302 Tasting Notes
Happiness!! Today the new update for Minecraft came out and I was able to spend my morning having fun with all the new features. Later in the day I was told by Ben that my favorite board game ever (Summoner Wars) is planning on releasing a box set where factions are being blended together for new and exciting combinations of strategies to master. I was also able to get some new dark grey and black Perler beads, so the Pokemon Challenge continues, it was a good day to be a Geek.
Today’s tea is Blueberry Maple Tea originally by Metropolitan Tea Co. but sold by The Blueberry Store, a delightfully themed store! Made from a blend of Ceylon Black Tea and natural flavors, this tea combines the taste of blueberries with maple syrup, just like my favorite waffles. The aroma is very sweet! It is very true to its name, combining sweet blueberries and maple syrup, these tea bags are giving me a serious breakfast craving. Who am I kidding, I eat blueberry waffles no matter what time of day it is! There is a slightly malty black tea aroma as well, but mostly it is all blueberry and maple sweetness.
Once the bag has been steeped the liquid has much more of a malty aroma, making it more like a tea and less like food. Have no fear, there is still a strong blend of maple and blueberry sweetness that is completely mouthwatering.
The initial taste is faintly sweet and bright, blending strong blueberries with a hint of maple syrup. I decided to go for cream and sugar, because this tea just begs for cream and sugar. With the additive the maple flavor is much stronger, dwarfing the blueberry flavor, kinda like what happens when you dump syrup all over a blueberry waffle. This tea is not really nuanced or complex, but it is deliciously sweet, and perfect for when you want a sweet tea to guzzle down first thing in the morning.
Flavors: Berries, Malt
So in honor of my Pokemon Challenge, I have deiced that watching the TV show from the beginning is the best idea ever. I am always a slave to nostalgia! At 20 episodes in I can safely say I forgot how much of a jerk Pikachu was at first, and how Team Rocket fails at everything. Good times, good times.
Today’s tea, Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong by Yezi Tea might be more familiar to you with its alternative name, Lapsang Souchong, but it is a little different from the usual run of the mill Lapsang Souchong. Originally Lapsang Souchong was made from the large leaves farther down the stem, smoked over a pine fire, and traded on the Tea Horse Road to places like Russia and Tibet. Now what about the fine leaves and buds at the top of the stem? Those were kept for the high and mighty, and for years not let out of China, they went by the name Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong. Hailing from the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian, the aroma of these delicate leaves is like an aged oak cask that once stored scotch. There are also notes of cocoa and peanuts with a honey sweetness, of course there is a hint of pine fire. The smokiness is distant, the way the air smells when one of your neighbors is using their fire place on a chilly night, or a distant campfire.
Into the gaiwan the leaves go! After their steeping the wet leaves have a stronger smoky aroma with a surprising cinnamon note. There is also the aroma of cocoa, honey, and peanuts with a finish of pine wood. The aroma is quite rich. The liquid is richly sweet and faintly creamy with a gently pine smoke finish.
The first steeping is sweet, delicious honey sweetness with notes of cocoa and peanuts. Of course there is smoke, very gently pine smoke. Again the imagery of a distant campfire fills my mind as I sip it. The mouthfeel is quite smooth, definitely one of those teas that fills up the mouth while sipping.
The second steep’s aroma has much stronger pine and smoke aroma with a much sweeter finish. The taste is wonderfully sweet, starting off with strong honey and raisin notes and fading to more of a semisweet chocolate flavor. There is a rich peanut finish and a pine wood aftertaste. Overlaying the entire experience is a gentle smokiness. This steeping is even more rich than the first and is a wonderful experience.
The third steep’s aroma is almost all pine smoke and gentle sweetness. The taste is so rich, oh man it is incredibly rich! Sweet honey and raisin that fades to cocoa, with midtaste to finish of pine smoke. If you find that Lapsang Souchong is far too potent in its smokiness than this is the tea for you…if you find that you want your Fujian Black tea to have a little more smokiness with its usual sweetness than this is the tea for you. Actually if you like tea in general I would recommend this one!
Flavors: Cocoa, Honey, Pine, Raisins
Why hello there snow, I had forgotten what you looked like, and here you are falling all over my blooming crocuses. I really don’t mind that it is snowing, because snow is my second favorite kind of weather (stormy beats it) and it is far too beautiful to be mad at it for taking away the warmth. Such is the way of this part of the world, the temperature and weather flip flop around and keep you guessing.
Today’s tea is #10 in the Red Leaf Tea sampler, Dan Cong Oolong from Guangdong Province in China. Dan Cong is one of the strip style oolongs, meaning that it is not curled into a ball like Tie Guan Yin and its style, also it is usually grown in higher elevations. The aroma of the leaves is quite strongly floral, mostly orchids with a hint of osmanthus, but it is also richly roasted which blends well with the floral notes. There is also a hint of tobacco, that to be honest I could live without. I don’t mind when that note is in earthy or roasted teas, but when tobacco mixes with floral it just gives me a bit of a headache, luckily the note is very mild so it doesn’t bother me too much.
After steeping, the wet leaves have lost all their floral notes, now we have rich earthy and loamy notes with a slight metallic quality, and sweetness. The tea has a very sweet finishing note, almost sickly sweet like decay, it is not at all offensive and really accents the loam quality. The liquid smells like a mix of honey and maple syrup with a hint of honeysuckle and yeasty bread. The liquid’s aroma is really good, I would go as far as to say mouthwatering.
The taste is mild and fairly sweet, like honeysuckle nectar, which fades to a mineral midtaste. The mineral midtaste is exactly like wet limestone (I have licked my fair share of rocks, don’t judge) and I love it. The aftertaste is a blend of loam, cedar, and smoke. As the tea cools it becomes sweeter and more floral. This is an interesting tea, the aroma of the dry leaves compared with the wet compared with the liquid is vastly different. At first I was not sure I was going to be a fan, but after the transition I ended up really enjoying it. My only regret is that when I wrote the tasting notes in my notebook (back in October!) I didn’t have my gaiwan yet, and I used all the leaves up so I won’t be able to try a second go with this tea unless I bought the whole sampler again (which is tempting).
Flavors: Flowers, Mineral
I have terrible news! The Pokemon Challenge is in danger! Ok, not really danger, I have just almost run out of dark grey and black meaning I will have to stop until I get more, and I have no idea when that will be and it frustrates me. Good thing I have other crafty things to keep me occupied until I can get more perlers. On a more positive note, this morning I had Dim Sum and spent the day hanging out with Ben, celebrating his Spring Break, yay!
Today’s tea is a tea themed around a dessert (or is it a snack) that just screams ‘time to go camping!’ S’mores by Della Terra Tea is a blend of Black Tea, Chocolate Bits, Chocolate Flavor, Mini Marshmallows, Marshmallow and Graham flavoring, and finely crushed graham crackers. Yeah, this tea has all the ingredients of a S’more without the needed campfire, which is good because I can’t have one in my house. The aroma is primarily marshmallow’s sugary sweetness that fades to chocolate and finally graham cracker. There is a faint hint of malt as an undertone that ties the other aromas together. The aroma is crazy sweet and smells just like a s’more. Delicious!
Once the tea is brewed and the delightful bits dissolve into the liquid the liquid loses a bit of its marshmallow intensity and is replaced with lots of chocolate. The aroma is richly chocolate, like dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate. The liquid is primarily creamy chocolate with hints of marshmallow and malt. The aroma is very rich and evocative of the dessert (snack) that it is named after.
Tasting this tea the first thing I notice is the lack of sweetness, which was surprising with all the marshmallows. It reminds me of dark chocolate with graham and marshmallow essence that fades into a mildly sweet aftertaste. I decided to go for all out decadence and add a bit of cream and sugar and boy was I glad I did, it transforms the tea into liquid s’more! The sugar highlights the chocolate and marshmallow and the cream adds the touch of silky creaminess you expect from popping a melted milk chocolate bar in your mouth. There is not an overwhelming amount of graham cracker or the base tea’s taste, but overall this tea is a good imitation of an especially sticky snack (dessert).
Flavors: Cocoa, Malt
I dyed my hair blue again today, I know, I know, I just dyed it a couple weeks ago, but I botched it a bit (I am awful at dying my own hair) and needed to fix it. Now it is bright cobalt at the roots that fades to a deep indigo at the tips. I am happy with it and hopefully won’t have to alter my hair for a while, except to trim my bangs of course. Now if I could find some way to tame my crazy cowlick!
Today’s tea is a tea for anyone who suffers for insomnia, Raizana Tea’s SleepyTea. A blend of passionflower, Valerian, Blueberry Leaves, Chamomile, Lavender Flowers, Rosemary, Spearmint, Lemongrass, Stevia, and Natural Orange Flower. A very colorful pile of flowers and herbs! The aroma is a great blend of plant matter, mixing herbaceous notes, floral notes, and straw notes. The lavender and lemongrass is quite strong, a strange blend of smells, but not an unpleasant one.
Once steeped the wet leaves are quite sweet, a bit fruity and a bit floral. There is also a strong citrus and herbaceous tone, I am assuming from the lemongrass (my arch nemesis, we meet again) there is a hint of chamomile straw notes that actually calm the lemongrass down, it is a neat effect, there is this kick of lemongrass and then it is soothed by chamomile. The liquid is mostly the straw like aroma of chamomile and the green yet lemony aroma of lemongrass, there is a very delicate finish of lavender.
The taste is really quite sweet and lemony, the taste reminds me of Lemonheads but without the really sour aspect of that candy. The lemony sweetness fades to a mellow floral blend of lavender and chamomile with a finish of herbaceous. There is not really a mint taste to the tea, but it does have a nice cooling quality as it goes down the throat. I am not going to say this tea knocked me out and put me to sleep, when my insomnia is acting up it takes powerful sleeping meds and even that is not consistent, but this tea was very relaxing and certainly took the edge off.
I woke up to awesome news, the Title Update 14 changelog has been released and it is going into cert testing, meaning we could have the update by the end of next week. This newest update has been months in the waiting and I have been stalking 4J Studios diligently, enjoying all the little snippets of info they posted on twitter. The Xbox 360 version is still pretty far behind the PC, but it is slowly catching up. In this update I think I am most excited about the carpet, Nether mobs wandering in through portals, and anvils.
Today’s tea is Jin Jun Mei by Yezi Tea, Jin Jun Mei, also known as Golden Eyebrows Tea , is a black (or red) tea from Fujian, China, and is fairly rare. Jin Jun Mei is one of those teas that make me immensely happy just from looking at the dry leaf. I am a sucker for the beautiful, fuzzy, golden leaves, they look like something from a fairy tale. The aroma of the dry leaves is sharply sweet and a bit fruity, specifically a bit muscatel, there are strong notes of cocoa, caramelized sugar, orchids, and oak wood. It is a rich and bright aroma that wafts from the leaves, and certainly quite sweet. I would say that the aroma is one of the more sweeter Chinese black teas that I have had the honor of sniffing.
And into the gaiwan it goes for a nice, short, steeping! The aroma of the wet (and no longer gold and fuzzy) leaves is not fruity and bright, but is all richness. The aroma evolved into an intense depth with strong notes of peanuts, cocoa, and a faint hint of oak wood. Even though the aroma is no longer fruity it does retain a bit of sweetness, but now it is more of a nutty sweetness. The poured off liquid is quite sweet, like cocoa and honey with a woody quality.
The first steeping is wonderfully sweet and rich, blending the taste of cocoa, honey, roasted peanuts, and a finish of oak wood. I feel I am not giving this tea the credit it deserves, it is one of those that when I sipped it I was lost in the delicious and incredible rich taste, if you would have asked me at the time I was sipping you probably would have just heard me contentedly sigh.
The second steeping, the aroma of the leaves and the liquid is much the same as the first but a bit stronger and richer. The same can be said for the taste, except it has an added smoothness from the mouthfeel, this steeping almost seems to coat the mouth in rich sweetness. The aftertaste on this steeping was a tiny bit metallic which seemed to knock me out of my tea fugue, not a bad thing. This is one of those teas that I could see myself becoming mildly addicted to, perfect for mornings and aftermeals, or just an afternoon pick-me-up. Or before bed, or with a book, or when crafting…really I could be content drinking this tea all day. It has this great quality of being both bold and flavorful while retaining a level of mellowness that does not overpower, it is a perfectly balanced tea.
Flavors: Caramel, Cocoa, Grapes, Honey, Nuts, Orchids
I sadly do not have anything really interesting or important to open today’s post with. My sleep schedule is all wonky, so I woke up late in the afternoon, I played Minecraft (working on a Creeper Argonath) and played some Soul Calibur V with Ben. My breakfast was cornbread stuffing and a Matcha latte, so yeah, nothing too exciting today.
Today’s tea is Lapsang Souchong from local tea and herb shop, Phoenix Herb Company. Lapsang Souchong is a fun tea, it originated as low quality tea that was sent to those outside of China since apparently smoking a tea over pine fire makes it a lot easier to transport (less apt to rotting on the Tea Horse Road). Nowadays we can get the fancy stuff that was originally reserved for tribute, but we still love our smoked teas. The aroma is extremely smoky, it is like sticking your face in a pine wood campfire or running away from a forest fire. There is no subtlety at all in the empyreumatic (smoky) aroma of this tea, but there is more to it than just smoke. Once you waft off the clouds of smoke you can pick up a faintly sweet malty quality and a hint of pine resin.
The brewed tea is not like sniffing a forest fire any longer, the smokiness is significantly more subtle and joined with malt and molasses sweetness. The aromas blend together quite nicely and the tinge of sweetness is tantalizing. The liquid has the aroma of campfire and also pine sap with a hint of rich malt.
Fun side note, when I first started drinking primarily loose leaf tea, Lapsang Souchong was one of the ones I drank the most. The taste of this particular Lapsang Souchong is quite pine heavy, both in pine smoke and pine sap. There is also a rich malt quality similar to an Assam, there is mildly astringent finish that gives the mellow and rich smokiness an extra zing at the end. I recommend this tea, so much so that whenever there is a family gathering and I do not feel like offering a tea menu, this is the tea I serve everyone. It is safe to say I end up brewing several pots and give lots of refills.
Flavors: Malt, Pine
The Pokemon Challenge is well under way, I have the first sixteen completed and according to calculations if I make an average of ten a day, I should be finished in a little under two years. I am trying to think if I have ever undertaken a larger project, I certainly have folded more stars, but that doesn’t have an end goal. I certainly think this is the only craft project I have tackled that has a stated end goal. If you are curious to watch the progress and cheer me on, I will have a link at the end of the blog post.
Today’s tea is Laoshan Apothecary Green by Verdant Tea. I admit the first thing that drew me to this particular blend was its name, because apothecaries are awesome. This tea is a blend of Laoshan Green Tea, Organic Fennel, Organic Coriander, Organic Peppermint, Organic Rama Tulsi, and Organic Kishna Tulsi. The first thing I notice about this tea’s aroma is how incredibly clean and refreshing it smells. The blend of herbs is a blend of savory and faintly sweet with sharp notes of mint. The mint and basil are the most prominent notes with a finish of coriander and fennel.
Once steeped the aroma of the base green tea shows its true colors (they are all shades of green if you were curious) with a strong aroma of cooked spinach. There are of course herbaceous notes of basil and coriander, with just a slight hint of fennel and mint. The aroma reminds me of herb bread and it is making me quite hungry. The liquid smells almost identical to the wet leaves but with a little bit more of the mint aroma and less of the bread quality.
The taste of this tea is pleasantly savory, blending strong herbaceous notes with cooked spinach. The herb bread analogy from earlier is holding up, the tea has a slightly yeasty quality and is loaded with the taste of basil and coriander. At the finish there is a cleansing kick of mint that really seems to cleanse the palate and cool the mouth and stomach. I always enjoy teas that have a cooling sensation. The mouthfeel of this tea could be described as silky, it is very smooth and pleasant. As it cools the tea gets sweeter.
I decided to have another go with these leaves, the aroma of the wet leaves for steep two has stronger herbal tones, the basil and mint is much stronger, along with the fennel being sharper. The first thing I notice is the flavor is sweeter and the coriander is stronger. It is less vegetal this time and more herbal, the mint instead of being at the end of the sip shows up at the middle and stays around until the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is still smooth and silky, and as the tea cools it continues to get sweeter. This tea is great if you are having belly problems or have had a meal that is too heavy, it cleanses and cools the mouth, plus it is quite tasty.
I have decided to start a new craft project that will take an eternity to complete: I am going to make perler bead sprites of all the Pokemon. Yes, I want to create all 718 (for now, I am sure there will be more before I get close to the end) of them, I started last night and not counting all the Eeveelutions I made months ago I have created the first six. I predict I will get the first 50-60 done before I run out of beads! Also, in the art department, I have taken up sketching and created a flash diffuser for my camera.
Today’s tea is Rose Congou from Upton Tea Imports, a Chinese Black Tea scented with rose blossoms. Interesting tea fact of the day, Congou is more of a description of tea rather than a specific type, coined in the 19th century from a translation error, specifically from the Hokkien dialect pronunciation of Gongfu. So basically the Chinese exporters were saying that it was tea made with great skill, and the American and English importers thought it was a type of tea. To be fair there are black teas that have Gongfu (or Congou) in its name, Keemun, Chaozhu Gongfu Cha, and Panyang Congou, and conviently all three of these have been identified as Congou at some point in tea’s history, so at least the misunderstanding is understandable. The aroma is sweet and heavily rosy, reminiscent of an English rose garden during high summer. Perfumed and heady with a hint of muscatel and earthiness, so it is like having tea in said rose garden.
Once the leaves have been steeped the aroma becomes a bit more earthy and muscatel, but with hints of oak wood and cocoa. There is a subtle sweetness, and of course roses, however the roses are no where near as potent as their dry leaf counterparts. The liquid smells both rosy and a bit malty with a creamy after quality. It has a subtle sweetness as well and is quite delicious smelling.
The taste of the tea is heady and heavily rosy. There is a very faint sweetness, not much of one until the aftertaste. This tea is quite bright and really wakes up the mouth, it also does not become overpowered by the roses, so it is a good balance of base tea and added flavors. I really love this tea with a splash of cream and sugar, making a tea version of one of my favorite drinks, Rose Milk. Adding the cream and sugar makes for a floral and decadent tea, and it brings out some mild muscatel quality. Delicious.
Flavors: Flowers, Malt
Everyone decided to go on an outing today for crepes and shopping at Costco, I was not feeling much for going out (or waking up yet) so I decided to stay home and get some moderately fulfilling sleep. I was already awake when everyone returned, having my tea and breakfast, when I am presented with an industrial size bottle of Lactaid and a giant, bulk package of seasoned, roasted, seaweed. I feel so loved!
Today’s tea is Sencha Fuka-Midori by Den’s Tea, part of the Green Tea Sampler For Novices offered on their website. This specific Sencha is a first flush plucked in Shizuoka prefecture and is from the Yabukita varietal. The aroma is sweet and green, fresh grass and kelp with a touch of artichoke cover the vegetal end. Chestnut and very faint citrus notes cover the mild sweetness. This tea is very much so the ‘ideal’ of a Sencha, basically it smells exactly like you expect a Sencha to smell like.
Into the Kyusu the leaves go for a nice quick steeping, I find that the recommend steeping parameters are way too hot for this tea, so I steeped it at 160 for 2 minutes. The aroma of the wet leaves is quite sweet with honey notes and very vegetal with notes of cooked spinach with hints of kelp at the finish. The liquid smells both green and buttery, like fresh grass with a very smooth quality. At the finish there is just a tiny, tiny, hint of cooked spinach.
The first thing I notice while sipping is the extremely smooth, almost buttery mouthfeel. It also feels heavy and thick, filling up the mouth with flavor. The taste is a fantastic blend of fresh grass, sweet hay, and cooked spinach. If you want a touch of the more bitter vegetal taste, a slightly higher temperature will turn the cooked spinach to more of a kale taste. This Sencha, like its aroma, is a fine example of an ‘ideal’ Sencha. If you have never had a Sencha before and want to see what one is expected to taste like, this one is a perfect example, I can certainly see why it is in their introductory sampler.