409 Tasting Notes
It makes logical sense that a book lover like me would hoard tea themed books as much as I do tea, so when I received a copy of this book to review thanks to Netgalley, I thought to myself, why not post it on my blog as well as Goodreads? Kombucha Revolution 75 Recipes for Handmade Brews, Fixers, Elixers, and Mixers by Stephen Lee with Ken Koopman, is a book dedicated to that strange tea substance called Kombucha, or Mushroom Tea.
Not one to usually shirk fermented foods, I have no shame in admitting that Kombucha scares the pants off of me. Something about the idea of drinking sweet tea with things growing in it really perturbs me, Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY) being the term for the thing growing in said sweet tea did not help. ‘But it is like yogurt’ you are probably telling your screen and by transition, me, well honestly when I actually think about yogurt and its little probiotic organisms happily making their way into my gut…well, I get really weirded out about that too. It doesn’t help that my one experience with Kombucha was the nastiest thing ever, but I am perpetually curious about this drink, because really, home brewing and fermenting things is really cool science!
Kombucha Revolution goes a bit into the history and science of how Kombucha works, but the bulk of this book is recipes and how to take care of your new pet SCOBY. Some of these recipes look delicious, even to my apprehensive self. If someone handed me a glass of Green Tea Lavender Kombucha I would give it a try. Black Jack Kombucha tempts me to start brewing Kombucha myself. Bambucha practically had me scouring Craigslist for a reputable SCOBY of my own to take care of.
The thing that really peaked my curiosity was the Kombucha smoothies. Smoothies are a great way of getting nutritional goodies without having to taste them, or really think about ingesting it. It is like taking probiotics by pill form instead of a bowl of yogurt, it is so much easier to swallow a pill and not think about it than eating a bowl of friendly creatures. I am really not sure how much of the lauded health benefits of Kombucha is true, as with a lot of holistic practices, there is just not a lot of research done, which is tragic! One thing I do know is that fermented foods are supposed to be great for digestive disorders, and I certainly notice my gut being happier when I have more fermented goodies in my diet. So if the tangy taste of Kombucha really isn’t my thing and my first tasting was not a fluke, here is a backup plan.
The next section of the book covers Kombucha themed mixed drinks and cocktails. This has absolutely no relevance to me, I do not drink, so even though these recipes seem very inventive I would never actually use them.
Lastly we look at Kombucha as a condiment ingredient and a food ingredient. These recipes were really cool, I had no idea this stuff was so versatile. I think if I had read this book when I first heard of Kombucha I might not have the leery feeling I have towards it. This book presents it as a fun fermented drink with some possible health benefits and a bunch of different uses. Not a miracle drink made from rotten tea! Has this converted me to the world of Kombucha? Maybe, I certainly want a SCOBY as a pet, they are cute little colonies. Not sure I am willing to make the next step and start drinking it, but I no longer feel so much fear towards it.
I have a case of the blahs. Pretty sure I am having an immune freak out from the tetanus shot I got yesterday, or maybe I am catching Ben’s summer cold, regardless I feel like a shambling blob. I am hoping that tomorrow I feel better so I can do something other than lay on the couch grumbling.
Today’s tea is Teavivre’s Lapsang Souchong Smoky Black Tea or Yan Xun Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong, from the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian, China. This tea is smoked over pine wood (or pine wood charcoal) from Tongmu Kuan in the Wuyi Mountains. Lapsang Souchong has a long and interesting history, in theory Laspang Souchong was created when the passage of an army delayed the annual drying, so in order to meet the demand the tea producers spread up the processing by drying the leaves over pine fires. Turns out it was a tasty idea. The aroma is very much so a pine smoke heavy black tea, lots of pine smoke goodness and a rich malt. There are also notes of molasses and roasted peanuts which blends really well with the pine resin and smoke.
After tossing the pile of leaves into my gaiwan…ok, not tossing, that would be rude to the leaves, and giving the tea its initial steeping, the wet leaves have a very rich aroma with notes of molasses, loam, malt, pine sap, and loads of pine smoke. It smells like a rich black tea steeping over a fire. The liquid once it has been freed from the gaiwan (It is what I am calling pouring now) has a slightly sweet aroma that reminds me of freshly baked molasses cookies. There is, of course, an overarching aroma of pine smoke and resin.
The first steep is quite smooth and very light. The taste is subtly sweet with notes of pine sap and sweet potatoes. This fades to a rich smokiness that lingers into the aftertaste. This steep promises that future steeps are going to have a wonderful richness and smokiness, it is a good prelude to what is to come.
On the second steep there is a strong molasses and pine smoke aroma. The taste is very strong pine resin taste with strong notes of roasted peanuts and molasses. The tea is not very sweet and has a slight astringent finish. It is smoky and brisk and quite strong.
The aroma of the third steep is very malty and molasses heavy, there is still smoke, but it is not as strong as the previous steeps giving it more of a balanced aroma. The taste is a perfectly balanced blend of smoke, pine resin, molasses, and roasted peanuts. There is a sweet aftertaste and no astringency what so ever.
On a whim I decided to give this tea a visit using Western techniques. The aroma is malty, rich, and quite smoky. The taste is very smoky with heavy notes of pine, molasses, and sweetness. The aftertaste is malty and smoky. Both the Western and the Gongfu styles of brewing made a deliciously smoky and rich tea.
Flavors: Malt, Molasses, Peanut, Pine, Smoke
Well, I finally did it, I finally stopped dragging my feet and playing the avoid at all cost game and went to the doctor. Other than helping me with my really messed up asthma, my new doctor could not do much except set me up with appointments with four different specialists. Good thing I finally have good insurance! I am not looking forward to the testing and experimenting with all the various medications I am going to have to try. Sigh, at least I will have tea to keep me sane.
Today’s tea is The Diplomat by Java Tea Co, a company that creates tea blends that taste like famous coffee drinks but as a healthy alternative. This little gem is made in the image of Caramel Macchiatto, created from (all organic) Rooibos, Green Tea, Chicory Root, Barley, Cornflowers, Almonds, Caramel Creme, Natural Flavors and Polyphenol Extract. The aroma is very much so true to the idea of a Caramel Macchiatto with caramel, sweetness, cream, and coffee’s earthiness. There is also a mild floral hint and a touch of woodiness. I actually found the caramel sweetness a little too sweet, but I feel that way about the aroma of the coffee equivalent.
The brewed leaves bring out more of that coffee aroma (from the chicory) with nutty and woody qualities. The creamy, caramel sweetness is also still present but more subdued. The tea without the steeping leaves has strong coffee notes along with faint floral and intense caramel sweetness. I still find the aroma a bit too sweet for my liking, which is saying something considering how much of a sweet tooth I have.
I am going to admit to not being fond of this tea right off the bat, it did nothing for me. I thought the taste was too much like low quality watered down bitter coffee with too much sweetness. It reminded me of gas station lattes and I am not a fan. There are also notes of woodiness from the rooibos and root like earthiness from the chicory. I probably dislike this tea because of the chicory, it is an herb that just makes me go blech. I decided to add a little cream to the tea and that made it a little more palatable, the taste of the chicory was milder and the bitterness mostly faded. The aftertaste is mildly sweet, which is my favorite part of this tea. On a side note (I feel a little bad bashing this tea) I included this one in my annual Advent Tea Calender and it was a big hit, so I am glad others enjoyed it more than I did.
I came up with a brilliant idea today! In a few months (October to be exact) I am going back to Pennsylvania to visit my family for three months, I have been utterly stumped on how to provide for myself while I was there. I decided to create a GoFundMe campaign offering my crafty creations in return for funding. Wish me luck that it works!
Today’s tea is Just Organic Tea’s Just Perfect Peony, a nice white tea, specifically a Bai Mu Dan. Bai Mu Dan translates to White Peony, a perfect name for a delicate, leafy, tea. I will have to say this is one of the greenest of the White Peony teas I have run across, it is so vibrant! The aroma is a savory blend of lettuce, chestnut, paper, and little bit of roasted peanuts. I find it is pretty random as to whether or not a White Peony’s aroma will be more savory or sweet, I tend to like them both.
Into the gaiwan the leaves go! The brewed leaves’s aroma is a very green aroma of sage, lettuce, and dried green leaves. The aroma is is sharp and very green, fresh and like spring time. The liquid is slightly sweet with notes of lettuce and fresh vegetation.
The taste is honey sweet with a touch of lettuce and a tiny bit of spicebush. The tea is fresh and very spring like, I am amazed at how sweet the tea is considering how savory the aroma of the dried leaves were. I found it quite delicious and very refreshing.
Flavors: Honey, Lettuce, Sage
Have you ever had a nightmare so bad that it left you shaken the entirety of the next day and with an overwhelming desire to not sleep ever again? Well that was my night last night. I am quite annoyed at my brain for giving me such a nasty dream, and I didn’t even provoke it by watching something scary before sleep. I got my revenge by being upbeat and cheerful aw much as possible, haha, take that, brain!
Today’s tea is a classic tea from the island of Formosa. For those who do not know Formosa was the name that Portuguese sailors gave Taiwan, the name means beautiful and from photos I have seen it is an apt description. Formosa Oolong from Adagio Teas is thought to be an introduction to Taiwanese Oolongs, and it was certainly one of the first that I tried. The aroma of this tea is sweet with notes of loam, tobacco, raisins, old flowers (think orchids that are not rotten but are certainly on their last legs, smells heady and a little dead) and honey. There is a nice finishing note of smoke which gives this tea a real autumnal feel to it.
Brewing the little pile of leaves, in this case it really does look like a leaf pile! The aroma of the brewed leaves is woody and sweet with notes of honey, raisins, and oak. The liquid is a blend of raisins and honey, all sweet with a very delicate finish of floral.
Tasting the tea, in a way it is like a homecoming, it was not this specific Formosa Oolong that I drank all those years ago, but the similarity in taste really never leaves one’s memory. The taste starts out sweet with notes of raisins and stewed plums. This fades to a leafy and tobacco flavor which in turns fades to gentle honey at the finish. Formosa Oolong is one of those ‘everyday’ kinda teas, there is nothing overwhelmingly special about it, but it is so enjoyable that I don’t mind. I say give this tea a try if you want a comforting ‘homey’ kind of tea or if you are new to oolongs and want to see what the fuss is about.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Honey, Oak wood, Plums, Raisins, Tobacco
I hope everyone had a good Memorial Day yesterday! Mine was kinda odd, my dryer broke while I was doing laundry so I ended up hanging things on the line with a perpetual eye on the stormy clouds…it never did rain much to my surprise. While hanging the laundry out a grackle assaulted me, I think it wasn’t paying attention and it flew right into my chest and then squawked at me like it was my fault. I also got sunburned and the associated sun sickness because I keep forgetting that the UV is higher in the Midwest and going out without a sunhat is dumb.
Today’s tea from Just Organic Tea is Just Charming Chai, a blend of Oothu Black Tea, Cardamon, Cinnamon, Cloves, Organce Peel, and Natural Flavors. The aroma is spicy and warm, a blend of cinnamon and cardamon with notes of malt and a tiny hint of orange at the finish. This smells like a classic chai but with a nice orange flair to it.
The aroma of the brewed leaves is very spicy, lots of cardamon and a hint of pepper. There is also a nice amount of malt and earthiness, there is a tiny bit of sweet orange at the finish. The liquid is malty, sweet, and creamy with a spice and orange. It is very balanced and an intriguing twist on chai.
With the traditional cream and sugar, since that is how I like my chai, the taste is quite yummy. A bold and very smooth chai, strong spices that are well balanced, and nice rich malty finish. There is a tiny bit of orange that shows up in the midtaste and stays until the aftertaste. This tea does do something kinda funny, the flavor is really rich and bold at the beginning, but at the end it putters out to just mild orange and a tiny bit of spice. This tea had a great start but a pretty meh finish, but I did really like the start and the quirky orange twist.
I had a bit of a rambunctious kinda day, lots of energy and spunk. I believe it was a combination of having a really good day of hanging out with friends and gaming yesterday and the promise of storms today. Also I found out that there is a massive hurricane out in the Pacific Ocean that has my name, I have been waiting for a Hurricane Amanda pretty much my whole life. I really hope that either its path or the tropical upheaval brings lots of rain to the Midwest so that the drought conditions lessen even more. That would please me immensely.
Well, I did it again, I forgot that seasonal teas are in fact seasonal and have missed the season to write the review for this tea. Oops, I promise that in the future when I get a seasonal tea I will not just write about it in my tea notebook, but will blog about it immediately. Pumpkin Chai from DAVIDsTEA was part of their 2013 Fall Collection and is a blend of Black Tea, Cinnamon, Cloves, Lemon Peel, Squash, Carrots, Caramel Bits, and Pumpkin Candies. This tea really caught my eye when I saw that it was not only pumpkin spice themed, but also has squash bits! The aroma of this tea is very sweet and creamy with extremely strong spices. The cinnamon and cloves really overpower the rest of the aromas, but there is a faint hint of malt, pumpkin, and caramel under the potent spices.
As this tea sits and steeps, the delicious aroma of pumpkin and spices float out of the cup and around the room. The aroma is a blend of earthiness with much milder spices, and squash. Specifically the aroma of acorn squash and pumpkin bread. The aroma of the wet leaves makes me rather hungry for one of my favorite bread types. The liquid without the leaves is rather sweetly spiced with notes of creamy caramel and squash.
The initial impact of the taste is a tingly and numb feeling from the spices, it is a little overwhelming, but it quickly fades to mellow sweetness and spices. Adding cream and sugar (this is a chai after all) dampens the overwhelming spices, and now there is a rich caramel taste and strong squash notes. I still think that the spices are too strong, so much so that a few minutes after starting to sip this tea I started getting red in the face and breaking out in hives…sometimes that happens to me when I have too much cinnamon. I was really happy that this tea tasted like squash, but the abundance of spices really made this tea not a favorite.
For blog, photos, and a nice crafty tutorial: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/05/davidstea-pumpkin-chai-tea-review.html
MAHVEL BABEE! Sorry, this weekend there is a fighting game tournament (this one is in Chicago) and I am watching the livestream for my favorite game, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. Weekends where I can devote my attention to what is the equivalent to my favorite sport make me very happy. Especially when I can fold origami and sip tea while watching…tea, geekery, and crafts, three of my favorite things at once. Get hype, yo.
Today’s tea is from Just Organic Tea, their Just Pure Green, a green tea bio-dynamically farmed in southern India. I had to look up bio-dynamic farming since it was not something I was really familiar with, apparently it is a holistic approach to farming, using things like special manures and composts, along with astrology and burying quartz crystals in the soil. Well, that is certainly an interesting approach to farming. The aroma of this tea is very faint, the leaves have a slightly vegetal and leafy aroma and that is all. What little aroma there is in the leaves is certainly a classic green tea.
Brewing the leaves brings out more aroma, the wake up in the water. The aroma of the wet leaves is quite green, a blend of vegetal notes and a slight citrus finish. It is a very typical green aroma that you expect from a ‘generic’ green tea. The liquid without the leaves is pretty much exactly the same as the wet leaves.
The taste of the tea is probably the most ‘green’ green tea I have ever had. That probably needs some explanation, when I say it tastes like a green tea…not any specific tea, no sencha or bi luo chun, just a generic green tea…this is exactly what comes to mind. A mild vegetal taste with a hint of citrus and a very faint hint of smoke at the finish. Add a little sugar or honey and it brings out latent fruity notes, let is chill and you get a really refreshing vegetation notes. This tea is solid, I would recommend it if you are wanting to take baby steps into the world or green tea, or if you want a good green for making iced tea.
Well, I have pulled a muscle in my shoulder, apparently I am not enough of an amazon to move furniture around by myself, but that is really no surprise. I did, however, get my craft area and tea lair redone meaning I have a little more room. I still need to find a small table to place my computer on, giving my desk an L shape, I need more room for folding paper!
Today’s tea is Vanilla Mint from Golden Moon Teas. A blend of Gunpowder Green Tea, Mint Leaves, Black Tea, Mint Oil, Vanilla Extract, and Vanilla Bean Pod Slices. I was quite intrigued by this tea, the ingredients reminded me of Moroccan Mint tea but with a vanilla twist, and I do really enjoy those flavors together. The aroma is predominantly minty with a strong presence of sweet vanilla. Underneath these two dominating smells we have a gentle vegetal note, a subtle smokiness, and a tiny hint of malt.
The now quite soggy leaves are still very minty, but now they have more vegetal notes. There is an underlying sweetness and a faint smokiness. The liquid is all about the creamy vanilla, it is sweet and a little decadent. There is also a minty presence but it is more of a background coolness (it is even wearing shades and a popped collar) and a hint of smokiness. It is like a creamy mint milkshake with a hint of campfire, actually that sounds like a good camping idea.
Oh man, this tea has the best cooling effect, I love how mint teas warm you up and cool you down in the same sip. Combine that with sweet vanilla, slightly oak wood black tea, and a nice vegetal zing, and you have for a really interesting tea. The mint does not overpower, which is great, I notice that a lot of tea blends with mint make the mistake of having it be too minty…it kinda bullies the other flavors and you don’t notice them. My favorite part of this tea is the smoky finish, it adds a richness to an otherwise light tea. I decided to chill this tea and found that chilling it makes it a lot mintier, I think I prefer this tea hot, but I honesty do with most teas.
Today Ben and I went for a hair cut, he for practical finding a summer job while school is out reasons, and me because I was getting really sick of my hair. I am blessed/cursed with thick, fluffy hair that goes everywhere and has a perpetual cowlick, when it is short it is quite cute and manageable, when it is long I get lost in it Cousin It style. It is safe to say that with my now very short asymmetrical pixie cut I feel like my head is 10 pounds lighter. Perfect for the inevitable onslaught of summer.
Today’s tea has nothing to do with hair, in some cases that is sad (a non fuzzy silver needle would be so weird) but in the case of Just Naughty ’Nilla by Just Organic Tea, that is probably for the best. This dessert like tea is a blend of Black Tea, Carob, and Natural Vanilla Extract. The aroma is malty, rich, and sweet with a nice kick of vanilla and a mild woody chocolate finish. I always find that carob smells like a mix of wood and chocolate, just different enough to not be chocolate.
The brewed and now quite soggy leaves have an earthy, woody, and malty aroma with a very nice and sweet vanilla note along with a finish of rich chocolate. It smells more like chocolate and less like carob, but I admit most my experience with the stuff is in food and not tea. The liquid is mostly creamy and rich vanilla with a pleasant malty finish.
The tea is quite brisk and wakes you up, there are nice notes of malt and vanilla with a finish of chocolate/woody carob. This tea was surprisingly not very sweet on its own, it had the taste and olfactory pleasure of vanilla and chocolate but not of the sweetness. Adding a bit of sugar did bring it out some, bit oddly I preferred it unsweetened because with sugar it seemed a bit fake. I am not sure I would seek this tea out on my own, but I certainly would not say no to it if offered.