432 Tasting Notes
I am having a great nostalgia moment. Ben’s family went out for sushi and brought me back some, which is awesome since I love sushi. I thought back to my first experience with sushi, I had to be three or four, visiting my grandparents. My uncle was also visiting and making sushi, I remember getting my greedy hands on the toasted nori and loving it, and my grandmother teaching me to eat with chopsticks. I have no memory of the sushi itself, but the preparation is clear in my mind all these years later.
Today’s tea is Teavivre’s Oriental Beauty (Bai Hao) Oolong Tea, (or Dong Fang Mei Ren) a very fancy Taiwanese oolong that has an interesting symbiotic relationship with leaf hoppers. High in the mountains of Xinzh, Taiwan, leaf hoppers nibble on the leaves of the tea plant causing an immune response, which gives us a very unique taste and aroma. Without this little adorable green bugs, we would not have this tea. The aroma is quite rich, a blend of yeasty sweet bread, sharp muscatel, and sweet raw honey. There are also faint notes of loam and smoke at the finish. Overall the aroma of this tea is quite sweet.
Brewing the tea, the leaves have a very deep and rich aroma. It is a blend of caramel and muscatel sweetness with an almost earthy, almost loamy finish. There is also a very faint hint of cinnamon that gives the tea a layer of warmth that blends really well with the loam and earthy notes. The aroma of the liquid is warm and sweet, with notes of caramel, molasses, and a finish of muscatel. The aroma of this tea reminds me of late summer and the promise of autumn. It warms me and is very soothing.
The first sip fulfills the promise of warmth and richness from the aroma. At first the taste is richly sweet and muscatel, as the sip slides down my mouth it changes to honey and lastly loam. The aftertaste is sweet and like honey. I found that the mouthfeel was smooth and slightly tingly, probably from the adorable little fuzzy bits on the leaves. This steep managed to have a very distinct presence while being delicate and light, now onto steep two!
The aroma of the second steep is much more muscatel sweet and has an extra intensity. After the initial muscatel aroma it fades to a gentle loam. The mouthfeel is drier than the first steep and it does not have the tingling feeling. The taste is great, a tiny bit of stewed plums, a hint of cinnamon warmth, and a nice heavy dosage of sweet muscatel and loam. Again I am reminded of summer, except this is very late summer after the harvest and you are getting ready for the creeping chill of autumn.
For the third steep the aroma of the liquid is sweetly muscatel, a bit of loam, and a sweet finish of stewed spiced plums. Like the second steep, the mouthfeel is dry, which gives it a mouth smacking brightness. Yes, I did the lip smacking yummy sound, I am very dignified. The taste is very similar to the second steep, just more of it. Stronger notes of stewed plum and muscatel, with hints of spice and a sweet aftertaste.
Time for the fourth and final steeping. The aroma is mildly sweet and loamy, it is faint in comparison to the previous steep, but still quite nice. The taste sings the same song, this tea has performed its beautiful song and now it nears the finish. The taste is a delicate blend of loam and sweet plum. It is refreshing, like the tea you would want to sip after a long day outside harvesting your garden. Bai Hao Oolong has been on my ‘must taste’ list for a very long time, now that I have experienced it I can see why Queen Victoria (The first and best) called it Oriental Beauty, it is truly a beautiful tea.
Flavors: Honey, Loam, Muscatel, Stewed Fruits
This new trilogy of medication for my allergies and asthma are annoying. The side effects are just bad enough to make me really uncomfortable, but not bad enough that I can justify stopping them. Plus being able to breathe again after who knows how long is great. It will take some getting used to and with any luck the side effects will start to balance out soon.
Today’s tea is from Just Organic Tea, Just Relaxing Red, a straight Rooibos tea from the land of South Africa. Did you know that the plant that produces the lovely little leaves (Aspalanthus linearis) is actually a legume? There is your random plant fact for the day. I had my first run in with Rooibos back when I was 17, my coffee shop haunt had this great Rooibos smoothie, I was sad when its limited run ended because I became hooked on it. The aroma of this tea is very typical of a Rooibos, it is woody, sweet, a bit sharp, and a rich caramel sweetness. Rooibos has a very acquired aroma I feel, there are times I crave its woody sweetness, other times it gives me a headache.
The brewed leaves (hey these surprisingly didn’t all end up outside of my steeping basket, win!) have a very woody quality with a strong sweetness and a really rich caramel presence. It smells like a really high quality Rooibos. The liquid without the little red leaves is woody and richly caramel, it smells yummy!
Not surprisingly, it tastes yummy! The taste is woody and rich with strong notes of caramel and sweetness that reminds me a bit of vanilla cookies. Like all Rooibos (crap, what is the plural of Rooibos?) tea it gives the mouth a dry feel, however it is milder than most ones I have sipped. One thing I will give this Rooibos credit for is its richness and heaviness, it tastes just like the Rooibos in the smoothies I drank as a teenager, so happy nostalgia points for this tea. Chilled the caramel notes become much stronger and the tea becomes a bit sweeter. In case you can’t tell I really enjoyed this Rooibos, in fact it might be the first unblended Rooibos that I have really enjoyed in a while.
Flavors: Caramel, Wood
I have been rather distracted lately, and not entirely well either. Too much going on in the medical department of my life and the knowledge that this crazy song and dance is just starting feels very overwhelming. To help with my woes I created something kinda neat, a nice spider terrarium for my desk, occupied by a tiny Jumping spider I found. Now if I can find some moss for my terrarium I will be especially happy, but it seems that the Midwest is sorely lacking in moss.
Today’s tea is Taiwan Osmanthus Oolong Tea by Teavivre, created with Osmanthus flowers from Yunnan Province and Qingxin Oolong from The Ali Mountain, Taiwan. This tea seems like the embodiment of summertime to me, flowers and oolong, perfect for this time of year. The aroma is extremely floral and sweet. If you have never sniffed an osmanthus flower, the aroma is like a mix of jasmine, honeysuckle, and orange blossoms, it is heady and heavenly, tiny flowers with a very strong aroma. Blend this flower’s aroma with a sweet, almost milky, aroma of the oolong. There are also faint notes of chestnut and honey, it is very rich and sweet.
Steeping the leaves is really a treat, little osmanthus flowers prettily float on the top of the water, it was hard to put the lid on. The brewed leaves have a deliciously milky sweet and chestnut aroma. The floral notes are very strong, though not as strong as the dry leaves. There is also a slight fresh vegetation aroma that reminds me of being in the mountains. The aroma of the liquid is gently floral and faintly creamy, with notes of chestnut and honeysuckle.
The first steeping starts out delicate with a very creamy mouthfeel. It begins with a delicate creamy sweetness that blooms into a strong floral presence that is a mix of honeysuckle and and osmanthus. There is a slightly nutty aftertaste. I had a great moment when I first sipped this tea, I felt like I was standing in a garden in full summer, warm and content surrounded by beauty. I found myself getting lost, and it is only the first steeping!
For the second steep I needed to turn my notebook sideways, I had one of those ‘my hand writing is listing off the page’ moments again. It happens sometimes when I drink an oolong, I go into a tea trance. The aroma is much more floral and very sweet, it is heady and intense. The taste, oh man, the taste is fantastic. First we have a nice buttery mouthfeel that stays smooth throughout the entire sipping experience. The start is vegetal and fresh like vegetation growing in the mountains (I have seen this referred to as alpine and I love it) and that blooms into an explosion of flowers and nectar. It is a sweet floral blend of jasmine, honeysuckle, and grapefruit blossoms. I have to say this steep was quite heavenly.
After a few moments of introspection as I appreciate the previous steep, I move onto steep three. The aroma is very sweet, a blend of flowers and sweet cream. There is a tiny hint of vegetation in the aroma as well, at the finish. The mouthfeel is very smooth, less buttery than previously, but still quite smooth. The taste is less sweet and floral and more alpine and green, very evocative of summer vegetation is fully unfurled glory. This fades to a mild chestnut taste and finishes with floral sweetness which lingers as a very pleasant aftertaste.
It is absolutely no surprise that I go for a fourth steep. The aroma is mellow and sweet with a hint of floral and a hint of alpine. It is not as intense as the previous steeps, but such is the way of many steeps, like pieces of music it builds, comes to a glorious crescendo, and then delicately fades to a finish. The taste is mildly sweet with a heady yet delicate floral taste. The floral sweetness lingers as an aftertaste for what seems like forever.
For the fifth and final of the steepings the aroma is delicate and floral, a ghost of its previous self, but not a haunting, more of a pleasant memory. The taste is also a pleasant memory, bits of floral sweetness and refreshing alpine with a finish of chestnut. Ah, this tea, the sample came at the perfect time for me. I have been a bit blue (too much medical stuff) and my usually pick-me-up of floral oolong was not in the cards (I have run out, tragic) so sipping this sample was the best thing for my sad self.
For blog and photo (Including a ridiculous cat selfie) http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/06/i-have-been-rather-distracted-lately.html
Flavors: Chestnut, Floral, Honeysuckle
It makes logical sense that a book lover like me would hoard tea themed books as much as I do tea, so when I received a copy of this book to review thanks to Netgalley, I thought to myself, why not post it on my blog as well as Goodreads? Kombucha Revolution 75 Recipes for Handmade Brews, Fixers, Elixers, and Mixers by Stephen Lee with Ken Koopman, is a book dedicated to that strange tea substance called Kombucha, or Mushroom Tea.
Not one to usually shirk fermented foods, I have no shame in admitting that Kombucha scares the pants off of me. Something about the idea of drinking sweet tea with things growing in it really perturbs me, Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY) being the term for the thing growing in said sweet tea did not help. ‘But it is like yogurt’ you are probably telling your screen and by transition, me, well honestly when I actually think about yogurt and its little probiotic organisms happily making their way into my gut…well, I get really weirded out about that too. It doesn’t help that my one experience with Kombucha was the nastiest thing ever, but I am perpetually curious about this drink, because really, home brewing and fermenting things is really cool science!
Kombucha Revolution goes a bit into the history and science of how Kombucha works, but the bulk of this book is recipes and how to take care of your new pet SCOBY. Some of these recipes look delicious, even to my apprehensive self. If someone handed me a glass of Green Tea Lavender Kombucha I would give it a try. Black Jack Kombucha tempts me to start brewing Kombucha myself. Bambucha practically had me scouring Craigslist for a reputable SCOBY of my own to take care of.
The thing that really peaked my curiosity was the Kombucha smoothies. Smoothies are a great way of getting nutritional goodies without having to taste them, or really think about ingesting it. It is like taking probiotics by pill form instead of a bowl of yogurt, it is so much easier to swallow a pill and not think about it than eating a bowl of friendly creatures. I am really not sure how much of the lauded health benefits of Kombucha is true, as with a lot of holistic practices, there is just not a lot of research done, which is tragic! One thing I do know is that fermented foods are supposed to be great for digestive disorders, and I certainly notice my gut being happier when I have more fermented goodies in my diet. So if the tangy taste of Kombucha really isn’t my thing and my first tasting was not a fluke, here is a backup plan.
The next section of the book covers Kombucha themed mixed drinks and cocktails. This has absolutely no relevance to me, I do not drink, so even though these recipes seem very inventive I would never actually use them.
Lastly we look at Kombucha as a condiment ingredient and a food ingredient. These recipes were really cool, I had no idea this stuff was so versatile. I think if I had read this book when I first heard of Kombucha I might not have the leery feeling I have towards it. This book presents it as a fun fermented drink with some possible health benefits and a bunch of different uses. Not a miracle drink made from rotten tea! Has this converted me to the world of Kombucha? Maybe, I certainly want a SCOBY as a pet, they are cute little colonies. Not sure I am willing to make the next step and start drinking it, but I no longer feel so much fear towards it.
I have a case of the blahs. Pretty sure I am having an immune freak out from the tetanus shot I got yesterday, or maybe I am catching Ben’s summer cold, regardless I feel like a shambling blob. I am hoping that tomorrow I feel better so I can do something other than lay on the couch grumbling.
Today’s tea is Teavivre’s Lapsang Souchong Smoky Black Tea or Yan Xun Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong, from the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian, China. This tea is smoked over pine wood (or pine wood charcoal) from Tongmu Kuan in the Wuyi Mountains. Lapsang Souchong has a long and interesting history, in theory Laspang Souchong was created when the passage of an army delayed the annual drying, so in order to meet the demand the tea producers spread up the processing by drying the leaves over pine fires. Turns out it was a tasty idea. The aroma is very much so a pine smoke heavy black tea, lots of pine smoke goodness and a rich malt. There are also notes of molasses and roasted peanuts which blends really well with the pine resin and smoke.
After tossing the pile of leaves into my gaiwan…ok, not tossing, that would be rude to the leaves, and giving the tea its initial steeping, the wet leaves have a very rich aroma with notes of molasses, loam, malt, pine sap, and loads of pine smoke. It smells like a rich black tea steeping over a fire. The liquid once it has been freed from the gaiwan (It is what I am calling pouring now) has a slightly sweet aroma that reminds me of freshly baked molasses cookies. There is, of course, an overarching aroma of pine smoke and resin.
The first steep is quite smooth and very light. The taste is subtly sweet with notes of pine sap and sweet potatoes. This fades to a rich smokiness that lingers into the aftertaste. This steep promises that future steeps are going to have a wonderful richness and smokiness, it is a good prelude to what is to come.
On the second steep there is a strong molasses and pine smoke aroma. The taste is very strong pine resin taste with strong notes of roasted peanuts and molasses. The tea is not very sweet and has a slight astringent finish. It is smoky and brisk and quite strong.
The aroma of the third steep is very malty and molasses heavy, there is still smoke, but it is not as strong as the previous steeps giving it more of a balanced aroma. The taste is a perfectly balanced blend of smoke, pine resin, molasses, and roasted peanuts. There is a sweet aftertaste and no astringency what so ever.
On a whim I decided to give this tea a visit using Western techniques. The aroma is malty, rich, and quite smoky. The taste is very smoky with heavy notes of pine, molasses, and sweetness. The aftertaste is malty and smoky. Both the Western and the Gongfu styles of brewing made a deliciously smoky and rich tea.
Flavors: Malt, Molasses, Peanut, Pine, Smoke
Well, I finally did it, I finally stopped dragging my feet and playing the avoid at all cost game and went to the doctor. Other than helping me with my really messed up asthma, my new doctor could not do much except set me up with appointments with four different specialists. Good thing I finally have good insurance! I am not looking forward to the testing and experimenting with all the various medications I am going to have to try. Sigh, at least I will have tea to keep me sane.
Today’s tea is The Diplomat by Java Tea Co, a company that creates tea blends that taste like famous coffee drinks but as a healthy alternative. This little gem is made in the image of Caramel Macchiatto, created from (all organic) Rooibos, Green Tea, Chicory Root, Barley, Cornflowers, Almonds, Caramel Creme, Natural Flavors and Polyphenol Extract. The aroma is very much so true to the idea of a Caramel Macchiatto with caramel, sweetness, cream, and coffee’s earthiness. There is also a mild floral hint and a touch of woodiness. I actually found the caramel sweetness a little too sweet, but I feel that way about the aroma of the coffee equivalent.
The brewed leaves bring out more of that coffee aroma (from the chicory) with nutty and woody qualities. The creamy, caramel sweetness is also still present but more subdued. The tea without the steeping leaves has strong coffee notes along with faint floral and intense caramel sweetness. I still find the aroma a bit too sweet for my liking, which is saying something considering how much of a sweet tooth I have.
I am going to admit to not being fond of this tea right off the bat, it did nothing for me. I thought the taste was too much like low quality watered down bitter coffee with too much sweetness. It reminded me of gas station lattes and I am not a fan. There are also notes of woodiness from the rooibos and root like earthiness from the chicory. I probably dislike this tea because of the chicory, it is an herb that just makes me go blech. I decided to add a little cream to the tea and that made it a little more palatable, the taste of the chicory was milder and the bitterness mostly faded. The aftertaste is mildly sweet, which is my favorite part of this tea. On a side note (I feel a little bad bashing this tea) I included this one in my annual Advent Tea Calender and it was a big hit, so I am glad others enjoyed it more than I did.
I came up with a brilliant idea today! In a few months (October to be exact) I am going back to Pennsylvania to visit my family for three months, I have been utterly stumped on how to provide for myself while I was there. I decided to create a GoFundMe campaign offering my crafty creations in return for funding. Wish me luck that it works!
Today’s tea is Just Organic Tea’s Just Perfect Peony, a nice white tea, specifically a Bai Mu Dan. Bai Mu Dan translates to White Peony, a perfect name for a delicate, leafy, tea. I will have to say this is one of the greenest of the White Peony teas I have run across, it is so vibrant! The aroma is a savory blend of lettuce, chestnut, paper, and little bit of roasted peanuts. I find it is pretty random as to whether or not a White Peony’s aroma will be more savory or sweet, I tend to like them both.
Into the gaiwan the leaves go! The brewed leaves’s aroma is a very green aroma of sage, lettuce, and dried green leaves. The aroma is is sharp and very green, fresh and like spring time. The liquid is slightly sweet with notes of lettuce and fresh vegetation.
The taste is honey sweet with a touch of lettuce and a tiny bit of spicebush. The tea is fresh and very spring like, I am amazed at how sweet the tea is considering how savory the aroma of the dried leaves were. I found it quite delicious and very refreshing.
Flavors: Honey, Lettuce, Sage
Have you ever had a nightmare so bad that it left you shaken the entirety of the next day and with an overwhelming desire to not sleep ever again? Well that was my night last night. I am quite annoyed at my brain for giving me such a nasty dream, and I didn’t even provoke it by watching something scary before sleep. I got my revenge by being upbeat and cheerful aw much as possible, haha, take that, brain!
Today’s tea is a classic tea from the island of Formosa. For those who do not know Formosa was the name that Portuguese sailors gave Taiwan, the name means beautiful and from photos I have seen it is an apt description. Formosa Oolong from Adagio Teas is thought to be an introduction to Taiwanese Oolongs, and it was certainly one of the first that I tried. The aroma of this tea is sweet with notes of loam, tobacco, raisins, old flowers (think orchids that are not rotten but are certainly on their last legs, smells heady and a little dead) and honey. There is a nice finishing note of smoke which gives this tea a real autumnal feel to it.
Brewing the little pile of leaves, in this case it really does look like a leaf pile! The aroma of the brewed leaves is woody and sweet with notes of honey, raisins, and oak. The liquid is a blend of raisins and honey, all sweet with a very delicate finish of floral.
Tasting the tea, in a way it is like a homecoming, it was not this specific Formosa Oolong that I drank all those years ago, but the similarity in taste really never leaves one’s memory. The taste starts out sweet with notes of raisins and stewed plums. This fades to a leafy and tobacco flavor which in turns fades to gentle honey at the finish. Formosa Oolong is one of those ‘everyday’ kinda teas, there is nothing overwhelmingly special about it, but it is so enjoyable that I don’t mind. I say give this tea a try if you want a comforting ‘homey’ kind of tea or if you are new to oolongs and want to see what the fuss is about.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Honey, Oak wood, Plums, Raisins, Tobacco
I hope everyone had a good Memorial Day yesterday! Mine was kinda odd, my dryer broke while I was doing laundry so I ended up hanging things on the line with a perpetual eye on the stormy clouds…it never did rain much to my surprise. While hanging the laundry out a grackle assaulted me, I think it wasn’t paying attention and it flew right into my chest and then squawked at me like it was my fault. I also got sunburned and the associated sun sickness because I keep forgetting that the UV is higher in the Midwest and going out without a sunhat is dumb.
Today’s tea from Just Organic Tea is Just Charming Chai, a blend of Oothu Black Tea, Cardamon, Cinnamon, Cloves, Organce Peel, and Natural Flavors. The aroma is spicy and warm, a blend of cinnamon and cardamon with notes of malt and a tiny hint of orange at the finish. This smells like a classic chai but with a nice orange flair to it.
The aroma of the brewed leaves is very spicy, lots of cardamon and a hint of pepper. There is also a nice amount of malt and earthiness, there is a tiny bit of sweet orange at the finish. The liquid is malty, sweet, and creamy with a spice and orange. It is very balanced and an intriguing twist on chai.
With the traditional cream and sugar, since that is how I like my chai, the taste is quite yummy. A bold and very smooth chai, strong spices that are well balanced, and nice rich malty finish. There is a tiny bit of orange that shows up in the midtaste and stays until the aftertaste. This tea does do something kinda funny, the flavor is really rich and bold at the beginning, but at the end it putters out to just mild orange and a tiny bit of spice. This tea had a great start but a pretty meh finish, but I did really like the start and the quirky orange twist.
I had a bit of a rambunctious kinda day, lots of energy and spunk. I believe it was a combination of having a really good day of hanging out with friends and gaming yesterday and the promise of storms today. Also I found out that there is a massive hurricane out in the Pacific Ocean that has my name, I have been waiting for a Hurricane Amanda pretty much my whole life. I really hope that either its path or the tropical upheaval brings lots of rain to the Midwest so that the drought conditions lessen even more. That would please me immensely.
Well, I did it again, I forgot that seasonal teas are in fact seasonal and have missed the season to write the review for this tea. Oops, I promise that in the future when I get a seasonal tea I will not just write about it in my tea notebook, but will blog about it immediately. Pumpkin Chai from DAVIDsTEA was part of their 2013 Fall Collection and is a blend of Black Tea, Cinnamon, Cloves, Lemon Peel, Squash, Carrots, Caramel Bits, and Pumpkin Candies. This tea really caught my eye when I saw that it was not only pumpkin spice themed, but also has squash bits! The aroma of this tea is very sweet and creamy with extremely strong spices. The cinnamon and cloves really overpower the rest of the aromas, but there is a faint hint of malt, pumpkin, and caramel under the potent spices.
As this tea sits and steeps, the delicious aroma of pumpkin and spices float out of the cup and around the room. The aroma is a blend of earthiness with much milder spices, and squash. Specifically the aroma of acorn squash and pumpkin bread. The aroma of the wet leaves makes me rather hungry for one of my favorite bread types. The liquid without the leaves is rather sweetly spiced with notes of creamy caramel and squash.
The initial impact of the taste is a tingly and numb feeling from the spices, it is a little overwhelming, but it quickly fades to mellow sweetness and spices. Adding cream and sugar (this is a chai after all) dampens the overwhelming spices, and now there is a rich caramel taste and strong squash notes. I still think that the spices are too strong, so much so that a few minutes after starting to sip this tea I started getting red in the face and breaking out in hives…sometimes that happens to me when I have too much cinnamon. I was really happy that this tea tasted like squash, but the abundance of spices really made this tea not a favorite.
For blog, photos, and a nice crafty tutorial: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/05/davidstea-pumpkin-chai-tea-review.html