Thursday, December 30, 2010

Rishi Tea’s Hong Yue Review

Type: Black
Origin: Taiwan
Price: Free Sample (regular price - $11.00 for 50 grams) LIMITED SUPPLY!!
Vendor: Rishi Tea
Brewing Method: Per Instructed - 1 teaspoon of leaves, 1 cup of filtered water, heated to 195°F, steeped for 3 - 4 minutes
Overall Score: 4.9 out of 5

Hong Yue, also known as Ruby Black, is a rare and unique tea from Taiwan. The fresh aroma from the bag is incredibly fragrant! It reminds me of chocolate covered raisins – sweet, slightly grape-like. There is something a bit tart about it as well; maybe dates or cranberries. The term “fresh” keeps coming to mind when smelling the leaves and I think the reason is that it lacks a smoky quality that many black teas have which makes it even more unique. The dry leaves are black, long, twisted, wiry, almost uniform pieces. The leaves are rather large for being a black tea.

The raisin aroma is brought out more while the leaves are steeping. It also has more of a fruity, candy scent. The liquor is a gorgeous copper color.

Oh my… I don’t want to write anymore. I just want to sit, sip this tea, and think of nothing else.

The taste is fantastic! I have never tasted a black tea with so many fruity notes. A raisin or grape-like flavor is prominent, followed by a currant or cranberry tartness, and then a candied sweetness. It is not spicy or smoky or bitter. It is, however, quite astringent… which I noticed by the third sip. The boldness equals that of an Assam tea but without the smokiness, of course.

As I noted next to the price, this tea is in limited supply. This is truly something not to pass on if you want a high quality tea experience.

Speaking of, have you noticed the adorable white, speckled tea pot in the picture above and in my last couple of reviews? Rishi Tea calls that a Tsuki Teapot, Tsuki meaning “moon.” I won this little beauty back in February from a contest that Rishi Tea held. I love it! It is the perfect size for one person and, because of the firing process, each teapot produces different speckles so no two are alike.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Some Advice on Tea Storage

I was reading an article on tea storage advice and did a double take when I hit the section about storing tea in the refrigerator.

Do NOT do that!

There are several things wrong with storing tea, even in an air tight container, in the refrigerator. First, refrigerators house other food odors which could be absorbed by tea leaves. It is bad enough that some teas are overly flavored and scented to begin with, would you want your tea tasting like everything else in your refrigerator, as well? Second, if you place tea in an air tight container, you are also trapping room temperature air in the container. Then you place the container in the refrigerator. A couple of days later you are craving some yummy delicious tea so you grab that container from the refrigerator, open it, scoop out what you want, and close the container. What just happened is you introduced warm air into a cold container. When you put the container back into the refrigerator this is going to produce condensation and the moisture will lead to mold.

Thus, the benefits of the slightly extended shelf life versus the potential risks are just not worth it.

Basically what tea storage comes down to is protecting it from its two enemies: light and air. Store your tea in air tight containers (or at least make the container or bag as air tight as possible) and store those containers in a cool, dry, dark place. Be careful when storing tea in kitchen cabinets because the same threat of food odors in the refrigerator can come from the spices in the cabinets, as well. The ideal place in the kitchen is in the cabinet away from spices and away from the oven as smoke and fumes from cooking could absorb into the leaves.

If you have lots of tea (like the tea freak writing this article) the best practical place to store tea is in a cabinet in another room other than the kitchen... for example, the dining room or living room. This way, the tea is safe from light thanks to the opaque bags and containers plus the doors on the cabinet and the precious leaves are far away from any food odors that it could absorb. Keeping the tea at the same temperature as the rest of the house keeps moisture from forming and developing mold. It is not the perfect set up, but it works.

Ok, if you just insist on storing tea in the refrigerator for whatever reason, allow me to suggest something else. Separate the tea leaves into individual serving sizes and place each serving into a small sealable bag. Then, place the bags into the freezer. When you want to use those tea leaves, take out as many servings as you need and use all of the tea you take out. Do NOT put those tea leaves back into the freezer once you have taken them out.