Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Teas Unique: Three Korean Oxidized Teas, A Tea Review

Guys, I am so freaking happy right now, Ben and my lives seem to be going really well lately! Our car problems were fixed under warranty instead of costing a fortune, we got a new mattress finally (a queen sized foam, it is so decadent, I have so much room!!!) and the old bed has become a sort of divan in the tea room, and we are seriously going to visit Ikea next week. This is kinda a bit deal, I have always wanted to go but could not justify buying furniture new, it is not just money, I am big on thrifting and recycling, usually, I can find furniture I want at thrift stores for a fraction of the price I would pay new. That means I can spend my money on more important things like tea and gaming stuff!! Months ago I started hunting shelves for my teaware, I have had no luck and it, so Ben is taking me to Ikea and I am so excited!

Today I am taking a look at three different teas from Teas Unique, a company specializing in Korean Tea. For people new to my rambles, let me tell you this, I am OBSESSED with Korean tea (though oddly I still own very little Korean teaware and that needs to change ASAP) especially the oxidized stuff. Problem is, it is a bit of a pain to get my hands on, I can count vendors of quality Korean tea on one hand, this of course also means it is not as cheap as some of the other favorites of mine and they typically run out of stock quickly. Finding a new source of Korean tea at a decent price makes me very excited, so without further ado, the first one I am looking at is Korean Jeju Island Second Flush 2016 Organic Single Estate Whole Leaf Black Tea With Mandarin Oranges...woo, what a mouthful! I love mandarin oranges, they are probably one of my favorite kinds of citrus to eat and sniff, the idea of mixing it with a Hwang Cha sounded very appealing to me. The aroma of the leaves is surprisingly mild in the orange department, I was expecting a strong citrus burst (most citrus themed teas are very strong) but this was light and sweet, very much so like dried bits of orange. Alongside the orange, there are notes of cocoa, malt, peonies, and a bit of woodiness. It smells really quite delightful, and after steeping continues to smell delightful! The orange is still light, but it has intensified a bit, as have the other notes present with an addition of a slight nuttiness.

The first thing I have to say about this tea is how much I loved how the different notes worked so perfectly in concert, the orange never overpowered the tea and vice versa, I was very impressed by how balanced it tasted. You get the sweet and a touch sour note of the mandarin oranges with mild notes of cocoa and peony blossoms and a finish of malt and woodiness. This is not a strong tea, which I really liked, it was a mellow tea that required all of my focus to pick out all the nuances and intricate layers of taste with each sip. The aftertaste is a very long lasting juicy mandarin orange, very much so like the aftertaste of eating a mandarin orange, and much like munching on oranges I found this tea to be very invigorating to my senses, evoking a warm sunny day.

Next I am taking a look at Korean Mt. Jiri Joongjak (Third Pluck) Hwang Cha (Lightly Oxidized) 2016 Organic Single Estate Tea. This one is nutty! I was very entertained by the strong notes of chestnuts and hazelnuts blending with an almond crusted loaf of bread, malt, and squash blossoms. One of my favorite things with Hwang Cha is they always seem to have a flowery note, this one having notes of squash flowers was unique and blended really well with the nutty and starchy notes. Once the tea has a steeping I found the starchy notes to be stronger, as well as the squash blossoms, now accompanied by actual squash. It was not as sweet either, being more on the rich spectrum than sweet, however, the liquid was quite sweet with a strong edge of honey.

Oh wow, this one is so smooth, I feel a bit like I am melting into my chair it is so smooth! Not a thick tea, the texture is light and airy, but with a wonderfully silky smoothness that borders on slippery, I found myself almost forgetting to focus on the taste I was so enchanted by the mouthfeel. I did eventually get myself to focus on the taste, which was good because the taste is pretty delicious, as expected. The flavor is starchy and rich, with notes of chestnut and squash alongside dark honey and cocoa. The finish is a distant note of sweet potatoes and squash blossoms that linger for quite a while, especially in later steeps. The Hwang Chas I have had in the past usually are quite sweet, this one is probably the least sweet of all the ones I have had, though it is not savory, just the absence of intense sweetness allowing the focus to be on the starchy and nutty notes. I found the flavor notes to be very fascinating and was quite glad that it has decent longevity at five steeps, which is good for a Hwang Cha.

Onward to the Korean Boseong Hwang Cha (Lightly Oxidized) 2016 Organic Single Estate Whole Leaf Tea, a Sejak or second pluck Hwang Cha, making its harvest a bit earlier than the Mt Jiri Hwang Cha. This one is very aromatic, even when comparing it with the other two tea looked at in this post, strong sweet notes of brown sugar caramelized yams, honey drizzled hazelnuts, distant freshly blooming peony blossoms, and a long finish of pumpkin bread. Once steeped the aroma is sweet pumpkin bread, baked yams, brown sugar, and hazelnuts...it smells like an autumnal dessert!

This tea is thick, where the other one was silky and light, this one is thick and dense, every part of my mouth is coated with this tea and it is great. The taste is very strong and sweet, strong notes of roasted yams covered in brown sugar and a hint of cocoa and woodiness. Throughout the entire taste is an almost effervescent taste of peony flowers, definitely a note I am almost entirely tasting in my nose more so than my mouth. Later steeps manage to be even sweeter, bringing in notes of honey and hazelnuts, by the time the tea has finished on steep six all that is left is a ghost of brown sugar sweetness that I am pretty sure lingered on my tongue for the better part of an hour. I know I will be restocking at least one of these in my stash, but trying to decide which one it will be is going to be a real challenge!

A side note on this style tea, there is a lot of debate as to what exactly it is. Hwang Cha means yellow tea, I see places list it as a red/black, an oolong, or a yellow and the grumbling I have had to deal with every time I drink this tea and put it into a category that someone disagrees with is so tedious! So, let me clear up how I personally look at it...I brew most my reds, oolongs, and yellows at the same temperature 195° and only change time I steep it, having experimented with different times I found it responded best to the way I brew a lot of my reds, with a steep time of 30-30-60-60-90 and so forth. It behaves like a red, tastes most similar to a red (though I can see similarities to both yellow and oolong) and so that is how my brain has decided to categorize it. Of course feel free to stick it into whatever category you want, I personally don't care and don't care to argue it further, I just want to drink my tea in peace!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

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