Camellia Sinensis Teahouse’s Summer Session 08/2020 (Part 1) | Tea Course & Review

by Tea in Spoons

Over the last few months, the tea community has seen an explosion of online content in the form of courses, events, and everything in between! When I found out the annual Camellia Sinensis Summer Tea School program was repackaged into a virtual online event, I quickly purchased the accompanying teas!

Description: “This selection of eight teas was created for our online event Summer Session 08/2020 that will go live on both Facebook and YouTube in English on the 8th August 2020 from 2pm to 5pm EST.”

The online Summer Session was offered twice, once in English (August 8th) and once in French (August 9th) and was open to the public. There was also an option to purchase the 8 teas which would be tasted during the event. I purchased the set so I could get the full experience and drink along. The 8 teas arrived in a small box with 10 to 20 grams for each tea, along with a flavour wheel on card stock. The course was led by Kevin Gascoyne, who is one of the partners/tea tasters at Camellia Sinensis! Over the years, I have had the chance to meet Kevin at various tea events.

Since there is a fair bit of content to cover, the live session recap and review of the teas will be broken down into three posts:

  • PART 1 (this one!): Information about the event, the live session, and reviews for Sencha Tenryu and Shan Lin Xi;
  • PART 2 (next week’s post): Reviews for Jingning Yin Zhen, Long Jing Jingning Bai, Tong Tian Xiang; and, 
  • PART 3 (two weeks from now): Reviews for Darjeeling 1st Flush Singell; Jin Guan Yin Hong and, Pu Er Sheng 2020 Yongde Da Shan.

The posts are broken down based on the order Kevin presented the teas during the event, aside from the two I tasted during the live session. I wanted to let each tea have some time to shine and I felt a live session recap and 8 tea reviews would be a lot at once!

With some basic information about the event and teas, let’s go!

Virtual Summer Session, August 8, 2020

Like every live call or event, there are always some technical issues. Since this was the first time a virtual event was held, there were some initial technical issues, but after that, the event ran smoothly! I sadly wasn’t able to taste the first two teas as I was still trying to prepare the tea, teaware and water. But I was able to pick up at the third (Sencha Tenryu) and fourth (Shan Lin Xi) teas.

Since Kevin was going at a “rapid fire” speed and tasted 8 teas within 2 hours, I personally found it difficult to prepare the teas and listen and I was missing information. Therefore, I opted to just watch the event after tasting two teas and I found the session much more relaxing. The advantage of the live stream format is that was recorded and archived online, so I was able to go back and review the session. Now I can slowly work through it and taste one tea at a time!

The session was a great way to learn from the comfort of my home. The tea selection was nice as well! The only two comments I had are that I wished that each of the teas labels came with gong fu cha style recommendations compared to teapot style and that a list was provided regarding the individual teaware recommendations for each tea so, I could have prepared beforehand. The tasting wheel did have a comment about “break out all your favourite teaware,” but I felt like I was always rushing around to look for the right tools.

Since I have started re-watching the the archive of the live session, it looks like it was re-uploaded and portions have been trimmed, and informational overlays about each tea were also added which was not up during the live session. These are nice inclusions! Overall, I enjoyed the live session and I would recommend watching the event, even if you don’t have the teas!

With that being said, for each tea, I will include some tidbits from Kevin regarding it and my own tasting notes!

Sencha Tenryu

Description: “[T]iny batch [and] comes from a small cooperative by same name. It is one of those rare teas that in Japan that is made start to finish in the same place, most tea is pushed from one place to another in different stages of the manufacture.” — Kevin

Instructions (from the live session): 5 grams | 60 ml to 100ml water (60ml for a stronger tea) | 75°C

Review: The dry long leaves were a deep emerald colour and had a nice pine needle, vegetal, and mineral smell. The cultivar of the tea was Yabukita, and was grown at 400 metres and picked in early May. The tea was infused 5 times and the wet leaves smelled grassy, vegetal and roasted.

Infusion 1 (15 seconds): The liquor was a slightly cloudy yellow with a corn smell. It tasted sweet, vegetal, mineral. When cooled, there was a hint of bitterness.

Infusion 2 (5 seconds): Some umami started peaking through alongside some vegetal notes and a hint of dryness.

Infusion 3 (10 seconds): The infusion became a darker yellow and was slightly murky. Some astringency started to creep in with the vegetal, seaweed, and umami flavours.

Infusion 4 (15 seconds): During the live session, Kevin only went up to the 3 infusions, however, he recommended an additional two infusions and noted that the leaves could be stored in the refrigeration for the morning. After the infusion, the liquor was a highlighter yellow and was more mellow than previous infusions.

Infusion 5 (20 seconds): The liquor was completely clear and slightly pale with a mellow vegetal flavour.

Overall the liquor had a nice range of flavours. It was mostly vegetal with some mineral and sweeter notes with a good amount of lingering taste in the mouth. As a final note, Kevin suggested eating the leaves by adding some good soy sauce! I would highly recommend this along with some roasted rice (3.5/5 rating).

  • Type: Green tea
  • Origin: Japan
  • Caffeine: Unknown
  • Ingredients: Green tea
  • Company: Camellia Sinensis

Shan Lin Xi

Description: “Initial impression from this Taiwanese highland wulong is an aroma of ground-cherry and wheat-grass which evolves into fresh vanilla and flowers.”

Instructions (from live session): 7 grams | 100ml  | 95°C

Review: The dry leaves were tightly rolled up and a dark forest colour. It had a strong orchid floral, vegetal and sweet smell. The leaves were picked in May. In the live session, Kevin used a Taiwanese purion clay teapot. He used the same one from the cover of the 1st edition of the book, Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties which he co-authored. I did not have one so, so I opted for a porcelain teapot. The wet leaves had a nice floral and mineral smell after steeping.

Kevin suggested adding the dry leaves into a dry pot and adding the water to the vessel. This way has the double function of rinsing the leaves and warming the pot at the same time! I liked this idea. A short rinse is important and will enhance the flavours and wake up the leaves.

Infusion 1 (30 seconds): The clear liquor had the same floral smell as the dry leaves. It tasted sweet, floral, and fruity with some grassy (wheatgrass) notes at the end of the sip. Kevin suggested smelling the bottom of the fair cup and the drinking cup, which had a floral, sweet smell.

Infusion 2 (20 seconds): The liquor was still a pale yellow and had a strong floral and wheat grass taste. The tea had a long staying power and was comforting.

Infusion 3 (45 seconds): There was a fair bit of astringency during the 3rd infusion. The taste was mostly vegetal with some underlying floral.

Overall, I enjoyed the second infusion the best because it had the strongest flavours and the largest range. During the tasting, Kevin suggested to not become too technical when brewing teas and to learn to use your judgement and intuition, for example, two measured and then one free-style to build up the intuition. I know at times I can rely very heavily on the instructions (4/5 rating)!

  • Type: Oolong tea
  • Origin: Taiwan
  • Caffeine: Unknown
  • Ingredients: Oolong tea
  • Company: Camellia Sinensis

Final Thoughts

I am really happy I was able to take part in the live session, and even more so that it was recorded and archived online. I have slowly gone through some of the teas and it has been a blast! I would highly recommend watching the archived sessions as it comes in both English and French.

The nice thing about tasting teas with others, virtual or not, is I find hearing other people’s tasting notes, helps me grow my vocabulary! Lately, I have been reaching for the flavour wheel more often when I have been tasting teas so, I can drill down on the various flavours. I can’t wait to try more teas!

The question of the post: Have you attended any virtual tea events or courses?

  • PART 1 (this one!): Information about the event, the live session, and reviews for Sencha Tenryu and Shan Lin Xi;
  • PART 2 (next week’s post): Reviews for Jingning Yin Zhen, Long Jing Jingning Bai, Tong Tian Xiang; and, 
  • PART 3 (two weeks from now): Reviews for Darjeeling 1st Flush Singell; Jin Guan Yin Hong and, Pu Er Sheng 2020 Yongde Da Shan.

Edit: Nicole from Tea for Me Please kindly included my post in her weekly review! Make sure to review all the other posts that week!

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Tea in Spoons is where I share my love of teas through tea reviews, tea travel, tea tips, information, and more. New tea adventure every Thursday!