850 Tasting Notes
So today’s blog is going to be something a little fun and special, it is going to be a double post. By that I mean that the first post (this one) will be a direct comparison to the second post, and my reason for doing this is all about harvest. Sanne Tea sent me a sample of their 2015 Oriental Beauty Oolong and their 2014 harvest, so I thought why not do a side by side comparison? It is not often I get to try different harvests made by the same farmer while being able to use the same tea gear and only have a few hours between steeping sessions. Time to let the bug bitten party begin!
Starting with the 2014 Summer Oriental Beauty and the leaves are quite fluffy and silvery, I am always afraid of smushing Oriental Beauty, though luckily I have not yet done so. The aroma of the dry leaves is surprisingly fruity, Oriental Beauty tends to be fruity, but I have in the past found it to be mostly grapes, this version has grapes, dried apples, dried pears and honey. There is also a hint of loam at the finish, amusingly this complex tea is very mild. I always find it fascinating how a tea can be complex and yet have a faint aroma, it is like nose treasure hunting to pick out what all is there.
Brewing this tea (and the 2015 harvest) in my funky new gongfu teapot with lovely red peonies, a suitable amount of pretty for a delicate tea. The aroma of the now steeped leaves is a blend of rich, musky grapes and apples with loam and honey. The liquid is sweet honey, apples, and raisins, it is light and delicate.
The first steep is very light, in color, taste, and mouthfeel. Starting with a delicate smooth and light mouthfeel, Sanne Tea describes Oriental Beauty’s name, it is inspired by the leaves spreading out like a lady’s skirt while dancing…but to me it is the mouthfeel that dances. The taste is primarily honey sweetness, like wildflower honey with an addition of light grapes and apples. The aftertaste is a very delicate pear note.
The aroma for the second steep does not change much in notes, but it does get stronger in intensity, especially in the apple department. This steep is very sweet, reminding me of apple wine, blending sweet apple and white grapes with copious honey. The apple notes give it a lightness that I have not before encountered with Oriental Beauty, a tea which is light, but also rich. The finish is strong honey and pear, both of which linger for a short while.
The third steeping’s aroma has honey and apples, with a note of pear, and a strong finish of raisins, there is also a very light hint of loam at the finish. The mouthfeel is still quite light, but it is also quite smooth, the taste is not as potent as last steep, it is as delicate as the first, though it is very sweet like the second. It is like both the steeps were mixed! The notes of pear and apple mix with sweet honey, at the finish there is a lingering but very light spice. This tea scores serious points in my book for having pear and apple notes, now time to move on to 2015!
Oh technology how I love you! Until an update gets rolled out that makes you useless. I was one of the lucky ones who the new Instagram update does not really work for, each time I try to upload a photo it crashes, which is better than how it was pre-reinstall where I could not even open it. My normal morning ritual of checking notifications and posting my first tea of the day was ruined and I have been in a foul mood ever since, which in turn is a little amusing. Why is it amusing? Well, it puts things into perspective, how reliance on a set schedule or pattern is great, but to keep in mind that things happen and to not let a hiccup in a pattern ruin your entire day. Thanks for the reminder…now roll out a patch so I can use IG correctly!
Continuing on with the glory that is Oolong Week with Dachi Tea’s No 9 Emerald Alpine Oolong, whose name just sounds evocative of mountain frolicking and pine trees, but that might just be me. This lightly roasted Oolong is from Alishan, one of my favorite mountains in Taiwan for tea, I find that a lot of times a tea I become enamored with hails from that region. Amusingly enough the cultivar tab on the website talks about how the leaves were harvested later in the season, but does not list the actual cultivar, so fun mystery there. The aroma of the balled up leaves is very sweet, and hilariously remind me of cake batter! That cake batter sweet creaminess turns pretty quickly into floral notes of magnolia, hyacinth, orchid, and honeysuckle. It is quite the bouquet, but manages to not be heady, just very sweet and floral.
Into the gaiwan the leaves go, and I am glad I brewed them there because I might have missed how stem-y this tea was, and that would be sad.The aroma of the wet leaves is sweet and yeasty, creamy, and again it reminds me of cake batter…with a nice bouquet of flowers. The liquid is vegetal and buttery, with notes of crushed sugar cane and a finishing burst of magnolias and lilacs, adding a nectar quality to the sweetness.
The first steeping is mellow, it starts with a creamy and gentle mouthfeel, which gets smoother it seems the more I sip it. The taste starts with a gentle buttery note and pretty quickly moves to sweetness, like sugarcane and honey butter. Then it blooms into flowery notes, primarily lilac, but also a note of magnolia and lily at the finish. For the aftertaste there is a lingering flower nectar sweetness.
Onto the second steeping! The aroma is intensely floral, wow, so much floral! Strong lilac and magnolia notes, and even a touch of orchid and gardenia. I feel like I can play floral bingo with this tea. The mouthfeel is smooth and thick, buttery, definitely a mouth-coater! The taste starts out slightly buttery and yeasty, again I am thinking of cake batter, though a not so sweet batter, so maybe more like pancake batter. I am a connoisseur of batters. This moves to flowery mouth-splosion, strong notes of gardenia, magnolia, lilac, hyacinth, and honeysuckle go off like little floral fireworks on tongue, this might be the most diverse with types of flowers Oolong I have had. The aftertaste is honeysuckle nectar, fresh out of the flower!
Third steeping time, and the aroma is still intensely floral, so much! Mostly just lilac and magnolia, with a sweet cake-like finish. Buttery and smooth in the mouth like the previous steeps, that shows no sign of stopping, though the start of this steep has a crushed vegetation greenness that immediately goes into floral explosion. Strong notes of magnolia and lilac as the main note, honeysuckle at the end of the flowery burst. The finish is buttery and sweet, and it lingers, I sat a while with this tea, lost track of exactly how many steeps I had!
Ben bought me a small present that is on its way, a triple pack of flash diffusers for my camera, woo! I know, you are thinking (like I did about a year ago actually, before the flash on my old camera proved itself weak and sad) ‘why not just make one yourself like you did last time?’ Well, mainly it is laziness (totally copping to it) the other is the triple pack comes in colors and I am curious, yellow light, blue light, and white light flash diffusers, how will they compare to the handmade one I have stuffed in my desk? Plus, these are made of plastic that clips on, meaning it is less likely to break in my purse or get turned into an impromptu cat toy (so many handmade diffusers were lost that way) and conveniently they were cheaper than a loaf of my fancy gluten free bread, though less nourishing I imagine.
Oolong week continues! If you were like me and plastered to the blogs, Instagrams, and Twitters of those lucky Tea Bloggers at the World Tea Expo this year, you might have heard the collective excitement over aged Oolong in a certain fruit, granted theirs came from a different year and vendor, but when I saw that What-Cha had China Fujian Anxi 2008 Heavy Roasted Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea in Bitter Melon I knew I had to give it a go. That was a couple of months ago, my sample languished in the sample box, waiting for the right time to be tasted…and it was the persistence of this tea popping up everywhere that finally made me break down and try it. It kept showing up on tea groups I am in, on IG, the Lazy Literatus himself covered it…I gave into the siren’s call and tried my best to keep my expectations and excitement at bay, nothing ruins a tea quite like it not living up to the self create hype from researching it. First off, what the heck is a bitter melon? Ok I do know what these are, but in the joy of sharing knowledge, allow me to explain what they are. Momodorica charantia, or as I am more familiar with them as, Ku Gua, see I know them from Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is a cooling herb and I drank a particularly nasty brew of cooling herbs with this fruit (and root) in it, specifically to help cool down my lungs and skin. Though fun side fact, cooked melon slices in a soup were given to children to help combat malaria, yay for medicinal stuff! Of course it is also a food, though you have to use it in moderation because it can land you on the toilet for a not so fun adventure.
Now that I have the gourd out of the way, time for the tea! I admit I spent a bit of time just admiring the leaves, very tightly curled and seriously stuffed into that gourd slice, kinda glad I only got the sample this time because I imagine it is a pain to get the tea out of a whole melon! The aroma is all sorts of funky fun, sour pickled plums, loam, old wet coals, dry wood, smoke, and a medicinal pungency. It takes the familiar smoky earthiness of an aged roasted Tie Guan Yin and gives it a serious sourness from the melon, I can say that sniffing this tea is a real wake up to the nose.
Into the gaiwan it goes! I was going to use my roasted Yixing pot, but decided to go gaiwan for mysterious me reasons. The aroma of the ever so slightly unfurled leaves hilariously to me smells like sweet and sour plum sauce, as a kid I kinda had an addiction to that stuff and would get a jar of it and binge on wontons dipped in it while simultaneously binging on Super Mario or Zelda. Under the plum sauce is prunes adding sweetness, loam, and smoke…it is really weird but not unpleasant at all. The liquid is sweet, roasted plums, stewed prunes, and smoldering coals. Not too potent, mellow and sweet.
The tea starts out pretty mild, very smooth and…wait…I take it back, it is not mild at all! It really does start mild like prunes and plums, and then build in intensity. Adding notes of loam and coals with a strong honey drenched prune note that lingers well into the aftertaste. I don’t really notice the bitter melon yet, more the mellow sweetness of a roasted, aged TGY.
The second steep’s aroma brings the sweet roasted plums and sour pickled plums (mmm umeboshi) with strong notes of roast and loam. The taste is a great deal more intense this time, starting with strong plums and prunes with a nice burst of loam. At the middle there is a slightly sour, pungent medicinal taste that signals the arrival of the bitter melon’s contribution to the tea. Towards the end it goes to honey sweet and it lingers for so very long.
I went on for quite a few more steeps, the taste didn’t really change much after the second steep, until around steep seven, then it was just loam and mineral. Even though it does not change much, and it is not too terribly nuanced, it really shines in the Qi department. I found myself getting a bit tea stoned off this brew, I was relaxed, giggly and floaty…and next thing I knew I had spent hours playing Minecraft, oblivious to the passage of time. I have enough of my sample left for one more session, and I am saving that beasty for a day when I need to get lost in a powerful Qi.
I am so in love with my new fishtank! When I was at the store picking it up I also collected a few more shrimp (I have six now!) and I impulse bought a Kuhli Loach. Usually I try very hard to not impulse buy fish, but there was only the one and it was lonely. Loaches are quite communal little (long) fish, so I hope to get him a companion at some point, I love Loaches, they are such fun to watch. Of course mine is missing, because they are also notorious hiders, so who knows what rock it has stuffed itself under.
Today, continuing with my themed Oolong week, is Eco-Cha’s Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong, specifically the Fall 2015 harvest, so nice and fresh! I really enjoy Shan Lin Xi, it is an Oolong that I just find to taste so clean, like mountain air during the winter, so I am excited to see how this harvest compares to others I have had. If you have not, I highly recommend checking out the website for this tea, it is a wealth of information about the grower and this batch’s harvest. The leaves are quite pretty, tightly balled and vibrant green, and the aroma is both intense and gentle…it makes sense, I promise. It starts out with a gentle chestnut note, then moves to creamy sweetness, then on to clean alpine air (it is a bit pine-y, just a touch) with a finish of lily of the valley, sugarcane, and a delicate note of oatmeal.
The first steep unfurls quite beautifully, showing off the richly green leaves. The aroma has left the realm of gentle and just moved straight to intense, I first notice the alpine fresh air with gentle green notes and just cleanliness, it smells refreshing. This moves on to honey, rolled oats, and a touch of gentle flowers. The liquid is quite sweet, notes of oatmeal and lily blossoms, sugarcane, honey, and that fresh mountain air. At the tail end of the sniffing is a note of snap peas adding a bit of green.
Now it is time for sipping the pale golden liquid. The texture is smooth, not quite buttery, but certainly no dryness at all. The tasting starts out sweet, a gentle sugarcane sweetness, this moves pretty immediately to snap peas and alpine air, honeysuckles, lilies, and a touch of butteriness. The finish is a nice lingering honey and smoothness.
Time for the second steep, the leaves are more unfurled and the liquid a little darker, the aroma is sweet and sugary, with notes of snap peas and oats. The texture of the mouthfeel is creamy and very smooth, I would go all out and say it is buttery this steep. The taste is a perfect balance between sweet and green, notes of sugar cane and lilies, alpine air and snap peas, and a finish of oats. The aftertaste kinda sneaks up on you with a gentle floral sweet burst, just like nectar.
Moving right along to the third steep, the leaves are so fluffy I can barely close my gaiwan! The aroma is sweet again, the oat and sugarcane notes are stronger, the snap peas and alpine notes are more laid back, and it has a buttery undertone which is quite rich. The taste is sweet, creamy and sweet with a lean more towards flowers and green notes. Growing things, alpine air, snap peas, and a touch of crushed vegetation, the green then moves on to honeysuckle, lilies, and a touch of lilacs. The finish of flowers give the tea a nectar sweetness that lingers for a while. I went on for quite a few more steeps, these leaves just give and give, one of the reasons I love Eco-Cha’s Oolongs so much, staying power!
Everyone should be very excited for my Betta, Jace Beleren…and his Otoclinus companion Sarkhan Vol, and all the invisible shrimp attendants, because they are getting an upgrade! I received my birthday present from Ben’s grandparents early and I am using part of it to get my fishies a better house, like a large part of it…they are getting a new house, new plants (I give up on live plants, they get soft silky ones) new filtration system…they are going to live like kings! I like to spoil my pets, get that tiny bit of maternal instinct I have satisfied with happy pets.
I think I shall make this Oolong week, and we are going to start with something a little unusual. White2Tea’s Clover Patch – Wuyi Oolong, yep it is Yancha time, time to break out the enjoyment of roasted teas, thoughts of campfires and coals…and wait a minute, this tea doesn’t smell like any Yancha I have ever had. Insert maniacal giggling as I realize it is time for an adventure. See, this is a Wuyi Oolong alright, but instead of the old fashion roasting, this is a modern take on it, and maybe I shouldn’t have brewed this in my Yancha teapot, oh well, YOLO. The aroma is best described as a flowery explosion, you open the bag and just go ‘whoa’ but not in a Keanu Reeves manner, more in a ‘I just did an epic game winning move’ way. Notes of honey, lychees, extremely faint pine smoke (like I mean REALLY distant) and the most epic flower aroma ever. Kudzu blossoms! Serious it is like a blend of grapes and pollen, it is heady and super sweet.
Brewing these colorful leaves (shades of late summer and autumn, so pretty!) the aroma of the soggy leaves is intense. I lifted the lid off my pot and it is a perfume blast, kudzu blossoms and honey with delicate notes of mineral and a delicate greenness like crushed leaves. It is so intensely heady, I feel like I could use it as a fainting remedy. The liquid is gentle in comparison to the wet leaves, it is super sweet with notes of lychees, honey, and kudzu flowers, like some sort of exotic fairy wine, if I drink this am I going to get drawn into dancing until I fall exhausted in a different time period? Ah, folklore.
Ok wow, just wow! The texture is buttery smooth, almost slippery and surprisingly cooling for an oolong. The taste, well, that is where the party is…if your party is a massive bouquet of kudzu flowers and lychees drenched in honey. The kudzu lingers, changing into an aftertaste of pollen heavy honey. I think I have turned into a butterfly!
I think I sound like a crackpot because this tea makes me feel like I am transcending reality, that one-two punch of narcotic headiness and nostalgia is making me light in a way that tea drunk only wishes it could make me feel. So yeah, the aroma is not really changed from the first steep, still kudzu and fairy wine sweetness. The mouthfeel is slippery smooth and creamy, it has a thickness to it this time, the taste is so intense, honestly I am not sure I have had a tea with a taste this intense, and that is due largely in part to how aromatic this tea is. It starts kudzu flowers and pollen, then it moves to the heady aroma of jimsonweed, and then onto mineral and a touch of baking bread. The arftertaste of flowers lingers for so long.
By this point in the tasting I have entered into a trance, yep, this stuff is definitely fairy wine, I clearly wandered into a fairy ring on a full moon and got sucked into a mound and I am partying with the sidhe. The only reason I have not gone mad is because I am a changeling or something, all I know is there are flowers and honey, and that I am sinking into them. I got lost in the flowers, eventually this tea does call it quits, but it takes a while…holds up longer than most Yanchas, but the most uncanny part is the aftertaste. It creeps up on you between sips and steeps, starting out as a mild flowery taste but growing into a lingering sweetness, it has you in its grips and refuses to let you free. Seriously, keep this stuff away from mushroom circles, old oaks, willow trees, and maybe avoid drinking it on full moons!
Yeah, I might have stayed up til 8 AM playing Minecraft, what of it? I have created the ultimate awesome, blending my computer area, my painting area, and my tea area was at first quite epic…but with the inclusion of my Xbox 360 and a nice monitor and speakers, I have the ability to tea, paint, game, and watch videos at the same time. As one of my Instagram friends said, I never have to leave! I just need a tiny fridge, a small gas burner, and a bathroom and I really would never have to leave my bedroom.
Taking a break from my hard work of Minecraft and painting, teaing and writing…wait…to bring you today’s tea! We are looking at another tea from Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company, their Taiwanese Dragonwell. Now before you start going all ‘Amanda that is totally not really a Dragonwell’ shush, they admit that, but they also admit that the traditional growing region of that beloved flat green tea is a bit problematic, and you know, I love tradition, but as a blue-haired pseudo-mad scientist, I love experimenting and pushing the comfort barriers. This tea is a fine example of that, taking tradition and tweaking it to something new. Using the Qingxin varietal grown at a low elevation, this tea is processed to be like a Dragonwell, so time to see how it compares! Looking at the leaves, it looks like the lovechild between an Oolong and a Dragonwell, the leaves are flat and long…and also kinda huge and very richly green, going into this blind I admit I would have no idea what this tea is. The aroma of the sizable leaves is green and nutty! It smells like my much loved honey sesame candies (it is just honey, toasted sesame, and sugar…and highly addictive) with fresh turnip greens, bell peppers, and a touch of lima beans. I admit, there is a strong similarity to Dragonwell, like a sweeter version of it.
I decided to use my engagement gaiwan for these leaves, since the leaf size is a bit massive, plus it is pretty and needs to get more use! The aroma of the now soggy and very verdant leaves is more vegetal than the dry leaves, it blends green beans, turnips, turnip greens, bell peppers and a buttery finish. Mmm, buttery turnips, this tea is making me hungry. The liquid smells quite buttery and green, notes of bell pepper and green beans, lima beans and a touch of honey at the finish.
The lovechild between a Dragonwell and Oolong is such a fitting description. This is the most buttery smooth Green Tea I have ever had, seriously, it is intense! It starts out very sweet, sesame and honey explodes over my tongue, radiating from honey at the tip to sesame toastiness at the midtaste. This goes on a magical journey to lima beans at the finish.
Second steeping time! The aroma is, well, it is a but surprising, notes of salty butter and a touch of seaweed and spinach with a sesame finish, well that was fascinating! The taste starts intensely sweet again, so much sweet honey and sesame seeds, again it is a magical journey of buttery smoothness and sweet. Then the finish is lima beans and a bit of a lingering buttery aftertaste.
Third steeping, the aroma is a blend of butter, spinach, green beans, and a finish of honey sweetness. The mysterious and kinda awesome seaweed note from the previous steep is a ghostly memory. The taste and texture is still so very buttery, and so smooth, I find myself feeling a bit melty and relaxed, it is a nice feeling. The taste starts sweet and honey like and moves to sesame seeds and buttery lima beans and just the lightest note of green beans at the finish. So, how does it compare? You get the seal of approval from me, it is an unusual Dragonwell, but it has its own distinct personality, one that is delicious!
It is a bit brisk today! I learned this when I woke up this afternoon to both of the cats burrowed into me seeking warmth. Tao got very cross when I decided to leave the blanket pile, even going so far as to dig her claws into me (gently, well, gently for Tao, she is such a beast) when I moved. Espeon just made sad noises in her sleep, which was really quite pitiful. After extracting myself from the bed, tucking in the cats, I finally gave into the evils and opened the heater vent. Looks like autumn is well under way!
Since it is autumn, why not go for a thematically appropriate tea? From Yunomi and NaturaliTea, #11 Autumn Bancha Green Tea, this tea is grown in Shizouka and is harvested in early October, meaning that yes, this is 2014’s harvest since it is just now harvest time. The aroma of these MASSIVE leaves (seriously, the tea frog is very happy to sit on this pile of leaves) is quite sharp, like sniffing a pile of fresh oak leaves, cut grass, a touch of nuttiness, these leaves smell like nature, like being outside, enjoying all the various leaves and grass smells nature can offer. I know people say stop and smell the roses, but don’t forget the leaves, stems, pollen, and all the other parts of the plant, sniffing them is awesome too!
Into my green gaiwan that pretends to be a houhin the jumbo leaves go for a nice hot bath. Bancha does best steeping at hotter temperatures, the more delicate Sencha would burn…pretty sure Gyokuro would just explode. The aroma of the soggy leaves is grassy and leafy, yeah the leaves smell like leaves, specifically oak leaves and fresh tea leaves, freshly plucked right off the plant. There is also a bit of fresh spinach and just a touch of sesame seeds. The liquid is bright and green, I smell colors! Seriously though, the aroma is very fresh and green, like gently steamed spinach and grass, oak leaves, and crushed vegetation. It smells like nature, I keep saying that, but it is very much so a distinct smell of growing things.
Tasting this tea is like tasting a pile of leaves, and I am totally ok with that! It is not really vegetal (there is a tiny hint of spinach) it is straight up vegetation. Bright notes of cut grass and sweetgrass, sharp notes of oak leaves and tea leaves, the green notes of gently crushed vegetation similar to the smell of leaves as you walk through undergrowth. It is very green and very fresh tasting, for all that this is an autumn harvested tea, it tastes like the full growth of summer. I got a couple more steeps off of this tea (but totally derped and forgot to take pictures, sorry about that) and the taste stayed pretty much the same, with an increase in strength at the second steep and the third steep had a toasty note which added a fun bit of depth.
Guys, guys, guys!!! My new kettle arrived yesterday!! Sadly I only barely got to use it since shortly after waking (and getting some tea in me) I had to leave for errands and gaming, yes I finally got to go gaming again. I am slowly getting better, it is hard, but I am making a gradual recovery. Not only did my kettle arrive (ah the sweet sound of roaring water, it is music to my ears) but a miniature I ordered a while ago finally arrived at the shop for pick-up, Marike Guardian of the Sea probably the most egotistical paint jobs I will ever do. See I saw this blue haired girly wearing a ton of epic armor and standing on a sea monster while holding an octopus and I immediately thought ‘oh hey, someone made a model of me’ since I have perpetual mermaid envy. Since I cannot actually be a sea creature, I am going to paint her to be me, yeah, it is pretty silly, but I am a very silly person.
Before I start tea rambling, I should warn my dear readers, I am utterly tea drunk, so if this review gets random and loopy, that is totally my excuse. So, tea, specifically today’s tea, MeiMei Fine Tea’s Sichuan Imperial Gongfu Black Tea (Gui Fei Hong), a beautiful red tea from Sichuan (specifically Gao Xian County in the Southwest) with a name Gui Fei Hong, or red concubine, which makes me wonder if this is a bug bitten tea, since that is what concubine teas bring to mind. It could just be a pretty name though, which I am perfectly fine with…I mean let’s face it, if you put a golden fuzzy red tea in front of me I will jump on it like a starving hyena, I have a weakness for them. The aroma of the really pretty leaves (they are practically sparkly from the fuzzies) is rich and malty, with notes of molasses, cocoa shells, pine resin, red peppercorns, and a gentle sweetness at the finish. This is not a very sweet smelling tea, this one is all about richness, and that gentle spiciness from the peppercorn note adds an interesting well, spice to it.
Into my sad gaiwan the tea leaves go, even though this sage green gaiwan is problematic, the leaves are super pretty against the color of the gaiwan. The aroma of the soggy leaves is a bit sweeter than the dry leaves, with strong notes of malt, cocoa, pine resin and sap, and a touch of pepper. I really enjoy teas with strong pine resin notes, they remind me of happy forest rambling. The liquid is sweet cocoa and malt with a touch of peppercorn and a nice burst of sweet pine sap. The sweetness is like cocoa and honey mixed together, but not exactly chocolate.
The first steep starts with a delightfully smooth mouth, and the taste is sweet, very sweet! It starts as cocoa and malt, and it moves straight on to milk chocolate. The chocolate taste lingers for quite a while, it then moves to a resinous finish giving it a slightly dry mouth at the end.
For the second steep, the aroma is malty and resinous with a strong cocoa and honey note, it is sweet and rich in a balanced way. The taste starts off quite sweet and malty, cocoa and honey with a nice strong malty note. This moves to a touch of roasted peanuts and a finish of resin and molasses, rich and sweet. The mouthfeel is not sticky, but the notes of resin and molasses make it seem thick and sticky, which is a fascinating mind over matter kinda thing.
On to the third steep, the aroma is a triple threat of cocoa, malt, and resin, and those notes are devilishly sweet. The farther into the session I go, the sweeter the aroma is. The taste is sweet and smooth, malty and resinous. Cocoa and honey, molasses and pine, this tea is potent, I got several more steeps before it piddled out, and also used the rest of my sample western style while waiting for my new kettle. Western style is solid, sweet and malty, but this tea really shines when it is brewed gongfu.
My mom is kinda awesome, ok she is really awesome, but today she decided to give me a present. She texted me several pictures of mushrooms she could not properly ID while visiting my grandparents in South Carolina, turns out all that flooding and rain inevitably brought in the mushrooms. For all that we have had a wet summer and somewhat wet early autumn in Missouri, I have only found a few mushrooms…though while out and about I have seen some growing on trees and in people’s yards, but I have learned that yelling to stop so I can leap out of the car to examine them is not very appreciated by whomever is driving, alas. Sadly IDing from a photo is hard, I was able to probably ID the Russula (either as emetica or paludosa, can’t be 100% sure) but there is one that looks like an Amanita but I just can’t place it, it is maddening and I am having a blast trying to figure out the puzzle with the few clues I have.
I believe it is Wednesday today, I admit, Monday being a holiday made me confused, tossed my schedule right out the door, it is a little embarrassing how much I rely on mail running to let me know what day it is. Since it is Wednesday, it is time to carry on with the tradition of What-Cha Wednsday, a tradition I have been carrying on with for over a year now, and I am still nowhere close to reviewing all of the What-Cha teas! I still want their logo as a t-shirt, just sayin’ it is so cool! Today we are taking a look at Vietnam ‘Red Buffalo’ Oolong Tea an Oolong tea from the Son La Province of Vietnam. Sourced by Hatvala, whose mission it is to raise awareness of Vietnamese tea, something I can get behind because I have not had a tea from Vietnam I disliked, even the super cheap Lotus Green I bought at a Vietnamese grocer. This is a heavily oxidized Oolong, almost to the point of a black tea, but still having a floral oolong quality. It is made using the Qingxin cultivar on a small farm at 1000m above sea level.
The tightly curled leaves are definitely dark, with shades of amber and red peaking through the mostly very dark brown. The aroma is pretty true to the description, blending a darker Oolong with a greener one, It starts out with notes of nutty toasted sesame seeds and chestnuts, sweet marzipan, and honey. Then it moves to floral notes, one note in particular stands out, and to me it smells like the honey sweet nectar of the tulip tree (Poplar) which brings back very fond memories. As a kid I would race the squirrels and ants for the fallen blossoms, when I got my hands on them I would lick the sugary sweet nectar out, yeah, I was a wild woodlands child.
In the gaiwan, the aroma of first steep and slightly opened up leaves is pretty intense, strong notes of flowers and gentle spice, like tulip tree, spicebush, orchids, honeysuckles…honestly this reminds me a bit of a Dancong with its headiness. After that initial burst of flowers there is a bit of creamy sesame seeds and honey. The liquid is very sweet, creamy and flowery with notes of honey, tulip tree, and honey locust. Wow, this the the tea of tree flowers!
The first steep is pale, surprisingly so, it starts with a gentle honey sweetness, a touch of sesame seeds, and then honey locust. Huh, I honestly have never tasted that outside of honey locust pods, that I find immensely fascinating. This sweetness fades to a gentle spiciness that is reminiscent of spicebush and distant flowers, which lingers in the aftertaste.
For the second steep, the aroma is honey and flowers, honeysuckles, honey locust, and tulip trees, it is very sweet. The texture is smooth, a bit silky, the taste is a sugary sweet explosion! It is like my mouth just filled with warm honey, honey locust, scuppernongs, and tea blossoms. The sweetness lingers for quite a while afterwards.
Third steeping’s aroma is still so sweet, loads of flowery goodness and honey sweetness, honey locust and tulip trees are blooming in my cup. This tea does not really change, and it is not super varied in its taste, and you know, that is totally ok because it is super sweet. Who needs dessert when you have liquid honey and honey locust pulp, it is like wild nectar and flowers. For all that this is a dark Oolong, it is not smoky or roasted at all, so no need to be afraid of that.
Blog and photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2015/10/what-cha-vietnam-red-buffalo-oolong-tea.html
Bah, it was a holiday today, meaning no mail! Meaning one more day I have to wait for my kettle to arrive, the sadness, I am sure everyone who did not get mail joins me in mourning the lack of mail today. It is not all bad though, because I have Espeon snoozing beside me and Tao snoozing on the other side of the room (and by snoozing I mean snoring, loudly) and I have tea in my travel steeper while I lounge in bed. Still need to work on that lapdesk problem for bed lounging days, but that is a thing to work on later.
Today’s tea comes from Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company, and is so new it doesn’t even have a picture yet, oooh, fancy! Presenting Alishan Black Tea (Highest Quality) basically take a high mountain tea from Alishan’s Zhang Shu Hu area and process it like a black tea instead of an Oolong, it was one of those ‘you have my attention’ moments because that sounds rather exciting. The leaves are quite pretty, mostly curly and dark, but a few have gentle golden fuzz, and the aroma is rather potent, like really quite intense! Notes of strong cocoa and dark chocolate blend with gentle woody notes and black strap molasses, and a finish of roasted red peppers. Or is that adobo? It is spicy with a peppery note but none of the tanginess or adobo, this is an unexpected bit of nose fun!
Brewing the twisty leaves brings the cocoa notes to the levels of the extreme, with accompaniments of wood, gentle smoke, molasses, and a finish of smoked yams. This tea is more rich than sweet, like you are sinking into an inky void of cocoa and molasses…guys, I think I just figured out how I want to go when it is my time. The liquid is equally intense, though it decide to take on some sweetness with creamy milk chocolate notes, rich dark chocolate, molasses, and a touch of distant smokiness. It vaguely reminds me of brownie batter, at least the super rich way I make brownies.
Ok, sitting down for the first steeping sip, sometimes black teas tend to knock me off my feet, I love tea, but oh man, gongfu black teas make my head spin at times. It starts with a creamy mouth feel, creamy and smooth, with just a hint of less creamy at the finish, not dry, just not as creamy. The taste is a gentle note of milk chocolate at the first, that builds, and builds, until my mouth is filled with moderately dark chocolate making for a happy me. The finish is gently smoky with roasted yam notes that linger.
The aroma for the second steep does require sitting down, intense notes of cocoa and malt with gentle smokiness and sweet chocolate slam me in the nostrils. After that, notes of roasted yams and red peppers, that intriguing red pepper note, so peculiar and yet so right. The tasting starts out with a smooth mouthfeel, not quite creamy, more silky smooth, and hello sweet chocolate! Strong notes of milk and dark chocolate mix with malt and gently smoked yams, and holy moly it lingers forever! That is an aftertaste of endless happiness. I am such a sucker for chocolaty teas, they are my weakness (don’t I say that about so many teas?)
On to the third steeping, the cocoa notes manage to get even stronger, I am not really sure how, so much chocolate! Alongside the chocolate notes are notes of malt, roasted yams, and that confounding roasted red pepper note from before. The mouthfeel is similar to steep two, with silky smoothness, and the cocoa notes explode out of nowhere, kaboom! Chocolate! It is very malty and sweet, and quite enlivening as well, usually I find these smooth black teas more relaxing, but instead I found this tea to really wake me up, so this one is going on my list of morning teas that actually wake me up without being brisk.