455 Tasting Notes
Well, last night’s campaign went well, we killed lots of undead things, none of my fireblasts backfired and lit me or the party on fire, and I talked to a cow for important plot details. Being a Druid is fun, now if only I could hurry and level up so that I can start turning into random wild animals, then things will really get real. And for anyone anxiously awaiting news on the computer kerfuffle, 4-7 business days until it arrives, the wait might drive me crazy, but that means it is only a short time before I can resume some semblance of normality and get caught up on all my internet stuff. Also, one last little blip of me related info, there are two new buttons on my blog, one linking to my Instagram and a donation button, I figured it would be a less obtrusive way to possibly generate a little income, and it keeps with my promise of not running ads.
So, now tis time for some Chai! Actually it is always time for chai, since chai just means tea in Hindi (and several other language) so yeah, when you are ordering Chai Tea at a restaurant, technically you are just ordering tea tea. Fun linguistics aside, today we are looking at Trader Leaf’s Sri Lanka Spice Chai, a blend of Black Tea, Coriander, Cumin, Curry, Sweet Fennel, Cinnamon, Cardamon, and Lemongrass leaves, quite the unusual blend! I am a fan of Chai blends that go out of the norm, and teas that incorporate spices that are usually just used for food. The aroma of this tea is intense, it is a blend of curry and cumin, coriander and cardamon, and a very rich malty black tea base. It blends the aroma of food and tea really well and manages to make me both hungry and thirsty.
After giving the leaves a steeping, the other spices start to really show their stuff, the cinnamon and cardamon being the strongest and giving an edge of sweetness to a mostly savory spiced tea. Underneath the previous spices is a blend of rich malt, curry, and cumin. The liquid is quite rich, blending sweet and spicy in a really quite perfect little dance. It smells much like a malty Masala Chai sitting right next to a steaming bowl of curry, or my usual dream lunch.
Taken the traditional way with milk and sugar (ok, I use half&half, but I like mine super rich) and let me start out by saying, that is one super rich tea, cream aside! I barely noticed the creamy richness over that strong malt and killer spices. It starts out with intense curry and cumin, then transitions to coriander and fennel, and after that hello cardamon and cinnamon! The finish is sweet with a cumin aftertaste that lingers. This is the perfect chai for a hot day, it warms you up and makes you feel all tingly and relaxed, plus I love the blending of curry spices and more typical Masala spices, this might be one of my favorite spice blends for a chai.
Guess what, it is game night! Also it is computer ordering time, yes my oh so wonderfully tech savvy boyfriend has found the perfect computer for me and is ordering it. I do not know much about it other than the screen is big, it is not Vista (I am free of the curse!) and I will probably be able to play Minecraft on it. So for all the terrible angst I have been going through with not having a computer, it looks like it will be having a happy ending. Also, guys, wish me luck that I do not manage to either blow myself up or damage my fellow party members in tonight’s D&D game!
Today we are taking a look at Golden Tips Tea’s Halmari Gold Assam Black Tea Second Flush (Clonal) a fuzzy golden tea from Assam, how neat! I have seen very fuzzy golden teas from places other than China, but the glorious fuzzy golds have become iconic to me, I always get excited seeing them from somewhere else. From the Halmari Tea Estate, these leaves come from the P126 Clonal bushes and are picked under very special circumstances, and of course, they are the highest grade of leaves with the GTGFOP grading. The aroma of these lovely fuzzies is pretty rich, a blend of maltiness that you expect from a high grade Assam, along with potent notes of cocoa, roasted peanuts, cooked cherries, and a subtle woodiness at the finish.
Into my fancy little steeping double boiler tea alchemy thingy the leaves go! After a nice steeping (thank you oh great and fancy timer app, though I am pretty sure programming it to sound like a Creeper hiss is going to bite me one day) the aroma of the leaves is again, very rich. There are notes of the expected malt, along with pepper, roasted peanuts, and a distinct oak wood undertone. The liquid is pretty much identical, it is very rich and malty, both the aroma of the leaves and the liquid is very rich and not at all sweet.
This tea wakes you up if you are asleep, I was expecting a rich and mild tea, again spoiled by Chinese fuzzy teas, what I got was an intense Assam. I have not had a straight Assam in a while, it used to be my go to black tea to drink, especially in the mornings, I loved the way its bold flavors wake you up and make you alert. The taste is very malty and accompanied by roasted peanuts and oak wood. There is a bit of an astringency to it, but it avoids being bitter, just super brisk. At the finish there is a bit of sweetness that lingers, like distant stewed cherries. Thank you Halmari Gold, I had forgotten my love of Assam’s intensity.
So, my first blog update from the library, what an adventure! As expected, not a fan of their keyboard, and I cannot alter the screen brightness, so we have to hope my photos look better on other people’s computers, but hey, no complaining because I am hooked into the system again! Thanks to my new phone I have been able to keep somewhat connected to all my tea friends, but not being able to write has been so hard, it is my passion!
So it is Wednesday, that means it is time for a tea from What-Cha, specifically a purple green tea, yes, we are taking another look at the Anthocyanin heavy tea leaves, unlike the White version I tried last time, this one is green. Though really, I am very tempted to call these purple varietal Drow Teas, but I have a serious thing for dark elves, any chance to reference them I get, I take. Kenya Steamed Purple Varietal Green Tea, from the Mount Kenya region of Kenya does not look at all like a green tea, in fact if you showed this to me without any context I would probably guess it is a black or a very heavily oxidized oolong. After sniffing it though, you can tell it is a green, with strong notes of stir fried veggies and a hint of nuttiness, this is a savory green. It starts out with a distinct note of artichoke, then transitions into cooked spinach, stir fried bok choy, and mushrooms. The finish is toasted sesame with just a tiny hint of sweetness. Teas with these notes tend to make me hungry, so fair warning if you are susceptible to the oh so tantalizing savory.
So, into the gaiwan it goes! I know, technically brewing a Kenyan tea in a gaiwan might not be correct, but since the tradition of tea in Kenya was brought by Western tea drinkers, I can improvise. Plus, I was in the mood to have tea in my gaiwan, specifically my tall and slender one. Anyway, the aroma of the rather dark leaves (you can see hints of gray, purple, and just a tiny bit of green depending on light) has switched from savory to sweet, with notes of cooked plums and sesame seeds with a distinct grilled fruit aroma. You know, a blend of smoke and cooked peaches, a smell very evocative of summer. The liquid, it reminds me of fruit leather, a blend of cherries, peaches, plums, and grapes. Super yummy! There is also a hint of sesame at the finish giving it a hint of nuttiness.
Holy moly, this tea is legit purple! I honestly was not expecting that after the white tea was so pale, but nope this tea is purple, so cool! The taste of the first steep can honestly be summed up as a fruit explosion, seriously intense notes of apricots, plums, and cherries, it is super sweet and juicy. The initial fruit bomb fades to sweet sesame and a tiny hint of sweetgrass at the finish. I really found it neat that breathing out rather than in while sipping this tea made the taste of the fruit even more intense.
Hello sesame seeds and apricots! The aroma of the second steep is a pretty even mix of toasted sesame seeds and fruit, with blended notes of apricots and plums, it is like a crustless fruit pie. Somehow the second steep managed to be even sweeter than the previous one, the fruit explosion is now joined by really intense wildflower honey and hay. At the finish there is a distinct smoky fruit finish that lingers for a while, more teas need to have smoky fruit notes, because it is so evocative of eating grilled fruit while camping.
So, I am the library and I have my headphones on and I am totally rocking out to Thrift Shop, everyone is giving me funny looks…this is why I like to blog alone! Thought I would share that with you all, a little bit of my writing process…yes there is almost always music and me dancing in my chair. Ok, this tea is still sweet and the purple is still strong, I used to have hair that exact same color, how fun! The aroma is all cooked fruit this time, no nutty notes, just strong fruit. The taste starts out super fruity and sweet and is joined at the front with smoky notes and hay. This tea was so sweet and fun, yum!!
Last night was pretty epic! I played my first game of Dungeons and Dragons, yeah I think I lost a little of my geek street cred for waiting so long, but not for lack of trying to play, it just never worked out! In my defense I read Dragonlance as a kid and love it, especially Raistlin, hehe. Of course, because it is me, I managed to almost die and blow myself up in my first adventure. It is a theme in RPGs I am involved in, somehow I come up with a crazy idea and manage to either blow myself or something up, either using magic or explosives, and last night I wasn’t even trying! Maybe giving my Druid ‘Produce Flame’ as a cantrip was a bad idea, only time will tell (if I survive that is.)
So, ‘tis time for tea! Today we are taking a look at the Greek Shop Armenos and their tea, South Seas. It does not appear to currently be in their shop, but there is a note saying to contact them if you need anything, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get your hands on it. The little note that came with my sample of it states that it is made with Mango, Hawthorn, Pineapple, Papaya, and Resin, but examining the sample reveals one of my arch-enemies, Hibiscus. Eek. Ok, not true, I am starting to notice that my tolerance for super tart things is going up, I no longer run screaming from it (unless someone was going to just give me a pile of hibiscus) and can usually finish the cup, if it is mild on the tart, think Sweet Tart vs Warheads, not that I like either of those candies. So, the aroma of this pile of fruit and flower bits is not surprisingly, a bit on the tart side and a bit on the tropical fruit side, it is also a bit sour, like citrus and pineapple. You can certainly smell the papaya and pineapple, there is a hint of mango, and of course there is hibiscus.
Time to steep, one thing I will give hibiscus credit for, it steeps beautifully, if you have a glass vessel to steep in, you get to see little tendrils of red drifting down from the petals. The aroma of the now soggy tea stuff is a blend of tart hibiscus, tropical fruit, raisins, and citrus. I think the raisins notes are coming from the hawthorn, I am not sure since it is not something I have had on its own, I need to rectify that. The liquid smells surprisingly sweet, there are notes of tropical fruit, primarily the papaya and mango. There is also notes of raisins and honey, with a finish of metallic tart hibiscus.
Ok, this tea is not as vibrantly red as it could be, I have had hibiscus teas that turn insanely dark red, but this is fairly light, and I am ok with that. The first sip is a tart doozy, that initial tart kick fades pretty quickly to tropical fruit sweetness. I, at this point, set the cup aside to let it cool. I have found that my tolerability for tart things are pretty much zero when the cup is hot, I like it somewhat cool, though not cold. So after cooling the beginning of the sipping experience is still pretty intense, I find myself having a serious ‘tart twitch’ but that ends very quickly and is replaced with a fruity-splosion. It is a blend of cherry, lemon, papaya, mango, and raisins with a really wonderful honey finish that erases all the tartness away. I actually ended up kinda liking this tea and finished the cup (very rare with me and hibiscus, I really think it is starting to grow on me) I am not sure I want more of it, but I would not feel apprehension if someone placed a cup in front of me. That is the problem with me reviewing teas with ingredients I do not like, I can tell you what notes I taste and if the ingredients are of a good quality (seems so to me!) but giving it my seal of approval is harder since I am only just at the ‘I tolerate hibiscus in small quantities’ stage in it growing on me.
Being forced to be in the family room to do my computer work is really sapping my inspiration, you would think a bright room with lots of windows would make me happy, but nope. Not sure why but I have never liked this room and I avoid it at all costs, soon, my power cord will be here. Sadly that is all the intro I can muster today, so on to tea!
So, it is Wednesday, meaning that my journey to try all of What-Cha’s teas continues! Today we are looking at Nepal 2nd Flush 2014 Silver Needle White Tea, a fuzzy tea after my own heart. What can I say, I love fuzzy teas, be they gold or silver! This particular tea comes from the high mountains of Nepal, specifically the pesticide free Greenland Organic Farm, this is one of several teas I have had from this farm, and I can say from the past teas that they all have a distinct mountain air taste and feel to them. I am completely ok with admitting that might be a ‘mind over matter’ thing, knowing the teas come from such a mountainous place. Like a little bit of the spirit of the place has entered the leaf and come along for me to enjoy, a mini vacation in a cup. The leaves have a subtle sweet and green aroma, blending a bit of fresh hay and sweet corn with distinct herbaceous notes of sage and lettuce. It is dominated by the more herbaceous note and finished with a tiny note of tomato leaf. The aroma reminds me a bit of a blend of the more traditional Chinese silver needle and Kenyan silver needle, which is pretty neat.
Whoa! After a steeping in my gaiwan, the aroma of the leaves did a massive transition to sweetness. The aroma is a blend of sweet grass, fresh hay, apricot, a tiny touch of sesame nuttiness, and a finish that is some intense mouthwatering honeysuckle. The liquid also pretty sweet with dominating notes of honey and apricot, with a backup band of hay and sweet sesame paste.
Ah, I love the first steep of silver needles, and fuzzy teas in general, they always tickle my mouth ever so gently and it makes me giggle. Trichome power! Fuzziness aside, the taste is a pretty neat blend of sweet and leafy, there are notes of honeysuckle and sweetcorn along with sage and lettuce. The finish is a distinct juicy apricot that lingers for while between sips.
Second steeping time! The aroma of this steeping is sweet and fruity with notes of honeysuckle and apricots and a pleasantly refreshing sage finish. The taste starts off with cooling and slightly dry notes of sage and lettuce which transitions pretty cleanly into sweet corn and sesame seeds. I say transitions cleanly because really the transition is crazy smooth, none of this early 2000s era Power Point checkerboard transitions, this is straight up sideswipe…ok, that got a little weird, but hopefully you can see my point. The finish of the second steep takes the same path as the first steep and finishes with sweet and juicy apricot. I said at the beginning of my rambling that this tea is like a blending of Chinese and Kenyan silver needle, and after tasting it I certainly stand by that, it blends the notes from both teas in a really tasty way, I like!
It absolutely does not feel like Tuesday, though to be honest if asked what day it does feel like, I would probably just slur a bunch of syllables together and end it in day. I always find it strange when the perception of time gets messed up and it does not feel like the time or day it is supposed to, I wonder what causes that? I am going to blame my sleep being weird and not having my normal computer access, it has messed up my very distinct schedule. By very distinct I mean I sit in front of my computer, drink tea, and write most the day, it is only distinct because I wear a top hat and monocle at times.
Silliness aside, it is time for another Darjeeling! From Golden Tips Tea, today we are having a little looksie at Thurbo Moonlight Darjeeling Black Tea Second Flush, a FTGFOP1 Moonlight grade black tea picked the 11th of June, 2014. Now I am going to be honest, I have no idea what makes a tea Moonlight grade, doing a quick bit of research did not reveal any tasty nuggets of information, so clearly more in-depth searching must be done! I could find information of Thurbo Estate of course, located in the Mirik Valley and first planted in 1872, the name Thurbo might be a reference to the British setting up camp in the garden while they were invading Nepal, they used tents called by the locals as Tombu, which could have been mistranslated to Thurbo. A fun little bit of history before sipping, something that I always enjoy. So, the aroma of the leaves is as expected, sweet and loamy, the familiar aroma of a second flush that I have grown to love. It has notes of raisins (in comparison to first flush’s fresh scuppernong aroma that I run into) dried berries, honey, leaf loam (oddly I should specify dry rather than wet loam) a touch of malt, and at the finish a distinct note of corn silk. Darjeelings, no matter what flush they are, smell like summer to me, some of them early summer and some late, this is a tea that seems to soak up the essence of the season they were plucked.
The now steeped and soggy leaves have taken on a hint of spice in their aroma! Along with the aroma of loam (ok, now it is wet loam) and raisins, there is now spicebush flowers giving their delightful blend of floral and spice. There is also a bit of pepper and honey, with a slight hint of dark rum at the finish. The amber colored liquid is a blend of malty and fruity, with notes of well obviously malt, along with dried cherries, raisins, a hint of rum, and amusingly enough at the finish there is a creamy sweet note of custard.
The taste is rich! I had a mouth explosion of raisins, it is just like I took a handful of sultanas and regular old brown raisins and munched on them, except much juicier. It mixes honey sweetness and a touch of floral at the midtaste, with just a hint of loam and spice. Around the midtaste the juiciness turns to briskness and leaves a slight dryness to the mouth, it gives a bit of a waking up feeling after the slightly heady effect of honey and raisins. The finish is sweet, though not much else, there is just a lingering sweetness and briskness, I found this a little odd after such a distinct start that it just kinda disappears at the end, but, at least the finish has a lingering sweetness!
Yay! My computer is kinda fixed! I successfully replaced the broken jack and discovered that I also need a new cord, luckily Ben’s mom has a Toshiba and is letting me borrow her cord for a few. Now I just need to get a new cord, so more waiting, but at least I know it is not a permanent problem. Unlike Ben’s who I am pretty sure has a massive corruption somewhere. I am practically giddy to have my machine back, it might be a real piece of crap, but it is mine and I love it.
So, today we are having a look at one of Yunomi and Obubu Tea’s rather romantic sounding Sencha, Sencha of the Autumn Moon, I just love the names of the various Sencha put out by Obubu, they are just beautiful. You might remember, a while ago I reviewed Sencha of the Summer Sun, it is my goal to try all the beautifully named Sencha, in theory in each season, but I was a little late with this one. So, about the name, this tea was harvested under a bright full moon, specifically the moon in late August early September during Otsukimi, or the Moon Viewing Festival. This festival is celebrated in several Asian cultures and I absolutely love it, personally I mix it up a bit when celebrating by incorporating different culture’s traditions. The aroma of the fairly massive leaves is very green, a mix of edamame, spinach, and a bit of hay and grass. It is not the most complex Sencha I have ever sniffed, but the aroma is strong and a good blend of sweet and green, I enjoy it and can certainly see this being an excellent tea to sniff while focusing on the moon.
Into the Kyusu it goes! Man, I really need a special occasion to bring out the amazing Somayaki Kyusu I have, it is so pretty but needs an unveiling, maybe having the computer fixed will be the occasion. Anyway, the aroma of the now very soggy leaves and stems is a bit nuttier, the edamame and toasted soybeans (I love snacking on those, so good!) aroma taking the forefront, while the spinach, hay, grass, and general green notes take up the rear. The liquid is sweet and green, blending sesame seed candies, hay, grass, and bamboo leaves into a nice green blend. Green is definitely the keyword with this tea, it is one of the most ‘I sniff in colors’ teas I have run into in a while.
The first steep is delightful moonlight pale gold, like a moon coming up over the horizon! The taste is really quite mild and subtle, it might be the most subtle first steep of a Sencha I have run into. The mouth feel is very smooth, it starts off with the green taste of grass and stems, this moves into the very distinct taste of bamboo leaves, and after that we have sweet hay and a finish of edamame that lingers. The first steep is relaxing, I could almost see myself sipping this before taking a nap.
The aroma of the second steep has a very similar feel to the first, balancing green and sweetness, though this time there is more focus on green with a stronger bamboo note and a touch of sea air. Like the aroma, this steep is much more green, with stronger notes of bamboo leaves, a bit of fresh grass, broken stems, fresh spinach, and just a hint of savory kelp. Ah, I do love it when a Sencha has that kelp note, it just makes me happy and reminds me of my much beloved seaweed salad. I enjoyed how mild this Sencha was, I think it will be a perfect addition to my Moon Viewing festival, it has enough of a presence to be noticeable without distracting you from the glorious autumn moon.