432 Tasting Notes
On a whim I decided to try something daring! Ben was using the Xbox and I wanted to play Minecraft, so I borrowed his much superior computer to play the demo. It was the most fun I have had in ages, I died so much because I was not used to the controls (also using a laptop mouse instead of a real mouse) but it was a thing of beauty. I might have happy cried a little. The good news is Ben said if I buy myself a new mouse and a PC copy of Minecraft I can borrow his computer while he is at work!
Today’s tea is the famous Da Hong Pao Wuyi Rock Oolong from Teavivre. Hailing from the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian, China, this Rock Oolong (or Yancha) has an interesting legend about it. During the Ming Dynasty, the Emperor’s mother took ill, luckily a tea she sipped cured her and in thanks the Emperor sent great red robes to clothe the original bushes that grew the tea, hint the name Big Red Robe. The aroma of this tea is a blend of sweetness and smoke. There are notes of baking bread, honey, tobacco, coal, and a finishing hint of cocoa. It is quite a fascinating aroma that is well balanced.
Into the gaiwan the curly leaves go! After a fairly short steep, the aroma of the wet leaves is as complex as the dry leaves with notes of charcoal, baking bread, honey, and touch of floral. I should note that the floral is like orchids near the end of their life, heady sweet with just the faintest touch of decay. It is not an unpleasant smell, it is just very distinct to flowers which are about to fall off the stem. The poured off liquid is a blend of sweet honey, charcoal, and a finish of tobacco.
The first steep starts out sharply sweet, like honey coated tobacco with a strong note of coal. There is a great blend of pine wood and smoke at the middle of the sip, the titular midtaste, after the initial sharpness fades I realized that the mouthfeel was quite smooth. The finish is sweet with an aftertaste of cherry and the faintest hint of smoke.
For the second steep, the first thing I notice about the aroma is that it is only barely smoky, like a distant fire and not a piece of charcoal, it is more floral and much sweeter, like honey and flower nectar. The taste starts out very sweet and smooth, with strong notes of raw honey and flowers, specifically orchids and a touch of honeysuckle. There is a finish of cherries and smoke, just like the first steep.
Th aroma of the third steep has taken a different route from its previous forms, this time it is faintly fruity sweet with a distinct mineral and spring water aroma. The taste also has a strong mineral presence, it tastes like drinking straight from a spring (having done this many times, I highly recommend it) very clean and very mineraly. This fades to a gentle floral taste and a honey sweetness that lingers.
Flavors: Honey, Mineral, Smoke, Tobacco, Yeasty
Ugh, today was one of those days where I got absolutely nothing accomplished. I had a list of things I wanted to do, but I think the utter lack of sleep last night sapped any desire to do anything today. Well, it is a lie, I have successfully mastered the fine art at staring at a website without actually reading it. We all have one of those days sometimes.
Today’s tea is Tazo Teas Rest Herbal Infusion, a blend of roses, valerian root, and citrusy herbs. I will admit, I have no idea how this tea bag got into my stash of tea, but I wanted an herbal tea to sip in the evening, so why not? I am very curious where this tea came from, maybe the tea fairy visited me, you know leave a tea-ball under your pillow and wake up with a soggy mess…and maybe new tea! The aroma is a soothing blend of lemony, herbaceous, a little bit of floral sweetness, and a finish of bitter herb (hello valerian, you still smell kinda awful.) The rose aroma is pretty faint, mostly the dominant notes are herbal and citrus.
Once the teabag has been steeped, however, the rose becomes more dominant. As does a bunch of different herbal notes, some of them not so pleasant and bit astringent smelling. There are also strong notes of citrus, honestly the tea smells like a medicinal cacophony with some rose perfume covering it up, it is not bad, but it does smell like medicine!
The taste of this is not offensive, which is always a good way to start out with a tea that has valerian in it. There is some bitter root taste, but it is pretty faint and only at the end, a bit of honey or sugar takes that bitterness right away. The taste of the tea is mild, with notes of citrus, rose, wildflowers, sage, and a general herb and grass feeling to it. I didn’t hate it, if this tea magically shows up in my stash again I would drink it before sleep, granted there are significantly better night time herbal teas out there, but this one is not bad.
This is one of those introductions to today’s tea that is a little lame, I had a mostly uneventful day today and sadly I have not really had any inspiring thoughts. I did some laundry, had some tea, walked to the drug store, watched some lectures, and did a bit of writing. Also Tao did something clever, she learned that meowing in front of the closed window and trying to pull open the window with her paw was a clear way to get me to open the window. That was my day!
Today’s tea is Assam Gold from The Persimmon Tree Tea Company, a lovely black tea from Assam, India, with a sprinkling of curly, fuzzy, golden tipped leaves. You all know me, you know that if my tea has fuzzy, golden leaves I am immediately happy, I am not too hard to please. The aroma is rich and malty with sweet notes of dried cherries. This fades to a blend of cocoa and tobacco with a touch of cedar at the finish.
After what seems like an eternity of steeping (one of the side-effects of doing a bunch of gongfu brewing, all those short steeps!) the aroma if the wet leaves is brisk and sweet, almost surprisingly sweet! There are strong notes of cherries and malt with a faint finish of molasses. The liquid is richly sweet with a tiny bit of tartness, like a more tart cherry. Accompanying this are notes of malt and molasses.
Well, this is certainly not a mild or unassuming tea! The initial taste is quite bold and bit brisk, with notes of cherries, cocoa, and a touch of oak which adds a bit of astringency. This fades to a rich malt that lingers as an aftertaste. Feeling whimsical I added a bit of cream and sugar, this takes away the briskness and that touch of astringency and leaves a rich and very malty cup. The notes of fruit and cocoa are not as strong, there is more of an earthiness as well. I found this tea quite good both creamed and sweetened and straight, it is a great breakfast tea.
Flavors: Absinthe, Cherry, Cocoa, Malt, Oak wood
Today’s mail was awesome, I knew that my Meteorology book was supposed to arrive today (because yes I obsessively track packages whenever I have a tracking code), but I also got my Geology textbook today! Now if only I could find a Mycology textbook for less than $100 I would be happy, turns out those more obscure subjects have pricier textbooks. I also received a Calligraphy book to review thanks to Goodread’s First Read program, so I have a reason to break out my ink and nibs.
Today’s tea is Liu An Gua Pian from Teavivre, a green tea from Liu An, Anhui, China, specifically on Qiyun Mountain. The name Gua Pian translates to Melon Seed, for the way the leaves look once they have been steeped. I do want to take a moment to point out how beautifully verdant the leaves are, their color is a deeper green than a lot of famous Chinese green teas. When I was sniffing the dry leaves, I had one of those mouthwatering moments, there are certain smells that I just love in tea, and this one certainly has it. The aroma is quite vegetal and also quite nutty, with note of green beans, spinach, chestnut, sweet sesame seed paste (Halva for those who enjoy Middle Eastern desserts) and a very delicate finish of toast. It manages to be sweet and vegetal without the clashing, in fact sniffing this tea makes me a bit hungry.
Once the tea has been given a nice soaking in the gaiwan, the leaves become an even richer green, I would go as far as to say they look like fine Nephrite Jade. The aroma is rather complex, the wet leaves have notes of toasted sesame seeds, green beans, asparagus, lychee, and spicebush. Again these notes do not clash, but compliment each other. The liquid in my cup is a lovely shade of green, again reminding me of jade (why yes, I have been brushing up on my Mineralogy, why do you ask?) The aroma is delicate, with notes of honeysuckle, lychee, sesame seeds, and chestnut. It is more nutty and floral than vegetal, and is quite sweet.
The first steep, well on the first steep all I can think is ‘oh my that is sweet’ I even wrote that in my tasting notebook. There are notes of lychee and honeysuckle at the front, the mid taste is nicely vegetal with notes of asparagus and green bean. The Finish is a blend of apricots and sesame sesame seeds, it is very complex and light. If the rest of the steeps are this tasty I could become addicted to this tea.
And onto the second steep we go! The aroma is a blend of asparagus, sweet lychee, and a nice sesame finish. The taste is still light, but has more of a vegetal and herbaceous tone than sweet this time around. The taste starts out with a bit of asparagus and green beans, this fades to a hint of sage and cooked spinach. The aftertaste is sweet, like lychees and a hint of cherries.
The third steep’s aroma is fairly faint, there are notes of spinach and lychee and the faintest hint of sesame at the end, but mostly it is vegetal and discreet. The taste is not faint, however. It is a perfect blend of spinach, lychee, green beans, and sesame seeds. They all seem to dance in perfect tandem, like a very strange waltz (I say strange because usually spinach is a terrible dancer). The tea has a slightly dry finish, but it is still refreshing, especially with the lychee aftertaste that lingers.
For the fourth steep, well, before we get into aromas and taste, I have a confession. I had to nibble on a leaf, they looked so pretty, turns out they were really tasty! Sometimes you get lucky and used tea leaves are sweet and vegetal, sometimes they are really bitter. The aroma is sweet, with strong notes of sesame seeds and a touch of honey, no real vegetal or fruity notes this time. This is a nice finish to a delicious tea, the fourth steep is light, with delicate notes of sesame seeds, a touch of lychee, and touch of green bean. I really enjoyed this tea, though I really wish I would have gotten more than a sample, at least I know what will be in my next Teavivre order!For Blog and Photos (including Espeon saying hello :P ): http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/06/teavivre-liu-gua-pian-green-tea-tea.html
Flavors: Asparagus, Green Beans, Honey, Lychee, Nutty, Spinach
Happy day after the first day of Summer everyone, even if that was an incredibly awkward greeting! I spent most of my solstice hiding from the heat and sun in the basement (like I do) and sipping tea (also like I do). I did come out for a brief date with Ben in the backyard, and by date I mean we turned on the sprinkler and played in it, along with having a hose vs sprinkler fight. He was armed with the hose and won, but considering I got soaked and cooled off I think it is more of a tie.
Today’s tea is Susan Branch Private Blend Tea, A Fine Romance, which is a blend of Earl Grey Tea, Lavender Buds, and Rose Petals. Even though those are two of my favorite flowers to have in tea, what really sold my British self (well, half self since I am only half a Brit) is the Corgi in a crown on the packaging. The aroma is quite like a summer bouquet of roses (specifically it reminds me of the English Rose perfume I was much enamored of as a kid) with relaxing notes of lavender, bright citrus notes, and a finish of slightly sweet malt.
Once the leaves and petals have had a nice hot bath, the wet leaves have a much more brisk aroma. It smells more like tea with flowers than flowers with a touch of tea. In the dry leaves the roses were strongest, but now they are well balanced with the other ingredients. Luckily the bergamot is not too strong, which is good because too strong makes me scared. The liquid without its leafy friends is quite rich with strong notes of malt and vanilla, and more subtle notes of flowers.
The description on the website says this tea is great with additives, but I decided to try it straight first. First sip in, I really do not think this tea needs sugar or cream, it is rich and sweet enough on its own. In my mouth there is a great dance of roses, lavender, malt, and mild bergamot, each one well balanced and accenting each other in harmony. The taste is pretty rich while also being mild, it seems like a bit of a contradiction, but the floral aspects make it rich, the black tea base is subtle. I like this tea, it would be a great tea for tea parties or an afternoon sip in the garden.
Flavors: Bergamot, Lavender, Malt, Rose, Vanilla
It is certainly summer time now, even if technically the solstice isn’t until tomorrow. We have not had a day below 85 degrees in a few weeks, and I have achieved full melt. I really dislike the heat, you would think growing up in the South would make me used to it, but each summer I seem to hate it just a little bit more. Good thing the basement tea lair stays mostly cool, for now anyway.
Today’s tea is Sencha of the Summer Sun from Obubu Tea Plantations by way of Yunomi.us. This particular Sencha from Kyoto grown on an uncovered west-facing slope and plucked after it has been bathed by the July sun. It is a strong Sencha, perfect for washing down oily BBQ on a summer day, at least that is what the website says and I am inclined to believe it. The aroma of the vibrantly green leaves is sweet, a blend of sweet hay, grass, and spinach. There is a touch of seaweed at the finish giving the tea a bit of that sea-side aroma that I so love in teas. It might be the name playing havoc with my sense, but the aroma really does remind me of summer.
Once the tea has a nice visit with some water in my Kyusu, the aroma of the wet leaves is sweet like fresh hay and just a little bit fruity. There is also a hint of kelp and vegetal, though it is not as strong. The aroma of the liquid almost seems ethereal, there are faint notes of sweet grass and kelp, but they seem ghostly and like a memory.
The first steep is sweet, it starts with a sweet grass taste that fades to fresh cherry. After this initial sweetness, the taste fades to a grassy bitterness and a touch of kale. The finish returns to a gentle sweetness that takes all the bitterness away, the hay sweetness lingers for quite a while.
On the second steeping, the aroma is much more grassy and strong, no more ethereal memories of tea, you can definitely tell you are sniffing a cup of Sencha this time. The taste is also more intense, quite green and grassy that fades to vegetal kale bitter green. Like the first steep after the bitter green taste you are greeted with a nice sweet finish that lingers.
The aroma of the third steep is much grassier and kelpy, it is more savory than sweet this time around. The taste is also quite grassy and fresh, this fades to kelp. Lastly the taste is quite sweet with a fruity aftertaste. This tea I found quite refreshing, I think it actually does go really well with heavy foods, though I did not test it with BBQ, but I am sure it works just fine. I can see people who are not a fan of bitter green tastes not enjoying this Sencha as much, but since I am a fan of it I found it quite enjoyable.
Flavors: Grass, Hay, Kale, Seaweed, Spinach, Sweet
I was introduced to the most awesome thing today, apparently there are websites where you can audit college level classes for free. I foresee lots of science classes in my future, because let’s be honest, if I was able to go back to college I would go for science. Of course trying to finally decide if I want to go the Meteorology or Mycology route would be the real hard part, for now I will just sponge up knowledge in barely contained glee.
This is one of those teas that was no surprise at all when I saw it was part of the 2013 Autumn collection. I mean really, what is more autumn than Mom’s Apple Pie by DAVIDsTEA? A blend created from Green Tea, Apple Pieces, Cinnamon, Artificial and Natural flavors, this tea is all about nostalgia. Except for me, my mom was more of a carrot cake or berry pie kinda lady, so I don’t have a huge attachment to apples. Unsurprisingly the aroma is very much apples, sweet and a little tart like a Granny Smith apple, there is also a moderate presence of cinnamon which thankfully does not overwhelm. I do not really pick up on the aroma of the base tea, but there is a tiny hint of freshly made crust.
The brewed leave’s aroma is very warm, blending cinnamon spice and cooked apples, and still a little hint of crust. The cinnamon and apple are well balanced and sweet, I still do not notice any green tea though. The liquid is much sweeter with less crust and more apples, the cinnamon is pretty mild, just a gentle warmth.
It’s Apple Flavored! Yes, that is an obscure Bleach reference for you. There is a touch of grassy green, a subtle sweetness, and mild cinnamon warmth. But let’s be honest, the main show stealer is the apple, it has a baked apple and a little bit of an artificial sour apple taste. I am really hit or miss with apple things, actually with apples in general. They are very much so one of those fruits that I love to smell but rarely like to eat, especially if the apple is at all tart. I think that this is a tea that apple lovers could really enjoy since it is more real apple than fake, so points for that. I doubt I would ever seek it out myself.
So I saw my new Rheumatologist today and I have some interesting news! Turns out I might not have Lupus, I might just have Hypothyroidism and Fibromyalgia (just like my mom, genetics!). He is not quite ready to rule out autoimmune disorders entirely since I show a lot of signs of Lupus, but my blood work came back negative and I have all the symptoms of Fibro (just an added bonus butterfly rash for fun?) and thyroid problems on the blood work. So new medicine to try for fatigue and pain management, and lots of monitoring my condition. I would be quite content with this diagnosis, the fear of Lupus trying to kill me was getting really old.
Today’s tea is another from the Red Leaf Tea 20 Teas Sampler, Milk Gao Shan Tea (number 5). I am slowly making my way through all the teas, ok actually I have long since tasted all the teas in this sampler and recorded my notes in my tea-notebook, so really I am slowly adding them to my blog. You can tell these tasting notes are a bit old since this was pre-gaiwan days, such nostalgia. From what I gathered from a quick skim of the internet, Gao Shan is translated to High Mountain, so this tea is essentially a Taiwanese High Mountain Milk Oolong. The aroma is very sweet, true to its name it smells very milky and creamy. In fact I would go as far as say this tea smells like vanilla ice cream with a touch of chestnut and hay. If you are unfamiliar with Milk Oolong’s distinct aroma, it can seem a little unreal. There is also, at the very finish of a particularly long sniff, a touch of pineapple.
After giving the tea a nice steeping and watching the leaves unfurl a bit, the aroma of them in their little steeping basket is less intensely sweet and creamy and much more like you would expect a green oolong to smell. There are notes of chestnut and fresh vegetation with an underlying aroma of sweet cream and honey. The liquid is a buttery mix of sweet cream and fresh vegetation. It is fairly mild and only slightly sweet.
First steeping time! The first thing I notice is that buttery smooth mouthfeel, I am such a sucker for oolongs that have that distinct mouthfeel. The taste starts out quite sweet and floral, like sweet cream and honeysuckles. This fades to vegetal, mixing notes of fresh vegetation and fresh spinach. After this my mouth is treated to a bit of chestnut and an aftertaste of cream.
The aroma of the second steep is really sweet and creamy, much more so than the aroma of the first steeping. The taste starts out a bit bitter, like kale, this very quickly fades to chestnut, sweet cream, and honeysuckles. The mouthfeel is also still pretty smooth and buttery, which I enjoy. As the tea cools, all bitterness fades and we are left with a mouth full of sweet, milky, goodness. This Milk Oolong is not bad, I have had better and I have had worse, this is a perfect example of adequate.
Flavors: Honeysuckle, Milk, Vanilla, Vegetal