523 Tasting Notes
Such cute little spiraled leaves, I did a little rummaging around on the interwebs to find out about this particular Gong Yi and it is usually jasmine scented. This particular batch does not seem to be jasmine scented at all, just smelling like fresh green vegetation. The brewed leaves have a bready, yeasty, almost hoppy quality…it does not really smell like tea, more like sourdough starter! The liquid has more of a fresh vegetation and asparagus aroma to go along with yeasty bread, certainly not a jasmine tea!
That taste is surprisingly mild and sweet, it still has a bready quality, like I just bit into one of those flaky dinner rolls (man I really could go for some bread right now!) but with honey sweetness and a slightly sauteed bok choy taste at the finish. This tea is certainly interesting, not sure I like it or not.
I need some oolong to get me out of my funk, let’s hope old favorite Li Shan will do the trick. The aroma is sweet and buttery with a slightly spicy quality, like spicebush flowers, along with a touch of orchid. The brewed leaves smell spicy, buttery, and fairly mild, more green than floral. The liquid is buttery and sweet, like cream and a touch of spinach. Li Shan can be a complicated oolong sometimes, I think each one I have had has been similar yet different.
The taste, ah, that really does hit the spot! It is mellow and sweet on the first steeping, like honey with a bit of cream and a green quality. There is a bit of a stale, cardboard quality that I picked up once it got a bit chilled, so not going to do that with the second steep. Speaking of, it is pretty intensely floral which fades to buttery smoothness and greenness.
Nothing says cool weather like teas that are spiced, at least in my humble opinion. This particular spicy blend is made from Pu’er, Cinnamon Bark, Natural Spice Flavor, Orange Peel, Ginger Root, Aniseed, and Safflower. The aroma of the dried leaves is a blend of orange spice, chai, and Christmas spices, it smells really good, if you are in to really strong spices and an underlying citrus and earthy notes! The aroma of the brewed tea is incredibly spicy, lots of cinnamon and ginger with a sharp note of orange and a rich earthiness. My tea area smells like Christmas, Christmas just always smells very spicy to me.
The taste is surprisingly sweet, not what I was expecting from a Pu’er, call me pleasantly surprised. It is a warm and tingly tea, like being wrapped up in a blanket fresh from the dryer, but inside of your stomach, it has a blend of bright orange and rich spices, with an earthy finish. The earthy notes from the pu’er give a heaviness to this tea, it makes me want to go sleep after drinking it.
Woo, Hojicha! Probably one of my favorite roasted teas, coincidentally it was also my first roasted tea, discovered so long ago that I cannot remember in the last 15 years I wasn’t drinking it. This particular Hojicha appears very stick-heavy, but is not listed as a Kukicha, so maybe I just got lucky (I like sticks) and won the Kukicha lottery. The aroma is very distinctly roasted with notes of toast, a touch of smoke, a bit of burnt wood, and a slightly sweet finish. Brewing the tea is INTENSE, lots of strong roasted notes, like popcorn and toast with a burnt stick finish.
Tasting time! The taste starts out with strong toast and roasted tea taste, this moves into smoky sticks and brunt marshmallows. Of all the Hojicha I have had, this one is the first that combines the delicate sweetness of a slightly roasted Hojicha and the really intense almost smokiness of a charcoal roasted Hojicha, it is really quite balanced. Also, burnt marshmallow is a great note to have in tea.
I feel much better today! It is delightfully chilly, my Minecraft Hoodie is out of my trunk, and my cat is nestled in my lap. Pretty sure all my problems were being caused by allergies, after a really scary asthma attack last night I decided to take some allergy meds and oh man, such an improvement. I forget that my allergies go bonkers in Autumn in Kansas City, I am so glad I am escaping to PA, I might avoid the worst of it. Allergies or no, I love this time of year…being under blankets and having a snugly heat-seeking cat make it extra wonderful. I am in an excellent mood.
Today’s tea from Yunomi might have the distinction of being the most interesting tea I have ever reviewed, I cannot tell you how excited I was to try Furyu’s Bancha Goishicha! This rare dark tea from Kochi Prefecture in the town of Otoyo, it is named Goishicha because the chunks of tea are reminiscent of the game of Go. For a while this tea was extremely rare (having only one producer) but recently thanks to the local government there are more producers of this unique tea. One of the things that makes this tea so fancy is the way it is made, using a method called after-fermentation, first the leaves are steamed, stacked, and covered with a mat to allow it to ferment, but wait…there’s more! After that the leaves are stuffed into a barrel with a rock on top to continue fermenting it, lastly the leaves are laid in the sun to try. You can see that a lot of work went into making this tea. Sniffing this hockey puck of tea is awesome, it smells more like food than tea, with notes of old oak wood, soy sauce, salty sea air, a tiny bit of smoke, wet leather, and a bit of a savory meaty finish. I can certainly see why this tea is used to make Chagayu, because it smells like food! I kinda want to eat this tea instead of putting it into my kyusu.
So, after giving the chunk of tea a five minute steep, my kyusu is leaking some powerful aromas, I am not sure the word pungent fits, but wow, that is fascinating! The aroma of the wet leaves is sauce, seriously guys, it smells like sauce, like someone blended soy sauce, Ponzu Sauce, Mirin Sauce, kelp and old wet leather. The liquid smells like food too, the same saucy concoction but with a hint of rice and more of an aged, oak cask aroma.
Wow! Ok that is so weird! It does not taste like any tea I have ever had, and I have had a lot of tea! It starts off very sour, like lemons mixed with soy sauce, a nice dash of kelp, with a finish of leather and mushrooms. It tastes like a mix of my favorite sauces and is really intense, I decided to try it chilled as well so I refreshed my cup and put it in the fridge for a few. Cold takes the edge off the sour, so if you find that lemony sourness is too much for you (I eat salt covered lemons as a stomach soother, so it is totally not too much for me) I suggest chilling it.
Guess who is going for a round two? Yeah, it is me, I want to see what this chunk of aged tea can do! The aroma of this steep has a sweetness to it, along with of a leather tone with a great combo of saucers from the previous steep. This steep is much milder, it is still sour, but instead of tasting like an entire lemon, it is like a little squeeze of lemon with notes of Mirin and Soy sauce. The aftertaste is smoky and leathery with a lemony quality that lingers for a long time. I am amazed at how refreshing this tea is, I feel rather invigorating, but not in a caffeine way, but more of a I just dove into a mountain creek in summer kind of refreshed.
Oh man, the third steep is where it is at! The aroma is pretty much identical to the second steep, so no new observations there. The taste however, well, that is just fun! It is the perfect balance of sourness, sweetness, and savory. The notes of sweet plum wine, leather, mushrooms, soy, lemon, kelp…it is awesome! The lemony sourness lingers along with gentle smokiness, again I feel really refreshed after this steep. I had a great day with this tea, I sat sipping it all day being enamored by the uniqueness of this tea. I certainly want more, I want to make all my tea friends try this, I want to cook with it, I want to have it around when I need a pick-me-up tea. This tea is absolute love.
For photos (including my cat being adorable) and blog: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/10/yunomi-furyu-bancha-goishicha-tea-review.html
Flavors: Leather, Lemon, Mushrooms, Seaweed, Soy sauce
So yeah, that feeling better I talked about yesterday, it was really short lived. This is immensely frustrating to me because instead of heading out to board game night at Tabletop, I am quickly blogging and curling up in bed with every intent of not moving. I feel things would be a lot better for little ol’ me if I could get this headache that has been plaguing me to go away and stay away for more than an hour. This is not terribly abnormal for me, I occasionally get terrible headaches that can last for weeks sometimes, I just hope this is a short lived cluster of head pain, wish me luck everyone.
Needing something pretty and caffeinated, I decided to review Fashionista Tea’s Organic Fashionista Blend, I am enamored with this company. Their whole schtick is using Fair Trade and Organic materials to create fashion inspired tea, and even though my fashion sense is…well, it is unique, I have always loved watching the changing trend of high fashion. This particular tea is a blend of Organic and Fair Trade black teas, Organic Rose Petal, Organic Lavender, Organic Orange Peel, and Natural Flavor, blended to be a reminder of Paris. Sadly I will just have to take their word for it, since I have never tasted, sniffed, or seen Paris, though I am told it is very nice. Ok, if Paris smells like this, I am moving there right now, pack my bags and ready the long-range catapult. The aroma is creamy sweet and floral, with notes of vanilla and cocoa, with roses, lavender, and a hint of oranges and malt. It is super rich and sweet, bordering on decadent.
Mmm steeping this tea is a treat, it smells so good, I love the dessert like sweetness that blends with the floral notes, extra points for being my two favorite flowers to have in tea. The light notes of orange give the rich leaves a bit of brightness, waking up the aroma and keeping it from getting too heavy. The liquid carries on the vanilla and chocolate legacy with rose and lavender, and of course a bit of orange at the finish.
Ok, that was exactly the taste I needed, the perfect blend of sweet and floral. It starts out with vanilla and roses, then moves to lavender and chocolate, with a finish of brisk oak wood and oranges. None of the notes clash, they blend together quite well while maintaining an air of delicate sophistication. I can certainly see the Paris connection, it would not be a stretch of the imagination to envision some fashionista sipping this at an outdoor cafe while watching the city. For anyone who might be scared off by the lavender (I have heard many say that it tastes like soap) it is very mild and quite enjoyable.
Flavors: Chocolate, Lavender, Oak wood, Orange, Rose, Vanilla
As I type this I can say I am feeling some improvement, I am certainly not back to ‘normal’ but I am getting there. Also as I type this there is a massive storm raging outside, power keeps flickering on and off, and the wind is howling. This could be the last storm I experience this year, it makes me a little sad since storms are my favorite kind of weather to experience. If I am lucky I will get to have some snow storms while I am visiting Pennsylvania.
Since it is Wednesday, that means it is time for a tea from What-Cha! Nepal 2nd Flush 2014 Sencha Green Tea is a fascinating green tea from Greenland Organic Farms in Nepal, and I admit, I had some confusion on what to do with this tea. Did I want to brew it like a Japanese Sencha in my Kyusu, Western Style in a teacup, or like a Chinese green in a gaiwan, not gonna lie, I sat for a few minutes with tea gear paralysis trying to decide what method to go with. I realizes my Kyusu was practically pouting from neglect so I decided to brew it Japanese style. While I was trying to decide, I spent this time admiring the shape and color of the leaves, they are beautiful, looking like a pile of pine needles on my tea dish, very impressive. The aroma of the needles is as beautiful as the leaves, very light and delicate with notes of chestnuts, fresh hay, mown grass, and an ocean breeze. I have such a weakness for teas that have a marine note to their taste or aroma, it instantly transports me to the beach and that makes me immensely happy. I think I am just going to sniff these leaves while I wait for my kettle to heat up.
Oh man, steeping the leaves makes the aroma so green! Like a delicious pile of grass, spinach, and kelp with a strong sea water note wafting out of the now warmed and soggy leaves. It has a great savory umami quality to it. The liquid is incredibly mild, with clean water and algae notes, it reminds me of the aroma of a clean mountain creek with vibrantly green algae growing in it.
The first steeping is very light! It tastes refreshing and clean, starting with a sea air and algae note and fading to grass and kelp at the middle. The end is a lingering taste of spinach, giving the whole tea a great mildly savory tone, good for people who only want a little umami.
As predicted I went for another steep, the aroma is a mix of green grass and kelp with a tiny hint of sweet nuttiness at the finish. The taste is very similar to the first, but instead of being delicate it has strength, like a refreshing sea air viking…ok, not like that, but you get the picture (I hope.) Leaving this tea to sit and chill (totally by accident, I fell asleep in my chair for about half an hour, happens to the best of us) I noticed it had an incredible sweetness at the finish of fresh chestnuts. This gave me an idea.
Cold Steeping Time! I really do not cold steep enough, I wanted to go all out this time and so I left my tea to cold steep in the fridge for a whopping 20 hours. The first thing I noticed when taking a sip was it had no taste, after realizing I was being kinda dumb (it was first thing in the morning) I shook it up and took another sip, ok that is some flavor! It is richly green and refreshing, like dew drops off of freshly cut grass mixed with kelp. Add in a nutty, yet surprisingly unsweet finish, and you have a delicious tea. I think my cold steep method might need some work still, since I bet if I steeped it for a shorter time it would be sweeter, or that could just be a product of chilling already brewed tea. Either way, this Sencha from Nepal was what I needed to clear my head on a hot autumn day.
I am using this tasting note for two purposes, ooooh. If you just follow me here and don’t read my tea blog, be warned, I am either unwell or not adjusting to my meds being upped, suitably so that concentrating is just not happening. My reviews would be terrible, so I am taking a couple days off to recuperate/adjust to my meds.
Anyway, tea! The aroma of the dried leaves is nice and sweet, honeysuckle nectar and orchids with a bit of a sweet yeasty smell. Mmm the brewed leaves and the tea smell super heady and sweet, with mainly honeysuckles and orchids, there is a little hint of stems and yeasty bread as well.
The taste is sweet and green, with floral notes that linger. Yum, AliShan never is disappointing.
Today’s bit of tea book goodness is Top 100 Tea Recipes by Mary Ward, a collection of recipes that for once is not just food made with tea! A lot of tea books I have read that include recipes focus on food rather than interesting drink concoctions, which is sad because you can get a lot of interesting drinks by blending tea with all sorts of things. I will start by saying the writer’s style is quite…archaic? I am not really sure how to describe her ‘voice’ in this book, but it reminds me of reading older books or ones that have been translated in a more formal tone. This is not a complaint, I actually am rather fond of this style.
So, the book is sorted into different kind of recipes, that is, once you get past the standard first few chapters introducing tea. It starts with a brief history of tea, starting in the Hsia (Xia) period in China, though it does not mention Shennong, instead only Emperor Yu is mentioned. This transitions to how tea is grown, processed, and graded, along with a brief blurb on different types of tea. It is very basic, but a decent starter/refresher chapter. The next chapter is about how to prepare tea, written by Daniel Mantey, it has a good deal of information about tea preparation, additives, and some more history on tea that is just a tiny bit redundant while also being more detailed. Points for saying teaballs should be illegal, it is really a shame how cramped the poor leaves get inside those things. I think they are fine for tiny chopped up leaves or herbals that do not really expand, but there is also the concern of water flow, the mesh teaballs being the best.
Chapter three begins the actual recipes, starting with hot teas! Some of them are tasty blends like mulled tea, and others are teas specific to different cultures, like Billy tea, popcorn tea (genmai cha), German Layered Tea (Ostfriesen Tea) and so forth. I found it a bit sad that the book used more generic names than the actual names for some of the teas. There are also herbal teas in this chapter, most of which look tasty and have easy to acquire ingredients.
Moving on to chapter four we have iced teas! Ah, iced teas, the ambrosia of my childhood and early adult summers, well that and ambrosia salad, living in the South was tasty. One of the recipes made me do a double take, Iced Soda Tea, essentially mixing a rootbeer or other soda float in a blender and then mixing cold tea with it, that sounds incredibly yummy.
Next we have boozy teas, I admit I only skimmed this chapter since my medication makes me unable to drink, and why tempt myself with yummy concoctions? After that is tea and food, yum, starting with Japanese food to go with a Japanese tea ceremony, this moves on to English tea, children’s nursery tea and afternoon tea. The book finished off with yummy (not tea themed) treats to go with tea, most of them look very delicious. I like this book, I copied a lot of the recipes to my cookbook and plan on using them at some point.
The last couple days have been crazy hectic for me, but also really fun! Since I am leaving in a few weeks I am tying up loose ends and visiting with people who I won’t see for months. Of course I also had my fun at game night, joining a space themed goofy RPG campaign, which in hindsight might have been silly since I will be gone, though they said I can just ‘be on leave’ and if the campaign is still ongoing I can jump back in as ship scientist. Typing this I realize I am utterly tea drunk after a fun afternoon of trying tea with one of my friends, tea drunk is a wonderful state to be in.
Today’s tea is from Eco-Cha Artisan Teas, Charcoal Roasted Dong Ding, specifically the 2014 harvest. Grown at 700m on a small farm in Phoenix Village, free from chemicals and painstakingly roasted in a traditional tea roasting oven. As with all of Eco-Cha’s teas I suggest reading the origin of this tea on the website, it is wonderful knowing about the tea and the people who create it. As readers of this blog probably know, I have an addiction to roasted oolongs, Dong Ding with a charcoal persuasion being my favorite, it is my go to comfort tea that always puts me in a better state of mind and body when drinking it. The aroma of the dry leaves is delightfully rich, a blend of tobacco, bamboo coal, wood, earthiness, and a delightfully sweet sesame butter and honey finish. You can tell this tea was created by those who are very proficient in their art because it has the charcoal notes you expect, but they are mellow and it is not a kick to the face with a boot full of coal.
The brewed leaves are great, it is like a gaiwan full of autumn memories! There are notes of smoke, bamboo coal, a touch of honey, a tiny hint of dried orchids, and a sharp finish of tobacco. The aroma of the liquid starts off mild, it will gain intensity as the leaves unfurl. It is sweet with notes of squash, bamboo, sesame seeds, and charcoal.
As I take my first steep you can hear me sigh with relief, well if you were in the same room as me you would hear it. The taste is mild, it starts off with creamy sesame butter and orchids with a touch of tobacco, this transitions to bamboo coal and dried fruit giving the first steep a sweet finish. The mouthfeel starts smooth and transitions to a slight dryness.
And on to the second steep we go, you know me, I can never stop at just one. The aroma of the liquid is a blend of tobacco, coal, bamboo, and toasted pine nuts with an underlying sweetness that ties all the notes together. Once I finally manage to pull my nose out of the teacup (a hard task) and take a sip, I notice the mouthfeel has a sparkling quality, it does not bubble or feel like a soda, but it has that tingly dryness I associate with fizz, it is quite subtle but enjoyable. The taste is sweet, like plums that have been roasted over hot coals and then sprinkled with a bit of floral spice. This transitions to toasted sesame seeds and a touch of pine nuts with a smoky finish.
The aroma of the third steep is gently smoky and sweet with notes of bamboo, pine nuts, and honey. It blends sweetness, smoke, and nuttiness very well. The taste starts out with sharp notes of coal and tobacco and quickly mellow out to mild coal, bamboo and sweetness. This steep is certainly the most coal filled so far, it is mostly smoky until the finish where the aftertaste is delicately fruity.
Onward to the fourth steeping! The aroma is a mellow blend of coal, bamboo, pine nuts, and a bit of tobacco, there is no sweetness here. The taste is strong, almost entirely coal and tobacco, the mouthfeel is dry and sharp. The fun thing is when I move on to the fifth steeping, the aroma is yeasty bread and only a hint of coal. The taste is mild with a touch of bamboo and minerals with a delicate sweet finish. This tea is an experience that should not be missed, especially if you are a fan of charcoal roasted teas, the essence of this tea is balance, it keeps the coal notes balanced with the others as it grows in intensity.