432 Tasting Notes
So, you may or may not know that I dabble with Influentster, recently they had an ebay related campaign involving creating guides and collections. I finished the collection campaign a week ago and just finished the guides section, meaning I got $10 ebay gift card and have another one on the way. This babbling is inevitably leading up to the thing I bought, Dark Swords Elven Princess, a sculpt inspired by Larry Elmore’s (think most Dragonlance covers) art that I am much enamored with. If my plans go…as planned, then I will be doing a little green stuff alteration to make her more like one of my RPG characters.
Excitement about painting aside, I am not feeling too hot today so onto the tea! Specifically What-Cha’s Darjeeling 1st Flush 2014 Gopaldhara SFTGFOP1 Black Tea, an exceptionally high grade (special finest tippy golden flowery orange pekoe…that means it is really good) first flush Darjeeling from Gopaldhara Tea Estate. For some reason my brain just cannot register the name of this estate, no many how many times I read it or type it, I will always want to pronounce it Goldaphara…really brain, do try to keep things from getting too jumbled. I think this is why my reviews will always be in text, no one will have to hear my letter jumbling. So, the aroma of this tea is so light and so sweet, it just kinda lays on my nose like a silken scarf. It is a blend of muscatel (specifically very fresh scuppernongs and muscadines) honey, wildflowers, and a tiny touch of pepper at the finish. It reminds me of nasturtiums and growing things and the more milder aspects of summer.
In order to let the leaves dance around and have fun while taking their bath, I decided to steep them in my alchemy equipment (as I have taken to calling my glass double boiler thingy) as they unfurl, the colors of the leaves is quite beautiful, a mixture of greens, browns, and golds. It reminds me of sunlight streaming through leaves. The aroma of the leaves is so fresh, like muscadines straight off the vine, sweet sun warmed honey right off the comb, wildflowers blooming, and peppery nasturtiums. It is such a soothing aroma, and a very happy one at that, at least for me, it reminds me of summers from my younger days. The liquid is delicate and sweet, like honey and nasturtiums with a touch of muscadines. Ah, this is heavenly!
Oh man, I love that nasturtium note! I do not run into that one very often in tea, it is awesome! If you have never had the pleasure of eating nasturtium flowers, they are peppery, a bit sweet, and have a very clean and green heat to them. Similar to a very mild horseradish and flowers. Now this tea is not all spicy flowers, in fact the first bit of taste is the clean nasturtium and then it vanishes, quickly replaces with juicy muscadines and honey. It is just like biting into a sun warmed muscadine picked off the vine, an experience I seriously advise everyone to do at least once! The finish is mild and sweet, a wildflower honey taste that lingers.
I did a second steep for this tea and it was very similar to the first, the notes of honey were stronger and the peppery notes were almost diminished, it reminded me a little of daikon without the root taste. I was in one of those great tea bliss moments and as my notes finish for this tea, my usually barely legible handwriting just becomes a sideways mess. This was (le gasp) my first ever first flush Darjeeling, and I can see why so many people are hooked on it! I need more, lots more, if the taste is that intoxicating!
For photos and blog (my tea frogs got a little crazy this time): http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/12/what-cha-darjeeling-1st-flush-2014.html
The tree has achieved awesome status! Yes, it is that time of year where we drag a dead fir tree into the house, cover it in lights and ornaments, and happily stare at it while being pleased at our work. This year’s tree has no theme other than absolute chaos! Lots of colors and almost all the ornaments are origami creations I have made. I am hoping to make some more ornaments, but alas I have not felt inspired to fold much.
Since it is a day of coniferous joy, I decided that the perfect tea to review is one that has been languishing in my notebook since late summer just waiting for the perfect opportunity. Life in Teacup’s 2009 Guan Zi Zai Xiao Man Shu is a Shu (or Shou, Ripe) Pu Erh from Yunnan (of course) produced by the Guan Zi Zai factory. Other than where it is from, what type of Pu it is and what year it is from, that is all I know about this tea. Sometimes I feel like studying the world of Pu Erh is like studying the entire world of tea, it is amazingly complex and at times very hard to navigate. I believe I will be a novice for all eternity at times! So, why is this the tea that gets reviewed on a day when I have been dealing with a sticky fir tree? Because the aroma is so evocative of a coniferous forest that for a moment I can transport myself to the forest I used to romp in as a teenager. It was a mixed forest, but since this was the South, a large portion of the forest was pine, so I am very familiar with the at times almost intoxicating aroma of pine loam, wet pine wood, resin, needles, and sap. That is what the aroma of this tea evokes, it is like a hot, wet, rainy day in a pine forest where all those smells waft out of the earth and the trees around you.
After the tea’s rinsing and first short steep, the aroma of the soggy leaves is sweet and resinous, much like pine sap and a hint of molasses. There are also notes of wet wood and loam, and a tony hint of anise. The liquid also has that hint of anise, how fascinating! There are also the expected notes of wet pine wood, loam, and a touch of sweet sap.
The first steep is rather delicate and sweet, with a slightly sharp and tingly mouthfeel, almost like the sensation of eating pine sap (yes I have done it and I am a weirdo.) There are flavor notes of wet pine, rich molasses, a bit of loam, and a finish of anise. That anise is quite unexpected and fun!
Second steep time, the aroma takes on a creamy anise and loam tone, it is both sweet and earthy, mixing pine and wet earth. It has a heaviness to it, like I am sinking into the soil on a rainy day. The taste for this steep is as expected quite a bit more intense than last. It starts out a tiny bit bitter, much like wet wood can have a bitterness to it, not an off-putting bitterness. Around the middle of the sip the taste turns to sweetness and richness, like molasses and loam. At the finish there is a touch of the fermented mushroom soil taste that goes really well with the forest floor taste.
The aroma of the third steep is very sweet, a mix of sweet, resinous, pine loam and very sweet molasses bordering on raw sugar. This is a detoxing Pu! Something about this tea has a great heating affect causing me to feel warm and sweaty, gross I know, but I get really lucky and sometimes Pu Erhs just feel like they are cleaning out any gross things from my body, I feel better after drinking them. The taste is heavy, like deep loam and a touch of peat, this transfers to sweet molasses and a touch of anise again. The finish is pine sap and a touch of a cooling sensation at the finish. So, a perfectly piney tea for a tree decorating day.
This seems like a good afternoon tea to drink while helping my mom decorate the tree, a little extra boost of caffeine for holiday spirit! The smell is pretty intense, lots of strawberries and a tart fruity undertone. There is also a hint of cookies and malt, so that makes it a bit like pie. Speaking of cookies, I read somewhere that gluten is not water soluble, so in theory as long as I don’t eat them they shouldn’t hurt me? Not sure…but I am hoping just a little bit won’t cause any problems. It smells to good to not try!
I have learned that my new tiny little teapot is in fact a TARDIS because wow, it holds so much more than it looks like it should. Enough for my mom and me to each have a small cup (and not small like my tiny gongfu cups, like teacup size) so that is fun. Also this tea smells really good! I love rhubarb and strawberry pie, but for some dumb reason I am allergic to rhubarb, but I was informed by Stacy that there is not actual rhubarb in here, so I was super excited to try it. Yay for tea that smells and tastes like things I enjoy but can’t actually eat :P
The taste is alright, at first I was not really wowed, but as it cooled I found I enjoyed it more. There is definitely a taste of strawberries, rhubarb, crust, and a bit of spice, just something was lacking for me. Not really sure what, could be my mood…could be anything. Glad I got to try it though!
There is a tree outside! Ok, that was a little vague, there is a five foot balsam fir sitting on the porch waiting to be brought inside for decorating. There is also a stash of gluten free flour and accouterments for baking, exciting! I might be a real Grinch when it comes to Christmas (so much so that I am cancelling it after this year in favor of a new holiday of my own invention) but that does not stop my enjoyment of baking and coniferous trees. I really need to get a tiny needly tree to live on my desk, or at the very least a candle that smells EXACTLY like a fir tree…also I need to pick up some blue and purple lights for my bedroom, the little lights make me immensely happy. Also, guys, I really need a dainty snow themed teacup or teapot for my collection, it is of extreme importance.
So today we are having another visit with Trader Leaf, specifically we are taking a little looksie at Chocolate Coconut Bon Bon a blend of black tea, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, broken cocoa bits, coconut flakes, and flavoring, some of my favorite ingredients…I do just adore chocolate and coconut. The aroma, oddly enough, is really loaded with almonds! Maybe that is what the flavoring is, because it is super nutty. There are also strong notes of chocolate and slightly toasted coconut. It reminds me a little of a bon bon, but it has been so long since I had one, which is tragic with my great love of chocolate. Really though, the aroma reminds me of cookies with a malt and molasses finish, so it might be a slightly different dessert, but it is sweet regardless.
The brewed tea is super duper sweet! No surprise with it being a dessert tea, but wow, that aroma is so sweet. It is a blend of rich sweet chocolate, molasses, coconut, and almond cookies. The liquid is nigh inseparable from the brewed leaves, the only real difference is the aroma gains sugary sweetness from the melted chocolate.
Of course the tea has a delightful oily film which makes for an excellent mouthfeel, but it is annoying to clean off the teacup! I know some people get really grossed out by the texture of melted chocolate and coconut in tea, but I find it soothing, it reminds me of my childhood tradition of getting a spoonful of goose-grease when I had a sore throat. My grandmother would give it too many and for some reason I always got a sore throat when visiting! Ok, greasiness aside, the taste is surprisingly not that sweet, which is fine by me. Oh don’t get me wrong, it is sweet, but not the sweet of biting into a bon bon, it is the sweetness of coconut and a small amount of chocolate. The coconut is very pronounced, there are also notes of cocoa butter and of course chocolate, especially into the aftertaste where it mixes a bit with malt and molasses. This tea was enjoyable, but it did lack potency, I wish either the black tea would have been stronger or possibly the chocolate, but I am never opposed to more chocolate. If you have an interest in trying this tea yourself, Trader Leaf very awesomely has a pair of coupons for my readers: for free shipping use code ‘amanda’ and for $10 off all orders over $40 use code ‘butterflies’ so yay for discounts!
Hey all, still not feeling 100% yet, something about the transition from moderately warm and cold to full on constant cold winter always throws my body for a loop. Luckily taking a chill and getting some much needed sleep last night definitely seemed to help, along with a little thrift store therapy. I found some adorable new tea gear for an amazing price, I will have to have another tea gear show off soon! I am hoping after the ‘Christmas rush’ slows down I can get back to reviewing tea gear and tea books, but for now it is all tea all the time. I hope you all do not mind too terribly much.
So for today we are finishing up the Oolong tasting event from Teavivre with Superfine Taiwan Ali Shan Oolong Tea! This Gao Shan is from the 1,000 meter zone of Ali Shan, this particular tea is a Jin Xuan varietal (one of my personal favorites, in case you were curious) and apparently irrigated with fresh spring water. I want to be irrigated with fresh spring water, that stuff is delicious and so clean tasting, but I am not a plant so I must live vicariously through tea. The aroma of this tea is really quite sweet, like sesame candies with honey (ever had those things, they are delicious!) along with a touch of honeysuckle nectar and sweet cream, the cream notes border on buttery. Ok, so this just might be a Southern thing, but it reminds me a little of that super creamy honey butter for biscuits, yes I have been guilty of just eating the butter and forgoing the biscuit.
The aroma of the brewed leaves is unsurprisingly very sweet, they smell like a blend of honeysuckles and fresh growing things in summer. There are also notes of yeasty baking bread and a touch of chestnuts. The blend of bread and chestnut makes me want to bake, I absolutely love chestnuts, but they are obnoxiously expensive and I was spoiled as a kid since I lived near a chestnut tree. The liquid is no where near as intense as the wet leaves, it is mild and sweet with baking bread notes and a touch of slightly creamy honeysuckle.
The first steep is light in taste but powerful in mouth feel. It is so smooth that I will go out of a limb and say it is silky, it does not fill the mouth, it caresses. The taste is sweet, blending yeasty bread and honeysuckles with a distinct green quality, not vegetal, just green. I find myself wondering if the taste is really that mild or if the sensation of the tea is so intense that I am distracted by it, a very real possibility.
Whoa, the aroma of the second steep really steps up its game, where the previous steep was pretty mild, this one is sweet and yeasty with flower notes and a touch of sweet cream. Surprisingly, the taste is not really sweet, it blends notes of spinach, growing green things, and bread. Specifically either a really mild sourdough or country farm bread. At the finish there is a hint of sweet flowers and chestnuts. I love how bread like this tea tastes, I do not run into a more savory green oolong very often, so it is a bit fun!
The third steep is similar to the second with its delightfully sweet and floral aroma, specifically it is the aroma of honeysuckles, one of my favorite summer flowers. The taste surprises again, it starts off similar to the second, not as green and primarily yeasty. Then it blooms into honeysuckles and honey which lingers to the finish where it is joined with chestnuts at the aftertaste. This is not my favorite ever Oolong, but it is quite enjoyable.
Today is such a yuck day, yuck, yuck, yuck! I went shopping for noms this morning after not getting much sleep (it has been one of those weeks) and progressively felt ickier as the day went on. Not wanting to abandon the blog without a post today, I decided to have a little bit of easy fun.
So I was included in Influenster’s #FrostyVoxBox, a box of really cool products to try out and review (you guys have probably seen me feature past boxes if you have been reading a while) usually I do all of it in one big review, but since one of the things included with it was tea, well, I had to do it separately. Celestial Seasonings Candy Cane Lane Green Tea Decaffeinated, a holiday tea straight out of my memories. This is a blend of peppermint, decaffeinated green tea, orange peel, natural vanilla and mint flavors with other natural flavors, cinnamon, milk thistle, blackberry leaves, roasted carob, roasted chicory, and vanilla bean, and since it is a tea bag, it is the exact level of easy I am in the mood for on this most blah of days. So I know when I was younger I would drink a lot if Celestial Seasonings teas, but I cannot remember if I ever drank this one, fun adventure time, maybe! The aroma of the tea is minty and vanill-y (Minty Vanilli, the holiday themed Milli Vanilli comeback was also lip-synced) a little sweet, and a little papery from the bag. One of the tragedies of teabags is they can smell and taste like the bag, but you do at times make sacrifices for being lazy.
One thing I will give the packaging credit for, it does not say to use boiling water, in fact it says using cooler water with green tea will result in a smoother, more delicate flavor. Yay! Certain other bagged tea companies say boil everything, and people wonder why some people think green tea is bitter gross death. The aroma of the tea is minty and mellow, with vanilla and a roasted undertone along with a tiny hint of sugar cookies. The mint is the primary aroma, but it is not a kick in the face of mint.
The taste is not bad, it is minty and sweet with a hint of vanilla and honey and a slight bit of a roasted taste at the end. The green tea base is really generic, I am not sure how to describe it other than ‘generic bagged green tea I have been drinking since I was a kid’ taste. It is a really mild tea, the mint is cooling, but other than that there is nothing really powerful about it, I do not want to say it tastes watered down, but it does certainly lack oomph. Since this is a decaf tea, I can see this being a tea I could drink before bed or when I feel icky…the tastes are mellow, the mint cools my guts and clears my nose, and the warmth just feels good. In fact I am going to take the rest of this cup and go lay in bed while playing some Minecraft.
I really shouldn’t be drinking black tea, my insomnia has been out of control lately…but since I am going to be awake all night anyway, I might as well be alert and get something accomplished! So the aroma of the dry leaves didn’t really strike me, there was some, but it was distant, woody, and a bit chocolaty. The brewed leaves are much the same, they smell really good, not overly strong, but good!
Oh man, the liquid is really rich, sweet and cocoa filled with muscatel and a touch of forest loam. That taste is mellow, and I even accidentally let it over steep a bit (forgot to put on the timer and got distracted painting a monster…oops) but it is not bitter.
Sweet, muscatel, loamy, chocolaty…so many notes, and all of them really tasty. I even detect a bit of fruitiness at the finish.
Well, the lip piercing idea was a mistake, I remembered why I took my piercing out all those years ago pretty quickly. Turns out, the older I get, the less tolerant I am of things that irritate me, this usually applies to clothing texture, but it also goes for jewelry, so no lip ring for me. I will have to find some alternative, maybe just take up wearing blue lipstick again? So, piercing problems aside, expect something exciting after Christmas…if things go as planned I am finally going to get a decent little smartphone and start using Instagram. Just think of all the tea selfies and random nonsense you will get to see! Plus all the work in progress craft projects too, it will be exciting, I hope. Another piece of good news, my spider arrived today! It is super cuddly and does an excellent job at balancing on my head.
Today’s tea has a seasonal feel to it, part of my quest to get some Christmas and winter themed teas onto the blog during the month of December. This might be somewhat subjective because this time of year is full of memories of smells and tastes. Winter Pine by Trader Leaf is a blend of green tea, orange slices, planed almonds, flavoring, pink peppercorns, and safflower. I can safely say I let out a little squee when I opened the bag, the aroma of the tea smells just like almond crescent cookies, probably my favorite ever holiday cookie. My mom made a version of them for years, then when I was a teenager I found a recipe in a New Age book for moon cookies and had to make them…after eating one I realized they were the same cookie, just in crescents! It is a blend of almonds, oranges, and a touch of pepper, the aroma is very sweet and quite a lot like dessert. My mouth is watering, especially since I have not found a gluten free version of this cookie I am happy with yet, I need them!
Brewing the leaves brings out more of the almond sweetness, like marzipan and shortbread, with sweet orange zest and a touch of pepper. It is exactly like the cookies of my youth, except more orange, which I like! The orange notes mix really well with almond and pepper. The liquid is essentially the same, sweet with notes of orange and almond, in fact I would say the almond dominates here as well.
Yum!! It tastes like cookies! Ah, each sip is like a walk down memory lane. Seriously, the taste is like liquid cookies with a bit of orange jam on the side, so much sweet almond! Like almond cookies and marzipan, my mom who I had to share the cup with, agreed that the taste is very much like almond cookies. It is not as sweet, but a little addition of sugar changes that, but I actually like it not as sweet. This is certainly a mellow tea, the green base does not make itself known too strongly, there is a distant hint of fresh vegetation at the finish along with pepper, so if you are afraid of green tea this might be a good one for you to try! Also, if you are interested in getting this tea for the holidays, Trader Leaf was awesome enough to provide me with a pair of coupons, use code amanda for free shipping or butterflies for $10 off all orders over $40.
Sadly Butiki is going away, I was torn as to whether I want to add the reviews of the various teas I have tried from them to my blog in a massive ‘farewell to you’ week or two, but alas, I do not have the time. Maybe I will do a single blog entry talking about my favorite Butiki teas from the ones I have tried.
Anyway, this tea! The leaves are humongous! I took one of the big ones and made it make silly monster noises because it looked like a little creature. They smell super sweet and a bit fruity, kinda like fruit drizzled with honey and then baked. Yum! So, enough sniffing, it is gaiwan time!
Yum, the leaves smell like a mix of fig, plum, and dates, it is sooo super sweet! It also has a little bit of a red wine (I am not enough of a wine sipper to pin down exactly which one) the liquid smells warm, sweet, and a touch spicy.
So funny story, after just re-piercing my lip I seem to have forgotten how to drink with a lip ring and I keep dripping tea! It makes me giggle. This tea is fantastic, very sweet and fruity, but it is heavy stone fruit, dates, and yeah there is even a dried fig note which makes me super happy. The following steeps keep the sweetness and add a touch of creaminess to it. Delicious!
I have returned to being myself! Ok, I know that sounds weird, but several years ago I took my lip piercing and nose piercing out, for some reason, I honestly don’t remember why. I have missed it terribly and said a big YOLO and re-pierced them, nose a while ago and lip today. Something about having blue hair and piercings just makes me happy, but I have always loved that style, blame growing up in the 80s and 90s and wanting to be a glam rock princess from day one. Now the real debate, do I want any more piercings, there are several I want and can’t get (scar tissue on my belly, so no belly ring) and several that I think I would look really derpy with (like my septum and dimple piercings) but I think an extra eyebrow ring could look really cool. Also need to redo my ears for like the fifth time.
It is Wednesday, meaning it is time for the What-Cha Wednesday traditional review, what can I say, I love tradition, plus What-Cha keeps introducing me to fascinating teas and terroirs. Today’s tea Darjeeling 2nd Flush 2014 Jungpana AV2 Yellow Tea definitely fits into the fascinating category, it is from Jungpana Estate in Darjeeling, and is a 2nd Flush, but it is a little different. This is no black, oolong, or green Darjeeling, this is a yellow! It is hard enough to get a yellow tea from China, but having one from India, well, that is just like finding a treasure. Sadly my searching to find out more tasty info on this unusual tea was not the most fruitful, I did find out that it won an award for its 2013 harvest, so congrats to you tea. This tea’s aroma is pleasantly transportive, not that I can really figure out where it takes my mind, but I can say it is somewhere deep in my memories and very comforting, it makes me wistful. Emotional impact aside, the notes are peppery, distant blooming flowers, sweet muscadines, and a tiny touch of sweet, warm hay. It smells light and pretty, yes, it is a pretty smelling tea, mellow and delicate while being distinct.
The brewed leaves are surprisingly complex, presenting notes that I honestly was not expecting. There are notes of sweet hay, pepper…ok those are not surprising since they were present in the dry leaves. Orange blossoms is a pleasant surprise, since it just smelled like generic distant flowers before…but whoa, sea air and wet slate, that unexpected by quite fascinating. These last notes are at the finish and very faint, they add some interesting depth to the delicate tea, and oddly enough the smell of the wet leaves reminds me of the way Charleston smells, which is pretty awesome. The liquid without its leafy friends is delicate and sweet, like orange blossoms, orange blossom honey, and a touch of freshly mown hay.
Well, my mind is blown now. Seriously, there are too many things with this tea, just wow. Ok, to put it out in the simplest terms, it starts with fresh vegetation, lettuce, and pepper, this pretty immediately transitions to sweetness. There is a blend of orange blossoms, honey, and fresh hay. The finish is grapefruit, and then the most amazing thing happens. A few, I don’t really think it is seconds, at the most two seconds pass after you swallow the tea a floral explosion happened in my mouth. So, a little side story, at the Kauffman Gardens in Kansas City, there is an observatory filled with orchids and various citrus plants (along with ferns and palms, but they are not relevant to this story) when I was there in spring all the orchids and citrus trees were in flower, it was amazing. That is what is happening in my mouth, with an added nectar sweetness, it is mind blowing.
For blog and photos (including my fancy face :P ): http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/12/what-cha-darjeeling-2nd-flush-2014.html