849 Tasting Notes
Oh Accuweather, you did not prepare me for how lovely today would be! I thought the cool weather was supposed to meander in later in the week, but nope, started today! Mostly overcast and cool enough to have the windows open, though had I known I would have gotten out of bed earlier and headed to the zoo! Since this week is supposed to be mostly nice, one of these days is going to be a zoo day, and I am very excited for it.
Today is the start of a theme week, one of many upcoming theme weeks me thinks! This first one will be five days of Gramercy Tea, starting with their Yellow Chrysanthemum. I was desperate for some chrysanthemum too, perfect timing. I had recently ordered some off Amazon, the white variety, though when they arrived they were brownish gray and horridly stale. These arriving were a bit of a life saver, because I love chrysanthemum and get very cranky when I am out. Opening the bag was amazing, seriously fresh smelling chrysanthemums here! Notes of pollen, honey, straw, and flowers…obviously chrysanthemums…but also straw flowers, aster (same family techincally) and a bit of starchy sweetness. These are some of the sweetest smelling chrysanthemums I have sniffed, they look like little bits of sunlight, so overall a pleasant first impression.
You know what is fun, gongfu brewing flowers! I decided to use my serpentinite gaiwan to really show off the flower’s striking color. The aroma of the brewed flowers is super fresh, it smells like a bouquet of freshly picked mums, blending pollen, honey, dandelions, straw flowers, aster, and a touch of peppery goodness at the finish. The aroma of the first steep is wonderfully sweet, with notes of honey and pollen, dandelions, and a gentle sharp peppery note at the finish.
Ah, there is that wonderful cooling action I associate with Chrysanthemum. It is thick in the mouth, almost syrupy, and feels cool in the throat and stomach. It has become a go-to drink when my throat is scratchy, especially if it is from being so hot. The taste is sweet, with notes of fresh dandelion flowers, pollen, and a lingering wildflower honey. As the flowery brew cools a bit, the classic (at least to me) crisp peppery note shows up, but is pretty quickly drowned out by honey.
There is no real change from steep to steep, it pains me to say that it is not as nuanced as a tea, but not everything needs to tell an epic story throughout a session, sometimes change is not needed since it reached perfection from the start, and I feel a lot of flowers are like that, and that is fine by me. Lack of change aside, this pile of flowers just keeps going and going, til the end I just transferred my flowers to a bowl and grandpa steeped it, and finally at the end I just ate a few of the flowers because I am a rebel. Having had all the different colors of chrysanthemum used for tea, yellow is my favorite and this session just reaffirmed it.
Oh yay! According to the Accuweather the heat is supposed to be easing up, no more mid to high 90s, low 90s and high 80s with some storms starting tomorrow. Still hotter than I would like, but it is so much more tolerable! I just hope my peeps on the east coast get a break soon, my poor mom is melting. I hope it is cool enough to go back to the zoo soon, I have a $5 coupon for taking a survey and I want a new trinket for my tea desk, specifically a new tea pet.
Today I am looking at Yunomi’s Onocha: Yamaguchi Shincha Green Tea, a 2015 Shincha from the Yamaguchi Prefecture. I goofed a bit, when I was ordering some samples of Shincha I accidentally got some of last years, so I was expecting it to be faded…but a good way to break in my new glorious Shiboridashi. Well, the aroma surprised me, the leaves smelled immensely fresh and crisp! Notes of edamame, fresh cut hat, sesame seeds, and fresh sea air. It balances sweetness from the nutty notes and savory really quite deliciously, I spent the entire time my kettle was heating up with my nose in the leaves.
Into my new shibo the leaves go, and yes that beauty will get its own blog post soon, The aroma of the steeped leaves green! Very green, strong notes of kelp, edamame, spinach, and freshly cut grass waft up with a crisp hay and a light broccoli note as well. If this tea smells so intense being a year old, I can only imagine the intensity of it fresh. The liquid is subtle, gentle notes of hay and cut grass blend with equally delicate notes of edamame and sea air. It smells crisp and refreshing, like a breeze off the coast on a hot day.
The first steep is wonderfully light while being full of flavor. It starts with a note of sweet snap peas and edamame, then moves to freshly cut grass and sweetgrass, with a touch of hay. The finish brings the umami with gentle kelp and sea air, with a subtle starchy rice aftertaste. This tea hit the spot on a hot day, it was so refreshing.
Ah, the second steep is a beautiful shade of rich green, with a sharp grassy, savory spinach, and subtly sweet snap pea note. It starts brisk and grassy, with an accompanying note of hay and spinach. It then gets a slight astringent quality in the middle reminiscent of Brussels sprouts and alfalfa sprouts, this fades pretty quickly to edamame and sesame seed with a kelp finish. It has the right amount of bite and the right amount of sweet making for a very balanced cup.
So, it is probably not a secret, what with my occasional rambling on Instagram and my constant painting of various undead things…I want to be a necromancer. When I was a kid I brought the class hamster back to life, so clearly I have the talent for it, and just think of all the use you can get out of well trained (and clean) zombies? They can carry things, do the cleaning you don’t want to do, there are so many uses, plus it is like recycling and who doesn’t want to help the environment? Of course what kind of tea would a necromancer want to drink?
The obvious answer is Puerh, specifically one that has some age on it, doubly so for a traditional Hong Kong stored one. So that brings me nicely to today’s tea, Grand Tea’s Raw Pu-erh Cake-Simao 1999. The reason I say this is the tea that necromancers drink is two-fold, first this kind of tea has some sweet microbial action going on thanks to being in a wetter climate, a lot of ‘wet’ stored pu can have a bit of fuzzy mold (I didn’t see any on my sample) and it certainly speeds up the fermentation. Blame Magic The Gathering and my penchant for loving the Golgari (hello green black mushroom zombies) but that is where my head goes. The other reason is the smell, the aroma of this tea is like deep earth, wet cave, a bit of swamp, wet books, wet decomposing wood, leaf mould, and mushrooms. It smells like the kind of place a necromancer would hang out, I love the smell, though I admit my brain did this whole ‘wait, you are going to consume this’ moment, which was a bit funny.
Gaiwan time, I am using my baby Sheng gaiwan since I am always leery of a new Sheng Pu hurting my guts, though supposedly the older and wetter the easier it is, so maybe the tiny gaiwan was unnecessary. After a rinse and first steep, the leaves have opened a bit. The aroma us potent stuff! Strong notes of beets, leather, wet earth, old wet wood…and a bit of swamp and medicinal roots. Specifically a bit like Valerian root or one of those nasty TCM blends I drink when I have a nasty cold, it is pleasantly pungent. The liquid is sweetly medicinal, pungent roots mixed with a touch of the herb sweet annie, there are also old books, wet cypress, and a bit of wet leaves.
The first steep is surprisingly sweet, like wet wood, sweet annie, wet leather, wet leaves, and swamp. The real standout thing from the first steep is its incredibly thick mouth and long lingering aftertaste. For the real party you need to go to the next couple of steeps where it ramps up in intensity. Strong bitter medicinal roots, beets, and wet wood with a sweetness that shows up at the finish and lingers for a bit.
Steeps in the middle are something else, I feel like I am going spelunking! It tastes like cave, and roots, and fermented soy beans. It starts to have a tiny bit of a savory quality and a thick almost oily mouthfeel. I feel as though every inch of my mouth has become a cave and this is some sort of transcendent communication with bio-luminescent fungi. It tastes old and wet, it is pretty fun!
The final steeps (and that is many steeps later) it takes a while for the medicinal bitterness to fade back to sweetness, and even the sweetness reminds me a bit of medicinal herbs and the sweetness of wet leather. There is a savory quality of mushrooms and fermented soy beans, along with wet leaves and old books. I can see this being an acquired taste, it is very earthy and wet, conveniently I love the taste of caves and deep soil, wet wood and swamp…I spent a large chunk of my younger days playing in a swamp and playing in the dirt, so this tea evokes a lot of nostalgia for me.
This heat is too much!! I need a vacation to the arctic so I can re-solidify. I loathe the heat and I have made that abundantly clear in the past, but what really gets me is when it is long stretches of it, so even at night it is still grossly warm. Now granted, I know I am a weenie of the highest caliber when it comes to dealing with heat (I have a condition) but on days like this I find myself wondering how people pre-AC dealt with it. I admire their strength immensely.
Since it is unpleasantly warm, that means it is time for more cold steeping adventures! Looking at Nelson’s Tea Glass Slipper Herbal Tea, a Rooibos, Vanilla, Almond, Cherry blend…it sounds kinda like pie. The aroma of the rooibos is pretty great, blending strong almond and vanilla with a gentle woodiness and a very faint hint of cherries. I am glad that the cherry is not overly strong, sometimes when it is too strong it can smell/taste of cough syrup, so a faint dried cherry note is welcome.
After a night of cold steeping, the aroma is rich and sweet! Almond really is the show stopper here, with an accompaniment of woody sweet rooibos and vanilla, and a touch of cherry. I find I have to be in the right mood for rooibos, definitely not a drink whenever thing, but with the few exceptions most herbals are like that for me. Conveniently I was in the right mood, and if I wasn’t before, the aroma would have convinced me since I have a weakness for almonds.
I have, in my many years of tea consumption, heard the complaint that rooibos is too woody and too dry…and well, it is very woody, but I like that…the dryness can be a problem. I have found that cold steeping is a good way to make the dryness go away, so for anyone who wants to drink it but dislikes that aspect, there is an option for you. The taste is great, strong almond and vanilla with a mellow woodiness from the rooibos, it is also quite sweet, as rooibos is. One of the things I love about rooibos is how naturally honey sweet it is, and this one is no exception. Sadly I did not really encounter any cherry notes, though in all honestly I was totally ok with that, I wanted the almond to be the dominant note and it was!
So, recently a patch came out for Ark on the xbone, and I just downloaded it today and played for a bit. The last patch was supposed to fix the pretty obnoxious and game breaking crash glitch and it didn’t fix the problem at all, so I was pretty disheartened. Luckily for me the glitch was fixed, so I was able to play for a bit…granted there are still other problems, but none of them make the game unplayable so I am fine with that!
Today I am looking at Jasmine Jade Tea from Teabox, an Indian green tea blended with jasmine flowers and I believe scented as well, though I am unclear on that point. This is not a tea for the faint of heart, seriously, if you are not a massive fan of jasmine walk away now before you get sucked into a walled garden ruled by the heady flower. This is the tea where the jasmine is in control, from the moment you open the bag, jasmine is there with its vaguely hypnotic potency. Have I made it clear that this jasmine is super strong? It is not perfume-like and cloying, it smells like full on blooming jasmine with a hint of fresh grapes and a tiny bit of vegetal green.
I waffled about how to brew this tea for a few, on the one hand it is a tea from India and they (not always) tend to prefer western style steepings, but on the other hand I have had some great luck with greens gongfu style, so gaiwan time it is! I was expecting a small jasmine thing explosion to go off in my tea area, but it was pleasantly balanced with vegetal spinach and a touch of distant grapes. The liquid is light and sweet, with obvious notes of jasmine, but also notes of spinach and a touch of faint smoke, which was surprising.
The first steep was intense, it starts with scuppernong sweetness and honey and then explodes, I think a jasmine plant just bloomed in my mouth. It is really kinda fascinating, it manages to be intense and heady, but it does not overstay its welcome and also does not overwhelm. This is my biggest problem with a lot of jasmine teas, I want to taste the jasmine but not be smothered by it. This tea is like jasmine nectar and I might have transformed into a hummingbird for this steep.
Next steep is a bit different, the jasmine has bloomed and all that is left is its ghost, and a nice dose of green! It is fresh like spring green plants and vegetal like spinach and a touch of asparagus. There is a tiny bit of smoke and honey. It is sweet and the aftertaste holds the ghost of jasmine blossoms nicely. I admit to not being the biggest fan of jasmine, but this one works for me!
Well, it is one of those days where I do not have much of an intro. I caught a spider and put it outside, I made a giant rice-filled sack to act as a cooling pad, and a drank tea. All the cleaning and redoing of my room I did yesterday left me very sore and worn out, so for the most part today I have taken it easy and tried not to melt in the oppressive heat.
Today I am looking at an herbal blend from Steeped Tea, Curious Cumin, a mix of…well a lot of things: Fennel, anise, cinnamon bits, silver lime blossoms, cumin, turmeric, goji berries, lemongrass, rose blossom leaves, peppermint leaves, pistachios, pomegranate blossoms, cardamom, sunflower blossoms, cornflower blossoms, safflowers, natural flavors. I was…ha…curious to try this herbal blend because it has a few ingredients I am rather fond of, especially cumin, cardamon, turmeric, and pistachios. These things show up a lot in Indian food, which is probably well known to be a favorite cuisine of mine. Plus the description lists it as savory, and I do adore herbal blends with a heavy savory quality, so when asked if I wanted to try a few teas, this one seemed like a good choice. The aroma was a bit of a cacophony, surprisingly sweet and very spice heavy. Notes of nuttiness, fennel, citrus, and flowers give it a strong perfumed finish. Totally not what I expected, a little odd and intense though not necessarily unpleasant.
Steeping in my glass apparatus, the aroma is pretty intense, it has a real weight to it. Notes of cumin, fennel, pepper, turmeric, and lemons. Surprisingly little flower and surprisingly sweet for such earthy spice notes, but fennel is like that. The aroma of the liquid is peppery and spicy, earthy and herbal, with an undertone of lemongrass and flowers. The main note is fennel, with cumin being fairly light.
So with all those aroma notes being so sweet I was expecting a mouth full of syrup, but no, it is fairly savory and earthy, bordering on medicinal. Strong notes of fennel and turmeric, with a middle of cumin and pepper, and a finish of lemongrass and a sweetness that just shows up and lingers. When the tea cools a bit it starts being sweeter in the middle and picks up more floral notes. I am not sure if I like this blend or not, there is definitely a lot going on, and the flavors do clash a little. It is not unpleasant but there is a lot of mouth noise and I found it hard to focus on just one note, also I was a little sad there was no real sign of pistachio in the taste, but since pistachios are one of my favorite things ever, me being sad is only expected. I say give this tea a try if you are a fan of really chaotic herbal blends/teas, or ones very heavy on spices and herbs.
This week is going to be grossly hot, making me rather cross (other than my usual animosity) because I am finally feeling better and I wanted to go to the zoo! Since it is too warm to do outside things, and I had a ton of restless energy, I decided to redo part of the room…again. Including hosting an archaeological dig under my bed, which was exciting! Mostly under there was storage boxes, but Espeon is notorious for dragging random things under the bed (and under my desk, but that is easier to fix) so in the far corner was this pile of straws, ribbons, tassels, cat toys, and an empty chewed on bag of cat treats I am pretty sure I threw away. It was so sad the look on her face as I remove her stash, but I am putting the bed on the floor, so she will need a new stash spot soon!
Today I am taking a look at an herbal blend from Nelson’s Tea, Really Root Beer, a blend of Sassafras bark, sarsaparilla root, birch bark, burdock root, dandelion root, licorice root, fennel seed, anise star pods, ginger root, and flavoring. Oh yeah, we have a blend with the beloved Sassafras, one of my favorite herbs and flavor notes, this pleases me. It is kinda funny, as a kid I hated root beer, loved the smell of it but hated the taste, now as an adult it is one of the few sodas I don’t find gross (along with cream soda, birch beer, and occasional Dr Pepper) and is the soda I order when I go out to eat, because you know unless it is an Indian restaurant or Dim sum I am not subjecting myself to the tea most restaurants sell. I am getting off on a tangent, this herbal blend is the focus, and you know, if you were to blindfold me and hold this under my nose I would tell you ‘why are you asking me to sniff root beer and not tea?’ Seriously it smells just like root beer, fizz included, it is a little uncanny! I love it, but wow, that is a pile of root beer.
I decided to cold-steep this one, it could very easily be steeped hot, but in all honestly warm soda is probably my least favorite thing, so even a tea that tastes like soda I don’t want warm. After steeping for a whopping nine hours the aroma of the ingredients and the liquid is still pretty much identical to root beer, however it is not as sweet, which I like, as I frequently wish soda was a tad less sweet.
Tasting this tea was peculiar, it had notes of root beer for sure, with a subtle sweetness. However it was not an exact match, there were also earthy notes of burdock, sweet licorice, and gentle fennel. It is a more earthy and less sweet root beer and man, was it immensely refreshing! I am tempted to get more, cold-steep it in soda water, and then add a bit of sugar syrup and cream to make an Italian cream soda style concoction. This is the first soda themed brew I have had that actually evokes soda, the others I have tried have been nightmarish, this was tasty and different, I could certainly tell it was evoking root beer!
I am back from my wee hiatus, feeling better, though still with a bit of recovery left to go, but I am able to write at least a little so as far as the blog is concerned I am perfectly fine. The past weekend was Evo (and I apologize to my twitter followers, I was quite vociferous compared to usual) and what a fantastic one it was. For the first time Street Fighter finals were aired on ESPN, an awesome achievement! It has been fun watching tournaments change over the years, as esports and the FGC become more pro, though I do miss how the commentators have had to clean up a bit, meaning the FGC’s distinct lingo is sadly dying. Not that it stops Ben and myself from still using it to the confusion of those around us!
Today’s tea comes from Denong Tea, Elegant Tranquility, a 2015 spring Sheng Puerh from Lincang. I actually have not had a lot of experience with Lincang material as a Sheng (pretty decent amount for Hongcha) so sadly I won’t be able to say ‘oh yeah, this is classic Lincang’ instead it is a bit of an adventure into the only lightly known! I will say this, the combination of the name and the wrapper is so evocative, definitely one for the wrapper collectors out there. The aroma of the tea is very springy, fresh and light with notes of spinach, hay, sharp eucalyptus and a slight undertone of raw honey. It has a subtle woodiness as well, but it is fairly light.
The aroma of the leaves after a rinse and first steep is so green, sharp notes of eucalyptus and lemon leaves, cooked spinach, crushed hay, thyme, and a bit of greenwood and bamboo at the finish. The liquid smells light and a balance of green and sweet, with hay and honey balancing out spinach and bamboo with a hint of lemon leaves.
I was pleased with the initial thickness of this tea, from the first steep onwards it has a great mouthcoating thickness, and considering this tea has a really light start that is impressive. The first couple of steeps are green, with notes of spinach and hay, with a building lemon leaf and eucalyptus leaf finish, giving a great cooling effect. Around steep three it starts to pick up some kale like bitterness and a touch of dryness in the middle that quickly switches to lingering lilac nectar sweetness, that floral note was surprising and pleasant.
So here is where things get weird, around steep four the sweetness increases, as does the lemony aspect, now the tea vaguely reminds me of lemon cake! It went from being spring like in the beginning to summery in the middle, how fun! I really like how instead of being bitter the middle has a sour quality, it goes really well with the sugar cane like sweetness and the green fresh spinach and lemon leaves. Towards the end of the middle steeps, so steep six, it gets a fresh crisp bamboo note and the gentle eucalyptus note builds to an intense cooling. I had a bit of a sore throat while I was drinking this tea and the cooling was immensely soothing on it, so points there.
One of the biggest compliments I can give this tea, it is a young Sheng that doesn’t give me the dreaded gut-rot stomach ache. Even mild ones can start to cause discomfort towards the latter steeps, this one not so much, so I was able to outlast it. The finishing steeps are a combination of eucalyptus cooling and sugar cane sweetness, with a very long lasting sweet aftertaste. Definitely a tea where you want to go a bit between steeps to really appreciate how long the aftertaste lasts. The last couple of steeps also picked up a wet slate note at the middle, and the eucalyptus notes start to fade until gone, though the sweetness remains. The very last steep was the only one without a thick mouthfeel, it was light like water. This tea is light, though not at all dull or boring (as some teas touted as light can be) and I greatly enjoyed my session with it.
A great sadness has occurred, after much debate the Ark tribe on multiplayer is disbanding.We just keep losing too many resources and time to glitches, and new additions to the game have made things so much harder. We used to have a pretty secure base with our xplant turrets, but they tweaked them, meaning living in the swamp with ALL the things that want to kill us has made getting fertilizer a full time job, plus with all the bugs it is just not fun anymore. So we are going to single player, where if we die to a bug and lose everything I can just spawn it back in, the game can go back to being fun I hope.
Today I am looking at the last of the samples I received from Totem Tea, though certainly not the last since there are more of their teas I want to try, presenting Gui Fei Oolong! A classic staple on the blog, as my obsession with bug-bitten teas is well known and I will try any I can get my greedy mitts on. There is something very charming to me about the need for little nibbly bugs, that their presence causes an amino response in the plant that creates a signature taste, the result of a happy accident, as many awesome things are. The aroma of the tea is a three way balance of stewed fruit, roasted nuts, and baking bread. Sweet plums and cherries mix with walnut and pecans with a gentle honey drizzled freshly baked whole grain bread. Definitely can pick out notes of sweet buckwheat, which I always love.
Yowza, that aroma is potent once it has been steeped, strong notes of stewed plums and cherries mix with honey sweet lychees and a touch of dates. Alongside this fruity goodness is walnuts and toasted buckwheat which make sure that the fruity notes are intense without ever being cloying. The liquid is like nectar, plum and lychee with buttery cashew and raw honey, it is very sweet and mouthwatering.
This tea starts light but is nectar sweetness, a gentle mouthfeel and taste, with notes of lychee and cashews. It then moves to cooked plums and grapes with a distant note of spring flowers. With a finish of gentle toasted grains, this tea is much like a fruit pie, sweet and just the right amount of toasty.
I wasted no time chugging that first cup and moving on to the next, and I consider a good sign of Gui Fei when by steep two my tasting notes start to list to the side. The aroma is fruity sweet and toasted grains, a good blend of sweet and roast. The flavor notes of the first steep were still present, but intensified, and with a thick nectar like mouthfeel this tea has gone from wonderful to intense. One of the best aspects of this steep is the afteratste of peaches that lingers for quite a while, eventually ending off in a bit of a starchy grain note.
For the last steep this blog covers somehow manages to be sweeter in aroma, but it still manages to not be cloying, one of the things I love about Gui Fei. Thick and sweet, that is what is really to be taken away from this tea, it is like a fruit cobbler in liquid form, complete with nuts and a bit of crust. Of course three steeps is only the beginning, there is a lot more life in these leaves that keep giving sweet nectar for quite a while.
Curse my phone to the bowels of the abyss! I want to join the party and play Pokemon Go! but the blasted phone won’t let me, I am so sad. Granted I don’t leave my house much, but it would have been nice if I could have had fun with it when I did go out and about. I am, of course, being entertained by the internet explosion that it has unleashed, so at least I get the vicarious joy.
Today’s tea is a fun one! Recently a bunch of samples arrived from Japan via my pretty much one stop shop for all things Japanese, Yunomi! Many samples of Shincha, but also some of the more unusual stuff like dark tea and some black teas, like Chakouan: Ureshino Black Tea Leaf Stems. From the Chakouan Tea Shop in Ureshino, this is similar to the green tea Kukicha (as in it being a pile of stems) but is processed as a black tea (or Wakoucha) making for a uniquely pretty tea. What can I say, I am a sucker for teas that use the stems, it seems very efficient. The aroma is light and brisk with a surprising crispness, notes of sandalwood, malt, gentle raw peanuts, and a touch of tomato leaf. It is not a very potent aroma, but what is there is distinct and a little odd, but pleasant.
Into my shiboridashi the stems went, ah I do love this shibo, but I have a new one on the way that is more perfectly suited for Japanese teas and I am so excited. The stems float on top of the water, which looked really quite pretty. The aroma is malty and a bit tomato, usually I find a black tea with tomato notes smells like sun dried or leaf, but this is fresh tomato note. Alongside these notes are sandalwood and a bit of potato starch. The liquid smells very light, crisp and refreshing (not something I associate with black teas usually) with gentle notes of malt and sandalwood with a touch of starch.
The first steep is immensely light, it has the crisp refreshing quality of a green but with none of the green notes. It starts with a gentle woody notes, sandalwood and tea wood, with a touch of fruit wood. There are notes of black pepper and malt with a slightly savory finish. This might be the most refreshing black tea I have ever tasted. I went for another steep, because how could I not? This one was still light but had a bit more complexity of flavor, taking the previous notes and and adding a starchy rice milk note along with a subtle sweetness in the middle. This tea is in a whole different ballpark than the usual hong cha or western style black teas I have had, it is wonderfully light and refreshing, I find myself wondering what it would be like iced.