615 Tasting Notes
I think my computer has a grudge against me personally (ok no, it also hates Ben) because it has the most god awful internet connection in my bedroom. Anywhere else in the house is fine, but in the bedroom…where I do my work…it will not connect. It is driving me absolutely bonkers!! I have finally saved enough money to buy Ben’s birthday present (it is a new computer, woo!) and was going to then save up to replenish my dwindling tea stash, but now I have to get a Wi-Fi booster instead. How annoying!! Ah well, life goes on, at least I got to use the phrase ‘I am priming my ovipositor’ today, which is something I never thought I would say, so life isn’t too bad.
Today is the last day of Dark Tea Week, it is also the grand opening of M&K’s Tea Company’s website! Previously they had an etsy store which I had great fun visiting (especially for holiday themed teas) and spent a great deal of time admiring their awesome aesthetic. Last order I placed (back when I was chillin’ in PA with me mum) I was sent a sample of Menghai Lao Tou Pu-erh (Ripe/Shou, 1999) and holy cheese doodles that was a long time ago, I also say that 1999 was one of the best years of my life until recently, seriously that year was amazing. I was going to post a photo of me from that time, but alas I cannot seem to find one, so you must all be content with just imagining me in my gothic glory. But this is not all about me reminiscing, this is about a tea from bonkers forever ago, hailing from Menghai County in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, this tea is a real nugget of fun, no really, Lao Tou means old nugget, a result of piling while being fermented. The aroma of these nuggets is woody primarily, with secondary notes of loam, old oak wood (reminds me of an old oak cask or trunk) a forest floor, and a tiny bit of a meaty-mushroomy-savory note at the finish. This is a very woody shou, not as loamy as some.
Into ye’ ol elephant pot it goes! Not the pot that gets the most use in my collection, but it certainly might be the one with the most personality! The aroma of the nuggets (even after rinsing they are still pretty solid) is a blend of molasses, pine forest loam, oak wood, and a touch of meatiness. It blends woody sharpness and loamy earthiness really well, more balanced than the dry leaves. The liquid has a stronger savory note and a nice mineral note to join the woodiness and earthiness, it is not a hugely complex pile of notes, but it is quite tasty smelling. Happy nose!
Tasting the first steep I can safely say, this is a mellow tea. Smooth and mellow, kinda like the guy who insists on always wearing a towel and has convinced me that Old Spice is the best man soap ever. I am officially making him the mascot of Shou Puerh! Anyway, randomness aside, this tea starts off creamy smooth with notes of loam, mineral, and molasses, It then moves on to woodiness and slight sweetness. Finally the tea ends with a bit of leather and loam, it does not linger in the mouth long, but the lingering that is there is mild and sweet.
So here is the fun part, this tea can go…and go…and go…I legit lost count of how many steeps I had, but the best part is it was like drinking the same cup of tea FOREVER. I could imagine this being a real downer to some, especially if you like each steep to be a little different (or a lot different) and usually I do with some teas. Once in a while I want a tea that I can just sit with and not think, I want a tea that sits like a trusted friend and does crafts with me, plays Minecraft with me, or helps me wipe out humanity while playing Plague Inc (I am so awful at that game) It seems kinda mean to call this a background noise tea, because it is not one to have and ignore, it certainly has a presence, it is just a solid unchanging presence.
OMG I FIXED MY INTERNET!!!! I think…How does everyone like the idea of next week being Oolong week? For blog and photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2015/03/m-tea-company-menghai-lao-tou-pu-erh.html
Hey, there is snow! Yay! I love the snow, it is not a lot, but this winter has just been lousy in the snow department, clearly I should take that one guy who is selling blocks of snow up on his offer. Or not because really, that is kinda dumb. I once had a friend in Australia who wanted me to mail him snow and Oreos, I still find that immensely funny. This was back in the day when saying to your school friends that you have friends from all over the world thanks to the internet got you laughed at, or at the very least not believed, also funny to me! I love the internet, it has allowed shy little ol’ me to talk to tons of people while still being in my comfort zone, go social media!
Continuing Dark Tea week, this one is a quirky Shou (or Shu, ah, dialect) from Life in Teacup, specifically Guevera Shu. Reading Ginkgo’s (the proprietor of Life in Teacup) blog about this tea I was able to learn that he got this massive block of Shu from Taobao because he thought the wrapper was cool, and lets be honest, it is pretty neat. With a large image of Che Guevera, bullet holes and casings and the name AK-47 in bold letters, this puerh is totally metal. Gleaning a bit more info from the blog, the tea is supposedly from Bulang Mountain and an abandoned tea plantation (there seem to be a lot of those that get poached for puerh) and made from larger leaves, in theory this will be a good educational Shu, a way to introduce people to the fine art of ripe puerh without dealing with those really rank ones. So, how does this one smell, that is the important question! Pretty good actually, it is rich and earthy with the expected notes of loam (erring on the side of pine forest loam this time) clean soil, and some mineral notes as well. As a fun little surprise the finishing note is molasses, giving a bit of sweetness at the end.
Time to heat up the way back machine, because this was before the elephant pot was in my collection! Don’t get me wrong, I still love brewing puerh in my gaiwan(s) but using my pot just feels good, plus it helps make it super seasoned, really it is getting so dark! Anyway, rinsing and brewing time, the leaves are really earthy and pretty incredibly sweet, lots of pine sap, wet wood, molasses, and a bit like molasses cookies, which is a little odd but it smells really good. The liquid is sweet loam and molasses, there is also a tiny, tiny hint of camphor giving the warm liquid a tiny bit of a cooling effect.
Woo! This is a delightfully smooth tea on the first steep, no bite at all, just slightly sweet loamy goodness that has a slightly thick mouthfeel. There are also notes of molasses and a touch of cooling, it is neat it starts off warming and then goes to cooling. It is nothing like sheng puerh’s cooling that fills up your mouth, nose, and all the way into the lungs, it is more like taking a breath on a slightly warm day after drinking something warm.
Next up is steep two, the aroma is creamy sweet, blending molasses and pine sap, forest loam and clean soil. Not sure why pine sap comes off as creamy, but to me and my nose, we see creamy (well that went rather synesthesia-ish) The second steep starts off fairly earthy and loamy, there is a total lack of sweet, almost to the point of being savory and like mushroom soil. This changes pretty rapidly to sweet molasses and pine needles, but it does have a more dry affect this time instead of being smooth. It also has a warming, relaxing feeling that imparts a heaviness.
So, the aroma of the third steep has a new player, the notes of molasses, pine sap, and forest loam are still present, but there is also a note of malt at the finish. The taste for the third steep is very similar, the notes are much the same, starting out loamy and earthy, no savory this time, just rich earthiness. After that we get sweet molasses and pine needles. There is no mouth drying, just smooth earthiness that makes my feel very warm and relaxed. This really would be a good introductory Shu, so I certainly agree there!
For blog and photos (Cthulhu helped me with this one) http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2015/02/life-in-teacup-guevera-shu-tea-review.html
Today is just an awful, awful day. Spock has left us (oh god the tears!!) the dress apocalypse is nigh, my computer is garbage, and I think I have to break my promise to never run ads on my blog. Truly this is a dark day, I am honestly not even sure what to do with myself, the other stuff really was making me blue, but Leonard Nimoy dying is heartbreaking, I love Star Trek, heck I am even debating wearing a Science Officer’s outfit as a wedding dress when I get around to getting married. Spock might have been the first ‘Space Elf’ that I ever fell for, he is just iconic, and his death is tragic, but, at least he did live long and prospered.
So, enough crying into my cat, it is Dark Tea week still, so it is time to venture further into the fermented heart of tea with Wymm Tea’s Menghai Shou (Cooked) Pu-erh In Third Grade 2008. This tea comes from the mountains of Menghai and sits right in the middle of tea grading (seventh grade has the biggest leaves and first is the smallest) this means it is right in the middle of sweetness and woodiness. So the aroma certainly can back that up, blending woodiness and earthiness with a touch of sweet. This is definitely one of those teas that is more earthy and robust than sweet, and the presence of loam and wet wood is strong. It reminds me more of a deciduous forest than pine forest, which usually smells sweeter to me.
And into the elephant pot it goes for a brief rinse and steep, the wet leaves are very earthy, blending loam, wet oak wood, a sharp mineral note (specifically it reminds me of limestone) and a finish of pine needles. The liquid is creamy and sweet, the aroma has a heaviness like lying on a forest floor and enjoying the aroma of loam and wood washing over you. It is a very pleasant aroma, earthy and robust but with a balanced sweetness.
The first steep is very smooth, in both moutfeel and taste. I was impressed by the level of smooth, I did one of those mouth-smacking ahhh moments and just had to lean back in my chair and enjoy for a moment. The taste notes blended earthy notes and sweetness to an almost perfection, notes of loam and wet wood with caramel and pine sap, like I said, it was very smooth.
Take two! The aroma did not change much, it has a little more loam and a little more sweetness, so basically it is the same but stronger. Like the first steep this one is crazy smooth, I feel like I should change the music I am listening to (it is Busta Rhymes, not sure he counts as smooth, though that flow is SICK) because wow, this might be one of the most smooth Puerhs I have had. The taste is still really balanced, with the previous earthy notes I get a bit of a mineral note and with the previous sweet notes I get a bit of fig. The aftertaste is almost honey sweet and it lingers for a while.
Guess what, it is time for steep three, the aroma is much sweeter this time, with notes of pine sap, loam, and honey drizzled figs, it smells yummy. The taste is lighter this time, and oddly not really sweet at all, mostly just earthy and loamy with a distinct hint of mineral at the finish. I sat with this tea for a few more steeps, it did not really change much from this one, just continued to fade. It was a delightfully smooth tea, and never got an edge to it which I really liked.
I am so close to being done with my Scourge that resisting rushing through these last steps is soooo hard!! If I rush I end up having my hand slip and that one misstep means I have to go back and redo a section, which I am sure you all know is bloody infuriating. But, I have my Reaver Gunship more or less finished (I need to use anti-shine on the bones since I want them not as shiny as the rest of the chitinous model) and I am going to have a nice photo of the beastie at the end of the blog. Plus, ugh, I think I need a break because my hands are shaky, this is not the time for shaky hands (or shaky cam for that matter!)
So, it is Wednesday, meaning What-Cha time! However it is also Dark Tea week, so I get to unveil a tea I was so hype to review: Malawi 2014 Leafy Dark Tea. Oh yeah, I finally get to have my elephant yixing really shine by drinking a dark tea from Africa! Yeah I giggled in excitement when I saw this sample stuffed in my recent (by recent I mean it was my Christmas gift to myself) order, I am still giggling a little bit, this is just one of those teas that is so cool. Made in the style of a Shou and it certainly smells like one. The aroma of this tea actually, no lies, made me cry a little, ok I like Sheng I really do, but my heart will always belong to Shou, and the reason why is because it smells like a forest floor after a summer rain, it has the smell of wet wood, mushrooms, loam, that delightful steamy aroma that a forest gets on a hot day after rain. It smells like the heavily piney forest that I spent A LOT of my time in as a teenager. That forest has been turned into an apartment complex now and I am getting maudlin, but the smell of a good clean Shou (not one that smells like a Chinese market) takes me home, and this tea is no exception. It has a weightiness to it, like I am sinking into loam and pine needles. This tea is heavenly, I want to hug it.
Into the elephant it goes! I gave it a rinse and a short steep, the aroma of the wet leaves is ecstasy, well if you are into laying face first in a forest floor, and we all know that is my idea of a perfect day. It is so rich with notes of loam, wet pine wood, and a touch of sweet cocoa at the end. The liquid smells loamy and sweet, blending pine sap and wet wood with forest floor.
The first steep starts out pretty subtle and slightly creamy in texture, and by the time it hids the midtaste there is an explosion of rich loam, pine forest and cocoa! It is so good, it manages to be rich while not being overpowering, and that cocoa note goes really well with the natural pinesap sweetness. The aftertaste is sweet cocoa and loam, and it lingers for a while.
The aroma is intensely loamy and earthy, like clean forest soil and wet wood. There is also a distinct mineral note, again it reminds me of a forest after the rain where it has that steamy aroma in the air. The taste is pretty much identical to the first steep but much stronger. The cocoa note is a little diminished, it is all earthy pine forest floor. The finish has a tiny hint of raw honey and has a great salivary effect.
So, I forgot to take a photo of the third steep, or any of the other steeps, I found myself getting tea drunk very early and just getting lost in the memories that this tea evoked, each sip took me to a forest and I was in no hurry to leave. The tea stayed strong and delicious until the 6th steep, and was done by steep 8. I did notice that even though this tea was strong and wonderfully tasty, it did not change much, it felt like I was drinking the same steep, this was fascinating and surprisingly not boring, I think because it was so evocative of something very pleasant for me. So your mileage may vary with that one, but who cares, it is a Dark Tea from Africa and that is still really awesome.
One guess as to what I am doing right now! Yep, still painting, I got more or less none done yesterday since I spent the day with Ben, it was totally worth it so no regrets. Sadly I am not sure how much I will get done today since I have a splitting headache and staring at tiny lines on a 10mm miniature is not necessarily the best cure for it, but hopefully it will clear up. If not I shall lie in bed and play games on my phone, it would be on the Xbox 360 but Ben currently has it in pieces making it hard to play anything.
I am about to introduce you guys to possibly the biggest puerh leaves I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Yi Wu Shan Da Ye Sheng Bing Stone-Pressed (Yiwu Mountain Green Puer Cake) 2014 from Misty Peaks Tea had such epic long leaves that I was afraid they would not fit in my teapot, but fortunately they did perfectly, and I did not need to break a single one! This tea is described as a meditative tea, one to uplift or calm depending on your needs, well looks like this will be a tea I can spend the day with while painting. So, sniffing time, and let me say the aroma of these leaves is powerful, I was impressed, and let out a little maniacal giggle of excitement. One of the reasons I like drinking my tea solo, I tend to make a whole bunch of weird noises while drinking it! So, those powerful notes are a blend of sweet and savory, with notes of dried apples, hay, a bit of spinach, a tiny bit of distant floral (reminds me of fruit tree blossoms) a little bit of woodiness, and wonderful finish of camphor at the finish. I adore that camphor note, really, Sheng puerh with a strong camphor presence has become my go-to tea to drink when I have a cold, the aroma of it fills me with a sense of relief, even when I feel fine.
So after a short rinse and subsequent short steep it is time to stick my nose in my teapot and enjoy the leaves. Someone remind me that next time I review a rosy tea I need to make a ‘stop and smell the roses’ pun, I make too few tea related puns as it is. The aroma of the wet leaves is one of the cleanest smelling Sheng pu’s I have ever sniffed, not saying I have really smelled any that were dirty, but this one has a crispness to it. The same crispness that spring water and clean mountain air have, it has the crispness of home to it, which I find immensely soothing. There are notes of fresh hay and straw, cut grass, oak bark (specifically green wood rather than old dried up bark) fruit tree blossoms, a bit of dried fruit, and again a finish of olfactory cooling camphor. The liquid is a blend of honey, hay, flowers, and camphor. Really liking the flowery notes, I do not run into fruit tree flowers very often.
Well, I can safely say that this Sheng has all of the flavor notes I like in a Sheng, plus some extra bits that are awesome! It is not overly sweet and it is very smooth in both taste and mouthfeel. The tea starts out with a delicate smokiness and flowery notes, very much so a blend of apple blossoms and a touch of strawflower. This transitions to freshly cut grass and a distant note of fruit, and a finish of camphor giving a cooling effect.
The aroma of the second steep is lovely, notes of dried apples and apricots, a tiny bit of hay and grass, and a finish of honey and camphor. Let me start out by saying that wow this tea is smooth, like almost buttery in both texture and taste (unsalted of course) but leaning towards the honey sweet side, with a nice hint of apple blossoms. This moves to dried apples and fresh apricots with a slight hint of hay. For the finish there is a fairly mild cooling camphor note and a lingering honey sweetness.
Wee, time three! (If you were curious, it was around steep three when I finally finished giving all my Scourge a Drakenhoe Nightshade Shade, so tea while waiting for them to dry seems like a good idea) the aroma is so sweet, blending honey and dried apples with a hint of hay and camphor, I am amazed at how fruity this Sheng is in both aroma and taste. And speaking of taste, this steep is very similar to the previous steep, but with a bit more sweetness and apple notes, also the camphor at the end is more prominent.
So like yesterday I did my customary finish writing at steep three, but continued on with the tea up until steep eight. I am pretty sure the tea could have still gone further, but I was very tea drunk at this point and needed to call it quits, alas, I lack tea stamina, clearly I need to train more. I can say that steep four was my favorite by far, it perfectly balanced camphor and sweetness, later steeps still had both notes, but they were diminishing. Replacing them were notes of hay, grass, and green things along with a bit of smoke that cropped up ever so often very faintly. I do not say this often, but I have to get myself a cake of this tea, usually I just want samples of Puerh because that stuff is a commitment, you do not just buy Puerh, you become friends with it, and I want to become friends with this tea. I want us to go on shopping dates and have long conversations, it just made me feel so good after drinking it that I need it in my collection.
For blog and photos: Yi Wu Shan Da Ye Sheng Bing Stone-Pressed (Yiwu Mountain Green Puer Cake) 2014
Happy Monday people who are reading this on Monday, happy whatever day you are reading this on if you are reading it some other day. I am beginning to get to that point where I hate Winter again, it is aching cold and there is no snow, in fact there has been very little snow, it is the only thing I like about this time of year, so a lack of it is just depressing. I am seriously debating getting a sun lamp, the kind that helps with SAD, but I am also afraid I will burst into flames like a Minecraft Zombie, so a helmet might be required.
You know what I have not done in a long time? A theme week! Yeah, I love those, I really need to do more of them, so I going to devote this this week to the dark side of tea. Starting off with Wymm Tea’s Mangnuo “Cane Tea” Raw Pu-erh From Ancient Tea Tree 2014 Early Spring, woo, that is a mouthful! So, about this tea, the trees the leaves are plucked from are 200-300 years old specially trimmed to form cane shaped branches, leaving only the buds, so yeah a lot of trees are needed for this super uniform fancy Sheng. The aroma of the dry leaves is pretty subtle, with notes of green bamboo leaves, freshly mown grass, cut hay, and a finish of camphor. I do love those camphor notes in tea, especially in the summer where it acts as a coolant.
First steep and rinsing, not sure I have introduced my Sheng pot yet, it is an adorably tiny 90ml Shui Ping that is debatably from 90s (I say debatably because you never know with ebay) and it seasoned beautifully, I am always glad for a chance to use it. The aroma of the liquid for the first steep is pretty yummy, it blends bamboo leaves, grass, mown hay, honey, distant fresh spinach (really it is just a hint) and a finish of uncooked rice. The sun colored liquid is delicate and sweet with notes of honey, hay, and a touch of rice and camphor.
The tea starts out a little bitter and then boom immediately sweet with a surprisingly smooth mouth feel, almost silky in its texture. The flavor notes are a mix of honey and sweet rice, this transitions to hay and grass and a touch of vegetal. The finish is a blend of green and camphor, imparting a delightful cooling effect on my insides.
Once more into the tea (it just sounds better than once more into the breach, ok?) The aroma of the liquid is much more intense this time around, the previous notes are still there but much stronger, especially the fresh hay and grass notes, and they are joined by a hint of straw. The taste still has a strong notes of fresh green bamboo leaves, I love that, but I love the taste of bamboo so I am always happy to run into it. There are also notes of uncooked rice, green grass, hay, vegetal and a strong honey note. The honey note lingers long into the aftertaste, there is not as much camphor this steep.
Hello steep three! Hello aroma notes of hay, green grass, fresh bamboo, a bit of bamboo shoots, and a touch of rice and honey at the finish. This steep was similar to the first as it had a bit of a bitterness at the first but very quickly faded to sweet honey and green bamboo leaves. This moves to uncooked rice, hay, grass, uncooked spinach, and a finish of camphor.
Usually I end my reviews at three steeps (even if I continue on with the tea) but with Puerhs sometimes you really do not get a real feel for it until many steeps later. I ended up going for a total of twelve steeps (it was a long day hehe) and had a great journey of growing sweetness and utter banishment of bitterness, the camphor notes pretty much left for good at steep four. The notes of hay and bamboo stayed strong and the taste of honey really exploded towards the end. I found the mouthfeel went from smooth and silky to almost thick (at one point it reminded me a bit of Gyokuro’s thickness) and creamy. This Sheng goes the distance and I can see why it is Wymm Tea’s signature tea.
Pretty sure my Xbox 360 is dying, it plays games I have stored on ye old hard drive, but it will not read disks, which is unbelievably annoying. I was in the mood to play Bayonetta, which is probably one of my favorite games (even if playing it makes my hands cry) but nope, no Umbra Witch action for me. To make up for it I watched all the cutscenes for Bayonetta 2, and I can safely say I want Wii U, ok not really, but I want to play that game because AWESOME. It was a good day of painting and watching cutscenes.
Today it is time to take a journey to India thanks to Golden Tips Tea, specifically to the Arya Tea Estate and its Arya Ruby Darjeeling Black Tea Second Flush. This tea estate was set up in 1885 and its specialty teas are all named after jewels, this one being ruby, which is lovely, the gemstone collector in me is happy. The aroma of this tea starts off delicate with sweet notes of raisins and distant flowers, but it builds into loam, dry wood, and spicebush with a bit of roasted peanut and malt at the finish. It is not a very powerful aroma, but it is nice, the woody notes compliment the raisins.
Into my funky steeping vessel it goes, and in the photo it looks like the teafrogs are shunning the steeping vessel, silly things probably want me to use a real teapot. The aroma of the wet leaves is sweet, woody, and warm. Like a blend of honey, loam, wet wood, pepper, and a touch of raisins at the finish. The liquid does not really smell sweet, it is more like fresh broken stems of oak wood, a touch of leaf loam, and a bit of pepper at the finish.
I found the taste to be both warm and soothing, like late autumn sunlight in the late afternoon, the way everything turns a little golden. Granted these kinds of days are only enjoyable to me when not blisteringly hot, the same can be said about tea, not burning one’s mouth while having the tea be at the perfect temperature is a skill. Enough flowery descriptions about how the tea makes me feel, what matters is how it actually tastes. It starts with loam, raisins, and wood, then moves to a tiny bit of pepper and finished with woodiness. This honestly one of the most ‘tea’ tasting teas I have run into, that sounds really strange but this tea tastes like tea, if you were to ask me to picture the taste of a second flush Darjeeling black tea in my mind, it would probably be this. This is the epitome of an everyday kinda tea for me, good for sipping while lounging on a porch.