200 Tasting Notes
I expected to spend the day doing my usual blend of crafting, minecrafting, blogging, and tea guzzling, but I was given a surprise! Ben decided to take me on an old fashion dinner and a movie (or matinee and dinner) date. We saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and of course I loved it. Don’t worry I won’t give any spoilers other than it was more intense than I was expecting, which I liked. Afterwards we went for customary post-Marvel movie Shawarma (certainly one of Tony Stark’s better ideas) to discuss the movie. Good times, good food, and now time for tea!
Today I am starting off another Teavivre week with Huang Shan Mao Feng from Mt Huang Shan in Anhui Province. The name of this tea translates to Yellow Mountain Fur Peak (or fur tip, peak shaped fur covered tea, there are various permutations) combining the name of the mountain it was plucked from and the shape of the leaves resembling little fuzzy mountain peaks. Huang Shan Mao Feng is one of China’s Ten Famous Teas, this particular batch was plucked April 4th, 2013, high (1,200-1,400 ft) on the mountain blanketed in clouds. The aroma is very strong, much stronger than I was expecting for such a delicate tea. A mix of strong vegetal (I would say green bean and a hint of spinach) and sesame seeds. There is a finish of yeasty bread and cherries. If I had to use one word to describe this tea it would be complex, the aroma is very much so that.
After a nice soaking (by soaking I mean rinse and 30s steep in my gaiwan, uncovered for those who care about those kinda things) the aroma of the wet leaves is still very vegetal, with notes of green bean and fresh vegetation being the strongest. There are also notes of sage and sesame with a very gentle finish of fruit. The liquid is faint yet intense, does that make sense? There are no overpowering notes, but the ones that are there are very clear and delightful. It is a blend of green beans, sesame, and fresh bread.
The first steeping is smooth, oh my is the mouthfeel smooth. I would even go so far as to say silky! It manages to fill the mouth completely, though not in a buttery way like oolong. The beginning of the taste is sweet, gently sweet like honeysuckle nectar and sesame seeds. It reminds me a of the aftertaste you get when eating sesame Halva but with a vegetal quality. After the initial sweetness it changes to green bean and lastly finishes with honey.
The aroma from the liquid is much sweeter and has a stronger vegetal quality. As with the first steep the mouthfeel is the first thing I noticed, just as smooth and silky as before, but with more of an oily quality, the mouthfeel reminds me very strongly of Long Jing. The taste is sweet and floral at first, and quite delicate. It evolves into strong sesame and green bean notes and finishes with the taste of cherry. The cherry taste lingers for quite a while.
For the third and final steeping I notice the aroma of the tea is much more subdued, but still quite sweet and vegetal. The mouthfeel remains very smooth and silky, truly it might be my favorite part about this tea. The taste, like the aroma, is more subdued, but there is still a strong sesame and green bean quality that fades to a mixture of floral and fruity sweetness. It is a nice finish to a wonderful tea. I really enjoyed this tea and can certainly see why it is one of China’s Famous Ten, it maintains the delicate aspects you expect from a Green tea while having a bold presence. Also, Ben, who historically is not a fan of green teas, really enjoyed trying it, I can think of no better praise than that!
I didn’t do much of anything today since I am still on the mend from my mouth surgery, or really I should say I didn’t do much because of the pain killers making me kinda derpy. I seem to be healing up nicely, just in time for International Tabletop Game Day and the grand opening of Shang Tea’s new tea bar. It will be a very busy day tomorrow.
Today I am reviewing Verdant Tea’s Yu Lu Yan Cha, an experimental black tea from Xinyang in Henan Province. The name Yu Lu Yan Cha is a combination of ancient names for Henan and Shandong provinces, and creator Wang Yanxin’s name, which I think is pretty awesome, but you all know me and my love of learning something new. The aroma of this tea is a blend of sweetness and earthiness, blending cocoa and honey with rich nutty qualities and a very slight hint of fruit. There is a very interesting afterscent (totally a word now, I am making it official) that reminds me of an old leather bound book, it has that sweet yet rich papery aroma with a hint of leather. Why yes, I have spent far too much of my time sniffing paper, I sniff everything though so it is not unusual.
Into the gaiwan the leaves go! Once the leaves have been given a nice short bath the aroma becomes even richer blending cocoa, peanuts, and oakwood. Yes the aroma has gone from earthy to woody, I ain’t mad at that (I can’t believe I am still using that as a catchphrase…curse you PS2 era games!) in fact I think it is quite delicious smelling. The poured off liquid is quite sweet and cocoa heavy with hints of nuttiness and an almost creamy quality.
The first steeping is at first faintly sweet, like a touch of honey, it then explodes into a rich cocoa and peanut flavor that fills up the entire mouth. The taste fades to a malty quality with the subtle honey like sweetness that lingers in the mouth for a few allowing you to really savor the sweetness.
Sadly the only notes I have written down are from the fist steeping, but I did get a total of five before I called it quits with this tea and went to slumber land. It was one of those ‘oh hey I am going to sit down to a nice gongfu session’ when suddenly there are plans for dinner that no one told me about, so I ended up sipping with my supper and not taking any notes. I can say that the taste became richer and maltier with the honey sweetness becoming stronger as well. The nutty and cocoa tones from the beginning reached a crescendo around the third steep and were replaced mostly by malt and honey. When this tea comes back into stock I certainly recommend giving it a try, because experimental teas need lots of ‘testing’ for proper science!
I have a bit of a confession to make. This blog, specifically its devotion to teas, might be one of the best decisions I have ever made. Not only do I get to try wonderful teas from around the world, I have met some amazing people, and have been told many times that my descriptions paint pictures in my reader’s minds and have led them to discover new favorite teas. This blog fills a part in my life I felt was missing, I feel like I found my true calling. Everyday my views increase, and this is such an honor. I am so very thankful to everyone who reads my blog, tea companies that send me samples to try, and just the tea community at large. You guys rock!
Today’s tea is part of the Red Leaf Tea Sampler Pack, lucky number 14, Roast Ti Guan Yin from Fujian, China. Ah, Ti Guan Yin, my first ever Oolong and the tea that really got me into appreciating tea as more than something you quickly chug to relieve thirst. Specifically it was a roast TGY that I tried first, so this will be a nostalgic trip for me. The aroma of the rolled leaves is fairly mild in the roasted department, like toasted rice, with that hint of sweetness you get from rice. There is a heady floral aroma blending strong orchid and delicate honeysuckle, meaning this tea is extra sweet smelling.
Into the basket the leaves go! At the time of writing this tasting note in my notebook I did not have my gaiwan yet, so it will be for a Western Style steeping. Once steeped the leaves become much headier, the orchid notes become almost overpowering. The roasted notes from the dry leaves also become stronger giving the tea a bit of a toast aroma. There is sweet honeysuckle as a finish. The liquid is honey sweet and gently roasted, much subdued in comparison to the wet leaves.
Fun side trivia, this was the first tea I steeped using my electric kettle I got as an early birthday present, so yes this tasting note is from mid October. The taste is sweet, like honeysuckle nectar and roasted chestnuts. The sweetness stays with you from beginning to aftertaste with the honeysuckle and chestnut fading in and out. As a first steeping it is mild and refreshing, a promise of more intense flavor to come.
With the second steeping, the leaves are more unfurled and have a much sweeter aroma with a nice hint of mineral. The aroma of the liquid strong chestnut with an accompaniment of honey and orchids. The taste is very sweet, not only is there the floral honeysuckle nectar flavor, there is also a honey flavor that is quite intense. The mouthfeel is silky smooth, almost oily in its smoothness. The floral sweetness fades to a mineral aftertaste.
The aroma of the leaves on the third steep is still sweet, but there is also a strong mineral note, like spring water and pennies. The liquid has no mineral notes, it is all sweetness and flowers. The first thing I noticed when sipping this tea is the mouthfeel, it went from being silky to creamy and thick. It no longer coats the mouth it explodes into it filling the mouth with sweet honeysuckle and orchids. Like the previous steep the finish is mineral, but what happened to the roasted notes?
Onto the fourth steep! The leaves have a more buttery vegetal, like green bean, aroma with only a faint floral sweetness. The liquid’s aroma is mostly notes of chestnut with a very faint hint of flowers. The taste is winding down now, only a faint hint of floral and strong mineral taste. It is very much so like drinking spring water or licking a piece of limestone. There is an aftertaste of chestnuts.
I really wanted to put this tea and my new kettle through its paces! The fifth and final steep’s leaves are fully unfurled and barely any aroma left. Just the ghost of flowers and honey. The taste is like mineral water with a hint of chestnut and honey. The most amusing thing about this steep is that the mouthfeel is still really creamy. I enjoyed this tea, I think that is blended its floral and roasted notes well, even though the roasted taste faded pretty quickly.
For blog and photos (including a great side by side leaf comparison of wet and dry, always fun) http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/04/red-leaf-tea-roast-ti-guan-yin-tea.html
Flavors: Chestnut, Flowers, Honey, Orchids
It is another one of those days where I lack really awesome stories to share with you, my day consisted of storms keeping me awake at night, oral surgery, and subsequent pain killer loopiness, and a nice nap in the middle. Accuweather is promising another stormy night tonight, but as long as there are no tornadoes I don’t mind the storms, they are my favorite kind of weather after all! I suppose the thing that really kept me awake last night was Espeon trying to burrow into my chest because the thunder was scary to her, poor kitty.
Today’s tea has an interesting backstory, at least for me, many years ago before I was a tea blogger, I was taken on a glorious vacation. One of the spots Ben took me to was a restaurant in Washington DC, before we went to the Smithsonian, I had a wonderful meal and this tea! Earl Grey Lavender by Revolution Tea, is a blend of Ceylon, Oolong, Darjeeling, Bergamot Oil, and Lavender blossoms. The aroma is loaded with delicate lavender and sharp bergamot, with compliments of mellow muscatel and a hint of malt. This is not like most Earl’s, it is more smooth and gentle. This is the tea that I always thought would suit the name Lady Grey.
Once brewed the tea becomes mildly sweet and a touch creamy with delicate lavender and mild bergamot. It has a very mellow aroma for an Earl Grey, which is great if you find the aroma of bergamot overpowering at times.
The taste is at first incredibly smooth and fades to a crisp briskness. The base tea blend mixes muscatel and malt flavors with a very slight astringency. The bergamot and lavender are both mild, accents that do not overpower, quite balanced. I really loved this tea the first time I tried it and I still enjoy it immensely. It is one of those teas that is perfect for an afternoon teatime or morning cup, especially if you want an Earl Grey with a gentle touch.
I have so far managed to not be pranked by anyone, which is good, I doubt my delicate constitution could handle it! Well, that is not entirely true, I was pretty viciously pranked while playing Minecraft today. Minding my own business in a fenced in garden in the middle of the day, I was visited by everyone’s favorite green explosive. Of course I assumed I was safe so I took this moment to sip some tea, from behind me came a Sssss BOOM and I died, spilling the contents of my inventory all over the nice new hole in the middle of my garden, and of course the contents of my teacup all over myself. Who knew Creepers were such vicious landscape critics?
Today’s tea is Chocolate Chai by Wegman’s Grocer, a delightful grocery store that has a self serve tea counter that, when I lived in Pennsylvania, I visited quite often. Sadly they do not have an ‘order online’ option so the only way to get their tea is to pester my friends who live back home to send me some. This blend is a mix of chocolate chai and tropical chai, with Black Tea, Coconut, Chocolate Chunks, Vanilla Bean, Cardamon, and Cinnamon. The aroma is a happy dance of sweet chocolate, rich spices, and nutty coconut. It reminds me a bit of xocolatl but with coconut and the earthiness of black tea. This tea smells delicious.
Giving the chocolaty tea a steeping (goodbye really huge chunks of chocolate) the aroma of the leaves is as expected, intensely chocolaty. There is also rich malty notes and nutty coconut, it is very sweet and the spices make my nose tingle. The liquid without the leaves is very sweet chocolate with a hint of coconut and a finish of spices. The chocolate is sweet and creamy, like sniffing hot chocolate rather than dark chocolate.
Tasting the tea is going to be a treat, I can just tell as I am adding the customary cream and sugar to the chai. The taste is malty and chocolaty with a gentle kick of cinnamon. It moves on from the initial malt and chocolate to rich buttery coconut, it also gives the mouthfeel an oily quality. The spices do not overwhelm, it feels more like a cardamon caress and a cinnamon whisper, I can swear that there is pepper and a hint of ginger though it is not listed in the ingredients. This is a great balanced chai that has a really interesting flair, coconut and chocolate really go well together and in chai.
Flavors: Chocolate, Coconut, Malt
So laying in bed this morning with a serious junk food hangover (it was Ben’s birthday party yesterday, totally worth the junk binge) I had a thought. Or more like a series of thoughts. I love doing tea research, (ok I just love doing research) I love writing about tea and keeping extensive notes on the subject. Since I plan on researching and writing about tea for my own purposes, maybe my dear readers would also like to read my research. So here is the question, would you all be interested in periodic informative posts on tea? It would be random, no more than once a week, probably every other week to once a month.
Today’s tea was part of the 2013 Autumn Collection at DAVIDsTEA, and for once there still is some left on their online store. Sugar and Spice is a blend of Black Tea, Apples, Cinnamon cassia, Cloves, Carrots, Marigold Petals, Orange Peel, and Natural Vanilla Flavoring. I opened my little sample package and immediately was hit with an overwhelming pang of homesickness. The dry leaves smell just like the carrot cake my mom would make for my birthday when I was a wee little one. The aroma is rich and sweet, blending carrots, spices, and vanilla for an added extra frosting like treat.
Once I toss the leaves in some water to steep, the now soggy leaves smell even more like carrot cake and more like a malty black tea. Imagine that it is carrot cake sitting next to a cup of tea and you have the perfect mental image. The spices are more subdued when wet. The liquid is sweet and spicy, a perfect blend of cloves and cinnamon, with a hint of vanilla. There is of course a bit of carrot cake, but not as strong as the wet or dry leaves.
Tasting time, and I admit, I am holding this tea to some high standards after the nostalgic, mouthwatering party that was the dry leaves. The taste is spicy and earthy, like an unsweetened carrot cake. The spices are subtle, no kick in the face of cinnamon and mouth numbing cloves, always a plus with spiced teas. The initial earthy taste fades to a subtle sweetness, like apples and carrot juice, with lingering warmth from the spices. This tea made my heart feel good, and it tasted good, so overall I say that is a win.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Cloves, Earth, Malt, Vanilla
Every get so distracted by crafting that you forget to update you blog? Well that happened to me last night, I was working on the Pokemon Challenge (at number 54, Psyduck!) and I was hit with inspiration to finally break out the mini melty beads. They make some awesome things, problem is they are really time consuming because placing the tiny beads takes a level of precision that I am very out of practice for. I kept having flash backs to jewelry making and bead weaving, and of course my arch-nemesis, the seed bead. The siren call of crafting is strong, so before I even though the beads, I am blogging first!
Today’s tea hails from the Uva District of Ceylon, Organic Ceylon Greenfield Estate Black Tea by Arbor Teas. Grown between 5-6,000 feet above sea level, this tea is both organic and fair trade certified. The aroma is exceptionally sweet and fruity, blending notes of fresh grapes, scuppernongs, and a hint of fresh figs. There is also a very mild note of roses and malt, giving this tea a delightfully complex aroma. This might be the best smelling Black Ceylon that I have had the pleasure of sniffing.
The brewed leaves retain their sweet fruity aroma, but they take on a brisk quality that is very typical of Ceylon Blacks. There is also a faint hint of citrus at the finish. The liquid is still quite fruity and sweet, less like grapes and more like lychee. The aroma is quite good.
The taste of this tea is very brisk and bright! The mouthfeel is bold, it is one of those teas that seems to fill up the mouth with a smooth flavor. The taste is earthy and nutty, with a boiled peanut quality (though not salty like the traditional Southern style boiled peanuts….oh man, now I really want some) that gives the tea a really rich taste. There is a malty finish that ties in well with the other qualities. The taste of this tea is not at all sweet, which certainly makes it a bold tea. Quite a tasty tea!
Remember a few days ago when I said I was working on a flash diffuser for my camera? Well today’s photos are the product of my trial and error! In case you didn’t know, my photography expertise is nature themed, put me inside and I am far from the best at it, especially when the lighting on the inside is awful. I wanted to improve the photos I take and my options were make a lightbox (which I really did not have the desk space for) or make a flash diffuser, and I chose the option that would not take up a ton of space. This means I can use my flash without having the really unpleasant ‘flash’ effect, it diffuses the light giving it more of a natural feel. Sadly I cannot re-photograph all my old teas, since some of them were one serving samples and I have since run out, but I will be able to get new and exciting photos as I can!
Today’s tea is a colorful herbal blend from Verdant Tea, Ginger Sage Winter Spa Blend, a blend of Sage, Goji Berries, Rose Petals, Ginger, Lemon Peel, Burdock Root, Elderberries, Rhodiola, and Tulsi. I originally picked up this blend because it has a few of my favorite ingredients in it (goji berries, roses and ginger) but I found myself intrigued by the other ingredients purported ability to assist in colds and sniffles. The aroma of this tea is a little strange, mixing roses, ginger, sage, mint, and a sharp mix of citrus and berry note. It is a blend of floral, fruity, and herbal, it is savory and sweet. When I say the aroma is odd, it is not unpleasant, just an unexpected combination.
Once I steep the herbal blend the aroma fills the room and takes on a very nostalgic quality, specifically it reminds me of the way my grandparent’s house smelled back when they lived in Augusta. The smell of roses and herbs, lemons and earthy roots, and a finish of spice and berries. I find myself sniffing the wet leaves and getting lost in my memories, and that makes me happy. The liquid on its own is mild and unassuming, blending sage and rose with a hint of citrus.
The first thing I notice on my initial sip is the warm, tingly, mouthfeel from the ginger. The taste is both sweet and mellow, blending floral rose, citrus tones from the lemon peel and berries, herbaceous sage and tulsi, and a hint of earthiness from the burdock. The aftertaste is primarily elderberries. As the tea cools it becomes more herbaceous and savory and less sweet. This tea did not make a difference one way or another for cold season, but it was a bit of a lifesaver when my stomach ulcer acts up, turns out it is the only herbal blend that not only doesn’t hurt but actually soothes. Thanks to its stomach soothing and pleasant taste, it has become a staple in my tea collection.
Happiness!! Today the new update for Minecraft came out and I was able to spend my morning having fun with all the new features. Later in the day I was told by Ben that my favorite board game ever (Summoner Wars) is planning on releasing a box set where factions are being blended together for new and exciting combinations of strategies to master. I was also able to get some new dark grey and black Perler beads, so the Pokemon Challenge continues, it was a good day to be a Geek.
Today’s tea is Blueberry Maple Tea originally by Metropolitan Tea Co. but sold by The Blueberry Store, a delightfully themed store! Made from a blend of Ceylon Black Tea and natural flavors, this tea combines the taste of blueberries with maple syrup, just like my favorite waffles. The aroma is very sweet! It is very true to its name, combining sweet blueberries and maple syrup, these tea bags are giving me a serious breakfast craving. Who am I kidding, I eat blueberry waffles no matter what time of day it is! There is a slightly malty black tea aroma as well, but mostly it is all blueberry and maple sweetness.
Once the bag has been steeped the liquid has much more of a malty aroma, making it more like a tea and less like food. Have no fear, there is still a strong blend of maple and blueberry sweetness that is completely mouthwatering.
The initial taste is faintly sweet and bright, blending strong blueberries with a hint of maple syrup. I decided to go for cream and sugar, because this tea just begs for cream and sugar. With the additive the maple flavor is much stronger, dwarfing the blueberry flavor, kinda like what happens when you dump syrup all over a blueberry waffle. This tea is not really nuanced or complex, but it is deliciously sweet, and perfect for when you want a sweet tea to guzzle down first thing in the morning.
Flavors: Berries, Malt
So in honor of my Pokemon Challenge, I have deiced that watching the TV show from the beginning is the best idea ever. I am always a slave to nostalgia! At 20 episodes in I can safely say I forgot how much of a jerk Pikachu was at first, and how Team Rocket fails at everything. Good times, good times.
Today’s tea, Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong by Yezi Tea might be more familiar to you with its alternative name, Lapsang Souchong, but it is a little different from the usual run of the mill Lapsang Souchong. Originally Lapsang Souchong was made from the large leaves farther down the stem, smoked over a pine fire, and traded on the Tea Horse Road to places like Russia and Tibet. Now what about the fine leaves and buds at the top of the stem? Those were kept for the high and mighty, and for years not let out of China, they went by the name Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong. Hailing from the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian, the aroma of these delicate leaves is like an aged oak cask that once stored scotch. There are also notes of cocoa and peanuts with a honey sweetness, of course there is a hint of pine fire. The smokiness is distant, the way the air smells when one of your neighbors is using their fire place on a chilly night, or a distant campfire.
Into the gaiwan the leaves go! After their steeping the wet leaves have a stronger smoky aroma with a surprising cinnamon note. There is also the aroma of cocoa, honey, and peanuts with a finish of pine wood. The aroma is quite rich. The liquid is richly sweet and faintly creamy with a gently pine smoke finish.
The first steeping is sweet, delicious honey sweetness with notes of cocoa and peanuts. Of course there is smoke, very gently pine smoke. Again the imagery of a distant campfire fills my mind as I sip it. The mouthfeel is quite smooth, definitely one of those teas that fills up the mouth while sipping.
The second steep’s aroma has much stronger pine and smoke aroma with a much sweeter finish. The taste is wonderfully sweet, starting off with strong honey and raisin notes and fading to more of a semisweet chocolate flavor. There is a rich peanut finish and a pine wood aftertaste. Overlaying the entire experience is a gentle smokiness. This steeping is even more rich than the first and is a wonderful experience.
The third steep’s aroma is almost all pine smoke and gentle sweetness. The taste is so rich, oh man it is incredibly rich! Sweet honey and raisin that fades to cocoa, with midtaste to finish of pine smoke. If you find that Lapsang Souchong is far too potent in its smokiness than this is the tea for you…if you find that you want your Fujian Black tea to have a little more smokiness with its usual sweetness than this is the tea for you. Actually if you like tea in general I would recommend this one!
Flavors: Cocoa, Honey, Pine, Raisins