335 Tasting Notes
The Pokemon Challenge is well under way, I have the first sixteen completed and according to calculations if I make an average of ten a day, I should be finished in a little under two years. I am trying to think if I have ever undertaken a larger project, I certainly have folded more stars, but that doesn’t have an end goal. I certainly think this is the only craft project I have tackled that has a stated end goal. If you are curious to watch the progress and cheer me on, I will have a link at the end of the blog post.
Today’s tea is Laoshan Apothecary Green by Verdant Tea. I admit the first thing that drew me to this particular blend was its name, because apothecaries are awesome. This tea is a blend of Laoshan Green Tea, Organic Fennel, Organic Coriander, Organic Peppermint, Organic Rama Tulsi, and Organic Kishna Tulsi. The first thing I notice about this tea’s aroma is how incredibly clean and refreshing it smells. The blend of herbs is a blend of savory and faintly sweet with sharp notes of mint. The mint and basil are the most prominent notes with a finish of coriander and fennel.
Once steeped the aroma of the base green tea shows its true colors (they are all shades of green if you were curious) with a strong aroma of cooked spinach. There are of course herbaceous notes of basil and coriander, with just a slight hint of fennel and mint. The aroma reminds me of herb bread and it is making me quite hungry. The liquid smells almost identical to the wet leaves but with a little bit more of the mint aroma and less of the bread quality.
The taste of this tea is pleasantly savory, blending strong herbaceous notes with cooked spinach. The herb bread analogy from earlier is holding up, the tea has a slightly yeasty quality and is loaded with the taste of basil and coriander. At the finish there is a cleansing kick of mint that really seems to cleanse the palate and cool the mouth and stomach. I always enjoy teas that have a cooling sensation. The mouthfeel of this tea could be described as silky, it is very smooth and pleasant. As it cools the tea gets sweeter.
I decided to have another go with these leaves, the aroma of the wet leaves for steep two has stronger herbal tones, the basil and mint is much stronger, along with the fennel being sharper. The first thing I notice is the flavor is sweeter and the coriander is stronger. It is less vegetal this time and more herbal, the mint instead of being at the end of the sip shows up at the middle and stays around until the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is still smooth and silky, and as the tea cools it continues to get sweeter. This tea is great if you are having belly problems or have had a meal that is too heavy, it cleanses and cools the mouth, plus it is quite tasty.
I have decided to start a new craft project that will take an eternity to complete: I am going to make perler bead sprites of all the Pokemon. Yes, I want to create all 718 (for now, I am sure there will be more before I get close to the end) of them, I started last night and not counting all the Eeveelutions I made months ago I have created the first six. I predict I will get the first 50-60 done before I run out of beads! Also, in the art department, I have taken up sketching and created a flash diffuser for my camera.
Today’s tea is Rose Congou from Upton Tea Imports, a Chinese Black Tea scented with rose blossoms. Interesting tea fact of the day, Congou is more of a description of tea rather than a specific type, coined in the 19th century from a translation error, specifically from the Hokkien dialect pronunciation of Gongfu. So basically the Chinese exporters were saying that it was tea made with great skill, and the American and English importers thought it was a type of tea. To be fair there are black teas that have Gongfu (or Congou) in its name, Keemun, Chaozhu Gongfu Cha, and Panyang Congou, and conviently all three of these have been identified as Congou at some point in tea’s history, so at least the misunderstanding is understandable. The aroma is sweet and heavily rosy, reminiscent of an English rose garden during high summer. Perfumed and heady with a hint of muscatel and earthiness, so it is like having tea in said rose garden.
Once the leaves have been steeped the aroma becomes a bit more earthy and muscatel, but with hints of oak wood and cocoa. There is a subtle sweetness, and of course roses, however the roses are no where near as potent as their dry leaf counterparts. The liquid smells both rosy and a bit malty with a creamy after quality. It has a subtle sweetness as well and is quite delicious smelling.
The taste of the tea is heady and heavily rosy. There is a very faint sweetness, not much of one until the aftertaste. This tea is quite bright and really wakes up the mouth, it also does not become overpowered by the roses, so it is a good balance of base tea and added flavors. I really love this tea with a splash of cream and sugar, making a tea version of one of my favorite drinks, Rose Milk. Adding the cream and sugar makes for a floral and decadent tea, and it brings out some mild muscatel quality. Delicious.
Flavors: Flowers, Malt
Everyone decided to go on an outing today for crepes and shopping at Costco, I was not feeling much for going out (or waking up yet) so I decided to stay home and get some moderately fulfilling sleep. I was already awake when everyone returned, having my tea and breakfast, when I am presented with an industrial size bottle of Lactaid and a giant, bulk package of seasoned, roasted, seaweed. I feel so loved!
Today’s tea is Sencha Fuka-Midori by Den’s Tea, part of the Green Tea Sampler For Novices offered on their website. This specific Sencha is a first flush plucked in Shizuoka prefecture and is from the Yabukita varietal. The aroma is sweet and green, fresh grass and kelp with a touch of artichoke cover the vegetal end. Chestnut and very faint citrus notes cover the mild sweetness. This tea is very much so the ‘ideal’ of a Sencha, basically it smells exactly like you expect a Sencha to smell like.
Into the Kyusu the leaves go for a nice quick steeping, I find that the recommend steeping parameters are way too hot for this tea, so I steeped it at 160 for 2 minutes. The aroma of the wet leaves is quite sweet with honey notes and very vegetal with notes of cooked spinach with hints of kelp at the finish. The liquid smells both green and buttery, like fresh grass with a very smooth quality. At the finish there is just a tiny, tiny, hint of cooked spinach.
The first thing I notice while sipping is the extremely smooth, almost buttery mouthfeel. It also feels heavy and thick, filling up the mouth with flavor. The taste is a fantastic blend of fresh grass, sweet hay, and cooked spinach. If you want a touch of the more bitter vegetal taste, a slightly higher temperature will turn the cooked spinach to more of a kale taste. This Sencha, like its aroma, is a fine example of an ‘ideal’ Sencha. If you have never had a Sencha before and want to see what one is expected to taste like, this one is a perfect example, I can certainly see why it is in their introductory sampler.
I plan on spending my weekend crafting! Making stars, melting perler beads, drawing, you know the usual crafty things. Of course while I am crafting I will have my eyes glued to the livestreams for Final Round 17 held in my home town of Atlanta. For those not in the know, Final Round is the Southeast’s biggest fighting game tournament and part of the Road to Evo. It is not too much of a surprise that I am a huge fan of fighting games.
Today we are looking at Roast Gao Shan tea no.8 in the Red Leaf Tea sampler, Gao Shan Oolong is from Taiwan and is also known as High Mountain Oolong and is from the alpine tea zone, or above 1,000 feet. Usually these teas are only very lightly roasted, if at all, so this oolong being roasted could be an unusual treat. The aroma is certainly roasted and deliciously so, a mix of sweetness and an almost popcorn like aroma. There is also a hint of vegetal, specifically that of green beans.
The steeped leaves still have a strong roasted aroma that the dry leaves did, retaining the sweetness and popcorn like aroma, but the vegetal notes have gone to more of a spinach tone and there is a very light floral note at the finish. The liquid is surprisingly heady with strong orchid notes mixing with rich nuttiness and roasted aromas.
The taste is deliciously roasted with a mild orchid taste that mixes quite well with the roasted taste. The roasted taste still reminds me a bit of popcorn (without the salt and butter of course) and a bit of chestnuts. As the tea cools the taste becomes sweeter, adding a burnt sugar taste which is quite yummy. The flavors that are present are quite mild and subtle, it is quite a tasty tea but not one that inspires poetry and song.
Flavors: Caramel, Orchids
Yours truly spent entirely too much time playing my favorite board game today, Summoner Wars! Ben and I play it constantly, so much so that we developed an RPG style plot around it and use the game itself to have the epic battles. Today we were play testing a rules variation to have one ‘boss style’ Summoner with a super deck against two Summoners, after some tweaking we got it to work, meaning tomorrow is a boss fight for our heroes. Will they save the world or die horribly? I guess it all depends on how good my tactics are.
Today’s tea is secretly a cookie in disguise, Oatmeal Raisin Cookie by Della Terra Tea is a blend of Black Tea, Vanilla and Brown Sugar Flavoring, Cinnamon, Raisins, and Oatmeal. I have a real love-hate relationship with Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, actually it is mainly with raisins, I love their taste but hate the texture, so when I get a cookie that tastes wonderful but has raisins I just cringe. So of course I had to try a tea that is all about tasting a cookie and not actually eating it. The aroma is spot on, it smells just like an oatmeal raisin cookie! It is sweet, spicy, malty, raisiny (totally a word now), and of course has the grainy quality of oatmeal. The cinnamon is a little stronger than the particular cookies I grew up with, but I have had some that smell as strongly of cinnamon as this tea does, so difference in recipe I suppose.
Once the tea has been brewed, my tea area starts to smell like a bakery. The aroma of the wet leaves is powerfully sweet and cinnamon heavy with underlying notes of raisin. I am really enjoying how much the leaves smell like cookies, I feel like a kid waiting for a batch to come out of the oven (and then picking off the raisins as soon as they cool). The liquid is very sweet, blending the aromas of vanilla and brown sugar with a touch of raisins and a potent kick of cinnamon.
The taste is quite sweet! No need for added sugar with this tea, it is much like the cookies it was named after and comes pre-sweetened. The taste is a blend of vanilla and cinnamon with a hint of brown sugar, the taste reminds me more of a snickerdoodle than an oatmeal raisin cookie. The aftertaste, however, does bring in that touch of raisin that makes it more like its namesake. As the tea cools the taste becomes sweeter and you can detect the faintest hint of oatmeal. This tea is not a bad substitute if you are craving a sweet cookie treat and just either don’t have them around or you just don’t actually feel like eating.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Raisins, Vanilla
I inherited a very interesting trait from the women in my family, the desire to redecorate and reorganize our living space every few weeks. I placed my new shelves in their home and moved the items that were going on said shelves onto said shelves, and then promptly decided that my entire Tea Lair and most of my bedroom need reorganizing. Maybe that is the real reason I love Minecraft so much, I can reshape my surroundings as often as I want without having to do all the work.
Time for a break from reorganzing for a bit of tea and writing! Today’s tea is the last of the samples from Shan Valley, Shan First Flush Green Tea, this tea is from the first harvest (usually in April, according to the description) and is considered a reserve tea, fancy. The aroma is very fresh and very vegetal, mixing the notes of vegetation, fresh lettuce, spinach, and a bit of kelp. It reminds me of a salad, specifically a salad being eaten al fresco in a lush garden. These leaves smell like nature and food.
The steeped leaves retain their vegetal tones but also gain a sharpness that reminds me of fresh kale, there is a spritz of citrus and slight hint of kelp. The more I sniff the wet leaves the more I am picking out, a bit of lettuce and a hint of smokiness, and a finish of teaberry. The teaberry finish gave me a surprise, I have not smelled that plant (and by extension ice cream flavor) in years, so serious points on the nostalgia chart. The liquid without the leaves is a blend of lettuce and kelp with a finish of copper.
The taste is sharp and vegetal, mixing the taste of lettuce and kelp with a bit of bitter green, like kale. There is a bit of a citrus taste as well and an aftertaste of smokiness. Out of curiosity I decided to brew some in my gaiwan, uncovered for one minute, just to see how much of a difference there is. The taste of the gaiwan brewed leaves is very similar, less of the kale taste and more kelp, there is a finish of smokiness and it leaves a slightly sage like herbal taste in the mouth. This is a tea for someone who loves the strong vegetal greens with a hint of ocean flavors, I like this one. I was not wowed or blown away by it, but I did certainly enjoy it.
Flavors: Kale, Seaweed
As I am typing this Midwestern weather is showing its chaotic flair! This early afternoon it was almost 80 degrees, sunny, and wonderfully pleasant. It was so nice I decided to go out wearing a short-sleeved dress, BIG mistake, pretty much as soon as I went out the sky clouded over and the wind started whipping. An hour or so later the temperature has dropped to 45 degrees and it is storming wildly. If the weather prediction is correct it will get below freezing and I will wake up to three inches of snow! The weather here is maddening but seldom ever dull.
Today’s tea comes from a more tropical location, Myanmar! Valley Green Tea by Shan Valley is a premium green tea harvested year round, according to the description. The aroma of these fairly large leaves is extremely kelpy, in fact I had to do a double take ‘am I really just smelling my nori by accident?’ are these leaves really just dried kelp? I can practically smell the sea air, maybe if I am lucky it will transport me to the seaside. Further nose investigation led me to find the aroma of cooked spinach under the strong ocean aroma.
As per the previous teas from Shan Valley, there were no steeping instruction, I steeped at 175 degrees for about two minutes. I found the aroma of the wet leaves were still very kelpy, but now I am picking up stronger notes of spinach and sweet fruitiness similar to cherries. I have to admit this aroma struck me as an odd combo. The liquid sans leaves smells strongly of seaweed and brackish water, it reminded me of being on the coast when the tide is leaving. I know a lot of people are not a huge fan of that smell, but it is one of my favorite.
I love the ocean, the smells, tastes, everything about it! I tend to go into this kinda of trance when I am at the ocean that usually involves me running off into the water (a problem when I was a child) and staying there until I am dragged out. It has made me wonder if I am part mermaid or something along those lines most my life! Having a tea that smells so strongly of the sea is extremely exciting, sadly the taste was not entirely to my liking. First is the initial kelp taste with a hint of slightly fishy, metallic note. It quickly fades to cooked spinach, which goes nicely with the ocean greens theme, but the finish is a mix of sweet cherries and seaweed. I think the sweetness at the end kinda ruined the experience for me, if it had been all kelp and vegetal I would have loved this tea immensely, but the cherry sweetness added too much of a clashing taste. I still say give it a taste if you are able, I mean how often can you say you are sipping a tea from Myanmar that tastes like the ocean and fruit?
Flavors: Metallic, Ocean Breeze, Seaweed, Stonefruits
I had an awesome day, best day I have had in a while! Lately all my plans have been going poof for one reason or another so when everything went perfectly today it made it all the sweeter. First off I got a gloriously comfy new desk chair and shelves from a very nice lady on freecycle, the chair is high back and leather just like my old beloved chair, and the shelves are a perfect fit for my Tea Lair. Ben decided to take me out for an afternoon snack at Subway and shopping at the thrift store where he bought me some awesome new clothes. Also the radio seemed to be playing all the right music so I had fun dancing and singing like a goof. All an all, awesome day.
Today’s tea is a little bit of summer captured in tea, Sencha Summer Citrus by Yunomi.us and Ocharaka Tea Shop. This beautifully bright green sencha is blended with Natsumikan (translates to Summer Tangerine) a type of citrus native to Japan. The only distinctly Japanese citrus I have had is Yuzu, so it was exciting to research the Natsumikan a bit, famous in the city of Hagi and frequently brought back as a souvenir. They are described as being a blend of oranges, lemons, and grapefruits with a more sour quality. Sounds exciting! The aroma of this summer themed tea is intensely citrus, true to the description it smells like a citrus salad rather than one specific fruit. There is also the sencha aroma, delightfully fresh sweet grass and mown hay. It blends quite wonderfully with the slightly sweet and slightly sour citrus aroma from the Natsumikan.
Steeping the leaves brings out more the the fresh green aroma, very evocative of a field in summer, full of fresh grass, sweet hay, and a delicate touch of vegetal. There is of course still the aroma of citrus, but it is much milder and mostly sweet like oranges. The liquid is delightfully green with notes of fresh grass and vegetal (I want to say artichoke and lettuce but it is very faint) there is also a very delicate touch of kelp and of course an undertone of citrus.
The taste is mild and refreshing, it is very much so something I would want to sip during a summer day. There is a bit of citrus sweetness, again with the blend of different citrus fruits, and a midtaste of sour citrus, but it fades to sweetness again which is quite nice. There is a green, fresh grass quality that blends well with the citrus, the green is more vegetation than vegetal so it almost feels like you have the citrus leaves as well as the fruit. As the tea cools the citrus becomes sweeter and the sencha takes on a vegetal lettuce quality. This tea is good both hot and cold, and it might be the best citrus themed teas I have yet to taste.
Flavors: Grass, Lemon Zest, Orange Zest
I think officially spring is here, it is warm, bright, and sunny…and I have started getting Pollen Alerts in my email. Though if I have learned anything in my time living in Kansas City, it is that the weather and seasons are very unpredictable, it might feel like spring now but in a week we could be buried under snow again.
Today’s tea arrived in the mail when I was recovering from the flu, meaning I had to wait till I could fully taste and smell things properly, and it is finally that time! Tiger Monk Roasted Oolong by Temple Road Tea is a roasted oolong from Taiwan and is of the Shan Lin Xi variety and is the first tea in their Martial Monk series. The aroma is really quite intense, blending caramelized sugar and roasted nuts with lesser notes of raisins. The tightly rolled leaves have a finishing aroma of coal and fresh wood. I was pleasantly surprised at how sweet the aroma is, it blends really well with the smoky coal finish.
Once steeped and unfurled a bit, the leaves take on the complex blend of cherries and coal, milk and cocoa. It is very rich and has pleasant layers of aromas that fills me with the desire to keep sniffing, I want to see what other aromas come wafting off the wet leaves. The liquid is creamy and rich with strong notes of coal and a hint of sweet cocoa.
The first steeping is very smooth, the first thing I notice is the initial buttery mouthfeel, the creamy taste that accompanies the tea is wonderful. The tea is sweet with flavors of dried cherries and raisins with a strong wood smoke and coal finish. If the first steep is anything to go by I can say I am going to love this tea, it mixes some of my favorite qualities of Jin Xuan and Roasted Da Hong Pao.
The aroma of the leaves from the second steeping still has the sweet fruity aroma from earlier, but the cocoa and coal notes are stronger, now there is also a hint of roasted nuts. The aroma of the liquid is caramel sweet and cocoa rich with a pleasant kick of roasted nuts. The mouthfeel of this steeping is not as buttery, in fact it has a bit of a bitter dryness to it, similar to a mouthful of roasted hazelnuts (yes I do know exactly what that tastes like). The coal and wood smoke taste is much stronger with this steeping as well, it is a potent steep rivaling Lapsang Souchong for smokiness, except it is like cherry wood smoke rather than pine wood since it has a distinct sweet floral quality. Speaking of sweetness the finish is powerfully sweet, it goes from coal to smoke in an instant and the flip-flop of taste is an awesome transition.
The third steeping’s aroma is almost identical to the second, but this time the liquid had a slight hint of malt. The mouthfeel is dry and the flavor is mostly sweet this time, I think almost all the smoke was left behind in the previous steep. This time I get honey, cherries, and roasted nuts as the main flavor notes. There is a hint of cocoa at the end, throughout the entire sipping experience is the ghost of smoke, like a strong breeze blew away all the smoke from a forest fire, but the memory is still left in the nose and mouth. This tea kinda blew me away, I almost feel like the tea was misnamed, it should have been Phoenix Monk since I felt much like the Phoenix going through a smoky journey with this tea. I think I found a new favorite.
Flavors: Cocoa, Honey, Stonefruits
I am so happy, I went to check the mail and discovered that I had no mail…wait, that is really sad…the reason I am happy is because it was beautifully warm today! No sunlight (always a plus) and spring-like warmth, for the first time in a while I was able to toss open the windows and enjoy some fresh air. Today was also a day for a new Minecraft Texture Pack, the City Texture Pack which has mobs in suits and some really gorgeous texturing. Playing around with my mom on the Xbox today, we both decided it would be our new ‘everyday’ texture pack, replacing the Natural Pack. Also, for anyone who is keeping track of these things, I almost have my huge star jar filled with 2,000 lucky stars filled up, yay!
Today’s tea is an innovative spin on a traditional Japanese tea, Verdant Tea’s Laoshan Black Genmaicha! This blend is created from Laoshan Black Tea, Minnesota Wild Rice, Organic Fair Trade Jasmine Rice, Organic Cacao Nibs, and Shui Jin Gui Wuyi Oolong. This was the tea that convinced me to first order from Verdant Tea over a year ago, I saw it and fell in love with the idea, but did I fall in love with the tea? The aroma is decadent, very rich chocolate and nutty notes. There is also a rich malt aroma from the black tea and an extremely delicate floral and caramel notes. The key words to take away from the aroma is rich and decadent, it is nothing short of mouthwatering.
The brewed tea leaves are as expected, very rich with earthy tones, rich chocolate notes, and a touch of rice. After the initial chocolaty good aroma you can detect a slightly mineral like roasted oolong aroma. The liquid without the soaking leaves has the aroma of chocolate cookies and chocolate liqueur, it is very rich and has distinctly malty and creamy notes.
Tasting the tea is a real treat, it is very rich and quite creamy. The chocolate taste is slightly bitter like a really high percentage dark chocolate (think the 80% cocoa variety) but with an extra earthiness and burst of malt. The aftertaste is a mix of oak wood and toasted rice, as the tea cools it gets sweeter and richer. Even though this tea is not overwhelmingly sweet, adding cream or sugar I think detracts from the richness of the tea. It is very much so like dark chocolate and meant to be savored as such. As you can tell I enjoy this tea immensely, it has a permanent place in my tea collection and certainly cemented my love of Verdant Tea!
For blog and photos (and a creeper): http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/03/verdant-tea-laoshan-black-chocolate.html
Flavors: Chocolate, Earth, Malt