Tuesday, January 31, 2012

2011 Kim Jong Yeol's Jungjak Nokcha Butea

This sample was kindly sent along with my last order from Slovak shop Nomad.sk. It really made me happy – my previous encounters with Kim Jong Yeol's teas (such as this Balhyocha) were really an unusual experiences and of the four of his teas imported to Europe by Teamountain, this Jungjak (third picking) was the only green I haven't had a chance to try yet.

And since this sunny, windless day seemed ideal for such a tea, I have decided to give it a try now.

This tea originates in Yonggang-Ri, Hwagae-myeon, Gyeongnam – Hwagae Valley and was completely hand-picked and hand-made during the second week of May from 20 years old, wild tea trees.

The leaves are very good-looking; just slightly larger than those of Saejak (second picking) grade, curly and range from light, yellow-green to almost blueish in color. Their smell is very sweet, floral and, even quite a long time after the picking, still fresh. The preheated teapot enhances these sweet and pine-like fresh tones and reveals more, especially the roasted smell of bread.

The first infusion is light-green in color and just as light in taste, though, at the same time, very complex. Mainly dominated by gentle, flowery sweetness and tones of various fruit – pears and grapes, these notes are followed by once again very sweet, bread-like roastiness and pine-like freshness, which is, however, less vivid than in smell of the dry leaves. The aftertaste of this brew is mouth-filling, quite long and nutty-sweet.

The second infusion has a lively green color, is very clear and its most pronounced tone seems to be that of the roasted, sweet bread. Most of the former freshness is missing in this infusion, being replaced by complex, full tones of nuts, pears and berries. The following aftertaste is stronger than that of the previous infusion, once again quite roasty and bread-like, pleasantly remaining on tongue for a very long time.

The third and fourth infusions are somehow similar in character, being clear, lively green in color and still dominated by the sweet roasted tones of bread, which are now somehow finer than in the second infusion, where it reached the peak of its strength. These brews are creamy, nutty and complex, light and deep at the same time. Their aftertaste is moderately long, sweet and mouth-filling.

Few more brews are made of these leaves; gradually getting lighter, drier and less complex. Its main tones are nuts and bread, followed by remains of fruity sweetness and creaminess.

This tea, similarly to most of Korean green teas I've encountered so far, has a remarkable, almost meditative effect on my mind, putting it into a concentrated, but very calm state at the same time. This is one of the things I am most fond of in Korean teas and why I am always very glad to have a chance to try one.

So thanks again, for an opportunity to drink yet another of master Kim Jong Yeol's teas, which always seem to leave a memory of extraordinary session in my mind. Even now, when this green isn't in its freshest state anymore.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

2011 Horaido Gyokuro Fuuki

The sun is shining as I finally have enough free time for a proper tea session. Other than that, the air is still quite cold – days like these often make me want to drink Gyokuro.

Some of you may remember me talking about the 2010 version of Horaido's Fuuki – I enjoyed it a lot, just as I enjoyed practically all Horaido teas that I've tried up to this day. This traditional, Uji-based shop offers teas, many of which rank among my favorite Japanese-greens every year.

I purchased the 2011 version of Fuuki on my last visit to Brno's Probuzeny Slon teahouse and enjoyed it a couple of times since then, so I guess it's finally time for some notes.

After the package is opened, these typically beautiful, short and shiny dark-green needles emit that amazingly sweet, rich and complex smell so characteristic for a good Kyoto-style Gyokuro. This smell enhances as quite a big amount of these leaves is placed into the preheated Shiboridashi, revealing the pleasantly heavy, milky character.

Using traditional way of preparation, the first infusion is brewed with lukewarm water for four minutes and is yellowish-green in color, thick in consistence and very complex in taste. Within countless tones, umami is naturally the strongest one, followed by sweet milkiness, creaminess and less pronounced (compared to previously described MK Tsubokiri Gyokuro) but still detectable freshness. Next in line is a very interesting tone, reminding me of sweet melon – both yellow and watermelon.

This brew leaves long, heavy aftertaste in mouth, dominated by, once again, umami, noble sweetness and somehow creamy, hazelnut-like nuances.

The following infusion is prepared with a bit warmer water and shorter steeping time, resulting in a greener, less thick and very clear, transparent brew. Its taste is lighter and slightly vegetal, though the noble sweetness and umami remain the predominant tones. The refreshing tone is also significantly enhanced, compared to the previous infusion; so is the green, fruity-like character, now reminiscent of freshly picked green apples and grapes. The aftertaste is shorter, though still very sweet and complex, made of several tones, now especially those of various kinds of fruit.

One more infusion is prepared – with quite hot water and short brewing time, this is a light, nicely sharp ending of a session, now very refreshing, less deep and more straightforward and vegetal, though still practically without any unpleasant tones.

Eating some (or, in many cases, all) of the the spare leaves has became almost a routine part of my sessions with Gyokuros – these beautiful, still lively green leaves are no exception. Lacking bitterness, their mild sweet taste and lightness is a calming experience, prolonging the noticeably awakening, though, at the same time, mind-calming effect.