703 Tasting Notes
I just finished an epic baking frenzy! I made a Matcha and Chocolate Marble Bundt Cake which is delicious, a chocolate cake mixed with orange blossom water and masala chai spice drizzled with a glaze of saffron, raw honey, and orange blossom water. That one is my invention, turned out really yummy, this is my first time going entirely experimental with baking using gluten free flour, so I am glad it was not a disaster. My potato flour and garlic biscuits, however, they are kinda gross…more proof that I should stick to baking sweets, since my savories almost never turn out! So I am worn out and of course have more cleaning, but I am so waiting to just toss everything that is left into the dishwasher, I am a lazy baker.
And so the journey through China’s spring greens continue, with Teavivre’s Premium Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea! They sell several grades of Long Jing, from their super fancy She Qian at the highest and most expensive (also earliest harvested if I am correct) to this one, the second least expensive of the Dragon Wells. Harvested on April 15, 2015, this tea is delightfully fresh, putting it between Qing Ming and Gu Yu (which was on April 20th this year, according to my handy calender, seriously it is the best app ever because it has all the Taoist holidays, Solar Terms, and things of that nature) two of the big spring harvest periods. The aroma of the little green swords (oh hey, a lucky ball of fuzz! You get those during the processing, I call them good luck because who doesn’t like balls of trichomes?) is sweet, green, and nutty, just the way a good Dragon Well is supposed to smell! There are notes of sharp artichoke, fresh vegetation, sweet peony, toasted sesame seeds, a bit of green beans, and a hint of orchids. This one is surprisingly floral, but it is more like the nectar of the flower rather than a heady scent, it balances well with the green notes.
Into my green tea Yixing teapot it goes! I started having this teapot for all robust, vegetal Chinese greens, but really I use it most for my much loved Long Jing. Brewing the leaves results in a soggy tea that is not longer floral, but is all vegetal. There are notes of artichoke, bell pepper, chestnut, a bit of bamboo leaves, and a tiny bit of chestnut at the finish. The liquid is sweet with notes of artichoke, wildflower honey, spicebush, and a hint of peony. It smells mellow but not delicate.
The first steeping lets me know it is a good, clean, Dragon Well, it does now bowl me over, but it certainly is tasty! It has a rich, full body with a smooth mouthfeel, the taste starts off with bell pepper and green bean, this moves to a tiny bit of artichoke and bamboo leaves, the finish is sweet chestnuts and peony nectar.
The second steeping’s aroma is crispy, yes that is how to describe a smell! There are notes of nutty chestnut and crisp broken bamboo leaves and bell pepper. The taste is rich, delightfully rich and green, with notes of bell pepper, green beans, with a nice slightly bitter cooked kale and a nice smooth chestnut midtaste. The finish, like the previous one, is a nice peony nectar which lingers.
Third steep, woo! The aroma is less vegetal this time around, it is sweet and nutty with a delicate peony flower and bamboo leaf finish. The taste is quite sweet this time around, like chestnuts and those delightful honey and sesame candies (not Halva, like I frequently rave about, but candies that are just honey and sesame…rather addictive) there is a light bamboo leaf and bamboo shoot taste with a gentle finish of green beans and peony nectar. This tea is one of those Dragon Wells that make for an excellent everyday tea without breaking the bank, which is always pleasant because Dragon Well can get really expensive!
Today is tournament day! I am fighting PHR and honestly I have no idea if I can win, see PHR are really good at killing things…and the Scourge (in particular me) is really good at dying. I hold the record for the lowest kill to death ratio, meaning I am really good at dying, which is funny because it doesn’t mean I am bad at winning. Depending on the scenario, I might be very well suited to win, because my big advantage over the PHR is speed, they are super slow and I am the queen of speed!
It is spring, meaning it is time to revel in the spring harvested green teas! This week will be all about greens, specifically a set of five green teas from Teavivre! Today’s green tea of choice is Lu Shan Yun Wu Green Tea, a curly and very green leafed tea from Jiangxi Province in China. This particular tea was plucked April 10, 2015, which, if I remember my calender correctly, means it was harvested between Qing Ming and Gu Yu, making it awesomely fresh. The aroma of the tea (which is also known as Clouds and Mist Tea) is a blend of nutty and vegetal, it has a bit of spinach, some toasted sesame, a distinct yet mild roasted peanut note, a sharp note of artichoke, and a finish of raw asparagus. It smells super green, and very fresh, like a pile of vegetables right out of a garden…and like someone is roasting nuts in the kitchen.
Into my tall plum blossom gaiwan the leaves go, to have their dance with the water. After steeping the aroma becomes really intense, pretty much all the nutty notes have vanished, replaced with a mountain of vegetal notes. It starts with a very strong cooked asparagus, a nice note of cooked spinach, a bit of broccoli, and a finish of bell pepper. It kinda smells like food and honestly makes me more than a little hungry for stir fried vegetables. The liquid is fairly mild on the first steep, with notes of sauteed vegetables (primarily bell pepper and asparagus) and finish of gentle nuttiness.
First steeping, and wow, this tea is not mild, it packs quite the vegetal punch! It starts out sweet and nutty, like roasted peanuts and a hint of honey. Then boom, sharp asparagus, slightly bitter yet leafy kale, crisp bok choy and bell peppers, and a surprisingly sweet finish, kind of like the sweetness of carrots without the taste of carrots.
The aroma of the second steeping is sweet and vegetal, there are notes honey and peanuts, followed by asparagus, spinach, and a bit of bell pepper. The taste, well, remember last steep how the aroma made me hungry for stir fried vegetables, well the taste kinda satiated that craving. It is a blend of stir fried (in sesame oil if we are being really fancy) bell peppers, asparagus, bok choy, and a touch of broccoli. If this sounds delicious to you, then let me tell you, it is. I am a sucker for really vegetal green teas (yes, yes, I am sucker for teas in general, but shush) and this one takes the cake. The aftertaste is a touch of pepper and then a bit later a bloom of honey.
Third steeping time! The aroma is more sweet than vegetal this time around, with notes of honey and toasted sesame overpowering the more gentle notes of bell pepper. Ok, so here is where it gets weird, this steep has one of the best tasting notes ever, it tastes like capers but without the pickle aspect, it is really quite awesome and unique. Mix this in with gentle black pepper, bell pepper, and a touch of bok choy and you have a green end to a very green tea.
Ah, Sunday, my least favorite day of the week. No mail, half the restaurants are closed, and everywhere closes early. I know I am just being a spoiled brat, but I have been looking forward to having some sushi for quite a while, things just keep panning out that I could not have that delicious food that I so desired…until today! Ben left to fetch me a favorite treat but came back sad, alas, it is Sunday (we both keep thinking it is a day different than it actually is, I blame his new work schedule) meaning the restaurant was closed. I feel much like a sad, molting, parrot.
Today we are taking a look at Tea Leaf Co’s Rock Star, a white tea blend of blueberries and Bai Mu Dan, I do not drink as many blended teas as I used to (for shame) but I still get excited when I find a new blueberry blend, since it is frequently my favorite. To be listed among blueberry blends that I like, it has to taste like sweet fresh blueberries, not nasty tart unripe blues, honestly this is one of the few things I do not mind if it tastes extra sweet like blueberry muffins or blueberry candy, I really like my berries to be sweet. Looking at the ingredients, it turns out the berries in question are actually dried Elderberries, and the blueberries come from blueberry essence, which is interesting. The aroma is rather strongly in the blueberry camp, strong sweet blueberry with a tart undertone, and a finish of fresh vegetation and crisp lettuce. Bai Mu Dan always smells a bit like lettuce to me, making it seem crisp and fresh.
The now thoroughly soggy brewed up leaves take on a richer aroma, with notes of lettuce, a touch of pepper, loam, and of course a blend of sweet blueberries and tart elderberries. These last two notes seem pretty even with each other, the sweet does not overpower the tart and vice versa. The liquid is honey sweet, with notes of, well, honey, and of course blueberries and a touch of fresh green.
The taste is rather soothing and light, not a strong tea, the primary note that reigns supreme is honey and gentle vegetation. There is a tiny bit of pepper and loam, and a finish of sweet blueberries that linger well after the sipping has finished. The blueberry is pretty mild, but happily it is a sweet blueberry taste, which is good since I am not a fan of the tart. So, this was an enjoyable tea, it did not wow me, but I did enjoy it, I think also it could make a really tasty ice tea, if you are into that kinda thing.
I came to a very silly realization last night while lying in bed, thinking on how a lot of my tea gear is imperfect, and how that endears them to me, gives them personality, it makes them beautiful. I started this very early in life, mostly because of shopping at thrift stores and yard sales (long time bargain hunter) those imperfections usually meant history and life, and I get to carry on its legacy. The only time I find myself unhappy is when I buy something and it is different from the description, like the beautiful Zisha teapot that turned out to be painted black (why?) and is taking some thoroughly cleaning and boiling before I even consider using it for anything other than a vase, it is safe to say that ebay seller got negative feedback. My larger point is, I realized I have been a follower of the art of Wabi-Sabi most my life, and that it has taken me this long to realize it is a bit silly!
Today’s tea might win the award for the most applicable for my blog, at least with the name, TanLong Premium Tea Collection’s The Home for Butterflies-LanCang River Basin- XiGui ManLu Mountain Ancient Tea Tree 2013 just fits, because butterflies! The LanCang River Basin is a resting place for butterflies, the story reminded me of a place I visited in Georgia where there were hundreds of Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies drifting through the air and resting on the river bank (it was actually a creek, but shh) it was magical. This Puerh is made from old tree’s leaves, 100+ years old, these trees grow in the shade of mango trees on Man Lu Mountain. It is of the large leaf variety, and you can certainly tell because the leaves are rather large and twisty, with a hint of silver down. They have a very sharp aroma, mixing camphor and a lite sour straw and wet greenwood. On top of that is a strong smell of fresh spinach and wet hay, this is a very pungent pu! Pungent in a strong way, and intense way, not in a smells gross way. This is one of those Shengs that you can smell the Cha Qi, it is strong and invigorating, which is pretty impressive.
Giving the tea a rinse and short first steep, I am pleased I got the leaves in the pot, the one problem with drinking large leaf teas with a tiny shui ping! The aroma of the now wet but not fully uncurled leaves is pretty intense, a good kick in the face of camphor with a touch of cedar, along side that intense cleansing aroma is very sweet broken hay and honey, toss in a bit of green wood and spinach and a delicate finish of walnut shells and you have the aroma of the soggy leaves. The liquid’s aroma is honey sweet, with notes of sun-warmed fresh hay (if you have ever spent time on a farm, you know that smell) a very light camphorous note, and a finish of delicate fresh cherry.
The first steep with its golden hay coloring can be best described as subtly beautiful. It is mild and delicate, with notes of fresh sweet cherries, distant flowers brought in on a breeze, a bit of freshly broken vegetation, honey and hay. At the finish there is a tiny hint of smoke, just a whiff at the back of the tongue, the aftertaste is a delicate lingering camphor note and honey.
The second steep’s aroma is similar to the first, a blend of honey sweet warm hay and a touch of cherry, this time the camphor note is stronger and there is a note of fresh spinach at the finish. The taste is also very similar, but the delicate notes have more of a punch this time. The green vegetation notes are replaced with a mouthful of fresh spinach and the camphor is more present, causing a salivary explosion. There is a tiny bit of bitterness, but it is mild and quickly replaced with honey sweetness. This tea has a wonderful Qi, very invigorating!
Third steeping, the aroma is more camphor and more spinach, taking the sweet notes and giving it a touch more savory. It cools the nose and throat as I sniff it, some powerful camphor notes! The taste is very refreshing and cooling, like drinking a hot cup of tea with the feeling of drinking spring water, camphorous Yunnans are confusing at times. Like the previous steep there is a touch of bitterness that faded very quickly to sweet honey, the spinach note dominates the midsip along with a strong note of crushed vegetation. The finish is one of camphor and honey, both linger for quite a while.
As is my tradition, I continued with the steeping past the third steep, the fourth was deliciously sweet, almost no bitterness. By the sixth steep the camphor had calmed down a good deal, and the tea had mellowed out to just sweetness by the eighth. This is a tea I want, not just because of butterflies, but because I enjoyed the taste. It seems the more I drink Sheng, the more I prefer it over Shou, which is such a contrast to a year ago where I only kinda liked Sheng and preferred the earthiness of Shou.
I decided to pay a visit to the thrift store today, to my surprise they were having a 50% off sale on EVERYTHING. I was looking for a new teacup because my cat broke yet another one (so glad they like breaking my cheap thrift store finds instead of my expensive stuff) and found a nice new teacup, a Somayaki cup and creamer (which I will use for a Cha Hai, because why not) and an awesome antique table thing that will be completely redone into a tea table. I got it partially because I wanted a tea table I can sit at that is low to the ground, and also because if all goes well Ben and I will be moving in with a tea loving friend this summer and I want to have the most epic tea room.
So, it is Wednesday (though all week I keep thinking it is the wrong day) meaning it is time for What-Cha! I honestly think I am never going to succeed in my goal of trying all of the teas in that shop, because more keep arriving! New fancy ones from Malawi and Australia are the most recent ones that are making me check and double check my budget to see if I can swing another order soon. Usually I try to order once a season, stocking up on my favorite teas to drink that time of year…and a few favorites that I can’t seem to live without! So anyway, enough squeeing over future tea orders, today we are taking a look at Taiwan Amber Oolong! Yes, it is a roasted Oolong, because I have an obsession, this one is from Wushe Garden in Nantou Taiwan, this particular Oolong is roasted over the Longan Fruit tree’s wood, meaning some of that fruity goodness gets imparted into the tea (much like it is with smoking meat over fruit wood) and since this is a Jin Xuan cultivar, expect extra sweetness! So, the aroma, well…it smells really good! I am getting notes of toasted peanuts, sesame seeds, pie crust…and is that marzipan? After sniffing a bit more, yep, that is definitely marzipan!
The curled up leaves are tossed into the roasty-toasty Oolong Yixing for their happy bath, after which I give the leaves a thorough sniffing. So, this tea smells like pie. Specifically it smells like freshly baked peach pie, but with a nutty crust and a caramel drizzle. The liquid is super sweet and toasty, with notes of caramel, toasted nuts, pie crust, and a heaping pile of charcoal roasted peaches!
OMG, HOW!!! This tea taste exactly like peach cobbler with an oat crust and caramelized sugar, that is just uncanny! I kinda had to do a double take because I was sitting at my computer..took a sip…looked down at my cup, took another sip, and was totally blown away. It is sweet and toasted, with the toasted notes of oats and grain, and the sweet notes of fruit. That was an impressive first steep.
Second steep time, and I hope it still smells like pie. Hah, nope, now it smells like peach cobbler! Not a huge difference, except cobbler the way I had it had a crumbly oat crust, giving it more of a grain smell. The taste is still sweet and fruity, like a cobbler, but it has a sharper roasted taste. Along with that strong peach taste, there is also a nice cherry note and spicebush at the finish which lingers for quite a while.
Third steeping, the aroma is pretty mellow, blending peaches and toasted grains for a sweet yet subtle aroma. The taste has also mellowed out a bit, there is still a sweet peach and toasted grain taste, but it is a lot more subtle. Sadly this tea lacked staying power, but it made up for it in a crazy good taste, so I am not too sad, it has become a new staple in my ‘must have around’ collection because sometimes I really want a roasted Oolong but do not have the time for multiple steepings, and I hate having it go to waste, so this is perfect for a quick couple of steepings session.
Last night was the first night of the Dropzone Commander Tournament, but alas I did not play my game because my opponent because he had to take care of his baby, so instead I served the players tea. I have decided that mixing my passions is just a logical choice, luckily everyone seemed to like the tea, problem is I need more cups, but that problem is fixing itself as we speak. On the news of DZC, I won the league’s painting contest, so it is safe to say I am very pleased with myself, totally going to take my little award and hang it on my wall.
Today’s tea is a preview for a tea that Whispering Pines Tea Co will be stocking a small amount of in the near future, High Mountain Xinyang Maojian Green Tea! The name combines region and description of the leaf, it comes from Xinyang County in Henan, China and the Maojian part refers to the fuzzy leaf tips, yay for trichomes! I am going to start out by saying there are green teas and there are luminous teas that capture the essence of life…yeah, it is going to be one of those posts, so strap yourselves in. When I opened the pouch and scooped out the needed leaves, I let out a ‘whoa’ hopefully not sounding like Keanu Reeves, but I probably did, these leaves are crazy vibrant! They have beautiful silver fuzz which makes them almost look like they are shimmery, like the surface of water. Oh man, the aroma of these leaves is so fresh, like really super fresh, like did they just come straight from the field fresh! It blends notes of sweetly nutty chestnut and fresh green spinach, and the best part…like tea flowers. It smells like blooming tea flowers (I totally got to sniff them when I was in Charleston) they are subtle and honey sweet, smelling ethereal, just like this tea.
Into the gaiwan the leaves go, and they seem to become even greener somehow, which is impressive. The aroma of the now steeped and soggy leaves is so fresh and so green, blending clean mountain air, fresh growth, chestnuts, fresh asparagus, fresh spinach, and a distant hint of flowers, less tea flowers and more something slightly spicy like tulips. The liquid is also very clean, hmm, seeing a theme here? Blend a sense of cleanness with fresh spinach and asparagus, sweet peas, and a touch of growing bamboo for a very green smelling tea.
I am glad I was sitting down when I first took a sip of the first steep, because it is a tea that would have knocked me off my feet. It is so delicate while having such crisp and distinct notes, starting with a velvety smooth mouthfeel and moving right into a clean green sweetness. It reminded me of my favorite notes taken from Anji Bai Cha and Dragonwell and put into a super light tea. There are notes of sweet peas, chestnuts, a touch of spinach and a light note of asparagus, unlike a lot of Maojians I have tried, this one is only light on the savory, adding touches of sweetness and floral.
So, right after I finished that paragraph I wandered off to Tabletop to play my first tournament league, in case you are curious, I won on objectives, but my opponent did kill most my Scourge…my kill to death ratio is intensely bad! Also, as a side note, I had this tea in my travel steeper, it performed beautifully, no surprise there. Anyway, the second steep needs attention now, and the aroma of the gently steaming liquid is beautiful, it is the embodiment of clean mountain air, misty and green, fresh with new life in spring. Yes that is a silly poetic description, but this tea is one that fills my mind with images rather than with aroma notes, all teas do that to me, but some more strongly than others. The mouthfeel is just as velvety smooth as the previous steep, the taste more intense, starting off with sweet peas and chestnuts, the midtaste is smoothly green spinach and artichoke, with a tiny hint of mineral, much like spring water. The finish had a lingering note of floral, distant floral brought on a breeze rather than sitting next to a vase of flowers, meaning it was hard to identify.
For the third steep, oh man, the aroma is still so delightful, though I am able to piece together more than just images and emotions this time, there are notes of crisp vegetation, chestnut sweetness, and a finish of peas and asparagus. The taste is still pretty fantastic, going strong, it has a wonderful peaceful Cha Qi, this could be a great tea to meditate over, or to accompany you while doing something thoughtful (like painting and wargaming?) there are notes of asparagus and sweet pea, chestnut and a touch of bok choy at the finish. It is safe to say many steeps were had! The best part of this tea was sharing it, Brendan of WPT was awesome and shared some of this beauty with me, so letting my friends at gaming night try it seemed the perfect thing to do. They all agree, this tea is a thing of beauty.
Oh goody! One of those stupid headaches that won’t go away has decided to crop up, I hate them because they make it so hard to think straight and see straight, plus I tend to get so dizzy. I have had them my whole life, they just crop up and stay for anywhere from a week to a few months, pretty sure they are just part of having Fibromyalgia, plus they run in the family, probably because we are so smart! Blah, tea helps though, I am not a ‘tea for health’ reasons kinda person, but tea works on these headaches better than any pain killer, so it is not just the caffeine (I lived off Excedrin as a teenager, my stomach still thanks me for that one) but possibly the play of caffeine and theanine? Or maybe it is the soothing taste, hot liquid acting as a vasodilator in my head, and the ritual of tea as a whole bringing me peace. Regardless of the reason, I am glad it brings my head a bit of a rest so I can do things, like write this blog!
Recently I recieved a surprise package from Yunomi with Nakamura-En’s #01 Gyokuro Mecha, The Discovery inside. I do not remember requesting any samples to review lately, so maybe this came from their awesome Tea4Two program, whatever the reason for its arrival, it was very welcome because I had just run out of Gyokuro the other day. This particular Gyokuro is actually Mecha (no, not that kind of Mecha, sadly it is not a giant piloted robot, I am sad too) a tea that is basically the broken off tips and buds of the tea, this gives it a more robust taste and makes it cheaper than normal Gyokuro and high end Sencha. This also means that it is a bit cheaper, meaning if you are wanting to experiment with brewing Gyokuro the crazy leaf heavy traditional way or just try Gyokuro in general, it is a good introductory tea. I have to say, this might be the sweetest Gyokuro I have had the pleasure of sniffing (also such tiny leaves! must be careful to not inhale them) it is a blend if honey, freshly broken green grass and hay, and a chestnut and sweet pea finish. As I snuffled around in the tea leaves a bit longer, warming them up even more by breathing on them, delicate floral notes and a touch of kelp waft up from the emerald leaves.
Really, I should brew this in my Kyusu or pseudo-Houhin, but I always end up brewing Gyokuro in my glass steeping apparatus, because it is so pretty! The aroma of the now thoroughly soggy leaves is very green, like super green! Notes of grass and spinach, kelp and peas, and a tiny hint of chestnuts. It smells verdant, I see flashes of vibrant green in my mind as I sniff it. The liquid is light and sweet, and of course green, though it is no where as intense as the wet leaves. There are notes of honey and chestnut along with a strong grassy presence.
Holy soupy thickness! Oh man, that mouthfeel is something else, it does not coat the mouth, it paints it, it smothers it, it feels sensual like chocolate melting in the mouth, but less milky…and chocolaty, but a similar texture. The taste is super green, with a blend of spinach and grass at the first, then it goes on a mouth journey to asparagus and sweet peas, and at the finish we have chestnut and kelp. It blends savory and sweetness pretty perfectly. Speaking of chocolate, if you ever get the chance to mix really dark chocolate with Gyokuro, do it, it is an awesome pairing!
In the traditional style I went for a second steeping, jacking up the temperature and shortening the steeping time. It is safe to say that is luminous Hulk green tea is now a powerhouse of flavor, it is super savory with notes of kelp and cooked spinach, with a strong kale midtaste, this bitter green note pretty quickly fades to kelp and a touch of chestnut at the finish. It is pretty intense, in a good way, but be warned, do not go to the second steep lightly, be prepared with a spirit of steel!
My brain is a bit frazzled, it was my friend’s birthday dinner and I ate way too much, I feel a bit food drunk! Similar to being tea drunk, though not as pleasant, my relationship with food is still pretty rocky, but I am starting to enjoy it again. It was so awesome to be able to food party with friends without my guts being a gate crasher, though I really do wish restaurants had better tea. Or tea at all!
I should start this review by saying this is the 2014 harvest, and my sample had a little note saying this year’s will be fresher, this is a sad truth about green and yellow teas, not a hugely long shelf life. Now don’t get me wrong, it is by no means stale, but it is not all it could be, kinda like me between breakfast and lunch! This Jun Shan Yin Zhen comes from Tanlong Premium Tea Collection, and is one of the more rare of the more well known Yellow Teas (and yes that was an odd sentence.) Yellow Teas are just not that well known in the West, and even if you are a seasoned tea drinker, there is a chance you might have not had one, and if you did it was probably Huo Shan Huang Ya, since it is a good deal harder to get Jun Shan Yin Zhen in this part of the world. The aroma of the very pretty little needles is sharp and vegetal, with notes of asparagus and artichoke, along with a crispy note of fresh bok choy. It has a bit of a buttery and peppery undertone, with just a tiny hint of nuttiness at the finish. The tea is mild, but the notes are distinct.
Brewing the leaves in my gaiwan really makes the green color of the little needles pop! My photo does not do it justice. The aroma is very sharp and vegetal, with returning notes of asparagus and artichoke, and bringing a new friend of fresh spinach. The finish had a hint of smoke and pepper, both of which are very mild. The liquid is much milder and smoother, more like green beans and artichoke with hints of spinach and asparagus, still retains a bit of that sharpness, but it has mellowed out.
The first steep is very delicate, not so much mild, but delicate, like a silk scarf floating through a breeze is delicate. The mouth feel is smooth like silk as well, so the comparison continues! The taste is vegetal, mostly a blend of green beans and artichokes, with a side note of bell peppers and a pinch of smoke. The finish is mild and sweet, like nectar of a tulip tree flower.
Onward to the second steep, the mellow and delicate aroma is a bit stronger this time, with the familiar notes of asparagus and green beans, with artichoke and spinach returning. The taste like the aroma, is mostly the same but stronger. The bell pepper note is much more predominate, and the smokiness at the end is not longer a pinch but is more of a distinct and lingering note, which I admit to liking (I do like my smoky notes though.) I like this tea, I have had a fresher Jun Shan Yin Zhen and can tell that yes, this is an older tea, and yes, I am willing to bet that when it was newer this tea was much more potent, making me very curious to get my hands on some of the 2015 harvest!
I am going to probably be covered in chiggers. I decided, I am tired of this stupid Midwest pointy grass and chiggers, and the inability to roll around in the grass, so I found a MASSIVE patch of clovers and just flopped down into it, soaking up the sunlight. The inevitable itchies are probably worth it, I will give a definite on that after they happen. Sometimes a nature lover like me has to to take one for the team in order to recharge my batteries after a long (ok actually it was a really warm) winter.
Since it is Thursday, that means it is time to blow the dust off my tea notebook pile and review one of the teas from my distant (like a year and a half ago) past. Reading the notes of these teas sends me back to the time I drank it, I might not be able to remember what day of the week it is half the time, but I can remember the way things taste and smell from years ago. I have a very strong yet very selective memory! So, today’s tea is Houjicha Gold from Den’s Tea, and boy do I feel sheepish for not visiting their site in a while, because they have some new and exciting teas! I feel a fondness for them since it was where I got my first Kyusu, and a Green Tea Starter kit, I was not at all new to Japanese teas, but I was new to Den’s Tea, and this seemed a good way to try their teas, Houjicha Gold was included. This is their roasted Bancha (as Houjicha tends to be) specifically from the Yabukita Cultivar grown in Shizuoka. The aroma of this tea is fairly mild, on the lightly toasted spectrum of Houjicha, blending a faint sweetness with autumn leaves and a touch of loam. Towards the finish there is a blend of nutty and toasted seaweed, giving it a savory, umami finish.
Into the kyusu the toasted leaves go, and man are my photos so bad! I am glad I finally figured out how to take indoor photos, one day though I am going to have a very well lit tea room! Preferably one with a sink…and very close to a bathroom! Ah, a girl can dream. So, after brewing, the leaves take on a stronger kelp and toasted note, even adding in a bit of smoke, no more sweetness this time, just toasted umami notes. The liquid, well, time for a little head-jerk of contrast, because it is super sweet, like toasted marshmallow and roasted nuts. Toss in a little campfire and you have a delicious smelling liquid.
The taste starts a touch smoky and very umami, with strong toasted kelp. This pretty quickly moves to sweet toasted marshmallow and nuttiness with a delightful lingering sweetness. The mouthfeel was a bit dry, not a sucking dryness, but not the coating feeling you get from its less toasted green cousin, it is a dryness I associate with toasted teas, distinct but not at all unpleasant. As the tea cools, the notes of smoke and roasted tea become stronger and linger much longer, leaving a smoky aftertaste. This is an excellent choice as a introductory Houjicha, it showcases the aspects you expect without any of the quirks of a more specialized Houjicha.
I need a new shelf. My tea area is becoming slightly cluttered with tea gear, and thanks to some ebay credit scoring me three new teapots, I am about to totally run out of room. So I need a new shelf, to go next to my Tea Confessional, which will just hold my Yixing teapots. This other shelf will hold all my gaiwans, cha hais, cups, and other gear. I figure this will give me more room on my tea tray to hold gemstones and miniatures, since I like having them right there with my tea. Of course I have to go to the wood stash in the basement and attempt to build this shelf, so I might end up needing a different solution.
Ah yes, time for another Drow Tea! It is official, from now on all purple teas are Dark Elf teas, really I would prefer to call them Shadow Elf teas, but Drows are more popular, so we will go with that. Presenting What-Cha’s Yunnan Graceful Purple ‘Zi Juan’ Purple Varietal Green Tea! This green tea is from the lovely and very tea prolific region of Yunnan, that part you can get from the name, but what does the Zi Juan part mean? It means Graceful Purple and is the name of the varietal, though I will say that the article I linked you all to is a very interesting (to say the least) translation, but I suggest reading it for more information about the purple varietal in China. So, this tea cracks me up, because on first examination, it smells like bacon! Ok, not really, but the blend of smokiness, leather, and sauteed mushrooms oddly reminds me of bacon, this tea is all about the savory, toss in some cooked spinach and a camphorous undertone and you have a green tea that has the essence of Yunnan. I am calling it that from now on because most teas from this region have it, though this tea leans more towards the savory side, which I like!
The leaves, once brewed, become super rich and smooth, with notes that are both evocative of a seaside and a forest floor, along with some deliciously sauteed spinach and mushrooms. I really dig the seaweed notes and that finish of loam and camphor, very savory and nose tingly. The liquid, on the other hand, is delicate, with notes of smoke, sauteed mushrooms, and a finish of cooked spinach.
The first steep is very well rounded and smooth, it is very much so a full mouth sensation tea, starting off smooth on the tongue and turning to cooling as it slides down the throat. The taste is savory, there is no sweet to be found, with notes of sauteed mushrooms, very gentle smoke, a touch of seaweed, and finish of spinach. There is no camphor taste, just the cooling sensation, which is always a treat to have.
Now onto the second steep (and fair warning, I am tea sloshed, I met up with a friend and we had all told about 15 steeps of teas, and I had several steeps of a black and a green before that!) The aroma is smoky and loamy, like a forest floor with savory mushrooms, and just a tiny hint of floral. That little floral note is fun, more like the memory of a flower rather than the flower. Holy moly camphor! That is one cooling camphorous tea, I can certainly taste it this time, it is not just a sensation. Couple that with a meaty sauteed mushroom and a very green cooked spinach and you have a yummy tea…that might actually be a spy. I am pretty sure this is a green tea that is trying to infiltrate the world of Sheng Puerhs by pretending to be one.
Third steeping, the aroma is a bit mellow, blending smoky notes and a tiny hint of hay, along with gentle notes of spinach. Still pleasant, though not as robust as previously. This steep has gone back to the well rounded mouth, no more camphor explosion, just a gentle cooling sensation at the finish. The taste is spinach and mushrooms, keeping it savory and just a tiny bit meaty, though there is a very delicate sweetness at the finish. This tea is fascinating, it is like a Sheng Puerh and a particularly savory Mao Jian got together and had a very purple love child, and I am ok with that. I really enjoy green teas that have strong savory notes, I am a bit of an umami fiend, plus purple teas are just so much fun to look at!