501 Tasting Notes
I am so close to being done with my Scourge that resisting rushing through these last steps is soooo hard!! If I rush I end up having my hand slip and that one misstep means I have to go back and redo a section, which I am sure you all know is bloody infuriating. But, I have my Reaver Gunship more or less finished (I need to use anti-shine on the bones since I want them not as shiny as the rest of the chitinous model) and I am going to have a nice photo of the beastie at the end of the blog. Plus, ugh, I think I need a break because my hands are shaky, this is not the time for shaky hands (or shaky cam for that matter!)
So, it is Wednesday, meaning What-Cha time! However it is also Dark Tea week, so I get to unveil a tea I was so hype to review: Malawi 2014 Leafy Dark Tea. Oh yeah, I finally get to have my elephant yixing really shine by drinking a dark tea from Africa! Yeah I giggled in excitement when I saw this sample stuffed in my recent (by recent I mean it was my Christmas gift to myself) order, I am still giggling a little bit, this is just one of those teas that is so cool. Made in the style of a Shou and it certainly smells like one. The aroma of this tea actually, no lies, made me cry a little, ok I like Sheng I really do, but my heart will always belong to Shou, and the reason why is because it smells like a forest floor after a summer rain, it has the smell of wet wood, mushrooms, loam, that delightful steamy aroma that a forest gets on a hot day after rain. It smells like the heavily piney forest that I spent A LOT of my time in as a teenager. That forest has been turned into an apartment complex now and I am getting maudlin, but the smell of a good clean Shou (not one that smells like a Chinese market) takes me home, and this tea is no exception. It has a weightiness to it, like I am sinking into loam and pine needles. This tea is heavenly, I want to hug it.
Into the elephant it goes! I gave it a rinse and a short steep, the aroma of the wet leaves is ecstasy, well if you are into laying face first in a forest floor, and we all know that is my idea of a perfect day. It is so rich with notes of loam, wet pine wood, and a touch of sweet cocoa at the end. The liquid smells loamy and sweet, blending pine sap and wet wood with forest floor.
The first steep starts out pretty subtle and slightly creamy in texture, and by the time it hids the midtaste there is an explosion of rich loam, pine forest and cocoa! It is so good, it manages to be rich while not being overpowering, and that cocoa note goes really well with the natural pinesap sweetness. The aftertaste is sweet cocoa and loam, and it lingers for a while.
The aroma is intensely loamy and earthy, like clean forest soil and wet wood. There is also a distinct mineral note, again it reminds me of a forest after the rain where it has that steamy aroma in the air. The taste is pretty much identical to the first steep but much stronger. The cocoa note is a little diminished, it is all earthy pine forest floor. The finish has a tiny hint of raw honey and has a great salivary effect.
So, I forgot to take a photo of the third steep, or any of the other steeps, I found myself getting tea drunk very early and just getting lost in the memories that this tea evoked, each sip took me to a forest and I was in no hurry to leave. The tea stayed strong and delicious until the 6th steep, and was done by steep 8. I did notice that even though this tea was strong and wonderfully tasty, it did not change much, it felt like I was drinking the same steep, this was fascinating and surprisingly not boring, I think because it was so evocative of something very pleasant for me. So your mileage may vary with that one, but who cares, it is a Dark Tea from Africa and that is still really awesome.
One guess as to what I am doing right now! Yep, still painting, I got more or less none done yesterday since I spent the day with Ben, it was totally worth it so no regrets. Sadly I am not sure how much I will get done today since I have a splitting headache and staring at tiny lines on a 10mm miniature is not necessarily the best cure for it, but hopefully it will clear up. If not I shall lie in bed and play games on my phone, it would be on the Xbox 360 but Ben currently has it in pieces making it hard to play anything.
I am about to introduce you guys to possibly the biggest puerh leaves I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Yi Wu Shan Da Ye Sheng Bing Stone-Pressed (Yiwu Mountain Green Puer Cake) 2014 from Misty Peaks Tea had such epic long leaves that I was afraid they would not fit in my teapot, but fortunately they did perfectly, and I did not need to break a single one! This tea is described as a meditative tea, one to uplift or calm depending on your needs, well looks like this will be a tea I can spend the day with while painting. So, sniffing time, and let me say the aroma of these leaves is powerful, I was impressed, and let out a little maniacal giggle of excitement. One of the reasons I like drinking my tea solo, I tend to make a whole bunch of weird noises while drinking it! So, those powerful notes are a blend of sweet and savory, with notes of dried apples, hay, a bit of spinach, a tiny bit of distant floral (reminds me of fruit tree blossoms) a little bit of woodiness, and wonderful finish of camphor at the finish. I adore that camphor note, really, Sheng puerh with a strong camphor presence has become my go-to tea to drink when I have a cold, the aroma of it fills me with a sense of relief, even when I feel fine.
So after a short rinse and subsequent short steep it is time to stick my nose in my teapot and enjoy the leaves. Someone remind me that next time I review a rosy tea I need to make a ‘stop and smell the roses’ pun, I make too few tea related puns as it is. The aroma of the wet leaves is one of the cleanest smelling Sheng pu’s I have ever sniffed, not saying I have really smelled any that were dirty, but this one has a crispness to it. The same crispness that spring water and clean mountain air have, it has the crispness of home to it, which I find immensely soothing. There are notes of fresh hay and straw, cut grass, oak bark (specifically green wood rather than old dried up bark) fruit tree blossoms, a bit of dried fruit, and again a finish of olfactory cooling camphor. The liquid is a blend of honey, hay, flowers, and camphor. Really liking the flowery notes, I do not run into fruit tree flowers very often.
Well, I can safely say that this Sheng has all of the flavor notes I like in a Sheng, plus some extra bits that are awesome! It is not overly sweet and it is very smooth in both taste and mouthfeel. The tea starts out with a delicate smokiness and flowery notes, very much so a blend of apple blossoms and a touch of strawflower. This transitions to freshly cut grass and a distant note of fruit, and a finish of camphor giving a cooling effect.
The aroma of the second steep is lovely, notes of dried apples and apricots, a tiny bit of hay and grass, and a finish of honey and camphor. Let me start out by saying that wow this tea is smooth, like almost buttery in both texture and taste (unsalted of course) but leaning towards the honey sweet side, with a nice hint of apple blossoms. This moves to dried apples and fresh apricots with a slight hint of hay. For the finish there is a fairly mild cooling camphor note and a lingering honey sweetness.
Wee, time three! (If you were curious, it was around steep three when I finally finished giving all my Scourge a Drakenhoe Nightshade Shade, so tea while waiting for them to dry seems like a good idea) the aroma is so sweet, blending honey and dried apples with a hint of hay and camphor, I am amazed at how fruity this Sheng is in both aroma and taste. And speaking of taste, this steep is very similar to the previous steep, but with a bit more sweetness and apple notes, also the camphor at the end is more prominent.
So like yesterday I did my customary finish writing at steep three, but continued on with the tea up until steep eight. I am pretty sure the tea could have still gone further, but I was very tea drunk at this point and needed to call it quits, alas, I lack tea stamina, clearly I need to train more. I can say that steep four was my favorite by far, it perfectly balanced camphor and sweetness, later steeps still had both notes, but they were diminishing. Replacing them were notes of hay, grass, and green things along with a bit of smoke that cropped up ever so often very faintly. I do not say this often, but I have to get myself a cake of this tea, usually I just want samples of Puerh because that stuff is a commitment, you do not just buy Puerh, you become friends with it, and I want to become friends with this tea. I want us to go on shopping dates and have long conversations, it just made me feel so good after drinking it that I need it in my collection.
For blog and photos: Yi Wu Shan Da Ye Sheng Bing Stone-Pressed (Yiwu Mountain Green Puer Cake) 2014
Happy Monday people who are reading this on Monday, happy whatever day you are reading this on if you are reading it some other day. I am beginning to get to that point where I hate Winter again, it is aching cold and there is no snow, in fact there has been very little snow, it is the only thing I like about this time of year, so a lack of it is just depressing. I am seriously debating getting a sun lamp, the kind that helps with SAD, but I am also afraid I will burst into flames like a Minecraft Zombie, so a helmet might be required.
You know what I have not done in a long time? A theme week! Yeah, I love those, I really need to do more of them, so I going to devote this this week to the dark side of tea. Starting off with Wymm Tea’s Mangnuo “Cane Tea” Raw Pu-erh From Ancient Tea Tree 2014 Early Spring, woo, that is a mouthful! So, about this tea, the trees the leaves are plucked from are 200-300 years old specially trimmed to form cane shaped branches, leaving only the buds, so yeah a lot of trees are needed for this super uniform fancy Sheng. The aroma of the dry leaves is pretty subtle, with notes of green bamboo leaves, freshly mown grass, cut hay, and a finish of camphor. I do love those camphor notes in tea, especially in the summer where it acts as a coolant.
First steep and rinsing, not sure I have introduced my Sheng pot yet, it is an adorably tiny 90ml Shui Ping that is debatably from 90s (I say debatably because you never know with ebay) and it seasoned beautifully, I am always glad for a chance to use it. The aroma of the liquid for the first steep is pretty yummy, it blends bamboo leaves, grass, mown hay, honey, distant fresh spinach (really it is just a hint) and a finish of uncooked rice. The sun colored liquid is delicate and sweet with notes of honey, hay, and a touch of rice and camphor.
The tea starts out a little bitter and then boom immediately sweet with a surprisingly smooth mouth feel, almost silky in its texture. The flavor notes are a mix of honey and sweet rice, this transitions to hay and grass and a touch of vegetal. The finish is a blend of green and camphor, imparting a delightful cooling effect on my insides.
Once more into the tea (it just sounds better than once more into the breach, ok?) The aroma of the liquid is much more intense this time around, the previous notes are still there but much stronger, especially the fresh hay and grass notes, and they are joined by a hint of straw. The taste still has a strong notes of fresh green bamboo leaves, I love that, but I love the taste of bamboo so I am always happy to run into it. There are also notes of uncooked rice, green grass, hay, vegetal and a strong honey note. The honey note lingers long into the aftertaste, there is not as much camphor this steep.
Hello steep three! Hello aroma notes of hay, green grass, fresh bamboo, a bit of bamboo shoots, and a touch of rice and honey at the finish. This steep was similar to the first as it had a bit of a bitterness at the first but very quickly faded to sweet honey and green bamboo leaves. This moves to uncooked rice, hay, grass, uncooked spinach, and a finish of camphor.
Usually I end my reviews at three steeps (even if I continue on with the tea) but with Puerhs sometimes you really do not get a real feel for it until many steeps later. I ended up going for a total of twelve steeps (it was a long day hehe) and had a great journey of growing sweetness and utter banishment of bitterness, the camphor notes pretty much left for good at steep four. The notes of hay and bamboo stayed strong and the taste of honey really exploded towards the end. I found the mouthfeel went from smooth and silky to almost thick (at one point it reminded me a bit of Gyokuro’s thickness) and creamy. This Sheng goes the distance and I can see why it is Wymm Tea’s signature tea.
Pretty sure my Xbox 360 is dying, it plays games I have stored on ye old hard drive, but it will not read disks, which is unbelievably annoying. I was in the mood to play Bayonetta, which is probably one of my favorite games (even if playing it makes my hands cry) but nope, no Umbra Witch action for me. To make up for it I watched all the cutscenes for Bayonetta 2, and I can safely say I want Wii U, ok not really, but I want to play that game because AWESOME. It was a good day of painting and watching cutscenes.
Today it is time to take a journey to India thanks to Golden Tips Tea, specifically to the Arya Tea Estate and its Arya Ruby Darjeeling Black Tea Second Flush. This tea estate was set up in 1885 and its specialty teas are all named after jewels, this one being ruby, which is lovely, the gemstone collector in me is happy. The aroma of this tea starts off delicate with sweet notes of raisins and distant flowers, but it builds into loam, dry wood, and spicebush with a bit of roasted peanut and malt at the finish. It is not a very powerful aroma, but it is nice, the woody notes compliment the raisins.
Into my funky steeping vessel it goes, and in the photo it looks like the teafrogs are shunning the steeping vessel, silly things probably want me to use a real teapot. The aroma of the wet leaves is sweet, woody, and warm. Like a blend of honey, loam, wet wood, pepper, and a touch of raisins at the finish. The liquid does not really smell sweet, it is more like fresh broken stems of oak wood, a touch of leaf loam, and a bit of pepper at the finish.
I found the taste to be both warm and soothing, like late autumn sunlight in the late afternoon, the way everything turns a little golden. Granted these kinds of days are only enjoyable to me when not blisteringly hot, the same can be said about tea, not burning one’s mouth while having the tea be at the perfect temperature is a skill. Enough flowery descriptions about how the tea makes me feel, what matters is how it actually tastes. It starts with loam, raisins, and wood, then moves to a tiny bit of pepper and finished with woodiness. This honestly one of the most ‘tea’ tasting teas I have run into, that sounds really strange but this tea tastes like tea, if you were to ask me to picture the taste of a second flush Darjeeling black tea in my mind, it would probably be this. This is the epitome of an everyday kinda tea for me, good for sipping while lounging on a porch.
Painting update, for those who are following along in my Dropzone Commander Scourge painting adventure. I am almost finished with the red ‘veins’ then I need to do a blue wash, then some bone detailing, then wash those and then I will be done! Well that is not entirely true, I will be done with everything but the Desolator, which I am going to make into an epic showcase piece along with it being a my command unit. That monstrosity is possibly my favorite miniature ever because it is a space cuttlefish and for extra geek points looks like a Reaper from Mass Effect, sadly I cannot just love it and call it Harbinger though since once of Scourge’s other units is a Harbinger…and there is also a Reaper. Ok, that is enough of me geeking out.
I lied, I am going to geek out about tea now, like I do! Today’s subject of geeking out is Adagio Tea’s Anhui Emerald Seed, their name for Lu An Gua Pian, which translates to Lu An Melon Seed, alluding to the shape of their leaves. Most green teas are all about the first leaf, but these leaves are the second leaves with their veins removed and then rolled to give them their fun shape. It has a lengthy history, first showing up in texts during the Tang Dynasty and being a tribute tea during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The aroma of the leaves is a delicate blend of green beans and sesame seeds with a touch of spicebush flowers and hyacinth. There is also a tiny hint of chestnut at the finish, the aroma notes are not the strongest, but they are pleasant in their delicateness.
So here is where I might make my tea drinking friends do a double take, I brewed this in my green tea seasoned Yixing teapot. Yes, I did it, I have been debating over a year, having heard heard that it can make the tea taste muddied due to the clay retaining too much heat, but I also heard you never truly know a green until you Yixing it. I do not regret my decision, drinking greens brewed in a Yixing teapot is amazing, sometime in the near future I plan on doing a side by side comparison with Yixing and Gaiwan. The aroma of the leaves in the pot are much more green now, with notes of artichoke, asparagus, green beans, bok choy, and a tiny bit of sesame seeds. The liquid got all the floral and sweet notes from the dry leaves, with spicebush, hyacinth, and honey drenched sesame seeds being the predominant notes. There is a bit of green at the finish, so it is not a huge contrast.
The taste is refreshing, it starts with a blend of melon (specifically faint honeydew) and cucumber. This transitions to grass and artichoke, and then it finishes out with sweet sesame seeds and honey. The mouthfeel is very smooth, a midway between creamy and silky, I am really fond of the mouthfeel, it matches the refreshing taste of the tea.
The aroma of the second steep is this interesting blend of vegetal and floral, like one half green beans and artichoke, the other half hyacinth and honeysuckles. It is like Two Face (Ben is playing Arkham Asylum, so Batman on the brain right now.) The taste is really similar to the first, like almost identical flavor notes, well, kinda. It is like someone took the exact same flavor notes and where the intensity was at a 6 before it is now at an 8 (scale not to scale) so that is fun. The aftertaste now has a lingering floral tone to it, which I am always a fan of.
Steep three time! The aroma is a bit of sweet and a bit of vegetal, again blending floral and green in a fun little dance of notes. The taste is not as intense or diverse as the previous steep, it starts out with a touch of spicebush and sesame seeds, then a fun bit of bell pepper and artichoke, and lastly a finish of honey that does not linger over long. Now, is this the best Lu An Gua Pian I have ever had, no, but it is certainly delicious and a good everyday kinda melon seed.
I just had the most epic fall, seriously, if it didn’t hurt so bad I would say it was a thing of beauty. Yours truly was standing on the bed snuggling Espeon who was on the top bunk (bunk beds are awesome for storage) sleeping in her bed. When I went to get down my foot somehow managed to get tangled in the sheet and instead of stepping off the bed I crashed to the hardwood floor. My hip and wrist took most of the fall, making it hard to sit and type, my clumsiness really is a thing of legend. But at least I have my pre-New Years cleaning done!
And since it is the day before possibly my favorite holiday (it really is a tie between New Year and the Mid Autumn Festival) I am going to review one of What-Cha’s Chinese Oolongs, specifcally Fujian Cinnamon ‘Rou Gui’ Wuyi Rock Oolong Tea, yes it is Yancha time! I am noticing a trend, each time there is an important event I seem to review a Yancha, so this is officially going to be a thing now. So, first off, a little backstory, this specific Wuyi oolong first showed up in the Qing dynasty (which could be somewhat recent or a really long time ago) and is the most recent tea to be added to Wuyi’s famous bushes, this one bringing it up to five. The name Rou Gui is a reference to its cinnamon notes that are supposedly present in the aroma and taste. So, history aside, let us get to the sniffing! The aroma is, well, heavy, it is very heavy, like sinking into a hot bath when you are super sore and tired, you just kind of fall into it. There are notes of sweet cocoa, honey, cooked plums, and distant sweet spice. There is also a fairly gentle aroma of char and smoke, but it is more like a distant campfire than a raging coal furnace. This tea smells like warmth and smelling it makes me feel immensely relaxed.
When I brew Yancha I load my teapot with leaves, I mean I really fill it up, and usually use just under boiling water and super short steeps, think a few seconds. Not the brewing method for everyone, but this is my technique, in case anyone were curious how I brew my beloved Yanchas. So the leaves, once thoroughly soggy smell quite mouth watering. The heaviness from the dry leaf is still present, it is joined with a stronger char note, the cocoa is also stronger, and now there is a bit of loam and Spicebush. The liquid is spicy and sweet, like chocolate and molasses with a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg. The finish is a bit of char and honey.
Ok, first steeping time! I got bouncy waiting for my cup to cool to a suitable drinking temperature, nothing worse than a burned tongue…ok, burning your tongue and then spilling it all over your lap is also pretty awful. So, as expected, this tea is rich and heavy, it starts with lite molasses and toasted oats then builds to dates and spicebush at the middle. The finish is a bit of cocoa and loam with a surprising cooling sensation at the back of the throat.
The aroma of the second steep is heady, heavy, and sweet, it blends the molasses and char notes with succulently sweet spicebush and honey notes. I am such a fan of spicebush notes in tea, it is probably one of my favorite flower scents. So this time around the taste is not as sweet, the char notes are more predominant, and it has some nutty notes as well. Think a blend of fire roasted walnuts, tobacco, cinnamon, and a touch of molasses at the finish and you have this tea, also fun is that it warms this steep instead of cools.
Time for round three! The aroma this time is cocoa, heavy, and rich. It makes me feel sleepy and relaxed. The taste is milder and softer, starting with cocoa and char, moving into tobacco, plums, and nutmeg, and finishing with a distant taste of smoke and walnuts. I shan’t bore you all with further tasting notes, but I did get several more steepings out of this tea, and according to my notes, promptly took a tea drunk fueled nap afterwards!
Is there a world outside my desk? I seem to have lost track of it! I only say this because I have spent more or less every waking moment painting my Sourge army the past couple days, and I can say so far they look glorious! I am so much happier with my current paint scheme, to sum it up in two words, how about ‘chitinous’ and ‘biomech’ just as a little spoiler. You can all bet that when I am finished I will be showing them off. Part of my reason for the rush is I am joining my local gaming store’s Dropzone Commander League, I was not sure I was going to be able to, but as an early birthday present to himself Ben is paying both our way in. Sometimes, he really is too much.
Today I am giving myself a little TeaLC with Stay Calm and Relax, and herbal blend of Lavender, Chamomile, and Cinnamon, which I admit sounds like a fascinating blend of things. Also I could use the relaxing aspect of a flowery tea since I have felt progressively worse, yuck! But enough about me, how about you pretty pile of flowers, how do you smell? It smells both comforting and pretty, intensely heady lavender mix with the straw like floral notes of the chamomile, these are joined by warm and sweet cinnamon at the finish. I am not sure how much credit I give the health aspects of aromatherapy, but I can certainly get behind the emotional aspects, and let me say, lavender is one of those smells that just makes me feel so peaceful.
You know, I noticed something a little odd from the wet leaves, other than I always forget how plump chamomile flowers get, I noticed that there is a slightly yeasty, almost cake batter like aroma coming from them. How neat, though odd. Other than this cake batter note, there is the distinct floral explosion that is lavender. The liquid is primarily chamomile with lavender following close behind and cinnamon bringing up the rear.
Tasting time! I love how it has a slight purple tinge to the liquid, it is one of my favorite thing about lavender teas. So here is the sad-ish truth of the matter, I have noticed that teas that have that much lavender in them tend to be a bit on the bitter side, but this is also one of the few type of teas that I break my ‘rules’ such as they are and add a nice dollop of honey to. There is something really delicious about drinking warm chamomile, lavender, cinnamon tea with wildflower honey, they play of the sweetness of each other, the cinnamon warms you up to your core, and that lavender lingers forever in the aftertaste. I seem to really be on an herbal kick lately, something about this time of year seems to bring that out in me, probably because they are full of flowers!
So, remember how I used to hate lemongrass in tea and recently found out that by itself it makes a pretty fantastic sipping experience? Well it is deja vu time because here is Lemongrass Herbal tea, though this one has a slightly sweeter tone than the previous one I had, which is neat. It smells like lemon juice, a bit of lemon leaves, and a touch of flower nectar sweetness. Brewing them up brings an aroma of lemony sweetness and a bit of fresh hay.
The tea itself is delightfully sweet and lemony, like a mix of lemonade, a touch of fresh hay, and a distant floral note. I am still enjoying lemongrass as its own little entity in tea, apparently it is good for digestive woes. I did drink this after feeling ill (I over indulged in chocolate, like I do) and it did settle my stomach, plus it is mild enough that drinking it if you feel a bit queasy is not unpleasant.