525 Tasting Notes
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.
No notes yet. Add one?
I have a slight conundrum, earlier in the week I decided to paint a Cthulhu (yes it will show up in my tea reviews alongside my tea frog and Prowlers) and I am so pleased with it. I might add some slime to his raggedy wings and tentacles, but if I left it untouched as it is now, I would be content. Problem is, this is the first of the miniatures I have painted that I consider finished, and now I am for some reason terrified to work on any of the other ones. It is silly, I am so convinced that I am going to screw them up, that all my creative talent went into my Eldritch Horror…I am sure it will pass in a day or so, but it is a very odd feeling. Any other artists ever have that feeling when they complete something?
Today’s tea for What-Cha Wednesday is Nepal 1st Flush 2014 Silver Oolong, silver oolong just sounds pretty, like the oolong is made of moonlight or something incredibly whimsical. Grown at Greenland Organic Farm in Nepal, near Mt Kancghenjunga at an altitude of 3,000m, looking at the photo of the farm on What-Cha’s page for this tea, perhaps this oolong is made from snow, clouds, and silvery mist. I find myself pleased to try more teas from Nepal, expanding my tea education is a joy! The aroma of these fluffy and silvery leaves is summed up as light, with notes of orange blossoms, cane sugar, a touch of undefined flowers, and a tiny hint of herbaceous green. It is like a blend of white tea, oolong, and delicate green tea, when I say that it is light, the aroma itself is very defined and has a presence, just the notes themselves are very light and airy.
Into the gaiwan it goes! I felt bad for my first gaiwan, poor chipped thing has been mostly replaced by my auspicious bat gaiwan, so I decided to give it some love, plus the delicate white porcelain seemed perfect for such a delicate seeming oolong. The aroma of the now steeped leaves is a mix of orange blossom, sage, and lettuce, again with a distant hint of floral. The liquid is very similar to the brewed leaves, except there is more of a green, fresh vegetation aroma that accompanies the flowers. I am especially fond of of the orange blossom aroma, I do not run into that very often.
The first steeping is delightfully light and clean tasting, with a start of cane sugar and orange blossoms, this transitions to fresh vegetation and steam. Ok, steam, yeah that sounds weird, but have you ever been in a conservatory or greenhouse that is steamy and it is that mix of flowers, growing things, and water that you can taste when breathing through your mouth? That kind of steam, it is quite evocative and refreshing. This steeping reminds me of white tea, oolong, and green tea took their most delicate and mellow notes and combined them into this cup.
For the second steep the aroma is very sweet, like orange blossoms and orange zest, after that it fades to fresh vegetation. The taste of this steep has a definite boost of body in comparison to the first, it starts a bit dry and sharp with a definite taste of fresh spring water, complete with minerals. This transitions to a mix of spring water and orange blossoms, with a tiny hint of kale. At the finish you get a sweet burst of orange and cane sugar that lingers for quite a while. Like the previous Nepalese oolong, I feel clean and refreshed after sipping this tea.
Flavors: Floral, Green, Mineral, Orange Blossom, Orange Zest
Happy first day of Autumn (or spring if you are in the other side of the world from me) everyone! This is my favorite season, by far, I love the leaves and crisp feeling in the air, the excuse to break out my fuzzy blankets and the way the world smells. It just makes me happy, doubly so this year because I will be back in the mountains during peak leaf season, though three months away from Ben and my cats is going to be rough.
I wanted to start the season off with a tea that makes me think of campfires and happy memories, so I chose S’mores! by Whispering Pines Tea Co. This tea is a blend of Fujian Black Tea, Pine Peaks Keemun, Ashes of Autumn Black Tea, Organic Cinnamon Pieces, and Organic Marshmallow Root, mad props for using marshmallow root, too few marshmallow themed things use the root of the mallow, which is sad because it is extremely tasty. The dry leaves smell like an autumn evening sitting next to a crackling fire while eating s’mores! There are notes of smoke, cinnamon, marshmallow sweetness, and a finish of rich cocoa. The leaves smell quite rich and not overwhelmingly sweet, just the way I like my desserts!
Giving the tea a nice steeping, I notice that the wet leaves have a really nice malt note that goes well with the cocoa, marshmallow, and cinnamon notes. The smoke is still there, but it no longer smells like I am sitting next to the campfire, clearly I have wandered off with my s’more. The liquid, oh my, that is very rich! Creamy chocolate, gentle cinnamon warmth, far away smoke, and marshmallow sweetness combine for a nose dance of epic yum. I may have moaned a bit while sniffing this tea, the cats looked at me like I was crazy, their loss.
OMG guys, this tea is too good! It hits that perfect balance of sweet and rich, warming and smoky, and oh so evocative. I can feel the warmth of the campfire from the cinnamon, the smoke of the fire from the Ashes of Autumn tea, and of course the rich cocoa notes and marshmallow root with a nice finish of malt. I like that it is not overly sweet, so it is good on its own or with a dessert as an extra rich treat. My favorite thing about this tea is how evocative it is, I love that it transports me to a place in my memories that makes me happy, really homesick, but happy. But wait, what about graham crackers? I admit the taste of the crackers is not really strong, the malt notes give the ‘essence’ so to speak of graham crackers, but it is not as clear as having the crackers. I am tempted to find some gluten free graham crackers to eat while sipping this tea for extra perfection.
Mmm the aroma is so creamy sweet and yummy with notes of dried fruit, cocoa, and roasted peanuts. Ok, that is the aroma of the liquid, sadly the dry leaves had not much in the way of a smell.
The first steep is smooth and very sweet, having a cherry and plum sweetness along with honey and a bit of sweet potato. The second steep is still very smooth and sweet, maintaining the fruity notes but also adding a touch of cocoa. Yum, just what I needed this morning.
Marco Polo TTB
Yuck, yuck, yuck, I have no motivation to do anything today. I feel as though my brain and body is trapped inside a Slime and that Slime is too lazy to move, the fatigue is real, yo. Me thinks after I write this tea’s review I shall make like a pile of leaves and take a nice long soak in hot water. Preferably while reading a book, maybe I will bring some tea to sip as well, just submit myself to complete relaxation. Ah memories, when I was a kid, the most decadent thing I could think to do was to take a hot bath while eating ice cream, especially if it was pistachio ice cream, if you have not tried eating ice cream while soaking I most certainly recommend it.
Today we are taking a look at Mahamosa Gourmet Teas, Spices & Herbs Caramel, an herbal dessert tea. A blend of Rooibos, Cream Caramel Pieces, Brittle (specifically hazelnut) pieces, and Flavoring, this tea sounds like a real sweet treat. The aroma of the dry leaves certainly has me believing that it will be a sweet treat, with notes of caramel, sweet nuttiness, and woody, slightly sour, rooibos as a base. It is very sweet, the caramel plays well off the naturally caramel notes of the rooibos.
Steeping the tea leaves fills my room with an intense sweetness. The little red leaves smell woody and sweet with notes of caramel, nuttiness, and a bit like a caramel latte, complete with coffee. The liquid is creamy and sweet with very strong notes of caramel, it smells like candy and richness.
Tasting time, luckily for me I am having a sweetness craving, so if this tea tastes as sweet as it smells I will be in a very happy place. The sipping starts off sweet and woody, like a typically sweet, woody, and dry rooibos with an extra caramel coating. This turns into a creamy midtaste and toasted nuttiness that gives it that bit of a latte flair. The finish is dry and woody, just like I expect from a rooibos, the tea was not cloyingly sweet like a mouthful of caramel, but it is quite sweet so it certainly fits its goal of being a dessert tea. Plus you can sip it before sleep thanks to it not having caffeine!
Flavors: Caramel, Coffee, Nuts, Wood
I feel icky, that means I need a Roasted Oolong to sooth me soul, instead of reaching for a favorite I decided to try something new. The aroma of the leaves is very roasted, notes of tobacco and burnt toast with a tiny hint of burnt sugar. The brewed tea is very roasted, charcoal, tobacco, and burnt toast notes, no notes of sweetness. The liquid is charcoal and tobacco, this is going to be one potent tea!
There is a slight fruity sweetness I was not expecting, by fruity I mean pumpkin…are pumpkins fruit? The taste is a mix of pumpkin and coal, it is unlike any roasted Dong Ding I have ever had…it manages to be unusual and somewhat plain.
Ah, the second steep brings a more nuanced aroma of not so burnt toast, spicebush, and a bit of roasted grain. The taste is pretty bland, notes of pumpkin, charcoal, and spicebush, it is a soothing kinda bland though.
Today’s tea themed bit of reading material is Tea Basics: A Quick and Easy Guide by Wendy Ramussen and Ric Rhineheart. This is a fairly older book, from as far back as 1998, I was a tea drinker back then (at a whopping 13 years old) but I was not really aware of the vastness of the tea world yet. Not sure if I agree with the book’s claim of being quick at 208 pages, I might be a speed reader but I have seen much smaller books about tea, and much more thorough.
I want to start out by saying, this book could have been great, really quite awesome. I am even able to overlook my usual lust for pretty pictures for the shear amount of tasty knowledge, but it has some monumental flaws. It was painful, but I will start out saying why this book could have been awesome.
It covers so many points, from the standard tea grading, history, correct brewing parameters, and bits about various tea traditions. It also covers some not often (especially in books written during this time period) mentioned subjects, like how to season a yixing teapot and how to properly taste tea. These things are awesome it is just so full of useful information.
But it has one of the most glaring mistakes I have seen, it dawned on me when I was reading the section on ‘what is a tea’ specifically the blurb on green tea being the least processed of all the teas. That statement, and the complete absence of it anywhere else led to the shocking realization that white tea is never mentioned! There is a one off mention of Pu Erh, which is what I have come to expect from tea books from the late 90s, and no mention of yellow tea (also par for the course) but the utter lack of White Tea is just baffling to me.
I am honestly not sure I can recommend this book, on the one hand it does have some good info, but it is a bit dated, and with the glaring omission of white tea, I think it fits into the ‘if you must have all the tea books in the world’ category. I certainly would not recommend this for people who are new to tea, maybe as more of a refresher for more seasoned sippers.
This is an exceptionally late post because yours truly feels quite awful today. Not even the dread lord Cthulhu miniature I am painting can make me feel better, the trials and tribulations of Fibromyalgia! Some days you feel fine and some days, for no reason, your body decides that everything is going to hurt and none of your medicine helps, the only option is to curl up in bed until it goes away. Usually I can still write, but sometimes a flair up is joined by a migraine (like today) and that means no looking at a computer. Luckily after a nap my headache is gone so I can write, yay!
Today’s tea is Jasmine Pearls by The Persimmon Tree Tea Company, a tea that I frequently forget exists. No idea why, I have enjoyed every Jasmine Pearl I have had, but after I drink it they tend to leave my mind until I run into them again and say to myself ‘how do I always forget how much I love this tea!’ It is really quite a funny process. These pearls are made from Organic Jasmine Scented Green Tea, I prefer the process of scenting a tea with jasmine over just tossing the flowers in a blend, usually the effect is much more subtle and quite wonderful, it is very easy to get overwhelmed by jasmine’s intensity. The aroma of these pearls pretty intense, very heady jasmine with notes of fresh vegetation. It reminds me of standing next to a blooming jasmine late on a summer evening, the aroma of the flowers fill the air and the smell of growing things surround me.
Into my gaiwan they go! Part of me is tempted to make a jasmine scented yixing pot, that could be intense or a disaster…food for thought. The aroma of the slowly unfurling pearls is very sweet, a heady mix of jasmine and honeysuckle nectar with a strong sharp notes of freshly broken vegetation. The liquid is sweet and floral, like flower nectar mixed with a delicate green tea.
For the first steeping the taste is fairly mild and the mouthfeel is nicely smooth. It starts off with slight fresh vegetation and then a gentle fade to honeysuckle and jasmine, it has the taste of flower nectar and growing things, it is delicate but has a definite presence.
Second steeping time! The aroma is really coming alive, strong jasmine notes waft out of my tea cup pretty much filling the area with headiness. As expected this steep is stronger than the previous one, it starts off like a fresh green tea, more vegetation than vegetal, though there is a hint of artichoke. This fades to an explosion of heady jasmine sweetness and nectar, the taste is strong but still well balanced with the green.
The aroma of the third steep is mostly sweet jasmine nectar, I do not detect any lingering notes of green tea, it is all flowers. The taste is winding down, there is only the sweet flower nectar blend of honeysuckle and jasmine. If you are like me and prefer your jasmine tea on the sweet and mild side rather than super intense flower bouquet, then I recommend this tea, it is light and refreshing and maintains a good balance with the green tea.
Flavors: Artichoke, Green, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Nectar, Stems