Monday, January 31, 2011


Even more on Gyokuro.  Can you stand it?  Mmmmmm it's just so darn delicious though.

Ordered this latest lot on-line from Yuuki-cha in Japan last week and I picked it up at the post office this afternoon.   Organic Uji Gyokuro Gokou which Yuuki-cha describe thus:

A first harvest organic gyokuro tea (Jade Dew) from a small organic tea garden in Uji. It is made exclusively from the tea bush varietal known as Gokou. Carefully grown under diffused sunlight for an extended 30 days before harvest, as opposed to the shorter 20 days that is often suggested. It is minimally processed and sorted and is 100% Uji Gyokuro. This type of unique farmer's gyokuro has become more and more popular over recent years and is very much in demand due to its more natural flavor than blended and/or heavily processed gyokuro teas. It has a rich, sweet, dense, briny taste with a marine aroma, a deep green liquor color, and an almost buttery aftertaste! 

Opening the bag there's a big rush of sweet rich aroma -- sweeter than any Gyokuro I've had before, sweet like a floral sweet, almost hyacinth.  (I went to my cupboard and smelled raisens and apricots and then the sweet frozen berries in the freezer to give my nose a reference just to be sure.)  Also some of that nut hint I've noticed in Gyokuro before as well as big green vegetal and marine aromas.

4 grams in 7 ozs of 65C water for 1 minute.

Wet leaves are a bright mid and dark green mix, can still see leaf shapes and stringy bits of leaf veins, etc.  Strong vegetal, marine and big chestnut (I swear it's chestnut) aromas. 

Beautiful pale bluey green liquor.

Smooth, sweet soft flavour, no astringency at all.  A tiny kick of bitter on the back sides of the tongue as it goes down.  This smells and tastes unlike any gyokuro I've had before -- the breadth of flavour and aroma is greater but also that chestnut note is really forward in this tea.  Different.  Surprising.  Really nice.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Yesterday, January 29, 2011,  I had the pleasure of being a presenter at the Tea Guild of Canada's second annual public tea tasting event which this year paired a number of teas and chocolate.  The Guild is a volunteer-run association founded by the first lot of certified Canadian tea sommeliers which is open to all tea enthusiasts and is dedicated to furthering the delicious 'cause' of tea appreciation and tea education.

Held at the lovely historic Montgomery's Inn in Etobicoke, it drew some 44 people for afternoon's 3-hour tasting which featured four tasting stations highlighting green, black, oolong and blended teas paired with various (mostly) home-made chocolate treats.

Actually, when I say "home made" chocolate treats I do them a disservice.  The chocolate mousse (!) and other treats were made by Bill Kamula, Laura Bryan and Raelene Gannon, all excellent and professional pastry and chocolate chefs.  Some chocolate bars and buttons were contributed by sponsors to round out the tasting samples.

My task was to present the Japanese steamed green tea, gyokuro, and a dark chocolate.  A total treat since I love both and find them to be a terrific pairing.

Have you tried it?  The soft sweet-ish flavour and satiny mouthfeel of the gyokuro is an incredibly nice match with the rich, bitter-ish flavour and earthy mouthfeel of plain, 80%+ dark chocolate.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A gift of fresh tea from Sri Lanka

 Oh boy.  A friend brought me back two boxes of tea from his recent trip to Sri Lanka.  They visited the Mackwood Tea Estate and the tea is from there.  A box of Ceylon Orange Pekoe (whole leaf) and a box of Ceylon Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings.  Fannings, I said to myself?  Well, okay, thanks.

The Orange Pekoe looks beautiful -- large-ish medium twist leaves of an even size which brew up a beautiful cup of bright red-brown tea.  Full of flavour -- it's fresh after all.  And it has a lovely astringency.  A classic high-grown ceylon.

But the big news was the kapow flavour of the Fannings.  Now, we know fannings can deliver alot of flavour quickly because there are more exposed insides of the leaf but who knew that when you combine that with really fresh tea how big and wonderful the flavour could be?  I take back any derogatory thoughts I ever had about fannings. This has been my breakfast tea everyday since I opened it.

Now that I've blurted about the tea, here's the scoop on Mackwoods: one of the oldest tea companies in Sri Lanka it was established in 1841, initially as a coffee plantation.  I've noticed that most of the Sri Lankan tea companies are involved in many industry sectors and rarely just tea.  This is true of Mackwoods too and its website explains that "today, Mackwoods is a Conglomerate of several companies engaged in essential sectors of the Sri Lankan economy; namely – Agribusiness and Plantations (Tea, Rubber and Oil Palm), Healthcare (Pharmaceuticals and Medical Equipment); Science & Technology; Information Technology Education, and Software Development; Imports and Value Added Exports; Energy Sector; Leisure Sector; Manufacturing Sector; and Financial Services (Insurance, Asset Management & Stockbroking). Mackwoods provides employment to approximately 8,500 individuals, and owns & manages 27,000 acres."

But back to the tea -- it comes from their Labookellie Estate which is in the Nuwara Eliya region.  Nuwara Eliya is the highest tea region in the country at about 6000 feet and tea from that region is considered the best and, I've been told, is rarely blended.  One of these days I'll go and see for myself.