This helps prevent mold buildup, especially in your brewing vessels or on a tea tray. Make sure you remove all the tea leaves and throw them in a food waste bin or in your compost before washing. Don't use soap, especially with unglazed teawares! These kinds of teaware can absorb the soap in its porous structure, which won't be good for the next time you use them! Once done, wipe them and leave them out to fully dry. Now, let's discuss parameters. This is just a rough estimate, and it's only meant as a starting point. Experiment yourself by slowly changing the parameters to find what suits you the best! Green tea: 4g / 100ml of 85°C/185°F water, 1st steep 30s Oolong tea: 5g / 100ml of 95°C/203°F water, 1st steep 30s Ball-rolled oolongs: 6g / 100ml of 95°C/203°F water, 1st steep 45s Yancha/Dancong oolongs: 8g / 100ml of 100°C/212°F water, 1st steep 15s Black tea: 5g / 100ml of 90°C/194°F water, 1st steep 20s White tea: 5g / 100ml of 90°C/194°F water, 1st steep 30s Yellow tea: 4g / 100ml of 85°C/185°F water, 1st steep 40s Post-fermented tea: 6g/100ml of 100°C/212°F water, 1st steep 30s Let's also talk about how to hold a gaiwan. For someone unaccustomed to it, it may seem unwieldy and one may accidently pour hot water on themselves if they are not careful. Here's how to hold a gaiwan Image Credit: 36zs - 百度图片 Ensure that two fingers (typically the thumb and middle finger) is grasping the rim of the gaiwan tightly, with the index finger on the lid handle. Open a small aperture that is big enough to allow liquid to flow through but small enough to prevent leaves from pouring out. Then, tilt your hand over your fairness cup, pouring the tea out. Do this with room temperature water first to practice, before moving on to hot water, and finally, tea. Once you've mastered all of the above, you've mastered gongfu style, and should be able to do it with ease! 2. Grandpa style Grandpa style is arguably the easiest of the three styles, and is probably the most common style to brew tea in China today. You simply need a tall glass or mug, and... right, that's it! Simply take a small handful of tea leaves, fill your glass or mug to the point where it covers the base, and pour hot water (temperature depending on the tea listed above) 2/3 up the glass or mug. Wait for a few minutes and take a sip. Too strong? Add a bit more water. Too weak? Wait a bit longer. That's the beauty of Grandpa style. There's no need to be accurate with it. Image Credit: Baijiahao - 百度图片 Grandpa style is very convenient, allowing you to brew your tea on-the-go in a tumbler or desk-side while working. It really is the easiest way to brew Chinese tea. Of course, there really isn't a way to strain your tea leaves, so you may end up eating one or two leaves, which is totally fine! After you've drank till a third of your glass or mug is left, you can always top it up with more water. Rinse and repeat till you feel that the leaves have nothing left to offer (typically after 3 rounds). Grandpa style works with most teas (maybe with the exception of post-fermented teas / aged teas), and is most suited for green, yellow, and white teas. Try it and experiment with different teas and parameters to see what works best for you! 3. Western Style Western style isn't really suited for Chinese teas, and is more suited to Indian and Ceylon teas, but some may still prefer to brew it in this way. The biggest difference with western style is its much lower leaf-to-water ratio compared to gongfu style, which means lesser steeps and a less complex brew. However, it does require less skill and effort, and can be suitable for a free and easy tea session, especially with a group of friends or family. Image Credit: Xingtai - 百度图片 Ideally, your teapot should have a filter installed. This filter holds the tea leaves as the tea is being brewed, so as to not lose the tea leaves when pouring your finished tea out. Simply place the tea leaves into the filter, and brew it with water. No need to rinse, pre-heat, or "awaken" the tea. As mentioned earlier, western style features less leaf and more water, which results in lesser amount of steeps to enjoy. The suggested brewing parameters for western style is as follows (temperatures are the same as gongfu style): Green teas: 2g/250ml, 3m steep Oolong teas: 3g/250ml, 3m steep Black teas: 2.5g/250ml, 2m30s steep White teas: 2.5g/250ml, 3m steep Yellow teas: 2g/250ml, 4m steep Post-fermented teas: 3g/250ml, 2m30s steep You can then add 1 minute to each subsequent steep, totaling to around 2-4 steeps for western style. Now that you've learnt about the three different ways to brew Chinese & Taiwanese tea, you can grab a few from your stash and brew with confidence. With some practice and effort, you can even master the most finnicky teas and become a "tea master" yourself!

  • What is Yixing Tea?

    If you’re relatively into tea, you probably have a Zisha teapot, a teapot made out of purple clay. These teapots come from Yixing, a city in Jiangsu Province in China. Yixing is the world capital of teapots, producing the best teapots featuring the most highly sought after clays made by the most renowned clay artists. However, Yixing isn’t all about teapots or clay for that matter. Without tea, you’d have no use for a teapot, and Yixing knows that pretty well, producing nearly 4000 tons of tea yearly from farms surrounding the city. Maybe you know about Yixing tea, maybe you don’t, but the truth of the matter is, Yixing tea is relatively quite unknown and rare in today’s tea market. In this article however, the light will be shined on this wonderful tea producing region and its history. Yixing Tea Fields History of Yixing Tea In the past, Yixing tea used to be called “Yangxian tea”, with Yangxian being the ancient name of Yixing city. The origin of Yangxian tea stems from a farmer named Pan San (潘三), who was later revered as “God of the Land” in Yixing. The story goes that Pan San gave some wild Yangxian tea to the prefect of Changzhou, Li Qiyun, who then gave it to revered tea poet Lu Yu to judge. Lu Yu found it so impressive that he suggested that the tea should be given to Emperor Zong of the Tang Dynasty as tribute. This made Yangxian tea famous all over the country, and the name “Yangxian tribute tea” was born. Lu Yu (陆羽) Over time however, Yangxian tribute tea became less and less known and esteemed in China, especially with the meteoric rise of green teas from surrounding regions such as Xihu Longjing and Dongting Biluochun. The tea slowly fell out of favour with royalty, and as a result, fell out of favour with the public as well. Types of Yixing Tea Nowadays, there’s two main types of Yixing tea. The first is Yixing black tea. This tea is characterised by a fruity flavour, especially when compared to other black teas like Dian Hongs. The other tea mainly found in Yixing is Yangxian Xueya, a green tea typically made using a bud and a leaf from small-leaf varietal tea trees. There are other types of Yixing teas as well, but these are far more rare and uncommon compared to the previous two. For example, Yixing makes Biluochun-style green teas, just like other tea producing regions in Zhejiang or Yunnan, and they also make some unique green and black teas using Anji varietal tea trees. Yangxian Xueya The most well-known tea produced in Yixing today is Yixing black tea. Its profile is similar to Keemun black tea, a famous tea produced in Qimen County in Anhui Province. Its leaves have a tightly corded shape and are black in colour, typically presenting without a significant amount of golden buds. A good Yixing black tea has a liquor similar to red wine, with a lustrous golden patina along the rim of the cup. It should be smooth and fruity while being very easy to brew, with it being able to be steeped multiple times. Yixing Black Tea Tea & Teapot - The Pairing Yixing is also the home of the famous Zisha teapot, which are teapots made from a collection of clays found in Yixing. These teapots are the teapots of choice for many tea drinkers around the world, owing to its porosity that enhances the flavour of the tea brewed over time, along with its beauty and collectible value. As the saying goes, “Water is the mother of tea, and the teapot is the father.” The pairing of tea and the teapot is vitally important, and that’s no exception to the home of tea and teapot itself, Yixing. In ancient times, particularly during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Zisha teapot was commonly found in Yixing households along with Yixing black tea, and they were brewed together in harmony. Zisha Teapot Ye Zhaoyan (叶兆言), in the book, 《宜兴红茶》, said that “Purple clay teapots are naturally prepared for black tea. If you want to use a purple clay teapot, you must drink black tea. If you want to taste good black tea, you must use a purple clay teapot.” The people of Yixing have their own way of raising and seasoning their Yixing teapots, using their special black tea to do so, brewing the tea inside the teapot. The first people who drank Yixing black tea, according to history, were kiln workers who burned Zisha teapots. All this makes it obvious that Zisha teapots and Yixing black tea have a natural relationship, and it’s definitely something you should try if you have both on hand!

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