642 Tasting Notes
My favorite thing, hands down, about the weather having warmed up is being able to have my windows open. I love sitting at my desk feeling the fresh air, hearing the birds sing…and hearing my weirdo cats chirp at things like they are aliens. Tao only occasionally chips, Espeon sounds like a crazy noise machine, but she is just a much noisier cat. We frequently have conversations and pretend we have some idea what we are saying to each other.
Well, it is official, today marks the start of ticket sales for the Midwest Tea Fest, and to celebrate I am going to take a look at a tea I really should have reviewed ages ago, Shang Tea’s Tangerine Blossom Red. I say that I should have reviewed it ages ago because (spoilers) it is one of my favorite teas, belonging to the surprisingly short (for me anyway) list of teas that I HAVE to have on hand. It is also a tea I have been afraid to review because I was afraid of not doing it justice. Of course the really sad thing is as I review this, this is the end of my supply, so I guess we know what I will be buying very soon. The aroma of the leaves is nothing short of decadent, it blends rich cocoa, roasted peanut, and a tiny dried cherry note with intense heady tangerine blossoms. Me being me, I have spent a lot of time sniffing citrus flowers, tangerine flowers are one of my favorite because they are so heady, blending citrus notes with honeysuckle and gardenia, those combined into one slightly sharp heady flower makes me swoon. Honestly I have a hard time describing it because my brain goes all happy fuzzy while experiencing this tea.
The brewed leaves are so delightfully heady, the tangerine blossom is definitely the dominant note, It reminds me of a pile of plucked flowers on a hot day, if you have ever gardened and had a pile of flowers to deal with, you will notice there is a massive heady note that drifts out from the pile of flowers, now mix that with cocoa, dried cherries, and sweet tangerines. The liquid is a blend of tangerine blossoms, citrus fruit, and a rich cocoa and roasted peanut note. It smells delicious, this is almost a tea I have to sniff and sip solo, because it is a little too sensual.
First steep, oh man, it is so good! A perfect balance of sweetness, richness, and heady floral. Pardon me while I let out a contented sigh, because this tea is intense and lovely. It starts out with a cocoa and dried cherry sweetness and then moves to a heady rich tangerine blossom. It blends the taste of citrus with flower nectar sweetness reminiscent of honeysuckle. The finish is rich cocoa and roasted peanuts with a floral note that seems to linger on my tongue for an eternity.
And now I decide to have a second steep, which is no surprise, the aroma of this steep really ramps up on the sweetness front, the floral notes are intense and the cocoa notes mouth watering. And not just because my doctor said no chocolate and I am having some hard core cravings! The taste starts off intense and it stays intense till the end, and most of that intensity is floral, though it is not like perfume or soapy like some floral teas can be, it is like nectar and sipping a slightly earthy, cocoa, and dried cherry note red tea while sitting next to a bouquet of tangerine blossoms.
Third time and last time, usually I can get four steeps, but the fourth steep is fairly weak, and I let it steep for a while. If anyone is curious, yes I have steeped this tea Western style and it is pretty good, though it does seem to lose some of its more subtle nuances, and even my staunchly western tea drinking boyfriend thinks it is better gongfu style. The aroma of the third steep still has a very strong floral presence, along with cocoa and dried cherry, but it also has a creamy note as well. The taste is a bit milder than the previous one, but there is still a strong tangerine blossom flavor, the nectar like notes are so delicious, though this steep the tea itself really shines. The notes of roasted peanuts, cocoa, sweet dried cherry, and a bit of malt at the finish. I have such a weakness for floral teas, especially citrus flowers of any variety, and I really love that this is a red tea rather than a green or white like I usually run into, Tangerine Blossom Red is one of a kind and delicious, also I love I can go to the shop and talk to its creator when I visit, the personal aspect makes me enjoy it even more.
Guys, I am going to level with you temple rub I feel like absolute crap. I am not sure if it is from the antibiotics my allergy specialist put me on (me and antibiotics do not mix, probably because I was always a Sentinel in Mass Effect) or because of the yogurt I have to eat to keep my body from freaking out completely. I know (maybe) that I don’t have allergies (if that test is to be believed) but I have a growing suspicion I have a Histamine Intolerance, because all the foods that make me feel like I am dying are really high in histamines. Something to talk to the doctor about when I go back in a week-ish, basically, fair warning if yours truly seems ever so slightly out of it on the various social media places I linger. If you just know me from my blog…nevermind, carry on as usual.
Since it is spring, it seems fitting to take a look at a spring themed Puerh, specifically Wymm Tea’s Laohuangpian Sheng (Raw) Pu-erh From Ancient Tea Tree 2014 Spring, Laohuangpian meaning old yellow leaf, refers to the use of the third and fourth leaves to make this brick, rather than the usual buds and first leaves used to make more ‘prettier’ puerhs. These bricks are usually kept by the farmers for their own uses and not much seen on the market. Sneaky sneaky, keeping the good stuff to themselves, maybe. Personally I think this tea is pretty, the tightly compressed green leaves with bits of silver fuzz, it looks like some treasure, specifically it reminds me of Labradorite but not as full of labradorescence, or maybe moss agate. It does not smell like a rock though, which may or may not be good (depends on what you are in the mood for) its fairly faint aroma is a blend of sweetness and green, like fresh cut grass and honey, with a tiny hint of smoke. The faintness of the aroma did not worry me like it would with some teas, those crazy compressed to the point of being like a brick teas tend to have a faint aroma, at least the ones I have experienced.
It is not really a surprise that this tea did not break up after the initial rinse, so I gave it two, and it was still pretty compressed. I poked it with my puerh pick to break it up a bit, not that I had much luck, and I admit I did not poke that hard, because wouldn’t I feel like a real boob if I slipped and chipped my tiny Shui Ping. But now that the leaves are all hot and bothered, the aroma is much more intense, very leafy green like lettuce and fresh spinach, with a faint note of hay and honey, at the end there is a hint of mineral. The liquid is mild and sweet, a blend of honey and fresh hay, and also alfalfa (more teas need that note!)
Ok, I am going to start out by saying how much I love the mouthfeel of this tea, it is thick and almost creamy. When I hear the term soup or broth being used as the official way of describing the liquid state of tea, I always giggle a little because that is food, but the texture is quite brothy, almost sultry. The taste is a really neat blend of faint smokiness, sweet straw mushrooms, hay, honey, and a tiny bit meaty. It blends savory and sweet really well, much like how some BBQ sauces are rather sweet. As the tea cools it takes on a spinach and mineral note.
Second steep time, I honestly noticed no change at all to the aroma, except that the intensity of the notes were stronger. The taste is much the same at the beginning, that wonderful soupy texture is still present as well, this makes a happy me. Towards the midtaste a strong cooling effect takes hold and lingers well past the finish. It does not have the camphor taste that I usually associate with that level of cooling, but when it starts the taste turns more green, like spinach and broken grass.
Third time, the aroma has changed a bit, it is more green with a hint of smoke. There is still the sweetness of alfalfa and a touch of honey at the finish. Well well, what have we here! The texture is still the same (man that texture is killing me, in a good way, I love when my teas are thick and very noticeable) but the taste starts out differently. We start out with green beans, lima beans, and a bit of smoke, this moves into cooling mineral notes and a bit of cooked spinach. The finish is delightfully honey sweet and lingers.
As my usual Puerh adventures go, I traveled along with this one for several more steeps, sadly I did not get to go as long as I would like because I had to leave for the rest of the day, but I did get a total of six steeps in before that point. It stayed smooth and vegetal for the remainder of the session, with hints of smoke and honey at the finish. I really appreciated the fact that this tea never got bitter on me, it lacked the bite that some young Sheng puerhs can have, but that could be based on how I brew them. My secret is water temperature, I go to 195 degrees, tops, because I have found that hotter than that gets you that sharp, hoppy, bitterness that I am just not fond of. I will boil the daylights out of a Shou, but never again with a Sheng. I could see myself getting a brick of this tea and slowly hammering away at it like I am rock hunting and each chunk I tear off is a precious gemstone.
Yours truly has finally gotten around to using my Xi Shi Yixing teapot, like I am actually using it as I type, for some Da Yu Ling oolong. It seems it seasoned up really nicely because not a ton of flavor is being slurrped up by a thirsty teapot. I remember when I first seasoned my Duan Ni elephant pot, the first couple Puerhs I had were a bit bland because that clay was so porous, so I actually ended up seasoning it more than once, just letting it soak in Puerh for HOURS. Next I need to test out how my Second Flush Darjeeling seasoned Duan Ni pot (sans lid) turned out, and get another pot for First Flush, Dan Cong, Silver Needle, Lapsang Souchong, Pouchong…tea is a lifestyle, yo.
So, it is Thursday, meaning it is time to warm up the way back notebook and have a TBT tea review! Specifically we are celebrating the relaunch of 52Teas’ Kickstarter with one of their more uniquely named concoctions. And speaking of Kickstarter, if anyone wants to back the campaign at the $10 level and send me the pouch (specifically of Marshmallow Treat) then I will gladly accept the donation with love :P. Napalm Ferret! That is a name you have to shout, because apparently this tea is fiery and ferret like, because ferrets eat bananas. A blend of Gunpowder green, freeze dried bananas, cinnamon chips, cayenne pepper, and organic flavors, long time readers of this blog know that if there is a tea that is legit spicy I tend to seek it out, even though I not only cannot digest spicy things I also tend to not like spicy foods, but spicy teas are one of those things that I love. I guess in liquid form I can handle it, So the aroma of this tea is really quite sweet, like a banana Popsicle (my personal favorite as a sick kid) along with a tiny hint of a smoke, a sizable kick of cinnamon, and a nose tingling hot burst of cayenne pepper. All in all, this is one weird blend of smells, but not gross, peppery bananas seem to work, as does cinnamon, and smoke…just never had them all at once.
The brewed leaves are all banana Popsicle with a touch of cinnamon and spice, but mostly it is all banana, seriously I need to get some banana Popsicles next time I am at the store, it is one of those fruit flavors that I actually like. The liquid has a lot more smoke and cayenne pepper, it smells hot, my nose is not melting off, but it is certainly making my eyes water!
So, when I tasted this tea, I was in my basement lair entertaining Ben as my guest and a bunch of spiders (because basement) and I was talking about my trepidation with this tea, because I am a weeny with hot things. Getting over my fear after waiting for it to cool to drinking temperature, the beginning of the sip is mild, a blend of sweet banana and a touch of smoke then OMG OMG OMG HOT!!!! I actually wrote in my notebook, and I quote ‘heat, hot, cough, death. Really tasty, but Jebus!’ Ben had a good laugh at my expense after he checked to make sure my coughing was from the cayenne pepper and not triggering an asthma attack (it does that sometimes) but peril aside, I enjoyed this tea, the initial sip’s surprising explosion of cinnamon and cayenne pepper at the midtaste because less surprising so I did not choke each time I drank some, which is something good when drinking tea.
I am so nervous! I finally grew a pair (and admitted that it was tolerably complete) and entered my Scourge army into the monthly painting contest on the Dropzone Forums. I have been told numerous times that my army is awesome, and I am very pleased with how it came out, but I will be going against professionals and seasoned painter, this is my first army (well I did finish them, and decided I wanted a different scheme so I stripped them and started over, so second?) I feel like it is such a glaring pile of newb mistakes. But on the other hand I am one of those people that obsesses over details and never really calls a project complete….so maybe I should stop worrying? Wish me luck! This is my first time putting my painting really ‘out there’ so it is a little terrifying.
Ok, I have managed to calm myself down enough to write a blog about tea! A tea that looks like a pile of mulch! What-Cha’s Malawi Bvumbwe Peony White Tea is a tea that if I was not more knowledgeable, I would think I am being trolled. I have seen some gloriously fluffy Bai Mu Dan, but this tea takes the cake with its massive whole leaves, and instead of being the usual shades of green these leaves are brown and dried, like autumn leaves. The Satemwa Tea Estate in Malawi never ceases to amaze me with its unusual teas (remember the Antler tea?) So, the aroma of these leaves is anything but dry and smell-less (as some giant dried autumn looking leaves can be) they are in fact leafy and a bit loamy smelling, but the real show stopper is the honey drizzled peach sweetness and touch of fresh growing vegetation and hay. This tea reminds me of the edge of summer into fall, it has that warmth of summer with the crispy leafiness of fall.
Leaves this size do not fit in my normal gaiwan, so I used my green gaiwan-ish thing. Technically this thing is a gaiwan, but it also is called a travel gaiwan or easy gaiwan, I thought that its built in strainer in the lid and short-wide profile would make for a good pseudo houhin until I can get a real one (or a shiboridashi, a girl can dream) they fit perfectly inside the wide gaiwan. When they are wet they become beautifully mottled colored, and oooh the aroma is nice. Notes of sun warmed hay, scuppernongs, and apricots, so delightfully sweet and fruity! The liquid is a veritable summer picnic of fruit, with melon, apricot, peaches, honey, and a distinct note of sun warmed alfalfa and grass.
The first steep tastes like a field and fruit, it is sweet and full of sun drenched life, warm wildflowers, alfalfa (like the grass not the salad sprouts) with a finish of dried apricots and melon. This tea is delightfully sweet and has a cooling effect, which would make this an excellent summer tea me thinks. Even though it has a cooling effect, it also has a very relaxing lazy feel to it, like I want to sip it while lounging under a shady tree on a warm day.
Yes, I definitely went for a second steep, and this one I decided to give it a long steep, I steeped it for a whopping ten minutes. I really like pushing the boundaries with white tea because I have found that it takes a lot to screw up the taste, and usually what you get is something bland rather than bitter. The aroma of the second steep is really muscatel and has a tiny hint of honey and hay. Steeping it really long brings out the muscatel notes, along with rich honey and apricots, oh man it is so rich and sweet, almost like a dessert! This might be one of my new favorite White Peony teas (why is it that almost all my favorite White Teas come from Africa now?) it is just so rich and sweet, plus the leaves are so fun!
For blog, photos (and a link to my Scourge album): http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2015/03/what-cha-malawi-bvumbwe-peony-white-tea.html
Taking a very brief break from painting today, which makes me a sad Scourge, but I am still really shaky and loopy from my breathing treatment yesterday. Oh man, I have always hated those things, it has been several years since I was on a respirator, but I remember the side effects lasted for a couple days. Same reason I wait till I am desperate before I do my inhaler, because the side effects are unbelievably unpleasant. I am immersing myself in research, I expected my allergy tests to give me answers, not more questions, so I am doing my thing and taking to the internet in hopes that I can get some information on my supposed chronic sinus infection (and why my sense of smell is so acute if I do have one), why I can’t breathe though I show no signs of asthma activity at the moment, can my allergy tests be a false negative, and if so what to do about it. Luckily I have some medical training so I can read WebMD without thinking I am dying! SO MANY QUESTIONS!!
Ok, enough of the quirks of my body, it is time for tea! Specifically we are taking a trip to India courtesy of Golden Tips Tea! Avaata Supreme Nilgiri Green Tea First Flush (organic) is from a region of India which sadly I do not have much experience with (seriously, I think I have had two teas from Nilgiri, and that is tragic) so trying a green tea from that region is extra exciting. Avaata Estate is a Rain Forest Alliance Certified tea estate, dedicated to conserving vaata, which is Sanskrit for fresh, with this tea being grown above 1,900 feet, all of these things are pretty cool. The aroma of the rather large, pale, leaves is a bit light at first, but some good snuffling brings out the notes of fresh cut vegetation, baking bread, lima beans and green beans. This is another one of those teas that makes me hungry while sniffing it again.
I decided to go for a psuedo gongfu style steeping with this tea, any excuse to use my gaiwan! The aroma of the now soggy leaves is sharply vegetal, blending lima beans and green beans with a bit of kale and baking bread. There is also a faint, distant note of flowers. The liquid is very light, like super faint, with delicate notes of growing things and slightly vegetal.
The taste is unique, like a blend of a first flush Darjeeling and a green tea. It starts buttery and peppery with floral notes and distinct vegetal. There are notes of green beans, lima beans, and a finish of yeasty baking bread. This tea is fairly light, so if you were expecting a super intense tea you might be a bit disappointed.
I decided to go for a second steep to see if it becomes a bit more robust. The aroma of the brewed tea is still really light, not as light as the first, but it does not have a major presence. There are notes of growing things and lima beans along with the tiniest hint of flowers. The taste is more vegetal and less floral, the peppery note is mostly gone, but there are lovely notes of lima beans and green beans, a finish of fresh kale and baking break, the yeasty tones linger. This steep got a bit bitter as it cooled, which is incentive to chug it quickly!
Vigorously trying to finish my army, that is how I am spending my evening! I have basing to do, and my Intruder Alphas and the Ravagers that Ben surprised me with to finish. I have until tomorrow evening, and considering my afternoon will be taken up by allergy testing, I highly doubt I will finish, alas, my fear of bringing an unfinished army might come to pass. Just between you and me, I am not looking forward to my allergy test tomorrow, though trying to play Dropzone Commander afterwards could be an adventure!
We are finishing off Oolong week with Adagio Tea’s Pouchong (or Baozhong, depending on dialect) a very lightly oxidized (think 8-10%) Oolong with lovely curly green leaves. Pouchong is one of those teas that I tragically forget exists unless it is right in my face, which is tragic because it is one of those Oolongs that taste and smell like springtime. So, let me remind myself why I like this Taiwanese Oolong so much! The aroma is intensely floral, hello notes of hyacinth, orchids, and a mellow finish of chestnuts. It is like flower nectar and mild, sweet, nuts, the aroma overall is fairly mild while also being heady.
Since I do not (yet) have a dedicated Pouchong yixing, into the gaiwan the curly leaves go, and of course it is the dragon gaiwan because it is an oolong, love matching tea utensils to appropriate teas. Brewing the tea brings out the tea’s strength, the now wet leaves smell like a spring bouquet with notes of hyacinth, orchid, lilac, honeysuckle, and butter. Ok that last note is not so much part of a spring bouquet, but hey, it takes all types. The liquid is mellow sweet butter and lots of floral notes, it is very much a pile of flower nectar.
First steep starts out pretty mild, and finishes pretty mild, it is a super mellow tea without much of a presence. It has a wonderfully smooth mouthfeel, but the floral notes and sweet nectar are mild, there is a slight mineral note at the finish as well.
Second steeping time, the aroma is still pretty potent floral nectar with a distinct buttery tone as well as a finish of chestnuts. This steep has a little more body, still pretty mild and mellow, I am not much impressed. The taste is flowery and sweet, but it lacks a real presence, it is like watered down tea. I am wondering if I got an old sample, the bag I got from Adagio was different than any other bag I have gotten from them, so maybe they are changing their packaging, or maybe they package Pouchong differently. It does not taste state, it just does not have much of a taste. Sadly not every tea is a winner.
And my computer is back to its same old terrible refusal to connect to the internet again, well, except in brief little stints here and there. I really hate this thing, but it is what I get for rushing and getting something cheap, this is my punishment
sigh But, whinging aside, I was able to enjoy some warm springlike weather today, the air was warm so the windows were opened, fresh air makes everything better!
So today’s continuation into Oolong week is brought to us by M&K’s Tea Company and their Tangerine Dream. This tea is a blend of Fenghuang Dan Cong Oolongs (specifically Mi Lan Xiang and Yu Lan Xiang) dried tangerines, tangerine peel, dried orange peel, and tangerine oil while also being coated with orange blossom extract, holy orange batman, that sounds like a citrus lover’s paradise. It may be way known by now that I am very finicky about my citrus teas, I want them to taste like the fruit and not like bathroom spray, also I like them to not be black teas (sorry citrus blacks, I just never really liked you) so it was not a real shock that I had to pick up a sample of this tea. Something about mixing tangerine with Dan Cong Oolongs just sounds decadent as all get out. So, opening up the package and giving it a good sniff, and oh my, that is rather rich and citrusy sweet, lots of tangerine, like a fresh juicy tangerine sitting next to a vase of flowers. The floral notes of orange blossom, grapefruit flower (everyone should sniff that plant at least once) orchids, honeysuckles, and magnolias blend so wonderfully with the sweet tangerine notes.
I decided to go western style for this one, so into my tea alchemy device it went for steeping. The now soggy leaves and peel, and rather plump no longer dry tangerine smell delicious! Juicy citrus, heady florals, and honey sweetness mix for a surprisingly mellow aroma, this tea does not overwhelm. The liquid is immensely juicy smelling, it really is like someone sliced into a tangerine next to a bouquet of flowers and a dish of slightly warm honey. If you are into tangerine, fair warning, this might smell a bit mouthwatering.
First off, the tea is both juicy and smooth, it is an interesting effect. The citrus cause a juicy mouthwatering effect and the oolong gives a silky smooth feeling, which is a pretty fun blend of textures for my mouth. Taste-wise, ok, imagine taking a section of tangerine and popping it into your mouth and then sipping some very floral and honey sweet Dan Cong Oolong, right as the Oolong hits the mid taste you bite down on the piece of tangerine. So what started as a tiny hint of citrus blooms into very juicy, ripe, tangerine. It dances with the floral notes of the Oolong to the back of the throat and lingers long after finishing. Guys, I am going to level with you, I have purchases several of M&K’s Teas and I am always struck by how clever the blends are, but this one took the cake for me, it is so delicious and I keep kicking myself for not getting more. I am going to straight up say this might be my new go-to summer time tea, I want to try cold brewing it, gongfu brewing it, grandpa steeping it, I want to see what all this tea can do, because just taking it western style was amazing!