302 Tasting Notes
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.
Captain’s Log, stardate 1417.5. Our destination is the past, the search is on for the origin and understanding of an archaic drink that warms the body and clears the mind. The first stop is Prime Minister Earl Grey’s office to look for evidence, legend says he is responsible in a roundabout way for this beverage, and since it wears his name it seems the best place to start. The Earl is out and all that was found was a mostly empty tea tin smelling faintly of citrus. Clearly I should take this back and have the Science Division analyse it, scientifically.
Taking the leaves to the Science Officer proved fruitless since he was out, so I asked the doctor to describe the aroma in detail (I took a shot of alien pheromones to the face and my nose is not as sharp) and here is his report. ’I am a Doctor not a Botanist, but I know the smell of citrus anywhere, it is potent and bright, smelling like a mixture of bergamot and lemon with a touch of sweetness. I can detect a hint of malt under the intensity of the citrus. Perhaps I should keep some of this to wake up the Captain next time he gets knocked unconscious.
Brewing the tea in the manner described in historical notes, I notice the aroma is more of a citrus melange, blending notes of orange, bergamot, and lemon. The aroma is mostly citrus and bright with a mild brisk black tea aroma at the end. The steeped liquid is lemony and bright, more balanced than the leaves. You can smell the malty and slightly sweet black tea along with balanced citrus tones. End report’
There is only one Captain who can accurately describe this prestigious tea, back into the time machine for a brief jaunt to the future to receive his report. ‘The taste is lemony and brisk, there is a bit of astrigency at first that fades to a boldness and then sweetness. This tea knows how to boldly go. I am pleased with this tea’s journey from astringent to sweet, though the citrus taste is much more lemon like than bergamot.’
Flavors: Lemon Zest, Malt, Orange Zest
I have bad news, sadly it is another one of those days where I cannot think of anything witty to open today’s tea review. I just found myself staring at the screen and nothing of note came to mind. It would be best to assume that since the world outside my window is covered in snow that my brain decided to hibernate. Perhaps I have been spending so much time researching lately that my mind fizzled, that means that tonight I will be spending folding stars.
Today’s tea is Mountain Organic Indonesian Green from Tea at Sea. Grown on the Halimun Mountain (800m above sea level) and fed with spring water and mountain air. Very similar to the Mountain Organic Indonesian Oolong I reviewed the other day. In fact at first glance I thought they were the same tea, but on closer inspection the color was a bit more vibrant for the Green tea and the aroma was subtly different. At first I noticed the creamy, sweet, honey notes blending with baking bread and a touch of floral, similar but stronger than the Oolong, but there is a kelp and lettuce undertone giving it more of a vegetal quality. It is less heady and more fresh vegetation than the Oolong.
Once the tea leaves relax in their hot soak (the term agony of the leaf seems so incorrect, it always looks to me like the leaves are relaxing and stretching out to enjoy a hot bath) the aroma is a bit mineral at first with a touch of fresh kelp. It then fades to a mellow sweetness with a very gentle citrus note, like orange blossoms. The liquid without the relaxing leaves has a very faint aroma with honey tones and a very faint hint of vegetal.
At first sip the taste is fruity, like biting into a juicy plum. After the initial fruity sweetness it fades to vegetal tones and ends with an aftertaste of sweet cherries. The more I sip the more little hints of flavor pop through, a bit of mineral here and bit of baking bread there, quite tasty!
Giving it a second visit I notice the aroma of the leaves steeping and the tea is for the most part the same except it has more of a delicate quality. The taste is also more delicate losing most of its fruit notes and leaving subtle sweetness and notes of artichoke. I found this tea fascinating, it was so similar to the Oolong that I tried earlier and yet was different enough that you could clearly tell it was a different tea.
Joy! Happiness! Celebration! After months of hearing my friends and family on the East Coast (even the ones who dwell in the South) getting lots and lots of snow (and me with only frigid, dry, weather) we finally got snow! I stayed up all night to watch it start with the sunrise, and when I awoke in the afternoon there was a lovely coating of about five inches with more to come. If I feel bold I am going to go out into the white paradise and build a Snow Creeper. A day full of snow calls for drastic measures, specifically warm, spicy, tea!
Today’s warming brew is Orange Spice by Just Organic Tea (who is having a fancy Kickstarter) a blend of Black Tea, Valencia Oranges, and Exotic Spices. Orange spiced teas are the tea my mind goes to when I think of cold days and winter, because my mother always had orange spice pomanders and made me orange spice tea on cold days. The aroma is sweet and spicy with nice tangy orange note. It blends citrus and spice in a non-overwhelming dance in my olfactory glands. A well balanced pomander tea.
Once the tea takes a steep the sweet cinnamon spice takes the front while orange plays second fiddle. Hiding behind the boisterous aromas of spices and oranges is an oak wood note that gives the tea a brisk quality. The liquid is a blend of cinnamon, bright oranges, and rich, molasses and oak wood.
The taste is quite bright, like a bit of sunlight in my cup. Sweet cinnamon and warming spice with a finish of oak wood. The orange quality is there throughout the sipping experience, from the initial sweet orange at the first sip to the slightly tangy aftertaste. A perfect tea for a day when you are cold and need warming up both in body and spirit.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Orange Zest, Wood