601 Tasting Notes
Last night was pretty epic! I played my first game of Dungeons and Dragons, yeah I think I lost a little of my geek street cred for waiting so long, but not for lack of trying to play, it just never worked out! In my defense I read Dragonlance as a kid and love it, especially Raistlin, hehe. Of course, because it is me, I managed to almost die and blow myself up in my first adventure. It is a theme in RPGs I am involved in, somehow I come up with a crazy idea and manage to either blow myself or something up, either using magic or explosives, and last night I wasn’t even trying! Maybe giving my Druid ‘Produce Flame’ as a cantrip was a bad idea, only time will tell (if I survive that is.)
So, ‘tis time for tea! Today we are taking a look at the Greek Shop Armenos and their tea, South Seas. It does not appear to currently be in their shop, but there is a note saying to contact them if you need anything, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get your hands on it. The little note that came with my sample of it states that it is made with Mango, Hawthorn, Pineapple, Papaya, and Resin, but examining the sample reveals one of my arch-enemies, Hibiscus. Eek. Ok, not true, I am starting to notice that my tolerance for super tart things is going up, I no longer run screaming from it (unless someone was going to just give me a pile of hibiscus) and can usually finish the cup, if it is mild on the tart, think Sweet Tart vs Warheads, not that I like either of those candies. So, the aroma of this pile of fruit and flower bits is not surprisingly, a bit on the tart side and a bit on the tropical fruit side, it is also a bit sour, like citrus and pineapple. You can certainly smell the papaya and pineapple, there is a hint of mango, and of course there is hibiscus.
Time to steep, one thing I will give hibiscus credit for, it steeps beautifully, if you have a glass vessel to steep in, you get to see little tendrils of red drifting down from the petals. The aroma of the now soggy tea stuff is a blend of tart hibiscus, tropical fruit, raisins, and citrus. I think the raisins notes are coming from the hawthorn, I am not sure since it is not something I have had on its own, I need to rectify that. The liquid smells surprisingly sweet, there are notes of tropical fruit, primarily the papaya and mango. There is also notes of raisins and honey, with a finish of metallic tart hibiscus.
Ok, this tea is not as vibrantly red as it could be, I have had hibiscus teas that turn insanely dark red, but this is fairly light, and I am ok with that. The first sip is a tart doozy, that initial tart kick fades pretty quickly to tropical fruit sweetness. I, at this point, set the cup aside to let it cool. I have found that my tolerability for tart things are pretty much zero when the cup is hot, I like it somewhat cool, though not cold. So after cooling the beginning of the sipping experience is still pretty intense, I find myself having a serious ‘tart twitch’ but that ends very quickly and is replaced with a fruity-splosion. It is a blend of cherry, lemon, papaya, mango, and raisins with a really wonderful honey finish that erases all the tartness away. I actually ended up kinda liking this tea and finished the cup (very rare with me and hibiscus, I really think it is starting to grow on me) I am not sure I want more of it, but I would not feel apprehension if someone placed a cup in front of me. That is the problem with me reviewing teas with ingredients I do not like, I can tell you what notes I taste and if the ingredients are of a good quality (seems so to me!) but giving it my seal of approval is harder since I am only just at the ‘I tolerate hibiscus in small quantities’ stage in it growing on me.
Being forced to be in the family room to do my computer work is really sapping my inspiration, you would think a bright room with lots of windows would make me happy, but nope. Not sure why but I have never liked this room and I avoid it at all costs, soon, my power cord will be here. Sadly that is all the intro I can muster today, so on to tea!
So, it is Wednesday, meaning that my journey to try all of What-Cha’s teas continues! Today we are looking at Nepal 2nd Flush 2014 Silver Needle White Tea, a fuzzy tea after my own heart. What can I say, I love fuzzy teas, be they gold or silver! This particular tea comes from the high mountains of Nepal, specifically the pesticide free Greenland Organic Farm, this is one of several teas I have had from this farm, and I can say from the past teas that they all have a distinct mountain air taste and feel to them. I am completely ok with admitting that might be a ‘mind over matter’ thing, knowing the teas come from such a mountainous place. Like a little bit of the spirit of the place has entered the leaf and come along for me to enjoy, a mini vacation in a cup. The leaves have a subtle sweet and green aroma, blending a bit of fresh hay and sweet corn with distinct herbaceous notes of sage and lettuce. It is dominated by the more herbaceous note and finished with a tiny note of tomato leaf. The aroma reminds me a bit of a blend of the more traditional Chinese silver needle and Kenyan silver needle, which is pretty neat.
Whoa! After a steeping in my gaiwan, the aroma of the leaves did a massive transition to sweetness. The aroma is a blend of sweet grass, fresh hay, apricot, a tiny touch of sesame nuttiness, and a finish that is some intense mouthwatering honeysuckle. The liquid also pretty sweet with dominating notes of honey and apricot, with a backup band of hay and sweet sesame paste.
Ah, I love the first steep of silver needles, and fuzzy teas in general, they always tickle my mouth ever so gently and it makes me giggle. Trichome power! Fuzziness aside, the taste is a pretty neat blend of sweet and leafy, there are notes of honeysuckle and sweetcorn along with sage and lettuce. The finish is a distinct juicy apricot that lingers for while between sips.
Second steeping time! The aroma of this steeping is sweet and fruity with notes of honeysuckle and apricots and a pleasantly refreshing sage finish. The taste starts off with cooling and slightly dry notes of sage and lettuce which transitions pretty cleanly into sweet corn and sesame seeds. I say transitions cleanly because really the transition is crazy smooth, none of this early 2000s era Power Point checkerboard transitions, this is straight up sideswipe…ok, that got a little weird, but hopefully you can see my point. The finish of the second steep takes the same path as the first steep and finishes with sweet and juicy apricot. I said at the beginning of my rambling that this tea is like a blending of Chinese and Kenyan silver needle, and after tasting it I certainly stand by that, it blends the notes from both teas in a really tasty way, I like!
It absolutely does not feel like Tuesday, though to be honest if asked what day it does feel like, I would probably just slur a bunch of syllables together and end it in day. I always find it strange when the perception of time gets messed up and it does not feel like the time or day it is supposed to, I wonder what causes that? I am going to blame my sleep being weird and not having my normal computer access, it has messed up my very distinct schedule. By very distinct I mean I sit in front of my computer, drink tea, and write most the day, it is only distinct because I wear a top hat and monocle at times.
Silliness aside, it is time for another Darjeeling! From Golden Tips Tea, today we are having a little looksie at Thurbo Moonlight Darjeeling Black Tea Second Flush, a FTGFOP1 Moonlight grade black tea picked the 11th of June, 2014. Now I am going to be honest, I have no idea what makes a tea Moonlight grade, doing a quick bit of research did not reveal any tasty nuggets of information, so clearly more in-depth searching must be done! I could find information of Thurbo Estate of course, located in the Mirik Valley and first planted in 1872, the name Thurbo might be a reference to the British setting up camp in the garden while they were invading Nepal, they used tents called by the locals as Tombu, which could have been mistranslated to Thurbo. A fun little bit of history before sipping, something that I always enjoy. So, the aroma of the leaves is as expected, sweet and loamy, the familiar aroma of a second flush that I have grown to love. It has notes of raisins (in comparison to first flush’s fresh scuppernong aroma that I run into) dried berries, honey, leaf loam (oddly I should specify dry rather than wet loam) a touch of malt, and at the finish a distinct note of corn silk. Darjeelings, no matter what flush they are, smell like summer to me, some of them early summer and some late, this is a tea that seems to soak up the essence of the season they were plucked.
The now steeped and soggy leaves have taken on a hint of spice in their aroma! Along with the aroma of loam (ok, now it is wet loam) and raisins, there is now spicebush flowers giving their delightful blend of floral and spice. There is also a bit of pepper and honey, with a slight hint of dark rum at the finish. The amber colored liquid is a blend of malty and fruity, with notes of well obviously malt, along with dried cherries, raisins, a hint of rum, and amusingly enough at the finish there is a creamy sweet note of custard.
The taste is rich! I had a mouth explosion of raisins, it is just like I took a handful of sultanas and regular old brown raisins and munched on them, except much juicier. It mixes honey sweetness and a touch of floral at the midtaste, with just a hint of loam and spice. Around the midtaste the juiciness turns to briskness and leaves a slight dryness to the mouth, it gives a bit of a waking up feeling after the slightly heady effect of honey and raisins. The finish is sweet, though not much else, there is just a lingering sweetness and briskness, I found this a little odd after such a distinct start that it just kinda disappears at the end, but, at least the finish has a lingering sweetness!
Yay! My computer is kinda fixed! I successfully replaced the broken jack and discovered that I also need a new cord, luckily Ben’s mom has a Toshiba and is letting me borrow her cord for a few. Now I just need to get a new cord, so more waiting, but at least I know it is not a permanent problem. Unlike Ben’s who I am pretty sure has a massive corruption somewhere. I am practically giddy to have my machine back, it might be a real piece of crap, but it is mine and I love it.
So, today we are having a look at one of Yunomi and Obubu Tea’s rather romantic sounding Sencha, Sencha of the Autumn Moon, I just love the names of the various Sencha put out by Obubu, they are just beautiful. You might remember, a while ago I reviewed Sencha of the Summer Sun, it is my goal to try all the beautifully named Sencha, in theory in each season, but I was a little late with this one. So, about the name, this tea was harvested under a bright full moon, specifically the moon in late August early September during Otsukimi, or the Moon Viewing Festival. This festival is celebrated in several Asian cultures and I absolutely love it, personally I mix it up a bit when celebrating by incorporating different culture’s traditions. The aroma of the fairly massive leaves is very green, a mix of edamame, spinach, and a bit of hay and grass. It is not the most complex Sencha I have ever sniffed, but the aroma is strong and a good blend of sweet and green, I enjoy it and can certainly see this being an excellent tea to sniff while focusing on the moon.
Into the Kyusu it goes! Man, I really need a special occasion to bring out the amazing Somayaki Kyusu I have, it is so pretty but needs an unveiling, maybe having the computer fixed will be the occasion. Anyway, the aroma of the now very soggy leaves and stems is a bit nuttier, the edamame and toasted soybeans (I love snacking on those, so good!) aroma taking the forefront, while the spinach, hay, grass, and general green notes take up the rear. The liquid is sweet and green, blending sesame seed candies, hay, grass, and bamboo leaves into a nice green blend. Green is definitely the keyword with this tea, it is one of the most ‘I sniff in colors’ teas I have run into in a while.
The first steep is delightful moonlight pale gold, like a moon coming up over the horizon! The taste is really quite mild and subtle, it might be the most subtle first steep of a Sencha I have run into. The mouth feel is very smooth, it starts off with the green taste of grass and stems, this moves into the very distinct taste of bamboo leaves, and after that we have sweet hay and a finish of edamame that lingers. The first steep is relaxing, I could almost see myself sipping this before taking a nap.
The aroma of the second steep has a very similar feel to the first, balancing green and sweetness, though this time there is more focus on green with a stronger bamboo note and a touch of sea air. Like the aroma, this steep is much more green, with stronger notes of bamboo leaves, a bit of fresh grass, broken stems, fresh spinach, and just a hint of savory kelp. Ah, I do love it when a Sencha has that kelp note, it just makes me happy and reminds me of my much beloved seaweed salad. I enjoyed how mild this Sencha was, I think it will be a perfect addition to my Moon Viewing festival, it has enough of a presence to be noticeable without distracting you from the glorious autumn moon.
Usually I am griping about how much of a garbage pile my body is, with the Fibromyalgia and all the stupid allergies I have, but this once I am going to congratulate it on being awesome! Everyone in the house caught a nasty cold, and I live in a house full of Marvel Comics-esque Super Soldiers, so you know it is awful when they get sick. Guess who was the only person who didn’t get the cold…yep, me! I was up under Ben and Rita gaming and bringing their sick selves tea, so I know I got lots of exposure, and now that everyone is on the mend I think I am in the clear. Good job body, you got to be the healthy one taking care of people for once.
Today we are having our first look at Golden Tips Tea, an Indian tea company with a very respected history and legacy. Plus, when you get a package from them it comes in some very awesome wrapping!
I recieved several samples from them (yay! I needed more Indian teas on my blog!) and the first one I pulled out of the box was Castleton Moonlight Darjeeling Black Tea First Flush, I did a little happy dance because I have become hardcore addicted to Darjeelings lately. Plucked in April of 2014, this FTGFOP1 Moonlight Grade first flush Darjeeling comes from the Castleton Tea Estate, which was first established in 1885. The aroma of the dry leaves is, as expected, quite delicious to the nose, there is a strong muscatel presence, blending fresh juicy grapes and a hint of the more honey sweet raisins. Also fresh hay, a touch of peppery nasturtium leaves, and a bit of freshly crushed parsley at the finish giving the tea a neat herbaceous touch.
The brewed leaves are surprisingly herbaceous with notes of parlsely thyme, and fresh broken leaves. Of course there are notes of muscatel, primarily fresh grapes and honey. At the finish there is a hint of distant wildflowers and hay. The liquid, well, that packs a sweet punch! Like fresh grapes and raisins with a pinch of thyme and a strong apricot undertone. Fun fact, thyme and apricot is wonderful together, I suggest mixing the two whenever possible.
Ok, so the taste, well, wow! One of the things I love about Darjeeling tea, especially first flush, is how the taste reminds me of Scuppernongs, the super sweet and juicy grape variant that I would eat fresh and sun-warmed from the vine during my childhood in the South. The muscatel notes are the notes of happy memories to me, so how can I not love it? The mouthfeel is smooth and light, there is more to this tea than muscatel notes, there is also a refreshing note of fresh lettuce and a bit of thyme. The finish is sweet honey drenched apricot that lingers into the aftertaste. A delicious tea that tastes like summer and sunlight, I certainly enjoyed every sip.
Being the only person in the house with a restricted diet is a nightmare! When I was visiting my mom, I forgot how hard it can be, she is not Gluten Free and plagued by multiple food allergies per se, but she feels better avoiding certain foods, so it was not constantly in my face. Since I have returned home I am bombarded with baking bread, loaves everywhere, massive pasta dishes, pies, cakes…it is not very fun leaving my bedroom. Luckily my mom gave me an awesome simmering potpourri, one which I am using to make my room smell like pine trees, anything to keep the bread away!
First off, my computer ate the usual first photo of the dry leaves for today’s tea, What-Cha’s Nepal 2nd Flush 2014 Dew Drops Green Tea, so I must substitute it with something random. These adorable little tea balls resemble Gunpowder Green in their shape in size, hailing from Nepal’s Greenland Organic Farms in the shadow of the Himalayan Mountains. The aroma is a bit sweet, a blend of toasted sesame and freshly cut grass, a bit of distant floral and a touch of mineral at the finish. The tight little balls did not give up their scent easily, it required much sniffing, but the aroma that did come off of them was light and clean.
Brewing the little dew drops of tea brings out more of the aroma hiding away when they were dry, it is a blend of light floral nectar, nutty undertones, and a nice spinach greenness that overshadows all the other notes. It is the aroma of fresh spinach leaves rather than cooked spinach, reminding me a bit of a salad. The liquid is a blend of honey sweetness and green notes from spinach and greenbeans. There is a touch of a sesame note at the finish that adds some nice nutty notes, again the aroma is clean and light.
The taste of the first steep is so green! Like a mouthful of fresh spinach with a distant hint of floral and a touch of citrus. It is neat, there is a peppery and almost salty quality that blends really well with the citrus and spinach, like a mouthful of fresh salad. Just like the aroma, the taste is refreshing and clean!
The aroma of the second steeping is a neat little blend of floral sweetness and savory green notes. With notes of spinach (cooked this time) wildflower nectar and a general vegetal greenness. The taste is mostly green, with a buttery taste and mouthfeel, it tastes like greenbeans and spinach sauteed and butter with a hint of pepper. At the end there is a bit of grass and mineral,
For the last steep, the aroma is a nice blend of savory in sweet, but this time it is more floral and honey than vegetal. This time around there is no saltiness, buttery notes, or really any savory notes, it is all sweet and fresh. Like wildflower honey, flowers, toasted sesame, and a touch of fresh spinach at the finish. Overall this was a refreshing green tea, I liked the blend of sweet and savory, they did not clash.
You know what, I have excitement building in me that I was going to wait to share, but if I don’t let it out I shall pop! So, for most of my gaming life (I cannot remember a time in my life that I did not have access to a gaming system, my dad and I hoarded them) I had a gaming system and pile of games in my bedroom. I would re-arrange my entire room to make it easy to lay in bed while gaming, because yours truly spent a lot of days home sick from school or too sick to play, I spent that time alternating between gaming and reading. Since living in Kansas City, the Xbox360 has been in the family room, and I have just hated that! Thanks to a little finagling, I will be getting a nice monitor and moving the Xbox to my bedroom, finally, on those sick days I can lay in bed and game without having to interact with anyone. That sounds a little mean in retrospect, just usually when I feel really icky I like being by myself, it is a very old habit I am not too likely to break. So, I am excited!!
It has been too long since this Gaijin had some Gyokuro, something I am rectifying right now, with Yunomi’s Kurihara Tea #2 Heritage Gyokuro Tea! The heritage part of this name refers to the super traditional way of shading this tea with handmade straw or bamboo mats, giving it an extra level of awesome. In case you are new to the ‘Jade Dew’ (that is what Gyokuro translates to) let me take you on a very green adventure! This Japanese tea is different from Sencha by being covered by a shade for a length of its growing time, this of course depends on how high of a grade of Gyokuro, the longer the shading the higher the quality. This is the most sought after and expensive tea to come out of Japan, now, if only I had a fancy Shiboridashi to brew it in using the specialized brewing method. So, enough rambling, onto sniffing the tea! The aroma of the vibrantly green leaves (seriously, they are as green as pine needles) is delightfully sweet, a blend of sweet chestnuts, wildflower honey, freshly mown hay, sweetgrass, and a tiny bit of distant wildflowers. Something about the aroma of Japanese green teas (especially the very verdant ones) reminds me of summer, either you have the sweet and green ones like this Gyokuro, or the sea air ones like some Sencha. Truly, this tea smells absolutely amazing, I might have actually inhaled a leaf after sniffing this tea so much!
Since brewing Gyokuro in the traditional way requires a large amount of leaf to a small amount of water, I decided to not use my Kyusu or make-shift Houhin (the holes are a little too big for a delicate tiny tea) and brewed the leaves in my double boiler-tea alchemy tool, for extra visual fun! The leaves look like they are almost bioluminescent while steeping, it is so pretty. The aroma of the steeped leaves is super sweet and very green, there are notes of sweet chestnut, cut hay, sweetgrass, and crushed bamboo leaves giving it a touch of sharpness. At the finish there is a tiny hint of kelp to bring in that umami note. The liquid is delicate, not at all faint, but the difference between a piece of silk floating through the air and dropping a book, both are noticeable but one is prettier to look at. There are notes of sweet chestnut (it seems to be the dominant note so far) and hay with underpinnings of bamboo and kelp. The liquid balances sweet, green, and savory very well.
So, first steeping time, and let me start by saying that this tea is thick! I love that about Gyokuro, when brewed with the traditional methods it is often called soupy or syrupy, and that is an apt description. It coats the mouth to an almost oily extent, almost like drinking warm, partially formed jello. The taste is an adventure, it starts sweet and nutty with chestnut notes and fresh hay. After this initial nutty sweetness the unami kicks in at the midtaste, it is fascinating, a blend of cooked spinach, bamboo shoots, and a touch of kelp. It tastes like eating the finished Gyokuro leaves as a salad. After this the taste goes to a slightly dry and a little bitter green like kale and vegetation. The finish is sweet grass and lingering honey.
For the second steep I upped the temperature and shortened the steeping time, as per Yunomi’s recommendation. The aroma is much more green this time around, with strong notes of spinach, kelp, and even a touch of kale in there as well. The finish is sweet with a touch of chestnut. So this steeping is a glorious example of how a tea can evolve, where the previous steep was sweet with a touch of umami, this tea is a kick in the face of savory notes. It is intense and delicious! Like a blend of kelp, kale, spinach, bamboo leaves and shoots, it tastes like a salad and growing things. There is bitterness, but it is bitterness of vegetation and green things, a bitterness that I absolutely love (and have come to realize that some people really dislike, much to my confusion) it evokes the foods of my youth with turnip greens and collards. The finish has a chestnut and wildflower honey sweetness that lingers, along with the smoothness of the mouthfeel. It is times like this that I wonder, why do I ever let myself run out of Gyokuro?
I am pretty sure Ben’s computer doesn’t like me, even though I am using it right now, I bet it is just seething with annoyance that someone other than Ben is using it. All day it has been dropping the internet like it is dial-up and there is only one phone line in your house, and now it is refusing to read my camera’s SD card. So the tea I had planned to review today has to be changed, which is a pity because I was rather excited to go on a ramble about it…and show off my tea desk after I redid it. Silly machines and their problems, maybe I offended Optimus Prime in a past life or something?
Computer woes aside, there is always tea, even if I did have to reshuffle my schedule a bit (not that I have the most strict tea schedule since I like writing about a tea that inspires me that day) and this one is from tea shop right near my house (at least my Kansas City house) Phoenix Herb Company, specifically their Four Seasons Spring Oolong! This tea hails from Mingjing, Taiwan, and is plucked in the spring, though this specific tea can be plucked during all the seasons while having a consistent flavor, much like it was plucked during spring. The aroma of the leaves is a refreshing blend of floral, green vegetation with a tiny bit of a baked finish. It starts with hyacinth, transitions to growing things, and a tiny bit of sesame seeds, though not toasted ones, just fresh sesame seeds. It gives it that touch of sweetness to a spring scented tea.
So I decided to brew this one in the yixing teapot I got my mom for Christmas (and then liked it so much I got myself one for Pu erh) and make the two of us some tea, that might be what I miss most about being in PA, always having tea with my mom…but I digress…brewing the leaves brings out a touch of nutty chestnut, but really what comes wafting out of the teapot is a springtime bouquet of hyacinth, orchids, and green vegetation. It reminds me of walking around Kauffman Gardens during spring, so it is quite lovely. The liquid, having been freed from the teapot, is a blend of chestnuts, fresh vegetation, and a touch of minerals. Of course there is a blast of floral, more like fresh blooming flowers than perfume, primarily hyacinths and a touch of lily.
One of my favorite things about Four Seasons (or Si Ji Chun) Oolong is how approachable it is, usually on the cheaper end of green Taiwanese Oolongs, this makes it good for everyday sipping. It is also not a super powerhouse of flavors making it, again, good for everyday sipping. it is an Oolong I have found myself drinking while painting or gaming because it tastes great, but you don’t get overwhelmed by its presence. This Four Seasons is no exception, the mouthfeel starts out creamy and smooth and stays that way throughout the first steep. The taste is gently nectar sweet and very floral, though in a mellow drinking distant flower aroma rather than a bottle of perfume. There is a bit of a mineral taste at the finish, like fresh spring water.
The aroma of the second steep is still quite floral, a nice blend of hyacinth and flower nectar, with an added bit of wildflower honey thrown in at the end. The second steep is much like the first, starting out floral and sweet, but along side the hyacinth there is a little touch of spicebush. This transitions to fresh vegetation and growing things, with a finish of mineral at the end. It leaves a subtle honey sweetness as an aftertaste that lingers.