667 Tasting Notes
Today has been an utterly lumpy day. I have pretty much spent the entire time I have been awake staring at my screen, a big lump in my chair, wrapped in a fuzzy sweater. The very ideal lazy Sunday, which is nice since I did not sleep so well last night. I do not indulge very often, but some days just doing nothing is refreshing.
For today’s tea I am taking a look at Yunomi’s Onocha’s Mochi Rice Genmaicha, a classic tea with a slightly unusual twist, and you all probably know by now, I really like atypical Genmaicha, I find them fun. Yunomi recently redid their website, and their usual wealth of information about the tea is not present yet, though there is a bit about Onocha and its history. From what I can gather about this tea, it is good old fashioned Green Tea (probably Bancha) with Mochi Rice, though this is not too uncommon, but it seems for the most bog standard Genmaicha it is toasted brown rice with popped sorghum to give it the ‘popcorn’ appeal. Once in a while you get one with mochi rice. The aroma of the rice and tea blend is a great blend of toast, fresh grass, and a gentle sweet nuttiness much like you get when you open a steamer full of rice. Hilariously it smells nothing like the Mochiko flour I use for my various baking projects.
Into the tiny kyusu the leaves and rice go for their bath, and I can smell the toasty aroma creeping ever closer from my tea desk to my computer desk, it is quite nice. No surprise the leaves are very toasted smelling, strong notes of toasted rice and grain with an equally strong grassy green aroma, this is a robust Genmaicha. The liquid is a balance of grass, umami rich kelp, and toasted rice. This is an aroma that is very much so savory and not at all sweet.
The taste is very rice heavy, a perfect blend of toasted rice and slightly sweet steamed rice. After this initial rice burst is savory kelp, fresh and slightly sharp grass, and a bit of a grainy finish. It is rich and refreshing, one of those teas that to me tastes like a warm comfy sweater, probably because years ago when I was recovering from surgery I pretty much lived off of Genmaicha. I will say this one is more savory than most I have had, but brewing at a lower temperature I find brings out the sweetness, so take that as you will.
I recently discovered something that might prove to be very dangerous. A beautiful little thing called Hero Forge, a site where you can design and then have created, a miniature based on your creation. This of course is geared towards people with RPG characters that just do not fit the various other minis out there, or for my purposes, creating a miniature of something that already exists but not in mini form. I have spent the better part of a year trying to find a miniature I can tweak into Prince Elien from Summoner Wars board game. Because Ben and I are total dorks we started with this as a competitive game, and very quickly weaved it into a massive story and RPG, His Royal Grumpiness as I affectionately call him, is one of the main players in this RPG and I wanted a mini, so soon I will finally have one.
Since the weather is getting cooler, my desire to drink Shou is stronger, I want that warming Qi to cuddle my insides like a fuzzy blanket, so today we are looking at Puerh Junky’s 2013 Sweet Brick, Shancheng Tea Co. a Shou that is apparently an economy brand by Langhe Tea Factory. So far I have enjoyed the Shous I have had from Langhe Tea Factory because they blend sweetness with loamy notes, and they get me crazy tea drunk, but that could be because I was using my monster sized Elephant Duanni for Shou. The aroma of these tightly compressed leaves is very sweet, bordering on caramel and molasses, with sharp dry oak wood, and a touch of well loved leather. This Shou smells dry, not at all like a loamy forest floor, more like a cabin during summer.
So, introducing my newest friend, a teeny tiny micro pot, perfect for doing a ton of steeps of Shou, The liquid is thick, notes of molasses and malt, caramel, a touch of wet leather, and a tiny hint of wet slate waft from the still pretty compressed leaves. The liquid is sweet and woody, with a touch of loam, a nice burst of caramelized sugar, and a finish of slate and leather.
This tea starts thick and sweet, strong notes of molasses which almost makes me think of molasses with the texture. The initial sweetness moves to woodiness blending wet wood, dry wood, and a touch of loam. The finish is wet leather and lingers.
And right on to the second steep! The aroma is woody and sweet, and I can swear there is a cocoa note alone with the caramelized sugar and a hint of loam. The taste starts loamy and sweet, still a thick mouthfeel and thick Qi, I have that great sinking into my chair feeling I get when drinking a Shou, always makes me think of sinking into a pile of loam on a summer day. The finish is oak wood and a touch of wet leather which lingers.
Third steep! The aroma is woody and malty, with a nice burst of cocoa and caramelized sugar. The mouthfeel is still thick but it takes on a creaminess this time as well, the taste starts with loam and molasses and moves to an even stronger loam note with a touch of cocoa and woodiness. No leather this time, just loam, cocoa and a finish of sweet woodiness that lingers. I got many more steeps out of this before it fades to nothing.
I have a fun story to tell today, a story about little ol me, specifically very little me. See, my mom has a nickname for me, ‘moonshine’ short for both ‘pumpkin moonshine’ and ‘moonshine girl’ so yeah, nothing to do with mountain booze, all about moons. This name came about when I was still toddling around, when we would visit my grandparents in Augusta (we lived in Aiken, SC, so really close) I would insist on wandering off in the evening to talk to the moon in some random made up language. I was especially drawn to moon viewing and chatting while there because they lived on a hill and I swear the moon was massive and frequently pumpkin orange, a magical looking thing to a tiny child. My obsession with the moon did not end as I grew up, you can still find me outside when everyone is asleep conversing with the moon in my own made up languages. And yes, the Tasha Tudor book by the same name was also a childhood favorite, but I think most her books were.
Today’s tea is one of many names, Red Jade, Sun Moon Lake Tea, #18, Ruby Red, Hong Yu, and I know there has to be something I am missing. Dachi Tea’s No 11 Sun Moon Lake #18, a tea with a unique story, see what makes this tea so special is it is a blend of native Taiwanese tea trees and the Assamica cultivar, usually this tea comes from the valley around Sun Moon Lake (name drop!) but this tea was sourced from their grower in Pinglin, adding a unique spin to the familiar tea. This tea is also a tea of many faces, if you look at a dozen vendor’s descriptions they all list it as distinct, but they all seem to have similar yet different notes: cloves, mint, cinnamon, eucalyptus…but none ever list the note that makes this tea iconic to me, and I admit it took me tasting it a few times before I facepalmed realizing that note that kept escaping me was one right out of my childhood. Sassafras! I had sassafras trees all over my yard in Georgia, their differently shaped leaves and wonderful smelling bark was a staple, that I would nibble on more often than I probably should have. If I am doing my quick and very scan-heavy research correctly, Safrole is chemically similar to cloves, bay, cinnamon, and a ton of other things, fascinating! Anyway, tangent aside, leaves! The aroma is complex, strong notes of sassafras with an accompaniment of cinnamon, sweet potatoes, peanuts, honey, and a touch of menthol and pepper at the finish.
Brewing time, and whoa, that is a potent pile of soggy leaves. Strong notes of cinnamon and menthol waft out with the steam, alongside cloves and peanuts, with a finish of sassafras. There is a hint of woodsiness at the finish as well. The liquid is nutty and sweet, peanuts and cloves, and a distinct woody sassafras note at the finish. Definitely smells like I just broke some sassafras sticks under my nose.
The first steep is yum, it is smooth and rich, and very sweet. Starting out with notes of cinnamon and sassafras, it moves on to yams and honey. The finish is a lingering sweetness of honey, a touch of malt, and a delicate roasted peanut earthiness. The aftertaste of honey lingers for quite a while, making me feel all fancy and contemplative.
Second steep, the aroma is strong with the sweet potatoes, and I find it amusing that the smell is sweet potato and the taste is yam, such a subtle yet important distinction. Alongside the sweet potato is sassafras and a touch of honey. The taste is ramping up, the sassafras notes and cinnamon notes are joined by cloves and a touch of menthol at the front. The midtaste brings with yams and honey and still really potent sassafras and cloves…kinda makes me want candied yams. The finish is all honey and lingering sweetness, with just a tiny tiny hint of malt. This steep has some oomph to it.
Third steep, and wow, it is still going strong and also getting stronger, I was not sure that was possible because the aroma is already pretty intense. Strong notes of sweet potato and cloves, sassafras and honey great my nose. The taste is still ramping up, strong notes of malt, sassafras and cloves take the forefront. The midtaste is woody and yam heavy with a note of peanuts. The finish, like before is lingering sweet honey. I went on for a couple more steeps, and yeah, I got very tea drunk from it, this is an intense #18!
Flavors: Cinnamon, Clove, Honey, Malt, Mint, Yams
Two very interesting bits of gaming related news today! The first one, the newest Minecraft snapshot introduced Skeletons on skeleton horses, how cool is that? First they tame spiders and now skellie horses, truly those bony archers are the true masters of Minecraft, Ben and I have been theorizing this for years. The other bit of news is a bit personal, in Terraria, after many nights summoning Pumpkin Moons and killing soooooooo many Pumpkin Kings, I finally got the Raven Staff and the Spider pet. So yes, I am a dark-elf summoner with an army of ravens and an adorable spider…who occasionally rides a UFO, or unicorn when I am feeling fancy.
Tis time for my daily-ish tea rambling, looking at What-Cha’s Malawi Zomba Steamed Green Tea, a tea whose name will forever make me think of zombies, same with the Zomba Pearls, I am sorry, that is just the way my brain works, same with seeing blooming teas as baby Cthulhu. This tea hails from the Satemwa Tea Estate in Malawi, a place that has made several of my favorite teas, but really the artisan teas that come out of Africa I have found to be mind blowing, at first I wondered if it was just the uniqueness factor, but the more drink them I realize that nope, I just really like them. So, how about these leaves? The aroma is surprisingly nutty, like cashews, with a strong green presence, notes of greenbeans, cucumber, a tiny touch of seaweed, and a touch of sweet honey and a zingy note of citrus. Hilariously at the finish is a very distinct note of zucchini, I say hilarious because it comes out of nowhere, like you are sitting sniffing your tea and a zucchini falls from the sky into your leaves, it is quite distinct indeed.
So for brewing I did a somewhat pseudo gongfu session, brewing in my gaiwan but for a longer time more similar to western style. Basically I wanted to play with my gaiwan, like I do. The aroma is no longer a finish of zucchini, the zucchini decided it liked me and wanted to stay at the forefront of things, it is joined by hay, sweetgrass, cut grass, and a bit of flowers and citrus. It oddly reminds me exactly of my Grandparent’s garden during summer. The liquid however, is nutty, blending cashews and chestnuts, with lemon leaves and grass.
The tea is really light with an almost buttery mouthfeel, it has a bunch of things going on for such a light tea too. Starting with a gentle sweetness of nuttiness and honey, it pretty immediately moves to gentle sea air, and then to a pile of vegetal notes, bell pepper, zucchini, and a slightly peppery spinach finish. What a fun first steep!
Second steep, the aroma is a blend of sweet nuttiness and green, it is a tea that smells very much so like ‘tea’ like the distilled essence of what fresh off the bush tea leaves smell like. This time the mouthfeel is more brisk, less buttery, starting with sea air and moving on to zucchini and chestnuts with a very snappy green pepper finish.
Alas! It did not storm yesterday, and on second looking at the weather, apparently I misread ‘early Thursday morning’ as early Tuesday, whoops! It is ok, because today was another comfy, blustery, windows open day, a day made for daydreaming about mountain forest frolics and coming home to a pile of fuzzy blankets and freshly baked bread. Ah, daydreaming!
Today we are looking at a tea that is anything but evocative of autumn, it is Tao Tea Leaf’s Shifeng Longjing Green Tea-Premium. Longjing (or also commonly known as Dragonwell, the translation of Longjing) is one of the most well loved teas of the spring harvest, some of us spend all year excitedly waiting the various harvests of this flat pan-fried leaves. The name Shifeng refers to one of the mountain peaks in the Xihu growing region, I think, it might be a mountain range and not a peak, or the name of a region in Hangzhou. As interesting as all that is, the real important thing is whether or not the tea is any good. The aroma is fairly delicate, not an overpowering scent, but it does have very distinct notes, specifically vegetal ones. Blending notes of snap peas, celery, greenbeans, asaragus, and a finish of sweet and sesame seeds. Sniffing this tea it is definitely a dragonwell, blending the iconic vegetal notes and that toasty sesame seed note that to me is very iconic, which I believe comes from the pan firing step of processing.
Dragonwell means time for the dragon gaiwan, just lungs everywhere! Though surprisingly I did not use my dragon cup, opting for my possible Tongzhi era cup instead, because it is still the new hotness in my collection. Now that the leaves have had a steeping, the aroma is heavy and thick in the vegetal department, especially the notes of asparagus, cooked cabbage, and greenbeans, it is a savory aroma with just a hint of nutty sweetness at the finish. The liquid is very light, but the notes that do waft out of my cup are green and fresh, asparagus with a hint of sauteed sesame seeds.
First steep, it starts out very smooth with a nice nutty blend of chestnut and sesame seeds, bringing out just a touch of sweetness at the start. This moves on to peas and edamame with a slightly savory sauteed bok choy and a slightly spicy (like VERY distant allspice) honey sweet finish.
On to the second steep, still a fairly light aroma, with asparagus and sesame seeds, adding a tiny hint of peas with this steep. The tasting experience is still very smooth, a nice light and smooth mouthfeel. The taste is all vegetal all the time, notes of asparagus and bok choy, edamame and peas, and a finish of greenbeans. Even though the notes are distinct none of them are very powerful, this is a delicate tea.
So, this last steep had pretty much no aroma, just a hint of asparagus. The taste was also pretty mild, almost nothing going on, like spring water and a touch of asparagus and bok choy. Even though this tea kinda petered out, I found the first two steeps delightfully light and refreshing. I am certainly fond of these delicate teas once in a while, as for an everyday drinker I prefer a Longjing with more of an oomph that I can just have, a tea as dainty as this needs concentration and complete focus, so not a bad thing on occasion.
It is a beautiful day today, a strong breeze and cool air (though alas, not as cool as yesterday) a crisp blue sky, and the wonderful sound of leaves rustling around outside. I have my windows open (throwing caution to the wind regards to allergies!) and I am just loving the breeze, though I do admit it made varnishing my miniatures a real nightmare earlier. There is a 70% chance of storms this evening, and if it does storm, I will decry this a perfect day weather wise…start out snuggling in a sweater, finish in a t-shirt. Total win.
So, remember a while ago I mentioned MeiMei Fine Teas as a tea shop that would be opening soon? Well, good news everyone, they opened! So that means it is time to look at another one of their teas, specifically Meng Ding Sweet Dew (or Meng Ding Gan Lu) a gloriously fuzzy and very delicate green tea. Seriously the leaves are so tiny and curly, with a delicate coating of silver trichomes, they are very pretty little things. The aroma of the little leaves is very green and vegetal, strong notes of artichoke and asparagus mix with parsnip and greenbeans, with an addition of a sweet touch of sesame seeds and a crisp note of celery at the finish. I am pleased to announce while sniffing I did not manage to get any up my nose, victory!
I decided to brew these in my green tea pot, and not just because I tend to go giggly when I see the beautiful contrast of red clay and green leaves. The aroma of the less fuzzy but very vibrant leaves is a fresh burst of vegetal greenness. Notes of fresh spinach, celery, and artichoke with a distinct note of parsnip, which is entertaining since it is both sharp and sweet, and not a note I encounter very often. The liquid is a blend of parsnip, spinach, and a hint of sesame, just a touch on the sweet side and very green and fresh.
First steep is buttery while also being light, not a tea that coats the mouth, more like it dances on the tongue light as a breeze. It starts out surprisingly sweet, with notes of sesame seeds and honey, this moves to parsnips and spinach, the finish is where it is at though. Perhaps it is the placebo effect of the name, but the taste reminds me of the taste of morning dew off leaves, refreshing and clean. This pleases me.
Onward to the second steeping, the aroma is sweet and vegetal, sharp notes of parsnip and rich notes of spinach. The mouthfeel is a bit thicker this time, the taste does not really change from the previous steep, the parsnip and spinach notes with accompanying sweetness remain, but the notes are more intense this time around. The dew like cleanliness at the end is still there as well, but it is not stronger since stronger dew would be a bit odd.
Third steeping time! The aroma has a stronger parsnip note this time, sweet and sharp with a slight hint of greenness from spinach. The taste is very sweet this time, honey sesame and parsnip notes dominate with a lingering spinach note at the finish, no more dew this time, looks like the sun dried it up. This tea did not evolve very much over steeping, but I did not find myself bored, the tea tasted clean and so I went away from it feeling very refreshed.
I took the most epic power nap yesterday, a 17 hour power nap! I think it was the blissfully cool air and cats that would not stop snuggling me that really caused this nap of epicness, it was as refreshing as a mountain spring on a hot day. I broke out one of my sweaters today, a great fuzzy thing with a huge cowl (or a food trough as I call it since you know, crumbs) and a strange slit going up the back that means I always need an undershirt, because why is there a back vent? It is thick and fluffy meaning not a sweater for a hot day…and if it is cool enough you need this sweater you will not appreciate the draft. Mysterious clothing design is mysterious.
Today I am looking at Tea From Vietnam’s Ta Xua Mountain Mist, a Maocha from high in the Ta Xua Mountains of Northwest Vietnam. A region, it is pointed out in the description, that borders Yunnan, that grand producer of some of my favorite teas. Honestly if I had no idea where this tea was from, I would wonder if it was a Yunnan green tea, because it has that distinct terroir notes that I recognize from teas in that region, part of the fun part of nature not really paying attention to country borders and just following geology (and weather patterns of course.) The notes I pick up from the dry leaves are woody and smoky with distinct notes of peaches and a touch of spinach. It has the aroma of a distant mountain forest fire, clean mineral heavy spring water, and ripe peaches, one of those teas where the name matches the description indeed!
I decided to brew thing grandpa style, a way I am much enamored of using for green teas from Yunnan, so why not try it with its close neighbor? There is just something very appealing about taking old mountain grown trees and tossing their fluffy leaves into a bowl and adding water, watching as they slowly plump up and unfurl, and blowing them around the bowl as I sip around them. Doubly so while doing so on a sunny morning while lying in bed reading, seriously it is a fantastic thing. Tasting this tea starts off gentle, distant smoke and clean mineral spring water with a distant note of peach. The longer it steeps the more the sweet peach and smoke notes come out, along with a touch of citrus and vegetal notes of steamed spinach and asparagus. After many refills of my bowl (great staying power) it finally faded to gentle mineral notes and a touch of lingering sweetness.
Flavors: Asparagus, Citrus, Mineral, Peach, Smoke, Spinach
No notes yet. Add one?
Guys, I think next month I a going to break down and buy a camera. This saddens me for a few reasons, the first one being the death of a friend, see my camera was a gift from Ben when we were at Unistar. I was using a really crap camera to do nature photography, and more importantly to catalog all the fungi on this weird island to write a field guide. I needed a better camera desperately, so five years ago I got my Fujifilm S1800, my baby. But it is dying, after years of much love, and it is time to move on, I was hoping to get a super fancy one with the ability to switch out lenses, actually photograph lightning, and all those bells and whistles, but they are not cheap, that is like ‘save all my money for a year’ kinda new electronic. So I am compromising and going to probably get a Fujifilm S8630, it will take all my money next month (I swear I am never going to get new clothes after that dryer incident…priorities man, I has them) and will be great for my blog photography and basic nature photography. Compromises are not always bad!
Ok, enough about electronics, tea time! Today I a looking at Dachi Tea’s No 5 Verdant Valley Oolong, a Baozhong from beautiful Taiwan, just east of Taipei actually. If you get the chance, you should check out the website for this tea, it has a great aesthetic, but more importantly, it tells information about the tea and its grower, including a video interviewing Mr. Weng and showing the process of making the tea. If you are like me and find this stuff just wonderfully fascinating, then trust me, it is worth a look. Ah, Baozhong, this tea is a notorious flowery explosion, and these leaves do not disappoint. The aroma starts out with sweet honey and flower nectar, lots of spring flower notes of hyacinth, lilac, and a touch of honeysuckles. Along with the spring flowers is a gentle note of broken sweet hay and a tiny touch of nuttiness.
Brewing this tea is a lovely sensory experience, it is like spring wafting out of my teapot, fresh broken green vegetation (much like walking through a garden and gently crushing leaves as you walk) and of course flowers, hyacinth, lilac, and even a touch of slightly spicy Asiatic lily at the finish. The liquid is very sweet, a blend of honey and flower nectar and buttery green growth. It has a freshness to it, which is very evocative of springtime.
The first steep is smooth and buttery in its mouthfeel, it is refreshingly smooth without being thick. The taste starts out predictably sweet and floral, with strong notes of lilac and hyacinth. This initial flowery burst transitions to refreshing green vegetation, like crushed leaves and grass, with a slight vegetal buttery note. The finish is honey and it lingers for a while.
Typing with a lap full of a cold cat is hard. just a word to the wise. The aroma of the second steep is heady but light, it is like walking through my local formal garden at spring, so many hyacinths and lilacs blooming, I even get a bit of daffodil and lily as well. The taste is very rich, creamy and thick mouthfeel, and so sweet. There are notes of sweet honey and flower nectar, I feel like a butterfly drinking this stuff. The flowery notes moves to a slightly mineral spring rain storm and lush vegetation at the midtaste, with a finish of honey sweetness.
Third steeping time! Espeon is now using my notebook as a pillow, luckily not on the page I am trying to read! The aroma is buttery vegetation and flowery intensity, heady with all the blossoms, I feel like sinking into a bed of hyacinths and taking a nap surrounded by bees and butterflies. I am not a Disney princess, I swear. The taste this time is focusing on the green aspect of the tea, crushed rain covered vegetation and freshly harvested hay and straw. The finish is sweet and honey, with a lingering floral note. Usually I find Baozhong kinda fizzles out after four or so steeps, I ended up sitting with this one for a while, not sure if because this Baozhong was fresher or if it is a testament to its quality.
I might be going to the zoo tomorrow, how fun! It is a big might, see my local zoo sends out these coupons that allows two people free entry one day on a few randomly selected months, and September is one of those months. I am a bit stir crazy, but it seems every time I go out my ‘condition’ gets worse, exacerbated by my already annoying social anxiety, so now I am phobic of leaving the house. Fingers crossed, I want to go to the zoo, it is one of my great joys. Now if only the somewhat tiny ‘chainstore’ version of the local aquarium would give out free passes, oh I would spend all day with the fishes!!
So, tea time! Today I am talking about What-Cha’s Vietnam Wild ‘Mountain Mist’ Silver Needle White Tea, a White Tea from the Assamica varietal, plucked from possibly up to 800 year old trees grown in the Yen Bai Province of Vietnam and harvested by the H’mong Ethnic People. This fancy tea was sourced by Geoff Hopkins of Hatvala, a company whose mission is to spread the word of Vietnamese teas, something you guys probably know I am a fan of. The aroma of the gently fuzzy needles (they have a slight curl to them) is a fascinating blend of sweetness in the form of peaches and green melon, green in the form of cucumber and a touch of celery, and a hint of smoke. The name Mountain Mist is fitting, the aroma is light and airy, crisp and clean, with a wispy hint of distant hearth fires, it is evocative of the environment it was grown.
Into my steeping vessels the leaves went, it took a while for the water to permeate the fuzzy trichome sheath turning the leaves plump and green. The aroma of the wet leaves is an even blend of cucumbers, green melons, watermelon rind, and smoke. It leans more towards cooling vegetal than sweet. The liquid smells sweet and refreshing, blending melon rind, honeydew, and cucumber.
The first steep is intensely cooling! That is very refreshing, starting in the belly and spreading out to my fingers, remind me to keep this stashed away for next time I have a fever! It is very light and clean, reminds me very much of rain water in the mountains. The taste starts with gentle smoke and then moves to melon and peaches with a finish of cucumbers and distant flowers. It is almost effervescent in its lightness.
I went for a second steep, the aroma has a stronger smoke note and a crisp barely ripe peach note as well. It is still potently cooling, though not quite as much so as the first steep, the taste has a slightly astringent edge to it this time, while still being light and airy. Sweet peach, smoke, and melons mix together, with a slightly gentle smoke aftertaste. This was quite the unique tea!