889 Tasting Notes
So, the other day I reported on a bit of Minecraft news that excited me, a beautiful looking Chinese Mythology mash-up pack, but it seems that the day after the pack comes out a big update will come out. I have been waiting for this update for so long, finally Purpur blocks and a new End! Of course I might have to redo my epic ‘Temple of Remembered Starlight’ build at the End (poor Endermen will need a new house) but it might be worth it to see the new End ships and castles.
Today I am looking at another Sheng from Denong Tea, their 2016 Early Spring Sweet Clarity Raw Pu-erh, made from Xishuangbanna arbor material harvested early spring of this year. If this tea is anything like the other Shengs I have had from them I am in for a treat, their 2015 Xishuangbanna was my favorite so I am excited. The aroma of the leaves is reminiscent of the way the air smells in the mountains after a summer rain storm, a bit green and wet, a bit mineral, and very crisp and clean. There are notes of gentle freshly cut hay, fresh spinach, daisies, and apples, the notes are subtle while being very aromatic.
Giving the tea a rinse and first steep, the aroma of the leaves takes a turn for the fruity! Where there was a gentle apple note in the dry leaves, the wet ones bring out stronger apples and fresh pears. There are also notes of wet hay, rain water, mineral, and an undertone of buttery spinach at the finish. The aroma of the liquid is very light, notes of gentle apple and pear with a sweet daisy and hay quality at the finish.
The session starts out surprisingly thick, it feels as though my mouth has been coated with golden pear juice, though not sticky, just that same fruit juice thickness. And of course speaking of fruit the first several steeps are very fruity and sweet! Notes of apples and pears (I am thinking specifically Gala Apples and Asian Pears) with a gentle building hay and honey note. The entire first three steeps have this distant interesting daisy note, specifically a note that I taste with my nose since it does not have the taste of daisy. The interplay between nose and mouth can be hard to explain sometimes!
The middle steeps, which were steep four through eight, have a difference from the beginning steeps by being a touch bitter. The bitterness is one of raw spinach, and as bitterness in Sheng goes it is very mild, especially considering it is not accompanied by a dry mouth that often comes with bitterness. The note of pear is not as strong as previously, but the apple note is still going strong, as is the hay and an aftertaste of honey. The mouthfeel is still thick and pleasantly juicy, so far I am finding this to be a very refreshing and easy Sheng. Any body feel it is giving me is light and feathery, making me feel mellow and relaxed. I find myself more and more drawn to Sheng with a mellow Qi rather than a very strong one, since usually I find the stronger effects to be rather uncomfortable, so if you want a tea that kicks you in the face with Qi this one not so much.
I kept this tea going until steep twelve, the finishing steeps rivaling the beginning steeps for my favorite, the thick mouth combined with wildflower honey sweetness along with a slowly fading apple, crisp spring water, and a distant field of wildflowers make for a wonderful finish. As it reaches the end of its life the mineral quality of the spring water taste becomes the aftertaste and lingers along with a slight honey sweetness. The website for this tea says it is perfect to sip on a quiet afternoon, and they are not wrong, the mellow and relaxing quality makes it a great accompaniment to an afternoon of doing nothing.
I owe Grand Tea an apology, it has taken me forever to drink the sample of the Raw Pu-erh Cake- Simao 1998, and my reason is a little silly. I liked the 1999 Simao, but something that that tea and this one had in common is the smell triggered something in my brain to avoid it. Now don’t get me wrong, I liked the smell, but everything in my brain screamed ‘do not put this in your mouth’ which is an odd reaction for me (what with my strange compulsion to taste non-food things) but it happens sometimes. Usually my reaction to mushrooms (the common Agaricus bisporus, aka button mushrooms, portobello, and cremini is the main culprit) is like this, I had to retrain my brain to recognize them as food, same with yogurt and blue cheese. I decided to let the sample rest for a while before digging in, to see if the more swampy quality would mellow out. I love swamps, have spent large portions of my life playing in them, but swamp water is a microbial nightmare so maybe that is why my brain freaks out.
The minute I stuck my nose in the sample I knew I had made the right call. The aroma was not one of Swamp Thing’s basement, instead it smelled a LOT like beets. Juicy, freshly cut and slightly sweet while being rooty and earthy beets. I swear it smells so much like I just ripped a beet out of the earth, brushed the soil off, and took a bite. There is a faint note of old books and wet soil and wood, but it takes a serious backseat to the beet note. Can you tell I am really excited by the beets?
Into my baby gaiwan the compressed leaves go. When I first opened this sample months ago it had a bit of fuzz on it, said fuzz has vanished, now the leaves are dark and compressed, and could sneakily pass for a shou for those not in the know. I hit the leaves with boiling water for a rinse and gave it a flash steep for steep number one, and the aroma of the leaves is pretty fantastic. It is a blend of gentle fresh mushrooms, wet mushroom soil, a very distant note of woodsmoke, wet slate, and of course lots of beet goodness. The aroma of the liquid is sweet and earthy, with notes of mineral, beets, and a light medicinal camphor quality.
The first couple of steeps are pure undiluted beet goodness. Earthy and rooty with an intense sweetness that starts light and sugary at the first steep and is intensely sweet by the the third steep, it is like drinking a sugar beet, or a beet covered in beet sugar. The first steep is pretty much all beet all the time, but the second and third steep bring out notes of wet soil and a bit of a medicinal valerian root bitterness and wet wood. As for physical reactions, the mouthfeel is pretty light, a slight dryness at the back of the throat and sides of the mouth, and a bit of a heaviness in my limbs. One odd thing I noticed is I got a strange pressure feeling in my belly, like I had a massive burp stuck under my lower esophageal sphincter and pushing on my diaphragm. It was not necessarily uncomfortable, just weird.
On to the next several steeps, usually this would be steep four through six, but it is actually all the way through steep ten, since that is when I noticed any real change. The sweetness of the first several steeps is still present, intensely sweet beet and sugar blend with wet wood and a bit of a bitter dry cocoa, like I ate a brownie and found a pocket of unmixed cocoa powder (yes this has happened, I haven’t always been a decent baker.) The sweetness reaches its peak at steep five and stays at the same level until steep ten, with underlying shifting notes of wet wood, medicinal herbs (specifically valerian and sweet wormwood) and a bit of wet leather. The mouthfeel is light, no real intense textures except a bit of dryness at the back of the throat and sides of the mouth, creeping up the tongue as well in later steeps. That pressure in my stomach has bloomed into vague nausea and I am starting to get really hot and dizzy, but I had been battling with insomnia and my Fibromyalgia flaring up so it could be unrelated, but since these effects didn’t show up until I was drinking this tea I feel it is safe to at the very least mention it.
I went fifteen steeps with this tea, and it didn’t seemed to be finished, though by steep ten it was starting to fade, just fade very VERY slowly. I could have probably pushed this tea at least couple more steeps, but honestly I was starting to get bored. I liked the notes present in this tea, especially the beet (which was the dominant) but just because I like beets doesn’t mean I want to eat an entire bushel of them in one sitting. Even though this tea was not terribly nuanced I found myself enjoying it, I think this would be a good introductory tea for someone who wants to experience a Sheng with a bit of age on it…or someone who really likes beets!
Two little blog announcements before I start off on the tea ramble. First, the blog has received its first donation from a reader, and I have to say a huge THANK YOU!! When Ben gave me the news (since Paypal is connected to his email) I just sat in giddy awe for a bit, that wonderfully generous news put a positive spin on what was turning out to be a dreadful day. The second bit of news is as I am sure my steady readers noticed (or the ones who follow me on facebook and saw the announcement) I missed a day of blogging, boo!! I had hopped that with this new schedule that would not happen, but I didn’t take into account multiple days of being under the weather, so to make up for it I will post two reviews.
Today I am looking at Golden Tea Leaf’s Charcoal Roasted Jade Oolong, a uniquely roasted Oolong. Usually when I run into Oolongs that are charcoal roasted they are dark in color and very strong in the char department, but this one was roasted repeatedly over low heat meaning it retained some of its green while still having iconic charcoal roasted notes. I was surprised when I opened the package to find silk sachets full of tea rather than loose leaf, but was pleased to see the sachet is fairly large meaning the leaves will be able to expand some. The aroma of the leaves inside their little sack is delightfully roasty toasty, with notes of corn silk, roasted barley, sweet toasted buckwheat, and a bit of freshly baked oatcake. It certainly brings the grains and nutty notes, and even has a slight touch of toasted acorns at the finish, which was peculiar but quite fun.
I was torn on how to go about brewing this tea, on the one hand it is in a sachet so it would be so easy to toss it in a mug and call it a day, or grandpa steep it, or cut the bag open and gongfu as normal since my gaiwan was all ready to go. I decided to be silly with it and just gongfu the bag, I mean, why not? The wet bag of leaves smells strongly of toasted grains, like oats, buckwheat, barley, and a bit of cracked wheat. Alongside these sweet and toasted grains is a touch of cooked spinach at the finish. The liquid has notes of honey drizzled buckwheat and sweet corn with a touch of barley and a distant buttery quality. It is light and sweet with a great amount of toast, reminding me of cereal.
The first steep starts with a honey drizzled oatcake note with a side of toasted buckwheat. It is sweet with a toasted buttery grain quality that tastes sooo good, it is like drinking breakfast. Towards the middle the buttery quality increases, as does the buckwheat, it is not as sweet, but that is fine since the grain quality reminds me of toast. At the finish there is a delicate note of spinach that is light, but adds a touch of green and savory to a mostly sweet steep. There is a light honey aftertaste that does not linger for too long.
On to the second steep, which still smells strongly of cereal and a bit of toast. The roast is a bit more present this time, it is still honey sweet but the sweetness takes a step back and lets the notes of toasted grain become the dominant. Notes of toasted oats and roasted buckwheat blend with a touch of rye and wheat. The aroma reminds me a bit of granola and again, makes me think of breakfast.
For the third steep, there was not a ton of change between the second and third, and the third to fourth for that matter. I sat with this tea for several steeps and was amused by the bag stretched to its limit containing the puffed up leaves, though they did not really get to expand to their full size, it was like a leaf corset. Man, I really wish I could draw because that gave me the best mental image…anyway…On a whim I grandpa steeped the bag for its finish and was rewarded with a wonderful buttery, buckweat and honey tea that was both light and wonderfully sweet. It was my last tea session of the day and quite a relaxing one at that, even if I did really want oatcakes afterwards.
Operation redo my entire tea area and most the bedroom began last night accidentally. Friends were getting rid of an awesome set of glass shelves that I gladly took off their hands, my teaware hoard is getting out of hand and taking over every spare surface in the room! Currently the shelf is loaded with my teaware, it will be thinned out a bit as soon as I get my shelf inserts for the curio cabinet (one day) then the tea storage shelf needs to have all the tea transferred to a different shelf which needs cleaning off, it is a big project. What is done though is my painting desk was rearranged, the bulk of the desk held my fishtank which was moved to where the teapots previously lived and now my big tea tray lives there. Sadly I realized too late that my tea tray is in a dark cubby so now I need a desk lamp. The things I do for organization in a very small space.
Today I am looking at a tea that is not only tasty, it is pretty! One of the things that first drew me to Dian Hongs is their beautiful golden trichomes, the fuzzy goodness. Whispering Pines Tea’s Golden Snail is definitely a beauty, nice tight little spirals covered in gold with bits of the dark leaf showing through…the color reminds me of my Tortoiseshell cat! Luckily (or sadly) the smell does not remind me of my cat (I wish she smelled like tea) the aroma is lovely, classic notes of malt and cocoa blend with sweet potatoes, maple syrup, and a delicate finish of cherries, walnuts, and cherry blossoms at the finish. It is sweet with just a slight nuttiness, reminding me of a loaded sweet potato that needs to be eaten by me…I clearly need food.
The steeped tea in my beloved Petr Novak pot smells super good, notes of walnuts and sweet potatoes (sweeter than the starchy yams) sandalwood, cocoa, and a woody undertone. The liquid is sweet and rich, notes of sweet potato, molasses, peanuts and walnuts, and a touch of cocoa waft up with the steam from my cup.
First steep is wonderfully rich and sweet, with a thickness that coats the mouth with honey and molasses. The dominant taste for the first steep is sweet honey and starchy but not too starchy sweet potatoes, specifically reminding me of those sweet potato patties that you buy frozen in the South (I assume they are elsewhere but I only ran into them growing up) and a bit of a woody cacao nib finish. The aftertaste is a hint of molasses that lingers for a while.
The second steep, while having the thick mouthfeel of the first, is also joined by a tingly camphor like texture, similar to drinking a Sheng, and something that just screams Yunnan to me. Granted some teas from that region have a stronger tingle than others, and processing does have an impact, but once in a while you get a Dian Hong that feels almost effervescent. The taste is very rich, strong notes of molasses and cocoa blend with peanuts and walnuts with just a hint of sweet potato. The dominant note is definitely dark chocolate, think like the 80% dark (I do love that stuff) with an aftertaste of molasses and cocoa.
This steep is pleasantly mellow, still has a thick mouthfeel, but no longer the tingle. The taste has mellowed out a bit as well, still has strong notes of molasses and stronger notes of sweet potato like the first steep, but the dark chocolate notes have calmed down. There is something new, towards the end with a note of peanut there is a delicate note of dried cherry. It kept teasing me in the aroma but has finally shown up in taste! This is a wonderful tea, an excellent example of a Golden Bi Luo Chun (or Hong Jin Luo, it has a couple names) being visually stunning and wonderfully tasting.
Guess who was up all night looking at Magic cards for deck planning? Ugh, it is that time of my sleep schedule cycle where my body insists on staying up later and sleeping later, meaning that in a few days I will have one of those days where I get no sleep then sleep for like 14 hours and my cycle resets. It is obnoxious but at least there is a pattern! I did, in my searching, found a card I was unaware of and want for my in progress Mono Black Commander deck, Army of the Damned! Because dropping 13 2/2 zombies on my opponent late game and seeing the look of anguish on their face. #Unlifegoals
Today I am looking at Green Tea Guru’s The Classic 58, a Dian Hong which hails from Feng Qing, Lincang and is created by the Feng Qing Tea Factory. The name is a reference to the recipe developed by the factory back in 1958, the leaves are hand picked and processed from 50-70 year old bushes. There is a reason this is a classic, and not just the emulation of style, it is a perfect example of what Dian Hongs can offer. If I was introducing someone to this style of tea for this first time, this is definitely one I would recommend as a starting point. The long needles have an equal blend of fuzzy gold and dark leaf color, and the aroma is oomph. Strong notes of malt and cocoa blend with brown sugar and molasses with a mineral and woody undertone. The very tail end of the sniff gives a bit of yams and myrrh, finishing off with sweet starchiness and resinous richness.
I thought on a whim I would play some of the top musical hits of 1958, but sadly I found out I was not a huge fan of that year, so I jumped ahead in the future and sipped this tea while listening to my Acid Rock (it is called Low pH, it also has a good bit of Swamp Rock, which is funny since the blackwater swamps of the South are more acidic, I AM SUCH A DORK) station on Pandora. Musical accompaniment aside, the aroma of the leaves is sweet! Notes of brown sugar, malt, and cocoa dance together with a whiff of myrrh and a touch of camphor. I am impressed with how strong the malt note is, it is definitely the dominant note on the wet leaves. The liquid is also pretty malty, but the dominant note is brown sugar sweetness and roasted peanuts with a resinous pine sap and myrrh undertone.
The first steep is a tiny bit brisk, but falls pretty abruptly into smooth and slippery, leaving the initial briskness as a memory. The first note that pops up is brown sugar, it lingers for pretty much the entire sip, but it is dominant at the front. In the middle there are notes of camphor and myrrh with a peanut and specifically peanut shell woodiness. The finish is cocoa and sweet, it is very rich and the brown sugar lingers happily in my mouth.
Ever had one of those teas that smell so good that while sniffing it you dip your nose into the tea, yeah that happened to me…again. It was worth it for those notes of brown sugar, peanut, and resin. I am not surprised that a tea that prides itself on replicating a recipe from 1958 delivers on consistency. There is no real change between steeps with tasting notes, the addition of molasses at the finish being the most noticeable change. However there is a taste in texture, instead of an initial briskness and slipperiness, it is all smooth and thick, like warm watered down honey.
The third steep takes its cues from the second, not altering much in notes that are present, but it does change in level of intensity. The peanut and cocoa note are stronger, as is the molasses, with the brown sugar and and malt taking a bow and being there in lightness. This tea became an instant favorite, it is called a classic for a reason, it has the iconic notes I associate with Dian Hong and it is not a surprise that I only have a little bit of my sample left!
Last night while playing Ark: Scorched Earth, I finally ran into a Death Worm, and then several other Death Worms, and then an Alpha Death Worm. I find this very amusing since it has taken me forever to find one, let alone several! The trick was using a Wyvern (specifically my really OP Fire Wyvern named Nicol Bolas) and flying at full speed, you see them pop onto screen for just a second while things render in, then I lander and teased one out of the sand and proceeded to eat its face. My first encounter went a bit differently though, I was on my Lightning Wyvern (whose name is Kolagan, yes I have themed all the names around Tarkir) and was out hunting new high level eggs in the World Scar when I landed and out popped a worm! It was very exciting!
Today I am looking at one of my favorite types of Chinese green teas, Artisan Liu An Gua Pian (Sunflower Seeds) Green Tea from MeiMei Fine Teas. It is a fascinating type of tea, hailing from Anhui, instead of the usual buds that are used for green, this tea uses the second leaf and it is plucked so that all of the leaf stem (or petiole for the botany types) is left behind. It is then fried on a wok and rolled giving it the iconic seed shape. The aroma is lovely, you can smell the roasting of the green for sure, giving it a toasted sesame and sunflower seed aroma along with crisp notes of zucchini, peas, asparagus and a very distant savory kelp note. It is very fresh and green, with the toasted notes giving it a sweetness.
One of the things that makes this tea a favorite is its versatility in brewing, you can do just about anything to this tea and it still tastes good. I love gongfu-ing this tea, but my real favorite way of drinking it is good ol’ bowl style, just tossing the leaves into a bowl or travel steeper and topping off with hot water as the day goes on is wonderful. Part of the thing that makes it so enjoyable is the appearance of the vibrant green leaves floating in the water, they are beautifully emerald. Of course the smell isn’t half bad either! It is a blend of savory asparagus and bok choy with slightly sweet and green peas and a tiny bit of cooked spinach. You can tell this is a green vegetal tea, with only a hint of nuttiness.
The first emptying of the bowl (or in my case very large clay rabbit cup) is wonderfully green and refreshing! It has a touch of thickness, but mostly the mouthfeel is smooth and light, which compliments the vegetal notes well I think. There are touches of sweet chestnut and snap peas, a crisp note of asparagus and spinach, with a buttery vegetal finish of bok choy and peas with a tiny hint of cooked zucchini. The aftertaste is sweet, lingering chestnut in the mouth which outlasted my patience for more sips (what? I was thirsty!)
Later refills really bring the sweetness, with crisp notes of snap peas and raw bell peppers (think just the juicy inside and not the skin) with a tiny bit of bean sprouts and a lingering sweet chestnut. Definitely the tea to lazily sip on a hot day since it is so refreshing, even though it is warm, the crisp vegetal notes always seem very cool to me. Even though I am writing this (and sipping at the same time, I started writing and realized ‘hey I want some of that’) on a cool day it still is very refreshing.
I definitely recommend trying it this way, it is a great way to enjoy a quality tea. The finishing refills are buttery and almost savory, with lingering light spinach and bok choy notes and sweet chestnut linger aftertaste. It lasted for a few refills, like most greens it does not have a ton of longevity (when compared to the likes of Oolongs and Puerh) but when it is around it is great.
Oh I am so sleepy today! I stayed up late playing MTG with Ben, mostly building and testing my new Mono Black Control deck. It needs work, but the supplies to build it were light on the ground so for what I had it works well. I want it to be themed around specters and horrors, with lots of annoying discard for my opponent, it will be a fun alternative to my zombie hoard, though I still need to make a blue black zombie deck. So many deck ideas and so little time.
Today I am looking at another blend by Liquid Proust Teas, Berry Genmaicha, which is a blend of genmaicha and strawberries with flavoring. I have a real weakness for blended Genmaicha, something it tends to just work for me…or on a few occasions fail spectacularly. Success or failure, the adventure is always fun! The aroma of this genmaicha is pretty much identical to Captain Crunch berries, I kid you not, if you stuck a box of this cereal under my nose and this tea I doubt I could tell you which is which. The resemblance is pretty hilarious, but upon further sniffing and warming the leaves with my snuffling I can pick out the toasted rice and a bit of grassy green, but for the most part this is crunch berries.
Woo, my tea area smells like Captain Crunch! It is making me laugh a bit since that was not a smell I expected to ever come out of my little houhin! Along with the very sweet crunch berries there are gentle notes of hay and spinach with a touch of rice. The liquid is all berries all the time! Super sweet and a touch of rice, but mostly it smells like a bowl of milkless cereal.
Well, this tea is both tart and sour, it is very berry but not the kind of berry I like. I love my berries very sweet, if I buy a thing of strawberries or blueberries and they are tart or sour, well, it is safe to say my day is not really ruined but certainly not improved. I was so hoping for a sweet berry burst, but alas, it was not to be. I tried a second steep and got the same result, but with more of the grassy and spinach green tea base with a nice finish of toasted rice. Sadly this blend was not for me, really, but I am sure someone who likes their berries tart would love this!
So as it is probably well known, I have been playing a decent bit of Ark lately, mostly on the Scorched Earth expansion. Last night I decided to play around on Primitive+ and came to realize, wow, that update is full of issues. Mostly in the form of missing items, most of which I can just spawn in, but sadly one thing I can’t that really depressed me was the Allosaurus saddle, I was so happy having tamed my first of many Allos to find I can’t take it out because they forgot to put the saddle in the game. At least Scorched Earth seems to be working fine, but Primitive+ has many disappointments.
Today I am taking a look at Bitterleaf Teas’ Blackbird 2015 Dancong Chi Ye Oolong. I love Dancongs, they are probably the most varied type of Oolong in the Oolong world, they are the great mimics, tasting like everything from flowers, to fruit, to incense, specifically cultivated to imitate a huge variety of different things. It is odd, I have tried a decent amount of Dancongs (only really scratching the surface, there are just so many) but have only rarely written about them on the blog, that is something I am correcting now. Bitterleaf has two Dancongs, and I agonized over which one to pick, as much as I as tempted by Firebird’s honey description, I wanted the citrus notes of the Blackbird. Oh that aroma does not disappoint! Notes of orange blossom, grapefruit blossoms, orchids, plumeria, and a touch of fruity muscadines and…surprisingly…starfruit waft off the leaves and into my nose. It is heady and sweet without being cloying, but I always prefer the floral notes of citrus flowers over pretty much anything else.
After I finally managed to pull my face out of the leaves I put the leaves into my Dancong devoted clay pot and gave them a steep. For anyone who is new to the world of Dancongs, definitely go for a flash steep with this tea, more than any other Oolong, this stuff will punish you with intense astringency if you steep it too long. The aroma of the now soggy leaves has increased the sweet and slightly sour note of starfruit, not a note I expected to run into with tea, it makes me happy. There are also heady notes of orange and grapefruit blossoms, plumeria and a gentle sweet candied orange peel note at the finish. The liquid is wonderfully sweet, just the right amount of headiness from plumeria and citrus flowers, but also a sweet note of orange peel and a burst of juicy starfruit and muscadines. It smells quite a lot like juicy fruit.
The first steep is surprisingly crisp in the mouth, it very much so reminds me of biting into a juicy crisp starfruit, and not just in the taste. There are also notes of sweet citrus, a combination of orange blossom and candied orange peel, with a touch of orange blossom honey. Around the midtaste notes of plumeria and orchid pop up, the plumeria only hangs out in the middle, but the orchid lingers well into the sweet muscadine aftertaste.
The aroma of the second steep still has the wonderful starfruit and citrus flowers, but also picks up a note of gardenia headiness which has made me think that this tea is inspired by a hothouse full of tropical flowers. This steep is much fruitier, still crisp and juicy in the mouthfeel, but the notes of muscadines and starfruit are joined by apples and a tiny bit of almonds. It reminds me of a summery fruit salad, sitting next to a vase of plumeria, gardenias, orchids and orange blossoms. The aftertaste of orchids lingers long, like the first steep.
On to the third steep, though certainly not the last, because this Dancong has a bit of longevity lasting for several more steeps. The third steep really stood out to me because the notes of apple and muscadines are the strongest, and the mouthfeel while still crisp takes on more of a smooth, juicy quality. The aftertaste of orchids is still present, blooming in my mouth for quite a while. This is a wonderful example of a floral and fruity Dancong, usually I go for the more nutty or incense flavored ones, but the fresh fruit and citrus blossoms won this one a place in my heart.
Happy Labor Day everyone, I hope you are having a fantastic holiday weekend. I am not doing anything special, well Ben has off from work today so we might play some Magic, but other than that it is just a day without mail. I know one exciting thing I will be doing today, cooking! Making sure Ben has lunch for the week, it will be a grand event.
Today’s tea is another hong cha from Yunnan Sourcing, Big Snow Mountain of Mengku Black Tea * Spring 2016 in my ongoing quest to go all Pokemon with all the red teas. You know, there are a lot of tea blogs out there, and several of them are very single focused, usually on Puerh but also several on Greens and Oolongs, if I am not careful I could easily become a blog dedicated to the world of reds, so I have to limit myself a little…only a little though. So, first with the sniffing, and what good sniffing it is! It is both light and rich, not one of those red teas that smacks you in the face with a bar of chocolate and pile of malt, this is subtle caramel peanut brittle, gentle malt, subtle mineral notes, and a bit of a fresh woodsy quality, like someone snapped an oak twig next to my nose, but one that has gone dry rather than being green. Recently dry, not soggy and rotting.
Oh hey! A peppery red! It seems like the last couple of year’s Dian Hongs have been lacking in the pepper department, so it is nice to run into one with that note. Alongside the pepper is a stronger note of malt, some sweet molasses, and a nice undertone of peanuts. The aroma of the first steep is lovely, very ‘Dian Hong’ with notes of toasted peanuts, malt, molasses, and sweet caramel. I was a little surprised I could not detect any yammy goodness, but not all teas have the orange tuber as a note.
Well hello mouthfeel! This one is not so much smooth as it is slippery, like thinned down okra and that is super fun, it is like a slip and slide in my mouth but with tea! It starts with this smooth slippery quality, but by the time I have swallowed it the texture turns to a more familiar thickness. The taste is delightfully sweet, starting with honey and caramel and moving to malt and sweet potatoes with a finish of peanuts and a touch of very distant roses.
The second steep brings in a fascinating change, distant notes of patchouli and myrrh in the aroma along with the sweet caramel and molasses, I love when tea gets that resinous quality (though technically patchouli is leafy, but shh.) The slippery quality of the first steep is replaced by thick smoothness that sticks around the full steep. The taste has a tangy woody cocoa shell quality that blends really well with a sweet potato and molasses middle. The finish is gentle resinous myrrh and a lingering aftertaste of caramel coated peanuts, yum!
Did I go for a steep three? You betcha, I also went for a steep nine but I won’t bore you all with the details in the middle. This tea does not really change a lot between steep two and the inevitable finish, but this is not a bad thing since when it reaches its stride the stride tastes lovely. I really liked how it could be a solid daily drinker or a special occasion tea and plan on adding more to my collection.
So, I spent the last two days playing Ark like a mad woman. Turns out the big reveal was an expansion pack, one that was a desert world with dragons and giant bugs. Basically it is like Dune, Mad Max, and Dragons of Tarkir (the MTG obsession runs deep) three of my favorite things, Scorched Earth has been amazing so far. Granted I really should have used the $20 it cost to buy some needed clothes, but eh, gaming is more important than leggings.
Today’s tea is one of Liquid Proust Teas’ experimental concoctions, Home Roasted Jin Xuan Oolong and Brazilian Coffee. He took some Jin Xuan and some green Brazilian coffee and roasted them up, going for a tea that is not roasted as much as the other types of Taiwanese Oolongs and for a light coffee. Since LP is not a fan of coffee he asked a local coffee fan who recommended the Brazilian, personally I would have gone with an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe to bring out that sweetness…what? I used to be a manager at a coffee shop, once upon a time I was equally obsessed with the beans as I was the leaf, but it turns out tea is easier on my insides so I only rarely indulge. Anywho, the aroma of this tea is kinda odd, with notes of toasted grains, pine trees, very gently roasted coffee, burnt wood, and a distant note of cigarettes. The blend of coffee and smokes reminds me a bit of an old diner that no longer allows smoking but did years ago and the smell still lingers, but someone brought in a roasted oolong for good measure! It is hitting that nostalgia factor for me for sure.
So how does one brew coffee tea, gongfu of course! After steeping the beans and leaves the aroma of the leaves loses any of that diner aroma to be replaced with nuttiness, toasted grains, pie crust, and an underlying creamy sweetness. The liquid has a blend of toasted nuts, specifically hazelnut and peanuts, with a bit of toast and vanilla cake. It is sweet and nutty with just a slight bit of roast.
The taste of this tea is fun! It tastes a lot like a creme brulee coffee latte, the creaminess of the lightly roasted Jin Xuan blend with the gentle nutty and burnt sugar notes of the coffee. It is light, not very strong in the coffee department, the roasted Jin Xuan being the dominant tasting note. The finish is light and creamy with a lingering nuttiness of peanuts.
Hilariously I only got two steeps from this tea, and not because there was anything wrong with it. See I gave up coffee because it irritates my guts, but also because it is heavy in caffeine…and when I get hit by a strong dose of caffeine I pass out asleep. Give me a soda and within an hour I am snoozing, too many Matcha lattes and I am out, 18 steeps of shou and it is time for bed…you get the idea, I have a paradoxical reaction to caffeine. I thought since it was a blend I would be safe, but no, halfway through this steep I fell asleep in my desk chair, Ben found me drooling onto my keyboard!! What I got from this steep before I fell asleep was pleasant creamy sweetness and a bit of hazelnut and toasted grains, it is sweet and mild, and I guess great to drink before sleep if you are me! Now I am hoping for a blend of a charcoal roasted Dong Ding and a Sumatra Mandheling, that would be epic…and sleep inducing!