875 Tasting Notes
Yep, I am still marathoning Ark: Survival Evolved, my obsessive tendencies and a game that is so much fun is just a wonderful combination, but I do occasionally do other things. Like just last I finally talked Ben into watching Beetlejuice, see he is not a huge Tim Burton fan having not grown up with him and lacking the nostalgia and also coming into his oeuvre once it has (at least in my opinion) gone really stale, so he was not really interested in it. This movie was a favorite of mine as a kid, so I was glad I was able to convince him, and it turns out he liked it. Certainly made me nostalgic for days when his style was more unique and not so saturated in itself!
But I am not a movie reviewer, my specialty is why you are all here, usually nerdy intro paragraph aside. Today is an herbal tea from Xin Mu Cha, not yet on their website, it is Premium Fried Black Bean Tea, yes this is another one of those roasted grain teas that are very popular in Asia, and with good reason they taste amazing. Giving this a bit of a look up since it was new to me, I found out it is usually made from Kuromame or black soy beans and is touted as a weight loss aide, but considering I would prefer to gain weight perhaps I will just look at this for its taste like I usually do with teas. These arrived in a teabag but I preferred to brew them in a steeping basket, so out of their little bag they came for a good sniffing. The aroma is super roasted, strong notes of soy beans, burnt beans, and a tiny bit like coffee beans. It is a blend of savory and sweet and even though it smells a little bit like pinto beans left on the stove and burnt a bit, the aroma is mouthwatering, but I really like eating beans.
Into my cup of hot water the basket goes, since this tea is popular in Japan among other places I decided to use my bamboo steeping basket and Somayaki cup, because I can be thematic once in a while! The steeped beans smell, well, like beans, with a toasted coffee and burnt undertone and a subtle sweetness. The liquid is much the same, it is beans all the way down with this brew.
This is an odd thing, but odd in a very pleasant way! The roasting of the beans brings out a sweetness that reminds me a bit of adzuki beans, but with a powerful roasted undertone. It goes from this initial sweet to a richer nuttier roast, again reminding me a bit of coffee’s smell but not its taste. The aftertaste on this brew is very rich, nutty and sweet with a hint of pinto beans that lingers for a while. I really enjoyed this stuff and foresee myself either buying more or roasting my own, there is something just so incredibly comforting about roasted grains on a cold night before sleep/
You know, Ark: Survival Evolved is definitely the kinda game that is geared towards people with no lives, especially when you look at the taming mechanic. Currently I am taming a Carnotaurus, after more or less giving up on ever finding one I just took my raptor (named Diego from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, because he can turn into a raptor) out hunting and lo and behold, Carno time! So after shooting it full of tranq arrows and loading it with meat and narcotics I sit and wait and make sure nothing tries to eat it or me…for two and a half hours. True there are quicker tames, like using kibble, but I lacked the proper amount of Anklyo eggs, so I play the long game. This game makes me feel like I am accomplishing something with my life and this pleases me.
Today we are looking at one of Adagio Tea’s custom blends, designed by yours truly, because my love of Minecraft is endless and I wanted teas to match my obsession. This one is the Charged Creeper, basically you take a Creeper and strike it with lightning and what you get is a glowing blue super charged explosion. It is a blend of Gunpowder Green (for the explosion of course) Houjicha (because they are said to feel crunchy like autumn leaves) Green Chai (for the spicy extra explosion) and to evoke the blue glow some Blueberries and Cornflowers. The aroma of this blend is very sweet and toasty, the Houjicha mixed with chai spices gives a real warmth and toasted marshmallow quality, while the sweet notes of blueberries linger underneath. At the very end there is a touch of orange and very gentle smoke.
The aroma of the brewed leaves and berries is still pretty toasty and sweet, again reminding me of marshmallows with a touch of smoke and a slight vegetal undertone. Really strong Houjicha notes, the addition of blueberry vaguely reminds me of pie. The liquid once freed from the leafy embrace is pretty similar, strong notes of toasted marshmallow and blueberries.
Tasting this tea, it is pretty roasty toasty and a bit smoky! It starts with marshmallow sweetness and toasted grain and then moves on to smoke and gentle vegetal notes, it is a pretty mellow tea. Around the midpoint notes of gentle spice and oranges show up and at the finish is a nice juicy burst of blueberry. I think the most fun I had with this tea was the color, it is so purple and dark, not quite the color I envisioned for a Charged Creeper, and the green notes from the other teas really don’t show through much, but the mix of toast and blueberries is quite tasty.
I had the wonkiest dream last night, it combined my current obsessions of Magic The Gathering and Ark: Survival Evolved with crazy apocalypse stuff most likely caused by my brushing up on the Permian-Triassic Extinction Event. It is always weird when the brain comes up with a crazy mish-mash of whatever you were thinking about before sleep and tries to make it into a story, most the time in the dream it makes perfect sense, but of course when you wake up it is so illogical and weird. And if anyone is curious about my Ark shenanigans for today, I’m planning on finding and taming a Carno, sure I could wait for an epic Rex or Spino, but the derpy arms and horns of the Carno kinda win so I need one to go hunting with my Pile ’o Dilos.
So, since it is Wednesday it is time to look at a tea from What-Cha, their India Bihar Doke Hand-Made ‘Rolling Thunder’ Oolong Tea is the lucky pick from my notes today. From the Doke Tea Garden in Bihar, the Lochan family once again is pushing the boundaries of tea in India, putting Bihar on the map as a tea region. The gentle curling leaves have a very sweet aroma, blending strong notes of plums, raisins and fresh grapes with a accompaniment of malt and dried tomato. The dried tomato note was a bit odd in concert with the other notes, but it is not an unpleasant oddness.
Into my steeping apparatus the leaves went for their nice little steeping session, I decided to go western style for this tea, because why not? I admit I primarily focus on gongfu so it is nice to switch things up a bit, keep me versatile. The aroma of the soggy steeped leaves is very fruity, blending tart slightly underripe plums, prunes, grapes, and raisins, the tartness is pretty fun, giving it a briskness. The liquid is very mild and sweet, blending grapes and prunes with a drizzling of honey, it has a richness to it that is not at all overpowering.
There is something about drinking tea from elegant or beautiful tea gear that makes it all the more wonderful, now I admit that my more recent collection of cups not all being pure white does skew the coloring of the tea a bit, but the beauty makes it worth it for me, and hopefully my dear readers don’t mind too much. The coloring matches the golden color of my cup perfectly, it looks like liquid sunlight. The mouthfeel is nice and smooth, pretty juicy with a bit of thickness, like warm fruit juice without the sticky. Tasting the tea, it is very sweet, mixing honey and plums with a gentle allspice note and a touch of raisins. Towards the end it gets a little dry and more heavily into the grape notes, reminding me a bit of spiced wine.
I did steep a second time, but a lot of the potency was lost, there is still mellow plum and grapes, but towards the end a note of dried tomato appears which was a bit surprising. The first steep really was quite enjoyable, the second steep was not at all bad, just diminished.
I am still very much so enjoying Ark: Survival Evolved, if anyone was curious. Currently I am taming an Ankylosaurus because they are quite utile little spike balls, and then I will be gathering chiton to make a saddle for my Pterandon. Ah, this game, it has re-awakened my never really asleep love of dinosaurs, and for that I am grateful! As a kid it was my dream to be a Paleontologist, it might have been my first aspiration before other history and science obsessions took over, I never stopped wanting to be one though. In fact a year or so ago I got an intro to Paleontology certification from the University of Alberta via Coursera, because it is never to late in life to at least dabble in past dreams!
Today is another offering from Xin Mu Cha, their Winter Essence – Taiwan Premium High Mountain Oolong, an Oolong from Fu Shou Shan, a mountain in the Lishan Range, and made from the Qing-Xing Cultivar. Opening the pouch for this tea is quite the treat, a real powerhouse aroma that instantly greeted my nose. Blending floral and sweet nutty notes, I detected honeysuckle, chestnuts, sesame seeds, sugar cane, and a sweet baked cake note that ended with wonderful sweetness. The only real floral note I got was honeysuckle, and I am totally ok with that because fun fact, it is one of my favorite flowers to sniff.
Gaiwan time, and wow, the leaves are much richer this time around, not only are there notes of honeysuckles, but it is joined with orchid and hyacinth. It smells much like nectar with a sweet sugar cane undertone and a hint of chestnuts. The liquid is buttery sweet nectar, it smells thick and rich with heady tones of honeysuckle, hyacinth, lilac and orchid. The name of this tea is Winter Essence, but it smells like the height of spring time.
The first steep kinda stole my heart, not through taste or aroma, but through the amazing mouthfeel. Smooth and supple, like liquid silk, it coats the mouth but is gentle with it. I honestly was so wrapped up in the mouthfeel I almost forgot to pay attention to how the tea tastes! I did, however finally pay attention, I was greeted with notes of sweet peas and sugar cane, apple pears and butter head lettuce, and the finish, well, it is a lingering mouthful of honeysuckle nectar.
Second steeping, and the aroma is very floral, strong notes of hyacinth and lilac blend with honeysuckles and a touch of spicy lilies. Along side this sweet floral nectar is a green blend of lettuce and fresh spinach, tying the green into the flowers. Again, the mouthfeel of this tea is the real show stealer, thick and supple, it really has quite the presence. The taste is very light, similar to the first steep but with a slightly greener and buttery tone to it.
Third steeping’s aroma is still floral, with the same flowers as before, but at the end it kinda explodes into orchid, it was one of those ‘did I just stick my nose in a flower’ moments, catching myself before I dipped my nose in the tea thankfully. That mouthfeel keeps blowing me away, it is so thick and silky, supple and bordering on oily, it is dense and I found myself wanting to take big gulps of it rather than sipping. The taste is still light and sweet, with a pretty even balance of green lettuce and sweet floral. I kept this tea going for nine steeps, the taste never really gets strong, but that mouthfeel was so intense I find myself relieved that it was not overwhelming, I might have fainted away into a tea fugue!
Happy first full moon of the year! According to the various almanacs that divulge such info, January’s full moon is the Wolf Moon, named so because of the hungry wolves that would prowl around settlements. It is a fun bit of American folklore, some of which originated with this country’s indigenous people and some brought from Europe with settlers, and of course some is a blend of both! Since I grew up either near or in the Appalachian mountains, I was very fond of learning that region’s folklore, and they called it the Snow Moon…and considering my mother, nestled in Cumberland Valley near the Susquehanna River between the Blue Mountain and South Mountains Ridges, sent me photos of a massive blizzard they are having, I think the Appalachian name might be more accurate!
So what’s with this sudden obsession with the moon you might ask, well it is not really sudden, but it is certainly egged on by Whispering Pines Tea Co’s newest tea Moonlight Sonata! This is a blend of 2015 Moonlight White Tea and 2015 Snow Chrysanthemums ‘originally blended to steal the heart of faeries’ and as the daughter of a changeling, this should be right up my alley!
After ogling the wrapper and flowers compressed with the ‘Shadow elf tea’ as I lovingly call the Moonlight due to it being shadowy dark on one side of the leaf and silvery on the other, I chipped some off with my pick and gave it a good long sniffing. The aroma is quite delectable, blending notes of aster, wild flowers, honey, hay, sugar cane, sweetgrass, and dill flowers with a touch of tomato leaf and dried tomato. I am not really sure why Moonlight smells like dried tomato and tomato leaf or why Snow Chrysanthemum smells like dill flowers to me, but they do and I admit I kinda love them because of those notes. At the very end of the sniff I pick up subtle notes of pollen and tangerine, which add an extra depth of sweetness.
Gaiwan time! I kinda agonized over which gaiwan would compliment the colors best, so I picked one of my celadon ones, and I was pleased I did! Holy wow is the wet leaf fruity smelling, strong notes of nectarine and dried apricot mix with warm honey and wildflowers with a finish of dill flowers. For anyone who has not sniffed a dill flower, it smells like a blend of dill (but faint compared with the leaves) and hay, it is very pleasant, and tasty too, though they taste stronger than the leaves. The liquid is a blend of nectarine and dried apricot with honey, hay, and clover flowers with a finish of faint dill flower and wildflowers. It smells very sweet!
First steep and already my notes are crooked! I consider it the mark of a good tea when the notes in my notebook start to go sideways. It starts with a creamy mouthfeel, coating the mouth while also being light and smooth. The first taste to pop up hay and clover blossoms with a slight mineral note, this moves to rich honey and nectarines, which in turn moves to apricots and wildflowers with a finish of lingering sweetness and pollen. The first steep is light and refreshing with a slightly cooling feel to it, similar to drinking a large glass of water on a hot day, it quenches the thirst.
Onward to the second steep and the liquid is getting dark, it looks like a moon low on the horizon on a summer’s day. The aroma focuses on the hay and honey, with side notes of pollen, aster, and clover flowers, while the finish has a blend of nectarines and dill flowers. One thing I am really liking about this tea, other than the taste, is the refreshing thirst quenching quality it has, each steep even though the tea is hot, reminds me so much of drinking spring water on a hot day. The slight mineral notes at the start do not dissuade me of this either. This steep is richer, though not sweeter, with strong notes of nectarine and apricot, dill weed, hay, pollen, and honey. Towards the end of the steep the feel, while still refreshing starts to go to warming internally, making me feel extremely relaxed.
The third steeps’s aroma stays strong with the honey and hay, with an accompaniment of strong clover flowers, pollen, and nectarine. The notes that are present are subtle but their presence is strong. This steep loses its mineral notes and picks up a subtle malt note, giving the tea an extra depth. There is a strong nectarine and honey taste to this steep, much like eating a nectarine drizzled in warm honey, this moves to wildflowers and a touch of dill with a nice finish of hay and pollen. I got many steeps from this one, it is one of those you can sit with for a while, perhaps while watching the moon or while being snowed in!
Well after waiting for an eternity last night, my new game finally finished installing and I got to play with dinosaurs in ARK: Survival Evolved. Really though a lot of the game involved me dying in various embarrassing ways, since this game is hard survival and has a bit of a learning curve. Also there are dinosaurs, some of them are real jerks…especial packs of Compys and Dilophosaurus, and the occasional jerk Utahraptor that ‘clever girl’ed me. I am pleased that I managed to never starve to death or die from falling, though as in life my sense of direction is abysmal and I do get lost a lot. One time I got so lost trying to find my way back to my little base camp that I just gave up and wandered to a Spinosaurus to be eaten and re-spawned. Fun times!
Time once again to delve into my never ending backlog of tea notes with Tealyra’s Feng Shui Wellness, an herbal blend of Apple Pieces, Goji Berries, Dragonfruit, Nettle Leaves, Blackberry Leaves, Lemongrass, Orange Peel, Eucalyptus Leaves, Carrot Flakes, Natural Flavoring, Cornflower, and Marigold Flowers. Of all the various blends on Tealyra, I picked this one out because it had eucalyptus, I was having lung problems at the time and that stuff works wonders for me, but I wanted something sweet too, so this looked promising. The aroma of the unsteeped blend mixes cooling and sharp notes of eucalyptus with lemon, pepper, sweet apple, tropical dragonfruit, and the oh so wonderfully honey sweet note of goji berries. It is really quite sweet smelling while also being refreshing.
Giving this tea a steeping, the aroma is now very strong in the eucalyptus and lemon, along with strong herbaceous notes from the nettle, it smells green and fresh. Underneath the herbaceous notes are sweet tropical fruit and honey. The liquid smells a bit tart, it smells like there is hibiscus in here, but there was none in the ingredients…bit they also did not list the red peppercorn so I dunno. The pink coloring and tart notes make me raise an eyebrow, but there is also a good amount of tropical fruit and cooling eucalyptus with a strong citrus note.
The first thing I notice is the mild cooling effect from the eucalyptus, talk about a breath of fresh air, literally, it really does make my lungs happy. This tea is actually really tasty, strong notes of citrus and herbaceous green notes dance with goji berries and sweet yet tart dragon fruit and apple. There is definitely hibiscus in this blend, I taste it with its tart metallic tone, but it is mild so I don’t mind too much. I found this tea was also pretty good cold steeped, and is just best when it is slightly cool rather than hot.
Ugh! I am getting a new game, yes, playing a game other than Minecraft, it is horrifying I know, but the siren’s call of ARK: Survival Evolved’s ability to tame dinosaurs while being a wild nature person hard-core trying to survive is just too much to resist. Download started at 2 PM this afternoon and it is only at 67%. I thought I could nap and when I woke up it would be done, but nope…and on top of that my nap left me feeling haggard, so now I am quaffing tea to help wake me up so if the download ever does finish I can play my new game! Shoutout to the only people I ever game with for buying me ARK, I was thinking I was going to have to wait til the release for me to play it, woo for Beta!
So, since I am quaffing tea, why not write about the one I am slurping while slurping it! Granted I already have the notes for this one in my notebook but sometimes I get inspired, usually it is by writing about a tea and then thinking ‘man I really need to drink that now’ but sometimes it is the other way around, and with that, presenting What-Cha’s Taiwan Sun Moon Lake Ruby Black Tea. Ah, Sun Moon Lake Black, Ruby Black, Red Jade, #18…I probably missed one somewhere, this is the tea with a ton of names and a mystery behind it. I saw mystery because everyone tastes its defining ‘note’ that sets it apart as something different (cloves, sassafras, eucalyptus, cinnamon, menthol…) and last time I reviewed one of these teas I discovered that all these plants have chemical similarities that reallly makes me wish I had a better understanding of bio-chem. Now if these plants’ Phenylpropenes being in the same group have anything to do with the aroma and flavor notes showing up in the tea, that I have no idea on, but I do find it quite fascinating! Science nerding out aside, the aroma of this particular Ruby Black is strong, notes if cocoa and squash blend with sassafras and cocoa with a finish of menthol and honey. This is the first time I have picked up one with a menthol note in its aroma, so that is fun. This tea is so weird but I love it!
Into the gaiwan (I now, fun fact, have a yixing pot devoted to this tea, it is that much of a favorite) the leaves go. The aroma of the wet leaves is all over the place, sassafras, cinnamon, cloves, menthol, along with rich dark chocolate and a bit of acorn squash. The liquid is mellow in comparison, granted it is still pretty potent because this is a not a tea that messes around. Notes of dark chocolate (like the really dark stuff) and sassafras mix with cloves and squash with a nice sweet burst of honey at the finish
First steep and ahhhh that is nice, this tea manages to be warming and cooling at the same time, with its cooling notes of menthol (granted it doesn’t really taste so much like mint, but it feels like it and smells like it and you know it is just kinda weird) with the warming ones of cloves and sassafras. It has a creaminess at the finish reminding me of chocolate and honey, with a touch of malt that lingers into the aftertaste.
As expected, on to steep two! The aroma is stupid potent this steep, strong notes of cloves and cinnamon mix with sassafras and chocolate with a nice finish of squash and honey. It is very sweet and I think the smell alone of this tea is enough to jog my brain from its fugue. The texture this steeping is much thicker and a bit sharp, one of those teas I can feel on the back of my teeth while it also coats the mouth with thickness. One of my idea mouthfeels. The taste is sweet and bittersweet at the same time, mixing milk chocolate with dark and adding cloves, sassafras and cinnamon. At the finish there is malt and honey, with a cooling menthol sensation in my belly that I find quite comforting.
The third steep is very similar to the second, this tea does not vary a whole bunch with Gongfu, just varying in strength. However, this is one of those teas that you really cannot brew wrong, western style brings out more malt notes and is very brisk, Grandpa/bowl style is sweet and rich with more mellow sassafras and cinnamon notes and heavier chocolate, while cold steeping this tea is an intensely sassafras and cinnamon heavy experience. It is a lot of fun and a definite staple in my tea stash.
I am happy, why you might ask? Because SNOW! Yes it is gently snowing out right now, and it plans on snowing on Thursday as well, and this pleases me. To celebrate this snow I had Ben help me with a tea picture taking session, though I only really lasted for one steep since I am small, Southern and freeze easily. Ah, I do love the frigid snow and fantasize about the rugged north, but I will have to enjoy it from my pile of blankets on the other side of a window.
It’s Yancha time! Today I am taking a look at Yezi Tea’s Shui Xian Da Hong Pao Oolong Tea, and the name of this tea confuses me. I am not sure if it is a blend of varietals (Shui Xian and Da Hong Pao) or a Shui Xian made to be a Da Hong Pao, I dunno, and frankly I am getting tired of trying to navigate the convoluted naming conventions of teas. Don’t worry, my passion for tea and knowledge is not at all diminished, I just sometimes like to pay attention to the tea and have its stories be secondary. The aroma of the leaves is sweet, nice notes of cocoa, raisins, and dried cherries with char, dried wood, and a distant note of smoke. It balances sweetness and char really well I think, one does not overwhelm the other.
Into ye’ol Yancha pot the leaves go for a hot and short steep, and the aroma of the wet leaves is very rich and sweet, notes of raisins and cocoa mix with autumn leaf pile and char, the char notes do not overwhelm, this tea errs more on the sweet side. The liquid is very pale of color for a Yancha, but the aroma is intense, strong notes of cocoa, raisins, and rich honey, with underlying notes of dried cherry, loam, and char. The char notes are very mild and the sweetness shines.
The first steep is pleasantly smooth and sweet, well it starts smooth in the mouth and a touch creamy with sweet notes of cocoa and dried fruit, it them moves to a slight dryness with tobacco and orchid notes. At the finish is straight up sweet chocolate that lingers for quite a while, though there was a definite lack of char this steep, and only a slight hint of mineral.
The aroma of the second steep has a bit ore char, and some smoke as well, with notes of cocoa, raisins, baked squash, and sweet cream. There is also a ghost of orchid, but it smells more like an orchid tossed on a bonfire rather than a bouquet. Wow, the second steep is super sweet and creamy, very smooth in the mouth and thick too! Notes of chocolate and char with autumn leaf pile at the first remind me of s’mores, in fact blending with the sweet burnt sugar notes and baked yeasty notes, it kinda is like liquid s’more. The finish has a sweet and gentle note of orchid and dry autumn leaves, with a cocoa shell note that lingers for quite a while.
Third steeping time, wow, the aroma did a turn around on me, no longer notes of chocolate and char, it is all sweet creamy honeysuckle and orchids. The taste is a delicate and sweet blend of honey, molasses, honeysuckles, cream, chocolate, and loam. The finish and aftertaste is really where this tea is at, it is exactly like burnt marshmallows, complete with a touch of campfire! This is a delicious tea, usually I like my Yancha with enough char that you might mistake it for actual steeped bonfire (I think because my first Yancha was Shui Hsien by Sea Dyke, super cheap but super good, so it is iconic in my mind) but changing things up with a lighter Yancha is fun, plus it broadens my spectrum of tastes which is always a plus. So whatever this tea is, be it a DHP or a Shui Xian, who cares, it tastes really good!
On this most frigid of nights with a gentle coating of snow and an endless supply of warm tea, I am researching Slavic mythology. It just seems apropos, but there is a reason for it, I am looking for a perfect name. Studying mythology is one of my favorite past-times, and I like to refresh my memory ever so often, the reason I went with Slavic is I want to name my new teapot something Slavic and earthy, either a nature spirit or forest god, conveniently there are a lot of options, it is all about matching the pot to its mythical figure.
Today we are looking at a quite pretty tea from Golden Tips Tea, Okayti Silver Needle Darjeeling White Tea. Hailing from the Okayti Tea Estate, this silver needle is hand picked in the early morning and is really very pretty, but I am such a lover of fuzzy teas. I also have a great fascination with trying Silver Needles from regions other than Fujian, it is a passion of mine. The aroma of the surprisingly gray under the silver fuzz leaves is very fresh, notes of lettuce, pepper and sage, cucumber, and tarragon as an afternote, it is a very herbaceous tea with only a hint of sweetness.
I decided to steep this one in my steeping apparatus rather than in a gaiwan. The aroma of the wet leaves is a blend of melon, specifically honeydew, and sage with fresh bok choy, pepper, and tarragon notes at the finish. It smells very fresh and herbaceous, with the green notes accenting. The liquid is sweet with notes of honey, hay, bok choy and lettuce. At the finish is a touch of sage and pepper.
Tasting this tea is quite nice, it is mellow and sweet, with a smooth yet ticklish mouthfeel. Gotta love those fuzzy trichomes, they tickle ever so slightly, which I enjoy immensely. The taste starts with gentle sweet hay and honey with notes of melon and dried apple. It then moves to slightly yeasty bread and sage, and then onto the finish which is bok choy and lettuce. The aftertaste is a gentle honey that does not linger for very long, but at the very end there is a slight note of apricot which I found surprising. I only had a small sample of this tea, only enough for a cup, I would love to get my hands on more so that I could try it Grandpa/Bowl style and in my gaiwan, clearly I will have to go shopping!