338 Tasting Notes


Last night was just awesome, it was Thursday meaning Board Game Night at Tabletop, and it was certainly one of the better nights I have had there. I played so many good games (will be discussing some of those tomorrow on my weekly Geeky rambling post) and then after gaming just hung around with friends talking until almost 3AM. I feel wretched today and my sleep schedule is all messed up, but it is totally worth it.

Today’s tea is Fengqing Ancient Tree Raw Pu-erh Cake 2014 from Teavivre, a Sheng Pu-erh from Alihou Village in Fenging, Yunnan. The leaves were harvested in April-May of 2014 from Large Leaf trees that were 300-600 years old, making this the youngest Pu-Erh I have had the pleasure of meeting. I still have a lot to learn about Sheng Pu-erh, having only had a few examples so far. The aroma of the dry leaf is quite potent and a little pungent, but in a good way. The aroma is at first very sweet, like fresh hay and apricots, this transitions to more of a wet hay mushroom aroma with a strong honey note. There is also a very faint saltiness to it which is quite interesting.

Once I give the leaves a rinsing and then a brief steeping their aroma is still sweet and just a little bit fruity, but it is mostly wet hay, a bit of barnyard, and a sharp almost sour quality that does not really have a familiar aroma note, it is more of a sensation in my nose. I should state that it is not an unpleasant sensation, but it is an unfamiliar one. The liquid is very sweet, a mix of apricots, freshly mown hay, and honey. I was surprised at sweet it smelled.

The taste of the first steep is both sharp and sweet, it causes a very strong salivary response and an intense cooling sensation which is very refreshing. The flavor notes are freshly mown hay, apricot, and a finish of vegetation and a tiny bit of bitterness. There is a sweet honey aftertaste that lingers for a while.

Onto steep two! The aroma is sweet apricot and freshly mown hay, this still might be the sweetest smelling Sheng Pu-Erh that I have ever sniffed, I find that really kinda awesome. The taste this time around is a lot more mellow, no sharpness, no bitterness, no cooling salivary response, just smooth sweetness. The flavors are wet hay, fresh vegetation, and apricots. At the finish there is a tiny bit of camphor, which is something I do not get to say very often.

The aroma for the third steep is honey sweet, apricots, and fresh hay. There is a little touch of wet hay and barnyard this time, but it is very faint. The taste is very sweet and rich, the cooling sensation has returned along with tastes of fresh hay, honey, and apricot. I think this tea still has quite a few steeps in it, but sadly after the second steep I started noticing stomach spasms and knew after steep three that I had to call it quits. This has NOTHING to do with the tea, sometimes my stomach decides to freak out, and I have noticed that it has a mixed track record with Sheng, so don’t let my belly stop you! I really thought this tea was enjoyable, especially with how sweet it is.

For blog and photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/08/teavivre-fengqing-ancient-tree-raw-pu.html

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So I tried something new and exciting today, I made popped amaranth! It is pretty tasty, similar to popcorn but with an earthier taste, I certainly think I like it better than popcorn…plus no annoying kernels being stuck in my teeth! This is part of my experimenting trying to find easy to make, relatively cheap, naturally gluten free (not a substitute like gluten free waffles or crackers) snacks. My next experiment will be toasted millet, though I do find myself wondering what these toasted and popped grains would be like in Genmaicha.

So, have you ever found yourself craving Chai right before bed but knew there was no way you would sleep if you drank one? The Persimmon Tree Tea Company’s Rooibos Vanilla Chai might just be a solution for midnight Chai cravings. Made from Organic Rooibos, Vanilla Flavoring, Ginger Pieces, Cinnamon Pieces, Cardamon, Cloves, and Orange Pieces. The aroma is very sweet and spice, as expected from a Chai! There are notes of vanilla, woody rooibos, caramel, and mostly well balanced spices. I say mostly because the ginger is a bit stronger than the other spices.

After giving the tea a good steeping, the aroma is very spicy, heavy notes of clove and ginger. It reminds me of the holidays, very warm and comforting aroma. There are also fairly gentle notes of vanilla and sweet, woody, rooibos. The liquid is mellow, a nice sweet blend of rooibos, spices, vanilla, and a tiny hint of orange.

I find myself frequently craving night time Chai in the colder months, the warming spices and richness of the tea is very soothing when the weather is cold and you are snuggling under blankets with a cup of tea. It is many months away from winter, but I can certainly imagine it when sipping this tea! Since this is a Chai I made it with my usual cream and sugar, but only a hint of sugar since a pre-additive sip let me know that this tea is already quite sweet. The spices are nicely balanced, as with the aroma there is a little more ginger and clove than the other spices, which blends really well with the woodiness of the rooibos. Of course the cream brings out the vanilla giving the tea an extra richness.At the finish there is a bit of orange, which adds an extra layer of warmth to tea. I really like that this is a caffeine free Chai, I am a great lover of Chai both traditional and fun new takes on the tea.

For blog and photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/08/the-persimmon-tree-tea-company-rooibos.html


Interesting.. i have never popped amaranth though I’ve had it in other ways and seems kinda bitter to me?

Amanda 'SoggyEnderman' Wilson

It can be kinda bitter on its own, I find when I eat it I need it in things and not just plain.

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This one did not have too much of an aroma, just a bit of toasted nuts and green beans. Steeping the leaves brings out a sharp vegetal aroma, like kale and artichoke. The liquid is green beans and spinach, not a very sweet smelling dragonwell.

This doesn’t taste like any dragonwell I have ever had, it tastes more like a yun wu with cherry and lychee notes and distinct spinach and Brussels sprout taste. There is a tiny hint of the expected toasty taste, but mostly it is all vegetal and slightly sweet.

The second steep has more of the typical toasted sesame and green bean taste that I am used to, but it does still have a strong spinach and Brussels sprout taste, which is a neat take on it. I kinda like it!

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So this is a tea that has been on my ‘to try’ list for over a year, I was fascinated by the elevated GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamma-Aminobutyric_acid ) in the tea. Fun and totally useless fact, my main medication for controlling my Fibromyalgia (and other things…added benefit) is Gabapentin, yep, same GABA! Luckily the amount is pretty small (average 280mg per 100g) so I don’t have to worry about OD’ing or anything. The aroma of the wet leaves is pretty sweet, like burnt sugar, plums, and a touch of toast. After steeping the leaves have a very distinct stewed plums and cherry aroma, it smells more like dessert than tea! The liquid is a blend of stewed plums, cherries, apricot (what is this, a compote?) and spicebush.

How interesting! It doesn’t taste like any oolong I have ever had, it is woody, sweet, and fruity with a distinctly sour cherry finish. Makes my salivary glands happy, though as of steep one I am not sure what I think of the taste. It is really mild but still has distinct flavors. My mouth is confused!!!

The aroma of the second steep is still very fruity and the spice is stronger (why do I suddenly hear sandworms in the distance?) the taste is sweet, not that sourness from the first steep…well, certainly not as strong. At the finish there is still some sourness. The majority of the taste is fruity but there is still not much going on, it tastes almost watered down which is surprising considering the leaves are pushing the lid of my gaiwan up. There is also a slight bitterness at the finish. I still do not know what to think of this tea.

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How about we have one of those ‘here is something you probably didn’t know about me’ intros to today’s blog? I sleep walk, sometimes I think I have more adventures at night than I do during the day! It was really bad when I was a kid, I wandered around everywhere, it got to the point where my parent’s had to build a special crib/cage thing around my bed to keep me from wandering around or falling out of bed. I also talk in my sleep and have been known to have whole conversations in my sleep with no remembrance of them when I wake up. My most recent adventure was last night, I woke up in my bathtub, no water or anything, I was just sitting in the tub leaning against a wall. So now you know some other random little factoid about me!

I think that today’s tea from What-Cha, Huoshan Huang Ya Yellow Tea, might be the first yellow tea to make an appearance on the blog! I have a few yellow teas in my collection, but they do not have review priority since I bought them myself, company supplied samples always take priority (it is just polite!) Before I get into the usual aroma description, we need a brief description of what yellow tea and by extension Huoshan Huang Ya is. Traditionally only produced in China, yellow tea has a lot in common with its close relative green tea, but it has an extra step in its production called ‘sealing yellow’ basically this means that the damp leaves were allowed to sit and ‘yellow’ during a slower drying period. Both the leaves and the liquor have a yellowish color to them and in theory this process makes them milder and less grassy tasting than green tea. Now this particular tea, Huoshan Huang Ya, comes from the mountains of Anhui, China, it was once an imperial tribute tea during the Tang Dynasty and was written about in Lu Yu’s work on tea. Sadly the methods of this tea were thought lost, but were rediscovered in the 1970s by some distinguished tea masters, the version of this tea we have now is not quite as yellow as it was back in the Tang Dynasty and is sometimes mistaken for a green tea.

Phew, that was a lot of info, and I even abridged it! I certainly recommend looking up yellow tea, there are a lot of really neat articles written on this type of tea. The aroma of the dry leaves is quite sweet, there are notes of lightly roasted sweet corn, gently roasted sesame seeds, bamboo leaves, and a tiny hint of tomato leaves. At the finish of the sniff there is a hint of smoke. It is odd, every yellow tea I have had has had that tiny hint of smoke at the finish, I find that really neat.

Once the tea has been steeped, the wet leaves take on an extra layer of richness. The toasted sesame and roasted sweet corn are stronger, they are accompanied by the aroma of fresh growing things and bamboo leaves. It does have a similarity with green tea, but it is also quite different. The liquid is a mix of sweet corn and bamboo with a tiny hint of smokiness at the finish.

For the first steep, oh wow, that is a sublime tea (I always feel like Morinth from Mass Effect 2 when I use the word sublime now) it starts with a sweet corn and a touch of roasted sesame, there is a mild sweetness and a touch of bamboo. There is a nice tingly mouthfeel at the back of the throat and a peppery aftertaste.

The aroma for round two is very similar to the first steeping, there is a bit more of the bamboo leaves and the roasted corn and sesame aroma has a sweeter note to it. The taste again starts out with sweet corn and sesame seeds, but less roasted and more creamy sweet. This transitions to fresh bamboo leaves and a touch of pepper. There is a hint of smoke at the aftertaste, also the mouthfeel is smooth and not tingly this time.

The third steep’s aroma is faint, there are creamy sweet notes of sweet corn still and a hint of bamboo leaves, but mostly that is all that is left. The taste has become quite delicate as well, it starts with sweet corn and a touch of roasted sesame. There is also a hint of bamboo, broken stems, and a hint of kale giving the tea a little bit of a bitter green taste. Oddly this steep had a cooling effect, as I sipped it I felt cool and very relaxed, I also noticed this tea has a decent kick of caffeine making me feel very mentally alert, luckily not at all caffeine buzzed. By steep three I was just on the edge of being tea drunk, it is a wonderful feeling to go along with a really delicious tea!

For blog and photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/08/what-cha-huoshan-huang-ya-yellow-tea.html


My sister sleeps with her eyes open, and she talks in her sleep. I would have conversations with her while I was half asleep and not realize she was asleep all the time when we were younger.

Amanda 'SoggyEnderman' Wilson

Ha! I have been known to have my eyes open when sleeping as well, though not as frequently as the wandering around. Ah, sleep is so weird sometimes.

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It has been one of those days, you know, the day that starts out kinda ok and then turns out bad because pain decides to slam you in the guts. Literally. The only thing I can do is take it easy and hope tomorrow will be better. If it isn’t I plan on spending the day doing something crafty. Actually, even if I do feel wonderful tomorrow I am going to spend it doing something crafty, I have not had a craft day in a while.

Today’s tea from SerendipiTea is definitely one for those who like the chocolate, or so the name Cocoa Power would have me believe. This tea is a blend of Cocoa Beans, Cocoa Powder, Chocolate Bits, Natural Chocolate Flavoring, Natural Cream Flavoring, Organic Pu-erh, Organic Rooibos, Natural Vanilla Flavoring, and White Chocolate Bits. This tea probably wins the award for the most amount of chocolaty things in a tea that I have looked at (so far) it is impressive how many types of chocolate related ingredients are in this tea. And good googly moogly, chocolate power indeed! The aroma is a great blend of earthy pu-erh, woody sweet rooibos, vanilla sweetness, and loads of chocolate. It is a blend of sweet chocolate candy and rich cocoa powder, mixing the sweet and bittersweet aspects of chocolate. I am glad that it is sweet, but not cloyingly so.

The now steeped leaves have an intensely rich aroma, not at all sweet though. There are notes of cocoa, earthiness, the tea smells heavy. This seems like an odd description, but it has a real weight to the aroma. The liquid is a bit cloudy from all the cocoa powder, almost making it like tea and hot cocoa. The aroma has the same heaviness to it, but it has caramel, chocolate, and woodiness, alongside the cocoa and earthiness.

This tea is a cup of cocoa decadence, that is, if you are a fan of dark chocolate. If you prefer the more milkier chocolate you might find yourself reaching for cream and sugar! This is not a very sweet chocolate tea, it starts smooth and rich, much like eating into an 80% cocoa dark chocolate bar (which if you have not done, I would seriously recommend) it has a slightly oily mouthfeel from the white chocolate bits as well. After the initial dark chocolate taste, it turns into earthy pu-erh with a slightly metallic and mineral taste at the finish, which is a very interesting contrast to the cocoa. I am not sure this is my favorite chocolate tea ever, but it is certainly very rich and unique!

For blog and photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/08/serendipitea-cocoa-power-tea-review.html

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Oooh the aroma on this one is fun! It is floral and sweet like one would expect from an Alishan (for some reason their slightly yeasty sweetness reminds me of destroying angel mushrooms, but I am a weirdo) but with a slightly toasty aroma at the finish. Once I give the tea a short steep the aroma turns almost perfumed with the intensity of the orchid and honeysuckle explosion from the now wet leaves. There is also a gentle hint of spicebush, yum! The liquid is a blend of flowers, toast, and spicebush, it is quite sweet and enjoyable to sniff.

Oh man, that first sip is fantabulous! Sweet, floral, and surprisingly fruity! Like honey and lychees with a healthy dose of honeysuckle nectar. The aftertaste is spicebush. Oddly for a baked tea it doesn’t have any real toasty notes as of steep one.

The second steep somehow manages to be even sweeter, it is very much so like I took a floral oolong and poured lychee juice into it, pretty intense! Like the previous steep it has a spicebush finish to it. I really liked this tea!

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Today’s tea book is a classic, ok 1996 is not really classic (nor is the English translation that came out in 2001) but time flies and knowledge evolves. The Little Book of Tea is a collaboration between Kitti Cha Sangmanee (tea expert and president of Mariage Freres Tea) Catherine Donzel (historian) Stephane Melchior-Durand (art historian) and Alain Stella (writer) all this listed on the back flap.

Before I get into this book, I flipped to the back (where the publication info was listed) and low and behold there is a steeping chart. I am glad I was not sipping tea at this point because I would have done a spit-take! The recommend Silver Needle steeps at 158-185 degrees for 15 minutes! That seems a little intense, but Mariage Freres is a well known and respected tea establishment, and I am nothing if not game for an experiment, so I am giving this a try. At 158 degrees for the advised 15 minutes…but more on that later.

Time for the book! This book is in fact tiny, it could probably slip in a purse or large pocket pretty easily, but for all its 120 pages the information is tightly packed and surrounded by lovely photography and tea themed illustrations. It begins with a brief yet fairly thorough history of tea and classification of tea, you know, the basics. Though this does make the mistake of calling oxidation fermentation, but since this book is being translated from French, I am willing to let it pass, even though I do twitch every time it comes up.

After that is the real ‘meat’ of the book, an alphabetical guide to tea. This section is filled with some tasty little nuggets of history and culture, even if it does seem more skewed towards Western tea culture and history than Eastern. Don’t get me wrong, it does cover major tea producing countries, they even mention Korea’s tea culture which frequently gets overlooked, but they also have sections about specific tea estates in Sri Lanka and India along side the individual countries’s entries. There is nothing wrong with wanting to have a book geared towards one culture or another, but when a book styles itself as ‘Everything you wanted to know about your favorite subject in one handy volume’ I do expect it to be a bit more diverse.

There were a few points of information that are now a bit dated, making it incorrect now but at the time it was correct, so I am not going to be too harsh on the book for that, it is not a time travel book of paradoxes after all. Examples of this are only referring to Taiwan as Formosa, and my favorite, not knowing which chemical reactions happen during oxidation and no one knowing exactly how the qualities are produced. Luckily we have a pretty good idea of what is going on, and there are some excellent articles written on the subject (I suggest Tony Gebely’s What is Oxidation and Boston Teawright’s Tea Tannins Part 3 Black Tea for some really juicy details) Also there was no mention of Pu erh at all, which was a little odd. I also was not a fan of the book’s disdain of adding cream, sugar, or lemon to teas, pfft, drink tea however you want…their claim that a true connoisseur would never add lemon to tea, especially a green tea, is ridiculous…lemon is delicious in sencha!

The last couple pages have a Tea Connoisseur’s Guide chart (I have a weakness for charts and tables) that have the tea divided by country. They give a brief description of what it is and what time of day it is best for. There are a few food pairing suggestions, and whether or not milk is ok to be added, but mostly it focuses on time of day Also bonus points for mentioning South American teas, yay for rarely talked about tea estates!

So you are probably wondering about that 15 minute steep, it is actually pretty delicious, tepid, but delicious! On a whim I did the second steep also at 15 minutes but at 170 degrees, sadly this was bland and boring because all the flavor went into the previous steep! Me thinks I am going to experiments with these crazy parameters some. They remind me of steeping the tea Grandpa Style, except the tea is removed instead of water being added as it gets low. Final thoughts on The Little Book of Tea? I recommend it, it is a little dated and has a few flaws, but it s a good beginner’s guide to tea and its history.

For photos and blog: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/08/the-little-book-of-tea-tea-book-review.html

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There was only a teeny tiny bit of this tea left, enough to make a fairly small cup, so I decided to go western style instead of using my gaiwan. I have really liked western brewed Bi Luo Chun in the past, so I expect tasty things. The aroma of the dry leaves was pretty faint, a distant hint of vegetal and green-ness.

The taste reminds me more of a low quality dragonwell than a Bi Luo Chun, there were strong notes of spinach and green beans with a hint of toasted sesame, I did not get any of the fruity lychee notes I associate with Bi Luo Chun. Even though it caught me off guard, I am ok with that! Luckily I really like those flavor profiles (one of the reasons I have low quality Dragonwell around just so I can quickly chug a cup) so it was not a loss.

Flavors: Green Beans, Spinach, Toasty

175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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I am a nerdy, obsessive, crafty, tea blogging, gaming nut. Yeah, that about sums me up! Ok, you want something more informative….

I am a Geek, hardcore fan-girl Geek. It shapes my life. I spend a lot of time making things out of perler beads and I bet you can guess what inspires them. Other than the obsessive pixelizing of things I spend a large portion of my time doing origami (especially Lucky Stars and modular geometric designs) it is an equal obsession. I hoard dice, get obsessed with games, and will talk about whatever fandom, game, etc that I am obsessed over until I am blue in the face. I am not just a gamer girl type Geek, I also fit in the collecting knowledge and spending way too much time reading, category of Geek.

But there is more to me than just being a giant nerd. I love tea, always have and have just gotten more and more obsessed as I get older. I love trying new teas and then writing lengthy descriptions about them on my blog, I love reading and researching the history and culture of tea, I love collecting tea pots and fancy tea tools.

When the weather allows it, I love to go mushroom hunting. I don’t eat them, instead I use them for photography and spore prints. It is my dream to one day become a Mycologist studying slime molds.

I have Fibromyalgia, it sucks, but I feel people who are going to interact with me should know since I tend to vanish because of it. So fair warning!!

I also have cats, love the ocean and all aquatic life, love cheese, and collect hats.

My favorite tea is definitely Oolong, but I also love Japanese greens and…ok I just love tea actually :P I am not a huge fan of lemony teas or tart fruit teas. I also loathe hibiscus (usually)

This is my actual tea wishlist, you know that I actually update and keep track of…I tend to forget Steepster’s https://www.facebook.com/notes/amanda-wilson/tea-wishlishtshopping-list-perpetually-in-progress/10152336515414411 I use my steepster WL to keep track of teas I have had and really want more of :P


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