814 Tasting Notes
So, probably no gongfoolery this week, it has been a bit of a rough one and I am not clear headed enough to give it my full attention, but there is still the weekend so mayyybe. That is one of the really big differences between my usual tea reviews and the gongfoolery series, from a writing perspective. With tea reviews I have it all written down (in sloppy barely decipherable by anyone but me shorthand) and the blog is just that polished up with photographs and research when needed. With gongfoolery though, that is being written as I do it, usually the blog takes hours and a lot of focus, which is something I have just had none of this week. Good news though, the tea I needed for my next batch of testing finally arrived, yay!
Today I am looking at the last of the samples I got from Oolong Inc, Taiwan Osmanthus Oolong Tea, now it is probably well known by now that I love osmanthus flowers in all its forms, and having it blended with bright green Oolong was one of my favorite ways of drinking this flower. However this tea is different as it uses roasted Oolong instead of the floral green, which is pretty fascinating. Sniffing the leaves, and you know, it smells like osmanthus jelly on toast, like uncannily like it! Toasted grains and sweet nectar blend decently, though there is a bit of a smoky note making me think of burnt toast.
Into the gaiwan for steeping, and the smoky aroma ramps up after steeping. The osmanthus is still there, but it is not as strong, neither is the aroma of toast. There is sweetness that is an odd but not unpleasant combination with the smoke. The liquid however is not quite so smoky, it is gentle smoke with creamy osmanthus and roasted grains, the jelly on toast aroma is back.
Well that is neat! It is a bit dry in the mouth, with a strong roasted grain and smoke start. This is mellowed by the gentle blossoming of floral osmanthus notes that add an intense sweet nectar quality. Blending the nectar and roast at the finish makes the tea taste like grilled plums, which is a fascinating way to finish the tea. I sadly noticed this tea did not have a ton of longevity, and the taste did not really change at all throughout the several steeps I got. I liked the taste though I wish there was more of it and it lasted longer.
Made from the Meizhan varietal, which sent me a few wild goose chases while researching, but it is frequently made into oolongs. This tea smells really good too! Notes of distant flowers and lychee blended with almonds and cocoa. It is a very sweet and creamy smelling pile of leaves, a contrast with the previous tea’s more nature like aroma, this smells more like dessert.
Wow, this tea! It is immensely sweet, kinda took me by surprise! Like a mouth full of juicy lychees and marzipan with honeysuckles and cocoa. The most fun part of this tea is the almost explosive salivary effect, it was almost like biting into a tangy orange but without any of the taste, it made me drool a bit. This was a bit diminished as the later steeps went on, which I am a little glad for, that was immensely intense, but it was also fun. The tanginess is replaced with gentle woodiness, but there is still a good bit of sweetness of lychees and almonds many steeps in.
First I have to say that I am rather miffed that W2T doesn’t sell this one, because man is it good! I could see it becoming a daily drinker for me for sure, but alas, no dice. These pretty little leaves are made from the Cai Cha varietal, which is pretty popular in Wuyi, used to make Jin Jun Mei, Lapsang Souchong, and Tan Yang Gongfu, so it gets around. The aroma of the dry tea is nom…om nom nom. Strong notes of chocolate, and you know, the info sheet wasn’t lying when it said cumin, and that is pretty awesome. There is also a creamy undertone and a slightly tangy dried fruit note as well.
Brewing it up, the aroma of the tea is immensely rich, heavy notes of chocolate and molasses with notes of saffron and malt. The aroma and taste remind me of a cake I make on occasion using chocolate, saffron, cumin, and lots of molasses…this cake is stupidly rich, especially when you count the saffron vanilla glaze. Seriously the similarity between this tea and my cake concoction are uncanny, I never need to go on the hunt for cheap saffron again if I just keep drinking this tea. You can get many steeps out of these tea, it has decent longevity.
This one is made from a wild varietal native to Wuyi, and of the teas from this set I have looked at so far it sports the largest leaves. Big ol curly things that certainly look like something from Wuyi! The aroma is GOOD, I spent the entire time my kettle was zombie-ing its way to life sniffing the leaves, and I picked up notes of honey and cocoa, yams and toasted oats, and a distant floral note reminiscent of magnolias of all things. I think this is the first red tea I have had that has that note, which is awesome.
Awww, the floral notes vanished upon steeping, but that is ok, because the taste is still really good. I am not sure it is some sort of psychosomatic thing, but wild trees always seem to taste…well…wild, more like nature and less like food. True there are the notes of yams and cocoa, but there are note of pine wood, mineral, mountain air, and in later steeps the gardenia notes gently return. It is like walking in the mountains and drinking water from a spring…if somehow that water was already tea. This was a wonderful session that lasted many steeps, drinking it made me feel like I was in another place, even if the effect was all in my brain, it was nice regardless.
Ah, good old ‘Lapsang Souchong’ as it is more commonly known in this part of the world, though this is a far distant from the usually coarse and smoky tea that gets brewed in a big ol’ pot on a cold day, this is refined and not at all smoky. This is also super fresh, it and the next tea were both processed a few weeks ago. The aroma of the leaves is yammy and yummy, notes of sweet potatoes and peanuts blend with a piney resinous note, like this tea was stored in a pine barrel.
Tasting the tea, it has a slight tannic quality at the start, not bitterness, just more dry than super smooth, it goes well with the malt, yam, and pine wood quality, giving this tea more briskness than the previous one. In the later steeps it gets sweeter, the pine notes become more like sap and the starchy yam notes definitely turn into straight up brown sugar sweet potatoes. This tea has some serious longevity, I was able to sit with it through many many steeps.
Well, I made the hard decision to reset my Nether on Ramble, this was a very hard decision but one I am glad I made! See when I switched my world from the Xbox 360 to the Xbone, all my existing Nether portals got messed up and no longer lined up, so most my Nether builds were kind of moot, and as I am sure you can guess this frustrated me. My only real complaint about doing this (other than rebuilding things, but that is no big problem, most my Nether builds were kinda old and needed redoing, except the Nether hub) with one of the recent updates you can’t get water in the Nether anymore. It used to be you could use melted iceblocks to bring water to the Nether, meaning my Nether villa had a bathroom and fountains, now not so much. I understand doing it in survival, but I wish in creative I could still get water in the Nether…so many building potentials! Especially for map makers, some of the old maps came up with really clever ways of using water in the Nether, and I will miss that.
Today I am looking at Liquid Proust’s Rummy Pu, a fancy Golden Needle Shou aged in a rum barrel and debuted at the Midwest Tea Festival, where I procured it. Before I get into huge depth on tasting, I want to give a little me backstory, I LOVE rum. In fact I love the taste of most alcohol, thanks to a quirk in my metabolism it took a lot to get me drunk and I never stayed drunk for long, in fact I was only a tiny bit hungover once and never made myself sick off of the stuff, well that was when I was younger. When I was 21 my gallbladder failed and pretty much ever since then my guts have been made of fail in one way or another, and anytime I try to drink I would curl up in a tiny ball of agony, so no more booze for me! I never really liked being tipsy, but man did I love the taste, especially of rum, so having things that taste like rum make me happy. One of the reasons I eat a lot of rum balls come Christmas…and speaking of rum balls this tea smells uncannily like them. It has a bit of a loamy earthy Shou quality, but really the showing point is a rich rum, chocolate, graham crackers, and a tiny distant spice. In short, it smells really amazing!
Gaiwan time for the golden needles, and for the first time in I can’t even remember how long, I drank the rinse. Usually I never drink the rinse on a Shou, but this one smelled so tantalizing that I had to. The leaves smell sweet, like rum and molasses, with chocolate and earthy wet loam. The rum is super strong and very sweet, and it still reminds me of rum balls. The aroma of the tea is equally rummy and sweet, with strong notes of chocolate and graham crackers, wet wood and forest floor. It smells like what I imagine a wet rum barrel would smell like on a hot day.
The first several steeps are super rummy and sweet, and yes they taste like rum balls! Smooth and sweet with a gentle distant spice (allspice reminiscent) with rich chocolate notes and sweet graham crackers. There is an earthiness to the tea as well, like clean wet soil after rain in a deep forest, lush and loamy. I was expecting this tea to lull me into sleep, as many thick Shous tend to do, but nope this one had me lost in nostalgia and wide awake. Oops.
The middle steeps took on a surprising creaminess and fruity tone, now this tea no longer tastes like rum balls but tastes like rum raisin ice cream. The sweet rum and raisin mixed with rich vanilla and cream is pretty decadent, thickly sweet and with a solid mouthfeel, I don’t even care that I was up til five in the morning drinking this stuff. Though hilariously the taste at the beginning reminding me Christmas rum balls, now the taste reminds me of rich bowls of ice cream on a summer day…clearly this tea has range.
Not wanting the tea to ever end, I took to grandpa-ish style steeping the final steeps, going for at times 20 minute long steeps as I drank around the leaves. As one imagines the liquid gets a bit chilled at this point, and usually I LOATHE cold Shou, but it was delightfully sweet and creamy, the rum notes still strong. By this point there are none of the familiar earthy notes of Shou (which is what I dislike about cold Shou, those notes are wonderful warm but a big nope when cold) just creamy vanilla and chocolate, rum, and a gentle spice that lingers. I got nine steeps out of this tea before it quit, and enjoyed every one of them…even Ben who is not a fan of any alcohol (he won’t even eat my famous rum balls) and who only moderately likes Shou loved this stuff, he fussed at me for only getting one bag and he wants to turn some into a Masala Chai! I really do regret only getting one bag, this tea is wonderful and I will mourn it when it is gone.
I just learned that window shopping variable kettles is a giant pain. So many have presets at temperatures I don’t want, and of course so many of them have bad press. I can safely say I am done with my previous brand of choice after having several blow out on me, sorry Hamilton Beach, your kettle works great for casual use, but for a person who is always drinking tea…nope. I thought mine was totally dead but it keeps barely coming back to life like a water heating shambling zombie. I just hope the poor thing holds out til I get a new one! And yes, there is much raging happening from me, it is an expense I am really not ready for and seriously making me rethink running ads on my blog, and can I take this moment to point out how awesome but painfully pricey the Zojirushi is? They use one at Shang Tea, and that is one fancy water dispenser that I want…maybe a distant Christmas gift!
Ok enough being cranky about faulty teaware and expensive replacements, I am going to have me some tea. I am looking at Turvani’s Golden Tip Assam, this company came on my radar recently thanks to Instagram, I was ogling their packaging, it is very streamline and simplistic, something I am fond of in tea packaging. I love tippy Assams, they are so pretty with their occasional leaves covered in golden fuzz, plus there is something comforting about a cup of Assam when my day is not going as planned. For years it was my favorite tea that I drank pretty much every day, so it has a familiar nostalgia to it. The aroma is sweet, notes of brown sugar and molasses mix with malt and oak wood, with just a slight hint of dried tomatoes as the undertone. It is very sweet, surprisingly so, Assams I find are rich and sweet, but this one is almost candy like.
Brewing apparatus time, the poor thing has been neglected as of late with my propensity for gongfoolery. The leaves, once they have been soaked and unfurled the aroma tones down the sweetness for the more familiar notes of strong malt, oak wood, with a bit of molasses and dried tomatoes. I kinda love the dried tomato notes, they are tangy and sweet, just like dried tomatoes…really never leave me alone with a pile of dried tomatoes, they will be gone. The liquid is malty and brisk, with an edge of molasses sweetness and a touch of sun dried warm wood.
Tasting this tea was like taking a step back in time, like drinking a memory of my childhood, sipping a malty cup of Assam with my mom. It is such a nostalgic taste, blending sweetness and briskness with malty and bright undertones…and a bit of dried tomatoes. Towards the end of the taste is a spicy oak wood note, like distant spices at the back of the throat slightly reminiscent of curry leaves. The aftertaste is woody and sweet, with a bit of a brown sugar quality to it. This is just the pick-me-up I needed after a poor night of sleep stressing over a broken kettle!
Now that it is getting warmer I have been feeling the almost inescapable draw of having tea outside. Sure it is really easy to take a mug out with me, or grandpa style, or even Matcha, but with my current tools it is a pain to gongfu outdoors, which is what I really want to do. My next tea purchase has to be a thermos so I can take hot water outside with me. This train of thought actually led me to today’s blog…I wanted to do it yesterday but it was storming or raining almost all day, and I am sure while the photos would have been hilarious they probably would have been awful! I am sad I don’t get to have the alliteration of Matcha Monday though.
The Lazy Literatus of Steep Stories fame (if you are not reading his blog, go do it, you are seriously missing out) recently send me some tea goodies, one of which was Mizuba Tea Co’s Daily Matcha, promised as the good stuff! If you are a long time fan of this blog you will probably know I have had a LOT of Matcha, and a good portion of it was most definitely not the good stuff, so it is safe to say I frequently crave the good stuff and tend to get the bleh stuff. Usually I have found Matcha labeled as Daily is barely about culinary grade, stuff made for people who want to make a latte or smoothie, but not this stuff, this is Matcha for people who want to sit down and whisk themselves up a bowl everyday without making themselves poor in the process, keep the really high end ceremonial stuff for special occasions. The aroma of the powdered leaves is yummy, notes of sweet butter, almost tropical fruit (it comes of as a combo of vanilla, papaya, and bananas to me) and of course green cut grass, chlorophyll heavy algae, and moss. Ok specifically I am thinking of a moss ball from my fish tank, a marimo which is actually algae but never smells like it, they smell more green and less like lake. And yes I have stuck my nose in a marimo, I was curious! This is a sweet Matcha, one that smells less like a lawnmower and more like growing things and fruit.
Whisking this tea up while sitting outside was awesome, definitely need to do more of that before the chiggers really start ruining all my fun. The aroma wafting out of the foamy storm I am whisking up is lovely, very fresh and green, like broken leaves, grass, hay, and of course buttery sweet tropical fruit. Once the tea is whisked the sweetness is diminished some, taken over by the green, but it is still strong.
The taste is lovely, nature is reflected in my bowl of Matcha, I can taste the green growing things, the slightly mineral algae notes and slightly bitter broken vegetation notes upon first sip. This then moves to gently growing sweetness of papaya and vanilla with an astoundingly buttery mouthfeel. I think this might be the smoothest Matcha I have had. It can take a bit of warmth too, using slightly hotter than usual water will bring out stronger vegetal notes and touches of fresh sea air, however it does not ramp up the bitterness like happens with a lot of Japanese greens exposed to hot water. If you want an everyday Matcha that can actually be drunk in a chawan and is delicious then I seriously recommend this one. I really want to try some of their other Matcha now, especially their Kichoen since it is suitable for Koicha and the description looks drool worthy!
For blog and photos (oooh I am using natural lighting for once!) http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2016/05/mizuba-tea-co-daily-matcha-tea-review.html
Well, the dance with new medication begins. This is an allergy medication geared towards helping my asthma since I am unable to take any steroids, it certainly seems I can breathe a lot easier, not nearly as much work to take a deep breath. The side effects are mostly serious drowsiness which I hope eases up, if not well, clearly I will need to just drink more tea. Now I wait for the cardiologist to set up an appointment and the bloodwork to come back. And then I get to see a new Rheumatologist to see if they can do something for my Fibromyalgia or find out of it is something else. Finger’s crossed something can be done this time that doesn’t cause really horrid side effects!!
With this grogginess in mind, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about! Oolong Inc’s Taiwan Tangerine Black Tea, but instead of my usually gongfu brewing, I decided to cold steep this one using the new cold steeper I got at TJ Maxx for like $4. I am not sure if that was its original purpose, but it works perfectly for it. Now just to be clear, I did gongfu this tea and got several steeps out of it, but I knew from the moment I sniffed the leaves I wanted it cold steeped. The aroma of the leaves is very strong tangerine, pretty much all I can smell is tangerine, like someone took the peels and squeezed all the oil out and sprinkled it on black tea. There is a bit of a malty undertone and a honey sweetness, but the real star of the show is the powerhouse of tangerine.
So I let the leaves steep overnight and was greeted with a lovely amber colored brew the next morning. The aroma is still very tangerine heavy, but it now smells like someone cut a tangerine and juiced it rather than using oil from the peel. Alongside the tangerine is malt and honey with a woodsy undertone. The mouthfeel was smooth and just a little bit tingly, combine that with it being cold it was immensely refreshing and enlivening, but citrus is great for waking me up. It is pleasantly sweet and malty, with honey notes and of course tangerine notes, luckily they are not overpowering, nice and subtle and just the right amount of sweet. If you want the stronger tangerine notes they are definitely more present in the hot version.
I have taken up fighting games again! So a bit of backstory, not sure the exact cause but a couple years ago my hands decided that playing fighting games and beat’em ups was not going to happen, all that movement was stupid painful. I gave up playing them and just delved deep into watching the pros play them at tournaments, but that seems to have changed. Ben got Killer Instinct on a whim (it has a free character that rotates so you can try it out, which is handy) and I played a bit, and what do ya know, no hand pain! Now I have to get back in shape, maybe in a year of grinding I can go to a tournament and play with the pros! Guess all the hand exercises and Ark playing paid off.
Today I continue on dreaming of spring teas (mine are still slowly making their way to me) by drinking the last of my stash from last year. Presenting Yunomi’s Obubu #4 Sencha of the Earth Spring Green Tea (2015 specifically) I love the names for Obubu’s Sencha, it is their names that has made me go along and try almost all of them, I think I have two left I have not tried yet. This tea is called this because it is made from Zairai plants, and those are tea plants grown from seeds taken from a tea plant before it was recognized as a specific cultivar. These specific plants are over 30 years old, and the strength of the earth is celebrated in the strength of the plants, because tea that tells a story is awesome in my book! They were not kidding when they said this tea is potent, the aroma is sweet like broken hay and sweetgrass with a very tiny touch of cotton (like the plant, not like the fabric) there are also green notes of course, blending edamame, bell pepper skin, and cut bamboo leaves. At the end there is a touch of dried seaweed and rice giving a bit of starchy and sea air quality to it.
I love how vibrant Sencha leaves get once steeped, they go from pine green to summer grass and its so pretty! What I don’t love is the deafening roar of the lawnmower outside destroying my ability to think, one day I will live in a place that doesn’t have grass…my yard will be moss, clover, rocks, and flowers! Anyway, the aroma of the soggy leaves is so green! It smells like crisp bamboo leaves, clover leaves and flowers, edamame, and sea air, it smells to me like summer. The liquid is light and sweet, like clovers and honey with distant cut grass and broken vegetation, it smells refreshing.
The first that that struck me about this tea is the really pleasant mouthfeel, it has body kinda like an Oolong, being thick and smooth. Usually I find Sencha to be fairly light, so this was a fun change of things. The taste starts with a blend of starchy rice and edamame with a gentle sweet quality to it, this moves onto the more expected green notes of broccoli and cut bamboo with just a subtle edge of mown grass adding a subtle bitterness. The finish is distant flowers and sea air, and I am sorry I cannot remember the name of the specific coastal flower I am thinking of, but it is light and a bit like sweet pea flower.
I steeped this tea a couple more times, jacking the heat up and flash steeping it for a double punch of intense sweetness at the front and bitterness at the middle with a lingering honey sweet finish. The thickness of the first steep stuck around which was fun, and later steeps bring out spinach and stronger ocean notes. As much as this was a spring tea it really reminds me of summer, late May when everything is lush and warm but the heat of summer has not started doing its worst yet.