814 Tasting Notes
So, yesterday I went to my Rheumatologist to lament my problems to him, basically to tell him how the original plan of lowering my medicine caused me to have legit seizures. Side story, my whole life I have had these weird, as I call them, seizure things, and none of my doctors have taken them seriously. I dread them (they are not terribly frequent, once or twice a month at the most) and have felt more than a little crazy because they are not the dramatic ‘normal’ tonic-clonic seizure that is more commonly known, so I have been scratching my head and doing a bunch of research. Ever since I lowered the dosage (it was a tiny lowering too, I cut one of the pills I take three times a day in half) and had the closest to a tonic-clonic seizure since I had a bad reaction to a different medicine five years ago, I have had a seizure once to twice a week. What does my medication have to do with this? Gabapentin, my Fibromyalgia medicine, is also an anti-epileptic medicine. It took no time at all for my doctor to put the pieces together and say ‘you probably have epilepsy’ and set me up with a neurologist. It is so refreshing to have a doctor that doesn’t suck, and if a problem arises works to fix it rather than just write it off…too bad my allergy doctor was not like that (insert a pile of sneezes to punctuate my point.)
Much as I do not like starting off my blog as a medical drama, I feel it is only fair to let my tea friends know what is up with me, the last couple weeks I have missed blog posts because (if you follow me on twitter you would have seen) I felt awful, well, this what was going on with me. Wish me luck that my referral goes through swiftly, but enough of that, I want to write about tea now! Specifically I want to write about Liquid Proust Tea’s Blueberry Sandstorm Genmaicha, a blend of Genmaicha, Sencha, Freeze Dried Blueberry Powder (never heard of it, but I want it in droves) Cinnamon pieces, Apple, Rooibos, and Blueberry Flavoring. This tea intrigued me immensely, see I am a sucker for quirky takes on Genmaicha, and I am practically the founding member of Blueberry Addicts Anonymous (maybe? it is anonymous after all!) So this tea is definitely something I want to try, and the starting test is with the nose, and yeah, it smells good. It is like blueberry rice crispy cereal with a touch of spice, maybe more like blueberry granola rather than cereal? Since usually those blueberry flavored cereals smell like candy, and this just smells like spicy dried blueberries and toasty rice. Not getting much in the way of a green aroma, except as a tiny touch of broken leaves.
Into my steeping basket the tea went, for a nice steep in a dainty teacup. True true, I should have steeped this in a kyusu, but most my gear was packed up when I was tasting this tea. Sad face. The aroma of the wet leaves is definitely blueberry cereal and spice, super sweet and a bit grainy from the rice. Never really thought of making spiced blueberries, but it works in the nose. The liquid is blueberry popped rice, really intense blueberries, someone stuffed blueberries up my nose and I couldn’t be happier, truly I have an unhealthy addiction to them.
The taste is a strong explosion of blueberries, at first that was all I was getting, but after the initial blue bomb on the tongue I start to get warm cinnamon and roasty notes of popped rice. The blueberry is awesomely sweet, not one of those tart blueberry teas (really I hate those, they just feel insulting, much like biting into a tart blueberry) and tastes more like cooked blueberries/ dried blueberries in a cereal than candy. The spice is mellow, not overwhelming, just gentle warmth that accents the rice really well. When the tea cools a bit there is more of a green note, like broken leaves and grass, accenting the blueberries. This was a fun tea, the blueberry addict in me approves!
Flavors: Blueberry, Cinnamon, Rice, Spices, Toasty
Well, that was unexpected! I called my doctor because I was running out of meds sooner than expected, since the dosage got upped and that was not taken into account with refills, and they want to see me today. Time to talk to them about the weird seizure like things (possibly actual seizures) I have had my whole life that are progressively getting worse, and time to get a referral to a neurologist. As usual my doctor phobia is kicking in, so to make it better I am getting a new fish for my desk. Actually they have nothing to do with each other, Ben got me a small fish tank recently and I set it up and planned on getting a desk friend today anyway, a happy coincidence!
Today’s tea is a fuzzy golden tea, yay! Tealish’s Golden Monkey Superfine,a black tea from China, a fuzzy golden black tea to be exact. This fuzzy gold is not my usual Yunnan fare, this one is from Fujian, land of some of my favorite oolongs. The name for this tea, I thought, was an obvious reference to the Golden Snub Nosed Monkey, but they are from a different part of China…the name is actually a reference to the curling leaves looking like a monkey’s paw, and the golden fuzz of the leaf. No actual golden monkeys involved, tragic. Sniffing time! The aroma of the slightly curled golden tipped leaves is really quite sweet. Notes of dried cherries (the sweet ones, not the dried tart ones) cocoa, a tiny note of peanuts, and a mild note of yam. The aroma is somewhat mild, but even in its mildness I am impressed with its sweetness.
I used my tall gaiwan for this one, and with all fuzzy golden teas, I mourn their transition from fuzz to soggy leaves, but then instantly remember I am about to have tea and pretty much forget the fuzz. The aroma of the wet leaves is still really sweet, but instead of just cherry, it is all out stone fruit (specifically fruit leather) alongside notes of oak wood and actual leather. The liquid is stewed cherries and plums, sweet cream, and a nice finish of malt.
The first steep starts with a surprisingly rich and thick mouthfeel, it has a fullness to it and a tiny bit resinous. The taste starts off fairly mild and sweet, like honey, and then moves to a richness with slightly creamy notes and molasses. The finish carries over the molasses along with some fruit leather and a touch of dates. Sadly there is not much of a lingering aftertaste, it just kinda stops.
Onward to the second steep, the aroma is super intense molasses and malt, with a hint of stewed fruit and sweetness. The taste is very rich and fruity sweet, plums and cherries that have been stewed in molasses and honey, a delicious start. It then moves on to malt and creamy undertones with a finish of, well, not much, it just kinda stops again. Sadly there was not much after this steep, the third steep just kinda stops after an initial fruity burst. A tasty but underwhelming tea.
Flavors: Fruity, Malt, Molasses
There are a lot of things I could say to start off today’s blog post, but they can wait for a later day, today’s intro is something special. It is my two year Tea Blog Anniversary! It seems pretty crazy that I have been rambling about tea on my blog for this long, and that all of you are still hanging out with me on my corner of the internet. I have met some wonderful people and of course tried some awesome teas, found many favorites, and turned into a real teaware hoarder. Thank you all for reading my rambling, it means the world to me.
Since, unless my mind deceives me, it is Wednesday, meaning the day I review a tea from What-Cha, in my probably very silly attempt to review all the teas. Looking at India Bihar Doke ‘Black Fusion’ Hand-Made Black Tea, hailing from the much talked about Doke Tea Gardens in Bihar, India, run by the Lochan family, pioneers of the tea world! Trying teas from the Doke Tea Gardens has been pretty high on my to-do list for a while, because they are much loved by fellow bloggers and tea sippers, plus I really like their mission of treating the people and the land like they are precious, bravo! Eyeballing the leaves, they are really dark and quite pretty, I am a sucker for curly dark leaves, oh who am I kidding, I am a sucker for leaves! The aroma is delectable, malty and spicy, like curry without the heat and turmeric without the earthiness, a touch of floral notes, and a very sweet finish. That finish is one of stewed raisins and plums with molasses, it is like a malty compote!
Into my steeping vessel the curly leaves go, to make their transformation to plump and not as dark leaves. The aroma of the soggy leaves is malty and molasses sweet, with a definite spice which is hard to pin down, it is like saffron, turmeric, and curry…but not, it is more like you are smelling a blend of them from a distance. It is maddeningly hard to pin down in my olfactory memory, I wish I could create a scent photo album for referencing in just such occasions. The liquid has a note that I have not smelled in what seems like forever, sumac! There are also notes of molasses, malt, spice, and a touch of raisins and peanuts.
The tea is really quite vibrant, like a sky at sunset, the kind that won’t scare away sailors, but where you know there are wildfires somewhere. The initial sip starts brisk and strong, this tea has a presence that makes you sit up and pay attention, maybe I got it wrong and this is a story sunrise color! The taste starts with notes of malt and raisins, this transitions to sassafras, that maddeningly hard to place down spice (ok, you know what, it is Spice, there, a nice Melange heavy tea for the Navigators) and a touch of sumac adding a lemony note at the very tail end of the midtaste. Then it moves to creamy stewed plums and molasses, which moves into the aftertaste and lingers. I really like how this tea has a brisk boldness to it while also having depth, a lot of times teas that wake you up are focusing more on having oomph than subtle nuances. As someone who does not really drink a lot of breakfast teas and tends to go for the subtle teas to gently shake me into wakefulness, I could see myself really craving this tea on those mornings I want the extra mouth punch while also being treated to a dance of tastes in my mouth. I can see why so many of my fellow bloggers go gaga for Doke if they are half as good as this one!
Flavors: Malt, Molasses, Plums, Raisins, Spices
Guys, tea friends, fellow geeks and gamers…I am getting a new phone. So funny story, Ben, for all that he is a tech lover, hates smart phones, he has a garbage flip phone that he paid like $10 for, it is so retro. His new job has required a lot of driving around and he keeps using me as a GPS, so I came up with a genius idea: buy me a new and better phone, and he can have my functional but kinda lame phone. So yay! It has a 8 megapixel camera (ooh so much better than my 5) and more memory. Yeah, it is still a low end phone, but I can take slightly better photos and with more memory I can go back to playing games while still keeping the apps I like around. Exciting!
Ever wondered how I first tried Matcha? Back when I was a teenager, I went through an obsessed with Japan phase (hilariously did not start with anime, though it led to it, it started with sushi and other food) and in my exploration of the culture (ok I never really outgrew that phase, it just calmed…a bit) and food, I stumbled across Matcha Mochi ice cream, that green sweetness was truly a love at first bite. Exploration led me to the beautiful Chado and Matcha in its ‘pure’ form. I had a treasured canister of Matcha and Chasen and had no real idea what I was doing, but I enjoyed myself immensely. Of course even though I love and drink Matcha in the ceremonial way, I still love that sweet ice-cream filling inside a Mochi, and of course the oh so famous Matcha latte. Which brings me to Red Leaf Tea’s Sweet Matcha! This is one of those Matcha that is sweetened, it is very much so a toss powder into a cup, add milk, insert hand mixer and viola! Latte! According to the website it is organic and that it is good for Lattes and Frappes, and that is all the info we get, so it is an adventure! The color and the aroma is pale and faint, notes of sugar and grass, fresh vegetation, and hay waft off the very fluffy powder.
So, that is what I did, after photographing and sniffing the powder I tossed it into my hand-mixer’s mixing cup with some whole milk and mixed it up with great vigor. With such a mild aroma I was a bit dubious, but it is actually pretty rich and very sweet. Refreshing grassy notes, broken fresh hay, and bright green sweetness, it tastes like Matcha ice cream that has melted into my cup. I admit I have a bit of an addiction to this stuff, I tend to make it strong, to really bring out the grassy greenness. Of course that does make it extra sweet, which I wish I could dial down a bit. I serve lattes made from the Sweet Matcha to my friends when they are in the mood for a sugary treat rather than a bowl of Matcha. I enjoy this stuff immensely, I just really wish it was not so sweet, but to counter that I just toss in some culinary grade Matcha to keep it as rich while cutting down on the sugary sweetness a bit.
Flavors: Grass, Hay, Sugar
I think I am living in the wrong part of the country…ok, stop rolling your eyes, I kinda like it here now, I just also think I am addicted to rain. It has been an especially wet spring and summer, one of the reasons we are having such a hard time moving, EVERY house we have looked at has a horrid mold problem, and if I can’t breathe in the house, well, it is a problem. Although it would be good for cultivating rare and exciting basement fungi! Anyway, what I am getting at is it has not rained in like three days and that makes me sad! I keep stalking accuweather for signs of rain and get so excited when there is a chance of storms and rain. Yeah, I need to move somewhere with steady rains!
So, it is time once again to return to Liquid Proust Teas, this time for Mate Nectar. Honestly this tea had me at the word nectar, I am part hummingbird, I swear! This is a blend of Brazilian Mate (one of the Ilex plants that is naturally caffinated and native to the Americas, the others include Guayusa and Yaupon), Green Rooibos, Rock Candy, Apple, Marshmallow Root, Beet Root, Strawberry, Carrot Flakes, Flower Petals, and Flavoring. Quite the list of yummies! I was told by the creator himself that this tea is good cold steeped, and well, tis the season! The aroma of the pile of yummies before I toss them in my steeper is super sweet! Lots of berries and sugary goodness, a touch of grassy hay and vegetation (hello Mate!) and a finish of apples and carrots. The name nectar really is fitting, it smells like pixie food. Kinda looks like pixie food too!
After an overnight steeping, the travel steeper that I used now looks like a sunset, the beet root at the bottom turned it a lovely red that gradients up to orange. Giving it a shake mixes it all up, but it is quite pretty. The aroma is super fruity and sweet, cane sugar, marshmallows, fresh sweet apples, and strawberries waft out of the steeper. A hint of honey and fresh hay bring up the tail end of the aroma, so much sweetness though, which I am totally ok with.
I have a confession, usually I am not much of a Mate person, I don’t dislike it but I rarely go out of my way to seek it out. This brew might make me a believer…in fact maybe I just don’t like Mate warm, tastes like lawn clippings (and not the clean clippings like you get from a freshly mown lawn, this is the stuff from the next day that you get a mouthful of when you trip on wet grass and fall into the grass clipping pile) not a taste you want warm. The crisp hay and clover flower notes from the Mate when cold are pretty fantastic. Toss in sugar cane sweetness, lots of sweet apple and strawberries, and oh yes delightful marshmallow at the finish with a slight almond nuttiness as the aftertaste. This truly is nectar like, sweet and cold on a hot day, well, I am in a happy place. In theory I should try this hot, but I don’t wanna! Bravo my tea blending friend, I think I found a new favorite hot day drink.
Flavors: Almond, Apple, Hay, Marshmallow, Strawberry, Sugarcane
If I were a responsible adult, I would put on pants (well, pants with pockets, more leggings need pockets, but then they would just be pants and not leggings?) and walk to Aldi’s for some groceries. Turns out I am not responsible, or at the very least, I do not feel well enough to go for a walk, in the ebb and flow of my allergies, today is definitely a tidal bore, and it is a little frustrating. At least I got the new teapot all cleaned up (operation teapot rescue was a success) and managed to get in some good gaming, Terraria summoner playthrough is hard work!
Today’s tea is an herbal one from M&K’s Tea Company, their Honey-Roasted Licorice Root, it is exactly what it says on the tin, licorice root roasted in honey. Ok look, usually I am not one to talk about the medicinal quality of plants, too many nit-wits out their take random bloggers at face value and do not do research on their own and get sick. I take teaching herbalism the same way I take teaching edible mushrooms while on a naturalist hike, no just no. But licorice root is awesome, at least it has been for me, taking Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice did more for my stomach ulcer than the crazy medicine I was taking at the time did, and drinking licorice tea is one of the few things that actually soothes my sore throat. It is an exceptionally useful root that conveniently is quite tasty (though oh man it can ruin some blends when used wrong) so I actually enjoy consuming it. Back in January when Ben had a nasty cold, I gave him some of the Honey-Roasted Licorice tea and was told it was quite helpful, but he drank the last of mine and I plum forgot to get more…until I saw they were having a sale and I was having chronic sore throat…and well, my package arrived today so why not talk about this tea? Anyway, smell! It smells really good! Very rich sweet honey and an earthy-rooty-woody blend that is licorice, and a delicate roasted spice finish. If you hate licorice then you will probably be able to tolerate this tea, it smells more like burdock root than licorice, but there is that distinct licorice aroma, just faint.
However, when you steep it, the licorice really comes out, sweet honey roasted licorice, it smells exactly like that. Roasted licorice root and sweet honey dance out of the wet root bits, with a touch of earthiness as well. The liquid is surprisingly complex, notes of creaminess, honey, gentle toasted notes, roots, and a touch of spice drift out of my cup, it is very sweet, though also very mellow. It is an intriguing thing.
The taste starts out subtly sweet at the front, gentle honey and caramelized sugar, and then boom! Licorice slams into the midtaste and coats the throat with its intense sweetness and rooty goodness. It is not the usual licorice though, the honey roasting, for lack of a better way of putting it, reigns it in, it gives it a more subtle nuance, I can taste the earthy root elements, the woody notes, the resinous sweet sap notes…it is not just the super sweet intense licorice you usually get in a licorice tea. The mouthfeel is honey thick and slippery, and the sweet aftertaste lingers for quite a while. And for the first time in almost a month, I don’t have a sore throat! Also, as a side note, I find chewing on the spent roots to be very enjoyable, and unlike most herbal brews I got a couple steeps from the roots.
Flavors: Earth, Honey, Licorice, Roasted, Spicy, Wood
Oh hey, I think my sleep schedule flipped back to being diurnal-ish. Yay? It has its pros and cons, same as all sleep schedules. At least since I got up dark and early this morning I got to watch some more of the Perseid Meteor Shower, watching a few fireballs shooting across the sky brings me great joy. I am somewhat sad that things did not work out where I could not go out to the country to watch the sky, but I got to see some of the show, which is wonderful.
It is time to look at a powerful tea from What-Cha, their Indonesia Dark Roast Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea. This tea had my attention from the name (a charcoal roasted Tie Guan Yin, that is one of my favorite things) and the description calling it powerful, what can I say, I have a type! That type is empyreumatic, also Tie Guan Yin, I am predictable with my love of oolongs. So, the aroma of the tightly balled leaves will knock you off your feet if you are not prepared, strong notes of tobacco, rich molasses, baked plums, loam, and heavy charcoal waft off of them. It is both very rich and very sweet, without the char notes overwhelming.
Into ye ol’ roasted Oolong pot the tea goes, and hello strong notes of coal and smoke, reminds me a bit of incense because it has a resinous quality with a distant floral note as well. Under this smoky and coal is tobacco, molasses, and roasted plums, it is pretty intense. The liquid is smoky and char, like burnt grains, buckwheat and oats, molasses and honey. It smells like granola that is being roasted over a fire, though without the headache. (For some odd reason whenever Ben’s mom roasted the granola for her…well…granola, the smell gives me a migraine and I spend the day in misery. I try to be out of the house on those days, sad because the smell is great.)
Whoa! That first steep is sweet! Surprisingly so, with a strong honey and molasses start with juicy plums in the middle. Over this sweetness is an overhanging cloud of smoke and char, like eating roasted plums next to a campfire. The finish is grainy, notes of buckwheat and oats mix with a finish of molasses, this is some serious granola tea.
The aroma of the second steep manages to kick it up a bit in intensity, strong notes of char and grains, buckwheat and oats, mixing sweetness and granola with a strong punch of burnt. Yes my mouth is watering, don’t judge me. The taste is much less sweet, bringing out the intense char and grain notes I am more familiar with when given a roasted TGY. Notes of walnut shells, oats, buckwheat, actual wheat, and a hint of molasses blend with an explosion of char and gentle smoke.
Third steeping time, the aroma is very similar, not so much sweet, strong notes of grain and char with a very pleasant finish of molasses, the only sweetness in the aroma. Looks like the tobacco and plums rejoined the party, starting off with delicate sweet roasted plums and walnut shells, this moves on to tobacco (kinda fruity pipe tobacco, actually) and roasted grains. The finish is sweet molasses and char with a surprise floral aftertaste. I had quite a few more steeps with this tea, it has a fantastic oomph to it and lasts for a while. I am, however, kicking myself for forgetting to order more, I am betraying my love of the Taiwanese roasted TGY, but I think Indonesia might take the coveted favorite spot.
Flavors: Char, Grain, Honey, Molasses, Oats, Plums, Smoke, Tobacco
My day was delightfully weird. I woke up stupidly early, like 4 AM after sleeping like two hours, yeah my sleep schedule is weird, no surprise there, and I thought since it was early in the morning and one of the days of the Perseid Meteor Shower and surprisingly clear out, why not lounge on the porch and do a little star watching? I stayed out until the predawn and only saw one meteor (not sure it counts as seeing a meteor shower, something happens and I have yet to see one, it seems like a cosmic prank) but it was a massive fireball, bright white and green, also a very friendly bat kept me company which made me very happy. Unsurprisingly I was very tired by the afternoon, so I napped on the couch while Ben gave me a foot rub, and then I felt this cold little nose on my hand…Espeon then jumped up onto the couch with me and napped with me. When Ben went to work I planned on sleeping a little longer, but in the much comfier pillow pile that is the bed…and Espeon followed me, jumped on my chest, and fell back to sleep, purring. We stayed like that til a quarter til 1 AM, which was longer than I wanted to sleep, but when you have a cuddly cat you just deal with it.
Remember not too terribly long ago when 52teas switched management? Taken over by fellow tea blogger and tea friend, Anne of SororiTea Sisters Fame? Well, if you didn’t know that, it totally happened! Part of the Kickstarter take over event involved reblending favorite blends, it was no surprise that one of the biggest requests was the much loved Marshmallow Treat Genmaicha. A blend of Genmaicha Uji (Genmaicha with added Matcha, I also see this called Genmaimatcha, which is fun to say) Marshmallow Root (best ingredient to add to a blend, ever) and organic, all-natural flavoring. The aroma of the tea is….ummm….well….I think drool worthy might be the best way to describe it. It smells very marshmallow sweet, toasted rice, and bright green notes of the Matcha and Green Tea. It is like eating marshmallow rice crispie treats on a bright summer day at a picnic, there is grass, and greenness, and it goes surprisingly well with marshmallows. From now on, Matcha is going in my rice crispie treats when I make them.
When I first tried this blend over a year ago, I had a reblended sample that did not have the Matcha, Anne’s reblend is inspired by the original batch released before I even knew 52teas existed! So I think that it is really cool that the reblend is going back to its roots, and you know, sniffing it, the smell is just amazing. I have such a weakness for toasted teas (fun fact, back in 2005ish when I got my gallbladder out and could eat or drink pretty much nothing, Genmaicha was my savior, it was the only thing I could drink and it was wonderful) and toasted rice, and an even bigger weakness for marshmallow root! It is so clearly rice crispie treats and bright, creamy sweet, Matcha, the drool is real, yo.
Ok, the moment of truth…yeah, this is fantastic. As my usual tendencies, this is from my notebook, but in real time, I have already almost finished my two taster pouches…and I got them on Monday. I just can’t stop drinking it, though I will have to soon because I am going to run out. There is just something about these tastes blending together that are almost addictive to me. Creamy sweet marshmallows, toasted rice, grassy fresh green notes with a tiny hint of umami nori at the finish. In a desperate (failing) attempt to conserve this tea, I resteeped the leaves, something I rarely do with blends, and it has some surprising staying power! The second steep has stronger green notes, starting out almost savory with toasted rice and vegetation, nori, and grass and then moves on to a creamy sweet hay and marshmallow root finish. The third steep is all marshmallow root and rice, it is pure liquid rice crispie treat with remnants of distant grass. My tea budget for this month is shot, but so help me, if there is more of this stuff left come next month I am buying many taster pouches! Maybe get some of the Maple Cheesecake TGY I always wanted to try too!
Flavors: Grass, Hay, Marshmallow, Rice, Sweet, Toasted Rice
Eww! I am unwell, actually it is not a sickness per se, just my body doing its thing. I can honestly see how I was originally misdiagnosed with Lupus, when I have a flair up it really does seem like my immune system is tearing itself apart. Doctors can’t explain it totally, I can’t explain it, but it does mean I get to explore all the different forms of alternative medicine and holistic approaches as well as western medicine. I have been studying different forms of healing since I was a kid, a combination of being sickly and wanting to eat all the plants in my mom’s garden, I needed to learn what I could eat, and by doing so starting following other paths of knowledge. I think the thing that frustrates me the most is the closed mind approach of western medicine means that a lot of alternative medicines (though to a lesser extent with Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine) do not get studied, meaning a lot of self medication and outrageous claims due to the placebo effect. Trying to sift through these claims (oh man, the same can be said about all the crazy health claims about tea) to find nuggets of truth is exhausting!
Enough of that! It is Sunday, meaning I am going to feature one of my pieces of tea gear, specifically the newest addition to my collection. Brenden, the famed Tea Hobbit of Whispering Pines Tea bought me the most fantastic gaiwan as a congratulatory gift upon the announcement of my engagement. Before the surprise proposal at the zoo, I had posted the gaiwan on facebook saying if anyone ‘donated’ it to my blog I would give them a shoutout, so it was well known I had my eye on this beauty! From ebay: Jingdezhen Porcelain Blue Gaiwan (forgive me for not listing all the keywords used for searching) a gaiwan that is outright LOADED with symbolism!
Done in the famille style (I think, please do not quote me on that, I am still researching the different styles of Chinese porcelain…it is harder than you think) that looks surprisingly similar to the antique (possibly Tongzhi period) cup I found recently at the thrift store. With hand painted designs on the inside and outside, it might be the most striking gaiwan in my collection, and this is from someone who owns that crazy gold gaiwan. I have noticed that Jingdezhen Porcelain lately has been getting a bit adventerous, I am so used to seeing just the standard blue and white porcelain, that these colorful pieces reminiscent of older dynasties makes me giddy. It has been hard resisting snatching up every piece I can find…because lets face it, I love antiques and own only a few pieces, I do not mind reproductions or pieces inspired by older eras…as long as it is clearly marked as such!
The designs on this gaiwan are the classic and very famous Wan Shou Wu Jiang (萬 壽 無 疆 ), or as it roughly translated, 10,000 years of long life, it is the ultimate wish for longevity. The designs on the inside and accompanying the Wan Shou Wu Jiang are symbols of the Taoist Immortals. The sword of Lu Dongbin, the fan of Zhingli Quan, the flower vase of Lan Caihe, the lotus of He Ziangu, the peach of immortality, and the basket of flowers and Buddha’s hand citrus (Fo Shou!) symbolizing all the immortals. Sadly I have not had the time to translate what it says on the inside, I recognize good fortune and others, but have not determined if they are just auspicious words or actually say something. Also not sure what the red fluffy circular things are all over the gaiwan, one of the reasons I need that book I was winging about yesterday!
So, it is beautiful, but how does it perform? Wonderfully, that is how! The lid sits perfectly meaning it pours easily, having as large or as small a gap as needed for the optimal flow without leaves getting in your cup (if you are a barbarian like me who refuses to use a strainer) or splattering hot water all over you. It is kinda humongous (yet it does hold 5oz, it just seems enormous) so it also works perfectly for bowl steeping, drinking from the gaiwan in the traditional way, using the lid as a strainer. The low top knob means that it is easy to grip the gaiwan when pouring while keeping the lid at the correct position, any higher and it would be hard on my tiny hands! The only flaw I can find is when it is sitting in saucer and your cat happens to use the leg of your desk as a scratching post, it wobbles something fierce. The foot of the gaiwan could go for being a bit longer for the deep impression of the saucer, as flaws go, it is totally tolerable for such a beautiful treasure.
I have a confession, a secret I have harbored for years: I hate reference books at the library!! So many times there has been a book I want to use for some point of research that the library had, it would inevitably be perfect, but noooo I don’t get to take it home for my research. I would have to sit at a table, in a usually uncomfortable chair, frantically taking notes in hope I don’t miss anything…rather than letting me take it home so I can focus and cross reference with the usual large pile of notes. Granted, I understand the need to do this with rare and super expensive books, but some of the things that get stuffed into the reference section without an in circulation copy baffle me at times. If curious, this current state of rage is induced by my desire to read a book on symbolism in Chinese porcelain that is only at the reference section at the downtown library, ughhh, I will probably just buy it next time I buy a book since used I think it is like $17. Insert lots of grumbling…and rage.
So, enough of my book related angst, it is time for tea! Not that books and tea do not go wonderfully together of course, but tea and angst not so much, though it is my go to cure for it…anyway…today is the last of the tea samples from Oollo Tea, their Milky Jinxuan Oolong! Well hello there Nai Xiang (it means milky fragrance) as soon as I open the bag I am greeted with milky sweetness. Notes of creme brulee, condensed milk, and a gentle toastiness blends with underlying notes of osmanthus and lily flowers. The flowers give an extra level of sweetness to the creamy goodness, like flower nectar and sweet cream, I have to admit, the aroma is mouthwatering.
Into my Xi Shi teapot the leaves go, waiting for their bath and eventual unfurling. Once steeped, wow, it is like creamy food! Notes of custard’s milky sweetness blend with flowers, it is like sniffing a fresh bowl of custard while sitting next to a bouquet of lilies. Very sweet and creamy. The liquid is a blend of creme brulee and flowers, with a touch of toastiness and gentle caramel notes at the finish.
The first steep starts with a round mouthfeel with a delicate taste. Starting with sweet notes of sugar cane and rich cream, this transitions to delicate osmanthus and lily flowers, and a finish of very mild celery greenness. A very sweet start!
Second steeping time! The aroma is still going strong with that sweet cream and custard notes, definitely condensed milk as well, with a touch of flowers. The mouthfeel is more smooth this time around, starting with notes of condensed milk sweetness that really coats the mouth. This moves on to spicebush and osmanthus flowers and a touch of fresh vegetation, the finish is sweet cream. The aftertaste is a delicate floral note that lingers for a short while.
The aroma of the third steeping has a stronger floral note this time around, osmanthus and lily are joined by spicebush and almost, but not quite, drown out the sweet cream notes. The first sip hit my mouth with a small explosion of cane sugar and milk, not so much cream, but straight up milk, first time I have had a milk oolong taste like legit milk instead of cream, which is fascinating to me! The midtaste is a nice burst of flowers and vegetation, giving a green note to the tea, and the finish rounds out the classic notes with a gentle wet slate, mineral note. The aftertaste is cane sugar and it lingers happily. Oollo Tea’s samples impressed me, I foresee myself picking up some samples of the others teas in the future, especially the Aged Bao Zhong, that sounds fascinating to me!
Flavors: Cream, Flowers, Green, Milk, Osmanthus, Sugarcane