599 Tasting Notes
Today’s introductory paragraph shall be played by the ‘Hello my baby, hello my darlin’ hello my ragtime gallll’ Frog (or is it a Toad) from classic cartoons of yore. Basically as soon as you start paying attention to it, poof it is still, relaxed, and croaking contentedly. Basically I lack anything interesting to say and do not feel like complaining about my meds. So here, frog dance time!
It is time for my weekly coverage of a new tea from What-Cha, specifically Darjeeling Autumn Flush 2014 Gopaldhara Red Thunder Gold Black Tea, in honor of the steaming bowl of Jaipur Karhi I have sitting next to me, the most superior of canned curries, for those lazy days. This is a unique Darjeeling, not only is it plucked late in the year (hello Autumn Flush) it is grown at a high elevation, meaning it gets frosted over which causes the tea to wilt, starting the oxidation process while the leaves are still attached to the tea plant. This tea is only produced in limited quantities, this particular batch is more tippy than most, giving it more of that fuzzy gold that I adore. The aroma of these thunderous leaves (also apropos since we are under a perpetual flood and thunderstorm warning as of late) is soooo intense, would have knocked me off my feet I was not already sitting down. Very strong notes of roasted peanuts and acorn squash, then the intensity mellows out and notes of raisins, spicebush, black walnut shells, and lastly a delicate hint of sandalwood at the finish. This is a super aromatic tea, so be prepared!
Into ye old steeping apparatus the leaves go, and by steeping apparatus I mean lidless yixing teapot I use for later flush Darjeeling tea. Because why not? The aroma of the dark leaves is so sweet, strong notes of raisins and roasted peanuts with a distinctly floral and woody sandalwood finish. The liquid is heady without being floral (apparently that is a thing, or at least I perceive it so) strong sweet notes of yams, raisins, roasted peanuts and a finish of acorn squash. Yum.
Oh MAN this tea is freaking delicious! It is intensely rich and heavy, with a creamy mouth feel and a tiny hint of drying at the finish. The taste starts out as a not too sweet blend of loam, roasted peanuts, and squash, this transitions to a more sweet taste profile of squash blossoms (not something I run into often) raisins, and lily flowers. The finish is a malty blend of raisins and sandalwood, giving it a lingering aromatic aftertaste. Me thinks I am going to need this tea as a staple in my tea stash!
Oh good heavens today has not gone as planned at all! I was going to bake and pack since it was supposed to be cool (y’all know by now I hate the heat) but it turns out that was not in the cards today. Unsurprisingly fiddling with my medication dosage throws my body for a loop, so I feel really quite awful. With luck I will feel better in a few days after my equilibrium returns, and that the fatigue will be fixed by lowering the dosage a bit. If not then I have to up the dosage, and if that doesn’t work then who knows. This is by far not the first time my dosage has been fiddled with, and certainly not atypical of a reaction, but UGHHHHH it is about as pleasant as being pecked in the backside by a mockingbird and flipping face first off a chair into a rose bush (thus establishing the hatred I bear towards those birds till this day.) But it is supposed to stay cool til Saturday, so even if I am just spending that time letting my body adjust, I won’t be roasting.
Today I am taking a look at another offering from The Tea Shelf, continuing my journey through Nilgiri with Billimalai Nilgiri Oolong, so far I have been really enjoying learning about this region, specifically this estate. Before I get into the tea, I need to point something out that I have forgotten to in the past, The Tea Shelf’s packaging is pretty great, the tea samples came in a jute bag (totally using as a dice bag) and the pouches have awesome little icons saying which mood, time of day, and character the tea has, you can find these on the website too, but I think having it on the packaging is awesome. The aroma of the curly leaves is quite floral and sweet, blending delicate orange blossoms and osmanthus, with fresh muscatel notes and a pleasant underlying aroma of nectarines and nuttiness. It is a light and almost ephemeral aroma, spring like in its flowery and fruity notes.
The aroma of the brewed leaves is delightfully floral and delicate, notes of orange blossom and grapes, like a blend of a Darjeeling and Taiwanese Oolong, it is fascinating in its delicate complexity. There are also notes of nuttiness and citrus, pleasantly sweet! The liquid poured away from its leafy friends, it is a combination of tangerine, orange, nectarine, and orange blossom, it is very citrusy, and combine it with notes of honey and delicate nuttiness and you have a delicious smelling tea, but I am such a weakness for citrus notes.
This is a very delicate brew, the earlier description of ephemeral fits because not only it is delicate, it is also sweet, light, and mellow. Starting off with notes of orange blossoms and apricots, the taste then moves to grapes and honey very quickly. Underneath these floral and fruity notes is a gentle touch of fresh vegetation and a hint of pepper. I keep being pleasantly surprised by these ‘unusual’ teas from India, veering away from the typical black teas, I hope to be continuously surprised.
Today was…eventful, if you follow my instagram you probably saw that I had one doozy of a night. Luckily it passed and turned into a very long day, long in the sense of I AM REALLY TIRED!! Only a few hours sleep between me and yesterday, I have become rather loopy. Good-ish news, I went to the doctor today, he thinks my awful fatigue might be related to my meds, so we are fiddling around with some dosage to see if that helps. If not, well, he said he is stumped and we will have to do a ton of testing, personally I hope it is just the meds. The fun part of that was on the way to and after the appointment, there were loads of storms! I got some neat pictures with the phone and had to walk the long distance to the car in a torrential downpour, ever the gentleman Ben offered to bring the car around, but the walk in the rain was refreshing. Soggy Enderman to the rescue!
Ok, before anyone gets into a tizzy, yes, I know today’s teas are not technically Matcha, but calling it powdered herbs and or tea Monday sounds lame, so Monday is powdered consumables day, maybe that means I can finally find an excuse to review some hot chocolate. Recently there was a Kickstarter for new company, Chi Whole Leaf, it was successfully funded, and now I get to try their goodies. They have a pretty nifty concept, take plants and grind them up, like Matcha, you are consuming the whole plant, which makes the tasting experience a little different. First up is the vibrantly pink Floral Herb, a blend of Hibiscus, Jasmine, and Rose, two of my favorite things, and one I usually hate. Upon sniffing, the powder is mild and floral, it reminds me a little of the powdered incense I bought long ago. The rose is the dominant aroma, followed by heady jasmine, and a very delicate hibiscus.
I decided to brew this one up cold, though not with ice because I don’t want it that cold. The taste was surprisingly great, the hibiscus notes were mild and not death tart, instead they were sour almost like lemon juice. The main flavor is delicate rose and subtly sweet jasmine, both blend well with the sour hibiscus. I swear if all my hibiscus teas tasted like this I would never say I hated them again. I really liked this one, I could see myself drinking it a lot as it gets hotter, having it before bed for a light soothing sipping.
The next one I tried was the Chamomile! A blend of Chamomile, Passionflower, Lemongrass, St John’s Wort, and a hint of mint. Clearly this was a tea that just begged for evening drinking, and so I did just that. The aroma is a clean blend of lemongrass sweetness and chamomile’s straw and wildflower tones, with just a nice crispness of mint at the finish
At first I tried it hot and was not a huge fan, I found it was just a tiny bit bitter, though the chamomile’s natural sweetness did help with that. However cold this tea was pretty fantastic, very cooling and refreshing from the mint, the lemongrass and chamomile giving it a sweet, lemony, and straw like quality. As it says on the website, the powder does not really disperse as well as the others do, but other than getting my chasen dirty, I noticed no problems with it. So far I like what I am seeing from Chi Whole Leaf!
Any of my tea peeps out there fans of Futurama? Remember that one episode where Zoidberg goes all mating frenzy and tries to woo fellow Decapodian, Edna using some serious Cyrano de Bergerac skills. Well, there is one scene where he asks her how her day was and she goes into detail ‘well first I got up and had a piece of toast, and then I brushed my teeth…’ and it just goes on!! Well, that is kinda how my day was, pretty run of the mill, though with pizza instead of toast.
As you all probably know, I was at the Midwest Tea Fest last week (more on that tomorrow) and I picked up a tea I had a great desire to try, Single Origin Tea’s Orange Blossom Oolong. This tea is a blend of highly oxidized Taiwanese Oolong, Orange Blossoms, and a pinch of Orange Essential Oil, this tea was sourced from a tea shop in Edinburgh, Scotland, specifically Anteaques Tea Shop, which is pretty cool. I wanted to try this tea because I have a weakness for oranges and orange blossoms mixed with my teas, I just love it, especially since I cannot actually eat oranges, I get my cravings satisfied with these teas. The aroma is a Florida explosion! A blend of fresh oranges and orange blossoms evokes the groves of citrus country along with sunlight and warmth, it is very comforting. There is a tiny hint of loam and cocoa underneath the well balanced blend of oranges and blossoms, adding a bit of depth to the aroma.
Into the gaiwan the leaves and petals go for a nice happy steeping, and of course my whole tea area now smells like orange blossoms and oranges, it is rather heady and very enjoyable. Sniffing the now wet leaves reveals there is more to this tea than just citrus and flowers though, there are also notes of toasted sesame, chestnut, cocoa, and a woody finish. The liquid is so citrusy! So much orange, even a bit of tangerine, it is like a citrus party in my nose, and now with woody undertones, and of course delicate heady orange blossoms.
Yum! Yum! Yum!! This tea is really quite yummy, with a start of sweet oranges and a finish of sweet orange. The midtaste is a blend of sesame seeds and walnut shells, with a delicate heady blend of orange blossoms and a touch of hyacinth. The mouthfeel is pleasantly smooth, no dryness at all, and the aftertaste starts with gentle oranges and just lingers for an eternity. The sweetness does not ever reach levels of cloying, which is a huge plus.
The second steeping has a pleasant orange aroma, though it is a bit diminished this time around. This allows the aroma of walnut shells and cocoa to shine more though, along with the delicate orange blossoms. Tasting the tea, it starts off smooth and sweet, with notes of cocoa and woodiness, and just a hint of orange blossoms. The midtaste has a rich maltiness and sweet orange that starts off delicate and builds into a juicy intensity at the finish. If you let this tea cool it becomes very sweet and rich, me thinks I might have to cold steep this at some point.
For the third steep, the aroma is a mellow blend of oranges and orange blossoms, with an accompaniment of cocoa and a tiny hint of nuttiness. The taste has mellowed out a good bit this time around, it seems that the shining light of this steeping is the orange blossom, heady and sweet with a joining note of cocoa. The finish is that of honey and it lingers. I loved this tea, but I love oranges and orange blossoms, so no surprise there!
This tea has one of those problems that a lot of teabags has, a slightly dusty aroma of paper and well, tea dust. Aside from that, is smells quite peachy and sweet with a tiny bit of woodiness. Looking at their website it does not seem they make this one anymore, I don’t even remember how I got a bag of this :P Maybe I should start dating my notes…but my photos have dates soooo…anyway.
Once the bag is steeped, the aroma of sweet peach and ginger mix with some malt and citrus, it was pretty real smelling peach too which was nice. The taste was a blend of ginger, lemon, peach, and generic black tea. It is not bad, kinda bland, but not bad, I would not run screaming if it were offered again!
I am sorting through my tea notesbooks and writing up a few notes for teas that just probably won’t see the blog, mainly because you can’t buy them anymore or they just don’t exist. Sadly a lot of 52teas fit the bill. The aroma of this one was toasty and sweet, like toast dipped in chocolate liqueur, with an earthy undertone.
Brewing the leaves brings out the most peculiar aroma of boiled peanuts, I love boiled peanuts but not sure how I feel about them in tea. Especially combined with the toasted chocolate and malt. Luckily the liquid sans the leaves is only a little boiled peanuts, more chocolate and malt with some intense roast.
Umm, I am not a fan of this one. It is very sweet and malty, just like a chocolate malt shake, so points for being accurate. However there is also an earthy toasted intensity. The aftertaste is like chocolate liqueur, it lingers for a while. Not sure what really didn’t work for me, mate is a weird tasting thing on its own, and I think it is maybe best without flavoring. Or maybe I am not a fan of malted milkshakes, I have very fond memories of making them when I worked at Dairy Queen, but I never drank them. This was part of that indiegogo thing that 52teas did forever ago :P
The weather today has been kinda great, nice and cool (for summer) and overcast, sadly I did spend most the day sleeping, so I missed out on it. But when I woke up in the afternoon I was so happy to not be a melted pile of sadness! So in honor of the weather being nice, I decided to have some tea outside, and Ben decided to take pictures of me, really I wanted a new photo of myself for my various profiles, and I wanted it to be tea themed so it worked out perfectly.
Today on ye old tea blog, I am taking a look at another offering from Wymm Tea, specifically their Mahei Zhai Sheng Pu-erh From Ancient Tea Tree 2011 Spring, a Sheng Puerh from 2011. This tea is from the Mahei Village in the Yiwu Mountain of Xishuangbanna, one of largest of the tea producing mountains of Yunnan. The name Yiwu means The Habitat of Beautiful Snake Deity in the local Dai language, and I find myself wondering if they meant Nuwa, the ancient creator of mankind. The aroma of the leaves is quite aromatic and enjoyable, blending my much loves favorite note of camphor with sweet honey, broken vegetation, and a distinct anise-like note of lotus blossoms. I admit, I was not expecting that from a Puerh, but I am certainly not complaining, I love lotus blossoms. There is also a hint of woodiness and a tiny, delicate, apricot note at the finish.
Into the tiny shui ping the leaves go, for a short rinse and short steep. The now wet leaves only have a tiny hint of anise, instead it is intense wet hay and pungent camphor, sweet apricot, and a finish of wet bamboo. The liquid is sweet and wet, combining damp wood, soggy hay, and moist bamboo with a definite finish of apricot and honey. There is a delicate whiff of anise that is almost indiscernible, like the dream of anise.
First steeping time! Ah, now this is a first steep right after me own heart! It starts out light and smooth, with a surprisingly thick mouthfeel for a first steep. The taste begins with delicate sweetness of apricots and lotus, the lotus is super delicate but most certainly present. It then moves on to wet hay and a touch of mushrooms, with a finish of bamboo shoots and spinach. The aftertaste is a lingering lotus blossom sweetness.
Second steeping has the aroma of so much camphor! It is like an old cedar chest, woody and cooling, but with an apricot and bamboo accompaniment. Tasting the tea is smooth, that mouthfeel is still thick and soupy, but not much changed. The taste is primarily camphor and wet, sweet hay, very cooling and sweet. This blends with a finish of apricot and bamboo at the finish, with a delicate lotus finish.
For the final steep, the aroma is so refreshing, I almost wish that when I wrote my tasting notes for this tea it would have been a hot day, because the notes of camphor are very cooling. They are joined with delicate apricots and bamboo shoots, and a tiny hint of hay at the finish. Very smooth is the mouthfeel, not quite as thick, but still pretty soupy. The taste is again, primarily camphor and sweet hay, with a tiny hint of apricots and loam. The finish has a slight bitter kale like note, but this fades to lotus blossom pretty quickly. Sadly, this really is the final steep, where I end my reviews at three steeps, I tend to go further with them, and with Puerhs I usually add a very short summary of the other steeps. Shortly after this steep I was slammed with an ungodly stomach bug, not sure if it was food poisoning or what, but I was in no shape for drinking tea…believe me, I tried. So, I did not get to push this Sheng to its limits, I would love to get more because what I did try I really enjoyed.
Well, I seem to have gone full on nocturnal, I don’t really mind too much since it means I get to miss the hellish day time heat (not that I sleep very well either way, ugh, I hate summer) but it limits what I can do because someone has to go and be all diurnal! Jerk. It is something I have done since I was a wee thing, much to the annoyance of my poor mom who really tried to keep my schedule sane, I just end up nocturnal(ish) during the hot times of the year. I still have my fingers crossed for a mild and stormy summer, but if not, at least there is that research that states drinking hot things keeps you cool!
You know what is sad? I have not looked at Verdant Tea in a long while, I mean really, I think it has been around a year, not really sure why either. Verdant Tea was one of the first tea companies I ordered from back when I made the leap to buying tea online, I discovered them while hunting down Oolongs! But today’s tea is not an Oolong, it is Holy Basil Spa Blend, one of their Alchemy Blends , which combines Burdock Roots (Gobo!) Peppermint, Spearmint, Holy Basil (name drop) and Fennel seeds. The aroma of the rather refreshing sounding drink is intensely minty, which is expected with two different kinda of mint. With these minty notes comes sweet fennel notes, slightly savory notes of holy basil (which is also a tiny bit peppery) and a slight note of earthiness at the finish. This herbal tea is very balanced, even with all the mint, the other notes reign it it, kinda like that one rambunctious kid at a family reunion that is actually quite tolerable to be around once the other people get it to chill out.
Brewing the herbs, the tea lair was super aromatic afterwards, which is always nice. The aroma is pleasantly sweet and very minty, there is of course herbaceous notes of basil and fennel, and a tiny note of earthy roots, but mostly there is sweet mint. The liquid is only moderately minty, instead the green and herbaceous notes of holy basil really shine, they are slightly pepper and a touch savory. It blends well with the sweet notes of fennel and mild mint.
You know, I was surprised, it turned out to be more savory than sweet, usually teas with fennel tend to be pretty sweet, but not this one. It starts out with a powerful burst of herbaceous and slightly peppery Holy Basil, there is also a tiny hint of lettuce, Holy Basil is a complex smelling plant. After the initial savory burst it switches over to cooling minty sweetness which lingers only in cooling sensation before the Holy Basil takes back over, with a slightly earthy note from the burdock. This tea is very refreshing, the taste reminds me more of a healing broth to drink when you have a rebellious stomach rather than a tea, and I am totally ok with that!
Today was one of those adventure type days, the Trio (which is what I should totally start calling Ben, Fish, and myself) went to a bin store. If you are not in the know, Goodwill (and some other thrift stores) have an outlet store, where you pay for things by the pound (or really cheap per item) and all the things that do not sell in the store get sent there in big bins. I did most my shopping when I lived in Pennsylvania at one (lovingly called the 50 cent store, even though now they are 85 cents, but the name stuck) and you can spend a few hours sorting thoroughly through all the bins. Not the one we went to today, it was massive, plus they kept rotating bins, so I could never see it all. I got some awesome new clothes (still need more skirts and some silk PJs…mmm silk) a cat scratching post, Ben got new clothes, and an antique printing press drawer. I have wanted one for years, going to turn it into a table to show off my rocks!
I love What-Cha (I know, everyone knows that by now!) their teas have become favorites of mine, but really what makes me so hype about What-Cha is Alistair’s love of exposing tea drinker’s to uncommon tea regions! Today’s tea, Georgia Old Lady Black Tea, comes from one of those lesser known regions, the country of Georgia, handmade by Natela of Nagobilevi Village, yes this tea is all made by a little old lady in her home, which is kinda beautiful. The aroma of the large curly leaves is very sweet and surprisingly brisk! Blending orange marmalade, cocoa, a creamy sweetness and a delightful finish of yams.
Giving the leaves their much anticipated (by them or me, you be the judge) steeping in my much loved steeping apparatus, the aroma gets all up in your grill with the briskness! The wet leaves have strong notes of malt and brisk citrus and oak wood. There is a sweetness to it as well, like orange marmalade and a bit of yams at the finish. The liquid is creamy sweet blending cocoa and yam notes with a bit of malt and a sour yet sweet note of orange marmalade at the finish.
Ah, my mismatched tea gear kinda works, the saucer from my broken vintage cup, and the vintage cup with no saucer, they are now best friends. The taste starts out brisk, but not too much, just the right amount to wake up the mouth and invigorate the mind. There are notes of sweet cocoa and orange marmalade, it then moves on to yams and a touch of malt. This tea is not the most spectacular black tea I have ever sipped, it is certainly good, I enjoyed every drop, but it is not the most complex of cups. So, your mileage may vary, if you want a super complicated tea then this is probably not for you, but if you want a delicious tea that has a homey taste, then this one is perfect.