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Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

I stopped by the Imperial Tea Court in San Francisco (near the ferry building) and on a whim bought an ounce of their medium-quality white tea--about $35 a pound, as I recall. Maybe I'm just a philistine but that tea was delicious and, unusually for a white, incredibly forgiving. It does as fine with the lovely water heater at work as my electric kettle, and I've made it with significant variance in the length of infusion without noticeably affecting quality.

I can turn fancy green tea into bitter grasswater given half an excuse but I literally cannot gently caress up this white; it's amazing.

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Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

Oh my god i know that table. Please tell me that Aroma isn't closing up shop or hard-up for money or anything.

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

The number of steeps you'll get from a certain leaf vary wildly based on the ratio of leaf to water; a lot of asian brewing techniques use 2-3x more leaf per amount of water. If someone is telling you how many steeps a specific kind of tea is good for, you should probably also ask what tea:water ratio they use.

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

dms666 posted:

I tried gyokuro Chinese green tea for the first time at a tea shop recently and it was so delicious. Can anyone recommend anything with a similar taste? It is kind of on the higher end of what I would pay for tea, wondering if there are any alternatives. It has kind of a briney/seaweed green taste.

Gyokuro is a Japanese style usually grown with specialist cultivars and undergoes a fairly labor-intensive production process--I'm actually fairly surprised you found a quality Chinese gyokuro. Is the tea shop the sort that sells online? I'm fairly curious, now.

The savory/briny character comes from the shading process. The plant is shaded for ~21 days before harvest; the stress apparently inhibits the conversion of savory/sweet chemicals to bitter chemicals in the leaf or something. That means one harvest per growing season even in warmer areas, so finding a cheap gyokuro could be quite difficult. Look for a machine-harvested, tarp-shaded (both modern cost-cutting innovations) gyokuro produced from a farm that still adheres to the full shading period. Uji/Kyoto gyokuro is the orthodox, well-balanced option which still maintains some astringency. Recently, teas from Yame in Kyushu have been taking advantage of the warmer climate to grow the (frost-vulnerable) saemidori cultivar, which cranks the savory/sweet nature to 11 at the cost of some aroma.

I would expect to pay a minimum of $0.25/gram for quality gyokuro, even the machine-picked stuff.

If you can't find a gyokuro within your price range, consider a kabuse-cha instead. Kabuse gets a 10+ day shading process which makes it something of a middle point between gyokuro and other green teas. The good stuff has a very noticeable savoryness paired with a traditional tea astringency. Some of the best comes from Mie/Ise. You can get fairly premium kabuse for $0.15-$0.20/gram.

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

TLDR: if you want MAXIMUM SAVORY, look for a handpicked gyokuro from Yame/Kyushu, preferably of the saemidori or ujihikari cultivars.

If you want something reasonably priced, look for a kabuse-cha from a good vendor.

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

Little Red Cup specializes in inexpensive, pretty-decent versions of the "name brand" Chinese teas. They offer $1 tastes of all of their teas, and their catalog is small enough to feasibly drink all the way through this way (unlike teavivre's literal hundreds of offerings) yet large enough to be broadly comprehensive of the major Chinese styles. You won't go far wrong just loading up a bunch of samples into your cart and drinking them all. Figure out what you like, and then hit up a more specialist vendor.

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

What you've got is purporting to be 金骏眉 (more commonly romanized as Jin Jun Mei), from Wuyi. The internet, including Wikipedia, often confuses it with the pine-smoked lapsang souchoung style since they come from the same growing region, but they're not alike at all. If the brew does come out barbequeue/peateed whiskey levels of smoky, it's mislabeled lapsang. Otherwise, it's a knockoff trying to capitalize on a famous name. (Or you could have come across the best deal on the market, I suppose).

True Jin Jun Mei is a very light, almost-chocolatey black tea that commands absurd prices. It also has a reputation for being somewhat temperamental, doing best with a relatively cool infusion in muting clay. I can't imagine the knockoffs are going tobe much more forgiving. Try cold-brewing, maybe?

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

yeah, i can agree with that. cooked pu and matcha both do that to me. it's honestly not a super pleasant feeling if you're not expecting it.

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

Truck Stop Daddy posted:

I have some (most likely low grade) gunpowder tea. How are you supposed to steep this stuff? I find wildly different suggestions. I've tried different temps and brew times, but end up with a cloudy harsh goop regardless. What's a proper amount of gunpowder tea per 1dl? Caffeine amount in this stuff seems very high btw, got all headachy last time I gave it a go...

"Gunpowder" is one of the fluffiest descriptions in the tea world, unfortunately--in the West, when unqualified, it generally refers to a middling-grade, tightly-rolled green tea from Mainland China. Cloudiness out of a cheap gunpowder generally means cheaply-produced, machine-rolled pellets. Try ~2 teaspoons in a 16-oz teapot at 90 Celsius and adjust the temperature upwards towards 95 if it's still weak? Don't expect more than 2 useful infusions out of it.

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

this is way too late to help, but the other thing to think about with gaiwans (or any other brewing vessel) is whether or not you want a muting material. porous clays will file off rough edges of a tea's flavor, which may or may not be a good thing--generally, if you drink a lot of high-fired oolongs or especailly pu'erh, you might want highly muting clay; if you drink lighter flavored green teas you should probably stick to a non-muting material like glazed clay or straight porcelain.

corollary: expensive yixing clay is not a universal upgrade; i probably reach past my $150 zisha pot and grab the $15 porcelain with most of the teas i own

highly muting materials are porous, which comes from a variety of factors--you want a low-fired, rough clay which has a high sand/quartz/mica composition. yixing zisha is the classic expensive muting clay. a better generalist option is a less porous clay like jianshui. then glazed earthenware, then porcelain or bone china.

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

RandomPauI posted:

I bought a french press so I could make cold brew tea easily. Are there any teas that taste vastly different between being hot and cold brewed?

some japanese teas--gyokuro in particular, but also good kabuse--do quite well with the kouridashi method, where you just leave ice cubes on top of the dried leaves and come back later.

chinese black teas, which are already sweet and floral compared to the CTC indian/kenyan stuff most people are familiar with, tend to expose earthy honey and chocolate notes when cold brewed overnight. jin jun mei and bailin gongfu (the latter is often sold as golden monkey in english, for reasons that escape me) are great when prepared this way.

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

o-cha is excellent, the best in the business, if you already know exactly what you're looking for, or want the authentic catalog-scrolling/sink-or-swim experience. if you want a more curated selection (and are willing to pay a generally higher price for the same quality), i would suggest den's tea, hibiki-an or thes du japon

i would not recommend adagio at all, or upton for anything other than the single-estate darjeelings they do a drat good job of specializing in.

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

here's my four step guide to judging a website selling japanese greens:
1) do they advertise spring/new-harvest/"shincha" gyukuro or matcha?
2) do they make dubious dr oz health claims about matcha powder?
3) do they ship from the united states instead of japan?
4) do they refuse to disclose the farm location (and preferably cultivar) of the tea?

congratulations! go somewhere else.

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

i also consider selling organic shaded teas (gyokuro/matcha) at a premium kinda scammy, but i understand that there's a market for this sort of thing and the vendors gotta pay their bills, so i wouldn't write a vendor off for just that. it probably does mean that they're optimizing their marketing for people who aren't super picky about their tea, though

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

Martytoof posted:

I went to a Ramen place yesterday and had the "cold tea" on their menu since it was a bajillion degrees out. The tea ended up being unlike anything I've ever had before -- it seemed to be a blackish green tea, but it tasted like wood smoke. It was bizarre and really offputting for the first few sips but it grew on me really quickly. I forgot to ask what it was so I guess I'll try my luck here. Any thoughts on what a really smoky tea in a Japanese restaurant could be? I'm talking like full-on tasted like I was drinking campfire smoke.

You're probably looking for kyoubancha/iribancha. They're similar to the Chinese lapsang souchong style, but the smoke is layered onto a substantially lighter and more vegetal/grassy tea than lapsang.

Reiterpallasch fucked around with this message at Jul 25, 2018 around 00:39

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

bitprophet posted:

Can you elaborate on this? I've been using Upton as one of my main suppliers for a while, tho I'm still firmly in the "TRY ALL THE THINGS" phase so it's typically sample sizes only. They can certainly be hit or miss, but I've had a lot of non Darjeeling stuff from them that was pretty good. (But then again…maybe my palate's just not discerning enough yet )

Tea vending is a specialist's game--most teas degrade with storage and the ones that do age well are also esoteric as gently caress, plus the market and production methods are different in all the major tea-growing regions and you can't be an expert at everything. Upton has a 60-page catalog with like 3 grades of everything no matter how obscure, so it stands to reason that a lot of it might not be the best, or have such low turnover that the tea will have degraded by the time it gets to you. I can recommend Upton without reservation for their massive range of single-estate Darjeelings, as well as a lot of their value-oriented Assam and Niligiri offerings. Nepalese and Sri Lankan teas are more sketchy with them. I've never tried a Chinese or Japanese tea from Upton that didn't taste like it'd been left in a dusty cupboard for a few years.

I dunno; I just feel like that catalog has a lot of stinkers on it, too many to suggest that someone newer to tea should buy from them. If they sell something you really like don't let me stop you from drinking it, they do good work.

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

david_a posted:

I feel like I’m shilling for Vahdam Teas since I bring them up so often...

Vahdam and Upton are unquestionably the #1 and #2 internet vendors of Darjeeling; both vendors carry all of the big-name estates in first and second flushes, and sell for fair prices. Upton ships from the US, Vahdam from India, which is why I'd usually give the internet recommendation to Upton. I know I just got done complaining about Japanese tea vendors who ship from the US, but there always seems to be some annoying headache with EMS or customs specifically from Indian vendors (Japanese vendors tend to be meticulous, Chinese customs will pass anything that doesn't have cartoon bomb wires sticking out the side). And Upton definitely moves enough Darjeeling quickly enough to handle storage/shipping well even with an American warehouse, so I'd usually rather just take Upton's crazy good domestic shipping rates and call it a day.

Still, nobody I've ever met has ever had anything bad to say about the tea from Vahdam. By all reports, their cheaper blended Darjeelings are also way better than Upton's.

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

RandomPauI posted:

Is there any good way to cut expensive teas with cheaper teas? Particularly for cold brewing?

Edit: To clarify, I want to get a bit more use out of my nicer teas so I'm thinking of going 3 parts nice loose leaf tea to 1 part generic bagged tea when cold brewing.

to be honest, i'd just buy loose leaf teas known for being good value and being robust enough to support multiple steeps. the reason generic bagged tea is generic bagged tea is because it's fannings, which is basically tiny sawdust-sized pieces of tea leaf--they infuse really fast and with a bold flavor, but they also release bitter/acrid off-flavors quickly. i don't think there's any way to extract good flavors from loose leaf tea without leaving the tea bags in long enough to extract unpleasant flavors from those.

maybe try cold brewing with just the tea bags in a seperate container, and and then mixing it with cold-brewed loose leaf tea? that'll let you know whether the combination is palatable with minimum risk.

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

good taiwanese oolong vendors imo (incomplete list (from cheap to expensive))

zen8tea's ebay page (stupendously cheap tea, cheap shipping too, cheapest "real" yixing i've seen on the internet. cheap. but decent!)
taiwan tea crafts (crazy selection, generally great value-for-money, cheap-ish shipping)
floating leaves (seattle-based, often considered low-altitude specialists, kinda pricy but nowhere near the next two vendors)
red blossom (san francisco based, high-altitude specialists, relatively high prices)
tea masters (run by a french person, crazy high prices and quality, good place to blow a paycheck on teaware also)

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

Ehhhh. If you just want to go see it, Maliandao is this mile-long commercial district/street in the rear end end of Western Beijing with nothing but tea-related businesses (including this Mall-of-the-Americas-size complex with literally thousands of tea vendors inside). It's definitely a sight, but the stores themselves mostly deal with the commercial wholesale market, with a side hustle of fleecing tourists. Wouldn't really suggest actually buying anything there, at least not more than just buying off the internet. If you can deal with the pushy sales tactics and have a Mandarin-speaker along, it might be a good chance to have a vendor brew some samples of any niche teas that you want to try before buying.

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

Green tea supposedly infuses pretty well in gin.

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

temperature also plays a huge role in an infusion and interacts weirdly with both brewing time and leaf/water ratio; some of the really wild japanese teas are best with outrageously cool (65-70C?) water for a minute or more even on the first infusion

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

Xun posted:

We were gifted this tea set but we have no idea what kind of tea it actually is. Can anyone here read the Chinese? Hopefully it is more descriptive than the English.



The actual Chinese text is thoroughly unhelpful, but it does mention the brand name. The company seems to specialize in tieguanyins from Anxi, Fujian, but there's nothing on the box to confirm that one way or the other--and they certainly do have a Wuyishan subsidiary. These sorts of gift sets usually contain individually packaged bags of tea; is there any more descriptive text on those?

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

anakha posted:

I'll be travelling to Tokyo at the end of the month, and I'd like to stock up on sencha and hojicha while I'm there. I prefer cold-brewing my loose-leaf tea, so I'm not sure that getting the higher-end stuff will be worth it, though.

Do you guys have any shop or brand recommendations? Thanks!

Go to any of the high-end department stores and look for the tea counter in the basement where all the food stalls are--the "flagship" department stores (Isetan in Shinjuku, Mitsukoshi in Ginza, probably some other ones) carry very good teas there. a brand i buy a lot of is Marukyu Koyamaen, a Kyoto-based tea concern that should be distributed at most high-end department stores in Tokyo; they specialize in shaded teas but also have a bunch of consistently blended, reasonably priced senchas and kabuses.

If you wanna nerd out hardcore, visit a tea shop called Chachanoma, close to Harajuku station. They specialize in single-estate, unblended teas sold by cultivar, which is unusual in the world of Japanese teas (now dominated by Yabukita cultivar monoculture, except in high-end shaded teas). You can try and taste and compare, say, a high-end Yabukita with Shizuoka 7132 with Koushun there. Plus the sweets and shaved ices are fantastic.

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

try upping the leaf-to-water ratio and cutting the steep time? that's usually what you do when you want to beat down astringency while still making the tea taste like tea.

Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

i will admit to kind of hating earl gray (though baked goods made with the dry tea are fantastic) so i have no idea if this is a dumb idea but is it possible to just...buy bergamot oil and add a drop or whatever to the finished tea if you're doing it at scale

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Reiterpallasch
Nov 3, 2010

strength accessories?

Fun Shoe

Little Red Cup is pretty hard to beat on value, at least for online vendors that have a reasonable free shipping option. Their stuff isn't blow-you-away good, but it's very solid for the price.

also a note of caution: upton/adagio's per-cup estimations are always for western-style brewing with one tiny teabag per pot left to steep for like five minutes, which is perfectly reasonable for robust CTC-type teas intended for milk and sugar, but probably not for nicer greens/oolongs

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