667 Tasting Notes
Happy Monday people who are reading this on Monday, happy whatever day you are reading this on if you are reading it some other day. I am beginning to get to that point where I hate Winter again, it is aching cold and there is no snow, in fact there has been very little snow, it is the only thing I like about this time of year, so a lack of it is just depressing. I am seriously debating getting a sun lamp, the kind that helps with SAD, but I am also afraid I will burst into flames like a Minecraft Zombie, so a helmet might be required.
You know what I have not done in a long time? A theme week! Yeah, I love those, I really need to do more of them, so I going to devote this this week to the dark side of tea. Starting off with Wymm Tea’s Mangnuo “Cane Tea” Raw Pu-erh From Ancient Tea Tree 2014 Early Spring, woo, that is a mouthful! So, about this tea, the trees the leaves are plucked from are 200-300 years old specially trimmed to form cane shaped branches, leaving only the buds, so yeah a lot of trees are needed for this super uniform fancy Sheng. The aroma of the dry leaves is pretty subtle, with notes of green bamboo leaves, freshly mown grass, cut hay, and a finish of camphor. I do love those camphor notes in tea, especially in the summer where it acts as a coolant.
First steep and rinsing, not sure I have introduced my Sheng pot yet, it is an adorably tiny 90ml Shui Ping that is debatably from 90s (I say debatably because you never know with ebay) and it seasoned beautifully, I am always glad for a chance to use it. The aroma of the liquid for the first steep is pretty yummy, it blends bamboo leaves, grass, mown hay, honey, distant fresh spinach (really it is just a hint) and a finish of uncooked rice. The sun colored liquid is delicate and sweet with notes of honey, hay, and a touch of rice and camphor.
The tea starts out a little bitter and then boom immediately sweet with a surprisingly smooth mouth feel, almost silky in its texture. The flavor notes are a mix of honey and sweet rice, this transitions to hay and grass and a touch of vegetal. The finish is a blend of green and camphor, imparting a delightful cooling effect on my insides.
Once more into the tea (it just sounds better than once more into the breach, ok?) The aroma of the liquid is much more intense this time around, the previous notes are still there but much stronger, especially the fresh hay and grass notes, and they are joined by a hint of straw. The taste still has a strong notes of fresh green bamboo leaves, I love that, but I love the taste of bamboo so I am always happy to run into it. There are also notes of uncooked rice, green grass, hay, vegetal and a strong honey note. The honey note lingers long into the aftertaste, there is not as much camphor this steep.
Hello steep three! Hello aroma notes of hay, green grass, fresh bamboo, a bit of bamboo shoots, and a touch of rice and honey at the finish. This steep was similar to the first as it had a bit of a bitterness at the first but very quickly faded to sweet honey and green bamboo leaves. This moves to uncooked rice, hay, grass, uncooked spinach, and a finish of camphor.
Usually I end my reviews at three steeps (even if I continue on with the tea) but with Puerhs sometimes you really do not get a real feel for it until many steeps later. I ended up going for a total of twelve steeps (it was a long day hehe) and had a great journey of growing sweetness and utter banishment of bitterness, the camphor notes pretty much left for good at steep four. The notes of hay and bamboo stayed strong and the taste of honey really exploded towards the end. I found the mouthfeel went from smooth and silky to almost thick (at one point it reminded me a bit of Gyokuro’s thickness) and creamy. This Sheng goes the distance and I can see why it is Wymm Tea’s signature tea.
Pretty sure my Xbox 360 is dying, it plays games I have stored on ye old hard drive, but it will not read disks, which is unbelievably annoying. I was in the mood to play Bayonetta, which is probably one of my favorite games (even if playing it makes my hands cry) but nope, no Umbra Witch action for me. To make up for it I watched all the cutscenes for Bayonetta 2, and I can safely say I want Wii U, ok not really, but I want to play that game because AWESOME. It was a good day of painting and watching cutscenes.
Today it is time to take a journey to India thanks to Golden Tips Tea, specifically to the Arya Tea Estate and its Arya Ruby Darjeeling Black Tea Second Flush. This tea estate was set up in 1885 and its specialty teas are all named after jewels, this one being ruby, which is lovely, the gemstone collector in me is happy. The aroma of this tea starts off delicate with sweet notes of raisins and distant flowers, but it builds into loam, dry wood, and spicebush with a bit of roasted peanut and malt at the finish. It is not a very powerful aroma, but it is nice, the woody notes compliment the raisins.
Into my funky steeping vessel it goes, and in the photo it looks like the teafrogs are shunning the steeping vessel, silly things probably want me to use a real teapot. The aroma of the wet leaves is sweet, woody, and warm. Like a blend of honey, loam, wet wood, pepper, and a touch of raisins at the finish. The liquid does not really smell sweet, it is more like fresh broken stems of oak wood, a touch of leaf loam, and a bit of pepper at the finish.
I found the taste to be both warm and soothing, like late autumn sunlight in the late afternoon, the way everything turns a little golden. Granted these kinds of days are only enjoyable to me when not blisteringly hot, the same can be said about tea, not burning one’s mouth while having the tea be at the perfect temperature is a skill. Enough flowery descriptions about how the tea makes me feel, what matters is how it actually tastes. It starts with loam, raisins, and wood, then moves to a tiny bit of pepper and finished with woodiness. This honestly one of the most ‘tea’ tasting teas I have run into, that sounds really strange but this tea tastes like tea, if you were to ask me to picture the taste of a second flush Darjeeling black tea in my mind, it would probably be this. This is the epitome of an everyday kinda tea for me, good for sipping while lounging on a porch.
Painting update, for those who are following along in my Dropzone Commander Scourge painting adventure. I am almost finished with the red ‘veins’ then I need to do a blue wash, then some bone detailing, then wash those and then I will be done! Well that is not entirely true, I will be done with everything but the Desolator, which I am going to make into an epic showcase piece along with it being a my command unit. That monstrosity is possibly my favorite miniature ever because it is a space cuttlefish and for extra geek points looks like a Reaper from Mass Effect, sadly I cannot just love it and call it Harbinger though since once of Scourge’s other units is a Harbinger…and there is also a Reaper. Ok, that is enough of me geeking out.
I lied, I am going to geek out about tea now, like I do! Today’s subject of geeking out is Adagio Tea’s Anhui Emerald Seed, their name for Lu An Gua Pian, which translates to Lu An Melon Seed, alluding to the shape of their leaves. Most green teas are all about the first leaf, but these leaves are the second leaves with their veins removed and then rolled to give them their fun shape. It has a lengthy history, first showing up in texts during the Tang Dynasty and being a tribute tea during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The aroma of the leaves is a delicate blend of green beans and sesame seeds with a touch of spicebush flowers and hyacinth. There is also a tiny hint of chestnut at the finish, the aroma notes are not the strongest, but they are pleasant in their delicateness.
So here is where I might make my tea drinking friends do a double take, I brewed this in my green tea seasoned Yixing teapot. Yes, I did it, I have been debating over a year, having heard heard that it can make the tea taste muddied due to the clay retaining too much heat, but I also heard you never truly know a green until you Yixing it. I do not regret my decision, drinking greens brewed in a Yixing teapot is amazing, sometime in the near future I plan on doing a side by side comparison with Yixing and Gaiwan. The aroma of the leaves in the pot are much more green now, with notes of artichoke, asparagus, green beans, bok choy, and a tiny bit of sesame seeds. The liquid got all the floral and sweet notes from the dry leaves, with spicebush, hyacinth, and honey drenched sesame seeds being the predominant notes. There is a bit of green at the finish, so it is not a huge contrast.
The taste is refreshing, it starts with a blend of melon (specifically faint honeydew) and cucumber. This transitions to grass and artichoke, and then it finishes out with sweet sesame seeds and honey. The mouthfeel is very smooth, a midway between creamy and silky, I am really fond of the mouthfeel, it matches the refreshing taste of the tea.
The aroma of the second steep is this interesting blend of vegetal and floral, like one half green beans and artichoke, the other half hyacinth and honeysuckles. It is like Two Face (Ben is playing Arkham Asylum, so Batman on the brain right now.) The taste is really similar to the first, like almost identical flavor notes, well, kinda. It is like someone took the exact same flavor notes and where the intensity was at a 6 before it is now at an 8 (scale not to scale) so that is fun. The aftertaste now has a lingering floral tone to it, which I am always a fan of.
Steep three time! The aroma is a bit of sweet and a bit of vegetal, again blending floral and green in a fun little dance of notes. The taste is not as intense or diverse as the previous steep, it starts out with a touch of spicebush and sesame seeds, then a fun bit of bell pepper and artichoke, and lastly a finish of honey that does not linger over long. Now, is this the best Lu An Gua Pian I have ever had, no, but it is certainly delicious and a good everyday kinda melon seed.
I just had the most epic fall, seriously, if it didn’t hurt so bad I would say it was a thing of beauty. Yours truly was standing on the bed snuggling Espeon who was on the top bunk (bunk beds are awesome for storage) sleeping in her bed. When I went to get down my foot somehow managed to get tangled in the sheet and instead of stepping off the bed I crashed to the hardwood floor. My hip and wrist took most of the fall, making it hard to sit and type, my clumsiness really is a thing of legend. But at least I have my pre-New Years cleaning done!
And since it is the day before possibly my favorite holiday (it really is a tie between New Year and the Mid Autumn Festival) I am going to review one of What-Cha’s Chinese Oolongs, specifcally Fujian Cinnamon ‘Rou Gui’ Wuyi Rock Oolong Tea, yes it is Yancha time! I am noticing a trend, each time there is an important event I seem to review a Yancha, so this is officially going to be a thing now. So, first off, a little backstory, this specific Wuyi oolong first showed up in the Qing dynasty (which could be somewhat recent or a really long time ago) and is the most recent tea to be added to Wuyi’s famous bushes, this one bringing it up to five. The name Rou Gui is a reference to its cinnamon notes that are supposedly present in the aroma and taste. So, history aside, let us get to the sniffing! The aroma is, well, heavy, it is very heavy, like sinking into a hot bath when you are super sore and tired, you just kind of fall into it. There are notes of sweet cocoa, honey, cooked plums, and distant sweet spice. There is also a fairly gentle aroma of char and smoke, but it is more like a distant campfire than a raging coal furnace. This tea smells like warmth and smelling it makes me feel immensely relaxed.
When I brew Yancha I load my teapot with leaves, I mean I really fill it up, and usually use just under boiling water and super short steeps, think a few seconds. Not the brewing method for everyone, but this is my technique, in case anyone were curious how I brew my beloved Yanchas. So the leaves, once thoroughly soggy smell quite mouth watering. The heaviness from the dry leaf is still present, it is joined with a stronger char note, the cocoa is also stronger, and now there is a bit of loam and Spicebush. The liquid is spicy and sweet, like chocolate and molasses with a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg. The finish is a bit of char and honey.
Ok, first steeping time! I got bouncy waiting for my cup to cool to a suitable drinking temperature, nothing worse than a burned tongue…ok, burning your tongue and then spilling it all over your lap is also pretty awful. So, as expected, this tea is rich and heavy, it starts with lite molasses and toasted oats then builds to dates and spicebush at the middle. The finish is a bit of cocoa and loam with a surprising cooling sensation at the back of the throat.
The aroma of the second steep is heady, heavy, and sweet, it blends the molasses and char notes with succulently sweet spicebush and honey notes. I am such a fan of spicebush notes in tea, it is probably one of my favorite flower scents. So this time around the taste is not as sweet, the char notes are more predominant, and it has some nutty notes as well. Think a blend of fire roasted walnuts, tobacco, cinnamon, and a touch of molasses at the finish and you have this tea, also fun is that it warms this steep instead of cools.
Time for round three! The aroma this time is cocoa, heavy, and rich. It makes me feel sleepy and relaxed. The taste is milder and softer, starting with cocoa and char, moving into tobacco, plums, and nutmeg, and finishing with a distant taste of smoke and walnuts. I shan’t bore you all with further tasting notes, but I did get several more steepings out of this tea, and according to my notes, promptly took a tea drunk fueled nap afterwards!
Is there a world outside my desk? I seem to have lost track of it! I only say this because I have spent more or less every waking moment painting my Sourge army the past couple days, and I can say so far they look glorious! I am so much happier with my current paint scheme, to sum it up in two words, how about ‘chitinous’ and ‘biomech’ just as a little spoiler. You can all bet that when I am finished I will be showing them off. Part of my reason for the rush is I am joining my local gaming store’s Dropzone Commander League, I was not sure I was going to be able to, but as an early birthday present to himself Ben is paying both our way in. Sometimes, he really is too much.
Today I am giving myself a little TeaLC with Stay Calm and Relax, and herbal blend of Lavender, Chamomile, and Cinnamon, which I admit sounds like a fascinating blend of things. Also I could use the relaxing aspect of a flowery tea since I have felt progressively worse, yuck! But enough about me, how about you pretty pile of flowers, how do you smell? It smells both comforting and pretty, intensely heady lavender mix with the straw like floral notes of the chamomile, these are joined by warm and sweet cinnamon at the finish. I am not sure how much credit I give the health aspects of aromatherapy, but I can certainly get behind the emotional aspects, and let me say, lavender is one of those smells that just makes me feel so peaceful.
You know, I noticed something a little odd from the wet leaves, other than I always forget how plump chamomile flowers get, I noticed that there is a slightly yeasty, almost cake batter like aroma coming from them. How neat, though odd. Other than this cake batter note, there is the distinct floral explosion that is lavender. The liquid is primarily chamomile with lavender following close behind and cinnamon bringing up the rear.
Tasting time! I love how it has a slight purple tinge to the liquid, it is one of my favorite thing about lavender teas. So here is the sad-ish truth of the matter, I have noticed that teas that have that much lavender in them tend to be a bit on the bitter side, but this is also one of the few type of teas that I break my ‘rules’ such as they are and add a nice dollop of honey to. There is something really delicious about drinking warm chamomile, lavender, cinnamon tea with wildflower honey, they play of the sweetness of each other, the cinnamon warms you up to your core, and that lavender lingers forever in the aftertaste. I seem to really be on an herbal kick lately, something about this time of year seems to bring that out in me, probably because they are full of flowers!
So, remember how I used to hate lemongrass in tea and recently found out that by itself it makes a pretty fantastic sipping experience? Well it is deja vu time because here is Lemongrass Herbal tea, though this one has a slightly sweeter tone than the previous one I had, which is neat. It smells like lemon juice, a bit of lemon leaves, and a touch of flower nectar sweetness. Brewing them up brings an aroma of lemony sweetness and a bit of fresh hay.
The tea itself is delightfully sweet and lemony, like a mix of lemonade, a touch of fresh hay, and a distant floral note. I am still enjoying lemongrass as its own little entity in tea, apparently it is good for digestive woes. I did drink this after feeling ill (I over indulged in chocolate, like I do) and it did settle my stomach, plus it is mild enough that drinking it if you feel a bit queasy is not unpleasant.
Just looking at the name of this tea, I knew I was going to want to drink it before I went to sleep, it is my favorite use for herbal teas after all. This one is a blend of Rooibos, Chamomile, Mint, and Natural Vanilla flavoring, opening the bag I am greeted with the aroma of straw-like flowers that is chamomile, vanilla, woody caramel that is rooibos, and a gentle coolness of mint at the finish. I like that the mint does not slap me in the face like some blends with mint can do.
Brewing the tea is very similar, with a fairly equal blend of Chamomile, Rooibos, and Vanilla, with mint being the least noticeable of the notes. This tea tastes delicious! It is a blend of chamomile and vanilla at the front, this transitions to woody sweet rooibos. and lastly a mild hint of mint. I really like how I didn’t really detect any mint until the end, it was very refreshing and cooling on my insides.
Yay! A smoky tea, in fact it is THE smoky tea, the one that started it all, Lapsang Souchong. Black tea smoked over a pine fire, imbuing the leaves with its smoky essence. The aroma of this one is certainly smoky, though honestly I am not getting much of the usual piney camp fire in this one, I am getting more of a smoked meat aroma. There are also notes of leather and malt, an interesting smelling tea. Brewing it up I notice that the notes of smoke loose some of their meatiness and have more of a liquid smoke aroma, along with maltiness and a touch of sweetness.
So, I once said I never met a Lapsang Souchong I didn’t like, and sadly I think I have to change my opinion on that. This tea tasted like liquid smoke, beef jerky, and malt. It has a bitter finish that I was not most fond of, so I foisted it off on Ben who was also not a fan but wanted tea and drank it anyway. I am not quite sure what went wrong, pretty much immediately after drinking this tea I developed a splitting headache, so maybe it was something wrong with me, since I am not sure I am ready to admit I did not like a Lapsang.
Imagine my surprise at seeing Gyokuro as one of the teas for this month, then imagine my surprise when I actually looked at the leaves, it looks nothing like the needly Gyokuro leaves I am familiar with! It kinda looks a lot like Tencha, the leaves that are ground into making Matcha, but that is crazy rare, since it is wanted to make said powdery goodness. The aroma of the leaves is a blend of green notes and a tiny bit of toasted rice crackers. You know, those delicious Japanese crackers that have bits of seaweed and such? I used to be addicted to those once upon a time. The green notes are a mix of fresh hay, sweetgrass, actual grass, and a tiny bit of seaweed.
I brewed this in the standard Gyokuro way, lots of leaf and cool temperatures, it is always fun brewing gyokuro, though I do wish I had a shiboridashi! The aroma is a mix of green growing hay, freshly cut grass, a bit of Nori, and a little like rice. As expected the mouthfeel is thick and syrupy, the taste is so sweet it is almost syrupy as well, that is a potent sweetness! Like honey and sweet hay, this transitions to a more umami seaweed and lastly a bit of bok choy. A few minutes after the sipping and there is a sweetness in my mouth from it. Hilariously I did another steep but got distracted…came back about 20 minutes later, I drank it because YOLO and it was actually pretty tasty. Super green and umami, but tasty!
It has become a bit rare that I run into an Oolong I have not heard of, so yeah, I went into immediate research mode while drinking the Sheng Cha Oolong. For the most part I could not find much, mostly I kept finding information on Puerh and since I do not know what version of Sheng it is, that made searching even harder. What I did find is that it is from Taiwan, specifically they are from trees left to grow wild for decades, which is pretty cool. The aroma of the leaves is delectably toasty, it smells like baking super grain heavy bread, you know, like one of those 20 grains breads. Now take that loaf of bread and drizzle a bit of honey on it and you have the aroma of this tea. I am salivating, but I am in a constant state of craving bread, so that could be why.
The aroma of the first steep is so grainy! Like someone is toasting grains right next to me, it is honestly a little cruel how much this tea smells like toasted wheat, sesame seeds, and barley. The taste is banging hot, and not in a ‘oh god I burned my tongue so bad’ way, I mean this is the new hotness. It is like drinking honey drizzled whole grain bread while sitting next to a vase of wildflowers. The majority of the taste is toasted grains and yeasty bread, but there are delicate notes of flowers and honey, which I really liked.
Second steep is very similar in aroma, there was a touch of toasted peanuts as well this time around. The taste is more grain and less sweet, it is definitely like eating toast. I am a little wowed by the grainy aspects of this tea, I could see it being a good bread replacement when I am shambling around the house moaning graaaaiiiinns like a gluten craving zombie.