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Small Tasting Guide (part 1)

27 June 2017

at 22:18 by Social

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Excerpt from our book – Tea: history, terroirs, variety

Intimately linked to our experiences and our eating habits, taste is one of the most fundamental cultural traits. It enables us to perceive, consciously or not, the entire range of flavors while creating direct links between our past and our present.

Tasting is first and foremost a quest for sensorial pleasure, but it is also a way of appreciating taste. Like any other skill it can be developed with effort and practice. In that spirit, it is important to know a few basic guidelines that can help us understand how the tasting mechanism works in order to appreciate the experience as a whole.

Visual Analysis

Our first contact with tea is usually made through sight. A close observation of a tea’s leaves can give us some idea of its taste. The presence of white tips formed by buds can be an indication of quality, as can a brilliant, shiny color, which is often a sign of freshness.

Taste

Taste is a combination of several complex sensations. It mainly involves two of our sensory systems: olfactory receptors (the nose) and gustatory receptors (the tongue). After visual analysis, the second critical step of tasting is to sniff the fragrances released by the tea

leaves. In addition to preparing the brain to receive tasting information, this step provides important information that the tongue alone cannot detect. Our olfactory system is far more complex than our gustatory system. Most of the information relating to taste is impossible to perceive without a sense of smell.

The Way of Tasting

If you wish to enhance the experience of drinking tea, the first thing to do, before even wetting your lips with the fresh infusion, is to sniff the leaves before and after infusion, inhaling the subtle fragrances they contain.

Next, study the color and texture of the liquid, then bring the bowl very close to your nose to smell the fragrances released by the liquor. You can use the “little dog” technique, involving repeated rapid sniffing.

Once you are ready to drink, take a small sip and then expel air through your nostrils to facilitate retro-olfactory perception. Pay special attention to the sensations the liquid creates throughout your mouth. Of the five essential tastes, salty is rarely found in tea. Bitterness, however, is present in varying degrees in almost all teas because of the tannins and the caffeine, which give structure to the liquid.

 All the senses are involved in tasting. It is not just about the nose and the tongue. Hearing allows us to hear the “song of the water” and know that it is ready for infusion. Vision tells us how the tea looks. So the environment, the music, the lighting, the other people present, our own mood are all elements to take into account if you are to succeed in truly tasting.

FRANÇOIS’ TOP 3 FOR 2017. DISCOVER HIS FAVOURITES.

25 June 2017

at 22:19 by Social

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Specialist in the Artisanal Classic Green Teas of China, François spends every Spring in the central provinces of China selecting rare batches of Green Tea and the aged teas of Liu Bao. Despite being a great lover of Chinese gastronomy he has been seen fleeing when presented with plate of extra aged tofu. Here are his picks for Spring 2017:

Taiping Hou Kei Hou Keng :

This year I visited the village of Hou Keng, in the terroir of the Taiping Hou Kui. Most of this area itself can no longer be harvested as it is a forest reserve.  It is located just a few kilometres up in the mountain by Sanhe village and the Taiping reservoir. The tea grows on a  steep slope of rocky soil. This tea has an unusual rich finesse. The flavour has fresh vegetal notes accentuated by rocky and floral notes. While this high-end tea is on the expensive side, it lives up to all expectations. To be enjoyed so in the peak of its freshness!

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Xin Yang Mao Jian:

We once carried this great Chinese classic in our selection but the instability of product and producers caused us to remove it. This year, I met a new producer with superb garden further out from the city of Xin Yang producing an affordable and very aromatic tea. The tea, made up of several young buds, has a lively taste, a light bight and a lingering persistence. Excellent for concentration and focus.

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Jingxian Jin Jun Mei:

This high-end black tea has been a favourite of mine for quite some time. That said, this year, the quality has really been kicked up a notch. Its many buds and precise transformation give the 2017 vintage very balanced, floral, honeyed and subtle menthol notes.

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Hou Keng just for a handful of lucky tea lovers!

21 June 2017

at 10:57 by Social

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We have recently received a small amount of a most intriguing Chinese tea! This premium issue of the famous Taiping Hou Kui (read the article) will definitely impress you with its immense leaves, each transformed with such great care.

For several years, we have been offering tea from the Sanhe village, located on the river bank leading to the impressive Taiping reservoir. This year, we are also offering a tea that is cultivated in a secluded area nearby, deep in the surrounding mountains in the village of Hou Keng. This steep, rocky and well-drained soil, covered by thick forest enjoys an interesting micro climate. The terrain shelters these modest plantations where this unique tea has been grown since the end of the 19th Century. Ideal for cultivating tea, this area is protected, and similarly to Long Jing, it is a restricted terroir that cannot be expanded.

Choose the perfect occasion to savour this tea its fascinating flavour profile, richness and depth.

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To prepare this Taiping Hou Kui, simply put 10 to 15 leaves per cup in a glass.  Adjust the number of leaves according to their size, then pour hot water. For each following service, add water to the infusion without removing the leaves. This will help the liquor to stay balanced, and not become too full-bodied as it will preserve its rich aromatics. This free infusion method allows you deep access the flavours of this style of tea.

Taiping Hou Kui typically has a light, vegetal, supple and thirst-quenching liqueur, enhanced by notes of exotic orchid fruits (slightly acid). Its dynamism is underlined by a steady evolution of sensations and flavors crowned by a mouthfeel effect: ‘like a gentle and soothing massage’!

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The Taiping Hou Kui Hou Keng, similar to these characteristics, has an even more textured and silky liquor. The balance of flavours is remarkable and is without the hint of acidity and tannic edge sometimes found in its ‘cousin’ with additional delicate notes of hazelnuts and coffee beans harmonized with green vegetables and flowers.

A great gift for anyone, especially yourself, to be savoured with loved ones. Subtle and vitalizing – with a lingering persistence that never seems to end….. Cheers!

The Nomenclature of Japanese Teas

11 June 2017

at 23:17 by Social

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In Japan, the concept of terroir is much less prominent than in China. The names given to teas relate more to the production and transformation methods of leaves. Discover the eight main types of Japanese tea: Sencha, Bancha, Hojicha, Genmaicha, Tamaryokucha, Gyokuro, Kabusecha and Matcha.

SENCHA

By definition, Sencha means “infused tea”. It is the most common of Japanese teas as it accounts for about 80% of the country’s total production. The quality of the Sencha teas varies as some are intended for everyday consumption, while others are much more high- end, rare, complex and subtle.

Consult our Sencha teas

BANCHA

Bancha is usually made from leaves and stems from late summer or autumn harvests. However, the best quality of Bancha is produced from June harvests.

Consult our Bancha teas

HOJICHA

The Hojicha is a Bancha whose leaves have been roasted for a few minutes at a temperature of about 200 ºC. While this method may remove many of their properties, it does gives them a honey taste with hazelnut notes.

Consult our Hojicha tea

GENMAICHA

Made with a green tea base mixed with grilled brown rice grains and puffed rice, Genmaicha are ideal for an everyday tea. There is however, a higher quality of Genmaicha, depending on the tea base used. You can also find a third variety to which Matcha has been added.

Consult our Genmaicha teas

TAMARYOKUCHA

There are two types of Tamaryokucha. The first, the Mushi Sei Tamaryokucha (or Guricha) undergoes a steam desiccation. Produced in the country as a whole, but mainly in Shizuoka, this tea tries to duplicate the appearance and taste of various Chinese green leaf teas. The other type of Tamaryokucha is called Kamairi Sei Tamaryokucha (or Kamairicha). Its desiccation is made in vats and its production is concentrated on the Kyushu Island. Although most of the production is now automated, there are still a few factories that produce hand-made batches.

Consult our Tamaryokucha

GYOKURO

By definition, Gyokuro means “precious dew” and is known to be the highest grade of tea in Japan. Its production is limited to a single harvest per year, towards the end of May or the beginning of June. The aim of the Gyokuro culture is to develop the rich flavour of this tea, which is one of the tastiest in the world.

Read our article on Gyokuro
Consult our Gyokuro teas

KABUSECHA

In order to obtain a Kabusecha, a covered crop is also required albeit of a shorter duration. While some growers hang synthetic blankets over the tea plants, others place it directly on the plants for about 12 days.

Consult our Kabusecha

MATCHA

Introduced by Buddhist monks at the end of the first millennium, Matcha is the first type of tea to have been drunk in Japan. Originally, the dried leaves were cut into small pieces and crushed using a stone mill. Today, the plants are often covered to produce the best Matcha.

Read our tips on matcha preservation
Consult our matcha and its accessories

 
 

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