458 Tasting Notes
made from germinated brown rice, mugwort, wheat, black beans, barley, and job’s tears. Snipping the little package open and giving it a good sniff (while not getting powder up my nose, win!) you can certainly tell this is a rice and grain based drink. It smells like sticky rice, regular rice, and cereal with a little bit of sweetness, kinda reminds me of Cream of Rice.
After I mix it with warm water and give it a thorough stirring…and then let it cool enough so I don’t burn my tongue, it is time to taste this rice based tea. It is really quite tasty, if you are into drinking warm and slightly creamy tea that tastes like a mixture of nuts, green things, and sweet cream of rice. Conveniently I am, but as Ben was kind enough to tell me, this one might be a very acquired taste. Especially since you have to stir it constantly or it more or less forms cream of rice at the bottom of your cup.
I promised myself I would do more tea gear reviews, because let’s face it, behind every good tea is some awesome gear to make it. I mean you can just make tea in a mug using a microwave, I did that for years, but once you start getting into the ‘hard stuff’ you notice that you manage to amass a decent sized collection of tea paraphernalia. Since a lot of my goodies come from thrift stores and that makes it hard to review sometimes (no way to point others in the direction of getting said gear if they want it) so when I get tea gear I can review I am definitely going to do it.
This review starts with a tragedy of sorts. I previously had an Aladdin Tea Infuser Mug for my out and about tea times, it worked decently except for the leaking problem (not a toss in the purse and go kinda mug) and over time I found myself want one without leakage. Also one that had a filter so I didn’t have to stuff my teas in the basket. I think the Tea Infuser Mug heard my grumbling because about two months ago the blasted thing broke. So after months of comparison shopping for the cheapest thing that was exactly what I wanted, I stumbled across my new toy.
Meet the Double Wall Glass Thermos With Metal Infuser by Tealux. Actually the brand is Asiatica, but since they are only whole sale and I could not actually find the thermos on the website, we are just going to ignore the adorable teapot brand stamp on the bottom. I went with the middle size of 400ml (13.5oz) because I wanted more tea but not quite THAT much more tea, and I am glad I stuck with the middle size because this thing is quite hefty, any bigger and I would need stronger arms.
It does exactly what it says on the…err…tin, it keeps the tea nice and warm or nice and cool, depending. I have used it for both hot and cold steeping, I found that it started to either warm up or cool down respectively after about three hours. The only reason I know that is because I took a nap and woke up to room temperature tea, usually I have the tea chugged too quickly to notice. Since it is made with nice, sturdy, borosilicate glass it feels warm or cool to the touch, perfect for cooling me off on a hot day or cuddling close when I feel chilled. I may have taken that nap curled around a warm tea infuser earlier, not going to deny it.
The best part of this tea thermos is the not leaking all over me if I knock it over (or decide to nap with it) no more worrying about taking tea on the bus, or in my purse, or to a bookstore, it is awesome! The only time it has leaked in the time I have had it is when I didn’t screw the lid on tight enough. Let us talk about the lid, for those who hate plastic (not me, obviously) there is a little in the lid, but it is BPA free and does not give a plastic taste. I mean maybe, just maybe, if you have it upside down all the time and have it in constant contact with your tea it will? I have not tested that, but so far the contact it has had with my tea did not impart any taste at all.
Lastly is the little metal infuser. It is adorable, it has a cute little handle and convientent little prongs so it sits on the lip of the thermos and does not let leaves escape into your mouth. The holes are small enough that even the most determined rooibos would really have to work to escape, and really if it manages to go through that much trouble it deserves to be eaten. One word of advice, do not be afraid to push the basket into the correct position. My first use of my fancy new thermos (it was with some Long Jing for those curious) I did not push the basket correctly into place because I was afraid of breakage (yes, I am a weenie, it is a sad truth) and a few little dragon blades slipped through and on my final sip the basket fell out and onto my face. It was at this point that I noticed ‘oh, there is a lip for it to rest on, and hey there are little prongs too!’ I suppose having a sweet boyfriend who gave the thermos its first wash might not have been the best thing since I just plopped in leaves and water and went. Silly me for not properly studying my new tea gear!
For blog and photos (cats, oolong, creepers, oh my!) http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/07/tealux-double-wall-glass-thermos-w.html
Eyebrow tea! This Chinese green tea is sometimes referred to as eyebrow tea because of its delicate curls, I have even seen this tea’s name translated to ‘silver fishhook eyebrow tea’ which sounds even more awesome. The aroma of these silvery curled leaves is fairly faint, but the notes I can detect with my sniffing are a touch of kelp, a hint of spinach, and a pinch of kale. The aroma is more vegetal and savory than sweet. After a nice little bath the aroma of the leaves is much stronger and still quite vegetal. The notes are kale, spinach, artichoke, and a hint of lemon at the finish.
The aroma of the first steep is pretty mild, a hint of citrus, vegetal, and a tiny bit of honey at the finish. The taste is quite mild as well, there is an interesting dryness to the mouthfeel, but there is not bitterness at all. In fact I would say it is quite smooth and refreshing with its notes of mild vegetal and hint of citrus.
Fir the second steep we get to really see what this green tea is about, and no surprise, it is about being green! The aroma is strongly vegetal, with strong notes of spinach and kale. The taste is buttery, like buttery cooked vegetables with a twist of citrus at the finish. There are also notes of spinach and asparagus, it is practically a vegetal party in my mouth. This is not the most complex green I have ever had, but it is certainly refreshing.
In the past I have had mixed experiences with Ginseng Oolong, usually I run into it as little green nuggets of oolong coated with a paste of ginseng dust. It is not bad but it has been far from my favorite way to sip oolong. I was so pleased when I saw this was just normal ol’ rolled oolong leaves. The aroma of the dry leaves is really sweet and a tiny bit toasted, it has notes of toasted bread, honey, orchids, and a touch of sesame. At the end of the sniff is a bit of an herbaceous zing, I can only assume it is from the ginseng. Once I give the leaves a good steeping in my gaiwan the aroma that wafts out is still really sweet, but also a lot more floral with notes of honeysuckle and orchid. There are also notes of honey, sesame seeds, and that same herbaceous greenness at the finish.
The aroma of the first steep is unsurprisingly quite sweet and a little creamy. The aroma is honestly like a milk oolong that has been roasted and given a nice sprinkling of ginseng. It smells delicious, I am not going to lie, my mouth is totally watering while waiting for the tea to cool enough to sip it. On first sip, well, I was right to have a watering mouth because this tea is delicious. It mixes the sweet honey, fresh floral, and gently toasted notes with a finish of ginseng. It is like nectar and herbs in one mouthful, ginseng is great, it has a gentle sweetness (like VERY mild licorice) a touch of hay, and an herbal taste. I really like it, as long as it is used in moderation.
The aroma of the second steep is much more floral, less creamy sweet, and more ‘nature’ with a touch of fresh vegetation and stems and a note of herbaceous. The taste takes its cues from t. The aroma, there is still honey sweetness, but it is very much so the honey sweetness of flower nectar. There are also the notes of roasted sesame seeds and fresh vegetation. The ginseng taste is a bit stronger this time as well, instead of being at the finish it shows up at the middle and lingers as an aftertaste. You can probably tell that I really liked this tea, but you all know me and my love of oolongs.
Last up is the black tea hailing from Kenilworth Estate in Sri Lanka (or Ceylon if you are a bit old fashioned) the label on my tea package says this is bold and strong black tea, perfect for my breakfast tea. Fun fact about me, even though I can have many gongfu sessions during the day, my English roots show through with my first cup of a strong black tea, usually accompanied by loud music, today it was this tea and my Best of Queen collection. The aroma of the loose leaves is pretty rich with strong notes of malt and molasses, there are faint notes of roasted nuts and cherries, yum!
Pip pip, cheerio, and all that, the brewed tea smells quite delicious! With bold notes of malt, sweetness that is a mix of various dried fruits, molasses, and a nice brisk oak note at the finish, I was certainly woken up by the sniff! Upon the first sip I notice this tea has a nice dry mouthfeel and brisk taste, well if the sniffing did not wake me up, the tasting certainly did! This tea is robust, with strong notes of sweet molasses, malt, oak wood, cherries and a finish of pepper. Going full English and adding cream and sugar, the briskness is mostly replaced with boldness for a very smooth and strong cup of tea, an excellent wake up tea, but I expect nothing less from Kenilworth.
Flavors: Malt, Molasses, Oak wood
Plum Blossom White, it is a blend of Shou Mei White Tea, Jasmine Special Grade Green Tea, Safflowers, Sunflowers, Plum Flavor, and Jasmine Flowers. I have to admit, I have never seen plum and jasmine mixed, but I think the idea is stellar. The aroma of the dried (and rather fluffy) leaves is rich, a blend of heady jasmine, honey, and candy. Specifically it reminds me of these delicious plum gummies I used to get from my local Korean market back in high school. They were all the rage with my friends and me, they have a distinct fresh plum aroma along with a grape aroma, it blended the candy smell with fruit smell really well. After that little bit of nostalgia I also picked up on fresh vegetation and a touch of earthiness.
Steeping the tea brings out more of the honey and plum aroma, really it smells like fresh plums drizzled in honey. There is an undertone of heady jasmine and fresh vegetation, along with a touch of plum candy and earthiness. The taste starts out honey sweet which transitions to fresh vegetation and growing things. This fades to heady jasmine and lastly a nice pop of fresh juicy plum and plum candy, this lingers on as an aftertaste. On a whim I tried this tea iced and let me tell you, that was an excellent idea, it was sweet and fruity on its own, but with a little bit of added sugar, it was like drinking a fresh plum.
Flavors: Candy, Green, Jasmine, Plums
Tropical Sunshine Herbal is a blend of Cardamon, Red Peppercorn, Lemongrass, Organic South African Rooibos, Cornflowers, Cinnamon Chips, Orange Peel, Cranberries, Apples, Papaya Flavor, and Grapefruit Flavor, quite the list! It blends the aroma of tropical fruit, citrus, spices, tart, and woodiness in a really interesting blend. The strongest notes were wood, citrus, and pepper, usually I would not think to put them together but the aroma really works.
You might notice I am not using my usual steeping basket for this tea, that is because Simple Loose Leaf was nice enough to include a pair of Muslin Cotton Teabags, which is awesome. I love these things, they work like a steeping basket allowing the leaves to expand and properly steep, but since they keep all those annoying little leaf bits out of my cup of tea. I especially recommend using these with herbal teas because they tend to have smaller bits. They are also a reusable and eco-friendly alternative to teabags, so extra points in my book, but enough about bags…how about more tea? The brewed aroma of this tea wakes you up! Those bright citrus notes, warm spices, and sharp woody notes blend together for a sunshine filled cup of happiness. This combination of smells really rocks my socks off, especially with the added notes of tropical fruit.
And now for the real test, how does this unusual blend of ingredients taste? Interesting (or eeeeeenteresting as I said out loud on first sip) certainly in a good way. The mouth feel is a bit dry, typical of rooibos, but the slightly tart notes and slightly sour notes of citrus cause a salivary response so the dryness transitions to smoothness. Oh yes, I said tart, but it is the tartness of dried cranberries (which I love) and not the tartness of say, hibiscus (which I loathe) and it is mild with a sweet finish. The spice, citrus, sweet fruit, and honey rooibos notes blend together in perfect harmony.
Flavors: Citrus, Pepper, Spices, Tropical, Wood
Happy Monday everyone! Thanks to Typoon Neoguri pushing arctic air (aka the Polar Vortex) most of the Midwest has nice weather today. In fact we are going to have record low temperatures tonight and unseasonable cool weather for the next couple days. Break out the party gear because I am celebrating, you all know by now that I loath temperatures above 80 degrees, so I am practically giddy with the prospect of comfortable weather. I plan on celebrating by sleeping through the night for the first time in days, so maybe instead of party gear I should break out the pillows.
Today’s tea is from Adagio Teas, Yunnan Noir. An adorable fuzzy golden tea from Yunnan, you might know it by its other more popular names, Golden Bi Luo Chun or Golden Snail Tea. I adore fuzzy golden teas, something about them always puts me in a good mood just by looking at them, of course tasting them also helps. The aroma of the dry tea is rich and quite sweet, with notes of cocoa, roasted peanuts, yams, honey, and a delicate finish of dried cherry. It is nothing short of mouthwatering, but I do have a great love for this kind of tea.
Even though Adagio only has Western steeping instructions, I decided to brew mine in my gaiwan. I used 195 degree water with steeping times of 30s, 60s, and 90s just in case anyone wants to give it a try. The aroma of the now quite soggy (and no longer gold and fuzzy) leaves is rich, with notes of malt, molasses, roasted peanuts, and a sweet cocoa finish. The liquid is creamy sweet with notes of cocoa butter, a touch of yams and a hint of roasted peanuts.
The first steeping is light, a creamy blend of sweet cocoa, roasted peanuts and a rich aftertaste of molasses. The mouthfeel is smooth, almost creamy, it fills up the mouth with sweetness. It is pretty on par with other golden Bi Luo Chun teas I have had (though that number is fairly small, I really need to get more!) though a tiny bit sweeter.
For the second steeping the aroma is much richer, the same notes of sweet cocoa and roasted peanuts, but with an added kick of molasses at the finish. The taste is also much richer, there are strong notes of cocoa at the beginning this transitions to a rich mid taste of molasses, with finally a finish of malt. There is a roasted peanut and honey aftertaste that lingers for a bit.
Last steeping time, the aroma is almost identical to the first steeping, light with sweet notes of cocoa butter, yams, and roasted peanuts. The taste is as rich as the previous steep, but instead of being creamy is starts off with a briskness. There are notes of cocoa and roasted nuts that fade to molasses, at the end there is a slight metallic taste. The aftertaste is one of honey, it does not linger as long as the second steep. I really like this tea, it might be my new favorite from Adagio, but I would have to compare it with my other favorites to be absolutely sure.
Flavors: Honey, Malt, Metallic, Molasses, Roast nuts, Yams
Yours truly has been doing so much writing/typing lately that my poor wrists have been in constant pain. Instead of my usual excitement to write my blog, I have been feeling a bit of dread because ouch. No worries though, probably this week I will be investing in some wrist braces meaning I can go back to being excited at the prospects of writing.
Today’s tea is the other sample sent to me from Turkish (really, I cannot get over how cool it was to have a package arrive at my door from Istanbul, but I always get giddy when something from far away arrives) company Kedocay. Wuyi Yancha Da Hong Pao (or Big Red Robe) is an oolong tea from Wuyi, China. I find I am becoming more enamored of Yancha (or rock teas) the more I have them, there is a reason I devoted a Yixing teapot to them. The aroma of these long, curly leaves is an interesting blend of smoke and sweet. There are notes of coal, honey, orchids, a tiny touch of cocoa, and a finish of yeasty bread. I absolutely love teas that have a smokey or empyreumatic (if you want to impress your friends) aroma, to me they are one of the most comforting aromas you can get.
Into the Yixing it goes for a nice brief steeping. I belong to the school of ‘stuffing the pot or gaiwan with a lot of leaves and do hot, quick, steeps’ it gets my favorite results from this type of tea. The aroma of the now wet leaves is very rich, it has a blend of charcoal and smoke that is there from the beginning to the end of the sniff. Underneath this aroma is faint notes of orchids, almost like someone tossed an orchid on a dying coals, it is a neat effect. The liquid once it has been set free from the teapot is the exact opposite of the leaves, it is creamy with rich notes of orchid (almost like perfume) honey and cocoa. There is a tiny hint of coal at the finish, but it is more of a ghost than a complete scent.
The first steep puts me in a happy place, it is one of the big differences between curly leaf and rolled leaf oolongs, their first steep usually has a much stronger presence, even if you do not always get as many steeps. The mouth feel is very smooth, it starts off with an intense coal taste and that turns into a faint coal taste that will last through until the end. After the initial coal-splosion (totally a word now) there is a creamy honey taste and a strong, almost perfume like orchid taste. The finish has a hint of cocoa that mixes with coal into the aftertaste.
Onto steep two! The aroma this time is more of a balance of coal and honey, one does not overpower the other. There is also a finish of cocoa giving a bit of smoothness to it. The taste, like the previous steep, starts out with a strong presence of coal that lingers for the entire sipping experience. The initial coal fades to a cooling slight bitterness that almost immediately switches to caramel sweet. At the end is a touch of cocoa, the aftertaste is mineral and coal.
The aroma of the third steep is mostly sweet with undertones of coal and smoke. The taste is much lighter, having more of a smoke taste then coal. It fades to a gentle orchid and honey that lasts up until the end where it switches back to coal and mineral. The aftertaste is mineral and is refreshing, like spring water.
Flavors: Char, Cocoa, Honey, Orchid, Smoke
Get hype, yo, it is Evo2014! It is the event I have been waiting all year for, what is essentially the World Cup of the Fighting Game Community. Since I am unable to travel to Las Vegas to watch the tournaments, Ben and I will essentially be glued to various Livestreams over the weekend. This is a big deal, for the first time in our almost five years together, we will actually be in the same place to watch Evo together, it is going to be awesome.
Today’s tea came all the way from Turkey, compliments of Kedocay. Dragon Well Green Tea, from Zhejiang, China, is one of the ‘Ten Famous Teas of China’ and I can believe it, even back in my youth when I knew nothing about tea, I had heard of Dragon Well and thought it sounded magical. Opening the bag, I was hit with a delicious aroma, I love when I open a bag of tea and I do not need to stick my nose in it, the aroma comes to me! The aroma is a mix of vegetal and toasted, with notes of toasted sesame seeds, green beans, and a touch of actual toasted bread. There is a slightly sweet honey finish, it vaguely reminds me of halva, a delicious honey and sesame seed dessert.
Into the gaiwan the leaves go, fun fact, I always brew my greens with the gaiwan lid off, I find that if I leave the lid on it tends to burn the tea. The aroma of the now steeped leaves is very richly vegetal, there is a combo of green beans and spinach with a strong finish of asparagus and a sesame seed finish. The liquid away from its leafy friends (or is it more leafy creator?) is the exact opposite of the leaves, delicately sweet with notes of honey and a touch of toast.
The first steep is delicate and soft, I say soft because the mouthfeel is smooth, almost to the point of velvety. The taste starts off vegetal with a gentle notes of green beans and asparagus , this transitions to toasted sesame seeds. The finish is honey sweet leaving a lingering sweetness as the aftertaste. This steep was a nice, mild beginning, I look forward to seeing if it build in intensity and will it be sweet or vegetal?
Second steeping time! The aroma is much more vegetal this time with stronger notes of asparagus and lesser notes of green beans. There is a slightly sweet honey note at the finish. The taste certainly took a note from the aroma, it is richly vegetal, almost broth like. There are notes of asparagus, green beans, and spinach, it has a buttery smoothness and a touch of a buttery taste at the finish. Sneaking in at the aftertaste is a bit of toasted sesame.
Time for round three, the aroma this time is faintly vegetal, faintly floral, and faintly sweet. Yep, third steep and this tea seems to have given up the ghost, but after the previous steep I do not feel cheated. The taste starts out with a gentle vegetal tone, with notes of asparagus and buttery green beans. This fades to sesame and lastly woth honey. A gentle finish to a pleasantly delicate and very smooth green tea.
Flavors: Asparagus, Green Beans, Honey, Spinach, Toast