387 Tasting Notes
This is a blend of orange peel, Shou Mei White Tea, Safflowers, Sunflowers, and Orange Flavor for a citrus themed twist on a classic white tea. The aroma is very citrus heavy, it is a little on the artificial side and sadly reminds me of the orange bathroom cleanser I used to use. Underneath the heavy swath of orange there are notes of lettuce and delicate floral.
Once the leaves have steeped in their little basket, the wet leaves’ aroma is intensely orange, still too artificial for my liking. There is also a bit of tartness and lettuce to the aroma. The liquid smells pretty much the same, I am afraid!
Tasting the tea sadly confirmed my fear, this tea tastes like air freshener. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not such a tea snob that a candy flavored tea puts me off…just certain flavors do not necessarily work. I find that any citrus that is a flavor and not all natural tends to taste too much like cleaning chemicals, but it could be that I have a preference for citrus scented cleaners. Other than the air freshener taste there are notes of lettuce and a tiny bit of orange sweetness. I really like the idea of an orange white tea, just maybe I will hunt one down that just has orange bits in it.
Flavors: Lettuce, Orange
For this tea we have a blend of Pu’erh, Apple, Coconut, Natural Coconut Flavor, Marigold, Mango, and Papaya Flavor. Long ago I had a tropical themed Pu’erh and was not the biggest fan, so lets see how this one compares. The aroma is a blend of mango sweetness, nutty coconut, and a tiny bit of earthy and metallic Pu’erh. The coconut has a bit of that ‘old’ coconut oil aroma, it is not off putting and it is very faint.The aroma of the wet leaves is very, very sweet. Lots of tropical fruity and coconut. It is very evocative of summer time! The liquid has the coconut nuttiness and the fruity sweetness with a much stronger Pu’erh presence with notes of earthiness.
The taste, oh man, it is so sweet! Very strong notes of mango and papaya. This fades into very strong notes of coconut, and this lastly fades to a mild earthiness at the finish. I certainly enjoyed this one more than my last tropical Pu’erh, it is very sweet (which I like) and tastes like some of my favorite fruits.
Flavors: Coconut, Earth, Mango, Tropical
Ah, sleep and dreams, ever illusive when the cruel grasp of insomnia has you by the Morpheus. This herbal tea is a blend of Chamomile, Catnip, Lemon Balm, Peppermint, and Lemongrass. Hmm, catnip, that explains why my cats were so friendly after I drank a cup…and tried to sleep on my face. The aroma is quite minty and also quite lemony. It is very refreshing and wakes me up…hmmm. There are also mild straw and herbaceous notes at the finish.
The brewed leaves have a refreshing (less wakefulness inducing) blend of mint, lemon, and fresh green vegetation. It reminds me of a summer evening on the porch while living in the South. The liquid is much the same but with a stronger lemon presence.
Tasting this tea was a fun experience. First the sip is sweet, lemony, and warm and then BOOM! Cooling mint that flows through my mouth, esophagus, and into my stomach, cooling my entire core. The cooling sensation is oddly not accompanied by a super strong mint, as one would expect, instead it is delicate and soothing. The finish is herbaceous with a hint of chamomile’s straw like taste. I really liked this tea! I would say that it is perfect for sipping on a night when insomnia is caused by the summer heat, it cools and refreshes without waking you up.
Flavors: Herbs, Lemon, Mint, Straw
It is a black tea from Yunnan, China, meaning that there are a few delightful gold fuzzy leaves. Since I was brewing this in my gaiwan I ignored the instructions and used my usual technique for brewing Yunnan Black/Red teas (195, 30 seconds and add 30 for each steep). The aroma of the dry leaves is a mix of pine resin, pepper, stewed cherries, and an aged oak cask. It smells like fruit, scotch, and smoke-less Lapsang Souchong. What an unusual tea!
Brewing the tea brings out more of the woody quality with the oak/scotch aroma and pine resin aroma being at the forefront. There is still a hint of fruit sweetness, but it is more an afterthought. The liquid is pine smoke and molasses.
This tea is brisk and strong! Breakfast blend is a perfect description because I am certainly awake now. The taste is a blend of molasses, pine resin, oak wood, and lastly honey. For all this tea’s strength, it is not bitter or unpleasant, it is sweet and intense.
The second steep, I have gone from awake to vibrating so fast that I have torn a small hole in reality. That is the mark of a good breakfast tea. The taste is very brisk, though not nearly as sweet. This steep has a bit of smoke and pine resin. There is a midtaste of molasses and a finish of pepper.
Flavors: Molasses, Pepper, Pine, Smoke
These fuzzy, tightly rolled, green tea leaves are grown high in the mountains of Fujian, China. Apparently this tea is a good introduction to novices into the world of green tea, I left the novice group a while ago, but I am certainly not one to turn my nose up to a new tea. The aroma is a blend of chestnut, green bean, and spinach. It reminds me of a very vegetal oolong, or like an oolong tea and a green tea had a clandestine affair and this tea is the result. The aroma is a bit faint, but the notes are pleasant.
The aroma of the brewed (and now not as tightly curled) tea leaves is very vegetal, lots of spinach and green beans with a finish of artichoke. The liquid’s aroma is sweet and chestnut like with a buttery and vegetal finish.
The first steep is fairly delicate with notes of toasted sesame and nutty chestnut. This fades to green beans with a bitter green, kale like finish. It is like a walking tour of the vegetable aisle in my mouth, and I am ok with that.
The second steep starts off quite sweet with notes of toasted sesame and a touch of honey. It reminds me of Halva, a delicious Persian dessert. This almost immediately switches into green beans and spinach, and this quickly fades to kale and green bitterness that stays on until the end. This is a strong tea.
The final steep left a bit to be desired, it is dry and almost entirely kale. It really feels like I am drinking warm kale juice, and while I really like the taste of kale, I do prefer a bit of moderation. Out of curiosity I chilled this tea, the results were very strong and very vegetal bitter, so the kale juice comparison stays. I really enjoyed the first and second steeps, the third, well in the future I will stop at two.
Flavors: Chestnut, Green Beans, Kale, Spinach, Vegetal
I am having a great nostalgia moment. Ben’s family went out for sushi and brought me back some, which is awesome since I love sushi. I thought back to my first experience with sushi, I had to be three or four, visiting my grandparents. My uncle was also visiting and making sushi, I remember getting my greedy hands on the toasted nori and loving it, and my grandmother teaching me to eat with chopsticks. I have no memory of the sushi itself, but the preparation is clear in my mind all these years later.
Today’s tea is Teavivre’s Oriental Beauty (Bai Hao) Oolong Tea, (or Dong Fang Mei Ren) a very fancy Taiwanese oolong that has an interesting symbiotic relationship with leaf hoppers. High in the mountains of Xinzh, Taiwan, leaf hoppers nibble on the leaves of the tea plant causing an immune response, which gives us a very unique taste and aroma. Without this little adorable green bugs, we would not have this tea. The aroma is quite rich, a blend of yeasty sweet bread, sharp muscatel, and sweet raw honey. There are also faint notes of loam and smoke at the finish. Overall the aroma of this tea is quite sweet.
Brewing the tea, the leaves have a very deep and rich aroma. It is a blend of caramel and muscatel sweetness with an almost earthy, almost loamy finish. There is also a very faint hint of cinnamon that gives the tea a layer of warmth that blends really well with the loam and earthy notes. The aroma of the liquid is warm and sweet, with notes of caramel, molasses, and a finish of muscatel. The aroma of this tea reminds me of late summer and the promise of autumn. It warms me and is very soothing.
The first sip fulfills the promise of warmth and richness from the aroma. At first the taste is richly sweet and muscatel, as the sip slides down my mouth it changes to honey and lastly loam. The aftertaste is sweet and like honey. I found that the mouthfeel was smooth and slightly tingly, probably from the adorable little fuzzy bits on the leaves. This steep managed to have a very distinct presence while being delicate and light, now onto steep two!
The aroma of the second steep is much more muscatel sweet and has an extra intensity. After the initial muscatel aroma it fades to a gentle loam. The mouthfeel is drier than the first steep and it does not have the tingling feeling. The taste is great, a tiny bit of stewed plums, a hint of cinnamon warmth, and a nice heavy dosage of sweet muscatel and loam. Again I am reminded of summer, except this is very late summer after the harvest and you are getting ready for the creeping chill of autumn.
For the third steep the aroma of the liquid is sweetly muscatel, a bit of loam, and a sweet finish of stewed spiced plums. Like the second steep, the mouthfeel is dry, which gives it a mouth smacking brightness. Yes, I did the lip smacking yummy sound, I am very dignified. The taste is very similar to the second steep, just more of it. Stronger notes of stewed plum and muscatel, with hints of spice and a sweet aftertaste.
Time for the fourth and final steeping. The aroma is mildly sweet and loamy, it is faint in comparison to the previous steep, but still quite nice. The taste sings the same song, this tea has performed its beautiful song and now it nears the finish. The taste is a delicate blend of loam and sweet plum. It is refreshing, like the tea you would want to sip after a long day outside harvesting your garden. Bai Hao Oolong has been on my ‘must taste’ list for a very long time, now that I have experienced it I can see why Queen Victoria (The first and best) called it Oriental Beauty, it is truly a beautiful tea.
Flavors: Honey, Loam, Muscatel, Stewed Fruits
This new trilogy of medication for my allergies and asthma are annoying. The side effects are just bad enough to make me really uncomfortable, but not bad enough that I can justify stopping them. Plus being able to breathe again after who knows how long is great. It will take some getting used to and with any luck the side effects will start to balance out soon.
Today’s tea is from Just Organic Tea, Just Relaxing Red, a straight Rooibos tea from the land of South Africa. Did you know that the plant that produces the lovely little leaves (Aspalanthus linearis) is actually a legume? There is your random plant fact for the day. I had my first run in with Rooibos back when I was 17, my coffee shop haunt had this great Rooibos smoothie, I was sad when its limited run ended because I became hooked on it. The aroma of this tea is very typical of a Rooibos, it is woody, sweet, a bit sharp, and a rich caramel sweetness. Rooibos has a very acquired aroma I feel, there are times I crave its woody sweetness, other times it gives me a headache.
The brewed leaves (hey these surprisingly didn’t all end up outside of my steeping basket, win!) have a very woody quality with a strong sweetness and a really rich caramel presence. It smells like a really high quality Rooibos. The liquid without the little red leaves is woody and richly caramel, it smells yummy!
Not surprisingly, it tastes yummy! The taste is woody and rich with strong notes of caramel and sweetness that reminds me a bit of vanilla cookies. Like all Rooibos (crap, what is the plural of Rooibos?) tea it gives the mouth a dry feel, however it is milder than most ones I have sipped. One thing I will give this Rooibos credit for is its richness and heaviness, it tastes just like the Rooibos in the smoothies I drank as a teenager, so happy nostalgia points for this tea. Chilled the caramel notes become much stronger and the tea becomes a bit sweeter. In case you can’t tell I really enjoyed this Rooibos, in fact it might be the first unblended Rooibos that I have really enjoyed in a while.
Flavors: Caramel, Wood
I have been rather distracted lately, and not entirely well either. Too much going on in the medical department of my life and the knowledge that this crazy song and dance is just starting feels very overwhelming. To help with my woes I created something kinda neat, a nice spider terrarium for my desk, occupied by a tiny Jumping spider I found. Now if I can find some moss for my terrarium I will be especially happy, but it seems that the Midwest is sorely lacking in moss.
Today’s tea is Taiwan Osmanthus Oolong Tea by Teavivre, created with Osmanthus flowers from Yunnan Province and Qingxin Oolong from The Ali Mountain, Taiwan. This tea seems like the embodiment of summertime to me, flowers and oolong, perfect for this time of year. The aroma is extremely floral and sweet. If you have never sniffed an osmanthus flower, the aroma is like a mix of jasmine, honeysuckle, and orange blossoms, it is heady and heavenly, tiny flowers with a very strong aroma. Blend this flower’s aroma with a sweet, almost milky, aroma of the oolong. There are also faint notes of chestnut and honey, it is very rich and sweet.
Steeping the leaves is really a treat, little osmanthus flowers prettily float on the top of the water, it was hard to put the lid on. The brewed leaves have a deliciously milky sweet and chestnut aroma. The floral notes are very strong, though not as strong as the dry leaves. There is also a slight fresh vegetation aroma that reminds me of being in the mountains. The aroma of the liquid is gently floral and faintly creamy, with notes of chestnut and honeysuckle.
The first steeping starts out delicate with a very creamy mouthfeel. It begins with a delicate creamy sweetness that blooms into a strong floral presence that is a mix of honeysuckle and and osmanthus. There is a slightly nutty aftertaste. I had a great moment when I first sipped this tea, I felt like I was standing in a garden in full summer, warm and content surrounded by beauty. I found myself getting lost, and it is only the first steeping!
For the second steep I needed to turn my notebook sideways, I had one of those ‘my hand writing is listing off the page’ moments again. It happens sometimes when I drink an oolong, I go into a tea trance. The aroma is much more floral and very sweet, it is heady and intense. The taste, oh man, the taste is fantastic. First we have a nice buttery mouthfeel that stays smooth throughout the entire sipping experience. The start is vegetal and fresh like vegetation growing in the mountains (I have seen this referred to as alpine and I love it) and that blooms into an explosion of flowers and nectar. It is a sweet floral blend of jasmine, honeysuckle, and grapefruit blossoms. I have to say this steep was quite heavenly.
After a few moments of introspection as I appreciate the previous steep, I move onto steep three. The aroma is very sweet, a blend of flowers and sweet cream. There is a tiny hint of vegetation in the aroma as well, at the finish. The mouthfeel is very smooth, less buttery than previously, but still quite smooth. The taste is less sweet and floral and more alpine and green, very evocative of summer vegetation is fully unfurled glory. This fades to a mild chestnut taste and finishes with floral sweetness which lingers as a very pleasant aftertaste.
It is absolutely no surprise that I go for a fourth steep. The aroma is mellow and sweet with a hint of floral and a hint of alpine. It is not as intense as the previous steeps, but such is the way of many steeps, like pieces of music it builds, comes to a glorious crescendo, and then delicately fades to a finish. The taste is mildly sweet with a heady yet delicate floral taste. The floral sweetness lingers as an aftertaste for what seems like forever.
For the fifth and final of the steepings the aroma is delicate and floral, a ghost of its previous self, but not a haunting, more of a pleasant memory. The taste is also a pleasant memory, bits of floral sweetness and refreshing alpine with a finish of chestnut. Ah, this tea, the sample came at the perfect time for me. I have been a bit blue (too much medical stuff) and my usually pick-me-up of floral oolong was not in the cards (I have run out, tragic) so sipping this sample was the best thing for my sad self.
For blog and photo (Including a ridiculous cat selfie) http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/06/i-have-been-rather-distracted-lately.html
Flavors: Chestnut, Floral, Honeysuckle
It makes logical sense that a book lover like me would hoard tea themed books as much as I do tea, so when I received a copy of this book to review thanks to Netgalley, I thought to myself, why not post it on my blog as well as Goodreads? Kombucha Revolution 75 Recipes for Handmade Brews, Fixers, Elixers, and Mixers by Stephen Lee with Ken Koopman, is a book dedicated to that strange tea substance called Kombucha, or Mushroom Tea.
Not one to usually shirk fermented foods, I have no shame in admitting that Kombucha scares the pants off of me. Something about the idea of drinking sweet tea with things growing in it really perturbs me, Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY) being the term for the thing growing in said sweet tea did not help. ‘But it is like yogurt’ you are probably telling your screen and by transition, me, well honestly when I actually think about yogurt and its little probiotic organisms happily making their way into my gut…well, I get really weirded out about that too. It doesn’t help that my one experience with Kombucha was the nastiest thing ever, but I am perpetually curious about this drink, because really, home brewing and fermenting things is really cool science!
Kombucha Revolution goes a bit into the history and science of how Kombucha works, but the bulk of this book is recipes and how to take care of your new pet SCOBY. Some of these recipes look delicious, even to my apprehensive self. If someone handed me a glass of Green Tea Lavender Kombucha I would give it a try. Black Jack Kombucha tempts me to start brewing Kombucha myself. Bambucha practically had me scouring Craigslist for a reputable SCOBY of my own to take care of.
The thing that really peaked my curiosity was the Kombucha smoothies. Smoothies are a great way of getting nutritional goodies without having to taste them, or really think about ingesting it. It is like taking probiotics by pill form instead of a bowl of yogurt, it is so much easier to swallow a pill and not think about it than eating a bowl of friendly creatures. I am really not sure how much of the lauded health benefits of Kombucha is true, as with a lot of holistic practices, there is just not a lot of research done, which is tragic! One thing I do know is that fermented foods are supposed to be great for digestive disorders, and I certainly notice my gut being happier when I have more fermented goodies in my diet. So if the tangy taste of Kombucha really isn’t my thing and my first tasting was not a fluke, here is a backup plan.
The next section of the book covers Kombucha themed mixed drinks and cocktails. This has absolutely no relevance to me, I do not drink, so even though these recipes seem very inventive I would never actually use them.
Lastly we look at Kombucha as a condiment ingredient and a food ingredient. These recipes were really cool, I had no idea this stuff was so versatile. I think if I had read this book when I first heard of Kombucha I might not have the leery feeling I have towards it. This book presents it as a fun fermented drink with some possible health benefits and a bunch of different uses. Not a miracle drink made from rotten tea! Has this converted me to the world of Kombucha? Maybe, I certainly want a SCOBY as a pet, they are cute little colonies. Not sure I am willing to make the next step and start drinking it, but I no longer feel so much fear towards it.
I have a case of the blahs. Pretty sure I am having an immune freak out from the tetanus shot I got yesterday, or maybe I am catching Ben’s summer cold, regardless I feel like a shambling blob. I am hoping that tomorrow I feel better so I can do something other than lay on the couch grumbling.
Today’s tea is Teavivre’s Lapsang Souchong Smoky Black Tea or Yan Xun Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong, from the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian, China. This tea is smoked over pine wood (or pine wood charcoal) from Tongmu Kuan in the Wuyi Mountains. Lapsang Souchong has a long and interesting history, in theory Laspang Souchong was created when the passage of an army delayed the annual drying, so in order to meet the demand the tea producers spread up the processing by drying the leaves over pine fires. Turns out it was a tasty idea. The aroma is very much so a pine smoke heavy black tea, lots of pine smoke goodness and a rich malt. There are also notes of molasses and roasted peanuts which blends really well with the pine resin and smoke.
After tossing the pile of leaves into my gaiwan…ok, not tossing, that would be rude to the leaves, and giving the tea its initial steeping, the wet leaves have a very rich aroma with notes of molasses, loam, malt, pine sap, and loads of pine smoke. It smells like a rich black tea steeping over a fire. The liquid once it has been freed from the gaiwan (It is what I am calling pouring now) has a slightly sweet aroma that reminds me of freshly baked molasses cookies. There is, of course, an overarching aroma of pine smoke and resin.
The first steep is quite smooth and very light. The taste is subtly sweet with notes of pine sap and sweet potatoes. This fades to a rich smokiness that lingers into the aftertaste. This steep promises that future steeps are going to have a wonderful richness and smokiness, it is a good prelude to what is to come.
On the second steep there is a strong molasses and pine smoke aroma. The taste is very strong pine resin taste with strong notes of roasted peanuts and molasses. The tea is not very sweet and has a slight astringent finish. It is smoky and brisk and quite strong.
The aroma of the third steep is very malty and molasses heavy, there is still smoke, but it is not as strong as the previous steeps giving it more of a balanced aroma. The taste is a perfectly balanced blend of smoke, pine resin, molasses, and roasted peanuts. There is a sweet aftertaste and no astringency what so ever.
On a whim I decided to give this tea a visit using Western techniques. The aroma is malty, rich, and quite smoky. The taste is very smoky with heavy notes of pine, molasses, and sweetness. The aftertaste is malty and smoky. Both the Western and the Gongfu styles of brewing made a deliciously smoky and rich tea.
Flavors: Malt, Molasses, Peanut, Pine, Smoke