888 Tasting Notes
I am sooo annoyed at my body today! So yesterday I got up early so I could go to bed early, a logical approach to changing my schedule. Turns out my body had different plans, right as I settle into bed at a sane hour (3AM, woo!) I develop a double slam of a killer stomach and headache, so I didn’t end up getting to sleep until 8 in the morning…and I woke up an hour ago. This means my schedule is not adjusted, I missed out going out to lunch with Ben and running the errands I needed to run, and someone checked the mail before me. Of course I still feel pretty nasty, better than when I finally went to sleep, but still very off. Ah well, such is life with Fibromyalgia, some days are great and some are not, luckily I have plenty of tea and warm blankets to help me through.
Today is Wednesday, so that means it is time for What-Cha, and today’s tea of choice will be China Yunnan Wu Liang ‘Yi Mei Ren’ Black Tea, a Red Tea from one of my favorite tea producing regions, Yunnan! From Wu Liang Mountian in Puerh, Yi Mei Ren (which is named for the Yi Minority that inhabits that region) is made from big leaf material, making this a very fluffy Dian Hong. The aroma of the leaves is quite tasty, making this similar to a dessert tea, with notes of fruits and nuts. The blend of walnuts and pecans with cooked plums and dark cherries reminds me of a compote without the spice. There are creamy undertones, along with malt, and a slightly woody and sharp cacao shell finish.
Into the dragon gaiwan the leaves go! The aroma of the now quite soggy leaves is malty and rich, with notes of cocoa, dates, plums, and a touch of spice at the finish. The nutty notes have vanished and it has been thoroughly replaced with sweetness. Wait, I lied, the nutty notes did not vanish, they just migrated to the liquid! Notes of walnuts and cashews mix with cocoa and malt with a distinctly sweet creamy finish. The idea of this being a dessert tea is still staying strong with these sweet notes.
From the first steep I can say that the mouthfeel is very smooth, bordering on slick with its smoothness. It is not overly heavy, just gently sitting on the tongue spreading flavor. The taste starts out creamy, like a nice bite out of a bar of chocolate, this tea is immensely sweet. Honey notes mingle with plum and dark cherries, a distant floral note dances in and out between sweetness, vaguely reminiscent of roses. The finish is chocolate and it lingers for a while.
Second steeping time! The aroma is maltier this time, with stronger notes of cocoa and a slight woodiness as well, there are still nuts and creaminess, but the strength of this steep is malt. The taste is very similar to the first steep, a slightly heavier mouthfeel and stronger cocoa notes at the start set this steep apart, as does the malt note at the finish. It is still very sweet, but it is bordering more on dark chocolate than milk.
Third time, as you can tell from the photo this tea kept me company while I was painting, it was the right amount of invigorating and sweet where I could slurp and paint. This steep was pretty much identical to the first steep, smooth and light mouthfeel with creamy sweetness. The main difference between this steep and the first was a slightly stronger fruit note, specifically cooked plum, and the absence of that distant floral note. This tea was immensely tasty, definitely one I could see myself indulging in a lot.
Yours truly is immensely sleepy today, courtesy of the desire to get up early, basically resetting my sleep schedule because being nocturnal was getting tedious. Clearly I need more tea to wake myself up with, maybe keep myself awake with some painting, and then maybe a bit of reading or Minecraft. I have been busily stalking 4JStudio’s Twitter feed, they keep posting update teasers and I am super excited for new blocks to build with. The new biomes excite me too, but that means I will need a new world, or just wait til the Xbone gets to an affordable by me price and I can just expand my world. For now though, as soon as the update drops that means lots of building fun in my creative world.
This is a Shou after my heart, Mandala Tea’s Year of the Dragon 2012 Pu’er, specifically because dragons are near and dear to my heart, specifically my favorite dragon, Ben, even if he did spent the entirety of 2012 being insufferably smug since it was his year. Originally harvested in 2010 from 40-50 year old trees in Jing Mai, it was pressed in 2012, March 1st, 2012 to be exact. I felt myself lucky, because my sample of this Shou came with the Nei Fei, which I have kept stored away in a little box…for reasons. The aroma of the leaves is immensely earthy, it is rich and sweet with notes of pine loam, oak loam, a deep humid forest, and a tiny bit like prunes. At the very end of the sniff there is a gentle woodiness that reminds me of an old cedar trunk, with a slight crispness like the air before snow.
Into the elephant pot the tea went, after a rinse and the first steep the aroma is so earthy and woody. Like a mix of oak and pine wood that is both wet and dry, with sweet molasses and undertones of mineral and loam. Again this tea reminds me of a humid lush forest. The liquid is rich, woody notes of stems and loam with wet wood and a molasses sweet finish.
The first thing I notice from the first steep is how much it reminds me of a fallen tree, notes of earthy loam and wet wood combine with moss and mulch. It gently coats the mouth and goes from loamy to sweet figs, molasses, and a touch of prunes. The finish has a slightly bitter oak gall note, though the aftertaste is molasses and that lingers for a good long while.
Onward to the second steeping, the aroma of this one is still quite woody, but the woodiness mixed with a creamy sweetness gives the shou a bit of a vanilla quality. This mixes really well with the loam notes, sweet and earthy. The taste takes a note from the aroma and is quite sweet this time, it starts sweet, stays sweet, and finishes sweet. With notes of vanilla and molasses, figs and prunes, and a touch of honey, these notes mingle with pine loam and wet oak wood for a mellow and sweet sip.
The third steep had much in common with the second steep, as did the fourth. I did not notice much of a change until the fifth steep where the aroma and taste go almost entirely woody, with strong notes of wet pine wood, loam, and oak wood. It has a sharpness along with the molasses sweetness, this Shou is the right amount of woody and earthy in balance. I think I need to add this cake to my collection, because it turns out Ben likes it…which it would be weird if he didn’t, what with being a dragon and all!
Tomorrow is the day that my camera goes into the mail on its journey to be fixed. I really should have put it in the mail sooner, but I have to go to the library to print out forms and between you and me, I had no desire to go outside during all that freezing rain. There is a great amount of nervousness here, not so much over them not fixing it since there is the option to replace it if necessary, but mainly over how long it will take. Granted not having a flash is not the best option, though the double use of my phone’s flashlight and my painting light has made for an interesting effect. Another piece of camera news, I got a different flash diffuser since my other one was complicated. It worked wonderfully, but the listing was full of it when it said it would fit my camera, so to use it I have to hold it steady, which made taking photos interesting. The new one I am getting fits over the flash like a sock, so more mobility incoming.
Today we are looking at a tea that is near and dear to my heart, Blendbee’s Save the Bees, a blend that donates 20% of its sales to saving the bees! See, I love bees, some of my fondest memories involve my grandparents taking me to Ashcombe’s (A HUGE nursery in PA) where I would watch the honeybees in the hive window and then stock up on honey. I will admit to having a lot of loathing towards Yellow Jackets, but I have been in more fights with those nasty wasps than I would like to remember, they are the only bug I am actually afraid of, but bees and even a lot of other wasps, we cool. This tea is thematically apropriate for bees as well, since it is a LOT of flowers, specifically it is a blend of Hibiscus Flowers, Rosehips, Rosebuds, Marigold Flowers, Chamomile Flowers, Jasmine Flowers, Lavender Flowers, Orange Peel, Stevia Leaves, Sweet Orange Extract, and Honey Extract. This is a flower lover’s dream, and it just so happens that my favorite kind of herbal blends are heavily floral, so I am excited. The aroma is very sweet and floral, strong notes of jasmine, roses, and lavender dance with sweet oranges and honey. It smells vaguely of dessert, the blend of creamy oranges and honey with the flowers remind me of some really fancy flower ice-cream I have indulged in.
I decided to be a bit old fashioned with my brewing this time, standard big ol’ mug and a steeping basket. True, this way I won’t be able to see the full glory of the steeping hibiscus, but my steeping apparatus is really only sized for a teacup rather than a mug. The aroma of the wet flowery pile is sweet and tart, blending oranges and lavender, honey and hibiscus, jasmine and roses, it is heady while also being light. The pink liquid is a perfect balance of oranges and flowers, it is sweet and heady, with the lavender being the dominant flower and chamomile, jasmine, and rose following behind.
So, as you probably know, I used to be a staunch hater of hibiscus, but in my old age it seems I am growing fond-ish of it. However it has to be light, it has to be in a sweet blend, and it cannot be just straight…I like a little bit of tart with the sweet, it is an interesting balance. Conveniently for me, this is the perfect amount of hibiscus, just enough to add that tiny bit of tart at the start of the sip, but it is quickly overwhelmed by the other flowers and oranges. Strong notes of oranges and lavender, followed by roses and jasmine, at the finish is a delicate straw and apple note of chamomile and a stevia sweetness that lingers. I love stevia leaves, not a fan of stevia based sweeteners, but the leaves themselves are delicious, I am tempted to grow some come spring time. And speaking of warmer weather, I will have to try this tea cold-brewed and sip it while visiting Kauffman Gardens, see if the bees like it as much as I do.
Remember how I recently reviewed Hyson Tea’s Celestial Dimbula? I mentioned in that review that they also sent me a small mountain of teabags, well after much hemming and hawing I am finally getting around to reviewing several of them, specifically their green teas. Before I get into the review I am going to lay it out on the line, I am the wrong person to be writing about these teas, because I really don’t like teabags. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not the person who is going to say teabags are horrible things that have no place in the tea world…if you enjoy drinking them then wonderful! Tea is meant to be enjoyed, and back in the day I used to be fond of the convenience these pre-measured sacks of dust brought me. Now adays though, they are not for me for several reasons: usually they are made with dust and fanning which I do not like the taste of, they quite often have artificial flavoring which I think tastes really fake (this is not a hard rule, but it is a frequent one), they are overpriced for the quality of tea, they taste like paper, they lack ceremony. But, lack of ceremony aside, these other things can be bypassed with a high quality sack of tea, so why not dive in and see if these meet my very high standards.
The first one I decided to look at was the Soursop Green, Soursop is one of my favorite fruits ever, whenever the local grocery store decides to stock them I pretty much buy them all and gorge on them. The aroma of the bag is a blend of pineapple candy, strawberry candy, dusty paper, and a touch of perfume, it is very artificial smelling. The taste of this tea is vaguely of Soursop, though it is strongly artificial. For some reason I found that the blend of strawberry and pineapple candy and the papery note from the bag makes the tea taste like soap, which in turn made my mouth burn rather horribly and caused my asthma to flair up something fierce. It is safe to say I did not finish this cup.
Next I tried the Strawberry Green, strawberry is one of the few artificial flavors I don’t mind, since strawberry candies are some of my favorite. The aroma of the bag is nothing but strawberry candies, no paper or tea, just strong strawberry, reminds me a bit of gummies. The taste is pretty intensely sweet, strong strong strawberry candy, like I am drinking liquid candy. It tastes vaguely soapy and again makes my mouth burn, to prove it is not something wrong with my teaware I washed it and drank water out of the same cup, and nope it tastes just like water.
I waited several days before trying the next one, Lemon Green, just in case the problem was me coming down with a cold or something, you can never be sure with this kind of thing. I really like lemon and green tea, so I had high hopes with this one. The aroma of the bag is just lemon and a bit of dust, it is a bit on the mild side. The taste is like lemon soap and paper, mildly sweet and a touch green. So far this one has been the most tolerable.
Onward to the one I looking forward to the least, Jasmine Green, see most (if not all) Jasmine teabags use jasmine oil instead of scenting it the ‘proper’ way, and I loathe jasmine teas that are flavored and not scented. It smells and tastes exactly like soap rather than flowers. This tea was not an exception like I had hoped, it smells just like the wonderful Bee & Flower brand Jasmine soap, love it as a soap but not as a digestible thing. The taste is a blend of apples (not expecting that) and soap, it is so strong and so overpowering that I could not get past a few sips.
Lastly in this little set was the standard Green Tea and alas, I was hoping for a crisp and clean green tea aroma, but really all I smell are all the different flavors from the other teas. A problem with storing flavored teabags in little paper envelopes, the smell bleeds something fierce and contaminates each other. The taste, well, I can finally taste the base green tea, and it is not terrible, very generic vegetation and of course paper and dust, there is an underlying fruit cocktail from the other flavors leeching onto it. I know, looking at the reviews on the various tea’s links that I am in the minority and the reviews are universally positive, so like I said earlier, I was not the right audience for this. I hate being this negative, but what can I do? I have a LOT more teabags to look at, so expect another group review in the future…with any luck I will actually like some of them!
It is STILL freezing rain outside, everything is coated in a beautiful yet crunchy layer of sparkling ice. I am honestly quite surprised and happy we have not lost power, I would be greatly put out and would be in a panic over my fish tank getting too cold. Pretty sure that is every owner of tropical fish tank’s greatest fear, the power goes out and the temperature starts to drop. Luckily I have only had to deal with this disaster once, and the death toll was very small, I know people who have lost entire massive aquariums to this very thing, so sad! Of course there is always the problem of no tea since the stove is electric…I wonder if everyone would be cross with me if I made a fire-pit in the backyard so I could still have tea?
Today is a special tea, part of a pile of samples I got from Tea Side, a company specializing in teas from Thailand. Flashback to almost two years ago, I tried my first heavily oxidized without heavily roasted Oolong and I was in love, I found that steeping it bowl style was amazing, and when I ran out I was immensely saddened. So imagine my giggle of happiness when I saw Hong Shui Oolong Tea amidst the samples sent to me! First off, what is Hong Shui? Translating it, it means red water, referring to the dark red color of the brewed tea, not necessarily a reference to the specific kind of tea or varietal. What makes this tea special is the way it is produced, very nuanced amounts of roasting and oxidizing to create a work of art. The aroma of these dark leaves is something else, this is one of those Oolongs that I advise sitting down to sniff, because the sweetness will knock you off your feet. At least it did that for me! Strong notes of sweet fruit blending cooked plums, cherries, and peaches with an underlying creaminess and a tiny hint of leaf loam. The combination of notes reminds me of the harvest, all the excess fruit in autumn baked into a compote.
I had to brew this one bowl style (or grandpa style, so many terms so little time) true, this tea is wonderful gongfu style, but I just absolutely love it steeped for hours in a bowl. The aroma coming out of the bowl is intoxicating, it is so sweet and creamy. Strong notes of stewed plums and peaches, cherries, dates, and a creamy finish that borders on coconut milk. It smells decadent.
The taste starts out immensely sweet which goes wonderfully with the creamy thick mouthfeel, honestly if you are a fan of fruity dessert teas then I say grab some of this because it is intensely sweet. One of the really fun things about this Oolong is bowl steeping can take hot temperature and it never gets bitter, usually I have the temperature a bit lower when I am bowl steeping, but this one can take my usual Oolong temperature of 195°. The taste reminds me of an ice-cream covered fruit cobbler, complete with crust. Sweet notes of peaches, plums, cherries, and dates dance with creamy notes in my mouth, and the aftertaste, oh how it lingers.
Continuing on with many refills of the bowl, the taste stays strong for quite a while. As the fruity notes start to fade towards the end they are replaced with mineral notes and a gentle woody quality. One thing that never fades is the intensely creamy finish and subsequent aftertaste. Even when most of the other notes have faded, the finishing creaminess that borders on coconut milk lingers. This tea is a treat, and one that I wish to never run out of.
Ice Ice Baby! Yeah, we are covered in a nice coating of ice, freezing rain has been coating the world since late yesterday, and it looks so beautiful. My only problem with this wintry beauty is poor Ben is out delivering pizzas in it, which of course has me worried. Luckily between deliveries he is texting me and letting me know all is well, which is immensely considerate of him! On the one hand I love the weather when it is like this, on the other, I do not like my perpetual fear of cars to have any justification for being a logical phobia, illogical fear of cars is best I think.
My random phobias (phobi?) aside, it is time for tea, and I have a special one today: Wooree Tea’s Imperial Blend Hadong Green Tea. Why is this particular tea special you might be asking, because it is Korean, and I have a bit of an addiction to Korean tea, an addiction and a perpetual lack of it in my stash. See Korean tea is not impossible to get a hold of, but it is certainly a pain and not at all cheap, especially for the amount I drink when I have it in my collection. Some expensive teas I can drink in moderation, others I just find myself gorging on and then running out super quickly…and I have never met a tea from Korea that I did not do that with! This particular green tea comes from Hadong, Wooree Tea says this is the best and oldest growing region in South Korea, and checking in one of my books on Korean Tea (specifically The Book of Korean Tea) it seems this area is famous for wild growing tea trees in the mountains, which sounds quite beautiful. The aroma of the curly leaves is delightful! Notes of sesame seeds, rice crackers (I believe they are called Arare, and I will inhale them given the chance) peanuts, toasted nori, and an underlying sweetness of sesame butter and a touch of corn silk. This tea is delightfully nutty, and the green notes come from a seaweed quality, which I am sure you all know by now I find delicious.
Into my shiboridashi (it totally counts) the tea goes! The aroma of the plump olive green leaves is so nutty and umami, notes of sesame and peanuts mix with rice crackers, kelp, toasted nori, edamame, and a finish of miso. These leaves smell like food! The liquid blends green and sweet with a touch of savory quite well, with notes of gentle sesame seeds and kelp, sweet freshly cut hay, fresh grass, and a finish of edamame and roasted peanuts.
The thing I really like most about Korean green teas is their crisp, brightness, it is just such a refreshing mouthfeel. Tasting the tea, it starts out savory, with fresh grass and kelp, this moves to toasted nori, rice crackers, peanuts, and a touch of sesame seed sweetness. The finish is a blend of miso and edamame, with a mineral quality at the very tail end that lingers as the aftertaste.
For this steeping, the aroma is nuttier, lots of sesame seeds and roasted peanuts, with rice crackers and just a gentle touch of kelp at the finish. The mouthfeel is crisp and bright, it almost borders on brisk, but it does have a smoothness to it so I would not go as far as to call it brisk. This steep brings out more of the green from the green tea, it starts with notes of spinach and fresh seaweed (like that oh so yummy seaweed salad) and fades to fresh grass and a finish of sweet sesame seeds and rice crackers. The sweetness at the finish lingers for a bit.
Onward to the third steep, fresh notes of kelp and edamame mix with sesame seeds and roasted peanuts. The finish is a savory and sweet blend of rice crackers and a touch of miso. Like the previous steeps, this tea has a crisp and refreshing mouthfeel, I appreciate how it is so crisp but not drying, it is like biting into a juicy veggie. And speaking of veggies, I was greeted by a note of fresh bell pepper along with spinach and edamame at the front. The finish is a blend of rice crackers and sesame, with a sweet, gentle honey finish. This tea has staying power, I got several more steeps out of it before it finished with a mineral green quality.
Good news! My warranty is covering having my camera fixed…or failing that replaced! Not a disaster after all. Though I am not sure how long it will take to get it backed, meaning I might have to use my phone camera to review new teas, or I will just rely on the rather large perpetual backlog I have…well…logged. I am breathing such a huge sigh of relief that my camera is not totally doomed, and glad I broke it when it was still under warranty!
It has been a while since I looked at a tea from India, so I thought I would rectify that with India Bihar Doke Hand-Made ‘Diamond’ Green Tea from What-Cha! This unique tea comes from the Doke Tea Garden run by the Lochan family, but what makes this garden so special is it grown in Bihar, an area that until now was not a tea growing region. The tea itself is hand-crafted, giving it a wonderful artisan feel, and also it means really big pretty leaves! The dry leaves are fairly dark, and they smell pretty epic. Strong notes of mango and citrus blend with gentle nuttiness and a slight undertone of leather, for a green tea it has an earthy heaviness which I find unique. One thing I found quite entertaining about the aroma is it was not just mango fruit, there was the definite green sharpness of mango skin, quite fascinating!
In my steeping apparatus, the leaves are not longer dark, turning vibrantly green while steeping. The aroma of the soggy leaves is intensely sweet, strong notes of mango and papaya for a tropical smelling pile of leaves, the addition of warm honey at the finish pushes the aroma to almost decadent. The liquid is very sweet, like mango nectar and a touch of papaya with honey and a tiny touch of vegetation at the finish, to remind me that this is a green tea and not a fruit.
Tasting this tea is quite the treat, it manages to be very smooth and delicate while also being intensely sweet. It starts with mango and freshly cut hay, the mango notes linger and mix with papaya and honey at the midtaste. For the finish there is a mingling of gentle tobacco and a slight nuttiness with a lingering mango sweetness that stays around for a while. This was a unique treat, just the right amount of sweetness, and the tobacco notes at the end give it depth and keep it from being too light.
It is a sad day today, my nice shiny new camera took a bit of a tumble and now I have a serious problem. See, my room is rather dark, so I use flash and a diffuser for my photos, and now my flash is not working. Something broke in the fall and it will not register that the flash is a thing that exists, and there is an unnerving rattle. I am still within the warranty time, so tomorrow I will be finding out if it covers it…if not, well, I am not entirely sure what I am going to do. Adjusting the ISO and such does not get it to the level of crispness I like, so far the only thing that works at all is holding my phone’s flashlight above the camera, but that is not an optimal solution. Fingers crossed about the warranty!
Tis the season where I have to scare off the sniffles, whenever someone around me so much as sneezes, I pretty much jump to the other side of the room like a terrified cartoon cat, and I am only exaggerating a little bit. So seeing the ingredients in Wellness by Joy’s Teaspoon, I had to have some of it: apple pieces, carrot flakes, blackberry leaves, eucalyptus leaves, beetroot pieces, hibiscus flowers, lemongrass, flavoring, freeze-dried tangerine pieces, orange slices. I adore blends with eucalyptus, it makes my lungs happy, and it is so refreshing. And I know, usually I shy away from hibiscus teas, but lately I find I don’t mind it as long as it is a very light amount…you know, making the tea pink instead of livid crimson. The aroma of the tea is immensely citrus, strong notes of grapefruit, lemon, oranges, and tangerine. It is tangy and bright, with undertones of eucalyptus and a touch of sweet fruitiness from the apples. It smells like summer!
Into my steeping apparatus the tea goes, it is such a colorful blend, and immensely aromatic…and the aroma of citrus and eucalyptus is filling my entire tea area. I think that this could be a great steam treatment next time my asthma gets fussy. The aroma of the herbal and fruit bits once liberated from the liquid is pleasantly citrus, lots of orange and grapefruit with underlying honey sweet and a touch of apples. The liquid has a tartness to it, the hibiscus has shown itself at last, though it is only a touch, and it goes really well with the tangy, almost sour grapefruit, the sweet oranges, and the underlying crispness of the eucalyptus.
In full disclosure of things and stuff, I drank this sweetened with a Chambre de Sucre Diamond Sugar Stick, because I have learned that I only really like hibiscus teas if they are sweetened or chilled, though I did sip it before I sweetened it and you know, the hibiscus does not overwhelm at all, it adds just a hint of tart and slightly metallic (hibiscus always registers as metallic for me, not sure why) notes, so the sugar was not really necessary since the tea is already delicately fruity sweet. But you know, sometimes it is the difference between eating an apple and wanting baked apples, that extra sweetness is just soothing, so I still went with the sugar. The primary note in this tea is the citrus fruit salad, a triple threat of grapefruit, lemon, and tangerine, this blends wonderfully with the crisp cooling eucalyptus. I can see why this tea is named Wellness, I just felt refreshed and clean after drinking it, it is a cheerful blend, that come summertime I think I shall try cold brewed.
Instead of my usual ‘here is what I have been up to today’ intro, I am going to dive straight into the tea, with a bit of history and botany! I am finally looking at some Yaupon, but before I do I want to talk about what it actually is. Ilex vomitoria, a member of the Holly family that also has Yerba Mate and Guayusa, however this version is fancy because it is the only native source of caffeine in the states. Grown in the South, this beautiful shrub shows up quite frequently growing wild and as ornamentation, in fact living in Georgia we used to grow the stuff. Sadly I was a youngin’ and was unaware of its use as a tea, though I can certainly say the smell of it is immensely familiar. Now before I go much farther, let’s take a look at that name, vomitoria…usually when a plant has something along that line in its name it means you will become best friends with your toilet (looking at you Russula emetica) but in this case, it was a misunderstanding. Used as one of the ingredients in Asi (or Black Drink) a ritual drink by the men of several Native American tribes that causes a lot of vomiting, it was assumed that the Yaupon was the cause of this, but clearly that is not the case.
Since I have two different Yaupons to review, I will save the history lesson (which is all sorts of awesome) for the next one, but now that you know what the plant is, that means it is time to taste the Lost Pines Yaupon Tea Dark Roast Yaupon Tea! The aroma of the finely chopped up leaves is something else, it blends cooked spinach, hemp, toast, holly leaves, olive leaves, boxwood leaves, bark, green beans…it is a complex pile of notes! It blends green leafy almost herbaceous tones with sweet roasted ones. I know this smell, recognized it immediately, but it was odd to smell it roasted, odd and comforting.
Brewing time! The aroma of the wet leaves (which float on the top of my brewing apparatus, which amuses me) is a blend of toasted sweetness and herbaceous green. Notes of cooked spinach and hemp blend with artichoke and holly leaves. It has a sharp quality, green and slightly resinous. The liquid sans leaves is a blend of toasted grains, dry fluffy loam, wet hay, and a touch of spinach…and lots of hemp. Fresh hemp twine with that distinct sharpness and earthiness.
I found the taste of this brew incredibly hard to describe, it has an acrid bitterness that is not necessarily unpleasant (like eating an unripe persimmon, THAT is unpleasant) it is very sharp without being mouth drying…after thinking and sipping, I realized I was actually tasting caffeine, I know this because when I was in school I just took caffeine supplements, and that taste lingered in my memory. After that initial acrid sharpness (that also reminds me of chewing on European holly leaves, I was a weird kid that needed to taste everything, this is also why I became obsessed with plant based toxicology) it fades to sweetness, blending herbaceous green notes, honey, cooked spinach, and distinct toasted barley. Yaupon is one of the more strange tasting herbal brews I have sipped, I can see how this was a ceremonial drink at one point…it has an unusual taste blended with a kick to the face of caffeine, I imagine drinking a ton of this in a ceremonial environment being quite the fascinating experience.
I have returned from my little hiatus! My birthday was all sorts of awesome, good company, good food, mind-boggling awesome presents, and of course good tea. I still feel a little overwhelmed, basking in the afterglow of a wonderful couple of days, but it is time to return to a semblance of normalcy. On non-birthday news, it is frigid! A very chilly day, meaning it is time to break out the toast hand warmers, delightfully plushie kawaii toasts with heating elements in them, they were a Christmas gift from my sister from another mother, and I always get excited for the cold because it means I can wear incredibly cute toasts on my hands.
Today I am going to do something a little different, I have reviewed a lot of Eco-Cha’s teas, but I always present them Gongfu style, but that is not the only way I drink it. In fact, bowl style (or Grandpa steeping, both names technically work) is fast becoming my favorite way to drink Jin Xuan, and so with that, why not take a look at the Spring 2015 Jin Xuan brewed up bowl style, time to show off how versatile these leaves can be. Also it shows off how huge they can get when really soaked and given lots of room to move around. Before I can drench the leaves in water, I need to give them a good sniffing, and what a joy that is because these leaves are very pleasantly aromatic. Notes if sweet custard, freshly baked pastry (kinda reminds me of a croissant because it is also very buttery) and a delicate touch of toasted sesame seeds. There is also a delicate undertone of fresh growth and woodiness with a distant hint of wildflowers.
Now that I have finally pulled my nose out of the leaves, it is time to steep! For Jin Xuan grandpa style I tend to use 190° water, it can take hotter but it tends to be more savory than sweet that way, and tends to finish quicker. The aroma that comes out of my bowl as I want the leaves dance around is quite yummy, buttery and sweet with rich notes of pastry and sesame seeds, and of course the familiar Jin Xuan custard and spicy lily notes that I adore so much. My first draining of the bowl starts light and sweet, with a creamy mouth. The taste is a blend of buttery pasty and sweet custard, similar to sesame seed custard with a gentle floral and green finish.
The more the leaves unfurl the stronger the tea gets, several bowls later a really unique thing I have only experienced with grandpa style Jin Xuan happens, it gets salty. Not salty as in, someone trolled me and poured salt on my tea, salty in the way that I just licked a rock and it has that mineral salt taste. It is earthy and blends wonderfully with the now quite strong green notes and buttery thickness. This is very distinct, I have had plenty of oolongs give me a mineral slate note, but only bowl style Jin Xuan gives me that saltiness and I absolutely love it, even if the first time I encountered it really surprised me. I got many refills of the tea, it is a tea that is perfect for those days where I want the oolong but either I am lounging in bed, out and about using my travel steeper, or busy painting/writing and don’t want to split my focus between what I am doing and gongfu cha. This is a tea you can spend the whole day with, easily.
For blog and sexy leaf photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2015/11/eco-cha-jin-xuan-oolong-tea-spring-2015.html