News

New Green Tea at Leaves of Cha: Hui Long Cha

Hui Long Zhai is in the western part of Bao Shan Prefecture on the borders with Myanmar, so it is no surprise that the Assamica cultivar is grown there. Using it for green tea is a delicious and intriguing surprise. The region is mountainous and contains peaks up to 3000m. This tea comes from a garden at 2000m, and the relatively cool weather leads to a late first flush from the tea plants. The short but hot wok firing gives this tea a delightful aroma that combines well with the more astringent and stimulating mouth-feel of this Yunnan green tea.

Provenance:

  • Origin: Hui Long Zhai Village, Teng Chong county, Bao Shan Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China
  • Grower/Teamaster: Ji Dong Li
  • Elevation: 2000 meters
  • Harvest Date: Spring 2015
  • Cultivar: Camellia Sinensis Assamica
  • Cultivation: Natural (Organic, not certification)
  • Plucking Standard: single leaf from first two leaves below buds, 15% bud
  • Processing Notes:  picking, frying, rolling, wilting briefly, drying in wok by hand, roasting in oven
  • Nickname: Hui Long cha

Tasting Notes:

  • Stimulating and astringent mouth-feel with nutty and vegetal notes.
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Transparency and Connectivity in the Tea Industry

Recently there was a big to-do on reddit and Steepster about some 1800-year-old puerh cakes that were being sold by a tea company. That audacious claim was firmly repudiated by several knowledgeable forum-members but also stirred up many who felt either hoodwinked by the company in question, or offended that another tea company should point out the ridiculousness of the claim. While the conversation quickly began to devolve into almost soap opera chaos, it seems there should be something that can be said about it.

My thoughts about it quickly went to the lack of standards for specialty tea in our industry. 1800-year-old puerh would certainly be a specialty tea, or maybe even in that rarefied air above a standard that some boutique and rare wines are. But the difference is that there are standards in the wine industry. As there are in the coffee industry and many others where the quality of a product can vary from a commoditized “meh, it’s edible” to a specialized “that’s the best ________ I ever tasted.” Having standards would hopefully make it a little harder for dubious claims to fool people and at least make for some peace of mind for consumers and tea retailers. In my mind, tea’s time has come for those standards. I don’t sell a lot of puerh because it is so complex, and with complexity comes risk and a whole lot of learning ahead of me. And that complexity probably means it would have its own set of standards. What I do sell, I don’t make grandious claims about. I simply do what I try to do for all my teas: Vet out the source, get the details about its origin, plucking, and production, and pass that along to you. And make sure it’s delicious. As Lu Yu stated, “Its goodness is a decision for the mouth to make.”

There is a lot of tea that would not meet a meaningful specialty tea standard that is being sold at price points equal to or greater than tea that would meet that standard. And the big companies and concerns that do it are not for standards, of course; they use marketing to define specialty and want to keep it that way. The standards are more for consumers, producers, and small tea businesses. Check out the Specialty Tea Manifesto as one effort to start the discussion and bring some accountability and transparency to the specialty end of the tea business.

Rounding back to the beginning of this post, standards don’t mean there will be no more dubious marketing or outright deception. That can always happen. But it is nice to have the bar set for those who are working hard to source and sell the best high-end specialty teas possible.

The other benefit of transparency is connectivity. These days we tend to think of connectivity as whether our phones and computers have access to the internet. But there is a more basic and human connotation to connectivity, especially within the food production system. Knowing where your food, or tea, comes from connects you to that place and to the people that produce it. When we don’t know where and by whom our tea is produced, we easily slip into the mindset of not seeing any harm in super-cheap tea or dodgy marketing. In general, global corporate farming and food production don’t want you to know the details of production; they just want to extract the profits from commodity (and specialty) markets. But when we are connected, we value our tea more; we think more about the conditions under which tea is grown and plucked for it to be so cheap. When we hear a news item about a flood or earthquake in Dehong, we might see and understand a correlation in tea production. When we know how close the sencha we like is grown to Fukishima, we might worry about those growers and workers and about the effects of the radiation on the tea. Knowing how unique some terroirs are for the specialty tea they produce, we might worry more about how a changing climate will affect livelihoods, availability, and prices. Living in Southern California, I don’t have the luxury of being a locavore with specialty tea like I do with so much of my produce and other foods. So I have to get the kind of tea I like to drink (and sell) from halfway around the world. But I still care about the stewardship of the people and lands that grow the tea I love to drink.

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Jinggu Golden Years: Which came first? Bowie or tea?

The beginnings of my tea drinking are lost in the mists of my adolescence somewhere. I only know that I’ve loved and been drinking it for a long time. In the same way, when I heard that David Bowie passed on today, I realized I have no idea how long I’ve been listening to them or how long they have been bringing joy into my life. Two unrelated things, yes. But they are two things with a long, meaningful membership in my life.

You may have heard some Chinese teas referred to as “tribute” teas? In honor of one of my musical heroes, I am renaming my Jinggu Golden Strand Yunnan black tea to “Jinggu Golden Years”. This is my Tribute Tea.

In addition, if you mention your favorite Bowie song or memory in the notes section of your order for Jinggu Golden Years, I will include a free Sampler Three Pack made up of other delicious Leaves of Cha teas.

There's a Starman waiting in the sky
He'd like to come and meet us
But he thinks he'd blow our minds.

REMINDER: Make sure to reference Bowie in some way in the Notes section when you check out!

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New Teas for your Happy Holidays!

Mao Jian of Xinyang Green Tea
 

Mao Jian from the Xinyang area is one of the most famous teas cultivated in the Henan Province. This mountainous area creates one of those unique Chinese terroirs that produces a distinctive quality tea. The name Mao Jian is usually translated as “Furry Tips” or “Hair Point” and refers to the white furry strips on the inner side of the typically needle-like leaf.

Provenance:

  • Origin: Qinling Mtn., Xinyang township, Henan Province, China
  • Elevation: 1400 meters
  • Harvest Date: mid-April 2015, Ming Qian
  • Cultivar: Mao Jian (Camellia Sinensis, small leaf)
  • Cultivation: Natural (Organic, no certification)
  • Processing Notes:  3-stage oven drying to halt wilting
  • Nickname: Furry Tips
  • History/Pedigree: One of China's Top 10 Famous Teas with a history of more than 2300 years.

Tasting Notes:

  • Grassy aroma with hints of pine; sweet umami taste with full mouthfeel

Mao Feng Green Tea

Mao Feng is a classic Chinese tea that is ubiquitous in the tea market. It can be called Mao Feng because of the cultivar, or because of the plucking standard, as the Mao Feng “pluck” traditionally refers to a bud plus one leaf pluck, or it can be just a marketing name. This tea is from a Mao Feng hybrid cultivar grown in Yunnan and it is a premium grade Mao Feng pluck. It is not rolled like most green teas, leaving the large, hairy buds and leaves mostly intact.

Provenance:

  • Origin: Ning’Er Town, Yin Pan Mtn., Simao Prefecture, Yunnan
  • Grower/Teamaster: Wang Si Kai
  • Elevation: 1400 meters
  • Harvest Date: Autumn 2015
  • Cultivar: Mao Feng: Chang Ye Bai Hao and Yun Kang hybrid
  • Cultivation: Natural (Organic, no certification)
  • Plucking Standard: Bud and one Leaf
  • Processing Notes:  Hand-processed in small batches

Tasting Notes:

  • Bold green vegetal tea flavor with nutty notes.

Some more teaware options
I've added some more teaware to the functional offernings on my site because I keep getting requests for them: an iced tea jug and a tea press. Also, my handmade teaware has sold out over the holidays. I'll be adding new pieces soon. If you know a local potter who makes beautiful and usable teaware that needs some support, send them my way!

Tea Sampler Six Pack 

This is a great way to try out the delightful teas in the  Leaves of Cha Tea Chest. Just pick out six teas that you would like to try in the 12g sample size pouches. The price of the six samples is discounted up to 56%, depending on the teas you select.

A great gift idea for the tea lover!

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More New Teas at Leaves of Cha; Six Pack Sampler Sale

 

Roasted Wild Tree Purple Tea

As you probably guessed from the teas in the Leaves of Cha Tea Chest, I love Yunnan black teas. The smoothness and low-astringency allowed me to kick my “English Breakfast with milk and honey” habit and just enjoy the tea. The wide variety of cultivars and styles that come from the province are mind-boggling. Purple Tea is one of those unique teas. There are three cultivars of purple tea and this is the naturally occurring original, knows as “Ye Sheng” or “Wild Tea”. Originally used to make puerh since it is quite bitter young but develops delicious complexity with age, it has recently started to processed into black tea with stunning results.

This roasted version is one of my favorite black teas and a very common start-of-the-day tea for me. I’m incredibly happy to be able to source this rare tea.

Provenance:

  • Origin: Mangshi, Dehong Prefecture, Yunnan, China
  • Grower/Teamaster: Mr. Li
  • Elevation: 1600-2200 meters
  • Harvest Date: Spring 2015
  • Cultivar: Ye Sheng cultivar aka "Camellia sinensis (L.) Kuntze var. assamica (J. Masters) Kitam." or Camellia Assamica Dehongensis
  • Cultivation: Wild harvested; naturally bug resistant cultivar
  • Plucking Standard: 1 leaf/1bud
  • Processing Notes:  Lightly Roasted. Only 90 kilograms in production for 2015
  • History/Pedigree: Lü Yu, in his “Classic of Tea” says “Tea that grows wild is superior; garden tea takes second place. Whether grown on sunny slopes or in shady groves, the best leaves are russet.”

Tasting Notes:

  • Strong aroma with sugarcane and hints of eucalyptus; complex mouth feel with hint of roast and caramel

 

Jing Mai Purple Needle Tea

This purple tea is from one of the three unique purple cultivars. Called variously “Purple Tea”, “Purple Bud”, or “Zi Cha”, it is a naturally occurring mutation of Camellia Sinensis Assamica. It grows all over the Yunnan Province but accounts for less than 1% of the cultivated Assamica produced there. The purple (or russet in my translation of Lü Yu) color is a result of the tea plants producing anthocyanin to combat the humid summers and high levels of ultraviolet light at the higher elevations.

This Zi Cha is a delicious tea and is another example of the wide variety of black teas from Yunnan. I simply can’t get enough of purple tea.

Provenance:

  • Origin: Mangjing Village, Jing Mai Mtn., Lancang county, Simao, Yunnan
  • Grower/Teamaster: Mangjing Village Coop
  • Elevation: 1600-1700 meters
  • Harvest Date: Autumn 2015
  • Cultivar: Purple Varietal of Camellia Yunnan pu-erh tea, aka Zi Cha
  • Plucking Standard: 1 leaf 1 bud
  • Processing Notes:  Fresh purple leaves processed into a flat needle style
  • History/Pedigree: Lü Yu, in his “Classic of Tea” says “Tea that grows wild is superior; garden tea takes second place. Whether grown on sunny slopes or in shady groves, the best leaves are russet.”

Tasting Notes:

  • Stimulating mouth feel with hints of citrus, caramel, and sugarcane. Floral aroma.

 

Tea Sampler Six Pack

This is a great way to try out the delightful teas in the  Leaves of Cha Tea Chest. Just pick out six teas that you would like to try in the 12g sample size pouches. The price of the six samples is discounted up to 56%, depending on the teas you select.

A great gift idea for the tea lover!

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New Teas at Leaves of Cha; Six Pack Sampler Sale

There are two new teas in the Leaves of Cha Tea Chest for your drinking pleasure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jade Earrings handcrafted White Tea

Description:

This is a spectacular hand-rolled tea from Yunnan that is a delight to behold and to drink. Be sure to watch the symmetrical “earrings” slowly unfurl in the water as you infuse the tea. I call this tea “Jade Nautilus”. The rings remind me of the marine creature as they sink slowly unfurling to join the rest of the writhing tea at the bottom. I add the tea to the water instead of the other way around so I can really enjoy them dropping through the water. The time-consuming hand rolling requires a high level of skill but the results are stunning.

Provenance:

  • Origin: Mojiang Town, Simao Prefecture, Yunnan
  • Grower/Teamaster: Pu Hong Li
  • Elevation: 1500 meters
  • Harvest Date: Autumn 2015
  • Cultivar: Yun Kang #100
  • Cultivation: Natural (Organic, no certification)
  • Plucking Standard: Pure bud pluck
  • Processing Notes:  Hand-rolled with great care into symmetrical hoops, or “earrings”
  • Nickname: Jin Si Hong (as it is made from Jinggu Golden strands, so literally “Strands of Gold”); Jade Nautilus

You can find this tea in the Featured Products section of the home page or under White Tea.

Sentoya Momiji

Description:

Japan is renowned for their high-quality and delicious green teas. Black tea, on the other hand, is fairly uncommon. This one was inspired by Ayumi Kinezuka’s visits to Sri Lanka. But instead of the robust maltiness she tasted in the teas typically made there, her tea is crafted to be a smooth, drinkable, and essentially Japanese.

This unique tea is from the small, completely organic Kinezuka farm in Shizuoka. Their natural growing practices are an anomaly in the midst of Japan’s typically heavy use of chemicals in their industrialized tea industry

Provenance:

  • Origin: Nakayama Village in Fujieda, Shizuoka, Japan
  • Grower/Teamaster: Kinezuka Family/Ayumi Kinezuka
  • Elevation: 350m (1150ft)
  • Harvest Date: Spring 2013
  • Cultivar: Yabukita
  • Cultivation: Natural (Organic, no cert.) Toshiaki Kinezuka started farming with all-natural methods back in 1976, so the farm has been grown with organic practices for 38 years.
  • Processing Notes:  Fully oxidized tea using the same cultivar used widely for sencha and gyokuro
  • Nickname: Sentoya Red Maple

You can find this tea in the Featured Products section of the home page or under Black Tea.

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Tea Sampler Six Pack

This is a great way to try out the delightful teas in the  Leaves of Cha Tea Chest. Just pick out six teas that you would like to try in the 12g sample size pouches. The price of the six samples is discounted up to 56%, depending on the teas you select.

A great gift idea for the tea lover!

Read more →

Welcome to Leaves of Cha, Part II

Welcome again to Leaves of Cha! Where you can find real tea made by real people that you can think about and thank whenever you take a sip of their delightful creations. That’s the whole point for me: connecting you, the drinker, with an artist, the teamaker or grower.

But where did all this come from? Why a tea business when you should be quietly working that high-paying corporate job for those last twenty years until retirement? Why now? And why tea?

I guess in some ways I’m one of the “…unloosed, the wandering souls who were willing to scrape their lives clean and start again elsewhere”, as Jessa Crispin puts it in her book The Dead Ladies Project. My unloosening came four years ago when I lost my high-paying corporate job to right-sizing, restructuring, and a flat industry and economy with not a lot to offer to a 50-year-old. So I scratched my head and dabbled around in a couple of things to help pay the rent. One of those things was helping a local tea company wholesale tea to restaurants, coffee houses, and tea shops. Being a lifelong tea drinker, this gave me a way of combining my sales skills with a food I love. Those two years of wholesaling gave me an insight into how the tea business worked. Especially the fact that if you are buying tea grown in quantity as a commodity, you are probably getting inferior tea, the growers and workers are not being paid sustainable wages, and more corporate farming practices (i.e., agrobusiness fertilizers and pesticides) are probably being used. See this excellent article on these issues, or download a copy of TeaforMePlease’s newsletter. Coupling that experience with educating myself on tea to a much deeper level than I ever had before as a drinker, I almost unknowingly started incubating my next big move. Leaves of Cha. Quality hand-made teas with known provenance.

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Welcome to Leaves of Cha!

Welcome to Leaves of Cha! Where you can find real tea made by real people that you can think about and thank whenever you take a sip of their delightful creations. That’s the whole point for me: connecting you, the drinker, with an artist, the teamaker or grower.

So much of the tea we drink has no one’s name or face connected to it. It just has a corporation or company’s name attached to it. Much of the $40B+ tea industry is commodity tea and I suppose that tea doesn’t need a name attached to it. Sometimes you are just grabbing lunch at the closest spot near your job and want some iced tea. You can live with a corporate commodity brewed iced tea. Maybe you just shredded the top of Mammoth Mountain in a stormy whiteout and now you're coming into the lodge to defrost. Odds are your tea choices will be the same as what you could buy in the supermarket or big box discount store. And that’s OK, I suppose. Your main focus is warming up.

But the simplicity of tea is a huge attraction to me. Hot water. Tea. A cup. Maybe an infuser. That means I can drink Mr. Li’s handmade puerh in the lodge at Mammoth. I can drink the Zhu’s authentic West Lake Long Jing at my desk at work after I get back from lunch. Or cold-brew the Nath Brother’s handmade Assam while I’m off-the grid at camp in the woods of Oregon. If you’re a tea scientist or you’re just not ready to free-brew it yet, check out the Starter Kit to get you going. Everything you need to get started drinking tea with provenance. Know Your Tea! I hope you make some new friends here.

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