295 Tasting Notes
I decided to dye my hair today, not just my usual black dye but a full out color change. First I had to bleach it, which takes forever! I left the tips black and the rest faded from pale blond to dark brown, then the dye application. I am currently the owner of cobalt to black ombre hair, it looks pretty cool. The annoying part is of course my bathtub is the most porous thing in existence and is also blue, so I need to get some heavy scrubbing on after I go to the store for the proper supplies. Usually I am all for the ‘no chemicals’ approach to house cleaning, but there are sometimes when you just need a bottle of bleach.
If you have ever strolled through a supermarket in the US’s tea and coffee aisle you have probably seen a box of Vanilla Chai by Bigelow Tea. Created from black tea, spices, natural and artificial flavoring. I tend to avoid teas with artificial flavoring because I find that they taste fake so I do not have the highest hopes for this little teabag. The aroma of the teabag is very sweet, strong creamy vanilla notes with underlying spices. It smells quite warm and like vanilla fudge. The aroma is rich and very sweet, good if you have a sweet tooth.
The aroma of the steeped tea is very intensely creamy vanilla, like vanilla ice cream with a dusting of spices and an extremely delicate hint of malt. The aroma reminds me of the vanilla non-dairy creamer for coffee that you find in the same section of the grocery store this tea is in. I don’t hate that aroma, in fact I have been known to just drink creamers on occasion, but it is not an aroma I want to associate with tea.
Adding cream and a touch of sugar since this is a chai makes the tea taste like vanilla cream and a touch of nuttiness and the most delicate hint of spices. Not surprisingly the tea tastes like the non-dairy vanilla creamer that it smelled like, but with a hint of spice and black tea malt. This tea isn’t terrible, if I was at a restaurant and was given a mug of this instead of Lipton (cringe) I would be thrilled, but I do not see myself seeking this out of my own volition.
The sky outside is crazy dark, it looks like a massive amount of storms are heading my way. Of course I have no idea if it will storm, but I really hope it does, thunderstorms are my favorite form of weather. It really feels like spring today, which I am sure cannot last, but all the snow melting has made everything into mud, which makes for some happy mold spores. But let us focus on a different time of year today.
Today’s tea is Dark Roast Houjicha from Yunomi.us and grown by Obubu Tea Farms in Kyoto Prefecture. This is the third strongest roast of the Houjicha presented by Obubu Tea Farms, described as having a smoky flavor that is both light and sweet, that sounds like my kind of tea. The aroma of this tea is in one word, yummy. But that is a boring description, the aroma is very roasted and mildly smoky with notes of cedar wood and autumn leaves. It very much so smells like the clean and smoky autumn air in a forest, it makes me nostalgic and full of longing for autumn in the mountains.
Brewing the leaves makes the aroma much richer with stronger notes of cedar and hints of earthiness. The tea leaves smell savory, like dried oak leaves and roasted wood. Again it is very evocative of autumn air. The liquid however is sweeter, like freshly mown hay and roasted nuts. There is still notes of cedar smoke but it is much fainter.
Perhaps tasting this tea will infuse me with the essence of autumn, I have no idea what that would even mean but maybe it will take away the longing for mountains. The taste is richly roasted, intensely so, though not intensely smoky like their Smoky Roast Houjicha. There is a mild hint of cedar smoke that blends well with the roasted tea flavor. The tea starts off savory and roasted and fades to sweetness so it is like a hint of honey by the end of the sip. As the tea cools I notice a woody quality and a hint of astringency. Overall I think I like this one just a little more than the Smoky Roast, but I will have to try the other roast levels before I officially name a favorite.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Cedar, Honey
I am eating the most delicious bread before I get into my tea. It is a Ciabatta that is baked with Feta cheese and Kalamata olives and it is to die for. I also gained enough points using Bing’s reward thingy (I do a lot of searches related to tea, no surprise there) to get a gift card for Amazon, so I bought a (used) book I have had my eye on. Read and Write Chinese by Rita Mei-Wah Choy, I like it because it is really well organized, has both Mandarin and Cantonese, and you can look up character by Chinese, English, and stroke count. It will be so useful for translation. It has been a good day and I am happy.
Today’s tea is Spring Sencha Teabags from Takeo Family Tea Farms and Yunomi.us. As I am sure you can glean from the name this tea is harvested in spring time (first harvest actually), but who wants to just stop at that little nugget of information. The tea was harvested in the Mie Prefecture, which is part of the Kansai region on the island of Honshu. This beautiful coastal prefecture is home to the Meoto Iwa (Wedded Rocks) which is really high on my list of ‘must see places’ list. The aroma of this tea that is in a bag is faint but distinct. There are notes of gentle sweetness, spinach, and fresh grass. Primarily the aroma is more of a savory sencha quality than a sweet one with a very slight finishing note of fresh pine needles. Luckily I did not notice the teabag itself adding any aroma to the tea, it is always so annoying when I can smell bag.
Once the tea gets a steeping in some nice warm water the aroma becomes stronger and quite spring like blending vegetal spinach and grassy green with a bit of kelp. There is also a slightly sweet citrus finish as the teabag is pulled away from my questing nose. The liquid is quite sweet, smelling more like fresh hay than veggies of any sort. There is a very slight hint of kelp hiding under the hay.
The taste is at first that of kelp giving it an umami quality that is quite appealing, especially as it fades to a fresh grass sweetness in the aftertastes. Of course there is a midtaste in between, and it is a blend of spinach and kale, but without the bitter quality that kale has when raw. This tea is quite good for bagged tea and is, of course, the quality I expect from Yunomi.us. I received the teabag as a sample in a previous order and could see myself ordering more for when I travel or don’t feel like breaking out the Kyusu and making a big deal of drinking my Sencha.
I was given a lovely new journal today for logging tea notes because, yes, I filled up another one! It is a beautiful shade of cobalt (one of my favorite colors) with an embossed peacock on the cover. The cover is made with rubbery pseudo suede which has the best texture, I keep rubbing the cover because it is so soft! I will certainly enjoy writing about tea in this lovely journal.
Today I am going to be your Chai Wallah, ok not really, I am not that cool. Chad’s Original Black Chai by the titular Chad’s Chai is a blend of Full Leaf Indian Tea, Organic Cinnamon, Black Pepper, Clove, Organic Chili Peper, Ginger, Star Anise, and Organic Cardamon. The first this I notice about the aroma is how intense it is, I really dumbly put my nose right into the package instead of wafting and ended up with a hilarious sneezing fit. The chili pepper and black pepper really pack a punch, so don’t do like me and stick your nose in it! After my schnoz calms down and I can analyse the aroma from a distance I notice that the tea smells rich and a bit earthy with potent spices. Primarily ginger and peppers with a secondary kick of cinnamon. The cardamon and star anise is very faint and there is a mild finish of malt.
Once I give the leaves a good soaking the leaves have an earthy, malty, and spicy aroma. The spices are a bit diminished, but there is a still an intense kick of pepper. This tea smells hot and warms me down to my toes. The liquid has a rich and sweet aroma, less earthy and more of a melange of spices since no one spice stands out.
Since this is a chai is is brewed with the traditional sugar and cream (ok, Half & Half is my cow product of choice, so not exactly cream) The first thing I notice is the initial warm kick of spices, it is not unpleasantly hot, just enough spiciness to warm my mouth up. This quickly fades to a blend of gentler ginger and cinnamon with a mix of earthy and malty. The tea finished with a kick of peppers again so it leaves a pleasant burn in the mouth. This is a good chai, but it is not really the type that rocks my world. I prefer my cardamon and anise to be the prominent spice and the more ‘hot’ spices to be secondary. I also really thought the base tea was quite good.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Earth, Malt, Peppercorn
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone (or Lupercalia if you are reading this from Ancient Rome) I hope your day is filled with love and happiness. Since today is all about hearts and romance…and quite frequently flowers, why not look at a thematically appropriate tea? I do love doing thematically appropriate reviews, though I doubt I will come up with a good one for President’s Day.Dark Rose Tea by Tea Source is a delightfully heart shaped compressed block of dark tea. What is dark tea, you might be asking, well in short dark tea (or Heicha) is fermented tea that is not from Yunnan. Technically Pu Erh is still a dark tea, but it is so specialized that it more or less gets its own category. This specific dark tea comes from Hunan and is mixed with roses, my personal favorite flower to have in tea. The aroma is a bit musty, like dry loam and old wood, similar to a forest that has not seen rain in a while. There is also a touch of leather and a very faint and delicate rose aroma.
Sadly upon steeping the compressed tea it no longer looks like a cute little heart, but this is expected. The aroma has become quite rosy and malty with only a touch of loam and oak wood. It is beginning to smell more like a moist forest floor in summer than a dry one. The liquid without the leaves steeping in them have a bright quality with strong notes of rose and sweet malt. It smells heavy and rich, not at all light and buoyant.
The first steeping of the little heart shaped nugget of tea happiness is quite rich and filling. Drinking it makes my mouth feel smooth and full, it is a slightly odd sensation because it also has a sense of weight to it. The taste is at first rosy and sweet, but this fades to oak wood and a mild astringency. The taste reminds me more of a strong black tea than the dark teas I am used to.
Giving the crumbled heart another dunking causes the mild astringency to vanish and makes the already smooth tea even more so, almost making it feel velvety. It does lose the weighty feel and now is just a bright tea. There is only the barest hint of roses and the tea has a finish of copper. I really do think this tea would be great for people who are scared off of Pu Erhs and other dark teas by their earthy quality, but for people who love that aspect it is a bit of a let down.
Flavors: Flowers, Loam, Malt, Wood
I cannot think of a good opening to today’s tea review so I will tell you a few random facts about myself, fun! I collect gemstones, absolutely love studying Mineralogy and Geology, the highlight in my collection is a pale pink Danburite crystal about the length of my palm. For all that I love animals of all shapes and sizes, my favorites are aquatic life, specifically crabs, octopuses, squids, and jellyfish. I even sleep with a stuffed squid every night and own a giant stuffed Octopus. I didn’t like reading fiction till I was a teenager, I read tons and tons of nonfiction, but stories I considered a waster of time since I was not learning something. So there, now you know me a little better, on to tea!
By tea I technically mean a tisane since today’s brew of choice is a pile of roots. Burdock Tea No.3 on the Red Leaf Tea sampler, is made from the chopped up roots of the Burdock plant, or Arctium lappa, or Niubangzi. This plant is well known for its burrs and being a general nuisance for hikers in the Western part of the world, but in the Eastern part it is used as food and medicine. The aroma is caramelized dirt, slightly sweet like caramelized sugar and very much so like dirt. This is not necessarily a bad thing since I like the smell of dirt and it smells a lot better than most root based herbal teas I have tried. At the very tail end of the sniff I can detect a bit of horseradish.
Brewing the little root bits (there was no brewing info on the package, maybe there was and I can’t read Chinese yet, so upon research I decided on 212 degrees for 6 minutes) the aroma is still strongly of dirt and horseradish, but with more of the bitter root smell I associate with herbs like Dong Quai and Valerian, usually meaning the taste will be awful. The liquid sans roots is surprisingly sweet like caramelized sugar and of course the dirt and horseradish aroma.
Time to taste, I am a little worried, I have enough experience with TCM to know herbal teas made from roots taste like death. Well, color me surprised, because the flavor is not half bad! The taste is like a mixture of very mild horseradish (think the taste without the spice) lettuce, and corn husk. The taste fades to a gentle sweetness that lingers in the mouth for a bit. The mouthfeel is smooth and soothing, absolutely no bitterness or dirt taste what so ever. Not bad little root bits, not bad. I cannot speak for any health benefits associated with drinking this tea, the reasons I tried it for were not alleviated at all, but the taste was good so I am not complaining. I am tempted to add this to a root vegetable themed soup next time I make one, I think it would add an interesting note.
Flavors: Corn Husk
Remember about a week ago I mentioned a little project I was working on, cataloging all the teas of the world. I foolishly thought I would be finished by now, but thirty pages later and I am still finding little nuggets of information to add…and I am loving every minute of it! I love when a new subject comes up for me to obsessively research, learning new things is my passion and when it pertains to one of my other passions than the results are even sweeter.
Today’s tea is a spicy kick and possibly a little sweet if the name Hot Sweet Cinnamon by Art of Tea is to be believed. It is a blend of (all organic) Black tea, Cinnamon bits, Orange Peel, Cloves, and Natural flavors, it is a tea that I usually label as a pomander or potpourri tea because the aroma (and ingredients) were always used in pomanders and potpourri around my house growing up. The aroma is very spicy, lots of cinnamon and clove and a hint of rum or liqueur just sneaking in.
The brewed leaves are very spicy and loaded with cinnamon, it smells like Christmas and a hint of a typical ‘black tea’ aroma at the end. I can detect a very mild hint of oranges, but it is barely there hiding behind the muscled arms of the cinnamon and cloves. Think of the oranges as a wilting ingenue and the spices are her buff body guards. The liquid without its leaves is fairly sweet and cinnamon and immediately reminds me of Red Hots, those obnoxiously addictive candies that I have eaten far too many of in my life.
The taste is surprisingly bitter, though not in a way you would usually expect in a black tea (which is good because it would mean I failed at brewing it correctly) it is the bitterness of too much spice. I find my mouth going numb and my stomach growing annoyed almost immediately. Turns out there can be a thing as too much spice, tragic as that sounds. The taste after the initial clove kick in the face (at least I didn’t feel it) is fairly sweet and cinnamony, again a lot like Red Hots. The base Black tea is pretty weak, I barely tasted it around the spices. It was not my cup of tea, sadly.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Cloves
I had the best day, not only did I get to fill my day with Minecraft, I was able to spend the day playing Minecraft with my mom! It was awesome, first we toured my work in progress castle and then we started a new survival world and chaos ensued. Creepers exploded, zombies chewed on us, villages were looted. Good times all around geeking out with my mom.
Today’s tea is White Peony King from Shang Tea, a local company that I am lucky enough to visit when I run out of their tea. They conveniently also sell their tea online and at a few local shops, so I have options if I don’t want to go downtown! The aroma of this tea is quite mild mixing notes of fresh vegetation, a delicate hint of floral, and a finish of paper. It is a very mild tea evocative of very early spring and all the subtleties you would expect of that season.
The brewed leaves have a vaguely mineral aroma that reminds me of spring water, there are also notes of fresh vegetation and sage. The liquid is incredibly mild and subtle with notes of sage. The aroma is clean, smelling it makes me feel refreshed and cleansed.
The taste is mild (I have used that word a lot with this tea!) and a bit citrusy. There are hints of sage and minerals with just a tiny wisp of copper at the midtaste. There is a subtle underlying sweetness like a splash of honey that rests just underneath all the other flavors. The tea leaves my mouth feeling clean and refreshed, it is quite lovely. I fell like with each sip you can taste the clean soil and water used to grow the tea plants. This is not the most spectacular white tea I have ever had, but it does have a wonderfully clean feeling that most other White Peony (or Bai Mu Dan) teas do not seem to have.
I got my wish, several hours of Minecraft later and I feel quite happy. My castle is coming along nicely, all the external infrastructure is complete and all I have left is decorating and landscaping. So far my favorite thing about my build is the huge vaulted ceiling about the throne room, the massive arched road to the castle, and of course, the inside arboretum and waterfall. I think my next build should be a conservatory inside a hollowed out mountain, I just wish Minecraft on the Xbox had all the plant varieties that the PC did, maybe with the next update?
Today’s tea is the last of the set of samples that Just Organic Tea sent me to review, the Pumpkin Spice Chai! A blend of Black Tea, Ginger, Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg, and Allspice. The aroma is quite yummy and evocative of autumn. The allspice and ginger are the most prominent aroma with the cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg dancing around in the background, and there is a nice malty undertone. It blends the spices with bright black tea aroma that is nothing short of mouthwatering.
Brewing the tea brings all the spices into a perfect balance, I always like when my teas are balanced in their spice aromas, it reminds me of a good piece of classical music. Besides the spice blend there is the aroma of malt and gentle sweetness. The liquid is warm and spicy, well balanced but the allspice stands out a little stronger than the rest, there is also a mild sweetness in the aroma from the spices.
Tasting time! As per tradition this chai is made with cream and sugar giving it an extra richness and sweetness, I found I only needed a little sugar since it is sweet already from the spices. Speaking of spices they are wonderful, being both strong and mellow. Allspice and cinnamon are the dominant spices with the others not far behind, they cause the tea to have a warm and slightly tingly mouthfeel so it is like being hugged on the inside. The base tea is smooth and malty with a slight hint of woodiness that blends well with the spices. This is an exquisite chai and certainly my favorite tea that I tried from Just Organic Tea.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Cloves, Malt, Nutmeg
I am going through some serious withdraw, I haven’t been able to play Minecraft in a while because a combination of everyone in the house being sick and snow days has meant no access to the Xbox 360. I have a castle that needs completion and a world that needs perfecting. If everything goes my way I will have the house to myself tomorrow and I plan on using a large chunk of it indulging in one of my favorite past times.
Today’s tea has nothing to do with gaming, in fact it has to do with summer fruits and nostalgia. Peach Apricot Essence by Just Organic Tea is a blend of Black Teas with Apricot and Peach essence, Calendula Flowers and Lemon Myrtle. The aroma is very sweet and fruity blending peach and apricot, but unlike most the peach flavored teas I have encountered it smells like the fruit and not fake peach. I grew up in the South, Georgia to be exact, and we know out peaches (I mean we name everything after them, so that makes us experts, right?) and the aroma of this tea smells just like a sun warmed fresh peach straight from the plethora of roadside stands. There is milder note of apricot, and a touch of lemon myrtle.
After giving the tea leaves a steeping the leaves become much more lemony and bright, the warm, sweet peach aroma is more of an afterthought as the lemon myrtle takes center stage. The liquid’s aroma is smooth and creamy blending the peach and lemon myrtle evenly. I admit I find the blending of those two quite intriguing.
The taste is initially sweet with strong notes of lemon myrtle. For those who have never had lemon myrtle it tastes like a blend of vegetation and lemon, similar to lemon balm but more sweet than green. There is also an initial taste of floral that is very faint and fades quickly. The midtaste is sweet and warm peach that stays until the aftertaste. The tea itself is just a bit astringent which I think blended well with the other flavors present and gives it a good bold quality. I wish it had been a little peachier, and that the apricot would have been present at all, this was the most realistic smelling peach teas and the taste was not at all artificial so it makes sense that I would crave more.