762 Tasting Notes
Today I learned that cooking a meal with two professional chefs in the house is a real adventure. In proper housemate fashion we are taking turns cooking dinner, I am not a cook, you have probably all figured out by now that my forte is baking. Specifically baking sweets of the gluten free variety, when the chefs leave the kitchen to me. But oh when I try to cook a meal the chefs hovered and helped and eventually took over. I do not mind because I am an awful cook, learning is great, but being reminded how terrible I am at cooking is humbling. At least I know I can provide everyone with mounds of baked yummies! Also I am pretty sure everyone’s goal now is to fatten me up…and where did that giant cauldron come from?
Back to Hong Kong we go thanks to Man Cha Teas! Their Puer Tea is a fantastic compressed cube of good fortune, my photo does not do it justice, but it is compressed with the Fu character, which translates to good fortune. I find the name of this tea a bit refreshing, it is just Puer Tea, I know from its appearance that it is Shou and from the website that it is from Yunnan, not knowing the factory and such means no expectations, which is like a fun adventure! The aroma of the little cube is a typical Shou, very earthy, with notes of wet loam, peat, old wet leather, and wet oak wood. The oak wood notes give it a bit of sharpness similar to a woody black tea. A tannic quality that leans more towards malty heaviness than brightness.
Brewing the tea in my standard elephant Duan Ni Yixing teapot, the aroma of the wet (and not so much cubed anymore) is sweet and earthy, like really sweet, lots of molasses and caramelized sugar with a hint of maple syrup too. There is a bit of loam and soil at the finish making it not all sweetness, but I am really impressed by the sweetness of this tea. The liquid is is loamy and sweet, with molasses and soil, also a hint of pepper and nutmeg, my first spicy puerh, fun!
The first steep has a crazy thick moutheel, soupy and almost syrupy like pine sap. The taste is very earthy, like a full mouth of loam, clean soil, and a nice burst of peat. The earthiness transitions to sweet molasses and leather and a fun finish of pepper. Surprisingly this puerh was cooling rather than the more familiar warming sensation I am used to with Shou.
Onward to the second steep! The aroma is earthy with notes of wet loam, forest floor after a summer rain (specifically a pine forest) and again a touch of pepper. The tasting starts with the thick moutheel again, it coats the mouth it its thickness while not being cloying. The taste itself is similar to the first steep, but the sweetness is more mellow and the earthiness more pronounced. The leather and pepper notes at the finish are there as well, in fact this tea kinda reminds me of sinking into a comfy leather chair, it has a comfortable, homey feel to it.
The third steep continues with the earthy aroma, reminiscent of forest floors and summer rain, with the now familiar touch of pepper. This steep is earthy and mellow, I find myself very relaxed by it and I keep dozing off in my chair, which sadly is not leather to evoke the leather taste notes in the tea. The finish has lost its pepper finish and replaced with gentle wood.
Happy Firework Day Weekend, the one time of year where firework legality and fire common sense is thrown out the window in a clear celebration of gunpowder. Thank you China for inventing such epic displays of color and light, your method of scaring away bad spirits has lived on and transformed beautifully. All silliness aside, it has been nonstop booming fireworks all day, starting yesterday really, and just intensifying, I never thought I would say this, but for the love of my favorite explosive, knock it off people! Ugh, I think that means I am getting old, but really I am just tired of comforting a terrified cat, poor Espeon is not a fan of all the booming. There is a chance I might take the weekend off to party, and by party I mean cuddle my cat, get very tea drunk, and play Minecraft and board games all weekend!
It is with a heavy heart that I announce today’s tea from the Tea Shelf, only heavy because it is the last of their tea samples, clearly I will have to get more! Palampore Kangra Black a second flush black tea from Kangra Valley on the slopes of the Dhauladhar Range of the Himalayas. Apparently this tea is the only crop in India to grow the same variety of tea introduced 160 years ago by Dr Jameson, which is a fantastic little bit of knowledge. Also fun little snippet of knowledge, a Palampore is a bed cover made in India back in the late 18th to early 19th century, they were super fancy and expensive, and not many examples exist today. So, enough info snippets, time for tea! The aroma of the fairly small leaves is very refreshing and sweet, blending tangy notes of citrus peel (specifically a strong note of grapefruit) with sweet juicy white grapes and distant peony flowers. The citrus notes almost give the tea a effervescent quality, it certainly livens up the nose.
Steeping the tea brings a creamy quality to the leaves, no longer effervescent but still just as sweet. Adding notes of orange blossom, pepper, and lettuce to the notes of grapefruit and grapes, it is still refreshing, but the other notes give it a slight heaviness. Holy moly, the liquid is a nose party! Super sweet with strong notes of honey and juicy grapes with orange blossoms, zingy grapefruits and sweet oranges. It smells pretty yummy.
And you know, it tastes pretty yummy! Like really yummy, like I am really sad that I tore through my sample already because I want more yummy. It is very creamy and sweet, with a smooth mouthfeel, it starts with juicy white grapes and honey, this transitions to a refreshing crisp lettuce and grapefruit zest and blossoms. The finish is a blend of gentle almonds and orange blossoms with just a tiny hint of pepper; This tea mixed refreshing notes and sweet notes quite perfectly, I am not going to say this is the best tea I have ever had, but it is one of those that just fit perfectly for the mood I was in while tasting it. I think I will have to order some of this for my private stash to drink once in a while, especially on cool days with a gentle breeze and a need to just relax while being refreshed.
The weather yesterday was absolutely bonkers! A few miles from my house a tornado touched down, the sirens were going off like crazy, and the best of all, I finally got to photograph a tornado. Ok only kinda, I was able to get a good look at a wall cloud and it had a funnel starting to form, there was some glorious rotation and vortices starting to drop, but it zipped back up into the clouds, this happened a few times. One of those times it did not go back into the clouds but it drifted out of my line of site…and became the confirmed tornado touch down. I thought at first that maybe it was a scud cloud, but the definite rotation told me nope, I think the most eerie thing about it was the silence, lack of wind and rain, and lack of lightning. The sky was chaos, but down on the ground (at least where I was at) it was peaceful. Even watching the live footage of the tornado (because I am weird like that) it seemed unusually silent, but it made it more obvious…rain wrapped tornadoes scare the pants off of me!
And it looks like we are about to get even more storms! But enough about my obsession with storms, it is time for some tea! Today’s tea comes from Oollo Tea, their Red Jade Black Tea, a black tea from Nantou, Taiwan, and one of my favorite teas. I say that it is one of my favorites because it is just so unique in its flavor and aroma profile. Opening my sample I was greeted with beautiful curly dark leaves and a blast of unusual aroma. It manages to blend notes of fresh tomatoes (and a touch of tomato leaves) toasted peanuts, cocoa, menthol, pinto beans, and sassafras wood in a heavy, heady dance. In theory those notes together would smell off, but somehow this tea makes it work beautifully. Red Jade is immensely fascinating to me.
Brewing the tea is my green gaiwan really makes the leaves pop in contrast! The aroma of the wet leaves really pumps up the sassafras and menthol, along with cocoa and peanuts, with a touch of malt. It is unusual, the aroma is menthol, but not mint, it imparts that sharp tingle of mint without the actual ‘minty’ smell. The aroma of the liquid is fairly delicate, sweet notes of sassafras and tomato mixed with roasted peanuts and cocoa drift up with the steam.
The first steep is so weird but so good! It starts off a bit malty and brisk, the texture is smooth but there is a slight menthol like tingle. The taste starts off with notes of sassafrass and raisins, this moves to a slightly woody, cocoa, malt, with a finish of slightly sweet yams and a cooling menthol aftertaste.
The second steeping really sees the leaves unfurling to their full size, which is impressive! The aroma is strong with sassafras and roasted peanuts, with accents of menthol cooling and brisk malt, and a finishing hint of cherry. The taste is a powerhouse of flavor again, similar to the first steep with a smooth yet brisk mouthfeel, and a tingly menthol quality. It starts off with cocoa and sassafras woody sweetness, this transitions to yams and roasted peanuts, and the finish is a stewed fruit (primarily stone fruit) sweetness with a lingering menthol coolness.
The third steep is still going strong, the aroma is sassafras and roasted peanuts, the menthol notes are a bit lessened and the fruity notes are a bit more prominent. At the finish is a bit of malt and a hint of cocoa. The taste is still pretty intense, less smooth, more brisk, with an intense menthol tingle. The taste is almost all sassafras and fruit, sweet and woody, with a lingering coolness. I got a couple more steeps out of this tea, I wanted to get as much out of it as I could!
Ah, today is a good day, Minecraft TU 25 is finally out, meaning we who play on the console finally inch closer to the PC version. Pros and cons, yay for finally having stained glass, I was immensely excited for the building potential presented with all the colorful glasses, especially when combining them with stained clay (my weakness.) Sadly the hinted at new biomes, all the flowers, and bunnies were not added with this update which is causing a massive wave of disappointment with the console players. Hopefully the next update will bring them out, I am craving the Ice Spike biome something fierce! I am wondering if they decided to do a small updated in time for Minecon, if so, I am ok with lots of small updates rather than months between big ones.
In grand traditional fashion, it is Wednesday, so time for a What-Cha tea! Flipping through my notebook I notice I am starting to run out of tea notes, le gasp! Clearly a shopping trip will be in my future, conveniently looking at the website I just noticed a ton of new teas, which is awesome. Today’s tea is Georgia Old Gentleman Black Tea, from the Nasakirali Village in Georgia, handmade by Iuri, who I am assuming is the old gentleman this tea is named for. The aroma of the lovely dark curling leaves is sweet, with notes of tobacco and cherry wood, a lovely fruity tobacco reminding me of my dad’s pipe tobacco. Add in a touch of smoke, delicate honey sweetness, and a tiny hint of cocoa and you have a very pleasant smelling tea. Honestly the aroma is nostalgic, like the smell of a pipe being smoked in a library, it gives me the warm fuzzies.
After giving the leaves a steeping, the now quite plump leaves have become malty and brisk, with notes of oak and cherry wood, raisins, and a tiny hint of citrus peel. It is very livening, and just a little bit sweet. The liquid is very rich, I was surprised, expecting a brisk aroma, but it is intensely rich with notes of pipe tobacco, cherry wood, a creamy sweetness with a finish of malt and raisins.
So, this cup has a lot going on, it is very rich, starting out with raisins and pipe tobacco with just a gentle hint of smoke, This transitions to a midtaste of citrus and malt, giving it a slight brisk and sour taste, this fades to a creamy sweet finish of cocoa. Amusingly the aftertaste was brisk with a slight dryness and a lingering taste of citrus. I found this tea enjoyable, it has a nostalgic feel and a complex blend of notes, plus the briskness was a perfect amount for me, not too intense, just enough to liven up the senses.
It has been quite a while since I looked at a piece of tea gear, which is a bit tragic! Also kinda hard since most my tea gear I pick up at thrift stores or super cheap off ebay, so that makes it hard to review…but that does mean I can just do more ‘meet my tea gear’ showcases. Promises, promises!
Today I am taking a looksie at Matcha Bowl 2, one of three offered by Red Leaf Tea, purchased this lovely using the reward for that Matcha showdown I did a few weeks (or is it months now, ah time you are so fluid) ago, because using random bowls bought with the intention of being a Chawan just wasn’t working for me. The picture on the website makes it look pretty white, but the description says it has a turquoise colored glaze, in reality it is a grassy green, almost the color of Matcha foam.
So first off, how does it work as a Matcha bowl…well…not so well. Some people like their Chawan to be small, the smallest I have seen are travel Chawan that measure 6oz, and this one is 7-8oz, so this one is on the small size. I can barely fit my Chasen in it, and whisking into a froth is almost impossible, but perhaps this Chawan would be good for making Koicha since it requires less water and a different motion of the Chasen. After a few attempts I retired this one as a Matcha bowl, which is sad since the image of the foam fading into the color of the bowl was quite lovely.
However, it does make an excellent teacup. The weight on this bowl is quite excellent, it is heavy, with most the weight being at the bottom, it feels well balanced and the texture is enjoyable in my hand. It has a blend of an earthy texture while also being smooth, one of my favorite things about pottery is the different textures. It holds heat really well, and the color is gorgeous with darker teas, especially black teas and oolongs, where you can just barely see the swirling green of the glaze at the bottom of the bowl. So overall, this is an excellent tea bowl, not really for Matcha, but maybe someone else would have better luck with whisking and I just need more space to work my whisk!
My life has become so chaotic and unsure lately, remember my epic adventure I hinted at the other day, well nevermind about that. I will have an epic adventure, but it won’t be for at least another year…probably. See, things are crazy! So that means that some days there won’t be a blog and some days there will be two. Regardless of craziness, I have an excellent work in progress that I will be working on today…a tea table, yes, it is time to get back to work on my antique table turned into a tea table project. Still need to find a good water proof and heat proof varnish, since my last attempt at a water proof tea tray ended in sadness because the heat warped things.
Today’s tea came to me from Hong Kong, which totally made my day because that city is sooo high on my list of places I want to visit! From Man Cha Teas, I present White Peony! Ah, but this is no ordinary pile of fluffy Bai Mu Dan, this is something unique and spherical. From Fuding, China, this tea involves taking the needles and leaves of a typical Bai Mu Dan and gently withering them and wrapping them into a ball, sans any heating or drying. I think this is the first spherical tea I have had, not counting blooming teas, which are totally different. Before I get into the review, I want to point out the little card, one side has a lovely photo and the other a bunch of relevant info to the tea, I LOVE when tea companies include things like this, I tend to keep them as little relics of past teas. So, how does this little ball smell? The aroma is not too terribly strong, I get hints of honey, melon, and cucumber with a touch of sourdough bread and a general yeastiness. The melon and cucumber give the tea a bit of a cool edge, which is great because at the time of taking my tasting notes it was hot! It more I sniff the stronger the notes become, clearly warming it up with my sniffing allows the aroma to escape.
I decided to use my green gaiwan (easy gaiwan, pseudo houhin, whatever) for this orb of tea, it should have enough room for the ball to explode into a pile of leaves. The aroma of the partially fallen apart orb is pretty melon heavy, like a blend of honeydew and cantaloupe, funny…I kinda hate melon, but I like the notes in white tea. There are also notes of mellow cooling cucumber and a crisp muscatel note reminiscent of white wine. The aroma of the liquid is very mild with sweet spicy notes and a bit of honey.
Oh wow, the first steep is super sweet, starting out with a flower nectar and honey sweetness, it is very clean and clear tasting with a smooth mouthfeel. The initial nectar sweetness transitions to cooling cucumber and finishes off with a delicate sweetness. The initial steep was mild, but the itense sweetness made up for it.
On the second steep, the leaves have really exploded, no more orb to be found, and the color of the liquid has become quite dark and rich. The aroma is like a spicy white wine, makes me wish I knew more about wine so I knew exactly which one to compare it to! The taste is rich with a thick mouthfeel, there are notes of muscadines and honey, it reminds me of the Grecian honeyed wine I used to make and drink, very sweet and heady. The finish is cooling cucumber and a lingering cucumber aftertaste.
For the third steep, the aroma is a bit milder, like gentle honey and cucumbers, with a hint of white wine. The taste is surprisingly not as sweet, it takes on a slightly vegetal savory tone, with notes of cucumber and lettuce being the predominant notes. This transitions to a sweet grape and melon finish with an aftertaste of cucumbers. I enjoyed this sphere of white tea immensely, perfect for a hot day!
For the blog and photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2015/06/man-cha-teas-white-peony-tea-review.html
I was probably the most apprehensive of this one out of the three, see I have a lifetime hate of watermelon…until about a year ago I ate some and surprisingly loved it, next thing I knew I was devouring slices of watermelon like it was going out of style. The aroma of this tea is pretty peculiar, mixing heady flowers with fresh vegetation, a bit of umami kelp, and delicate watermelon. Like someone is sitting next to you eating watermelon while you are sitting sipping your tea, it does not overwhelm at all, also props for it smelling like the melon and not candy.
I brewed this one in my gaiwan, got several steeps out of it too! The mouthfeel was delightfully creamy and smooth, and the taste was something else. It took the familiar sweet and floral notes of a green TGY and mix it with bright green notes of celery and lettuce, with a hint of buttery and green seaweed note. But where is the watermelon you might ask? Oh it is there, it blooms in the midtaste as a delicate, juicy, watermelon with an accompaniment of the green rind. It does not evolve much over steeps except the buttery Gyokuro notes became stronger, which I loved.
Wow, it has been forever since I had either a blackberry tea or a Keemun, sad, Keemun used to be one of my favorite black teas before being ousted by the fuzzy golden Yunnans, I kinda miss it. Oh man, the aroma of this one is intensely blackberry, very sweet and creamy with a bit of a crust aroma, like a blackberry cobbler. There is also a gentle hint of sage at the very end, which is kinda fun, it tickles the nose a bit.
This one was so tasty! Boo that it isn’t in the store! The Keemun is mellow and sweet, adding an underlying chocolate and slight floral edge to the intense blackberry notes. It tastes like cobbler and this makes me immensely happy. The sage is pretty mellow, just sneaking in at the finish to add a bit of an herbal depth to the tea.
I did a bit of a hmmm when deciding how to brew this one, so I defaulted to gaiwan because of course I did. The aroma is delightfully roasty, you know me and my love of char and toasted notes, the added mellow notes of orange peel and the really odd note of mate blend well. Mate is a strange thing, it smells vaguely of sage and burnt pinto beans, herbaceous and strange, but not in an unpleasant way.
I went for a couple steeps with this one too, it was wonderful experiencing the growth of the roasted notes, starting out as toasted sesame and roasted oranges and building to intense notes of char and wood. There was of course the mate, it did not necessarily clash with the oolong, but it is so strange tasting that it takes me out of the moment, the roasty toasty moment. As the steeps progressed the mate taste mellowed out and the orange notes increased, blending really well with the char, overall I had mixed feelings on this peculiar tea.
So, this was supposed to be posted yesterday, but I was super busy, swamped even, with deciding what I am doing with my life. No really, yours truly might be going on an epic adventure pretty soon! No spoilers yet, because I do not have all the details and such, but I can safely say I am excited and a little scared. Unless something goes drastically wrong (like my computer explodes again) it won’t affect the blog long term, there might be a week or so where I don’t update, but I will be sure to let everyone know ahead of time.
Since I missed my What-Cha Wednesday review, this will be a rare What-Cha Thursday! Today it is time to revisit the country of Malawi with Malawi Bvumbwe Handmade Treasure Black Tea, I was really blow away by their Antler and Peony White Teas, so I am super excited to dive into the Satemwa Estate’s Handmade Treasure Black Tea. For a while I was rather apprehensive about trying new black teas from Africa, a few nasty run-ins with some particularly dirty tasting Kenyan black teas unfairly soured me on the whole continent for a while. Really, quite narrow minded of me, but they were really gross. Anyway, onto more pleasant things, like these lovely twisted dark leaves! The aroma is pretty rich, blending notes of an oak brandy cask with roasted peanuts and yams, and a touch of loam and spice. Something about the way this tea smells reminds me of home, not any homes that I have lived in, but a feel of ‘home’ yes people, this tea smells like a concept to me.
After steeping the leaves (they get rather huge post steeping) and giving them a good sniffing, I am pleasantly surprised by the fruity notes that have now shown up. It has the oak wood and slight earthiness of the dry leaves, but now with a blend of cherries and orange zest with a hint of cocoa, oh yeah, and a spice finish. A little like allspice and a little like nutmeg, with a faint sweetness to go with it. The liquid has a lot more of the spice notes, definitely allspice with pepper, and a tiny hint of nutmeg. There are also strong notes of cocoa and cherry, with just a delicate hint of orange zest and distant flowers.
The tea has a definite briskness to it, and is quite bright, the texture is light and it really livens up the mouth, kinda like liquid sunshine for a morning wake up, without being really overbearing. I am really picky about how brisk and astringent I like my black teas, and not just because they tend to give me a belly ache, I find when they are really intense they are just too overbearing, much like some people find mint too much or flowery teas. I like my black teas (more traditional western style ones, not the delicate Chinese reds) to have just a little bite to them. The taste is both robust and sweet, blending creamy notes of cocoa (bordering between milk and dark) and peanut butter, with earthy notes of sweet potatoes and woody notes of oak. The finish is a delicate mix of cherries and orange zest with a citrus aftertaste that lingers. I feel this tea has the potential to be a really iconic morning tea, proving once again that the Satemwa Tea Estate has some mad skills.