385 Tasting Notes
I am having one of those days where I just cannot get my brain to stay focused on one thing for more than five minutes. I have drifted from one thing to another just like a butterfly to thought flowers, yep, that is why my blog is named what it is. Let’s just blame this day of fluttering thoughts and short attention span on the weather, because it is nasty hot out today! Luckily it is nice and cool in the ‘Tea Lair’ but in the bedroom it is hot and I got very unfulfilling sleep last night. Thankfully tomorrow brings storms and cooler weather, I am very excited for the Spring weather to return.
Speaking off all things Spring like, today’s Teasenz tea is First Flush Longjing Tea, if this won’t transport me back to Spring in my mind then I don’t know what will. Plucked this Spring in the West Lake Mountain region of Zhejiang, China. The first thing about these leaves that struck me was the size, they are so adorably tiny for Longjing! Usually when dealing with Longjing the leaves are long and broad, but the first flush is delicate, like they just sprouted, not to mention some of the leaves have delicate balls of fuzz (or trichomes for the science types) stuck to them. The aroma is delightfully sweet and nutty, like a blend of roasted peanuts and chestnuts with a nice hint of green bean. There is a really amusing finish of toast and sesame seeds that makes my mouth water.
As I am sure you all know, I brewed these adorable leaves in my gaiwan, because any chance to use my gaiwan makes me happy. The aroma of the wet leaves is very sweet and nutty, this time there is more vegetal hints of spinach and green beans with that finish of toast still present. The liquid is still sweet and nutty, but now the sweetness has a mild fruity quality to it. This fades to a nice green bean finish to it.
Time for the sipping of the first steep, initial impressions? Yum! The mouthfeel is really smooth, almost creamy with the way it fills up my mouth. The taste is a really great blend of toast, sesame seeds, cherries, green beans, and spinach. I feel like there is a Spring themed carnival in my mouth, especially since the finish is very sweet, just like sugar cane juice.
Second steeping time! The aroma is much more nutty and vegetal, only a hint of the previous steep’s sweet aroma remains. The taste certainly takes its cues from the aroma, there are much stronger notes of spinach and green beans with a strong presence of toast and sesame seeds. The sweetness is mostly gone until the finish and aftertaste where it leaves a nice sugar cane memory.
For the third and final steep is mostly all gone, just a slight toasty aroma with a hint of green beans. The taste is faintly vegetal and gently fruity, it finishes its little show with a hint of toast and pepper. Ok, I have a confession, usually Longjing does not wow me, sure it is tasty, but usually I would reach for another green if I am in the mood. This Longjing did wow me, the tastes were so clear and good and the aroma was delightful. I am so happy that I finally found a Longjing that lets me see what all the fuss is about!
For blog and photo (and a link to a really neat article on tea fuzz): http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/05/teasenz-first-flush-longjing-tea-tea.html
Tragedy struck my house this morning. Last night I was lounging in bed with Ben watching classic Star Trek and folding a Skeletal Dodecahedron, after I finished I placed it on the bedside table expecting it to be safe. I woke up to an awful stabbing pain in my stomach and rolled over to find my Skeletal Dodecahedron, smashed under my stomach. Someone sabotaged my origami! That someone is none other than destroyer of nice things, Espeon. Luckily for her and me I was able to salvage it (yay for stiff paper!) and it looks perfectly fine, still not a good way to wake up.
Today’s tea in the Teasenz feature week is Ming Qian Huang Shan Mao Feng Tea, a delightfully delicate green tea from Huang Shan in Anhui Province. Ming Qian is in reference to the time of year the tea leaves were plucked, basically it is before the Qing Ming festival (which falls around April 5th) giving the tea a higher quality. This might be the most fresh tea I have ever had the pleasure of tasting, I can practically feel the mountain air and mist while drinking this tea. The aroma is sweet, a blend of delicate cherry and a delicate floral and fresh vegetation. Sniffing this tea reminds me of the aroma of spring rain and refreshing cool air, it is very evocative and delicate.
Brewing the leaves in my gaiwan, the wet leaves take on a more nutty quality, but there is still the aroma of spring rain and cherries. Again, the aroma is very delicate and mild. The liquid without its accompanying leaves is like spring rain and and faint nuttiness. I am struck by how delicate the aroma is, I keep saying it but it is astoundingly so. I really feel like I am sniffing a bowl of rain, capturing not just the smell of the rain itself but also the smell of the air after rain.
The first thing that strikes me after my first sip of the first steep is how refreshing it is, I feel revitalized! Again the comparison to spring rain shows up, there is the green taste of rained on vegetation with subtle notes of spinach and nuts. The finish is smooth and it ends on a sweet note of cherry.
On the second steeping the aroma of the tea has more of a cherry sweet aroma with faint hints of spinach, again the aroma is super delicate. The taste is incredibly delicate and refreshing, again with the spring rain! I am really fixated on comparing this tea to spring rain but really I cannot say enough how perfect the comparison is, it makes me want to go run around in the rain while I am sipping it. There are also hints of fresh spinach and very delicate nuttiness. The finish is similar to the first steep with a touch of sweetness and cherries.
I feel really bad because I have nothing much to say about the third steeping. For number three I noticed no difference in the aroma and only a slightly stronger nuttiness in the taste.
For the fourth steep I wanted to try something fun and exciting! Instead of pouring the tea out of the gaiwan I went for a pseudo ‘grandpa style’ and just drank the tea out of my gaiwan. Sipping around the leaves is fun, I think I only managed to drink one or two of them. The aroma was the same as the second and third steep. The taste was surprisingly smooth and had absolutely no bitterness, even to the last sip that I took what had to be 10 minutes later was smooth and vegetal. There was a strong sweetness and a delicate nuttiness, the tea still had the refreshing delicate quality of spring rain, but doing it like this gave it a bit more of a presence. I am not sure I could sip this tea everyday, it is so delicate that it needs to be reserved for special occasions. I am tempted to make this my rainy day tea, in honor of how it reminds me of my favorite weather.
I am so excited, as soon as my varnish dries I will have a nice new tea tray! Well that is not entirely true, I still need to find a cake pan or something along those lines to place under it to catch drips, but the part that the tea gear rests on is all finished. Hopefully eight coats of waterproof varnish are enough, because I am a little sick of the varnish!
Today’s tea is from Teasenz, starting off a week of looking at their teas. Starting that week is Xing Yang Mao Jian, a green tea from Xing Yang in Henan Province, China. The Mao Jian part of the tea’s name translates to Green Tip, describing its appearance, and according to Wikipedia, this tea has a 2,300 year history, impressive! Another interesting tidbit of information about this tea is its reputation of being China’s toughest tea, since during the winter they withstand the cold while the other plants have withered. But as much as I am sure all of you love learning about tea, you are probably here to know what this tea is like from an olfactory and gustatory perspective! When I snipped open the little pouch this tea came in and gave it a good sniff, the first thing I noticed is how brothy, almost meaty the leaves smell, how intriguing! Once I poured the leaves I planned on steeping into my official sniffing dish, the leaves still retained their hint of broth, but it became more of a vegetable broth with strong notes of spinach, nuttiness, and fresh vegetation. There is a faint finish of sweetness like roasted chestnuts, the aroma of this tea certainly has a strong presence, I could sniff it for hours.
Into the gaiwan the little leaves go! After a quick steeping the aroma of the leaves is still strongly vegetal with spinach, bok choy, and a hint of kale, but there is a much stronger sweetness now. There is still a bit of the broth aroma but it is faint, allowing the other aromas to take the lead. The liquid is sweet, almost fruity, with a hint of spiciness that reminds me of spicebush. There is also a vegetal aroma that is more delicate and quite nice.
The first steeping’s taste starts out very vegetal, almost a bitter green taste of kale, spinach, and bok choy, but that very quickly fades to a fruity sweetness. The fruitiness reminds me of very delicate pear nectar with a hint of spicebush. The mouthfeel is great, it is one of those teas that tickles the mouth from the delicate hairs that are present on the leaf, one of my favorite things about drinking fuzzy teas.
For the second steep the aroma is a blend of savory broth and sweet fruit. I hestitate to call a tea that is Chinese Umami, but this tea’s aroma has one of the most clear Umami aromas I have ever run into, that alone has the power to enamor this tea to me. Tasting the tea I notice there is absolutely no bitterness as before, no kale, just refreshing bok choy vegetal and savory broth that fades to a delicate nutty sweetness at the end. Letting the tea cool causes the taste to become even more savory giving it almost mushroom (I am specifically thinking of shitake) quality to the vegetal broth taste.
The aroma of the third steep is still brothy, but now there are notes of citrus and pepper. The taste is refreshingly light, savory bok choy (I should specify that is is definitely the taste of steamed bok choy rather than fresh) and light vegetal lettuce, this fades to a delicate peppery taste and a tiny touch of smokiness. If you let this steep cool you will notice a delicate sweetness at the finish.
For the fourth and final steep the aroma is faintly sweet and vegetal with a tiny hint of fruit and a tiny hint of pepper. The taste starts off sweet with a hint of cherry and a nice note of lettuce which lingers until the peppery finish. This tea is unlike any green tea I have had before, I will go on a limb and say it is unlike any tea I have had before and I love it! I sometimes forget how unique Chinese green teas can be since (usually) if I want a green tea I go for a Japanese green, but this tea reminded me how delicate yet complex they can be. My favorite aspect of this tea is how refreshingly savory it was, it is the perfect taste for when you want a tea that has a presence but not a sweet one.
For blog and photos (including the new tea tray!): http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/05/teasenz-xin-yang-mao-jian-tea-tea-review.html
The weather outside today is glorious! All of nature is very verdant with colorful flowers, the sun is shining brightly, and the sky is a gorgeous shade of blue. It is one of those days I am so glad that windows exist and that my bedroom has them, that way even though I am in bed I can feel like I am part of nature. When I was little and would be unwell in the spring and summer, my mother was a big believer in having open windows and flowers by my bed, I truly think it helped with recovery and still hold true to that paradigm.
Today’s tea is a reflection of nature’s beauty, Rose Mojito by The Persimmon Tree is a blend of Organic White Tea, Wild Roses, Organic Peppermint, and Seasonally Selected Botanicals. Not gonna lie, this tea has been on my ‘want to try’ list for a while, so I am super excited to give it a go. The aroma of this very flowery pile of leaves is quite interesting, a blend of roses, mint, lavender, and a finish of green vegetation. The leaves smell like late spring time and nature, it reminds me of the smell of my mother’s garden as I grew up, I love it!
Into the basket the pretty leaves and flowers go! The aroma of the wet tea leaves after steeping is minty and green with a slight hint of fresh lettuce. There are also strong notes of lavender and roses that blend really well with the mint notes. The liquid without the leaves is more floral than lettuce and mint, primarily roses, but there is a strong sweet presence of lavender.
Usually with a tea like this I would say something like ‘this tea is not for you if you don’t like mint or flowers’ but I am tossing that warning out the window. At first you taste a touch of lettuce and sage, this fades to floral and lastly mint. None of the notes overpower each other, they blend together in a really wonderful way. As the tea cools it gets a bit of a subtle sweetness, which makes me suspect that this tea could be quite tasty iced in the hot months. On a whim I made a cup of this tea for Ben, who notoriously hates mint and rarely likes roses, turns out he really enjoyed it, so if that is not a point in this tea’s favor I don’t know what is. New favorite achieved!
I have a serious case of the derp today, I think because the weather has turned nice and my brain has gone frolicking off in the flowers and left my body behind to work on projects. Wouldn’t it just be the best thing ever if that were possible? I read a book (Court of the Air, for those curious) a while ago that had Steampunk-Voodoo-Buddhist-Robots (it was a thing) where some of them were Slip-thinkers. Basically they sent part of their mind into little mini robots (Mu Bodies) to do things for them, I admit I was rather jealous. It seems like the perfect solution for someone with too many interests.
Today’s tea has nothing to do with robots, but I certainly don’t hold that against it! Detox Blend by The Persimmon Tree, is an herbal blend to help you detox when you have overdone it with the junk food, or if your belly hates you, like mine frequently does! A blend of (all organic) Coriander Seeds, Fennel Seeds, Milk Thistle, Chicory Roots, Burdock Roots, and Dandelion Roots, this tisane certainly has a really neat look to it. The aroma of this tea is seedy, not all shifty-eyed, but like actual seeds, especially fennel. There is a nice amount of coriander and an earthy root aroma as well. Sniffing it reminds me of the fennel mouth cleaners they have sitting out in Indian restaurants, I love those things!
The brewed tea has a more distinct earthy root like aroma with side notes of sweet fennel and herbaceous coriander. The majority of the aroma is savory rather than sweet. The liquid sans the pile of seeds and roots is mostly fennel and coriander with a nice earthy finish of roots.
The taste is earthy and root like, but thankfully not bitter like some root based teas can be. I am looking at you Black Cohosh and Valerian, you are so unpleasantly bitter! I noticed this tea has a warming effect starting at my core and moving out to my fingers, it was quite soothing and relaxing. There are also notes of coriander and fennel, giving the tea a nice delicate sweetness at the end. This tea is great for a day when you feel unwell, it is tasty without being overwhelming, plus it feels all warm and snuggly!
So, I have started a new and exciting project! I have decided to make my own tea tray for my various Gongfu brewing sessions. Let’s just say I am tired of spilling water everywhere on my desk, and since I am not so much having the monies I decided to be all crafty. Using a frame, some paint stirrers, some caulk, varnish, a small cake pan, and paint, I will create my new toy. Pictures will show up when I finish it…or tears will flow if I ruin it!
Today’s tea is an English tea time classic! Considered to be one of the most famous Western teas, I certainly know I have been drinking it since I was a tiny child. Earl Grey Premium by Ocean of Tea is a blend of premium black tea and bergamot oil, as expected from a tea named Earl Grey Premium. The aroma is a very potent bergamot, bright and lemony! It is certainly a tea to sniff when you want to wake up and be alert. There is also a tiny bit of sweetness and a nice finish of malt.
Brewing the leaves brings out a much stronger malty tone to the very citrus heavy tea. I am amazed at how fresh the bergamot aroma’s is, it smells more like sniffing a fresh fruit than the oil. The liquid once the leaves have been removed is creamy and malty with a hint of cocoa and strong bergamot. It smells quite zingy!
Tasting time! The mouthfeel is dry, not rasping and puckering, but a nice brisk dryness. The tea is a little astringent, but not unpleasantly so, it has that brisk bite to it that really wakes you up. I know some people really object to teas having any bitterness to it at all, I personally like it when certain black teas have a bit of a bite…not enough to be nasty of course, just that hint, kinda like eating fresh kale or bitter greens, I just find it tasty. Of course there is more to this tea, there is a nice bergamot kick that leaves a bit of sourness causing a salivary response, goodbye dryness! After that there is smooth malt and a subtle sweetness that lingers to the finish. Usually when I describe an optimal Earl, I am lauding the tea’s tendency to not kick me with bergamot, this Earl certainly kicks with bergamot, but it is such a fresh and clean citrus taste that I really like it.
It has been a rainy, cold, and generally miserable day…which of course makes it perfect for sipping tea and doing crafts. Of course in my opinion all days are perfect for crafts and tea, the only thing that makes a real difference is cold, dreary weather makes for snuggling under blankets. The really good news is I am about half-way finished with my great paper organization project, as soon as I am finished it will be back to folding.
Today’s tea is Ti Kuan Yin by Ocean of Tea, a rolled Wuyi oolong from Fujian, China. Ti Kuan Yin (or Tie Guan Yin, depending on dialect) is one of my favorite oolongs and is THE tea that really got me obsessed with different kinds of tea all those years ago. The aroma of this Ti Kuan Yin is a really great blend of roasted and floral notes. There are notes of honeysuckle and orchid, along with roasted chestnut and a touch of roasted peanut. The roast is fairly light for a roasted oolong, none of the charcoal notes or smoke, much more delicate allowing the floral notes to shine.
The steeping instructions are for Western Style, but you all know me, if it is an oolong it is going into the gaiwan. I kept the 195 temperature and had the first steep for 35 seconds instead of 3 minutes. The aroma of the brewed leaves is a fantastic balance of roast and heady floral. There are notes of sweet honeysuckle and roasted chestnut. The liquid is delicately creamy and sweet, with chestnut, honey, and heady orchid notes.
For the first steeping I notice a smooth, almost buttery mouthfeel, that accentuates the flavor. The taste of the first steep starts off with delicate roasted chestnuts and nuttiness which makes a transition to honeysuckle and finally orchids. The aftertaste is one of honey, a nice finish to compliment the floral notes.
Second steeping time! I really need to spend less time on tumblr because the tasting notes for the second steep are written in my tasting notebook in doge style. Much roast, very floral. Oh memes, you are so addictive. The aroma, doge aside, is quite roasted and very floral, taking the notes from the first steeping and magnifiying it. The taste is much the same but more intense, I did detect a change in the mouthfeel. It is less buttery and smooth and more dry and assertive.
And now it is time for the third and final steep, the leaves have unfurled and show off inside my gaiwan. The aroma is a combination of creamy honey and roasted chestnuts, there is only the barest hint of floral. The taste does the opposite of the previous steeps, starting out with heady floral, it fades to roasted chestnut, and then fades again into sweet honeysuckle. The mouthfeel starts off smooth and transitions to dry when the flavor changes to roasted. I liked this Ti Kuan Yin, I am not going to say it is the best oolong I have ever had, but it is really quite enjoyable. I would recommend this tea for those who are wanting to get into oolongs because it represents the roasted aspects and floral aspects really well.
I have gone full on into origami obsession again, even if I cannot find a decent way to organize my paper. Currently I have the paper divided by colors and types and I am tying them up with string. It is not a perfect solution but it certainly is better than the paper being tossed in various boxes. Now I just need to go to the library and pick up the origami books waiting for me.
Today’s tea is a classic for those who can’t sleep and want a sip before bedtime, Chamomile by Ocean of Tea. This specific chamomile comes from Egypt, and let me start by saying I was very impressed by the flowers, usually chamomile teas I run into are about half full buds and half a pile of fluff, which is a real pain to clean out of my tea basket. The aroma is very distinctly chamomile, but if you have never had the pleasure to sniff this flower it has a similarity to straw, a touch of honey, and a bit of pollen. Also if you have ever sniffed a yarrow plant you will notice there is a similarity to chamomile. I will say this for this particular chamomile is it smells really fresh, almost like the fresh flower and not just the dried version, very nice!
The now re-hydrated (ok they were never THAT wet) flowers have an aroma that is still very distinctly chamomile, but the honey notes come through stronger giving it an extra layer of sweetness. The liquid smells identical to the wet flowers except it is a bit more delicate.
Ah chamomile tea, you have always been a favorite of mine, drinking is always a pleasure. Especially so with a chamomile that tastes as fresh and clean as these flowers! There is a nice blend of straw, honey, pollen, and floral notes that to me evoke summer time. Drinking chamomile might not make me feel sleepy the same way that taking a sleep aid does, but it does make me feel sleepy the way that napping in the sun on a warm day does. This is some of the best chamomile I have had short of drying my own, it tastes very clean and fresh, perfect for relaxing before sleep…and with that note, I am going to bed!
Flavors: Flowers, Honey
I have a real conundrum on my hands. It is not an exaggeration when I say I have thousands of sheets of origami paper, and that is not even counting the start strips! Currently I have the bulk of the paper in three sea themed photo totes (the nice ones you find at Michaels) but of course there is a lot of paper in other various places (for example a plastic storage unit has two of the three drawers stuffed with paper). Here is the problem, I want them organized so I know exactly what I have…and I cannot think of a way to do that!
Who knew that having so much paper would cause such dilemmas, clearly the answer is to fold a lot more!
Today’s tea is a chai that is not for the weak of heart (or taste buds) and certainly not for those who are not a fan of the hot stuff. Chai Ya Yai! by Chad’s Chai is an extra spicy blend of Full Leaf Indian Black Tea, Organic Cinnamon, Black Pepper, Clove, Chili Pepper, Star Anise, Organic Ginger, and Organic Cardamon. Similar ingredient list to Chad’s Black Chai, but with extra chili. I learned my lesson and didn’t stick my nose in the pouch, but even wafting the aroma towards my nose ended up with my sneezing and coughing. Not gonna lie, I am a little afraid! Between sneezing and coughing and I could detect the aroma of peppers, ginger, and intense spice with a very slight hint of malt base tea.
Once I give the new hotness a steeping in the hot water (it is all about heat with this tea) I notice that I can sniff the tea without dying of pepper up the nose. The aroma is sweet and malty with rich (yet much calmer) spices. It smells really intense and quite good, the intensity of the chili no longer scares me quite as much. The liquid is richly malty and gingery, there is still a good bit of chili and pepper, but the ginger takes the center stage. I find that the pepper and chili really compliments the aroma of the malty base tea.
Ok, steeling the nerves in my mouth for the inevitable shock. I will admit, I love the taste of spicy food but tend not to eat it too much because my guts are delicate. Since this is a chai I do have the traditional cream and sugar, so that might take away the edge of the chili. Actually, I am not sure it does take the edge off, because that is an intense heat. I should point out that it is not a painful running for a glass of milk heat, it warms up the entire mouth and finished with a little burn at the end of the swallow. There is more to this chai than chili, the other spices are well balanced and the tea is rich and malty. I like this chai a lot, even though it is not strong in the cardamon and anise department (which is my favorite kind of traditional chai) this one fits nicely into the ‘unusual chai’ category which I adore.
Well all, I am starting to feel better, it seems whatever was wrong with me is mostly on the mend, the only problem is I am bushed. I keep feeling really exhausted and sleeping a lot so my sleep schedule has gotten weird and I have some serious confusion as to what day it is! A few hearty meals and some rest should have me back to normal in no time. I did use some of my time today working on a new origami piece, a modular star themed kusudama that was a real pain to assemble when using slippery chiyogami, but worked quite well with junky memo paper.
Break out your Beret, because today’s tea is French Breakfast by Golden Moon Tea, a classic black tea from Kenilworth Estate in Sri Lanka (or Ceylon if you are old fashioned about it). The website recommends this tea for people who like ‘standard’ black tea or who are starting out on their adventure into loose leaf tea. I am most certainly not new to loose leaf tea, but I am always on the hunt for a new breakfast tea. The aroma of this tea is bright, bold, and malty with a hint of pecans and dried leaves. Very much a standard black tea indeed!
The brewed leaves are very bright and quite sweet with a berry like quality to it that blends with an oak wood aroma. It does not have a brisk quality, just bright and sweet. The aroma of the liquid sans leaves is malty and sweet, like caramel, with a nice oaky finish.
This tea has a nice mild briskness, just enough to wake you up but not too much, no need to worry about your moth turning inside out. There is a bold malty and oak wood taste that fades to a sweetness reminiscent of berries. Adding cream and sugar takes away that mild briskness and replaces it with a very smooth morning cup. I agree with the company’s description, this is a great beginners tea, but it has enough going on that it does not bore a more experienced sipper.