327 Tasting Notes
(I totally posted this on the wrong tea earlier….derp…so I am just moving it over)
Ben and I went gallivanting today after he got home from work, a celebratory gallivanting to my favorite store: International 888, possibly the best Asian market ever. It is celebratory because next week is my official ‘One Year as a Tea Blogger’ anniversary, I wanted to celebrate by getting some teas. I got a few surprise teas (surprise as in I have no idea if they are at all good, but they were cheap) and a Boba Thai Iced Tea, first one in years! I love Thai Iced tea (and bubbles!) but I have to only have it once in a great while because it makes me vibrate. I also plan on having a giveaway next week, more on that as I finish planning it.
Today’s tea is another offering from What-Cha, Zhejiang Purple Bamboo Shoot ‘Zi Sun Cha’ Green Tea, a beautifully vibrant green tea from Zhang Ling Tea Farm in Zhejiang, China. According to my little bit of research, this tea was regarded as one of the finest teas by Lu Yu, and was a much loved Tribute Tea during the Tang dynasty. Teas that have an ancient and storied history make my immensely happy, it is like I am having a cup of history, like I am a Time Lord and my gaiwan is my TARDIS. The aroma of the dry leaves is intense and complex, it is one of those teas that when I open the little foil package I am slammed with aroma, no need to stick my nose into the pouch, the aroma comes to me. There are initial notes of hay, a touch of spinach, and bit of tomato leaf, and a finish of sesame seed. As I sniff further (and breath on) the leaves sitting on my little display dish, I start to notice a savory sauteed mushroom aroma that grows the warmer the leaves get, it is a mouthwatering aroma.
Into the gaiwan the leaves go (I finally stopped sniffing them) for a nice steeping. Again the aroma is complex, the wet leaves have notes of spinach, sesame seeds, orchids, cherries, and honey. It is surprisingly fruity, especially at the end. The liquid is delicate and light, there are notes of sesame seed, and vegetal with that delightful savory sauteed mushroom aroma making an appearance.
The first steep is light and savory, it starts out with notes of spinach and sauteed mushrooms, this transitions to a gentle sesame taste. The finish is surprisingly sweet and floral with a sweetness that lingers like cane sugar. I certainly think this is a good start!
For the second steeping, the aroma of the liquid had a complete change of face. It is sweet like cherries and lychees with a touch of sesame seeds. The taste is very similar to the aroma, it starts off sweet and fruity and then transitions to sesame seeds and a touch of spicebush. It is a mild and refreshing tea.
Time for round three, the aroma is pretty faint this time around, there are delicate notes of flowers, it is like a distant bouquet that you can smell but cannot quite make out what kind of flowers there are. The taste starts out mild with savory sauteed mushrooms and spinach, this pretty quickly switches to toasted, almost smoky, sesame seeds. After the seeds there is a nice finish of lychee that lasts as a sweet aftertaste.
On a whim I decided to put aside the gaiwan and give this tea a Western Steeping. The aroma is quite rich, with notes of toasted sesame, spinach, and a touch of smoke. The taste is quite different from the gongfu version, it is still mild but the taste is sweet and orchid like with a touch of spinach. It almost reminds me of an oolong it is so floral, but when I drink it gongfu style it is very much so a green. I like these experiments, I feel it gives me a greater understanding of the tea I am drinking, I certainly suggest giving both brewing methods a try if you have the supplies.
Shameless plug! I am taking pre-orders for my annual Tea Advent Calender, it is early but I have reasons, all info can be found here.
Yay, it is Thursday, my favorite day of the week…why, you might be asking, because it is Ben’s day off. Usually we gallivant, game, and go to gaming night at Tabletop. Part of our rambling around today took us out for Indian food (I ate way too much and still feel stuffed) and to the thrift store. At said store I found a new tea set, a pretty Kyusu and matching cups, I had to have it of course.
Today we are having a nice little visit with Fuding Shou Mei White Tea Cake 2013 from Teavivire. This tea is pretty fancy, made from Shou Mei White Tea plucked in 2011, it is then compressed and aged making it a cousin of Pu erh and giving it an extra smoothness. This will be my second aged white tea cake and I am excited, I love teas that are out of the ‘norm’ or my usual zone of sipping. The aroma is sweet, like a rich blend of muscatel and honey, in fact it reminds me a bit of honey wine (specifically the Grecian Honeyed Wine I used to make when I could imbibe in my younger days) with a nice finish of hay.
The now steeped leaves is still very sweet, a nice honey sweet and muscatel aroma wafting from the soggy leaves. It reminds me of late summer harvest of grapes and hay, it has a heavy warmth to it that I can safely say is reminiscent of Provence. The liquid is more honey less wine, there is still a muscatel quality to it, but the sweetness of honey takes the forefront.
The taste, oh man, it is so sweet! I feel like I am drinking tea that tastes like mown hay, freshly broken stems, and a touch of grapes, but with a massive splash of honey wine mixed it. It is mild and heady, like wine without the burning and tipsy quality, but it still has the warmth and sweetness.
For the second steeping the aroma is much the same as the first, but much more intense. It has an added edge of richness that it did not have previously. This time around the taste is more balanced. It is still very sweet, but the notes of hay, grapes, and fresh vegetation are not overwhelmed by honey wine. The mouthfeel has a touch of creaminess about it as well.
On the third steeping the aroma has taken on a touch of earthiness, I have noticed that Shou Mei almost always has an earthy quality making it unique among its white tea friends. The taste has also acquired a mellow earthiness and leaf loam taste, this of course is accompanied by muscatel and broken stems. It is not as sweet this time as the previous steeps, but it still has an intense honey taste. I really liked this tea, the beginning sweetness was a bit intense (though not in a bad way) and it fades to a nice mellowness at the finish.
I am so close to have the bedroom redone that I can almost taste it, not in a ‘I have been licking the furniture’ way either! There will be much rejoicing when I am finished because it has been taking so much time and energy, also the cats are in a tizzy over all the moving furniture. Pretty much all I have left to do now is put everything away and think of an official name for my new tea area, it just doesn’t feel right calling it a lair if I am not longer underground.
Today’s tea is an herbal blend from SerendipiTea, Fellini’s Folly, named for director Frederico Fellini. I am not too familiar with his work (not much of a film person) but his inspired tea caught my eye because of its ingredients: Rooibos, Peppermint, Golden Raisins, Anise, Orange Peel, and Licorice Root (all organic)…specifically the golden raisins (SULTANAS!) I love golden raisins, much more so than their darker counterparts which I will not even acknowledge. The aroma is quite strong, a potent chill of mint, sweet woodiness, a touch of licorice, a touch of anise, and a finish of raisins. It manages to be cooling and warming at the same time, an interesting contradiction.
Giving the tea a nice steeping brings out the sweeter notes. The wet leaves have an aroma that is a blend of honey, caramel, wood, and anise. There is a finish of citrus and then a nice pop of mint that lingers and cleans the sinuses. The liquid is a bit more subtle than the leaves, it has more or less the same notes, but they are gentle and a touch sweeter. I do believe that the aroma of sultanas is much stronger now, which makes me happy.
Tasting this tea is quite interesting! It starts off with a cooling sensation from the mint that cools all the way down my esophagus, but as soon as it passes into my stomach it blooms into soothing warmth. The taste, after the initial mint coolness fades, is sweet with notes of caramel, anise, and sultanas. There is a bit of licorice sweetness at the finish, but it is faint and not at all cloying like licorice can be. One thing I really liked about this tea is that the mint seemed to counteract the dryness from the rooibos that is usually present.
I recieved a sample of this amazing stuff with my Pu Erh sample order, I was quite giddy because I have wanted to give this a try for a while. See I have a problematic teacup, it is vintage glass and for some reason even a thorough baking soda scrubbing won’t remove the stains. Lots of elbow grease will get it mostly clear, but it has this annoying film that I originally thought was mineral stains…I think it is actually damage from running it through the dishwasher. Good thing it was only 50 cents!
So into the mix my cup (and a spare glass cup that was starting to develop a stain) went! After a nice fizzy soaking all the tea stains were gone, my glass cups are clean! I cannot wait to try this on some of my stained white porcelain.
Sadly the weird white stains are still there, but I think they are there forever since I am pretty sure they are damage and not actual stains.
If you are in need of a cleaner that is not made from harsh chemicals, then I suggest this one. It gets the job done!
Holy mackerel this tea is delicious! It tastes like a blend between a 20yr aged Yancha (shui xian variety) and a Hong Shui…two teas that I am gaga about. The aroma of the dry leaves is pretty faint, a bit of smoke and caramel with a hint of tobacco, the wet leaves come alive with the same aromas but stronger and a touch of distant orchids. The liquid is smoky, burnt sugar, tobacco, and a touch of loam.
The taste is pretty intense…loamy, caramelized sugar, tobacco, smoke…delicious! With each steep it gets sweeter and a touch floral…like the ghost of the possibly floral oolong it was before.
I really need to try more aged oolongs, they never let me down..
Flavors: Burnt Sugar, Caramel, Loam, Orchid, Smoke
Oh man, I might have done a dumb today. I am in a real hurry to get my new tea lair in the bedroom (still needs a new name) set up, but a lot of the stuff I can’t do because it involves moving heavy things, and Ben is busy with work so I am stuck in tea limbo. Well, I decided to take it upon my self to move some of the furniture around, and I think that sharp pain in my hips means I won’t be able to walk tomorrow. Silly me, I never learn and always manage to over do it when I am doing house work.
Today’s tea is going to do an excellent job of distracting me, but tropical flavors do that to me, especially coconut! Coconut Crème by The Persimmon Tree Tea Company is a blend of White Tea, Coconut, Cornflowers, Safflowers (all organic) and Natural Flavoring. I found this intriguing because I have never seen coconut mixed with white tea, I bet it will be a delightful blend of flavors. Well, I can certainly say it smells good! The aroma is a blend of coconut, honey, and delicate floral with hints of lettuce and cream. It is very sweet and rich, especially strong in the coconut department.
This is one of those teas that when it is steeping it fills the entire area up with its aroma, specifically its coconutty aroma. The wet leaves are intensely coconutty, but there are also notes of honey, fresh vegetation, and a touch of lettuce. The liquid smells like coconut bread, fresh vegetation, and flowers. It is mild in comparison to the leaves, and fairly relaxing in its mellowness.
Tasting time, and I am excited, I have a serious weakness for coconut (one time on a 22 hour bus trip I subsided on coconut water alone) and tend to get bouncy when I am about to ingest something with coconut in it. Starting out is an oily and smooth mouthfeel, very typical of teas with coconut pieces in it, coconut is just so oily that it will always turn the tea oily. The taste instantly reminds me of coconut milk, specifically of one of my favorite desserts: coconut tapioca. I first discovered this at a Thai restaurant as a kid, my grandmother and I instantly fell in love with it, it then became a tradition that she would make it for the two of us to share. There is the obvious taste of coconut, but there are also notes of honey, cream, tapioca, and a tiny touch of flowers. This tea is tasty both hot and chilled, though I prefer it hot.
It’s Sunday, that means it is time to crack open a tea book for review. Of course I have a cup of tea to sip while writing this (and while reading it) I am on steep number four of some Da Hong Pao and getting a bit tea drunk. Tea Culture: History, Traditions, Celebrations, Recipes & More by Beverly Dubrin is a fairly short book with lots of lovely photographs and little nuggets of tea information.
Sadly I am unable to show lots fun photos of me reading this book because I checked out a digital copy from my library. You guys will have to take my word for it that the photos are pretty good, lots of historical photos and ones of various cultures enjoying tea. I will supply just random tea photos to break up the wall of text.
This would be a good book for someone really new to tea, I mean really new. Have a friend who just bought their first box of teabags from the grocery store and wants to know more about tea, but you are not sure if it is a passing phase or a real interest? I suggest this book for them. After typing that I realize that might seem a bit condescending, but it really was not meant to be. There is nothing wrong with a passing phase, or an introduction to a new subject, we all have to start somewhere!
As you probably noticed from the rather long title, this book has tea history, including the connection to the Opium Wars, too many books gloss over that nasty bit of history, which I find bothersome. Tea culture goes somewhat in depth into Chado (or Chanoyu, Japanese Tea Ceremony) and touches on Morrocan tea, English Tea, Russian tea, and the occasion of having tea at a Chinese Restaurant (apparently it is Jasmine tea? I always was served oolong!) There was no mention of Gongfu Cha, which I found odd…not to mention any of the other tea cultures from around the world. Of course the section on various types of tea drinkers (casual, purists, masters) was a bit annoying, there is no need for labels, if you drink tea you are a tea drinker. That is just a pet peeve of mine.
The rather long section on tea bags make it very clear that the author is a huge fan of the bags, describing their lofty talents of making the perfect cup, since teaballs and infusers do not allow for the best expansion of leaves, and often make the cup bitter because leaves get left behind. Also that the silk pyramid bags are very eco-friendly, sadly perpetuating the myth…they are just plastic, not at all biodegradable. Teabags have been elevated to a new level in both quality of tea and packaging. I am not going to straight up say this is wrong, but I certainly do not agree with these statements. Teabags are fine, even I use them occasionally, but it is almost like drinking a whole different drink and not tea. To me it is like the difference between 4% milk fat cottage cheese and fat free cottage cheese, they are clearly the same thing but they are so different I cannot file them as the same in my brain.
If you are going to give this book a read or you are going to gift it, I honestly suggest skipping the section on processing all together. There are so many inaccuracies that I actually cringed a bit, really there are too many to list. At least the author uses the term oxidation instead of fermentation when describing the process of, well, oxidation. I have seen a lot of books originally written in Chinese translate that incorrectly which has caused some rather confusing bits of information floating around. Also the section on decaffeinating your own tea by rinsing it is so annoyingly untrue that it actually offends me a bit, mainly because it can be a health hazard. Imagine a person who has to limit caffeine intake reads this section and thinks they have a nice decaffeinated cup of tea, yeah, that can only end poorly. At the same time I have to give this book some props for saying that various herbal teas’s health benefits are presumed and not a definite.
As much as it seems like I am tearing this book apart, it does have some good qualities. The brewing guide is decent (no Gongfu style steeping, but not really surprising, this is an entry level book after all) and the recipes for different kinds of tea is pretty cool. I like that it even includes instructions for cooking Boba for bubble tea (they can be surprisingly picky about preparation, silly little balls) and includes both traditional drinks and fun herbal blends and lattes. I actually jotted down a few of the recipes to use later, I think they could be a hit at family gatherings. There are also food recipes so you can have traditional scones and sandwiches for your fancy tea party, which there is also tips on how to plan on of those.
The last section of the book was titled ‘Beyond Tea’ which made me imagine a teapot flying out into space, clearly I watch and read too much Sci-Fi. This section covers other uses for tea, like teabag art, hair and skin care, and general things of that nature. It is super short though, so clearly the flying teapot did not go too far. So, can I recommend this book? Yes and no, like I said earlier, a beginner can get a good start on this book, however the incorrect information makes me cringe and want to snatch the book away before it damages the reader’s perception of tea. On the other hand it has some yummy recipes so I can certainly recommend it as a tea cook book. This book is decent and very problematic.
Happy Friday everyone, I am currently typing this from my nice antique writing desk in the bedroom. Ben was a real sweetheart and set up a temporary ‘tea lair’ for me until we are able to redo the room, so far I am really loving not having to walk up stairs. One thing I am really excited for when setting up the tea lair in the bedroom is I am going to use my writing desk as a dedicated tea station and I will have all my crafts and other stuff on my other desk. It is going to be awesome to a less cluttered tea area.
Today’s tea is Teavivre’s Silver Needle White Tea (Bai Hao Yin Zhen) probably my favorite of the white teas, it is beautifully fuzzy and delicate, and it is amazingly forgiving when brewing. I have been known to take a silver needle and spend the day brewing it in different ways, enjoying all the subtle variations in taste. This particular Bai Hao Yin Zhen is from Fuding, Fujian, China, harvested March 22, 2014 just a few days after the Vernal Equinox. The aroma of these adorable silver fuzzy leaves is like a field of wildflowers, there are notes of fresh vegetation, hay, flower nectar, and wildflowers. There are also notes of honey, sweet corn, and lettuce. Silver Needle is a complex yet delicate smelling pile of leaves, I have always enjoyed that about it.
I decided to brew this tea in the new style that is all the rage with tea sippers, Grandpa Style! Ok, it is not a new style, people in China have been drinking tea this way for ages, it is the way of sipping for the common man. If you have not had the pleasure of trying it, simply get a bowl (or cup, I prefer tea bowls) toss in some leaves, add water and sip your tea. As the day progresses you just add more water until your leaves are done. The aroma of the steeping leaves is delicate and sweet, there are notes of fresh vegetation, hay, and wildflowers with just a hint of lettuce.
It is not really the first steep, but the first sipping is delicate and sweet. There are notes of honey, fresh hay, lettuce, and a touch of wildflowers. The mouthfeel is smooth and slightly tickly from the fuzzy trichomes, I always find myself becoming really happy when I can feel the fuzzies in my mouth, I know some people prefer to strain them out (giving their strainers a nice velveteen coating) because it makes their mouth itch or makes them cough (my mom is in that boat) but not I.
I added more water and sipped on the tea for the better part of three hours, it is hard to translate that into steeps, but my electric kettle politely informed me that I used half a liter. The more I sip the sweeter the tea gets, more honey sweet and a touch of sweet corn. There is also a note of sage that gets stronger and then eventually fades.
When I get to the end of the tea’s life pretty much all that is left is faint honey sweetness and a touch of lettuce. The tea never gets bitter, and if you let it get chilled (be leaving the room to make food, just an example) and come back to it, the taste is still pretty good, though I prefer it warmer. I certainly recommend giving Silver Needle a go Grandpa Style, it is relaxing and refreshing…perfect for a warm summer day.
Flavors: Flowers, Hay, Honey, Lettuce, Sage
A classic tea, jasmine green teas have been sipping in China for an exceptionally long time, far longer than I have been sipping tea (see, I am not a time traveler, I swear) and it just might be a lot of people in the West’s first encounter with green tea. The aroma if this particular jasmine green is quite heady and sweet, it does not have the perfume aroma that some jasmine teas have, instead it has the aroma of fresh jasmine flowers in bloom. Surprisingly there is no aroma of the base green tea at all, the same goes for the brewed leaves. The liquid sans leaves is honey sweet with jasmine headiness and a delicate hint of fresh vegetation.
The first steep is surprisingly sweet, like flower nectar and sugar, there is also a nice heady taste of jasmine that permeates throughout the entire sipping experience. At the end of the taste and into the aftertaste there is a fairly delicate fresh vegetation taste, there is no bitterness at all.
For the second steep the aroma is very jasmine heavy, the fresh vegetation aroma from previously is still present, but it is stronger. The taste starts out sweet and jasmine heavy, this transitions to slightly smoky green, like fresh vegetation and spinach. The smoke is barely present, like a tiny whiff of a distant fire. Again, the tea is mild and not at all bitter. I am always fan of jasmine teas that are not overwhelming.
This tea had me a bit worried before I saw the ingredients, I thought it was a Lady Grey…a tea which I have a very reliable track record of disliking. Luckily this is not a Lady Grey, it is a Lady Earl Grey, made from Nilgiri Black Tea, Bergamot, Vanilla Flavor, and Cornflowers. It is one of those tasty creamy Earls that I tend to like. The aroma is very much so creamy sweet vanilla, bright bergamot, and malty black tea. Not very complex, but still very nice to sniff. The brewed tea is stronger in the citrus department, with the malt and sweet vanilla taking a backseat. And by taking a backseat I mean it sneaked off into the liquid, which is almost all creamy vanilla and malt.
The taste is not bad! It starts out brisk and lemony, just a touch of bitter like lemon pith, this very quickly passes. Afterwards we get a nice, creamy vanilla and malt taste, it is quite sweet. There is a tiny bit of a soapy quality, resident Earl Grey afficianado did not notice it, so your mileage may very on that one. I notice sometimes that teas with bergamot taste a tiny bit soapy to me, that is the only tea ingredient that has every tasted soapy. Earl Greys are not my favorite tea ever, but I still enjoy them ever so often, especially creamy sweet ones.