667 Tasting Notes
Well poop, it seems that things have gotten extra complicated in my life. It seems the Silver Nemesis, aka the car, has broken beyond repair, kinda out of nowhere. Not having a car is going to make getting to my various medical visits hard, going to gaming hard, getting to the store hard…oh yeah, and Ben’s job as a pizza deliverer kinda hard. I am glad that I have a great stash of tea to last me through what is going to probably be a very tight patch, but I am sad because my epic gift giving plans might not work, well, I might use any birthday money to buy the miniatures I wanted to paint for my friends instead of new paint. Things are going to be tough, but we will figure something out. So, that is my life at the moment!
Oolong time! Today we are looking at Taiwan Oolong Tea’s Lugu High Mountain Oolong, a new company located in Singapore, their shop-front is their facebook page and have three Oolongs they are offering, they also recently had a small contest and I was lucky enough to snag some of their tea. This tea was grown in the Lugu region at 800m above sea level and was harvested this spring, and that is all I know about this tea, so onward to the sniffing of the nicely balled up leaves. The aroma starts milky and sweet, gently creamy with a slightly nutty rice and almond milk note. Under the creamy sweetness is a floral blend of honeysuckle and a touch of lilac at the finish.
Into the gaiwan! The leaves unfurl pretty quickly, as of the first steep they are already almost unfurled. The aroma is green and just a tiny bit spicy, like spicebush and Asiatic lilies. It is also a touch creamy and just a touch nutty like almost milk. The liquid is surprisingly mild, with notes of gentle cream and distant floral sweetness.
First steeping, this tea really shines in its creamy and very smooth mouthfeel. I admit the first steeping’s taste is really mild, gentle floral notes and gentle nutty notes. There is not a ton going on, but the mouthfeel is pretty great.
Time for the second steep! The aroma is creamy and sweet, much more of a presence than the first steep, strong notes of sweet cream, honeysuckles, almond milk, and a a touch of lilacs. The mouthfeel still shines with its silky and creamy texture. The taste has more to offer with this steeping, though sadly not a huge. amount Gentle notes of honeysuckles and sweet cream mix with lilacs and a lingering note of honey.
Third steep! The aroma is mild, gentle notes of honeysuckles and a touch of creaminess. The taste is pretty mild, honeysuckles and lilacs with a gentle creaminess and a touch of vegetation. Gentle is definitely the name of the game with this Oolong, I almost feel like this would be a great after heavy meal sipping experience, one to cleanse your palate while enjoying a subtle flavor.
I am pretty sure my beautiful half moon double tailed Betta (you know, Jace Beleren, because Magic references are fun) is actually a reincarnation of one of my old Bettas. When I first got him is was vibrantly blue and white with a few black spots, he has gotten darker, he is mostly dark blue with black speckles and he is dichroic. A trait in gemstones, Tanzanite and Alexandrite being famous ones, that when viewed from different angles or types of light appear different colors. It is pretty awesome, when Jace is near the top of the tank, his reflection is vibrantly teal (he matches my hair) which makes him the exact inverse of my fish Dichro, yep named for his dichroic property. These two are the only Bettas I have had that have this interesting property…now if he will stop teasing me and let me get a photo!
So today’s tea is a fluffy leafed favorite of mine, Moonlight White Tea, from Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company. Ah Moonlight White (or Yue Guang Bai) you are a tea that causes many debates, White Tea? Puerh Tea? Some epic mix of both…probably, see it is from Yunnan and is of the large leaf Assamica varietal, same as Puerh, you can compress and age it like a Puerh, it is only lightly withered but unlike a Maocha which is withered under the sun it is withered under the moon. Or so the legend goes, I also see that this tea is named Moonlight because of its silvery leaves and it is withered in a warm air tunnel. Regardless of what category this fuzzy beauty fits it, it is time for sniffing. The aroma of this pile of fluff (really, I do love fluffy and fuzzy teas, I think I have a fixation, or I just really love leaves) starts off with gentle notes of sweet honey and hay with a touch of wildflowers and pollen. This moves to gentle yeasty bread, honeydew melons, and a touch of lettuce and cucumber at the finish adding a bit of green. I really like how it goes on a little journey through sweet, floral, fruity, and green.
I decided to use my green easy gaiwan/pseudo-houhin for this one, I just love using this wide thing for fluffy leaves. The aroma of the now steeped leaves is strong with notes of sweet hay, raw honey, pollen, wildflowers, and a touch of cucumber, baked bread, and just a tiny little hint of black pepper at the finish. The liquid is delicately sweet, like pollen, wildflowers, honey, and just a tiny hint of lettuce at the finish.
The first steep, in my fancy clear crystal glass, I am so posh. It starts out nice and smooth, with a slight tinge of fuzziness from the trichomes. The taste is quite sweet, like honey and hay with a definite pollen and wildflowers note to it. The finish is gently green with a tiny touch of malt and a lingering sweetness.
And on we go to the second steep, the aroma is a sweet blend of wildflowers, raw honey, and pollen, with just a touch of melon at the finish. The taste is a lot more intense this steep (which makes sense) really making the pollen and wildflower notes pop, I feel like there is a bee’s paradise in my mouth. The finish is honey sweet and gently cooling, and that honey lingers for a while.
The third steeping’s aroma is much sweeter, like I stuck my nose in a jar of raw honey, you can certainly still smell the pollen, but it is all sweetness all the time. The mouthfeel is a lot more round this steeping, almost silky in its smoothness. Tasting it, well, I am awash with the sweet honey taste and gentle wildflowers, for all that this tea is moonlight it tastes like sunlight to me. The finish has a cooling cucumber note and a lingering honey one that seems to linger on forever. Many steeps were had, I got a bit tea drunk off this one…ok a lot, I found it an excellent painting companion.
Well, I got my results from the MRIs and EEG, and they were for the most part normal. Well except for the weird white mass on my frontal cerebral cortex that they think is not related to my current problems and they have no explanation for. Clearly that means I have superpowers, I will totally tell my neurologist that when I go for my follow up. I am glad I do not have epilepsy or MS, though I admit, not having any answers and still having problems is frustrating, a diagnosis means I get help…but all I have now is more questions, superpowers, and pain. Ah well, at least I have tea and can still paint!
Today we are looking at Dachi Tea’s No 8 Scarlet Honey Oolong, oh yeah, time for another bug-bitten oolong! This one is more oxidized than some of the other bug-bitten oolongs I have had, so expect this to be a fun adventure. Opening up my package I am pretty much slammed with an incredible sweetness. It is like someone put a bowl of honey drenched black cherries with a light sprinkling of black walnuts and baked pears in front of my nose. It is immensely intense, rich, and oh so sweet, I feel like I am sniffing dessert and not tea!
Into my jankity sage gaiwan the leaves go, I wanted a smaller gaiwan so I could stretch this tea over multiple sessions, if that aroma is anything to go by. The aroma of the wet leaves is intense, almost heady in its sweetness, I feel myself swooning! Notes of cherry, grapes, cooked pears and plums, and loads of honey. The liquid starts out with a cream and honey note and then it melts into baked cherry, plum, and pear notes and a touch of condensed milk. It is intensely sweet, consider me impressed, this might be the sweetest smelling tea.
First steeping, it starts smooth and gentle, a touch of juicy pears and lychees and then out of nowhere a small honey themed explosion goes off in my mouth. I am totally ok with that. This moves to cooked cherries and plums, with a finish of walnuts. The lingering honey sweetness stays for so long, it is wonderfully sweet.
On to the second steep, it starts with sweet honey and rich cherries, a touch of walnuts and creaminess as well. My notes in my notebook kinda slant and look very garbled, my handwriting tends to do that when I an drinking a bug-bitten oolong! It is a sweet explosion of honey drenched plums, cherries, pears, and a gentle finish of walnut. I am loving that walnut finish, this is like drinking a baked fruit dessert.
The aroma of the third steeping keeps it going with the sweet honey, dark cherries, walnuts, and that oh so decadent creaminess. It keeps my nose happy. Ooh fun! This steep has a new note that has surfaced, alongside the notes of cooked plums, cherries, and pears, there is a nice rich note of dates. Of course on top of that is the ever present note of honey, it is wonderful. I had so many steeps of this tea, I got unbelievably tea drunk too.
Flavors: Cherry, Dates, Honey, Pear, Plums, Walnut
I think I need to give up on the dream of a black cloth on my tea desk, oh sure it looks fantastic day one, but as of the first time I turn my back on the tea table, it is the cat’s table. So, either I need a tortie cat colored tea cloth that will also not show ALLLLL the stains from my tea spillage or I need to get a tiny tape roller to collect all the cat fuzz since she keeps insisting on sleeping on it. Clearly she is jealous of the tea pets and wants to be the alpha pet. Of course I could get one of those cool wooden tea trays with the drain, but it would make accessing my desk’s cubbyholes nigh impossible…maybe I should just turn my antique secretary desk into a draining teadesk…that would be so metal. And also really hard!! For those who remember my other tea desk WIP it is currently on hold until after I move…someday.
Today is, unless my notebook is a big ol’ liar, the last of the pile of samples from Tao Tea Leaf, their Precious Ali Shan-Premium, though reading the description, I am not sure if the Oolong from Ali Shan or an Oolong from Li Shan, I though about trying to figure it out through taste (or being sensible and contacting the shop) but then decided, maybe I spend too much time getting bogged down in the details, maybe I should just enjoy the tea and let it be the guide, not any preconceived notions of location. So tea, what do you have to tell me? The aroma is creamy, like all sorts of creamy, we have milky notes, sweet cream, honey butter, and almond milk. Underneath that sweet creaminess is a touch of gentle spicebush blossoms and faint papaya fruitiness.
Into my gaoshan pot the leaves go! The aroma of the now steeped and slightly unfurled leaves is gentle almond and chestnut at first, this moves to a nice burst of honey and flowers, honeysuckles, lilac, and that tropical fun burst of papaya at the finish. The liquid is where all the creamy action went, chestnuts and sweet cream with a nice burst of almond milk and distant honey drizzled bread.
First steeping is very creamy in the mouth (I am seeing a bit of a theme here) nice and smooth, one of my favorite thing about gaoshan Oolongs, they have some of the best mouthfeels in the tea world. The taste is sweet and creamy, almond milk and papaya notes mix with gentle flowery undertone. As the sipping continues the flowery notes build to a distinct honeysuckle note, and the finish has that same note with a lingering honey and chestnut aftertaste.
Second steeping, the aroma of the liquid has a nice spicebush note at the first, that moves to sweet cream and nutty notes of almond milk and chestnut. I am really liking the almond milk note, being one of my favorite non-dairy milks. The taste really ramps up the sweetness this steep, creamy and gentle nutty with a blend of chestnut, almond milk, coconut milk (specifically the milk substitute, not the super heavy stuff you get for cooking delightful Thai food, or coconut juice, the coconut note is very light in that stuff) and a touch of actual sweet cream. The finish is a lingering honeysuckle note that just keeps on going.
The third steep taught me something very valid, never rely on an internal timer (fun fact, any teas that require less than a five minute steeping time, I just keep watch on the leaves, count it out, or just wait til it feels right) for steeping tea while playing Terraria, I oversteeped the third steep by a good two minutes. Way to go, Amanda! The liquid was dark compared to the previous steeps, but the aroma was all flowers, no more cream, just a bouquet of lilacs and honeysuckles, very sweet and spring like. The taste was not at all bitter, not a bitter note to be found, hooray! The taste is intense creamy notes of chestnut and almond milk and then BOOM flowers! So many flowers, like I just fell face first into a lilac bush and got all its tasty nectar into my mouth. Well played, Oolong, well played!
The pile of WIP on my painting desk is slowly shrinking. See my big plans for Christmas gifts this year are buy a miniature I think the receiver will like and paint it for them. It goes with my usual tradition of making gifts for people, and I wanted an early start. My goal is to get the gifts for family finished first and then do a bit of an open season, open it up to like 15 or so of my online friends and tell them to claim a spot and they get a mini. Thank you Reaper Minis Bones line for being affordable! Also yay for not having a job other than tea rambling, so I can devote a ton of time to painting things for people I care about.
Today’s tea is one of the strangest looking ones I have had the pleasure of brewing, and I admit I got it entirely because it was quirky looking. What-Cha’s Ceylon Idulgashinna Hand-Twisted ‘Blue Nettle’ Oolong Tea as you can tell from the title of said tea, it is an Oolong from the Idulgashinna Tea Estate in Sri Lanka, specifically in the Uva region. This fun little tea bundle is hand twisted by workers, though I admit I have no idea what it has to do with nettle since it really looks nothing like the plant…maybe it is a reference to the jellyfish? Regardless it is quite pretty, the leaves tightly curled and showing a great variety of colors. The aroma is fairly light, a blend of apricots and persimmons with a slightly sour note like unripe plum, it blends sweet fruity and sour fruity very well.
I thought about gongfu brewing this little cluster of surprisingly long leaves, but decided it would be best suited in my tea brewing apparatus, I want to see it unfurl! And you know, even after a couple steeps, it stayed tight together, which I found amusing. The aroma of the leaf pile is sweet, like cooked apricots and persimmons with a definite honey note. The liquid smells like apricots and apple blossoms, very light but sweet.
First steep, it is smooth and pleasant, fairly light, but it has one very distinct note. It tastes like summer squash, specifically summer squash drizzled in honey. It is pretty mild, with an apricot finish, but it is also refreshing in its mildness. So, on we go to another steep.
Second steep, the aroma is picking up some malty and squash tones along with the persimmon and apricot. I like how the tea is kinda orange and the things it smells like (malt aside) are all orange. This is truly the tea to usher in Autumn, hey blenders, maybe use this in a pumpkin themed tea…because it no longer tastes like just summer squash, it tastes like pumpkin! It is still a bit light, defintely a tea that both has a presence and can be slurped without paying attention, at one point during the second steep I reached to pour myself more and realized my steeper was empty…and was confused as to where the tea went. Clearly I slurped it up and didn’t even notice. I also tossed a couple bundles into my tea infuser (sorry no picture, was really distracted with medical crap that day) and this tea handled the long steep very well, bringing the malt and pumpkin sweetness, it was a great accompaniment to a stressful day…and I have a suspicion I am going to get more of this tea to keep around for travel steeping fun.
I had the most delicious plum today, really it was amazing. Not the most informative intros about how my day went, but all thought of the day pre-plum just kinda vanish in a fruit filled haze.
Today we are taking a look at West Lake Dragon Well Green Tea (Long Jing) by MeiMei Fine Teas, ah Dragon Well, you are a tea I have a serious soft spot for, probably one of the spring harvest teas I get most excited over. This specific Long Jing was harvested pre-April 5th, making it a Pre Qing Ming tea, one of the more coveted of harvests. When looking at the leaves I noticed some had wonderful trichome fuzzballs, a sign that yep, these are picked super early and have their young leaf fuzziness, most of the fuzz gets rubbed off during pan firing, but some gets left behind as little fuzzballs. I call them lucky, because whenever I see them I know I am in for a treat. Sniffing the leaves, and hello vegetal! Take bell peppers, green beans and Lima beans and saute them with some sesame seed oil and a touch of sweet honey and you have the aroma for these leaves. Just at the start of the saute process too since the bell pepper note still has its crispness.
The tea has made its way into my dragon gaiwan for its steeping, I kinda lost track of time and steeped it a little longer than I meant to, so hopefully that won’t ruin all the things. The aroma of the soggy leaves is very green, keeping that Lima bean, green beans, and bell pepper and adding in some okra and only the slightest touch of sesame seeds. The liquid is light and green, notes of green beans, sesame seeds and bell pepper mix with an undertone of honey.
First steeping time, did I ruin it by over steeping? Pfft, no, though I think I did remove any chance of the first steep being very sweet. It starts smooth and a little tingly from the trichomes, the taste is mostly savory, only a hint of sweet at the finish that lingers as an aftertaste. Notes of green beans, Lima beans, bell peppers, and artichoke make up the tasting profile. It is crisp and refreshing in its smoothness.
Onward to steep number two! The aroma is vegetal and savory, only a tiny hint of sweetness at the tale end of the sniffing. The taste starts sweet this time, like sesame seeds and a gentle note of honey. This moves on to a strong vegetal and slight nuttiness, and then finishes with sweetness. I did have a third steep, but it was pretty mild and mellow, since I steeped it too long at first steep. Also, fun fact, this tea was awesome in my travel steeper, kept me going through a rather vigorous game of D&D!
Last night was amazing! Not only did I get to photograph the eclipse, I got to share tea and not very tasty (what I get for getting the cheap ones) Mooncakes with Ben (yay for him getting off work at a decent hour) and I got to share this experience with many friends via the internet and phone apps. It was great, lots of moon photos with ‘I am drinking this tea’ posts, and it gave this wonderful feeling of togetherness, and for the people who were unable to see it, they got to live vicariously through all the photos. Usually I tend not to get all squishy about the epic tea family I am part of, but after the epicness of last night, and the way everyone has been so wonderful to me with my recent bout of health woes, how can I not get the warm fuzzies?
So, it is Monday, meaning time for a Matcha Monday! We are looking at three different Matcha from Encha, specifically their three different grades of Matcha. Before I get into the Matcha, I want to point out the excellent amount of information present on the website, not only do they say where it is from, they also say when it was harvested and ground, how to make it, the mg of caffeine, theanine, and catechins, and while there are some listed health benefits, this is not one of those companies that shoves Matcha being a panacea down my throat. Encha, for that pile of information and transparency, you have my gratitude!
Ok, time to delve into the green! Starting with the Ceremonial Grade Matcha, first thing I notice is the beautiful color and fluffy texture, I barely had to sift it! The aroma is nutty and sweet, with notes of honey and chestnut, this moves to freshly cut bell peppers, and a finish of slightly sweet hay and yeast. Once whisked into a very lovely foam, the aroma is much more green, strong notes of bell pepper and a hint of kelp with an undertone of sweet nuttiness.
Underneath the foam, the color is a rich algae green, like my beloved Marimo (moss balls) that I used to have in my planted aquarium. The mouth is thick and creamy, no graininess (I really hate grainy Matcha) and it starts with a strong umami note, like a mouth full of steamed spinach and kelp, it is not at all bitter, just robustly green. This moves to gentle notes of grass and a touch of lettuce, and the finish is a subtle sweetness that lingers. I find there are two types of Matcha that knock my socks off, ones that are naturally very sweet and ones that are like drinking pure, undiluted chlorophyll, like I am becoming one with the green growing things of the world.
(I feel lazy, for the other two Matcha and photos, blog): http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2015/09/encha-trilogy-of-matcha-matcha-monday.html
You know what, I can’t wait til Monday. Apparently my new camera will be delivered then…oh, did I not mention I got a new camera? Well, I was able to make some money and I used that to buy a refurbished Fujifilm S8600, it is not my first choice (really wanted one of those fancy multi-lenses pro $700+ cameras) but with mine dying, the time for saving up for the one I wanted has passed. The new one will be a significant upgrade over my Fujifilm S1800, specifically it has a slimmer profile (unless I unleash the MASSIVE zoom) meaning my tiny hands can grip the thing better for some epic pouring tea photos. The search for the illusive perfect mid-air droplet shot continues.
Today we are looking at another tea from Tea from Vietnam, specifically Ta Oolong, an oolong that is very uniquely Vietnamese! This is a native oolong, having been grown there for thousands of years, most likely originating as wild grown tea trees of the same stock found growing wild in Yunnan, the place where tea originated. Tea trees are so rude when it comes to borders, they tend to ignore it and wander off to other places. In the 90s a bunch of Taiwanese teas were brought into Vietnam, slowly pushing the Ta Oolong to only be grown in a few small gardens, this one came from a garden in Lam Ha. The aroma of the pretty green leaves is very floral with a hint of sweet cream. Notes of orchid, honeysuckle, osmanthus, spicebush, and a touch of hyacinth and lilies, I feel like I walked into a summer garden or flower filled conservatory. I might have spent more time inhaling the floral explosion than is necessary.
This is a tea that calls for my Xi Shi Yixing Teapot, yeah it is named after that Xi Shi, inspired by her probably very perfect bosom, what with being one of China’s great beauties. The leaves, now steeped and unfurled a bit, are a wonderfully flowery explosion, notes of orchids, lilies, honeysuckle and hyacinth are the main flowers, with a gentle crushed vegetation finish. The liquid is honey sweet and creamy, and very, very heady. It is like a garden in full bloom in my cup, just want to sniff and sniff…and yes I dipped my nose in the tea again, it was inevitable.
First steeping, oh it is a creamy thing, the oolong’s mouthfeel is definitely a thick one, coating the mouth with its texture, and I am totally ok with that. The taste starts out green and a bit buttery but that is very quickly shoved out of the way by a small storm of flowers. If you are imagining a cloud of petals that also rain flower nectar you are on the right track. Notes of lilies (giving a touch of spice) honeysuckles, orchids and osmanthus bloom in my mouth, with a lingering honey aftertaste.
On we go to steep two, the aroma is creamy and sweet, I managed to not dip my nose while sniffing the flowery sweetness. This time the lily note is very present in the aroma, giving it a gentle spiciness. The mouthfeel is still buttery and thick, and very well rounded. The taste skips over the green note and goes straight into the flowery explosion, so many notes of flowers, lilacs, osmanthus, lilies, and honeysuckles, finishing out with a creamy sweetness.
The third steep brings in more of the lily spicy notes, strong floral and honey with a wonderful spicy note that lingers through and through. The mouthfeel still has that buttery texture that I have come to expect, though it is a touch lighter this time. The taste starts out with a touch of green, similar to the first steep, like crushed fresh vegetation. This moves to sweet honeysuckles and nicely strong lilies whose floral spiciness lingers for quite some time. Many steeps were had.
I totally fell asleep during my MRIs yesterday, I just want everyone to know this fact. So first was the EEG which all the strobe lights and fast breathing in the world could not make me have a seizure…though I did find out that even when I am asleep my eyes never stop moving so much so that the technician felt the need to point it out, even having it where my eyes were open while I was asleep, which made for some amusing results. Also I had a hard time falling into a deep sleep while being in a dark room with a comfy chair. But, put me in a tube with loud banging and crazy laser noises and I go right to sleep…I should point out this was also after I chugged the entire much needed contents of my travel steeper full of oolong. This just goes to show you that the brain is a weird thing, They think I should have results of the MRIs on Monday, and the way the tech went from cracking jokes to very comforting and not letting me see my brain at the finish has me hoping that he just thought I was exhausted. In all seriousness though, I want an MRI tube to sleep in, they are quite relaxing.
Today we are looking at a tea that I honestly need to look at more, but it seems that I frequently forget it exists, which is pretty unforgivable since it is a bug-bitten beauty. Oriental Beauty to be exact! This is Dachi Tea’s No 7 Oriental Beauty Oolong, grown in the northern low elevation triangle (I didn’t know there was one of those, which is cool) between Miaoli, Shiding, and Hsinchu, plucked during the summer, once a year, Bai Hao (this tea’s other name) is the fancy stuff, like all those bug-bitten treasures it tends to be both rare and pricey. And totally worth the price (I may or may not be obsessed with bug-bitten teas, I blame my love of leafhoppers) I also blame the Concubine Oolong for my tendency for forgetting the graceful Oriental Beauty exists, for shame. So, how does this one smell, so first let me say I got a bit of a surprise with this one, the first note I detect is ever so gentle peppery nasturtiums. After that there is a burst of sweetness, rich brown sugar and sugar cane, scuppernongs, and muscadines, and a finish of honey and delicate flowers. This is a very sweet Oriental Beauty, and with a suitableness I appreciate.
The wet leaves are so colorful, definitely one of my favorite things about Oriental Beauty, shades of browns, greens, and reds remind me of autumn leaves. The aroma is sweet and slightly delicate while being very distinct, it is graceful like a silk scarf in the breeze. Notes of honey and grapes, specifically more like muscadines, and a finish of allspice. The liquid is like sniffing a honey drizzled muscadine grape, ah, like a juicy bite out of my childhood.
The first steep is sweet and very smooth, again the silk scarf in a breeze image comes to my mind, this tea is silky and gentle, distinct while light. The taste starts out with sweetness, a juicy burst of muscadine grapes and and honey sweetness, it starts gently and swells to an intense sweetness. The finish is sweet and the aftertaste is one of grapes.
Second steep time, the color is as rich as autumn leaves, and the aroma is sweet and wonderfully muscatel, honey and grapes mix with just a touch of sugar cane. The taste is sweet and gentle, me thinks that is a theme with this tea, along with its silky mouthfeel. It starts with notes of honey and juicy muscadines and moves into rich honey and a touch of allspice. This finishes with muscadines and a sweet lingering honey.
The third steep comes in with beautifully large leaves in a practical rainbow of leafy colors. The taste keeps in theme, silky, gentle and sweet. I found it did not really evolve much throughout steeping, just sweet muscadines and honey with occasional spices. It is pleasant, the muscadine notes remind me of late summer feasting during my childhood and the gentle sweetness I found to be peaceful.
Today I was given a reminder as to why I stopped taking care of fish. Anyone who ever says they are easy is full of it or not doing it right. Years ago I had a ton of tanks, I was rescuing Bettas from local pet stores and trying to rehabilitate them, but one month I was sick, like really really sick. I lost pretty much all my tanks except for my self-sufficient 20 gallon, it was devastating. After that I had a Betta here and there that I rescued and loved for a couple years, by no more massive tanks. Recently the bug bit me and I want to get back into tank management, hardcore, I have two small ones but when I move I expect my tea room to also be filled with aquariums, cleaning water is a really good workout after all. What all of this about is I woke up to a dead Ugin the Spirit Dragon this morning, no idea why, he seemed fine the night before happy and healthy, with fine water. I am filled with sadness at the loss of my fish, debating cleaning the tank, moving the Otoclinus in with the other betta and his ghost shrimp and retiring that tank, or just getting a new Betta. Time will tell.
Ok that was a really depressing intro, I am sorry about that, so I am going to make it up to you all with some really pretty happy tea, yep, it is a fuzzy golden tea, this time with an epic twist! Whispering Pines Tea Co’s Earl Gold, a blend of Golden Snail (one of those Yunnan fuzzies I rave about quite often, and WPTC’s is something else) and cold pressed Bergamot oil, and then it was aged for 30 days. Before I get too into this review, you might have noticed I do not review a ton of Earl Grey Tea, turns out I am not really a huge fan of it, the real Erlkönig (think folklore not Goethe) is Ben, he is a connoisseur of the stuff. With that in mind, allow me to describe these fuzzy coils’ aroma, they smell really good, like really good. Blend cocoa and malt, chocolate and roasted peanuts, and underneath all of that is bergamot’s citrus zing that grows and grows until it is like having my nose pressed into a bergamot fruit. I like how it is not an immediate punch to the face with bergamot, since that is usually what I don’t like about earls.
Into the gaiwan the tea goes, yeah, this is going to be a gongfu earl session, that might be a first for me. The wet leaves are very sweet, notes of yams, cocoa, peanuts, and rich malt blend seamlessly with bergamot. The aroma reminds me of like the best ever chocolate orange, man I love those things so much. The liquid is a delicate blend of peanuts, yams, and cocoa, and hello bergamot at the finish, it just sits there and is friendly, not at all overbearing.
First steep, oh that is smooth, very smooth and very sweet. Not what I ever expected to encounter from an Earl, the expected bliss from the Golden Snails with a really crisp and tangy bergamot blend together really well. It starts with malt, cocoa, and peanuts, this builds to a really strong cocoa sweetness and honey, with a lingering honey finish. And then there is the bergamot, it starts mild and builds, underneath the other notes and never overpowering them. Again, it reminds me of the best chocolate orange.
Second steep, the leaves have more or less totally unfurled now, and the tea area smells really good. The aroma is a balance of cocoa and bergamot, like a perfect balance, it is rich and sweet and mouthwatering. I am salivating over an earl, what has the world come to? The taste is rich, very rich, hello malt and cocoa, and of course bergamot. This steep is not as sweet, and the bergamot has a touch of sourness that really wakes my mouth up, and it lingers for a while.
Third steep! Strong cocoa and bergamot reaches my nose from the cup, tea blenders, please, make more EG that is a citrus themed nose caress and not a punch! The punch is nice for some, but I really like being able to tell how good the base tea is. The taste is very rich and balanced, the sweetness returns and blends well with the cocoa and malt notes. The finish is citrus and lingers. Ben and I had many steeps of this and both became quite tea drunk. So what does the Tea Barbarian have to say for himself when it comes to this tea?
“Like all the best Earls Grey, I could smell the Bergamot from across the room as soon as Amanda unsealed the package. That’s a promising start, even if it didn’t make her cough when she sniffed it as some past favorites have. Actually drinking it was an unusual experience – Earls are, of course, usually made with ‘Western Standard’ teas from South India, which tend to be strong nearly to the point of overpowering. As a tea barbarian, that’s the sort of thing I’m used to. The fuzzy gold used here is much more mild – enough so that I’m not sure I would call it an Earl Grey, exactly. However, to my pleasant surprise (and unlike several other “Early Grey but with fancier leaves” experiments I’ve tried before), it actually works really well. Whether Gongfu-style or Western, the milder leaves compliment the Bergamot, rather than being overwhelmed by it – the result is a smooth, earthy Earl variant less suited to kicking you into gear before exploring ancient ruins than to soothing contemplation atop a throne of skulls. An Ambassador Grey, if you will.
All the powers in the world couldn’t convince me to review an ANYTHING Grey going strictly by Gongfu – an insistence upon English-style* steeping is part of why I called myself a Tea Barbarian in the first place – but there’s one further surprise there. Don’t tell Amanda, but this tea actually remains much more flavorful when taken Gongfu. It’s a very unique Grey variant, all-round."
- Okay, fine, it predates the English using it. In fact, Amanda tells me the Mongols were the first to brew tea that way, so that’s EXTRA barbaric. Though I use rather less milk than either the Mongols or the English tend to.
Flavors: Bergamot, Chocolate, Citrus, Cocoa, Malt, Peanut, Yams