830 Tasting Notes
I just woke up from an epic long nap, I say epic because it was five hours long and I am not really sure that counts as a nap or just a short sleep. Said nap was needed after helping Ben’s grandparents with getting ready to move, and the scorching almost 100 degree heat really wore me out, not that I have been sleeping well lately due to said heat, the heart monitor, and just general sleeping problems…so that nap was so welcome. Since I had been playing a bit of Ark (yay new update, boo leeches) my dreams were filled with amusingly mundane swamp adventures, like making sure the plants were fertilized. Fun times!
You know what, I hate the heat…in fact if you have been reading this blog for a while you probably are well aware of this. Luckily I live in a time of refrigeration and ease of cold-steeping, and that is what I did with today’s tea, Watermelon Baozhong from Liquid Proust Teas. First off, props to Andrew for actually using dried watermelon pieces rather than just flavoring, granted I love me some watermelon candy, but I like the real thing even more. Which can I point out that up to three years ago I loathed all melons with a burning passion? Now I love watermelon, this still weirds me out, but also makes me happy because I always felt so left out during the summer. The aroma of this tea with its big ol’ leaves and big ol’ watermelon chunks, is pretty darn sweet. Creamy notes of hyacinth and lilacs blend with crisp lettuce and surprisingly juicy watermelon. He used Beautiful Taiwan Tea’s Baozhong as a base, and that tea smells wonderful, so it is no surprise that it blends really well with the watermelon since it is one of the sweetest Baozhongs I have sniffed.
After letting it sit in my fridge for a bit, not only was the watermelon slice massive after rehydrating, the aroma really ramped up the watermelon too, blending watermelon and flowers and a tiny hint of dried basil. Weird but it really worked, reminded me a bit of a salad I had once with watermelon and basil leaves, a fantastic combo!
I feel like I am drinking the very embodiment of a summer picnic! Juicy sweet watermelon, sun warmed grass, lettuce, basil, blooming flowers, and a touch of mineral at the finish to of course call in the inevitable rain that arrives at picnics. The only thing missing is ants…or chiggers…and I am ok with those not being around. It is so refreshing! I love how it tastes like an actual watermelon and not a Jolly Rancher, and I love the way it blends with the Baozhong. Another blend well done, Liquid Proust Teas continues to impress me, and wow is it nice to have a summery tea to enjoy in this heat! Also, I was able to get a resteep, something I pretty much never get from cold steeping (except on occasion Jin Xuan or heavily rolled oolongs of that nature) it was lighter the second time around, but still quite refreshing and tasty.
I had a nice little vacation, and by nice I mean I melted in the heat and played Ark while chugging copious amounts of tea, so nothing really new and exciting. Life in Ark has been extra exciting, my tribemate (aka my mom) and I have been securing our beloved swamp base for the new update which brings in the dreaded leeches and swamp fever, yuck! Lots of bridges and boardwalks had to be installed, and X-plants properly irrigated, it has been very grindy. To keep myself occupied in all this preparation I also tamed a level 116 white rex (the rarest of colors) and a new direbear, because I still have to be the Beastmaster!
Ok, ok, I need to get this out of my system before I get into the actual review of Teanami’s Zi Cha/ Purple Tea (Raw 2012)…ANTHOCYANIN! I feel better now, I just have the overwhelming urge to shout that whenever I drink a purple tea, it is a fun thing to do and I suggest doing it. The reason why, of course, is because Anthocyanin is the flavonoid that causes it to be purple, it also makes blueberries blue, grapes purple, cabbage purple…it is essentially the thing behind my favorite food color group. This type of tea is thought to be more pest and drought resistance, and I have noticed that all the purples I have tried have a distinct oomph to them. (I tossed in a couple of links talking about purple tea, focusing on Kenya and Yunnan, it is botanical goodness!) The aroma of this tea is pretty potent, a tiny bit of smoke and meatiness, dried tomatoes and tomato leaf (I find this note in a lot of teas from Yunnan and it amuses me greatly) mineral, pungent wet hay, a bit of wet bamboo (the old stalk more so than leaves) and a tiny underlying sweetness of apricot.
The aroma of the steeped buds is a bit more vegetal, with notes of cooked spinach and eggplant (that is a new one) along with dried tomato, gentle smoke, meatiness (like a distant beef jerky) and a touch of sauteed mushroom. The aroma of the liquid is gentle and sweet, notes of bamboo, wet hay, and distant apricots and smoke. Has a summery quality to it.
In the beginning this tea starts light and immensely sweet, strong notes of fruity apricot and peaches with a touch of grape, then it picks up a bit of hay and very very gentle smoke. It has a very light body at first, with a touch of cooling (very welcome on a hot day) and only a slight thickness to it, bordering more on oily. It picks up a gentle bitterness and savory note around steep three, which carries into the middle.
Around the middle of the steeping, the bitterness, instead of being hoppy or vegetal as I usually perceive it, but takes on a nutty note, like the walnut skin. With the underlying smoky, gentle smoky notes, and subtle mineral notes, I found myself enjoying the middle steeps greatly. One thing I noticed towards the end of the middle (around steep 6) when my steeping time was stretching out, was an increase of sweetness and a resinous incense note very similar to myrrh and patchouli in taste, which really enamored me to this tea.
The end of the tea brought an increase in sweetness and a lovely thickness. This tea was overall light on the mouthfeel, so the finish bringing thickness was pleasant. I found this tea to be overall gentle and soothing, only giving me a little bit of the dreaded sheng gut-rot, which was awesome, especially since the taste, while not hugely overwhelming was still quite enjoyable. I have had a few sessions with this tea since I received the sample, each one going about 12 steeps, it had a moderate cooling effect, which was immensely welcome in the summer.
I had the strangest thing happen today, there was a package from UPS! I get a lot of mail, perks of tea-blogging, but usually I know when something is supposed to show up, so when I saw this mysterious package I assumed it was tea I had forgotten about. Nope! It was my heart monitor! I was expecting a call from my doctor to come in and get hooked up, but no, this is all done solo. So far wearing it is not a giant pain, it is only two electrodes and they are not too itchy (yet) and the monitor is not hugely bulky (in comparison to the short-term one I wore in high school where I was covered in electrodes and had to wear a huge fanny-pack) so far my only complaint is I have to either wear pants with pockets or carry a purse so I don’t have to have the monitor in my hand at all times. Of course I have to wear this for 21 days, I might be singing a different tune by then!
You know what one of my favorite things about this time of year is? Shincha! That first plucking of the Sencha harvest, it is a thing that is hard to get and usually requires pre-ordering! Today I am looking at Ocha & Co.‘s Organic Japanese Shincha 2016, brewing it in my typical kyusu method, and also on a whim I decided to ice steep it. First let us examine the leaves before they go off to be steeped, they are vibrant and green, and the aroma is astoundingly fresh! Notes of raw spinach, lettuce, crisp fresh seaweed, and a touch of rice (specifically the aroma of water from rinsing rice) waft off the leaves. The green aroma of this tea is more marine and vegetal than grassy, so if you are a person who prefers their greens not on the grassy side, the aroma of this tea is very promising. Granted I don’t mind the grassy notes, but I know plenty of people who do.
First up is brewing with my Kyusu, since it was just me I used my smaller one (I have…a few) and the aroma of the wet leaves is still very fresh and green, with notes of sweet hat, cooked spinach, bamboo leaves, fresh seaweed, and lettuce. Towards the end is a tiny bit of starchy rice water, but the aroma is mostly crisp green and gently sweet. The aroma of the liquid is light and sweet with notes of sun warmed hay, crisp lettuce, and bamboo leaves. There is a very gentle undertone of cane sugar, adding a nectar quality to the aroma.
The first thing I noticed about this initial steep is the pleasantly thick mouthfeel, usually something I associate with Gyokuro rather than Sencha, but I do admit it has been over a year since my last Shincha and I tend to pay extra attention to mouthfeel these days. The taste is a wonderful balance between green and sweet, notes of sweet hay and sugar cane blend with bamboo leaves and gentle spinach. Towards the end is a savory note of fresh seaweed that is replaced with lingering sweetgrass sweetness in the aftertaste.
For the second steep I decided to drink it outside, it was so fresh and green that I wanted to enjoy it under a tree. The aroma is a tad greener, stronger notes of seaweed and spinach, with undertones of cane sugar and bamboo leaves. The taste is still sweet, with gentle notes of sugar cane and sweet hay, but wow, the umami has arrived in force! Stronger notes of spinach and lettuce with crisp bamboo leaves dance in my mouth, it is smooth and rich!
Lastly the much longer to prepare ice steeping! What you do for this is place the tea in the bottom of whichever tool you are using for brewing (I used the houhin style gaiwan I have) and then load the thing up with ice cubes (putting a few leaves on top for aesthetics is fun too) the tea steeps as the ice melts making for one intense cup. Of course you have to wait for the ice to melt, so it is best to occupy yourself with something else while waiting, unless it is heat wave time.
Tasting this tea was wow, like Gyokuro brewed in the traditional way, you can see why tea tasters officially call the liquid of tea the ‘soup’ because wow, the thickness is intense. Notes of buttery cooked spinach, edamame, and seaweed explode in an umami burst in my mouth, it is seriously intense and delicious! We are expecting a heat wave later this week (ewwww) and I am going to indulge in this at least once a day, it is so refreshing!
I am having one of those great moments of furniture confusion. See, I am a teaware hoarder, pretty openly and obviously, I love that I hoard these beautiful treasures…what I don’t love is how they are all stuffed inside drawers instead of beautifully displayed. I need a curio cabinet! The bit of conflict is, do I want to troll all the thrift stores in hopes of finding a perfect (and affordable) curio cabinet, or do I want to get a bookshelf and make a door for it myself. Making a door would mean using screen or wood lattice instead of glass (and glass worries be a bit because one of my cats is immensely dumb sometimes) It comes down to cost and size of course, but blast it all I want to be able to open a door and look at my displayed teaware!
Speaking of teaware, I got to break out one of my favorite teapots for today’s tea, Teanami’s Palace Pu Erh (Ripe 2005) lately all my shou drinking has been in my ruyao pieces, to darken the crackles, meaning I neglected my shou yixing I got for my birthday last year. Also known as Gong Ting, this is the highest grade of Shou Puerh, full of lots of buds, this is the loose version (I also have a sample of the 2007 Palace Mo Hei I will be writing about soon) and from the moment I opened the tin I was happy. No strong duiwei! Granted I figured the chances of this being present in a 2005 gong ting shou to be fairly minute, but man, I loathe that smell/taste, it gave me a migraine and killed my enjoyment of shou for years, so anytime I take that first sniff and it smells safe I am immediately happy. (Granted had it smelled funky I would have just aired it out, like I do when I get a funky pu, but I digress.) So the aroma, it is sweet and earthy, like wet wood and wet leather with caramelized brown sugar, molasses, and a a tiny bit of mineral at the finish. It is very rich smelling and delightfully sweet, just the way I like my shou! I found myself lingering with my nose in the pot sniffing the leaves for a while, long after my kettle had roared to life.
After my initial rinse and flash steep, the aroma of the now soggy leaves is sweet and thick, strong notes of wet wood, wet leather, brown sugar, and cocoa blend together for an aroma that feels heavy and inky, like I am sinking into a forest floor that is also made out of candy. The liquid from this first steep is nicely sweet, notes of cocoa and molasses mix with loam, wet wood, and wet leather.
In my Puerh fashion, instead of covering each steep (we would be here a while if that was the case) I am going to cover beginning, middle, and end. The beginning was great, from the first steep onward I noticed a nice thick mouthfeel that coated the mouth, I felt a great soothing warmth in my body which was enjoyed. The taste starts out sweet like molasses…and I am not even kidding here…tapioca pudding. This was a new note for me in shou, but I am legit ok with it. Towards the end of this ‘section’ notes of slightly bittersweet dark chocolate creep in and linger well into the aftertaste.
The middle brings the richness, with notes of dark chocolate, molasses, brown sugar, and wet wood. It is heavy and dense in mouthfeel and just overall feel, I found myself being very relaxed and wanting to nap. The aftertaste lingered long after the cup was empty, with notes of bittersweet chocolate and a touch of wet wood.
Towards the end of the middle steeps, a touch of wet leather showed up and stuck around til the session was finished, which, if you were curious, was twelve steeps. Technically I could say that it was ten, because the last two were really light, but I wanted to milk this tea for every drop of flavor it had, it was tasty! It has all the things I really like in my shous, notes of earthiness and sweetness, intense richness, and the feeling of being bundled up in a warm robe on a cold day. Also that tapioca note at the beginning was odd, but super delicious! I feel that when my sample runs out there is a fairly high chance I will get more.
I am excited! Currently on Coursera (my go-to site for online free courses) is offering three courses on Paleontology! The University of Alberta is the college presenting them, they were the same who offered Paleontology 101 I took a year or so ago, so I was pleased they were continuing the series. The current course I am taking is about early Vertebrate evolution, specifically the lecture I am listening to is about Placoderms, everyone’s favorite bony faced fishes! Gotta love the Dunkleosteus! The other courses are on Cretaceous Theropods (my personal area of specialty) and ancient marine reptiles, another favorite area of study.
Two of my favorite things in the tea world are bug-bitten teas and hong cha (though depending on my mood the location where said hong cha originates changes) so is it any real surprise that I just freak out over Honey Black Tea? No, it really isn’t, and Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company’s was super high on my list of ‘to-try’ so I am super glad I got a sample at the Midwest Tea Festival. Mixiang Hongcha (or Honey Frangrance, that Xiang shows up a LOT in tea, especially Dancongs where all their different names are ‘something’ fragrance) is nibbled on by adorable little green leafhoppers which causes the tea plants to release an enzyme, in turn making it super sweet. The aroma of these curly long leaves is unlike any other tea, it has the rich yammy and malt quality associated with Hong Cha, but with underlying raisin, pumpkin, chestnut, and of course honey notes I associate more strongly with teas like Oriental Beauty, clearly the little buggies have done a wonderful job! It is sweet and rich, and the notes seem vaguely autumnal to me.
Into my clay pot the leaves go, because of course I have a pot dedicated to specifically Taiwanese Hong Cha (though not Red Jade, that gets its own pot!) The aroma of the leaves is yummy, strong notes of malt and pumpkin with underlying notes of honey, peanuts, yams, raisins, and chestnuts. At the end is a note of cumin seeds that have been roasted in a pan, it adds an almost savory quality at the finish and no joke, makes my mouth water. The liquid is almost sweet cream, it smells creamy (but not milky, more vanilla creamy) with strong notes of honey and raisins and a finish of malt and pumpkin. Keeping the sweet and still reminding me of autumn.
My goodness that first steep is sweet! I even went a bit heavy handed with the leaves, expecting a tiny bit extra briskness, but nope! The mouthfeel is thick, almost syrupy, like warm honey water, and honey is a fair comparison since the taste has strong raw honey notes. There are notes of yam and pumpkin, with accompanying notes of chestnut, and a finish of rich raisins and brown sugar. I feel as though I am drinking a dessert!
I wasted no time to move to the next steep, the aroma of the tea has a stronger pumpkin note, along with a slightly stronger malt, it is still very sweet though. Again, no briskness to be found, just smooth thick mouth and sweet rich taste. It starts with warm honey and vanilla sweetness, then moves to more rich yam and raisin, with a finish of chestnut and brown sugar. The blend of nuttiness and sugar reminds me vaguely of nut brittle, and I want chestnut brittle to be a thing now!
BTTC is not wrong when they say you can get three good steeps from this one, after steep three it really starts to pitter out, but the three steeps you get are pretty wonderful. Aromatic and flavorful, and never brisk, bitter, or watery…just sweet, smooth, and thick in the mouth, though this steep is a tad less sweet. This steep takes on the notes of yam and adds oats and stronger chestnut, the honey taste is replaced almost entirely with brow sugar, and there is a touch of pumpkin at the finish that lingers into the aftertaste. One thing I found surprising was this tea’s Qi, it is very mellow and I am so chill after drinking it, it is also a bit cooling in the chest which is nice on a warm day.
Today was awesome! Ben and I went to the zoo and I had a blast taking pictures of all the creatures and spending far too much time in the bird enclosures. Seriously my favorite aspect of the KC Zoo (other than their conservation work) is the Australian and African bird enclosure, it is a giant bird cage where many birds just go about their business mostly ignoring people. Except the ibises in the Australia exhibit and the splendid starlings in Africa, conveniently they are two of my favorites. I just love the zoo and I am so glad I was able to go!
Since it is starting to feel like summer I wanted to cover a tea that is practically just summer incarnate, Tea Ave’s Rose Oolong. This tea is an Alishan Jin Xuan that has been scented with rose, and with a few rose petals tossed in, and let me say, I love roses in tea…the idea of blended roses with an already creamy sweet base sounds wonderful. The aroma smells exactly like I had hoped, it smells like Rose Milk (or Falooda, though not quite as starchy) Rose Milk was one of my favorite summer drinks for years. In fact it is one of my favorite aspects of both Indian and Persian desserts, the use of rose is wonderfully decadent. The aroma of rose is certainly strong and sweet, but it brings in milky sweet notes from the Jin Xuan, giving it a dessert quality and it smells delicious.
Steeping the tea was pretty awesome, the tea area was filled with blooming roses and it was heady, which I liked! Full on rose garden in bloom coming out of my gaiwan. After steeping the leaves had a blend of rose and milky sweet custard with a slight nutty undertone and hint of crushed vegetation. The liquid smelled like rose custard, super sweet and creamy with intense rose and even a pinch of sugar cane, it is pretty intense!
I was proud of myself, I shared some of this tea with Ben instead of quaffing it all myself, it took great self control. First thing you notice is the rose, it is at the foretaste and the mid, and of course the after, it is all rose all the time. The rest of the taste dances from creamy sweet custard to a bit of nuttiness to a slight crushed vegetation at the finish. It is fairly light at the first steep, but lightness cannot stop the rose.
Conveniently, the rose is still strong for the second steep, but it does not get stronger, it stays the same level of rose bush. The sweet creamy taste however, that does get stronger, really taking on a custard quality with undertone of sesame seeds. I almost want to munch on pistachios while drinking this tea to really bring out the Persian ice cream quality. The aftertaste is rose and it lingers for a while.
Onward to the next steep, this one has a slightly stronger rose in both taste and aroma, and a slightly diminished creamy sweetness. For this steep the notes of crushed vegetation and lily are stronger alongside the intense rose, there is no doubt this is a Jin Xuan, and it blends wonderfully with the rose, in fact other than the occasional blending with red teas, this might be the best rose combination I have found. I also tried it cold steeped, it was enjoyable, but I preferred it warm, which is odd considering how much the taste reminds me of ice cream!
So, probably no gongfoolery this week, it has been a bit of a rough one and I am not clear headed enough to give it my full attention, but there is still the weekend so mayyybe. That is one of the really big differences between my usual tea reviews and the gongfoolery series, from a writing perspective. With tea reviews I have it all written down (in sloppy barely decipherable by anyone but me shorthand) and the blog is just that polished up with photographs and research when needed. With gongfoolery though, that is being written as I do it, usually the blog takes hours and a lot of focus, which is something I have just had none of this week. Good news though, the tea I needed for my next batch of testing finally arrived, yay!
Today I am looking at the last of the samples I got from Oolong Inc, Taiwan Osmanthus Oolong Tea, now it is probably well known by now that I love osmanthus flowers in all its forms, and having it blended with bright green Oolong was one of my favorite ways of drinking this flower. However this tea is different as it uses roasted Oolong instead of the floral green, which is pretty fascinating. Sniffing the leaves, and you know, it smells like osmanthus jelly on toast, like uncannily like it! Toasted grains and sweet nectar blend decently, though there is a bit of a smoky note making me think of burnt toast.
Into the gaiwan for steeping, and the smoky aroma ramps up after steeping. The osmanthus is still there, but it is not as strong, neither is the aroma of toast. There is sweetness that is an odd but not unpleasant combination with the smoke. The liquid however is not quite so smoky, it is gentle smoke with creamy osmanthus and roasted grains, the jelly on toast aroma is back.
Well that is neat! It is a bit dry in the mouth, with a strong roasted grain and smoke start. This is mellowed by the gentle blossoming of floral osmanthus notes that add an intense sweet nectar quality. Blending the nectar and roast at the finish makes the tea taste like grilled plums, which is a fascinating way to finish the tea. I sadly noticed this tea did not have a ton of longevity, and the taste did not really change at all throughout the several steeps I got. I liked the taste though I wish there was more of it and it lasted longer.
Made from the Meizhan varietal, which sent me a few wild goose chases while researching, but it is frequently made into oolongs. This tea smells really good too! Notes of distant flowers and lychee blended with almonds and cocoa. It is a very sweet and creamy smelling pile of leaves, a contrast with the previous tea’s more nature like aroma, this smells more like dessert.
Wow, this tea! It is immensely sweet, kinda took me by surprise! Like a mouth full of juicy lychees and marzipan with honeysuckles and cocoa. The most fun part of this tea is the almost explosive salivary effect, it was almost like biting into a tangy orange but without any of the taste, it made me drool a bit. This was a bit diminished as the later steeps went on, which I am a little glad for, that was immensely intense, but it was also fun. The tanginess is replaced with gentle woodiness, but there is still a good bit of sweetness of lychees and almonds many steeps in.
First I have to say that I am rather miffed that W2T doesn’t sell this one, because man is it good! I could see it becoming a daily drinker for me for sure, but alas, no dice. These pretty little leaves are made from the Cai Cha varietal, which is pretty popular in Wuyi, used to make Jin Jun Mei, Lapsang Souchong, and Tan Yang Gongfu, so it gets around. The aroma of the dry tea is nom…om nom nom. Strong notes of chocolate, and you know, the info sheet wasn’t lying when it said cumin, and that is pretty awesome. There is also a creamy undertone and a slightly tangy dried fruit note as well.
Brewing it up, the aroma of the tea is immensely rich, heavy notes of chocolate and molasses with notes of saffron and malt. The aroma and taste remind me of a cake I make on occasion using chocolate, saffron, cumin, and lots of molasses…this cake is stupidly rich, especially when you count the saffron vanilla glaze. Seriously the similarity between this tea and my cake concoction are uncanny, I never need to go on the hunt for cheap saffron again if I just keep drinking this tea. You can get many steeps out of these tea, it has decent longevity.
This one is made from a wild varietal native to Wuyi, and of the teas from this set I have looked at so far it sports the largest leaves. Big ol curly things that certainly look like something from Wuyi! The aroma is GOOD, I spent the entire time my kettle was zombie-ing its way to life sniffing the leaves, and I picked up notes of honey and cocoa, yams and toasted oats, and a distant floral note reminiscent of magnolias of all things. I think this is the first red tea I have had that has that note, which is awesome.
Awww, the floral notes vanished upon steeping, but that is ok, because the taste is still really good. I am not sure it is some sort of psychosomatic thing, but wild trees always seem to taste…well…wild, more like nature and less like food. True there are the notes of yams and cocoa, but there are note of pine wood, mineral, mountain air, and in later steeps the gardenia notes gently return. It is like walking in the mountains and drinking water from a spring…if somehow that water was already tea. This was a wonderful session that lasted many steeps, drinking it made me feel like I was in another place, even if the effect was all in my brain, it was nice regardless.