667 Tasting Notes
Taking a very brief break from painting today, which makes me a sad Scourge, but I am still really shaky and loopy from my breathing treatment yesterday. Oh man, I have always hated those things, it has been several years since I was on a respirator, but I remember the side effects lasted for a couple days. Same reason I wait till I am desperate before I do my inhaler, because the side effects are unbelievably unpleasant. I am immersing myself in research, I expected my allergy tests to give me answers, not more questions, so I am doing my thing and taking to the internet in hopes that I can get some information on my supposed chronic sinus infection (and why my sense of smell is so acute if I do have one), why I can’t breathe though I show no signs of asthma activity at the moment, can my allergy tests be a false negative, and if so what to do about it. Luckily I have some medical training so I can read WebMD without thinking I am dying! SO MANY QUESTIONS!!
Ok, enough of the quirks of my body, it is time for tea! Specifically we are taking a trip to India courtesy of Golden Tips Tea! Avaata Supreme Nilgiri Green Tea First Flush (organic) is from a region of India which sadly I do not have much experience with (seriously, I think I have had two teas from Nilgiri, and that is tragic) so trying a green tea from that region is extra exciting. Avaata Estate is a Rain Forest Alliance Certified tea estate, dedicated to conserving vaata, which is Sanskrit for fresh, with this tea being grown above 1,900 feet, all of these things are pretty cool. The aroma of the rather large, pale, leaves is a bit light at first, but some good snuffling brings out the notes of fresh cut vegetation, baking bread, lima beans and green beans. This is another one of those teas that makes me hungry while sniffing it again.
I decided to go for a psuedo gongfu style steeping with this tea, any excuse to use my gaiwan! The aroma of the now soggy leaves is sharply vegetal, blending lima beans and green beans with a bit of kale and baking bread. There is also a faint, distant note of flowers. The liquid is very light, like super faint, with delicate notes of growing things and slightly vegetal.
The taste is unique, like a blend of a first flush Darjeeling and a green tea. It starts buttery and peppery with floral notes and distinct vegetal. There are notes of green beans, lima beans, and a finish of yeasty baking bread. This tea is fairly light, so if you were expecting a super intense tea you might be a bit disappointed.
I decided to go for a second steep to see if it becomes a bit more robust. The aroma of the brewed tea is still really light, not as light as the first, but it does not have a major presence. There are notes of growing things and lima beans along with the tiniest hint of flowers. The taste is more vegetal and less floral, the peppery note is mostly gone, but there are lovely notes of lima beans and green beans, a finish of fresh kale and baking break, the yeasty tones linger. This steep got a bit bitter as it cooled, which is incentive to chug it quickly!
Vigorously trying to finish my army, that is how I am spending my evening! I have basing to do, and my Intruder Alphas and the Ravagers that Ben surprised me with to finish. I have until tomorrow evening, and considering my afternoon will be taken up by allergy testing, I highly doubt I will finish, alas, my fear of bringing an unfinished army might come to pass. Just between you and me, I am not looking forward to my allergy test tomorrow, though trying to play Dropzone Commander afterwards could be an adventure!
We are finishing off Oolong week with Adagio Tea’s Pouchong (or Baozhong, depending on dialect) a very lightly oxidized (think 8-10%) Oolong with lovely curly green leaves. Pouchong is one of those teas that I tragically forget exists unless it is right in my face, which is tragic because it is one of those Oolongs that taste and smell like springtime. So, let me remind myself why I like this Taiwanese Oolong so much! The aroma is intensely floral, hello notes of hyacinth, orchids, and a mellow finish of chestnuts. It is like flower nectar and mild, sweet, nuts, the aroma overall is fairly mild while also being heady.
Since I do not (yet) have a dedicated Pouchong yixing, into the gaiwan the curly leaves go, and of course it is the dragon gaiwan because it is an oolong, love matching tea utensils to appropriate teas. Brewing the tea brings out the tea’s strength, the now wet leaves smell like a spring bouquet with notes of hyacinth, orchid, lilac, honeysuckle, and butter. Ok that last note is not so much part of a spring bouquet, but hey, it takes all types. The liquid is mellow sweet butter and lots of floral notes, it is very much a pile of flower nectar.
First steep starts out pretty mild, and finishes pretty mild, it is a super mellow tea without much of a presence. It has a wonderfully smooth mouthfeel, but the floral notes and sweet nectar are mild, there is a slight mineral note at the finish as well.
Second steeping time, the aroma is still pretty potent floral nectar with a distinct buttery tone as well as a finish of chestnuts. This steep has a little more body, still pretty mild and mellow, I am not much impressed. The taste is flowery and sweet, but it lacks a real presence, it is like watered down tea. I am wondering if I got an old sample, the bag I got from Adagio was different than any other bag I have gotten from them, so maybe they are changing their packaging, or maybe they package Pouchong differently. It does not taste state, it just does not have much of a taste. Sadly not every tea is a winner.
And my computer is back to its same old terrible refusal to connect to the internet again, well, except in brief little stints here and there. I really hate this thing, but it is what I get for rushing and getting something cheap, this is my punishment
sigh But, whinging aside, I was able to enjoy some warm springlike weather today, the air was warm so the windows were opened, fresh air makes everything better!
So today’s continuation into Oolong week is brought to us by M&K’s Tea Company and their Tangerine Dream. This tea is a blend of Fenghuang Dan Cong Oolongs (specifically Mi Lan Xiang and Yu Lan Xiang) dried tangerines, tangerine peel, dried orange peel, and tangerine oil while also being coated with orange blossom extract, holy orange batman, that sounds like a citrus lover’s paradise. It may be way known by now that I am very finicky about my citrus teas, I want them to taste like the fruit and not like bathroom spray, also I like them to not be black teas (sorry citrus blacks, I just never really liked you) so it was not a real shock that I had to pick up a sample of this tea. Something about mixing tangerine with Dan Cong Oolongs just sounds decadent as all get out. So, opening up the package and giving it a good sniff, and oh my, that is rather rich and citrusy sweet, lots of tangerine, like a fresh juicy tangerine sitting next to a vase of flowers. The floral notes of orange blossom, grapefruit flower (everyone should sniff that plant at least once) orchids, honeysuckles, and magnolias blend so wonderfully with the sweet tangerine notes.
I decided to go western style for this one, so into my tea alchemy device it went for steeping. The now soggy leaves and peel, and rather plump no longer dry tangerine smell delicious! Juicy citrus, heady florals, and honey sweetness mix for a surprisingly mellow aroma, this tea does not overwhelm. The liquid is immensely juicy smelling, it really is like someone sliced into a tangerine next to a bouquet of flowers and a dish of slightly warm honey. If you are into tangerine, fair warning, this might smell a bit mouthwatering.
First off, the tea is both juicy and smooth, it is an interesting effect. The citrus cause a juicy mouthwatering effect and the oolong gives a silky smooth feeling, which is a pretty fun blend of textures for my mouth. Taste-wise, ok, imagine taking a section of tangerine and popping it into your mouth and then sipping some very floral and honey sweet Dan Cong Oolong, right as the Oolong hits the mid taste you bite down on the piece of tangerine. So what started as a tiny hint of citrus blooms into very juicy, ripe, tangerine. It dances with the floral notes of the Oolong to the back of the throat and lingers long after finishing. Guys, I am going to level with you, I have purchases several of M&K’s Teas and I am always struck by how clever the blends are, but this one took the cake for me, it is so delicious and I keep kicking myself for not getting more. I am going to straight up say this might be my new go-to summer time tea, I want to try cold brewing it, gongfu brewing it, grandpa steeping it, I want to see what all this tea can do, because just taking it western style was amazing!
It has just come to my attention that this is my 500th blog post, since I only just noticed this I did not come up with an epic plan or some celebration, oops. Ok, I lied, I did celebrate, the only way I know how! I celebrated by acquiring more Scourge because I HAVE AN ADDICTION!! Also I found out who my first match is in the league…it is the most experienced guy at Tabletop, whose PHR army I have admired for a while, and who is totally going to stomp me into oblivion. But I wanted to play against his PHR as a way to see if I wanted to take them up as a second army, so go me!
Onward to Oolong Week! Today we are having a looksie at Tea Leaf Co’s (or TeaLC if you prefer) Soul Good, a blend of Oolong (of the green variety) Apple Pieces, Ginger, and Natural Essence, all of these are certified organic. I found myself rather intrigued by the idea of mixing a green oolong and apples together, fruit and flowers just sound pleasant in my mind. And the aroma is quite floral, with notes of orchid and hyacinth, and then hello chestnut and of course apples. The blend of spices and apples give it a cider feel, which is fun mixed with flowers.
I decided to do a kinda psuedo gongfu thing, mixing western and eastern steeping styles, which seems like fun with this kind of blended tea. The aroma of the soggy leaves is a blend of flowers and fruit, though not a fruit I was expecting! There is the apple and spice, orchid and…cantaloupe? This is not the first time I have had an apple tea smell like melon, so my nose did not do as big of a double take as it maybe should have. The liquid is a blend of warm apple cider, ginger, orchids, and a bit of distant melon at the finish.
The taste of this tea is an interesting thing. It starts off with a blend of sweet and tart apples, it wavers more towards tart as it moves to the midtaste, the ginger pops up in the midtaste as well. Around the end the blend of flowers and melon show back up, specifically orchid and cantaloupe, ah cantaloupe, my least favorite melon (maybe? I used to hate watermelon and now I love it, tastes are weird) but I admit that I do not hate it, it blends really well with the orchid and lingering apples. I am a bit wishy washy on this tea, I am not a fan of tart apples, so I wish it would have been all sweet, all the time, but I did really like the balance of spice and flowers.
For the first time in what seems like ages (it really hasn’t been that long, just feels like it) I got mail! There was an adorably tiny box sitting by my door with China Post labels and a list of the contents inside, which was a teapot! A while ago I did a thing on Influenster that landed me a $25 ebay gift card (and I have another on the way, happy dance) and I was browsing on ebay right before Chinese New Year…for teapots…like I do…and found a shop having a sale on a beautiful little Zi Sha Xi Shi, claimed to be handmade, so I said, why not? I have wanted a Xi Shi for my Green Oolongs for a while (my original Green Oolong pot shall be repurposed for either Bao Zhong or Osmanthus Oolong, I love that pot, but the top handle makes it a giant pain to clean, so using it for a tea I do not drink as much of works for me) because this pots are adorable, I call them sphere pots and have decided that mine is a dude for some reason. Perhaps I shall call it Baron Harkonnen because I am not a good person.
So, it is Thursday, meaning I am cracking open an older notebook and reviewing a tea from my mysterious past (aka, last year) specifically Upton Tea Imports’ “New Style” Fairy Oolong, a 2014 Pre-Chingming Oolong that I had the pleasure of ordering the day it came out (conveniently I was going to place an order with Upton soon and I got an email saying there were new Oolongs, because of course I get alerted when there are new Oolongs) from Hunan. Not really sure why it is called a fairy oolong, it does look similar to a vibrantly green Shui Xian, so maybe that is why? Regardless, I am a sucker for whimsy and Oolongs, so I tossed it into my cart. Holy moly, this is one massively floral oolong, rather heady, with notes of sweet honeysuckle, orchid, and hyacinth. There is also a note of mineral (specifically spring water) and a touch of buttery vegetal, like lima beans. Mmm, lima beans, I really want some now, my mom makes the best and I am hungry.
Into the gaiwan the leaves went, aw, this was back when I only had the one chipped white gaiwan, I now have eight gaiwans, how things have changed in a year! The brewed leaves are so vibrantly green, and very floral. Strong notes of orchid waft from the steamy leaves, there are lesser notes of honeysuckle and hyacinth, but oh man that orchid! The liquid is a blend of buttery, orchid, and a touch vegetal, just a tiny bit of distant beans sneaking in at the end.
The first steep, as expected, starts out rather light and fairly smooth, not as smooth as some oolongs, it has a bit of a vegetal sharpness similar to green teas. The taste is super sweet, like honeysuckle nectar, this moves to mineral and a touch of green at the finish.
Second steep’s aroma is light, sweet, and very orchid heavy, so much flower! The taste is also super floral, it starts out orchid and hyacinth and then moves onto sweet honeysuckle for a delicate finish. This steep was not as complex as the first steep but that flower explosion made up for a lack of complexity.
For the final steep the aroma is still super orchid heavy, but now it is joined by delicate mineral notes, like water being poured on a slab of limestone. The taste starts out buttery and sweet, with notes of lima beans that fade to honey and orchid. Lastly the tea ends with a lingering mineral note with a touch of honey. I really liked this tea, it was super floral and sweet, and that mineral note was awesome, I do not find that in teas as often as I would like. Because apparently I like licking rocks or something like that.
There is some serious derp going on over here, like really heavy derp, I sit at my computer, flipping from tab to tab, in a great attempt to do something and keep getting distracted. Yours truly was having a lot of pain last night and to rectify it I took some muscle relaxers (the only thing I can take for my fibro pain when my daily meds are not strong enough) the pain is much diminished, but the side effect of being in a brain fog is not very fun. Also, I want everyone to know that when I get a new email, my phone goes all Mass Effect and says ‘Assuming Direct Control’ thank you Harbinger, you always make me smile.
Time to get my rambling on! Today What-Cha is taking us on an Oolong adventure to Kenya, with Kenya Hand Rolled Purple Varietal Oolong Tea, yay for purple teas! I find them very intriguing, all of them I have tried get to wear the coveted ‘well that was certainly different’ title. So, just a quick rundown on what makes this tea purple, just in case you don’t know…ANTHOCYANIN! Seriously, go outside and just shout that word, it feels great, from the Greek Anthos and Kyanos, which translates to blue flower, that is all it is, a pigment with a lot of epic science behind it that would take a whole blog post to explain (tempting as that is.) What is most important is this pigment in tea is thought to make it drought and pest resistant, along with boosting the antioxidants, fun stuff! Also I have decided that all purple teas are officially Drow (or Shadow Elves, my dark elves of choice) teas. The aroma of these dark twisty leaves is earthy and sweet, very sweet actually, blending notes of loam and mineral with plums, raisins, and honey. I will admit the earthy notes and sweet fruity notes mixing together are a little odd, though not unpleasant, my nose finds you intriguing oh great dark elf tea.
Brewing time! I am using my funky green gaiwan that does not get enough use lately (poor neglected thing) that I sometimes pretend is a houhin. I love this thing because it holds a lot, good for those days when I want to gongfu up some tea but want a big ol’ cup of the stuff (or several big ol’ cups) again the aroma of the (now wet) leaves can be described as odd but good, like cooked plums, sauteed veggies, and earthiness. Reminds me of eggplant just a little, specifically cooked eggplant, along with a bit of mineral and a hint of salt. The liquid is a fun blend of regular cooked plums, umeboshi (picked plums, delicious) mineral, loam, and salt. It has a sharpness to it along with mellowness from the earthy quality.
The first steep is fairly mild, it starts out with a blend of sweet, extremely juicy, ripe plum, then it moves on to mineral and a touch of loam. Around the end of the sipping experience there is a touch of fruity sharpness that causes a salivary explosion and then immediate sweet, honey aftertaste.
Onward to the second steep! So, this gave me a little bit of a giggle, the aroma of the second steep had a definite plum and mineral note, but it also had a note of cooked collards. Oh be still my heart, the sultry aroma of collards makes my mouth water. It made me giggle because of the many memories I have of my grandfather having to cook collards outside because they stink up the house. Ok, awesome, the tea even has a slight note of collards! It is faint, but just at the beginning there is that delightful earthy green taste of cooked collards. This moves on to cooked plums and then finishes with earthy loam and minerals.
And now we finish with steep number three, which has a very mild aroma, like distant plums and loam with a hint of umeboshi. This steep’s taste is pretty intense, lots of plums and a hint of prunes, very mouthwatering. The plums gradually fade to earthiness that is reminiscent of clean dirt. Yes, it tastes like dirt, but it does not taste dirty, I like the taste of dirt so I found this pleasant, but I could see some people going eww at this. This was a weird tea, it was unlike most Oolongs I have had, in fact it was unlike most teas I have had, I really enjoyed it and will probably be getting more, but it is definitely an ‘I have to be in the right mood for it’ kinda tea.
This is not on the website anymore, so I am assuming RLT no longer carries it, so no blog post, just a random rambling while I sip it. The aroma is nice and toasty, like roasted buckwheat, grains, and sesame seeds. More of a nutty roasted tea than a sweet roasted tea, which I am ok with, because it is a roasted tea and it has to be terrible before I dislike sniffing it. There is also a faint underlying floral tone to it as well.
The wet leaves and liquid have more of a sweet toasted aroma, still very grainy. The first steep is pretty mild, I actually taste the salmon I just finished eating more so than the tea. But after many swallows to wash the fish out of my mouth I can taste slightly sweet grain and a touch of flowery. Pretty mild, but also pleasant.
Second steep is more grainy and roasted, it is an ok tea, not the best ever, but could be a good everyday roasted tea.
FINISHED! Ok, no, I lied…maybe. My army is finished, all my little Prowlers and Reapers are finished, they need to be varnished (waiting for a less damp day to take them out and varnish and photograph them) but, I still have to paint the tiny tiny infantry (ughhhhh so tiny, little 10mm dudes) and finish the basing for my ships. Then I just have the Harbinger, Desolator, and the inevitable other guys who join my army, but there is not as much of a rush since the league starts off at 750 points, and true I can get the Desolator in on that level, it would leave me very short on other little dudes to bring onto the board. Now the real question is, do I get Ravagers or Stalkers for my Harbinger to carry, or do I hold out for the Oppressor’s release. Ben spoils me rotten with all my minis, me thinks he is buttering me up to paint his army.
It can’t be Oolong week without looking at Eco-Cha Artisan Teas, and it is time to finally ramble about Mr Lin’s Lightly Roasted Dong Ding Oolong (Inaugural Winter Harvest 2014) which you all might remember me babbling about back when their Indiegogo campaign went live. And yes, I totally backed them, it was part of my birthday present to myself (and part of my travel money since this was back when I was in PA) I went for the $50 perk meaning I got a fancy new teapot for my collection, not that I seasoned it for this tea, since a roasted tea-pot is already in my collection. This tea is super fancy because it was only available for the backers of the campaign, but future harvests will be available for the general public, which is awesome. This extra fancy tea smells delightful, but I do have a weakness for roasted teas (especially Dong Ding) so it is no surprise that the aroma of this tea fills me with squishy glee. There are notes of toasted sesame, honey, caramelized sugar, distant spicebush flowers, roasted butternut squash, and a finish of delicate orchid. It reminds me a little of Halva and flowers, just the right blend of roasted and sweet to make me swoon.
Into the pot it goes, my much loved and very often used yixing for roasted oolongs. The aroma of the leaves is rather complex! It is a blend of roasted sesame, butternut squash, honeysuckles, orchids, sesame butter, and spicebush. The liquid of the first steep (correctly it is called soup, but that makes me think of soup and confuses my hungry brain) also has a complex aroma, blending squash (again butternut, but with a hint of acorn this time as well) sesame butter and a finish of delicate honeysuckle nectar.
First steep, and yes, I am sitting down, because I expect this tea to knock my socks off…ok, ok, I know it does, since this is from my notebook and I have been sipping this tea a lot. It has become one of my go to ‘I feel bad and need a healing tea’ teas, it makes my soul feel good. First off, mouthfeel, it is very smooth, a blend of buttery and velvety, it coats my mouth without being oily. It starts out sweet and gently toasted, with notes of sesame seeds and honey. This builds to honeysuckles and spicebush, almost to the point of headiness, and then it moves on to butternut squash and honey at the finish which lingers for quite a while.
And the journey continues with steep two, the aroma is strong with spicebush, roasted sesame seeds, and butternut squash. It is still floral (hint the spicebush, even bordering on Asiatic Lily) but it lacks the honeysuckle and is replaced with a stronger roasted note. The taste certainly takes its cues from the aroma! The mouthfeel is still velvety, but it has a tiny edge to it now, it feels like it wakes up my mouth a bit. It starts roasted sesame and honey and then moves to an explosion of spicebush and squash, this then moves on to roasted squash and nuttiness that builds into the finish that lingers. It warms my mouth and body and makes me feel relaxed and heavy.
Third steeping, and the aroma is still delightful, hello spicebush and toasted sesame, hello lily and squash, you are so wonderfully fragrant and I have to be careful to not burn my nose while sniffing you. The taste of this steep is a perfect balance of roasted and floral, sweetness and savory. It has notes of buttery vegetables (like buttery sauteed bok choy) honeysuckles, spicecbush, lilies, squash, sesame, toasted grains. This steep might be my favorite!
So, I end my reviews at three steeps (my personal notes, however tend to be longer) and let me say, this tea has staying power! I have gotten up to seven steeps, with the last couple steeps being me just drinking it grandpa style. I have brewed it in my travel steeper and in a gaiwan and loved both, I have accidentally been distracted and come back to a tragically oversteeped tea and found it still drinkable and really good. Honestly I cannot manage to screw this tea up no matter what I do (not that I am going to try really hard, I do have a limited supply after all) I love this tea, it is a work of art! Totally worth spending my travel money on it, I have absolutely no regrets!